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Wine and Food Wednesday
Wine Without Food? The Horror of It All

By Stephen Eliot

Lately there has been considerable debate about wine’s proper place. Traditionalists are up in arms that the younger generation actually likes to drink the stuff on its own. The horror of it all.

Is wine something that should be drunk with food, or is it something to be enjoyed on its own? Market studies have shown, much to the amazement of some, that a good deal of our favorite tipple is quaffed down without food, especially among those who occupy the younger end of the wine-drinking demographic.

Now, I suspect that the topic persists as a point of discussion in part because, among Internet-enabled fans of the grape, there are only so many things one can argue about, and, in the blogosphere, horses seem unwilling to die no matter how severely beaten.

As for me, my greatest wine-drinking pleasures have come at the table with fine food and friends, but I cannot say that I have not savored a good glass from time to time without food and see no failing in character on the parts of those who regularly chose such a course. I do, however, take issue with those on either side of the issue who feel the need to aim ridicule and sarcasm at the other.

The latest salvo is aimed at sweet wine drinkers. There is clearly an upward trend in the sales of sweeter wine said to arise from America’s Coca Cola mentality and rationalized as being part and parcel the result of our willingness to drink wine without food. Some affect a political stance in blaming mid-America red-necks and ignorant Bible-Belters and apparently see some kind of insidious threat to the rest of us who generally like our wines dry. Humorless self-righteousness abounds. So too do unceasing smart-ass comments from those who cannot wait to exhibit their own brands of truth. (Have a look at the scores of responses to a recent San Francisco Chronicle story on the new sweet wine wave; )

Frankly, I am just happy that people are drinking wine, and I have no sense that Americans are “headed the wrong direction”. As far as wine drinking goes, most any direction is the right one if none had existed before. We all have to start somewhere, and tongue-curing, high-tannin Cabernet is not going to convince the absolute novice that the quality of life might be enhanced by drinking wine. If something simple and sweet gets someone thinking, if they would rather see wine as an alternative to Cosmos, Mai Tais and sugary mixed drinks, I am just fine with that.

White Zinfandel was long the object of attack from the pseudo-sophisticate set, but it helped introduce a new generation to wine as something appealing and easy to understand, and Lambrusco did the same. Moscato has lately filled that particular void, and I simply do not see the problem. Does anyone really believe that fads such as these will somehow result in a loss of choice as producers of fine Pinot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and the like abandon their craft and rush headlong to slake the thirst of the sugar-starved masses? That the rest of us will be left in the lurch?

Give the newbies a break folks, some of them will become devotees of finer wine with time. I remember Riunite, I remember Blue Nun…and I vaguely remember liking them in my long-ago youth. At the end of my sparkling wine lectures at culinary school, I would regularly pour several bubblies ranging from an inexpensive charmat bottling like Cook’s or Andre to top-flight examples from Epernay and Reims. Invariably there would be those in class that preferred the sugary charmat, and just as surely, their more experienced classmates would do their best to make them feel like fools for doing so. I worried that the “offenders” so scorned might be turned off to wine forever. It was always a good time to talk about perspective, and I questioned why you might ridicule someone for drinking that which brings them enjoyment.

To those whose feathers are too easily ruffled, I would offer the following advice. Have a glass, with or without food and as sweet or dry as you like, and please just try to relax.


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No Subject
by jason carey
Posted on:10/12/2011 10:58:57 AM

Yes drink wine.. both with food and without.. stop being wine police people.


Stand Alone Wine
by Bruce H. Rector
Posted on:10/13/2011 10:13:17 AM

Yes, I agree, there's no need for wine police.  However, the fact that wine is consumed as a stand-alone-beverage has a marked evolutionary force on it.  Wines that take the place of the cocktail tend to be made with bigger body, higher pH, and more residual sugar.  These attributes detract from the wine's ability to age.  And an aged wine is one of the pleasures of thoughtful evolution.  The solution?  Bring back the cocktail !




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