White laptop with coffee cup on old wooden table.Winemaker Clark Smith in discussing the connection between winemaking and music in his fine book Postmodern Winemaking makes the following claim:

Nothing is more exquisite than to be deeply known by another through an offering, be it a Syrah or a symphony, that touches us beyond mere words.

Where does that leave us writers? If only experiences that are “beyond mere words” have ultimate aesthetic or communicative value, then the great literary accomplishments of human beings pale in comparison to great music or wine. Shakespeare? Nietzsche? Keats? Tolstoy? All pikers when it comes to “exquisiteness”.

I get that words often fail to fully capture the richness of experience. But so do music and wine. No single mode of expression gets it all into the picture. Yet the attempt at articulation, the attempt to render experience in words, is what separates humans from beasts and makes experience broadly intelligible.

One of the most important differences between wine and orange juice is that no one talks about orange juice. It’s wine talk that makes one person’s experience of wine accessible to another. It is wine talk or music talk that puts wine and music in circulation, that anchors them in a community. Without the attempt at articulation, aesthetic experience is just a series of fleeting moments with no more significance than itches or burps.

I know all the jabbering gets irritating, but that’s because it’s indispensible.