According to the ancient Greeks, wine was created by a god, Dionysus, who was believed to use fermentation in order to penetrate into grapes and, consequently, into us mortal beings, filling us with the pleasure of inebriation. However, I recently visited Sicily, and when I look back at the landscapes unfolding in front of my eyes, and recall the combined scents of vineyards, citrus and olive groves, I have no doubt: wine is the work of Man, or better, Woman and Man.
The gentle hills of Menfi, a small town in the province of Agrigento, are lined with vineyards that seem to have drawn up an alliance with the African sea washing the golden sand of these shores. This is a part of Sicily that is relatively unknown to mass tourism and its natural modesty only increases its charm. It is here, among orchards, groves, ancient fortified farms and temples that the grape vine blooms, blessed by the quality of the soil, the heat of the sun and the breeze from the sea. I found myself wandering slowly among these hills, treading quietly so as not to disturb the rhythmic pace of the farmers working in the vineyards, enveloped by the green canopy looming over them, while the tractors full of grapes obediently tow the harvest away. In the presence of these rituals one can easily divine what the Greeks thought: in the hands of Man, vineyards become spiritual beings.
From the vineyards to the farmers’ homes, to end up in front of a glass of wine, listening in reverent silence to the wise words of the sommelier. And everything, once again revolves around Wine. Wine tasting, in my humble opinion, is more of an art than a technical skill. In front of a glass of Syrah Petit Verdot or an Alicante Bouschet, the notes of peach blossom and passion fruit characterizing the former wine, together with the scents of cherry and mixed berried, typical of the latter, always evoke lyrics and poems. I venture into the thoughts and emotions that every sip of wine induces, finding myself in some sort of a reverie: is Wine not like a poem, a picture, a piece of music? Does it lead you to inner depths, helping you scrutinize your feeling and memories, like Proust’s madeleines, or does your train of thoughts bring you to look at the outer world, and your reactions towards it?
While the professional sommeliers perform ritual gestures, and the oenologist talks away, for a moment I let my mind wander. And I thing of a book by Roger Scruton, I Drink Therefore I am: A Philosopher’s Guide to Wine (2009). Like this audacious philosopher in love with Chablis, I believe that wine is a channel of communication between God and Man, the rational soul and the animal. Through Wine, the distilled essence from the soil seems to flow into the veins, awakening the body to its life, and having swamped the body, it sweetly invades the soul. Gently pushed onward by a scented sip, thoughts race, feelings break free and words start to dance. Even in silence. Because it is the inner voice that speaks. It is as if Wine reminded the soul of its bodily origin and the body of its spiritual meaning. Hence we should welcome the pleasantness that mollifies logic, the inebriating feeling that does no harm but only inspires. Indeed, we should not confuse inebriation, which is like eroticism, with drunkenness, which is more like pornography.
Is Wine not close to poetry, and its tasting an Art? Therefore, that Syrah with its peach blossom notes brings me back to green hills diving into the African sea, and that Alicante with its mixed berries aroma brings me back to the welcoming smiles of the farmers in Menfi. Or maybe, it is just Dionysus who has entered into my soul while I am sipping my wine, and is subliming me with his divine, yet earthly thoughts…
Recommended book, accompanied by a glass of good wine: I Drink Therefore I am: A Philosopher’s Guide to Wine (2009), by Roger Scruton
Pictures by Luigi Caricato. Sculptures present at Podere provinciale Cantina di Laimburg