Friday, October 16, 2009

Bitter Wine

It is said by many that an aged wine is a better wine. But that is a broad statement which is not true in general terms. For example, the vast majority of sweet wines do not improve with age, it’s our recommendation you should not buy more of our sweet wines then you can drink in six to 12 months.

The issue as to whether a dry wine improves with age is a bit of a trick question. It can be said that wine CHANGES as it ages without argument, the question is whether those changes are improvements, -does the wine taste better today then it day a year ago? Only much experience and taste-testing will answer this question.

I recall the example of the man who paid over $3,000 for a bottle of an 1898 French wine at auction and gave it as a gift to a dear friend, who was a bit of a wine enthusiast. The wine was opened on a special occasion and found to be bitter, quite undrinkable. The recipient of this “fine wine” was said to say, “A bottle of wine is very much like a human being. In its youth its shallow and thin, but can be interesting to some. As it matures, it gains fullness and complexity, as well as a wider circle of admirers. But too often at the end it can be sour and distasteful. Such is too often life for us all.”

As I have aged, I have found this story to contain a fair amount of truth and relevance. This week I heard of a dear friend who had been fighting cancer successfully, until now. The cancer has spread and the outlook is bleak.

The taste in my mouth is sour over this, I believe a part of who we are, is who we know. Our friends are the landscape of our life, adding color and interest, flavor and tenor. Take them away and we become less.

A crucial part of this process is we may impress ourselves into this situation. We can feel and see the grief of the family and knowing the inevitability of life and its end, we see our future grief and hurt. We cannot avoid it, it happens to all and that is the sourness of ageing for humans.

Like the old wine, as we age the potential for a bad ending increases. Yet I think the people who surround those we lose suffer in some ways more then the patient. At some point, the suffering ends for the patient. For those who cared, the hole in our hearts remains for many years and with time the bitter taste will diminish, never gone but manageable.

Those of us who remain must move on to other "bottles of wine" knowing they will not be bitter and joy can yet be found in many. We move on knowing that is what our dear friend would want us to do and we hold close the memories of the many bottles we shared during their too short time with us. Yet still we do grieve…

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