~ Castellina in Chianti ~

The Purge.  A two week, self imposed abstinence from all forms of alcohol that happened to coincide with the last two weeks of the Lenten season.  The reason for the purge was simple and yet, a combination of factors.  As a wine journalist, naturally I taste what would conservatively be termed a “fair amount” of wine.  Generally, I believe that wine is food.  And I try to eat every day.  However, after an extended period of family affairs and tastings, my palate fatigued.  It lacked sharpness and the subtleties of many wines appeared lost on me.  It almost became as flavorless as water.  And so I thought a break would be good.

Why extend it to all forms of alcohol you may ask.  Again, a combination of factors came to bear.   The good Roman Catholic boy that I am, I had already given up Martini’s for Lent.  Therefore, I was enjoying the occasional Negroni in its place.  A cheat?  I don’t think so. They are different, but nevertheless Negronis on a Friday or Saturday night followed by wine didn’t exactly leave me in the best condition the next morning.  Especially if I had Orange Theory Fitness on my schedule which is the norm most weekend.  So everything had to go.

Finally, although there has never been any form of alcoholism in my family,  I wanted to know that I could stop cold turkey and what it would feel like if I did.  The fact that this self imposed prison, as my friend Pietro termed it, coincided with Lent made it all the more pious in my mind.  So two weeks it would be.

~ Candid Tuscany in early morning ~

Going into this, there were things I expected but I’m happy to say, I realized a few additional things I hadn’t thought of that were very positive.  I expected to lose some weight.  I expected to have more stamina at Orange Theory.  I expected to find abstaining “difficult” – at least initially.  Well, many times with wine I have come to expect the unexpected and this was no different.

I lost……. (Drum roll please)…… Ladies, you may want to skip over this part…….a grand total of 1 (that’s ONE)  pound.  Didn’t change my diet. Continued working out 3 times per week. Drank only water and espresso.  1 pound in two weeks.  Now, I don’t really care that much so I wasn’t disappointed but I was surprised.  For full disclosure, I’m a 51 year old male, so your mileage may vary a bit depending upon your age.

Secondly, ever since I turned 50, it became routine for me to wake up during the night a few times per week.  It might just be that I’d wake up, see what time it was and then roll over and go back to sleep until the alarm jolted me.  There were other times (Hello Bourbon) where I’d wake up and lie there for an hour or more.  Here’s the eye opening part (or should I say, lack thereof)  Every night, for two weeks straight, I slept through the night.  Didn’t wake up once.  I can’t say I felt more rested or awake, but I also woke up every day without the alarm. Typically around 5:30 AM which was a bit of a bummer since I wasn’t about to get out of bed at that time.  However, the change was notable.

~ What a fiasco was this purge ~

Was it difficult?  The answer to that is probably a predictable, yes and no.  Though again, even this surprised me.  Over the first couple of days I was so tired of tasting wine that I didn’t miss it at all.  Then, as the first week progressed, I made sure to make dinners that wouldn’t necessarily pair well with wine.  One night we had a huge salad with grilled chicken, hard cooked eggs, cheese, etc.  Another night we had hamburgers.  I was happy with water as meals like that are generally when I “skip” drinking normally; the Purge notwithstanding.  However, as the first weekend rolled around and the meals got more “classic” and involved along with the uptick in the social calendar, it was rather difficult. Not difficult in a physical, craving way.  But difficult to not take part in the festivities. There was drinking going on around me so there was a small sense of loss.

I’m happy to say that I’ve clearly got no issue with avoiding alcohol.  It’s certainly not a dependency issue in the least. I didn’t expect that it would be, but it’s nice to have additional confirmation.  In this regard I was thinking… every morning I would come downstairs into the kitchen and either make coffee with the Kuerig or fire up the espresso machine.  I often had a cup in hand before I even sat down.  I began to wonder, did I even think to myself, “I’d really like some coffee” or had it just become part of my routine?  Not surprisingly, I began skipping coffee at home occasionally, instead opting to wait until I got to my office.  It wasn’t so much of a “need” versus a “want” but more of a habitual routine.  And I think that extended to wine consumption some evenings.

There was an old M*A*S*H episode where Hawkeye had quit drinking.  There was a stressful incident in the “O.R.” and he intended to break his purge early.  He said: “Look, I need this drink alright!” Then followed that up with: “I’ll be back when I want it, not when I need it.”  I think I applied that to my situation and I have to say as the second week began to wane, I wanted wine.  And I was happy about that.  I had made it through most of the way and was looking forward to drinking again.

~ Two wines on Easter Sunday that I chose to break the Purge with. The 2015 Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was as good as the first time I had it and the 2010 Il Palazzone Brunello was nothing short of a masterpiece ~

Some may say, why start drinking again?  To that I can only offer, why wouldn’t I?  I can stop any time I want.  The point is, wine makes food taste better. It stimulates conversation.  And given the fact of what I do here, I have many friends in Italy whose wines I enjoy drinking.  I remember being with them, where we were, what we were doing or eating.  It brings pleasure and that’s a good thing.  And yes, I firmly believe it can be healthy for you.

So will I do anything differently?  I guess time will tell, but I’d like to think that I will.  First and foremost, I think being more attentive to my routine and recognizing when my palate may be getting ready to hit the wall before it actually does will be beneficial.  Also, I’ve always toyed with the idea of doing a “Dry January” so that might be something I challenge myself with next.  Maybe after a full month I’ll lose some real weight.

Until then, expect more tasting and writing from yours truly…..


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