On his blog, On the Wine Trail in Italy, my pal Alfonso Cevola had written about sommeliers who take themselves too seriously. The discussion had been intelligent and thoughtful, and included the final comment: “And anyways Wine is a luxury, you don't need it to survive. Its a cash crop its made to make money. Its not food.”
Which made me wonder: Is that true? Is it a luxury?
I’m not a sociologist, and I try to avoid those sorts of discussions here. But the question is worth asking, because it says a lot about how we see ourselves. It’s quite true that I don’t need wine to live; water will do. But life (and dinner) would be awfully dull without wine.
The novelist Clyde Edgerton has a good take on all this in Raney, about a rural southern Baptist girl named Raney who marries an Atlanta Episcopal boy named Charles. And, as Raney describes it:
Charles has got me to sip his white wine at the Ramada a few times — to show me how much better it makes the food taste. One night I tried a whole glass. Just to make the food taste better because it can make the food taste some better, depending on what you’re eating. Thursday night when we stopped by the store I’d had two glasses. For the first time. I don’t think I’ll ever do it again, and I shouldn’t have then. I can’t decide what I think about it exactly. It does make the food taste some better.
Which it does, actually.