Every wine lover I know is a little nervous right now. Finding bargains has always been trial and error. With the new sales and use tax that increases the price of those experiments by 6 percent a bottle, failures are sure to hurt even more.
But there is an antidote to the pain — tasting before buying — and I can think of no finer place in town to do that than at W+M, or Wine and Market, every Friday evening from 5 to 8.
This little gem is co-owned by Krim Boughalem, a 28-year veteran of the food and wine scene, and his wife, Lexingtonian Andrea Sims. She gets credit for creating the fabulous environment of the wine shop, which she describes as "international chic," Boughalem refers to it as a "salon." Collectively, it's their "dream dining room."
The arrangement is simple and elegant: a mirrored wall of spirits and beers is at the end of the room. Taking up the remaining space is a sturdy wood table, set with fine home gifts in silver and glass, and flanked by two walls of wine shelves.
Boughalem tastes upwards of 30 wines a week, and from those selects the shop's merchandise. About 40 percent are organic, and one-third are biodynamic, a complex and somewhat atavistic agricultural process that has refined soil analysis to its smallest details and is deeply in sync with all aspects of nature, including the lunar calendar. Some consider biodynamic practices "fringe," but many, including Boughalem, agree that they make the wine's terroir more pronounced and accessible.
The wines are all delicious and affordable, and many are unknown to the Lexington market, making visits here both interesting and educational. W+M demonstrates that a reasonable price tag does not necessarily mean plonk and, conversely, good wines don't have to cost a bundle.
On tasting nights, two wines, a white and a red, are showcased. There is always a cutting board of compatible cheese and fruit, a basket full of good bread, and perhaps a dish of olives, all of which, and much more, are available next door at the "Market" side of the store, whose juxtaposing interior of mirrors, glass and white tile resembles a classic 19th-century European delicatessen.
To preview coming attractions and revisit previous ones, complete with tasting notes, go to W+M's page on Facebook; apart from word-of-mouth, the online social network has been the primary source of advertising.
On any given Friday, about 50 people, nearly half of them regulars, are in attendance, meeting up, catching up and enjoying and learning about wine that is reasonably priced. Part of the crowd might spill over into the market to grab a seductive snack. I notice, however, that others confidently gather up an evening's provisions, which seem often to include at least one of the tasting bottles, without one blink of buyer's remorse, to improvise a dinner at home.