Thursday, August 27, 2015
EPHEMERA: Let Your Gizmos Go!
One of the questions I’m asked frequently is, “Do aerators work?” The answer is no, they’re a fraud, a simple trick, but, like placebos, if you believe they work, they work. But that’s not what’s on my mind, really.
Why do so many people who love wine feel the need to try and improve the wines they’ve purchased? Where’s the joy in that? Where’s the sense? You have to serve it in the proper stem or you’re missing something. You need to aerate it using Bernouli’s principle to release all that the wine has to offer. Bernouli’s principle, really?—don’t you know a con when you hear one? Maybe use magnets to change the tannins. Hell, my refrigerator is already covered in magnets—no wonder my white wines aren’t tannic! Or stick a weird piece of metal in the wine, stir it around, rub your neighbor’s nuts, pet your cat against its fur to put a static charge in your fingers, and then your Pet Nat will taste less funky. Or pump the air out of what’s left in the bottle so that it’s fresher the next day, and makes that satisfying queef when you open it. Or spray argon in it—it’s your baby, it needs a blanket overnight.
When did wine become so fragile, so needy? It’s part of the culture of worshiping wine, which wine in no way deserves, to see it as something almost ethereal, an entity always near death, the Blanche DuBois of alcoholic beverages. In the summer months, customers would often bring wines back into the wine shop that had leaked a bit from being left in their cars. They’d want me to replace those bottles. “So,” I’d say, “let me guess. You bought the wine first, then went to the grocery store to buy dinner, and you left the wine in your car when it’s 97 degrees outside. For an hour. And that’s my fault? If you did that to your kid, would you ask the hospital for a refund?” Besides, I’d go on to say, the wine will be fine. It’s not that fragile. It leaked because it’s mostly water, and water, we all remember from junior high school science class, expands as it heats. Take it home, cool it off in the fridge, then drink it with dinner as you’d planned to. It will be fine. And it always is.
There’s something sad about all of this that I can’t put my finger on. I’m a failure because I didn’t drink my Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir from a Riedel Oregon Pinot Noir glass. It would be better for the wine if I could—it’s tasting delicious, but how much better could it be if I only had the right glass? Or I forgot, and I didn’t decant it early enough, but at least I have a Vinturi to make it all better. All of these gadgets, all of them useless from a scientific point of view, but all of them aimed at making us feel more sensitive than the next guy, with a more evolved sense of smell, a better palate, a better and more savvy kind of wine connoisseur. But all of these gizmos simply prey upon our insecurities, our fear that we just don’t really “get” wine. We want so badly to be thought of as a wine expert by our friends, we pursue equally intellectually dishonest initials after our names—WSET, CSW, HMW (which one is fictional—kinda hard to tell, right?). We “educate” our less knowledgeable friends when they come to dinner with our glassware and our aerators and our vacuum seals. Yeah, there’s a lot sad there.
I’ve come to a place where I use one glass all the time for every wine I drink—red, white, sparkling, rosé. My wife loves a stemless glass. We open a bottle of wine, we talk about it, we often disagree as to its quality, but we enjoy its company. If we don’t finish it, we put the cork in it and stash it somewhere until the next evening. Expensive or not, pedigreed or not, Grand Cru or plonk, each bottle gets the same treatment. It’s dinner company. We welcome it, we listen to it, we don’t screw with it. Simple.