Enjoyed shortly thereafter in my Upper West Side studio Apartment.
I was well on my way to ruin by the winter of 1985, though it had not yet become apparent to me. My days as a wine-loving college student were fairly routine, though my routine was anything but routine. You see, I was a budding wine lover who had started out life slightly unbalanced and was simply applying that philosophy to my latest endeavor, and that endeavor was learning about wine.
So what was I doing, and how did I go about this. I had a simple plan actually and considering my typical mental state, it was shockingly methodical. You see, I had sort of decided to learn about one great wine region at a time by focusing on that region’s wines for a set period of time. This winter of 1985 it was to be Bordeaux, not just any Bordeaux mind you, but many of the exceptional 1982s that were then hitting the market.
But I lie. In fact, it wasn’t that many 1982s, there were also quite a few 1981s and 1979s in the mix. I didn’t plan it that way, economics did. You see, along with my slice of pizza piled high with mushrooms and prepared by Jimmy Page’s doppelganger (that I ate almost every night), I enjoyed some wine. I couldn’t afford to spend $5 a day on wine (that was real money back in the day), so I had to augment my drinking with $1.50 bottles of Serradayres and $2.50 bottles of Salice Salentino; but I was focused on Bordeaux.
It was back then that I realized that a really good bottle of wine comes in a single serving size. And if we were to be intellectually honest, we would, in fact, rate wines by how much of any particular bottle we consumed. We could even apply the 100-point scale to this scoring methodology, but I digress.
I would buy my Bordeaux by the case (had to get those mixed case discounts, you see). And I would spend hours, days even, planning out my next two cases, which would require me to scour the city, mark down prices, go back home, and add, subtract and divide all night long until I found the breakdown that allowed me to add 24 bottles of wine to my "cellar."
Once the wines were purchased and safely home, getting them there frequently involved me hiking across Central Park with a wooden Bordeaux case perched on my head; I did what any sane person would do. I removed all the capsules, put masking tape around the necks while wrapping each bottle in discarded newspaper! I was, to put it politely, a blind tasting madman.
And that’s how I tasted wine. I had a fair idea what I was tasting, but never knew the bottle, but slowly I did notice that one wine might have been leaner or richer than the last. I learned to feel the vintage in each wine. So what if I frequently got it wrong? That wasn’t the point. The point was to let the wine speak without any mental interruption and to that end, my system worked brilliantly.
And while I enjoyed Bordeaux, I failed to see what the fuss was all about. I mean, I was spending good money on this stuff, $4 or even $5 a bottle, so to put it in today’s vernacular, "WTF?" And then it happened.
Now don’t ask me why exactly, because I don’t exactly remember, but I ended up sitting on the toilet with a glass of what turned out to be 1982 Chateaux Poujeaux in my hand. I kid you not. The lights were off, as was the television, and I was alone with my wine. I took a sip of the wine and in what was certainly but a few seconds, my life changed.
Those few seconds are still clear to this day. Not only did the wine speak to me, but a torrent of what will be poured forth from that glass. In those few simple seconds a curtain was lifted and I saw that behind the tannins and under the acid was this beautiful blanket of fruit that had just been drawn back in anticipation of its grand unfurling. Like the snap of a wet towel, I saw the trajectory the wine was to take, and in one moment I finally "got" Bordeaux. Now I might be overstating my case a bit there, but I would say that that sip was the keystone of my understanding of how wine ages, and why we age it.
I bought a case of that 1982 Ch Poujeaux, actually got it as a Christmas gift since I couldn’t really afford a case of it, and I still have a handful of bottles in the cellar. They’re still quite good but certainly on their downslope. That wine certainly has changed, evolving, growing up and now growing old, but I have stayed much the same. A bit unbalanced, perhaps, and certainly far too sentimental to do what must be done with the remnant of the first case of Bordeaux I ever bought.
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