Friday, February 15, 2008

Large is the Fun Format

Choosing the right wines to serve with dinner is going to be a big challenge. There are apparently two possible directions: serve the best available wine because of the importance of the occasion, or serve the cheapest available wine that will pass muster with your guests (knowing as you do their level of discrimination).

Quality and price are the obvious axes of wine buying, but I would add two more factors: festivity and sustainability. By festivity I mean that the wine ought to look and taste and seem fun and add to the cheerfulness of the day--the "best" wine may be too serious. By sustainability, of course, I mean that the choice ought not to niggle one's conscience by being wasteful of resources.

These factors and my valences as a maximizer (not a satisficer) lead me into a morass of decision-making anxiety and paralysis. I have consulted Jancis, perhaps the world's most respected critic, though her expertise in the highest tier of the luxury market makes me a little distrustful of her bargain selections. Dottie and John are my constant companions at the wine store, but I am woefully forgetful about archiving their columns. All these and many more wine writers responsibly advocate for the reader to cultivate his or her own idiosyncratic taste in unique and surprising wines. Inarguable advice, but it doesn't get us what we need for a wedding reception, and that is a crowd pleaser!

One thing is certain: we can maximize festivity and sustainability (and maybe price) by choosing wine in Magnums. Because Magnums (1.5 liter bottles) have a higher ratio of wine to glass, they are relatively lighter to transport--saving fuel and reducing emissions--and use less materials overall. And isn't there something especially merry about the Magnum? You see that unpretentious big bottle and you think, "There is gonna be some drinkin'!"

And here is one more helpful certainty: political economist and wine expert Dr. Tyler Colman has determined that on the East Coast, it is more "carbon efficient" to drink wine shipped from Europe rather than trucked across the continent from California.

It is good for a maximizer to place boundaries on the seemingly limitless (and therefore oppressive) array of choices. It allows him to focus on such confounding questions as, "Is the Cotes du Roussillon really the world's most exciting wine region today?" and "Can I serve a creamy Chardonnay without losing my wine cred?"

Of course, the one boundary I really need is a deadline.

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