Thursday, February 5, 2015

To properly be a bartender you have to be philosophical.   In a world bursting at the glowing screens of information, what can one know but a way of looking at things.  And as far as wine goes, I operate by knowing I know very little.  If I'd claim differently, expose me as a fraud.  Go read Eric Asimov's Wine School column.  I frame things simply.  A human being rises up, an expression of himself, with an experience or a humble dish of food in front of him, and the wine rises out of the earth to meet him.   Put on an even plane, there can be harmony.   Take a bite of salmon tartar, or a mushroom sautéed in herbs, and take a sip of wine thy hostess has provided you.  Slice into a good steak with a hint of lemon or thyme to cut the muskiness, take another sip.  What happens, take note, with the combination of taste and the tactile experience.  It's going to taste pretty good, and this is our bodies telling us something, leaving us with the sense of appropriateness, the occasion, the wine, the dish.  We're employing the same senses the more sensitive sex uses to select a mate of complementary immune system.  This is how a chef works, comparing and contrasting.  This is how the ancients came up with good medicine.  Rosemary, it turns out, is good for our hide.  As my botanist father observed of my making green tea, it's all like a tincture.

I've been lucky to stumble upon some amazing wines.  I'm thinking of a purity of expression, the crazy pure grapefruit note of the famous Pur Sang Pouilly Fumé, or the pineapple note of the famous Chablis Kermit Lynch the importer writes about.    There is no manipulation, no note of oak or overdone fruitiness, no vanilla, no mocha.  If oak was used, there's an appropriateness to not interfere with that fruit note that the vine and the earth provided when tended by the good vigneron who lives in some harmony with nature and a growing season and the earth he or she tends.

How about the reassuring dry cherry and dark fruit campfire in a decent Bordeaux, warming the leather, the rocks underneath and the surrounding cedar and pine pitch?  How about the warm picnic by the juniper and rosemary bushes, a bee buzzing its way through flowers, offered by a Mourvedre from the Languedoc, a wine made of that tricky dark thick-skinned varietal?  A good wine reminds one of the purity of sound of a seasoned musical instrument, each a shard from the original Big Bang.

Some days you want a wine redolent with garrigue, and other days you want a mud puddle in a rainstorm, reeds to hide in.  Some champagnes, I'm told, are appropriate for a cabin in the forest as fall comes, and some are best with summer days.  As for honoring the learning process, find an importer you like, whose ethos you trust, and travel somewhere new.  And after it all, you might want to settle down and just enjoy a good Pinot Noir.  It would be nice if it were a Clos Des Mouches, from a stonewall enclosed vineyard which bugs visit happily, a most refined and filtered kind of water, with strawberry essence perhaps.  The grape is so sensitive that one would gather that if there were a Chinese restaurant down the road, the resulting wine would have hints of soy sauce and Szechuan spice.  Pinot Noir can even tell you what you are thinking sometimes.  Perhaps the grapes on the vine go through the same kind of creativity that we do, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, unpredictable, yet steady over the growing season.  And along with their neighbors from Beaujolais, as we draw closer to gastronomic capital of Lyon, they are generally low in alcohol, twelve percent typically, and agreeable with a wide variety of foods.

But also remember, who is drinking this wine?  I am of the opinion that certain wines are more appropriate to certain people given their basic body chemistry, blood type for instance.  And I'll speak more specifically about having the type O blood of the Universal Donor.  White wine, and certainly champagne, are too acidic.  Wines high in alcohol, which may seem heady and pleasant, can wear corrosively at the pipes, in addition to causing one to say foolish things and depressions the next day.  Now if you have Type A blood, you can do fine with white wine, and after all, you're descended from wise farmers tending the land, as opposed to the wilder hunter gatherer remnant of humanity, the Type O, whom one might reasonably take pity upon.  Type B, descendent of Mongol Hordes, forget it, you can drink and eat anything, shrewdly adapting anywhere, even a city.  AB, I haven't gotten that far to say much.

The body has its sensitivity, and of course it's best to not ignore the feedback it gives you.  So yes, basic rules that must meet the basic rules of cooking and wine pairing.  I might like to enjoy things marinated in vinegar and a pleasant rosé from Provence where they don't cook in the heat of summer, a red wouldn't do, but I have to limit myself, sticking to more caveman offerings.  That's just the way it is.

The motor was revved at good rate all through the week, and by the end of the fourth night the busiest of all, there was too much adrenaline in the system to go to bed.  That's just the way it is.  I got out the guitar and began to learn a Sam Smith song, Stay With Me, as it grew light out.  I wanted to write, but could not face a previous entry's passage without wincing, in the way one winces at a sink full full of dirty dishes, the overly personal stuff of life.

This week I reflect on a Ted Hughes poem from Birthday Letters.  The story of it is of finding a fox cub up for sale or adoption, and being a country lad of course he imagines the path presented, of bringing the fox cub home to his new wife.  In the end he doesn't, and the line at the poem's end is "the marriage had failed."  Leading one to ponder of his own similar failings, to be the good animal husbander.  One's own inherent wildness, the proclivity to write as a way of coming to terms with adrenaline and issues...  The difficulty of fitting in with the modern world's concrete rhythms and rules...

Failure as a husband in a marriage, how so?  For being a writer, for entertaining the wild thought?  Or for not following through, for not bringing the cub and its stink of fur home for safekeeping?  Is it something a writer should simply admit, for being who he is, not a good provider and protector, etc., etc.  A failure of his moods and mind inherent in his way of thinking too much?  The failure to settle down and do anything productive or predictable as he pursues...  The failure to play by the script, the failure to find satisfaction...  The knowledge of his own awkwardness, his own craziness, his middle of the night hours, his lack of earthly accomplishment...  His tentativeness and nervousness, excitability toward the things he encounters...  Who's the better husband, Hamlet, the poet, who drives poor Ophelia crazy, or Claudius the usurper?

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