Eating and drinking local foods and wines is one of the great joys of travelling — there is something special about enjoying things in the places they are made, and you can never re-create the feel, flavours and senses of a meal you ate abroad. Even if you can muster some killer Italian food and pair it with the perfect wine, there always seems to be something missing — an intangible that drives people to believe they are missing a piece of the puzzle.
The common refrain from wide-eyed European travellers freshly returned from their culinary adventure is that the locals must “keep all the good wines for themselves.” They insist that they have tasted many wines that will simply never grace the shores of Canada. In reality nothing could be further from the truth.
The fact is, all the great wines of France, Italy and Spain make it to our shores. After all, the people who make them want them consumed all over the world. I mean, if you made some killer wine right here in Canada, and a restaurant in Paris or New York wanted to buy it, would you say no? Or course not — you would want to establish yourself worldwide. That’s how it’s done.
Now I’m not saying that there aren’t some wonderful little discoveries to be had — there most certainly are. But when it comes to the cream of the crop, chances are you can find them right here in your own backyard.
So the question remains: why does wine taste so much better when you are travelling? What is it that makes us feel we’ve stumbled onto something extraordinary every time we leave Calgary for far off locales?
It’s because wine is only one small piece of the puzzle when it comes to your experience. Sure, a great wine can turn an ordinary dinner into a magnificent one, but it alone is not enough to make an evening truly memorable. For that you need good friends, delicious food and a great setting
As a wine guy, I would love to believe that the perfect wine could make any night remarkable. But if you’re hanging out with a bunch of people you can’t stand, and the food is coming out of the microwave, the wine choice really isn’t going to matter all that much. Your night will still suck, you will have taken the edge off with a great bottle, but that’s not enough to make it memorable, only slightly better.
That’s why when you’re basking on the patio of an ancient café on the streets of Paris, relaxing with your spouse and nibbling some delicious morsels of pure French brilliance, the wine is going to taste pretty good — even if it’s just average. So when you take a picture of that bottle and find it on the shelves of a local store, don’t be too disappointed when it doesn’t taste as good as it did in France. It won’t. It’s not possible. Your memory of the moment can’t be bottled up, there’s too much missing — the sights, sounds and smells in the air and everything you were feeling all go into making that wine taste so damn good.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t seek out the wines you had while you were abroad, just don’t put too much pressure on them to perform like they did on their home turf. Wine is an incredible drink, and it can transport you to far off places with a single whiff. At the end of the day, however, it’s still just a drink — the people, food, ambience and mood all matter just as much, but when you get it all right, even average wine can taste like magic.