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A Guy’s Viticulture Guide to Relationships

I am either fearless or foolish because I habitually connect dots for the sake of humor, like the parallels between romance and wine, that should never be connected in public. This issue’s feature article on wine inspired me yet again — my pencil is out and ready. Despite the threat of grave bodily injury, I just can’t help myself. I am compelled to provide the following public service announcement for the benefit of all men.

My advice is simple: Pay as much attention to your romantic relationships as you do to your wine. Yes, I fully appreciate that the parallels between wine and relationships aren’t readily obvious. But think about it — there are two major types of wine, white and red. The same is true at any point in time in relationships, too (if you have my warped sense of humor). For instance, the backbone of many relationships is white whine, the equivalent of a Pinot gris, light and playful, but like white noise, it drowns out a lot of sour grapes. For the most part, white whine is good natured and doesn’t threaten your relationship.

Nonetheless, just don’t be deceived into complacency. White whine can be subtle. Don’t mistake subtle for lack of underlying spousal/partner irritation — I suggest that you monitor regularly. Monitor what, you ask? Ah, read and learn.

The main ingredient for white whine is a honey-do list. In fact, most white whine comes from a honey-do list gone bad. The fermenting process starts innocently enough with some household chores that never quite get done in favor of golf, a football game, or some other guy “priority.” But add a toilet seat left up, hair in the sink, or socks on the floor, and you have a very young white whine in the making. The next thing you know, when you want a hall pass to play golf, you have to ask permission from whom you affectionately refer to as the “War Department.” In whine vernacular, this is known as the whine’s “nose.” Fruity is good; fruity is generally a “yes.” Run if you smell oak, especially if the smell is in the shape of a large spoon or rolling pin.

And a few words to the wise: Never ask to play golf if you have a five-week-old newborn, particularly if the newborn is child number one. Believe me, there won’t be a number two. The day will come when you wish that you had listened to your father — chip out, don’t go for the green and, of course, re-read this article or risk being “destemmed.” Remember, as a budding “relationship” vintner, your short-term goal is simply to survive crush and fermentation. And take heed that every relationship has two vintners. Significant others actually build evenings around the bottling process, often cleverly disguised as book clubs. Don’t interfere. In an absolute emergency, you could tell your partner to put a proverbial cork in it, but be prepared to say the words lovingly from your knees — in public. I don’t recommend this “nuclear option,” however. No amount of husband points is worth the gamble.

Red whine, however, is a different animal altogether — ignore red whine at your peril. There’s a reason why red wine is uncorked and allowed to breathe. Red whine is no different, only the issues are more serious than white whine like finances or mothers-in-law. These challenges are typically referred to as relationship tannins and can cause the occasional headache. If you can, embrace them, preferably with open arms. There is no filtration process known to man to protect you from the inevitable. Better to develop a taste for the bitterness or you will experience the cold shoulder equivalent to “cold stabilization.” Again, child number two will never happen if you don’t. Ever wonder where vinegar comes from? Now you know.

The transition from honey-do list to white whine to red whine is usually obvious in hindsight. Look for the signs of fermentation because you can only ignore red whine for so long. You can sip it, swirl it or sniff it — just don’t spit it out like you are sampling. You helped make the whine. Own it. Sampling is not ownership. I highly recommend counseling early in the whine-making process, which is the equivalent to a corkage fee. Believe me. The corkage fee will be well worth the investment. If red whine isn’t allowed to breathe, to have a voice, the stain on your relationship can be permanent.

If you follow these simple suggestions, what you receive in return is a richer, smoother and more full-bodied loving relationship that endures and matures over time. That’s the goal — a Robert Parker rating of 90 or above.

As my mom likes to say, “Relationships work best when each partner gives 60 percent.” Smart woman. Good advice.

"My advice is simple: Pay as much attention to your romantic relationships as you do to your wine. "