If I Could Drink But One Wine for the Rest of My Life, What Would it be? (Or, What Would Gilligan Have Done?)   3 comments

What is it about brand-name designer wines that get people hooked to the exclusion of all else?  I was faced with this question during a casual dinner the other night at a cafe on the beach.  I confess there were moments during this dinner when I actually felt shipwrecked.  Though I will say that it ended reasonably well.

If you have been reading this blog, you know that variety is an integral component of our wine drinking habits.  We take a very democratic approach to the wines that end up on our table.  I won’t say that all of them are fabulous.  But I can say that most of them are very decent, food friendly, delicious wines that I am happy to drink any time.  And yet, what do you do when confronted a member of the “I only drink high-end Napa Cabs” crowd. 

First off, it would be difficult to argue that the quality is not there.  Surely, for the most part, it is.  Though I find that the value is not necessarily there.   Yes, you get a pretty good drink, but at an exorbitantly high price, no?

But just Napa wines, really?  Look, I enjoy a fine Napa cab as much as the next guy.  But if that was all I could drink, I would be bored. 

There are people out there that revel in being able to order expensive wines to show off their social deftness as well as the refinement of their palates.  Yet if all one drinks are expensive wines, how sophisticated can that palate be?  Can you know what is truly good if you have not tasted and admired what is truly bad or what is good but may be lacking in certain traits which keep it from being great?  In an odd way, it borders on conspicuous consumption. 

Boredom aside, what do you lose?  What about wines that are good/great from another place?  You lose the minerality that is found in Chablis.  You lose the unique sweetness found in Volnay.  You lose the acidity of the Barbera.  You lose the terroir and concentration of Priorat or its more affordable cousin, Montsant.  And what about the glories of Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel?  The powerhouse of flavor found in Barolo?  The velvety insistence of well-made merlot from France and Napa.  And what of the refreshment of Cru Beaujolais?  It’s a bit like the Ginger-Maryann debate.  Really, must I choose one? 

There is the economic motivation.  I suppose there are people out there for whom money is no object.  They can afford to drink these wines as often as they like, limited of course to availability.  I have said it before, and I will say it again.  It is just grape juice!  Good grape juice, yes, but grape juice nonetheless.  And I personally I have a problem seeing the value proposition in paying $150, $400 or $1,000 for a bottle of wine no matter where it is from.  I am a drinker and for me the intangible joy of drinking such expensive wines does not approach the value assigned to the wines by the marketplace.

Then there is the snob appeal.  Wine as a differentiator in the social pecking order: If you can’t afford to drink this, then you (a) aren’t a  serious wine drinker, (b) don’t know enough about good wine to be a real judge of quality and/or (c) don’t measure up in some intangible manner.  Also, because these higher end wines tend to have limited production, owning and drinking them somehow makes you special because not everyone can get their hands on the good stuff, you  know.  There is also a bullying aspect to this that I find distasteful.

How about the fact that implicit in the decision to limit one self to say Napa cabs or Barolo is the notion that no other wines are better.  Better at what moment?  And for what purpose?  If I’m having a spaghetti carbonara, I don’t want to be drinking an oaked California Cab.  Give me that Barbera and a Brunello right after!  I can get excellent examples of each for less than the cost of a bottle of Opus One (currently $170-$190 a bottle), and still have plenty of change left over for a few runs to White Castle!

So if I could drink but one wine the rest of my life, what would it be?  Although it seems extreme, I would give it up all together.  I would rather remain with the memories of the variety of tastes I have had rather than risk losing all of my vinous remembrances washed away by the sensation of drinking a singular sensational wine till the end of my days.

All right, Chuckleheads, you don’t really buy that load do you?  I suppose if I HAD to choose I would do so– after all, I can always read this blog to fill in the lacunae of memory.  But please, just don’t make me choose today. 

Posted July 29, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Wine Etiquette

3 responses to “If I Could Drink But One Wine for the Rest of My Life, What Would it be? (Or, What Would Gilligan Have Done?)

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  1. Hey Sybarite, Seems like you missed an opportunity. A good response to Napa Blowhard may have been, “Let’s blow this joint, grab some frommage and charcuterie, and your place for a bottle or two.” If I had only one case on that desserted island, I’d hope it was a mixed case! I think Mary Anne and Ginger would like very different wines…

    • Well, Perfessor, it seems to me that no matter how good the wine, you have to enjoy the company of your drinking mates. And whether it’s Opus One or Stag’s Leap Cask 23 (yeah, he went there as well), it doesn’t make up for Bad Company. Now if your party includes Maryann & Ginger, there aren’t many wines that would be bad, don’t you think. But that’s just idle fantasy akin to counting the number of angels dancing on the head of a common pin.

  2. Just one wine… Dolcetto di Dogliani DOC “CasaMatilda” 4.5 Euro per bottle (7$), with you and R.

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