Wine? My first love? What one wants to say is really impossible to tell. It was a soft and easy love, it was forgiving and unforgettable. It was lightning in the first few moments. It was sweet and sassy and I loved it. And then it was gone, the cellar was empty, the bottles had all been drunk. There was no more wine in the barrel.
The wine in the barrel was about 11.9% and very mellow. Red, but not too strong, not too heavy, just the perfect fit. For 14 years we enjoyed each others admiration and love. How can a wine love? Have you never had a wine that you loved so much that you felt it might not be just a one way thing? They say wine is a living thing, yes?
To me, this wine was alive and was very much a woman.
She was French with English beginnings. People thought her to be Italian, so did I. She was unique in all my life of tasting and experiencing the different vintages and cuvees. But she was not a blockbuster, not bombastic or capable of great hedonistic pleasure. She was very refined but much understated, went with every occasion, loved by all who sat at the table and supped with her.
Never written up by the great wine critics, seldom at the table of a wine master, she wasn’t important in that way. But those masters who knew her knew of an enduring and extraordinary character with great balance and length. All in harmony with the stars and the soil.
After 14 years of enjoying vintage after vintage, the barrels finally were emptied. She had no more wine to give, she was gone. That year the harvest all over Italy was one of the greatest, but her wine wasn’t made that year. So I went to search for the hidden vineyard of the wine lover. I searched in every place from the southernmost islands to the alpine meadows. In Puglia, Calabria, Tuscany, Piedmont. In the hills of Umbria there was a sign of rejuvenation, but the messenger by the river sadly confirmed nowhere was I to find it like it had been.
Then, in a deep sleep, in a dream, an image appeared to me. It wasn’t where I was looking for. I had taken on every vintage from every appellation, looking in every little village, every hillside vine, every cloister, every abbey. I was looking to replicate the experience and it wasn’t possible. I was looking too hard when all along she was sitting there, waiting for me to open my heart back to her and to all that I had professed this love for.
There wouldn’t be lightning bolts this time. This wouldn’t be as easy; it might not be so mellow or balanced. That was once upon a time.
She spoke to me in the glass, as I took in her perfume and looked into her ruby slipper eyes. "I was made for love and for lovers and if you must love without me, you must love. If I am not here, it’s only that you think that. I have been here for thousands of years and will be here for many thousands more after you are gone. I will wait for you on a farther shore. Until then, you are the bearer of the spirit of the wine lover and it is a favor I must ask of you until we meet again."