What is it about a person, or a wine, that makes them weather all kinds of adverse conditions? Why do some bounce back? Why do some fold? What makes one survive, while another, with possible lesser challenges, gives up, backs down, goes away?
I saw it yesterday with a friend. He is a little older than me, and his life hasn’t been the one people dream of. But it hasn’t been a total disaster either. He had a bad marriage, always working, away from the wife and kids. They didn’t know him as well as his clients. And one by one they drifted away from him. But it wasn’t an incurable situation.
I was steeped in incurable, ten years ago. My wife was days away from death, years had passed where she underwent all manner of disappointments. And then she was taken away. My life hasn’t been one people dream of either. Unless they were having a nightmare. But somehow, through that and other tests, here I am. Not bitter. Not spent. Not yet.
There is luck, good and bad, but there is resilience. Resilience is good luck combined with a spirit to overcome the disappointments life hands you. Bordeaux wines are classic examples of wines with that kind of quality. In Italy, Aglianico is, as is Barolo. Port is as well. Burgundy, Champagne, there are so many example of wines in the world, Riesling from the Mosel, the list grows, just like people.
I marveled, the other night, over a bottle of Hermitage from La Chapelle, the Jaboulet property. It was a 1985. I had some bottles that I’d been keeping for years. Now 25 years old, for an Hermitage in early middle age. I opened a bottle that had a lower shoulder fill. Fearing it wouldn’t last long, I opened it and decanted it at the last minute. I’d had a few bottles of the wine that just didn’t go the distance. But this bottle, I first tasted it; it was youthful, jumping at the gate, ready to run. It was strong and deep and dark. It was a baby. And through the night, as we tasted the wine, it soared. It was a beautiful, resilient wine that hadn’t seen the best cellaring conditions. But it adapted, and survived and made it through.
I don’t always want to drink wines like that, but I prefer friends and family who have that quality. I strive to develop endurance for resilience in my life. And it has served me well, so far. It hasn’t been easy, I’m not complaining, but looking back on my life, it hasn’t been what I imagined it might be when I was a child. But that said, I’m not disappointed. I have survived and I have kept positive, most of the time. So I am a lucky guy. And looking over the New Year, I will walk upon the wine trail a little more and hope to find a wine or two in this New Year, and maybe a friend or two as well, that will embody this quality of endurance. It seems to be more important than luck or success or money or fame.
In any case, it is something I am thinking about. In place of resolutions, I think I’ll just stick to resilience.