Wine Gladdens The Heart Of Man.
(The Liver … Not So Much)
A couple of weeks ago I asked, “What is it about wine that has stirred the human spirit for so many centuries?” There are those who say wine is like a religious experience because, much like sitting in church, it can make you drowsy. There’s something else that draws us to wine that seldom gets mentioned in magazines or newspapers unless Lindsay Lohan is involved.
Early man discovered that grape juice, when exposed to yeast, ferments into alcohol. Now let me hear you say hallelujah brothers and sisters because to my mind the discovery of fermentation ranks right up there with the wheel, the lever, and squeeze bottle catsup.
Alcohol stimulates the accumbens nucleus, which is the part of your brain responsible for pleasure, laughter, aggression and fear, or as I like to call it, a typical weekend with the in-laws.
Alcohol also triggers the reward system in your brain, so you feel good about your abnormally rowdy behavior, even if you wouldn’t typically perform a strip tease at your niece’s Bat Mitzvah. It’s the component that makes people boisterous, sometimes even causing them to swear. I usually wake up in the morning and swear to never drink again. Alcohol is also known to affect your memory, which may explain why I occasionally repeat myself. Alcohol is also known to affect your memory, which may explain why I occasionally repeat myself. You don’t have to be a scientist to know that alcohol acts as a depressant on the brain’s higher functioning. Anyone can attest to that fact after watching just one evening of reality television.
Let’s piece this puzzle together to get a sense of why this beloved beverage has inspired so many to put pen to paper in its name. In an earlier blog we learned wine offers wonderfully complex flavors and aromas that are intricately entangled with your emotions. Wine also has texture which feels good in your mouth. Ultimately however, the allure of wine is not how it tastes, smells or feels but rather, how it makes you feel. The great Hoboken philosopher Frank Sinatra summed it up best when he said, “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. They wake up in the morning and that’s the best they are going to feel all day.”
Technically wine may be nothing more than fermented grape juice, but to those of you who embrace its numinous qualities, wine is so much more. Wine is a part of your way of life and helps mark the milestones of your existence. It helps you consummate your business deals as well as your wedding night (and in either case, someone is probably getting screwed).
You share wine in times of celebration, like anniversaries, birthdays, or sleeping through the night without waking up to pee. Wine is there to comfort you in times of sorrow such as funerals, divorces or having to watch Mamma Mia with your wife. And of course wine is an integral part of your religious celebrations like Christmas, Passover, and Super Bowl Sunday.
Wine is a thread that ties you to your family and friends and binds you to your past as well as your future. Do you remember that special bottle of 1961 Chateau Lafite Rothschild your father shared with you on your 21st birthday? Yeah, neither do I, but when my first son was born, I bought a mixed case of Premier Cru Bordeaux in his honor and lay it quietly away for two decades. When my son turned 21, I opened the first bottle from that case. Together we shared a bottle of 1989 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, toasting his birth and his growing appreciation of fine wine. He then went out and bought a six pack of pomegranate flavored malt liquor.
I love wine for all these reasons and more. Wine is an organic, ever-evolving work in progress that continuously changes as it ages in the cellar or breathes in a glass. Like the pencil marks inside the pantry door that mark my sons growth, tasting wine on any given day is nothing more than a snapshot of that wine at one moment in its evolution.
It fascinates me that grapes grown in flinty soil can smell like gunpowder and wine aged in American oak can taste like dill. I’m amazed that the resolute roots of a grape vine can squeeze through hairpin cracks in a solid rock cliff, seeking moisture one hundred feet underground. I marvel at the wine blenders skill and the barrel coopers craftsmanship. And naturally I love the wine trade and my missionary role as a merchant in that trade. These are but a few of the reasons wine has stirred the human spirit for so many centuries. In short, wine gives my life meaning; it’s the reason I climb out of bed every afternoon.