THIS ISSUE INCLUDES a big story about the art and science of serving wine at group functions. I have always been a big fan of the fruit of the vine, but only lately have I discovered the beauty of the beverage beyond its ability to make you loopy.

Wine was first made in 2,000,000 B.C. by Ernest and Julio Gallo. On discovering that their grape arbor had been trod upon by a herd of woolly mammoths, Ernie and Julie tried to drown their sorrows by drinking the juice that was created. Over the years, man learned to make wine, bottle wine, age wine, and tax wine. Wine is a ritual drink in many religions, and if you drink too much of it, you will become religious as you pray for the room to stop spinning.

Wine is a big part of European culture. This is due partly to the fact that Europeans cook parts of animals that we in the U.S. do not eat. If you drink enough wine, you will forget that escargot, tripe, and sweetbreads, are really snails, stomach, and brains.

Wine comes in two basic varieties called “red” and “white.” Red wine is called red because of its color. This logic does not follow through to white wines, which are not white at all but more of a light straw/tawny amber color. “Yellow wine,” however, would probably not have the same sales appeal.

Red wines have names like cabernet sauvignon (“house of cheese”) and pinot noir (“the perspiring chinchilla”). If you are confused as to which red wine to buy, go for one in a bottle with a cork. Red wines packed in boxes or screw-top bottles are not as tasty as you might think. Red wines are meant to be consumed with red foods like meat, cranberries, and kidney beans, but go equally well with brown foods like baked beans, chocolate bars, and wieners.

White wines include familiar varietals like chardonnay, Riesling, and the fun to say Gewürztraminer (“I have sausage in my shoes”). White wines can be consumed with anything, but go especially well with white foods like Muenster cheese, chicken breast, and Wonder Bread.

There is a third type of wine called rosé. It is served chilled, like white wine, yet it gives you the same throbbing headache you get from red wine. Rosé wines are usually sipped through a straw and go best with rosé-colored foods like watered-down spaghetti or Lucky Charms.

It is easy to be intimidated when ordering wine in a fancy restaurant because the sommelier (“guy with a foreign accent”) knows more about wine than you could ever hope to, and he will use this to his advantage. If you do not accept his recommendation of, say, an '89 ruby cabernet, he will feel personally insulted, go into the kitchen where his buddies hang out, and snicker at you. To avoid this embarrassment, always ask the sommelier for his recommendation and then snicker and order what you want. A preemptive snicker will throw him off guard. When ordering wine in a restaurant like Denny's, you will not go through a sommelier but will order directly from a waitress named Marge. Your wine will arrive by the glass, but if you feel like a big spender, ask her to bring the whole box.

Dale Irvin,a popular emcee at financial services meetings, wrote Insurance as a Second Language. Visit Dale's Web site at For booking information, call Speak Inc. at (858) 457-9880.