The emails start rolling in October and gather stream right up to the onset of Christmas eve. People want to know about wines to serve, buy or request for their holiday celebrations. Wine continues to confound and cause stress in people who are worried about purchasing and pouring the wrong wine for family and friends. So many folks worry that when it comes to shopping for wine they don’t know enough to go it alone.
As a wine writer, I suppose, I should be cheered by this. It suggests there’s job security in talking, teaching and reporting about wine. And, while I’m always happy to talk wine with people, I wish I could find a way to effectively empower them to follow their bliss a bit more. Apparently, I am not alone. In his insightful new book, How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto, New York Times critic Eric Asimov talks about how a sense of obligation and anxiety stops people from finding pleasure in wine.
“Wine to me is entwined with pleasure, joy, fun, family, and friendship,” Asimov writes.” It’s not the sort of thing that requires book learning, academic training, or special classes, but rather an elemental pleasure that satisfies emotionally and physically… The simple contentment that comes with a glass or two at dinner is no small thing.”
I think that should go double at this time of year, which is one of the few moments where most families truly allow themselves to linger around the dinner table. The sense of occasion trumps work commitments or extra-curricular activities. Asimov goes on to wonder why people who are hamstrung by a lack of wine savvy don’t feel the same way about other subjects, like baseball, automotive repair, or French literature.
“It bears repeating: The primary purpose of wine is to provide pleasure and refreshment,” says Asimov. “It can do much more than that, but should never do less. With a mission so seemingly simple, I ask again, Why is it that wine and its trappings seem so often to breed a feeling of inadequacy?”
You could say he goes on to try and answer that question in the proceeding pages of his debut wine guide.
Another answer likely lies in the days ahead, when a vast number of wine bottles will be opened and shared. The bottles that are enjoyed the most will be the ones that are amplified by the joy and spirit of the room in which they are presented. It won’t just be the liquid that makes them memorable, but the scene and setting. How they taste will be just one of the factors that makes them so pleasurable.
Wines of the Week:
*** Henkell Trocken Dry Sekt NV, Germany
BC $13.99 (122689) | AB $13.99 (122689) | MB $14 | ON $13.95 (122689)
This fruity fizz has improved dramatically over the years. Its fruity and floral character make it appealing by itself, while the price doesn’t make it a crime to use as a base for a Mimosa (mixed with orange juice) or Kir Royale (mixed with crème de Casis liquer).
****Mumm Napa Brut Prestige NV, Napa Valley, California
BC $22.99 (265678) | AB $23 | MB $21.99 (011700) | ON $25.95 (217273)
Influenced by the tradition of the Mumm Champagne house, this California sparkling wine offers juicy fruit flavours thanks to the warmer growing conditions of the Napa Valley. Classic toasty and earthy flavours add interest and enjoyment.