Wine context

For most people, the best wine they ever drank had more to do with who they drank it with, what they were eating, and where they drank it than with the liquid in the bottle.

Context is essential to purest enjoyment of wine. Just about any wine tastes good when shared with good friends and family. Quality food and location elevate the experience.

Think of the time you tasted wine at a winery while overlooking a vineyard in veraison—the time the grapes begin ripening and changing color—while joyous company rocked with laughter and re-telling of good time stories. You so loved the wine, you bought a case of it at the winery.

The next time you pulled cork, you were alone and wanted something to sip while watching television and waiting for your spouse to make it home from a meeting. Not the same wine, right? Without food and friends and laughter, wine is a one-dimensional experience. Not terrible, but in no way does it soar to the heights that are possible.

That is something to think about when making wine drinking decisions. Sure, you may be tempted to hoard for yourself all 750 ml of that $125 Gigondas you cellared for eight years instead of sharing with others, but when you drink alone, you short-change the wine and yourself.

Tasting notes:

• Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc NV: Suitable for the price; uncomplicated, loaded with fruit. $6 Link to my review

• The Original Dark Horse Pinot Grigio 2016: Uncomplicated, easy-going crowd pleaser; good acidity, ripe fruits. $8 Link to my review

• J Vineyards & Winery Pinot Gris 2016: Wonderful layers of ripe fruit; rounder and more complex than pinot grigio, although made with same grape. $16-20 Link to my review

• Conde de Velázquez El Conde Gran Reserva Malbec 2014: Lighter, fruitier side of malbec; soft tannins, easy drinker. $18 Link to my review

• Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2015: Classic New Zealand sauv blanc builds on its world-class stature each vintage. $28 Link to my review

• Castello d’Albola Acciaiolo Toscana IGT 2013: Elegant, well-behaved big red; layers of dark fruit pleasures. $63-90 Link to my review

Last round: The only thing better than good friends, good food, and a good bottle of wine is good friends, good food, and two good bottles of wine. If you are blessed with a lot of good friends, three bottles or four bottles of wine—and by the third and fourth, the bottles don’t even have to be that good.