The Wine Curmudgeon, as a general rule, eats lunch at home — a sandwich with a couple of glasses of water while hoping the phone doesn ?t ring. It ain ?t glamorous, but it is effective.
About a dozen times a year, though, I get to have wine with lunch. It’s usually a meal with a visiting winemaker, but it could also be a media trip or just because — either I’m taking the day off or someone suggests it. And, in those dozen times a year, I’m reminded that sometimes, effective isn’t enough.
Wine with lunch is not what it used to be. Even the French, who turned it into an art form, have pretty much given up on it. Writes Simon Kuper: “France is still not like bits of the U.S., where anyone ordering a lunchtime glass is apparently assumed to have a drinking problem, but it is getting there.”
There are good reasons for this, the most obvious being that no one wants to go back to work too sloshed to get anything done. But isn’t there a midway point between being too sloshed and Kuper’s right-on description of U.S. attitudes? (Which I know first-hand, since I live in one of those places — I get the stares when I order wine with dinner.)
I was reminded of this last week, when I had winemaker lunches with J and Rodney Strong. Somehow, we managed to taste wine, eat lunch, and have intelligent discussions about the wines, the wine business, and even bread baking without anyone staggering out of the restaurant like Foster Brooks. I was even able to drive home and work both days. The wine was not a hindrance, but fun. I don’t know that I want to do it every day, but I do know that I want to do it more often.
In this, wine with lunch does not mean wine instead of lunch. I wonder if our attitude towards this sort of thing has been shaped by what Lew Perdue of Wine Industry Insight describes as the neo-Prohibitionist assault on wine and drinking. Regular visitors here know that I don’t write about the foolishness that is wine health news and that I long ago accepted that 40 percent of Americans say they don’t drink. That’s their business, and who am I to tell them they’re wrong?
But are we at a point where they’re telling the 60 percent what’s good for us? It’s a question I ask with hesitation, because it seems difficult to believe here in the 21st century, 90 years after the end of Prohibition. But if someone like me, who loves wine and writes about wine and drinks wine daily — and is responsible when I drink it — is reluctant to drink wine more often, how must less experienced wine drinkers feel?
Perhaps it’s something to discuss the next time I have wine with lunch.