Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Belly-Up to the Bar: Enotecaphobia No More

Stanley Tucci, third from left, believes that drinking wine is an experience to be shared with friends. The actor is host of "Vine Talk" on PBS. Photo courtesy of PBS.


Wine bar, from the ancient Greek words for wine and storage place.

e-no-te-ca-PHO-bia: An acute irrational fear of entering enotecas, characterized by an overwhelming sense of confusion, social anxiety, indecision, and in rare cases, an inability to speak. Condition pending approval by APA (American Psychological Association) for submission in the DSM-5.*

Disorientation strikes as soon as the foot crosses the threshold: bottles upon bottles of wine across every wall, most from vineyards known only to a few. Elegantly comfortable people sip knowledgeably from long-stemmed, deep-bowled glasses. The maitre d’ acknowledges new people with a nod, unsmilingly. Kind waiters gently slip the menu into hands, the book of wines propping it up from underneath. Disappearing with a nod, they promise to return minutes later.

The menu is sensible; the wine list incomprehensible. Page upon page lists wine available by the glass; twice as many are available by the bottle. List upon list appears, sorted by varietal, country, vintners, colors, characteristics. Sensations swirl together as quickly as aromas and popping corks flood the room.

Everyone seems so comfortable, so self-assured. Everyone except … Ahh, the intimidation a wine bar virgin feels. (No wine bar patron should experience what (Seth Fisher's Henry does in the award-winning short film, "The Wine Bar"; see complete film at:

Fear No More!
Grape: Wine Talk recommends six short tips for overcoming enotecaphobia. As with most phobias, the best treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy (talk it through, then walk it through) followed by intense immersion therapy (get plopped in the deep end of the pool with someone shouting overhead, “Suck it up and deal, baby; it's sink or swim!”). The same is true with enotecaphobia. So first, let’s talk it through.

Seth Fisher (third from left) has an uncomfortable experience when he orders a beer in the wrong kind of establishment in the "The Wine Bar." Photo courtesy of Fisher/Remde Productions.

Talk It Through
A few rational truths:
1. Not one person in the wine bar has drunk all the wines. If they have, they don't remember. So, feel no shame for not recognizing any;

2. The purpose of a wine bar is to help people find the wines they like and explore wines they might not have considered. So, walk through the door. You belong;

3. Enoteca staff (with the exception of the one requisite snarky server every restaurant has) wants to help you. Another reason to walk through the door;

4. Bartenders know they get better tips if they're nice. Belly-ing up to the bar means you'll probably avoid the one snarky server in the place. (Strongly recommended for the highly phobic.);

5. Typically speaking, patrons who sneer at others are uncomfortable themselves. Ignore them and laugh it off;

6. Patrons who seem showy, officious or pretentious are actually entertaining the staff, unaware. The backroom is buzzing with cackles. Trust me.

Walk It Through
Makes sense, no? Now it’s time to take action. Simply read over the six rational truths a few times and then get prepared to walk it through. To find an enoteca nearest you, skip the technical term and Google “wine bar” + your location.

Intense Immersion Therapy: The Buddy System
Unfortunately, the space-time continuum impedes us from waltzing folks through the last part of the program. Nevertheless, we have a suggestion: charge a good friend with the task of grabbing the phobic by the elbow and gently leading that one through the bar. The buddy system works for swimming. It works wonders for enoteca immersion therapy, too. That, and wine was meant to be enjoyed with others.

Like those with swimming phobias, the wine bar phobic has to just jump in. Photo by Sporkist.

The Grape Wine Talk Promise: Satisfaction Guaranteed or Snark Provided Free of Charge
Every now and then, even with the best of coaching, the phobic encounters a snooty wine bar, spurring a severe attack of enotecaphobia, creating a setback that is difficult to overcome. Not to worry. Simply email us (, re: Wine Talk Snark Needed) with the name and address/email of the wine bar, and I will personally respond with a snarkfest the owner will never forget. Within a week, a heartfelt apology will probably arrive, together with the promise of a glass of wine or two on the house.

Then simply repeat the six steps, know that the owner will be on your side, the staff will be waiting to make you comfortable, and the true enjoyment of the magic of a wine bar will begin.


*FYI: about the APA approval and DSM-5 inclusion, I tell a lie.

Next Up: A Wicked-Good Vineyard in Vermont

1 comment :

  1. TAMARA FISH..your lights went out .
    That big bat of DOOMME has clobbered you and the room is oozing with CAPTAIN BLOOD.
    And it's about the MUDAYEST- PHYCRY with PTY LTD imaginable.
    And it's PENN- DEPP- LADD and lots of CARMEN.
    But let's not forget CAPESSIN and her CAPHO...she loved the ACCOC just as much as anybody.
    Including NYE and ROOT and " REGOS".
    So hang onto your " HORSES" because the movie is just going to begin.


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