I have to apologize to many of the sommeliers who have enhanced my meals over the years: I wasn’t my truest, most authentic self with you. I’m sure you don’t care—in an ideal scenario, you stop thinking about me the second you walk away from my table. But so many of you have told me that you want guests to be honest and open.
It’s only now that we’re apart I realize I haven’t always been.
I’ve always so enjoyed our ritual. I tell you what wines I like, we discuss the dishes I’m eating. You don’t just recommend a glass or bottle—you usually teach me something. Maybe you expose me to a region or style I haven’t experienced, or you clue me in to the benefit of some winemaking technique.
I love this interaction so much that I slip into my role, reflexively fawning over the beauty of your selections. Now, I can see that it’s been bit of a distraction from just enjoying.
The past year and a half has been hard on all you somms. You’ve agitated for to-go wine service in many states; some of you have had to sell off parts of your cellars; and all of you have had to figure out how to find the best wine for each dish and each diner without interaction.
At the same time, in the privacy of my home, with only my dog and wine-averse husband by my table, I’ve learned to be adventurous with my pairings in a new way.
I don’t think any decent somm would ever judge me for pairing, say, a crisp glass of Viognier with a lazy dinner of tinned fish, olives and crackers, but I think a good one might point me toward something less aromatic and more mineral-driven. I think they’d be right, save for the pleasure of finding something that works unexpectedly and lets me feel like a bit of a rebel.
Similarly, when I’ve ordered a bottle of wine with takeout from a nice restaurant, I haven’t felt any pressure to pick the perfect wine for my order. I just pick a bottle I want to try. If it doesn’t work, it can serve as inspiration for the following night’s dinner. In a pinch, there’s always beer in my fridge.
The last bit of freedom I’ve noticed is that I’ve just been drinking slower, spending more time nosing and analyzing. And then taking a bite of food, and doing it again. I never have to worry about camping out, because no one’s waiting to turn over my dining room table.
It’s been an enlightening way to drink. Whenever you somms are ready to have me back, I’ll share this newfound free spirit with you.
Published: July 16, 2021