Essay

Civilization and Wine

A world without viniculture is not a world I would prefer to live in. The world does present a choice of life with wine or life without wine. Perhaps if I had never had wine, this question might not come up. I do know Italians and Frenchmen for whom wine holds no special place, has no special merit, does not preoccupy their notions of what is civilized and what makes up an advanced civilization. This Franco-Italo-American is not now of them; my father, Italo-Ameerican was also not one of these fro whom wine held no special place. I had heard a French woman, an older woman, perhaps at the time nearing two decades older than I was–she was waitress in a bistro here in Manhattan owned by a friend of a sister of a friend (as if that were not convoluted), and she used to say, the words I have herein stated I had heard, “If you drink only wine, you will live to ninety; if you drink only water, you will die at 53.” I used to raise my glass with the broadest of smiles and salute her with a big gulp.

I know that Muslim proscriptions against alcohol would prevent me from converting to Islam, even on pain of death. I would prefer to die a martyr in the cause of western civilization and the place of viniculture in that civilization than be a Muslim. This is not a condemnation of the religion. It is an assertion of who I am, or what I am, or how I identify myself. I am not a winter, although I wish I could be; I am not a wino, nor any other variation of alcoholic, but I could drink wine every day, and believe I should drink wine every day, although I regretfully do not. I would need to live in Italy or France to be able to do this? No, I do not believe this. I would drink wine with lunch more often if American employers did not have sticks up their asses as far and as uncomfortably as they seem to here.

I am of Italian and French ancestry, so I allow myself to think I have a special connection to the development of viniculture in Europe. I am also Catholic and understand that it was the Catholic monks that preserved most of the knowledge from antiquity, including viniculture; themselves developing the art and the craft further. Most of our botany and knowledge of herbs and agriculture comes from the monks too. I do understand that there must be many Italians and French for whom their tongues are  stuck up their asses when it comes to appreciating good wine. I know that not every Italian can cook. Not every Frenchman, let’s say, drinks wine and appreciates wine. I do know Frenchmen for whom drinking wine is a patriotic duty. I know too many Americans who also have their tongues up their asses–far many more than there should be–when they are supposed to be discerning good food and good wine. But this is no never mind to what I know, what I have understood, what I appreciate and will continue to appreciate for as long as I live, because to live without wine is not to live but survive, and survival is not living. The etymology of each should tell you how. To survive is, as it is in French, sur/vivir, beyond living. To survive is to be beyond living, to live not being possible and certainly being something other than merely surviving.

I will rise and go now, go now to the liquor store to buy a bottle of Cahor I have not had in too long–the Cahor, not wine in itself.

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