Why We Go Out to Eat & Drink

NOTE: Although this was written pre-COVID, it’s interesting to consider this under the current circumstances. How can we transport while staying at home? How has this morphed in the past few months?

Here are a few ideas I’d like to explore as a series. They’re based on the idea that going out to eat and drink feeds more than just the appetite:

3 categorical reasons we go out to eat & drink, rather than staying at home:

1) To Taste => sensory fulfillment, learn through new experiences

2) To Meet People, To Connect => connection, recognition, learn through socializing

3) To Travel, To Be Transported => forget the daily grind, dream, exchange stories, learn through imagining

You’ll notice that learning is a common theme. It’s true, no matter how mundane or irrelevant, we humans are constantly seeking knowledge. And it turns out there are multiple ways to learn, not just from person to person, but for each person individually. Some things you just understand better when you taste them, others, when you read about them or by physically going there. Understanding yourself and how you learn is a process, but it’s a fun one and humbling, too.

Below are excerpts that give you an idea of how I might address each reason:

Ex.1 – Drink As Taste

Osé Blanc Sec, Château Richard, 2011 (Dordogne, France)

This is the most wild, energetic, potent white wine I’ve ever had. During the first fall chill, I brought it home and had a sip. I had to sit down. I just stared at the glass, letting the taste come alive. Something like this that owns Its character and doesn’t back down is absolutely NOT friendly, it is aggressive and raucous and RARE. Over the past several days I’ve had a glass after work, and with time the wine has become a deep amber, deliciously tart and acidic. Surprisingly delicate although not for the faint of tongue, it’s like drinking fresh pressed cider from peaches. there’s tons of sediment and full on galore.

 
Ex. 2 – Drink as Connection to People & Places

Valdibella “Acamante”, Perricone (Sicily, Italy)

Another great example of how biodynamic farming activates an otherwise ‘sterile’ grape variety, Perricone. I say sterile because its limited area of origin (Sicily), its use as mainly a blending grape with Nero D’Avola, and its characteristics which resemble Barbera (and Nero), with a more bitter, tannic undertone. This makes it a tough sell and one I haven’t come across much, and understandably so. It’s just not that interesting…generally.

But the guys at Valdibella, a small coop of biodynamic vineyards in Camporeale, Sicily, have accessed the subtleties and highlighted them in “Acamante”. Rather than the bitterness tasting like a flaw, it rounds out the fruit with a dirty, earthy farmyard quality (much like many of my favorite Cab Francs). This creates a favorable balance on the tongue, something that drinks easily and is perfect to bring to a party, dinner, or have in the afternoon sun.

Wine always leaves a stronger impression when you meet the faces behind the grape. So, let me introduce you to my friends Antoine and Valeria:
 

 

Not to mention these guys are incredibly sweet and generous people. They came for a wine convention and we ended up spending 2 evenings out to dinner, talking about the vineyard, their wines, and the emerging natural wine market. They’re learning the ropes, navigating through the sea of mass producers, Bordeaux drinkers, California distributors, and American word play. But they have something the big guys don’t- they operate from the heart, and genuinely want to share their love of the grape. They take so many risks to get this bottle into your local shop. Can you distinguish this mentality just by tasting the wine? The wines have character, a vibrance that commercial wines lack. Maybe now more than ever we are aware of the joys of local and organic food products, but wine is still for the most part recognized as a commercial product in the United States. It’s amazing to see the landcape changing, with so many friends spreading the word by importing, selling, buying and socializing the experience. But the fundamental marker for remembering anything, beyond the Instafame and Natty Wine celebs and events,  comes from making a personal connection, which is worth far more than drinking just for drinking’s sake. It becomes an act of participation in a movement, of an awareness to support others as individuals and as terroir.

Ex. 3: Drink as Travel

 

Tikveš Vranec, Special Selection (Macedonia

 

Who doesn’t want to try a wine from Macedonia? Ok, it wasn’t the best glass I’ve ever had, but it held its ground against a wide array of plates (escargot, rabbit spatzle, and cumin lamb ribs) offering good acidity, balanced fruit, thicker tannins…but that’s not what was interesting to me. I closed my eyes, swilled the glass and imagined Macedonia: hot, dry heat, spices, black, red, yellow, Alexander the Great and his magnificent steed Bucephalus, iron, sweat, gold and fire… 

Stereotypical fantasies aside, the country as a whole appears to be much more lush than I thought. The climate varies- there’s even snow in the high mountains near the lakes. Of course, things may have changed since 330 BC, when it may very well have been desert. But learning just a little about the actual topography made the wine even more intriguing, understanding how the diversity in climates can affect the wines and the way people live.

Macedonia has three primary wine-growing regions:

  • Povardarie, in the valley of river Vardar, mostly around the towns of Negotino and Kavadarci. It is the most important region both in terms of quantity and wine quality. Tikves is found within this region and home to thousands of years of wine growing, in particular the variety Vranec.
  • PcinjaOsogovo, to the east on the border with Bulgaria.
  • PelagonijaPolog, around Lake Ohrid, to the west on the border with Albania.

Red is the most commonly produced in the following varietals, most of which are international: Vranec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Kratosija, and Merlot. From what I understand, the most popular grape with Macedonians is Stanušina Crna, of Macedonian origin capable of producing very high quality wine but basically unknown internationally.

So, when and how was wine introduced? The earliest grape seeds have been dated to the Neolithic period, somewhere around 4000 BC. From Maron, the first to “discover” the art of wine-making and the one to offer 10 amphorae of wine to Homer’s Ulysses (who later uses it to intoxicate the Cyclops), to Aristotle’s personal vineyard at Thasos, followed by an in-depth inscription of rules and regulations regarding the cultivation, sale and exportation of wine, it is clear that Macedonia has been a wine country for a long, long time. Even during the fall of the Roman empire, while Greece and the rest of Western Europe saw a great decline in wine production, the Byzantine era is said to be one of the most fruitful (pardon the pun) for Macedonia. However, much later during the phylloxera epidemic in 1898, their vineyards virtually disintegrated and have never fully recovered, even with the transplantation of French, Bulgarian, and other European vines.

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