Jack & Jill and a pail of wine
Wedding season means open bars
By Tim Protzman firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometime in late April it slips in and wreaks havoc with your free time — yard work and watching sports on TV.
That’s the man’s point of view. To women, it’s gossamer and silk. A romantic time where even the humblest and most lowborn can feel like a princess. Wine-lovers view it as a chance to sample free wine chosen by someone other than themselves. I call it “the best of wines, the worst of wines.”
And I’m talking about wedding season.
My first wedding was in 1972. I was in eighth grade and it was my uncle’s. There weren’t any flower girls or ring bearers, just a band, an open bar (my family’s a lot like me) and some overcooked chicken. I remember my cousin and me sneaking off to smoke cigarettes in the attic.
This weekend, the cycle of life turned and I went to a shower for the first one of my friend’s children to get married. The cycle goes like this: your parents go to a wedding, you go with your parents, you go alone to a wedding, you go to your children’s and friends’ children’s weddings and then you go to your grandchildren’s weddings. At the beginning of the cycle, you hit the bar. At the end, you waylay the waitress passing a tray of crab cakes, complain that they’re too spicy and try to stay awake long enough to eat the cake.
The wedding shower has two possible origins. The first dates from medieval times when the bride was ritualistically bathed as a symbol of her purity. Bathing wasn’t that popular in the Dark Ages and it was probably very traumatic for her. Filth was in back then.
The second, more plausible, explanation is that the shower was a quick way to raise cash for the dowry that was required by the groom’s family. Then about 30 years ago the Jack & Jill came into being. This party combined the sedate Bridal Shower and the bacchanalian Bachelor Party with disastrous results. Men where forced to ohh and aah over tea sets and bath towels, and women were forced to do shots of Rumplemintz.
This weekend I went to a Jack and Jill. (Can we please change the name to Harry & Sally or Jack and Diane?) It was Hawaiian-themed and it was terrible. The old people (my age) complained about the Kanye West songs. The youngsters made faces at the Rolling Stones tunes and 5th Dimension singing “Wedding Bell Blues.” And I complained about the wine.
The two best wedding wines I ever had were a Chateau Fortia and a Wycliff sparkling wine, a méthode champenoise wine from California. They were at both ends of the price and pedigree spectrum and both were delicious.
The Chateau Fortia was served at a reception at the Castle Hill Inn in Newport, R.I. It was 1997. The couple who married are now divorced. The bridesmaids wore similar but not matching dresses. I remember lamb chops with little chef hats on the end, freesia bouquets and a jazz ensemble. The wine was a 1978 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Deep, spicy, thrilling. I had to sneak into the kitchen and slip the waitress a 20 to get a second glass. Actually, it was about a third of an open bottle, but it was great, even though I had to drink it near the dumpster. Today it retails for about $150 a bottle.
The Wycliff was easier to get and was a sweet, crisp champagne that had fruit, backbone and a pleasant, light finish. I gave the waiter three bucks and a winning scratch-off ticket ($1) and he kept the bottles coming.
This weekend’s coed event started with much promise. Cases of beer and wine on ice. Shrimp and scallops. Homemade desserts.
But the first wine I tried was a vicious little pinot noir from southern France. This wine was tannic and mean. No fruit, only an astringent taste that was like unsweetened grape juice and vinegar. It was from the Vins du Pay D’Oc Region, which really means anywhere in southern France, but usually not any place where good grapes grow. If you look at the map it’s on the coast between Montpellier and the Spanish border.
Then some idiot bought four boxes of Trove — Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. This boxed wine was the equivalent of boxed airplane food before the airlines got too cheap to feed you anything more than a bag of peanuts.
The only decent wine was a cube of Black Box Chardonnay. And the whole evening just points out what’s wrong with wine. They had six or seven choices and only one was good.
Life is too short to drink crappy wine.
If you want to serve wine at your wedding — and it’s perfectly OK not to — get some advice so you don’t ply your guests with something that could double as antifreeze. E-mail me.
The evening finally ended, but not before the hostess’s drunken niece fell and rolled down a drainage culvert in the parking lot. She was fine, but her palm tree party favor was destroyed. Maybe that’s why they call it a Jack & Jill?
Here are this week’s wines.
Sella & Mosca 2003 Cannonau di Sardegna, $11.99. Bought this wine because it was from Sardinia. Tannic and tight. Not rustic or full of regional character. Disappointing.
Masion Champy Saint-Aubin Premiere Cru white Burgundy 2002, $24.49. Very elegant and crisp with a touch of minerals and lemon zest, bok choyand apple hints. Nice finish. One complaint: good first taste, nice finish, watery middle.
Chateau Ferran 2003 Pessac-Leognan, $18.45. Expected much more from this, but it did have the classic dry cab/merlot/cab franc finish.
J 2005 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $26.44. The best of all. If I married this wine I probably wouldn’t divorce it, although I would seriously consider having an affair to bring some variety into my life.