My tattoo is like a red, red wine
A couple years ago, Dr. Vino had a blog on “wine tattoos.” I found it after Googling “wine and tattoos” (it came up second, just after a hit for a brand with the word “tattoo” in the name). Dr. Vino had pointed out how so many people, especially Millennials, are not only getting tattoos these days, they’re getting wine tattoos. Tyler showed pictures with wine cork tattoos and tattoos of glassfuls of wine. In return, people commented and sent in pictures of their own wine tattoos, including a guy with big, purple grape bunches on his arm.
I got my own tattoo the day before yesterday, but it wasn’t a wine tattoo. When I first decided to get a tattoo, Philip, the artist, asked what I wanted. I said I didn’t know. “What about grapes?” he asked, knowing my proclivities. “Or wine bottles?” “Good heavens, no!” I said (well, words to that effect), fairly screaming. I live and breathe wine 24/7. The last thing I wanted was to have my first tattoo be anything about wine.
Anyway, we finally worked out the design.
The process took about 3 hours and wasn’t nearly as painful as I’d feared. While I watched Philip do his art (with his chihuahua, Lula, in my lap, which helped ease me), it crossed my mind that there was a similarity between Philip’s work and that of a winemaker. A tattoo is first envisioned in the imaginations of both the tattoo artist and the tattoo getter. In my case, there was real collaboration with Philip, because the actual image, being on you for the rest of your life, should not be trivially conceived. Philip and I engaged in what was almost like psychotherapy, as he tried to help me figure out what image I wanted. The theme of black-and-red roses, intertwined on thorny vines, was what we came up with. (Don’t ask me to explain it here. Next time you and I are drinking, I can tell you.)
Then the hard task of creating it occurs. There is physical effort, some degree of discomfort, and the task is time-consuming. And while the tattoo artist is working, he’s usually playing his favorite music on a CD. When the new tattoo is completed, it still isn’t ready; it needs a week or so to firm up, for the skin to recover. When the tattoo finally is ready, there it is, in all its glory.
Wine, too, first is envisioned in the winemaker’s mind. He imagines all he knows of the vintage (I’m talking about good wine, not supermarket stuff), all he remembers of past vintages, everything he knows about the vineyard. He is, in fact, communing with himself, to determine with the greatest precision he can what his eventual wine will be like. This process is ongoing; even after the grapes are crushed, the winemaker will be making decisions, right through to bottling. He wants to get the reality of what’s in the bottle as close as he can to the Platonic picture in is mind.
There are hard tasks in winemaking, too. Winemakers sweat and get hurt and occasionally bleed in the performance of their jobs. They grow cold in winter and hot in summer. There’s almost always music playing in a winery, unless the tourists are filling up the place and they have to turn it off. And when the wine finally is in the bottle, it’s not yet ready to drink. Like raw skin after a fresh tattoo, the new wine needs time to settle down, to get over its shock, to heal. But when it’s finally ready, there it is, in all its glory.
Okay, maybe I’m stretching comparisons a little thin. But believe it or not, going through this experience of getting a tattoo has made me more sensitive to the intricacies and agonies of making wine.