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The Drama of Choice

September 4, 2015 13 comments

This post is an entry for the 19th Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC19), with the theme of “Choice”. Previous themes in the order of appearance were: Transportation, Trouble, Possession, Oops, Feast, Mystery, Devotion, Luck, Fear, Value, Friend, Local, Serendipity, Tradition, Success, Finish, Epiphany, Crisis.

MWWC_logoChoice. Simple word, isn’t it? But think about how powerful the concept of “choice” is. Or better yet, think about how scary the word actually is – think about times when simple phrase “this is your choice” sent chills down your spine? Yep, “choice” is an interesting word.

Choice is closely related to the concept of freedom. When you don’t have freedom, you usually have no choice – well, except may be one – to fight for your freedom or not. Surprising or not, but sometimes we prefer not to have that freedom of choice. Life becomes so much easier when the choice is already made for you. This might not be the best choice (it rarely is) but then a person is happy as the life seems simpler. Choice is hard, choice is difficult, choice is emotionally and intellectually draining. When choosing, we can not know if we are making the “right choice”, and that makes us wary, frustrated, tired and unhappy. It important to understand that “do nothing” is also a choice, not an absence of it. We are choosing it – “doing nothing” doesn’t happen by itself – this is what we decide, we “do nothing” by choice.

We make choices every day, from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep. What to wear, what to eat, which book to read, which task requires our attention first, and which can wait. Most of the choices we make don’t have long term consequences – eggs Benedict versus scrambled eggs is important only for a few minutes you will enjoy your food. Black pants versus grey pants is not the matter as soon you step out of the house. But some of your choices can be extremely far reaching – taking or declining a job offer, going for the third child or not – these choices will shape your life and you will feel their effect for a long while.

a path forwward

Let’s now take a look at the winemaking. I would argue that a lot (most!) of choices made in the winemaking have long term consequences. The wine starts in the vineyard. Which grape to plant? Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc or Aglianico? Pinot Noir, you said? Which clone? Dijon (which one then exactly), Pommard, AS–2? Now you are growing the grapes with numerous choices regarding irrigation, pruning, canopy management, protection against insects. 5 years down the road your are ready to harvest grapes to make the wine. Harvest date? Hand versus machine? How to crush? Choice of fermentation temperature? Choice of yeast – natural or synthetic? If synthetic, which one of the thousands available in the catalog? Malolactic fermentation or not?

How to age – stainless steel, oak, ceramic, qvevri? For how long? New oak versus old, American versus French? What type of bottle should we use? Screw top, natural cork, synthetic? What is going to be on the label? Below is an example of choices made by the winemaker – captured in the format of the very informative back label – what grapes to use, how long to age, how to ferment – just a glimpse of all the choices which went into production of a bottle of wine…

Field Recordings Cabernet Franc Back LabelChoices, choices, choices… The effect of many choices will not be known for years, sometimes tens and tens of years, until someone will open a bottle of a 50 years old wine, take a sip and say “wow”. Only then we might know that we made right choice years back. Or not.

Yes, we face the drama of choice every day. You know what is important in dealing with this drama? Don’t look back. The choice is made, and it is a part of the past now. The worst thing you can do is to take yourself on the mesmerizing road of “what would’ve happen if I wouldn’t make that choice, if I would’ve chosen differently”. Here you have only one choice – to move forward. Yes, you can’t change or undo the past choices. But you can “do over” – it is always your choice. If you planted the wrong grape, you can replant vineyard with the new one. If you’ve chosen profession you are not happy with – make a choice to change that, learn something new and choose a new path.

You have no luxury of stopping. The very next moment, you will have to make a choice again. And again. And again. Life has an endless supply of the choices for us. Let’s embrace them. Cheers!

P.S. I will not be upset if you will find this post mumbling about nothing new or of substance. But I hope it will at least give ideas and will inspire  someone else to choose to write a post for the #MWWC19…

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