Wine Experience of the Week – Good vs. Evil

I took a couple from California to visit some wineries in Portugal recently. Apart from being knowledgeable about wine, they were also quite outspoken about the nature of the seemingly conservative nature of their homeland. After enjoying a couple of glasses of wine over lunch in Èvora and visiting a couple of wineries, the discussion came up on the drive back to Lisboa about having a glass of wine at lunch in the USA. As the husband was an airline pilot, a glass of wine or two is probably not advisable for him – and his passengers. However the wife, who worked in an office based job, said it would be out of the question. This she explained was because her colleagues were quite conservative and she would be looked down on if she did partake in some wine with lunch.

In southern Europe a glass or two of wine is common at lunch. One because lunch is usually the main meal of the day, but more importantly it is a part of the culture. Being from Australia myself, I can relate to the idea that drinking wine at lunch could make you be considered decadent at least, or a raging alcoholic at worse. I have also spent a lot of time in the north of Europe; here too it is not the done thing unless it is a special occasion. This got me thinking… What evil force is at work that makes something that is perfectly natural in one part of the world be frowned upon in many other parts of the world?

Let’s start with the obvious – they have made wine in the south of Europe for thousands of years. This gives them a pretty good head start on the rest of the world. It is also common here to have a long lunch, this gives them time to enjoy a glass or two of wine and be able to digest everything by the time they return to their place of work. These are probably the two main differences in lifestyle from southern Europe and the rest of the world. In the north of Europe, the USA and Australia (and as I would guess many other places in the world) it is encouraged to have a quick lunch and get back to work as soon as you can to continue your job you are meant to love.

Soon the discussion turned to what would need to happen for the perception of taking your time to enjoy a longer lunch with a glass of wine as unacceptable to change. According to the couple, there are quite conservative views when it comes to your working life in the USA. This would automatically preclude the idea of an enjoyable lunch, as you would have with your friends on a weekend, being acceptable during the week. From my working experience in Australia and The Netherlands, where I think people are not as conservative, it is still not the done thing. But what would need to change?

For one – the time people work. For people who are meant to love their job so much, the majority are pretty keen to get out of there when the clock ticks over to their designated time to leave. So for them to stay another hour or two to take a longer lunch may be difficult, but definitely not an insurmountable obstacle. More importantly the perception that if someone has wine at lunch, they are not necessarily getting drunk. The drinking culture in many countries revolves around getting drunk. In the south of Europe, it mainly revolves around the enjoyment of food. This may be a hard transition, but I would argue, a needed transition for the cultures of northern Europe, USA and Australia (and probably many other countries).

I think it is a battle between good and evil. Where the good is the idea that “Bob from the office” is a normal guy because he has a glass of wine at lunch as well as achieving everything at work he is expected to in his job. And the evil is the idea that “Bob from the office” is lazy/inefficient/a poor worker/an alcoholic if he has a glass or two of wine at lunch, despite any work related results. Ironically in the same culture where “Bob from the office” is considered bad for having a glass of wine with lunch, he is considered a great guy if he has 10 beers and a few shots on a Friday night after work and entertains everyone with his drunken banter.

In the end, the discussion in the car finished with an agreement. We hoped the next generation will be able to choose if they would like wine during lunch or not, without any assumptions being made about them. This was because the next generation will be more globally enlightened, as well as the current generation becoming more aware of wine. The more people know about wine, the more they are able to accept it as an accompaniment to a meal than previous generations.

To help this, this week’s Wine Experience of the Week is not 1 but 2 wines! They are both from the last winery we visited on the day, Encosta de Estremoz. The Prodigo and Enjeitado from are two very different wines. The meaning of Prodigo is the prodigal son and Enjeitado the “black sheep” son. So in short good son – bad son… This however, is where the good vs. evil idea stops. They are both good wines. What they do is give the consumer an idea of two different styles of red wine. The Prodigo is smooth and elegant. Made from a blend of Touriga Nacional and Alicante Bouschet, it has aromas of sweet strawberry, fennel tops, truffle and mint. It has the tastes of strawberry jam, dried fruit, vanilla and bit of tar. It is juicy in the mouth with a long finish. It would go well with lighter brighter meals. The Enjeitado is a far more aggressive wine made of a blend of Alicante Bouschet and Trincadeira. It has a plum and spice aromas, with more stewed plum, pepper and caramely-chocolate when tasting. It is chewy in the mouth with a dry, tannin driven character. It would go well with heavier more robust meals.

These are two wines that are designed to allow people to find what suits their pallet. In doing this it will allow people to discover and look for similar wines in the future. This simple piece of wine making and labeling may seem a bit gimmicky, but I hope it will help people find what they like in not only Portuguese wines, but in wine in general. In doing so, taking us a few steps forward in accepting that some wine with your lunch is not evil.

If you see them in the wine shop give them both a try and see what you prefer. It is a great way to understand what characteristics different Portuguese grapes bring to the wines, as well as a great way of better understanding you own pallet.

By Chris Metcalfe – with thanks to Sharon and Brian

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5 comments to Wine Experience of the Week – Good vs. Evil

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wine Lovernews and Wine Lover, Chris Metcalfe. Chris Metcalfe said: New Wine Experience of the week http://bit.ly/a0sjGz Good vs. Evil! :-) [...]

  • Michael

    Chris, I well remember the two wines we drank in the dusk at Estremoz. I went for the well-named Rascal and told the winemaker that Hugh Hamilton in Maclaren Vale had similar interesting names for his wines – the Rascal, the Madame and he even calls his wine club the black sheep.
    And on the wine experience for this week, we’ve just got a shipment from Coonawarra of the “Bees Knees”, a brilliantly high alcohol sparkling shiraz that will go down well with the Malaysian we’re having on Derby Day. That will be entree with the Encostas de Estremoz Reserva for main course.
    Go Portuguese wines. Go the international horses for the Melbourne Cup. Go Americaine,
    Michael, Robyn, John and Cheryl

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