Let me get this out of the way right out front: I really do not have a problem with vegetarians. In fact, if it we could just get the pig classified as a vegetable, I would probably be all-in. Heck, I would just settle for sausage and bacon. The others: Vegans, the Gluten-Free, and the Lactose Intolerant? I don’t really have a problem with them either, but let’s harbor no illusions, there is absolutely no chance I will ever go there. I come from a family of dairy farmers who loved their cheese, butter, and bread. And growing up in that environment, it was drilled into my head that dairy products (and meat) were the essence of life. I know there are some potential health issues here, but this is not what my rant is really about.
My rant? I have realized that I am crappy wine intolerant, and I am ranting to get some support for my disease.
What do I mean?
Allow me to explain.
There is no denying that vegetarians and vegans have now become mainstream. So much so that they can order special meals all over the place. Gluten-free and lactose intolerants are not far behind in achieving that same elevated status. Sure, there are some people who think that the last two are a bunch of hooey, but there is no doubt that they are gaining traction everywhere.
Today, at least in the U.S., people don’t think twice about having vegetarian (and, to a slightly lesser extent, all the others) options for the meal. Restaurants, weddings, airlines, heck, even McDonalds has vegetarian choices these days. It has become part of the culture.
In the past few months, I have traveled a bunch, been to some work events, a few weddings, and a bunch of restaurants. As a consequence, I have been to countless dinners away from home (and my cellar).
There were two common elements at all of these events: there were vegetarian options available and really crappy wine.
Well, I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that I can’t tolerate digesting crappy wines (which sounds better in French: Digestion Intolerée des Vins Affreux–D.I.V.A.). I admit it: I am crappy wine intolerant. There is so much good wine out there that is not expensive, there is no reason that I should have to drink crappy wine.
What happens when a vegetarian or vegan is presented with a meal that contains meat? They have essentially three choices: they can eat it (after all, by far most people who are vegetarian are that way by choice), they could go hungry, or they could harangue the serving party into making them feel so horrible that they end up getting something that they “can” eat.
Similar situation for the gluten-free/lactose intolerant crowd. They can eat it (and have some discomfort), go hungry, or go full-on indignant.
Why should that be any different for the D.I.V.A. crowd?
When you offer some vegetarians (or vegans) meat, they often treat you as if you killed the animals yourself and probably in some inhumane fashion; they might even lament that they had a pet cow when they were kids and they were devastated when it was slaughtered. (One thing I learned from my farming relatives: Rule #1 on the farm–Don’t name the animals.)
How would I be received if I took the same approach when you presented me some crappy wine? What if I were to refuse to drink your schlock and demanded that you serve me something that was both better tasting and better for the planet (when in doubt, assume the environmental moral high ground)? What if I state that by serving me this swill that you obviously support mass agriculture, genetically modified farming, and have no appreciation for products that have a sense of place?
I know what would happen. You would either laugh (assuming I was joking around) or call me an jack-“rabbit” or both.
My solution? Either take the time to find quality wines that fit your price point or offer some sort of secret menu to which the wine savvy can have access. I completely agree that good wine should not be wasted on the likes of the non-initiated masses (e.g., my farming relatives–they are perfectly content with either Miller Lite or White Zin [I think I once saw my cousin actually mix the two into some sort of perverse wine cooler–“Hey look Jimmy-Joe-Bob, Miller Lite Zin! Get-it? Yuk, yuk….”])
I have seen menus with an asterisk next to those dishes that are either vegetarian or can be prepared that way. That could easily be adopted for a wine list (click “Sample Menu”):
No one would ever think giving a vegetarian the choice to either eat meat or go hungry. Why should I be presented with the choice of drinking crappy wine or go thirsty? Or far worse, be forced to confront a particularly offensive social event sober?
So what do you say? Are you crappy-wine intolerant like me? Are you ready to join the D.I.V.A. movement? Remember, admitting you have the “problem” is the first step….
[A last note on weddings: If you are a wine person and are about to get married (or know someone who is), let me proclaim that you must have a secret stash of “good wine” behind the bar for those of us who would appreciate it. My wife and I did it at our wedding–our wine friends appreciated it and cousin Jimmy-Joe-Bob was none the wiser.]