For the most part, only wines which had withstood the test of time — at least 20 years of age, or say the 1811 Yquem — were fit for the crown. As I’ve noted in previous articles, dry white wine is curiously absent. And, the very thought of young wines being deemed perfect is somehow problematic for wine critics at large.
To be fair: it is perhaps one of the greatest vinous experiences to be had, imbibing a wine that resists the bony clutches of Father Time (read: oxidation) and tastes young seemingly long after its days are gone.
I’m convinced that the reason we’re starstruck2 with aged wine reflects something far deeper in us. Something we care not to think about; something that I’m certain will initially strike you as far-fetched.
I’m convinced it’s our preoccupation with our own mortality, which few of us ever really fully come to grips with. Who really can, anyhow? Further, I’m convinced it’s even bigger than wine — that it courses like an underground river through our appreciation of nearly every form of art.
Sound crazy? Let’s once again begin with visual art before confronting wine. Indulge me in a whimsical thought experiment:
It is 2104, the year of the “Great Liberation”. Long after being driven by global warming to live in a vast network of underground cities, a cellular biologist identifies the processes which cause our cells’ mitochondria to age3. She gleefully confirms that with a few simple hacks, our bodies can live almost indefinitely, cells constantly replacing themselves not unlike some giant, undying ficus in a tropical jungle4.
And suddenly, humanity is liberated from the shackles of its mortal coil.
Now, the crux of the experiment: can you imagine how art would transform?
Every single work of art from before the Great Liberation would be scrutinized through the paradigm5 lens of mortality. Not unlike the way Catholicism, the feudal system or, say, the dawn of perspective in the early Renaissance marks all that it touched.
Future students of history would pain themselves to understand how we managed to eke meaning out of our piddly lives under this sword of Damocles that was mortality.
A bit like we cannot imagine living prior to the advent of modern medicine, or during slavery, or perhaps during the aerial bombing (Click to Read more)WANT MORE? SUBSCRIBE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE.
- Many wines traditionally judged perfect escaped consideration. Where was the ’47 Cheval Blanc…to cite but one. [↩]
- Comet vintage jokes aside [↩]
- Our mitochondria are the “power plants” of our cells, and serendipitously, many around 2 billion years ago, through a process thought to be phagocytosis, a cell swallowed another bacterial organism which paradoxically resulted in a symbiotic union that more or less enabled advanced life forms as we know them — thanks to an enabling of even higher energy cells capable of greater functions. Fucking fascinating. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endosymbiont. [↩]
- The Bodhi Tree (a Ficus) at Anuradhapura Sri Lanka is believed to be the oldest tree planted by humans with a recorded year of 289 BCE. cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficus_religiosa. However, bristlecone pine takes that to town, predating Christ at nearly 5000 years of age: http://www.livescience.com/29152-oldest-tree-in-world.html [↩]
- Kuhn’s concept of “paradigm”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradigm [↩]