Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Nov 30, 2005

Liquor License

I heard on the radio today that some wine companies are considering bottling their product in six-pack, single-serving, screw-top plastic containers for the convenience of those that don’t want to open an entire bottle, or, worse, contend with a cork. I don’t think I approve of this idea.

It’s not that it’s “tacky” or the plastic may affect the flavor. My concern is that this indicates a lack of respect and a change in the purpose of the wine.

Alcohol in any form can be a dangerous substance, it can rob you of your ability to exercise your judgment and act appropriately. Taken too lightly it can even make you sick or kill you. Its consumption demands that you respect the nature of the creature with which you are dealing so that you control it and not the other way around.

When you contend with something constantly--no matter how dangerous it is--you very easily come to take it for granted and become lax in your precautions. You require some sort of existential check, an enforced pause to focus your mind on the situation at hand and bring into your conscious awareness all the aspects of the situation. The name for this check is ceremony.

The importance of ceremony is recognized in many areas. For instance, physicians in the operating room are pausing several minutes between prep and actually beginning an operation to collect their thoughts and be certain that nothing is missing or wrong. It is not, as the harried are tempted to believe, a completely dispensable part of life.

Numerous ceremonies surround alcohol consumption, from the very minor to the extremely elaborate. Anything from needing to find the bottle opener to open a beer to a lengthy conversation with a sommelier in a restaurant can serve the purpose of ceremony and provide a necessary check. Even the difficulty of opening a box of wine can suffice, although I do think that wine boxes are tacky and should be avoided for that reason.

That’s not to say that ceremonies are somehow intrinsically beneficial and should be attached to every activity. A ceremony attached to an unimportant event and repeated for the sake of appearances degenerates into a ritual and ceases to serve any purpose. The performance becomes automatic, the mind detaches from its significance, and laxity resumes. This is why I don’t disapprove as strongly of cans of beer.

Wine is, in my mind, in a different category, for the reason that it’s essentially impossible to enjoy it in large quantities. Its flavor is subtle and requires attention to appreciate. So, I don’t see any purpose in destroying its meaning by treating it like a soft drink.

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