Another Friday Ramble – Get Your Hands Dirty

15 Nov

SaintChinian4I’ve talked about my time growing up and slaving away in various agricultural endeavours. I’m not pretending that “my back still aches when I hear the word.” (First non-Canadian reader to get that phrase’s origin wins a “WOW!”). But, it carries some nostalgia for me. I started this wine writing thing a while back (3 1/2 years actually – time flies when you permanently have a bit of a buzz on) and it’s taken me until now to understand something that should have been obvious to me – most of us know very little about agriculture – perhaps the most important business in our world. Correct that – THE most important business in our world! Let me tell you how I arrived at this conclusion and what the hell it has to do with wine writing – bear with me. I may wander a bit but I’ll get there. BTW, it is called a ramble!

Part of my J-O-B is reading stuff about wine. I know; it’s hard work. The people I like to read are much like me (I kid) but with more street cred and way more knowledge, in most cases – bloggers, professional reviewers, critics, writers, winemakers, sommeliers, etc. And despite these many knowledgeable writers, there seem to be many of them that had never worked in a field before they took up the challenge of getting to know wine. Not like, I want to work in the field of aeronautics. But, actually had never walked through a field doing something that contributed to the production of foodstuffs, including wine. I know this because they tell me. I’ve frequently bill murrayread of their participation in harvest, pruning, etc. It can be revelatory for them the first time and as Bill Murray said in Scrooged, “Once you have it; you’ll get greedy for it.”  It seems to connect them to the product in a different, more profound way as we would imagine it should. I’m not suggesting we don’t know in our heads what’s up. I just mean that we get a stronger connection to our food when we get our hands dirty.

suzukiI saw David Suzuki speak at a Build Green conference a few years back. He spoke of the urbanization of the world and how this intensification helped the earth but also how it challenged a better understanding of the earth, the environment, the stewardship of the earth that he maintains everyone should take up. He gave an anecdote of children in a school where he spoke who, almost to a child, couldn’t describe how tomatoes were created – where they came from – what they looked like outside of a supermarket bin – had ever seen a tomato plant! He spoke of people who started their car in the garage in the morning, drove across town into an underground parking garage, took the elevator to their office, ate at their desk, took the elevator down to their car and drove home to park in, you guessed it, their attached garage – never to venture out on many days of the year. How can anyone understand how important the whole world is when their immediate environment is comfort controlled? How hard it is then to convince people that they need to take it easy on Mother Earth, appreciate life outside our personal bubble. And, by extension, how can anyone truly understand wine when they haven’t touched a vine, got their hands dirty, smelled the earth, sorted bunches, stolen Concord grapes while driving (we called it “crop touring” and, yes, it did involve alcohol) through a field at 3 in the morning. What I mean is how much better understood food is, when you’ve worked on the land – wine is, when you’ve worked in a vineyard. We intuitively know this, I think – we are attracted to buying locally, get excited about farm-to-table restaurants.

I also reflect on this at this time of year because of all the Tweets from winegrowers that I follow. Pictures of harvest, sorting through the night, stained hands, and the celebration of this time of year – a new vintage is about to be. We are about to taste what 2013 brought us. And, it makes me want to work on next year’s vintage.

I’m just sayin’ that we can all appreciate wine equally. But, if we really want to understand wine better, we need to visit wineries seasonally, talk to grape farmers, talk to winemakers, walk the vineyards. And, if you can – take an internship at harvest, and/or in Niagara pick ice wine grapes – just get out of the frigging city and experience what local really means. It doesn’t happen while you’re sitting in a bistro or wandering a farmer’s market – it’s already happened by the time you get there. Of course, wine might be alchemy, chemistry, art. But first and foremost, wine is food. It’s groceries, man! Go get some at a local winery!

Lecture over – time to go rake my leaves.

6 Responses to “Another Friday Ramble – Get Your Hands Dirty”

  1. talkavino November 15, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    That picking of the frozen grapes sounds very tempting! I wish I would live a little closer for that type of endeavor…. That aside, I agree that often people just don’t get an idea of how and where all those foods are coming from, and how important it is to be nice to the Mother Earth…

  2. marty November 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    So have you applied for a job to work the winery fields?? You strike me as a good picker!!

  3. thefoodandwinehedonist November 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    I’m due for another trip to Niagara wine country… I’ll conveniently leave my work gloves at home.

  4. Red Wine Diva November 15, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    What a fun rant! The thoughts of people not understanding where their food comes from boggles my mind! I think everyone should have their own herb garden and grow tomatoes, make a meal from scratch instead of a box. Then pair that kind of goodness with a great wine!!!

    • Duff's Wines November 15, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

      Couldn’t agree more. Hope the project is going well. You’ll need some ‘local’ stuff on the menu.
      When I was in Italy this year, it struck me how simple the food was. Simple, made with pride and anchored to the spot I found myself in.

  5. armchairsommelier November 16, 2013 at 8:52 am #

    I helped a friend prune grape vines on his property a couple of years ago . . . it takes a lot more skill and practice (even art?) than you think it would. 😉 Salud!

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