I think my job might be the death of me.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. And I REALLY love wine. But sometimes, I can’t hang.
I just returned from the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento, California. For all intents and purposes, this event is to connect people who work in wine — specifically, the more trade-centered aspects of wine. Think: businesses that make barrels, grape bins for harvest, bottle closures, bottles, products for pest control, “mouthfeel enhancers” and such. Remember when we all thought wine was a simple, humble beverage made from fermented grapes? Yeah, no.
While this was my first time to this particular conference, in my now ten years in the wine business, I am no stranger to wine events. Which is why I would like to introduce you all to the “Wine Drinker’s High.”
You know how everyone talks about how running is awful until you hit, like, the I-don’t-know-what-mile-because-I-have-never-actually-achieved-this, at which point you suddenly go through some out of body experience because ENDORPHINS? Well, although I would like to call shenanigans on the so-called runner’s high because I don’t think it really exists, I can honestly confirm that the Wine-Drinker’s High does.
The Wine-Drinker’s High occurs when you think you’ve just about had it with swirling and sipping because you’re on version 53 of Lodi Zin and really just want a club soda and then OUT OF NOWHERE you suddenly get an incredible second wind.
Let me set something straight, though. None of this is hangover-related. When you are a “professional” (using “professional” really loosely here) and taste wine all day, you don’t so much get drunk as you do get really, really tired. Parched. Over. It. Like you never want to see a grape again, never mind a glass of MORE WINE.
I recall a press trip to Spain in which I spent eight days and nights with a small group of other wine professionals and quite literally tasted (read: drank) wine from sun-up to, well, sun-up again. I kid you not, we would start the day at some ungodly hour, like, 8 AM, and then tour wine country — including incredible tastings and lunches with wine pairings — and then do more wine tastings, and don’t forget the beers on the bus! And then do dinner (which, in Spain, of course occurs at 10 PM) with more wine pairings, and then someone would have the brilliant idea to go out for more drinks (this place has the best gin and tonics in the world!) and then we wouldn’t get back to our hotel until about 4 AM, at which point we had to wake up in three hours and do it all over again.
Here’s the thing: EVERY MORNING, WITHOUT FAIL, I thought to myself, “No. I’m just going to take it easy today. Swirl and spit, swirl and spit, go back to the hotel when everyone tries to go out after dinner.” And every night, around the second glass of wine at dinner, I would forget this resoution AND FEEL LIKE A NEW WOMAN. Cut to me ordering rounds of shots and trying to flamenco dance on the bar.
I’ve since noticed a pattern at similar wine events. I hit the wall somewhere around 2 PM after tasting what seems like 1,000 wines but is probably only seven or so, and vow that I just want to crack a beer and go to bed. I drag myself out to the evening tasting and then to dinner and there it is. BAM. Wine Drinker’s High.
“Why yes, I would love another glass of that Chianti Classico. And let’s just go ahead and pre-order a round of Grappa for the table.”
It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.
Ever experience something similar? Would love to hear your war stories.