Is it a sin to covet wine you can’t have?
I was cruising around the Internet when I stumbled across this topic at eRobertParker:
The ONE Wine You Would love To Taste, Easily, More Than Any Other Wine?
Asking a wine lover which wine he’d like to taste more than any other is like asking an aspiring rock musician which rock star he’d like to jam with. Hendrix? Springsteen? John Lennon? Clapton? We’re talking aspiration, baby!
Here are a couple of the wines people said they wanted: 1999 La Tache, ‘45 Romanee-Conti, ‘62 La Tache, ‘34 Richebourg, ‘45 Romanee-Conti, 1811 Yquem, ‘91 Henri Jayer Echezeaux, 2000 Pavie, ‘78 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino, ‘76 Clos Ste. Hune and so on.
Heavy on Burgundy and especially DRC, which is no surprise; DRC is arguably the most famous, coveted wine in the world among aficienados. However the question, and the responses it elicited, are so rich in meta-meanings and context that they demand a little online analysis here.
The enjoyment of and desire for fine wine always has had an element of covetuousness. After all, nobody wrote in to say they wanted Mondavi or Mouton Cadet! Various moral philosophies and religions have decried covetuousness for millennia. While the Seven Deadly Sins do not specifically include it, “to covet” can well be interpreted as the combination of two, or possibly three, no-no’s it does mention: greed, lust and envy. “We begin by coveting what we see every day,” Hannibal Lector told Clarice Starling in “Silence of the Lambs.” Begin what? The suggestion, coming from that psychopathic killer’s lips, is that covetuous leads to all sorts of aberrant human behavior. And, of course, most famously there is Exodus 20:17: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbor’s.” Including, presumably, thy neighbor’s wine.
So when asked about “the one wine you’d like to taste,” are the responders coveting, or are they simply, innocently replying to a question concerning preference?
I’m not big on the notion of sin, although it’s a good word with which to describe Hitler, or Pol Pot, or the terrorists who take innocent human life in the name of religion. I certainly don’t think it’s a sin to desire wines you’ve heard and read about all your life that you’ve never had the opportunity to drink. Yet in this holiday season, when materiality once again threatens to overwash the spiritual aspects of Christmas and Hanukah, it’s fair to ask if we show a darker, more covetous side of ourselves when we express a desire for rare, famous wines. Most of us would not admit to longing for mansions, luxury cars, yachts, private Caribbean islands, rare antiques and treasure chests of jewels — it would be unseemly, especially in this era of the New Frugality. Yet we readily confess our desire for “1811 Yquem” et al.
I think it says something about wine, and about human nature, and about the mysterious relationship between the two. Even the most liberal and self-effacing among us drools at the prospect of a private tasting of the world’s rarest wines. It may be a minor form of covetuousness, but it can be forgiven.