Let’s face it: Wine can be intimidating. From the insider lingo and mysterious rating systems to the hard-to-pronounce varietals, the world of wine often seems elitist—even though people around the world drink it every day. But if there’s one thing that can level the playing field, it’s humor, says wine expert William R. Tisherman, who goes by the name Tish. He has “paired wine with fun” since founding his Westchester-based events company, Wine For All, in 1998.
The Bedford resident spent five years moonlighting as a proofreader for Les Amis du Vin wine society in suburban Washington D.C. before he felt confident enough to start writing about wine himself—something he’d go on to do for decades. Now, he mostly uses a mic, rather than a pen, to teach people about wine in Wine For All’s 40 to 50 private events for birthdays, bachelorette parties, and corporate functions. He was inspired to launch the company in order to engage with wine in a more natural, enjoyable setting with others.
To make wine feel accessible, Tish relies on a blend of props and anything-but-snooty tasting notes. Case in point: His comparison of the odor of New Zealand sauvignon blanc to something a sommelier would never utter.
“It can smell like pickle juice or canned green beans. But when you tell people to take a big whiff of it, and ask if anyone out there owns a cat, it is what it is: It smells like cat pee,” jokes Tish.
The events might sound like fun and games—and to an extent, they are—but Tish’s mission is to help people walk away with some knowledge about how to make the wine shop feel less daunting and go home with a bottle they’ll truly love. Tish teaches event participants to think about wine in terms of varietals and location.
“Wine is always going to be grapes and it’s always going to be from a place. Once you understand that, you can figure any wine out,” he explains.
It can also be helpful to know what’s been done to the wine, he adds. In the case of wine from the country of Georgia (Tish’s favorite “discovery wine”), the processing entails letting native grapes, skins, and stems ferment underground in massive clay barrels called qvevri for at least six months. The ancient technique gives the finished product a distinctive amber color that’s richer and warmer than that of conventional white wine. Those details help people not only appreciate the flavor, but the story behind the wine.
Exotic blends and geography lessons aside, though, there’s one important thing Tish encourages everyone to do to demystify wine: enjoy it. “There’s never a reason to get hung up over wine unless you can’t get good wine,” says Tish. “And if you play your cards right, you can get good wine anywhere.”