Wine Down the Drain..Ahhhhh

There was a time in my life when I was flat broke. I was studying History (“what are you going to do with that degree, young man?”) at University and everything I had went into books, supplies, rent and, usually, Cup O’Noodle Soup.

Yet I still had back then an interest in wine that would lead me on occasion, when there was something leftover, to buy a bottle. And you drank it…no matter what.

In fact, when you are as broke as I was, yet interested in wine, you make excuses. It didn’t’ matter how bad the wine was. I’d still sniff it, sip it, think about it and certainly drink it. And when it was really really bad, I’d just chill the hell out of it, rather than do the right thing: pour it down the drain.

It took a one of my history professors to demonstrate just how liberating it is to pour a bottle of wine down the drain.

As it turned out, I was a bit of a brown noser in college. I liked talking about history, took the opportunities that were there to gather with the History profs to do just this, and got a pretty good education out of the bargain.

One professor of American History was a drunk. He also happened to be a great teacher, but a drunk, nonetheless. He had his own chair at the local pub where he and other professor, and occasionally I, would gather and talk about how “Only Yesterday” changed American’s view of their culture or whether or not there was any validity to Charles Beard’s “Economic Interpretation of the Constitution."

I invited my drunk professor over to dinner one night. We had become friendly. I don’t recall what I pulled out of my hat to serve him but I do recall the wine. It was cheap Bordeaux from the 1983 vintage. And it was bad. Not “off” bad. Not “unpleasant” bad. But dirty, ugly bad. Still, I’d have drunken it.

About two sips into it, the drunk professor just stopped and looked at me and said:

“Tom, I don’t care how broke you are and it doesn’t matter if someone is a drunk. There’s just no excuse to punish yourself with this kind of wine.”

I thought about my American History professor the other day as I poured down the drain a nearly full bottle of 2002 “California” Rose that was both dirty and ugly, as well as too sweet. What struck me was the liberating quality that comes with the dumping of a wine for no other reason than it doesn’t please you.

This may seem a curious revelation for many wine drinkers who simply won’t take the time to drink average or bad wine. But for a boy raised by two Midwesterners who survived the Depression it really is a significant acknowledgment of his epicurean bent.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been pouring wine down the drain ever since I got that job as a teacher’s assistant in graduate school. But there is always that mental twitch that strikes me when I do.

5 Responses

  1. Golly - July 13, 2006

    It does feel remarkably liberating, though I’ve taken to pouring undrinkable wine onto my compost heap. The worms love it and it does seem to speed up the decomposition process.

  2. J. Elaine Miller - July 13, 2006

    Nice post. I get that twinge too, but for me I think it’s from a financial extravagance perspective. As in, “Gee, I can completely waste this bottle of wine and still afford to drink another!”. And yes, I’m from the MidWest and was raised by parents who survived the Depression era. Pouring it on the compost heap is a good idea.

  3. tom - July 13, 2006

    The compost pile, eh?
    That gives me an idea… I should come up with a blog post on the best uses for bad wine besides pouring it down the drain.
    Thanks, Golly.

  4. Rob Cole - July 13, 2006

    Well, there’s always wine jelly or wine vinegar you can make with bad wine.
    For me, I’m still young and close to broke enough to drink most of the bad wine I get (although it’s very rare for me to find a bad bottle.)
    I did have a really bad bottle of Pinot Noir recently that I ended up using to top off a 6 gallon batch of wine that I was making. It was a small enough amount that it didn’t affect the taste of my wine. So that’s good.

  5. Winesmith - July 15, 2006

    I’ve heard it’s smart to save it all in a big jug for cooking.

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