Sonder: everyone has a story


Sometimes we need to step outside of our own perspective. This is true in our lives, but also in the world of wine.

Each wine region has its own story. Its own pioneers (some new world wine regions still have extant pioneers!), its own heroes, its own quirks, its own challenges. If you live and work in a specific wine region, or you are a devoted fan of the wines of one region, it can sometimes be hard to see with perspective. After all, the wine world is a big place, despite the degree of interconnectivity it has today.

I love the word sonder. It’s a term that counts as a neologism. In an attempt to come up with words that are missing in our English lexicon, John Koenig has built up The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. He coined sonder in 2012.



Sonder. You are the main character—the protagonist—the star at the center of your own unfolding story. You’re surrounded by your supporting cast: friends and family hanging in your immediate orbit. Scattered a little further out, a network of acquaintances who drift in and out of contact over the years. But there in the background, faint and out of focus, are the extras. The random passersby. Each living a life as vivid and complex as your own. They carry on invisibly around you, bearing the accumulated weight of their own ambitions, friends, routines, mistakes, worries, triumphs and inherited craziness. When your life moves on to the next scene, theirs flickers in place, wrapped in a cloud of backstory and inside jokes and characters strung together with countless other stories you’ll never be able to see. That you’ll never know exists. In which you might appear only once. As an extra sipping coffee in the background. As a blur of traffic passing on the highway. As a lighted window at dusk

John Koenig, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows


It’s a beautiful concept. I feel it most strongly in airports as I watch people in motion, off on a new adventure, each with their own story. I try to step aside from my role as protagonist, and consider things from the perspective of others. To observe more clearly; to shed biases and filters; and see with eyes anew. It’s a form of reflection; of contemplation. There’s a sense of awe because sonder helps us see just how big this planet is, with 7 billion protagonists each playing a role that was given to them – and them alone.

The wine world might seem small in comparison, but I try to do this sonder work professionally as well as personally. All these regions, each with their story – can I begin to see things from the perspective of those who are making wine their life’s work, in the place where they live?

Reminder: this blog is irregularly updated, but there are daily updates on the main wineanorak site.

wine journalist and flavour obsessive

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