Okay that’s it. All wine is bad. First it was the recent suggestion from health-watch rottweilers that drinking more than two glasses of wine a day will have you keeling over from assertive cardiac arrest or collapsing with a debilitating stroke after making lewd remarks at the sommelier and offering to show him your “Montrachet or Bust” tattoo.
Now, this year, the advice is to stick away from wine all-together if you are serious about living to tell the tale of another (alcohol-free) day.
This warning is obviously some Brit-driven, pro-Brexit mania devised at trashing the French Paradox which suggests that drinking a bottle of vino daily, preferably accompanied by foie gras, double-fat Brie cheese and half a poached calf’s head is the highway to eternal youth, a lean physic and rampant Latin libido.
Whatever. The scientists can come with as many of these concocted warnings as they like, feed vinho verde to a whole zoo of laboratory rats in an attempt to provide scientific evidence, my wine drinking habit ain’t going nowhere. And this is why:
• Diversity of choice: You can drink a bottle of wine from a different grape variety, style or country for your whole life and you won’t drink the same thing twice. Variety is not the spice of life, it is what keeps us thinking, seeking, stimulated and curious. In other words, alive. There may be an array of pants-wetting exciting mineral waters out there or a terrific selection of gut-cleansing herbal teas, but nothing matches the scope of the wine offering which allows you to on a daily basis travel to a different wine region, country and grape variety to engage with the mind of a different winemaker.
• Food: No-one can claim to truly understand food unless he or she appreciates wine. All those years at cordon bleu school or your relentless food-blogging activity is not reliable and cannot be taken seriously if wine is not part of the culinary equation. So you make the finest cassoulet, craft perfect ceviche of cook a killer risotto. If it ain’t being eaten with a glass of Kanonkop Pinotage, a brisk Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc or wooded De Wetshof Chardonnay, that dish can never truly be appreciated the way God intended it to be.
This works both-ways, however. Dietary restrictions prevent one from extracting maximum pleasure from and understanding of wine. That’s why vegans and vegetarians will never be able to really experience the depth and complexity of a Simonsberg Cabernet Sauvignon or Left Bank Bordeaux if they aren’t buying into a rare side of bloody roast beef.
• Sounding smart: Wine offers a tremendous and accessible opportunity to sound intelligent and clever. Just throw in some wine terminology when the topic arises and you’ll easily floor your peers, obtaining that satisfying feeling of self-respect. Whilst enjoying, for example, a wooded Chenin Blanc you might want to suggest that “allowing the autolysis to take place in old oak give the wine a creamy edge due to the energetic lees exposure”. Also consider, publicly, whether the “malolactic fermentation of a Merlot appears to have been extended, judging by the breadth and depth on the palate” and one attracts nods of approval, your sage-like sniffing of the wine-glass also being conducive to looks of appreciation from the opposite sex.
• Alcohol buzz: The most important feature of wine is hardly ever mentioned when critics, journalists and anoraks talk about things vinous. And that is the fact that wine is a drink containing alcohol, and one of the reasons most people drink it is for the pleasant disposition the imbibing of this mind-enhancing natural chemical causes. That gentle surge of energy one gains as the sugar and alcohol kicks-in makes the world appear a bit brighter, your thoughts a bit wider and your appreciation for everything around you a bit greater. Sure, one must draw the line at getting apoplectic and having the urge to indulge in things such as table-dancing, topless arm-wrestling and the hurling of telephonic insults at judges for the Platter’s Wine Guide. But the easy glow within and glad acceptance of the state of the world around you caused by a few glasses of wine has never harmed nobody.
• Bonding: We are all creatures of the herd, and wine brings us together in body and in spirit. It is the camaraderie I find with farmers discussing the juice extraction from the 2018 harvest while playing pool and glugging ice-cold glasses of unwooded Chardonnay. The self-deprecating smiles among guests at a wine function as we make arses of ourselves when asked to describe the flavours of a Shiraz-Viognier blend. The secretive looks I and my wine mates give each other, looks of the brotherly band, for it was we who happened to be in Beaune when the French rugby player shared a magnum of Leflaive 1992 with us in Pique Boeuf. We are one.
• Mindfulness: This be the latest chapter in the personal self-help manual aimed at guiding one to eternal mental health, contentment with the person you are and keeping the mind extracted from the rigours and noise of daily existence. And it – mindfulness – basically implies sitting by yourself, doing nothing but cleansing the brain of tedious day-to-day thoughts such as shopping-lists, rugby-players being played out of position or whether Cyril Ramaphosa is actually not Danny Glover in disguise.
Well, just know that we wine drinkers are the super-brains of mindfulness. For it is us who, for centuries, have found solace and inner-peace by sitting around with our wine, thinking sweet nothings except for the occasional physical need to top-up the glass or open another bottle.
It is not a drink. It’s a way of living. And it is life itself.