Guest Post by Laszlo Kovari
As we go from south to north we come across wine nations, beer nations and of course spirit nations. Wine consumption however is growing globally, including in beer and spirit nations and as a result of this, the wine selection is getting wider in all major super and hypermarkets.
People buy cheap wine, expensive wine, and wine in between. Wine lovers are well educated: they pronounce merlot, sauvignon, pinot appropriately, they are aware which are the native grapes in particular regions; some of them are even aware of what years were the best in which regions; so wine buyers are clear on the price value of a particular bottle of wine.
They perceive the wine on sale to be just as irresistible as Nike shoes, LV bags, or other products on sale. More or less this is the case when people are browsing at the wine section of Tesco, Lidle, Loblaws, or other denominations.
Wine has become a product, like sneakers, shaving blades, Hilti rock-drill, and other practical products. The fields of applications are also well defined:
– I am going somewhere, gotta bring something
– Someone’s coming, gotta have something
– for movies
– for dinner
– everybody’s favorite: intimate times
– for conversations
– for forgetting, for celebrating
– for parties
– for closing business deals
– etc. etc. etc.
By “gaining” function, wine has degraded to the level of consumer goods. Since the mass views decline as progress, I should probably say: wine has advanced to the consumers’ goods category.
This has not always been like this. Like everything that has anything to do with luxury, wine is not “goods” or products. The “luxury goods” category from this point of view is an oxymoron.
According to the definition, I propose: luxury is a field that has no practical considerations; to put it differently: it’s not bound by (practical, inferior) conditions; we could also say: it’s independent, which is in analogy with superiority.
When looked at from below, the superior is always luxurious. It’s likely that the expression “luxus” originates from “below”, since luxus, as a “surplus” may only be perceived as such from an inferior position; from a superior position this “extra” is integral, natural.
One who surrounds himself with luxury goods while he builds a career, “serves” clients, etc., and perhaps makes such statements like he likes luxury or that he leads a luxurious lifestyle, is in a grave contradiction. This is true also when one backs up such a statement with something like:
I only buy Mercedes because I can relate to the philosophy of striving for perfection. Coming up with ideas for this may occasionally birth very funny statements, which however are meant dead seriously at the time:
– I am a princess so I deserve royal treatment: the only brand that is appropriate for this is Prada, Gucci, etc.
– “a BMW is like a predator in a suit (someone with more imagination may go as far as specifying: like a cheetah, a panther, or a lion), EXACTLY LIKE ME!”
It’s typical of the sometimes downright stupid “business thinking” that they seriously ask questions like if you were a car, what brand would you be; or which brand expresses your working/leadership/personality type the most.
To summarize before we move on: the luxury industry is the mass’ perception about the style elements of superiority.
Back to the wine.
Wine is not a product. It’s also obvious that it didn’t become from “below” so to speak. It was not an highly observant ape man who accidentally started to grow grape, and then accidentally left it to ferment, etc. I don’t want to continue because it wouldn’t be worthy of applying inferior speculations (how it was discovered, “invented”, etc.) to things like wine.
Wine was not invented, it is a natural phenomenon. Conceptually, in relation to certain principles, wine had always existed even before its manifestation. If certain conditions are present on the manifest plane, wine will also appear.
The creation of conditions for its manifestation was a ritual, whereby one “plays” with time from a “position” (of creation) “above” or “before” time, just like in metallurgy, where man eliminates time as it relates to the ore in earth thereby accelerating the manifestation of the potentially existing metal (see Eliade: Forgerons et alchimistes)
To elaborate on the ritual of bringing the wine from potentialities to actuality is not relevant here. Much more interesting is the ritual of knowing the wine through tasting it (by no means CONSUMING it).
The birthplace wine is obviously very important; grapes native to a particular region are prerequisites for (near) perfect wine since it is not by blind chance that it is precisely this type of grape that is native to a particular region. Shiraz from Australia may be without a doubt tasty, but by no means may it become perfect.
Today of course this kind of “mixing” is pervasive and it is driven mostly by marketing. “Shiraz has been incredibly hot this year”. “Last year the Australians made a killing in the “shiraz-merlot” segment, etc. …and the marketing guys are thinking (or not): why is cabernet-shiraz more popular than shiraz merlot?
When it comes to the masses there’s nothing to think about: the stronger the taste the more popular the wine. The more unsophisticated the (person’s) taste, the stronger the taste (of wine) must be.
This is probably the foundation of the popularity of Chinese fast food as well.
To keep it short, just the bottom line:
The basic rules of tasting wine:
– get to know the wine where it appears: go there
– before getting to know the wine more intimately, explore the area, talk to the locals, taste their food with their own regional spices, try their water, notice the smell of air, etc.
– it is incredibly important that you get introduced to the wine by the grower personally, in the cellar, preferably straight from the barrel. The grower will tell you about the history of the cellar and the family, about the wine you’re tasting, about the harvest conditions that year, about everything.
All these are part of the conditions facilitating manifestation so they are incredibly important from the point of view of getting to know the wine appropriately.
It is easy to see that the grower is not introducing a product.
It’s about a principle thing so about something that transcends both the grower, the guest, and the wine; it integrates the grower, the wine (together with the area, the people there, local food, drinks, history, etc.) and the guest (pilgrim) into an indivisible unity the center of which is perfection that in this particular moment manifests itself as wine.
An uplifting experience.
Of course, after such an introduction you bring home a couple of bottles. It’s important to note that the price given by the grower is symbolic and not subject to negotiation. The indicated price may be influenced by to what degree the feeling of indivisible unity has been actualized during the introduction. Sympathy may play a role, but not necessarily. The price must be accepted.
When one opens the wine at home he gets only a pale reflection of the original experience; in a way, he just relives the memory; but this pale, reflective memory is still incomparably better than picking up a bottle at Tesco (Loblaws, whatever); the only thing we can learn from such a wine is aromas, smell, %’s, a year that is nothing more than a number, etc. This means that we actually don’t know the wine we’re drinking and our relationship with it is purely physical.
Instead of shopping in supermarkets we must go and get to know wines personally, the right way.
Since the nature of wine is contrary to that of business, the wine business corrupts wine. The only way of preventing the inevitable decline is that we at the very least maintain personal contact with select growers and since trade is impossible to eliminate, we conduct wine trade in a fashion that corresponds with the nature of wine.
Illustration: Pieter Claesz, Still Life around wine glass, 1627, Mauritshuis, The Hague Holland
Copyright Laszlo Kovari 2010