Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wine's Haimish Line

A couple of weeks ago, David Brooks of the NY Times wrote an op ed piece about the Haimish line. According to Brooks, Haimish is "...a Yiddish word that suggests warmth, domesticity and unpretentious conviviality."

I can't do his piece justice without committing aggravated plagiarism (really, it's worth a read), but in it Brooks argues that when choosing nicer, more luxurious options over the simple, less expensive, you distance yourself from the discovery more plentiful in spontaneous, communal experiences.  He also draws a loose, but compelling connection between living below the Haimish Line and being happy.

I believe this to be true.  Not that happiness is unattainable above the Haimish Line (hell, 600 thread count sheets make me happy), but in focusing less on trappings we avail ourselves more to immersion and, well, laughter.

This got me to wondering: Is there a Haimish line for wine?

There is.  It's a wandering, blurry line connecting data points as slippery as one's ideologies, but it's a line all the same.  Last winter I took some good natured ribbing after penning a piece on getting beneath the surface of wine's qualities.  In that diatribe, I described the soul of a wine as something which triggers "...a stirring, a welling of satisfaction at a primal earth-shaking, life-affirming, emotion-provoking swoon" which causes us to "...reconnect to our own souls, to our own stories, people, and history...and give thanks and surrender ourselves to be overcome." 


Wine's Haimish line is just further down the continuum of that same idea.  It is the price, story, lineage, brand, etc. above which lie your expectations and below which resides your appetite for adventure and exploration.  Tough elements to quantify, but in actively seeking out experiences under the Haimish line, you open your mind and senses with purpose while suspending prejudices.  This sense of wonder is not only essential to connecting with the soul of your surroundings, but is a gift on parallel with contentment. 

If that resonates even a little, how can it be anything but great?

So, which wines are below the Haimish line?  Eveyone's line is informed by his and her own experiences, circumstances, hopes, and dreams, so it's impossible to predict which will fall where for you.  But chances are that merely knowing about the line, you'll find more wine lying beneath it.

Anecdotally, Matt Kramer, longtime columnist for Wine Spectator recently lamented the predictability of great wines in his article 'Why I No Longer Buy Expensive Wine'.  In it he confesses an overpowering desire to pursue surprise over security.  I'm guessing Kramer got the memo about the Haimish line a while ago.

Happy hunting.

(Full disclosure: My wife has a crush on David Brooks. No, seriously.)

Tip of the hat to Tom Johnson and his piece 'Why Wine Drinkers Are Happy'.


  1. Great post Steve - one of the few 'good things' about the American economic downturn over the last three years has been that many of us have hit the proverbial reset button; we are once again finding joy in the some of the more simple elements or pleasures of life. And BTW, your wife has good taste - Brooks is a rock star!

  2. Julie,

    Very well put. Hit the proverbial reset button to once again find joy in the simple pleasures of life. Amen.

    Mind if I steal that?

    As for the missus' taste in men, I'll admit to almost approving of Mr. Brooks as a worthy competitor for her attention. Almost.

    Thanks for chiming in!

  3. At points I cannot tell if you're talking about wine or life at large. "... above which lie your expectations and below which reside your appetite for adventure and exploration." Beautiful.

    As for the aforementioned Mr Brooks, I'm comfortable enough in my masculinity to also admit to having a bit of a man crush on him. Not quick dashing, but certainly charming.

  4. Aldo - many thanks for your compliment. One of the things I enjoy most about wine writing (and reading) is how it lends itself to metaphoric ambiguity.

    As for your man crush, I have no comment. :-) Cheers!

  5. I'm with your wife and Julie and Aldo (ha!). If smart is hot, and it is, David is one smoking specimen.

  6. Not Your WifeSeptember 16, 2011

    Ditto what Ali said.

  7. What does it say about the readership of this site when, after all the insightful corollary in this post, the obsession in the comments is about a hottie? And a another writer, no less.

    I should have known. When Brooks is on Meet The Press, my wife is captivated. I always thought it was her insatiable appetite for political analysis. Turns out I was wrong about the political analysis part.


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