Everywhere I have been in the world, people drink wine. As far as I can tell, wine is the closest thing we have to a universal beverage. In countries other than the U.S., even children drink wine. Because grapes used to make wine only grow in two fairly narrow bands on earth, one in the northern hemisphere, one in the southern, wine must be imported to many countries. Britain, for example, is for the most part too cold to grow grapes, so virtually all wine consumed there is brought in from abroad—usually from France.

I first learned to drink wine when I was 21, the legal age for alcohol consumption when I was growing up. In my youth, I liked wine much better than any other alcoholic beverage and still do. I grew up in northern California where wine was cheap and plentiful and almost universally consumed. Early on, I discovered cabernet sauvignon, which quickly became my favorite wine.

Some years ago, I contracted with a cabinet maker to make me a wine chest of dark blond maple wood. It is 3 feet, 3 inches high; 4 feet, 6 inches wide; and 3 feet, 3 inches deep, with two sliding doors. Behind the door on the right side is a set of drawers large enough to hold a total of 12 magnums (1.5 liters) of wine; on the left is drawers with room for 21 standard-size bottles (750 milliliters). In the middle are two wine glass racks suspending upside down 18 stemmed glasses of fine crystal. Two or three times a year, I go wine shopping and refill the chest. I specialize in inexpensive cabernets costing less than ten dollars a bottle. Even so, my wine trips end up costing me between $100 and $200.

More next time.

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