What if we could bottle up our lives as easily as a child scoops fireflies out of summer evening air and share our world with others? What we eat and what we smell, the soil that we walk upon, whipping winds and falling rain, sun and stars, morning frost, laughter and love, grief and sadness, excitement and struggle? What if we could consume someone else’s life, someone else’s labor, someone else’s craft? And just for a moment close your eyes on your world and live in another place and another time.
A few days ago on a blustery fall evening, I sat down with friends and family and opened a bottle of Chianti Classico from just outside of Siena, Italy. We began to settle in and I popped the cork and poured everyone a glass. I tipped the glass to my lips and closed my eyes. Like some mystical illusion, I was transported back to a different time and place.
In an instant, I was amongst endless rows of vines sprawling along rolling Tuscan hills with my hands in the warm earth and the beating sun pouring over my body. For the moment of a single sip, I am the weathered hands and furrowed brows set to training and harvesting the grapes and working the old vineyards. I can feel the cool morning and the blistering afternoon sun. The cellar becomes my backyard and I am the winemaker turned alchemist as fruit becomes juice, which then transforms in the hands of time and material. Toasted barrels and crushed grapes fill the air with the scents of oak, stainless steel, and wet concrete. The sounds of mechanical movement and busy human hands are balanced by the still silence of hundreds of barrels filled to the brim morphing and transmuting at the steady pace of time. In the space of a single mouthful, I can taste the lives of someone else. Feel the passion of an artist. And consume a piece of another place.
I open my eyes realizing that though a lifetime has passed on my palate only an instant has passed at the dinner table. Every sip is more than tasting and swallowing. It is a glimpse into another world. Another culture and place. In every bottle lie mysteries and stories. Wine is a living product, not a static thing that just sits on a shelf, but juice with a unique narrative and in order to really appreciate any single bottle of wine we first have to better understand it.
The next time you open a bottle of wine, take a moment and truly appreciate the bottle and the juice inside. Remember, that those who wander in wine are not lost, they are simply closing their eyes on their world for a moment and opening their palate to another.