“Mooch” - derived from French “muchier,” to hide, lurk If you can’t pad your bra, ladies, then pad your wine cellar. As we slog though this relentless tide of economic misfortune, I have perfected an irrefutable strategy to enhance the quality of the wine you drink without costing you a single penny. Would you like to upgrade from box wine to Bordeaux? How about swap out anything with an animal label for one etched with a chateau? Then listen closely friends, as I disclose the secret to getting the most exclusive wines at no additional cost to you. No, I am not proposing you erect some sloppy, ad hock wine blog in return for “reviewing” freebies. What I’ve got trumps that has-been scheme any day. I am talking about recalibrating your wine ethics, just resetting your moral compass a little further south, when we’re talking about wine that is. Now I understand that the Good Book explicitly dictates “Do Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wine Cellar.” But I am here to tell you to covet until you are craven. In fact stake out your neighbor’s house with night vision goggles. How else are you going to know what they drink with dinner and if it’s better than what you’ve already got? Engage in some low risk reconnaissance with UPS to discover what wines are being delivered to their doorstep. Better yet, track any comings and goings from the yellow DHL van - a sign they’re paying out for the good European stuff. Really organized people may choose to rank their neighbors on a spreadsheet, based on presumed cellar contents and estimated value. Considering that data, you can better plan your grocery shopping and intended food/wine pairings. Step #2: after the stake-out comes the most critical step: the thinly-veiled mooch.
As a good and compassionate friend, you certainly don’t want your neighbor’s cellar contents to go to waste. You must help them consume their finest selections lest they spoil before the expiration date issued by Wine Spectator. This is where graciousness guides your fate. Invite them to dinner and propose they bring their favorite wine to share. Here is the clincher - tell them to be prepared to explain why their wine is special and why they chose that particular selection. Since wine is a joyous, communal beverage best shared among friends, this tactic provides ample cover from being labeled a gluttonous, parsimonious, freeloading bastard too miserly to buy her own s^*t. I assure you; you will be overjoyed and moved by your friends’ generosity and goodwill. You may even regret acting like a miserly Philistine - that is until you get a sip of that grand cru Burgundy that costs more your minivan lease payments.
I don’t mean to sound crass. This endeavor started with the most honest and forthright intentions - a spring lamb dinner. I asked a number of my wine loving pals to each contribute a bottle or two and express why their choice was meaningful to them. In fact, I figured I was doing everyone a favor by containing costs with a special, diminished corkage fee. Then the e-mails started to roll in. Woe is the shameful, despicable woman who cowers in the blazing glory of her friends’ unselfish largesse. Only a coarse and pitiful wretch would try to leverage such kindness for her own loathsome pleasure. (Are you looking at me?). As I mentally ticked off their proposed wine selections, I quivered a little bit inside. Big-hearted and absurdly generous would be an understatement. Lest some established wine writer point a finger and call me a “douche”, I will refrain from disclosing the details of each exquisite wine we tasted. Suffice to say, my spring lamb bounty of wonder included obscenely awesome white Burgundy, cult California pinot noir, gorgeous and smooth aged Napa cab (from someone you’d know), chewy, monumental Zins that made the lamb sing (yes, those are actual angels and harps that you hear in the background), and an epiphany of a dessert wine from a special place in France that starts with “S” and rhymes with blow-terne. Wow right?!!? Not only were these wines mind blowing but also their attached stories were beautiful. My dining companions recounted everything from marriage proposals and 10-year wedding anniversaries to memories of carefree French vacations. I was touched to witness my buddies participate so fully. So what did we contribute, you query? Since full disclosure is our policy, I sheepishly admit we provided a magnum of Bruliam pinot noir. However that was not our original intention; our (very kind and ferociously supportive) friends requested it. When you can’t afford better wine, find better friends.
Thank you, thank you to all involved in my personal palate expansion that evening.