Story: “The Second Bottle” by Alan Richman
I like drinking beer. In four years of college I drank more Busch Light and Keystone than any self-respecting young man should. Toward the end of school I tried to develop a taste for “better” beers. At first I treated myself to Bud Light. Now I’m inching my way up the respectability scale, enjoying Long Trail and Sam Adams.
The only wine I drank in college came in a cardboard box or a plastic bag that you’d have to slap before guzzling down as much as possible. Not too far removed from those crazy times, I’m feeling the pressure to start drinking wine. I still can’t tell a burgundy from a merlot, but I’m trying. I want to like wine (a good man knows his wine!), but it all still tastes like the same sour glass of grape juice. I know, I know. I’m boorish and unsophisticated.
Still, there is hope for me. That’s because I read GQ. In fact, everyone here at The Good Men Project reads GQ, arguably the best smelling men’s magazine in the business. (The September issue, in particular, is an olfactory marvel.) There are many things we like about GQ. We like that it tries (and quite often succeeds) at being the magazine where straight dudes and gay boys can hang out without anyone getting beaten up. (GQ is a heterosexual magazine with some serious gayish tendencies.) We also like many of the magazine’s writers, including Michael Paternity, Sean Flynn, and Will. S. Hylton. GQ is an entertaining and sometimes outstanding read.
One of GQ’s better-known writers is Alan Richman, who has won an astonishing fourteen James Beard Foundation Awards for his food writing. I don’t like reading about food nearly as much as I like eating food, but, during a recent trip to the men’s room, I found myself with Richman’s The Second Bottle, about ordering—you guessed it—a second bottle of wine. (I probably should have started with an article about ordering a first bottle of wine, but no such option was visible on the floor of my stall.)
At the risk of never working in this town again, I had a few problems with Richman’s piece. The first is that no one should write 2,100 words about ordering a second bottle of wine. The second is that he actually wrote this sentence: “The second bottle, much like a second wife, cannot be a blunder or you’ll be a laughing stock for life.”
Then there’s this sentence, about ordering a second bottle of wine on a date: “Will you be perceived as a caring fellow who understands the desires of the person with you, not just at the moment but perhaps forever? Are you to be trusted? Are you the one?”
Then there’s this sentence, about ordering a second bottle of wine with a group of friends. “Are you a considerate individual who comprehends group dynamics, who can interpret chaotic wine desires… Are you able to sort through the complexities and make the right decision? Are you a leader of men?”
Richman writes in a voice reminiscent of the Dos Equis “World’s Most Interesting Man,” except Richman doesn’t seem to be in on the joke. There are two or three useful paragraphs in Richman’s piece. I’ll save you some time and summarize, using Richman’s second-to-last line. “If all else fails, remember this: Red wine with meat, white wine with fish.”