Is it really true what all those people say, that life is too short to drink bad wine? The more I think about it, the less I believe it. Most people don’t drink wine at all—-so they’re not drinking bad wine—-but to those who do, it isn’t worth spending much time worrying about whether the wine they’re drinking is good or bad, or what it is at all. Even professionals often advocate some sort of variation on that insouciance, including the Indy‘s own wine writer.

And why not? If you can be happy walking into any old wine shop—-be it a funky, idiosyncratic little place like Parker & Otis or a corporate strip-mall big-box like Total Wine—-buying a cheap bottle with with a salesperson’s help or picking one out on your own by finding a cute label, then I’m all for it. Is discrimination when it comes to intoxicants all that important? Most smokers choose mass-produced cigarettes. The good tobacco waits patiently in specialty shops, where aficionados go for select hand-rolled leaf. But that doesn’t mean we should talk trash about Marlboros. Marlboros are trash; they can be left alone, or occasionally, guiltily indulged in. But it isn’t worth carping.

What’s worth doing, if you like good wine, is drinking good wine. The pursuit and embrace of goodness is the perfect antidote to settling for badness and cheapness. Whether life is too short to drink bad wine, or listen to bad punk rock, or fail to save wildlife, or parent poorly or write like a hack—-whatever that thing is, that can save you.

So when Lent ended, it was time to renew a commitment. And we started with a devotional bottle.


Domaine Louis Latour is the winemaking arm of a (cough) conglomerate called Maison Latour, which is too bad. The family has been making and selling wine in Burgundy for a couple of hundred years. In theory, they are the Enemy, but in practice, I came into a couple bottles of their 1999 Grand Cru Chevalier-Montrachet “Les Demoiselles” for so little money that I felt vaguely criminal acquiring them. Well, so be it. I had been at the beach just before Lent ended, and came back with some red drum. Cooked that in clarified butter, did a sort of stock-and-vinegar meltdown of some local spring green onions, and bundled some baby collards, coated them with olive oil, and grilled them. (That’s because white burgundy can have a smoky quality; I was trying to match that.)

That’s a pretty humble meal. Red drum is a good eating fish but cheap and unprized; collards and onions, well, you know—-they’re sort of always around. The point was to make food that would stand a bit aside from the wine so we could enjoy it.

So then we opened that wine and drank it. This is the part where a “tasting note” should appear, but a few things about that: one, the wine changed as it sat in the glass and gathered air for a couple of hours; there couldn’t have been one single tasting note. Two, the color was awesome, and I can’t really describe it. Three, wine’s kind of a living thing (and a terrible thing to lose), and tasting notes are elegies. You can no more rate a wine than you can rate a play; half a play, more than half, is what the audience brings to it. (Amber quotes Jonathan Nossiter’s observation that the drinker’s context makes up much of the “character” of the wine; when you rate a wine, you’re just rating yourself.) It isn’t the same play the next night, with the next audience; and anyway Monday’s bottle of Latour Chevalier-Montrachet isn’t the same as the other one sitting in my “fancy-pants wine cooler that keeps everything at the perfect temp” so that it doesn’t get ruined.

So what can I tell you about Domaine Louis Latour 1999 Grand Cru Chevalier-Montrachet “Les Demoiselles”? It was delicious, rich and harmonious, and I was lucky to get to drink such a rare and costly wine for such a low price, and in such wonderful company, on a beautiful evening, with very fresh red drum, just before the Duke basketball team won the National Championship—-and I’m not even a Duke fan. Life is too short for so many things. Fabulous wine (or punk rock, basketball, girlfriends, literature, tobacco, wildlife, children), and all that may accompany it, make our short life longer, and so, so much better. It’s worth the work.