You do your best to put the not so great times out of mind. The tartness, the sharp, the bitter. Of course, it can't be helped; there were times when she was just plain overbearing and overpowering. Times she kissed you and your tongue shriveled. Other times, though, there would be the big build-up and she'd just sit there, faded. What happened? How did she go from being so wonderful, to so, so, so meh?
You had some great times together. Invariably, though, you'd have times when you just wanted to spit her out...
Of course, I'm talking about wine!
In another lifetime, I was a wine consultant and sommelier. I considered seriously enrolling in an enology course, but at the end of the day, the wine muse and I cooled our relationship. Not so long ago, I was chatting with a friend about how he'd get together with some fellow sippers and they'd break open some swell bottles and chat. I used to do that, too. Wine is made for conviviality and camaraderie. But frankly, it can veer to easily into the real pretension and in this case, this buddy of mine was moving close to the edge. I begged off from future involvement.
It isn't unheard of for me to have a glass now and again, but more often these days, I'll go for a beer or two. This is a drink that can be every bit as demanding and rewarding as wine and I believe it provides a better return on your investment. When I see the drips and drabs that populate the bottom of a glass priced at ten bucks, I choke. It's ridiculous to pay the price of a bottle for one stinking glass of what is more often than not, at best, okay.
All of this said, though, the fermented fruit of the grape is never far from my heart. Through good times and bad, she provided solace and compliments and complements, mostly to food, but sometimes just as the right enhancement to a moment. Sometimes a solitary moment of reflection, sometimes in moments of council, sometimes in moments intimate and sweet. So I can't be too brutish or brusque with her.
Sometimes, she comes back in through the front door. Her mouth draws a crooked, wry smile and her eyes dance. "C'mon," she says, "we had some good times." She draws closer and whispers. "The good times were very good."
Recently, she showed up here at Graziella's. She's all over the map. Wearing labels from the sixties to the nineties. She's a little rough in spots, in others simply amazing. She's wearing French and Italian. Right now, there's about a dozen in the rack for her to show me.
The first few turns of the show follow.
First, the good.
I had earlier vintages of Pierre Andre's Clos Vougeot (yes, the "de" is dropped) throughout the eighties and nineties and they didn't disappoint. They didn't wow, either, but by and large, much of what I sampled was really good. Honestly, I had no expectations for this particular bottle. Graziella told me that these wines belonged to her father and had come with her from Italy. Sure, they've bounced around, but I'm less concerned with that than how they've been stored and I tend to not get too excited just because a bottle is old. In fact, I get ready to eat disappointment. In this case, I was very pleasantly surprised.
Man, the Pinot came through with flying colors and while I expected a flat has-been, I got a spry babe with some good years left to her. The problem I have with wines like this is that you really want to gulp them down. I did that once with a Chassagne-Montrachet. I didn't care; that sucker was so good, I'd have downed the whole glass in one gulp. But I exercised a modicum of restraint in that instance. I drank it in three big sips. In this instance, I exercised more than a modicum. Of course, the good thing is that there were only two of us sipping...
This was quaffed along with some wonderful potatoes au gratin, sautéed greens and crackers and Gorgonzola. Outside in the open air on a deck on a summer's dusk. Truly free of suckitude.
Back to tragedy but you couldn't say it was unexpected.