Featured Letter: Wine quiz was impossible


To the Editor:

Last week, when we brought home our weekly Suffolk Times, my wife and I retired to our deck in the early evening, cocktails in hand, to tackle Louisa Hargrave’s quiz column “Test your wine knowledge.”

We thought this would be good, clean, end-of-summer fun, dusted with a patina of enlightenment. Although my wife and I have sampled local wines for more than a decade (and my wife has worked, off and on, in the wine industry), we could no more succeed at Ms. Hargrave’s quiz than we could put together a nuclear cyclotron using only an Ikea instruction manual as a guide. In fact, we only got one of the 20 questions right — and that was by guessing.

It would seem to me that a “quiz” should be fun, accessible, and inviting as a way to enjoy the subject matter; in this case, wine. Ms. Hargrave’s questions were pitched somewhere near a fi nal exam for an M.S. degree in oenology and viticulture at one of our fi ner institutions, like Cornell University. I also question whether anyone looked at her exam — sorry, quiz — from an editorial capacity and might have gently suggested that it be ratcheted down a notch or two to something approaching the mortal plain.

I am a professor at NYU, specializing in drama and musical theater (indeed, I have a weekly radio program about theater music on WPPB, 88.3FM), but I wouldn’t dream of giving my students — or listeners — such an abstruse and recondite series of questions on Broadway show tunes. But, inspired by the wine quiz — for those of you who missed it — here are three bibulous questions from the world of musical theater, pitched at Ms. Hargrave’s level of inquisition:

1. This beloved 1956 musical is set in a vineyard in the Napa Valley: how many LP disks comprised the original cast recording?

2. The 1933 musical “Champagne Sec” was based on “Die Fledermaus”: who played the female lead?

3. “Come taste the wine/Come hear the band,” goes a lyric from the title number of this 1966 musical. What color was the leading lady’s hair during the out-of-town tryout, and what was it when the show opened? (Alas, Peg Murray is not allowed to compete for Question 3 — extra points if you know why!)

Good luck!

Laurence Maslon, Southold