The subject is so enormous that attempting to write generally about it is .......fruitless!
So - rather than try, I thought I would attempt to generalise around the theme of "philosophy" of wine and alcoholic beverages in general.
Even that is an enormous task, so I'm only going to give a few - of my own - and they are legion as well! For your general purposes, here is a link that may help you with questions about the subject:
Do you have any idea of the complex processes involved when an innocous liquid is transformed to what the Germans call "a Geist", what in English is called "Spirit" and what the French generally call "eau de vie"?
Such "spiritual" words for something which eventually makes your head turn, can kill you, can destroy basic body functions, tends to be expensive and ruinous, and turns normal people into raving lunatics in a very short space of time! Of course, over consumed, nothing is good for anyone, but few things work so quickly, and differently on people.
And yet....I have enormous respect for those people who devote their lives to producing such mysteries, putting it into bottles, and allowing us to partake of their discoveries.
I often reflect on the mentality of someone like the Irishman, Alfred HENNESSY, who spent most of his life in France, discovering, perfectioning, and experimenting with such things as Cognac.
Who, nowadays, would ever dream of putting a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of effort into products that are intended to be sealed up for anything up to a century, just to see what changes have happened.
Knowing full well that he would never know the answers, would never taste the changes, he called his creation "Paradise" - with good reason!
I've drunk it, in very small doses, because the price is utterly prohibitive, but I can honestly say that NEVER have I drunk such a nectar, so full of power, history and yet
so full of life. Visiting the storage area in the French town of Cognac, when you enter the enormous place, the first thing that "hits" you is the odour - of Paradise!
I could well imagine taking my final long sleep in such surroundings.
Cognac itself is full of charming legends, one of which speaks of the "Angels share" - a quantity of the liqueur Cognac, evaporating, which passes through the roofs and causes a sort of fungus or mushroom to grow on the roofs. Anything up to one third of every barrel is lost - This is called the "Angels share" (lucky Angels), but unfortunately turned out to be something else - an assistance for the Law to see, quite simply, from the nearby hill, WHERE illegal spirits were being made and stored!
I have respect also for people like the monk "Dom Perignon" who did not give up on the local, undrinkable wines of Champagne, until he had found the secret of double or secondary fermentation providing history, the present and us with CHAMPAGNE!
How many times did things explode in the monastery, and how often must he have been suspected of sorcery or even witchcraft, but - he continued.
Respect also for those people who, through history to our present day continue to develop and produce ever better wines, in all sorts of unlikely places.
Someone once said - "There is no such thing as bad wine".
Quite true - there is sour wine ("vin aigre" - vinegar), - sweet wine, dry wine, red, white, rosé wine, sparkling wine, still wine - but "bad wine" doesn't exist.
What does exist are our own personal tastes, and there is a wine for each one of them!
There are wines served badly, there are wines treated badly.....etc., etc., but there is no such thing as "bad wine", even though all wines are made basically from fouled grapes "pourritus noblus" - grapes we would never eat!
Respect also to whoever it may have been who thought he'd try them anyway, and discovered something extra ordinary!
The French author, Guy de Maupassant talks in one of his stories, about the Algerian servant to a French Officer in Algeria. This servant disappeared on a nightly basis and returned, drunk, every morning! Since alcohol was forbidden, everyone wondered where he got it from, then the discovery - in the wild grape area around the fortress - he ripped off grapes, stocks, leaves and all, fouled grapes with natural alcohol content! Thanks to the great names in viniculture and history, we don't have to go so far!
That's another mystery of it all.
Even the Austrians who tried to "upgrade" some of their cheaper wines to a higher category, and to a higher price, discovered that their "pansched wine" was later used (after they had been sent to prison) by the authorities to "de-frost" the frozen roads in the Alpine Republic in Winter, and it worked well, due to the anti-frost liquid they had put in the wine to make it sweeter and more commerciable! No such thing as "bad wine"!
Nowadays, of course, most of the industry is mechanised, automised, far fewer people physically work in the vineyards, and yet there are still the visionaries, who want to know what - if - why and when.
My philosophy is simple - if you don't respect something deserving respect then you are cheating yourself - nobody else!
Buying and storing away the "Grands Crus" simply shows off your possible wealth, your probable snobbism, and your definate lack of respect for a magical, mystical marvel.
Serving a wine wrongly, badly, incorrectly, without respect for its origins, without respect for its requirements is not only ignorance, but stupid! An expensive stupidity often.
Why serve a wonderful red Burgundy with the fish?
There are wonderful White Burgundies for that.
All you are doing is showing off your financial prowess, and your ignorance, to those you may wish to impress!
If you don't know what you're doing - don't do it - seek help- ask!
Another one of my "philosophies" which counts on the product being treated with respect, is based on the fact that wine is a "living product".
Wine bruises - did you know that?
Wine gets tired, like us, when we travel, and wine, like us, needs a period of rest and recuperation!
How often have you gone and bought a bottle of that so lovely wine - for consumption that very evening - and it was not nice...?
How often have you purchased on holiday, in quantity, the wine that was so delicious, sitting outside in the setting sun, and - on arrival at home, after anything up to 2 or 3 days in a car boot, tastes horrible.
All you wanted was a quick bottle to round off the holidays, at your own home, in the setting sun - after all - it's back to work tomorrow!
Yes - but you were tired, the wine was tired, the setting sun was on the TV screen, because outside it was pouring down.......
Try again in a couple of weeks time - the wine will be rested, reposed, ready to give of its best, you too, and - who knows - maybe the sun will really be there as well - for real!
Don't play with fire, appreciate its warmth and good factors, whilst respecting its powers and influence!
It's a tiny start on a massive subject, no doubt extendable, who knows......certainly never exhaustable!
iwmpop(mrlemarquis) - Vauvert, France - Sept/Octobre 2010