Summer came and summer passed,
Now autumn’s in the trees.
All eyes are turning to the vines;
There’s freshness in the breeze.
Each hard green cluster morphed on cue
Into a ripened bunch.
Lignation browned the stems and seeds.
The skins have lost their crunch.
The sugars peaked some time ago;
The phenols crested too.
Photosynthesis has ebbed;
Leaf pigment now shows through.
The bins and tanks and presses wait.
The winery floor is clean.
The smell of must is yet to come
As picking crews convene.
The poet stares down at his page;
It’s here the storys told.
His decision when to pick-
A bold fork in the road!
“Now!” he calls, and joins his crew;
Their knives fly at the grapes.
The bunches drop in lugs like hail
And form in billowed shapes.
The lugs are dumped into the bins.
The bins, in turn, are trucked
Along their journey to the crush
Where grapes from stems are plucked.
Yeast inoculates the must,
Which then begins to foam.
The sugars yield both gas and heat
And build a musty dome.
Fermenting gives off CO2-
A greenhouse gas-Alors!
Providentially the vines
Absorb as much and more.
This process extracts loveliness
By leeching from the skins
A witches brew of phenol soup
To soaring violins.
The must is punched and shoved and stirred
Until it runs its course-
Until it quiets, and then stills-
Until it’s lost its force.
The sugars now are ethanol-
That is what makes it wine.
Time and oak are needed now
Before we call it fine.
We press the must until it yields
The precious tailored juice.
We press until we taste the bite
Of fractions of no use.
The press is slacked; the cake is spread
Upon the dormant ground.
The wine is pumped with gentle force-
To barrels it is bound.
It slumbers in the barrels tight
For months or even years.
The polyphenols cascade on
And oxidants cohere.
Then it’s placed in bottles corked-
An anaerobic stew.
It’s like Virginia Madsen said,
“Alive and always new.”
Then, one special day, it’s judged
To be a lovely verse.
It’s poured and swirled and held aloft.
Light flashes intersperse.
It’s notes are sniffed and take to wing
Like stirring, rhythmic rhyme.
It’s flavors, sipped and savored well,
Are passages through time.
The poem is anonymous;
Its art must stand alone,
But from its soul well being flows,
And joie de vivre is sown.
This poem is homage to Saint Helena’s first man of letters,
Robert Louis Stevenson.
Copyright David Ainsworth