Just a day or two after New Year’s, I started getting the PR emails plugging various wines for Valentine’s Day. Rose Champagne, white Burgundy, Brunello … all’s fair in the commercialization of love and the war of marketing.

I love the inherent ironic distance between content and form: “Gaze into your beloved’s eyes, think back on all you’ve done together, how grateful you are to have found this mate, and what firm foundation you’ve built for an ever rosier future, and … BUY! BUY! BUY! DRINK THIS! IT’LL BE A KICK-BUTT LOVEY-DOVEY EVENING FOR JUST THE TWO OF YOU!”

Even if you’re not in the wine biz, you know what I’m talking about because you live in the marketplace, where we are all bombarded with anxious, ingratiating encomia to “love,” monetized.

At the root of the offense I take at this is the compression of time: here’s the latest, don’t miss this trend, it’ll be gone in a week.

At this point in my life I find it hard to truly feel the passing of time. I can’t chart its course or float in its currents; I mostly splash about a bit too effortfully, flapping my arms and trying to find an eddy where I can rest for a moment, before another flush of water sweeps me downstream.

If you too have felt this, then you too know how fragile your own soul can become if it’s not nourished. A distracted ignorance of time’s passage flattens a sense of value, where certain experiences are worthier than others. Fail to sense yourself in space and time and you will end up bored with everything.


Boring wine works this way. Boring wine is often made quickly, with one eye (at least) on getting to the market as quickly as possible.

A wine friend from France once told me, “Americans think 100 years is a long time and 100 miles is a short distance. We see it the other way around.”

Real wine is slow. It takes decades to get a vine you planted ready to yield excellent fruit; months to grow the grapes each season; days to pick grapes by hand and sort them. Then there are the weeks it takes to induce natural fermentation; months of tasting, conferring, adjusting.

All that is gestation: Once a wine goes into bottle, it begins an early stage of its life, but won’t be ready for a real relationship until several years later. (I’m not talking here of wines whose heart and soul lie exclusively in the realm of freshness and vibrancy. There are exhilarating wines meant to be drunk young, just as there are joyful flings to be had.)

Something like 97 percent of wines are consumed within a few hours of when they’re purchased. That’s understandable, because most of us buy wine as a nice way to round out our dinner plans or enjoy with a gathering of friends. We’re not collecting or investing.

But the buy-it-drink-it rhythm is a shame nonetheless, because it severely limits what we can let wine actually do for us: how it can stretch us, relate us more intimately to our natural world and one another, and help us reflect on our own passage through time, our own life arc, our own mortality.


Wines that have aged even a few years truly can do this. Their character, their essence, is so dramatically different from that of fresh/young wine that to call both by the same name is inaccurate, if not offensive.

Young wines suggest the time arc once in a while, almost randomly. Older wines are like older people, and older relationships: Their experience has yielded them insights that are simply unavailable to the young. They can communicate these insights more willfully, and therefore more unswervingly, more convincingly.

Personally, I have limited experience drinking wines that have aged decades. Some have been extraordinary; others lead me to agree with intelligent commentators (chief among them the Wine Spectator’s Matt Kramer) that a lot of wines are aged too long and are no longer good.

Modern innovations in viticulture (that’s the farming part, not the vinification methods in the cellar) have resulted in much better wine quality across the board, so that a greater proportion of wines nowadays don’t need the tempering effects of long aging.

The most exciting result of the past 20 years or so of improved viticulture, as well as greater understanding by winemakers of when to let wines make themselves and when gently to step in, is that “age-worthy” wines are no longer to be found exclusively at the too-expensive end of the spectrum.

There are many wines in the $13 to $23 zone that are interesting today but will be profound five years from now.


You don’t have to be a collector to reap the benefits. You spend plenty of money on stupid things all the time. I’d like you to consider putting aside $100 a year that you spend on wines you won’t open until at least 2018.

Start with the $30 you’re earmarking for a box of chocolates next week: Sock that away, and testify to your beloved without any purchasing: some eye-gazing, some truth-telling, maybe a walk in a snowy park.

Next week I’ll suggest some guidelines for specific wines that will work for this important experiment.

For now, consider what I’ve written today my Valentine’s Day wine column for Feb. 14, 2019.

Start taking the long view, which is what love demands.

Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. His blog is soulofwine.com, and he can be reached at:soulofwine.appel@gmail.com

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