The Poetry of Wine (a reflection)

I have recently been trying to make wine, with some success (baby steps). I’m definitely a neophyte (newbie), but I think it is interesting about why doing things from ‘beginning to end’ is so rewarding. For instance, why is growing your own tomatoes, or making your own bread so rewarding? I think that it is more than simply that fresh bread has an amazing taste (which it certainly does). There is a kind of magic that comes with making something yourself. Consider the process of making wine, cultivating a garden, writing a book, or building something with one’s own hands. There are staggering implications to this, in that there is a kind of poetry in rational activity. Indeed, ‘poetry’ comes from the Greek word poein, poiein ‘to make, create, compose.’

Consider the beauty and wonder in the process of making wine. It was Jesus’ first miracle, and it is something we can in a very real way to participate with nature. Is it directly ‘willing the grape into a fermented product’? No. But the process itself is a collaborative wonder between beings that grasp reality with their minds (us), and things in the world that grow, live, and are nourished in an interesting tapestry of interconnected parts. And this is only possible if there is a kind of fabric to reality, and that we are the kind of being that can grasp this fabric. Moreover, we can make and enjoy wine because of it (from the beginning of the process to the end).

How does this connect to wine? It may not connect directly to the grapes and the fermentation, and its specifics steps, but it certainly connects to what we think is in the activities of life itself. For instance, what if someone told you that life itself was a kind of magic? That behind the changing, impermanent, and frail world, there is an unchanging, transcendent, and invincible aspect of reality? Sound interesting? I think so, but I think these things because this seems to fit how reality actually is. It is interesting and magical…because it is true. Further, the fact that we can grasp the world with our minds, and then change the world with our will, is astonishing.

Not only is there beauty, and goodness in the world, but we actually can modify, adapt, and grow with the world. We can participate in the goodness of the world. With work, we can mix our minds and labor with the world. We can grow gardens. We can transform grapes into wine. We can recognize the fabric of reality with symbols like words and song and art. I can not only make wine from the cultivated life of grapes, but I can use it toast with my family to God, for not only making a tapestry of reality and life but also placing us within this tapestry.

I want to say that the fact that there is truth, beauty, and goodness in the world, and that this fact can be grasped by the mind, used through intelligent work, and our very souls can be on the side of goodness, gentleness, and justice, and these are aspects of living life (a good life, that is). That is, these are aspects of acting rationally, and believing things about the world in which we live, we actually participate in the real fabric of reality. Reality itself is a wonder, and though evil can rule the hearts of men, that horror may appear, and injustice may, for a time, appear inescapable, nevertheless, meaningfulness is basic to the very fabric of human life, and we can choose to love justice and mercy, and walk humbly with our God. That is, the starting point, the default position, of human life, is meaning. Adults, properly cultivated, grasp more of the wonder of life, not less. This should tell us something about how we parent and develop ourselves (if we lose the sense of wonder, something is amiss!) 

If this is not poetry, then it is hard to see what is. This small reflection is part of a larger project of mine, which is to bring together the otherwise disparate strands of human life together, in an exciting, and enriching philosophy. As a philosopher, I think of myself as not only as an academic that studies, but also as a kind of bard, that preserves and cultivates the goodness of all that life has to offer.

So, here’s to wine, which is a great symbol of joy (as was mead and beer in times past), and to the wonders of man’s ability to partake in the growing and cultivation of great things, through our intellect, hard work, and patience. Not only can we enjoy good things, but we can cultivate and understand a portion of the good things in life.

So, go create something, and know that the very fact that you can do so is a kind of poetry and magic. If you know there is magic in the activity, and have gratitude in your heart, then what could be more poetic? Have a glass of wine, and give thanks. We live in a tapestry of poetry.

Cheers – Sláinte – Prost

Here is a book to consider:

The Booklovers’ Guide To Wine: A Celebration of the History, the Mysteries and the Literary Pleasures of Drinking Wine

Here is some poetry of wine too:

A Drinking Song by William Butler Yeats

Wine comes in at the mouth

And love comes in at the eye;

That’s all we shall know for truth

Before we grow old and die.

I lift the glass to my mouth,

I look at you, and I sigh.

Heroic Poem In Praise Of Wine – by Hilaire Belloc (first seven lines)

To exalt, enthrone, establish and defend,

To welcome home mankind’s mysterious friend

Wine, true begetter of all arts that be;

Wine, privilege of the completely free;

Wine the recorder; wine the sagely strong;

Wine, a bright avenger of sly-dealing wrong,

Awake, Ausonian Muse, and sing the vineyard song!