Vino & Veritas

BY JUSTIN DILLON

Wines are like gay people — they’re great at dinner parties but scare the hell out of Bible-thumpers.

Or maybe wine is like sex — there are a million different ways to have it, and if someone cares about how you have yours, they’ve got way too much free time. Or theirs just isn’t good enough. Or maybe wine’s just wine, gay people are just gay people, and sex is just sex. They do have one thing in common: Jesus never condemned any of them. His first miracle was converting water into wine, see John 1:1-12, he never referred to homosexuality at all, and he mentioned sex only rarely.

Christians who understand the Gospel — as opposed to having just memorized it — have better things to do than gay-bait: helping the poor, showing compassion for the marginalized and so on. These things may not make for good newspaper columns, mind you, but they’re sort of the point.

See the bandwagon.See the wine columnist jump on the bandwagon.Jump, wine columnist, jump!

So this week’s column, fittingly enough — and planned before all this craziness started — is about how to enjoy wine in the privacy of your own home. What to do, in other words, when it’s just you and the bottle. (You have now read a description of my entire social life.)

There are two parts to this endeavor: what to do before and after you open the wine.

People often wonder what to do when they bring wine home from the store. In old English novels, for example, they would store it by the fire. This, however, quickly turns wine to vinegar, which may actually explain why the English are how they are.

If you have no idea what a “Middlemarch” is and never understood how someone could name a guy “Ashley,” do the following: Store your wine on its side, away from direct light. (You don’t need to own a cellar; bottoms of closets will do just fine.) Why on its side? Because you don’t want the cork to dry out; dry corks let in air and air ruins wine (which is, after all, why they’re corked in the first place). And why out of direct light? Because light equals heat, which cooks organic things like wine.

When you’re ready to serve the wine, use the following rule of thumb: Take all whites out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve them, and put all reds in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before the same. You’re neither “warming” the whites nor “chilling” the reds; you’re just getting the whites to a drinkable, tasteable temperature and focusing the reds’ flavors by getting them closer to “cellar” temperature. The latter may seem counterintuitive, but try it and you’ll see what I mean.

Finally, let’s say you’re either a lightweight or not an alcoholic, which means there’s still some wine in the bottle at the end of the night. You have a few choices. For ten bucks at any wine store, you can buy a “Vacu-Vin” system, which is a little self-vacuuming system that comes with rubber stoppers and an air pump (again, much like my social life). It’ll suck the air out of the bottle and keep the wine fresh for up to a week.

Alternatively, if you have a half-bottle of wine lying around, you can rinse it out and pour the leftovers into it — again, with the goal of minimizing the wine’s exposure to air. Finally, you can just stick the cork back in, which is fine but won’t do too much. I highly recommend the Vacu-Vin; although it’s not perfect, it’s cheap, easy and effective, much like … oh, never mind.

Tasting notes:

Every two months I get “The Wine Advocate,” Robert Parker’s brilliant newsletter. After reading its several hundred capsule reviews, rarely do I remember one in particular without having to go back and consult the piece. When I read about Chateau Gres St. Paul’s Cuvee Antonin 1999, however, I made a point to remember. Go buy this wine (which I bought for $14.99 at Marty’s). On the nose, it is fascinating: roasted fruits and bacon fat, like smothered blueberry pancakes from IHOP. On the palate, just as good: It’s a wine to savor and roll around in your mouth.

Another shockingly good buy was the Fattoria Le Fonti Chianti Classico 1998, which I bought at Marty’s for $9.99. A better Chianti for the price would be hard to find. The nose alone — rich earth and dark fruits — signals its depth, and the taste lives up to the smell. For $10, it’d be hard to find a better wine for pizza or pasta.

Finally, a white: the Pazo de Señorans Albariño 2000, which I got at Marty’s for $16.99. Parker loved it; he and I part company here. Although quite good, it doesn’t live up to its tropical-fruit and honey nose. Buy it if you’re sick of Chardonnay and looking to experiment; otherwise, there are better whites for the price.

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