Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Wine Buzz Is a Rarely Discussed Charm; by Michael Austin

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Wine Buzz Is a Rarely Discussed Charm; by Michael Austin

Article excerpt

Byline: Tribune News Service

There is a scene in "Somm," the 2013 documentary film about a group of master sommelier candidates preparing for their final exam, in which the father of candidate Ian Cauble says, "I think Ian gravitated towards wine because, first of all, it's an intoxicant, and it's fun."

The elder Cauble says all of this with a laugh because he realizes, in the throes of this grueling and nerve-wracking process, how serious his son is about the profession and how dedicated he has been to preparing for this test. There's a lot to learn and memorize, and the film makes it painfully clear that doing so is no offhand task. So it's refreshing to hear Cauble make that claim about his son's possible motivations, or at least one small part of them.

Wine can be complex, sophisticated and shrouded in mystique. But it can also ramp up a party without a single thought of its complexity or mystery. That makes it extra alluring and a little dangerous at the same time.

This is not to diminish the plight of anyone who has had to stop drinking altogether for health reasons. Addiction and failing health due to alcohol consumption are different topics entirely, and none of the above (or below) is meant to trivialize those.

Back in college, before I or any of my friends drank wine regularly, our buddy Slatts came home from a study abroad program, and all he could talk about was what a different and spectacular buzz wine had given him over there. What's that old piece of wisdom -- don't let school get in the way of your education? Slatts had been enlightened in a way, and he was now a believer, even a proselytizer. He assured us that the wine buzz was decidedly different from the buzzes we had so often summoned by quaffing other forms of booze.

Wine didn't work for us at the time because it wasn't really conducive to drinking fast with little or no reflection.

We cared about taste, but not very much; we did what we could to mask any unwanted aromas or flavors all in the name of making our magic potions as palatable as possible. At times we took our medicine (often an ounce at a time) and shuddered: a moment of pain in exchange for eventual bliss.

Saints be praised -- we grew out of that way of thinking.

Decades later, most of my friends from that era still appreciate a good buzz. But I haven't seen any of them wolf down a glass of anything in years, except maybe a glass of water on a hot day. Most of them are happy to drink wine too. Slatts was ahead of the curve on that one. What a sweet and beautiful buzz wine gives us. But you don't see a lot about the topic in wine stories -- not because it's forbidden, or even hush-hush, but because, well, what can you say about it?

Who wants to read descriptions of wine buzzes? …

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