In my book entitled Meritage Divorce, I describe how divorce offers an opportunity to go back into the barrel and become the wine you want to be—a kind of “barrel refinement process.” You are the winemaker. Hop in—it’s a good place to hide out, safe and warm. The wood will protect your fragile being and hold you together. You get to re-produce yourself in here—make the most of this time communing with yourself. You’re going to spend some time drinking your own wine—spitting out what you don’t like along the way, and deciding what you swallow. You have to be courageous and learn to live by faith, as it can be dark in the barrel—but there is wine, and that is a good thing.
The length of time wine spends in the barrel is dependent upon the varietal and style of wine the winemaker chooses to make. Pinot Noir may spend less than a year in a barrel, while a Cabernet Sauvignon to blow your palate may spend up to two years. Your length of time in the barrel will be uniquely yours and according to the wine you want to the wine you become.
Take your time, you are building character, it can’t be rushed if you want to mature to perfection.
Wine as it rests in a barrel goes through subtle chemical changes, resulting in greater complexity and character. It also softens the harsh tannins. The barrel imparts the character of the wood into the wine and delivers distinctive flavors and sophistication. The time you rest in the barrel will have a profound effect upon the wine you become. Tears of sorrow will enhance the flavor. Your personal growth, reflection, and self-discovery will deliver character. The tannins of your backbone will become smooth with perspective, compassion, and humility. Your character may change—even your body.
My time in the barrel delivered a spicier and more complex version of me on the other side— no longer a flat, one-dimensional wine that rarely came out to play. This wine likes to open up and have fun. The experience awakened a higher spiritual awareness as a result of having only faith and a barrel to carry me through the darkness of loss and grief. I got back in touch with the varietal of my core and realigned with my authentic self. I didn’t need a label. I’ve learned how to be happy with what’s inside. It became easier to let go of the labels of the past, while I embraced the wine I became with a purpose for the future—a wine to be shared, appreciated, and enjoyed for those willing to drink. I was transformed; you will be too. After you take this journey, you will see how.
You might try to escape the barrel with thoughts that you are a good wine already. Why go back into the barrel? If you try to resist, you will deny your soul a chance to use this experience to re-produce you; therefore, you are at risk of becoming bitter and undrinkable. If you don’t go into the barrel willingly now, you might get another opportunity in the future because your soul could be asking for this experience. The divorce may be a symptom of something buried in you that needs to be identified and healed from, so you can be in alignment with your authentic self and, therefore, able to live your best life. At least it was for me.
Escape the barrel and life may provide another opportunity—another wake-up call. Eventually, you are going in whether you want to or not. Do it now. Opportunity is knocking. Relax; after you are re-produced, you’ll like the new wine you become. People will want to drink you up for your richness of flavor—matured to perfection, perhaps with a little pepper around the edges for distinction. The depth of your character will be deeper and more flavorful. You will be smoother on the palate and softer on the finish. You’ll enjoy getting back in your bottle with increased confidence and going on the tasting appointments of life. You will deliver an authentic experience because you will have the opportunity to get back into your own skin. It is the skin of the grape that gives wine color. That’s why I drink reds over whites—they have more skin in the game. You will too.
When I gave myself over to the barrel refinement process, it was as though everything I was running from—all the demons of the past—were cast into the barrel with me. For all intents and purposes, the barrel was purgatory and I had to decide if I was going to see the light of day, or if I was going to live forever in the dark. Demons don’t like light, so you have to spend time with them in the dark on their turf. It’s the only way you can see them. You can offer them wine in the barrel; they’ll open up more and you can wrestle with them better. In the end, by confronting them, they will lose their power and evaporate into thin air just as alcohol burns off when cooking with it.
It was a dark journey for me, but it was worth it. The time I spent in the barrel refinement process through my divorce was a time of personal reflection, learning, and spiritual growth. A journey I would not have taken otherwise, that changed my perspective, and reconnected me with the real wine I am, not the type of wine that hides under labels. I like the new wine I am. It makes the old me look like a young undrinkable wine. In hindsight, divorce gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.
Have you ever wondered what happens inside a wine barrel? This video will illustrate:
Winemaking in action: battonage in clear-top Chardonnay wine barrel
Watch Jordan Winery’s Cellar Master Patrick Fallon perform battonage (the stirring of the Chardonnay lees) inside a demonstration wine barrel.