Every now and then I start to question things, just to take stock of what’s really going on. I find that it helps me maintain perspective on things. The other day I started to wonder what it was about wine that made people, like me, want to write about it, learn about it, talk about its nuances, taste and provenance in a way that far exceeds what normal people would normally do for any other food product.
The Onion had an ‘article’ about a guy who was a potato chip connoisseur. His quotes were take-offs on all kinds of phrases that wine lovers typically use; things about aromas, flavors, and the fact that 2004 was a particularly good year for Doritos. Why does wine get elevated to such an artistic degree that it just sounds silly when the same things are said of other foods? Isn’t wine just a drink with dinner? Sometimes a wine is just a wine. Wine is what European peasants and nobility alike drank with their meals. It was safer than water and helped with digestion.
Working at a wine store, I get to see a good cross section of people as they make their purchases. There are people who are confident about wine and those that are not so sure. There are those that need help (some of them ask, some don’t) and those that don’t want to be disturbed. Others are ‘on a mission’ and spend less than a minute finding what they want. Whatever the purchase, I always hope that they enjoy whatever wine they buy. One day I thought, “what if we were selling chocolate bars instead of wine?” Would people still be apprehensive about coming into the store? Would there be people that were too shy to ask for help and were intimidated by the weird names on the labels? What is it about wine?
It comes down to personal preference. Some people like dark chocolate, others don’t. The people that don’t like dark chocolate know that and don’t buy dark chocolate. This is why I find it humbling sometimes to think about that when I get to over-opinionated about wines that I like or don’t like. Sometimes a wine is just a wine.
However, flipping through the ads in any wine magazine will tell you that wine is not just wine – it’s a lifestyle choice, and a darn good one. Drinking wine will bring you together with your friends as you prepare a feast in your enormous kitchen or outdoor barbeque on the sun deck. Wine means romantic meals outside in the vineyards, being close to the land, and tasting the land in our bottle of wine. Each winery has ads that ensure you each bottle represents the truest ‘expression’ of the land and that their wine will help you attain a state of oneness with that romantic ideal life that wine can provide.
Sometimes a wine is just a wine.
The fact is that most of the biggest wine growing regions are located in beautiful places. There is beauty in the rugged land where nothing else will grow other than grape vines. There’s a reason why no one has coined the phrase “ugly as a vineyard.” Especially in BC, wine country is a desirable (and therefore expensive) place to live. And while it’s the ‘get back to nature’ and vineyard lifestyle that might pull people here even for a vacation, the fact is that wine is the most natural beverage other than water and perhaps it becomes a connection to something natural that we might lack in our everyday lives. Having wine often might give us that needed little connection with nature with every sip.
Is something that natural supposed to cost $100 a bottle? That’s where things get out of hand. Are the ‘cult’ wines of the world (and BC) really worth that kind of money? Things like that have made me think more than a few times before shelling out for a bottle of wine that costs more than $25. I understand the expenses that wineries have and the cost of doing business, especially in BC, is what dictates the final price of a bottle of wine. If people refuse to pay it, then is it still a worthy drink? Does a photograph that nobody sees succeed as a true work of art? Is art successful if nobody (or only a small cadre of people) appreciates its value?
Sometimes a wine is just a wine. Wine is just a food. Let’s not get carried away. East, drink and be merry. Slainte mhath. Cheers.