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Red in the Face

Calvin Trillin once invited his sons-in-law to take a "color test," whereby various wines were served at room temperature in black glasses. Many tasters, including visitors from the wine industry, were allegedly unable to tell red wine from white.

"Both... seemed pretty free of test anxiety," Trillin recalled of the contestants. "'I'm not worried about failing,' Alex said, partway through dinner. 'I'm worried about failing and Brian passing.'

"As Bruce Nevins [a Napa Valley vintner] stood where he couldn't be observed and poured the wine into black glasses," Trillin recalled, "he said that a couple of visiting wine retailers from Springfield, Missouri, sometimes known as the Gateway to the Ozarks, had dropped in just before we arrived and identified eight out of eight wines.

"Although he insisted he was telling the truth, I figured he was trying to make Brian and Alex nervous with some sort of Napa Valley version of trash talk, and I tried to keep them calm. 'I want you to know that I'm totally evenhanded on this,' I said to them. 'Either one of you guys can be humiliated. I don't care which one it is.'"

[Both misidentified as white a Sancerre rouge made from Pinot Noir grapes in the Loire Valley (which was also misidentified by a certain expert -- which, Trillin suggested, "means that if your brother-in-law is particularly arrogant about the sophistication of his palate you might consider keeping a bottle of Reverdy Sancerre rouge on hand, along with a black glass and a pair of sunglasses."]

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