Today I’m going to whine about wine.
Early in my adult life, around the discovery of the New World, I developed an appreciation for good wine. Like most curmudgeons, I have champagne tastes on a beer budget. Along with my appreciation for wine, I also developed an appreciation for wine humor. In either Esquire, The New Yorker or Playboy magazine I saw a cartoon of two bums sitting beside each other in the gutter. One of the bums was holding up a brown paper bag that held a bottle of wine and proclaimed to his friend: “It’s a good wine, but not a great wine.” I know how he feels.
Shortly after I came to Washington, DC in search of my first job, I started to frequent the city’s wine shops. At the time, the District of Columbia was one of the few places where a retail shop could also be a direct distributor and, as a result, the District became known for its excellent selection of good and great wines at the lowest available prices. On one of these visits I stopped at the venerable wine shop Plain Old Pearson’s on Connecticut Avenue. As I browsed through the shelves, my eyes grew large when I spotted a bottle of 1973 vintage Chateau Petrus. For wine aficionados, Chateau Petrus is The Holy Grail of wine, a great French Bordeaux from the Pomerol region and one of the most sought after and exclusive bottles of wine in the world. Not only was it there in front of my eyes, it was there for the astounding price of $11 (USD)!
I was both shocked and crestfallen. I was shocked because the price was so low it had to be a mistake and crestfallen because, freshly minted job-seeker that I was, I didn’t have eleven dollars to my name. My shoulders slumped as I shuffled my way back to my dingy apartment to weep over the missed opportunity to buy a bottle of one of the great wines of the world.
Moving ahead to the present day, many of the wine shops in the District are gone – victims to mergers, changing liquor laws and real estate development. Plain Old Pearson’s is still there however at the same spot on Connecticut Avenue. Even though I had not been there in decades, I decided to make a visit when happenstance brought me past its door. Shopping the shelves, I got to the section dedicated to Bordeaux and what should face me but a newer vintage of the self-same Chateau Petrus, now at the healthy price tag of $2,299 a bottle! One again, I was shocked and crestfallen. I still couldn’t afford to buy it.
Oh well, Two Buck Chuck isn’t that bad.
Just like this story, it’s a good whine but not a great whine.