Ranndy: The editing capabilities of this site are limited, especially in the formatting department. Ross submitted this file to me in perfect outline form, but I am not able to duplicate that layout. I am not about to complain about it (not too much, anyway), because Google generously provides this site for free. For any of you that might want to view the original document, let me know and I'll email it to you. Now, on to Ross:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways . . .
So wrote the Victorian poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, about her love of a man. The same question is posed here. But about a different object. This is about the love of wine. Let me count some of the ways. For there are so many ways we love wine.
1. We have loved wine for its health benefits. Historically, that sometimes has been because it was not water which was often polluted. The alcohol and acid in the wine kept it relatively free from harmful pathogens, so those who drank it reduced their exposure to water borne illness. Some think this accounts for much of the success of the Roman Legions in conquering, occupying and ruling a far flung empire. The conquered peoples were adapted to the bad stuff in their local waters as the Romans were not. But, by relying on their own wines, the invaders reduced their exposure to illnesses to which they were susceptible. Numerous modern health benefits of wine have been identified in recent decades. Although the alleged benefits are not scientifically proven, all my doctors, save one, drink wine regularly. The outlier plans to outlive me. And I him. We’ll see about that.
2. At a fundamental level, wine is just a tasteful beverage. Love of wine gets way more complicated than that, but one should not forget that the object of our affection is just grape juice, after all; grape juice that has been processed in a way that preserves it. We love it because it is handy, tastes good, comes in lots of different flavors, and makes us feel good. Not many other beverages can say all of that.
3. Like lots of beverages, wine gets consumed in various contexts. Often with food, but also often without it. By itself, we love to drink wine
o To warm us, as with mulled wine
o To cool us, as with wine that is chilled and sometimes mixed with fruit, think Strawberry Bowle in Germany or Clerico on the beach in Uruguay or, yes, wine coolers in America
o To celebrate births, holidays, anniversaries, the launching of ships and other important occasions when sparkling wine is irreplaceable
o To console us over the loss of a loved one at a wake
o To remind us of our faith in religious ceremonies
o To make us happy when we are together
o To cheer us up when we are alone
o The contexts in which we love wine by itself are myriad
I have a friend whose hard and fast rule is that he only drinks wine when he is alone, or when he is with someone. It’s not a bad rule.
4. When we get to the question of how we love wine with food, things get rather complicated. First, in which of the three logically possible modes are we?
A. Food Centered. Sometimes people see the wine as something that goes with the food.
B. Wine Centered. Other times we see the food as something that goes with the wine.
C. Balanced. Still other times we see the food and the wine as being in parallel, separate pleasures, simultaneous, but not necessarily inter-dependent.
Which mode you are in changes how you love the wine.
5. And what you think about the relationship of food and wine, and our love of both, changes in different circumstances. Like, for example
• Wine at a picnic
• Wine at a fine dinner in a restaurant
• Wine at home with leftovers on Tuesday night
• Wine with lunch
• Wine with a festive Sunday brunch
• Wine with salad
• Wine standing up with passed hors d’oeuvres
• Wine with hot dogs at a ball game
• Wine with dessert
• Wine at a tapas bar
• Wine with a lover -- before or after sex (bubbly wine recommended here)
• Wine with a large family meal, say, Thanksgiving Dinner
• Wine at a meal you would rather not be at, say, ditto
6. Talking about the love of wine with food, one unavoidably gets to the freighted question of “pairing” wine with assorted foods. We know this is something very special because we don’t “pair” other beverages with food very often. Maybe milk and cookies, tea and crumpets, beer and brats. I can’t think of anything to “pair” with bitter coffee. But with wine there are textbooks, lectures, careers, reputations, professions, friendships, and the ending of friendships, based on what foods to “pair” with what wines.
Maybe the threshold question is whether the decision about what wines we love with what foods is either 1.)Subjective, personal, idiosyncratic and nobody’s business but your own, or 2.) Objective, certain, universal, knowable and deeply involved with Right and Wrong.
If you believe #1, Subjective, then it gets easy. What wine goes with what food is what you like QED. End of game. Go forth and eat and drink together whatever you damned well please. If it tastes good, it is right! If it doesn’t taste good, spit it out! This is the system we all used as infants. There is much to be said for it.
But if you are more comfortable with clear-cut Rules, and believe there is Truth to guide us at the table, and that Experts know what is Right and Wrong, then you are probably going to vote for #2, Objective Truth. But recognize that this is a more hazardous road to travel because the Experts who would lead you do not always agree.
For example, we used to know that “red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat” was an immutable principle. But then it was revealed that Pinot Noir was sometimes OK with veal. And actually pretty good with salmon, which isn’t exactly white. Or red, for that matter, either. And what the hell is going on with Coq a’Vin? Isn’t that really chicken in red wine? Truthiness is not simple.
Turns out it is pretty hard to pin down a lot of the rules that the Experts will agree upon. There are just too many variables and too many Experts. We’ve got red wine, white wine, pink wine, sweet wine, dry wine, slightly sweet wine, high acid wine, low acid wine, high alcohol wine, low alcohol wine, young wine, old wine, fortified wine, oxidized wine, maderized wine, still wine, sparkling wine, sorta sparkling wine, etc., etc. And the variables on the food side are even more diverse!
Enter now the Experts. Some come from the food side of the equation; they cook food or do something with it. Other Experts come from the wine side, they open a lot of bottles, taste a lot of wines, sell it, study with other Experts, write about wine, or sometimes they even make wine. What you can say about them all with certainty is that they are all individual human beings with their own unique personal taste memory banks, food histories and likes and dislikes. Their mothers fed them different things growing up. So maybe it is not surprising that the Experts don’t all agree about what wine pairs best with what food. Here’s the Dirty Little Secret: the Experts are just like you and me, only more convinced they know what is Right and Wrong about what wine you should love with what food.
The acid test of the dissimilarity of Truths is the pairing of red wine with dark chocolate. For some people it is a match made in heaven. Winery tasting rooms sometimes offer chocolate to taste with their finest wines because they think it will mesmerize you and you will buy the wine. For other people, the combination is an abomination that induces gagging and makes both the wine and the chocolate taste worse than either would on their own. And there are Experts on both sides of this chasm. Remember the Dirty Little Secret!
7. One thing we love about wine is the endless variability it brings to our mouth. Every pulled cork or unscrewed cap is potentially a new taste adventure. Even if it is a wine with which we are familiar, the context or the company or the food or even the weather can make the wine taste different. Also the wine itself is changing over time. You may like it better next year, or regret you didn’t drink it last year, but it will probably be different. And again, there is no right answer. Just as some people like their eggs soft boiled and others hard boiled, some people like younger wines and others like older wines. How can we say one person is Right and the other is Wrong? Although you might find an Expert to tell you when the wine will be at its “peak”, your own opinion about when the wine tastes best to you is the best answer to optimum aging of a wine.
There are lots of ways we love the wine. You might even find some of them in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry, reprinted here for the sheer love of her skill with words. After all, Robert Louis Stevenson called wine “poetry in a bottle.”
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Grape juice can never match that. But it’s a hell of a beverage! Don’t we love it?
John Wooden Quotes
2 days ago