What Makes Wine Great—Reason #1

Wine is a commodity. The vast majority of wine released for sale every year is drunk casually and within hours or a few days of being purchased by consumers who bought the wine because it fit their budget and the label was pretty.

And yet, wine is also an important and permanent item among humanity’s small collection of enduring treasures. Ideas as to what it is about wine that puts it in this exclusive category are many, expressed by thoughtful folks more learned and passionate than I.

Still, here’s my explanation:

Take this wine:

It is entirely possible that this wine could be consumed and enjoyed fully 200 years after the vines that produced the grapes from which it was fashioned were planted.

Read that again.

Now, find me another consumable product that could so concretely represent and connect us to a time and place and culture otherwise untouchable.

This condition…this potential, places wine outside the context of tomato sauce, orange juice, beer, honey and soap. It places it in the same category as the pyramids, Mount Rushmore, the Acropolis or the Great Wall of China.

True, not every wine —not even 99% of wines—delivers this kind of wide historical marking, but the fact that wine can do this and the fact that wine has operated as a marker of time and place and culture and history is exactly what makes wine such an important cultural marker in humankind’s time traipsing upright across the earth.

It’s my view that those of us who believe in wine and sell wine and love wine must find a way to consistently communicate this unique and vital characteristic of the beverage. Communicated literally or in a nuanced way, the cultural and historical touchstone that is wine can and does motivate some of those people who buy wine merely because it’s wet and inebriates to investigate further and eventually become more ardent champions of wine. And this is a good thing in every respect.

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3 Responses

  1. Bruce susel - January 3, 2021

    A common term is “sell the sizzle, not the steak”. Congrats to all those making honest wine.

  2. Ray A Krause - January 4, 2021

    ” find me another consumable product”

    Soy Sauce

  3. Robert P Behlendorf - January 5, 2021

    The fact that wine ages and is potentially drinkable at some future date is definitely a characteristic worth noting. Whether or not the future wine drinker actually relates to the period of production is somewhat problematic. Having recently opened some inexpensive bottles from the 1980s that were still positive drinkability makes the 99% generalization also problematic. Did I remember the 1980s as I drank in 2020? The real issue is that, for whatever reason, today’s wine customer drinks now and, thus, removes aging from the discussion. A possible remedy, rather expensive though, would be to buy two bottles, one to consume now and one to put away. For how long? 5 to 10 years for reds, less for whites, which really do not age successfully. If you can afford it, go for it, otherwise drink now and forget the future.


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