In Vino Veritas: Love, Wine And Insurance Premiums


“The Cune Imperial Rioja, we couldn’t resist. I raised the glass to my nose, which wrinkled in disappointment; aromas were off. Something about the fruit’s life had been snuffed.” And so the question, is there a greater meaning in wine?

Writes Alice Feiring on her website,

I’m looking for the Leon Trotskys, the Philip Roths, the Chaucers and the Edith Whartons of the wine world. I want my wines to tell a good story. I want them natural and most of all, like my dear friends, I want them to speak the truth even if we argue. With this messiah thing going on, I’m trying to swell the ranks of those who love the differences in each vintage, who abhor homogenization, who want wines that make them smile, think, laugh,and feel sexy. For better or worse, it seems as if I am a wine cop traversing the earth, writing and speaking my mind, drinking and recommending wines that are honest.

Her “Modern Love” essay, in yesterday’s New York Times, does indeed involve wine, and dear friends, and hard truths. Also, Obamacare. The truth, in this case, is the revelation that a dear friend has started dating the author’s long-term ex. This is revealed over the wine, “a 1982 Cune Imperial and a 2005 Gonon St. Joseph.” And all this is complicated by the fact that the ex in question still pays the author’s health insurance, a fact which appalls her independent mother.

It’s an excerpt from Feiring’s book, The Battle for Wine and Love. At this point, the “food romance” is a genre all its own, so it’s about time we moved into the world of grape-love. Where the food romance is, essentially, dealing consciously or not with the context of existing gender roles, the wine memoir is by its definition iconoclastic. Wine is still, I’d venture to say, a masculine purview in popular imagination, and Sideways didn’t do much to change that. There’s also a whiff of snobbery that must be dealt with in the discussion, as surely as women-in-the-kitchen needs to be acknowledged when we mix cooking and emotion.

It’s good to have this book out there, and also the essay. There’s something heartening about easy competence in such a realm, and wielded by a woman with an action-verb name, less. That this excerpt deals with her financial dependence on a man – and with health insurance, yet, the signifier of independent adulthood – sits uneasily. Maybe that’s the point, but are we yet at a point where the latter won’t serve to cast shadow on the fomer? For that matter, are we at a point where expensive wine can share a paragraph about letting a man pay one’s insurance? I’m really not sure. The essay concludes,

When she finally headed off into the dark, I went to research my new insurance options. While paying for my own is the best solution, if some schleppy government issue is possible, the time may have come to let Ronny’s plan go and take Obama’s for a spin.

When the Toast Is: ‘To Your Health’
[New York Times]

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