If Not Winter, Then Wine

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


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


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

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