Reflections on one of humanity’s finest inventions -wine.
My friends will tell you, I enjoy wine. I like everything about it. I like the taste, the processes involved in production, storage, presentation, and consumption. I like the history and how it can change a meal or a meeting into something special.
At one time I had a 400+ bottle cellar. These days, I am at around 80 bottles at any one time. When one downsizes, everything takes a cut.
I like it all. And yet – I will observe that many of us make too big a deal of wine and make it too intimidating for others. I have enjoyed some exceptional wines, coming in at well over $200 a bottle. I have also enjoyed wines at under $10 a bottle.
Admittedly, $10 bottles most often come my way overseas, where the dollar gives me an advantage, but one can do pretty well just about anywhere these days for a reasonable price.
Some years ago, a wine presentation caught my eye. Its title: What Wine Goes Best with Popcorn, and Other Secrets You Should Know. Who could resist that title? Not me. The presenter was an accomplished oenophile, a well-known wine writer and critic.
But his central point was to say, “Relax – it’s only a beverage.”
Buying wine for most of us is about like buying antiques. If what you bought brings you pleasure and you felt you got good value for your money, then it’s a good wine. At least it’s a good wine for you, and that is what counts.
My wife and I had the good fortune to live in France for four years. We wasted no opportunity to try wines and to learn more about them. Our running joke was that “We know there is bad wine somewhere in this country. We are going to keep drinking it until we find it!’ We never did.
On one of my early trips with French colleagues, we were in Africa, having lunch outdoors on a hot day. My colleagues ordered a pitcher of the local rose’, but none was available.
So, they ordered a half pitcher of red, a half pitcher of white and some ice. Voila, instant rose’. So much for pomp and circumstance. And it was fine.
Wine is not, to mix metaphors, everyone’s cup of tea. Take the great writer Calvin Trillin, who in his early years was a food writer. Trillin is a well-known curmudgeon about wine. Others also seem to find wine much ado about not much.
I can’t help but think much of that comes from the pretentiousness that often surrounds wine. People are either put off or intimidated by it all, and that is a shame. They are missing one of life’s very great pleasures.
I really could write a poem about some wines I have enjoyed, but for the most part, it’s just a really nice beverage. Relax. There probably is more good wine available in more places at modest prices than ever before.
Eric Asimov recently wrote a wonderful piece in the New York times about all this. He offered much good advice, especially for the new comer. The picture at the top of the article alone is worth looking up the piece. I want to go to that party!
Asimov makes a great case for the everyday wine. It’s the one most of us will drink most of the time, so pay attention. One of his best tips is to find a wine merchant and build a relationship. Let them know the occasion or what is being served. Tell them about what price range makes you comfortable and other wines you know you like, if any.
A good wine merchant will work with you, educate you, and set you up with good matches that don’t break the bank.
I have sought such a relationship everywhere I have lived, and it has always served me well. I have two of them in my current hometown, among my earliest contacts upon arriving as a new resident.
Read the Asimov article. You will enjoy it, whether you are an old hand or new or somewhere between.
Have a good weekend, everyone. Cheers!
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