JULIAN HITNER TORONTO WINE CONSULTANT

"For love of everything that is wine"

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2007

~A brief essay on the miracle of wine for truth-telling~

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     Every now and then, I find it helpful, both to my own self as well as to others, to state – in both verbal and written form – certain indisputable truths. Of these, one of the most poignant that comes to mind is “too much wine [or any other type of alcohol] will make you drunk.” Indeed, one learns this little, deceptively-humorous fact at a very young age, most commonly from television (if one is fortunate enough).

     When an individual is merely a small child, one tends to think of drunkenness as simply being in a state of outward goofiness. For my part, at around the age of eight, I recall finding the idea of drunkenness extremely funny, especially when I viewed on television an intoxicated stork (with a hat) engaged in the task of delivering offspring to other animals for a living! Later on in one’s youth, one learns that this type of goofiness inhibits, for some reason, a person from being able to safely operate a motorized vehicle. By the time one is an adolescent, one learns that, on top of this, being in a state of intoxication has the propensity for making one forget, as well as for making one particularly amorous toward one’s peers, those of the opposite gender or otherwise; not to mention making one more agreeable (or popular) amongst one’s acquaintances.

     Thus, by the time an individual reaches full-fledged adulthood, drunkenness no longer means what it once did in his or her childhood. It means much more. However, to make matters even further complicated, a person goes on to learn, most commonly in ‘the best years of their life,’ that drunkenness can also mean something even more dangerous than being found DWI: speaking things aloud one never meant to state, as well as expressing feelings one never meant to openly display.

     When a person is young, it could be argued that what one says when in a state of intoxication is usually perceived as not being of particular consequence (especially when subjects of conversation do not usually surpass such matters as sex, sports, drugs, school, mischief, and violence … in other words, matters mostly of complete insignificance to everyone else except those immediately present). However, for reasons more complicated than they might appear, adulthood spells the end of speaking one’s mind, with the assistance of alcohol – particularly via the consumption of wine – stepping in to fill the void.

     In terms of truth-telling potency, I would argue that wine ranks among the best known (and most utilized) substances in the entire world. Granted, a good number of persons may argue that beer (or spirits), not wine, holds greater truth-telling ability than wine. Then again, because beer and spirits are ordinarily consumed in pubs, bars, and nightclubs en masse, few individuals (unless they are easily offended) ever take what anyone has to say in such settings very seriously, anyway. As a matter of trivial fact, the truth carries far less significance in a bar or nightclub than it does in a decent restaurant, a corporate reception/retreat, a wedding, or a person’s private home … in other words, places or situations where wine is traditionally the most prominent drink.

     Hence, beginning around the age of one-and-twenty, a fledgling imbiber of wine (if he or she is lucky) comes to realize that what they are drinking in the company of their peers has the potential of unleashing all sorts of wonderful (and ruinous) truthful comments, the greater part of which can be seized upon by such observers of qualities and shortcomings as friends, colleagues, bosses, relatives, and potential lovers. Now, personally, I have little objection to hearing what other individuals genuinely think (even if some of their comments might prove more detrimental than beneficial). From thoughts concerning mine own person to more topical matters like politics or other contentious contemporary issues, I thirst for others’ insights for sake of comparison to mine own. All too often, however, because most people – North Americans, in particular – are so worried about causing the least bit of offence that they tend to shy away from anything that might be considered controversial, I have little to feast on. It is only mercifully then, that there is wine to allow our mouths to speak some of our self-perceived truths.

     Unfortunately, most people do not seem to share my point of view on this matter, arguing, quite fiercely in some cases, that wine (among other types of alcohol) result in the saying of things that are best left unsaid. Their reasoning behind this, however, I tend to find flawed: it is never appropriate to even risk being disagreeable toward others, especially in situations (such as at a house party) that are supposed to be cheerful. And yet, the end result of this is, in my view, equally undesirable: an intellectually void atmosphere of mediocre chitchat and non-discovery of persons’ unadulterated views and thoughts. Reading between the lines, to dislike the postal service is not enough!

     This being said, just what are these ‘truths’ that wine seems to bring to forbearance during the course of human interaction (such as at an off-site office Christmas party, held perhaps at a local high-profile reception room)? From what I have observed, one of the most common truths which occurs in this situation is that of exposing a specific person to regarding his or her peers with unequivocal equality and openness. For most individuals, it only takes a few glasses of wine for this psychological (and psychiatric) Iron Curtain to be brought down. Before you know it, Tim the brash, controlling, son-of-a-bitch boss is not as immortal as he once appeared! As a direct consequence of this new-found realization, one may start stating things to Tim that one would probably not have stated under total sobriety. Of course, the danger of this is that Tim might not be equally inebriated at the time of conversation, thus still regarding you as an outright inferior. Needless to say, the next-day consequences of such an occurrence will most likely be, at the very least, uncomfortable.

     Hardly confined to the collapse of perceived superiority (or hierarchy) at office parties, truth-telling dilemmas brought on by a few glasses of wine can also have more ever-lasting effects when engaged in conversation with persons of even more familiar acquaintance. Among other things, such is particularly the case with family members one is reluctantly made to spend time with and, even more importantly, close friends of the opposite gender (or otherwise).

     Concerning the latter, I have no doubt that many of my readers would agree with me that just a few glasses of Chardonnay has the potential of ‘modifying’ the relationship between a man and a woman. One must ask, however, if this is a good thing or a bad thing? Personally, I see little objection to a few glasses a wine bringing a little intimate satisfaction to two individuals who had already been on friendly terms with one another (it is with complete strangers that one ought to be careful). Whether this satisfaction is based on physical or emotional feelings and engagements is irrelevant. Through the enjoyment of wine, one person has told the other (or both at the same time) their true feelings. Was this best left unsaid? Perhaps, but at least it affords persons like me something to observe when overseeing the interactions of others!

     On the subject of the former, all matters concerning the consumption of wine and conversations with undesirable relatives must be approached with a certain degree of caution. In many respects, because wine tends to make people regard each other as equals (at least for a short while), two people that might otherwise be at odds with one another (such as two brothers-in-law) are better able to put up with a few hours of each others’ presence. It is only if they start telling truths to one another that problems arise. Any yet, these problems might very well be capable of reconciliation, on account of wine (after expressing their true opinions and feelings) affording these two quarreling individuals the opportunity of venting their frustrations, the contents of which – that is, the final two glasses’ worth – might very well be used to ratify a treaty.

     Concerning the latter, I have no doubt that many of my readers would agree with me that just a few glasses of Chardonnay has the potential of ‘modifying’ the relationship between a man and a woman. One must ask, however, if this is a good thing or a bad thing? Personally, I see little objection to a few glasses a wine bringing a little intimate satisfaction to two individuals who had already been on friendly terms with one another (it is with complete strangers that one ought to be careful). Whether this satisfaction is based on physical or emotional feelings and engagements is irrelevant. Through the enjoyment of wine, one person has told the other (or both at the same time) their true feelings. Was this best left unsaid? Perhaps, but at least it affords persons like me something to observe when overseeing the interactions of others!



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