Food & Drink | April 17, 2020 7:00 am

Now Is the Perfect Time to Embrace Drinking Wine With Lunch

You're probably eating lunch on your couch. Crack open a bottle of Muscadet. Who can stop you?

Now Is the Perfect Time to Embrace Drinking Wine With Lunch
Aaron Lefkove

“How the hell can a person go to work in the morning and come home in the evening and have nothing to say?” – John Prine

It’s Tuesday. The clock is rounding a quarter to three. And — be honest with me here now — you weren’t even wearing pants on that Zoom call. For the last month and change time has been divided into nothing more than le weekend petit and le weekend grand, and there’s a bottle of Gamay staring you down from the kitchen. Go ahead and pop it. Do it now. Yes, I’m serious. No, nobody will think any less of you. In fact, it might even help you pull it together and bring a little refinement to your confinement.

But seriously, first, go throw on some pants.

This isn’t a defense of day drinking, nor is it the last word on the three-martini lunch (a topic to which scores of columns have already been devoted). And it definitely ain’t Karen getting absolutely thrown on Barefoot Chardonnay at the neighborhood cookout as the memer @middleclassfancy would put it. This is drinking of a different stripe.

There are rules to this. You can have a little bit of wine with lunch, as a treat, but before you go getting all Lord of The Flies or, even worse, fratboy-turned-wine Instagrammer, let’s remain civilized and remember we are not here to get hammered. Drinking wine with lunch is an art, and it’s not necessarily one familiar to American palates. International air travel is off the docket until further notice, but there’s no reason in our collective hour of self-quarantined darkness to not inject a little joie de vivre. Half of you are already flexing your bread baking skills online like it’s your own personal boulangerie, so why not fully commit and lunch like the French?

“The era of sandwiches is effectively over. You can now take the time to prepare your lunch,” Laetitia Ourliac tells me from her home in Corbières, in the Languedoc region of France. Laetitia and her partner Rodolphe Gianesini are the proprietors and winemakers behind Fond Cyprès. “The French lunch is not just about feeding yourself. It’s a point in the day,” Rodolphe adds.

Those who worship at the altar of productivity, who have mainlined treatises on late-stage capitalism’s most unfortunate by-product, Hustle Culture, who view food as merely fuel and champion the time-saving effects of Soylent, have been forced to grind to a halt as social distancing has set in. And maybe that’s a good thing, if it means we are finally declaring the death of the sad desk salad.

A proper lunch “allows you to eat well because when you’re seated, you digest better. You have the time to chew, to swallow. It’s good for your health. Eating while standing is the worst thing you can do,” Laetitia remarks, suggesting that longer lunches allow more time to reflect on, say, the need for longer lunches.

“My grandfather would never have lunch without a bottle of red wine on the table. He’d always offer a glass to everyone around [him]. Even young adults and teenagers would be surprised to see someone decline [his] offer, even on a work or school day,” Marion Lambert, an Alsatian-born sommelier whose resumé includes Brooklyn’s Chez Ma Tante and Frank’s Wine Bar, explains. “It has a social aspect, allows you to vent, to breathe. It brings people joy to share a meal and get a little buzz before going back to work for another five to six hours.”

This could be lunch, but you playin (Aaron Lefkove)

“You can get work done at the table, too,” Laetitia continues. “You can prolong the interaction. And you can look at it as an opportunity to create connections, as you would when you’re with your family or your partner. You can bond with your colleagues, too, when you sit down for a meal. You’d be missing the point if you saw it as a waste of time,” she affirms.

For the bulk of us staying home until further notice, that bonding may be relegated to our quarantine-mates or FaceTime calls, but the structure that comes from longer lunches might be exactly what’s missing from our lives right now — to say nothing of the human interaction.

“The simple fact of eating together allows us to carve out mental space, to discuss things other than work. When we start working again after lunch, we feel better and more prepared to be productive,” explains Laetitia. When it comes to wine, it’s “the spiritual component of the meal,” according to Rodolphe. It frees up the mind to take necessary detours. And when people indulge in a glass or two at lunch, it’s not to get obliterated. “They’re drinking because the wine is accompanied by food. And it’s very important for a main dish to be paired with a glass of wine,” Laetitia clarifies.

Scores of us are now left literally to our own devices, scrolling endlessly through social-media feeds. This slower, more drawn-out midday affair presents us with a new set of opportunities. Out of a sense of altruism or perhaps sheer cabin fever, world-class chefs like Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert and David Chang have begun offering masterclasses in home cooking on their Instagrams, the lessons tailored to the limitations presented by grocery rations and home kitchen equipment. With a lack of places to go and newfound time on our hands, many have rediscovered their own kitchens by taking these online demos to heart.

And if you’re gonna be taking lessons from the masters, why stop at just the food? As Rodolphe proclaims: “Wine gives lunch its soul. Wine is the intellectual side; meat and vegetables are only the material elements. Wine can transform a simple lunch into a memory.”

Suggested Lunchtime Wines

Lower ABV and lighter bodied wines are your best bet for midday drinking. They won’t put you in a food and drink-induced coma and incidentally are a perfect pairing to lunch’s lighter fair.

For red wine we recommend any of the single varietals from Fond Cypres. The Syrah, Grenache or Carignan grapes, which are native to the Languedoc, have a youthful liveliness that holds its own paired with meats and cheeses.

For white wine something light and grassy that can be paired well with, say, the acidity of a salad or oyster course fits the bill. We recommend a Muscadet from Vincent Caille whose small domaine, Le Fay d’Homme, in the Loire Valley produces beautiful examples from a number of different parcels.

Bubbles are always a good bet for breakfast, lunch or dinner be it Champagne, Prosecco, cider or Pet Nat. For something on the funkier side the Austrian winemakers at Meinklang whose farm is located just south of Vienna produce a number of fizzy bubbly bottles that are highly chuggable.