Wine’s Inversion of Effort

I’m pretty stressed out these days. My favorite metaphor for stress has got to be those incredible acrobats that get all those plates spinning on the end of their sticks, and then have to keep them spinning through contortions, contrivance, and concentration. Spinning plates, balls in the air, irons in the fire. Sometimes it seems like we’re all bumping up against the limits of what our little brains can manage.

The reasons for my stress are all the usual excuses — a surfeit of work coupled with a general tendency to be more responsible than I should, multiplied by a personal commitment to blog regularly.

I guess I should consider myself lucky, however, that the source of my blogging passion is also the source of some relief from the stress. There’s nothing quite like pulling a cork and sitting down in a few stolen moments to a quiet glass of wine.

Those first aromas waft upwards from the glass and smooth the ruffled feathers of immediate concerns, and the silky textures in the mouth do their best to caress away those voices that constantly remind of more important things to be doing. Wine practically forces us to slow down — not just because the appreciation of its complex flavors and aromas require a certain meditation.

As I savored my few mouthfuls this evening after a somewhat hurriedly digested meal, I was struck at the… irony, I guess you’d call it, that a drink so calming and contemplative derives from so much work. If I push myself, I can see in the layers of aromas (and the complex phenolics that make them up) an analogue to the hundreds of hands and hours that shepherded fruit through its transformation to wine, but it’s almost easier for me to appreciate the labor that has gone into wine for the opposite forces it exerts on my own body. The intense forces and energy of wine’s production become persuasions to relaxation, respite, and even sleep through a process that I can only equate to alchemy.

I think this is something that we humans have always understood about wine. Certainly in its earliest days, wine required so much work, not only to produce and harvest the crops for its production, but also to simply keep it from turning to vinegar. But or thousands of years, we have made the effort, knowing that the results would be, according to the yet unwritten laws of physics, equal and opposite. Perhaps this is why Roman legions away at war were paid (and sometimes pacified in their unrest) with wine. It is most certainly why poor emigrants throughout history included vines among their scant, treasured possessions required to forge a new life somewhere else. No matter what happens, wine offers us a unique comfort.

There are a lot of magical things about wine, but tonight as I savored the results of a struggle that began when a vine first strained for moisture in hard, stony soil, all I could think of was the beauty of that energy transformed into the momentary stillness of my own mind and thought. It was most certainly a gift worth savoring. At least until my cellphone rang.