Wine as Life Shared

red wine magicWine is DEFINITELY alive. Each glass speaks to me, and sings from the lips of a large tulip shaped vessel like Pavarotti from the Met. Each bottle tells a story from beginning to end. Wine shared with friends connects us through its life given between our sipping smiles.

I started drinking wine in my twenties, back in the 1980’s. I did it out of curiosity. I also had a house-mate who enjoyed wine and wanted to explore further, and a colleague at work who was an avid wine drinker.

My house-mate and I went to the local liquor store and bought a few cheap bottles of red to try. The taste didn’t appeal to me at first. It tasted sour. Apparently I was drinking poor quality wine. I also soon learned that wine’s quality is not necessarily related to its price.

bottles of red wineBack then Australian wines were becoming widely recognized. California was the hot spot for great wine, but it was already overpriced. On the recommendation of my colleague, I bought a bottle of Australian Shiraz for about $8. I was blown away by the first sip.

red wine in glassesIt tasted fruity and voluptuous, with a velvety texture. It was thick, almost viscous, with a huge, fruit bomb flavor. I didn’t need to ask the reason for sniffing the wine or swirling it around in one’s mouth. The wine encouraged admiration from every angle. I’ve never forgotten that experience. Beginning with that bottle I formed a connection with an ancient and living tradition.

A few months later I heard about the closing of a large warehouse of wine. I was still a novice, so I didn’t feel comfortable buying too much. Plus I couldn’t afford much more than a case. I picked out a variety of things, mostly based on price. Everything was about half off, so I could buy a few things which had been out of my range before.

chateau montrose labelI decided to try a bottle of Bordeaux, a Chateau Montrose, Grand Cru Classé, from the Sainte Estephe area. (Check out this map. Ste. Esteph is in dark purple, next to the Gironde River) It was about $15, down from $30. Today, a similar vintage Montrose (5 years old) would cost $150. The name sounded familiar, and I knew by then that the Grand Cru Classé was near top quality Bordeaux wine.

I had studied French in high school and college. And I had biked through France, spending a fair amount of time in Bordeaux and Burgundy, the two great wine regions of the country.

red wine loveBordeaux is the original region of masterful wines in the world. They refined the art of making red wine. But it was the British who spurred the world to appreciate great, aged wine. They collected it and cellared it and cultivated the popularity of drinking imported wine. Otherwise the French would have just kept quiet and drunk it all themselves.

I saved that bottle for a few years. I didn’t have a cellar to keep it cool, so I couldn’t hold it too long. A special occasion arose to open it. My group house, which had been together for 4 years, was breaking up. The owner was selling the property. The four of us went out to a fine restaurant to celebrate a last meal together. I took the Chateau Montrose we had it with dinner.

I remember ordering a fillet mignon for dinner. I still believe it is the perfect compliment to a great French red wine. Yes, I said the food compliments the wine, not the other way around.

redwineglow.jpgMy first sip of the wine melted me. My friends thought I had fainted. It was perfect, at least from the view of my experience. The flavor was complex and subtle, just like the French culture. The mix of grapes, traditional in Bordeaux, formed a unique whole, like a great perfume. It lingered long and evenly on my tongue, opening up as it slid down my throat. It was dry enough to balance the food, certainly much dryer and more subtle than the Shiraz which had started me on this adventure a few years back.

The occasion of celebrating with good friends, coupled with delicious food, added to the experience of drinking that great wine. I found out later that Chateaux Montrose is one of the most respectable wines of the Bordeaux region. The convergence of all that history marked that night as one of the most memorable in my life.

28 thoughts on “Wine as Life Shared

  1. I travelled to Paris for my honeymoon many years ago. It was my first time in France. I was shocked. I really don’t remember a single bad glass of wine. I just couldn’t believe it. Here in the states I find it a great challenge to find a wine that reminds me of Paris. Perhaps it wasn’t the wine after all. 🙂

    Excellent post David.

  2. Now I know I want to drink wine with you when we sit and tell our tales until the night ends. What a wonderful post that was. I so enjoyed hearing of your discovery and your information. You’ve come back with music in your voice. I hear it and am lightened by it.

  3. Trée- I’m smiling. I’d say just about any wine would taste better on a honeymoon in Paris!! However, I also find that sharing wine with a wine-loving friend helps me taste the wine more deeply. We feed on each other’s excitment.

  4. Liz- Thank you. I felt good vibes while writing this post, and it’s nice to feel your vibes in return. Good writing is like good wine, meant to lighten the heart and be shared.

  5. Jay- LOL. Boxed wine is perhaps like AC/DC. It gets the job done, though you might have a headache the next day!! Thanks for the fun comment.

  6. This entry made me remember all the great wine I tasted while vactioning in France over Christmas, 2002. The weather was awful, the entire region (Languedoc) was suffering a flu epidemic, and we broke the pull-cord for the toilet in the house we’d rented twice in one day…but the wine was perfect.

    And most of it was just table wine….not even anything special.

  7. As I get older the more I value the simple pleasures in life and whine is one pleasure I am greatful for after a stressed day. Although I have not had the chance to sample many whines of the world, my favorite yet far is from the local Williamsburg Virginia area.

  8. Hi, again, I thought you might like this:

    And David’s lips are lockt; but in divine
    High-piping Pehlevi, with “Wine! Wine! Wine!
    Red Wine!”–the Nightingale cries to the Rose
    That sallow cheek of hers t’ incarnadine.

    its from this poem called the Rubaiyat

  9. Perhaps that was a slip of me typing and listening to a 4 year old dog whinning in my ear at the same time because he wanted to go outside for a walk.

    Whine.. wine.. whinning dogs.. aah just hand me the bottle.

    Bottle of Red, botlle of white, bottle of russet instead, meet you any time you want.

  10. A good dinner, even a simple one–it doesn’t have to be elaborate–and a good wine are my big social weapons. I love having people in and spending the night talking and eating around the table, my dining room lit completely by candlelight. It’s something we do so little of these days–I’m definitely a throw-back–and proud of it!

    Happy [belated] blog birthday!

  11. Angie- Thank you for the snippet of the Rubaiyat. I know of the poem.

    Jaws- You’re pretty funny. I’ll share a bottle of Russet (vodka) with you on a cold night in Siberia. Red on a cool summer night in Columbus, and white for a sultry night in Virginia.

  12. Will- My sanity is maintained by regular dinners with friends accompanied by good wine. Let’s make a comeback of it!! Spread the word.

  13. Hi! Do you know that Lori and I have a plan to drink wine and listen to music in your backyard with you? Wine and music shared over childhood stories sounds like a great slice of life between friends.

  14. What a delight to feel your delight threading through this post. Your talk of French wine takes me back to France, too, where I don’t think I tasted a bad wine the whole time… even the cheaper bottles tasted good. And the better bottles, well…! Of course, I would have enjoyed a wineless table there as well, the wine was just bonus.

  15. This is an incredibly sensual, evocative piece. A real homage to wine-drinking as it should be drunk: alongside wit, sparkling conversation, and the building of beautiful memories. x

  16. MB- It appears unanimous among the commenters here that any and all wine in France tastes good. What a delightful pattern. I miss french culture. They are the masters of taste.

  17. I remember the first time I tried an Australian shiraz. I couldn’t believe it was so dry and still so soft and drinkable. Great with pizza or a fine meal.

  18. Amy- So nice to see you again. I’ll have to stop by and say hello. You disappeared for awhile.

    Yes, Shiraz produces some voluptuous wine. It’s still one of my favorites.

  19. Dave,
    Your essay is as well crafted as the wines you have described. I enjoyed your perspective on this, the associations you make with certain wines that have marked special occasions in your life. When I moved to California in the mid-seventies to attend college, I learned very quickly that Gallo, Bud, and Maxwell House were not the three things you wanted to be serving when you had friends over.

  20. Scot- Thanks for the chuckle and the generous words. I wish my writing could really live up to a comparison with such wonderful wines. But your encouragement leads me on to try harder!

  21. Pingback: Evolving Times » Law of Attraction Carnival - Joy

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