One year later. Last december I sat in my home in Sweden wondering whether I should take the plunge into the world of wine or not. I was excited, but anxious. Maybe it would turn out to be too specific, maybe I would feel limited? Although I have been loving wine for many years, chosing to do a Master’s program in wine felt risky and daring. Still, once I had decided to go for it, it was all so natural: from the first time I entered the University of Gastronomic Sciences, I never ever questioned my choice, something that rarely happens to me. I immediately felt at home between the vines, the wines and the stories behind them. I felt that my restless will to learn, to approach things from many perspectives, could be nurtured there. One year, many glasses of wine and many hard efforts later, I am sitting with the Master diploma in hand, overlooking the sleepy winter vineyards in Langhe. I don’t know where all of this will take me, but I do know that this journey has been all but narrow or limited.
What did I learn during this year? First of all, that behind a glass of wine there is a whole world to discover, something that my intuition had told me already long before. Thanks to the unique approach of the Slow Food University, I had the possibility to dive into the multifaceted nature of wine every day. Every day offered new angles, new questions. From pruning to marketing strategies, from chemical analysis to art works, from soil compounds to emotions. From technical tasting sheets to making analogies between wine and people. From fearing to adress wine in a “wrong” way, to finding myself confidently associating wines with early summer potatoes and dill, or a childhood autumn day at my grandmother’ s house up in the North. From learning all the rules, to questioning them, to coming back to them. To understanding that an absolute truth when it comes to wine, just like most things in life, is non-existing. During my internship, working with visits and tastings at the historical Barbaresco producer Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy, I learned something more. I learned that by presenting a wine, there is room not only for technical facts but also an expression of myself. I noticed that the truer I was to my experience, the bigger effect I had on other people. Through a glass of wine I came to trust my senses and my intutition, the physical as well as intellectual one, more and more. And I learned to share this experience with others. To be a wine teller.
When during several classes we were asked why we aspire to work in the wine field, our responses gradually changed from vague cliché phrases such as “wine is my passion” into more and more articulated and fine tuned answers. At the end of the semester a classmate of mine said, “I found what I was looking for in a glass of wine” “And what was that?” asked the professor. “The whole universe”, he answered. I couldn´t have said it better myself. Wine is nature and culture, chemistry and poetry, body and mind. It is window out to the world. Wine involves all senses, to look, smell, taste and even to listen. It requires our full attention and strenghtens our senses. It challenges our ability to be loyal to our own intimate experience. It reinforces our creativity and our linguistic capacity to transform an abstract feeling into something understandable. And last but not least, wine is art. Making wine, tasting wine, communicating wine is art. Just like art, wine is not neccessary for our physical survival, but, for some of us, our spiritual. It is that extra spice that lifts life to another level. For all of these reasons, I am not surprised to have found some of the most sensitive, curious, intelligent and slightly crazy, in the best sense of the word, people in the wine world. To truly love wine, you need to be a person who wants to go beyond the ordinary, who craves some magic in existence.
Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food movement, send out a warning to all wine Masters on the graduation day, saying “swirl the glass as much as you want, but never forget that there are people behind the wine. Don’t make wine a fetish”. A holistic understanding of the hard work at each stage of the winemaking, from harvesting to vinifying to selling it, is what makes this University different from others. At the same time, to me, there is something about wine that is more than the sum of all the hard work behind it. It’s about what happens in the encounter with between you and the wine. It’s when wine transforms from being a simple beverage into an instrument for discovery. “He who knows how to taste does not drink wine but savours secrets” said Salvador Dalì. Change the he to a she, and I subscribe to that.
With this I wish you all a Happy new Year. May it be filled of love, laughters and wine that allow you to reflect, feel and wonder.