It’s never easy to advise someone on how much wine to serve at a dinner, a reception, or at a restaurant pre-paid dinner. There are just so many variables, such as the nature of the group, the budget, the occasion, the time of day, and so on. Fortunately, I knew enough about the group a caller was asking about. She is organizing a restaurant dinner for which each guest will pre-pay. It is a gregarious group with a thirsty wine palate.
Some restaurants try to make it easy by proposing a wine program for a set fee that offers a glass for each course. That works for most people, but this group likes the wine to flow and would never tolerate a single pour per course. That brings into play a couple of additional concerns, especially since the amount each person consumes will vary, leaving it up to someone to determine how much more wine will be needed and at what price. One can always order so many bottles, but how many?
There are just over 25 ounces in a standard bottle. A standard pour is five ounces, which mathematically works out to about five servings per bottle. But this dinner has several courses and will last a couple of hours or more. Standard pours may be a bit much even for this group over that length of time. The advice of many professionals is to count on an aperitif such as a glass of sparkling wine (five or six glasses per bottle), a bottle of white wine for every three persons, a bottle of red for every four persons, and a two-ounce pour of a dessert wine (ten or twelve servings per bottle) . Such a formula allows the host/hostess to order a specific number of bottles suitable for the group.
The standard bottle size we know today was designed for two people to enjoy at dinner. Should a group want only a single wine — seldom likely — that formula works well.
As for the standard five-ounce pour, well, we all know that’s largely fiction. At many bars the pour is larger; at most it’s smaller. For a party at home, we suggest allowing five or six servings per bottle and to use smallish glasses. Better to have guests return for another small pour several times than to return too often for larger pours. The trick is to have enough without enabling overindulgence.
Today I earned a bottle of wine. That’s because I worked for three-quarters of an hour. These days it’s hard for me to time my work. As a long-time retiree who free lances, it’s not always easy to define work. For example a lady called last week to ask if I was busy and when I replied that I was working at home writing, she said, “Good, then I haven’t interrupted anything.” But back to that bottle.
Researchers with plenty of available time have discovered that in the United States it takes 44 minutes to earn the cost of a bottle of wine. Of course they are not talking about a bottle of Screaming Eagle or Chateau Mouton. They are talking about the average wine in an average retail shop in a specific place with a known cost of living and a measurable average per capita income.
Each of my columns, for example, takes about thirty minutes to write. The writing, however, takes far less time than the reading about or the life-time of experiencing the background of a particular wine or wine region. Plus, I have also had to resort to drinking a bottle of wine to get all the facts needed to write about it. Since my caller didn’t consider writing as “anything,” I suppose she would also be loathe to count reading or sampling as “anything.” So I base my work on the time at keyboard and accept that it takes slightly more than a column for me to earn a bottle.
How do I know this? Because La Feuille de Vigne told me. Their study teams looked at wine consumption and costs and income levels in 109 countries and found that the United States ranks 27th in the length of time it takes to earn a bottle of wine. In Luxembourg it takes only 14 minutes of work to earn a bottle. The Austrians are a close second, needing only fifteen minutes to earn their Gruner Veltliner. Pity the poor folks in Bangladesh who must toil more than seven hours for their bottle.
It figures that working time required for a bottle would be less in wine-producing countries because of fewer transportation and handling costs, and that’s generally true because both France and Switzerland come in third at 20 minutes each. But hold on, the Danes, who have no vineyards of note, also come in at 20 minutes; but Danes are also more highly paid than citizens of most other countries.
I suspect that this research has some value. I know that a fairly large proportion of my disposable income goes toward the purchase of wine, but it’s good to know how much I have to work for each bottle.
Rose, I know, is for summer drinking. Or that’s the way it’s always been. That’s a natural assumption, because the very best of rose wines come from places where it is almost always summer. But that rose from Chateau de Nages was perfect last night with a baked filet of cod slathered in olive oil and bread crumbs. In spite of bleak, chilling weather, the sun had broken through, and I set aside a five-year-old full-bodied Napa Cabernet and took out the rose and pretended that winter was really over.
Nages made such pretension easy. Barely six months ago, I drove right past Chateau de Nages late for dinner at the two-Michelin-star Restaurant Alexandre on the edge of Nimes. Fast as I was driving, I could still look wistfully at the Nages vineyards surrounding their earth-colored home and winery. For weeks I had anticipated a visit to Nages, and while Tina Gassier could not guarantee a meeting with her husband Michel because of the round-the-clock harvesting duties, I would receive plenty of warm hospitality.
There had been several appointments that September week, and for most of them, I had not reckoned on the traffic and road construction in and around Arles where I had encamped. It seems I was tardy for nearly everything. So the day before my Nages visit, I had to tell Tina it would be best to come at another time. Though her regrets were gracious, I could sense relief, and having spent several days between Nimes and Arles witnessing the labor in the fields and wine houses, I could well understand it.
The ButiNAGES (honey nectar) rose took my wife and me directly back to the Costieres de Nimes, the southern most appellation of the Rhone Valley and that day last September far warmer than our sunny day of this March. The 60% Grenache in the blend brought the aromas and flavors of the Camargue, and the 40% Syrah brought the body and firmness I had yearned for earlier in the day.
I have long been a fan of the red and white wines produced by the Gassiers, but on this particular wintry early evening, their rose told me we should include more pink in our winter meals. Wine does have a way of communicating over time and distance.
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