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Why Wine?

July 26, 2009

The profussor has a question for all of you.  This would be another great time, if you are a reader and have yet to comment, to speak up and let your presence be known.

When you eat dinner, either at home or at a restaurant, what do you have to drink?  And what goes into that decision?

I am curious.  Is it wine, water, juice, beer, milk, soda, cocktails, seltzer, tea, coffee, spirits, or perhaps you don’t drink anything?  Do different beverages fill the bill at different times or with certain foods?

Since I am asking, it’s only fair that I give you a peek into life at the casa del fussy.
As I am sometimes inclined to do, I’ll start my answer several years in the past.  One day, I was eating lunch at the house of some friends of the family.  Their precocious daughter noticed something strange I was doing, and called me out on it.  She said, “You don’t drink when you eat.”

She was absolutely right.  But I never thought it strange.  I would eat.  And then if I were thirsty from my meal, I would drink afterwards.

Discovering wine not only opened up a whole new world of experiences, but it also changed the way I ate food.  Still, change is never easy.  In the early years of my wine journey I might have had a sip of wine before eating, and realized at the end of the meal I had barely touched my wine.

Seriously, I had to train myself to drink wine.  I would take a bite of food, and try to remember to have a sip of wine.  Take a bite of food and then another sip.  Bite.  Sip.  Bite.  Sip.  You wouldn’t think it would be that hard.

The very act of introducing wine into my dinner routine started to transform me into a more thoughtful eater.  I started to eat more slowly.  I began to think more about how the food tasted.  I stopped in between bites to take a big deep breath in to smell the wine.  Deep breaths are inherently relaxing.

Sometimes the wines would be special.  On occasion the wines would be very special.  But for the most part the wines themselves cost less than ten dollars, and sometimes they would be less than five.  Which is not to say that they weren’t good.  They were, and some were very good.

I was never a fan of Trader Joe’s infamous Charles Shaw label that came to be known as two-buck chuck.  Only once did I come across anything under than $4 that was any good, and that instance had to do with the closeout of a small winery after the proprietor died.  But I digress.

The dinners themselves didn’t need to be special either.  We had been told that champagne goes with everything.  And we decided to put the axiom to the test one day when we brought in burritos.  Champagne was a surprisingly good match with burritos.  Although I have to say here that caviar totally overwhelms champagne.  Caviar is really best paired with vodka.

Sadly these days I am not drinking wine as regularly as in the past.  No small part of that has to do with losing a good source for very inexpensive but interesting wines.  All-Star, BJ’s, Exit 9, and Empire may have a few deep discount values every now and again, but do not hold a candle to Trader Joe’s, Grocery Outlet, and sometimes Cost Plus.

But part of the problem is getting old.  It would be challenging for Mrs. Fussy and I to drink a whole bottle of wine at a restaurant and make it back home in one piece in time for the babysitter.  On local Albany wine lists I have not seen a lot of restaurants offer half-bottles, and I have had some bad experiences ordering wine by the glass.

Still, at least once a week we will have a bottle of wine with dinner.  But regardless of whether we are drinking wine, beer, a food-friendly cocktail, or even just seltzer the original exercise of introducing wine with meals continues to have an effect on how we eat.

If drinking wine with meals is not a part of your weekly routine, I encourage you to give it a try.  See what happens.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  You don’t need special glasses.  It doesn’t have to be snobby.  Just open yourself up to the sensory experience: the color of how it looks in the light, the smell as you take a deep breath in from your nose, the taste of fruit, and notice if it changes after you had a bite of food.

Should you need any help, you know who to ask.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. brownie permalink
    July 26, 2009 11:45 am

    I’m a big fan of the Arnold Palmer. Good ol’ fashioned lemonade and a properly-brewed tea, in about 45(lemonade)/55(tea) proportion. Various teas or lemonade recipies may be used, so long as the tannins in the tea are adequately quenched by the light, sweet and bitter flavor of the lemonade. No HFCS or sweet tea may apply. Mrs. Raf turned me on to TJ’s organic lemonade and Tejava tea, which makes a pretty good AP at home without the fuss of brewing and squeezing.

    If I’m in any restaurant near my home, chances are they don’t know what the hell an AP is. I just order a diet soda or ice water because it’s consistent.

    For the “fancy” dining experience, I’ll have whatever wine my companion is having. I know bupkis about wine, so I let someone else take the lead. Most of my dinner companions nowadays are as clueless as me, so a cheap-but-not-too-cheap bottle is selected from the list. Most restaurant meals served in the Harlem Valley are beef and/or starch, so the choice is usually red.

  2. Jerry permalink
    July 26, 2009 1:14 pm

    Water or the occasional beer. I drink wine once in a while, but don’t really care for it.

  3. Kate permalink
    July 26, 2009 4:24 pm

    Wine with dinner when we have dinner guests (two or three times a week). If it’s just the family (we have three young kids), then water all around, and we wait for the kids to go to bed before indulging in a little wine and cheese or a martini and salted almonds.

    I absolutely cannot understand people who drink flavor-killers like soft drinks or juice with their food (and if a restaurant reviewer’s price tally includes a soft drink, I tend to discount all opinions rendered in the body of the review). And I’ve seen too many parents kill their kids’ appetites with milk to let my kids drink milk with their dinner. Better on its own, as a snack.

  4. Ellen Whitby permalink
    July 27, 2009 9:16 am

    I prefer water, the occasional diet coke and lately, most often, I sample local brews. Oliver’s has a nice selection, though I haven’t encountered anyone who works there who can answer questions…maybe I haven’t asked the right person. Beers, as I have learned, are very complex and different foods complement different aspects of their flavor and vice versa.

  5. Raf permalink
    July 28, 2009 1:22 am

    Let’s see, yesterday I had a french rose with lunch and then a gruner veltliner with dinner. Today I had pinot grigio with lunch and a dry creek zin afterwards while playing bocce at the vineyard; russian river pinot with dinner. Tomorrow, we’re doing a couple private tastings in Sonoma.

    Enjoy your fried fish hot dog thing! See you soon.

  6. Mama Ass permalink
    July 28, 2009 9:10 am

    As you know, we have a seltzer maker and usually Papa Ass and I drink the whole liter between us. That’s what we prefer. We rarely drink wine with dinner in part be cause it makes me feel lousy the next day.

  7. Jennifer permalink
    July 28, 2009 10:35 am

    I enjoy wine with dinner but as my partner is a recovering alcoholic, I rarely drink it. Not that he minds if I drink, but if I open a bottle I am unlikely to finish it before it turns and I loathe waste.
    Mostly we drink home brewed iced tea (barely sweetened) or home made lemonade (if it goes with what we are eating) or water.
    I find myself not sipping very much at all while I am eating. I usually finish my drink after I eat while we are lingering at the table.

  8. Mirdreams permalink
    July 30, 2009 12:36 pm

    Really depends on what I’m eating and where I am. I like to let the food dictate the drink and hate to place a drink order before I’ve decided on my food. For Italian, French or a nice steak place I’ll usually have wine (and the same holds true at home). For a casual place with BBQ, hamburgers or the like I’ll usually have a beer or a soda. Some meals (Shack Shake in NYC for example) cry out for a milkshake or a malted, though failing that those same meals are often good with a beer. Raspberry Pancakes at Wolff’s seem to require Lindemans Framboise , though I doubt raspberry pancakes anywhere else would. We were at 677 Prime last night and despite having a lot of seafood (raw bar and the lobster mac and cheese) I thought the half bottle of red burgundy we split was perfect. I love the fact I can get a half decent micro brew at Shane’s, even if it is in a strip mall. Homemade pizza straddles the line and can be enjoyed with wine, beer, cider, or soda equally well :).

  9. August 2, 2009 5:50 pm

    I will enjoy a glass of cab sav with dinner almost every night. (The people at the blood donation center suggested I do this, I have a rare blood type and they call me regularly when they have emergencies.) I don’t worry about not finishing the bottle the night I open it, for me the taste tends to improve by the second night. I just use one of those vac tops that pulls all the air out of the bottle. Something that has really caught on down here in Texas this summer is a sparkling white wine named New Age. Drink it over ice with a squeeze of lime. It’s so refreshing! And only $6.+ change per bottle. I usually drink good old sweet tea or water when at a restaurant. Our state has a pretty strict Drinking and Driving law and I work at a school so I don’t risk it by drinking alcohol outside my home.

  10. renee permalink
    August 4, 2009 4:51 pm

    For years it was wine with dinner but post-pregnancy my real craving is beer. One beer an evening makes all the difference. Blue moon lately, although I really enjoyed the Sam Adams Summer brew.

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