Some years ago, I spent a month touring France. I learned much about wine and food, two things at which the French excel.
In vino veritas. (In wine there is truth.)
— Pliny the Elder, 23–79 A.D.
The Connoisseur vs. the Enthusiast
Some claim to drink wine for the taste, alone. These connoisseurs, as they insufferably like to deem themselves, tend to have a lot of rules about which wine goes with which food, how it should be opened, how to "let it breathe,” the mechanics of proper tasting, and which words should be used to describe the taste.
They can speak of years, vintages, regions, cultivars, Cru and Grande Cru—all that stuff.
They sniff at corks, roll wine round their mouths, chew at it, and then either approve or disapprove. Each mouthful, they tell us, resounds of richness, depth, flavor, intensity, balance, finesse, finish, fruit, tannins, and (sigh of bliss) "mouth-feel." And on top of all this they ask for a "good body" as well.
(I don’t know about the rest of you, but at this point I like to smile, nod, and try to look agreeable—opening my mouth only to sip a bit of the wine. I’m not knowledgeable about these things, am already as refined as I ever care to be, and just want a buzz with my dinner.)
I trust them not. I have seen them extolling the virtues of the wine, besotted, bleary-eyed, and well beyond the ability to speak the name, let alone taste its intricacies.
Now when I buy wine, I look for very different qualities. Is it on sale? Is the spigot on the box non-drip?
Whether you are a connoisseur or simply an enthusiast, we can all acknowledge that wine has been around for so many thousands of years and has been appreciated by many all over the globe. It shouldn't come as any surprise to find that the greatest minds of every age have had something to say on the subject.
Anyone who tries to make you believe that he knows all about wines is obviously a fake.
— Leon Adams, "The Commonsense Book of Wine"
Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.
Ancient Greek, Roman, and Biblical Writers
Not surprisingly, humans have reflected on their love affair with the “noble” grape since the beginning of history and, one suspects, even before that. Who was the first to come across some overripe and rotten grapes and eat them, discovering that side effect of fermentation, alcohol?
"Wine can of their wits the wise beguile,
Make the sage frolic, and the serious smile."
—Homer, The Odyssey, 9th century B.C.
"The wine urges me on, the bewitching wine, which sets even a wise man to singing and to laughing gently and rouses him up to dance and brings forth words which were better unspoken."
—Homer, The Odyssey, Book XIV, l. 463
“Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.
—Aristophanes, 450–385 B.C.
"No thing more excellent nor more valuable than wine
was ever granted mankind by God.
—Plato, 400 B.C.
"Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
"No one that has drunk old wine wants new; for he says, 'The old is nice.'"
Read More From Delishably
"When there is plenty of wine, sorrow and worry take wing."
—Ovid, The Art of Love, c. A.D. 8
An ancient Persian fable credits a lady of the court with the discovery of wine. This princess, having lost favor with the king, attempted to poison herself by eating some table grapes that had "spoiled" in a jar. She became intoxicated and giddy and fell asleep. When she awoke, she found the stresses that had made her life intolerable had dispersed. Returning to the source of her relief, her subsequent conduct changed so remarkably that she regained the king's favor. He shared the lady's discovery with his court and decreed an increase in the production of "spoiled" grapes.
With wine in hand, one reaches the happy state, where men are wise, women beautiful, and even one's children begin to look promising.
Top Wine Producers and Exporters
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If God forbade drinking, would He have made wine so good?
— Cardinal Richeleu
Some years ago, I worked in Paris, and after the audit was finished, I rented a car and toured the country for a month. It was a lovely, hedonistic holiday and an educational one. I learned much of wine and food, two things at which the French excel, Mostly, I learned I liked both—a lot.
"Bacchus, we thank who gave us wine
Which warms the blood within our veins;
That nectar is itself divine.
The man who drinks not, yet attains
By godly grace to human rank
Would be an angel if he drank."
"God made only water, but man made wine."
—Victor Hugo, 1856
"Wine...the intellectual part of the meal..."
"I serve your Beaune to my friends, but your Volnay I keep for myself."
"If God forbade drinking, would He have made wine so good?"
"For a chase, the Cardinal recommends his excellent '24 Cabernet."
—Porthos in The Three Musketeers
"The best use of bad wine is to drive away poor relations."
"Clearly, the pleasures wines afford are transitory - but so are those of the ballet, or of a musical performance. Wine is inspiring and adds greatly to the joy of living.
"Within the bottle's depths, the wine's soul sang one night."
—Charles Baudelaire, 1821–1867
Wine is sunlight, held together by water.
— Galileo Galilei
Though Italy is smaller in size than France or California, it is the world’s largest wine-producing country. With 20 wine-growing regions stretching from its north to south end, this country also offers the greatest variety of wines.
"L'acqua fa male e il vina fa catare."
—Italian proverb, "Water is bad for you and wine makes you sing."
“I feast on wine and bread, and feasts they are.”
“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.”
—Galileo Galilei, 1564–1642
“And that you may the less marvel at my words, Look at the sun's heat that becomes wine when combine with the juice that flows from the vine.”
—Dante Alighieri, 1265–1321
"Men are like wine—some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age."
—Pope John XXIII
“He is a fool who boasts of four things: that he has good wine, a good horse, a handsome wife, and plenty of money.”
The wine-cup is the little silver well,
Where truth, if truth there be, doth dwell.
— William Shakespeare
English and Irish Writers
“When I find someone I respect writing about an edgy, nervous wine that dithered in the glass, I cringe. When I hear someone I don't respect talking about an austere, unforgiving wine, I turn a bit austere and unforgiving myself. When I come across stuff like that and remember about the figs and bananas, I want to snigger uneasily. You can call a wine red, and dry, and strong, and pleasant. After that, watch out...”
—Kingsley Amis, Everyday Drinking
"The wine-cup is the little silver well,
Where truth, if truth there be, doth dwell."
—William Shakespeare, 1564–1616
"Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh."
—William Butler Yeats
"They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream."
"Few things surpass old wine; and they may preach Who please, the more because they preach in vain… Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter, Sermons and soda-water the day after."
—Lord Bryon, 1788–1824
"Which cheers the sad, revives the old, inspires The young, makes Weariness forget his toil, And Fear her danger; opens a new world When this, the present, palls."
—Lord Bryon, 1788–1824
Wine rejoices the heart of man and joy is the mother of all virtues.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
"Music is the wine which inspires one to new generative processes, and I am Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for mankind and makes them spiritually drunken."
—Ludwig van Beethoven
"He who loves not wine, women and song remains a fool his whole lifelong."
—Martin Luther, 1777
"Wine rejoices the heart of man and joy is the mother of all virtues."
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1771
"Ah, that tastes nice. Thank you."
—Johannes Brahms's last words said after he had a small glass of wine, April 3, 1897
There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking.
— Benjamin Franklin
Thomas Jefferson took up residence in the President’s House in 1801, after his inauguration as the third president of the United States. According to records, in 1801 he spent "$6500 for provisions and groceries, $2700 for servants (some of whom were liveried), $500 for Lewis’s salary, and $3,000 for 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."
"No nation is drunken where wine is cheap,
and none sober where the dearness of wine substitutes
ardent spirits as the common beverage.
Wine brightens the life and thinking of anyone."
"I have lived temperately... I double the doctor's recommendation of a glass and a half of wine each day and even treble it with a friend."
"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."
Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), American Renaissance man and founding father of the nation, had much to say on the subject of wine.
"The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars."
"There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking."
"Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance."
"Take counsel in wine, but resolve afterwards in water."
“We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”
Who drinks the most wine?
A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.
— Hannibal Lecter, "Silence of the Lambs"
Wine in Cinema
Just as film and books reflect our society back to us, the arts also mirror our fascination with wine. Here are some memorable quotes.
"My dear girl, there are some things that are just not done, such as drinking Dom Perignon '53 above the temperature of 38° Fahrenheit."
—James Bond in Ian Fleming's Goldfinger
"What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?"
—Larson E. Whipsnade (W.C. Fields), You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (1939)
"This wine is too good for toast-drinking, my dear. You don't want to mix emotions up with a wine like that. You lose the taste."
—Count Mippipopolous in Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (1926)
"During one of my treks through Afghanistan, we lost our corkscrew. We were compelled to live on food and water for several days."
—Cuthbert J. Twillie (W.C. Fields), My Little Chickadee, (1940)
"…then the streams would run with wine instead of water and the whole forest would give itself up to jollification for weeks on end."
—C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
"I like to drink wine more than I used to..." "It's good for you, pop."
—Exchange between Don Corleone and Michael Corleone, The Godfather
“Wine is like people. The wine takes all the influences in life all around it, it absorbs them and it gets its personality."
—Luc (Kevin Kline), French Kiss (1995)
“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”
—Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), Silence of the Lambs (1991)
“I myself subscribe more to the European philosophy of life, my priorities leaning towards wine, women and, well that's about it.”
—Alfie (Jude Law), Alfie (2004)
"Let me show you how this is done. First thing, hold the glass up and examine the wine against the light. You're looking for color and clarity. Just, get a sense of it. OK? Uhh, thick? Thin? Watery? Syrupy? OK? Alright. Now, tip it. What you're doing here is checking for color density as it thins out towards the rim. Uhh, that's gonna tell you how old it is, among other things. It's usually more important with reds. OK? Now, stick your nose in it. Don't be shy, really get your nose in there. Mmm... a little citrus... maybe some strawberry... [smacks lips]... passion fruit... and, oh, there's just like the faintest soupçon of like asparagus and just a flutter of a... like a... nutty Edam cheese...”
—Miles Raymond, Sideways
“I never drink… wine.”
—Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi), Dracula (1931)
I only drink wine on days ending in "y."
Funny Wine Quotes
"Due to the heavy wine fog all further thoughts have been temporarily suspended."
"Wine improves with age, the older I get the better I like it."
"Like a fine wine I'm not getting older, I'm becoming more complex."
"I only drink wine on days ending in 'y.'"
I cook with wine; sometimes I even add it to the food.
— W. C. Fields
My Personal Favorites
“Men are like a fine wine. They all start out like grapes, and it's our job to stomp on them and keep them in the dark until they mature into something you'd like to have dinner with.”
“I cook with wine; sometimes I even add it to the food.”
—W. C. Fields, 1880–1946