You cannot make wine without crushing the grapes... I came upon this saying probably long before I even knew what wine was. It is a nice, popular way of living with the acceptable amount of violence that the family, school, government, etc. bring to us. It was later on when I learned that wine itself is an even more wonderful way of dealing with school, family, the government. This fragrant, sunny escape that has been drawing its followers through all the centuries of human civilization, wobbling merry and joyful after Dionysus’s thyrsus. In vino veritas said the Romans while the Christians – at least those who were lucky to escape from the lions of those same Romans – identifi ed the blood of the Son of God with wine and with His words: „The truth shall set you free”. The simple historical and logical link between the two phrases ends with: „Wine shall set you free”. And as with every other freedom this one requires a lot of hard work and suff ering. Wine production is really one of the crowns of civilization – it is not vital for the survival of the human race but at the same time vines need at least seven years to grow and the production process of a descent wine takes a minimum of one year. Painstaking labor and passion for something that serves the spirit more than the body. A good wine can be compared to a good book, a painting, a symphony... It has its syntax, its colors and fl avors, its harmony. And just like every piece of art it is strongly contextual blending in itself history, culture, nature, customs... The name Chateauneuf-de-Pape is not merely a wine from the Rhone valley, it stands for 600 years of glamorous European history. But how many people know that almost until the mid 60’s Austria and Italy literally fought for South Tyrol not for some principles or history but for the excellent wine that is made on the southern slopes of the Alps? The rhytons and craters that we fi nd in the Thracian tombs are actually from Shiraz, Persia, while the New World returned to the map of good taste not only with its freedom and nature but mostly with its wine... And so on, and so on. This is not a history textbook but a guide to good taste. Wine literacy is compulsory. It shows that you are a person who is not merely surviving but is capable of showing interest in and appreciating this incredible substance that binds spirit and nature, body and soul. I go back to my pre-wine years when the very original poet Marko Ganchev who chose to trick the communist regime with what seemed to be children’s poems, made me laugh with this quatrain that I quote as I remember it:
The Rubaiyat - why praise the wine like God
since it is bread that feeds the lot?
Because when old wine is like gold,
but bread is stale when it is old.
And since they feed us with bread so stale
The Rubaiyat tells for wine a fairy tale.
The opposition and the unification of bread and wine are among the most ancient harmonies of human civilization that even Christianity could not erase and has chosen to make it part of its mythology and worship. The staleness of life can be overcome when we dip the hard bites of fate into fragrant wine. If the world was such a wonderful place we wouldn’t be born screaming but then our grandmothers invented the wine dip to ease these screams... and the priest treats us with His flesh and blood after the communion as a symbol that we are still a part of His herd, together in good and bad days... Marko Ganchev made me love both Omar Khayyam and wine and I end this introduction with a quote of the poet:
O love, before death comes to make our bed.
Drink wine, red wine, red as the rose is red,
Our bodies are not gold that we should hope
For men to dig us up when we are dead
Yes. The end of our journey is known but every journey needs guides and in your hands you hold one of the best guides combining the spiritual and the material, dust and heavens, meaning and pleasure. Consume...but be informed!
Lyuben Dilov Jr.