Annilee Newton

Annilee Newton

is a Houston-based writer and high school English teacher. For the last decade, Annilee has been writing about food and memory. Wine Tasting is an essay from her nonfiction manuscript The Sense of Taste.

Annilee has an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. She drinks Oregon pinot noir with steak, prosecco with pad thai, and has been known to complain about the over-the-top oakiness of California chardonnay to anyone who will listen. You can learn more about her work at www.annileenewton.com.

Memoir

Wine Tasting

written by Annilee Newton

Annilee Newton answered a Craigslist job post with a photo of herself drinking wine — a bold move that will eventually lead to her becoming a professional wine taster. This amusing memoir takes us along on Annilee’s journey to learn the intricate art of wine tasting. We travel with her to Mississippi, France, and Texas. We learn that place affects the taste of wine—both the place where the wine is made and where the wine is drunk. And we also learn that the secret to mastering wine tasting is… surprisingly… in learning to smell.

 

Read by Rebekah Nemethy

“My brother was the one who gave me the tools I needed to cope with the question, “And what do you think of this wine, Annie?” He was a chef, and he had learned how to navigate the wine question long ago. He used an original technique that I called the ‘Wine Mad Lib’.”

“If you want to be able to taste wine, here’s what you do. Go to the produce section of a fancy grocery store. Smell every single piece of produce they have. Pick up the currants, smell the currants, and say the word to yourself—’currant.’ Train your mind to fuse that word and that smell.”

“In the dazzling afternoon sunshine, the building looked like a small warehouse. Jeremy opened the door and revealed a set of stairs leading down. Down we went, from sunlight into shadow, from day into night. My eyes adjusted, and I saw people sitting on leather couches, drinking wine.”

Q&A with Annilee

Tell us about your story...

Wine Tasting tells the story of how I fell into a world where wine labels are social indicators and the ability to differentiate subtle tastes puts you at the top of a hierarchy. Eventually, I learned how to navigate through the hypocrisy to discover authenticity and the reasons why a person would try to turn their memories into flavors.

What was the inspiration for this story?

The inspiration for this essay came from my experience working in an upscale wine bar in Houston, Texas. To me, it feels like a classic example of truth being stranger than fiction.

What have you recently read that you loved?

“Lately, I’ve been on a young adult kick. I recently read and loved Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean and Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin. Both novels are historical fiction and they simultaneously blew me away and taught me about the world. I also recently read Sherri L. Smith’s Orleans. Her dystopian reimaging of the Gulf Coast is horrifyingly relevant to our political and pandemic reality these days.”

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I teach! High school English and French. I also have been playing A LOT of boardgames with my husband. Hiking, camping, traveling, knitting sweaters full of holes, shamelessly doing unimpressive yoga in public parks.

Someday I want to...

Go on one of those very, very long walks. Like the Camino de Santiago, or the Appalachian Trail, or along the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall.  

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