I wrote the tasting note below in November of 2014, shortly before I abandoned wine writing. I had forgotten about it until Chris, with his lockdown-inspired post, prompted me to log into WordPress for the first time in years.
Reading it again, I recognise my mood. A close friend had recently died, I had returned from an unexpectedly engaging trip to India, and in any case the enterprise of wine writing had seemed, for some time, irredeemably inane (I admit my complicity in this).
I never posted it, because I was ashamed of how I felt and the bitterness with which I had expressed those feelings. Now, though, it just seems honest, and perhaps appropriate in a moment of collective existentialism that skirts far closer to Camus than I ever thought possible.
In my current, almost wine-free existence in India, I miss the role wine used to play in connecting me to other people, to my own senses and aesthetics. I miss the momentary, fleeting ecstasy a familiar, or bracingly new, aroma used to prompt. Most of all, I miss the promise that wine might be, somehow, greater than itself, a stand-in for something more significant that we might collectively experience and explore. Now that life is so curtailed, I miss what made it feel expansive and beautiful.
[written on the 10th of November, 2014]
Having recently had ample cause to contemplate the fragile net that separates me — a slightly overweight gourmand who, tonight, is drinking a bottle of New Zealand Pinot (which you can read about if you’d like; no need to repeat myself) — from oblivion, it seems apropos to consider the comforts of the drink. What good’s the damned thing if it can’t save my friends from the abyss, or me from wondering how best to waste my life, or my loved ones from bad, bad decisions?
Lest that all seem a little morbid for a wine blog, let me note this: we spend our salaries on great bottles of wine, devote countless hours to seeking out special bottles (and the friends who love them), much energy debating the merits of screwcap versus cork. To what end? Wine lovers are a notoriously generous bunch, it’s true, yet we’re hardly working towards world peace with each sip.
Such thoughts have quietly intruded on my attempts to write about this or that bottle. My enjoyment of good wine remains unmitigated in its frequency and intensity, but it hardly seems worth the effort to contribute yet another piece to a world groaning under the weight of shitty wine writing and the intellectual vacuum that enables it.
I’d like to rush in and reassure you (and myself) that it’s all worth it, that wine is the noblest of all pursuits, but I can claim no such insights. Still. There’s something in it all. I’m writing tonight, prompted by the familiarity of this Pinot’s aromas and the comfort of its fruit. Something prompted a burst of enthusiasm, or at least a desire to express myself, that has been absent for some time. It smells and tastes very much of what it is, this wine, which suggests a fetish for natural wine that, I assure you, is entirely absent from this writer’s temperament. No, this is the smell of the madeleine, a banal familiarity capable of reviving images, moments, people, feelings. It’s not going to save the world, wine, but just for a moment it’s a little bit magic.