Wine is one among many beverages that can serve a very general, if not universal, interest in getting drunk. But wine is an inefficient and expensive vehicle for that purpose so that won’t fully account for wine’s appeal.
We have a deep need for sociality, especially when food is served. The fact that wine goes particularly well with many cuisines, along with its relatively gentle psychoactive effects when consumed in moderation, contribute to the atmosphere of good cheer around the table. This is probably what accounts for wine’s popularity throughout history at least in those parts of the world where wine was consumed. No other beverage is quite as well positioned to serve that function.
But this interest doesn’t explain our current wine tasting practices where food may or may not be present and social interactions are focused, to a significant degree, on the wine and its properties.
We also have a compelling need for an alluring living environment, one that has charm, warmth, harmony, and intensity from which we can draw daily inspiration. Food, landscapes, yards, the weather, furniture, clothing, jewelry and the like all serve this function when they are the subject of focused attention. This also is a deep and fundamental human need for most people.
This is where wine fits. This is the interest it serves, as an element of everyday aesthetics.
Some wines transcend even that function. Like art, they satisfy our need for wonder, awe, and ecstasy. But most wines have a more modest role as one of the connecting threads that give everyday life meaning.