Bianca Bosker’s Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste is about more than wine.
Bosker, a former wine novice, quit her job as the executive tech editor at Huffington Post and joined an eccentric group of New York sommeliers in pursuit of the passions and the neuroscience (at one point she had her brain scanned in an experiment about how wine flavors can change you) of wine. The result is an entertaining read about New York City sommeliers, Michelin-starred restaurants, and competitive, underground blind tastings.
“I really wanted to get at the highs and lows of wine culture,” says Bosker, who will read from and discuss her new book at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix on March 30, "for a very personal reason, as well as about Burgundy collectors, people who are licking rocks to retrain their palate, and two-buck-Chucks and how those get made.”
Becoming a sommelier was not a childhood dream of Bosker’s.
“Certainly not,” she says with a chuckle. “I think like a lot of people who don’t have a burning passion for wine, for me learning about wine sounded like learning advanced mathematics. It was guaranteed to go over my head and make me feel dumb.”
But when Bosker fell into her wine passion, she fell hard. And when she did, she discovered that learning to appreciate wine was about something bigger, something that had almost nothing to do with fermented grapes. “When we train ourselves to smell and taste better,” she explains, “we refine our senses in a more general way. Which can lead to a wider appreciation of really just everything in life.”
If journalism brought her to the world of sommeliers (“Anywhere you find people who are passionate about something, you also find stories lurking in their unseen subculture,” she says), she quit her job for a larger reason.
“As I started to really observe the passion of these somms,” she says, “I began to question what I was missing out on. If I taught myself to have a mindset like theirs, what would change about me? In the tech industry, I was living in a sterile world of computer screens. Here were people who were training their senses to appreciate pleasure in all its forms.”
Her goal, she says, was to speak to both wine neophytes and wine lovers. “I want my book to appeal to people who want to know why they’re paying $20 for a bottle of wine, and why that other bottle costs $6,” she says, “but also to people who know the pleasure of a day spent at a vertical tasting of a good Bordeaux.”
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If nothing else, she’d like others to have a better relationship with wine. “You don’t have to quit your job and start tasting wine at 10 in the morning with a bunch of wine experts,” she insists. “You don’t need an advanced degree to take pleasure in wine. You can get that just by drinking a glass.”
But even a tiny bit of wine knowledge will be rewarded, Bosker promises.
“Because you’ll be able to uncover the stories that lurk in every glass of wine. And that’s a pretty good prize, too.”
Bianca Bosker will read from Cork Dork and answer questions about the book on Thursday, March 30 at Changing Hands Books, Phoenix, 300 West Camelback Road. Call 602-274-0067 or visit www.changinghands.com.