Love, Wine & Everything in Between

By Shubhangi Thakur

Perched in the coziest corner of my favourite Italian spot in the city two months ago, I confidently declared myself a pink martini girl, when asked about my drink of choice for the evening. Ten seconds later, I tweaked my drink order and, in a whimsical twist, ordered a rosé. That impulsive choice set the stage for a night of contemplation, inspiring the words you’re reading now.

Wine was my first alcoholic adventure, but I remember it was a very deliberate choice sparked by pure fascination. I’m someone who has grown up with the cinematic enchantment of couples sharing sips but also the vengeful splatter of it ruining a dress. Is it the allure of romance or the intrigue of drama that captivates my imagination? Truth be told, my daydreams often veer towards scenarios involving the latter. But as it turns out, the magic lies more in the liquid itself than the scenes that unfold as a consequence of its consumption.

A bottle of wine has long been a vessel for the profound exchange of affection between lovers, echoing through the corridors of ancient civilizations. In the Middle Ages, wine became entwined with the feast of Saint Valentine on February 14th and was whispered to bestow good luck and happiness in matters of the heart. This tradition persisted, making wine an essential part of 18th-century European Valentine’s Day celebrations.

Ancient Indian texts, such as the Rigveda, explicitly mention the use of ‘Sura,’ a type of wine, in religious rituals, believed to act as a conduit for communication with the divine. Notably Sushruta, hailed as the Father of Surgery, actively employed wine for anesthetic purposes, emphasizing the diverse roles of this beverage in ancient practices.

Wine even graced the opulent cups of gold, silver, and jade, embellished with Farsi and Arabic calligraphy, in the courts of Mughal emperors such as Jahangir and Shah Jahan. A fascinating apocryphal story hints that Jahangir’s first love was not Anarkali, but the intoxicating elixir itself.

Beyond rituals and rulers, wine has served as a muse for poets across history—from the verses of Emily Dickinson to Rumi. It has graced myriad artworks—from Renaissance feast scenes to modern still lifes. Over centuries and across diverse cultures, whether in the realms of arts or sciences, the meaning of wine has evolved, shaped by the specific places and periods in which it has been shared and consumed.

There are profound parallels between consuming wine and being consumed by love. The four steps of wine tasting—look, swirl, sniff, sip—aren’t exclusive to wine; they extend to the delicate art of deciphering the flavors of love as well. Unlike its other alcoholic counterparts, wine demands a ritual. Why does wine, warrant this special attention, unlike other drinks hastily mixed with tonics and flavors? Moreover, contrary to the popular belief that love blinds, I posit that love, in truth, heightens our senses. It exposes us to countless nuances and sensations, elevating our experiences and understandings—a resonance reminiscent of the intricate notes found in a corked bottle. A glass of wine often becomes an opportunity to sit, to slow down, and to savor the inherent beauty of the present—a sentiment intricately entwined with the essence of love. 

SEE: What color is it? Love, akin to wine, presents itself in varying hues. Just as oak aging deepens the color of wine, the shared experiences and challenges in love contribute to the richness and depth of the emotional connection.

SWIRL: Let it breathe. Just as a wine glass is swirled to release its aromatic compounds, love thrives with aeration. Love, when given the space to breathe, reveals its complexities and nuances, creating a bouquet of shared memories and experiences.

SNIFF: What do you smell? Like in wine tasting, smell is crucial in the symphony of love. Love’s essence, much like fine wine, is often judged by its scent. Aromas can evoke memories—coffee, books, salt, or sea. Each whiff encapsulates shared moments, crafting a scented memory profile that lingers.

SIP: What do you taste? Taking a sip of love immerses one in a complex taste experience. Allowing those moments to coat your being might unveil the sweetness of shared laughter, the fruitiness of affection, the saltiness of challenges, perhaps the acidity of disagreements, and even the bitterness of trials. The overall impression forms a balanced blend, crafting a unique flavor defining the relationship.

SAVOR: Does the taste linger? The aftermath of love is the sensation that lingers after the initial experience. Similar to the lingering taste of wine after swallowing, the essence of love remains with you. The duration of love’s aftertaste can vary, reflecting the depth of connection and the enduring quality best reflected in the lingering sensation.

Intriguingly, another parallel that captivates my imagination is the concept of terroir. Originating from the French term meaning “sense of place,” it unveils an interplay that extends beyond external influences, delving deep into the emotional bedrock where relationships take root. This juxtaposition is particularly fascinating when considering the cultivation of wine grapes and the development of love.

Much like how the terroir of a vineyard molds the sensory identity ofwine, the background and context in which love unfolds become the terroir of relationships. Love’s terroir echoes a delicate equilibrium between vulnerability and strength – the moments that carve out intimacy, the trials that probe truthfulness, and the nuanced evolution of self. 

This uniquely distinctive terroir of love, similar to the revered terroir of a vineyard, is cultivated over years through layers of understanding and empathy, which in turn transforms into a multidimensional exploration, diverging from a linear narrative.

Within the realm of wine consumption a timeless relevance and richness transcend the ordinary. No other food or drink delivers such sensory pleasure, and few pursuits can transport us as far from life’s mundanity—except, perhaps, the escape found in the pages of a good book. Both love and wine, in their entirety, require one’s undivided presence—not just during their enchanting beginnings, but throughout their nuanced progression  and lingering aftermaths. They are enduring eternal experiences deserving of being savored, contemplated, and celebrated.

Later that evening, the rosé I indulged in proved to be a little too bitter for my taste, not quite aligning with my preferences. Yet, it spoke in its own unique vocabulary, much like love. It served as a poignant reminder that wine, similar to love, possesses a distinctive vocabulary – and there’s no dictionary to understand this vocabulary; you can only know by indulging.

In the lively discourse on love that filled the rest of the evening, I savored every sip of my bitter rosé, curiously listening to the intimate encounters and anecdotes shared by those around me. It prompted me to view my life as an ongoing quest, a journey to discover all the metaphorical corked bottles I wish to house in my bar. To discern which ones genuinely delight my senses, those I can gracefully tolerate, and those I’ll unequivocally avoid.

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