Here is my entry for the new Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. The theme, chosen by last month’s winner Jeff from The Drunken Cyclist is : FEAR
Fear and Loathing in wine tasting
I am actually a Political Science major, so I read, learned and studied many a political quote, I especially love the ones that have crossed over to the mainstream and routinely appear in pop culture, like JFK’s “Do not ask what your country,…” and FDR’s “We have nothing to fear but fear itself“.
It’s a great quote, it’s symmetrical and yes, it makes you want to start digging yourself out of economic depression. The problem is, I totally disagree, there are a lot of things to fear! Just look at nature, there are thousands, literally thousands of animal species who could end you in an instant. The sole existence of Australia is a reminder that nature is scary and not to be trifled with. And it doesn’t have to be the big beasts too. Even small animals like snakes or spiders should be respectfully feared.
The point is, from clowns to scorpions, from tigers to IRS collectors, life is filled to the brim with scary things. My personal fear? Heights, deadly scared of heights, even looking at a picture of an alpinist makes me uncomfortable. To be honest, just now, writing about looking at a picture of an alpinist made me vaguely uneasy.
But fear in the context of wine? I would not associate those two at the drop of a hat. Part of it comes from the fact that I associate wine with friends, family, dinners and lunches. Wine is what I have with my dad, what I talk about with my uncle, it’s comforting, it rhymes with good times, bonding and being with people I love. Granted, there are some scary people in my family, but they are not so scary when I’m armed with a nice bottle of Ladoix. And I don’t intend the Ladoix to be used as a weapon.
And that is the thing, on a purely physiological level, wine gives you courage. Call it beer goggles or liquid testicles, you are more likely to be bold with after a few glasses of champagne than after a cup of tea (or I’ve been doing tea the wrong way all this time). Wine is the cure for fear, not a cause of it. Many a guy who was afraid to talk to women has found courage in a glass. In vino veritas, sure, but, more often than not In vino animus (veritas: truth, animus: courage).
Then, why did I have that feeling, ever since Jeff chose this theme, that there is a connection? I sense that yes, I should fear wine, I should be afraid, even if I do not know why. I’ve been thinking, I’ve been researching. I drank a couple of very serious bottles, wine that should not be trifled with, wines that should be respected but I did not feel fear as I opened them, I felt elation, impatience. I did not feel fear as I tasted them, I felt pleasure, enjoyment. Where does that fear of wine come from?
After a while it finally hit me. Like many a guy breaking off a relationship, I could tell wine: “It’s not you, it’s me”. I am not afraid of wine, I am afraid I am not good enough to enjoy it properly. I’m scared I do not have the nose or the palate, or the sensibility to drink great wines and taste them to the fullest. I am scared that I am inadequate, a fraud, a poseur. I am afraid to say something when I go to tasting with friends or acquaintances that know more than I do (which tends to be most of them). I’m scared I am going to say something dumb or miss the point. You cannot understand the sheer, unaltered panic of not knowing if this Rioja has medium or medium plus acidity, or if these are really cherry aromas you are tasting.
Worst of all, I think the best way to express my fear, is that I am scared that I do not deserve great wines, that they are wasted on me. The idea that something exceptional is happening and that I can’t appreciate it the right way makes me anxious, and I mean stay awake and freak out about it anxious. I want to work in the wine industry and as I consider my current life, my current job and the life I want, I am scared, scared that I am not going to make it.
But, silver linings and all, things are not so bad! It really helps that I am a huge nerd, whenever I get scared, I recite the litany of fear from Dune:
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing….only I will remain”
It always calms me and allows me to think rationally about my fears. Then, I can remember that fear is not necessarily a bad thing. Fear is a sensation that warns you that something is important, that you are in danger. People do not usually fear missing the bus, unless they have to go to an important meeting. Fear shows you that you care about something, that it is important to you.
As long as you use the fear as fuel and motivation, fear can be a good thing. I definitely plan on using mine that way. When I’m afraid I’m not worthy of wine, I just take it as a chance to re-commit myself to become better. I will face my fear, and it will be delicious.