Giving up drinking was no big deal for me before or during pregnancy – though I did start fantasizing about a beautifully chilled Gewurztraminer in my 40th week. It was after I had my baby that I really felt like my palette had experienced a ‘reset’ button of sorts. I wasn’t sure what people would think if I started drinking a glass here or there because I was now a mother. I think I only had a few sips while I was nursing – even though I knew about the whole ‘pump-and-dump’ approach – for the same reason. Although I told myself it was primarily because of my baby, it was more because of what other people would think. As the months passed and nursing came to a halt, I chastised myself for being way too self-conscious and paranoid about the issue, so I looked to prove myself wrong. I started looking for articles in mom-targeted mags that might suggest nice wines here or there together with their 30mins or less meals. Nope. No luck. All of a sudden I felt like Motherhood was this strange puritanical place where the ‘misfits’ had to sniff out seedy speak-easies for a glass of Gamay. I didn’t know how many of us were out there, and I was afraid to ask. But then I started hearing murmurs among my mom friends..I wasn’t alone. I knew that it was just a matter of picking myself up, lifting my head high, and raising my glass even higher.
Once the conversation started more freely among my ‘mom’ friends, I stumbled onto a possible explanation as to why we all felt like it was so taboo to have a drink now that we were moms. I realized that the only time you ever really hear about ‘motherhood’ and ‘alcohol’ in the same sentence is when it’s for a PSA about how booze and pregnancy don’t mix. Now, I’m 100% behind that, but the vehemence with which that morality is enforced kind of lingers once you’ve had your baby.. and are still craving a nice Chablis. The truth is, a lot of women feel judged when they have a glass of wine, a cocktail, or a beer postpartum. In my opinion they shouldn’t, but they do. Still, a woman’s enjoyment of wine or anything else doesn’t diminish just because she’s a mom. In fact I think that our need to abstain now and again actually heightens our appreciation of everything from table plonk to fine vintages, and cocktail mixology.
Inspired by the fast approach of the holiday season, I decided to seek out some expert advice on what to keep in my own cellar, and what to hoard for some of my pregnant friends until they can celebrate alongside me. Armed with my unusual questions, I sat down with wine expert Sue Sterling to get some great suggestions for bottles to mark occasions only moms really understand.
Not only is Sue a professional who has worked in the wine industry for 10 years ( she holds her Intermediate, Advanced, and Diploma certificates from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) in the UK), she is also host of Foodnetwork.ca’s Grape Notes, produced by Frogwater Media. To top that, she’s been nominated for two Tasty Awards, one of them ‘Best Female Host of a Series’, alongside Giada, Tyra, and Heidi among others for her outstanding work hosting Frogwater Media’s Naked Wine Show. She is also an outstanding hostess, an outrageous foodie, a very sharp dresser, and has a wicked sense of humour.
BH I am sure you don’t get asked for suggestions like this very often, but as moms, it’s tough enough finding advice for handling sleepless babies, let alone wines.
SS I think it’s a great idea and I am flattered that you would ask my opinion. As I see it, there are two ways to approach this.. I’m tempted to just answer ‘Champagne’. For everything. It’s always great, always special, and looks fantastic in the glass.. But I will stick to general options for wines instead.
BH What would you suggest as an ‘I’m about to start trying so this is my last for a while’ bottle?
SS Choose something you picked up on a trip, i.e. to Niagara-on-the-Lake for your last anniversary. Icewine is something people tend to keep for special moments, and it will certainly leave an impression on your soon-to-be alcohol-free palate. Alternatively, Trius Red is always a classic, and has been made to an exacting standard for 20 years. This would seem to bode well for those about to embark on procreation.
BH What about an ‘It’s been 9 Months on the Wagon’, post-partum, celebratory bottle?
SS You haven’t had wine in nearly a year, so you might want to start with something a bit lower in alcohol. German Riesling usually runs at about 10% alcohol, and it’s got zippy acidity, which will welcome your mouth back in style. A local option, with only slightly more alcohol, would be Flat Rock Cellars Riesling. If you like bubbly, some Prosecco would work well. Not nearly as costly as champagne, yet still festive. With the very reasonable price point, you won’t feel bad if you can’t put away more than one glass before you fall asleep.
BH By now you’ve noticed a theme to my questions.. What would you suggest for the ‘I’ve finished nursing and can drink guilt-free’ celebratory bottle?
SS Go big, or go home. Get out a bottle of something serious and/or exotic. Brunello di Montalcino, Amarone, classed-growth Bordeaux, Chablis, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, or one of the proprietary white blends that have come along recently, i.e. Conundrum. It’s time to get out whatever bottle (or bottles) you’ve been saving, waiting for the right moment. This is that moment.
BH I think a bottle of everyday wine is just as important to have on hand.. I want to know what you’d put on the list for the ‘I really want an amazing glass of wine but I don’t drink like I used to and will never finish the bottle’ bottle..
SS Crisp, fresh whites. Many are now sold in screwcap bottles, especially if they are made in New World countries. They will keep for a couple of days in the fridge once opened. Some examples: Unoaked Chardonnay (Peller Estates), Vinho Verde (Aveleda), Sauvignon Blanc (J.P.Chenet), and Viognier (Cono Sur). If you’re a red drinker, wines like Gamay Noir (Cave Spring or anything from the Beaujolais region of France), Valpolicella, Pinot Noir, and some of the basic Bordeaux blends are good choices, as they taste good without food. Again, they will keep for a couple of days, and being in the fridge does them no harm. There are many examples of these, so don’t feel limited by the brands that are mentioned. As a general rule, any wine in a screwcap bottle is meant for immediate consumption.
BH Lastly, what should we go for in a ‘first date sans baby’, special bottle of wine?
SS Champagne, if you like fizz. There’s nothing like the real thing, although some stuff comes close. If you’re feeling flush, go for pink champagne. It’s gorgeous to look at, and will go well with just about any meal, even some red meats.
If bubbles aren’t your thing, white Burgundy is a classic, classy choice. For reds, try New Zealand Pinot Noir. These wines can stand on their own as the stars of the show, so you can have very simple food, and still feel like you’ve marked the occasion appropriately.
I think I’ll make a date night out of January 13th, when Sue will be in Hollywood for the Tasty Awards! We will be raising a glass of bubbly (or New Zealand Pinot) to you, Sue. Best of luck to our favourite wine expert! Want Sue to win ‘Best Female Host of a Series’ for her incredible work hosting Naked Wine Show? Just visit http://www.tastyawards.com, click the ‘Finalist’ link, and select Susan Sterling in the last category (Best Female Host of a Series).