Drinking Wine in a Hurricane

Chapter 94

I’m on the west coast, so news of the impending Great Flood that will wash most of New Jersey into the Atlantic swell has come to me phrased mostly as flight cancellations and pictures of clouds on facebook. This is why it’s only occurred to me to write this bit now, about a half hour before Sandy is due to turn off all the lights from DC to Nova Scotia, and no one who really needs this information will be able to read it. I guess, with that in mind, here’s what my brother and parents should have been drinking by candlelight while the windows rattle in the wind.[1]

Port: This one is obvious. Port is the ultimate drink when the weather turns. Full bodied, warm with alcohol, and it looks great when lit only by candlelight. While the Douro river is dry and sunny all the time, Oporto, where this wine matures, is a much wetter place, and it makes a certain poetic sense that the drone of Atlantic wind and rain should complement this drink so well. Port’s most enthusiastic drinkers are, after all, the British. Port will also go well with all the ice cream you have to eat before it melts. This goes for Pedro Ximenez Sherry too, except even more so.

Madeira: Similar to Port, but with more of an almond accent than the dark fruits, which gives it a better autumnal feeling. I would recommend a dry one, made in the Sercial style.[2] Rich and warm and unusual, if you enjoy acetaldehyde, this would be an excellent proof against the wind and rain outside.

Aged Bordeaux: I’m still thinking of the bold dark rich wines, but in this case, I want to make a distinction. Jammy Shiraz, or tannic bold Napa Cabs strike me as too festive for the occasion. When you’re contemplating big dark storm clouds, it seems wrong to drink wine that pairs best with a Barbeque. Drink your oldest bottle of Bordeaux. Twenty years, thirty years, whatever. For one thing, the complexity will give you something to think about while you watch bits of the debris crash against your neighbor’s windows, and if the floodwaters come and break your wine cellar to pieces, you’d feel pretty silly for not drinking this one.

Premium Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon: I’m pointing out this oddly specific example because these wines tend to fulfill many of the requirements of the Bordeaux in terms of depth and seriousness, and the bottles tend to be absurdly heavy. I once drank such a bottle to the dregs, then went to clear the table and thought we’d forgotten to open it, because it felt like a normal full body. This will be useful against looters, because it’s pretty much a guaranteed d12+4 one-shot kill.

Premium German Riesling: If you like white wine, you’re not lost. These wines, dry or sweet, will be complex and interesting enough give you food for thought while contemplating the end of the world through your glass. Also, it will be a rare opportunity to drink a un-chilled white wine, since the power’s out. And when looting begins, the bottle gives you an advantage in single combat with the elongated design.

Portland has descended into its six month hibernation under a thick blanket of grey skies and rain, so I’ll be drinking many of these wines by the fireside in a much gentler version of the big storm. Enjoy the ride, and keep your feet dry.


[1] I’m going on record saying that I have zero fear for my Brooklyn bound brother’s safety. I don’t think the storm surge will pass through the entire body of Brooklyn, over the heights to Greenpoint, and as far as looters are concerned, Peter mentioned something about having “three feet of cold steel”. Even when put through a heavy irony filter, it still sounds like he’s excited about the opportunity to rehearse for the zombie apocolypse.

[2] Madeira can be confusing thanks to its weird history. ‘Sercial style’ generally means dry, since the dry and elegant Madeira was made from this variety, one of the four major grapes of the island. While coming back, the actual grape variety is still quite rare, as after Phylloxera, almost all Madeira was made from Tinta Negra Mole.

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