Remember those drunken high school Spring Breaks? You know, the kind with vast bodies of water, cruising some sort of strip, 12 kids packed into a quasi-clean motel room and rampant instances of unsafe behavior – both before and after the consumption of bathtub gin and fruity wine coolers? One thing I always link with those shame-filled memories are the ultra klassy t-shirts hanging in beach shop windows and draped across the torsos of swaying, boozy teenagers. Especially the ones displaying an artfully drawn mug of frosty ale, and 30 or so tasteful and respectful reasons why “Beer Is Better Than Women.”
I took this IROQ Z joyride down memory lane last night while working over some recent guy issues. I mean, if there exists such profound wisdom as “Beer has no mother and can be mature within a year” (#9), “You can shoot a beer” (#15) and “A beer is always wet” (# 20) than surely women can find our own answer to those tacky t-shirts, and list plenty of reasons why [blank] is better than men, right?
While I mulled this over, I poured myself a glass of 2008 HJ Fabre Malbec. We’ll call it “research.”
I had opened this Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina the night before. Decked out with a really hot label, I looked the bottle up and down – and even turned it around to see if it was packing anything interesting on the backside. “Five generations of winemaking in Bordeaux and today in Argentina.” Worldly and experienced. Nice. The label claims that this wine “shows a remarkable balance between fine, elegant fruit and silky tannins.” Ooh, sophistication and a nice body. Things are getting interesting…Alcohol 14.5% by volume. Hello, Big Boy! Momma is gonna have a good time to-night! And then I read this:
“We recommend you decant an hour before serving to allow the wine’s full qualities to unfold.”
- Herve J Fabre
Wait. I’m ready to go but have to hang on for an hour before the wine’s magic is ready to start working?
OK, fine. It’s no big deal. Maybe that’s what happens when you’re working with 100 year old vines. I can roll with it. I’ll be patient.
14 years after meeting my ex, I have to admit that I cannot begin to fathom how the modern dating world works. According to the bits and pieces I’ve picked up here and there from my friends, women are supposed to act interested – but not too interested. Always be busy. Dismissive. A little cold – but flirty! Be endlessly optimistic. Messages and phone calls should not be returned until sufficient time has passed that the guy becomes convinced that the girl is being flown on private jet to London by hotter paramour. It’s enough to drive a person to drink…
The Malbec, on the other hand, wouldn’t judge me for weakened resolve to interact. When I tried it – poured through an aerator – after 20 minutes, it was a luscious dark purple in the glass, with a rim of electric lavender. A nose of warm bread, blackberry and spice. My haste was chastened by a sharp, unbalanced experience. Strong tannin, but ultimately a long, forgiving finish. Exhibit A: Malbec isn’t going to freak out on me for not playing games.
When I was 21, life was a lot simpler. Things like “emotional availability” weren’t really issues – because at 21, no one was available. We were all selfish and stupid and unwilling to compromise. Imagine my surprise when – 14 years later – I find the dating scene to look exactly the same! I’ve grown up, but the world seems to be stuck where it was when last I was single. At least one half of it, anyway… Many people say that this is a particular problem with dating in El Lay: That the land obsessed with eternal youth does not make for mature adults. It’s all about “no strings,” “no drama,” “easy,” “casual,” “cool” – forgetting that there is actually something comforting about being able to put aside the false street facades to find authenticity and security with another person – even if that security equates to expecting someone to be there in the morning.
But my Malbec wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, as we sat together, it just got better and better. After 45 minutes, it presented rich anise flavors, more pronounced blackberry, and a soft, velvety mouthfeel. I never would’ve gotten something that good if I’d only given it a cursory taste and formed an immediate impression. I was rewarded for taking my time and waiting things out awhile. And I liked what I was drinking.
Don’t get me started on the levels of deception. This includes people who post 10+ year old photos on dating sites, creative descriptions for what others would call a “girlfriend”/”fiancee”/”spouse,” excuses for inappropriate behaviors not befitting their respective situations, and the immeasurable inaccuracies one makes up about themselves to work up the courage to get back into the dating pool or to talk to someone “out of their league.” The dating world is bubbling with so many lies that
spending too much time here will leave an innocent with a hard, crunchy, burned crust. And that’s if they get out in time to keep their heart from getting blackened and overdone.
This is in direct contrast to that lovely HJ Fabre Malbec! It was upfront from the beginning – well, once I discovered the fine print about waiting an hour after opening to imbibe… It boasted of blackberry and anise – and then it sealed the deal. In fact, it actually over-delivered: I didn’t know what to expect from a $16 bottle of wine, but this one wasn’t playing around! An hour after opening, this wine showed silky tannins, blackberry, spice, cocoa powder and anise on the palate and anise in the long, delicious finish.
I don’t have a bulleted, bawdy list of why this Malbec is better than a man. It certainly provided more honesty, more depth and – with 12 months of aging in French oak barrels – a longer commitment than many men I’ve encountered in a long time. I needed it when I was having a hard time, and it was there for me – in all its robust glory. Even with my frustration and anger and disheveled hair and makeup, my Malbec just let me be me. It made no demands. It was the perfect size, and seduced me with its promises of pleasure two nights in a row. It hinted at relaxation and sweet, sweet slumber. My Malbec offered kindness.
And then I drank it.