In my mind, this expression should be reserved solely for toasting. When used in different contexts, it has always bothered me for some reason.
Obviously, in the UK, it is commonly used as a way of saying “Thanks”, or even “Goodbye”. But in North America, there are very few situations where “Cheers” seems natural. Unless you are British and/or you have just served me a drink and are using it synonymously with “Enjoy”, it just seems contrived and pretentious somehow.
I am clearly not alone in this sentiment. One blogger on the interwebs went on a bit of a tirade on the matter in 2007. I didn’t even make it through all the comments – half the commenters whole-heartedly agreed, while the other half accused him of being too pedantic or xenophobic.
From what I gather, this expression started gaining popularity on this side of the Atlantic in the early 2000s. All of a sudden, everyone was saying “Cheers” the British way. In bars, servers would say Cheers as a way of saying “Here you go – enjoy!” In those days I attributed this sudden appearance of the expression to the fact that I just hadn’t been frequenting bars much before that point, but now I see that its use outside of drinking establishments was also quickly spreading across the continent. Instead of saying “thanks” or even in some cases “you’re welcome,” people were using the dreaded term. Why don’t you just call me a wanker before hopping into a lorry!? What’s even worse is that these days, you see more and more people signing emails with “Cheers” as a valediction (i.e. closing or farewell) – even in business emails, which I find particularly inappropriate. Even this British blogger agrees: “Americans could use it in English pubs, but should avoid the other situations as it sounds wrong with an American accent. Sorry!”
Not surprisingly, this practice is rampant in the wine business. There are so many wine bloggers who conclude their posts with the telltale sign-off that even in that context (i.e. its original context) it feels like it’s beginning to lose meaning. I’m finding it all very problematic, since I’m often tempted to use it in this blog, but again, it seems pretentious and now so unoriginal.
All this to say, I will say “Cheers” when raising a glass with friends, but I think the English language already has plenty of excellent expressions for giving thanks, wishing enjoyment, or saying goodbye without having to resort to slang from across the pond.
But enough whining, on to wining!
This week’s discovery was the Tessellae Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre (or “GSM” in the wine world). Prominently featured in the most recent Food & Drink magazine (page 33, if you have a copy at home), this $17 bottle is being advertised as an excellent value wine. And I have to agree! GSMs are one of my favourites. While this popular blend generally hails from the Côtes du Rhône region in the southeast of France, this particular bottle is from the Côtes de Roussillon appellation, which is further west.
Side note: I took the liberty of highlighting the town where I was born!
GSMs tend to be medium bodied with fruity characteristics (i.e. dark cherry, raspberry) and a bit of spice from the syrah (aka shiraz) grape. The most famous (and expensive) example of this type of wine is probably Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The GSM blend is an excellent, often food-friendly wine that most people will enjoy. As a result, it’s one of my go-to’s as a hostess gift when going to dinner parties where I don’t know what will be served.
The Tessellae definitely fits the bill. It is indeed medium bodied, though the aromas are less in-your-face than your typical GSM. This wine is more delicate, with the aromas needing a bit of coaxing out of the bottle. As a result, open this bottle ahead of time so it has a chance to breathe. You still get the lovely fruity characteristics, such as cherry, raspberry and blueberry, but also some licorice and something slightly floral.
In terms of food pairing, this is not a heavy wine, so not something to serve with a juicy steak. It would be a good match for burgers or pizza. Remember, you never want your food to overpower your wine, or vice versa.
And on that note, instead of signing off with the dreaded word, I will simply say happy wining!