The other night, while swirling and sniffing my “winter red” and gazing into the flickering flames in my fireplace, I began to fantasize about wine’s origins; by whom and how it might have been first encountered. No doubt, some leathery, sun-baked Paleolithic person had some part in its discovery. I have this mind’s eye image of a brutish, hairy dude looking into a hollowed out, gnarled gourd that holds the remnant seeds, skins and fermented juice of some primitive vitis vinifera berries.
And as any matriarchal, cave dweller worth her fleur de sel would do, she most likely gave it a few quick, investigative sniffs, flicked her tongue into it to confirm safe and acceptable flavors, and then after taking a tentative sip, closed her eyes in pensive rumination.
“I don’t mean to be negative, Clyde, but I think it’s rather one dimensional. It has a pale color, simple aroma and a high acid profile. It’s rather Noveau. But having said that, I think with it’s engaging minerality, it might work quite well with tonight’s tuber tartar and braised field greens, especially when it cools down to cave temperature.”
“You know, Precious, I think you’re on to something. It might also pair well with that Beetle Paste you made the other day.”
“Pâté, My Big Strong Lover Man, It’s called Pâté.”
Not withstanding the above, I imagine that wine’s first dress rehearsal was not particularly exciting. It was most likely “lean, mean, and green,” and that’s probably being charitable. And how mankind was later able to craft it into such a beautifully balanced beverage of palate pleasing aromas and flavors is a feat worth celebrating.
But just as Man’s first non-water hole beverage of consuming interest—malt liquor—later to be known as beer, was initially domesticated for one particular reason, so to was wine’s primitive antecedents. Of course, you know of what I speak: The Buzz, the altered state of mind and euphoric bliss that created romantic nights near the Mesopotamian marshes and dreamy snoozes on their prehistoric Duxiana beds of pelts, leaves and twigs.
Paleolithic man may have downed it with the day’s hunting and foraging bounty, but he more than likely looked forward to his periodic, relaxing quaff for quite another reason.
“Is it cocktail hour yet, Precious?”
You, however, as a modern and enlightened Homo Sapien, have embraced wine for a different reason. You’re aware that a small glass of wine, every now and then, (health issues aside), is even more desirable than none at all. You know that in moderation and always with food, wine has health giving qualities that even your family physician, if you nudge him or her, will likely acknowledge. So, in this New Year with blessings all around us, pull the cork with friends and family and enjoy one of Mother Nature’s finest gifts.