A middle-of-the-night eureka moment that might help us learn about wine.

With newborn twin girls and a four-year-old boy, I often find myself up in the middle of the night. In a haze of sleep-deprived euphoria, I might be changing diapers or consoling a crying child when I attempt to connect the dots from my day’s work in the winery or the readings for my Master of Wine studies.

So late one night recently, as it often is with the search for the universal, I jotted some works on the inside of a box top. (See image above.) The words, literally, as well as the visual layout seemed im- portant, or maybe that is just the poetic nature of the midnight hour.

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about wine education, for the consumer and the professional, from both the students’ and the teacher’s perspective. Learning about wine is often focused on “factors” that influence the style, quality and price of wine.

These factors include things like: viticulture (how grapes are grown), vinification (how wine is made), climate, grape variety, soil. While this approach is quite useful, I often feel there could be a more inclusive, multidisciplinary approach. An outlook where the factors tell a bigger story and could be relevant for more than just grapes and wine but could also be useful in understanding rice, soy beans, cabbage, potatoes, apples, plums, peaches, milk, coffee, cocoa, tea, beans, wheat, hops, grains, meat, fish or just about anything you can think of. My Master of Wine studies have encouraged this kind of synthesis across disciplines.

The first grouping of words (again, see image) is literally what makes life possible on this planet! It can be looked at from either a meteorological (weather) or a climatological (climate) point of view.

In other words, it can be considered in the short term (what we get) or the long term (what we expect). The second grouping drills into specifics about individual places and things, regardless if they are wild or domesticated. The third grouping is what led us from the nomadic life to one of agriculture and civilization. And the final grouping is what makes life complicated, tasty, interesting and fun.

I like this approach to the understanding of the factors of grape growing and wine production because it seems to open up the world of wine, which is sometimes incorrectly considered exclusive or elitist, and make things simpler, more common. These factors connect us all, all over the globe, in every culture, and are as relevant to the understanding and appreciation of wine as they are for sake, soy sauce, sauerkraut, vodka, mead, fruit liqueurs, cheese, chocolate, kefir, beer, bread, fish sauce, soppressata or almost anything you ingest. Understand these factors and you’re well on your way to knowing and understanding what makes wine or tomatoes or food and drink from any region unique.