John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

New Year's Wine Resolutions

It’s a new year and while many of you are struggling with resolutions involving body weight, finances or personal relationships, I’m resolving to explore new wine horizons in the hope of reinvigorating my relationship with the fruit of the vine.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m still in love with wine. But like any long-standing love affair, there needs to be, from time to time, a spark to reignite the ardor and excitement I experienced when I first realized that I was in this relationship for the long haul.

But my connection with wine was not love at first sip!

As a child in my Italian-American family, I was expected to consume a small glass of wine (that had been diluted with water) at the regular Sunday family meal attended by an army of aunts, uncles and cousins. But I hated the sour-tasting stuff.


 
After faking a sip of the awful mixture during the traditional family toast at the beginning of the meal, I always poured the remainder in dribs and drabs under the table where the family cat, with a much less discriminating palate, bailed me out by slurping up the vile concoction.

So my first experiences with wine were not exactly positive. Later in college, my encounters with the fruit of the vine were less than memorable. As a matter of fact, the flagons of the high octane swill I consumed back then often rendered me memory-less. So it wasn’t until I was married and gainfully employed that I began to appreciate that wine actually had qualities beyond precipitating inebriation.

My actual wine epiphany occurred at a meal when the perfect compatibility of a certain food and wine combination was an almost ethereal experience for me. In this instance, it was the heavenly marriage of a black cherry glazed pork tenderloin and a Ridge Lytton Springs zinfandel. That exceptional pairing made me understand that wine can truly be a magic elixir.

Okay, so what will once again excite my obsessive interest in the world of wine? Well, I’m going to start my exploration by seeking out wines from unfamiliar viticultural areas. Not just countries where I have little or no experience, but also appellations within those nations. Take, for example, New Zealand. While I’ve enjoyed the wonderful sauvignon blancs from that distant land, I hope to try the pinot noirs from Central Otago well down the South Island of New Zealand.

I’m also going to try and find the excellent red wines of Croatia and Slovenia, two countries that share the northern extension of the Adriatic Sea with Italy. While many of the grapes in these two countries are almost impossible to pronounce and spell, I am going to seek some of them out.

Plavic Mali is perhaps the best red produced in Croatia. I visited the island of Hvar in that small country and was scheduled to have a tasting of Croatian wines. While our group enjoyed the rose and white wines of Croatia, the winery that was to supply the Plavic Mali did not show up. Yet, I’ve heard this is a very special wine and I am determined to find it.

The wines of Sicily have always intrigued me too. Most wine lovers have tasted the ubiquitous nero d’Avola and primitivo reds of that country, but I want to try the nerello mascalese and syrah of the region along with the malvasia white wine.

And those are just a few of my resolutions for the New Year. That’s the beauty of wine appreciation. You can appreciate that the journey never ends.
Feastivall 2019
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