My recent blog on Red Stitch, the new wine project involving ex-San Francisco Giants Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts, got me thinking. On reflection, there are more than a few things wine and baseball have in common. The game has a hold on me about as much as wine does, as the following ruminations might demonstrate.
Both wine and baseball require time to savor. Baseball, the only sport not governed by a clock, plays out in a series of moments that give us time to think. We can anticipate the next pitch, the next batter, the next inning. We can relate it to events of the past, similar circumstances, similar plays to the one we may have just watched. Individual players remind us of those we may have seen before.
Whatever wine has to offer, it rolls out over time. Time in the bottle, but more importantly, time in the glass. It changes. The first glass, like the first inning, is not the whole story. It develops, as does a game. First time up a batter can strike out, next time hit a home run. Wines do that too. Mature wines often don’t reveal all they have to offer until the second or third glass.
We also relate wine, like baseball, to the past. An older wine carries a vintage date that can make us think of what was happening in our lives that year. Any wine, though, can bring to mind other wines we have consumed in the past. A whiff of a distinctive aroma can spark a memory of a specific wine, just as a batter’s swing might remind us of another star player. The grape variety will almost certainly make us compare the wine in the glass with other wines from that same grape, just as certain games will bring to mind others we have seen.
Baseball and wine also have in common a certain level of uncertainty. One critical, if frustrating, aspect of baseball is how much chance plays into the outcome. A batter can hit the ball on the screws only to have the second baseman spear it for an out. Likewise a wine that was really good the last time you opened a bottle can seem surly and ungenerous this time, affected by storage, the cork, the weather, the setting, the company, or just your own mood.
In baseball this uncertainty leads to quirky plays and other circumstances that let bad teams beat good teams about one-third of the time, which is why baseball plays a six-month schedule and a seven-game World Series. This is also why we have to drink a lot of different wines.
When Jim Laube and I were tasting the same wines together, we often used baseball language between ourselves. “That one dies at the warning track,” one of us might say of a wine we’d rate 89 points. “Wow, that’s a fast ball right down the middle,” I would say about a wine that has all its facets in line and tastes brilliant. If a wine was missing something, Jim was known to say, “Oops, that one’s in the dirt.”
Colorful language is another thing baseball and wine share. Outsiders make fun of our favorite phrases while we revel in it. But what the heck. Wear it proudly. I do.
James Peterson — San Antonio, Texas — September 22, 2010 10:57pm ET
Chris A Elerick — Orlando, FL — September 23, 2010 9:07am ET
David Dickson — Sacramento, CA — September 23, 2010 11:15pm ET
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