Blind Muscat already quit smoking, 20 years ago; and he lost about 30 pounds over the last 18 months, so it’s time to make resolutions about other things. Here’s the 2009 Wine Resolution list:
1) Drink Cheaper, Drink Better: This one probably tops every sane wine drinker’s list, given the Depression-grade economic tumult we’re careening into. It means a little extra work, seeking out good values, haunting more wine shops, discovering new and obscure parts of the winemaking world that haven’t reached the point of price inflation. Sounds like fun.
2) Drink More Old World Wines: As a wine writer based in California, I end up drinking way too much California wine, since I’m surrounded by it—at tastings, on winery visits for articles, from the boxes that show up at the door. Much of it is fine stuff, but it’s a very narrow slice of the world, and pretty monochromatic. Sucking down Old World wines not only offers more variety, but dovetails nicely with resolution one, since there are tremendous values to be had out there, especially from Mediterranean producers—Portugal, Spain, southern France, central and southern Italy, not to mention Greece, Croatia, ...
3) Finally Learn About Bordeaux: This is more than a simple extension of resolution two. It’s an embarrassing admission for a wine writer, but I am close to totally ignorant about the wines of Bordeaux, one of the world’s largest producing regions and the taste/status benchmark for the world of fine wine. Yeah, I know about Right Bank and Left Bank, and that there’s more Merlot grown there than Cabernet, but it’s time to dig a little deeper. A lot deeper.
4) Wrap My Mouth Around More Washington Wine: Washington state produces a lot of wine, and most every bottle I’ve had from there over the years was a good-to-excellent representative of its grape, style and price range—a noticeably better batting average than, say California. The Syrahs are astonishing, the Cabs have more discipline than Napa’s, they even make tolerable Riesling in large quantities. The problem, even in the wine-happy Bay Area, is finding the darn things; it’s much easier to find wines from several other continents.
5) Pour More Wine Down the Drain: This may seem at odds with the Drink Cheaper mantra, but it squares with the wisdom that life’s too short to drink bad wine. Spoiled, defective wines should surely be tossed; indifferent wines may be OK for a glass or two, but there’s no reason to insist on finishing them. It’s like your Mother talking you to clean your plate because people are starving somewhere; the practice doesn’t help anybody, it just makes you put on weight. Wine isn’t exactly scarce; there’s more where that mediocre bottle came from.
6) Practice Random Food and Wine Pairing: The wine press, wind educators, and many wine drinkers in the US are obsessed with finding the “right” matches for wine and food. The only guidance here that makes any rational sense is drink wine you like with food you like. Which means Riesling with steak and Zinfandel with clams are perfectly reasonable options. Loosen up.
7) Make One Last Try At Liking Scotch: This isn’t exactly wine, but it is an adult beverage, and one whose charms have forever eluded me. Why do people go bonkers about swallowing burnt grass clippings? And then, once you get the hang of it, why do foreigners obsess about single malts, while the Scots themselves drink mainly blends? A year from now, maybe I’ll know.
8) Seek Out Really Old Wines: This is another acquired taste that I have not fully acquired, but in this case, it’s because I haven’t been presented with that many 50-year-old bottles to sample. Since I don’t have any really old wines in my cellar (having been bitten by the wine bug late in life), and am not about to start buying them at auction (see first resolution), my only hope is to make some new friends.
9) Scrutinize Screwcaps: I know that the official line in the with-it wine world is that screw3caps are the future, but I’m still on the fence. The possibility that screwcaps can let too little oxygen into wine—in contrast to plastic corks which often and natural corks which sometimes let in too much—presents a minefield. The most revealing tasting I went to this year featured a zillion New Zealand Pinot Noirs, and several of them had more than a whiff of sulfur in the nose—a phenomenon I intend to pay more attention to.
10) At Least One New Grape a Month: This is why wine is so much fun—the endless variety of varieties. I stopped counting the number of grapes from which I’ve had good wine a couple years ago, but I keep finding new ones—because I seek them out—that provide the spice of life. Fortunately, that same arc of Mediterranean wine regions that offers so much value also offers a dazzling range of vines with their own aromatic and flavor profiles and endearing quirks.
I’m getting thirsty just thinking about all this; it may be time to pop the cork on that bottle of Zierfandler.