What Wine Is
Let’s start with an official definition. Merriam-Webster defines wine as:
1 the alcoholic fermented juice of fresh grapes, or a plant product, used as a beverage
2 Something that invigorates or intoxicates
3 A dark red
That may be the definition, but if that was just it, then why would anyone care about it, study it, collect it? Why would someone spend $10,000+ for a bottle for a simple dark red juice that will intoxicate you? And why would people write millions of articles on blogs like this about this fermented beverage that intoxicates?
Because wine has the possibility to be so much more. Although sometimes I wish this is all that wine was – as in a natural product that comes solely from fermented fruit – but too often in commercial wines, that is only one of the many ingredients in the bottle. Let’s not forget about sulfites to preserve, yeasts to manipulate flavors, stabilizers, potassium sorbate to inhibit bacteria, calcium carbonate to reduce acidity or help unripened grapes, ammonium bisulphite, hydrochloride, diammonium phosphate, and the list continues.
Really wine is a product shaped by many along the way- Man, terroir, nature, soil, sun, rain, water, fog, time, experiments, science and technology, amongst others, all take their part in shaping the final product. So here is my list of possible additions to Merriam-Webster:
Wine is the bottled story of people and the expression of a place. It represents their culture, their beliefs and values, their heritage, their struggles and triumphs, their passion, their dedication, their experiments, their joys, and their tears. It comes from lands with stories, history, even bloodshed and battles.
Wine (when shared) is a beverage to bond over. It can act as the stage upon which a shared experience can take place, acting as a social lubricant to relax our fears, worries and inhibitions, deepening and stimulating our conversations.
Wine is a form of art able to stimulate our senses, and has the ability to give pleasure to any person that drinks it, sensorial or aesthetical depending on your level of culture, enthusiasm or knowledge.
Wine is alive, ever-changing and evolving. Its life is a reflection on how it was nurtured by nature or cared for by people.
Wine is a liquid time machine able to transport us to memories all throughout our life. The symphony and harmony of aromas and flavors often touch on the same pathways of other moments of our life.
Wine can elevate an experience. Its tannin and acid structure and tastes can help to balance and enhance a food. Think spicy Thai food and sweet Reisling, or a juicy steak and Cabernet.
And a few things (in my opinion) that wine is not or should not be:
Wine should not be the main focus of an evening (unless it’s a Krug Clos du Mesnil or Romanee Conti of course). It should be part of the experience but not the experince. In the days of Symposium, wine was surely drank, but not discussed. Theatre, music and poetry were acted out, creativity expressed, ideas discussed, and what was to celebrated was celebrated.
Wine should never be reduced to a just a varietal, a brand, an alcoholic beverage and means to get drunk. There are much cheaper forms of that…like beer and vodka. (Sorry Boone’s Farm and Two Buck Chuck). Let wine be a way to explore culture and places and drink the other stuff to get drunk. The market is just going to keep making what we demand. Demand quality.
And my big one….. Wine should not all taste the same! Let’s celebrate differences with wine and not always put them on a numerical scale of good and bad. We all have different palates and different preferences, and points are not a ‘one size fits all’ guarantee. They only guarantee higher sales. And on that note, cheers!
the ingredients in wine: a comparison from natural / organic and conventional wines