The best wine is the wine you like

The best wine is the wine you like

“Have you had this wine before?” asked the always helpful fellow at the store as I rang up four bottles. The chief recommendation for this wine, a simple Cabernet, was its price: $4.99, right there in Trader Joe’s “Two Buck Chuck” category.

“Yes, in fact I’ve probably been the chief customer for this stuff since you put it out.”

“How do you like it?” he asked. It was an obvious question but one I was a little embarrassed to answer truthfully because the real answer was “who the heck cares when it’s cheaper than Pepsi?” But I answered, “It’s perfectly adequate. Five dollars doesn’t set the bar very high, and this probably clears it. I didn’t expect it to be great, but it beats jug wine.”

He agreed “perfectly adequate” was good enough for a cheap bottle.

We’ve been doing a lot of busy chores around the house and have discovered all the seasons and episodes of the old PBS series, “The French Chef,” are on Amazon Prime.

Julia Child has been playing mostly in the background for days, but there were a few episodes I stopped long enough to watch in full. One was for a fancy sit-down dinner for company, and Julia went on and on about the wine selection. “Maybe unfortunately,” she said, “when your dinner is going to be a fancy affair, the wine has to be somewhat expensive to match.”

She talked about the need to get a good red wine from the cellar several days in advance and set it aside slightly tipped up in a special wine basket to allow it to rest and settle. Then it must be carefully set upright and allowed to rest for several days again.

Before serving, the wine gets a further rest and breathing after opening. Then the bottle must be handled like a newborn hummingbird for serving, lest all that settling and resting come to naught. “Many times you get a really fine bottle of wine, only to open it and find it isn’t very good because it’s too excited and hasn’t had the proper preparation.”

That’s an awful lot of fussing, especially when we’ve been in semi-lockdown for more than a year and wine consumption has risen across the country in response. “Leftover wine” has always made me wonder what kind of people ever find themselves with undrunk wine at the end of a meal with friends.

Just like with a good cherry pie, I’m certainly going to volunteer to finish up any remaining bits and sips. I think these are days in which we pick up a bottle and ask ourselves the only critical question that matters: “Does this bottle contain wine?” If the answer is yes, into the shopping basket it goes.

There must be an awful lot of wine aficionados who suffer endlessly over vintage and barrels, aging and corks, who must be eagerly looking forward to a time when we can settle down and take wine seriously again among friends.

I’ve devoted little time or effort to really learning about good wine, but I have had the chance to sample some extraordinary bottles from time to time. When you get one that’s really good, you know it.

The rest between perfectly adequate and extraordinary is a very wide field, covered quite well by an astonishing number of vintners the world over. Each of us must decide where our threshold lies for drinkability and go from there. My adequate may very well be your swill and vice-versa.

As many have repeated before, all that really matters is whether you enjoy any given wine or not, regardless of price, reputation or pretty label.

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