Hungry for wine

Seeing the World through the Lens of a Wine Glass

Hungry for Wine is maintained by Cathy Huyghe, wine writer for Forbes.com and author of Hungry for Wine: Seeing the World through the Lens of a Wine Glass.

Filtering by Tag: travel

Rumi at the Airport --- and in a Tavern Buying Wine

One of the benefits of traveling for my work -- so far and so variously -- is time spent in the cocoon of airplanes. International travel, also, normally means no phone or internet access, which for me translates to long periods of concentrated time to write, to catch up, and especially to read.

Which is why I tend to linger, for as long as possible before my flight, in the bookstores at international airports around the world. They carry plenty of books in their native language, of course, but there is also usually an English-language section that carries locally popular books in translation.

It's an amazing opportunity to pick up books that are important in that place at that time to that population, and most often they are books I have not encountered at home in the US.

(Sidebar: bookstores, and consignment clothing shops, are vacuums for me. I'm drawn in and have a hard time pulling my imagination away from all of those STORIES -- no matter their shape, as text or images or scarf or hat. Especially hats...)

I pick up book after book. Fiction. Biography. Business. I put 96% of them back down. But when I find The One, I know it immediately.

That's what led me to, for example, Napoleon Bones by Jenny Hobbs (picked up at the bookstore in Johannesburg, South Africa). And An Italian Education by Tim Parks (picked up at the bookstore near the Delta gates -- right around G7, I believe -- in Rome). And, most recently, The Forty Rules of Love, by Elif Shafak, which I found at the airport in Istanbul.

Shafak is a Turkish writer, well-known in her own country but not in my reading circles at home. Forty Rules is about the poet Rumi, who I've long admired, and the imaginary retelling of his encounter with a Sufi dervish who helped him find his voice as a poet and not only as the well-respected Muslim scholar he was before they met. 

I knew immediately that Forty Rules was The One for my trip home from Istanbul. I wasn't disappointed -- far from it, in fact. But there was another layer of benefit I hadn't expected.

Since I've returned home from visiting wineries in Turkey, I've written about the religiously-motivated regulations imposed by the Turkish government against the promotion or marketing of alcohol. It's been on my mind, for lots of reasons -- not only the economic implications of the regulations on the wineries, but the pervasive insidiousness of the anti-alcohol, anti-wine sentiment.

Here, toward the end of Forty Rules, I found this scene where Rumi is sent by his dervish into the local tavern to buy two bottles of wine. It's a test, obviously, and Rumi handles it beautifully. Before he leaves, he is asked by one of the tavern's regulars:

‘You have seen us. We are not evil people, but that is what they say about us all the time. You tell me, what is so wrong with drinking wine, provided we behave ourselves and don’t harm anyone?’

Here's how Shafak describes the scene that follows:

* * * * *

Pensive, kind, sober, Rumi walked toward me, and here is what he said:

‘If the wine drinker

Has a deep gentleness in him,

He will show that,

When drunk.

But if he has hidden anger and arrogance,

Those appear,

And since most people do,

Wine is forbidden to everyone.’

There was a brief lull as we all contemplated these words.

‘My friends, wine is not an innocent drink,’ Rumi addressed us in a renewed voice, so commanding and yet so composed and solid, ‘because it brings out the worst in us. I believe it is better for us to abstain from drinking. That said, we cannot blame alcohol for what we are responsible for. It is our own arrogance and anger that we should be working on. That is more urgent. At the end of the day whoever wants to drink will drink and whoever wants to stay away from wine will stay away. We have no right to impose our ways on others. There is no compulsion in religion.’

* * * * *

I don't know if Rumi actually ever spoke about wine, or wine in relation to Islam. What is interesting to me about this scene is Shafak's having written about it, about her reimagining this element of society, and the implication that an issue so relevant in October 2014 was similarly debated 800 years earlier.

Wine Travel GAH

The title of this post should really be Wine Travel YES and, by the end of saying what I need to say, it will be.

But let me work something through first.

I'm at that moment of a trip, at the very beginning, when I've said good bye to my husband and children, when I'm on board the plane, when I'm leaving on the first leg of the journey. The physical side of me is ready to go.

This particular trip, however, isn't to Napa or Oregon or Switzerland or New Zealand. It's to Turkey. And for that reason, it's taken the emotional side of me a few ticks longer to be ready to go.

Partly it's because the trip was almost canceled last week, when political protests intensified in some areas where we planned to be and, rather than postpone the trip entirely, we rearranged the itinerary around the sites of those protests.

Partly it's because of the sharp contrast of news coverage, between the sources I consult at home in the US and the sources my husband consults back in his native Belgium. He reads his news on the Belgian newspaper's app on his phone, and this morning he told me in detail about a US general's presence in Turkey, trying to convince Ankara to intervene in an aggressive takeover attempt of Kobani, a town along the Syrian border. (Belgium is home to a significant number of Turkish expatriates, and their national news addresses that population.) However, I had to dig -- deep -- for similar coverage in the US news sources that I regularly consult, which includes a website that claims to prioritize international news.

Maybe the US news sources are oblivious. Maybe the Belgian news sources are alarmist. Probably some of both. The bottom line is that I've got to cobble together information, which heightens my anxiety.

[several deep breaths and a take-off later]

There's something about starting, about stepping off, that adjusts my perspective.

This train has left the station and, since I'm along for the ride, my emotions need to recalibrate along with my physical location. It's a subtle shift but a critical one, from being anxious to being eager.

When I travel I am focused. I accomplish more work on the road than I do at home. I attribute this largely to my husband who, when we're both at home, is the biggest soaker-upper of my attention! (See what you get for marrying an incredibly interesting person??) And of course I miss our children, but the truth is that they've got fun and highly responsible people taking care of them. They are fine. They will be fine.

And so will I.

This is the kind of trip I adore. It is unusual. It will be challenging. I expect to learn things I won't learn anywhere else on the planet. I expect to meet people -- and taste wines -- that are distinct and unique in the industry.

So, yes, we have arrived at Wine Travel YES!

And for that I am extremely grateful.