Maybe we read the word Culture and automatically think — country, or ethnic identity, or any of the arts, or a book —
But there are many different kinds of cultures. For example, academics live in one kind of culture, athletes in another. (And each of those cultures have cultural subsets within them.) That’s all by way of introducing you to a culture you might never have thought of as such:
The world of spirits amounts to a culture — with beer drinkers, wine drinkers, and hard liquor drinkers making up different subsets within it. (If you’re doubtful, reflect upon this: people who have a serious problem with alcohol and turn to Alcoholics Anonymous for help quickly discover that they need more than abstention, they also need new friends and new recreations and new interests, in other words, a new culture to replace one that’s been toxic for them.)
For those of us who’ve been luckier in the genetic lottery, however, spirits in their various forms add pleasure to life. Poet A.E. Housman spoke out for the beer drinkers when he wrote:
Oh, many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
I’ve been an English Lit graduate student and I’ve had to read John Milton; and like Housman, I’ll take the beer. In this case, an organic microbrew:
I don’t particularly drink hard spirits. (I do have a fondness for aquavit, the “water of life” from Denmark, chased with a beer, but dare only indulge in one round every few years at a smorrebrod lunch!) The Hub really enjoys wine and wine culture. All the different regions (“terroir”) where wine is born and brought up, all the tastes, all the food pairings, all the sippings and the swirlings, he really grooves on it all.
As Edward Fitzgerald wrote in his Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:
And much as Wine has played the Infidel,
And robbed me of my Robe of Honor Well,
I often wonder what the Vintners buy One half so precious as the stuff they sell.
Me, I can take ’em or leave ’em. I have my favorites, though: lush, thick, golden honey-sweet ice wines and Sauternes, which, perhaps fortunately, are so expensive I can rarely afford to drink them. (Can you tell I grew up on sweet sacramental Manischewitz wine at religious rituals?) When we were at a trendy restaurant in Portland, Maine, this summer, though, I did enjoy an excellent glass of German Riesling: