Great memory: While living in Italy, I watched a housewife run a weekly errand. Outside of San Gimignano, at what looked like a gas station, she pulled two jugs from the trunk of her car and inserted nozzles into each. The numbers on the pump at this cantina sociale (“cooperative cellar”) clicked away as one container filled up with white wine, the other with red wine, replenishing her weekly supply.
Wine is one of life’s biggest perks (what else is undeniably tasty, endlessly varied, socially acceptable, and able to inebriate?), yet many Americans don’t take advantage of it nightly. In fact, the average American (of the two-thirds of us who drink) consumes a measly 12 bottles of wine a year. And, since I reached that number back in February, many of you out there must be drinking less than a bottle a month. Incorporating wine into your daily routine makes every meal an occasion, every conversation more scintillating, and every Monday as inspiring as Friday.
I have three criteria for an everyday wine. First, it must cost $12 per bottle and under. Next, it pairs well with food. Finally, it must be consistently unfussy. No matter the season, I tend to drink more white and rosé than red. There is a greater selection of good whites and rosés at everyday prices. Plus, their lively acidity adds more zing to weeknight meals. Besides, I like to think about my reds, and I don’t want to think every night. To keep my cost down, I look for wines from the outskirts of a well-known region. I love the chalky expression of Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre with roasted beets, arugula, and goat cheese, but can’t swallow the $25 price tag. So, instead, I buy a Touraine. It’s still Sauvignon Blanc from France’s Loire Valley and still extremely expressive in its own grapefruit-meets-poblano pepper way, yet it’s half the cost of a Sancerre. When I want the ripe fresh fig and melon flavors of a $20 Soave to complement a pancetta, red onion, and spinach frittata, I go for the same grape (Garganega), but from a declassified zone outside of Soave, like Gambellara. And I save $8.
EIGHT OF MY HOUSE WINES
Anton Bauer Grüner Veltliner Gmörk 2008. Wine Warehouse. $10.99
Salneval Albariño 2008. Foods of All Nations. $11.99
Domaine Bellevue Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2009. Tastings of Charlottesville. $9.95
Dal Maso Gambellara Ca’Fischele 2008. Whole Foods. $11.99
White Hall Vineyards Vin Gris 2008. White Hall Vineyards. $9.99
Château Montaud Côtes de Provence Rosé 2009. Feast! $11.95
Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2007. C’ville Market. $9.99
Tomaresca Neprica 2008. Harris Teeter. $9.99
Looking for a decadent middle-of-the-week treat? I love a smoky, salty beef hot dog (or three) from the Organic Butcher with White Hall Vineyard’s rosy Vin Gris. If I’m after port-like concentration to set off my orecchiette with spicy sausage and broccoli rabe, I choose a Primitivo from Puglia—the grapes share DNA with Zinfandel, but Primitivo won’t leave you slurring your speech before the evening news is over.
The French call it “la vie quotidienne.” We call it “the daily grind.” Whatever you call the day-to-day of life, it accounts for the majority of time spent here on Earth and ought to be pleasant. Savoring the simple pleasures is a concept that seems obvious in theory, yet elusive in practice. Talking over a glass at the end of a long day makes food taste better, unfortunate instances seem funny, and your surroundings (company included!) more beautiful. Benjamin Franklin said, “Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.” If that doesn’t sound like a solution to life’s little problems, then I don’t know what does.