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Existentialism and Wine

friday-debate

#1

No, this isn’t a recently unearthed treatise by Michel Foucault. It’s more of a quandary I perennially come back to when I think about aging wine.

When faced with accounts of people on the forum, sharing their experiences of buying wine to age for, say, 15- 20 years – I am in total awe. I cannot conceive of the idea in practice, though it sounds so good on paper. My main issue is – how do you know what your preferences will be in the future? how do you know whether future health issue might not make it impossible to drink all this lovely wine you’re storing*? How can you be confident about what your life will look like in 15, 20 years’ time?

I am quite a different person in preferences and habits to who I was 15 years ago, so it’s fair to say I may well change again in another 15 years’ time. Is it just that I got into wine too late (early 40’s), and now fear aging it? Or should I just stick to ‘drink, eat and be merry for tomorrow we die’ approach and not worry about it?

Would love to hear your thoughts, and how you approach the idea (rather than the practicality) of aging your wine!

  • I admit to a bit of a Shtetl mentality here – every day I imagine I got some terminal disease or other, though haven’t been to the GP for years.

#2

if you are of the “live for the moment” mentality don’t age wine…just drink it

I am hedging my bets with ageing the wine I am - it is all wine I like currently (and have for the last 20 years…gosh I feel old now!) so I believe I am minimising the risk.

all I know is…if my life goes bad, I have 600 bottles of fabulous wine to console myself with :slight_smile:


#3

This is a very interesting question.

A couple of points spring to mind. You could apply the same question to a pension pot. How do you know you will be around to utilise it? When we are in a healthy place, our own mortality rarely confronts us, and i think it is human nature to assume we will last forever, figuratively speaking. Therefore we can plod along in our optimism, planning for the future, that may never come. I think in terms of the cache of wine, i hope to have family and friends that could enjoy it anyway after i’m gone.

You may have to leave the party, but don’t kid yourself the party won’t continue without you!

Also in terms of taste, i think this again extends to the broader principle that we won’t be the same person tomorrow as we were yesterday. In fact, if had the power of prescience then a lot of us may not like the person we are to become.

Using the pension example again, it’s the most altruistic thing we can do. We are essentially saving for a strangers retirement. I hope the stranger i become has a broad enough palate to enjoy something in my cellar.

The problem with existentialism, is that if you think about it enough, it all becomes rather absurd.


#4

I have been buying wine for future drinking for the last twenty years or so. I have an embarrassing number of bottles (but I can cope with that) and I can honestly say that even though the taste pendulum swings it often swings back. I despaired of all the Chateauneuf I owned for a while but with age (both of myself and my bottles) I find I am glad I kept them.

Buying wines that aren’t age worthy is a mistake if you are not planning early consumption but the alternative of trying to buy properly aged wines at time of consumption is a problem as to both cost and availability. I generally prefer wines with some age so view laying down stocks as an essential. I will leave questions of mortality aside, I’m an optimist and I (or my beneficiaries) can always sell the stuff.


#5

Interesting topic. I have found since becoming a parent to two young children I am much more aware of my own mortality. Losing a friend at 35 years old 18 months ago also woke up our group of friends to the what ifs and buts of life in general and there has been a lot less speeding around on sports bikes since then. (Not me, I’m a useless pillion!).
That aside, planning for your future is inevitable, whether that’s contributing to a pension or investing in property for the income it will bring in, there is a lot of things we do because we make the assumption we will live to retirement and get to enjoy the fruits of our hard work now.
Wine, for me is one of those things, I purchase various EP campaigns and or buy wine that’s not ready for drinking now. It is investing in my drinking future. These wines, based on inflation alone will be much more expensive to buy in say 15 years time so if I purchase every year then every year I will have aged mature hopefully beautiful wine to drink.
If I don’t live to see the benefit, well then someone else will be a beneficiary . I just hope they will appreciate the effort that went into building a cellar.


#6

That’s a really good point!

I suppose there’s something more obviously ‘useful’ about one’s children inheriting one’s pension fund (and pardon the dry utilitarianism) than a collection of wine that might not be of interest. But I think it’s a valued comparison!

Funnily enough, that’s what I love about it! In a strange way, it helps me keep things in perspective. Life is pretty amazing, perhaps by virtue of being ephemeral.

That is true too - and I completely get what you’re saying about wine being just one of these future investments. I guess what ‘bugs’ me is the fact that bricks and mortar and a pension are perhaps more useful to the next generation - as a means of supporting themselves and their own future plans; having said that, inheriting a collection of wines, if one loves wine, must be an equally amazing gift from a parent to a child :heart_eyes:

It’s what I’m trying to work out. Actually I do lots of future planning in other spheres of life, but struggle to do this with wine, hence this thread…

Really good to read people’s take on it! :+1::+1:


#7

It’s quite appropriate a topic title actually, as wine drinking is a bit like the reverse of the myth of Sisyphus. Every time you get to the bottom of the bottle, you have to start again at the top.


#8

I think the retirement savings analogy doesn’t go very far. Any prudent person on a middle class salary knows they need to save a proportion of their income into (tax advantaged) retirement savings, you’ll need it to live on if you live past retirement. And money is very flexible, you can use it for lots of different things in retirement. Use the same money for laying down wine, and you’ve limited your options, since there’s no guarantee you can sell the wine in ten or twenty years time. Fair enough, you or your family & friends can drink it…


#9

Am I only the only person who’s never heard “Shtetl” before?

Anyway the first thing that comes to mind is that whatever your approach to buying wine you definitely should “not worry about it”. Wine is for pleasure not for worry! Whether you buy wine for now or for later, do whichever you enjoy most. For many of us it’s probably a bit of both.

About 5 years ago I was quite ill and nearly died. However after 6 months in hospital, 3 major ops, and the loss of 18 kgs, I emerged safely, with roughly similar prospects to everyone else. But it did make me think about “future planning” rather differently. I don’t buy any really long-term wine (20+ years) and after coming out of hospital and re-acquiring a taste for alcohol I did buy mainly short-term drinking wines. But as the years go by I find I am gradually buying longer term wine again. I’m aware I might not get to enjoy it myself but I think a lot of pleasure comes from the collecting, and from actually having it. It’s immensely satisfying to think I’ve got a bottle of this, or a magnum of that, or a case of something else.

Of course wine is ultimately for drinking, but acquiring and possessing it brings pleasure too. I doubt I’m the only person on here who has wine that I know is not getting better, or is probably even declining. Do I rush to drink it? Not necessarily, sometimes I’m just happy to have it and to know I have it.

Now I’m wondering whether this collecting and possessing thing is more of a male pre-occupation, but perhaps that’s another discussion!


#10

Oops! Sorry… An old Jewish joke. :slight_smile:


#11

This is the crux of my point really, not that buying long lived wine is a suitable substitute for a pension pot, simply that you may never live long enough to utilise something you intend to use down the line. But you can’t really live life in this frame of mind IMO.


#12

I came to wine drinking quite early - I’ve been enjoying wine pretty steadily since about 1962 I suppose. I go with the flow, my parents introduced me to cheap claret, Yugoslav Riesling and Anjou Rose. At university, I dimly remember Algerian reds were the cheapest. Then in the 70s, Nicolas table wine in the liter bottle with the stars around the neck. Helping with the vendage in Julienas a couple of autumns, I remember drinking quite a lot of wine, some out of a bottle, some not. Then in Israel for a couple of years, looking forward to the Shabbat meal - and bottles of Carmel wine. Moved to America, and for several years we drank Almaden Cabernet Sauvignon by the case. (It wasn’t very good, but there was lots of it.) When in England, I do buy my wine from TWS, but it’s the drink over the nest year or so variety, and very nice it is too. (Algerian doesn’t seem to be a thing these days!)


#13

Geez, @Andy999! Sounds awful! Really glad you came back with a vengeance. :slight_smile:

I think you’re making some really interesting points about how our perception can change over time, and habits change accordingly. Seems enough distance from an awful experience have helped you gain some confidence in building your wine collection again - which is great!

Oh, absolutely not exclusively male! I’m a terrible horder of books, and we’re running out of space for them in the house. I much prefer owning and collecting them than borrowing from the library. The thrill of buying a new book never diminishes.

I would also say, personally, that I have definitely got the wine purchasing ‘bug’! I know exactly what you mean about the pleasure of acquiring and possessing the bottles one likes. I often stand and just ogle at the rack or the wine fridge - even though my collection is fairly small. I must look right dumb to any onlooker! :thinking:


#14

A-ha! that is my niggle about my own wine habits. I have only really started fully appreciating (rather than drinking and liking this or that) wine about 5 years ago. So from my vantage point - I’ve got a lot to catch up on.
Perhaps that’s partly where my desperation to drink ‘now’ as opposed to ‘later’ comes from?!


#15

In my book, so long as ‘now’ is after 3pm, I’m good. The complication comes with time zones, for instance, the day after flying from London to New York, I want my wine ration at 10am…


#16

Interesting post Inbar. Perhaps this might be an answer: I buy wines with up to a dozen years bottle age, to drink over the next 2 or 3 years - they do improve with a few years to settle. I love older wines but cannot bring myself to plan ahead 15 to 20 years and do the long cellaring myself.

This is partly due to a heart attack 2 years ago aged 56. I’m absolutely fine now, cant believe it happened to me, but no longer consider myself to be indestructable (I honestly used to be… ). So now I live life more completely in the moment - which includes better glasses of wine and loving the sunshine today. Maybe it’s a zen thing, but it’s a more satisfying way to live.

I think it’s a very human condition to believe we will live forever, despite the evidence to the contrary.


#17

So sorry to hear that! But glad you’re fine now! :+1: My father died at 58 from a heart attack - a very stupid age to die, so that definitely strikes a chord with me.

I think you may have hit (my) nail on its head. Although I haven’t (yet) had a health scare, or a reason to think about my mortality too much - I do find that simply growing older is making me want to enjoy the ‘here and now’ more than ever before. And this definitely includes the absolute enjoyment I get from wine.

I can stomach 2-3 years’ planning ahead, but anything beyond - I honestly can’t practically engage with. I do envy those who can think this far ahead, and whose cellar is an investment in their drinking future, but maybe I just need to accept that this isn’t my strategy.

It’s good to think about these things, though, as I am rather new to the whole thing anyway - so don’t necessarily want to assume that I will never want to hang on to some wine for longer than, say, 5 years. Perhaps I’ll surprise myself!! :grinning: :wine_glass:


#18

Fascinating topic! With my various pastimes I honestly never expected to reach my current age of 62 (and on several occasions nearly didn’t). So I try to live on both the assumption that I will keep going for a good many years yet, whilst at the same time living and viewing every day as a bonus.

So that means I do like the idea of laying wines down and also, from a purely pragmatic viewpoint, many good wines are simply not available, or not easily available by the time they are mature. For example saint cosme cote rotie is a lovely wine that is currently sold out on tws, but I have '16 and '17 on ep. Yippee :clinking_glasses:


#19

I’m no spring chicken and have curbed my long term purchasing and I do think it’s an age thing worrying about mortality, but I remain optimistic about my future (although I have been known to claim that an optimist is just someone who doesn’t understand what is going on). At least in part I enjoy the collecting part of the wine experience (I know it’s a bit sad) and am struggling to give that up. I’ve been much better with books, I read them and then it’s off to the charity shop (other than wine books for some reason :slightly_smiling_face:)


#20

I do wish that I had the foresight 12 years ago to invest in a cask of new make whisky - Springbank perhaps - now that WOULD have been an investment !

Just a very personal opinion mind; but mortality isnt as bad as it’s made out to be. Having nearly met the Grim Reaper… turned out I didnt mind so much.

On the other hand - the glass of St Emilion 2001 in front of me is rather fine.