They walked up to the bar of a very elegant restaurant and asked for the wine list. After a few minutes they ordered a bottle of Talbott Chardonnay - and that was it. Food was not part of the equation. Not much attention was paid to the expensive bottle of wine. In fact, the only comment made was that it was too warm and they asked the bartender to ice it down. The two of them finished off the bottle without taking a bite.
This drinking wine without food is something I often forget people do unless it happens right in front of me. It is so out of my range of thinking. I just can't separate the two. The fact, of course, is that probably most American wine drinking is done in this way - as a cocktail not as a part of the meal.
This makes an interesting dilemma for winemakers as making wine for cocktail purposes is not the same as making wine that compliments food. The result of this dilemma are an awful lot of "dry" white wines that are not dry at all, as they contain significant residual sugar. That sugar tastes pretty good on its own, but pair that sweet chardonnay up with some oysters and the match is less than spiritual.
The beverage wine industry has nailed down the cocktail wine style perfectly producing sweet chardonnay, flavorless pinot grigio and merlot without a interesting edge to be found. These wines disappear down the palate without distracting the drinker with a lot of character that could interrupt the conversation.
This is why wine drinkers on a budget, that still want interesting wine that goes well with food, almost always have to look to Europe for their bargains as making wine to match well with food is too deeply ingrained in their society to be totally overwhelmed by industrial winemaking. Lovely, reasonable priced wines can still be found in places like Macon, Beaujolais, Loire, Abruzzo, Le Marche and Piemonte among many others.
It is a shame that the American wine industry has totally abandoned this type of wine.