Books have been written about it, movies have been filmed, but what makes people go crazy about wine? Some will say it’s all about alcohol and getting loaded, but that’s just hater talk. If you are older than 25 you most likely know there’s more to it. Put together everything written about all other alcoholic beverages on one side and wine literature on the other, and I’m certain the latter pile would be bigger… or at least as big. Why?
The appeal of wine caught me by surprise. After spending some 30ish years on this planet without any real interest in wine, the idea that it would become such an important focus of mine it would actually shape my career seemed ludicrous. Food was always my focus so it wasn’t strange my career in tourism and hospitality at one point lead me to restaurant management. It was at this time I’ve found myself nervous about my lack of knowledge when it comes to wine. To make matters worse, southern Croatia (my home) is known as a wine producing region. Wine drinking is a part of the local culture and identity. It was becoming clear I needed to get my butt in gear and start learning the ropes when it comes to wine.
At first, it was mainly going over the basics needed to be able to do my job well and not much more. Over time, there were more and more different wines and different styles that needed to be tried, food pairings that needed to be tested and the process was getting increasingly interesting. To cut a long story short, I became enamoured by the diversity and nuances of wine, so much so that I ended up opening a tour company focused mostly on wine tours after my successful but short restaurant management stint. After learning more and going through the first three WSET levels my fascination grew and now it seems interest in wine is one of the rare constants in my life, growing evermore.
What’s so special about? I think the answer becomes very apparent when you are living in (or visiting) a truly traditional wine region. You get to talk to people whose families spent centuries toiling away in the vineyards on steep slopes. They took care of grapevines that were scorched by powerful sun, bent by strong winds, or frozen solid by bursts of cold. All this effort was made to ultimately try and concoct this crazy beverage that in its core holds the expression of the soil, record of the climate conditions and aromas of dozens of other fruits, herbs, or spices. It is the ultimate synergy of man and nature. True nectar of the Earth.
From a purely gastronomic point of view it is even more amazing. When correctly chosen, wine is a perfect accompanying piece for pretty much any food. It can elevate an average meal to new heights. Certain foods can reveal an entirely new side of a wine you already know, making it taste differently or bringing certain characteristics of it to the forefront.
At the end of the day, let’s not forget one role wine plays in our lives better than anything else. It is a social lubricant of the highest order. Wine today is not a necessity (for most people). We get the most out of it in social situations. Whether it’s sharing a meal with a loved one, getting together with friends over a charcuterie platter, or meeting colleagues after work. It enables us to connect with each other, make friends, find lovers.
Wine has so many faces and every single one is beautiful. It can be as delicate or as powerful as nature itself. So, yeah… it really is special. Even if you don’t like drinking it.