There is a school of thought led by story tellers that recognizes life as a journey. Joseph Campbell called it the Hero’s Journey, because once a protagonist embarks, by definition, he is the hero of his story.
Great made up stories such as Star Wars, and real stories such as Titanic captivate people and stimulate them to go back again and again, as in the case of movies.
Campbell believed that great stories like these drew people in because they reflected the same universal patterns found in myths. They both represent elements that people intuitively need.
Campbell and psychologists such as Carl Jung attempted to classify and name these elements. They chose the expression “archetypes,” after Plato. Archetypes are symbolized by types of characters in stories and as elements of personality in the psyche. Regardless of symbols chosen, the real deal is however the machine code deep in the mind. The universal human pull is to understand these inner elements.
The real deal essence of the pull is clouded by all the attempts, which are mostly limited to working with symbols of the inner archetypes. People thus think that the symbols are the real deal. Campbell said “they eat the menu instead of the meal.”
The legend of the Holy Grail and the Fisher King is about a wounded man in a weakened land who can only find a cure in the Grail. This symbolizes everyman’s inner struggle to find the “cure” from only knowing fragments of his whole personality; in other words learning all the unconscious, hidden elements so that he becomes whole and complete.
This is the most basic aspect of the human condition. It is the stuff of nightmares and wars, but at the machine code level, it is as familiar and non-threatening as breathing.
My thesis is that wine best represents the whole enchilada. Great wine permits us to skip the myths, symbols and stories and get to the heart of the archetypes in the only way that we really can: to be with them, comfortably, even if we don’t know them. A great wine, like great art, permits us to intuit this; only great wine is less limiting because we are not distracted by having to look at something away from the depths of our souls. It’s all a big deal only if we don’t know that it is not a big deal. No bigger than breathing.
Enter Parker and the great terroir debate. Terroir is a myth, just like the Holy Grail; not because it is wrong, but because it is just a symbol of an inner mix. We are not as humans striving to get to the soil; we are striving to get to the soul, which is merely symbolized by terroir.
Green, herbaceous wines are more like the soil, and therefore the soul, than hot ripe wines, which are more like the sun - in mythology, the opposite of earth. It’s as simple as that.
Last weekend my wife and I drank a bottle of 1998 Chateau Faugeres St-Emilion. It was rich, ripe and concentrated, but not showing a lot of terroir. Robert Parker rated this wine outstanding. His kind of wine. My wife and I liked it, too, for what it is. A nice job.
Last night, we drank a bottle of 1998 Chateau Cantemerle Haut Medoc, or Margaux, depending on your definition of the parcel. It was medium bodied, at best, earthy and herbaceous. Mr. Parker rated it good, but not very good, precisely because of the elements described.
We bought only three bottles of the Cantemerle, after tasting it upon release at Zachy’s. Dale Williams was there that day and he liked it, too, as I remember. But it didn’t have the evolved beauty that it has now, so I only bought three bottles, even when it only cost $14 bottles a bottle, as I remember.
My wife enjoys soulful wine, like that Cantemerle, best of all. I took a stern chiding last night for not having bought a case. Sure, I will try now, even if it costs $25 or $30 a bottle. But the point of my post is providing my explanation of what the controversy about terroir is all about. Getting close to the soul is about the best thing you can do, if you feel you are doing it. Most people don’t relate to this as a function of green, herbaceous rainy Left Bank wine; but a few Frenchmen do, apparently: thus Mondovino. (Not Mondavi?...No! exactly, but wine is not exact; that’s why it can get close to the soul, if it’s green.)
Well, enough of this musing about inner archetypes. My wife just woke up and her first words will be, “Where are we hiking?” We’re at camp in the Adirondacks, the great symbol of healing, if you are into symbols. I’m trying to transcend symbols by drinking green wine, so I’m trying not to relate to the Adirondacks that way.
But it is hard to get away from all the mythological aspects here: the lakes (windows through which the underworld watches us humans); the mountains (the brass disks at the apexes, symbols of spiritual union). Every time my wife and I reach the tops, we simultaneously touch our toes to the brass disk.
I think we will attempt Big Slide, in the midst of the High Peaks. It’s like a mythological journey. You first have to get over the tops of the three magnificent Brothers before you can enter the final trail, first descending into dark, damp, thick green forest, then straight up rocks to the most magnificent bald and sunny peak, Big Slide (should one fall). Guide books strongly admonish those who are not experienced, in great shape and up to a grueling task should turn back at the summit of the Third Brother. Can we do it? I don’t know. But the best part is The Ausable Inn at the base. The bar inside might resemble that of Star Wars, but the overall ambience is vintage Adirondacks. Nothing in the world gets better than a cold Chardonnay at that bar after a hot and sweaty scramble up and down a high peak.