My 32 Days of Natural Wine post (and a note on the accompanying Latin motto on grape growing)

Why is there a photo of spiders on my blog today? You’ll have to visit my contribution to the 32 Days of Natural Wine, day 2 to find out. I wrote my post on Lewis Dickson, the only natural winemaker — to my knowledge — in Texas. Those spiders live above his cave.

In case you aren’t already hip to the 32 Days of Natural Wine, it’s one of the coolest happenings in the enoblogosphere (now in its second year) and it’s run by one of the nicest dudes in this wacky world of wine blogging, Cory Cartwright.

Cory is a friend and a greatly admired blogging colleague of mine and his writing is among the best on the internets when it comes to wine. I’ve drawn much inspiration and guidance from his blog, especially when it comes to Loire and Jura wines.

I was thrilled that he asked me to be part of the project again this year.

Please check out my post The Wild West of Natural Wine: the Texas Hill Country on winemaker Lewis Dickson and his incredible estate, Cruz de Comal.

A note on the Latin motto that opens the post

You’ll see that the post begins with a Latin motto:

    Uva uvam vivendo videndo varia fit.

    —Juvenal 2.81 (Hat Creek Cattle Company)

The strike-through is a reference to the novel by Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove. In the novel, a 1985 Pulitzer-prize-winning narrative that Texans have embraced as the state’s “Gone with the Wind,” a work that “forever changed the image of Texas,” according to Texas Monthly magazine, one of the cattlemen adopts the motto as his own, even though he doesn’t know what it means. And he transcribes it erroneously (hence my strike-through).

Above: The sign used in the TV mini-series version of the novel now resides in a museum collection devoted to the book and its legacy. “It was his view that Latin was mostly for looks anyway, and he devoted himself to the mottoes in order to find one with the best look. The one he settled on was Uva uvam vivendo varia fit, which seemed to him a beautiful motto, whatever it meant. One day when nobody was around he went out and lettered it onto the bottom of the sign.” (Lonesome Dove, p. 91)

The motto itself means when one grape sees another grape [change], it changes [color]. The aphorism is akin to the contemporary saying one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch.

It comes to us via a commentator of Juvenal’s Satires (2.81).

In the second Satire, Juvenal warns Creticus about the decay of morals in Rome: “This plague has come upon us by infection, and it will spread still further, just as in the fields the scab of one sheep, or the mange of one pig, destroys an entire herd; just as one bunch of grapes takes on its sickly colour from the aspect of its neighbour.”

The author of a gloss on this passage (a commentary probably written around the 4th century B.C.E., a few hundred years after Juvenal died) points to the Latin motto uva uvam videndo varia fit as a source for the line in the satire.

Anyone who has observed the vegetative cycle of a vine knows that the grapes do not ripen all of sudden nor at the same pace. A few berries will begin to ripen and then, as if the other berries are watching their riper counterparts, the entire bunch will begin to ripen more rapidly. The same thing happens as the grapes begin to rot, hence the line in Juvenal.

I wanted to make a reference to Lonesome Dove in my post about Lewis not only because June marks the 25th anniversary of this landmark novel but because like the characters in the book, Lewis has embraced the frontier spirit: he has courageously raised the Natural Wine flag for the first time in the state.

I also liked the motto because I hope that Lewis’s “bad example” will lead and inspire other Texas winemakers to revisit (or visit for the first time) the notion of place in wine. It only takes one bad apple like Lewis to ruin the whole bunch!

Chapeau bas, Lewis!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy my post over at the 32 Days of Natural Wine, day 2.

One thought on “My 32 Days of Natural Wine post (and a note on the accompanying Latin motto on grape growing)

  1. I did read your post yesterday and enjoyed it. I will have to try his wines, as I too have found that Texas wines, sadly, are not that good. However, any plant that can survive in this state’s climate I must tip my hat to, so to speak.

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