The world has begun the observance of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, and as copies of his First Folio begin circulating the country, it seems appropriate to call attention to some of the Bard’s comments regarding our beloved beverage and its relationship to emperors and kings, especially now that we have reached something of a climax in the Presidential debates of 2016.
It could very well be instructive to start with what one famous character said of one of those kings: Falstaff about Henry IV. “A man cannot make him laugh; but that’s no marvel, he drinks no wine.”
Henry IV, however could very well have been speaking for a line-up of candidates on-stage just last night: “And shall our quick blood, spirited with wine, Seem frosty?”
To apply a comment to all the candidates, we should reach back to our high school readings of Julius Caesar and recall the Emperor’s request to “Give me a bowl of wine; In this I bury all unkindness, Cassius.”
Having now endured almost six weeks of close to two dozen aspiring Presidents in verbal combat, I am inclined to invoke Mark Antony: “Let’s all take hands, Till that the conquering wine hath steep’d our sense In soft and delicate Lethe.”
How relevant indeed is our Bard!
Every once in a while I am reminded of the less romantic aspects of wine consumption and production, aspects such as working the fields, tending the vines, cleaning the vats, and maintaining the cellars. One of those reminders came a couple days ago as an announcement of the availability of the “2016 Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide.” Its 72 pages are not the stuff of wine reviews nor a ranking of vintage years. I have not read it, but I know its value to those who grow fruit.
It is compiled by researchers and professors at universities in 13 states considered subject to common Midwestern insect plagues. Hoosiers will be pleased to know that Bruce Bordelon and the staff at Purdue are prime movers in the production of this guide.
I enjoy writing about the many pleasant wine experiences I have enjoyed for a great many years, the tastes, the circumstances, and the personalities making them possible. I do not write enough — nor do most other wine writers — about what goes into making wine experiences possible.
I have walked with Bill Oliver and his vineyard manager on hot, muggy summer days in the Creekbend vineyards in Monroe County while they checked for bugs and blight and rot and swatted at gnats and mosquitos. I have sunk my feet into slush with Leonhard and Olivier Humbrecht while they checked on vines hit by a gusty snowstorm the night before. I have stumbled up and down the Mosel River banks trying to get a good photo of strong men and women patiently and painstakingly carrying by hand the heavy stones that had washed down from above in the rains of a few days earlier.
Experiences such as these are rewarding for me, but I did this sort of thing only once or twice a year; those who produce our beloved beverage do these things every day.
In short, even though we all understand that farming — grape growing — is hard work, very hard work, we seldom pause to honor that work. And it requires lots of knowledge, some from guides like the one referenced above, most from dealing with crops up close and personal. It is hard work in the winery, and wine production requires almost a daily presence in the vineyards and in the cellars.
Yes, the harvest is a joyous time but only a brief interlude in a process that must repeat itself again and again. In spite of the rigors and toil, most wine producers love their work and derive both pride and pleasure from knowing their work is appreciated.
I try when gazing at shelves of wines to remember the work and dedication of New Zealanders, Germans, Chileans, Italian, French, Greek, Spanish, others from around the world and, yes, including Hoosiers who make these wines possible. They are all champions of our dinner tables.
Last week at the Total Wine bin shelving wines that fell into the “Other” category, we met a couple on the same futile quest as we. My wife was planning to prepare a fondue, and the other couple had just returned from a long assignment in Switzerland. We both wanted a Swiss wine, and we both knew that very few wines from that tiny country are exported.
We looked at wines from Turkey, from Lebanon. There were wines from Bulgaria and Hungary. But not from a single one of the 23 Swiss cantons.
Disappointing, yes, but only mildly so. There are plenty of white wines to enhance a fondue. In fact there are plenty of wines from just about everywhere. Never has the world been so rich in the production of wines of so many types, varietals, and character, from the Orient to the Mediterranean to the South Pacific to South America and, of course, from Europe and North America. Each of our fifty states claims a wine production.
We are now able to experience grapes most of us had never heard of a couple decades ago. We are finding our favorite traditional grape varietals coming from non-traditional locations — Cabernets from Italy and Virginia, Pinot Noirs from Okanagan and Baden. We have raised a generation of curious consumers eager to seek out new wine experiences and to embrace a new wine world offering us new opportunities almost daily, a wine world I am trying to welcome and adapt to. I consider it all a positive.
But I would still like a Swiss Fendant with my fondue.OLDER POSTS »