Foundation of a new art
I’m looking for the total moment, not a perfect moment lived within this life, but a moment of such intensity that it creates life. I call this moment outside of time: the sublime.
— Thierry Forbois, creator of the Way of wine
Awakening of the oceanic feeling
Fifteen years ago, watching a spectacular sunrise from the summit of a hill in the French Pyrenees, I had a timeless experience. A moment of awe. My body, my eyes, and my mind suddenly opened as an extraordinary feeling of peace flooded through me. I had touched the forgotten foundation of life itself. In a single instant, I understood everything that words could never convey. For the first time, I saw: I was at the centre of a miracle, connected to it. I knew then that for the rest of my life, nothing could shake this proof, apprehended so clearly on that hilltop. I was born there. From that instant roots back the Way of wine.
Since then, I have thought continuously about the disparity between the alienation of modern life and the intimacy of spiritual existence, and sought ways to sharpen human sensitivity, and to liberate it from the superficial, fragmented sensations that constitute many people’s lives.
In early 2009, the idea of renewing the way wine is tasted came up to me. In a traditional wine tasting, I felt that too much intervention by the intellect and conceptual analysis of experience, notably by forcing perceived sensations into words, cuts us off from an essential part of the wine-drinking experience. This intrusion of thought into the tasting moment deprives us of what wine most intrinsically has to offer. The conscious mind cannot simultaneously enter direct experience and analyze this same experience. The moment the intellect intervenes to conceptualize or verbalize, it loses contact with the direct experience of what is, and loses as well the sensations and emotions that accompany it. I call this hypothesis “the oceanic principle of the inconceivable”, referring to the feeling of being one with the universe, an intense sensation of communion which many people feel while contemplating nature or a piece of art, the flight of a dragonfly, the beauty of a single blade of grass, or a taste of wine. It disappears the instant the intellect tries to explain it.
In subsequent years, I devoted my time to research the specific conditions likely to favour an experience of awe and, at the moment of drinking a glass of wine, the awakening of this oceanic feeling (some refer to it as “celestial” or “cosmic”).
In 2016, I rendered concrete this idea of a timeless wine experience, during which one could leave the confines of self and open to everything beyond it. From the initial inspiration to achieving the Way of wine took over 16,000 hours of thinking, developing its ritual, creating the vascellum and practicing my art until it was fully mastered. This journey has been long. I did not devote myself to this quest; I lost myself in it. Often, I felt alone, with my family and those whom I hold most dear questioning an obsession that seemed to take so long to finish, it worried them and made them wonder if I’d lost my mind. I had no choice. I didn’t come up with this idea; it found me. Seriously. It was looking for host so it could exist. I was available. And the idea that chose me, of a wine experience so intense that it could open the way to revitalizing the senses and one’s entire being was, I must agree, crazy. I knew from the start that it was madness. But when an idea as beautiful as this comes to you, and the need to make it real possesses you like a thirst, it’s painful not to yield. As Deleuze said, artists don’t create for pleasure; they create out of necessity. That is how it was for me with the Way of wine, which for me has been a gift, and also a curse.
Today, the idea is an actual, unparalleled experience, a living art. For the rest of my days on this earth, I will embody, carry, and transmit this art for the pleasure of other bodies and minds to experience. I’ll do it for wonder. For the simple miracle of joy. For the love of wine.
At moments of wonder, it is easy to avoid small thinking, to entertain thoughts that span the universe, that capture both thunder and tinkle, thick and thin, the near and the far.
— Yann Martel, Life of Pi
Opening a path to experience the sublime.
In this age, experiencing a pure moment of joy is rare. Inundated by self-imposed demands, beguiled by an orgy of modern-world distractions, most of us let our lives pass by without ever tasting or knowing, in the delight of our bodies and minds, an authentic moment of abundance.
Fortunate are those who have experienced, at least once, a moment’s grace in which suddenly, like a pause in the chaos, the world reveals itself in a dreamlike flash. Colours become so intense that you can almost feel them. Sounds no longer enter through the ear, but reverberate directly in your head. Smells are so intense that you taste them. Details appear, leaping suddenly out of the void. The world awakens inside you in all its subtlety, vitality and richness. Leaving the golden cage that you have made for yourself, you pierce the world’s veil of appearances and become the movement of life itself. Awe is a profound spiritual experience. It is the soul breathing beneath our masks. It makes our faces open the way sunflowers open wide each morning. At its most intense, awe is resurrection. It revives our senses to their original sensitivity. It revives our intelligence to its vitality. Feelings of awe are triggered by a wide range of phenomena and circumstances, such as natural beauty, impressive art, divine epiphanies or the vastness of space. During the years when the ritual of the Way of wine was gestating, a single thought guided Thierry Forbois as he developed his art: create a moment as an open path to experience the ‘sublime’.
Entering the realm of the sacred
Since the dawn of humanity, people have felt the need for ideal or absolute entities. We place certain objects, beings, places and principles above the common order of things, giving them a higher value and level of existence than what, in contrast, we label “profane.” The sacred implies separation from whatever is ordinary, common, banal. Sacred entities have a value that is absolute, incommensurable. As Spinoza said, sacred objects, people, places and principles help us see ourselves from the angle of eternity.
I love wine. I love drinking wine. For the sensual pleasure, of course, but more profoundly, I like it because for me it is the most extraordinary substance that exists. In its liquid essence abides the subtle spirit of arable land, of its fruit, of the light of the sun that fed it, of the hearts and minds of the women and men who created it. Wine is a true distillation of life, that precious liquid. The opportunity to taste a great wine means infinitely more than a moment’s escape from ordinary life, or a pleasure to be filed away in the album of our fondest memories. If we know how to dig out a space inside ourselves to admit wonder, wine can offer us a priceless gift: we enter into communion with the world. It allows us to unite with the world spiritually, to make contact once again with that which is most authentic in us, and impermanent. It offers the possibility to revitalize our senses and our lives. In the words of Régis Debray, the Way of wine celebration offers the chance to revive, in a festive way, our most vital connection.
The hymn to what is real is a sacred song. It comes from this nothingness. This nothingness of the first moment, imprinting Everything, which then multiplies. Formless, in the beginning, Everything took form, and became subject to formulation. Thus, everything that grew, cried out, cavorted, rioted, and questioned itself once existed in the primordial nothingness as a latent potential, the archetype of possibility. Seas of stars, seaweed, ferns, elephants, Brahmins, painters, physicists: we all come from this formless and remote continuum. In the variety of our external forms, something indivisible remembers.