Wine can serve many purposes. Obviously, many enjoy it with meals or as a way to relax at the end of a long day. But the fruit of the vine can serve us in ways we never imagined, too. It was a private event at a high-end hotel where I discovered wine could potentially act as a life saver.
Probably 80 people were seated at eight-top round tables for a private multi-course holiday dinner. Surrounded by flickering votive candles, elaborate floral arrangements were placed at the center of each table.
Gleaming glassware stood, reflecting the candlelight throughout the dim room.
Acting as wine steward, I was filling wineglasses with reds for the coming main course. While pouring for one group, I spotted a centerpiece at an adjacent table that had been set alight by one of the candles.
A not-inconsequential flame was creeping up one side of the arrangement, threatening to become a serious problem. Engrossed in quiet between-course conversation, no one seated at the table had yet noticed the impending drama. I immediately moved to the burning table. Saying nothing but a quiet “excuse me” to the person over whom I reached, I grabbed a nearly full glass of white wine (nothing prized) and deftly emptied it on the fire. Luckily, I hit it perfectly and the flame was extinguished. I quickly removed the damaged part of the centerpiece, cleared and covered the wet spot with fresh linens and resumed pouring. The entire crisis took only seconds and just three of the eight diners at the burning table were aware what happened. Looking back, I was proud of myself — even though speed and grace are not terms typically associated with me these days. I was proud not so much for my quick action but for the fact no one noticed. I believed such skill marked me a good waiter. And ever since, I’ve kept a close eye on votive candles. As you experience the holiday season this year, keep in mind that wine can be whatever you want it to be. Festive fire extinguisher? Hopefully not. But wine can serve in whatever manner you like to help you celebrate this favorite time of year.
What about the rules? Sure, there are some valid guidelines but sometimes we allow ourselves to focus too closely on the minutiae. When we immerse ourselves in oenological legalism, we lose sight of wine’s true purpose: to create simple enjoyment. So go out and buy whatever wine you like, just because it appeals to you. Don’t worry about wine snobs telling you you’re doing it wrong. Pick up an old favorite or take a risk and try a varietal you’ve never tasted before. Experiment with mulled or spiced wine — you’ll find some simple recipes online — and have yourself a merry little holiday season. As you catch up with friends and family, focus on what’s important. You can worry about the rules later!
A big guy who likes big wines, Matthew Meador serves as a food and wine writer, columnist, editor and advertising copywriter for several publications.