I want this post to be too many things. I’ve had the focal point for a while: a particular bottle of wine that I recently had the great (unfathomable! serendipitous!) fortune to try. The experience has inspired numerous tangential ponderings, each jutting out from the bottle’s hold as the center of a brainstorming web inside my head. And each of these has in turn inspired new meditations, resulting in schematic chaos that could not possibly be resolved into a cogent piece of writing.
But here it goes.
Let’s start with the bottle: A 1989 Chevalier-Montrachet from Louis Latour. (!!!)
The Setting: A friend’s company wine club. One of those “getting warmer” days in late winter that make you think spring is on its way. A penthouse apartment overlooking the lake.
The Company: Strangers. With the exception of my friend, the affable and impeccably dressed Mr. R.S., I had never met anyone in the room. Twenty or so “young professionals” (I do not mean to use the term pejoratively) – bright, personable, impressive people. Though I knew no one, as soon as I stepped in the door we all had one thing in common: two inches of the same wine rattling around in the bottom of our glasses. We all had different appreciations for the wine — ranging from those who said “this is tasty,” to those left speechless and dumbstruck, with a nose glued to the glass and a mouth flapping up and down in an attempt to get a handle on an infinitely complex and thrilling set of flavors. (I’ll let you guess which was me.)
It didn’t matter though. The wine inspired discourse, some on the bottle itself, but mostly on ourselves and each other: how we related to wine, how we knew the host, and, of course, what we were doing in the fall of 1989 (yours truly was starting preschool). It is amazing to think about how the events of the past twenty years had coalesced to bring us all here on this fortuitous March night, sharing this wine.
In the following weeks, as I noted in the beginning of this post, a flurry of thoughts surrounded the wine, perhaps a testament to its truly provocative nature. I always think that a spectacular piece of literature is not one that answers questions, but poses them and offers multiple ways in which to pursue a higher level of understanding. Often frustrating, but always stimulating and engaging, I believe this is the same rubric for spectacular wines.
So, I leave you with a few of my questions. Questions that I originally thought would be the center of this post, but the wine itself offered too many points of meditation to pick just one.
1) What is the point of “cellaring” wine? Even though I live a half block from Lush and could stop by anytime to get a bottle, there’s something special about buying a wine far in advance of when I’m going to drink it. It’s an investment in my future happiness.
2) Is there any point to “cellaring” if you can’t buy a case and taste it over time? Matt Kramer writes in his book Making Sense of Wine that “if you can’t afford a case of it–you can’t afford it” (48). If you just buy one or two bottles, are you fetishizing the wine? Will the wine inevitably taste better because of its sacred and scarce status, or will it inevitably disappoint?
3) Is there a “peak” maturity for wine? I think that I might like young red Burgundy better than mature, but mature white Burgundy better than its young counterparts. Is this a matter of taste, or an instance of a skewed palate?
4) What were you doing in 1989?
Posted by Jane