Updated: Apr 18
I was watching "Curb Your Enthusiasm" the other day. It was the season where a Seinfeld reunion was being orchestrated, and naturally Jerry, Julia, Jason and Michael were all appearing and reappearing in various capacities throughout the episode.
During one hilarious scene, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is hosting a book launch party for Jason Alexander at her home. A poster of Jason's book cover along with copies of the book are present in the foyer of the home, where Larry & Jerry stand, observing the cover as it reads:
Acting Without Acting
A slough of one-liners poking fun at the title ensue, and Jason is hilariously jibed when he joins Larry & Jerry to the tune of Jerry insinuating that even though Jason's intention is to make acting not LOOK like acting, that, even when done well, the actor is still, well, indeed, most certainly...acting.
So I got to thinking, snickering all the while, about writing another book.
Drinking Without Drinking
Not bad, eh? Prettay, prettayy, prettayyy....I digress.
But for real, is there anything we can unpack from this humorous conjecture?
Methinks there might be.
Now, at the risk of sounding self-indulgent but not caring, I will say I that I have certainly been able to experience this phenomenon of Drinking Without Drinking, as it were. And, at the risk of sounding pretentious but not caring, it can be a lovely experience.
Of course, as you may be suspecting, I speak of wines of notable aromatic quality. When I worked as a sommelier, I'd be opening and nosing wine continuously for upwards of 8-10 hours a day, or, whenever I wasn't in the office updating the list, and sometimes when I was. Now, traditionally in more for
mal settings, a sommelier might taste every bottle that she opens to ensure that it is faultless and in appropriate serving condition. However, not all diners seem to understand this procedure, despite the fact that chefs often taste food before serving it, servers hopefully check milk and cream and other perishables before serving them, and bartenders taste their cocktails before serving them to ensure the best experience for the diner.
Oh no. To many, the sommelier is stealing wine! How dare they?! And won't they get drunk?! What an outrage!
You see my point. Maybe I'll bring you the coffee cream next time and you can inspect that beforehand. Sigh.
Anyways, my point is that to avoid this, one must just get really good at training one's nose, if not to spot obvious faults, but to be sure that the particular wine is demonstrating ample and expected character. And it's quite pleasurable. After doing this repeatedly, it almost feels like you have tasted the wines.
And a great bottle, well. When you get to open the great bottles, either for yourself, or for others, my word, as you know, the aromas can literally induce orgasmic-like symptoms. Moaning, groaning, goosebumps, and a feeling of ecstasy. Is this too much? Well, you've made it this far.
Characterful wines, I have found, can indeed be smelled exclusively for hours. I believe it is possibly to have a rewarding and more than enjoyable experience, just by smelling really good shit, and monitoring its evolution from opening right through until oxidation, be that later on that day or in a week's time, depending on the bottle. It's a beautiful thing. I know it sounds douchey, but dammit, it's true.
I also happen to think, on a serious note, that there is an important lesson in restraint in the shadows of this little joke. As much as we enjoy and promote the joys and humour of indulgence in our approach to wine (we're called the drunken sommelier...), there is a lot to be said for keeping your wits about you on your journey. Drinking without drinking allows you to do this. At least once in a while. One of the beautiful things about wine is how it positively impacts the memory in the student. Very few other practices tie immense, complicated stories of viticulture, history, economics, fashion, industrialization, marketing, sensory appreciation, food, and a host of other things directly to one exact moment where a wine hits the lips. Or in this case, the nose. It's pretty powerful when you examine the memories of a wine pro or serious enthusiast.
I think this has to be my next book, no?
I'd say we're too far in to go back now. See if you can enjoy your next drink....without drinking.