Saturday, July 19, 2008

Wine Quotes 101

The famous German poet once was asked which three things he would take to an island. He stated: "Poetry, a beautiful woman and enough bottles of the world's finest wines to survive this dry period!" Then he was asked what he would leave back first, if it was allowed to take only two things to the island. And he briefly replied: "The poetry!" Slightly surprised, the man asked the next question: "And Sir, what would you leave back if only one was allowed?" And Goethe thought for a couple of minutes and answered: "It depends on the vintage!"

Wine Drinking Dog

"Hey, pour some wine in MY bowl! I'll take a little of that fine blend of the Maggie Merlot and the Pooch Pinot...the one with the great tail-wagging finish."


An anonymously penned 17th century haiku has this to say about sake:
Sake nakuta
Nan no onore ga
Sakura kana

Without flowing wine
What good to me are lovely
Cherry trees in bloom?

Filmmaker/winemaker Francis Ford Coppola says the two professions are almost the same and that each depends on source material and takes a lot of time to perfect. The big difference: "Today's winemakers still worry about quality."

"It sloweth age, it strengtheneth youth, it helpeth digestion, it abandoneth melancholie, it relisheth the heart, it lighteneth the mind, it quickenth the spirits, it keepeth and preserveth the head from whirling, the eyes from dazzling, the tongue from lisping, the mouth from snaffling, the teeth from chattering and the throat from rattling; it keepeth the stomach from wambling, the heart from swelling, the hands from shivering, the sinews from shrinking, the veins from crumbling, the bones from aching, and the marrow from soaking." --copied from a 16th Century manuscript

Port is not for the very young, the vain and the active. It is the comfort of age and the companion of the scholar and the philosopher. - Evelyn Waugh

"Wine is the most civilized thing in the world." - Ernest Hemingway

"And water is on the Bishop's board and the Higher Thinker's shrine,
But I don't care where the water goes if it doesn't get into the wine." - G.K. Chesterton

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." - John Maynard Keynes

"Gentlemen, in the little moment that remains to us between the crisis and the catastrophe, we may as well drink a glass of Champagne." - Paul Claudel

"I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food!!" - Anonymous

"Champagne for our real friends and real pain for our sham friends!"

“Wine had such ill effects on Noah’s health that it was all he could do to live 950 years. Show me a total abstainer that ever lived that long.” - Will Rogers

In victory, you deserve champagne, in defeat, you need it. - Napoleon

There are two reasons for drinking wine...when you are thirsty, to cure it; the other, when you are not thirsty, to prevent it... prevention is better than cure. - Thomas Love Peacock

Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it. - Anonymous

Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance. - Benjamin Franklin

Drink wine, and you will sleep well. Sleep, and you will not sin. Avoid sin, and you will be saved. Ergo, drink wine and be saved. - Medieval German saying

"The First Duty of wine is to be Red...the second is to be a Burgundy" -- Harry Waugh

"In wine one beholds the heart of another" -- Anonymous

"Never understood a single word he said but I helped him drink his wine…and he always had some mighty fine wine." -- 3 Dog Night

"If all be true that I do think, there are five reasons we should drink. Good friends, good times, or being dry, or lest we should be by and by, or any other reason why"

Thomas Jefferson on wine:

"I think it is a great error to consider a heavy tax on wines as a tax on luxury. On the contrary, it is a tax on the health of our citizens."

"Good wine is a necessity of life for me."

"I rejoice as a moralist at the prospect of a reduction of the duties on wine by our national legislature.... Its extended use will carry health and comfort to a much enlarged circle."

"Wine ... the true old man's milk and restorative cordial."

"I wonder what the vintners buy one half so precious as the stuff they sell." - Omar Khayyam

"Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, Make the sage frolic, and the serious smile." - Homer, "Odyssey (9th c. B.C.)

"When there is plenty of wine, sorrow and worry take wing." - Ovid, "The Art of Love" (c. A.D. 8)

"If penicillin can cure those that are ill, Spanish sherry can bring the dead back to life." - Sir Alexander Fleming

"From wine what sudden friendship springs!" - John Gay "The Squire and the Cur," 'Fables'

"Come quickly! I am tasting stars!" - Dom Perignon (1638-1714) at his first sip of champagne

"I have enjoyed great health at a great age because everyday since I can remember I have consumed a bottle of wine except when I have not felt well. Then I have consumed two bottles." -A Bishop of Seville Baron

James Rothschild sent Rossini [composer of 'The Barber of Seville', 'William Tell', etc.] some splendid grapes from his hothouse. Rossini, in thanking him, wrote, "although your grapes are superb, I don't like my wine in capsules." Rothschild read this as an invitation to send him some of his celebrated Chateau-Lafite, which he proceeded to do. - Lillie de Hergermann-Lindencrone, "In the Courts of Memory"

"In Europe we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary." - Ernest Hemingway, "A Moveable Feast"

"Wine is a living liquid containing no preservatives. Its life cycle comprises youth, maturity, old age, and death. When not treated with reasonable respect it will sicken and die." - Julia Child

"Writing in my sixty-fourth year, I can truthfully say that since I reached the age of discretion I have consistently drunk more than most people would say is good for me. Nor did I regret it. Wine has been for me a firm friend and a wise counsellor. has shown me matters in their true perspective, and has, as though by the touch of a magic wand, reduced great disasters to small inconveniences. Wine has lit up for me the pages of literature, and revealed in life romance lurking in the commonplace. Wine has made me bold but not foolish; has induced me to say silly things but not to do them." - Duff Cooper, "Old Men Forget"

"[Wine is] poetry in a bottle." - Clifton Fadiman

"To take wine into your mouth is to savor a droplet of the river of human history." - Clifton Fadiman, N. Y. Times, 8 Mar '87

"A bottle of wine begs to be shared; I have never met a miserly wine lover." - Clifton Fadiman, N. Y. Times, 8 Mar '87

"In wine there is truth." - Pliny The Elder [A.D.23-79] "Natural History," Book XIV, Sect. 141

"When [wines] were good they pleased my sense, cheered my spirits, improved my moral and intellectual powers, besides enabling me to confer the same benefits on other people." - George Saintsbury [1845-1913] "Notes on a Cellar Book"

"There can be no bargain without wine." - Latin saying

"I made wine out of raisins so I wouldn't have to wait for it to age." - Steven Wright

"Compromises are for relationships, not wine." - Sir Robert Scott Caywood

"What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch" W. C. Fields

Johann Wolfgang Goethe, a famous German poet, once was asked which three things he would take to an island. He stated: "Poetry, a beautiful woman and enough bottles of the world's finest wines to survive this dry period!" Then he was asked what he would leave back first, if it was allowed to take only two things to the island. And he briefly replied: "The poetry!" Slightly surprised, the man asked the next question: "And Sir, what would you leave back if only one was allowed?" And Goethe thought for a couple of minutes and answered: "It depends on the vintage!"

To me there is no better gift
Than a fine old bottle of wine;
Like a trusted friend, it speaks for me,
But in a voice uniquely mine.
I'll spread this cheer to all my friends,
And send them the gift of the vine;
And they in turn will share the joy--
It's 800wine. - Anonymous

Three be the things I shall never attain: Envy, content, and sufficient champagne."
Dorothy Parker

"I am drinking the stars!"
Dom Perignon, on his first sip of bubbly Champagne

"What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?"
W.C. Fields

"Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of good wine."
St. Thomas Aquinas

"Wine in itself is an excellent thing."
Pope Pius XII Airen

"One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts."
Samuel Johnson

"It had the taste of an apple peeled with a steel knife."
- Aldous Huxley (1894–1963)
Sebastian Barnack, in Time Must Have a Stop, ch 12 (1944)
Assessing a Roederer 1916 champagne.

"By making this wine vine known to the public, I have rendered my country as great a service as if I had enabled it to pay back the national debt."
Thomas Jefferson

"Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance."
Benjamin Franklin

"He who loves not wine, women and song remains a fool his whole life long "
Johann Heinrich Voss

"Wine is the most civilized thing in the world."
Ernest Hemingway.

"I drink champagne when I win, to celebrate
... and I drink champagne when I lose to console myself."

"If penicillin can cure those that are ill, Spanish sherry can bring the dead back to life."
Sir Alexander Fleming

"Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized."
Andre Simon, Commonsense of Wine

"Remember gentlemen, it's not just France we are fighting for, it's Champagne!"
Winston S. Churchill, 1918

"Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living."
Robert Mondavi, "Harvests Of Joy," Autobiography

"Drink a glass of wine after your soup and you steal a ruble from your doctor."
Russian proverb

"A mind of the caliber of mine cannot derive its nutrient from cows."
George Bernard Shaw

"You have only so many bottles in your life, never drink a bad one."
Len Evans

"The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars."
Benjamin Franklin

"Wine ...moderately drunken
It doth quicken a man's wits,
It doth comfort the heart."
Andrew Boorde, 1562, "Dyetary of Helth"

"In Europe we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary."
Ernest Hemingway

"Wine has been a part of civilized life for some seven thousand years. It is the only beverage that feeds the body, soul and spirit of man and at the same time stimulates the mind."
Robert Mondavi, "Harvests Of Joy," Autobiography

"Making good wine is a skill. Fine wine is an art."
Robert Mondavi, "Harvests Of Joy," Autobiography

"A hard drinker, being at the table, was offered grapes for dessert. 'Thank you,' said he, pushing the dish away from him, 'but I am not in the habit of taking my wine in pills.'"
Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, "The Physiology of Taste"

"Fermented beverages have been preferred over water throughout the ages: they are safer, provide psychotropic effects, and are more nutritious. Some have even said alcohol was the primary agent for the development of Western civilization, since more healthy individuals (even if inebriated much of the time) lived longer and had greater reproductive success. "
Dr. Patrick McGovern, et al., The Origin & Ancient History of Wine

"It had the taste of an apple peeled with a steel knife."
Aldous Huxley (1894–1963),Sebastian Barnack, in Time Must Have a Stop, ch 12 (1944), assessing a Roederer 1916 champagne.

When Lily Bollinger was asked "When do you drink champagne?", she replied:
"I only drink champagne when I'm happy, and when I'm sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am.
Otherwise I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty."

"The cheapness of wine seems to be a cause, not of drunkenness, but of sobriety. ...People are seldom guilty of excess in what is their daily fare...On the contrary, in the countries which, either from excessive heat or cold, produce no grapes, and where wine consequently is dear and a rarity, drunkenness is a common vice."
Adam Smith, "The Wealth of Nations"

"So far as drinking is concerned, you have my hearty approval; for wine does of a truth moisten the soul and lull our griefs to sleep....[and with small cups] we shall brought by its gentle persuasion to a more sportive mood."
Xenophon, quoting Socrates

"Burgundy makes you think of silly things, Bordeaux makes you talk of them and Champagne makes you do them."
Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

"I drank a bottle of wine for company. It was Chateau Margaux. It was pleasant to be drinking slowly and to be tasting the wine and to be drinking alone. A bottle of wine was good company."
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

"The good talk that is inseparable from a wine dinner is even more important than the wines that are being served. Never bring up your better bottles if you are entertaining a man who cannot talk. Keep your treasures for a night when those few who are nearest to your heart can gather round your table, free from care, with latchkeys in their pockets and no last train to catch."
Maurice Healy, Claret

"After-dinner talk
Across the walnuts and the wine."
Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), The Miller's Daughter, 31

"Pour out the wine without restraint or stay,
Pour not by cups, but by the bellyful,
Pour out to all that will."
Edmund Spenser, Epithalamion, 250

"And they drank the red wine through the helmet barr'd."
Sir Walter Scott

"By comparing what we know today with what the ancients appear to have known we can guess at the kinds of wine they drank."
Alec Waugh

"What though youth gave love and roses, age still leaves us friends and wine."
Thomas Moore

"Burgundy for Kings, Champagne for Duchesses, and claret for Gentlemen."
French Proverb

"May our love be like good wine, grow stronger as it grows older."
Old English Toast

"Age appears to be best in four things - old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read."
L. Bacon

"Fill every beaker up, my men, pour forth the cheering wine: there's life and strength in every drop, thanksgiving to the vine!"
Albert Gorton Greene

"Drink to me only with thine eyes and I will pledge with mine; or leave a kiss but in the cup, and I'll not look for wine."
Ben Johnson

"I drank at every vine, the last was like the first. I came upon no wine so wonderful as thirst."
Edna St. Vincent Millay

"Good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used."
William Shakespeare, ( Othello)

"Good wine needs no bush."
William Shakespeare, ( As You Like It, Epilogue)

"Give me a bowl of wine,
In this I bury all unkindness."
William Shakespeare, (Julius Caesar)

"Give me a bowl of wine:
have not that alacrity of spirit,
Nor cheer of mind, that I was wont to have."
William Shakespeare, (Richard III).

"Wine is a good familiar creature if it be will used, exclaim no more against it."
William Shakespeare, (Othello)

"Wine is wont to show the mind of man."

"With years a richer life begins, the spirit mellow: ripe age gives tones to violins, wine, and good fellows."
John Townsend Trowbridge

"Burgundy was the winiest wine, the central, essential, and typical wine, the soul and greatest common measure of all the kindly wines of the earth."
Charles Edward Montague

"Claret is the liquor for boys, port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy."
Samuel Johnson

"I like Champagne, because it always tastes as though my foot's asleep."
Art Buchwald

"Wine is a food."
Oliver Wendell Holmes

"Wine can be considered with good reason as the most healthful and the most hygienic of all beverages."
Louis Pasteur

"The flavor of wine is like delicate poetry."
Louis Pasteur

"One not only drinks the wine, one smells it, observes it, tastes it, sips it and--one talks about it."
King Edward VII

"When a man drinks wine at dinner, he begins to be better pleased with himself."

"Wine fills the heart with courage."

"Wine improves with age - I like it the older I get."

"Wine is sunlight, held together by water!"
Galileo Gallilei

"Away with you, water, destruction of wine!"

"Drink wine in winter for cold, and in summer for heat."

"Where there is no wine there is no love."

"Wine is at the head of all medicines; where wine is lacking, drugs are necessary."
The Talmud

"A full cup of wine at the right time is worth more than all the kingdoms of this earth!"
Gustav Mahler, Das Lied Von Der Erde

"Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance."

"How is Champagne made? By sheer genius, sir, sheer genius!"
Anonymous, Conversation At White's Club, London

"Nothing equals the joy of the drinker except the joy of the wine being drunk."

"Description of a corkscrew:...the wine lover's best friend and the rarest of tools."

Bacchus in Decline

The plan is to make less wine: drink it while you can

Every now and then in journalism, a metaphor pops up that is almost too perfect to use.

I had that feeling last night, writing up a report for the print edition about the European Commission's plans to drain a growing "wine lake" of unwanted plonk from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal (though other countries are also offenders).

On every level, this wine crisis is the perfect metaphor for Europe's current economic woes.

The central problem is that European winemakers do not want to live in a free market world. They are addicted to subsidies, with hundreds of millions of pounds spent every year propping up prices which duly frees them from the pesky requirement of making wine that paying customers might want to buy.

In contrast, sales of easy-going wine from the New World are exploding with Australian wine exports increasing 19-fold in the past 15 years. In Britain, Australian wines have captured a quarter of the British market and it is easy to forget that not so long ago they were nowhere (remember the Monty Python Australian wine sketch, with its Nuits-Saint-Wagga-Wagga et al?).

In recent years, one in six bottles of EU wine has ended up being distilled into petrol or industrial disinfectant, at vast cost to the taxpayer. The no-nonsense Mariann Fischer Boel, a Dane who is EU agricultural commissioner, has had enough, and unveiled plans for a "root and branch" reform (her pun).

The Commission plan is to grub up nearly a million acres (400,000 hectares) of wines, pay farmers to leave the business, allow modern production techniques (like "oaking" cheaper wines with string bags of wood chips) and simplify labeling rules. (Under current French law, for example, you cannot market cheap and cheerful Chardonnay 2006, if it is made with grapes from more than one region of France it is actually illegal to mention the grape variety on wines that are not from a specific geographical area).

Above all, the plan is to make less wine, and better wine, that people might want to buy. Being realistic sorts, who know their plan has to get past subsidy-addicted national governments, the Commission hastened to add that they would not be cutting one centime from the pounds 900 million a year EU subsidy budget for wine just trying to shift it away from boiling away unwanted stuff.

And what was the reaction in France, the world's largest wine producer, and subsidy junkie par excellence? A flat Non from the agriculture ministry, and protests from farmers, throwing around accusations of "ultra-liberalism", and the destruction of their sacred cultural traditions (which apparently include making bad wine, for sale to the taxpayer).

So, what does all this tell us? Well, yes it tells us that too many Europeans have a problem with the free market.

French wine is losing market share in Britain, in part, because too much of the stuff they make is expensive, and not as pleasant to drink as New World stuff. The labels are complicated, and unless you recognise an individual chateau, it is almost impossible to know whether one random Bordeaux is better than another and it is no good judging by whether something is a grand cru or premier cru, because the designations have not been updated for years, and may bear no resemblance to reality.

The parallels with other sectors of European trade are obvious the red tape, the lack of transparency, the cosy archaisms that are hostile to outsiders but reward existing players, you name it.

And still the French resist all change and get away with it, because public money is spent insulating them from the effects of their stubbornness.

Local chauvinism also plays a role here. German winemakers get away with churning out so much horrid stuff (as well as some great wine), because German consumers loyally buy German wines, and would not think of doing anything else. The same thing happens all over Europe just go to Greece or Portugal, and watch people paying nine euros a bottle for grim local reds, when they could have something much nicer from somewhere else, for half that (yes, there is some great Greek and Portuguese wine too, but I have had much more luck with white than red, on the whole).

Britain, on the other hand, is in the happy state of being a non wine-making nation (yes, yes I know there is English and Welsh wine now, but I have never tasted a decent one yet). So as with so much else, globalisation is the way in our wine stores, and supermarket shelves. Value for money is king, as supermarket buyers scour the world for Uruguayan gems, or the best new growths from South Africa.

It is hard not to see a parallel with continental protectionism in so many other fields. In Britain, we have been through the painful process of losing national champions to foreign buyers, whether car makers or breweries or whatever. And now British consumers are able to choose from a far wider variety of foreign-owned products than their continental cousins just look at the multinational mix of cars on UK roads, or the astonishing number of foreign beers on sale in London bars. Choice is king, and value for money should logically follow.

And yet, and yet.

Just when it all looks so very simple, ha-ha bye bye sleepy old Europe, hello New World hard work we're your British chums, some awkward facts intrude.

I have a hunch that the fact that Britons buy so much New World wine is not entirely the fault of European wine-makers. The truth is, a lot of New World wine is beginners' wine sweet, gloopy jam in a glass, with the labels helpfully in English.

No surprise that it does so well in Britain, where wine-drinking is a new phenomenon for many buyers, and people cannot be bothered with foreign languages. There is nothing wrong with easy drinking wine I have no time for wine snobs who want to make a mystery of what is basically squashed grapes. I just mean that some great European wine is an acquired taste, which more British drinkers may acquire, as wine-drinking beds in as a tradition. It's like British beer you start as a teenager with cold, tasteless lager, and only slowly learn to enjoy real ale.

One final awkward fact, which fits the metaphor exactly, too. The French wine-makers who get all the media attention are the bone-in-the-nose militants, resisting all talk of the marketplace, or changing their ways. But quietly, and without attracting nearly as much attention, French and other European wine makers are already making lots of great, cheap wine designed to compete directly with the New World (some of it with the help of New World winemakers). It is the same with French and European capitalism in general. The French are the biggest obstacles to reform, time and again but they are also fantastically good at business, and globalisation.

French wine makes up a fair amount of the wine drunk in the Rennie household, and makes it into my cellar on the basis of solid value for money. My philosophy of wine-buying is simple: buy the best possible wine for under five euros a bottle. I buy single bottles of likely-looking reds and whites, and if a given wine is good twice or three times in a row, I buy it in big quantities.

To end this long end-of-the-week post, I humbly offer my fellow Belgian residents the fruits of this painstaking research. I welcome your recommendations in return. A warning, as the parent of two small children, my shopping is done in the local discount supermarket, Colruyt, so if that is not your style, stop reading here. Top red of the week: Château Mauleon Côtes du Roussillon-Villages 2004 (France). Cheap but chirpy. Top white of the week is from Argentina: Michel Torrino Torrontes. It tastes like flowers.

David Rennie