Keirkegaard & Self Medicating with Wine

Even more depressing than finding one’s self embracing Kierkegaard’s aesthetic life of jumping from transitory experience to transitory experience in an attempt to stave off a life of boredom, is the somewhat similar strategy of dealing with the boredom of life by pretending that self-medication with wine is actually the act of connoisseurship.

Every now and then you meet a person who at first glance appears to have all the signs of being a genuinely curious wine person who simply wants to experience the intricacies of wine; who wants to learn and learn through tasting. Yet you quickly discover that this person is merely using the idea of loving wine and what it represents as an excuse for regular consumption of alcohol without the appearances of being a full blown, card carrying alcohol.

It’s a very depressing encounter. And, it’s an encounter one surely has more than once if you regularly run in wine circles.

I had another such encounter the other day when I ran into an old acquaintance at a wine store. I went to school with this fellow. He was browsing through the high-end side of the Domestic Merlot category when our eyes met and we instantly recalled each other from another time. Lunch was demanded we both agreed.

This fellow knew wine. He loves wine. He loves wine so much that as our cars arrived at the restaurant together and parked he first directed me to his back seat, open a briefcase, and pulled out a chilled, half drunken bottle of Montrachet from a very good producer. He offered me a clean Riedel right there in the parking lot, poured me a glass and made me try it. NO…He made me drink it:

"Hey, it’s Montrachet, we’re not spitting."

This guy hadn’t spit since 1999.

At lunch he ordered three bottles of wine because, "they don’t pour the interesting stuff by the glass."

He drank most of them.

I got a call from him a few days later asking if I wanted to accompany him to the Family Winemakers of California tasting: "If you go toward the end of the tasting they’ll pour more of the ‘under the table’ bottlings’"

I’m not totally against the idea of self medicating…especially with Montrachet. But there is something altogether creepy about camouflaging one’s dependence on alcohol to get through the day with a veneer of connoisseurship.

Kierkegaard’s argument that most people’s lives are a struggle against boredom by jumping from encounter to encounter has the ring of truth to it. That’s depressing enough even without delving into the man’s observations of how to overcome this situation. What’s worse is when one person’s dismal and alcoholic-laden strategy for dealing with this dilemma makes your own legitimate interest in wine appear to be something just north of pitiful; something that could turn you into an old acquaintance if you aren’t careful.

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7 Responses

  1. ryan - August 21, 2007

    was this not the theme in some ways of Sideways. In this industry you sadly run up against this type of person from time to time. The hard part for me is when they know so much about wine you want to learn from them. But every glass is a reminder that you shouldn’t be. Nice post!

  2. Terry Hughes - August 21, 2007

    Tom, you really got me with the Kierkegaard thing. (Although HE bores the wine-scented piss out of me). A very interesting and perceptive post. I’d say ‘sobering’ but that would send entirely the wrong message.
    I am thinking, of course, that your old school friend may actually be on some road to enlightenment…and we simply do not under-STAND. Of course he is somehow sealed off from true desperation if he can afford Montrachet.

  3. edward - August 21, 2007

    A very thought provoking post. I have always thought that a potential final destination for a wine obsession is addiction and dependency.
    Let’s not fool ourselves, alcohol is addictive. You can be addicted at the cheap end or the expensive end.

  4. Frank Haddad - August 21, 2007

    The comment about the tastings, you see this type a little loaded at the end of the tasting asking for a larger pour to be able to evaluate the wine a little better

  5. Jeff - August 22, 2007

    Great post. This is the kind of post I love and have come to expect from you–brainy and spot-on.
    I do hope that we all have sympathy for those that may be battling some demons. You could take this opportunity, being a relative outsider, to help this guy get some help. It’s likely easier for you to say something and possibly easier for this guy to take a hard look in the mirror, if you confront him about some curious behavior.

  6. buntmarker - August 27, 2007

    Next time you have a lunch date with this guy- SEND ME instead! Kirkegaard my eyye. What a bunch of hypocritical fraidy cat paranoid insecure protestant missionaries we’ve become. If ya can’t take the heat- get outta the kitchen and go blog on some homeopathic organic hempseed site and we can all feel good about ourselves. It’s ok to dose up on every expensive prescription chemical the pharm industry markets to our doctors, but God forbid we have a good time with “too much” wine. Your friend no doubt recognizes himself in your story. If he fails to be grateful, don’t be shocked. If you were interested in his well being, you might have made sure he didn’t endanger himself or anybody else first (maybe you did?), and judged him later, in private, and kept the verdict to yourself. Fellow wine drinkers, we owe it to ourselves and each other to never drive drunk, nor let someone else do it. Remember, for sure, your idea of drunk and the CHP’s idea of drunk are two very different things. I think we should be free to use wine as we choose, as long as we don’t infringe on the well being or liberty of others. I don’t need a lecture, or a judgement, at the hands of my “old friends”. Sometimes, though, I do need a lift. Not because I’m stoned, either, but because two big glasses of wine (the only way they come, these days) makes me, just like you, legally DUI. If we aren’t able to accept and deal with the realities of abuse that come with legal, addictive intoxicants, then we really need to go back to prohibition. It would make drinking a lot more fun than it is now, with a nanny or judge and jury lurking in every restaurant, bar and party. This rant is not directed at the blog author. I don’t know him, he doesn’t deserve any ad hominem abuse, and I know his story was not malicious. The point is, judge not… There is a whole buncha folks out there who would love to judge all of us winedrinkers, whether we drink one glass a week or ten bottles. And the verdict is already in- GUILTY! Sinners, immoral sinners, all.

  7. Golf Club Restaurant And Lounge - August 28, 2007

    Golf Club Restaurant And Lounge


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