Wine is the ex-boyfriend I will never get over. My first love if I may be so bold. I met him when I was barely 18. I was old enough to want to get to know him and to prove to myself that I had progressed from the cocktails and ciders of my underage drinking youth. But, I was young enough to ignore all his flaws and too stubborn to admit it.
He was sweet. Sickly sweet. He made me giddy and reckless, and to be honest he always left me with a headache. Blushed and looking at him with rose-tinted glasses I was blissfully happy. We only met out in clubs and bars where the atmosphere was frivolous and care-free. It was a tumultuous relationship. Each time I woke up with a pounding headache and skin littered with blemishes from the sugar, and I swore it would be the last. But how could I write off the fun times I had had? For every morning plagued with hangovers, was a night filled with happy stories and memories that made my heart swell.
But alas, it was a love that could not survive the test of time. After one too many headaches, disapproval from my family and the promise of something new I broke off all ties.
As with any break up the time that followed was filled with ups and downs. The “ups” consisted of the excitement of new wines – why not try a fruity Sauvignon blanc, a flirty Chardonnay or… maybe even the bold and robust Cabernet Sauvignon rumoured to steal everyone’s heart. But with any great love story there was the inevitable “down”, the retreat. A late night out in town and I found myself with a glass of a sickly impersonation of the wine I once loved.
Except, it doesn’t taste quite as good anymore. Sure the memories are there and I can appreciate it for what it once meant to me. But we have both moved on. The sugary affront does not agree with me and I insult him disguising his flaws with ice and mixers. He remains the fun easy-going wine to be drunk by those not looking for commitment. They have come to experience wine without the work that is required to go into a mature relationship. I, however, have moved onto wines which I can introduce to my parents, I can eat meals with them and can take them to celebrations with friends.
With this knowledge I was inspired to try even newer and bolder wines. With my friends encouraging me and my peers guiding me I stumbled across my first grassy Sauvignon blanc. A summer love affair. A transitional wine as I refer to it now. It helped me move past my alliance to the sweet rosés. But winter came too quickly and I had to progress to richer red wines. Full of body, young fruits and the hint of mocha chocolate, they kept me warm at night. Once again I was drunk and rosy cheeked with infatuation. But something was still off. These wines lacked the depth and balance I was looking for.
So again I had to grow. I stumbled from these entry-level wines and learnt to look deeper. I stopped taking a wine for its label and fancy descriptions. I got to know them for who they were and what they had been through. I discovered the bolder wines, wines which have aged and matured. They are not dominated by fruity flirtations or cool, but somewhat overwrought, oak-y personalities. These wines have been developed and hid more beneath the surface. The subtleties are often missed and they are appreciated by few.
By now my heart no longer belongs to just one. I have pledged allegiance to Bordeaux blends, but I could never say farewell to my flamboyant champagne, nor could I turn away a sneaky Sauvignon or even some dominating Cabernet. I am committed to Chenin but I could never stray from Syrah. And my heart longs for Riesling but I can be persuaded with a Pinotage.
I am older and wiser. I have learnt what I do not like and what I do, the body, the character, the aftertaste. I have developed along with the wines, together we grow and mature. But in every new, complex wine I endeavour there will always be the faint memory of where I started. And sure enough, the next day the headache will return. Just as it always did when I was young and 18 and drunk off my first wine.