Friday, June 17, 2011

A Fine Wine Encounter

Our wonderful kids gave Mr. D. and I a unique gift for our thirtieth wedding anniversary.

A French wine bottled the year that we were married. 

Our oldest son, Kris, has been working at a high-end restaurant in the city where they are teaching him all about fine wines. With his interest in the subject at a high and his resources and connections, he was able to find this 1981 Bordeaux that was being sold from a private collection. It turns out that 1981 was a bad year for wine but with online research he was able to determine that this was a worthy wine from 1981 that was ready to be opened in its thirtieth year. I am still amazed that he found a bottle of this in his own neighborhood.

Now, we are not fine wine kind of people. Not that I don't aspire to be, but fine wine requires fine finances. We are economy table wine kind of people. Spending a large sum on a beverage to be consumed in a short time is a difficult idea for us to grapple with. The cost was definitely one of the first things that came to our minds when we received this gift, but since it was a gift, we had to put the thought aside. Our kids knew that tasting a special bottle of wine like this was on my bucket list but that I would never actually go out and buy one until I won the lottery or something (which is made all the more unlikely because I don't play the lottery!)

What effectively convinced me to relax and enjoy this special bottle of wine were the words that Kris wrote to us in a card. He also used these words to convince his siblings of the intrinsic value of this gift.

To me, this 30 year old bottle is the best possible metaphor for your 30 year marriage.

Like your marriage, the wine was crafted with care by loving hands. Once the grapes were planted, nurtured, picked and pressed, they were then brought together in this bottle, and the wine then began its 30 year journey of maturity and growth. After 30 long years, it has arrived here, to fulfill its purpose of being witness and complement to your celebration of your 30 years of life together.

The bottle, though prestigious, is not really about the label, the price or the name. Its not even really about the wine itself. To me, it is a symbolic representation of a 30 year journey that has lead here.

Drink, enjoy.

That did it.

Where has this bottle been for thirty years? It has been waiting for us to reach this place and time to celebrate our marriage. It was destiny and fate that this wine would be drunk by us this year. Really? Okay!

I was ready to open it and not just enshrine it on a shelf for a couple more decades.

But then I found out that you don't just open and pour a bottle of wine like this. It needed special care and preparation before the first sip.

We decided to take the bottle with us to our anniversary dinner to be celebrated at the restaurant where Kris works. The wine experts there would know the proper way to present this prestigious bottle of Bordeaux.

As was perfectly fitting in the thirty year plan, Kris got to be the one to open the bottle.

Great care had to be taken with the cork, which had softened over the long time it had been maturing.

The age of the bottle was evident in every part of the process.

Since the wine had been cloistered in glass for thirty years, the grapes had to open up and breath again, like a living thing.  The oxygenation was facilitated by a fancy crystal decanter into which Kris slowly poured the wine. It then sat on our table for an hour, breathing, while the chef sent us appetizers like oysters and asparagus salad.

It turns out that other people in the world are also celebrating 30 year anniversaries with this wine, and they are writing reviews about the wine on the internet.

This is what Kris found:

The red blend from Ducru-Beaucailou is Cabernet Sauvignon driven. Extensive aging for the '81 has provided time for the tannins to soften, and for the overall characteristics of the wine to refine.

On the nose, the wine is floral, with hints of leather and tobacco, with a touch of barnyard. The medium bodied wine is at first earthy in the mouth, with leather notes that give way to berry, cocoa, vanilla and plum, with a long and satisfying finish.

After an hour, Kris made the first pour and we sipped.

If we had had experience with aged wines before we would have better recognized what we were tasting. This was an extremely educational wine encounter. I can now look back on the glasses we consumed from this bottle and understand more about it. We know now that we should have waited even longer before drinking. The wine changed so much from the first glass to the last. That first glass did not have the full-bodied flavor I expected but was very, very dry with a lot of tannins in my mouth. The finish was hot, literally hot, like it had been laced with peppers. Kris explained that this was the minerality of the wine, due to the stoney ground in France where the grapes grew. But, as the evening progressed, each glass of wine had less tannins prominent, less hot minerality. It just needed more time to breath and open.

Another thing I noticed with the first glass was that the wine had no legs. None. I thought that was so odd. But the next glass, a bit later, had developed lots of legs! I recognize this now as a sign (that I didn't recognize then) that the wine wanted more time. It was begging us for more time but we were too ignorant to hear.

The predominant flavors for me were definitely black cherry and black berry. We sent a glass to the kitchen for Kris to sip, which he shared with the chef and other staff. Kris and others said it tasted like a saddle- that leather note of the review. Those wine experts all said that the wine had aged very well, not losing its integrity over the decades.

Overall, it was a really fun and memorable experience. I learned so much! Thank you, kids! I wish you all could have had a taste too.

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