For my senior project, I drink wine and I write about it. My homework is way better than your homework, but don’t get too jealous just yet.
I’ve been interested in wine for a long time (better not say how long, for legal purposes). However, it was this summer that my appreciation for the fermented grape went from knowing it was something I liked to drink to something more. I was lucky enough to apprentice at Oyster River Winegrowers, a horse-powered vineyard in mid-coast Maine. Grape harvest is in the fall, so before you ask: no, I did not mash any grapes with my feet and in fact did very little as far as what most people would consider winemaking. However, any wine grower will tell you that wine begins in the vineyard, and I spent a whole lot of time caring for those vines. It’s my hope that through my brief time working in the vineyards I had some small, positive impact on the outcome of the 2015 vintage.
I learned a lot about wine while at Oyster River, but what made the biggest impression on me was how much I still didn’t know. I had only just turned twenty-one when I went there, so naturally I knew next to nothing about wine except that the red kind was for some reason classier (or so I thought, and that’s absolutely not true). The more I talked to other people about my experiences, the more I realized how little anyone seems to know about wine. People much older than myself couldn’t tell me what was in a Bordeaux and a lot of them couldn’t even use a corkscrew the right way. People tend to make sweeping statements about wine – “I only drink red,” or “I don’t like wine from France” – and then once pressed to explain themselves, can’t come up with a single good reason why. This was fascinating to me, and I then realized that these behaviors comes from a place of deep-rooted insecurity. For some reason, there’s this expectation that we’re supposed to just magically know things about wine and if we don’t we’re all idiots. So in response, we fake it. We pretend to read wine labels and know what they mean when in reality we’re just picking something out because it has a cool picture on the front, or because the name is easy to pronounce.
Creating the blog Bacchanalian is my attempt to learn some of the fundamental things about wine that many people pretend to know, but they actually don’t. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t just sit around drinking wine all day (at least, not most days). There’s quite a bit of research that goes into it – you just try deciphering the twenty wine regions and 350 plus grape varieties of Italy without getting a headache. The thing is, when you actually begin to research wine, you end up unearthing the story of a whole country. I’ve learned more about European history through this project than I ever did in high school. Maybe they should start teaching Social Studies via a wine glass? I’m definitely going too far, but seriously – wine is fascinating in that the bottle you purchase is barely even the tip of the iceberg. Once you start to really look at it, you can learn about anything you want to, whether it be chemistry, history, culinary arts, or agriculture. It’s infinitely applicable.
“My only regret in life is that I did not drink more wine,” said Ernest Hemingway. I’m happy to say that, thanks to my studies, I will probably never have this regret, and I hope no one else does either. Don’t be like Hemingway – read my blog! Learn about wine! If you do, you might even find out what’s in a Bordeaux. Maybe you don’t care, and that’s okay too – if nothing else, I hope my stories embolden you to drink more wine and learn about the world through it.