Yes! Go Ahead and Obsess Over Wine and Leave Bad Wine For Others.
No…No, let’s not defend bad wine.
I stared at my phone with incredulity as I woofed down a morning pop tart and read Henry Jeffreys’ ode to icky wine drunk in memorable times over at PIX.
Jeffreys, a man with a palate and a lover of fine wine who wants us to believe that good times past might have something to do with the wine we drank:
“some of the best times in my life have been spent drinking very ordinary wine: gossipy publishing parties I spent my life at in the ’00s fueled by warm white wine out of plastic cups, bottles of Jacob’s Creek with pretentious late-night discussions while listening to Leonard Cohen at university, or vacations in southern Europe drinking the thin acidic wine that was cheaper than mineral water. The day in Sicily, when I first met the woman who would become my wife, we were drinking mediocre wine.”
That the wine Jeffreys drank was mediocre when he met his wife in Sicily has nothing to do with his memory of that moment. He remembers that moment for the obvious reason and the fact that he recalls that the wine was mediocre is an offshoot of the fact that everything else that happened at that moment was consequential and memorable. Jeffries doesn’t want to return to mediocre Sicilian wine. He, like many of us, want to return to the experience he had while drinking mediocre wine.
Jeffreys waits until the end of his ode to centering experience over wine to get to his main point, which is a point that really shouldn’t need to be made by anyone:
“Don’t get me wrong, I love really good wine. I can’t wait until that case of 2016 Barbaresco in the cellar — it’s really a cupboard — is ready to drink. There’s a time and place to appreciate it, ideally with like-minded people, or better still on your own. But on some occasions, you just have to forget about the quality of the wine, knock back the sickly-sweet cheap prosecco, sip the warm Barefoot Merlot, smile, and raise a silent toast to life. Sometimes, life’s too short not to drink bad wine.”
So, let me offer an alternative suggestion aimed directly at people like Henry, myself and others who have long been taken by the prospect of drinking something great or iconic or different or innovative. Whenever you possibly can in this life, pair the occasion with interesting wine or very high-quality wine or great wine or iconic wine or meaningful wine and do what you can, within reason, to avoid shitty, insipid, uninspiring and uninteresting wine. Don’t get up from the celebration table in disgust at being presented with Jacob’s Creek. Of course. But go ahead and obsess a little over which wine you’ll pick for your Wednesday night pasta. Take little time to order something your guests or compatriots have not tried. Speed through the food menu and make your selection so that you can take an extra 5 minutes to delve into that interesting wine menu. Your non-wine friends might think you a little obsessed with wine, but who cares? You’ve gone this long seeing eyes rolled at you for your obsession with wine and another set of chuckles at your heightened interest in wine won’t harm you one bit.
If you are a Wine Obsessive presumably it is because you find great pleasure in the drink and its history and the way it provides continuity with times past and the way it provokes you to think a little deeper. Life is short. Instill it with as much pleasure as you possibly can. You won’t miss a thing.
The only reason he remembers the mediocre Sicilian wine at all in that circumstance is that he is a ‘wine person.’
Thanks for this, Tom. A lot of oenophiles are so afraid of being labeled a “wine snob” that they want to boost their street cred by mentioning crap they got drunk on. We all did that. There’s no reason to make it more than it was: getting drunk on cheap stuff.
I drank Black Russians and vodka and cranberry juice in my early 20s, and I’m not ashamed — I just posted it here — but neither will I ever, ever, feel the need to write a column about how great this choice was. And now that I know better, I don’t feel the need to be nostalgic about these drinks either.