You know, sometimes, when the lights outside grow dim and the walls of my room start closing in, it occurs to me that despite having written more than two million words on wine over the years, and four hundred columns on this site alone, I actually shouldn’t be here at all. I should be a lumberjack or something, like that Python skit; I should be a lion tamer, like that other Python skit. I should be a cheese shop owner like… never mind, I’m just depressing myself. I can’t even think of an original fictitious career, except maybe being a leper junkie clown in Peoria or something that at least has some romance behind it. Maybe I should be a writer. See, that’s it. My problem. I should be a real writer, not some dipshit blogger counting Facebook likes and measuring success in terms of Twitter shares; I should be an old school tortured lonely drunken novelist or epic poet diddling nubile poetry students or something easy like that.
Who cares? I’m on strike. I’m turning the column over to my betters, the unfettered Men of Letters, and let them slog around in the shitstream of plonk for a while, see how they like it. They’ll all emerge with a newfound respect for this poor schmuck’s schtick, boy howdy, lemme tell you, you betcha, can I get a witness?
You’re on, boys:
Castillo Monjardin Garnacha, Navarra, 1992:
A wine from a rare off-year in this quaint D.O. near Pamplona—the place where the bulls run.
Then there was the bad vintage. It was a sad year, and even the drunkards in the cafe who stayed drunk all the time could not remain drunkards that year on the local wine. The sadness started in the early part of the season with the first cold rains of spring and I drank a rum St. James when I sat in the cafe to write about it. I drank all through that summer, on sad days and happy days, until the fall came and the harvest was in. It was a poor harvest and I asked my wife if we should leave and she said, “If you want.”
“Oh, yes, I want to leave, because there will be good harvests in other places, places where the sky is bright and the sun looks like a halved lemon in the sky.”
She smiled, because she liked decisions that were simple and easy. “I’m sure you are right,” she said.
“Where shall we go?” I said.
“Let’s go without knowing,” she said. “Let’s go and drink wines from places we don’t know but where the vintages are good. We need more true mystery in our lives.”
Old South Winery ‘Blue Bayou’, Natchez, NV
‘Ahhh, nothing like a fresh muscadine!’ reads the web site, and I agree. Thank God for small favors, huh?
Clumsy cloying, wine-like only in the shape of the bottle which tapered to a too-thin neck the color of a bronze coin, offering a whiff of mid-summer peaches wet with rain, but also like the smell of the place under the kitchen where the dogs huddled.
I must drink this, I thought, I must drink this and talk about it, even when I would rather have some of the Negro’s whiskey from the demijohn. So I drank: Outside, secret night sounds blended with the sugary sap within the glass. The owl’s cry echoed my confusion, high and abject, not ‘what’ but ‘who’ although both were clear by the label. I drank: Even in this land of sweet tea and Coca Cola and Dr Pepper, wine was a called a woman’s drink, but this wine was strong and hot and rank, some condensation of the wild immortal spirit without mitigation or gender, and I drank quietly; drank the mongrel juice of these native grapes, fierce and bold against the incursion of vinifera, clinging to the untamed tastes of liberty and freedom, the invincible power of nature against the yards of men too proud of their white blood to defy its origin and who preferred the wines of tamer lands.
And then, I slept.
From one of England’s most significant producers as well as the second largest, this lyrical and crisp white is made by Martin Fowke and, though simple, is worthy of words which are not.
‘Tis the year’s harvest, and it is the man’s,
Fowke’s, who well-trained in wine now tasks;
The solstice spent, and now his flasks
Sit barren dry, as empty spans;
The field’s sweet sap is spilled;
From glass to throat th’ hydroptic drunk hath filled,
And more, from cask to flask, by him is willed.
Full and weight’d; not hock nor claret,
In England’s yore what man could bear it?
Study me then, you who shall critics be
At wine’s next fair, that is, at the next spring;
For I am every late thing,
In whom global warming wrought new alchemy.
For man’s art and him the fool
A quintessence wrought from fossil fuel,
To foil both land and nature’s rule;
He ruin’d farms, but they were re-begot
In chard, black Pinot—vines once grew here not.
‘B.OE.’ Brooklyn Oenology ‘Montley Cru’, North Fork of Long Island, 2008
A winery in Brooklyn? Indeed; grapes sourced from Long Island and Finger Lakes and vinified with all the love of a place surrounded by vineyards instead of dumpsters and Giants fans. Art by Brooklynites adds a further note of local flavor; good or bad is an aesthetic call.
Yup, yup, how come I like your wine, but I don’t like you? Dig, this broadgash gal called Alie Shaper, she’s got money-making breasts and all the technical anxieties of a winemaker but she wants to swing with the big town NYC art crowd by displaying their wares on the bottle label, but man, that stuff is just an illusion. That stuff is chatter-chatter blah blah. This grape, now, that’s some Zen Master reality. This stuff makes you want to tear off your undershirt and sock yourself in the head and forget about the bourbon-aroonie. Man, this juice makes you wanna go down that raw road and not stop until you get there.
Gargiulo Vineyard ‘Aprile Super’, Oakville, 2010
Napa sangiovese; always an interesting proposal, even when priced as a Super Tuscan.
Whan that Aprile with his shoures soote
The Napa droghte hath perced to the roote,
And parch’d every vyne without licour,
Of which lasse engendred is dago flour;
Whan Poseidon eek with his yvele quake
Inspired dread in every copse and brake
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale fowles maken sup,
Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up.
Chambolle-Musigny ‘Les Sentiers’ Groffier, 1999
Les Sentiers is the northernmost Premier Cru of Chambolle-Musigny in the Cote de Nuits. Whereas the wines of Chambolle-Musigny are known for their delicacy, the terroir here is perhaps more closely resembles neighboring Morey-Saint-Denis, meaning a bigger, fuller body.
– How’s things? Have you any Burgundy?
– Tip top, let’s see. I’ve a Chambolle-Musigny, goes well with sardines and Plumtree’s potted meat.
Deep colour here. Violetred with flecks of purple. Tannic. Pungent. Touched his sense moistened remembered. Pillowed on my coat she had her hair, O wonder! Rains came. Down in the hollow playing a new game, laughing and a-running, hey, hey.
– Pour another, Davy. I’m overcome thinking about making love in the green grass behind the stadium.
Davy Byrne said with tearwashed eyes:
– Not making love with me, I hope! Here’s another Burgundy. Have some plovers and toast, too.
– Not you, indeed. Give the devil his due, I’d rather eat some sick knuckly cud from the cobblestones than make love with you. Not you, that girl from the mine with the transistor radio.
– Eyes brown?
– That’s the one.
No more said. Silence easy. Born again. He drank Burgundy, prolonging in solemn echo the closes of the bar.
*The regularly scheduled program will return next week; same time, same channel.*