Great Bottles of Wine: The modern Dodo-bird, or the common Grackle?
- Mike Willison
I have had a few great bottles of wine in my day. A paltry few. More often, I have had a reasonably good to fair bottle of wine appear at a perfect moment leaving an indelible memory. Time and again, the garish, Hummer wines of the pricing über-stratosphere tend to fall flat with a whimper rather than raise a mighty huzzah! While I do not agree that any old plonk sloshed into my glass will a happy occasion make, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the beholder’s eye seldom sees things similarly.
Take, for example, this last New Year's Eve. I celebrated at the home of a friend in what has become our traditional manner with great friends, food, drink, music, games, dancing, and mirth. At midnight we choose a song that makes us wrinkle with embarrassment or giggle with the happy, bittersweet reminiscence of good times, and pop open the bubbles (even though they have been popping for many hours). All the usual suspects were there as well as few less conspicuous characters of both greater and lesser dignity. Call it a coincidence, call it bad luck, but the thing that struck me as funny was that, as we cleaned up the great mess the following afternoon, there was a bottle of Dom Pérignon amidst the rubble left half drunk near some toppled beer cans and uneaten maki rolls. It made for a few good mimosas. What had apparently been preferred, as the evidence accumulated, in great, happy slurps was the Costco classic St. Hilaire from Languedoc-Roussillon.
Now, I admit we were enjoying ourselves and that our palates may not have been 100% keen throughout the evening, but there is little doubt that the empty bottles were the result of people enjoying the wine, again and again. Great wine, in this case, is merely well-made wine with little pretention or fanfare served in a favorable atmosphere.
"Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result." –Wilde
- Carrie Kalscheuer
Essentially, what you are saying here is that if one gets drunk enough, the "plonk" doesn't really matter. It seems that these are the "conditions" for the success of the Hilaire. So, as long as the eye of the beholder is, well, wearing beer goggles, things like "good" and "bad" don’t really apply? I've got to disagree.
Sure, I've had okay wine at a fabulous party, but it was the party I remembered, not the wine, and this seems to be the case with your New Year's fete. Did anyone stop to think about the wines as they drank them? I would argue no. A great bottle of wine shouldn't be confused with a great party. A great bottle of wine stands alone. It is something to be remembered, cherished. It is not something that is "consumed in great, happy slurps" by the case-load. Those are good bottles, sure, but not great. A great bottle is something that happens rarely, infrequently and in paltry few sums. That is what keeps us coming back for more. After all, if we were all content to chase our next buzz with any old swill, would the pricing uber-stratosphere even exist?