Cheating on wine
What happens when a love affair fades?
By Tim Protzman†email@example.com
Most small-town newspapers have a page that reports births, deaths, marriages, engagements and promotions. They chronicle peopleís lives. These are the ordinary people. They committed no crimes and arenít running for office. Iím always impressed by the anniversaries ó the golden 50-year anniversary, the yellow diamond 60th and the platinum 70th. Lots of couples make it to the 50th. A few who were married young get to the 70th. My grandparents were married 67 years, before my grandfather died. I think itís neat, and even right to celebrate these accomplishments, but what the paper doesnít tell you is how. How they got through the hard spots
For the last 16 years Iíve had a relationship with wine. There were good times, when expensive bottles flowed like water. There were times when a $9.99 bottle once a week was all I could afford. But there was always that spark. That softening of the face. That crinkling of the eyes upon first sight. That desire.
Lately Iíve been thinking about leaving wine. Iíve even been cheating on wine. Avoiding the long wooden racks. Sneaking into the beer cooler. And almost getting caught. Coming home from a late night at work with (gasp!!) single-malt whiskey on my breath. Oh, yeah, the wine knew. Didnít say anything, but knew. I felt shame, but it wasnít all my fault. Isnít there a time in every relationship when the grass seems greener? Or maybe itís something small. A little annoying trait or idiosyncrasy that builds up over time and begins to reverberate until you canít stand it any longer. I once was dumped because, on occasion, I chewed my food with my mouth open.
What I want to know is how these couples, these committed couples, got through the hard, dark, tragic or just plain boring times. Did the electricity of early love change to the steady companionship of later years? Did they fall out of love only to be swept back in? Or did their commitment outweigh the annoyances or even occasional hatred?
My roving eye comes from the law of diminishing returns. Iíve been putting more into my relationship with wine than wineís been putting back. Iíve tasted too many mediocre wines that just laid there. Wines that didnít smile when I walked in the room. Wines that skipped the goodbye kiss.
Exactly what was boring about these wines? One, they had no character. They were too removed from their native soil. They retained nothing of their heritage. Two, they were one-dimensional. That first sip was nice but then the flavor didnít evolve. They seemed flat or heavily tannic. And three, probably least important but still a factor, the wines were greatly overpriced. If I spend $24.99 for a bottle, I want something memorable. When I purchase a $9.99 bottle, my expectations are less. This holds true for everything from automobiles ó a Porsche should have more pick-up than a Kia ó to maple syrup ó why spend $8.99 for Grade A Medium Amber if it tastes like those packets you get in a diner?
I contemplated a clean break, a move to a nameless Midwestern city, leaving wine no forwarding address. Then I thought; ďAfter our long affair, could wine and I just be friends?Ē That way I could be less of a wine writer and more of a beverage specialist. Then it happened. Was this the event that rekindles the love? The event that lifts the relationship over the rocky spots and refloats it on the sea of love? Had I stumbled onto the key of all long-term relationships? And is that key patience, perseverance and the remembrance of loving things past?
I was in a store that doesnít have a great wine selection. These stores are the cheapest for spirits, and thatís why I go. I avoid the wine section. Too many questions I donít want to answer. Too many painful memories. I grabbed a six-pack and some vodka. I headed toward the checkout. As I turned the corner I ran right into it! There, sitting on an end cap, away from the wine section, were the first bottles of the 2005 Bordeaux harvest.
I bought two bottles. And, to skip to the end, the spark was back. It wasnít such a great bottle as to qualify as a life-changing experience, except that it changed mine by relighting the flame, but it was good. It had character, terroir and flavor. It spoke of the sun and the gentle estuary breezes of the Gironde. It smiled at me and as I drank the last sip of the first glass I puckered up for a gentle kiss. Does a love restored count as a love lost? Or is it a renewal? Iím such a romantic!
Anyway, here are the wines I tasted this week that recharged my wine batteries.
2005 Chateau Haut Montaud, $9.99. A primarily cabernet sauvignon blend with an appellation control of cru bourgeois and flavor, flavor, flavor and structure. Blackberry, black pepper, grape, plum and cassis flavors. Dry, but not austere. Still tannic but layered around the finish.
2005 Chateau La Rose Tour Blanche, $9.99. Also primarily cabernet sauvignon. The slightly less jack little brother of Haut Montaud. Flavor and structure combined with a nice bouquet.
2004 Hazy Blur, $34.99. This is one of my ďwhen in doubt, strike outĒ wines. Which means if youíre drinking a lot of chardonnay and getting bored, try something different.
This Australian Shiraz from the McLaren Vale was spicy with Tabasco, peat and a little bit of dried citrus flavors. Very smooth with well-tamed tannins and a great finish and fruit flavor.
2004 El Toqui Cabernet Sauvignon, $12.99. A Chilean selection from the Cachapoal Valley. This wineís parent company also makes Chateau Larose-Trintaudon. Inkberry and a slight bouquet of tobacco. Nice, but I wouldnít buy it again.
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