Stealing a Wine's Soul

winelab.jpgI could not believe my eyes. I had to read it twice: “and to my palate even the best paired food gets in the way of a pure and unadulterated one-on-one experience with the wine”

It made me a bit sad. How had the wine experience become so sterile? The comment was made on The Robert Parker Forum by a frequent poster there. It should come as no surprise that such a anti-wine and food comment should come from a forum dominated by points. The world where a giving a wine 89 points instead of 90 can actually devastate its sales.

For millennium humans have chosen wine as the perfect compliment to a fine meal, as a healthy everyday beverage and as an agricultural product worthy of connoisseurship, collecting and study. Yet somehow, in just a few decades of wine appreciation in America we have reduced it to points and a beverage whose appreciation is only confused by food. 

Perhaps we should try to remember that like cooking, while there is art in wine it is not art in itself. Wine is the highest form of agriculture, not a pure art like music or painting. As an agricultural product, its highest appreciation and purpose is to be enjoyed at the table. Taking wine away from the dinner table to be considered only on its own or in competition with other wines rips the soul that Mother Nature has put there out of the wine. Of course, there is enjoyment in pure tastings; verticals, horizontals and every other permutation, but we should not confuse those real pleasures with wines real purpose.

I can’t help myself. Every bottle of wine I pick up makes me think of what to cook. Every trip to the market where I discover wonderful fresh ingredients takes my mind to my wine rack. At a restaurant I can’t help but select my meal and wine with equal attention. It is this harmony of wine and food that brings a wine’s character to its highest level. Everything on our table comes from the earth and wine is just one more color on nature’s delicious palette. 

The appropriate attire for wine appreciation should be white linen napkins, not white linen lab coats.