In Boozo Veritas #25 by Teege Braune
Bacchus in Black Tie
Agriculturally speaking, people began fermenting grapes more recently than they’ve been fermenting malts or honey. Maybe its wine’s relative newness that make it seem inherently more refined than beer. Perhaps its cultural sophistication is merely a contemporary phenomenon. My friends and I certainly didn’t regard it as such our freshman year of college when we got wasted on cheap jugs of Carlo and Rossi, though I always found fascinating the deep burgundy hue of my vomit as I puked it up later that night. The craft beer world in which I have worked for the last six and a half years can be rather elitist about wine simply because it associates wine culture with elitism. As a professional beer geek, my love of wine has always been my dirty secret. As I matured and my palate climbed up the shelf, I too was seduced by wine’s allure. I thought of it as existing in a world that was sexier and more exotic than my own.
And yet let us not forget an important fact, that wine, for all its sophistication, is alcohol, and no matter how classy you are, enough of it will get any gentleman or lady drunk. Dionysus lurks in each molecule of ethanol eager for the opportunity to rear his mystic countenance. We’ve seen them, the wealthy middle-aged lushes dressed in jacket and tie only to wind up hammered at last call, sloshing their glasses of wine, purple splotches staining the front of their white shirts. Even at a wine distributor’s trade show, Dionysus makes his appearance in the subtlest of moments. Having found myself at one of these last week, I couldn’t believe what a formal endeavor the other guests made the event. After all, why bother to put on a suit or a cocktail dress just to sample a handful of wines in the middle of the afternoon at the Tampa Museum of Art?
I showed up in jeans and a T-shirt and had no professional reason to be there. My coworker Sara had invited me to accompany her, so I tagged along thinking it would be a nice distraction from my daily routine. Hell, maybe I’ll learn something, I thought without considering that every time anyone has tried to teach me anything about wine, I tended to forget the moment I had my next glass. At 10:30 in the morning, before we even left Orlando’s city limits, the wine reps were crawling up and down the aisle of the charter bus they had rented pouring their guests glasses of some of the best champagne I’d ever had and afterwards they hosted a blind tasting, goading their passengers into guessing the origin and grape of each of the multiple bottles of very nice wine that they were sharing. It was only after this liquid breakfast that they brought out the sandwiches.
The trade show was far from a full blown Bacchanalia, but one could see Dionysus creeping around in the corners. Their was the winery owner who reminded me of Vincent Cassel’s leering, lecherous ballet instructor in Aronofsky’s Black Swan. A small but handsome man with an unspecific continental accent, he compared all of his wines to women. Unsure how the analogy worked and increasingly uncomfortable with its connotations, I nevertheless nodded my head as he explained to me that his pinot noir was like a full-figured beauty in a corset. While spitting might be considered rude in other contexts that involved tasting hand-crafted products, it is standard practice at wine shows. One must take it for granted that they will be surrounded by elegant connoisseurs regularly spurting streams of sputum into plastic buckets. They do this to keep their palates as keen as possible, yet I find that one sometimes comes across a person who seems to be enjoying the spitting more than the tasting itself. Most attempt to accomplish the unfortunately unsophisticated necessity as daintily as possible, but I found a particularly well-dressed young woman perched next to me was expectorating her enormous mouthfuls of wine as loudly and sloppily as was seemingly possible. Did I see the glimmer of a Maenad in her otherwise elegant eyes? The abject had found its way in amongst all her finery. Sara and I quickly moved away from her to avoid being caught in the crossfire of the mess she was creating while a waiter snatched the nearly overflowing bucket of backwash from the table and presented her with a fresh depository for her detritus.
Feeling our taste for wine waning, Sara and I met up with our friend Jack and the three of us made our way to the Hub, Tampa’s historical dive bar located right next door the equally historical Tampa theater.
Jack explained that he had offended all of the wine makers by criticizing their Chardonnays while the directions on Sara’s smart phone sent us wandering around downtown looking for the elusive bar. For an establishment that doesn’t serve any food, the Hub was surprisingly crowded for two pm on a Thursday afternoon, and though the atmosphere was nothing but a cloud of smoke, the cold metal chairs, checkered tile floors, and lack of any pretension was a welcomed change of pace from the trade show only a few blocks away. Sara, disappointed that the bar had run out of Genesee Cream Ale, ordered a PBR instead. Then, remembering that she hates PBR, ordered a gin and tonic that was almost entirely gin, and after deciding against that also, ordered a Cigar City Invasion. I found myself double-fisting her rejected PBR and the strongest gin and tonic of all time as I popped dollar bills in the juke box and played one old-school country standard after another.
Pretty well tipsy by the time we began to head back to Orlando, I became frustrated by my attempt to utilize the charter bus’s restroom. At some point during the trade show, the handle to the door had fallen off and the latch had gotten stuck preventing anyone from entering. Several of us tried to use my pocket knife to jimmy the door open, but as no one was entirely sober, we had little success until one of the reps decided on a new approach and threw his entire body weight into the flimsy barrier. Sure enough the entire door handle and locking mechanism dislodged itself and landed with a thud on the floor. Relieved that I would be able to use the restroom at all, I soon found myself once again perturbed when I discovered that the door in its fractured state wouldn’t stay closed on its own. I considered just how classy I must have looked trying to hold the door shut with one had as I attempted to aim my stream with the other, a task that was all the more difficult as we bumped and jostled our way down I-4. Dribbling urine on my own shoes, I found it humorous that wine of all things had brought me to this lowly state. I crawled back to my seat and drifted off to sleep wondering if elsewhere Dionysus had turned these otherwise high-brow wine enthusiasts into his ow subjects. I dreamed of men in suits on their hands and knees retching up wine, its flavors reinvented in their guts, women nursing their own dogs after tethering their babies to leashes in the backyard, filthy orgies in which wine and blood rained down on the revelers whose sophistication had finally succumbed to the Bacchanalia for which they had secretly always yearned.
Teege Braune (episode 72, episode 75, episode 77) is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.