Sometimes the most amazing pearls of innocent reflection are offered up by the least-jaded to walk among us – the children! Often their curiosity is prefaced by nothing more than, “hey, you know what?” or, “did you ever wonder if ..?”
My 11-year old son recently advanced a wonderfully-simple and deeply thought-provoking query of his own when he asked, “Papa, if you knew the world was going to end tomorrow, what wine would you drink tonight?”
Multitudes of vinous ruminations, as profound as any I have contemplated in some time, suddenly filled my head. “Wow,” I thought. “That’s an awesome question!” I felt lucky to have had so many incredible wine experiences to choose from – some unique, some explosive and some quite simply magical!
I started reminiscing about the stellar and educating 1978 flight of late harvest and noble rot German Rieslings (I know, sounds like something you’d want to compost but nooooo!) tasted in the late ’90s that covered the gorgeous sticky range from Auslese to Beerenauslese to the almost mortally-decadent Trockenbeerenauslese. I recalled how that one experience had forever changed my perspective on what is arguably the most revered and long-lived of all white varietals.
Another unforgettable tasting involved an illustrious range of classified growth Bordeaux from the Medoc (also known as the left bank) and several wines of equal station from the Gironde estuary’s celebrated right bank districts of St.-Emilion and Pomerol. This compelling line-up also included wines from the southern district known as the Graves. The flight was sampled in mid-1999 with wines from Ch. Margaux, Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou and Ch. Lynch-Bages astride wines from Ch. Cheval Blanc, Ch. Belair and Ch. La Mission Haut-Brion to name just a few. Each uniformly exhibited the powerful elegance and amazing finesse of what this region is capable of in a vintage like that of the much-heralded 1995.
I recall a spectacular Cristal vertical of 1.5 L (magnum) offerings encompassing the ’83/’85/’88/’89/’90/’95/’96 and 1999 vintages and remember thinking that if the world ended that night I could exit a happy man! There is no doubt that the luxury of this line-up humbled everyone present. The wines were breathtaking, opulent, razor-sharp and imbued with a regal poise that for many is rivaled by none in this space.
My love for Burgundy was sparked by many wines and producers but I will never forget how the seductive, fruit-laden, dense and rich 1994 Robert Groffier Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Les Amoureuses drove me to introspection. I was transported to an unparalleled place of deep, sensory perception that only pinot noir from the land of the storied Dukes of Bourgogne can lead one to.
Finally, I recently uncorked the last of three bottles of the 1994 southern Rhone superstar, Ch. Beaucastel. The vintage was powerful and the wine, with 14+ years bottle age reminded me of why it pays to hold when you’re meant to hold. Seductive aromatics of black raspberries swirled around soft, sweet pipe tobacco, red licorice whip and exotic spices. The palate was pure and packed with steeped, dark-berry fruits as well as tar and hints of cola. Reassuring notes of a typical provencal herb bouquet that spoke of the land where these wines are produced added their voice to this song. The wine was simply splendid!
But wait, my son hadn’t asked me to recount the most memorable wine experiences I had had the privilege and pleasure to be a part of but rather which wine I would reach for if the world were about to end.
Let’s be honest, my gut tells me that I will most likely expire well before mother earth does her curtain call – a notion that I honestly find reasonably soothing. However, if that fateful day comes and I (like you) am burdened with the realization that once the clock ticks past midnight I will never again experience fine wine, I would be emotionally unequipped to stare into the terroir abyss and grab just one bottle off the shelf.
Honestly, if ever faced with this chilling moment of truth, I think the only sane thing to do would be to crack every single bottle I own and simply drink myself into oblivion! I have no back-up plan.
Slave to the grape – worse fates there have been!