Vin ordinaire

We drink mostly wine here. A glass or two in the evening, more if we’re joined by friends. There’s always a bottle of something bubbly in the fridge, just in case a celebration comes in order. (We celebrate promiscuously. Why not?) After the big Friday night gathering there’s a real chiming going on when I put out the empties.

When I was a young man, I got really wrapped up in wine. I read, I kept a label book with tasting notes, and I drank as much good stuff as we could afford. (I once found a bottle of Chateau Carbonnieux in a Charlottesville, Virginia Safeway bin for a little over $3. A steal even in the mid-’70s). Then I realized that a person with an obsessive personality should probably chose a cheaper and less—what?—dizzying obsession. Nowadays, with the help of an excellent wine merchant, we concentrate on good stuff that for one reason or another is essentially under-priced, and in an effort at mental health I make an effort not to keep close track of what runs through the rack in the closet. A bottle that costs over $10-12 is a rarity at our table. A bottle that costs less isn’t. We usually avoid disaster (though they make for the best stories after the fact—one of us has learned to say “this wine is corky” in Italian), cheerfully toss down the adequate, and bend our loyalties toward the occasional exceptional discovery.

Over the years, I’ve trained myself so far from expertise and involvement that I’ve never seen Sideways, and through a series of random opportunities a while back, I thought I’d discovered all by myself that American producers, after years of marketing Pinot Noirs that were mostly just not very good, had figured out how to make really fine ones. Of course, they’re all waaay too expensive.

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