I write about wine pretty much each day. I use the preposition “about” in the sense of covering all aspects of my encounter, from learning or regarding place, people, vines, and fashion. It remains a fool’s errand in that mastery of the topics embraced defy attempts to manage what one encounters or experiences.
Experiencing wine is drinking it. It cannot or should not be commodified into a weekend of balloon rides, candlelight dinners, oral sex, triathlon training or anything that runs interference between my wine of the moment and my responses to it—a compound of memory, refreshment, solace, and lore. All of the other is extraneous; desirable, romantic, lubricious, and hospitable, yes. Yet wine remains just wine, a fermented cluster of grapes for the most part, admirably handled to convey some impression of its benefits and character.
It is extraction, not abstraction.
I danced round the point in the prior post concerning the station master’s watch. Let’s think on it once more.
A railroad watch is faced by Roman numerals. That is a survival of an alternate collection of symbols that were superseded by Arabic numbers. The Roman digits replicate on the Waltham watch the divisions on a sun dial. Artifice came to imitate the course of the sun and manage the course in the sky by segmenting it.
What the watch represented was also a way to conquer time in the context of conquering space, which is what the miles of rails induced: complex variables of making sure trains using those same rails did not collide. The time zones we take for granted came from these developments and are learned without demur, thus belonging to our common perceptions of reality.
Now, when I make the V sign with my index finger and the companion middle finger, I am offering a symbol translated in some minds with peace, or with victory, or with an ironic reversal where a sign of amity means “read between the digits”, i.e., “go f**k yourself”.
And V also is the numeral five, which is implied in the span of a hand held up and facing palm out that adumbrates a mini series of V’s, comprised of four digits and a thumb. The open hand also is a salute of good will, since the hand is not holding a sword or a severed head. In other words it is open handed. And the hand expresses affinity. I am human.
This gets better. The hand itself is a unit of measure, as in computing the height of a horse to its withers. A foot, too, uses the same principle to express a measure of distance by the foot. We are again understanding reality in such a way that man is literally, the measure of things.
So hardwired are these habits that we learn their meaning and purpose from infancy.
Then, we are force-fed — or bludgeoned into accepting — numerical scores to remove all of the actual sense (and common sense) of our encounters with wine.
The homo sapien is by this moniker identified as a sapient, or thinking critter. We may better think of this thing as “homo calculissimo” — the critter who records and accounts all things in sums that, like railroad timetables, are segments. A train wreck avoided is a good thing. A wine rating system however, is just a train wreck.
The basic problem of numbers resides in the lesser-to-better, or greater-than to less-than ways we interpret them. That is, as first place is indicated by the number one, that would not make a good rating of a wine, where one hundred suggests perfection. Therefore, a 96-point wine, a score that seems to appear more frequently than ants at a picnic, is going to be “better than” a score on a wine of say, 90. This is the hierarchy at work.
Are you kidding?
I will campaign for an alternative to an illusory practice that too much entirely drives people away from wine as wine by reducing it to the V sign as two digits — but where knowing the score doesn’t really define or separate the ordinary from a superior wine.
As the emergent don in the Mario Puzo Godfather novels reminds us, “all business is personal.” And no number can assign the impressions and qualities that wines provide. False objectivity reduces wine to a gesture of respect. Kissing the ring leaves a bad aftertaste.
It is personal, and you are the Don. Respect starts at home; that is, the wine and you.
Bring your own gun.