Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bargain Hunting, Stamp Collecting, and Other Obessions

There are many dangers in getting "into" wine (including the dull hangover I have as I sit here writing this column against deadline for a cruel and heartless editor). One of the unique dangers of getting interested in wine - as opposed to food or cheese, or other such gastronomically refined pursuits - is that wine has the peculiar ability to bring out the hoarder in us. Unlike food or cheese, wine keeps and can be stored for long periods. Worse than that, wine actually gets better the longer you store it.

You have no idea what that simple fact has done to my life. I admit it started out innocently enough; a few bottles on a shelf in the kitchen being saved for a special occasion. Then I bought a 44-bottle wooden wine rack from CostPlus. I felt okay with that. I mean, 44 bottles is more than anyone could ever possibly have. I’d never fill it, right? Then I bought another. That was okay because that rack was going to go in the basement to hold the good stuff. Then I bought yet another. I didn’t even try to rationalize that one.

But then came the 100-bottle wine cooler. A hulk of a thing, it sits protectively brooding in the corner of the dining room, like a mother hen warming her eggs. I did have to rationalize that, “It was a great deal! Half the price you’d expect to pay for a wine cooler!” And while that’s true (we even got free delivery!), it was beginning to become clear that I had a problem.

That’s right, my name’s Tony and my house is too small to store all of my wine.

I currently have…well I don’t know exactly how many bottles I currently have, but I estimate there are somewhere around 250 bottles of wine scattered around the house. There’s the wine cooler quietly humming away in the corner along with racks in the living room, back room, kitchen, 20 or so bottles stashed away in a cabinet somewhere, and a few bottles in the fridge. So far, the bedroom and the bathrooms are the only “wine-free” zones in the house.

But that pales in comparison to the collections some people have. I know people who have actually turned their basements into climate-controlled cellars capable of holding a thousand bottles, complete with custom display racks and computer-controlled inventory systems. I know another woman who keeps $35-50,000 worth of wine in her house.

Wine collecting is a hobby (illness, sickness, disease – whatever) related to, but quite distinct from the hobby of actually drinking and enjoying wine. For some reason, wine appeals to all sorts of human foibles aside from boozing; everything from bargain hunting to stamp collecting. People even collect wine as a serious investment, selling the bottles once they reach a certain value.

But for me, the main thing driving my “collection” is that fact that there are so many interesting types of wine that I have never tried before. Every time I go into a wine shop, I feel like a kid in a candy store. There’s always something new that I have to try. But – try as hard as I might have last night – I can’t drink them all as fast as I can buy them.

Honestly, that’s part of the beauty of wine. There are wonderful, unique wines from all over the world, waiting to be enjoyed. And you should make an effort to always try something new.

This week, go out and buy a viognier (vee-own-YAY) instead of a chardonnay. Buy a South American malbec (mall-BECK) instead of a merlot. Get out of the rut of drinking the same wines over and over. There’s a whole world of wine you’ve never tried. And remember, Home Depot is having a sale on wine coolers.

Wine of the Week

2003 Berryessa Gap Malbec

Berryesa Gap is a small family-run winery in Winters. Though you wouldn't think of Winters as a wine capital, I've been impressed with their wines since the first time I tasted them, and if you want to try a malbec, this is a great one to start with.

Surprizingly floral on the nose, with just a hint of tar and lots of dark berry fruit. Amazingly dense on the palate, with lots of blackberry fruit and licorice. Unlike some malbecs, this one is quite smooth on the finish, with mild, well integrated tannins. This is an easy to drink and easy to like wine that almost reminds me of an Australian Shiraz. The 2004 vintage of this wine won a Regional Best in Class medal in the 2006 California State Fair. Available from the winery at 4 stars.

No comments: