Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Incredible Journey of Wine

I’ve never been a particularly big wine drinker. Except for the occasional sip of wine I got during church communion, wine never held much interest for me. And because of a rather embarrassing incident at a recent wine tasting party (humorously recounted in the online mystery “It Happened in Plainfield”), I don’t think I’ll have occasion to ever raise a glass of Chablis again. And yet I still receive bottles of wine as presents from friends and relatives. Even though most of them know I don’t drink wine, they still insist on bringing me a bottle every time they come for dinner or a visit. Unless they were intending for me to open it while they were there, I can’t really see a reason for the gesture. (In fact, it really seems more like an empty gesture, because they hadn’t bothered to listen the last seven times we discussed my dislike for the beverage…but I digress…)

Anyway, the best thing about getting a bottle of wine is that you can pass it along to someone else at your next dinner party, or birthday celebration, or family intervention. (Well, maybe not the latter.) Which is exactly what I do. Every time I need to give someone a present, I go to the trusty old supply of wine bottles I’ve accumulated, and pick one that doesn’t look too dusty. And since I know very little about wine, or their preferred expiration dates, I’m not really sure if a 1993 Pinot Noir is better than a 2007 Chardonnay. And frankly, I don’t care, either. As long as my host is happy with my selection, that’s all that counts.

And though I’d like to think I pay close attention to the intricacies of the bottles and the types of wines that pass through my doors, I rarely look at them before banishing them to the bottom of the liquor cabinet. All except one particular bottle which I happened to notice one day. It had a very unique design on it, but I also discovered that someone had scratched my name on the back of the label. The writing was small and almost undetectable, but it was obviously someone’s attempt to separate this particular bottle from the masses they intended to distribute. As I stuffed the bottle into an overpriced gift bag to give away that night, I tried to remember who might have given me that particular bottle. But after searching my memory for maybe two minutes, I was distracted by something else and never thought of it again.

Until two months later, when I happened to notice the same bottle on the wine rack of a friend’s house. It was not the same friend I’d given the bottle to, but rather someone else who had apparently received the bottle from them. And I knew it was the same bottle, because I found my name still scratched on the label on back. Obviously, no one else had the eye for detail that I did, though I certainly didn’t mention my discovery that evening.

Then about three weeks later, I attended a birthday party and found the EXACT SAME bottle of wine among the gifts. At first, I found it terribly amusing. But then I began to wonder if somehow the bottle of wine was stalking me. Maybe it was trying to punish me for giving it away in the first place. Maybe I was meant to keep that bottle of wine for some reason, and there was some kind of universal karma that was constantly bringing it back to my attention. Or maybe I was just a little tipsy from too many jello shots, and so the bottle of wine took on much more significance that it needed to.

Needless to say, the bottle did eventually make it back to me. Nearly a year after it was originally given it out, the winsome wine had made an incredible journey around my social circle, and eventually ended up right back where it started. And who knows how many other homes it had visited besides my friends? It made me wonder if all bottles of wine go through a similar journey on their way to the proper owner. Too bad you couldn’t put a notch on a bottle every time you gave one out, so others would know how many times it had already been passed before they received it. You could even make a game of it. Track the journey of wine.

At any rate, this amazing bottle of wine now remains a permanent fixture in my cupboard. It deserves a special place in my bottle collection, because like a young adult, it went out into the world, had a little adventure, and now has come home to age gracefully. And who knows, someday I might even drink it. After all, should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought some wine? I think not.


Matthew S. Urdan said...

Sounds like that bottle of wine has a more famous cousin: the fruitcake.


Henson Ray said...

You're right. The fruitcake does get a lot of mileage...