Wine in the Deli: My Kind of Monastery

EngelbergIt was at a beautiful monastery in the Swiss Alps, in a postcard-worthy village called Engelberg, where I learned something extremely important about wine: It’s no big deal.

Before the boss hands me a pink slip, let me explain what I mean by that.

Here in the United States, many people think of wine as a special occasion beverage. They’ll go out after work for a beer or a cocktail, but a glass of wine is reserved for a birthday, an anniversary or a fancy meal.

Yet in most of Europe, including Engelberg, Switzerland, wine is consumed almost every day. The quality of the wine may vary by occasion, but the gift of the grape is ubiquitous.

When my fiancée and I walked through the gates of the Engelberg Abbey, we encountered not only beautifully landscaped grounds, but also a gift shop, a cheese factory and a bistro — a bistro selling wine.

“This is my kind of monastery,” I remember thinking to myself. No wonder the poet, William Wadsworth, fell in love with this mountain village (see below).

I also recall thinking that while wine may not be an essential part of life, it certainly makes living more fun. And where’s the sin in having some fun on a daily basis? At the monastery in Engelberg, it’s certainly not thought of as sinful.

ENGELBERG, THE HILL OF ANGELS

For gentlest uses, oftimes Nature takes

The work of Fancy from her willing hands;

And such a beautiful creation makes

As renders needless spells and magic wands,

And for the boldest tale belief commands,

When first mine eyes beheld that famous hill

The sacred Engelberg, celestial bands,

With intermingling motions soft and still

Hung round its top, on wings that changed their hues at will.

— William Wadsworth, 1770-1850 (excerpt)

Tomorrow: The story of the cheese-making operation at the Engelberg Abbey.

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