I’ve been refraining from writing about wine in deference to the season, but because I want to highlight S. Irene Virbila’s nice little article in yesterday’s Times, I’m making an exception. (Besides, today, Sunday, is a feast day, and we make a mockery of all that is sacred if we fast on feast days…but that’s another topic.) I read Virbila and most of the other Times’ food writers faithfully, (especially the great Jonathan Gold, who walks like a god among us lesser mortals.) Virbila was formerly the chief restaurant critic before being restructured into mostly wine and entertaining, and although I miss her reviews, her knowledge of and passion for wine shine through her work.
One of my favorite expressions appears early on in her article: “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” And apparently, bad wine might actually shorten life more than it already is, based on a recent lawsuit against crappy mass-market wines like Franzia and Almaden for toxic levels of arsenic found therein.
Yes, these are cheap wines, and those who imbibe them take delight in calling the rest of us “wine snobs,” but the problem is not the cheapness of the wine’s price, it’s the indifference towards using quality grapes, the disdain for complexity of taste and the (apparent) disregard for the consumers’ health. There are plenty of wines out there (as Virbila makes clear) from independent wine producers that are affordable and drinkable without supporting assembly-line swill that can poison you.
Here’s how Virbila puts it:
What’s important is to develop your own sense of taste. If you rely too much on points or what critics write, you’ll end up drinking the wines that somebody else loves, but maybe not you. And if the point of wine is pleasure, get out there and find your own. The way to do that is by attending tastings, sharing bottles with friends and also drinking just one bottle and noticing how the wine evolves over a couple of hours. Wine is not only a beverage, it’s a relationship.
Yes! While most of us understand that wine enhances great meals, that it is meant to be shared and enjoyed, she gets it just right here. Relationship implies something more than just consuming, taking what we can get and being done with it. Relationships unfold. From one bottle you enjoy, you begin to learn more about that grape, that region, that winery, that winemaker. Perhaps you visit it and join their wine club and discover the ever-unfolding variations on a theme with each year’s new vintages and blends. But if wine isn’t your thing, I bet if you think about something else you really enjoy, you’ll find the same principles to be true about that as well, because fortunately, God gave us quite a few good things on this earth to enjoy. Life is too short to drink bad wine–or to let a day pass without drinking/doing/enjoying the things we love the most. So raise a glass and drink deep of as much of those as you can. Cheers!