Are You Drinking Wine, Or Just Squashing Grapes?

Vinted on September 21, 2011 binned in commentary, going pro, wine appreciation, wine tasting

Today we will speak of current NFL coaches, former baseball catching stars, and Jedi Master Yoda.  And wine – almost forgot about the wine…

See, I’ve been getting a little bit of flak over how publicly I’ve worn my NFL team allegiance colors on 1WD. And so, true to form, I’m going to go deeper into that forest today. Because at heart, I am a stinker.

For days now I’ve been rubbing the almost-scabbed-over wounds of the Steelers dismal showing of a season opener against the hard-hitting Baltimore Ravens, because part of the healing process for sports fans after such a loss is wallowing in your pain and misery as long as reasonably possible, taking in as much about the heart-wrenching as you can, before letting it all (ok, most of it) go. Real fans know what I am talking about here – sure, the Steelers romping all over the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday salved the aching a bit, but c’mon – it was the Seahawks.

And so it was in that wallowing-mode capacity that I came across this little ditty of a quote by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, when asked about the dreadful day one loss:

“I think the people that know and compete in this league understand that there is a fine line between drinking wine and squashing grapes. Obviously, last weekend we were grape-squashers.”

Ah, the sanctimonious pleasure of shared pain! Tomlin’s it-makes-sense-until-you-reread-it, Yogi-Berra-worthy reference to vino got me thinking about the difference between drinking wine – really drinking it and appreciating it, I mean – and throwing it down our gullets the same way we in the U.S. do with most of our food; which is to say, devouring it so quickly that it looks as if we’re worried someone will come along and snatch up our plates if we don’t clean them off within 4.2 nanoseconds…

In the former scenario, we’re taking the time to actually pay attention to a wine (whether we love it or not), so that we’re learning – about the wine, the grape behind it, the place behind it, the people behind it – even if what we’re learning is that we don’t personally care for those flavors, tastes, grapes or places (or people). In the latter, we’re letting the wine’s messages pass us by at lightening speed (and probably setting ourselves up for a date with a Pepto Bismol bottle latter – though I could have used that kind of bottle after that belly-acher of a Steeler’s opener, booze or no booze).

In my experience, the people who tell me that they could “never” learn to appreciate wine are often the ones who look at eating as a race against the clock. It’s not that they lack the ability – because the ability is, simply put, not all that difficult to acquire – it’s simply that they lack the the attention span.

Which is one of the reasons, I think, why people turn to scores and use them even without context to purchase things like wine – a short-cut path that seems like a wicked cool secret at first but will probably lead you to vinous misery in the long run. Can’t you just hear Yoda chiming in now, warning you against the powers of the Wine Dark Side… “I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience!

Of course, Jedi Ghost Obi-Wan Kenobi’s famous reply is “He will learn patience…”  Which is exactly what we need to do if we want to be drinking fine wine, instead of performing the equivalent of shoving our mouths full of squashed grapes – exercise our patience.

It’s tempting, as I sample ever-increasing sh*tloads of wines, to speed things up and rate/score with nearly reckless abandon just to try to get through the backlog of wine samples being sent to me.  But I’m gonna listen to my inner Jedis, and not give into that Dark Side.






  • Perry P.

    Not to change the message of you post (which is all good and valid), but I think the expression Tomlin really wanted to say was "there is a fine line between MAKING wine and squashing grapes."

    I think most people would find sense in that.

    • 1WineDude

      Perry – I'm sure that is what he meant, but I like the fact that it came out as such a non-sequitur. :)

  • @fatcork

    Dude, on the one hand I absolutely love this post because of all the Jedi references! But on the other hand, you totally bash my hometown Seahawks. However, they deserve it and I love Jedi's way more than the Seahawks. Anyway, keep listening to your inner Jedi and refuse to speed things up with regard to tasting. But, Yoda does like Blanc de Blancs best, so keep that in mind next time you reach for a sample :)

    • 1WineDude

      @fatcork – I have it on good authority that Yoda was a Scotch man… ;-)

      • @fatcork

        Yoda, a Scotch man? No way, his body is way too tiny to absorb that abv and still swing a saber. I think a little 12% Champagne is much more his style ; ) I love the path that this post has led me down, arguing about which alcohol Yoda likes best.. HA.

        • 1WineDude

          But there is no doubt about Lando, right? He’s *gotta* like Scotch! :)

  • Jenny

    Yoda makes the blog. Love his quote

    • 1WineDude

      Jenny – well, that and my winning personality, sure. ;)

  • Todd - VT Wine Media

    I am totally with you, that attention and patience are two of the really important characteristics required for taking a deeper approach to wine. Just as with learning any new discipline, creating a pocket in space and time where those virtues can be accessed is equally as important as having them. In the last few weeks I have grown a whole new appreciation of how some folks might have the capacities and resources to make space for wine, while for others, it is not even an option.

    Here in central Vermont, many have been living under extreme circumstances since the floods, and my own experiences have left me in a space where I have not even had the energy or inclination to make a tasting note ( extra points Professor Asimov? ) since our annual rosé party the night before the rain hit. In fact I've been struggling to wrap my head back around posting, and have been mulling this very point. Our place is OK except for major devastation along the river bank, but other friends and neighbors lost homes and were displaced. For two weeks we hosted folks, had communal dinners every night, and a lot of wine was poured.

    While I know it was 'enjoyed', by a group of folks that are usually my vino geek-in-training posse, there was no palate pontification, and no mulling over the wine ( although one person did pull out a home made jug of Glögg, so the wine itself was mulled). It simply has simply not been possible to go deep. Long days of emptying homes, shoveling mud, tearing down structures, a lot of emotional distress, fears about the future all factored in such a way that at dinner, nourishing ourselves was primary, catching up with one another secondary, and the wine provided the social bonding, as well as the physical and mental balm that it has provided humanity for eons. The wine played its part, and asked nothing of us, while it gave us something invaluable. It also made me understand better that external forces can intervene in daily life that can make deep appreciation a challenge

    Despite mental fatigue and stress, I did keep the presence of mind to protect the corners of the cellar holding the bottles that do require, and deserve a pocket in space and time for deep appreciation. With the depletion of purchased wine inventory, and a serious dent in our home-made reserves, I am only now starting to look at re-stocking, and finding the time to write again.

    Backlog you have? Send here for review, you may. ;)

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Todd – and for others, it is not an option because they choose to spend their time making space for something else (which is totally fine). Thank you for sharing the VT story – a great reminder not to take this stuff so seriously at the end of the day (and after all, mostly is is just STUFF – we got a similar lesson when my mother-in-law lost most of her belongings after her house was hit by the eye of 2 hurricanes within a short span of time in FL). Cheers! As for the backlog – come on over and let’s taste! :)

  • Todd - VT Wine Media

    Sorry to hear about your family's loss, you definitely get it if you have been there. Yes, while it is just stuff, the process of recovering the intangibles seems like it will be the biggest challenge. Only now is it really starting to hit home for some folks, and we all have a lot more work to do.
    I will take some time in the next couple of weeks, to do harvest and crush…not on the same scale as last year, but it will help lend some normality, and hopefully kick me back into gear.
    If I am ever in your hood, I will definitely ping you. You are more than welcome to do the same.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Todd – and I’m sending positive vibes for a speedy recovery back to normality in your neck of the woods!

  • Trackbacks

  • Trackback from Vermont Wine Media » Vinundation
    Monday, 26 September, 2011

    […] to get back into the loop, I mentioned this very point in the commentary last week, over at Joe Robert’s  When we are under a lot of pressure, exhausted, and stressed out, it makes it difficult to […]

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