New Year's Resolutions of a Wine Lover
By Thomas Matthews, New York bureau chief
Does anyone still make New Year's resolutions?
The whole idea seems impossibly quaint, faintly ridiculous. After all, we live in an age of instant gratification, in a culture that scoffs at the idea of delaying pleasure today for possibly greater rewards tomorrow. We're all victims now, too, which nicely removes the burden of taking responsibility for our own lives. And those lives are so busy and so scattered that the idea of making promises to ourselves and actually keeping them day in and day out seems more self-deluded than heroic.
Well, I'll give it another try. I'm old enough realize how hard resolutions are to keep, but still young enough to believe that with enough determination I can improve myself and my life. So though this is probably a short-lived triumph of hope over experience, I'm making another round of resolutions for 1998. Here they are:
1. Exercise more. This may head everyone's list. I know I'm not going to eat less--after all, eating and drinking is my job. The only way I'll stay healthy is to keep exercising. My goal is to add one day of exercise each week. That should be possible, shouldn't it?
2. Buy more wine for the cellar. Sure, I'm worried about retirement. But not about financial security--I gave up that dream long ago. I just hope that even when the bank account is empty, the cellar will still be full. If I can put aside just one case every other month, I'll be on the right road. And with the outstanding '95 Bordeaux and Rhones now available, on top of all the great wines from California, there's plenty to choose from this year.
3. Taste more new wines. Just because I'm getting older doesn't mean I have to get stuck in a rut. Exciting wines are being made all over the world. I want to cast my net as widely as possible and keep my senses open to new discoveries. I think Spain especially is going to bloom with great new wines this year as never before.
4. Drink more wine with friends. No matter how good a wine may be, it always tastes better when it's shared. Not only do other people's reactions help me learn more about the wine, but the communication a good wine stimulates brings me closer to the people around the table. The result is a double reward: Both the wine and the evening are more richly remembered.
5. Keep better tasting notes. Ever know you've tasted something, but can't quite remember when, or what you thought? That happens to me too often. If I could only organize my tasting notes in a database, they'd be more accessible, better organized and more helpful. After all, it's one thing to have and enjoy a bottle of wine; it's a big step ahead to be able to use that information productively later.
6. Learn more about winemaking. A bottle of wine is a great pleasure in itself, but it's also a message about the world behind the liquid--the growing season that produced the grapes, the people who turned them into wine, the culture that shaped the experience, from wine style to label design. The more I know about these underlying factors, the deeper the pleasure I'll take from the taste.
7. Pay more attention to medical and scientific research about wine. For the past few years, most of the health news about wine has been good, and that's reassuring. But new research is published all the time. It's important not to feel like we know all the answers, and to keep a balanced understanding of alcohol's risks and rewards.
8. Be less of a wine snob. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I must remember that just because I know more about wine than most of the people I meet doesn't mean I know enough to discount their opinions. Wine is a personal thing; I want to be less intimidating, and encourage the wine-drinkers I know to trust and develop their own palates.
9. Drink less most of the time, but more some of the time. I'll admit it--there are times when I enjoy drinking a bit too much. In safe circumstances, with dependable friends, I don't see anything wrong with inebriation (once in a great while). But most of the time, I could drink less and still have the same pleasure. I'll try to turn three glasses into two, most of the time, and not worry if on my birthday, say, those two glasses turn into five or six.
10. Always carry a corkscrew. Sometimes the people running the x-ray machines at airline security want to know about that weapon-like object in my backpack. It's a corkscrew. Have you ever been caught without one when you needed it? That's a bad feeling. I've gouged out corks with pens, keys, nail files ... it's not a pretty sight. Plus, you can use a corkscrew as a screwdriver, a bottle opener, to trim a thread or clip an article. And not least, it tells the world that wine is part of your life. It's certainly part of mine, and that's one thing that won't change in 1998.
This column, Unfiltered, Unfined, features the opinionated inside scoop on the latest and greatest in the world of wine, brought to you each Monday by a roster of Wine Spectator editors. This week we hear from New York bureau chief Thomas Matthews. To read past Unfined, Unfiltered columns, go to the archives. And for an archive of senior editor James Laube's columns, visit Laube on Wine.
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