Champagne Floozy: [sham-PEYN FLOO-zee], noun: 1. A woman of the early days of Champagne, before her time, who decided it was ok for women to partake in the drinking of Champagne. 2. A lifelong foodie turned wine industry professional based in Durham, NC.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

All of the Above

Baby, you so foxy.
There are grapevines growing outside my kitchen window. When I do the dishes, or stand at my stove and stir the marinara, there they are. Southern Appalachia is not suited to European wine grape varietals, so undoubtedly these are some cultivar of a muscadine. They were here at the beginning of last summer too, but a storm came along at some point and knocked the potential grapes off somewhere in between flowering and fruit set. I hope they make it this year, though I do have mixed feelings about them - grapes would be so aesthetically pleasing but the smell of scuppernongs is overwhelming to me, and not in a good way. (Please don't let them be scuppernongs.)

     Either way, summer is obviously here. We all have our favorite hot weather wines, and I am no exception. As a matter of fact, this season is perfectly suited for the wines I naturally gravitate towards - roses, high-acid whites, light bodied reds, and of course Champagne (or almost anything with bubbles, decidely un-chic Moscato d'Asti included). I start dreaming of rose somewhere around Winter Solstice, when the wines I'm pining for are most likely just starting to rest in bottle after fermentation, and the rest of the world is moving towards slumber and pot roasts.

     As much of a food nerd as I am, I still very much enjoy these kinds of wines without food. And, when summer comes calling in my seasonal, tourist-driven city, I need wine I can drink without food. After sweating and slinging cases of wine for 9+ hours, often times I just can't cook. And aside from that, I take entirely too much pleasure in cooking to force myself to do it. It's not work, and I won't let it be, goddammit. Sometimes take-out or cheap chinese delivery is fine. Food snobbery does me no favors.

     There are few things that give me more pleasure in this regard than an aperitif from Bordeaux called Lillet. This delicious concoction starts with red or white Bordeaux, and is then infused with a top-secret blend of macerated fruit liqueur, herbs, and quinine. It's got the tiniest bitter edge, and is wonderfully tonic after hard physical labor. It's my favorite porch wine, traditionally served on ice with a twist of lemon. If you've never had Lillet before, well, a warning: It's high in alcohol, close to 20%, and dangerously refreshing. If you are hot and tired, or god forbid both, it is entirely possible to consume a glass in the scope of about five minutes without even noticing. I don't even want to tell you how fast me and and one of my co-workers once consumed an entire bottle.

     Lillet has been made since the late 19th century, with it's current formula dating back to 1986, and as astonishing as it is to hear of a Bordelaise doing something untraditional, the folks over at Lillet recently did:

"Cats and together...."

      Ladies and gentleman, I give you Lillet Rose, fresh off the boat. When it first came in, my colleague Larry proclaimed, in his best Ghostbusters Bill Murray:  "Cats and dogs! Living together!"

     I, too, had to question what kooky parallel universe we had entered. Yet we are all fans of Lillet and each bought a bottle the same night. Somehow I managed to resist it's allure longer than them, but tonight I think I will crack it. Truth be told, I've learned not to open a bottle of Lillet on a school night, if you know what I mean.

     I like to drink Lillet on the porch in my GoVino glasses on ice, forget the twist, alone or with friends and preferably a cat at my feet. Honestly, for me, this beverage is about pleasure and relaxation. Proper tasting notes seem a little silly, but I will say, it tastes just like pink grapefruit for breakfast, the way my mom used to slice them in half and sprinkle the top with sugar. In true Lillet fashion, it makes you want to take another sip.

     Tonight I was sitting on my porch, alone, enjoying my utterly delicious Lillet and a cigarette when my neighbor Kenzie came out on to the porch.
     "Kenzie, come taste this!" I said. 
      She came over, tasted, and declared, "Oh my god, I had a wine spritzer the other day but I wasn't gonna say anything because I thought you'd look down on me."

      The last thing I want to do, ever, is look down on anyone for their tastes. If you want to drink scuppernong wine on ice cut with 7-up, I could give less of a fuck. I like what I like, and I think it is interesting enough and delicious enough to bother telling you about. For me, it is more important that we share our beverages and meals with the people we love and the people who inspire us on to those other human necessities: Conversation, compassion, creativity, the world of ideas.

     And have I mentioned that snobbery gets me nowhere? Yes. Yes, I think I did.

     Let's be honest. People like to say they drink red wine for their cholesterol, or only drink wine with food. Sometimes, though, we like it white and cold and for no other reason than the fact that it helps us relax after work, or stimulates conversation, or inclines us onto to other very human, physical pleasures. I see nothing wrong with any of that. Personally, I want all of the above. I work too goddamned hard for anything less.