Kate: It’s a nice red wine
Luc: I think you can do better.
Kate: A bold wine with a hint of sophistication and lacking in pretension. Actually I was just talking about myself.
Luc: No you’re not wrong. Wine is like people. The vine takes all the influences in life all around it. It absorbs them and it gets its personality.
– French Kiss
So I’ve seen this movie so many times, but I’ve always just nodded and smiled at this part. This time, possibly because I’ve been thinking about cultural baggage and how we form our identities, it really struck me. People are like wine.
We take on a host of influences we don’t even think about: the air, the ground, the other plants (people) near us.
These influences shape our perception of who we are, they mould our values. Either because we don’t see anything better or we form our ideals in direct opposition to what we see around us. What your parents believe, what your school taught you, whether you are religious or not, the ads that were on TV when you grew up, the advent of social media and globalisation, all have a huge impact on who you are. But I think we are like wine in other ways too.
We age well.
Okay, most of us age well. Some of us are perhaps a little corked and nasty and need to be quietly got rid of down the sink. Some are sharper and more vibrant in their youth but mellow to a gentle easy drink later in life. But I believe most of us are like quality wine – we grow into ourselves, our flavours, our sharp notes, our mellow undertones, as we age. I’m certainly a lot smarter and more confident than I ever was in my early 20s. So if you’re heading to the shady side of whatever decade you’re currently struggling through, just remember – you’re vintage, not old.
We aren’t to everybody’s taste.
Some people prefer the sweet dessert wines while others find them cloying. Some go for the oaky notes of a chardonnay as others screw up their noses and proclaim loudly that they only drink red. When we’re younger we desperately want to be the wine that everybody likes, that everybody can drink, forgetting that our current taste is for Miami Wine Cooler and we will quickly pass that stage. Ahem. Or was that just me? It’s okay to be not be the preferred choice of everybody. And as you get older you realise that actually most people pretend to like champagne even when they’d rather be drinking cider. I’d certainly rather be someone’s genuine choice than one because it was seen to be the thing.
We can make people cry and we can make people laugh.
The ‘happy drunk’, the ‘crying drunk’. I’ve always thought that wine simply intensified the feelings that I had right at that moment. We can’t create feelings in other people – they have ownership of that – but, just like the wine, we can be the person who brings joy and happiness to others, the person who starts the dancing off because no-one wants to be the first on the dance floor but if you’re brave enough, everyone will follow. Especially if the DJ is playing ABBA or Michael Jackson. True story. You can be the person to lift others, to showcase their humour and their good looks with your admiration and support – wine goggles aren’t needed when you’re there.
Or, we can be the person who brings others down. Who reminds them of what they’ve not got, who points out that their jokes aren’t funny and their clothes don’t fit properly. Actually, I can’t imagine being that person but I have met people who are. They are the human equivalent of wine making someone a sad drunk. Don’t do that. Be the happy bringer.
We can make people braver and less inhibited
If we’re supportive and encouraging enough, we can help others find their bravery. We can prompt them to approach the person they’ve been dying to talk to, we can motivate them to try things they’ve never done before. And, more importantly, if we create a space that’s safe and loving, they will be brave enough to tell us the things they’ve never told anyone else but desperately need to tell.
We can make people better dancers.
Okay no, we can’t.
Sorry. That’s beyond my powers.
How expensive you are doesn’t indicate how good you are
Brand recognition goes a long way. I’ve heard of many blind taste tests where the cheaper bottle won, or they were all the same and people thought they were different. Because people’s preferences differ, the veuve clicquot may lose out to the local methode champenoise more often than not. As a society we kind of buy into the whole sham of beauty and glamour and fame and wealth somehow indicating a superiority. Yet we know it doesn’t. Who you are, your influences that shaped you, your full-bodiedness or your gentle spiciness, it’s all good. You don’t need a medal and a shocking price tag to know it.
So next time you raise a glass, think of all the things that went into making you who you are, and the kind of flavours, body, inspiration, that you bring to the world.