Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Global Brotherhood of the Grape

The Vigneron and the Negociant
It could be a scene in Bordeaux or Barolo, the actual global position isn’t crucial. A man (or a woman) has a piece of property with grapes growing. He’s tied to the land, nurturing and gathering the ripe grapes into clusters and pressing them into service. He puts much of his faith in his agent, his representative to the world, to see that the finished wine goes out to all corners where it is desired. Liquid emissaries. There is often a simple handshake, a reassuring pat on the back, a bond that links this global grape group.

With change in the air and the once-accepted forms of dissemination being challenged, there will still be a need for the land, the grape and people to move it forward. You might someday be able to order a wine from a Castello in Tuscany and have it delivered 48 hours later to your abode; someone still needs to turn crushed grapes into liquid magic.

The Winemaker
Once, the winemaker was a solitary figure, huddled in his cave, working his alchemy over the barrels. That still must happen. But the winemaker now must know what is going on in his global community. Weather patterns and buying trends, fashions in taste and the pulse of the client, all these are now factors in his process. There must not only be winemaking, there must be vision, inspired by the miracle, but taken to the next level. In part, inspired by world competition clamoring for the attention of the wine lover, the wine merchant and the restaurant owner. No easy task, and one that is not self renewing. After one spends months plowing their fields in the vineyards, the winemaker must often go out into the market and till some more.

The Restaurateur
What must he do these days? Everyone wants you to eat their food, if it is in a restaurant or a retail market. Preparing food in a restaurant is a labor intensive process. Finding labor, these days, is getting increasingly more challenging as a regime seems to be preparing to repel the huddled masses yearning to be free.

The restaurateur’s domain is relentless. There is no respite, no escape, nothing to do but to forge ahead onward through the fog.

The Patronage
The endgame for the finished product, a table in a dimly lit room with a few plates and glasses. Here, the grapes finish their journey with an Ad hoc coronation; no 21 gun salute, no brass band. Amidst the clinking of the glasses and the din of the room, the silent spirit spills into the crevice of a soul here, a partaker there. The journey from the vine to the goblet reaches the promised land of the palate. All this, because of the brotherhood of the berry. A global community making sure this life enhancing phenomenon travels across the planet to your glass, to your dimly lit room, with the hope to spread some light and joy.

The Men in the Middle
Behind the glass curtain are the unseen ones, part visionary, part brigand. These are the charmers, the conjurers, the ones who must find a way to get the ships to shore. A little Columbus, a little Capone. Less dependant on conspiracy and more on improvisation. A group of men and women looking to raise their families and live their life doing something they want to do, because they love it. And it shows on their faces. They have a serenity and a happiness attained from finding their way, connecting with their global tribe.

Photos from the wine trail by the author
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