Thursday, June 07, 2007

Cool Things: Wine Edition

Over Memorial Day weekend, while I was recovering from my Friday night attempt to drink my weight in sangria (resulting in a new self-imposed "only one glass of sangria per evening" rule), I spent some time on the Internets reading about - what else - wine. I came across some cool things and thought I'd share them.

The whole quest for wine knowledge was kicked off by an email from Natalie MacLean, Canadian sommelier and food and wine writer extraordinaire. She pointed me in the direction of a very cool new tool available on her web site: a wine and food matcher. It's super easy to use and a great way to build a meal around a bottle or to find the best match for tomorrow's dinner. While it's necessarily limited - she can't possibly list every single food option imaginable - it's fun enough that I spent nearly an hour creating imaginary menus just so I could see what to drink with them. This is, apparently, what I do in lieu of playing video games.

Anyway, if you like Nat's site - and it is extensive - you can sign up for her newsletter, too.

A few days after talking with Natalie, I ran across this site - it's a blog and store that's all about wine without pretention or snobbery. The writing is awesome - funny and totally accessible - and I more than kind of wish I could meet the people behind the store. I also more than kind of wish Maryland would change it's ridiculous laws so I could actually buy some bottles from the store. Sigh.

The third and final cool new wine-related discovery is a little more philosophical. In a recent Slate article, Field Maloney looks at the societal implications and causes of the recent increase in the popularity of wine and corresponding decrease in the popularity of beer. It's not a long article and I found it absolutely fascinating - and completely resonant, too. I think that my husband might be the poster child for the new wine drinker.

Obviously, at our house, we enjoy the vino. Over the past couple of years, as we've become increasingly enamored by wine, we've gradually improved the quality of what we buy and have made an effort to collect some bottles that'll be really nice in about 15 years. We're into it. But that doesn't mean, for a second, that we have any desire to be highbrow about our new hobby. For one thing, almost all of the bottles we drink at home cost less than $15. Way less than $15.

Plus, at his core, Cooper is a little bit of a redneck. When he's not drinking wine, he's usually drinking Busch Light. On our first date, he actually said to me, "Yeah, I don't drink wine." And even now, he'll sometimes look at his glass (as he finishes his mock-Sideways tasting ritual) and he'll say, "I still can't believe I drink wine." Then he laughs.

Back to the article. My favorite part is this short passage:
The shape of American aspiration—our sense of connoisseurship and the good life,
the character of our nostalgias, even the thirst imperatives of a nation of
office clerks rather than line workers—has changed radically over the last few
decades in ways that have helped wine and hurt beer.

I've written here before about the nature of connoisseurship as it relates to food, but I hadn't thought of it as an integral part of what it means to be an American. It's true, though. My parents' and my generations haven't had to cope with a lot of day-to-day hardships. We've started out from a pretty good place. A decent education, the ability to find a good job, the opportunity to own a home - these are the traditional elements of the American Dream. When they're practically handed from you as a birthright, what comes next? How do you up the ante on that dream? Through hobbies and leisure activities. By becoming a connoisseur.

The article really deserves a full read, but I was also interested in Maloney's discussion of language and accessibility, of ritual and the pleasure at the table and of the advent of "lifestyle" as a marketing tool. It's given me a lot to think about. Naturally, I'm analyzing my own family's interest in wine through this lens.

I am my own best guinea pig, after all.


Jill said...

Hey, thanks for the props! don't know why it took us 2+ months to notice this post, but we appreciate it greatly. anytime you're in LA, you can come hang out with us. And if you know anybody in the D.C. area, it's legal for us to ship there!

Again, thanks so much.


Kit Pollard said...

Thanks, Jill! It really is a great site...


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