Wine has been a pleasure enjoyed through centuries of cultivation of the finest crops and copious refinement of the methods of production. The earliest winery found was discovered in a cave in Vayots Dzor, Armenia, which historians have dated to circa 4100 BC. It has long since been associated with religion and rituals from very different cultures as well. With such a long history it is no wonder that so many important historical figures have spoken about this beloved ambrosia; from authors, poets, actors, politicians and other such significant men and women.
The words that have been crafted to describe wine are as varied, rich and provoking as the wine itself.
“A man cannot make him laugh – but that’s no marvel; he drinks no wine.” – William Shakespeare
The man behind this first quote needs almost no introduction. Playwright, poet and a talented thespian in his own right, William Shakespeare has shaped the world of literature for hundreds of years. He was born circa 1564 (it is only certain that this was the year he was baptized) and died 23 April 1616. Through his fifty years of life, he left thirty-eight plays, over one hundred sonnets and numerous other poems and verses.
Shakespeare littered these works with mention of food and drink; he used these everyday items to help characterise and bring the characters in his work to life. It is also used as a metaphor throughout to create an accurate impression of the time he lived.
The above quote is from one of Shakespeare’s histories; Henry IV, Part II: Act 2, Scene 4. The character Sir John Falstaff is lamenting in a soliloquy about Prince Hal, the future King Henry V, stating that the young prince is too sober and so knows no joy in life.
“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” – Benjamin Franklin
‘The First American’, as he is sometimes known, Benjamin Franklin is one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin was many things: author, political theorist, politician, freemason, scientist, inventor, statesman and a diplomat, to name but a few. Born 17 January 1706 and dying 17 April 1790, he saw the birth of a nation that grew to be a superpower and has remained so to this day.
The legacy of scientific and political achievement meant that Franklin was commemorated on American coinage and on the $100 bill; his name has also been adopted by towns, counties, schools and universities.
This quote about wine is famously associated with Franklin, but it raises questions as he was not known to be a devout Christian, nor agnostic or atheist, so this quote seems odd in that perspective. It comes from a letter that Franklin wrote to his friend Abbé André Morellet – a member of the French Academy – in 1787 as a tongue in cheek response to the other man. Morellet had written a drinking song in honour of Franklin; humorously implying that the politician had incited the American Revolution in order to replace English tea with the French wine that he was so fond of.
So, this quote is not only one to live by but also tangible proof that the Founding Father had an amazing sense of humour.
“One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters… But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose. But get drunk.” – Charles Baudelaire
A collection of wine quotes would feel incomplete without the presence of a French wine-lover and so Charles Baudelaire has the honour. As esteemed as the other writers listed here Baudelaire (1821-1867) was a poet, essayist, art critic and a translator of works by Edgar Allan Poe. Baudelaire’s influence on French language literature was immense and writers after him wrote tributes for some time after his death; one even described him as ‘the king of poets.’
Much of the philosophy that Baudelaire expressed in his lifetime was considered to be scandalous and was intentionally provocative for his time, as the above quote demonstrates. His writing covered a wide range of subjects which drew outrage and criticism from many individuals. But his staunchest philosophy was that of filling oneself with culture, work and enjoyment because “art is long and time is brief.”
One such pleasure of which he was an ardent admirer was of course wine. His love was so great that one of his poems was wholly dedicated to his view of wine; titled The Soul of Wine it is almost a love letter to the beverage. One line that stands out in this work speaks of the love between poet and wine, producing “a rare and deathless flower” as his words are immortalised with the inspiration of this wonderful drink.
The world of wine has been an inspiration and focus of many words since its creation. If a noteworthy, or more accurately quote-worthy, individual were to turn up to your door is there a vintage worthy of such praise taking up residence in your wine cellar?