Plain and simple, wine invented itself. Sugar plus yeast (carry the C-O2) equals alcohol. All one needs for grapes to become wine, in the simplest sense, is for the skins of the grapes to break, their liquid to be caught in a container, and for the wild yeasts which grow on the grapes to go to work on the fructose (fruit-sugar) in the grapes and cause it to ferment.
It has become to me, however, a matter of increasing concern to determine when and where this magickal process first occurred. Using a combination of algebra (the only bra in the house since my girlfriend left me), numismatics (always ready to coin a phrase), ornithology (a great record) and necromancy (the english word for Zauberei), I was able to determine that wine was invented somewhere around harvest-time in the year 000000000003.
Ever eager to back up my vivid hypothesising with some field research (and to get away from what has been a really nasty winter in Manhattan), I once more heeded the haunting call of the strayhorn and took the A Train up to that abandoned old warehouse at 4898 1/2 Broadway. I unlocked the triple gate, opened the door, hit the light switch, powered-up the generator and set the Wayback Machine™ for early November of the Year Five. With a bang and a crash and the flare of a flash, I was instantly transported back to a time when there were no taxes, and no Republicans, and you could still find a place to park in Manhattan.
Mid-Autumn seemed to be the best time for me to interview ¡Ung the cave-man, the fellow who actually invented wine. He had just finished his late-season shopping, and was about to settle into his winter-routine of playing deer-antler solitaire beside the smoky fire in a cold cave.... So I found him grateful for a bit of company and therewith in an expansive frame of mind. We wrapped the buffalo-skins tightly around us, filled the deerhorn peace-pipe with something that was not yet then a controlled substance, and sat down by the fire for a long, lovely, late-evening chat—in course of which I heard the following story about the invention of wine.
¡Ung had always been fond of grapes. He had first discovered them in late summer of the Year One. They were not so difficult to catch as the other things upon which ¡Ung customarily dined in order to survive, and he was not obliged to go to the bother and aggravation of killing them and skinning them before he could eat them. Little did he know that a favourite foodstuff could actually aspire to a higher state of evolution...
He showed me the old earthen jar in which wine had first arrived to bless the world. It was that piece of pottery in which he had always kept his table grapes—the bunches I could see in there were nothing other than zinfandel. And he'd just refilled the jar on the morning before The Accident.
Unfortunately, ¡Ung had realised some time in the winter of Year Two that them there grapes didn't grow on the vine all through the winter, so it really helped to have a smoked musk-ox, a salted loin of mastodon and some wild-boar prosciutto tucked away in the pantry for those short days when winter winds howled wild, when the frost-giant Thrym and his snow-demon backup-band blew into town from Saskatchewan.
So. The Accident. ¡Ung had just gone out a-hunting. Good day for it, crisp and clear... He had just put paid to a huge and handsome Ferocious Wild Pig, and was feeling mighty pleased with his skill and hunterly prowess. He then had the added good fortune to saunter ‘round the bend and see some remote ancestress of Scarlet Johannison swimming nekkid in the local waterhole. Doing the back-stroke, as a matter of fact. This vision caught his attention no little, and by the time she climbed out of the water, he was in fact staring rather more than less, and his eyes were just full of beach-flesh. So much so, in fact, that he failed to hear the approach of the recently widowed Mrs Ferocious Wild Pig until it was way too late do do much of anything about it except turn ‘round and invent the very first cuss-word.
If you ever read the Sunday funnypaper back in the nineteen-sixties or so, back when the only Google was the one named Barney, he shared a comic strip with a chap named Snuffy Smith... And sometimes in the course of these bucolic events, the local wild boar ‘Ol Snort goes on a rampage and tears up the entire county in the course of two panels.... Even this evocation does no justice to the calamity that befell our dear friend ¡Ung at this moment. Mrs F~W~P grunted, snorted, squealed, charged and hooked a gnarly tusk into his tender parts and gave a mighty toss of her porcine head. Which sent poor ¡Ung sailing off in to the distance. He had no sooner landed with a flop on the ground when she reappeared long enough to kick him a good one on the ‘ol coconut and trample him half to death, before going off in search of a third husband. (He first hubby, Mister Crashing Boar, had also fallen prey once upon a time to the clever caveman's deft and deadly spearmanship. My friend the Witch Doctor tells me that revenge is a form of nostalgia...)
When the dust settled, our boy ¡Ung was slightly amazed to find himself still among the living. Whereupon he counted his fingers, his toes, and all other important parts, relieved to find that everything was still attached. It wasn't until he began to struggle to his feet, that he realised he was about to leave his guts on the ground, and that there was a very angry eight-inch divot torn out of his belly. And long about then he began to notice that it was starting to smart more than somewhat. There was nothing poor ¡Ung could do but collect his insides and replace them as well as he might. He crawled onto his back under the shelter of a bush into a ditch, and commenced to do some serious excrutiating.
Well, if ol’ ¡Ung hadn't had his waterskin slung over his shoulder before the catastrophe, he were a goner. As it was, he was extraordinarily fortunate not to expire from the wounds of this injury, or from further woes inflicted by other fourlegged beasties. There was nothing else he could do but to lie there, and wait patiently to either live or croak... And it took about a third of the new moon before the rent in his tum-tum had healed sufficiently for him be able to crawl the three thousand yards back to Cave-Sweet-Cave.
When he rearrived chez lui he was one half-dead cave-man. But he couldn’t help but notice a wonderful aroma, which sprang to his nostrils the moment he pulled aside the buffalo-hide door. He very quickly traced these heavenly emanations back to their source, which was none other than his old earthen grape-jar. He lost no time in devouring what remained of the grapes, after which he went for the litre of liquid left collected in the bottom of the jar. Which tasted mighty mighty fine indeed, after ten days of nothing nothing nothing but stale water out of an otter-skin. Mighty fine.
Was it just his imagination? Did life not seem so grim to him as it had done but a few short moments before? His hastily-carved supper of air-cured woolly bison certainly tasted better when washed down with the grape-smoosh-blood. And for some strange reason, his recently mistreated anatomy was not causing him the same degree of distress as it had done earlier that day. Nothing, in fact, was quite so bad as it had immediately previously seemed to be.
¡Ung scratched his head, decided not to worry about it, curled up by the fire, snored like a steamshovel, dreamt about springtime: slept good and late...
In the morning he shook the cobwebs out of his head, put a pot of coffee on the fire, and began to write up the very first Futures Offering.
© James Wright 2004 (AD)