Changing Perceptions

"That's what I do; I drink and I know things." -Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones

I'm sure wine and spirits journalists, writers, bloggers and wannabe drinking professionals all over the world about fainted last night when they heard Peter Dinklage blurt out that snarky, yet poignant line to the other city officials on Game of Thrones. I haven't checked for memes or Twitter numbers yet (nor do I want to), but I'm sure it must be in the tens of thousands at this point. "That's me!" I can imagine millions of people thinking. "That's what I do! Get drunk and say important shit!" Yet, what's funny to me is how many of the people I've met over my career who write about drinking don't seem to actually drink. They'll have a glass of wine or a small nip of single malt when we go out, but the people who get the most analytical, the most anal-retentive, and the most scholarly in their work tend to care more about the idea of drinking than the actual practice of it. I'm usually on my fourth beer by the time they've stopped babbling. I may be wrong as a whole, but that's been my experience. On the opposite side, the folks who actually like to drink could rarely give a flying you-know-what about the details. My point is: it's odd to find a person who cares about both in equal volumes. 

But that doesn't stop thousands of people each year from trying to become the next Charles Lebowski or Hunter S. Thompson. They think getting drunk and writing down their thoughts while doing so is all it takes to be relevant. What many of them fail to consider is how generally miserable, unhappy, and unhealthy many of these now-iconic writers were during their lifetimes. But, of course, that's what made them cool! They didn't care about the consequences, and if they did they certainly didn't make the necessary life changes to prevent them from occurring. They sacrificed their bodies for their art. Today we've got "food and wine" critics who think eating and drinking each evening at dinner is enough to be a professional—that each and every thing they consume is relevant, important, and interesting when it couldn't be less the case. Who's going to be the next Bourdain? Who's the next Robert Parker? If you ask me, the answer is: nobody. Anyone trying to fill those roles is in it for the money or the fame or both. Anyone with any inkling of creativity, with one ounce of the sarcastic spunk we see in Tyrion Lannister, will do something new and different, something we don't even know about yet. It won't be a travel show, or a daily blog (you can see how lame mine has become), or a 100 point rating scale. It will be something outside the scope of tradition.

Tradition is wonderful because it shows a sense of value over time, but it's also nice to break from tradition once and a while. As thoughts and perceptions change about drinking and general consumption, you're seeing people alter the way they consume their alcohol. For example, as healthier lifestyles become more fashionable (and logical!), people are eating smaller plates, lighter foods, and choosing to skip dessert. That changing mindset has been a huge blow to traditional closing-course beverages like Port, Madeira, Sherry, and Cognac. Meanwhile, cocktails, whiskey, and Champagne continue to thrive because they're generally consumed pre-dinner and few folks are interested in giving up drinking as a whole. I had a talk with a number of Sauternes wine makers while we were in Bordeaux a few weeks back and there's chatter about introducing a new marketing plan for the heralded sweet wine, one that flaunts its credentials as a fun and fruity party wine rather than simply a foie gras or lemon tart pairing. "Sweet wine before the meal?" an outraged, rather-snooty person standing next to me asked in disgust. "You've got people drinking Manhattans as an aperitif all the time," I responded. "What could be sweeter than sweet whiskey and sweet vermouth?"

But healthy is definitely the new black around the Bay Area. People wear exercise clothes to dinner as if simply showing you they work out is proof of their healthy lifestyle. Vodka with a twist. Tequila with fresh lime juice. Dry chardonnay. These are the new happy hour beverages of choice. People are also drinking more frequently it seems, but in lower volumes per session. That's absolutely the wisest and healthiest way to imbibe (other than abstaining as a whole). It's a sign of maturity as a responsible drinker and the best thing you could possibly do for your longevity. But that's never been Tyrion Lannister's mindset or his outlook. If you think you drink like Tyrion Lannister and you're one of these neo-Joyce wannabes, I'd be curious to compare consumption rates. I had a two glasses of Champagne, an entire bottle of red wine, and four glasses of Scotch yesterday and I don't even come close to guys like Faulkner and Hemingway. Nor do I want to.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll