Confessions of a former wine virgin

I try thinking back to what I drank for an “adult beverage” when in my 20s and I draw a blank. I believe, if my memory serves, it was mostly Dixie beer and slow screws (sloe gin and orange juice – ick). There may have been an Amaretto and cream thrown in there somewhere.

Double ick.

The point is that I don’t believe I even tried wine until near or even past the age of 30. I do recall my most vivid “first-wine memory.” It was at a relatively unknown but upscale restaurant on the edge of the French Quarter in New Orleans. The bartend poured my dining companion and me a 1990-something Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon.

(That’s the story I’m telling. There was also a “1970s Boones Farm Strawberry wine incident” but I’ve never been able to recall enough of it to even try to retell it.)

I remember a sense of wonderment while in the midst of the Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon experience – the truth is that I wondered where I’d been all my life. That wine was like a huge, unexpected gift. It was delicate yet bold, full but not overpowering. There was smoke and deep berries and silk in my mouth and now, 20-plus years later, I’ll still get a 2000-something Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon when I simply have to treat myself, when I don’t want to guess at what the experience might be in the bottle, and when I ache for a simple and guaranteed pleasure.

At a recent media event, I found myself at a table with three women I’d never met, and we naturally began chatting about wine. All of us were different ages and it occurred to me that not until the last 15 years or so has wine had such ubiquitous popularity, such saturation into the mainstream, and such devotion, especially from women, it would seem.

Wine allows women to purchase and drink alcohol either in public or for their own drinking in the privacy of their homes sans any taboo labeling of being a drunk or a lush or any of the other centuries-old, derogatory names given those women who imbibe. I don’t think I’m suggesting that wine’s current respectability, coupled with its popularity, allows women to be (classier) drunks.

On the other hand, but may be exactly what I’m saying.

Wine appears to be an acquired taste, one developed over time and into through any person’s – man or woman’s – maturation. As one ages, wine is a pleasure that seems to blossom in its enjoyment. In other words, as the wine and the wine-drinker age, so does the enjoyment of the wine drinking experience.

One 30-something-year-old woman at our table, for example, said, “When you’re in your 20s, you just care about cost, so it’s all about the $5 bottle. Then, you’re in your late 30s or early 40s and you’ve had some of those $10 and $15 bottles and you can’t go back to the $5 stuff.”

She’s right. While wine and alcohol appreciate is usually an acquired taste. Equally compelling is the fact that the more sublime (usually more expensive) the wine, the more the palate develops.

I don’t know if any of this is good or bad. I’m simply saying that women sure can drink wine anywhere any time these days, and my mother’s generation certainly couldn’t do that. I’m also saying that I’d be afraid to even smell an opened bottle of Boones Farm for fear of projectile hurling in several directions at once.

But I guess I’m also saying that “things that age” – like wine and women – also improve with age. Both are often appreciated more in middle and later years. Or, as Henry David Thoreau so eloquently stated, “A man may acquire a taste for wine or brandy, and so lose his love for water, but should we not pity him.”

This week’s Weird Wine Trivia:

How did wine bottles become the same shape and size they are now?

In 300 AD, Romans began serving wine from blown glass bottles; however, the sizes of the bottles were not consistent. In 1400 Italy came into the picture as a leader in glass production and changed the common round, blown glass bottle to one with a longer, flatter shape, making it easier to store. Technology changed over the centuries and it wasn’t until 1979 that the U.S. required all bottles to be 750 ml. At the same time, the European Union agreed to standardize the 750 ml size to help with export sales to the U.S.

One Winning Wine Tasting:

Ciao Bella! Wines From Italy

Park Hill Golf Course will host the Ciao Bella! Fine wines of Italy Wine Tasting on Tuesday, March 22 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The tasting will feature hundreds of wines, is a popular night out and benefits The Positive Project. The Positive Project´s goal is to provide a mechanism by which people infected/affected by HIV/AIDS can share their experiences with those who can benefit from hearing them, to use their stories for the greater good. Cost is $30 in advance and $35 the day of event, which includes a tasting of hundreds of wines and generous appetizers. Call (303) 733-0545 for further information.
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