On the Wine Trail

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  • The Power of Subtlety

    The Power of Subtlety

    I needed this wine. So as soon as it was in my hand, I got to planning the drinking date.  A visit to a favorite Italian/Pizza restaurant that served upscale "beige" (the color palate of my favored, bread, cheese & pasta-based regiment) in the company of a trusted, wine-loving friend seemed like the perfect setting to experience this special bottle. Pizza and red burgundy? Quite the odd pair. But, on Tuesdays, the amazing kitchen prepares a stuffed rabbit loin in one rendition or the other and I was told by my pal that this would fit the Burgundy bill. And then there would be pizza. And so the date was set. Four weeks hence. I could barely wait.

    Time flies when there is too much to do so it was soon dawn of the designated Tuesday and I found myself driving into the city with an eight-year old bottle of Burgundy stuffed in my soft canvas tote. After an aperitif of sparkling falaghina, kept company by a tasty corn pudding with marinated heirloom tomatoes, the cork was gently pulled on the special bottle. It was a bit warm from the drive--summer in DC had more than set in by now--so the bottle was dropped for a minute or two into a startling ice water bath to the take edge off. It worked perfectly... the wine seemed to soar from the glass.

    It is hard to explain the subtlety of a Burgundy. And on top of that, how to explain such subtlety can appear in so many forms and with such profound variation. I had pursued this bottle--this Jacques-Frederic Mugnier Les Amoureuses Burgundy to recover and correct past memories.  When I had this wine (2006 vintage) for the first time, I could scarcely remember it the next day. This is not to imply that I was too drunk to do so. It implies that it was so mesmerizing in the moment and I was so taken away with the wine...too enthralled being inside of its beauty...that I failed to take the time to analyze or even internalize it. In my mind, a wine like this was one I should remember. That wine set into motion a series of events that led me to the precipice of hope and failure. In the same moment. So to say that the wine was pivotal is an understatement.

    This was a wine that showed me how important passion is in creating a successful business; that even art in its purest natural form can become a commodity that is controlled, coveted and contained; it showed me that the prospect of success can frighten a person into denying their own truth and fabricating one to accommodate their fear.  Over time, it became more than just a bottle of wine. It became a part of me. So, it was more than a little important that I be able to recall its virtues.

    So here it is. Here is what haunted me and why.

    The first thing about this wine is its texture. It was pure silk. The silkiest wine I can remember ever having the pleasure to swoosh around my mouth. It is so easy to ignore or just not even address texture until there is a wine such as this coating your palate. It was mesmerizing. The delicate purple floral aromas blended with the raspberry and cherry flavors in a way that was at once light and that simplicity defied everything else happening inside the glass. It was simple. Yet hypnotic. You cannot even say that the fruit was concentrated really....it was light and delicate. It was, better stated, pure.  That necessarily makes it more subtle with less "WOW" factor than many wines. My friend frustratingly shared how many people he comes across say (cue whiny voice) "Oh, I don't like Burgundy."  WHAT? he answers to no one, leaning in closer to me. "Then they could never have tasted great Burgundy."

    And its true. There is so much that is sold under the "Burgundy" (Bourgogne) banner that passesor is conflagrated with the same elixir that was in the bottle before me. The bottle, sadly, whose fill-levelwas dropping quickly. But, though there would have been more for me had I not elected to share, there would have been, somehow, less. For great wines...and those of great subtlety, gain much through the communal act of sharing. Of talking. Of searching together for the right words to suitable capture the feeling of the liquid slurped and savored for only a moment before disappearing. It somehow makes the whole bottle last a little longer. My friend graciously let me pour the last of and greatest helping into my own glass. It was a polite and respectful gesture as the procurer of the bottle of wine. But then, when his last drops were gone, he looked at my still full glass and sheeplishly asked, "can I have a splash more?" gesturing towards my glass. "Of course." I took my glass and poured into his another generous sip. Because that.. Is Burgundy. And that. Is what great wine is all about.