The Four Humors … Of Wine!

Being a tradition-minded fellow, I am — when it comes to matters medical, anatomical, physiological, and psychological — a bit of a “Humorist”; that is to say, when in search of physio-spiritual and anatomo-mystical answers, I look backwards, into the wisdom-mists of time, in search of Hippocrates, and The Four Humors.

And in thinking on The Four Humors, it occurs to me there are potentially even broader implications writ into the very foundations of these analyses, these psycho-mojo categorizations, these emoto-kinesio compartments; broader implications that may raise bright lanterns in the fog-bound moors of the oeno-lost, the oeno-fellaheen, the oeno-wanderers; the rucksack mendicants seeking The Wine Way …


What I am trying to say is, by looking back, perhaps we can find a way forward; and if the goal is to, in the end, choose the right wine for the right people at the right time, then who but Hippocrates himself to look to for guidance!

For those of you not familiar, The Four Humors were essentially and originally posited by Hippocrates as the four core “components” — both tangible and metaphorical — that made up the body; when in balance, the body would be healthy; ill-health was caused, it was said, by an imbalance in the humors.

The pursuit of true health then, became a search, essentially, for balanced humors, which necessitated understanding the humors, in order to properly cater to them.

This is where wine comes in.

How to cater to the humors? Wine, of course, but what wine? Which wine?

Consider the humors:

Substance-wise (which we are less concerned with), they were two hues of bile (black and yellow), plus phlegm and blood.

Spirit-wise (which we are much more concerned with), they were Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic, and Phlegmatic.

Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic, and Phlegmatic.

And that, my friends, is how we pick a wine.

Feeling Sanguine? Feeling sturdy, optimistic, cheerful, and confident?

How about Choleric? Ambitious, aggressive, focused, intense, and passionate?

Not so much?

Maybe feeling a bit Melancholic? Cautious, moody, sensitive, introverted? Both perfectionist and distressed?

Or perhaps Phlegmatic? Passive, chilled out, friendly and calm, but possibly almost too laid back, slightly unmotivated, possible a bit fearful? Kind, but withdrawn?

In all cases, there is a wine for you; a wine that will restore you to balance, and to good health.

For the Sanguine, the challenge is to keep the positivity going, but contain in; rein it in, without suppressing it. Zinfandel? Of course not! Everyone knows that’s a sanguine enhancer. No, what you need is some bite, some acidity, some salt and spice; you need a bit of percolating exoticity to counterbalance all that bloated ebullience. You need Carignane. Stat.

2011 Ridge Vineyards Triangle Carignane.

For you, the Choleric, what to do with you? You are a leader, you are in the front of the pack, you are driven, you are passionate, but you’re on the edge; we love your drive, but we don’t want to be run over. You too need counterbalancing; you need some sweetness, some luxuriance, some sensuality to counter all that muscular alpha-ness. But you don’t want fluff. You don’t want a romantic placebo; you’d see right through that, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. No, you need something inviting, something approachable, something beguiling, but it must have depth, it must be able to match you passion for passion, drive for drive. You need zinfandel, but not any zinfandel. No cloying, decadent, boozy-blowsy zinfandel for you. You need Mazzoni. You need 2009 Mazzoni. Old-vine complexity, tradition-minded concentration; focused, precise, multi-layered, but ultimately decadent and sexy and giving.

2009 Ridge Vineyards Mazzoni Home Ranch Zinfandel

As to you, the Melancholic, it’s not so much a counterweight that you need, as a lift. You need to be drawn out, encouraged; you need a playmate, a friend, a companion, a supporter, a lifeline; you need someone with perspective; someone who can be serious, but who knows too that in the end it’s all a cosmic joke; you need the holy goof, the Rinzai with the bamboo quiver. You need Merlot. You need Estate Merlot. Only Merlot can enact for you the Hobo-Spirit Dumbsaint Han Shan-Shaman dance, the cosmological reconciliation of seriousness and play. You need the 2010 Ridge Vineyards Estate Merlot.

2010 Ridge Vineyards Estate Merlot

Lastly, the Phlegmatic. The most needy, and the least likely to meet the need. Content, ish. You’ve never really reached for grace, so you don’t know what it’s like. You need to touch grace, you need to feel the universe contract and expand around you. You need The Zen Awareness Slap. But we don’t want to break your brain. You’re nice, we like you, you’re peaceful. We don’t want to rupture that. But we want you to know there’s more. We want you to taste of the water of life, and feel it run its hot ice through your stented passages. We want you, our Phlegmatic friend, to taste … Monte Bello.

2010 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello


The Four Humors of Wine -or- How to choose a wine the Hippocratic way!

Categories: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, History, Monte Bello, Varietals & Blends, Viticultural Salmagundi, Wine & Health, Wine & Philosophy, Wine & Spirituality, Zinfandel

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