The Connoisseur:Albert Van Der Steeg

The Connoisseur

On the ferry between the Hook of Holland and Harwich we heard a man explaining wines to his girlfriend or wife. We had to laugh a bit:  there’s only one kind of wine aboard.  It made me think of a man who married into my family.

With his father he maintained their family’s wine cellar.  It sounded like a lot of work: they saved every label of wine they drank, discussed how long a bottle should rest before being ready to drink, and he would turn the bottles once a week.  He even had a written down journal about the wines.

At parties in the Netherlands we normally sit in a circle, have our drinks and snacks and talks.
He would always show his knowledge about wines.  After getting his glass he would stick his big nose in it and sniff loudly.  Sometimes he would ask for the cork of the bottle and sniff at that too.

The next thing would be sipping a little bit and rinsing it in his mouth. Sometimes with a sound like “mmm”. Finally he would gulp the wine down, after which he would look to the ceiling for some time. The suspense would almost be killing, he would wait a little more and then would say something like: “Anjou, chateau Perrigord, 1979 and ……I would say, mmmm the south slope.” 
His wife would look at him in admiration. “Yes, my husband is a true connoisseur!”   The host would get the bottle and yes, it was completely right.

Another brother in law and I suspected him to have seen the bottle every time he did this. How he managed to do this we didn’t know.  It was just a suspicion.  We decided to put him to the test on the next birthday party.

I bought an excellent wine, a Grand Cru of a famous chateau and a great year as well according to the salesman. After that I went to the supermarket and bought a bottle of Bulgarian Bull’s Blood.
This a very cheap wine, not from a chateau or such, you could even buy it in cardboard boxes. I put the bottle of excellent wine in a normal position in the cupboard. The Bulgarian bottle was hidden.

At the birthday party after the coffee and birthday cake had gone, the beer, soft drinks and wine was served. Our wine expert got a glass of the Bull’s Blood.  His nose went in the glass and the normal procedure followed. He was really delighted! “What an excellent wine!”, he exclaimed.
“This is a Grand Cru! You’re spoiling me!” He named the name of the chateau and the year of bottling.  And then he asked for the bottle.

I brought him the Bulgarian bottle and he fell very silent. We didn’t hear anything of him the rest of the evening.  His wife started a conversation about a lot of different things.  The other brother in law joined me in the kitchen while I was getting more crisps, together we had a big laugh.

After this evening we never got the tasting show again.  He lost his title of “Connoisseur” that night. Only the sniffing in the glass remained

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