One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons shows a host displaying a bottle to his guests. He says, "It's an impertinent little wine, but I think you'll be amused by its pretension." Wine aficionados are always writing that you can taste berry and melon and oak and petunia blossoms and I don't know what-all in various wines, but I have yet to detect any such thing. Once in a while, I buy something relatively expensive to try to elevate my palate, but it never works. I wind up going back to Barefoot and Cupcake Vineyards.
And yet, there lives in my memory the Beaujolais nouveau I bought in Paris at the end of the Bellbottoms and Duffel Bag Tour I took around Europe in the fall of 1974. Dimly aware that there was such a thing as a celebrated unveiling of the new Beaujolais, I decided to take some home. I remember the merchant explaining in pantomime why the year on the label was 1973. He put his head down on his folded hands to show that the wine "sleeps" for a year before it is released. I bought two bottles, because I'd read that you could bring two bottles of alcohol into the US without paying any duties. The nice young customs man in New York told me that didn't apply to wine, so technically I owed a tax on it, but it was less than a dollar, so they wouldn't bother to collect it. OK.
That wine, uncorked for Thanksgiving, was the most delicious beverage I've ever tasted. It had a crystal-clear fruit flavor, and a "dry" quality utterly different from what wine merchants and friends call "dry." Their dry is just acid compared to that wine's light, fine, unique clarity. "Like drinkable light." Words fail me. I have longed for that taste ever since. I've bought more Beaujolais, but it's just old and dusty grape juice in comparison. I suppose it's hope that makes me buy the expensive wines once in a while, but they always disappoint. I'll have to settle for "This is nice," I suppose. I don't expect to return to Paris any time soon.