Covid gave us one huge cliché, namely that after the virus has released the world from its destructive and disruptive grip, nothing is ever going to be the same again. And on certain aspects of this, I do agree. No right-minded tourist to the Far-East will in future boast about his or her adventurous partaking of Chinese street-food comprising, as it usually does, mysterious and unidentifiable creatures. The polite expression of “bless you”, usually offered when someone of your acquaintance and in the near vicinity happens to sneeze, will be replaced by those within sneeze-range diving for cover and searching for a mask.
Post-Covid will, like during Covid, feature a society making extraordinary demands on internet and data suppliers so as to sate that insatiable demand for binge-offerings on services such as Netflix and Showmax.
The world of wine is also pondering a post-Covid scenario. Especially the South African one which has been violated by a government showing about as much concern at and understanding of the industry as it does in the importance of protecting its country’s Constitution. In fact, one of the things sure to be unaffected by Covid is the South African government’s incomprehension of the potential the industry has of being an inclusive national asset.
But in all this hysteria surrounding the banning of wine sales, government incompetence, surpluses, court-cases and relevant wine industry representative bodies, one question has been shifted onto the backburner. Namely, why is wine important? Why is it important to its consumers, the millions of folk who pull their daily corks, fill the glass, take pleasure therein and begin to anticipate the next one. He and she who daily, weekly or monthly hand-over hard-earned cash in order to enjoy the rewards of the winemakers’ sweat and toil?
Well, wine is damn important for me and for you and for them.
Because if you really want to, you can open a different bottle of wine every day for the rest of your life without filling the same glass twice. No other liquid is made by so many different people belonging to so many different societies in such a variety of regions, nations and countries. Wine offers the inquisitive, restless seeker an unrivalled opportunity to experience an endlessly vast array of individual tastes and aromas. To rephrase Dr Samuel Johnson, “He who is tired of wine, is tired of life.”
Then, think of the fact that each wine tells a different story. Besides the unique geographical profiles of the vineyard sites, wines bear their own personalities, tales and yarns. The bottles underscore an own identity. Whether the wine originates from a Burgundian vineyard where eight centuries ago a Trappist monk saw the image of Christ, or a Merlot is made by a brain surgeon who exchanged skull carving for viticulture at the age of 70, there are stories in wine. Because despite the relevance of the saying “wine is made in the vineyard”, wine is the result, too, of people’s lives, dreams and loves.
And just as humanity needs to be nourished on the stories, aspirations, emotions and living wills of others, just so do we need wine.
Wine is important, because it opens not only the window to the human soul, but to the soul of nature as well. That glass of Chardonnays reflects the chalk soils of Robertson, the result of millions of fossilised ocean creatures which lazed on the sea-bed before the oceans drew back to leave the land dry. Cabernet Sauvignon from Stellenbosch is made viscerally own-minded by the weathered granite which wine and rain hacked away from the Simonsberg and Helderberg mountains over a period of unfathomable time. Later the fynbos came, hundreds of brushes, bushes and flowers sprinkled on the earth to add scent and perfume to the grapes. To appreciate wine is to acknowledge the bond between humans and nature, to taste it, drink it. This is necessary.
The soul is made joyful through wine. This I discovered 40 years ago while harvesting at Simonsvlei Co-op. To arrive home at midnight exhausted, sticky with a sweet-smelling sweat of fermenting grapes. Drinking a glass of cold Perdeberg Steen. One night I found my father, still awake reading, then looking at me as I drank deeply from the glass. Telling him that, at a time like this, nothing makes me feel better than this glass of wine.
“Yes,” he says, “that is what wine is all about.”
Wine is important because it brings people together. In different ways. There is the group of aficionados who tear-up then talk in reverential tones about the Calon-Ségur 1966 they are sharing. Then the everyday kind of wine lovers, friends and family who hardly look at the label on the bottle they are pouring from, just honouring life and others and togetherness through the sharing of a bottle or three.
It creates a greater appreciation for the senses one is born with, and that’s why wine is important. The comforting, reassuring aroma of a Shiraz expressing wet earth, cigar-leaf and Malay spice. That edgy, restless fresh Sauvignon Blanc that perks the palate and raises the spirit with its slashes of gooseberry, melon and Atlantic ocean kelp. He or she who appreciates wine, and I’m sure of this, has a keener sense of smell and taste than the non-imbibers thereof.
This thing called wine is important because it makes of the world a better place. A place worth not forgetting how privileged you are to call home. And this is the way it will always be.
– Emile Joubert
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