Before the pandemic, one of our favorite things was to discover a new wine on a trip overseas.
Step 1 was tasting a grape we hadn’t tried before; perfectly paired with a meal. Cagnulari with fresh seafood on the coast of Sardinia comes to mind.
Step 2 took place after we returned home to Chicago.
We’d scour the local wine shops or head to Binny’s (a local wine superstore, thanks America) to see if we could find a bottle and share it with friends at home.
Sometimes we’d find it. Other times we’d come up short.
But the process of hunting for an obscure or little-known wine outside of its homeland always led to happy discoveries: a conversation with the wine shop owner recommending the same varietal from a different winery. Or being pleasantly surprised that a restaurant in Chicago serves it and promptly making a reservation.
After a few months of sheltering-in-place, it dawned on us just how much we missed the “discover wine abroad, try to find it at home” ritual.
Like so many life matters now, we’ve turned inward amidst COVID-19.
Substituting familiar wines available at the supermarket for treasured, hard-to-find bottles seemed acceptable given everything else at stake.
But today we forged new territory.
After reading Eric Asimov’s 20 Under $20 list of wines in the New York Times, we were intrigued — and thirsty. New grapes, new countries, and some new wineries here in America too. We decided to treat each of his recommendations as if we’d just experienced them on an overseas trip.
Off to the wine shop we went. Magically enough, several of the suggested wines were available.
Now with bottles opened and smiling faces, we understand the importance of the non-essential ritual. With so much compromise over the past several months, it felt good — even exhilarating — to return to a hobby we didn’t know we had.
Don’t get us wrong: nothing will recreate the experience of sipping a new wine in an unfamiliar city over a mind-blowing meal.
But today’s wine-shopping experience was reminiscent of those times, and uniquely enjoyable in its own right.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, here’s what we’re drinking with some lamb kebabs and a Greek salad:
Zlatan Otok Hvar Posip 2018 (Croatia)
Broc Cellars North Coast Love Red 2018 (California, Natural Wine)
Niepoort Douro Tinto Twisted 2018 (Portugal)
Domaine Andre Kientzler Sylvaner – we couldn’t find the Sylvaner that Asimov recommended, but were so intrigued by the grape that we picked up this one from Alsace instead.
Cheers! To reinventing old rituals for the time being.
And to that wondrous day we’ll raise a glass overseas once more.