In Vino Veritas: Red Wine Season Is Upon Us

Many people don’t realize the seasonality of wine. Because it sits on a shelf at the liquor store all year long we don’t really see the market trends or the human behaviour behind those trends.

Wine was believed to be produced as early as 7000 BCE in what is now known as The Republic of Georgia in south eastern Europe. By 4500 BCE we see small scale wine production throughout the Mediterranean. The ancient Greek, Egyptian and Roman Empires upped the ante when it come to wine production. Growing populations and a move to cities meant that wine production needed to be organized. During these periods we see an evolution from clay pots made to hold wine, to barrels made to transport wine over long trips. During this period we see gods and deities devoted to wine, promoting its ritual consumption during festivals of fertility. In the ancient world, wine meant sex and sex meant children*(Cue The Circle of Life sung by Billy Joel.).

The newly formed Roman Catholic Church saw this relationship between wine and fertility. They co-opted the use of wine in ritual from the pagans**, it was such a successful practice that exists to this day. In the Catholic Church and a few other older Christian sects it is believed that, wine is literally transformed into the blood of Christ by these rituals***. Those are some powerful grapes.

In the business of wine there is cycles that follow the seasons as well. Starting in october for Thanksgiving and going to april or so, the consumption of red wine is at its highest. These seven months comprise about 80% of the red wine sales in Canada. Of course this normally coincides with the holiday season but it also has to do with weather. Red wine pairs with cold weather just as well as it pairs with beef.

It is more than just the weather. Human beings for now thousands of years have had a relationship with wine. There is a scientific field called ethnobotany which studies the relationship between plants and human culture. Famed counter culture writer and thinker Terrance McKenna in his book Food of The Gods: The Search for The Original Tree of Knowledge. A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution****, surmised that human beings have evolved on a parallel with the plants they happened to coincide with.  McKenna believes that the longer that human culture is in contact with a plant or substance, the more engrained it becomes in our culture. From what we can gather wine has been around for nearly 9,000 years this cultural impression is remarkable.

It can be assumed that we drink more wine starting in about October because it is the natural time between harvest of the grapes, their processing, fermentation and distribution. For millennia, a fresh batch of wine would have been ready to drink in October, as the days get shorter and food hopefully is plentiful enough to get through the winter. People would celebrate the equinox with drinking and revelry and as the year moved on the winter solstice was another wine centric event. Human beings today seem to follow this ancient cue to begin drinking more wine.

Most wine companies spend the vast majority of their sales budgets during the “holiday season” or OND. And one could argue that the entire retail sector values these months most but in the liquor industry you really do see a change in customer behaviour during these months. Customers are more willing to spend money on a bottle of wine for dinner today than they were two months ago. This is a fact, it is engrained in our collective unconscience to drink either more or better.

I guess this aimless history lesson needs a point. That point is that wine is not just a packaged good, it’s a substance we have evolved with a substance that has influenced how we live out lives and a product that mirrors us in a way*****. So eat, drink and enjoy the season.

*Take a look about 9 months from the Shores of Erie Wine Festival(June) and see how many people are having children. There may be a not so odd bump in the birth rate.

**We see the early Roman Catholic Church take on several concepts from pagan belief systems to make Christianity more palatable for new Catholics. Another example of this was the worship of the Virgin Mary. Because many pagan belief systems included and at times featured female deities, the familiarity of The Virgin Mary became a powerful draw for the Church during it’s expansion.

***Christ’s blood has a faint aroma of violets, it’s much better than Christ’s blood last week. It’s was a little too barnyardy for my liking.

****Yes I know this is the longest bloody book title ever. But the book is really great when it comes to outlining the social history of wine, coffee, sugar, tea, cannabis, hallucinogenic mushrooms and other plants and drugs.

*****I also wanted to make jokes about Billy Joel’s alcoholism, accidental pregnancy, the bouquet of Christ’s blood and the Catholic Church.