What Wine For Uncle Boris and Sister Rose?

Holiday season is nearly upon us. I’m sure of it because a month ago I was walking through a mall and saw the first Christmas decorations. Now that Halloween is over, they are everywhere.

And so, the annual dilemma is upon us: Do we pull out those special bottles of wine we’ve been saving for a special occasion and share them with fellow party goers and family, or do we keep them for ourselves with the knowledge that most family and friends probably won’t appreciate them?

You know the feeling. It’s an hour before you have to leave for Thanksgiving Dinner with family. You’ll bring wine. In fact, your well known interest in the beverage creates the expectation among family members that YOU will be the one to bring a bottle or two. The question is: which one. There is that bottle on the bottom of the wine rack. The good stuff. A year ago you broke down and paid good coin for it. It should be perfect with the roast turkey. But will your table mates really appreciate it like you will? Or will it be wasted on your wine chugging Uncle Boris and perennially depressed sister Rose who drinks too much because the glass at her lips effectively hides her face from others at the table?

Just a few rows up on the rack from your special bottle is a very nice Gewurztraminer. Nothing special. A tad sweet, some spice, nice aromas and it only cost you about $15. The family will probably like it better than the special wine. But, it’s not special and you surely don’t feel like drinking it.

It’s the Holiday dilemma.

I’ve found there are only a few ways to approach this important problem:

1. Take The Long View
There are going to be many many such family dinners and parties like this. You’ll always want to bring and drink a special wine and you’ll always be expected to bring it. It’s your fate for being a wine lover. The "long view" solution is to break down, bring the good stuff, but also educate your family and friends with the wine. Make them understand why this wine is special. Pique their interest. Basically, do whatever you can to turn them into budding wine geeks. Why? It’s fun to share a special bottle with equally enthused friends and family, while it sucks to share great wine with those who don’t care.  It will take a good 5 or 6 family gatherings to see your plan take effect. But remember, you’ve a hell of a lot more than 5 or 6 gatherings. If you are lucky, by the 10th gathering you’ll have Uncle Boris and Depressed Sister Rose bringing the good stuff too

2. Convince them that the Swill is the Really Great Stuff
Perhaps more devious than the "Long View" approach, but similar. This approach involves talking up the basic juice you bring so that in the future you can continue to bring basic bottles with no guilt. It keeps you from wasting the good stuff and saves you money. It means you won’t get to have a glass of two of the really good stuff at these gatherings, but that may be mitigated by the thought of what you have waiting for you at home

3. The Double Switch
Bring two bottles of basic stuff and that one bottle of the good stuff. You open the both bottles of the basic stuff, but leave the good stuff in a corner of the kitchen. When no one is looking you open the good stuff and pour it into your glass and anyone else who will appreciate it. The key here is to make sure the good stuff is the same color as the basic stuff. Be careful who is watching when you pour the good stuff.

What I’ve found is that approach #1 usually works, and works well. It’s an approach that takes more thought since you need to work them into better and better bottles when you think the time is right. But it also means that in the future you’ll be drinking THEIR good stuff at gatherings. Then again, this dilemma also demands you carefully assess the situation. Will Boris and Rose really ever take to wine? If not, and you are sure of it, go with #2 or #3 or some variation of these two tactics.

Ah…….The Holidays.

Posted In: Personal


4 Responses

  1. David - November 9, 2005

    Tom, great post and a dilemma we have all faced. I have used option #3 a few times with moderate success, and will go with that again this year during the holidays.
    My bigger problem of late is that when I’m at Uncle Boris’ house, his entire collection of mis-matched wine glasses came from the dollar store. A good Pinot or Cab tastes muted when I can’t decant and use my Reidel’s. Any suggestions out there for getting around this problem?

  2. Tom Wark - November 9, 2005

    You might consider purchasing your Uncle Boris a nice set of wine glasses. Nothing fancy. But appropriate as well as sturdy. That way, you’ll have what you need. Think of it as an investment in your own wine appreciation.
    God….I hope Uncle Boris doesn’t read this blog.

  3. Mark - November 9, 2005

    Tom: It’s a rare blogger who can deliver pragmatic advice and make us laugh at the same time. Beautifully done!

  4. Derrick Schneider - November 10, 2005

    Personally, I always have a mix of wines available. It’s sort of Option 3, but not quite so hidden. People generally perk up when they see me pouring from the bottle of rose champagne.
    But my general view is that my Thanksgiving dinners in particular aren’t good venues for educating people. We get twenty people, and there is much raucousness. I bring crowd pleasers because no one’s going to be paying attention to the wine.
    Now, small dinner parties at my place? That’s a different story. I’ll often pull special bottles because then people (wine novices or not) have a chance to really enjoy it over friendly conversation and good food. At Thanksgiving, it’s just too chaotic. We’ve made a few converts to particular bottles that way.

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