Skip to main content

Wine and romance: poems about wine, love, and life

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, this month we will take a diversion from the usual hard science topics relating to wine and health and look at wine’s affinity with love and long life. Some of the most famous writers have penned paeans to wine, including the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. His 1954 Ode to Wine weaves a numinous daydream about life with sensuous romance: “…wine, starry child of the earth” he writes, “full of wonder, amorous” and “…at the least, you must be shared.” No drinking alone for this guy, not if there is a friend or lover to celebrate with. He goes on: “My darling, suddenly/the line of your hip/becomes the brimming curve/of the wine goblet,/your breast is the grape cluster,/your nipples the grapes,/the gleam of spirits lights your hair,” and finally “your love is an inexhaustible/cascade of wine,/light that illuminates my senses,/the earthly splendor of life.”
 Irish poet William Butler Yeats, himself a 1923 literature Nobel laureate, had a more direct approach: “Wine comes in at the mouth/and love comes in at the eye/That’s all we shall know for truth/before we grow old and die./I lift the glass to my mouth,/I look at you, and sigh.”
Yeats and Neruda may both have been inspired by the nineteenth century French poet Charles Beaudelaire, whose poem The Soul of Wine finds a promise of health, happiness, and rekindled romance: “One eve in the bottle sang the soul of wine:/Man, unto thee … I sing a song of love and light divine” imploring “Glorify me with joy and be at rest.” Wine continues its enchanting serenade: “To thy wife’s eyes I’ll bring their long-lost gleam,” before concluding “I flow in man’s heart as ambrosia flows … from our first loves the first fair verse arose.”
Beaudelaire’s American contemporary Ralph Waldo Emerson invokes a more mystical air in Bacchus: “Wine of wine,/blood of the world … that I, intoxicated … may float at pleasure through all natures” calling it “food which can teach and reason.” Emerson connects wine to a collective consciousness of memories: “I thank the joyful juice/for all I know;/winds of remembering/of the ancient being blow” then beseeching “Pour, Bacchus! The remembering wine/retrieve the loss of me and mine … A dazzling memory revive.”
Around the same time on the other side of the world, Chinese poet Li Quingzhao also arouses a sense of reverie in her poems on wine: “After drinking wine at twilight/under the chrysanthemum hedge … I cannot say it is not enchanting.” The tradition of wine poetry in China goes back more than a millennium to the 8th century bard Li Bai, who celebrated drinking: “Since heaven and earth love the wine,/need a tippling mortal be ashamed?” Wine, says Bai, “has the soothing virtue of a sage” noting “both the sage and the wise were drinkers,” closing with “Three cups open the grand door to bliss;/take a jugful, the universe is yours./Such is the rapture of the wine,/that the sober shall never inherit.”
And who doesn’t recognize the refrain of the Persian poet Omar Khayyam? “A book of verses underneath the bough/a flask of wine, a loaf of bread and thou/beside me singing in the wilderness/and wilderness is paradise now.” Come to think of it, that may have been the inspiration for the quote attributed to Martin Luther: “Who loves not wine, women and song, remains a fool his whole life long.”

So here’s to love, long life, and happiness. Cheers!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Wear red and DRINK red for women’s heart health

This Friday Feb 2nd is the annual “wear red” day in Canada and the U.S. to raise awareness for women’s heart health. Why only a day for the number one threat to women’s health? Women are 5 times more likely to succumb to heart disease than breast cancer, which gets a whole month (October.) Another contradiction is that the advice women hear about prevention of breast cancer is the opposite of what you can do to lower the risk of heart disease: a daily glass of wine. Even one drink a day raises your risk of breast cancer, we are told, ignoring the overriding benefits of wine on heart health. Drink red wine to live longer Here’s why I think women should also “drink red.” For starters, wine helps de-stress and celebrates life. Stress is a factor in heart disease, and if that were the only way wine helped it would be worth considering. But the medical evidence is also strong: a daily glass of red wine helps raise the HDL “good cholesterol” levels, which lowers the risk of cardiovascular p…

How globalization of drinking habits threatens the French paradox

It seems that the more studies we see on the relationship between wine and health, and the larger they are, the more contradictory the results. Headlines summarizing comprehensive international studies declare the French paradox dead, and all alcoholic beverages are equally detrimental. I think there is an overlooked explanation for this: over the past several decades, convergence of drinking patterns around the world has separated wine from its role as a daily part of a meal. Globalization has commoditized our views about drink, toppling it from its role as a culturally specific emblem. Global convergence of drinking There are several recent reports summarizing the trend,[i],[ii],[iii]and it applies for both developed and developing countries. Since the early 1960s, wine’s share of global alcohol consumption has more than halved, declining from 35% to 15%. Beer and spirits have taken up the slack, with beer gaining 42% and spirits adding 43%, both large gains. The bigger story howeve…

Which types of wine are the healthiest?

I am often asked after lecturing on the healthful properties of wine which type is best to drink. Since much of the discussion has to do with the polyphenol antioxidants from the skins and seeds of the grape, red wine is the first criterion since it is fermented with the whole grape rather than the pressed juice. This allows for extraction and concentration of these compounds, familiar ones being resveratrol and tannins. But beyond that, which varietals have the highest concentrations?


According to the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder, “The best kind of wine is that which is pleasant to him that drinks it” but modern science expects more specifics. (The point of course is that if you have a wine that you enjoy you are more likely to drink regularly and therefore reap the benefits.) But there are several difficulties in singling out certain wines for their healthful properties. Which compounds to measure? Are we talking about heart health or the whole gamut? Is it the varietal of the …