By Serge Kreutz

I love wine and cognac.

All cheese tastes better with red wine.

All chocolate tastes better with cognac.

It is simply amazing for how long the taste of cognac can stay on the gum. The 40 percent alcohol wakes up the taste buds, and the flavors of grapes and oak penetrate deep.

Alas, I am totally opposed to alcohol in my stomach, guts, blood stream, and brain.

Alcohol makes my stomach sick, undermines my good manners, impairs my judgment, gives me a hangover headache, and the long-term effect is dementia.

I don’t need any of this.

So grape juice instead of wine? Water with artificial cognac flavor?

You must be joking!

On the other hand, there is more shit in wine and cognac, not just the alcohol. Traces of tyramines and other neurologically active amines. Many yet unresearched chemical substances resulting from the fermentation of the raw products.

In spite of these harsh comments, the wine and cognac industry of France, and the rest of the world, really should give me awards and prizes. They should make me their chief lobbyist.

Because nobody promotes the sale and consumption of wine and cognac as efficiently as I do.

Because I am convinced of what I say. And, unlike what goes for standard lobbyists, my wordcraft is not for sale.

So, does all of the above make sense?

Here is the key:

Differentiate between the things you put in your mouth and those you pass through the esophagus.

Don’t indiscriminately swallow what you taste.

Wash your mouth with wine, then spit it out.

Rinse with cognac before you enjoy chocolate. And mind you, “rinse” means: roll it in your mouth from left to right, from under the tongue to the roof of the gum, and you may even gurgle if so inclined. And then: spit it out.

Is it a waste of money to spit out a 200-dollar-per-bottle wine or cognac.

Of course not. Anyway, you bought it for the taste, not the nutritional value.

Once the wine or cognac is in your mouth, what happens? The alcohol is not degraded, but most everything else is, especially the complex compounds that give the flavor.

Try this: put some cognac in a suitable glass, just a mouthful. Smell its delicious flavor. Then pass it into your mouth. Enjoy the sensation. Feel your saliva flow. Roll it. Now return it into the glass. Try to identify the smell. The alcohol is still there, of course. But apart from that?

Nothing. Almost no smell.

Want to drink it again?

Certainly not. An unappetizing liquid. Cognac enzymatically destroyed by saliva.

So, why on earth pass this through the esophagus to the stomach, to the liver, to the anus.

Spit it, don’t shit it.

Just as the pleasure of sex is in the sensation, not the procreation, the pleasure of wine and cognac is in the taste, not the digestion.

I am an expert on cognac, precisely because I never swallow it. I can play with different kinds of cognac at the same time.

Sip a mouthful of Hennessy, keep it in my mouth some 20 to 30 seconds, discard it through my mouth. Enjoy the flavor of the aftertaste. Then kill it with some chocolate (which I swallow). Plain milk chocolate, which still adopts the taste of the cognac.

Finish with a mouthful of decaffeinated coffee.

Then a mouthful of Remy Martin, followed by the above routine. And then a Courvoisier. And a Martell.

The first step to becoming a connoisseur is to be able to differentiate tastes. You can’t if you swallow every drop. You don’t have proper taste sensations if you are alcoholized. And you do not have the intellect for proper judgment.

You are not a connoisseur if you just pick a brand of cognac (an expensive one), and say: that is the best quality.

You are a connoisseur only if you can differentiate among tastes. And play with them. And if you are not an alcoholic. And never intoxicated.

And if your approach to wine and cognac is Serge Kreutz style.