There is no drunkenness like that of being in love. As Valentine’s Day approaches, I couldn’t help but to reflect upon the intoxicating nature of love, and the way in which it contends with wine for the greatest inspiration behind humanity’s blushing of the cheeks and dizzying of the senses. Wine and love have always had a dynamic, if not interdependent, relationship. As Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano wrote,
“We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine.”
Love emboldens us, and like a wine, love can overpower us until we are stumbling home silly, the world blurring at its edges, our heads spiraling from its potency. We are enraptured by a perfect tipsiness, the bright colors glinting from a cupped glass like the heady flash of a lover’s eyes. Yet there is also the danger to fall too deep, to drink ourselves into oblivion, to feel the absolute misery of a love hangover, to endure every crucifying beat of a detoxing heart.
Wine accompanies us throughout our romantic journeys. When we are in love we turn to wine. We court each other over wine, we commune over wine, and with each glass shared, we fall in love a little deeper. Our physical reactions then mirror that which we feel on the inside, the sudden blushing, the rise of a red-hot heat that emerges like gluttony after the first delicious sip, the first luscious touch. Wine becomes a symbol of our own desire, and we become unquenchable in our thirst for more. In “A Case of You,” Joni Mitchell expresses exactly this sentiment, singing,
“You’re in my blood like holy wine, you taste so bitter and so sweet,
Oh, I could drink a case of you, darling, and I would still be on my feet.”
Wine can magnetize our moments, turning the mundane into something poignant and pulsing, enriching our conversations and adding a kind of twinkle in the space between us. Yet it also has the power to amplify our less-than-favorite traits when we indulge too much: the boisterousness, the cheap bravado, the boorish manners cloaked as confidence with one too many glasses. Like any relationship, there must be balance. But what happens when our love fails? When the wine of love somehow becomes tainted? Well, we still turn to wine.
Anyone who has ever had a broken heart understands the allure of attempting to drown your sorrows with a bottle. We cry, and we curse, and we drink, trying desperately to numb the overwhelming pain that comes from a broken heart. The very thing that once inspired our romance is now the same thing we use to stifle it. When urged on by our own tears, the wine flows easy and fast, small droplets of red divinity attempting to cure a heart scathed. We seek the drunkenness because we seek release. We yearn for some kind of solace, for the purging of the love that will not leave us. And though of course it will not work, there is a strange comfort in the attempt, a circular closing to the love story that once spirited our senses. Now, we must survive the hangover, hour by hour, day by day, soberly readjusting to a world without love’s influence.
“Give me a world, you have taken the world I was.”
This simple and heart-shattering line is written by Anne Carson in her sublime poem, “O Small Sad Ecstasy of Love.” She perfectly captures how fundamentally, how drastically, love can change us. And it is true. We undergo a transformation when we love someone. We are no longer the singular, sweet bunch of grapes from our youth. We change, we mature, we carry some acquired bitterness, we are softened in other surprising ways. When we drink wine, we recognize ourselves there. Perhaps that is why it is arguably the most sentimental of the spirits. We realize all that the bottle had to undergo to become the magic inside of our glass. We hope that we also survive the changing, that in the end, we too are made into something beautiful by love’s making.
Like wine, love stains us. It stays with us, it colors the white tapestry of a previously untouched heart, it becomes impossible to remove. By the end of our lives, if we are lucky, our white lace hearts may just be adorned with the spilled and serendipitous markings of many loves had.
I’m raising a glass to you all this Valentine’s Day. Love, in all of its beauty and torture, its maddening multitudes and endless variations, is always something to be celebrated. And what better way to celebrate than with wine, our ever-constant companion throughout the most important journey of our life. Here’s to you! ❤️