The true wine enthusiast is a life enthusiast. He sees his participation in wine metaphorically: as continual interactions among attitudes, as clashes of behaviors, as a roster of habits, as a history of self. Though the more ego-bound of us act as if we are what we drink, it’s more accurate to say that we are how we drink.

We’d never know this without pausing to take stock. Moments of self-assessment and redirection are the crux of any philosophy and inform the tradition of the New Year’s resolution. Back when I was old, I scorned the notion of New Year’s resolutions because I was more or less perfect. But in my young age I have embraced them, anticipating with exhilarated fervor the challenge of maintaining new disciplines.

So, moving into a new calendar year, here are my resolutions for trying to find different ways to engage with wine. I don’t expect to “achieve” all of them, or to accomplish even a single one of them comprehensively. But I’ll rejoice in the attempts.

DRINK MORE SHERRY. Sherry is excruciatingly hip right now, but that is no excuse for me to disregard the utter distinctiveness of its flavors and textures, its almost entirely new palette of expressions. The ability of good finos, manzanillas, amontillados and even olorosos to dramatically heighten what dinner does is mind-boggling. For anyone who has become even slightly bored by the endless parade of hair-split fruit tastes and aromas in conventional wine, sherry is a revelation.

Sherry is wine as it drives past fruit straight to the ecstasy of direct communion with earth, air and sea. At a recent professional-style tasting of 25 beautiful (and, yes, expensive) wines, it wasn’t until we reached the single sherry of the night, the savory $20 Faraon Oloroso, that a colleague and I both dropped our jaws at the exact same time. “Wow, I so just want to eat a lot of food right now,” he said, reading my mind. Sherry is less a “food wine” than it is food as wine. Intended result: better understanding of wine’s final destination.

DRINK A LITTLE BIT LESS. I say this not because I feel I drink to excess. I say it because I think I drink a bit indiscriminately, which is to say, ultimately, disrespectfully. And I want to save a little money so that I can drink better. Here’s the math: The average price of a bottle of wine that I drink is $16. Given my dining habits and those of my companions, that bottle usually lasts about two nights.


Maybe one night a week, I don’t drink. So, that’s three bottles per week, for a total of $45 to $50. If I drank one fewer bottle each week, choosing a bit more discerningly so that the skipped bottle would not be much missed, I’d save around $60 a month. (And I’d feel more clear-headed overall.) Even if I drank only half a bottle less per week, I’d save $30 a month.

That money could, of course, be saved or go toward all sorts of other expenses. I resolve to put it toward more wine. But I will spend that money only on bottles that cost at least twice as much as my average. Of course, cost in wine doesn’t always determine quality, but when you know what you’re doing, it usually does. And the guiding principle for which expensive bottles I buy will be how well they age.

My intention will be to buy bottles that should be drunk a minimum of four years from now. Every month, I will be able to purchase with my savings one or two bottles that have a good chances of being extraordinary.

I further intend to hold off every couple of months to let the funds accumulate, so that three times a year I can buy a bottle that is thrice my $16 average. Intended result: more clarity, more gratitude, better cellar, greater recognition of the emptiness at the heart of fullness and fullness at the heart of emptiness.

OPEN THE BOTTLE the day before I want to drink from it. Almost every good wine is better the next day. Most of us are frightened that a wine will somehow lose itself a couple of hours after the cork has been popped. That fear is misplaced (with some exceptions such as sparkling wines and very old Burgundy). Wine wants to live before it dies. A wine is conceived during fermentation, gestates as it ages in tank and spends infancy through adolescence in bottle (if it’s lucky). Great demands are placed on it once it is released from bottle: It must pass from the vitality of young adulthood to the wisdom of old age over the course of a single meal. Giving it two to four days releases it from this pressure and allows its deeper truths to unfold at an appropriate pace.

From a critical perspective, I’m in an especially tough position. I feel obligated to recommend wines based on how they taste five minutes after being opened, since that’s how most people drink them. But such treatment is unfair to the wine, as well as inaccurate.


Last night I finished drinking a $12 Rioja Cosecha 2012 (unoaked, unaged, uncomplicated) from Hermanos Peciña which, when opened three nights previously, had been as hard as a brick, as clear as a slush pile and about as tasty as either. By the time I’d taken my last sip 72 hours later, the entire photograph of the wine had come into focus; components had fallen into the right slots; and a silky deliciousness appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.

How do I tell people this so that they’ll listen? In 2015 we’ll find out. Intended result: truth.

PAY MORE ATTENTION to vintage variation. I know that wine is alive. I know that it comes from certain places at certain times and that it is sensitive enough to even the slightest changes in weather as to be significantly altered from year to year. I know this but don’t recall it consistently. I tend to want to check things off the list, to lock away certain givens.

So, for instance, I love riesling from Austria’s Wachau, and I love riesling from Germany’s Mosel. I love these wines in part because they are so responsive to climate and change so dramatically from year to year. But when it comes time to buy and drink and age them, I forget that while 2013 was a miraculously great year for the Wachau, it was a strange and disappointing year for the Mosel (for now, at least).

The odd and beautifully beguiling Domaine du Cros Marcillac “Lo Sang Pais” ($14), a meaty red from southwest France, is another example. Finessed and supple in the current 2013 vintage, the 2012 was much heartier, fiercer and blood-dripping. I love them both. I love them both because there is a “both” to consider. But maybe the 2014 won’t be any good at all, and that’s fine. Intended result: flexibility.

DRINK MORE MAGNUMS. Wine in a 750-milliliter bottle is meant to be shared between two people, maybe with your older child taking a small, exploratory glass. Or, as mentioned above, perhaps it is best suited to being drunk over a few nights. As such, this normal bottle size relates to intimacy. A 1,500-milliliter bottle, though, is the size for community. It promises to unite a small, connected group around a shared special experience. Not only that, but larger bottles improve the ratio of wine to air, slowing the oxidative process that takes place during aging and usually leading to better wine.


Often magnums cost more than twice the price of their half-sized namesakes, but exceptions exist if you know where to look. Most retail shops offer only a small selection due to considerations of space and demand, but any retailer who deserves to be in the business will positively light up if you ask whether she could track down some special magnums. There are always some exciting ones lying around.

I resolve to drink more magnums in 2015 because I resolve to spend more time being with the people I love – not meeting, not dealing, not sarcastically “living the dream,” not “doing.” Just being. Intended result: more life the way life is meant to be lived.

Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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