When I first learned about Cathy Huyghe’s new book, I immediately perked up: Finally, someone is putting into words what I’ve been trying to define via this site, or my Twitter and Instagram feeds: How can you properly communicate that intense yearning to follow everything wine (and are there others like me?)? She succeeds at that by sharing the stories of the people behind 12 bottles of wine. It’s their own desires deep inside their souls driving their pursuit. And it’s why “hungry” in the book’s title is such a wise word choice.
“It’s about being hungry for life and being hungry for the pleasure of it and to actually jump off the edge and go ahead enjoy it, and go ahead and give yourself permission to enjoy it,” Huyghe told me after she sent me an early copy of Hungry for Wine: Seeing the World Through the Lens of a Wine Glass.
Until now (except for a slight mention and a 2003 profile of a Maryland winery back when I barely knew the difference between Chardonnay and Cabernet), I haven’t written about wine professionally. Finding the right wine voice outside of this site, while maintaining my objectivity as a journalist was challenging. It also meant I had to keep in mind what an NPR audience would connect with the most. As a result, the edited version of the post focused on some of Huyghe’s chapters that were pertinent to political and social issues as part of the news.
However, as an obsessed oenophile, I personally connected more to the emotional side of her writing – and much of the soul I had originally wanted to include in the story was either lost or left on the cutting room floor.
But thanks to the power and wonder of the digital age and multiple platforms, I can share more of my hour-long conversation with Huyghe right here!
Maybe by doing so, it will stir up your own hunger for wine!
On the meaning of being hungry for wine:
“The ‘hungry’ of the title definitely means a lot of different things. It means being hungry from a passionate perspective. It means hungry literally, physically hungry, putting food on the table hungry. And it also means being hungry for the connection that wine is able to bring to all of us. When you open a bottle and you pour it in your glass and in the glass of the person sitting across from you or maybe the next person over, you’re connected. It’s an immediate connection and an immediate link between all of you.There’s a lot of room for that kind of sharing and that kind of linking together.”
On why she wrote the book:
“I want [the book] to be a launch pad, too, of conversations over the wine, but also about what it takes to bring the bottle to your table. And if those 12 chapters can be used as a launch pad to engage people and make wine closer to them and make it more relevant and something they can see relates to their everyday lives, than all the better, because that’s how I see wine and I really wanted this book to add to the conversation about wine in that way.”
“What I hope happens is that people will see wine as
something fun, something interesting, something worth celebrating, and that they’re also part of a very, very interrelated web and context and really thick beautiful luscious context … And so I hope that people
will find a couple entry points for themselves where they can say ‘Huh, I get that about this wine and that is how I’m going to think about it,
enjoy it or appreciate.’ “
On why she always asks ‘Who harvests your grapes?’:
“That question of the labor force, it’s a door opener everywhere you go in the sense of ‘Let’s get this conversation started, and let’s see what’s happening here because obviously somebody has to harvest the grapes, so who is it for you?’ And it was in so many places that I asked it and visited, it is what opened the door to conversation. It opened the communication and it helped people understand that the wine writing that I want to do and that I do isn’t sort of the kind that’s focused on a tasting note … So that one question turned out to be an incredibly effective way to get to the deep end.”
(Note: You can also read the chapter that focuses on this question here.)
On being a wine writer:
“The kind of writer that I am asks about the questions around
the glass a lot more than what’s in the glass. Rather than my focus being on sort of the pour or the color or the texture or the aromas – I love that, there’s a lot of value to it – but for me, the broader conversations opens more pathways to getting to know the other people I’m with, or getting to know the bigger context for the existence of this wine. I guess that’s one way to think about it. I’m interested in how the wine got to be there maybe more than looking too closely at what it is when it is there.”
On the preciousness of wine:
“I think for a long time there’s been a sort of perception or an understanding of wine as something really precious and a lot of connotations to the wine. And even though that isn’t my interpretation of wine – not that I don’t find wine precious, I do – but I think that there was just this idea that we had to really value wine to the extent that we had to elevate it and it represented this sort of higher lifestyle. What I would love to see, or what I try to see, is that wine is – it’s a way – it’s a vehicle for us not to commemorate those ideas of the Françoises* in our lives, but to celebrate them, to toast them, to honor them by actually opening the bottle.”
*Françoise is a woman mentioned in the first chapter of the book that can be best be described as a long-lost love who once brought some memorable bottles to the main character of the chapter.
On the ever-changing nature of drinking wine:
“Not only every bottle, but every glass is going to be different. Every sip is going to be different depending on what you’re eating with it or who’s sitting across the table from you. Maybe somebody gives you some devastating news and then you’re like ‘Everything tastes like sour grapes!’ after that. Every time that you pour some wine or take a sip or open a bottle it’s going to be different and you’re going to be different every time. Because we change day to day, we change meal to meal because what you had for breakfast today is going to affect your tastes for what you drink later tonight and and same for me, so in a way we can’t have the same experience as the wine because we all have different taste buds – and to me that sort of openness and variability is part of the challenge. And part of the fun.”
It’s that exact challenge of never being able to duplicate your experience with a each glass of wine that drives my passion, too.