Some while ago I read a column by someone who made a comparison between old wine and old people. The core of his plea was that time turns to both wine and people. He told about the process of emergence, prosperity and decline, which he described as the heyday of people wasting time in traffic jams, VINEX homes or anonymous offices. The only exception he could imagine was drinking fine wine.
He denounced old wines, whose once so complex, rich bouquet had fallen into a nasty odor of run-over old currants, rotten wood, Maggi and damp, dirty laundry. The by him cited, once so majestic Bordeaux was completely shriveled and practically deceased.
Of course, so many negative words had to be followed by some uplifting comment or wise advice. And yes, he urged to not let it come to that extent. Beautiful wines are not to be languished in dark, humid basements, as people aren’t to try to stretch pointlessly their hopeless lives.
Even Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison were brought in. Their early death was praised because it would have contributed to the creation of their legend. According to him, they died at the peak of their fame and so left a great rock legacy. He ended his speech with the conclusion that nobody wants to face a legacy of dried out wines and that wine, drunk at its prime, will continue to exist, in a dignified manner, in the memory of our taste. At least, until even that is erased, because time destroys everything.
Now I do understand the essence of columns like this, but I don’t understand why someone approaches aging of both people and wines, so shortsighted, negative and unilateral. He insults, without cause, billions of elderly people who hurt no one, lead a quiet life, in a normal home and have an average income from ‘ordinary’ work that makes more sense than that of many tycoon or columnist.
In this way, without any gene or pardon, countless people and wines at age are being a scattergun and the need for time to develop mental or physical wealth, elegance, balance, finesse and complexity is completely ignored. There are pedophiles who have a morbid preference for the youngest, and undoubtedly, there are people who like their grandparents euthanized the day after their 50th birthday in order to prevent further aging ailments. Perhaps they also request their parents to commit suicide no later than their 40th, and then kill themselves before they are 30 years old to end a further seemingly meaningless existence. But perhaps it’s not all that bad. Maybe this is all a bit exaggerated, too brusque, or is the referred to column not much more than a cry for attention.
Time is a relative term. I enjoy the splendor of one-day butterflies, smile or laugh at the sight of the innocence, the enthusiasm and the naivety of youth and appreciate the fragility, temporary, unpickability of a poppy. At the same time I respect the richness of knowledge and experience, the maturity, peace and balance that comes with old age, and even the defects it includes. My mother is 83 years old and the last weeks (months?) of her life have begun. She suffers from an entire medical encyclopedia and chances are small that she witnesses oncoming spring with its budding green and other new life. Shriveled she is, extremely fragile, helpless, limited in almost everything, not deceased, but hardly living. To many, she’s perhaps worth nothing, but to me, my brothers and my sister, she still is the most beautiful creature on Earth and every moment with her is beautiful and priceless in every respect.
I know numerous wines that, in spite of their advanced age, have given me similar impressive memories. I’ve had the honor to taste their history, to hear their stories about how winemaking used to be, what typified their terroir, the meaning of the vintage, what their winemakers were thinking and much, much more. In the knowledge that older people sometimes forget facts, moved details and their stories show a different image than pure reality ever did, I remain intensely enjoying their legends. They add colour and depth to our existence. No toddler will ever know or give what our parents can offer us. And yes, no 65+ will be able to run as fast a 20-year-old. But neither have to. Every person and every wine at any age has its own specific value, whether appreciated or understood or not.
Life, and also tasting and enjoying wine is not an exact science. And it should never be, as far as I’m concerned. Love, passion and respect should be central and then there is something called freedom of personal preference. It is through such columns, I feel, as a loving wine writer, it is my duty to, besides my enthusiasm for young wines, also proclaim my respect for the older wines.
We all know young wines, and their impetuous fruity character hardly needs any introduction. However, we increasingly lose sight of the grandeur of older wines. Of course we shouldn’t linger in the past, but we must not deny, underestimate or neglect and certainly not careless taunt our history, the foundation of our contemporary culture.
Who tastes older wines, imagines himself in another dimension, another time. Fragrances and smells that we’re not used to, fill our nose, mouth and minds. Sometimes they sound grumpy, but more often as beautiful, unknown, complex compositions that extend our horizon, that surprise, impress and delight us like no primeur-wine can ever do.