Marissa A. Ross
Written by Augustus Britton | Photographed by Olivia McManus
I arrived at the house very professional, very sober, very wide-eyed. I left elated, wildly drunk, wildly inspired, bright-eyed—also wondering what the word professional actually meant. Wine does these things; it makes you wonder.
And what does Marissa A. Ross, wine editor at Bon Appétit and author of Wine. All the Time.: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking (Plume), do so well? She makes wine comfortable. She makes it accessible. She makes you laugh. She kicks off the dust. Read her writing about the subject, it’s damn good. She exes out the crabs, the old-guys (not necessarily old, but cranky, uninviting, pretentious—)she exes all that shit out, she exes out the bullies. Who has time when the wine tastes this good and the smiles are this big and stained purple, and the jokes go on and on—all the while feeling our anxieties drip away, quite literally?
Ross generously pours me three exceptional glasses of wine upon being seated: a white, a sparkling and dancing one, and a red one that smelled like a really precise, dense, wet wood chip—or, if you’re a novice like me and haphazardly open your mouth, “It’s like a really subtle, brilliant dog food.” Yes, that’s what hit my nose in a very peculiar, singular way. But, truly, all of them tasted incredible, fresh, enlivening.
Ross even let me drink from her $60 Zaltos, these superb wine glasses that break seemingly on cue and crack on cushioned chairs, but, once you try drinking from one, I’m not sure you’ll wanna go back, that is, to the IKEA glasses. But, in true Ross fashion, we did also drink from her IKEA glasses. We were quickly high-fiving, quickly good friends. I let her call me Gus. She let me pour and pour, let my tongue get heavy, my eyes get wet, my speech relax.
Ross clues me in on the subjectivity of all of it, the fun to be had, the curiosity to be cultivated. She says a lot you might want to listen to if you enjoy the good life, or if you’re in the happy pursuit.
Wine. All the Time.: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking by Marissa A. Ross is out now from Plume.
MM What’s your take on collecting wine?
MR I believe that wine is to drink and be enjoyed. But there are some bottles that are special, and the cool thing about collecting wine these days, especially in the natural wine world, is that you can buy bottles that are under a hundred dollars that you can age and open them in five to 10 years, and they’ll be a very, very special bottle of wine. You can actually start collecting now at a much lower price point than previously. But it’s hard to collect wine. I have to write notes on some, like: Don’t fucking open this! This is for something special. Because sometimes you start drinking, and you’re just like, screw it! I wanna open this bottle that I’ve been saving for years!
MM Where do you get your wine?
MR I shop primarily at Domaine LA and Lou Wine Shop and Silver Lake Wine (all in Los Angeles)—locally. I also now try to get stuff straight from importers. There is some stuff in New York that I can’t get out here, and hopefully if I start drinking it out here shops will start picking it up.
MM When you write about wine, you often compare it to music—From Françoise Hardy to ABBA. What’s the deal with wine and music?
MR Before I wrote about wine, I wrote about music for a long time. That was my hobby. To me, they’re kind of the same. When you’re listening to an album that you really love or a song, it’s that same energy thing, it’s that same story. And for me, I’m kind of self-centered, so I’m like: Every song is about me, obviously. But, when I was a kid, I remember my favorite thing was listening to music and telling myself these stories about what this song means to me, and I feel that I treat wine the same way. I find them both to be very personal experiences.
"I know that people try to be objective when they’re reviewing music or wine, but I don’t believe that’s possible. I think they’re both extremely subjective and sentimental."
And when I write about wines, they do remind me of music. There is something about them. There are notes.
MM Have you worked in a vineyard? Does that interest you?
MR [Laughs.] I have soft, dainty writer’s hands. I’m very, very, very interested in what goes on in a vineyard. I’m not particularly interested in working a vineyard.
MM What do you think is the most underrated kind of wine?
MR I think the most underrated wines are light red wines. They have a different kind of drunk than whites that I prefer. Most people think about red wines, and they immediately go to these big, bold dinner wines. But there are so many delicious, beautiful, really light red wines that drink like red wines. Those are my favorite.
MM What’s your last supper?
MR Oh, man. My last supper? It would be the best salami and really well-dressed farmer’s market greens. You know how they dress them so well, where it feels like every leaf is perfectly basted on its own? With probably all the wine. I’d say, bring me my fridge. Actually, I forgo the meal. Just bring me all the wine, and I will drink it all! But if I only had to pick one wine, I would probably pick a Jean Foillard Côte du Py, and that’s a Morgon, so it’s a Beaujolais, and I love it. That’s like my favorite wine ever.
MM Is wine as vast a subject as I think it is?
MR Yes. I think it’s impossible to know everything about wine. The wine world is extremely vast. Also, it’s constantly changing. To say that you know everything is also to say that there is no progress, which I think is absolute insanity, considering we’re drinking a Grüner Veltliner from the fucking Czech Republic. Like, that’s not something that’s really happened in the past.
MM Who is your book written for?
MR I wrote my book for [someone like] me five years ago when I needed a starting point. It’s not everything, and I didn’t want it to be everything. I wanted it to be something where you could read it and know about wine. ... It’s for someone who wants to drink well right now: You don’t have to know everything; this is all you need to know, and you have all the tools. It is for people who are beginners. Although, my friend Adam [Vourvoulis, who has stopped by during the interview] ... who’s a sommelier—he loved the book, and he’s been a full-time somm guy.
MM Who makes the best wine? California? Italy? Spain? France?
MR I think that that’s a loaded question. We can’t answer that. (Vourvoulis jumps in on this question, he has arrived carrying a case of new wines for Ross to try out. Everyone is mildly or not so mildly inebriated at this point; everyone is sagacious and a little red-cheeked). That’s not fair, that question. Adam Vourvoulis That’s an easy answer: France.
MR (laughs) I know!
AV I guess it’s loaded, but it’s true.
MM Why is it loaded?
MR Because there are great wines coming out of everywhere. I’m drinking amazing wines from Italy right now that I love so much.
AV And you don’t want to take away from everyone else. But, bar none, if you talk to any wine professional, and you said he had to pick one country, it would almost always be France, sometimes Italy.
MR Well, I think if you’re into natural wine, the French just crush it in terms of high-acid, light, really beautiful wines that are so elegant. I think that France runs the gamut. Also, I love California wines, but if I had to pick one reason, ya know, I’m sorry, but California has not been doing it nearly as long.
MM Is it the farming practices? Is it the grapes?
MR I think it’s the wine-making in general.
"The wine-making in France is so ancient. Let’s be real, it’s France’s shit."
Wine is France’s game that everyone else is trying to play, and that’s a bummer to admit, and I love wines from across the world—like today we have things from Czech Republic, Spain ...
MM I guess it’s like [American] football, right? You wouldn’t say something like Sweden plays the best football. America does.
AV Or I was going to say rock ’n’ roll. It’s inherently American.
MR And wine is inherently French.
MM That escalated quickly.
AV There are arguments to why it’s maybe not France, but...
MR Yeah. I’m glad Adam was here to help keep it real. I was trying to be diplomatic. But I don’t really know anyone that wouldn’t pick France.
MM Lastly, if you have to give up one thing, Marissa: wine or your husband. Which is it?
MR [Laughs.] That’s the most fucked-up question I’ve ever been asked in my life! MM
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