How can fine wine and all its inherent trappings be so extraordinarily compelling? It is a fair question, don’t you think? Archaeological evidence from Iran’s mountains suggests wine production and consumption have remained perpetual threads in our human fabric for 5,100 years; as if humans need wine. What about fermented grape juice makes it so alluring whereby it mimics eternal physiological dependence on oxygen, water, and nutrients?
Simple personal matters float these kinds of questions. Why have I been writing about wine every week for four years now? What is it about a wine cellar’s development that consumes my attention and spirit? Have I submitted to the trivial by allowing a beverage to dominate so many hours of introspection, education, and immersion? How does the pop of a cork and a swirl-and-a-sniff turn transcendental?
The questions cascade. How can I spend so many Saturdays floating around wine shops and weekday hours carousing on the Internet’s commercial, content, and social wine sites? Why are there 30 corkscrews in my kitchen drawer, two dozen wine totes littering my closet, rows of decanters strewn across dining room buffets, spent treasured bottles lined up like soldiers on living room shelves, wine label posters adorning bathroom walls, and 200 different wine glasses overflowing onto my home’s dining room cupboards, shelves, and floors?
Is this a frivolous picture of “wine gone wild” or a fanaticism substantiated by basic human need?
This December, my 53rd on earth and 27th as wine votary, the question of its place in human culture and, more reflectively, my own life is ruminating. I checked into Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy to search for any indication that wine enthusiasm holds a spot inside his stratified theory about human need.
With some validation and even greater intellectual fascination, I discover drivers for my own wine enthusiasm in each of Maslow’s stratas except its “Physiological” foundation layer. The fact wine instigates physiological function in very tangible ways has only distracted my search for answers. We certainly don’t drink wine to breath, quenching hunger or thirst is weak sustenance for life long wine fanaticism, ok…maybe sex, organs win over wine in homeostatic contests, and excretion is more byproduct than enticement. While drinking wine creates noticeable physical sensation, there is little support from the physiological layer for any human need for wine.
Moving up the pyramid is a different story. There is safety and security in wine. I often consider the link between regular consumption and health benefits. Advanced wine knowledge gave me an edge in successful business entertaining and deal making inside professional fields I have been employed in. Family vignettes including wine and food generate conviviality and openness that seem to deepen our connection with each other. Wine as safety? Really?
Love and belonging ring true. Some of my tightest friendships have been formed around a shared love of wine. Sexual intimacy is enhanced by wine.
Moving closer to the pyramid’s pinnacle deepens a new understanding of my own human need for wine enthusiasm. Self esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, and respect by others; a symphony of meaning behind my commitment to wine. Expertise generates self esteem and confidence, achievement turns tactile receiving acknowledgement for personal proficiency, and all that education and dexterity around wine earns respect, while my own respect for far more advanced wine enthusiasts than me is amplified by their mastery.
Doesn’t all of this support self actualization? Aren’t they engendering dynamics coloring morality and buffeting the mind’s freedom to create, solve problems, and remain spontaneous? Can’t wine’s connections with these supporting layers of human need feed a more level playing field devoid of prejudice and stereotype?
Admittedly, the lofty tinge to these arguments could trigger discomfort and provoke accusations of balderdash. Just think about the passions that form your own self actualization. Push aside the unfortunate snobbery that can be tagged to wine enthusiasm. For me, the answers to my compulsion with wine education and immersion are unearthed in Maslow’s hierarchy.
Now that I believe its not all about the warm blanket of those trivially good wine buzzes, I think I will keep writing about wine every week.