Since “Scandal” splashed onto American TV sets, red wine took center stage as the drink of choice for Kerry Washington’s now iconic role as Olivia Pope.
When overwhelmed with her chaotic life, Pope, a Washington crisis management expert, often plops onto her living room couch, pours a bottle red wine into a giant wine glass, and proceeds to gulp her sorrows away.
It’s become such a recurring theme and staple that even fanatic viewers, known as Gladiators, make drinking wine while watching the prime time hit a weekly ritual.
But in a recent dining and wine column in the New York Times, critic Eric Asimov not only explores red wine’s growing trend, but criticizes Pope’s wine etiquette.
“No show uses wine more than ‘Scandal’ to portray character. It’s not enough for the audience to infer that Olivia loves wine from her drinking habits. We have to be reminded of it regularly,” he writes. “But if she is an expert, Olivia treats even the finest wine as if it were a can of beer. She habitually grabs goblets by the bulb rather than the stem, as a wine lover would. She never swirls and sniffs, the ritual that non-wine drinkers alternately find amusing, affected or annoying. She guzzles rather than sips.”
Any wine connoisseur or expert will tell you that drinking wine is an art, and that there are rules to ensure that you’re not just drinking it but savoring it in all its glory.
Earlier this year, certified sommelier Charles Springfield, owner of The Wine Stylings of Charles Springfield, shared with Centric the “Five S’s,” which is typically used by most wine professionals; see, swirl, sniff, sip, savor.
Though the Times writer critic acknowledges that it’s just a show, he postulates that the decision to not have Olivia sip her wine properly is an intentional one by the show’s writing team.
“It can’t be mere carelessness that blinds writers to her lack of technique. There are wine lovers even in Hollywood who would note such behavioral inconsistencies. It must be a matter of choice by the writers.”
He also draws a line between female characters drinking red wine and what writers may be trying to convey about them, maybe even an attempt to redefine ideas of women and what they choose to consume.
“Why must the women drink only red? In the thinking of popular culture, red wine is assertive and action-oriented compared with white wine, which offers a prissy, indecisive connotation,” Asimov writes. “As assertive professional women operating often in the sphere of men, [sic] Olivia must drink red, even in [her] private moments. [She is] permitted to be vulnerable but can’t betray [herself] to the audience as white wine weak.”
Red wine, he argues, helps women seem forceful, whereas for men it does the opposite. They appear too concerned with “pretty things.”
Who knew there was so much analytics to drinking red wine?