Sunday, October 04, 2020

Palate Pressure: Which Wine Will Suffice?

Lately, I’ve been creating spreadsheets. Lists of things I’ve done or collected. Like food in the freezer. Trips to Italy. Master photo-files. And, of course, wine I’ve gathered over many years. I do not lack for anything in the wine department, although I’d not turn down anything from Burgundy. But I have some to enjoy. Piedmont has a strong lobby in my cellar, as does Tuscany. But it’s not about what I’ve amassed. Rather, I am more concerned about what I’m going to do with this stuff. Look, this is not Marvin Overton’s cellar we’re talking about. Or Ian D’Agata’s. But I find I’m just not putting a dent into the red wines in the cooler and the cave.

Some of my older friends have told me they are trying to figure out how to get rid of all the stuff they’ve acquired over a long lifetime. Art, cars, real estate, books, even wine. And they tell me, it has become a bit of a part-time job for many of them in their retirement.

I definitely see less sand at the top than at the bottom my hourglass. And so, I’m preparing to deal with that stuff too.

But the wine? what has happened to my consumption lately?

I have a fridge in the garage to store extra food and beverages. And that is where I put most of the current drinking wines, the whites and the rosés. I appear to have maxed out that area now. I must either stop buying wine or I must start drinking more.

Reports abound, during this coronavirus era, of people who are drinking more in their isolated states. I thought perhaps that might be the case here too, and I did buy some nice wines for the “stay.” But I’m just not drinking much wine right now.

Which isn’t a problem. But if I do drink wine, I’d like it to be worthwhile. That sounds awful, as if the bottles in my possession need to pass a litmus test before it passes my lips. I don’t really mean it that way. Most of what I buy is made by small farmers, real people, nothing too commercial or industrial. Not that I am going out on a rant about that.

I think what I am really dancing around in this essay, is that with what time I have left here drifting on this funny little orb, I’d like those moments when I drink wine to be, occasionally, more than an obligation to be sufficient.

I recently sat around a table with several older guys (yes, older than me!) for a late afternoon, outdoor, socially distanced happy hour. There were four of us. We all brought a wine. I was giddy, because I could find something in my spread sheet to take and share with my elderly gent friends. I found a bottle of 2005 Guerrieri Gonzaga Tenuta San Leonardo 'San Leonardo'. A blend mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon, with Cabernet Franc, Carmenère and Merlot. Fifteen years of age, so some nice time in the locker to develop secondary and maybe even tertiary aromas and flavors.

When I got to the appointed meeting place, everyone had their bottles on the table, except for one white, a Pinot Grigio from Trentino from a pretty large producer. Well, I thought, at least Trentino will be well represented at the table in several iterations. Another friend brought a young Chianti Classico from Fontodi, a lovely wine. This multifarious group of Italians was attenuated by a zip code Pinot Noir from France.

I tried the Chianti, thinking the other fellows might be interested in sipping some of the San Leonardo. But the Pinot Grigio chap was hugging his white, and the zip loving Pinot guy was nestling his Noir. My Chianti friend doesn’t really drink anymore, due to a medical condition, but he likes being there for the camaraderie. There I was, with my special selection, the elderly San Leonardo. And so, I delved into the wine.

What struck me about the wine was how much it had changed from its youth. Now it was a little sunnier, a little more tanned around the extremities. The aromas had not one theme, but were arrayed as a polyarchy. No one scent dominated. And similarly, in the flavor, it was as if in those fifteen years, they had commingled to the point of being another taste from all the descriptors one might read about this wine in a review. The wine had surrendered to its fate, of lying in the dark, dreadful cool of my closet, awaiting its turn to walk the long green mile. I, who was happy to have finally liberated one of my objets d'art, would know nothing (if any) of the inner turmoil of that particular bottle.

With none of my cronies partaking in this execution, I had to step up and make sure that wine had, indeed, had a life lived well. And a fitting end.

And at the end, it was more than sufficient. It was transformative. And it was a lesson to me, that the wines we “collect” are something more than a curated notion. There are “lives” inside these bottles, many made by people who are no longer here on earth. And we are privileged to be the recipients of these handiworks. And for that, I am grateful.

And while not every wine we put to our lips will be a pièce de resistance, there is something about every wine we uncork that, for this passenger, invokes a sentiment that to simply suffice is vital, but to transform offers one an ascent and an opportunity to elude, if just for an evening, the gravity that binds us to this place and to these times.

One down, 491 to go.

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