Staying Home: Tuning In, Tuning Out
Andrew McCaul Aleks Zecevic, lead taster for the wines of Austria and Germany, lives in New York.

Staying Home: Tuning In, Tuning Out

Our editors share the memorable wine moments, such as trying out pairings with a favorite pasta dish, that are helping brighten dark times

Mar 31, 2020

Venturing out to buy some groceries in Queens on a recent Friday reminded me of the embargo and war that I lived through as a child growing up in Serbia in the 1990s. The scarcity here is not as severe as it was then, but what is the same is the shortage of certain grocery items, with people stocking up, especially on canned foods, and the sense of panic you can see in their eyes behind the masks they wear for protection—the fear of what the future holds.

During my childhood and then reflecting on it later in life, I learned that it is important to live in the present. As one of my favorite philosophers, Alan Watts, said, “There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.” Much about the situation we are in is out of our control. Thus, cherishing what we have, and enjoying the moments that we can control, is crucial during this craze.

Therefore, I see the quarantine life as an opportunity to catch up on certain things, whether it’s spending more time with your significant other or on a favorite hobby; to change our attitude about our fast-paced life and slow down a bit; to learn how to obey nature; to reflect, to celebrate life.

During my grocery shopping, I decided to celebrate life over the weekend and picked up some beautiful shiitake mushrooms and chestnuts and decided to make my earthy, garlic-cream pasta with the addition of those ingredients. I opened two bottles of wine, a red and a skin-contact white, that I thought would complement the dish. I opened two because I was unsure how well the red would pair with the pasta, but also because I like following the wine’s evolution over the course of several days.

The red was a Burgundy, the Chandon de Briailles Pernand-Vergelesses Ile des Vergelesses 2001. This Pinot Noir comes from biodynamically farmed vines planted mid-slope in this east-facing premier cru vineyard, in clay- and limestone-rich soil. It was a bit tight at first, but with some air, after a few hours, it opened to reveal aromas of sandalwood and juniper that flanked the core of macerated cherry and hints of truffle on the palate. Its acidity was still vibrant, its structure still firm, with well-integrated tannins that paired nicely with the rich creamy sauce of the pasta and the texture of the chestnuts and mushrooms.

The skin-contact white was the Dario Prinčič Ribolla Gialla Venezia-Giulia 2016, from a winery in Oslavia, an Italian village right on the border with Slovenia. Prinčič has been farming organically since 1988 and making skin-contact whites since 1999. This Ribolla Gialla, grown in clay and sandstone soils, spends 20 days on its skins, with manual punch-downs several times a day. Prinčič doesn’t control the fermentation temperature or add commercial yeasts or sulfur; the wines are naturally fined in a stainless-steel tank and are later bottled without filtering and with minimal addition of sulfites for preservation. The resulting wine is vibrant orange in color and shows oxidative notes, but bright acidity, supple tannins and notes of bergamot, cardamom and heather shine through, with an umami character gliding throughout. Because of the umami, the wine stood up very well to my pasta dish, while its brighter flavors lifted the whole experience.

To complete the dinner, I decided to spin several essential jazz and electronica records, including Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, Money Jungle by Duke Ellington and Carboot Soul by Nightmares on Wax.

I suggest that you, too, tune in (or out) and celebrate life.


Have your own wine story from recent weeks? Whether it’s pulling a special bottle from the cellar or enjoying a glass of a great value that you stockpiled, whether you shared it with close friends and family or savored it on your own, we want to hear from you. Share what you're drinking with us on our social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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