Wine Crosses Borders

I was privileged enough to attend a lecture last week by Yoani Sanchez (who is a badass, by the way. Check out her blog here.) A couple things struck me as I was listening. First, three years of high school Spanish is NOT enough to be able to understand a lecture given entirely in Spanish. Second, thank God for wine. 
Before you roll your eyes, let me explain. I admit that wine does cross my mind a fair amount (totally healthy and not weird), but there was more to it this time than my usual what-I-want-to-drink-with-dinner-later thoughts. Wine is the international language. Think about it; California, Argentina, Chile, Italy, France, Australia – major wine producers exist all over the globe because major wine drinkers exist all over the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re from America, South America, Europe, the Pacific Islands, the North Pole; if someone were to put a glass of quality wine in front of you and say, “Cheers!” “¡Salut!” “乾杯!” “à votre santé!” you’d get the idea whether you understood a word they said or not. Wine needs no translation.
Antonio Rossi, a waiter at Cibo Wine Bar on Miracle Mile who moved from Sicily a year ago, says that wine is what allowed him to be comfortable with people here, as it is such a big part of his culture in Italy. “When I first came to America I could not speak any English,” he said, “But I knew if I could drink with people, we could be friends.”
I don’t know if a truer statement about the measure of friendship has ever been stated. And something tells me Yoani Sanchez and I would have a lot in common with a bottle of Cabernet between us. 
 
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America has a drinking problem.

As I was listening to a lecture on Tuscan wine the other day, it struck me how deeply rooted wine is in the Tuscan culture. Shoot, how deeply rooted it is in the Italian and European cultures in general. It isn’t something you drink to get drunk or wash away your sorrows with while watching The Notebook alone on your couch. Wine is simply a part of life.
Says Carolina Zappa, an international student from Italy, “This whole getting wasted thing doesn’t happen where I’m from. I’ve had wine with dinner since I was little and it’s not a big deal.”
In Europe, the open relationship people have with wine promotes control, knowledge and appreciatio. In America the constraint put on alcohol consumption causes misuse, overuse, abuse, and self-destructive behavior. It could just be me, but something seems a little backwards about that.
 Edward LiPuma, anthropology professor at the University of Miami and avid wine drinker, discussed with me these differences in culture.

“There are more fast-food restaurants in Nebraska than all of Italy. People there are more willing to spend more on food and wine, on quality products, because they appreciate what they put in their bodies. Wining and Dining is a communal experience. It’s meant to be done communally and slowly. The Europeans have that down.”

That sounds so much more appealing than sneaking alcohol into your dorm room and getting obliterated, doesn’t it?