The only good thing I can say about the COVID-19 pandemic is that it didn’t kill me (yet, at least.) Other than that, it’s been a shitshow.

But without getting off-topic, what does that mean for a street-level wine thug? It means more suck, that’s what.

You see, any wine reviewer will agree that you have to maintain a steady diet of tasting to stay at the top of your game. Taking a few days off can throw off your palate, and taking a month off is like quitting entirely and having taken up macrame. Now imagine what a pandemic does, when you’re locked inside your house, alcohol sales are restricted, and all this before anyone was able to build up a proper home delivery service?

As I wrote earlier, that’s what happened. In April of 2020 I bunkered myself, knowing full well that I’d be here a while. I figured six months at the most. Here I am, now a year and a half later, still largely bunkered. I’ve not only had to take up macrame, I’ve had to get a YouTube Premium subscription. Things are that desperate.

(Full disclosure: I did not take up macrame, and have no idea what it actually is. I assume it’s something to do with pasta and pillow stuffing.)

A lifetime ago I lived near Orlando Florida, and frequented the many wine shops of the Central Florida region along with fancy restaurants like Berns (in Tampa) or those inside Disney World (yes, some incredible choices there.) Then I moved to Peru, and had to get my bearings all over again. There was a yearlong gap where I was drinking local fare — only to learn that Peruvian wines are generally garbage, and you’re stuck with Malbecs from Argentina or “fauxignon blanc” from Chile — so things went south, just like my relationship with the equator.

But I was still traveling a lot, visiting restaurants and wine bars around the world, while at the same time finding sources for imported wines within Peru that were reasonably reliable. I was even able to hit the annual Walt Disney World Food & Wine Festival to get my EPCOT fix, occasionally. Winepisser was in full stride.

Mind you, I was had largely traded the wine list of Berns for that of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, but — as I said — I’m a street-level wine thug, so that’s fine for me. I’ll sniff around the rim of that $600 glass of Chateau Ramapo Fault if someone else is paying for it, but I’m the Winepisser for a reason.

But I’ll be damned if this year-and-a-half off of regular wine tasting hasn’t thrown off my palate. I can’t be sure if my recent review of El Coto’s Blanco Rioja 2020 — where I swear I tasted Gewurztraminer and SB inside a Spanish rioja — was the product of a complex grape, or a screwed-up brain.

So while all of that sucks, I’m ecstatic that I just received delivery of my first big batch o’ bottles from Peruvian distributor Panuts, and am able to finally fire up my new, bigger, freestanding wine cooler (moar bottlez!) so they don’t turn into vinegar as we head into an oppressive Peruvian summer.

I desperately miss my father-in-law, though, who would share my tastings with me. Nearly every day we would share un par de copas despues del almuerzo and compare notes. Now, when I crack open a new bottle, I place a small glass in front of his picture. Days later, it’s always gone, and I swear I’m not the one making it disappear.

So here’s hoping my palate returns to full strength, and my reviews are reliable. Until then, remember you’re reading the rantings of a wine thug, not Robert Parker.