Sip, Swirl, Swallow

For the love of wine

| illustration by Charles Marsh | There are many of us who get all giddy at the idea of going on wine tours, visiting Napa Valley or just sipping a little Merlot at lunch. For the longest time, I wasn’t one of them. I just never could acquire a liking for it. Unfortunately, there were some dinner parties I attended a while back that only served wine. I came to find out that if I just swigged it fast enough, I would gradually be able to tolerate the taste. However, the bad thing about that tactic was that sometimes the hosts couldn’t tolerate my behavior. I never really thought I acted all that bad, but there was that one couple that wouldn’t speak to me until long after their cat’s hair grew back.

However, Jon Bonnell finally managed to straighten my picture about wine. He’s not only a great chef (and a great guy), he’s also an expert when it comes to matters of the grape. When I worked in radio, Jon agreed to host a wine-tasting class for some of our listeners at his restaurant on Bryant Irvin Road in Fort Worth. We learned that true wine connoisseurs consider things like aroma, appearance, texture and aftertaste. For instance, when a good wine matures, it develops a fragrance when it comes in contact with air called the bouquet. We also learned that if the wine smells like vinegar, chances are you shop at 7-Eleven. The entire class was very informative, but one thing became very apparent when it was over. Somebody needed to drive me home.

Since then, I’ve gradually started to develop a taste for white wine. Plus, I’ve been cutting back on the Budweiser. And despite what my old beer-drinking buddies might think, I haven’t developed a sudden urge to watch movies with subtitles, buy almond milk or drive a Prius.

So now that I’ve become pals with Dionysus, I thought I ought to share some facts about this fermented grape juice.

For starters, wine is a very old drink, dating back as far as 8,500 B.C. Its origins are in the Middle East, which is interesting because now you’d have a pretty hard time trying to find some for a baby shower in Iran. But it was apparently very popular among the cave dwellers in the Neolithic period. This of course was before Facebook, so cave women who had it for lunch would have to paint a picture of it on a rock in order to show it to their friends. The art of winemaking was later refined by the Egyptians, who then turned the Romans onto it. Then they all got drunk one night and decided to destroy the Egyptian library in Alexandria. As is the case today, you’ve got to be careful when you serve wine to people you don’t know that well. But since then, wine has found its way all over the planet. In fact, it may surprise you to know that China is now the largest consumer of red wine. Their consumption is going way up every year. What may surprise you even more is that the French consumption of wine is on the decline.

But you better sit down for this one. Do you know where they drink the most wine per person? The Vatican. On average, each of those folks drinks 99 bottles a year. Might explain why it always takes so long to elect a new Pope.

I’ve saved the best thing about wine for last. Wine doesn’t make you fat. The calories from wine are metabolized better than the carbohydrates and fats found in beer. Makes sense. Any of you beer drinkers ever been told you have a “wine belly?” And it actually goes with any kind of food you guys like because I know what you eat. Barbecue, chicken wings or whatever morsels you can find when you shake your keyboard upside down.

Therefore, I think we should all fill our glasses and raise them in a toast to my new favorite libation. Not now? Okay. Well then, how about right after breakfast?