When Do You Drink This? (or Falling Out of Love With Red Wine)
One of the most difficult urges to resist is the capitalistic drive to collect more things, especially when you're passionate about whatever it is you're purchasing. In our case, it's likely booze. If you think the emails I send out concerning new arrivals are tempting for whisky fans, think about the tempting offers that K&L sends out every single day to wine drinkers! Even if you're not a collector, the idea of simply consuming a world class beverage is enough to pull out your wallet on a regular basis. Believe me, working here at K&L it is even harder for me to resist. We have regional staff tastings every Tuesday where we plow through anywhere from thirty to forty new wines and there are always three or four I simply have to have. Tuesday is always a big purchasing day for employees.
When I sample a new wine and truly fall for its flavor, I'm so overcome with excitement that I honestly don't think about when I'm going to open the bottle before I buy it - I simply pay for it and add it to the pile. This raises a problem when I look for something to open at home after work. Many of my purchases over the last year simply don't fit in with my drinking schedule or my lifestyle because my wife and I never find ourselves in the red wine mood. Let me elaborate a bit. In my wine locker there are at least twenty bottles of Bordeaux, ten bottles of Burgundy, and another dozen of mixed, full-bodied reds that are resting quietly at a cool temperature. When I get home at around 7:30 in the evening I don't have time to cook the type of meal that would merit opening one of these bottles.
I'm not simply going to open a 2001 Gruaud Larose St. Julien for kicks and pour a glass while I watch TV. These are special occasion wines that require planning and consideration. I only drink three days out the five in my work week and on those days I'm drinking beer, a cocktail, or a glass of white wine. The weekend would be the best time to plan a special meal and open one of those bottles. However, the weekend is when my wife and I go out to eat, walk around the city, or grab a cocktail from a bartender friend. There's no time to fuss about with wine and regulation - the weekend is about getting out of the wine environment and remembering that I used to have other interests before I became immersed in booze culture. Before I know it, I'm back to work again and I'm already thinking about new bottles that excite me.
In Sideways, there's the famous line about making the bottle itself the occasion for opening it. I've tried doing that lately, but the motivation just isn't there for me anymore. I really wanted to enjoy this new Rioja Reserva we just received so I cooked an elaborate meal and sat down with my wife. We both enjoyed a glass or two, but we didn't finish the bottle. The wine was fine, it's just that drinking heavy amounts of red wine and eating the heavy foods that accompany it are not things we enjoy anymore. I had roasted a chicken and made a delicious sauce to go with it, but we just weren't feeling it. I began to realize that my wife and I, despite our love of cooking and eating, are not the stereotypical sit-down-to-dinner types. Most of my co-workers enjoy cooking up steak, chicken, pork chops, duck confit, and other famous wine-pairing entreés, then sitting down to multi-course meals with pairings for each one. As much as I tell myself that's what I too should be doing, it's just not our thing. Our diet consists mainly of beans, fresh vegetables, Indian sauces, lentils, pizza, hot Thai chillies, and fruit. In New York, a few weeks back, we ate pizza, tacos, or knish for practically every meal. I think we ate tomatoes on toast with avocados and some broccoli soup for dinner the other night. Those simply are not meals that scream for Cote Rotie.
Why am I explaining all of this to you? Because I feel that there is a pressure to derive happiness from booze based off of what other people find enjoyable. Despite the fact that I don't enjoy red wine at home, I continue to keep purchasing it as if I need to prove something!! It's not that I don't like it, I just don't ever feel like drinking it. I had a conversation with a customer yesterday who told me that he almost purchased one of the Eagle Rare 17 year old Bourbons off the shelf simply because he never sees it available. He didn't particularly want the ER17, nor was it even one of his favorites, but knowing how rare these bottles are and how much other people love them, he felt a compulsion to get one of his own. This is the same feeling I get every time the Pappy Van Winkles show up, the George T. Staggs, etc. These are whiskies I have owned and never enjoyed drinking, yet I still feel like I should give them another chance because of how popular they are. It's the same feeling that compulsive shoppers feel when watching an infomercial about knives or something - they simply have to have those knives even if they've never cooked a thing in their life!
John Glaser told us during our whisky blending seminar to imagine the time we would want to drink our whisky before creating it. Would it be something to drink after work? Late at night with a book? On a sunny afternoon? The mood was an important creative factor because it needed to be something we would actually want to drink, not merely something we thought was good. Thinking about when we are actually going to drink a particular wine or whisky should be just as important for evaluation as proper tasting notes are. The next time you try a new single malt or Bourbon, think about when you would actually drink it. For me personally, I know that I'm currently not drinking anything cask strength because I'm sick of having to tinker with my whisky when I get home. That's an important point for me to remember when those Antique Collection whiskies land next week (remind me of that so that there's an extra one for all of you). Just because something tastes amazing doesn't mean you're actually going to ever drink it - it may sit there on your bar for the next five years while you search for the right moment that never existed in the first place.