Something interesting I’ve noticed: Most wines have suggested food pairings. Sauvignon Blanc with oysters. Cabernet with grilled steak. Chianti with fava beans and a wild-foraged human liver. In the New Year’s Eve to Valentine’s day corridor I always notice that sparkling wines don’t get paired with food. They get paired with feelings. Champagne and its relatives are almost always marketed as (a) romantic and (b) festive. You pair them with parties and proposals and Oscar statuettes and congratulations.
For some reason as my inbox filled with Valentine’s Day spam, I was prompted to ask: What if, for whatever reason, I haven’t been nominated for an award and the last guy I wanted to get romantic with has been oddly hard to reach? I mean, is that just a vodka martini situation? No. Of course not.
Here are some recent draft picks for drinking alone with a real flourish, each with a sample “experiential pairing,” which is a term I just now invented to make “reason why you’re drinking alone” sound more mindful and sexy.
The Situation: Wildlife
Something, probably a rat but it sounds way bigger, is eating your walls from the inside. The gnawing is gnawing at you. The guy you hired to make it impossible for rats to get into your walls is going to “do the rest later.”
Selection: La Vieille Ferme Reserve Brut (France, $14)
Small grievances can often be put to rest with low-key bubbly beverages, like La Vieille Ferme’s dry sparkling Chardonnay. This wine has a pleasant minerality and a lot of yeasty, bread-like notes. After two glasses you will regain the ability to tune out the gallivanting rodents in the crawl space. After three, you’ll stop noticing the distress signals being sent by the dying 10-volt in your smoke detector.
So, you were driving, and the sun was stronger than you thought so you were quickly swapping your glasses for your rx sunglasses when you had to come to a kind of abrupt stop (thanks, neighbor). Your glasses flew off the passenger seat onto the floor and then a large heavy book went after them and totally munched the frame, so now you’re waiting for the opto to get you replacements and you’re wearing kind of an antique prescription. And you’re fine, as long as you don’t have to find a street number in a neighborhood you don’t already have memorized. You’re getting a bit of a headache though.
Selection: Champagne Delamotte (France, $50)
Overreaction? I don’t think so. File it under “self-care,” as you would a visit to the physical therapist, or undramatically taking a break from the family and booking a night at a hotel. Powerful, like your glasses prescription, but not overwhelming (like having to sit in traffic wearing sketchy glasses). Minute bubbles you can observe at a reasonable distance, like inches. A grownup wine with which to reward yourself for all that difficult adulting. Meyer lemon, jasmine, peach, strawberry and a bit of nougat. Compact acidity, bright aromatics. Headache gone. For now.
Honestly, there was never a hint of anything but getting along famously. It was a great first date. You were starting to think uncharacteristically optimistic thoughts and it was a relief. The last thing he said was that he couldn’t wait to do it again, but apparently, he can.
Selection: Le Grand Courtage Blanc de Blancs (France, $20)
The name means “The Great Courtship” and I figure we might as well one-up the therapists who do that “self-parenting” shit and self-court, because look, the person who really understands what you need is you. Pour yourself a glass of this festive little guy and revel in not having to share. Tart apple, honey, pastry. Brisk acidity, super dry. Pretty exuberant bubbles, and let’s face it, enthusiasm is a nice change of pace.
Situation: Someone else got the promotion
Oh, and your manager was snarky about it in the staff meeting. What. A. Dick.
Selection: Champagne Palmer (France, $60)
Anyhoo, while you’re waiting for the karma police to put out an APB on your manager and the 20-something nimrod he thinks is better than you (watch your six, Todd), you can show yourself how much your fine and threateningly competent self is actually appreciated. Rich-like you would have been if your talents were valued. Unctuous-but not like Todd. The good kind, the succulent, mouth-filling, montee au beurre kind of unctuous. A bit… masculine? Yes, like you apparently have to be to get noticed around here. Mature. (Feel me?) Apricot, hazelnut, ripe pear, a hint of oranges, a slight brown-butter note. Gloriously balanced, like the scales of justice. If you need to have Champagne for dinner I vote for this one.
Situation: That pathologizing relative who keeps diagnosing you is going to be at dinner
We can call her Aunt Phyllis but you know who I’m talking about. That person who because they are related to you has developed a weird monomaniacal entitlement to throw the book at you (the book being the DSM-V) all through family gatherings because they took a psychology class one time and now they’re an expert and you clearly, clearly need their help. With your ADHD, your narcissism, your delusion, your Tourette’s Syndrome-hey, everyone knows all that stuff is comorbid with substance abuse. Grab a Substance. Apply liberally. Just like Aunt Phyllis is doing with dire pronouncements about your brain, your mind, your character and your likelihood of having a fulfilling life.
Selection: Ruinart Brut Rose (France, $85)
Make it a game. Make it a drinking game; why the hell not? Every time Aunt Phyllis mentions a psychiatric disorder while looking at you, pour yourself a flute of this nectar. Shocking coral-orange tone. (“Attention-seeking.”) Strong, very long lasting, jump-out-of-the-glass mousse (“Histrionic.”) Tart (“I see you’re still dealing with your anger management problem with sassy rejoinders,”) with bright (“It’s always the smart ones you have to watch out for”) red fruit notes, particularly raspberry and redcurrant. Slight hint of smokiness (“Evasive, avoidant”) and nice tension (“Generalized Anxiety”). Delicate finish (“Fragile!!!”) for a pretty powerful wine.
Yeah, you did say the kid could invite a few people over. And now you’re inundated with shrieking tweens. You didn’t know that one kid had celiac disease and you aren’t exactly running a gluten-free ship. There is vigorous debate about what constitutes a “scary” movie, something horrible happened when they wanted to melt some butter for the popcorn, and all you know is you need to hide in the bathtub with a glass of something refreshing.
Selection: Gran Moraine Yamhill Carlton Brut Rosé (Oregon)
This wine is generally only available on a contact-the-winery basis, but you might just want to do that. A limber little ballerina of a wine, with all the balance and finesse you’re going to lack tonight. Prominent notes include tangerine, nectarine, Asian pear, roses, strawberries and honey. Fabulously tense and highly relaxing.
Situation: You’re two grand shy on your property tax payment
You were “on track.” And somehow the county thinks because you finally fixed the leak in the roof you’re seriously living large, and you have just been given the tax bill of someone with a much larger, much nicer home.
Selection: Domaine Amirault, Les Clos des Quarterons Cremant de Loire Blanc Brut (France, $12)
If you just wish something was going to be easier to deal with than you were expecting this week, you know what, Cremant de Loire is a great place to start. “Blanc” iterations of this Not-Champagne are generally made from Chenin Blanc, a grape that’s all about casual dignity. Les Clos des Quarterons is a lovely example, with cheerful bubbles, delightful mineral balance, and a simple-but-elegant nose of roses, lemon rind and honeysuckle. Easy-peasy.
Someone you can’t avoid socially pulled that thing where you were just venting, and they responded by explaining to you about your lack of mentality or your upper limiting beliefs or your misalignment with Source or something equally irritating. Prove them wrong by opening something you have decided is not out of your price range because you do not have “upper limiting beliefs.”
Suggested pairing: Mod Selection Rosé (Champagne, France $400)
You’ve already got Splainers so I won’t even. This is Drake’s luxury brand, it has a super swanky bottle, and the Pinot Meunier heavy blend inside the bottle is made by the saignée method, which translates to “bleeding.”