The great pleasures in life. To some, this may be throwing yourself off a cliff, playing the bagpipes through an amplifier, or sunning on the deckchair with your Cocker Spaniel.
Then there are the intrinsic pleasures, the ones that life would be considered cruel without – food, sex and alcohol. But what if one of these pleasures, such as wine, was threatened by sex? Or rather lack of it?
Such ghastly news has recently been unearthed in New York’s Cornell University, where geneticist Sean Myles has revealed that for the last 8000 years, the intimate adventures of the wine grape have been few and very far between.
While the thought of puritanical grapes washing down one’s gullet may seem soothing, the news means grapes have built very little resistance to disease and pests. Sex leads to genetic diversity, which allows plants and animals to keep ahead of the microbes that attack them.
Wine lovers despair, as this could potentially lead to more fertilizers and pesticides being used. How on earth did this happen? And why aren’t grapes enjoying their fair share of nookie?
The reason is simple – for thousands of years, wine growers have propagated vines by snapping off a shoot and sticking it in the ground, as this method leads to uniform crops.
If growers restored the grape’s sexual liberty (which they’ve resisted doing, even after French growers narrowly avoided an epidemic in the 19th Century), they would have less control over particular varieties. Simply, a Chardonnay crossed with another grape would not be a Chardonnay anymore.
Dr Myles says this padlock placed on grape pleasure has resulted in “one large family”. So a Cab Sav is related to a Sauvignon Blanc, which is related to a Pinot Noir, which in turn is related to a Chardonnay. It seems we’ve all been supping the juices of one big, chaste, unhappy family.
And as this familial grape comes under increasing threat from pests, growers are faced with the dilemma of relinquishing wine control (by letting them breed), resorting to pesticides, or creating genetically modified grapes.
However, one renown wine patriarch, simply known as Thumper, says there is an answer. Inspired by Euripides’ “the variety of all things forms a pleasure”, Thumper believes the barricades of booze conformity have been in place long enough.
Abandoning traditional growing methods, Thumper is not only attempting to restore “sexy grape time”, he is speedily encouraging it – as erotic music and art are becoming increasingly common features of northern European vineyards.