PARIS — What if it all goes to hell in a handbasket? Well, at least we'll still have wine, of that I'm sure. Survivor of extremes, wine has seen plenty of bitter times. And it'll keep on keeping on, even in face of climate change, war, or the collapse of the capitalist system. As long as there are humans, there will be wine.
Humanity invented wine before it invented writing. The first traces of wine date back 8,000 years ago in Anatolia, in modern Turkey. As grapes are the fruit easiest to ferment, it's not absurd to believe that our ancestors quickly understood the benefits of stocking them in pots. Similar wine storage vases were discovered in Iran and Georgia, aged between 7,000 and 9,000 years old. In Armenia, excavations revealed a 6,100-year-old site consecrated to winemaking. In comparison, writing is a youngling at just 5,300 years old.
The first hangover in history: when Noah ended up naked in an ethanol coma (Genesis 9: 18-27).
Wine has seen its share of catastrophic events. Do you know the first thing Noah did when the flood was over, according to the Hebrew Bible? He didn't run to buy new clothes at Zara or enroll in a comprehensive insurance plan or put his savings in a bank or invest in stock. No. Fruitful living starts with grapes, so he planted vines. This led to the first hangover in history, when Noah ended up naked in an ethanol coma (Genesis 9: 18-27). Because you know what? After an apocalypse, you need a good drink.
Our era is no exception. When there's nothing left, there will be wine, because it's easy enough to create and vines adapt to almost every climate. Wine is produced in Canada, Ethiopia, Chile, Switzerland, South Africa, Japan, Morocco, Mexico, Cape Verde and Brazil. They even make it in Tahiti (OK, fine, there's one only producer there) where it's possible to have two harvests per year if you let the vine grow.
Noah and his sons making wine — Source: Holkham Bible
Wine is useful. When we wanted to purify water in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance, we cut it with wine, even if it wasn't great for kids. But for Louis Pasteur, the father of pasteurization, it was the "healthiest of all drinks." Above all, vines are a symbol of civilization, made to be taken everywhere.
Georgia, one of the cradles of wine, is already dreaming about the beverage's future — and wisely preparing for the final frontier. Indeed, the University of Technology in Tbilisi is currently constructing a laboratory where it will soon test a variety of Georgian grapes in an environment similar to that of Mars.
Everywhere that wine strongly influenced culture, it has persisted — even in times of war. Don't forget that 1945 was a fantastic vintage in France. That, of course, was the year World War II ended. The vintage, consequently, became a symbol of peace. But even in Syria, where war is ongoing, people continue to harvest wine grapes.
In the Château Marsyas in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, brothers Karim and Sandro Saadé remotely direct the harvest on the Bargylus estate, their vineyard 200 kilometers away, on the other side of the border. It's too dangerous for them work in the vineyard itself, so they import their samples by taxi all the way to Beirut where they test the juice in a laboratory.
If only a small portion of humanity survives, even then there'll still be wine.
"We keep in contact with the teams there every day, by whatever means available," they explained to me by phone. "WhatsApp helps a lot." Even at the peak of the war, they haven't stopped producing. Bargylus is now exported to 24 countries.
If the collapsologists are right and only a small portion of humanity survives, even then there'll still be wine. Sure, there would be challenges: Without oil there's no plastic, so no bag-in-box wine. But there could still be amphoras, the original wine vases, which are more charming anyway. And there would be no lack of people willing to produce it. In my own travels I've met winemakers who were previously DJs, journalists, bankers, CEOs and teachers. Their wines are good.
Everyone is game — even the guy sitting next to me at a restaurant yesterday, who announced to his table that one day he would leave everything and start making wine. I resisted the temptation to interrupt and suggest that the apocalypse would be the perfect occasion. That brings to mind another potential benefit of the post-apocalyptic world: no Netflix! That means no more procrastinating, and no more excuses for making that professional reconversion a reality.
*Ophélie Neiman, aka "Miss GlouGlou" is a French journalist and wine blogger.
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