As I write this (ok, type this), I’m sitting in Vino Volo, a wine bar at the Detroit airport, while I await my connecting flight to a destination farther away from my home. Somehow that was the next logical sequence to connect me to Spokane, WA which is where my car is parked. (It’s a long story which may or may not be included in a future post on the very topic that brought me to Raleigh, North Carolina in the first place…)
In any case, while staying for extra time in Raleigh, and in some of the airports that I’ve seen on the way there and back, wine bars have been included amongst the throngs of stores that now make up the typical American airport / shopping mall. They should maybe be called airport centres from now on because they seem to be a conjoining of the two buildings’ functions – the utility and security of an airport paired with the vapid retail experience reductionism of a shopping mall.
Wine bars may be the most interesting new experience to be created in the social lives of individuals since the invention of wine. The big question is, why did it take so long? The bigger question is, why can’t we have these in Canada or BC?
Here is why I love wine bars (based entirely on the 3 that I experiences on this trip);
1 – They are the ultimate ‘social’ without the media. Through common interest in wine, I met lots of people who I would otherwise have never met. During the recent ‘snowpocalypse’ in Raleigh, North Carolina, I met Emily who worked at a bank nearby and had given up trying to drive her 4×4 home after making it only 2 blocks in an hour during the worst part of the storm. She got a hotel room and enjoyed a flight of wines in the wine bar called The Wine Feed, where she had people to talk to and enjoyed an hour of her afternoon instead of sitting miserable in traffic. Our group stayed there trying glasses and flights of wines for at least a couple of hours before heading out to dinner. Granted, we had time to kill but the time went by in a flash and with some great conversation. Isn’t that why humans are social?
2 – They are clean and cultured. This is subjective however and the word ‘cultured’ sometimes comes off as a bit snobby. Snobby they aren’t, or at lest the ones that I saw. Most of the wines topped off in dollars at about $25 and many were in the $6-15 range. Even if you know nothing about wine, staff will help you find something that you will like. If I wasn’t sure about a wine, they would immediately offer to pour me a small sample (just like in a wine shop tasting room) so that I could decide if I liked it or not before buying a glass. Try asking for a sample of beer or cocktail at any regular bar and see what happens.
3 – They are accessible. Wine bars sometimes have lots of extra information about the wines. They all have (or should have) friendly and knowledgeable staff who are passionate about wine and keen on sharing that knowledge with you. The staff that I saw all fit this description and here eminently thrilled just to be able to work with so much wine all the time.
4 – They are comfortable. Unlike bars with tall bar stools or hard wooden booths, wine bars have easy chairs, comfortable stools with back rests, and lots of space. It’s a more humane experience than having to stand at the side of a dance floor all night or leaning against a wall. Wine bars aren’t dimly lit and mysterious (or even dangerous) because otherwise you can’t see the wines properly. They are usually brightly and neutrally lit. They don’t have loud music because you can’t hear the other people at the table or bar clearly.
5 – They promote wine and relaxation. Traditional bars promote stimulation – loud music, flashy lights, drinks that are designed to get you drunk. I’ve never really understood why people go to bars to meet people when it seems that everything that happens at a bar is designed to keep people from communicating on any level at all. Loud music prevents conversation (intelligently sober or sloppy drunk) while dimmed and flashing lights prevents anyone from actually seeing anyone else properly. The florescent lights that bars turn on at the end of the night are called the ‘ugly lights’ for a reason. There’s nothing social about these places at all.
Wine is about interacting with others even if it has nothing to do with the wine itself. It’s a more honest and real experience that doesn’t allow you to hide behind any flashy lights or distractions. Yes, loud thumping music is energizing and it makes you move and have fun which is all great. Dancing is and has always been a fun social ritual and that won’t change. But what has changed is the distracting sound level of the music, which I find totally discourages any communication or socializing at all. Wine bars have brought back the social and civil.
And this airport traveler thanks them for that. Cheers!