Sunday, May 19, 2019

Let's wait a month. If you still care, let's talk about it.

One of the most compelling things I heard this week, were those twelve words, strung together, to make me take a break from the constant barrage of information we are getting bombarded with, seemingly, all the time. In wine. In interactions with our friends and family, peers and foes. And, in general, in life.

Life, from the sidelines, post-career, should be a little bit slower, n'est-ce pas? Drama shouldn’t be a 9-to-5 thing, or a 5-to-9 one either. There should be reflection, introspection, and minimal provocation. But wherever I turn these days, whether it is driving in a city in the car, reading something on the internets, or even simple interactions with people, things appear to be over-fraught with emotion. I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of tired of it.

And with wine, I am as well. I just want to open something up to have with a meal. I don’t want to have to choose something that will dazzle the strangers lurking about on Instagram in anticipation of the next unicorn appearance. Oh, I will find those wines, often in my wine closet, and drink them, share them with friends. And write about them, here in a few paragraphs below. But just as easily, I can find something on a rack of a supermarket, whether it is the German Riesling I just found (at Aldi, no less) for under $6, or an overstocked rose from France that the distributor was “long” on and had to move it out, for $5.

Italian, wine, long my “beat,” has always provided wine for willing drinkers that can be had for a little cash and a lot less drama. Just an everyday occurrence. I think back about the days when I went to Burgundy and could actually afford the wines, and then I was not in as solid of financial ground as in later years. But now? Oh, there’s the occasional wine that I can muster out of the closet, and enjoy immensely. But my days of drinking La Tâche are far behind me. And I think for many of us. And if you’re reading this, you are among the folks who are probably more disposed with a little bit of discretionary income to spend a bit more on wine. Goodbye Romanée-Conti, it was nice getting to know you. We had fun storming the castle.


The other night I opened up a few older bottles of wine, my theme was “wines that were made in years ending with the number 9,” starting with 1969.

1969 – where were you, if you were yet alive? That was a momentous year. We made it to the moon. Woodstock. Vietnam. I headed off to college, in Silicon Valley, California. A few months after harvest, there was a music festival nearby at Altamont and it became infamous for the event that slammed shut the era of the 1960’s. Was it a very good year? In retrospect, it was an interesting one. And for those of us who survived, the last 50 years has ground us down to either something fine, or just plain dust.

The wine, a 1969 Caillou Blanc from Chateau Talbot, while it probably never should have been stored so long, was still alive. Which is more than I can say for its owner, who died in 1998. I found the wine, mysteriously concealed in a cellaret in his house as we were cleaning it out and someone in charge told me to get rid of it. It was dark then, and looked like it too had given up the ghost. But it has a faint lisp of life left in it, enough to weather my cellar from 21 more years. Now it was more akin to a fino sherry than a Bordeaux Blanc, although the Semillon still had some fruit to it. But it had seen a rough and tumble life, and again, as I said, it was probably not meant to stick around for 50 years. There aren’t many notes about the wine, even Michael Broadbent doesn’t have an entry in “The New Great Vintage Wine Book.” And now the wine has crossed over to join the other greats and Ancients.

The next wine – 1979 – from years in my wine closet, the 1979 Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino emerged to join the dinner party. It was light in color, how was the year 1979 for you?

For me, it was a year of uncertainty. I’d just moved to Texas with my young son, was separated from my wife and my life was up in the air. Along the way, we had a partial meltdown of reactor number 2 of Three Mile Island, which caused stir and some panic.

And the wine? Well, the 1979 Barbi was a grande dame, albeit a little grayer and faded from a life in which she had once roared. But it was a beautiful thing to watch a wine on her deathbed go to sleep and never awake, and those of us at the table got to kiss her goodbye.

1989 - thirty years ago. The Berlin Wall came down and there were Pro-democracy rallies in Tiananmen Square. I had a new love, and a new job. I’d left a role where I was a manager. And went back to the streets. At first it was an adjustment, coming from a position of status. But the company I worked for was going down, eventually. I needed to jump. And so, I pulled up my socks, jumped out of the plane and hoped my parachute would work. And the wine? A little bit fancy – a 1989 Château Mouton Rothschild. Today you’ll need to plunk down about $600 for a bottle of it, but the day I bought it, it was going for $60. And the store, Red Coleman’s, was having their import wine 20% off sale. So it set me back $48. I bought several of the 89’s (and 86’s and 90’s) for those prices and held my breath. Because, at the time, it was a bit of an outlay of cash. But, for this bottle, the ’89, it was worth it. Rich, deep, dark, almost brooding, and went perfectly with the wagyu coulotte beef we smoked. As I was washing up the decanters, later in the night, there was still a spot of the Mouton on the bottom, and I confess, I tipped the decanter towards my mouth and finished the lot. Actually, it was just a little, but what a fine, fine wine. And no drama.

1999 - That year. Columbine. And lesser reported, nearby in Ft. Worth, a bomb thrown and subsequent shooting in a church killed 22. My gal, who was from Ft. Worth, was very sick. In fact it was beginning of her descent into an untimely death at 48 years old. So, there aren’t a lot of good feelings for the year. It was a tough one.

And the wine? Well, it was, and still is, a 1999 Castello di Rampolla Sammarco, library selection. I say it this way, because we didn’t get around to opening it. We’d had enough good wine, no need to spoil an evening with overindulgence. There will be another time. I wish I could have said that about 1999 as well. But that’s not the way it played out.

So, there you have it. This is what I have for you. As for other matters, let's wait a month. If you still care, let's talk about it.





written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

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