Monday, March 26, 2012

Against rapture

The other day I was called as if
to a meeting where ancient streams
composing soils of flint and lime-
stone, marl and precious sea fossil
have set the stage for the most ad-
mired castles in this world, and
graced us with fruit of treasured
delicacy, by a lady wishing to find
the prettiest wines from this land
where she has lately moved. I must 
say, slowly here recuperating from
a surgery on my bloodstream, to be
invited to survey the Loire from
this perspective was like being al-
lowed to audition a class of angels.

For me the beauty of a fine wine 
lies not in its autonomous excel-
lence, but in its capacity to con-
jure the image of the civilisation 
which produced it, from the vine 
that was tended, in the ground and 
in the year of its harvest. Wines 
report to us of that degree of care 
and comprehension, and of those pa-
rameters of fortune and technique; 
and it is only natural to be drawn 
to such confluences at their most 
articulate - even, as in the case 
of the Loire, their most graceful.

I do not refuse the natural perspective
to discover that the subject of wine 
is not merely my nourishment, my 
pleasure, my reverence for achieve-
ment, but rather that it is the won-
der which is our inheritance of this 
world, of which it is so revealing.
It is not an interest of this page,
to reform the rhetoric of experts in
their guilds, evangelists in their
wallows; but there are people whom
we love to be looked out for, and a
human right to beauty in this world.

For this reason, I resist, recoil 
from praises of wine which denote a 
perfected rapture in its own being,
the mantras of merchants conditioned
by covetousness of rarity and price, 
evoking the chase of the Maltese fal-
con or the deliriums of Kundry, be-
cause at best (and there is no mis-
taking it in the glass) wine is an
analogy of something which, perfect 
or not, is still to be extracted 
to our enlightenment and to our 
consolation, recompensing labour
first of all, to the credit of its

Enlightenment, because every vintage 
we could praise for its surpassing 
elegance of proportion -- the thing 
we are always really talking about 
and truly looking for, whether we 
know it or not -- says something to 
us by happenstance of factors as
arbitrary as fine weather, of how 
much of our civilisation is contin-
gent upon variation beyond our grasp. 
And to our consolation, because 
every vintage which can be praised 
for the beauty which men have been
able to husband, glows first with
their humility

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