So, here we are in the middle of COVID winter. We’ve been trying to cope with the effects and reactions (both real and contrived) of this persistent, ever-present pandemic. My prayers go out to those afflicted with the virus. For those of us more fortunate, we’ve been coping as best we can.
Some are able to diligently pursue their careers, others have engaged in de-cluttering projects, binge watching or binge reading and any number of other means to fill our days.
Through it all a number of us have been riding a roller coaster of alcohol consumption in an attempt to cope with – or escape − the trials and tribulations of this pandemic. For me, my consumption steadily increased before I tempered my indulgence. That period was followed by a self-imposed (and successful) Dry January.
Through these difficult months, my beliefs and principles have prevailed. Wine, consumed responsibly, well-worn but sage advice, deftly breaks down barriers, builds warm emotions and introduces a “mellow factor” that permeates the air, making for a subtle stress reliever.
There’s been much talk (and several of my columns) discussing the medicinal value of wine, but I believe its overall health value can be greater than any physiological interaction we have with a poured glass. Its impact on our psychological well-being is immeasurable. It can add years to our lives simply by slowing us down a bit, forcing us to stop and smell the roses (in this case the subtle facets of wine – and life). Under wine’s influence, we fall into an ethereal state of peace – with ourselves and with those around us.
Having stated my coda for a balanced lifestyle, I offer two maxims that I live by when drinking wine to keep my perspective on a practical plane and which function as an operations manual. Let them be your guide as you navigate the media-laden world of wine.
First, always view wine as an enjoyable, positive experience. Never reduce wine to a status symbol or elevate it to the status of the Holy Grail. Don’t become a wine snob (or a wine geek for that matter); wine is an agricultural product, not a rare gem. It is meant to be consumed with food and preferably with like-minded friends in an atmosphere of geniality. It enhances our dining and social experiences. It shouldn’t be the focal point of those encounters.
Second, the appreciation of a particular wine is an individual experience. A great wine is a wine that you enjoy. Each of us has unique palates, unique olfactory senses and time-tested individual experiences in discerning good from bad. Don’t rely on others for anything more than general guidance. Continue experimenting and finding new favorite wines.
I’m frequently asked to recommend wines for meals, for special occasions, for hanging out in the kitchen or sitting in front of the fireplace. My response is always the same. Think of a recent wine that you especially enjoyed, one that stood out from others. Recreate that experience in the moment.
It is likely that as much as you enjoyed the particular producer, your palate was simpatico with the grape varietal or the wine region. Experiment with:
- Other wines from that producer (each producer has an individualistic style for creating wines); or
- Other wines produced from the same grape or blend of grapes (chances are your palate is sensitive to a flavor profile that can be matched to other producers’ offerings); or
- Other wines from the same wine region. In the vast sea of Cabernet Sauvignons, if you find a special bottle from Chile and prefer it over those you’ve sampled from California or South Africa, explore the multiple Chilean offerings currently available.
In short order you’ll expand your wine horizons and find new “favorite wines” that will become sure-fire crowd-pleasers – in every sense of the word.
Nick Antonaccio is a 45-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years, he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member and program director of the Wine Media Guild of wine journalists. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @sharingwine.