The Pleasure Principle

Moet Chandon Champagne, circa 2001.

That’s our special bottle of wine ~ the one we’ve been saving for some unknown event in the future we deem noteworthy enough for popping the cork.

Could it be tonight?

Don’t get excited, now…I didn’t sign a multi million dollar book deal or discover the cure for cancer.  But I just learned that tonight is Open That Bottle Night, an annual event created by Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher.  They created the event 10 years ago as a way to encourage people to enjoy those bottles of wine they’ve set aside as “too special to drink.”

And what makes a wine that special?  Oddly enough, it often isn’t the vintage or the price.  Usually, it’s all about the memory attached.  The couple says they receive literally thousands of letters each year from people who share the stories of the wine they plan to enjoy.  Some recall gifts from friends or family, or purchases made on once in a lifetime trips.  People will stash these bottles in their cellars as a memento of the person or occasion, rather than enjoying the wine as it was meant to be enjoyed.

It’s a bit sad, isn’t it? hoarding a bottle of wine as a memorable token, rather than simply taking a few moments to drink it and enjoy it?

But then, we aren’t always comfortable with simple pleasures, we product-driven Americans.  Especially now, when all the buzz words have to do with “sacrifice” and “cutting back” and “the simple life.”    Author Elizabeth Gilbert, addresses this very concept in the “Eat” section of her book, Eat, Pray, Love:

Generally speaking, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure.  Ours is an entertainment seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure seeking one.  Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that’s not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment.  Alarming statistics…point out that many Americans feel more happy and fulfilled in their offices than they do in their homes.  Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure).

Seems to me that opening a bottle of wine, most especially one with a happy memory attached, is exactly the kind of pleasurable moment which could rejuvenate even a badly battered American spirit.  

Our special bottle?  It was waiting in the hotel room in San Franciso where we arrived to celebrate our 25th anniversary.

Pass the corkscrew.

How about you? What bottle will you open tonight?  If you don’t drink wine, is there some other special pleasure you’ve been saving for just the right moment?  Could that moment be now?

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4 thoughts on “The Pleasure Principle

  1. Congratulations! That is a long marriage given the times. My Hubby and I hoard bottles of wine for special occasions. Hubby more than me as wine tend to make me slip off the chair after one or two rounds.It’s a blood thing but the idea of celebrating something as special as a wedding anniversary wouldn’t stop me. Congratulations, again. Have a lovely week.

  2. I tend not to hoard the wine but rather enjoy a bit of it most afternoons that I’m home…especially those while up at Blackberry Ridge where I can savor the scenery along with the wine. It’s a simple pleasure that has turned into something of a ritual.

  3. I love this! My husband and I did this with a bottle of wine we bought on our honeymoon. We said we’d drink it on our next anniversary. Then that day came, and we said we’d save it for our 5 year anniversary… Well, now my husband doesn’t drink, so I ended up opening the bottle and splitting it with a good friend who loves good wine. 🙂

  4. So very much here, but first — I love Dorothy and John — they are so cool! And the open-the-bottle thing is the best idea ever!

    There are a lot of logical reasons for this — sometimes we get a bottle of something and it’s special to us, so we save it for a special occasion — only to find when opened it disappoints, perhaps has soured due to the nature of the wine. And that brings things down a bit, doesn’t it?

    I remember hearing on CBC radio (while driving through Canada one lovely day) about a couple who had saved a specific wine for 25 years. The husband called the wine program on the radio to see what they recommended. He told them to use it as a centerpiece — that particular wine was never meant to be saved, but consumed within a year or so! “Dress it up,” he said, “Make it the centerpiece of the table or dump it out and put a candle in the bottle — but don’t spoil your memory by drinking it!”

    I don’t think the memory would spoil, but the experience would dim — so I’m glad you had yours within a few years!

    I don’t think any of us know when we’ll say goodbye to this world — good intentions notwithstanding. How sad to have missed that opportunity. It’s why I drink my wine, use my good china and celebrate every moment.

    I’m glad you had the wine. I love it! And again, congratulations!

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