The Vine & The Writer
Wine has a long and fruitful history with the written word, it has not only informed literature, but been informed by it. It is something of a symbiotic relationship that transcends the basics of grapes and words, enhancing the very essence of both.
It is clearly the case that a glass of wine can get the creative juices flowing, but this can be the case for beer, whiskey or even the cheapest gut rot ciders. There is something more, something tangible, about the written word and plethora of aromas and flavours that happen when a simple Pinot Noir grape is cultivated, fermented and bottled.
There are many reasons for this, of course. For one, wine, unlike most alcoholic drinks, can be described in orgiastic tones. Fruit, tar, smoke, wood, chocolates, acidity, stones, earth … the list goes on. To be a wine critic is to require the pallet of an artist and the palate of a connoisseur. Added to this the very real danger of pretentiousness, something true of all creative endeavours, and the picture of why these two seemingly disparate things go hand in hand becomes clearer.
Wine is at the heart of a human rituals the word over. For many religions, it is central to the celebration of god, weddings and many of life’s, and death’s, important moments, whether with a blessed table wine or a Champagne toast. Is it any wonder that literature time and time again goes back to the well, or the barrel in this case?
Famous Examples of Wine in Literature
There are more examples of wine in literature than a simple blog could ever hope to cover. In fact, it would likely take a library of its own to hope to touch the ways in which wine, and even viticulture in general, have inspired and coloured creative writing throughout the ages.
There are, however, some famous, or indeed infamous, examples that stand out. As you will see, it encompasses some of the greatest writers of all time, for whom wine was the perfect metaphor, muse or prop.
Shakespeare, arguably the greatest writer of them all, had a particular fondness for writing about drunkards, typically in his comedies. In fact, wine is mentioned so often in Shakespeare plays that one has to wonder how much the Bard was consuming at the time of writing. Some of his most famous quotes include:
“I pray you, do not fall in love with me. For I am falser than vows made in wine.”
As You Like It, Act 3, Scene 5
“Good company, good wine, good welcome can make good people”
Henry VIII, Act 1 Scene 4
“Good wine is a good familiar creature, if used well.”
Othello, Act 2 Scene 3
“O thou invisible spirit of wine, if thou has no name to be known by, let us call thee devil….O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! that we should, with joy, pleasance revel and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!”
Othello, Act 2, Scene 3
“Good wine needs no bush”
As You Like It, Act 5, Scene 4
“A man cannot make him laugh – but that’s no marvel; he drinks no wine.”
Henry IV, Part 2, Act 4, Scene 3
“O thou invisible spirit of wine, if thou hast no name to be known by, let us call thee devil.”
Othello, Act 2, Scene 3
Anyone who has read Hemingway will no doubt be aware of the man’s love of a drink. In fact, Hemingway’s drinking is the stuff of legend, leading fellow writer Philip Green to author a book on this subject alone, To Have and to Have Another. Hemingway once said he rarely drank when writing, however, he also lamented that “My only regret in life is that I did not drink more wine.”
“A person with increasing knowledge and sensory education may derive infinite enjoyment from wine.”
Death in the Afternoon
“Wine is one of the most civilised things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”
The Hemingway Collection
“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.”
The Sun Also Rises
“Wine is a grand thing,” I said. “It makes you forget all the bad.”
A Farewell To Arms
No list of great quotes in literature would be complete without Oscar Wilde. Revelry was central to Wilde’s writing, and he was said to have enjoyed wine as much as the consumption of any food, drink or company.
“Now and then it is a joy to have one’s table red with wine and roses.”
“The English have a miraculous power of turning wine into water.”
Epigrams of Oscar Wilde
“It is a very poor consolation to be told that the man who has given one a bad dinner, or poor wine, is irreproachable in private life. Even the cardinal virtues cannot atone for half-cold entrees.”
The Complete Works
“And her sweet red lips on these lips of mine burned like the ruby fire set In the swinging lamp of a crimson shrine, Or the bleeding wounds of the pomegranate, Or the heart of the lotus drenched and wet with the spilt-out blood of the rose-red wine.”
Poems and Poems in Prose
Best of the Rest
While the above are some of the most prolific writers of wine in literature, it would be remiss to not include some of my favourites.
“We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine.”
“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”
“Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector.”
“Language is wine upon the lips.”
“Wine is poetry in a bottle.”
“Whenever a man is tired, wine is a great restorer of strength.”
… And Finally
For all the great and creative minds listed above, no one quite outdid the great Italian Astronomer Galileo. “Wine is water, held together by sunshine.”