At our house, we like wine. A lot.
Whenever I´m in the US, I spend far too much time dallying in the wine aisles of the grocery stores, in awe of the sheer volume and selection and countries and varietals represented on most large grocery stores´ shelves. It´s overwhelming, and often I can barely make a selection. Or, when I do, it´s pretty much because I played eeiny, miney, moe.
Here in Mexico, our wine options are a bit more limited. Wine aisles in the grocery stores here have come a long way in the last decade (at least, in the fancy-pants grocery stores). The limited selection does make choosing a wine much easier.
But, as the town of Parras is a mere two hours from Saltillo, we make our wine purchases even easier and get almost all our wine from Casa Madero. It´s the oldest vineyard and winery in North America, and, I believe, the second-largest. Despite its size, it pumps out some pretty awesome wine. Let me state for the record here that I´m no wine connoisseur. However, a few of Casa Madero´s wines (merlot and chardonnay) have made me step back for a second, give them a second look-over and say, ¨Wow--that´s GOOD!¨
Thanks to us getting almost all our wine from the same place, I´m getting better at guessing what we´re drinking without looking at the label on the bottle. So, last week, as we were eating, I was a bit stumped to what we were drinking, gave up guessing, and had to ask Mario which wine he choose. It was a cabernet suavingnon--what I usually think of as standard, red wine.
¨But this is so . . . fruity!¨ (For lack of a better word.) Forgive me for trying to sound all wine critic-y, but I usually think of fruity wines as wines that are a bit young, and sweeter than cabernet suavingon. That´s not what I meant by calling that cab fruity. Cabernet usually bites back a little. This one didn´t. It tasted all . . . balanced. Smooth. All those irritating adjectives for wine that really give one no sense what it actually tasted like, except that it was good. Think of Tim Allen growling, ¨gooood¨ here.
Mario´s response? ¨Yeah--that´s what a cabernet sauvingon should taste like.¨
Huh. Really. Well, I´ve liked all the apparent cabernet flops that I´ve tasted, but this one? Yeah, it stands out.
Now, we´ve drank what must be a few gallons of Casa Madero´s cabernet sauvingon in the last 5 years. Why on earth was this one be so exceptionally different?
The clue on the tag told us that this wine was from 2011. A-ha! Why was 2011 such a stand out year?
It was the worst drought in the last 70 years.
Whatever grapes survived that drought, they had to fight hard for their survival. Grapes that have to work extra hard tend to make kick-ass wines.
And that philosophy kind of translates to people, too. When I´m together with friends and we´re discussing life, we often wonder why life has to be so hard. Why do bad things happen to good people? And, of course, there´s not really any good answer to that question. At least not one that I´m fully satisfied with that doesn´t sound trite.
But it seems to be a general pattern that when we do go through hard times, and we manage to come through those tough times with our souls intact, our caracters do not come out unscathed. We´re often transformed, more compassionate. Just like with the drought affected the grapes and made a more flavorful wine, our characters can be made more beautiful by tough times.
Now, I´m not one to romanticize suffering. No way. If I can somehow get through life with less than my fair share of suffering, I won´t complain. But when I do go through those times, here´s hoping that I, too, get more beautiful on the inside.
And not just shrivel up and die, as I bet a lot of grapes did in 2011.