There are so many reasons why I love wine. One of the main reasons is that a favorite wine can be associated with a particular time, place, or memory. That’s the thing with great food and great wine — it is woven into our life experiences. When it comes to wine, the taste, the bouquet, or simply the wine-drinking experience itself can elicit a memory of a time or place.
Before I get any deeper into all of the reasons I love wine, it’s important to remember that drinking wine is about moderation, and overdrinking is never a good idea. When enjoyed in moderation, wine offers many benefits to your cardiovascular health — but I’ll come back to that a bit later.
First, let’s go back to the beginning, where my love of wine began… I grew up in the middle of a vineyard — literally. My grandpa was a winemaker. He had a few acres of wine stocks that he would grow with hard work, sweat, and sometimes blood — but ALWAYS with love.
His wine was terrible though. It really was. In fact, he was the only one that would drink it. Although he perfectly cognizant of the poor quality of the wine he produced, he would approach tasting it as a connoisseur, making snobby faces, and mocking our deprecation.
Some of my earliest memories are of harvesting grapes in September — carrying them in heavy buckets, loading them into a pickup truck, and bringing the grapes to the local mill where I would watch as they were crushed and juiced. In addition to my first exposure to wine, this is also where I learned hard labor, and the value of work.
This labor of love was also the reason my grandpa was the only one who liked his mediocre wine: It was his, and as a family, we all worked hard at it.
I had my first glass of wine — Champagne in fact — at age 10. No need to call child services. French parents give children wine, and mine were no different.
Not a lot, mind you. Just a tiny bit in a fancy glass, for family celebrations or special occasions.
As a child, it allowed us to cheers with the grown-ups, feel important, and most importantly, learn that wine is something to be appreciated in moderation, not chugged down your throat as a frat boy. Suffice to say, the French take a different perspective on drinking.
As a 16-year-old at Chef School, I began learning to analyze and appreciate wine. We took classes where we were taught to smell and taste, in order to decipher wine characteristics. In a tasting lab, each student would isolate into a booth with eight glasses waiting, each filled with a single ounce of wine. We would eye the wine, smell it, taste it, and then taste it again, this time slurping air into our mouths, in order to reveal more layers of depth, and more interesting flavors.
Unfortunately for my classmates and I, math class followed wine class. Come to think of it, maybe that’s the reason math wasn’t my best subject!
Those were Old World traditions. And we mainly tasted French, Italian, and Spanish wines. When I decided to come to America in 1999, I had never tasted a wine from California. My very first catering client, an extraordinary wine collector named Greg, introduced me to the wines of the New World. Then suddenly, here I was, tasting a 1982 Silver Oak Cabernet, flabbergasted at these New World flavors.
If France is arguably wine country, then America is the country of wine collectors. Thanks to my generous American clients, I have tasted prestigious French wines that I wouldn’t have been able to taste (or afford!) otherwise.
It is fairly common for me to be generously included in a tasting of a Chateau Cheval Blanc or a Chateau d’Yquem, elusive wines that can easily run above $1000 per bottle.
Without further ado, here are my top-5 reasons for loving wine:
- Wine makes food taste better
In my life I’ve had the opportunity to taste amazing wines, some surprisingly affordable, and some that only a lucky few get to taste. And that’s great. But the real beauty of wine is that it makes food taste better. If you have the right match, then both the flavor of the wine and the food enhance each other — and that’s pretty incredible. There is a great satisfaction in pairing wine and food flavors, and trying to do so in such a way that it provides pleasure to both you and your guests. Just as with people, when it comes to wine and food pairing, some matches are made in heaven.
- Wine tells a story about where it comes from
Speaking of flavor, another reason I love wine so much is that, unlike any other beverage, wine tends to “soak up” the earth. In other words, what you drink reflects the environment, the climate, and the geography of the land from which the grapes are harvested. Experts can taste a wine and accurately visualize and describe exactly where it comes from. That’s what the French call “terroir” [ter-wahr]. It’s become a buzzword, but it simply is the characteristic taste and flavor imparted to a wine by the environment from which it came.
- Wine is tradition and history
Wine has a rich tradition and history. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were cultivating grapes to make wine thousands of years ago.
In the region I come from, some vineyards are 2,600 years old. Wine really is history in a glass!
- It enhances special occasions
Wine also tells the story of your life. Just like I remember the first time my dad handed me a glass of Champagne, I also remember what Carissa and I drank on our wedding day. Some of our guests do too. And I remember the times I tasted various prestigious wines.
French fathers have a tradition of setting aside the wine produced the year their children were born, and then drinking it on their wedding day.
- Wine improves your health
Research proves the health benefits of drinking one or two glasses of wine per day. It provides antioxidants to reduce the instances of heart attacks and strokes. Having over two glasses per day is not advisable, and all health benefits are lost. Then the effect of alcohol and excess calories set in.