But for those grapes which called so many years ago and which are now wine, sleeping in a dark cellar somewhere, what about them? I recently went into a wine store that I once called on, back in the early 1980’s. There in an armoire set up as a display for important wines was a magnum of 1971 Barbaresco. I nearly jumped out of my skin. It was more than déjà vu, I’m telling you. It was the closest thing to time travel I can imagine. And it set off a series of inner reverberations and reflections that are still crashing on the shores of my mind.
I thought about old wines that weren’t yet ready to drink. Like the bottles in my wine closet, Barolo and Brunello from the 1980’s, still resting there, not yet ready for optimal drinking. Many of those wines were made by souls who no longer lie under the sun by the beach in August or wait by a gurgling tank of Nebbiolo waiting for the right moment to punch down the cap at 4AM. Their work is done, but their works are far from finished.
winemaker who no longer trods this earth. Odd, in that most of the people I work with, on a daily basis, weren’t born when I sold that bottle of wine, let alone when it was made. What of it?
What is that connection that we can have between the dead and the not yet born, that wine makes possible? Is it really “tasting” history rather than reading about it? Is it just one more narcissistic tumble in century 21 that gives the holder of the ticket another selfie moment? Or is it time travel?
Before we were as self-aware as the age of social media has made us, one might have jotted down a note about it and put it in a notebook, perhaps to surface in an article, a shelf talker or maybe even a book. Along with the corks and the ashtrays filed with cigars, the bottle would often go into the trash bin, never to be thought of again.
Later that day at lunch with one of the residents of that house, a “1915”, I said something; don’t even remember what it was. But the ‘15’s response was positive, jovial, happy. He’s not waiting to die; he’s popping corks every day.
Meanwhile, our Italian compatriots are keeping their night-long vigils over the bubbling brews of soon-to-be-wine. Who will drink it some day? Who will write about it in 2061? Who will grab a shot of it and share it with their peers? Who knows? All I know is that this has been going on for a long time, and to have been engaged in it, even if for a short 30 or 40 years, has been a life-changing experience. I hope those who are not yet born, and who might drink wine made by winemakers today who might not be around then, will have that sense of wonder and surprise and beholding that makes this miracle of wine so marvelous
In Memory of Pietro Berutti
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