The Cardinal Rule of Wine Appreciation
I've been thinking about the meaning of this disastrous state of mind. I've been thinking about the necessity of assuming the next day or next wine will be better than the last. I've concluded that despite past disappointments or even the experience of soaring wines and seemingly unparalleled moments, if we don't assume these things and moments can be eclipsed by what's to come, then we might as well choose to start phoning in our lives.
I've drunk great wines. Old wines. Rare wines. Wines at their peak. I've drunk 30 vintages of the same wine in the very cellar within which they were all crafted. I've many times exclaimed, "this must be the best X I've ever tasted." And yet I can't bring myself to say I've tasted the best wines I'll ever taste any more than I could claim in some morbid Fitzgeraldian mood that my best years are behind me. To do either would be to give up…on everything.
But the hard part about taking this philosophical approach to one's wine tasting life is to actually believe it. To simply state it, as I have above, is merely an expression of the value and necessity of optimism. To truly believe the next wine will be the best or the next day will be better than the last or that the greatest time or greatest love of my life is in my future is to choose to embrace the primary approach to life necessary to be a true and well-rewarded wine geek: That progress is real and good.
Imagine the winemaker who believes his best wines are behind him. Would you trust his wines? Would you trust him to make the right decisions about barrel aging, bottling dates, blending trials or anything else? If you knew he believed the past could not live up the future or even the present, is there any reason to believe he'd be willing to put his full effort into the production of these "not ever as good wines"?
You'd be startlingly dumb to put any faith in the works of such a person, as you would their wines.
The optimistic belief in progress can't possibly be replaced by the opposing philosophy of despair without also embracing mistrust. If the winemaker doesn't believe he'll ever make a better wine than he already has or if the wine critic believes the best wines ever made were crafted in the past or if the wine aficionado believes either of these propositions, then you know that mistrust is lurking about.
This isn't just an observation by a wine blogger with too much time on his hands. This obvious call to live under a cloud of optimism where wine loving and simple living is concerned occurs at a time when, upon reflection of things past and things present, I realize that the joys of wine, life, love and family are actually more easily experienced than I recently believed.
Furthermore, I realized that holding the belief that that the next best wine is just down the road is surely the only way to encounter that wine.
Not being much of a religious man I don't put much faith in faith. But neither do I possess the kind of arrogance to declare that faith in things unseen is a pathology. The next best wine is, by definition, not in front of you. It doesn't yet exist until it is actually in your mouth and melting your tongue into a state of bliss. Nor is the heart melting, life-long love of your life or the life affirming presence of familial and fraternal bliss really at your disposal and a real thing until you've run into it head first.
Though I'm sure and I know that all these things are possible, the irony is that without an optimistic faith in their arrival on your palate or in your life, they cannot be encountered.
And so it appears that the cardinal rule of wine appreciation, and even of the appreciation of your own life, is to have faith and believe that the best wine and the best life is just down the road.
Don't mistake this blogger's little epiphany as a restatement of "the grass is always greener" philosophy. That's not what this is. It's not that because the question that must follow the Cardinal rule of wine appreciation and life is this: when your optimistic faith finally does puts you in touch with tongue-melting bliss or your life-long love or the unparalleled moment of fraternal and familial love, what can a person with a faith in the goodness of progress do to keep their encounter with perfection part of their life while continuing to move forward in anticipation?