I'm not one to welcome winter. From January to April, you will likely find me slumped in a corner of my drafty apartment, eating the orange-liqueur-centered, chocolate-coated dregs of my stocking stuffer, screaming for spring.
Which brings me to drunken denial. A weekend or two of inebriated revelry is essential, I think, if you want to survive the months of snowshoeing home in the white-flecked dark. That said, I don't recommend getting boozed out just on whatever. You won't catch me grimly drinking screwdrivers in hopes of conjuring up a turquoise wind and pale blue sea.
Wine, however. Reddest wine. That always does the trick. I will never be the sort of grinning apple-cheeked anomaly who greets the cold with open arms. But summer spilling down my throat in spiked red rivulets, well, I'll give that a chance in hell.
Understand, I'm no wine connoisseur. I mean, I can swirl and sniff and sip like the best of charlatans. I have drunkenly dabbled, taken a course or two, flipped through some magazines, pretended to listen as my father, my professor, the waiter went on and on about 'tannins' and 'legs.' I tell people I can smell a note of this and a hint of that. And I always agree with men in bow ties. But if I'm being honest, good wine usually leaves me either speechless or estranged from the usual buffet of adjectives coveted by wine experts. I'd always rather drink than talk. To me, sun-splashed, blood-colored epiphanies born of blind excess are the very essence not only of wine tasting, but of summer. At any rate, it's certainly my idea of a damn good time.
I was all ready, having left work early on some excuse I can't believe they swallowed. I lit candles. I put on French accordion music. I placed my two blossomy Beaujolais before me. I poured the first, a 2003 Georges Duboeuf, into the fattest glass I could find. And I drank. I drank until the music was red and the candlelight was blinding. I drank until the dusk was the dawn, until the moon was the sun, until the branches rattling against my window were green trees swaying. I drank until I was a blubbery, blue creature no longer, but a babe sauntering down some delightfully rustic French road. I drank deep. If ever Lolita were liquid, this would be she at her most innocently lascivious: cat-eyed, in short shorts, sucking a lollipop beneath the widest of skies.The other Beaujolais, the 2001 Moulin ? Vent, was an altogether more shadowy creature. A toothsome old woman who lives alone at the end of the road, in a dark house. More than likely with cats. She proved to be the more morose sister of my first Beaujolais; the fat friend, if you will, the hairier spinster. Alittle peppery in the mouth and ropy in the throat. I liked her, though, with her ruddy complexion. We spoke long in her living room before I passed out on her couch.
Though Bacchus, Roman god of wine and revelry, is not an honored deity, he should be. Because, frankly, who does debauchery quite like Bacchus? Italian vino will always sing summer to me, even in bleakest winter. And what better way to conjure up images of the golden age, or of the darker days of orgiastic revelry that followed, than with the aptly named primitivo Trevini Primo Tarantino? This 2002 Merlot -- the color of bleeding purple berries -- tastes of divine sex in a deep forest. It is the kind of wine that, consumed in sufficient quantities, would make a whore of any woman. Of course, I admit nothing.
Next came the quieter, come-hither, devil-red 1999 Rosso del Camul, which I got to much, much later, after emerging from my imagined Ovidian glade, hair crackling with leaves, dress torn in places. If ever I downed velvet in one swallow, this was it.
It's sad to say. And I didn't think it was possible. But there I was at a tango bar on the edge of my imagination, basking in the pinkest of summer eves, flanked on either side by handsome Argentineans (and one Mexican to boot). Burgundy and grave were the former, the latter plum-colored and reeking of honey.
Now, I love Latin anything. I dance all their carnal dances. And the literature leaves me weepy and hungry for oranges. Regardless, I found the Latin lovers with whom I tangoed through the twilight sadly and strangely lacking. The promisingly named Astica Trapiche Merlot from 2003, as well as the 2002 Trapiche Malbec blend, were both only oakily ho-hum. I really thought the Malbec, supposedly the grape de resistance of the region, would inspire more of a libidinal curl in my lip. The Mexican L.A. Cetto Petite Sirah proved headily, cloyingly sweet. I'm not saying I didn't down all three bottles in under 15 minutes. I did. Of course I did. But still.
I woke among corks, bottles, and shattered glasses. Barely made it to work. Left an hour later, citing 'familial obligations.' Sat at my window glaring at the blizzard. Guzzled down my emergency wine, cheaper in price and taste than Bazooka gum: the unbeatable L'Entre-Cote. L'Entre-Cote doesn't even list a year on the bottle, and it tastes like acidic needles. I always wince at first, but I know from experience that it gets better. I sat there drinking all damn day. The sky blued then pinked then blackened. But slowly, the swill spread its wings in me. And I was content to rock through nightfall in my fug, to watch the moon fatten. As with all wines, I had everything and nothing to say to this one. Except perhaps thank you. For I did reach a summer of sorts that night, in the seeming forever of the falling snow.
Reprinted from Maisonneuve (Feb./March 2005), an eclectic Canadian magazine based in Montreal. Subscriptions: $24 U.S./yr. (6 issues) from Express Mag Box 2769, Plattsburgh, NY 12901; www.maisonneuve.org.