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Wine reminds us how good life can be

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My husband and I married 10 years ago this week, on a dazzling spring day adorned with dogwood blossoms and daffodils. I remember the squeeze my father gave my hand as we walked into the church. I remember the look in my husband's eyes as he took my hand in his. And I remember dancing all afternoon under a cloudless, blue sky.

I cannot, for the life of me, remember the wine we drank. I do recall that it flowed like sunshine, and it must have been fairly cheap, because our budget was tight.

So I listened with interest when Jason Smith, chef-owner at 18 Seaboard, told me recently that the wine I was sipping at his bar was the same that he and his wife had served on their wedding day. It was Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina, a wine from southern Italy that smells like a basket full of green apples and tastes as clear and light as spring itself. It's reminiscent of some pinot grigios, but softer and more buoyant, with a smooth finish. Every sip made me want another.

While I was loving the Falanghina, it made me long to recall what we drank at our wedding. Aren't all true wine lovers supposed to be able to point to landmark wines in their imbibing history: the wine that turned them into a serious wine lover, the wine they served at their wedding, the cork they popped when they closed the deal of their life? Isn't that what real grown-ups do?

Even though I've been married for a decade, make mortgage payments and am the mother of a 3-year-old, some days I worry that representatives from the Adult Certification Board are going to show up and whip out a "Prove You're a Grown-Up" pop quiz, which I would fail miserably. No doubt, one of the first questions would be, "What wine did you serve at your wedding?"

To assuage my self-doubts, I turned to Facebook, where a number of my friends are people I consider true grown-ups and bona fide wine lovers. Only a few could recall exactly the wine they served at their weddings. One friend remembered that her reception hall prohibited red wine, presumably because they didn't want to scrub it out of their carpets. She says if she had things to do over, she would choose a different reception site so she could give her guests the choice of a red. Clearly, the years have given her wisdom.

My sister-in-law reminded me that she served Santa Cristina Sangiovese, a favorite of my father-in-law. "We still pick up a bottle now and then," she wrote. "I'm not sure I even remember what it tastes like, but it is nice to have a few memories of that day."

In his thoughtful and provocative book Liquid Memory: Why Wine Matters, Jonathan Nossiter, director of the film Mondovino, which explores the world's wine regions, expounds on how the occasion and setting that surround the drinking of a wine influence its standing in the drinker's mind. The experience combines in an alchemic way with the taste of the wine on that day to create a unique and lasting impression. Returning to the wine on a different occasion may offer a new experience similar to the first but can never replicate it.

Whatever we drank on our wedding day, it contributed greatly to my bliss. I know this because when my sister-in-law informed me that the champagne fountain never arrived, I took it in stride. Had you told me just a day before that the caterer would flub this crucial detail, I would have declared it a tragedy, but standing there in the sunshine sipping a glass of sparkling wine, I smiled and said, "No worries, we have plenty of champagne."

After turning all this over in my mind, I gave Smith a call. When he pours himself a glass of the Falanghina now, does it bring back memories of his wedding day?

"No," he said. "Every time I drink the Falanghina it reminds me how good life can be."

I think I'll take some on our anniversary trip. We're bound to remember it fondly.

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