Friday, August 7, 2015

When I think of wine, and of what I know, I think of the whale.  That the whale, the largest of creatures, travels the vastness of the oceans to find sustenance in the smallest, krill, is interesting.  Her journey through the seas is a continuum of experience.  Time passes in the waves.  Each little moment in our own lives too is sustenance.  The world of wine is vast;  we have our own small pace.

As a sip of champagne enlivens the senses of taste, wine stimulates us to experience.  It's better to go for a walk in the woods than watch sports on television, for the direct experience, for the exercise, and this is how wine plays out too.

It makes sense that Cousteau, the oceanographer who gave us the octopus in his garden, poetically, on television, comes from a country with the imagination to have infinite respect for its vineyards, sacred protected groves aided by man but left to nature.  That France does not allow fracking has something to do with the instinctive sense of preserving the water, the slopes, the nature, the geology of the hills that make Burgundy what it is.  Wine experts pore over maps detailing such things in vibrant colors, here schist, there clay, layered and sloped just so to face the sun...  Each sip we take is the direct enjoyment of all the elements that happen in that particular place in the world where the vines grow, the fruit of a season.  Of course, the European system of wine nomenclature is all about where the wine is from, the particular quality of wine, the tradition, often dating back to Gallo-Roman times.

Yes, traditions arise.  There is participation, the human element.  A longtime customer shows me a menu of his dinner with the Chevalier du Tastevin preserved from 1964 as we sip from a Vougeot.  A hard working economist arrives at the bar after a long day and I know what to pour him as he raises the menu.  It is truly from observing such traditions, as a Melvillian anthropologist, that I have learned as much as anything about wine.

Wine presents the opportunity of a gathering.  The experience of a glass over dinner opens us up, bringing us together.  Customs stand the test of time.  But do I know much about wine?  No.  That's why I keep tasting, like the whale, mouth gently open as I weather and pass the seas of life.

Summer wanes.  The season of rosés with light fare and fresh produce, crab and salads, slows as we enjoy the 2014 vintage supply at the restaurant, wines not doctored to be rushed to market, the true wines of Provence.  And across the northern hemisphere, harvest time of the 2015 vintage approaches, the tannins rising to protect the fruit as it ripens, a new yield of nature's balance.  With that I'll leave you to the true wine experts, and bow to the wine expert you have within, fully equipped, ready for your own experiences, in whichever direction you go.

The pains of summer sunburns pass, into a gentle itch.  And for the other more year round pains of life, there's always wine.

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