Oakey, with a hint of tiny fungi.

I’m not a person who thinks that alcohol should be completely avoided when pregnant. While I stay totally away from it during the first trimester, I then adopt the European practice of enjoying it in extreme moderation. Well, usually. For the past 10 months, I can probably count on two hands the number of times I had alcohol, and those times usually involved taking a few sips of Tim’s beer. It was hot, I was queasy, and it just didn’t sound good to me.

But haven’t you heard me say something about the times, and how they’ve changed? The weather is deliciously chilly (we’ve been burning a fallen pecan limb in our fireplace each night for the past week), and the sun sets at 5:30 or so. Add to this my hearty appetite, and you have a recipe for deep, gutteral wine cravings. It’s like I want to make up for lost time.

But there’s the problem of the economic downturn. And while we haven’t exactly seen vast sums of retirement accounts shrink like a dried cranberry, we are living on a very tight budget, and are concerned that the housing market will effect our near future. So we don’t really have an existing “imbibing” budget (something we did, actually, used to have). What are we to do?

Last night, we just bought it anyway. It was our second bottle of wine purchased since our daughter was born. Tim went to Kroger to get a cheap bottle, but then realized that Gosford Wine was just a few doors down, and really, why not spend a few extra bucks to get a good bottle that was recommended by the pretentious wine guy (I actually do like that quality in a wine expert)? So he came home with a ten-dollar (doesn’t that qualify as really good wine?) bottle of La Nunsio Barbera D’asti, an Italian red that the proprietor said was “heavily oaked.” This was a bit humorous to us, thanks to family joke: Tim waited tables for a few years at a members-only dining club in Knoxville. When a customer asked him to describe a wine, he always relied on the phrase, “oakey, with a hint of plum,” (would the guest tip any better if he said he didn’t have a friggin’ clue what the wine was like?). The customer was usually satisfied with this answer (hmmm…) enough to order the bottle. So, here we had our oakey bottle, missing the plummy hints, but I still had my glass in hand, ready for the pour.

He began to open the bottle, and discovered mold on the cork. I remembered unfoiling moldy corks when working as a server in grad school; we always got a new bottle. But dinner was ready, we were all hungry, I had the glass in my hand. We agreed he should go forth, and open. Upon close examination we were both relieved to see that the mold was only on the top; it didn’t travel down the cork to the wine (based solely on evidence ascertainable by the naked, untrained eye). Throwing caution to the wind (always living on the edge, we are), he poured.

We tasted.

And it was… pretty good. We think. Since we normally drink cheap wine (3-buck Chuck, anyone?), I was momentarily thrown off by its relative dryness. And it did have a slightly off-flavor at the finish. I quickly decided it must be the oak.

It’s the oak, don’t you think, babe?

Sure. You know, we’re just not used to more complex wines. It reminds me of wines we get by the glass at 5&10 — a lot of layers there.

Hmmm. So that’s how layers of oak taste. Who knew?

So, we drank. And enjoyed more, I might add, the closer I got to the bottom of my glass (go figure). After the dishes were done, Tim decided to google “mold wine cork.” He linked to this site, which gave him this bit of information:

“The taint adds a musty, cardboardy flavor to the wine. Some people can only detect the mold in large quantities, while others can sense the mold in even small amounts. Many people don’t realize that the wine is tainted – instead, they believe that they simply don’t like that wine’s flavor.”

Some people.

Don’t realize.

Pfsssh. Silly, silly people.

I mean really. I just didn’t like the wine’s flavor.

“Hey, babe. Doesn’t Gosford offer a wine-tasting class? Maybe we should look into that.”

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