It's a new old world

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 3, 2014 11:05 PM

As I am a woman of limited interests, I write a lot about animals and specifically mine, and I write a lot about wine. Because if you ask me, dogs and wine are what life is all about, that and having a wonderful partner, and amazing friends and family. I am blessed with all.

I am fascinated by discussions of old world and new world. It seems to be quite the buzz lately. There are old world styles and new world tiles and vice versa. Speaking of tiles, the ones we've chosen for the house are considered old world. It refers to the fact that this look was popular before electricity, when the world was newer than it is now though not a lot. When the earth is millions of years old, a couple hundred years are nothing more than a nano second. Called Romeo's Blend, they are a tumbled porcelain, 18" x 18," in browns, grays, terra cottas. They would be at home, natural looking, in an Italian villa in the Tuscan countryside. A place where they made and drank wine long before there was the Internet and where they probably still make and drink wine and now sell it, on the Internet.

I bring this up because of the wonders of electricity, the Internet, of the old world and the new world and how it all relates to wine.

The first wine was invented more than 8,000 years ago by winemakers in Eastern Georgia (the country, not the state). When archeologists dug up a pottery fragment at a place called Shulaveri, near where a number of Georgian skulls were unearthed, they discovered that shards of hardened clay had biochemical wine stains. It told scientists that it was the home to Vitis vinifera, a vine that snakes its way across trees and trellises and creates a truly wondrous fruit.

King Jamshid, from Persian, stored grapes in jars so he could eat them in winter. When he went to retrieve his grapes as the cold descended, he found broken skins and bubbling juice. Wine.

The origin of soil goes back even further, about 4.5 billion years. That’s when gravity pulled fragments of dead stars into the rocky ball we call Earth. There was lava which turned into rock. Microbes became the plants that sped up soil formation by breaking up rocks with their roots, and dissolving into the dirt once they died. This is how soil evolved to the point of being able to support animals, more plants and wine. Topsoil still takes centuries to form.

The first grapes in this country were brought to California some 2,000 years after Vitis vinifera started colonizing the planet. It was a Spanish padre named Fermín Francisco de Lasuén founded the Mission San Miguel just a few miles from present-day Paso Robles whose priests planted grapes in order to make wine for a little something called comunión.

Then there is the bible. Noah, the boat builder, was evidently a drunk, probably on wine since that was the only spirit around. Jesus, the miracle worker, turned water from stone jars to make wine. The Romans renamed Dionysus while the New Testament was being written, calling him Bacchus. The new world had finally taken over the old world.

I wonder if they had tile.

Among old human artifacts, wine is a symbol of joy and resurrection, of fertility and ecstasy. In new ideas, wine has become something of a ritual. It is history and future combined. Old and new, new and old. In Latin there is a phrase: In vino veritas. In wine, truth. There’s nothing old about that. It’s a new world after all, complete with electricity. And the internet. 

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