Because the customers always write, and the Wine Curmudgeon always has the answers in this periodic feature. Ask me a wine-related question by clicking here.
Hey Wine Guy:
I would think alcohol is alcohol is alcohol, and a buzz is a buzz is a buzz. However, I seem to experience what I will call a “lighter” buzz from wine, which dissipates more quickly than a buzz from other alcoholic drinks. Do you think that’s possible? Have you heard it before? Have you experienced it?
Sober as much as possible
The difference is food. Yes, one drink — whether spirits, beer, or wine — should affect everyone the same way (allowing for size and gender), but we don’t drink spirits, beer, and wine the same way. Cocktails are bar drinks. Beer is a TV drink. Wine, though, is a meal drink, so we drink it more slowly and the food we’re eating helps absorb the alcohol in a way bar nuts and nacho-flavored Doritos don’t. It’s the difference between a bottle of wine over a couple of hours with dinner as opposed to four beers during the first quarter of a football game. That’s something that those of us who judge wine competitions understand. Even with spitting, we can get as light-headed on a morning’s worth of wine as with four or five shots in a bar, because the object is to drink, not to enjoy ourselves.
Why do restaurants, even chain restaurants, go through all the show about opening a bottle of wine, like letting me sniff the cork and presenting the bottle. It’s not like these are any great wines, and it’s not like the waitstaff knows what it’s doing.
Annoyed and confused
It’s all part of the flim flammery that is too much restaurant wine service, and especially in restaurants that sell wine because they have to and not because they want to. A fine dining restaurant does the presentation because that’s the best way to serve an expensive bottle of wine. They’ll show it, for instance, to make sure that’s what you ordered, because they don’t want to find out they’ve brought the wrong bottle (which happens more often than you’d think). They’ll let you taste the wine first because older wines do go off, no matter how expensive or well made. In other restaurants, though, they do it because they’re trying to give you value for the $8 bottle of wine that they’re charging $25 for, and that’s the only way they know how. Recently, a waiter started to do the presentation for a $10 bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc with a screwcap, and I told him not to bother. He thanked me, because doing it embarrassed him. And this was at a Dallas restaurant that actually cares about wine.
How do you decide to review the wines that you review? Is there a plan? Or do you just wing it? I doubt someone pays you to review their wines, do they?
Curious and curiouser
No, no one pays me to review their wines, though it has been suggested by some who want a good review. I alternate red and white wines for the wine of the week, throwing in sparkling or rose when it seems like a good idea. Otherwise, the only rules are that the wine has to fit the concept of the blog — affordable and generally available (where availability is the bane of my existence as a wine writer). The latter means it might be in a grocery store; at the very least, you should be able to find it if you live in a city with quality independent wine shops. Also, save for the monthly mini-reviews, I usually don’t write about bad wine. There’s too much good wine to waste time on that.