Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sweet red wine: blech.

Unlike the supposed progression that people make from liking sweet wine when young to slowly developing a taste for non-sweet wine as we get older, I gravitated directly to wines that did not taste sweet but that made my mouth feel puckerishly dry. It's not that I didn't drink the usual cheap, sweet wines of youth--who had enough money for anything else?--but when I had the money, I went straight for table wines, mostly reds, that were decidedly not sweet.

Don't get me wrong. I did then and do today like many sweet white wines, but not nearly as strongly as I prefer non-sweet reds (and non-sweet whites). Maybe I have old man Anton's wine cellar to blame for my delightful shortcoming.

Anton was a Neapolitan who lived in the building next to ours where I grew up in Brooklyn. He operated a summer-only outdoor candy store where he also sold the freshest lemon ice this side of Italy--so fresh we had to spit out the pits. He often let me help him produce the lemon ice in the backyard in summer. Either I poured sugar into the ice and lemons that he crushed and mixed in his homemade contraption, or I just helped him move bags around. Free lemon ice all summer was my pay.

I loved the summer work of course, but it was the autumn work with Anton that truly made me feel blessed--that was when I helped him with general wine cellar work, which consisted mostly of cleaning things. I loved to sniff the barrels after he emptied them, something Anton's grandson taught me to do. One sniff from a recently emptied barrel acted like a catapult.

For my pay, Anton rewarded our family with a few gallons of red wine each Thanksgiving and Christmas, wine as fiery as laying asphalt in August and, more important, as parching as Mohave.

So, here I am, many decades from those days with Anton's wine and what I have to show for it is an undying love for parching red wine met by an opposing distaste for sweet red wine. I also don't like any red wine that fizzes--pink is ok, but not red. So much for Lambrusco (yeah, yeah, Alfonso. I tried it in its home region, but still don't like it).

Yet, I keep hearing about a newly developing market for sweet red wine, and so I told myself that if I want to know what I am talking about when I tear down sweet red wine, I have to give it a try.

My first dip into the sweet red craze was a Cagnina di Romagna. Oh my, how do people drink that stuff?

My second dip into sweet red was a Dornfelder from the Rheinhessen. Nope.

My third dip...I dropped the idea.

Maybe it's low acidity, maybe tannin with sugar doesn't work for me (I never put sugar into coffee or tea), maybe it's the kind of fruit from red wine, maybe it's a combination of things, but something happens to red wine when it is sweet, and that something is quite unpleasant to my palate.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

It's income tax time

Every year at this time I try to determine what my income tax bill would be if we were allowed to deduct what we spent for wine during the year.

Last year, I spent almost $4,000 on wine. If I were an influential wine writer, that figure might mean very little as a percentage of my income. As it is, I am not influential nor do I have an income worth flaunting. That $4000 means a lot to me, which is why I daydream over a wine deduction on my tax returns.

Thanks to resveratrol, anthrocyanins (did I spell that correctly?), polyphenols, and whatever else is in there, wine should be considered a medical expense, but it should not be handled on the Schedule A Itemized Deductions. That schedule is where the IRS makes life difficult, with formulas and worksheets to follow in order to figure out how much of the actual money spent will wind up becoming a deductible amount. So often, I follow the worksheet only to find that I spent an hour serpentining from Schedule A, to Form 1040, to Publication this or Publication that, to a tax information booklet so-and-so, only to discover that I can't take the deduction. This is the kind of gyration that makes the Form 1040 Standard Deduction valuable only to those with an income worth defending with an automatic weapon, and not being an influential wine writer, I have yet to reach that income level.

I don't like it that the standard deduction for medical payments throughout the year is subject to a worksheet. The money is gone, all of it, including the $4000 for wine; why is only part of it considered spent?

The medical/wine deduction should be a dollar-for-dollar credit that goes on the first page of the Form 1040 (in fact, there should be only one page for tax returns, but that's a whole separate conversation that comes up only around election time).

You guessed it: I've been doing my tax returns.

As an aside: I have changed entry to this blog from allowing anyone to allowing only those who  register. The people who occupy space with amoebas, the spammers, have made me do it. The Internet really is a cesspool.