The ancients esteemed wine for all that it contributes to life and wellbeing. “A medicine,” noted Plato in his Laws, “given for the purposes of securing modesty of soul and health and strength of body.” Ages since have seen wine lauded for its qualities of individual inspiration and cultural enrichment, write Brian Mitchell, PhD, and Evan Mitchell in their abstract for a paper to be presented for WineHealth 2013, the 5th International WineHealth conference, to be held in Sydney in July.
Celebrated by writers and poets from Homer to Shakespeare to Baudelaire and Wilde, and pondered by philosophers as varied as Kant, Hume and Schopenhauer, wine has also enjoyed a unique place in art, figuratively and symbolically, through the centuries.
Though the pulse of all these age-old cultural strands still beats in the wines made today, such associations largely go unrecognised and unexplained. The modern downplaying of the psychological contribution of wine to society has been accompanied by an equivalent widespread unravelling of hospitality, civility, community and family cohesion values.
These wine-inspired virtues see their antithesis in the generational bingeing that increasingly plagues societies and fills headlines. Mediterranean cultures previously immune to such excesses are now encountering their own versions, as their youth desert the stabilizing ethos of wine and food enjoyed in family and community, for junk beverages that reward novelty over taste.
Generational trends have moved in the direction of a vulgarizing of tastes. This, combined with the dominance of licence over restraint, poses a serious challenge to society.
Wine has the credentials to play a role in addressing the social problem that’s emerged. Wine’s enduring legacy still has resonance. What’s been missing is a modern interpretation and practical application of its values. Through this can come much-needed positive changes in generational attitudes towards discernment, judgment, and what constitutes style and mature behaviour in young adults.