Can’t seem to string two of them together lately. Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season. Yet, given the time of year and all, one thing I can still do, even from this ramshackle virtual perch, is to count my blessings.
No big pronouncements to make, no ruminations to disclose. It’s someone else’s story that I want to share in lieu of a thank-you note. I first read this with a lump in my throat in a wine forum years ago. I came across it again the other day, this time in print, in Terry Theise’s deeply life-affirming “Reading Between the Wines”. And yes, the lump was back, too.
So, thank you, bunch. You know who you are. I’m not worthy. Thank you. Here’s to a lot more.
“Here’s a wine with a story. During the decade I lived in Europe, from 1973 to 1983, I became solely and passionately devoted to wine. I promptly became a wine tourist, and one of the first places I visited right away was Burgundy. I lived in Munich, and Burgundy was closer than, say, Bordeaux, plus it was far more interesting and hospitable.
While there, knocking around earnestly (albeit cluelessly), I stumbled across a domaine off the main routes, in a corner of Beaune. I’ll take a small degree of credit; even as a beginner I knew the wines were special. I bought what I could afford.
I returned a few years later. No appointment. Arrived just as a busload of Belgians was pulling away. The proprietor was doddering through the room consolidating the remains of tasting glasses into a large plastic bucket. “Ah, he’ll top up his casks with that,” I assumed. When all the glasses were emptied, our vigneron placed the bucket on the floor and issued a shrill whistle, whereupon his dog trotted in and proceeded to lap up what must have been several hundred dollars’ worth of premier cru Burgundy. (Somehow I can’t quite imagine a similar thing taking place in Pauillac…). This time I had more money and I’d learned to allocate a lot of my Burgundy budget to this domaine, and so I bought and bought and bought.
And finally the very last of those bottles was being drunk, on New Year’s Eve 2006. I had shipped it back from Europe along with its companions.
The bottle didn’t look promising. There were at least three inches of ullage and, let’s face it, I hadn’t stored it perfectly. But these wines appeared indestructible, and a couple of months previously another old bottle from the domaine had been wonderful. So once more into the breach. Wine lovers all know the feeling – the final bottle! You can’t stand to part with it, and in a strange way you almost want to wait until it’s past its best; perversely, it’s less heartbreaking that way.
The color was fine; mature, of course, but not decayed. It needed decanting to separate it from its heavy, gritty sediment, and even after the bottle had been vertical for forty-eight hours, the best I could do was leave an inch in the base. The bouquet of this wine was a force of spirit. If truffles had orgasms, they might emit this fragrance. Soy, sandalwood, shiitake, you know: Burgundy. Like the fat cap on a roast after you’ve studded it with cloves, sweet and caramelized and bloody. You know: Burgundy!
On the palate, the tannin was durable and unpolished, in the old-fashioned way. Honest, nothing to be ashamed of. The fruit, or its echo, was something that reminded us of how we blow silly things out of proportion. I could try to say what it tasted like, groping for literalisms, but I’d rather say it made me want to forgive. It melted away the trivial grudges I’ve clung to. It even said, Next year will be better, next year you’ll let it go and let the kindness come.
We carved our roast, and my sweetheart and I sat down to dinner. The wine smelled like all the sweetness of the country, like the redeeming kindness of people. Thank you, old Albert Morot, for this Beaune Bressandes, 1969.”
Terry Theise, Reading Between the Wines, University of California Press, 2010. Those who are not familiar with Terry’s writing owe it to themselves to do something about it and do it fast.