February 21, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Pulp friction

By |2018-03-21T18:32:33+01:00April 1st, 2008|Food & Wine Archive|
Relais San Maurizio offers Bain à la vigne rouge.

or some time now I have known my wine habits would eventually get me into trouble. Things began innocently enough. While at college, I began collecting straw-covered Chianti bottles, though my wine knowledge at the time extended only enough to know they were useful for putting candles in, not for placing in a wine cellar. Like any struggling student without a lot of spare change, I’d hoped that the drippy, multi-colored rivers of wax might camouflage my shabby yard sale kitchen table and distract visitors from noticing my lightly burned sauce in my first embarrassing culinary attempts at making spaghetti alla bolognese.

Realizing there are only so many candles a gal really needs, I then moved on to saving wine corks. With glue gun in hand, I began creating hot plate trivets, door wreaths and bulletin boards for all my friends. My obsession even went so far as to string wine cork garlands complete with faux cranberries for my Christmas tree. Patting myself on the back for my ingenuity, I thought I was on to something until an overly observant friend pointed out that these artistic creations were made up almost entirely of corks from really cheap Portuguese rosé or worse, Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel.

Lucky for me, my tastes matured in tandem with my wine paraphernalia habits. I stopped whiling away my spare time looking for Martha Stewart cork decoration ideas and moved on to studying just what actually went into making the purple stuff.

Fascinated with the local grape varietals abundant where I lived, I started toying with the idea of creating my own juiced juice. And while my feeble experiments at making homegrown muscadine wine never reached the Muscat-like level of excellence I was shooting for — even the dog wouldn’t drink it — I soon accumulated a library full of winemaking knowledge that taught me a great deal about fermentation and racking as well as positive acid reduction measures.

It was at this point that my wine reference collection grew beyond my bedside reading table and began taking over the length of two long book shelves. By the time my kids started complaining about the sommelier tomes crowding the oak treads of our spiral staircase, I knew my fascination with wine had gone beyond the casual hobbyist level. With a finite amount of living space and out of fear for the broken legs of my children descending over the mountain of growing books, I decided to limit my future wine-related purchases to the beloved liquid itself.

And so I dropped into Vino Virgil’s seventh ring of wine lovers hell. I started exploring the subtleties of corkscrews. Did I need an economical Teflon coated “Waiter’s Friend” or the goofy model named “The Rabbit”? Unsure, I bought both (and three others), steering clear of the 18-karat gold Sveid model and opting instead for a Eurocave wine cellar to store my stash.

When I moved to Italy I adopted a less-is-more mentality to wine collecting. I curbed my acquisition habits and dispensed with my crazy gadgetry. Being environmentally friendly, my Roma night tables and desks are made from old wine boxes. I save trees by limiting my “dead tree” journals and reading most wine literature online. Proud of my minimalist stance, and my concern for a greener world, I thought I had kicked my wine geek addiction.

That was before I discovered the wonderful aromatic world of “Wine Therapy” (Oenotherapy, Vino Terapia, and so on). Little did I know when I walked past the farmacia the other day that there are healthy benefits to wine products. You can slather wine derivatives on your face, exfoliate your skin with goopy grape pips, or smother yourself in anti-aging body masks made from honey and the tartrate deposits of wine barrels. These polyphenol rich deposits are supposed to pass on their antioxidants and are decadently enjoyable. Heck, they even had Lambrusco and Vermintino scented wine candles for your white or red sniffing pleasure.

Oh dear, now I can indulge without even swirling.

— Caudalie Crushed Cabernet Scrub is available at Sephora and upscale Italian farmacie and profumerie.

Harbor Italia Bagno Skincare.

Lemani Wine Scented Candles.

— Relais San Maurizio, Hotel del Monastero; Località San Maurizio, 39, 12058. San Stefano Belbo, Cuneo. See Relais San Maurizio.

About the Author:

Lynda Albertson's monthly wine column appeared between 2006 and 2010.