Don Edwards Literary Memorial

December 9, 2007

Beats Me


I took your last post as a personal challenge. How to describe what wine tastes like? I began to wonder if there is a simple answer since I have had some splendid wines and some I wouldn’t wish on a goat.

The most expensive wine I have ever tasted, and it was a splendid wine indeed, was a Cheval Blanc merlo bottled in 1943 and obviously hidden from the German occupation. The case had been bought by a colleague at an auction while I lived in Paris. I did him a favor, shipped it with my goods to California when I moved. I waited for two years and never heard from him. So I figured I had the right and privilege of drinking a bottle. Dry. Crisp. Buttery. Mild aftertaste of oak. Floral, meaty with a full bodied bouquet. Plump and fleshy. Lush and leafy. Mmmmmm. I have my nostril in the bottle as I write this and the wine was gone 25 years ago.

Ok, so I’m a talented adjective creator, but being at best an amateur at the wine business, I decided to check out the great writers of antiquity. Surely they would know what wine tastes like. The Bible is always talking about wine, so I went to Ecclesiastes.

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.”

Well, ok….so God likes me and my works. But what does it taste like? Surely Solomon would know. He knows everything.

Like the best wine . . . that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.”

Yeah, yeah. Sweetly. BFD. How about good old Homer? The Greeks should know everything there is to know about wine.

A man, not old, but mellow, like good wine.”

Uh-huh. Mellow. I guess Ulysses wasn’t all that good with words after all. I did better than that. What about the wine makers? Surely they know what it tastes like.

Come quickly! I am tasting stars!”

Better. Dom Perignon is metaphorically into this thing. How about an American writer of note?

Wine is bottled poetry.”

So Robert Louis Stevenson says, but I’ve read some really bad poetry. Not acceptable description. I’ll go to my all time favorite saint who lived it up a bit before he got religion. I’m sure he knows more about wine than anybody.

Poetry is devil’s wine.”

Oh, Pleeeeeeeeease, St. Augustine. At least you have good sense about bad poetry, but you don’t know squat about wine. The devil has the best wine in history, no doubt about that.

Well, I give up, LeRoy. Nobody in history is good at describing what it tastes like. One presumes if God knew, there would be something in Leviticus or Deuteronomy about it and I checked them out thoroughly.

I’m not sure that even Jesus knew very much about wine. Everyone knows good wine comes from the best grapes and it takes a long time for it to age properly. Wine needs oak casks and tannin and stuff like that. Miracles about wine would be a stopgap and might not have had anything to do with taste at all. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the wine at the marriage feast of Cana was watery, given its origin, lacked crispness and didn’t have the age needed to make it a fine beverage. I’ll bet the story about the head waiter thinking this wine was the best is completely apocryphal and was rewritten by the head waiter himself. The truth is probably more like: he was polite, because after all it was a wedding, and Jesus gave it his best shot…but as Jesus himself said to his mom, “my time has not yet come.” Perhaps later on in his ministry a prime time vintner miracle might have been achievable, for example at the last supper, but at this early stage in his career he was still experimenting with the miracle business. I think the unexpurgated version had the waiter, probably a wine snob of the highest order, rolling his eyeballs in disbelief at the Mogan David the wedding couple served their guests. Then he edited the unexpurgated version of the gospel text to make it sound better.

Then there were the good Ancients at Mont la Salle. They never drank the bilge that was sold in stores. They drank the good stuff.

Well I tried. I guess for me wine is like art. I don’t know much about it, but I know what I like.

Filed under: DON POSTS — Don @ 10:00 pm

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