I’ve [link2post id=”324″]blogged about how I got started loving wine[/link2post], which I did from a hilariously young age, but what keeps me drinking it these days? Here are my top ten reasons why I love wine:
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Each wine experience is unrepeatable
. This is one of the things I love most about fine wine as an art form. Even if you have many bottles of the same wine and pop them one after another the experience of each will differ slightly. It may be due to bottle variation, the wine breathing for different times after opening, or personal factors like who you are tasting with, where you are tasting, how drunk you are and the condition of your palate. When you taste a bottle of fine wine that is a unique experience, never to be repeated.
There is an every-expanding amount of wine to taste and learn about
. New producers come along all the time, existing producers may go up or down in quality, you can discover new regions and every new vintage in every region has its own quirks and qualities to learn. It is good to learn new things and wine provides a continually changing landscape for the lover of wine things to focus his or her mind on.
Sense use in appreciation of wine
. Sure, you look at wine just like you can look at everything but real appreciation of it uses senses that are more ephemeral and transient: smell and taste. Most people pay cursory attention to what they taste and almost none to what they smell, yet these are very visceral senses which, if you concentrate on them, can move, delight, intrigue, excite, enlighten, thrill and compel just as effectively as vision or hearing. So neglected are our senses of taste and smell that it normally takes some training to get the most out of them. I was so lucky to attend and then run the Oxford University blind tasting team training sessions; they have forever expanded my appreciation and enhanced my abilities with these ephemeral senses.
Wine is great to share
. Whether it is a simple bottle popped in front of the rugby or an obscenely fine wine shared with oenophiles wine is clearly at its best when shared. On a basic level the alcohol in wine is a good social lubricant, but just as a good meal will fill your stomach it will also provide things to talk about. Its qualities can generate views and opinions in all but the most unspeakable of philistines.
Wine is a good partner to food
. Of course, not every wine goes with every type of food, but sometimes the match between the two will enhance the appreciation of both. When I’m noshing on a big piece of meat the tannins in red wine denature the free proteins in the meat and make eating and digesting it easier and more enjoyable. The pleasure I get from the synergistic combination of lamb and Pinot Noir is so enjoyable that it moves a meal with these two to a much higher level of sensory experience.
It gets me drunk at the right rate
. The alcohol in wine is clearly something to be enjoyed, and the concentration of it suits me very well. If I am drinking beer I normally feel ‘beered-out’ pretty quickly; too bloated and exhausted by the sheer volume of the stuff one has to consume. Spirits are too alcoholic for me; I don’t often enjoy the experience of drinking them and they get one drunk very quickly. Wine, on the other hand, has not so much alcohol in it that you get instantly whammed, but enough so that over an evening spent drinking only wine you can end up pleasantly newscasted. You can drink wine over a long period in a style you cannot do with beer (too voluminous) or spirits (too strong).
Wine is marked by its maker
. I’ve visited and tasted with a lot of winemakers, and in the very best wines the personality and ideas of the winemaker are displayed by the wine he/she makes. The Fallers at Domaine Weinbach are as buxom and charm-filled as their wines; Christophe Roumier’s refined, thoughtful wines reflect those qualities of the man himself. The interesting ideas of interesting winemakers show in their wines, making a strong connection between the two which undoubtedly enhances the drinking pleasure*.
Wines also have a sense of place
. This may apply less to the more international-styled wines available today, but a carefully made wine of interest and style will give you a little glimpse into where it came from. Taste a frighteningly acidic but totally harmonious wine from Egon ‘Yoda’ Muller and you are terribly aware that it is the incomparable Scharzhofberger vineyard which you are tasting and is giving you this intense experience. This sense of place can be shown in all wines from refined little Burgundies to bold Zinfandels of heroism.
Wine is a great gift
. On a simple level, a bottle of decent fizz is a simple gift which is generally appreciated; even indifferent fizz will please the unfussy. But if you know a reasonable amount about wine there are many more options. For example, you can chose a wine that you know will suit the recipients tastes but is more obscure than their normal purchases so they are unlikely to have tried before. If you introduce someone to a new producer or wine region which they really enjoy it can give both giver and receiver a lot of satisfaction; you’ve shown someone a new expression of pleasure.
The ‘free meal’ factor
. Some areas of knowledge are more acceptable to discuss in social situations than others. If you can manage charm as well as knowledge then wine provides a brilliant topic which will see you right in almost any setting. I have lost count of the number of dinner parties I have been invited to not only because I’ll bring along good wine, but also because I’ll talk about it in an intelligent and amusing fashion. If there are any awkward pauses in conversation I can be relied upon to perform and talk about a subject that pretty much everyone has either views on or questions about. I hasten to add that at dinner parties I largely talk about things other than wine, but it is a remarkably successful conversation topic in so many situations.
*It is not necessarily the character of the winemaker which shines through in a wine; many years ago the rumour was that the wines of Marc Kreydenweiss had the character of his current wife.