We had dragged it with us from the Pont de Gard to the Costa Brava to Paris to Montreal and cross country from there. It was one of those heavy, thick bottles that are useful only to make you think that the wine is really special but which only adds to the cost rather than to the quality of the wine. But this wine was really good, so we lugged it along.
Last night, as most of you know, was Open That Bottle Night, traditionally now the last Saturday in February and for almost twenty years has been a stimulus to open a bottle we might not otherwise have opened. The brainchild of John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter back when they did the famous “tastings” columns for the Wall Street Journal, the event causes us to recall that a special bottle just may not survive long enough for that unspecified future occasion that may never occur.
Our bottle resulted from the access trails to the Roman Pont de Gard being too crowded for us to make that “one last visit” a couple of years ago so we did the only sensible thing — dropped in on a winery.
The Domaine de Poulvarel is actually built from stones quarried from the ancient Roman aqueduct, and its vineyards are named for the tunnels the Romans had built under it. Geographically, the Domaine belongs to the Rhone, but it is part of the newer designation Costieres de Nimes. After generous pourings of white, rose, and red, we knew there was room in our luggage for a bottle of red.
One bottle. For when? With Whom? Us, of course — a perfect choice for Open That Bottle Night. The fragrance had survived the travels and the wait. So had the full flavor of Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan, and a dash of Syrah. For a few moments we were transported back to the Saracen village where it came from. Thanks John and Dorothy.
Because of a piece in WineBusiness.com, I found myself in a discussion earlier this week about “luxury” wine. The only consensus reached was that a definition is well nigh impossible. As with cars and clothing, one person’s luxury is another’s modesty. At the business end, the price structure looked like this: $50 – $99 = “affordable” luxury; $100 – $499 = luxury wine.” The scale climbed upward to a “dream” wine of a thousand dollars or more.
Those are heady prices for someone like me who strives to keep my purchases between $12 and $20, admittedly for daily use. (Then I thin k of a grandson who is always asking me for help with $10 bottles on his minimum-wage college income. Luxury is as luxury does apparently.)
There is luxury wine pricing literature for those inclined to seek it and to interpret it. My research is more anecdotal. I remember in the early 1970s buying Chateau Latour in France for 44 francs, then about $11.00. Latour is a luxury wine if ever there was one, but at 44 francs even then it strained my wine budget. Economic times may very well be a principal determiner of value.
Price is certainly one factor in a luxury wine. Scarcity or limited production is another. Quality is and ought to be a factor but it is a much more subjective factor than the others. Some wines can command a symbolic value — historic associations, immediate name recognition, snob appeal, for example.
If something is a necessity, it probably cannot be a luxury; it may be ia luxury if it’s desirable but not necessary. In times past, wine was seen as something for the privileged; today it has become largely a commodity. I remain satisfied that there is enough wine in all price ranges to satisfy both my needs and my tastes.
Several years ago in the Cotswolds, an English host asked me to identify a glass of white wine. It was easy to see that it was a Riesling, and he chuckled when I suggested it was a Rheingau. “North of there,” he said. While I was trying to think of Riesling vineyards more northerly than the Rhine, he blurted out it was from Sussex. That was my first taste of an English wine.
In London just a few years ago, I experienced an Exton Park sparkler and mistook it for a Champagne. Easy to do, I point out without shame. For at least twenty years, Champagne producers had been telling me that this “blessed plot” had everything it needed to produce great sparkling wine. Usually when discussing this, we would be standing in a chalk tunnel or chalk storage cellar and compare the chalk substrata of Rheims and Epernay with those renowned White Cliffs of Dover, which in prehistoric times extended across what became the Channel into what is today the Champagne country of France.
Climate change was doing the rest. The vineyard country of Kent and Hampshire is no longer the ever-dreary cloud-covered land of the past but now enjoys a goodly mix of sun and extended growing seasons. So much so that Champagne Houses Pommery and Taittenger have bought English vineyards and doing to the south coast of Britain what other French Champagne producers have done to Napa and Sonoma.
I haven’t seen any English sparkling wine in my part of the USA yet, but I don’t doubt that it’s coming. Colleagues who know tell me that the Brits are producing the best of Champagne imitations.
The grapes probably have no interest in Brexit and will continue just as they always have on both sides of the Channel — Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier undergoing an in-bottle second fermentation — just like in France. Like Indiana, England now boasts wineries from north to south, York to Dover. As Iago taught us: “Come, come, good wine is a good familiar creature, if it be well used. Exclaim no more against it.”OLDER POSTS »