From the archives… The Birthmark

by Kermit Lynch

At San Francisco State in the 1960’s, I took an incredibly rewarding course called something like American Studies, in which we tried to find clues to American character by reading Emerson, Melville, Paine, Thoreau, Hawthorne and others. I was especially taken by one of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short stories, “The Birthmark,” although it did not dawn on me then that is was about wine. The story stuck with me even more than The Scarlet Letter. It featured a beautiful babe (who could have married more wisely) and had lots of significance that is ever more significant. Have a read and see for yourself. It is only about two glasses of Bandol rosé long.

The beautiful babe is obviously a metaphor for a bottle of great wine. Her husband, Dr. Something-or-other, is a celebrated scientific genius who cannot stand that his wife is a perfect beauty except, EXCEPT (it really is too vitally important to him) for the fact that she has a birthmark, which for him is an imperfection. He experiments in his lab for years developing a serum that will erase her blemish. Convinced that he has found the “cure” (although she is perfectly healthy), he injects her with his potion and watches as the birthmark fades and disappears from (if I remember correctly) her cheek, just as she exhales her last breath.

The birthmark is obviously a metaphor for a wine’s deposit, or sediment. The “cure” is filtration. However, according to “The Birthmark,” perfection = death.

The moral is, accept a little sediment or you might destroy the very beauty you seek to perfect.

And so you see that my crusade against filtration is not a quibble, but a matter of life and death.

[From the April ’02 Newsletter]

One Comment

  1. nikolay kurtev says:

    Dear Mr Lynch,
    As a polished wine drinker – started 14 years old on Alicante bouschet(“Algerian one” back in home)single barrel, and mix of 10 grape varieties – red and white, could not agree more with you. Wine is alive. The things what we do with it in the industry… For a fistful a dollars.
    Thank you for the beautifull book “Adventures on the Wine Route”.

    Your faithfully
    Nikolay Kurtev

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