Bittersweet Emotion

Wine is personal. I’ve always maintained this, and, despite what we wine professionals tell you, wine is often more subjective than objective. Much of this has to do with how we relate to wine.

Some of my fondest wine memories are inextricably linked to people and places that I care deeply about.  It’s amazing how a glass (or bottle) can transport you to a moment in your past were your mind’s eye allows you to experience all your senses and memories as if you were really there. These memories are powerful, and they often come back to us when we least expect them and need them most.

Let me share with you some of my moments…

November 2010 in Acton, Massachusetts…Holiday season around the corner, and I’m busily getting ready for the hustle and bustle that occurs every November and December with the upcoming holiday trifecta (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s). I finally have a moment to stop and enjoy a dinner out with my wife. This isn’t a usual dinner though, it’s a wine dinner (a nice perk of the profession…and my wife agrees), so I find myself eating delicious food and drinking wonderful wine. The pairings work perfectly, the ambiance is calming, and the company is just right. As the dinner comes to its close there is a surprise. A Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, a delightfully refreshing and delicious fortified wine is served, capping the night off in style. I’m familiar with this appellation, but not ready for what will happen next…When the first sip of wine touches my lips, a cluster of memories rush to the fore of my mind as if I’m there …

Summer sometime during the 1990s in Les Omergues, Provence…I find myself at the end of a meal, not quite appreciative of lamb (my tastes will mature), but satisfied nonetheless. I’m too young to drink by American standards, but this is France after all and one is never too young to taste wine or even drink a small portion. I’m served a delightfully and delicious treat, one that I’ve never heard of. It’s called Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, and I listen intently as my Papi Jacques tells me all about this wine and how it’s made. All I can think of is how delicious this wine is…Papi seems to notice that my attention quickly fades with each passing sip, and so he happily ends with a great big smile and tells me that one thing only really matters with this wine, ‘C’est bon.’

December 2010 in Acton, Massachusetts…I’m sitting at home and relaxing with a glass of cognac after dinner. I decide to socialize in true 21st century style via Facebook to see what my friends and family are up to. I’m happy to see that someone sent me a message, but my happiness quickly fades as I read terrible news. Papi Jacques est mort. I’ll never get to see him again.

You see when I drank that Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise at the end of the wine dinner, it was more than just a simple glass of wine. Words can’t describe what I felt, but instantly I was transported back twenty years or so to a place and time I had nearly forgotten. Suddenly I remembered the smells, sights, and sounds…I was brought to tears. This happy memory came over me like a warm rushing wind. It was a perfect.

In that moment I was reminded of what Papi Jacques taught me, wine is good. Enjoy it! As a wine professional, I sometimes forget wine’s greatest pleasure…the emotion it can bring!

Merci beaucoup, Jacques! I learned that from you.

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