March 1, 2007


   Home Page

 News & Features


 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note





 Pop Culture



   Video Games
   CD Reviews




   Grazing Guide



   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts





 Find A Hippo




   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad




 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover

Got milk?

Infatuation or addiction
The writer overcomes a slump & decides he’s not a drunk
By Tim Protzman

When does infatuation become obsession?

On a bright slowly warming winter day, Michelle and I took a nature walk. We were after birds. Michelle was a birder. Not a bird watcher, but the more serious birder. She has a wish list of birds she wants to see before she flies off to that great nest in the sky. She has a $1,400 spotting scope, numerous field guides and a powerful little pair of field glasses that are as small as what people use at the opera, but twice as powerful. On our walk she spotted several common mergansers, multiple pods of goldeneyes in multiple locations, a kingfisher, a swan, a vibrant cardinal and a common raven. It was a pleasant winter outing, which we followed up with a glass of house wine at a pub with a hearty fire burning on the hearth to chase away the fading winter chill.

“I’m a bit of an addict when it comes to birds,” Michelle revealed. “But wine comes in at a close second.”

I thought about her comment and I told her she was wrong. Addiction, in my opinion, was an undesirable state where the craving and need for the substance has driven away all rational thought and action.

“After all,” I pontificated, “nobody ever lost their job over birding. It’s a healthy addiction, if it’s an addiction at all.”

“Walter did,” she answered. “Walter lost his job because he called in sick to work to go see a red phalarope.”

A red phalarope is a rarely seen water bird that migrates from Hudson Bay to South America. Nice but not worth losing your job over.

Then I thought about wine collectors and connoisseurs. How many times did I take off from work because I had too much at a tasting?

Which leads to a big social issue — when does the love of the outdoors, birds and nature lead to obsessive, compulsive and self destructive behavior? When does the excitement of tasting a glass of crafted grape turn to need?

Humans are inquisitive creatures. They seek new experiences. They like to acquire, whether it be buttons, wine or compiling a list of bird sightings. And some of us, like Walter, take it too far. And it affects our lives and our families and or friends lives when partaking becomes a habit, when collecting becomes an obsession.

If you think you have a problem with substances, collecting, hoarding or a hobby that’s out of control, you probably do. And there are self-help, rehab, 12-step and therapy and counseling program out there to help you. It’s as easy as picking up the phone book or a copy of the Manchester Daily Express and looking at the support groups. And I feel that if I write every week in glowing praise of wine and spirit, I can at least explore the reverse side and spend a little time on the morning after.

Now one might think that this has something to do with the wine crossroads I’ve been standing at. Low-quality wine, unexciting vintages, bottles devoid of any connection to their place of origin. But it doesn’t. It’s merely a fair and balanced presentation of the facts. And drinking too much, obsessive-compulsive behavior and addiction are a fact and facet of the wine world. Sometimes we writers seem to glorify it.

Part of my week is comprosed of wine research, the looking up of chateaus, the mapping of vineyards. I also read other wine columns. And last week I came to a realization of what a wine column should do.

I was in a large wine store in Massachusetts that I’d shopped in before. I hadn’t been there since July of 2005. The wine room was shrinking. The Bordeaux prices were like gasoline. The Burgundy and pinot noir racks held inadequate selection. I moved toward the Rhone section and was shocked by the high prices of the Cote Rotie, the Hermitage and the Cornas. These are perfumey wines with great floral aroma and smooth layered tastes. Then I saw it! A Chateauneuf-du-Pape from a producer I recognized from an Eric Asimov column in the New York Times. I realized that I had discovered the essence of the perfect wine column.

A great wine column should familiarize the reader with the great producers so when they come across a bottle they recognize it. And that means the reviewed wine should readily available. Who cares about a 99 Parker Point wine if the only place to get it is at the winery in a well guarded-cellar 70 feet below the rolling hills of Burgundy?

This week’s wines were all great. My wine slumped ended with the very yummy Chateau le Sartre, which I reviewed last week.

My favorite wine in a long time was the 2003 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($44.99). It took me back to a 1990 Hermitage by Jaboulet that I tasted in 2000. It was one of my life wines. I’d tasted other Chateauneufs and found some lacking but this was wonderful. Elderberry, cassis, raisins and a hint of black olive. This one went on my life list.

2004 Atalon Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa ($39.99). A classic cabernet in the 1960s style with little fakery and a true taste of its soil and roots.

2003 Chateau du Moulin Rouge ($15.79). A dry wine from Haut-Medoc, it is structured but with a sinewy tannin frame. Juicy with fruit, but not jammy. Not quite as nice as the le Sartre, but in the same league.

2/15/2007 The extraordinary ordinary
2/8/2007 A glass of sweetness
2/1/2007 A glass of sweetness
1/25/2007 Ham it up
1/18/2007 Cheating on wine
1/11/2007 Burning down the tree
1/4/2007 New Year's hangover
12/28/2006 Sins of the vine
12/21/2006 Kissing frogs
12/14/2006 Wine for horrible friends
12/07/2006 Like dregs in the wine glass
11/30/2006 Gift of calmer shopping
11/23/2006 YouTube for YouWine
11/16/2006 Welcome to wine
11/9/2006 Fine art, supermarket wine
11/2/2006 The geography of grapes
10/26/2006 Please continue to hold
10/19/2006 The trouble with reds
10/12/2006 Making new friends
10/05/2006 TiVo-ing the wine
09/28/2006 From an unknown battle
09/21/2006 Toast to turkey
09/14/2006 Wine for life
09/07/2006 What are Malpeques, Alex?
08/31/2006 Hanging out wines
08/24/2006 Falling into new wine season
08/17/2006 Where has that wine been?
08/10/2006 Bringing out the dead
08/03/2006 The birth of a wine fop
07/27/2006 Slow process of maturation
07/20/2006 The pain of adolescent wines
07/13/2006 Nice day for a white wedding
07/06/2006 Scoring goals with booze
06/29/2006 Beer, it's what's for dinner
06/22/2006 A drink fit for a czar
06/15/2006 A summer of beer and fried clams
06/08/2006 Keep your cool, fool
06/01/2006 The social lubricant
05/25/2006 Water, water everywhere
05/18/2006 Big fat greek wine tasting
05/11/2006 Drinking to the end
05/04/2006 Schooled in the art of wine
04/27/2006 Make a wish
04/20/2006 Immigrant wines
04/13/2006 A pain in the glass
04/06/2006 Got milk?
03/30/2006 Throw a dart and there's wine
03/23/2006 A life of good wine
03/16/2006 Honoring the dead soldiers
03/09/2006 What once was old i new again
03/02/2006 The taste of sibling rivalry
02/23/2006 Wine travels, doesn’t sing
From grape, to barrel to red-tape jungle

02/16/2006 Love and vine
02/09/2006 A dog-drink-dog world
02/02/2006 The winos' mecca
01/26/2006 Date-nite drinks
01/19/2006 Touring eastern wine country
01/12/2006 Wine, Cheese and Granny Smith
01/05/2006 Resolve to try new wines
10 Wines To Get Lucky With

Adventures in and past the Euro-Cave
A Do-It-Yourself Wine Tasting
A Red For Everything
A Red Wth Your Leftovers?
A Tasty Way To Put Wine To The Test
A Year Of Wine
An Around-The-World Holiday
A wine for every holiday

Basking In The Mondavi Light
Behind One Door Is Great Wine
Beware The Hot Bottle
Brandy and the nude beach
Champagne, The Other White Wine
Cheers And Whines Of The Vine
Days of wine and jelly beans
Deep in the heart of Texas
Drinking for your health
Drinking like a newspaperman

Drinking Whites After Labor Day
Finding A Great Medium-Weight Drink (I)
Finding A Great Medium Weight Drink (II)
Gifts for blood, love or money
Grill and sip, sip and sip. Finding the perfect wine for barbecue
Hey baby, stay cool
How The Corleones Saved Wine

In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
Keeping up appearances
Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
The Best Drinks On A Budget
The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olé! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends — really
Our Northern Neighbor
Poker faces and wine

Presenting A New England Vodka
Presenting The Wines Of Spring
Rewarding Your Support Staff
Schooled In The Art Of Wine
Shopping for Wine Bargains

Sitting By The Fire And Dreaming Of Wine
Slipping A Little Sideways
Spending the holidays in NYC
Spirit World Tales
Springtime calls for wine and ice cream
Sudden ugly mood swings
The new face of fine wines
The wines of fall
Thinking ahead to the holidays
Time To Stay Frosty
Tipples for turkey day
TV worth drinking
What it means to miss N.O.
What To Drink When You Eat Wild
What's Your Wine Sign
White’s OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wine’ll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce