(Contributed by Makenna White) My relationship with wine is different from most Americans growing up. I have Danish family members that we would visit every couple years and my cousins, a couple years older than me, would have their own glasses of wine at dinner. After our first visit there, my parents introduced us to alcohol the same way many Europeans introduced their children to alcohol. They made it accessible for my brother and I to try, making drinking alcohol not seem forbidden and therefore “desirable.” As a kid having a sip of mom’s wine and dad’s rum and coke, none of it tasted good until our second trip to Europe.
I first fell in love with wine when I was fourteen, at a little family winery in Montenegro. It was late May, 2014, we had just visited our family in Denmark, we flew to Croatia and drove to Montenegro to spend a few days there. My parents set up for us to go to a local winery with a translator and after driving through neighborhoods, we arrived at this little winery. The winery has been there for generations and is currently run by three generations of the family. We sat around a table in their cellar with old swords on the walls, barrels full of wine, fresh prosciutto from the neighbor’s pig, cheese from another neighbor, and fried dough the grandmother had just made.
Before even starting with the wine, they gave my parents six shots of brandy. Since Montenegro did not have a drinking age, they asked me if I wanted to try a sip of wine. I, being fourteen and wanting to act grown up, said yes. I tried two different reds, I do not remember the type of grapes but they were named Dionis (Greek God of wine) and Korin (which is similar to my mom’s name, Corinne).
I was very happy about the experience. It was amazing how connected everything was, the fresh meat and cheese from the neighbors, seeing the grapevines we just had wine from as we drove away, and sitting with the people whose whole lives revolved around a drink. My parents bought a few bottles to bring home, but I do not think we have anymore now. The experience we had will stay with me forever and remind me how ancient and universal this industry is.