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Silent upon a peak
THAT precisely describes the moments after drinking a glass of a great red wine, eg Musigny, J F Mugnier. Silent in contemplation and wonderment, quietly savouring and embedding the lingering flavours on my palate into my memory bank.
It was a simple German Kabinett, a 1989 Riesling Scharzhofberger from Egon Muller, a pale yellow wine with a bouquet of peaches with a tinge of kerosene; very lightly sweet with a minerally flavour and bouquet on the palate. Beautiful.
The lingering notes on the palate kept one silent for a long moment, and I was minded of some words from that memorable poem, On First Looking into Chapman's Homer by John Keats, (1795 - 1821), the last four lines of which read:
"Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific - and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise -
Silent, upon a peak in Darien".
Speech for the moment is redundant while you contemplate the lingering flavours on your palate, and you know that you are in the presence of a great wine.
It makes you wonder how so exquisite a wine could be made. I am taken back to those moments on top of the Scharzhopf hill and in Egon's cellar, not many years go, and am grateful for those memories in my memory bank. "Silent, upon a peak . . ."
Drinking a great wine is a privilege. To drink a great wine and be able to have in one's mind's eye, the picture of that special moment on the same hill! These moments and memories drive one to seek out the vigneron, and the vineyard behind the wine. These memories "personify" the wine, completing one's mental notes about the wine and the occasion!
Wine is about people, the people you drink with, and perhaps more importantly, the people behind the wines. Thus one does not forget the first meeting with Egon's late father on our very first visit to Egon Mueller winery. And with great sadness those vintner friends who have passed on - Colette Faller and her daughter wine-maker, Laurent of Domaine Weinbach, Paul Pontallier of Chateau Margaux, Gerard Jaboulet of Paul Jaboulet Aine, et al. All lovely people and good friends. Painful memories but reminders of what we owe to those behind the wines, grateful for these memories and the privilege of having known them.
Vintners are special people in my book. They work with Nature - the vines, the soil, the weather, and the grapes. The wine makes itself. While the grapes ferment in the fermentation tank and wine is produced, while the wines mature in the barrels - through both processes nature takes its course, no intervention by the vintner is needed.
As Frederick Mugnier said to me, his job is like being a guardian of the cellar, making sure that both processes proceed on their own as nature designed, that no accidents or anything which might interfere with the fermentation and maturation.
He is happiest when there is nothing he has to attend to except keep a watchful eye on the tanks and ageing barrels.
All too often we are not mindful of the people behind the wines. I count myself very fortunate in being able to have in my mind's eye an image of the vintner/wine-maker and the cellar - and the vineyards. The images of Donnhoff's vineyards still linger in my memory. Rows and rows of clearly very healthy wines on the sides of the hill under a bright noon-day sun. A sight to gladden the wine-grower's heart, and these words come to mind "God is in his heavens, and all is right with the world." And reminders of Helmut and his wife Gaby, warmly receiving us and proudly showing us their wines. Nature in its most beneficent mood.
These images come to mind as one quietly contemplates the wine-glass while savouring the lingering tastes on one's palate and grateful for the image of Helmut and Gaby in their home, proudly showing us their wines. "Silent upon a peak . . ."