c o u n t e r  s e r v i c e

The Importance of Opinion



The first step in the development of taste is to be willing to credit your own opinion.

But in the areas of food and wine, I have to follow Hannibal’s precedents — Dr. Alana Bloom

Y’all watch Hannibal?

It’s a dark, highly stylized graphic show during which very disturbing things are glossed over to make you ponder your own threshold of murder and tolerance. It’s twisted and disturbing, but so beautifully shot that the feeling of gore never really hits you, because it’s tempered by the sheer beauty of the shot.

The 45 minute show chronicles the famed psychiatrist and cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lechter as we know him; a methodical serial killer of high intelligence. He kills and eats his kill. And to answer the question all of my friends ask when I regale my love for the show: Yes, he’s eating people.

Through the lens of Chef Jose Andreas and food stylist Janice Poon, however, that’s just another slow pull on the rope that draws you deeper into the story. Dr. Lechter braises thick slices of human legs to resemble osso buco and sautées escargot that he plucks from his cochlear garden of human arms. It’s actually hilarious when you think about it, but the food scenes are no joke. They are sensual and decadent and styled to the beauty of a renaissance still life of oil on canvas.

I’ve come to love the show not only because of it’s beguiling displays of food and drink, but because it is also full of these wonderful nuggets of wisdom, often spoken very slowly by the characters, as if they too are savoring their own words.

In one scene, Dr. Alana Bloom, a psychology professor and FBI consultant on the show, walks us through a table setting belonging to Dr. Lecter. It includes 19th Century Dutch silverware by Christofle, Gien French china from Tiffany and table linens of damask cotton. Concluding her presentation, she says this:

“The first step in the development of taste is to be willing to credit your own opinion. But in the areas of food and wine, I have to follow Hannibal’s precedents.”

She delivered those lines and I had to hit pause. It really got me thinking about taste. Taste in the sensations of the palette, but also in the broad stroke of personal preference. While I was watching this episode, I was also enjoying a glass of wine. Moved by her words, I picked up the glass and challenged myself to really open my senses and taste the wine that I had just casually been sipping on. Unlock it with a swirl of the glass, submit to its unlocking with a sniff of the nose and really taste it on the palette.

What am I tasting? The words escaped me.

As candid as I am about sharing my love for a television show and more importantly why I love said television show, I had a profound lack of words to truly express what I was tasting and experiencing from this glass of wine. I knew I liked it but, but I couldn’t tell you “why”.

This is common for people who want to enjoy wine. Verbiage. I often talk to people about wine and when I’m able to express a clear opinion about the wine, more often than not, people are impressed. Not so much because of what I’ve said, but because I have actually expressed and in expressing, have given credit to my own opinion. When one can pontificate about wine, people are impressed. But why? We express thoughts and opinions about all manner of things in life.

I find more and more that verbiage needs to be conquered when it comes to drinking wine. And the first rule to this is to credit your opinion. Vulnerability in expressing thoughts in wine is also something that truly needs to be conquered. Just as in movies and fashion, it’s not for anyone to tell you what you taste. No one can give you personal preference. Yet, we shy away from this truism when we talk about wine.

Hannibal has a very peculiar taste in what he chooses to eat. We all do. But his being clear about what he likes makes him all the more interesting. And he’s talking about eating people. In that respect, why should we shy away from expressing how we feel about wine?

Open your mouth and remove all doubt.

It’s in the sharing of opinions and ideas that draw us nearer to one another.


Dedicated to good laughs, inspirational friends, and a bottle of wine that does the body right, Zwann is most likely the first person in any room you'd want to meet.