Friday, September 16, 2011

A Simple Food Product

"Wine... is a condiment."

It's a phrase that was once echoed to me by a friend; passing along the wisdom of an Italian vintner he knew.  Call it a reaction to the American view of what is- essentially- a bottle of spoiled grape juice.  So, why are we so inclined to put wine on a pedestal?

Between the esoteric labels, the cork-pull, the all-too-particular glassware, the pomp & circumstance of the tasting process, and- dammit, man- the ridiculous aromatic and taste descriptors...

... well, I can see why the beer-drinkers probably want to kick our asses.  Hell, I want to kick my own ass sometimes, but I just can't get a good angle on it.  I'm working on my flexibility.

When boiled down to the essentials, wine is a combination of water, alcohol, acid, (sometimes) sugar, and a handful of phenolic compounds.  It's a food product, like bread.  Or cheese.  Or tacos.  Delicious tacos.

Or, in the case of this particular Italian winemaker, it's equivalent to lowly ketchup.  Wine belongs on the table, with the olive oil, the salt, the bread.  It's simply... there.  Part of the meal; not something to obsess over, analyze, probe with our noses, and- worst of all- to misuse as a means to exclude and belittle others.

Such a simple notion is easy to lose amidst the deluge.  I think we all get caught up a bit in trying to impress our friends; to show off a coveted label; to showcase our sensory prowess with a cascade of descriptors... "rose hips", "under-ripe Fuji apple", "delicious tacos".  At least I do.  And- to that end- I'm still working on that flexibility, to kick my own ass.  It's hard.

In the meantime, there is an alternative exercise.  Once in a while, I'll go buy an inexpensive bottle, and one that is often cheaper than I'm comfortable with drinking.  I bring it home, open it up, pour the entire contents of the bottle into a pitcher, and drink it out of juice glasses with some food.  While avoiding the swirl and the sniff, and the obsessing over what the label means (or how many focus groups it took to decide on the highly-marketable packaging), I can just drink.  I can strip away everything, and have wine, simply wine, as part of the meal.

And it's usually pretty damn good that way.

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