Why Wine? An Open Love Letter
My only regret in life is that I did not drink more wine. – Ernest Hemingway
Wine. This simple word tugs at every oenophile’s heart strings. Once truly discovered, it often becomes an obsession, engaging mind, heart, and soul. Unlike other beverages, it has transformative powers. It is chameleonic, often changing the ordinary into an extraordinary.
To examine wine’s prowess, let’s take a brief look at its history. The earliest archaeological evidence of wine production is found in 6000 BC in Georgia. Although the first grape variety to be cultivation is shrouded in mystery, it’s evident that fermented grape juice carried a religious meaning. It provided an explanation for an altered state of mind. European wine culture predates Roman times and has infused every creative art form, from poetry to paintings. It survived the Dark Ages, partly due to being an alternative to the unreliable and often disease-inducing water supply. Unsurprisingly, vine cultivation flourished in churches and monasteries, with monks giving a head start to some of the finest European vineyards. Many Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne vineyards date their original history to those early days of nascent wine awakenings.
Modern wine history, say the last hundred years or so, have seen a dramatic set of changes. Technological, chemical and biological advances have pushed viticulture into a different realm altogether. And yet, in some ways, things remained the same. Wine making is marked by gratitude for one’s land, careful cultivation, traditional cellar approaches meant to preserve the wine’s fragile beauty, and the artistic ambition everyone involved in wine craft appears to possess.
Modern wine appreciation pays homage to the timeless art of wine making and demonstrates the importance of wine in the history and diversity of European culture.
Like no other crop, the grapevine requires patience, clarity of intent and stamina. Any workable vineyard takes a minimum of 4 years to develop into production. No vineyard can ever be like any other, ensuring that a harvest from a specific site, planted to identical variety will not exhibit the identical character. The range of combinations is enormous, and with a variety of winemakers in the mix, the possibilities are endless. Unlike other fruit, wine grapes have a unique ability to channel regional differences. These land revelations are referred to as terroir; signifying a unique contributor to the confluence soil and weather that impact the result.
There are many reasons to attach yourself to this mysterious beverage:
Family of Origin
Grape varietals are kind of like distant relatives; you don’t necessarily remember all their names, or where they all came from, but you sure do know your favorites. That aunt that always smells like vanilla may just remind you of a Chardonnay that your manly self won’t admit that you enjoy sipping while watching the Big Bang Theory.
Some of the physical benefits assigned to wine are the promotion of longevity, the reduction of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and colon cancer. It cuts the risk cataracts as well as slows the decline of the brain. An impressive list for the original health drink!
Want to go on a whirlwind wine world without ever leaving your dinner table? Portuguese Verdelho, Spanish Cava, Sonoma Pinot Noir, Lodi Zin—all are available to transport you into a different world. Don’t forget the time travel. Tasting a 1959 Port tells compelling stories of another era.
For those of us who choose to be permanent students of life, wine is a gold mine. The more you learn, the more you realize that don’t know wine. Wine offers perfect cure for boredom. With hundreds of grapes and thousands of styles, there are endless variations. If you drink a different wine every night, you will have only touched a small surface.
In a related matter, wine is a heavenly subject if you are a history, biology, or geology nerd. There is always something new to learn.
Want to make friends fast? Invite them over for wine. Make sure that you like them, because if it’s good wine, they may never leave. Wine is a social glue extraordinaire that performs its magic every time.
Is patience your virtue? Cellaring great wines are hallmarks of prolonged pleasure and well-earned reward for your exemplary fortitude.
A personal favorite. Wine mimics human experience—in its youth it can be awkward, exuberant, angular and shy. As it comes into its own, it channels the passions of its creator, the winemaker. Eventually it becomes irresistible, and subsequently, inevitably, begins its deliciously lingering decline.
Family of Origin
You knew that dreaded terroir term would pop up again. Yes, it’s a painfully overused word. However, it’s still valid. Like no other, wine channels its origin. In the right winemaker’s hands, it can communicate its heritage to the consumer in a profound way.
“Hey, babe, can I buy you a shot of vodka?”
Umm…that doesn’t seound very romantic, does it? Now, “May I offer you a glass of wine?” seems far more appealing and has a much greater chance of being a catalyst for those special connections. Plus, it makes you sound sophisticated!
Celebrating? Depressed out of your mind? Either way, wine is a friend. The kind doesn’t judge, talk back or lecture. It’s just there for you. If that’s not a true friend, who is?!
It’s way cheaper and, as a bonus, it tastes good. Wine induces associations and memories—flashbacks to familiar, pleasurable, euphoric experiences. Take time and smell the wine “roses”; the rewards are formidable. Wine’s healing power of sensory seduction lies, first and foremost, in its perfume.
Artistic Expression – Bottled Poetry
Part science, part art. Like any art form, it’s subjective and can deliver a powerful emotional experience.
What I love about wine is that it is a medium in which I can fuse my joy of life and love of the land with the land itself. To make wine with your hands is to honor the land with love and affection, to bind yourself with the earth and with yourself. Where else can we work with the result that can express the dreams of the land so perfectly, and if we are very respectful of the land, can co-mingle our dreams? This is the essence of eternity, to weave the colors and flavors of the timeless elements of the land into a product that, though a fleeting moment on your palate, expresses what the sun and the rain and the wind and the rocks brought to humanity. And when I draw today's wine in future years and fill the glasses of my friends and family at my table, I will have a living memory of today—of the land and the vines and the winepress that creates the celebrations of tomorrow. – Greg La Follette, Winemaker at Alquimista Cellars
Who can forget your best food buddy? A great wine can certainly enhance a great meal. One plus one equals three.
And yet all of those perfectly sound reasons matter not.
Ask a skydiver, why does he jump out of a perfectly good airplane? He might say, “Because there is no feeling like it,” and you better believe that someone who is risking life and limb means it. That feeling is part love, part infatuation, part an homage to self-discovery.
Why those of us that love wine, love it that much?
Wine is more than mere fermented grape juice. Fundamentally, it is a form of an emotional connection, a vessel by which we connect to ourselves and the world. If you let yourself feel it all the way it will reveal treasures untold. Wine is what you make of it—a lover, a friend, social glue or simply a drink. Wine can have a meaning like no other beverage, if, you coax it out and recognize it.
I was drawn in by my first whiff of a great bottle of wine. My epiphany came from a 1977 Silver Oak, a nearly forgotten vintage. The wine smelled like violets, wet earth, dry fruit and herbs. It was so sophisticated that it took my breath away. I hope you find your epiphany. The journey itself is well worth it.