Competition – Bethanie Butcher

Bethanie Butcher: ‘ I’m currently studying for the WSET Diploma and living in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m not currently in the wine business but am hoping for a career change at some point in the future. I’m married to a fellow Diploma candidate whom I met in Russia (he’s German). I enjoy cooking, reading, and of course reading and studying about wine.’ Here she offers us what she calls ‘A Life – As Told Through Beverages’, her (unedited) entry in our seminal wine competition.

Chocolate Milk, Grape Kool-Aid, Generic Cola, Miller Lite. Beverages found in the refrigerator of my low-income single-mother household. While hamburger helper or hot dogs and macaroni and cheese were the principle prix fixe menus in the neighborhood, wine was as foreign a concept as health insurance, brand name clothes, and automobiles that didn’t have holes you could see the road through…all features of my upbringing. Mom worked hard to give my sister and I the best possible life and education succeeding where most other families didn’t. Being 19 when she had me, she loves to recount the story of a bouncer at a local bar taking her ID thinking it wasn’t possible she was old enough to drink and she nearly fighting him to get it back. At that time, she had two kids in diapers and a dead beat alcoholic husband. This was her one night out and nobody was going to ruin it.

Warm Cheap Beer, White Zin and The House Red. High school was a time for measured rebellion, which involved drinking warm beers after work with the kitchen staff of the local Perkins Family Restaurant. The uniform at the time was a paper-thin pink dress with white scalloping that was practically see-through when wet. Nothing says small town fun like sitting in a parking lot, smelling of pancakes and eggs, drinking warm Budweiser, with a gawky teenage boy trying to penetrate said pink dress with his eyes. My horizons were significantly expanded when a friend invited me on her family vacation to Myrtle Beach. On our last night, her parents took us out to a fancy restaurant for dinner; my first time eating at a restaurant with a white tablecloth and waiters without screen printed t-shirts of flair. We all ordered surf and turf and her parents ordered a glass of White Zinfandel and a glass of the “house red” which probably was a 1997 Woodbridge. I took notice that the White Zin was pink (how odd) and that the wines came in different glasses. Must be smaller glasses for women and larger for men I thought.

Southern Comfort & Mountain Dew and Captain & Coke. I went to the University that was farthest away, yet still would grant in-state tuition. The goal of college drinking is to get as drunk as possible as cheaply as possible, which was easily achieved by the aforementioned concoctions drunk out of a 72oz Big Gulp cup. The visual appearance of the vomit later in the evening was a venerable work of art. In between putting on the freshman 15 and getting a 4.0 GPA, I was required to take an etiquette class where I learned many restaurants had white table cloths and that cutting your food did not involve the side of a fork, but rather a real knife. I also learned where the glasses go and that at business dinners for my upcoming internship I should order one glass of wine to last the whole meal, which would require a different consumption pattern than I was used to.

Vodka Tonics, Two Buck Chuck, Chablis. After graduating I began to make money which significantly altered my alcoholic consideration set. I spent most of my time out hammering vodka tonics, which seemed classy with their little lime wedge and tiny straws. When I got my first raise I had a party to celebrate and figured as an adult I should serve wine, which meant going to the local Trader Joe’s and buying a menagerie of Two Buck Chuck. We smartly talked about which of the varieties we preferred, when they all tasted like cheap red wine. My guests chugged it down like water and spilled a good portion on furniture that needed to be retired anyways. Some months later I moved to Moscow for work, where I was thrown into a group of mostly European expats who made my small-town upbringing sorely stand out. The group began one evening out at my house and I prepared by purchasing what I hoped was a good bottle of wine. At $50 (I could have bought 10 bottles of Russian Vodka for that), it was easily the most I had ever spent on a bottle of alcohol, but I needed to impress this group. I poured the glasses and they all professionally swirled and sniffed while I watched on in a mild panic. An Austrian guy spent the most time on this procedure and then confidently declared…what a fine Chablis this is. Stunned Silence…at least from me. I had no idea how he could have performed that little parlor trick. I was intrigued and bought the World Atlas of Wine the very next day.

Chasselas, Savoie, Condrieu. After two years in Moscow, I moved to Geneva with a future husband in tow. We were the only two single expats in the Russia group and so our coupling appeared inevitable…particularly one night after a bottle of Russian Standard Vodka. In Geneva as we explored our new neighborhood we sampled the local wines downing many bottles of quaffable but forgettable Chasselas. Food and wine pairing became more than a concept at our favorite Fondue restaurant where the proprietress steered us towards a Savoie whose steely acidity cut through the fatty cheese and made the meal unforgettable. It was a trip to the Northern Rhone that sealed my fate as a future wino. We had booked a tasting at Andre Perret in Condrieu and he gave me my first ever barrel tasting and first ever glimpse of heaven, a 2007 Andre Perre Condrieu Chery. I’d never tasted anything so luscious and yet refreshing in my life. From then on, I was hooked. 

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