Wine in the time of Coronavirus
Wine takes on a different meaning in uncertain times
Soon after the County and State of California told us to stay at home, the existential threat posed by the Coronavirus became real. That a strange virus had been killing people in China had not registered fully in the days leading up to the Shelter-in-Place order.
Suddenly, it was happening here, in a hospital a couple of miles from our house. That, and the fear of an unwitting exposure to the beast, led to a moment of startling realization that mortality could be a mere couple of weeks away. Quickly, with little notice, I could be in isolation, the world lost to me.
It was a strange sensation. The normal – a scheduled wine tasting east of Napa, a campus class on Shakespeare, visiting family and friends on a whim – had disappeared quicker than the summer mist that hangs over the hills that demarcate the Coast from inland areas. Thoughts of another nature crowded in, as they will when the known takes on the garb of the unusual.
Now the ephemerality of life came into sharper focus. That we are in this world only fleetingly was drummed into me both by the religion I was born into – Hinduism – and the education I received in a Catholic school. But I had always envisioned the luxury of time to prepare for the final journey to the beyond. The Virus has shaken that belief.
If the Virus can fell us within days, as others – the plague, the Spanish ’flu, cholera – have through the centuries, what do we do? Ever aware of the menace but feeling fine, we follow science and common sense to stay that way.
Live Normally Every Day.
Clichés are comforting when life can be upended any moment. We take solace in cooking meals at home and enjoying them with a glass of wine. Clearly others have had the same idea as wine sales have blown past numbers from last year.
In the second week of shelter-in-place, wine sales went up by almost 30 percent in the U.S., compared to the same week last year, according to Nielsen Global Connect.
Ever the fiction writer delving into a character’s psyche, I ask myself, Should I drink while so many suffer? As I order wine online and receive a message that says that my order is being readied to be shipped, I envision an employee of the winery packing the bottles in a box. On another order, I hear the joy in the voice at the other end of the line, thanking me for my order.
I tell myself that my support means some winery employee will keep his/her job. But while I support as many as possible, I know that alone is not the reason I open a bottle.
Nor is wine an escape from our imaginings.
A sense of control.
It is the stars,
The stars above us, govern our conditions.
So penned the Bard in King Lear, written as he sat isolated during a raging plague.
Perhaps there lies the crux. Buying and opening a bottle of wine gives us a sense of control that in these times seems, like the stars, beyond our reach. Yes, the stars govern, but we do have a little power over a tiny portion of life, don’t we?
But with each bottle comes a prayer for those who’ve lost much and for whom relief seems miles away. For the doctors, nurses, paramedics, of course, but also for the unsung – the fruit and vegetable pickers and packers who work, sometimes with no protection, and are so often seen as fungible by the powers that be.
The wine in my bottle is quite literally the fruit of the labor of these unrecognized pickers.
To them, let’s raise a glass.
Two European wines.
Since this is a wine blog, I will mention two wines we’ve had in the past several weeks. Italy dominated the news and France wasn’t too far behind.
Terlan Winkl Sauvignon Blanc 2018 – from the Terlano DOC area in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Northern Italy. Sauvignon Blanc has been grown as a varietal by the Terlano Wine Growers Cooperative. A wonderfully aromatic, light bodied, high acid wine. We enjoyed it with an Italian cheese made from a blend of milk from cows, sheep, and goats. It paired well with Asian food and kept its flavor and aroma the next day.
Le Carré Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2008. This wine is from the Right Bank, which lies north and east of the Rivers Gironde and Dordogne, where Merlot is the big deal. The Saint-Emilion Grand Cru ranks lower on the snobbery scale than the Grand Cru Classé, the gold standard of this region. The wine, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, had aged very well and was delicious, medium acid, smooth with a long finish.