Wine doesn't scare me. Wine and I get along like bears and picnic baskets. What scares me is wine experts. I blame my grade-school teachers, with their tyrannical insistence that math problems had just one right answer. To this day I have trouble memorizing complex strings of digits, like my phone number. If I'm talking to wine experts and they use a phrase like "the three terrific years in the Rhône from 1998 to 2000," my skin itches and I start to sweat. I suppose I could fake it if numbers were the only weak spot, but they aren't. I'm not so good with names either. Try comparing notes with a wine expert when you can't remember a bottle's producer, winemaker or vintage.
I've made friends with one expert who pretends not to notice all that. He is Dan Philips, an Australian-wine importer and a contributing editor to F&W. One night I met Dan for dinner at a BYOB place in Queens, and we each brought an Alsace white. Dan's was a Tokay Pinot Gris from Domaine Weinbach. I know this because he reminded me of it later; I have no idea what I brought. The waitress gave us a corkscrew and glasses, but no ice bucket, so the wine got warmer and warmer as we ate. And—this was weird—better and better. So I asked the wine expert, "Why do we drink white wine cold?"
"That's a good question," Dan said. "I don't know."