‘How do you make a small fortune in the wine industry? Start with a big one!’
Clichés often obscure nuances. The wine industry is like everything – if you are committed, you will succeed, if not; it’s a very expensive hobby.
The same is true of most businesses. Because those few people who make it big in music, for example, often started with nothing, we are spared the cynicism reserved for wine endeavors. Unfortunately, nothing quite titillates like a captain of industry failing at something as simple as wine.
May de Lencquesaing, former owner of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, when asked if the wine industry was financially difficult, said: “Not at all! It’s only the first 300 years that are tough.”
Wine is different because its soul happens to be our primeval drug, alcohol. Alcohol has always been an entryway into the spiritual realm. That’s why the word ‘spirit’ has two distinct, but related meanings. Initially alcohol helped us connect and commune with our gods and grapple with the mind-bending questions of existence. Millennia later it is still central to many of our religions.
Fermented fruit, or more likely, a rain-and-honey mixture discovered in a hollow tree trunk, got the party started – long before our relatives left Africa for Europe. There we stomped on wild grapes and were off to the races.
Wine is the most storied, celebrated and richly imbued form of our ancient spirit vehicle. Once we discovered this natural miracle, we have spent so much effort, over so long, re-imagining and loading with symbolism, this human staple.
There is no everyday product older than all cities, all religions, and most social customs. The wine industry exists beyond the grappling of egos or even the apparently limitless borders of accountants’ Excel spreadsheets. There is no industry as resilient to misguided ambitions. The wine industry is a fortune in itself. Layers of millennia have created a sheen so luminescent, we can see ourselves in it. It helps to remember you are just a reflection.