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Vin Ordinaire and the Art of Living Well

If you are a Frenchman, you call it Vin de Table or just vin ordinaire, the Italian call it Vino de Tavolo – a designation that a wine is table wine, or just ordinary.

Many a gazillion international traveler has come back from France or Italy exclaiming the virtues of the most delicious wine they have ever had while in a bistro or trattoria drinking a certain, well, ordinary wine.

The quixotic nature of international travel gives rise to the charm of eating a hearth baked bread, a house made mozzarella, handmade salumi with house pickled cornichons and vin ordinaire, all of which may have been made on premise of the eating establishment, or at least within a stones throw.

Somehow, as a respite from our U.S. based asphalt jungle and consumer culture, this acts as a balm to our soul.

The art of living well has been co-opted to mean in the states we shop our way to happiness and travel to de-stress from it. 

The good news in this economic recession is that you can see and feel a bustling around the edges of the whole food, green, DIY, and urban homesteading movement – perhaps a greater sensibility, long lost, to going back to a more humble sensibility.

Hopefully, we are regressing from our packaged goods, “Consumer Saturday” lifestyle to doing more for ourselves—creating an everyday balm for our soul.

To me, it is welcome.

I grew up a generation removed from the farm and my grandparents on my Mom’s side had a strong self-reliant nature, wrought out of lessons from The Great Depression.

My mom and grandmother always canned the summer bounty from the garden, Ball jars being a fixture in my house (See also this post from Josh at PinotBlogger on gardening).

I am not sure I had a Dole canned pear until I was in college, my grandma always making sure canned pears were in plentiful supply, amongst many other things.

Yet, somewhere over the last 20 years, mostly the 90’s on, this lost its luster as our consumer spending lives went crazy with abundant choice in superstores. 

Suddenly, strawberry jam, canned tomatoes or homemade salsa seemed as positively outdated as parachute pants.

Why would you make salsa when there are 25 to choose from at the store?

Like all things, our hindsight seems to indicate a natural balancing order to our lives.  I hope that this popped economic bubble balances us out to less convenience consumerism and a greater relationship with food (and wine).

My wife and I have it in the winter plans to do just that – heck we can’t blame a lack of time for not doing so – whereas our Saturday’s used to be spent running around town doing errands and spending money, we’re now looking at each other on Saturday with a blank canvas of time – time that can be spent making condiments like ketchup and Dijon mustard, barbecue sauce, salsa, fresh jams, bread and butter pickles, red wine and champagne vinegars, marinara, liqueurs, cheese, and breads. 

Likewise, I hope this economic climate, impactful to the high-end wine industry, leads us to a better perspective on the types of wines we drink, and our relationship with the status of wine related to price point or production quantity.  Big or small, inexpensive does not have to have class distinction. The Wine Trials proved this point.

One of the great, small joys in wine I have had in recent months is drinking “La Historia” from my buddy Dan – it is a Sonoma Cab that he made with free grapes, using borrowed winery space, with free bottles and free corks, and a label created by a friend.  Everything about it is DIY—it is Vin de Table, and, it is delicious.

Sometime this winter I am going to bake a loaf of bread, make Dijon mustard, make a jam, make some refrigerator bread and butter pickles, make a camembert and open a bottle of the La Historia.

I will not check my 401(K), but after that meal I will know that my ordinary life doesn’t mean I am not living well. 

If you are interested in additional reading, I recommend the following books:

Home Cheesemaking by Ricki Carroll

The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeffrey Hertzberg

Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda Amendt


Posted in, Free Run: Field Notes From a Wine Life. Permalink | Comments (6) |


On 01/13, John wrote:

Great post. Bread baking is my next endeavor. I’ve got Hertzberg’s book waiting to be put to the test.

On 01/13, Amy Kingman wrote:

I hear ya!  I love diy and hand made. 

Here’s a link to my favorite quick pickle recipe.  We make them for most parties that we throw.  They’re simple and always a hit. smile

On 01/31, Petersburg flower wrote:

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On 02/11, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

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On 02/27, Online Generic Drug Store wrote:

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On 03/11, stock newsletter wrote:

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