New year. No matter if you look back on 2022 with a sigh of satisfaction or you are grovelingly thankful to survive another solar circumnavigation, time for optimism.
If you make wine or enjoy wine, wine is an expression of optimism. Growers gaze across pruned vineyards stark and bare, maybe swaddled in snow, maybe resolutely defiant against the howls of winter. Still, optimism.
There must be optimism or you would not be a grape grower. You are confident that in more years than not, after cold comes fledgling promises of spring. Each day dawns a minute earlier. The vineyard begins to awake—vines are optimistic.
By April, the signs of life appear. Sap rises. Buds begin to break. Sure, dangers lurk—hail, late freezes—but this is time for optimism, optimism justified more often than not. After bud break, growers prune shoots to calibrate production. Reducing quantity of grapes increases quality because the vine optimistically concentrates more energy into the remaining clusters.
Flowering follows. Grapevines produce “perfect flowers” because they pollinate themselves without the need of bees.
In early summer, clusters appear. They begin as tiny, green bulbs. Clusters of optimism for the dramatic visual to come.
Then, a miracle. The tiny green bulbs grow and change color. Vérasion (“verre-ray-shun”) is the most beautiful time of the year in a vineyard, the time growers optimistically anticipated the previous seven months. Green becomes purple, black, red, pink, yellow.
As summer fades, grapes ripen, sugar levels rise. At the peak moment—optimistically with dry weather and adequate labor—comes the harvest. Then, on to the winery and another opportunity for optimism as skilled grape growers hand off to skilled winemakers.
If you enjoy drinking wine, optimism goes without saying. Why would you buy a bottle of wine if you were not optimistic it would be a rewarding experience?
With this effulgent homage to optimism to begin 2023, I leave you with a twist on an old Irish blessing: “May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind always be at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, and may the best bottle of wine you have ever enjoyed be the one you enjoy tonight.”
• Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2021—fruitiness in a softer take on sauv blanc. $9-12 Link to my review
• Siduri Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2020—superb entry-level pour into world of Siduri pinot noir. $17-22. Link to my review
Last round: My New Year’s resolution: Drink more of what you will give up for Lent a couple of months from now. Wine time.