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Posted: January 23, 2009

Affordable accoutrements

Crystal goblets or jelly jars?

Cathie Beck—The Wine Wench

The very first sip o' wine I ever had came from a Boones Farm Strawberry Hill bottle, circa 1972. Other vehicles from which I've sipped wine include, but are not limited to: A shoe at the 1983 New Orleans Jazz Festival; a gentleman's flask outside of Florence, Italy, and a tin cup last summer while camping in Rocky Mountain National Park.

But let's not get bogged down with the "how and why" of all of that wine-without-a-proper-glass history. The real issue is this: Wine connoisseurs relentlessly instruct us to properly decant and pour our wine into a vessel built specifically for a wine's distinct personality. Riedel, as an example, is a German-born, 12th-generation international glassware institution devoted exclusively to this mission.

So you can imagine why I sat up soldier-straight when a high-end wine expert was on TV during the holidays saying the economy now dictates that we enjoy wine with the cheapest, most low-rent accoutrements we can find.

Lest you think I exaggerate, he demonstrated using one of those cheap flower vases florists buy by the gross - the clear ones that bouquets often come in - as a decanter for his best wines (I'm not kidding). He also pointed to bargain-basement jelly jars as possible low-end goblets and admitted that he routinely serves his houseguests' wine in glasses bought at a restaurant-equipment warehouse, where they sell for about 13 cents each.

What's to become of the $280 decanter I've been lusting after? And where did the slimmest of stems, the whisper-light glass, and the "full bowl" (that suggests a generous pour), and is so very necessary to fully open up and expose a Burgundy, go?

The way of at Bernie Madoff's assets, apparently. In the wake of the tanking economy it's now gauche to bring out the crystal goblets, the $60-a-piece stemware, the decanter that sparkles like so much Tiffany jewelry.

Since cheap is in and choice is out, a small survey of retail outlets does, indeed, support the nouveau, no-nonsense attitude toward wine-drinking accoutrements.

But I'm not convinced. If Madoff can bankrupt decades-old charities, enjoy the plush of a $5 million penthouse, and ship breath-taking jewelry to friends over the holidays, I still want to drink from a long-stemmed, twinkling glass meant to "enlarge" the bouquet of my Bourdeaux.

‘Cause Boones Farm from a bottle jus' don't cut it.

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Target
12 wine goblets, $24.99 (www.target.com)
An online review from "Danielle:" We were looking for wine glasses that would do several jobs. They would have to function for white and red wines, as well as water glasses. This requires the correct shape and weight, and these glasses have that.

Bed, Bath and Beyond
Decanters start at $99 and go up to $315. (www.bedbathandbeyond.com).

Kmart
A pack of six white glasses is $14.99 (www.kmart.com).

For contrast, check out Riedel's "exclusive" Cabernet Sauvignon wine glass: the Sommerliers' Bordeaux Grand Cru Wine Glass goes for $119 each (you read that right), and the description and justification for the glass' price is (according to their Web site): "This glass, first created in 1959, is not a design gimmick but a precision instrument, developed to highlight the unique characteristics of the great wines of Bordeaux." (www.riedel.com)

Word O' the Week: Bouquet (bu KAY)
The term is generally used to indicate how a wine smells and the aromas associated with a wine. Expert wine tasters rely upon olfactory talents more than palates to determine the provenance of the wine or the grape variety in blind tastings. To "nose" through the layers of bouquet, inhale very gently and regularly for about ten seconds, penetrating down through the surface layers of fruit to the more earthy and alcoholic notes below.

One winning wine tasting
The Museo de las Americas Gallery will host the Third Annual Wine & Chocolate Tasting on Feb. 12, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. The event is presented by the Paris Residence Club and will benefit the Alliance Française de Denver. Wine and chocolate from around the world will be served and the event includes sipping Cava from Spain, nibbling chocolate from Madagascar, and indulging in hot chocolate from South America. Call 303-571-4401 for further information.

Coming Feb. 12, 2009
Cancer, schmancer, so long as you've got your health. -- Henny Youngman

Wine drinking is swiftly gaining a long-deserved reputation for mending just about every human malady to date.

For example, "research suggests" that drinking red wine may help cure Alzheimer's. Furthermore, red-wine compounds are said to protect one's liver and drinking wine may also produce better levels of the all-important Omega-3 fatty acids.

And I'm pretty sure there've been studies illustrating how wine drinking enhances philanthropy, increases dexterity and automatically builds new hair follicles for every Hair Club for Men member.

We're going to look long and hard at the science and suffering researchers have endured to develop the propagating list of wine drinking's continued (and contagious?) benefits of drinking wine.

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Cathie Beck, a/k/a The Wine Wench, can be reached at: TheWineWench@comcast.net. Please forward any and all wine events, wine-related news items directly to her.

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