Object Lessons: Wine, by Meg Bernhard
I read this courtesy of the publisher, Bloomsbury, and NetGalley. It’s out in June.
I know that I say almost every one of these is both personal and academic, but this one is the MOST personal of all the Object Lessons I’ve read so far. In fact, it’s mostly personal: there’s a bit about the current experience of owning and managing vineyards, and making wine, in both Spain and the USA… but this is predominantly the story of the author, and her intersection with wine. Of growing up with basically no alcohol in the house, starting to drink in college, binging alcohol and experiencing many negative consequences of doing so. Then, travelling to Spain to work on vineyards, and learning about the processes necessary to make wine: the intense work necessary to maintain the vines, the work of fermenting and bottling, and so on.
Bernhard’s reflections on her vineyard experiences are poignant – the stressful nature of such agriculture in the current climate crisis, the necessary connection to the environment that must be understood to get the most out of the vines, and what such physical labour can mean for someone completely unaccustomed to it. It’s a good reminder that so much of what people in highly industrialised countries take for granted does still rely on intense, human, manual labour.
WINE does not attempt to be a history of the beverage, nor an anthropological exploration of its place in modern America; it’s not a deep dive into the business, nor a paean to the joys of drinking. It’s one person’s meditation, on how she has experienced it in her life. It’s quite lovely.