Ernest Hemmingway in a book called Death in the Afternoon wrote, “Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”
This quote provides an exemplementry overview of wine from vine to its role and use in society. Though Hemmingway's quote was from a novel on bull fights, it really provides a detailed overview of wine over the ages. Wine has been around for centuries and is well documented in many historical books. Wine of old was a part of daily life and continues today in many countries such as France, Italy, etc being a mainstay at most meals. Modern day wines have definitely improved and become more enjoyable by many different types of wine drinkers. The civilization of wines has been developed over the centuries by people, terroir and dedication of those growing the grapes and producing the wines.
The quality of wine from the days of the Romans where the grapes were crushed and fermented in clay pots known as amphoras which were buried into the ground for temperature control to today's state of the art digitally/computer controlled fermenters. Some modern day wineries continue to use clay pots, but with a more modern approach, offering a unique wine to the consumer.
In an article, "Winemakers Give Clay a Close Look", Andrew Adams says, "Winemakers at several different wineries are reporting that they’re impressed with early results from fermenting and storing wine in clay vessels. In another example of how what’s old in winemaking often becomes new again, imported amphoras and clay vessels produced in the United States are finding a place in cellars. Those who have used clay say it imparts unique flavors and aromas to the wine while also giving it a different texture." Also as stated by Hemmingway, " one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing." The winemakers that are using clay amphoras have found a unique benefit that is enjoyed by some wine drinkers. Republic of South Georgia has continued with this process over the ages and produce some spectacular wines.
The drive for perfection is the result of variation in people's palates. If not for this, we would all drink Thunderbird and call it a great wine. Perfection requires Sommeliers, wine judges, wine makers and consumers to provide the inputs to allow continued development of wines into the "greatest perfection" alluded to by Hemmingway. Variety of selections is also a benefit as we all have varied palates and enjoy different sensory stimulation from the wines we drink. Varietal, acidity, fruit weight, complexity, and even alcohol content are considerations by various individuals. Wine offers so much variety for one to enjoy. Opening your eyes and stepping out of one's comfort zone will quickly validate that there is a whole new universe to be discovered.
As with many things in society, the perfection of wines has fallen under control to maintain the quality and how they are produced. Many countries have modeled the controls on wine after the French appellation d'orgine controlee (AOC). Some examples are Italy's Demominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DGOC) or Spains Denominacion de Origen, etc. The United States has the American Viticultural Area (AVA) where wines are required to contain 85% of the grapes grown in the AVA.
Wines role in the various social circles is also diverse. For some, it is just drinking for effect which really does not require a high point rating or cost a lot of money. For others, it is a fantastic addition to a great meal or a special evening. Finally, there are those that follow and collect wines that are so special and are willing to spend a lot of money to acquire some. Some will twirl a glass and study the nuances over 1-2 hours analyzing the beautiful color, aromatics and taste as the wine absorbs oxygen releasing all of its beauty. The statement by Hemmingway is extremely valid and can be seen over the course of history. Cherish the gifts of this fantastic product that has remained constant yet has changed over time.