Vineyards have been the starting point from which that I have sought sustenance, fulfillment and joy since early 2009. Through wine-tasting, Sommelier certification, oenology research and employment in the wine industry, the soils of vineyards and the craft of vinification has educated and enchanted me. It has given me a fresh perspective on life.
My decision to commit to the wine industry as a career sprang from the utter disillusionment that confronted me after nearly a decade in the hospitality industry. I got burnt out by the drudgery and was jaded by my lack of inspiration to do great work.
The following quote sums up why I felt this vacancy:
“More than half of all humans now live in cities. The natural habitat of our species, then, officially, is steel, pavement, streetlights, architecture, and enterprise–the hominid agenda.
With all due respect for the wondrous ways people have invented to amuse themselves and one another on paved surfaces, I find that this exodus from the land makes me unspeakably sad.
I think of the children who will never know, intuitively, that a flower is a plant’s way of making love, or what silence sounds like, or that trees breathe out what we breathe in….
I wonder what it will mean for people to forget that food, like rain, is not a product but a process.
I wonder how they will imagine the infinite when they have never seen how the stars fill a dark night sky….
What we lose in our great human exodus from the land is a rooted sense, as deep and intangible as religious faith, of why we need to hold on to the wild and beautiful places that once surrounded us.”
– Barbara Kingsolver, 2002, Small Wonder
By dutifully working with wine – in tasting rooms, restaurants and in private sales, but more so in vineyards and wineries – I have found inspiration and meaning through a greater sense of connection to a dynamic and vibrant agricultural and a land-based economy. It is grounding and invigorating to support an ethic of responsibility to the land. Even though many vineyards are imposed upon the land and may be contrary to its ‘wild’ inclination, it does engender a perspective that seeks to build upon and interact with the land’s consciousness.
Wine is fun to drink. It is fun to share. While it is intoxicating, I don’t taste wine to get drunk. I taste wine to learn and it has shown me it’s capacity to be a teacher, a tutor about people’s relationship with ecosystems. Not all wine, however, has given me this lesson.
Land: Where REAL Wine Starts
Wine is truly a powerful force to reveal stories and insight which vineyards are capable of holding and transmitting, though not just any vineyard will do. It is through attention to site identity and clear expression of site character that REAL “soulfulness” in wine is crafted. By drinking wines that are produced in a manner that is site-expressive and place-driven, you can begin to understand the stories of this place. You can then feel connected to this place, you can see with a greater perspective, feel more awareness, in your own life.
It is a beautiful thing when agricultural activities maintain semblance to historical context. Since many vineyards lack this historical context, it is up to the owner and management to create and maintain a healthy relationship with the land. Once this relationship is in place, producers of REAL wine strive to transmit a ‘feeling’ of place from their soils, vines and through their viticultural and vinification philosophies. REAL wine is the land incarnate in vinous form; an aesthetic representation of terroir.
Our ancestors were once intimately tied to the health of the land on which they lived and worked. Communities were groups of families who shard a common region, a terroir. Each contributed to the greater good with the skills they honed and each was integral to the overall good. These days, modern living has greatly diminished ties with the land and as a result there is a massive loss in perspective.
Producers of REAL wine are nurturing the wounds from this loss of perspective. Through their wine you too can bear witness to a reestablishment of land consciousness. For this reason, I continue to support REAL wine produced in a manner that supports philosophy of place.
What is REAL wine to you?