Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In Vino Veritas

For me, it’s coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon, both served hot. Then it’s red wine in the evening served at room temperature with a well-prepared meal. Twice a year my dental hygienist tells me they all stain my teeth, but I’m okay with that. At my age, I’m thankful to have teeth. On the rare occasions I drink white wine, I like it chilled. By the time I finish sipping it though, it’s room temperature.
On Vacation in Madison, Maine 2010

There’s only one way to tell if a wine is good: taste. If you like it, it’s good. That’s the rule. Nothing else matters. When I find a red I like at a price I can afford - usually in the $5 to $8 per bottle range - I stock up. Then I’m content, at least until the next vintage comes out. Sometimes it’ll taste differently the following year and I won’t like it as well. When that happens, I have to go back to doing research until I find something else that fits my criteria. That’s what I’m doing right now.
Malbec country Argentina

Usually I start by sampling what’s out there for Malbec and Syrah, or Shiraz as it’s called in Australia. Some Malbecs I like, some I don’t. I’m that way with every variety of grape. I like my red wine dark, rich, and dry, but the variety isn’t as important as the way it’s made. Some Cabernets and Merlots taste really good to me too. Pinots are generally too thin for my liking, but I’ve had some good ones, usually out of my price range. Also good, and in my price range, are some of the blends put out by the French and Italians generally called “red table wine.”
A friend has a sign in the pantry where he keeps his wine proclaiming: “Life is too short to drink cheap wine.” I appreciate the sentiment, though I don’t always agree with it. Some inexpensive wines taste very good to me. More often than not I’ll really like the wine he pours. It’s always good, but sometimes it’s wasted on me because I’ll prefer my much less expensive wine to his. When I’m a guest for dinner there, I’ll always bring a bottle of whatever I’m liking at the time and everyone will try some. Then he opens some of his. Sometimes, it’s outstanding, but way out of my price range. I enjoy it as a special treat, realizing that I can’t drink it regularly unless I’m willing to re-mortgage my house.
If I ever become more prosperous, perhaps I will buy more expensive wine on a regular basis. There is some correlation between high price and good quality as I define it. It takes more research to find a wine I like in my price range, yet when I find one, it somehow tastes even better when I think about how little it cost as I sip.
At home, I’ll have my first glass with dinner. Sometimes I’ll start my second before I’m done eating, and finish it just sipping and talking to my wife about the day. Two is my limit. If I have more, I usually regret it that night, and sometimes into the next day too. That doesn’t happen often, especially as I get older. If I’m at a dinner party I’ll usually have one before dinner and the second during. My regular bedtime is around nine, but I’m up later at those aforesaid dinner parties, and I’ll sometimes take the third. I might get away with it if I drink lots of water before going to sleep. Then again, I might not.
It was only when I started appreciating good food that wine became important. When I was a young man, quality of food wasn’t as important as volume and I seldom drank wine. I ate as much as I wanted then and didn’t grow horizontally. When my metabolism changed sometime between twenty-five and thirty, I had to put limits on myself. Then quality of food became much more important than volume and that’s when I began cooking. I’d attempt to prepare entrees I had especially liked in restaurants or at dinner parties and I discovered that good wine always enhanced whatever I made. Now I enjoy cooking on days my wife works. She’s better at it than I am, but each of us is always careful to prepare something good enough to deserve a glass of good wine with it.

Come to think of it, if I can afford to live this way every day, I guess I’m prosperous enough already.


Anonymous said...

I am one of the people those pesky liberals who harass you and point out the flaws in your political columns. Funny though, that in just about every other regard we are quite similar. Wines, photos, teaching, musical tastes, etc...You remind me very much of my 87 year old step-dad. Nice, interesting, a delight to be around, but just like you in his political views. Well, perhaps not so confrontational and mean-spirited about it as you, but he does have his moments. We get along great. Strange....

Anyway, I did like this column (but for different reasons than usually).


Of course you drink more red wine than white. All real wine drinkers do. There is more complexity and taste. $$costs are not an indication of good wine, as you know. Daily consumption is good. A decent meal must have wine with it.
Americans are now becoming wine drinkers--at last! Mostly, this is thanks to good wines at affordable prices. True, if wine tastes good it IS good. Simple.
I am a grape grower in Calif. I have relatives in Waterford, ME (also grandchildren). Next visit I'll look you up.I have enjoyed your WISE comments in the Bridgton News.


Anonymous said...

I'll be 81 in 2 weeks, and am going on 19 years of sobriety. I don't miss the wine.

Bainbridge Island WA

Steve said...

Even though I'm a moderate conservative, I get my hackles up when I read many of your columns, but red wine? now there's some common ground. I agree with you on Pinots and have described them as "thin" also. I also get a musty smell and taste to them. I like the big, jammy bolder reds - zinfandels, petite shiraz, cabs. I seem to have more luck with Italian wines than French wines. They're rounder and smoother for my tastes. If you're ever traveling 95 in NH just south of ME, the highway is flanked by two big, red liquor stores. When you walk in, they have big displays they call "power buys," of wines marked down 40 - 60% It's a great opportunity to try wines that retail out of your desired price range.