The Closer You Look

Written by Al Drinkle

This morning at the conclusion of my bike ride, I saw an elderly man walking his inconspicuous-looking dog and for reasons I can’t explain, I was inspired to observe. It struck me that this man probably has a story, perhaps an interesting or even inspiring one, despite the fact that his apathetic face belied this. And if an hour earlier somebody had seen me walking my dog, they might have witnessed an extraordinarily charming canine, but on the other end of the leash merely a sleep-deprived man of little consequence. In actuality I’m a sleep-deprived man of no consequence whatsoever.

But in the unlikely case that you’re wondering, there are inconsequential details that couldn’t be derived from this sort of scrutiny. I seek simplicity in life first and foremost, even if it’s presented to me in the form of intricate serenity. I don’t abide truffle oil in food, the flavours of new oak in wine or unnecessary embellishment in music. I can tell when artists confuse insecure elaboration with self-expression. Those whom I love are valued unconditionally and defended unequivocally and my nemeses are less loathed than vociferously and seethingly repudiated.

Despite a general propensity towards misanthropy, I feel that my fellow humans who are actually worth my time are sources of plentiful wonder and inspiration. There’s little that’s more rewarding than shedding the layers of a compelling personality, getting to know them and, especially if it’s not in your nature, giving them glimpses of your own reticent traits too. This can go on for years, and I assume a lifetime. Everybody has flaws, but the best people so seamlessly absorb them into an enchanting whole that these potential shortcomings manifest themselves as endearing idiosyncrasies. The more you know, the closer you look, the more careful you listen, the more enthralling such people are.

Complexity is a virtue, convolution a significant annoyance. With the most important people, you constantly get to make these new discoveries and it begs an important question – do you ever want to solve the mystery? Do you really want the wellspring of surprise to dry up? There are a few spellbinding humans on this planet to whom you can get as close as you want and the enchantment never ceases, the laughter always peals, the caring is always reciprocated and the love perpetually validated.

Every wine has a story too. Some of these stories are the testimonies of automated, industrial bullshit and best left untold. These wines don’t care about you and you shouldn’t care about them. Others can be every bit as interesting as the captivating people aforementioned. It’s both funny and sad reading mainstream wine reviews that are nothing more than a piss-stream of descriptors or an asinine inventory of flavours by somebody trying to vacuum every drop of romanticism and mystery out of wine. It’s like a film critic attempting to compose authoritative reviews based on movie trailers. I understand the utility for busy consumers, but unless the wine was made to be tasted and not drank (unfortunately this happens), then that which really matters can’t be identified in this way.

The difference between a good bottle of wine and a great bottle of wine is its capacity to show you new beautiful things about the world and about yourself, and this can’t be expedited. It doesn’t matter if it tastes like blueberries or blackberries or raspberries or dingleberries. What matters is if the beautiful, rewarding mystery continues to perpetuate itself regardless of how close you look or how many sips you take. When a wine continues to entrance as it disarmingly gives you the confidence to be yourself, you’ve found a great bottle. If you can catch hold of a fleeting moment of interconnectedness as you share that wine with a person that matters, for that instant you are alive.