Wine’s Recent Ancient History
Of course “Frenchest” is a word. As in, “Brigitte Bardot has a lovely Frenchest”.
But seriously, when it comes to “airsick” or especially “trainsick” red wines, it may have to do with the chains of tannin and anthocyanin that link up over time. With prolonged rough handling or vibration these chains can break apart and the wine will taste disjointed and feel coarse on the palate. In 3-4 weeks of bed rest the “chains” will repair themselves and the wine will be good as new. Or so I’ve heard.
I don’t think he was reffering to baked wines, afterall, no self respecting wine shipper would have shipped their wine between June and September.
Love your columns, especially the off-the-beaten path topics. I have a large collection of spirits and cocktail books, but the demand for those has become very high. Some texts that I picked up for a few bucks, which is most of them, are so expensive on ebay that I fear getting them anywhere near a moving cocktail shaker. I think you are correct that the price of old wine texts has lagged behind and I have no idea why. Could be because most of them are filled with relatively useless vintage charts that only dreams are made.of: “Bordeaux 1890-1946”
Some of the pamphlets and publications are downright shocking. As recently as the 1970s California wine producers were trying to convince us to mix their wines with soda and juice. You dug up some great stuff. Cheers.
Reading about reviews of wines from 60 to 160 years ago, I was reminded of a fabulous antique wineshop in Europe I had the pleasure of visiting numerous times from 2001 through 2002 (when the Euro was also about $0.80!). Named “The Wine Antiquariat”, it’s located in Eerste Weteringdwaarstraat 2A, 1017 TN Amsterdam, The Netherlands (in the Museum district), and has a web site, www.antique-wines.net
The shop is owned by Drs. Gerhard A. van der Lans, and features rare and antique wines. Most – though not all – are French Bordeaux’s and Burgandies from the ‘40s, 50s, 60s, 70’s and 80s to current, so one can do more than just dream about trying some of the fabulous wines of yesteryear.
I had the pleasure of frequently attending his weekly (Saturday evening) wine tastings where the price of admission was “an interesting bottle of wine”. I’d usually check with him mid week to buy something new from his shop that he thought would be of interest to the other attendees at the upcoming tasting. Since all the bottles being tasted were wrapped in aluminum foil to hide their origins, the Wine Antiquariat owner would be the only one who knew what was being offered for tasting on any given day (he arranged the sequence so tastings would start with the ‘youngest’ and end with the oldest/most exuberant wines). And then the fun would begin, as everyone had their chance to guess at the identity of each wine being tasted. Most attendees were very experienced wine tasters, though they were welcoming and forgiving of those who weren’t (me!). I had the distinct pleasure of tasting many superb wines (and a few not so great – a young Petrus specialty issue at about $1,000/bottle comes to mind) during those visits, and learned a lot as a result.
I only wish there was a comparable wine shop nearby that not only offered such depth of wines, but also offered tastings in a similar manner…
Thanks for providing such interesting and thought-provoking articles.
Thanks for the advice, Eric. I just snatched up a copy of The Wines of Burgundy for £3 online. Bada Bing Bada Boom. I too am all in favor of topless wine drinking.
Another wonderful blog, hopefully this will not spark interest in such a way that the price of old wine books will go up (Delong is saying buy, so buy, damn it, BUY!).
I am a huge fan of older wine books and actively seek them out as well. I don’t have any books with the age you do, but there are some other great authors out there.
One of my favoorite is H. W. Yoxall, OBE. His book on Burgundy is one of the most fascinating reads- and his tone and sense of humour (heh) is world class. Below is one of my favorite passages, dedicated to the greatness of Le Montrachet (punctuated as it is in his book):
Its pre-eminence dates as far back as the time of Rabelais, who called it ‘divine’, and Alexandre Dumas was inspired to declare that ‘it should be drunk kneeling, with one’s head bared.’ Personally I drink little wine with my hat on and, with my rheumaticky frame a kneeling posture would not enhance the pleasure of drinking even Le Montrachet.
I have a second edition, the first edition was published in 1968. Mine is ten years older than that.
The Wines of Burgundy, H. W. Yoxall (Grand Officier de la Confriere des Chevaliers du Tastevin), 1978, 2nd Edition
by The International Wine and Food Society
Stein and Day / publishers / New York
The real question is if Frank Stone held on to any of his library…
Thanks for the expert commentary — the “tannin chains” were probably exactly what he was referring to — even though he didn’t have the precise scientic explaination that you have — especially since he emphasized that red wines fare less well.
I know you wouldn’t have shipped wines between June and September but there are people out there who like to push the limits (again, no names mentioned here).
Nice blog update. I know it is a bit date (2006) but I enjoyed seeing some names of books that I hadn’t known before. I have a collection of books on Burgundy going back to 1831 (posted on my blog) and there is something amazing about reading older texts. While some of these are much younger, they of course offer an experience all their own.
Thank you again for sharing
Thank you for the great recommendation, Ned. It sounds as if it’s worth a trip to Amsterdam just to visit his shop!
Thanks Jeffery — one of the Andre Simon books has a vintage chart going back to 1840, which unfortunately probably won’t come in handy. I can see how the drink guides would be more relevant since you can actually recreate the old cocktails. No such luck with wine!
As for shocking, there are still several wineries (I won’t mention any names) that provide Sangria recipies starring their wines!