The Cabinet

of Dr. Callegari

What doesn't kill you

Barring aggressive cancers and freak gasoline fight accidents, middle-class people in modern developed countries now live so long that at birth they can safely look forward to nearly a century of calling their doctors to ask if this rash is normal. Maybe this is why we have returned to an uncannily medieval obsession with the issue of alcohol and health, and whether or not we can drink with regularity without accidentally killing ourselves and everyone around us. Wine is an especially ready target because of the positive publicity it receives, both from its cultural connotations and from research noting its high content of "healthy" compounds, like Resveratrol, a phenol that might be good for your heart. Vocal backlash has come from all sides, although the loudest shouting so far has come surrounding the widely reported UK study done earlier this year that stated any more than 5 drinks per week (aka not even one full beer or glass of wine per night) would quite literally take years off your life. So should we consider someone who spends all their free time convincing people to drink more wine to be essentially the leader of a suicidal cult? 

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The Gender Fluid

In a now famous description of an 1869 Château Latour, H. Warner Allen called this Bordeaux a "heroic wine," the perfection of which was, to his mind, "as terrible as an army with banners." Now that Buzzfeed videos of people deciding whether or not loving Barefoot Chardonnay makes you a classy bitch are the standard, it's fair to say that a wine note requiring an intertextual gloss really stands out regardless of its content. But Warner's thought reveals not only the delightfully indulgent snobbery we've come to expect from wine writers, but also one of the more curious aspects of this particular drink. The heroic and militant 1869 Latour sounds like a manly wine indeed, until you realize the terrifying army with banners to which Warner is referring is in fact a woman, specifically the woman praised in the notoriously sexy and doctrinally slippery Old Testament "Song of Songs." The explicitly sexual imagery of the Song of Songs has made it the subject of scholarly controversy, but using it to describe wine might be its most relevant application. Erotic, spiritual, and somehow both masculine and effeminate at the same time, wine has always been impossible to gender.

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Keeping January Wet

As 2018 dawns and many of us wake up a little less attractive than when 2017 began, perhaps feeling a special self-loathing due to the excesses of the now departed holiday season, an idea begins to creep forward from the back of everyone's minds: maybe if I don't drink for a month, I'll become a better person! The truth is, your pants are never going to fit again, giving $5 to Wikipedia does not make you a philanthropist, and you can never have those hours you spent watching "How I Met Your Mother" back. That said, there is a path to self-betterment that doesn't come via self-deprivation, and by replacing "dry January" with general moderation in our pours we can be toasting right into 2019 without [even more] shame.

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Bulking Up for the Holidays

Americans love to purchase everything in massive quantities, and yet for some reason the one product that they would do well to buy in bulk is the one they are least likely to give the warehouse membership club treatment. No doubt some of this is due to our association of wine with snobbery and delicacy (rich people always buy one tiny, expensive thing at a time!) or perhaps the unhealthy relationship we have with alcohol in general (as though purchasing one bottle at a time means at a time we're less likely to be alcoholics--bad news: the cashier definitely recognizes you and knows you have a problem!). But the truth is that buying wine in larger quantities saves you money, ratchets up your hosting skills, and saves you a ton of time and hassle, especially when you've got the season of giving [drinking] ahead of you. It's true that like all things, wine should not be bought in absurd quantities that you might never manage to consume, but a little forethought goes a long way. And 10 lbs. of cocktail meatballs for $17.50? You can't beat that!

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Giving Thanks with Wine

Every year at this time the internet gets liberally basted with articles and listicles about what to drink with your Thanksgiving dinner, a meal notoriously terrible for wine. In addition to the obvious challenges (e.g. trying to enjoy a drink sandwiched between your racist grandma and your cousin's gluten-free boyfriend; having to pretend that your uncle's homemade Zinfandel is even remotely tolerable), the "traditional" foods served to remind us how white people generously allowed American Indians to eat a potato before liquidating their culture are simply impossible to pair with the wines the US is best known for. Most of the advice pieces will note that trading your bold Napa Cabernet for a crisp Loire Chenin Blanc is an easy fix, and certainly that will resolve at least the problem of candied yams somehow, improbably, managing to taste even worse when matched with a tannic red. But what if you wanted your Thanksgiving feast to come with a glass of real Americana? That would require learning something about indigenous American grapes and the wines produced from them, something now fairly easy to do thanks to shifting trends and the internet. 

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Vino al vino

"What is a wine without friends? I'll say bread to bread and wine to wine: I'll say a wine without friends is little more than nothing."

At the end of his first of three trips  taken between 1968 and 1975 to discover the best, most “genuine” Italian wine, the Italian writer and director Mario Soldati concluded that the only thing that really made any wine worth drinking was the company in which one drank it. His point is well taken, and has the air of a worthy conclusion, but of course Soldati spent another two trips traveling up and down the entire peninsula to get to the bottom of Italian wine. Like Italy itself, Italian wine is somehow warm, inviting, almost magically convivial. Yet, it is also intensely specific and, even after a lifetime of study, utterly impenetrable. Trying to understand it at all might seem like a baffling waste of time, but with a little help you can find something genuinely Italian, and something worth drinking while you're at it.

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The Three-Tier System

As anyone who has done a bit of traveling across these great United States will know, Americans feel about alcohol much the way we feel about overbreeding dogs and making children compete on television cooking shows: we love it, but we know we should feel bad about it. From dry counties and blue laws to open-container states and drive-thru daquiri windows, there are some deeply conflicted feelings on how to handle your liquor in this country. The notorious experiment with Prohibition, which resulted in crime syndicates building vertical empires on the back of bootleg booze, only left us with further unresolved issues and a bizarre maze of regulations attempting to solve the problem of how to monitor the alcohol trade once it wasn't outright illegal anymore. Among such attempts to heal the wound of Prohibition was the so-called "Three-Tier System": a means of creating distance between the producers of alcohol and its consumers. Now, every true patriot/anyone who has driven behind a car registered in New Hampshire knows, if you're not living free, you're dying, so it's clear that any meddling in our alcohol producer-alcohol consumer relationship is generally unAmerican, but there are some other fairly good reasons you should care about the Three-Tier System and its effects on your access to wine. 

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