I am tired of the eye-rolling at people who love food and wine. We have found a way to take something that we have to do anyway – consume food – and we have turned it into a delight that goes beyond sustenance. I want to feel connected to something older, purer, and bigger than myself. Whether it’s exploring new restaurants, obsessing over baking bread from heirloom flours, or for me, exploring wine, this is our escape when we require it most.
The world is fast and wine is slow. That is why I need it.
I am the kind of person who needs to be totally enveloped in learning, growing, reading. My curiosity is both my strength and my downfall. I was always someone who kept up with the news of the world. I have always had a vested interest in the state of the planet and the state of politics. I am a fighter, a learner, an obsessive reader of the Economist and the child of diplomats and I cannot turn off my desire to read and ruminate on the news. That has been tiring in the past, but these days it leaves me entirely empty.
I am exhausted by the things that once kept my intellectual curiosity satisfied. There is too much news and it is too heavy. So, I step away and I open a bottle of wine.
I trace the long, delicate neck of a Riesling bottle with my finger. I get out my favorite bottle opener and I go through the ritual of opening. First, the foil, then piercing the cork and sinking the screw into the soft wood. The maneuver is elegant, like a dancer lifting her leg, strong and powerful. Someone created this wine with their hands. The grapes were picked, early in the morning on an impossibly steep hill along the Mosel River here in Germany. Their gloved hands reached for green grapes, avoiding any that were shriveled or immature. The winemaker made a profile of the juice: how much sugar and how much fruit from each plot of land. Nothing in this bottle is accidental. Nothing is reckless.
There is a misconception of wine as a pastime for the rich and powerful. People imagine it is all hyperbole and idol worship. Articles come out about fooling experts with cheap wine: “We gave a sommelier some mass-produced product and fooled them. Ha! Proof that wine is bullshit.” That view misses what matters in wine and in slow food as a whole. It is about privilege, but not the kind that is exemplified by wealthy men throwing money at rare bottles. The privilege is in partaking in something which is not created for profit because slow food and good wine almost never is.
When my heart is aching for my home in the US, I want to open a bottle of Gewurztraminer from the Finger Lakes in New York and I want to remember that there is an American who could be doing anything, but has chosen to put this wine out into the world. The smell of cinnamon and honeysuckle floods my nostrils, the amber liquid glides around my glass. In a second, it doesn’t matter what’s happened in the world.
All there is is me and this gift from my home country and it is wholly good.
The number of wineries and wines from every corner of the globe is mind boggling. There will always be something ancient or experimental from Georgia or Croatia, Lebanon or Japan. Seeking out new wines is just a way to experience the vast creative potential of the planet. It feels like so much more than a hobby.
To me, wine is life giving. It is not negotiable. So the next time you see an article about a hot new restaurant and want to scoff at the triviality of it, remember that in times of darkness, we need the distraction more than ever.