These days, you can't open a browser window without hearing about the latest abstemious diet: juice fasts, raw diets and nutritional cleanses. We've turned into a culture on perma-Lent—unless you're in the wine and food industry.
There is no doubt that working in the good-life business has major perks: good wine, good food, and lots of it. But what happens when it gets to be too much? Is it even possible to cut back if consuming is part of the job? Some sommeliers and winemakers say that cutting out wine for a short period of time—going on a "wine cleanse," if you will—actually helps them appreciate wine more.
"I couldn't put a date on the last day that I hadn't had a drink," said sommelier Patrick Cappiello, former wine director of now-closed Grand Award-winning Gilt restaurant, on his reason for considering a cleanse. Last July, he and his girlfriend embarked on a 26-day diet that involved cutting out sugar, caffeine, meat, alcohol and butter, in an effort to be more healthy.
"It was hard to be at work," said Cappiello, who is now a co-owner of Pearl & Ash in Manhattan, of the time-trial. He spit at tastings (as he would normally) but had to turn down glasses of wine sent over from enthusiastic regulars and pass on late nights after work. The hardest thing, he said, was that since it was the height of summer, it meant no beer or burgers at friends' backyard barbecues.
The results: He lost 10 pounds in one month. ("Hamburgers fixed that problem after," he said.) Even though it wasn't easy, he said, "it felt good." One important side effect was that after the cleanse, when he and his girlfriend took a vacation in Paris, he was much more appreciative of enjoying just one bottle of wine with a meal, a reversal from his heady, pre-cleanse days. "It was about bringing [consumption] back down," he said, noting he plans to try the cleanse again this summer.
Since a cleanse is both a check on the bounties afforded by working in the industry, and a way of resetting and normalizing their habits, repetition seems to be a key factor for these wine pros.
Winemaker Blair Pethel and his wife, who own Domaine Dublère in Burgundy, have given up wine every January for the past 22 years as part of their post-Thanksgiving and Christmas diet. The month-long cleanse functions in two ways beyond weight control, he said: It helps to remind them that they could give up wine if they wanted to, and it helps to refresh his palate. "It's almost like when your nose clears up after a bad head cold and you can smell things again," he said of focusing on lighter food and water.
During January, Pethel still does tastings with clients, but he only smells the wines, never sipping them. "It seems like my olfactory capacities increase during that time, and when we do start drinking wine again in February, the aroma element seems even more important," he said.
Have you ever given up wine? And if so, what was your experience like?