Wine is a luxury of being home.
Sure, I have my cellar in my home and I am writing this sitting on the front porch of my home while sipping the remains of the 2008 Tercero Grenache Blanc Camp 4 that I opened yesterday (it has only gotten better!). We share simple family meals with a glass of wine, or have extravagant dinner parties where wine and fellowship are shared in abundance. But that’s not my point.
Wine is not the product of nomads. It takes years for a newly planted grapevine to produce enough fruit to make wine. The vines need tending, the fruit needs harvesting, and the juice needs a place to undergo its transformation into wine. Fermentation, racking, aging, bottling, storing — these are all activities that require settlement. One of the markers that researchers and archeologists use to determine when bands of people moved from wandering to being settled is the presence of viticulture and winemaking.
Certainly wine (of sorts) can be made by nomads who find fruit, pick it, crush it, and allow natural fermentation to happen as they continue along their journey. But viticulture, growing grapes to produce wine, simply can’t be done on the move.
In the Biblical story of the flood (with Noah and the ark), one of the first things Noah was instructed to do when the water receded was to plant a vineyard. Those vines were a strong symbol that Noah and his kin were no longer displaced; they were now home.
The implications of wine being a product of settlement, security, having a “place” and land, are many and rich.
While I will no doubt wax on profusely about all of this at another time, I want to end here by suggesting a connection between this concept and one of my newest favorite wineries: Saarloos & Sons. They are making some wonderful wines and serve them in this home built in 1886 which they call simply, “House.”
Each of the wines that Keith Saarloos (son) makes is connected to stories of home — stories from the vineyards where the wines had their birth as well as stories of family and ancestors whose memories and legacies are captured and honored in the naming of their bottlings. Their family creed says it all: “We live to honor those that have come before us, and to prepare the way for those yet to come.” An example of their somewhat odd wine naming is their “Purper Hart.” Not a misspelling. It’s the Dutch translation of “Purple Heart.” The wine (an amazing Syrah) honors John Saarloos, a member of their family who received the Purple Heart for his service in WWII.
These wines, and all wines, are connected to the land, to the people who make them, and to those who delight in drinking them.
You see… it’s about home.