My prayer for this week is: Please release me from all the wine snobbery and things I learnt from wine experts. After all, wine is a drink, just like other drinks. If I like it, it is good and if I don’t like it, it is not good. Please encourage us to drink in order to enjoy, and not to impress.
Wine does not have to be at the center of the table or discussion. It does not have to be tasted or talked about. It should not be put on a pedestal, but on the back burner, taking its place modestly alongside the salt and pepper.
The wine writer Hugh Johnson, once wrote in favor of the Italian attitude to wine: “Food and wine belong in that order …..in any Italian mind. Put too much stress on the wine and you upset the balance. It is simply bad manners for a wine to assert itself too strongly.”
He goes on: “You can stand too close to wine. Watching a chef does not help you enjoy his cooking and the modern tendency to look over the winemaker’s shoulder may distort as much as it reveals.”
So this is my crusade against those who elevate wine to something elitist and unattainable. Here are the Ten Commandments against wine snobbery.
It is ok to drink wine from a plastic cup or a tumbler. For someone swirling, sniffing and then pontificating about the liquid in the glass as I do all day long, it is a wonderful release to drink wine from a glass without a stem and all the baggage that goes with it. The French or Italian agricultural worker who can be seen in a bar late morning after an early days work, is not wrong. He will be drinking wine from a tumbler but he is not a peasant. He is simply enjoying wine in its purest form.
Look out in the film ‘Sideways’ for the highlight when the hero drinks his expensive bottle of wine in a plastic glass in a hamburger joint. It is a sobering image for the committed wine snob, but for me it is an epiphany moment.
It is ok to put ice in the wine. Where did we get so precious that we feel embarrassed about adding a couple of cubes of ice to a glass We do it with whiskey sometimes and the roof does not fall in. Wine is mainly water, so what the hell. The sommelier who frowns at this request in a restaurant is not worthy of the job. The customer is always right.
This prompts a story I am compelled to tell. I was visiting one of the most famous wineries in the world in Bordeaux as a guest for lunch. The aristocratic owner of the winery thought nothing of picking up cubes of ice (with his fingers, not tongs!) and plomping them into his glass of champagne. Well I suppose it is only the nouveau riche that have to show how sophisticated they are. If you are the genuine article, you don’t need to impress!
It is ok to eat white wine with meat and red wine with fish. There are no rules. It is all a question of taste and there is not one right answer. Match the wine to your mood not to food. What you like is the best choice. It will go ok with the food for sure. Don’t get hung up on matching.
So allow me to release you from having to do it right. It does not matter. If the wine is good and food is good, they will go well together.
It is ok to buy, drink and enjoy a wine costing less than 25 shekels. There is so much inverted snobbery in wine and in particularly in Israeli wine, that you would think it is the first lesson in every a wine course. How to be a wine snob. Many would turn their noses up automatically at the prospect of buying cheap wine. I agree that at these price points, the wines are to drink and not taste like a pro, but considering the price, they are really not bad and if served chilled, very quaffable. When did you last drink a wine and feel you don’t have to talk about it
It is ok to add sparkling water to your wine. Just because the yekkes from Germany liked to add soda water to Carmel Hock pre state, does not mean it is has to be passé. In fact it is a great idea and one of the most refreshing and invigorating ways of drinking wine. In our climate it is ideal and amongst a few friends a bottle can go a long way. I say bring the spritzer back! I am all for it.
It is ok to drink sweet. Many people feel sweet is Kiddush wine and particularly not acceptable. Well, some people never like the bitterness of coffee and drink it very milky. This sort of person will not like dry white wine which they will find sour or a red wine that they will find astringent.
A lot of people are too sensitive for the harsher flavors of wine. Why can they add copious spoonfuls of sugar to coffee, and it is ok, yet when they say they like sweet wine, we regard them as inferior To the wine jury, I say people have ketchup and coca cola with a meal and they are sweet. So if they want a sweet wine with a meal, why not
It is ok to drink so called unsophisticated wines. Some people like semi dry red wine, or semi-sweet Moscatos, not because they have won a medal, but simply because they are tasty. Lambrusco, Buzz Semi Dry Red, Tabor Pnimim, Selected or Hermon Moscato…..These are fun wines. Allow yourselves to enjoy something, without having to explain why you like it.
It is ok not to taste the wine you have ordered in the restaurant. You will be approached by a formidable looking wine waiter. When asked if you want to taste the wine, you are then expected to perform the tasting ritual in front of your guests or family. You don’t have to play this game. Just say no thank you, go ahead and pour.
It is ok to buy a wine with a screw cap. Why make things difficult for yourself One can never find the opener anyway and if you can, you can never remember how to use it. Today there are fine wines sold by screw cap. It is practical, sensible and modern. A wine is not less impressive because it doesn’t have a bit of tree bark in it to stopper up the bottle.
Finally, it is ok to serve your red wine chilled. In fact I believe even the finest red wines should be served after 20 minutes in a domestic fridge. With high alcohols here, a red wine can lose its shape when served at room temperature.
I recently went out for a meal with my daughter, with wine of course. The wine exactly suited the ambiance and the food and before I knew it, we finished the bottle because it was so refreshing and seemed an intrinsic part of the meal. (What is a good wine An empty bottle, of course!) It occurred to me later, that I had no idea what wine we had drunk nor did I even bother to look at the label, but it was perfect.
This reminds me of Baron Philippe de Rothschild, being asked being about his favorite wine. He answered: “It was on a beach in the height of summer. The sunset was breathtaking and the girl was beautiful. As for the wine, it was the best I have ever tasted…but I have got no idea what it was.”
My message is put wine in its rightful place. What you drink and how you drink could not matter less. You don’t have to give a sermon about it. Don’t talk. Drink…and Enjoy!