Cognitive taste

Is a tasting menu with wine pairings really “binge drinking”?

The CDC’s latest study defines “binge drinkers” as “people who said that at least once a month that they had five or more drinks on a single occasion.” Although there are rival definitions, this is not the first time the CDC has defined binge drinking as having five drinks.

Among the binge drinkers who might have participated in the study would be anyone who routinely orders the tasting menus with wine pairings at Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges, Daniel, or Per Se, four of New York’s top restaurants. Each of these restaurants pairs its tasting menu with seven wines, according to John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter’s excellent article last year on wine pairings.

If the federal government wanted to seek real ways of reducing traffic accidents, instead of vilifying people who enjoy multiple glasses of wine with dinner, it would take more of an urban-planning approach and subsidize programs like Denver’s Night Riders, which seems to have gone out of business. You would call the service like a taxi, and somebody would pick you up at a bar or restaurant, fold up his or her scooter, put it in your trunk, and drive you home in your own car.


  1. Jeremy

    Although we can’t read the article without a subscription. Perhaps the publication system is broken? (Unless you got paid, in which case that’s fair enough – I’m not familiar with the Chronicle).

  2. Wine Ignoramus

    Sorry, Robin, but your point escapes me. Are you saying that someone who drinks 5 or 7 or 13 glasses of wine at a pairing dinner is less indulgent than someone who drinks 5 or 7 or 13 cheap beers in a single dinner?

    Alcohol is alcohol. Whether it’s “fine” wine or thunderbird from a brown paperbag your body processes it as alcohol.

    Interesting that you invoke the Brecher/Gaiter article. At Le Bernardin the couple drank seven glasses of wine ** in less than two hours** (emphasis theirs). Sounds like a binge to me.

  3. I believe the CDC considers five or more drinks binge drinking if there is nothing else consumed in between. But regardless of that aspects — the time of consumption is also important here. In most states, the legal abv is one or two drinks (in fact I don’t know of any that are higher) As a result, regardless if you’re leaving the restaurant with a tum full of french fries or a tum full of gourmet food paired with luxurious wine, timing is also important. I’m not sure many people who attend wine dinners bring a DD with them…on the other side of that, wine dinners tend to last long periods of time.

    The post above me does make a good point though -despite all the care and consideration that may go into the production of some wines over others or other types of alcohol, our body processes it in the same way… everything in moderation? Besides, after five full glasses of wine pairings, it’s doubtful you appreciate the last… so why not drink half of each?

  4. LJ

    According to :

    One drink is defined as 5oz of wine, and 5 drinks is then equal to 25oz – just a few ml shy of a full bottom of wine. If drinking 1 full bottle of wine in less than 2 hour is not considered binge drinking, then I don’t know what is.

    A tasting portion of wine is often 1 to 2 Oz. I think that’s where the confusion lies.

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