Why Do We Love Wine?

Cincuenta, 2009‘This is like watching a golf match,’ our host commented as we all sat swirling, inhaling and tasting in complete silence, focused only on the wine. ‘She holds the glass. Her nose goes down into the bowl, inhaling deeply,’ he said with the hushed reverence appropriate for said golf match.

I’ve fallen in with a group of CS’s and CSW’s who get together monthly to explore and learn wine, one grape at a time. December was Syrah. January was a religious experience (aka Nebbiolo.) I’ve hosted wine tastings with my friends, and I love it. It gives me a chance to try new wines, share something I’ve learned and try my hand at food/wine pairing. But with my ‘normal’ friends, the conversation winds around to books, kids, trips, and ultimately away from the wine. With my new group of wine obsessives, we never stop talking about the wine, that is, once we take our noses out of our glasses and start talking. These people say things like, ‘I can taste the iron in the soil. It must be from Washington.’ I am learning so much. But, why, I wonder, do we love wine so much?

Yes, reader, I am including ‘you’ in the ‘we.’ You must think about, write about, study, swirl, smell, and taste wine on a fairly regular basis with a fair amount of obsessive passion, otherwise, I do not think that you would be here in this growing circle of wine, shall we say, philosophers, theorists, perhaps? At any rate, here we are, obsessing about wine each in our own way, but why? What is it about wine that has captured our respective imaginations?

It seems that often those who love wine, also love food, and also love to travel. Because wine and food are associated with particular regions, they become a way of travelling, visiting a country, a culture, a people, learning their likes, their climates, their daily joys from a dish and a glass. Spain may be a long plane ride away, but an evening spent enjoying some chorizo with a glass of Cincuenta Rioja with its crisp cherry and spice aromas with just a hint of leather might get us a little closer.

Not everyone who loves to travel, also loves wine. But I have, yet to meet someone who loves wine, but does not love to travel. Be honest. When was the last time you had a glass of Tannat from Madiran and did not get out a map to see exactly where Madiran is? Wine and place are inextricably entwined, not just viticulturally, but, (dare I say it?) spiritually. That is to say, the close association of wine and place is the strong pull of wine for those of us who are obsessed with it. We are explorers in a world where there is little left to be explored. Yet, wine, with its myriad of grapes, regions, soils, aromas and climates leads us tantalizingly with, always, more to discover.