I ain’t no wine snob, believe me.  Playing with good wine requires more money than I have.  The best wine I’ve had was a 1979 Château Lafitte-Rothschild cabernet sauvignon, which I bought at–of all places–a Safeway in El Paso, for a hundred and some-odd dollars.  It was the late ’80s, and I was in love and prone to do rash things.  My only regret is that it made every other wine taste like battery acid by comparison, and the fact that I was madly in love at the time adds a significant measure to the memory.  No other wine has ever lived up to it.

Good wine #2:  Taylor-Fladgate Sherry (a fortified wine, technically).  Unbelievably bone-dry, an absolute mind-blower.  I’ve never tasted anything else like it.  It was part of a wine-tasting class at culinary school, and there was about a dozen of us in a classroom.  We all took a swig and said, in unison, “Whoa.  Damn!”  Frickin’ incredible.

Here’s the paradoxical part, which I also learned at culinary school:

Suppose you have a sip of sweet wine and then a nibble of sweet potato.  You’d think that the sweetness of the wine would compound the sweetness of the potato, right?  Wrong.  It has exactly the opposite effect.  Have a nibble of sweet potato, and it’ll taste like a sweet potato.  Then have a bit of sweet wine, and go in for another nibble of sweet potato.  You’ll taste everything but the sweetness in it then.  I have no idea why; nobody ever really explained the science behind it.  But I’ve experienced it, and I can tell you that it’s true.

By the same token, dry wine makes the food you’re eating taste sweeter.

Wine-tastings seem like a bad ’70s cliché, but it’s a thing worth trying.  Buy some sweet wine, some dry wine, some middle-of-the-road wine, and set them out with some chocolate (bitter), some orange segments (acidic), and some snap peas or carrots (sweet).  Go back and forth and see what happens.  Some cheese or nuts along the way wouldn’t hurt.  And believe it or not, neither would some grape skins or stems–that’s where tannins are concentrated.  Chew on those, and you’ll know what makes dry wine dry.

It’s all very interesting, and I wish I had the money to pursue it as a hobby.