Editorial: Lusty fun for ophthalmologists

June 1, 2009

It turns out that, thanks to an extremely insightful article brought to my attention by a loyal Ophthalmology Times reader, we ophthalmologists can enjoy good wine and save money during this outing.

Key Points

"Eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart."

-Ecclesiastes 9:7

"Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than possibly any other purely sensory thing which may be purchased."

"Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough, A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse - and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness -And Wilderness is Paradise enow."

-Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, translated by Edward Fitzgerald

Speaking of whining, something that we ophthalmologists all should do to project optimism and have a little fun is take our special someone out to a nice restaurant and order some nice wine to accompany the meal. But which wine, you may ask.

With all the options, choosing the right beverage can be a challenge, and in my experience, articles about selecting wine rarely are useful. Often graced with a witty title (such as "Heard on the grapevine"), these columns usually describe several wines that the author recommends (using words, for instance, such as "bold yet naïve," "sophisticated yet approachable"). But what the heck do these descriptions mean? And who can remember the names and vintages 15 minutes after reading the article? So I almost never find these articles useful.

It turns out that, thanks to an extremely insightful article brought to my attention by a loyal Ophthalmology Times reader, we ophthalmologists can enjoy good wine and save money during this outing. In a March 7 Wall Street Journal column called "Tastings," writers Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher describe "10 ways to save money ordering wine." The article describes tactics for avoiding overpaying for wine at restaurants, and as I read the story, it immediately was clear that I probably have broken almost every rule mentioned.

I recommend the article for your careful perusal, but allow me to summarize four of the key suggestions:

1. The second-cheapest wine. "Restaurateurs know that diners don't want to appear cheap by ordering the least expensive wine on the list, so they'll hose you for ordering the second-cheapest. The least expensive is actually a pretty good deal at many places," Gaiter and Brecher write. Does this advice resonate with any of you male Ophthalmology Times readers?

2. The chardonnay tax. Chardonnay is the favorite wine of Americans, so it tends to be grossly overpriced. The authors suggest substituting a Riesling or Gruner-Veltliner because these wines tend to be much better values. I break this rule all the time.

3.Well-known wines. "Never order Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio," the writers advise. Ouch! I've done this a zillion times. This pinot grigio is a nice, reliably good wine. The authors assert that many share this opinion, however, so restaurants can get away with jacking the price way up.

4.House wines. "Simple, inexpensive and delightful wines" are common in European restaurants, but we Americans tend to turn our noses up at this option in our country. It's a shame, because the authors report "more often than not, we have found these lusty and fun." Fool that I am, I have never ordered the house wine because I assumed it was no good. But between "lusty" and "fun," what's not to like?

So it's time to create our own stimulus package. All loyal Ophthalmology Times readers should take someone special out to dinner this week-and order the inexpensive house wine!

By Peter J. McDonnell, MD director of the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of Ophthalmology Times.

He can be reached at 727 Maumenee Building, 600 N. Wolfe St., Baltimore, MD 21287-9278 Phone: 443/287-1511 Fax: 443/287-1514 E-mail: pmcdonn1@jhmi.edu

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