The earliest evidence of wine produced from grapes dates as far back as 7000 BC; that’s roughly 10,000 years ago! The history of this fermented juice from pressing little fruits spans across the world. It has had many purposes, but mostly it’s a means of enjoyment for people of all backgrounds all over the world. In the United States alone, we spend over $30 billion and consumed over 950 million gallons of wine in 2018. Yeah, that’s a lot of wine! But the most amazing thing about wine is that it has the ability to bring people together as a form of its own communication.
Wine really is such a special beverage that seems to cross language and societal boundaries. As a single female I have traveled alone internationally with the main purpose of trying wine and eating amazing food. Spending ten days alone in France might sound intimidating to some, but it isn’t when you are communicating in a language as universal as wine People really come together!
I remember being in the South of France in Rhone Valley. I set camp for 4 nights in the magical town of Avignon that remains within fortress walls that were erected in the 14th century. It is surrounded by countless wine appellations that are separated by winding tree-lined roads and nestled in and between idyllic little towns.
Unfortunately, I don’t speak fluent French (bucket list item), but I know enough to get around and get me in and out of trouble! Many of these appalachia are small and not tourist driven, French is still the main language with a little English sprinkled in, so many would think that as a lone traveler, communication would be difficult. Well, that is what brings me to the language of wine.
During my time here, I visited 5 vineyards, 4 co-ops, and too many restaurants and boulangeries to count. Meals enjoyed on my own where I would meet the chef and exchange thoughts on food, and received some great tips on their fantastic and simple way of cooking, all again, with very limited words spoken in the same language.
While every experience in France emphasizes the fact that wine creates a means of communication between people, the specific scenario that confirmed that wine truly does have its own language and a way to bring people together was in a small commune named Beaumes-de-Venise. It is a co-op that is known for its sweet wines made from the muscat grape.
I arrived at this gorgeous winery and was impressed with the contemporary yet classic decorations of chandeliers, a mix of metal and wood and rows of wine with a long tasting counter in the center of it all. A lovely lady welcomed me and I told her in my very broken french that I was American, really liked wine and wanted to try some of their wines. That tasting lasted for almost 2 hours! During that time, I didn’t even notice that we didn’t have a common language. Between the pointing, tasting, laughter and gestures, we seemed to understand each other perfectly.
Sometime during the tasting, I noticed a table of giant truffles. (Truth is, I can be easily distracted by delicious items.) It turned out that the local farmer who grew them was there to sell them. He joined us and the three of us were somehow conversing and making ourselves understood. The conversation went back and forth between the three of us, with lots of laughs and wine!
I left with several bottles of wine, yummy treats and an overall feeling of fulfilment and the realization that I had just spent almost two hours with two complete strangers who barely shared a language with me. I had always known that wine brought people together, but I learned that wine truly is it’s own language. If you share the appreciation of this little grape and live with an outlook of inclusivity and togetherness, it can open worlds to you that you never thought you’d be able to fully experience.
“Bon vivant” is what a man called me on the train from Avignon to Paris as I enjoyed a bottle of rosé and a baguette. It means, “one who enjoys life”. It hit me, that’s it! It’s not necessarily the wine, but the approach and the passion that comes with the enjoyment of a simple things like a glass of wine.
As I continue to travel to different places in the US and abroad, the common language of wine and good food continues to ring true. People are always ready to share a glass of wine, a laugh and conversation.
Vanessa Rose Valero
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