“I drink wine…and I know things”
– Tyrion Lannister
The first thing 2020 reminds me of is the opening lines of Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities, when he wrote,
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
What part of 2020 saw “the best of times… the age of wisdom,” or “a spring of hope?” 2020 saw a plague of locusts in Ethiopia and Somalia, hurricanes and tropical storms in the Southern United States, and fires in California. I even lost my best pal, Frankie, my 20-year-old cat the week following my birthday. I know I am forgetting something else… oh, yes, I have been in quarantine (along with the rest of the flipping world) since March! We are suffering from pestilence of Biblical proportions!
So, it is only natural that I would turn to wine. Oh, that has been the best of times! I have been using this time in lockdown to organize and catalogue my wine. It just so happens that I am writing this article on International Cabernet Day. You see, I am a Cabernet Sauvignon guy. I love Cabs from literally every part of the world. I knew I had a lot of Cabs and Left Bank Bordeaux blends, which are predominantly Cab-based, something my friend and Somm, Richard Ryti, pointed out when he first investigated my wine cabinets. However, last week I noticed that I have been buying different varietals than my usual Cabs during this time of quarantine. Could this be a Covid-19 symptom the CDC has failed to mention?
Do not get me wrong. I have been buying some outstanding Cabs and Cab blends, such as Krutz Beckstoffer Vineyards Georges III Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (Robert Parker 97 points) and Château Musar “Musar” Rouge Lebanon 1997. The Château Musar is a Lebanese wine from the Bekaa Valley that is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Carignan, and indigenous Lebanese Obaideh and Merwah grapes. But I noticed that I had been buying, and enjoying, much more of other varietals and they have been equally remarkable.
I have discovered that I have been drinking mostly Bordeaux wines from the Right Bank whilst in quarantine, and, I dare say, I have loved them. The wines on the Eastern side of the Dordogne River are predominantly Merlot and Cabernet Franc-based. This is an apostasy and an utter betrayal of all that I hold dear!
Typical of the Right Bank wines that I have been enjoying and collecting are the delightful and super-affordable Château Roc de Boisseaux Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2016 and a considerably more expensive 97-point Château Troplong Mondot Saint-Émilion Premier Grand Cru 2016. I also bought a breathtaking Robert Parker 100-pointer Château Le Dôme Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2003.
I have noticed that my tastes in wines have hopscotched around the Old and New Worlds. I discovered that I have purchased amazing Brunello wines from Tuscany, such as Gaja Brunello di Montalcino Pieve Santa Restituta 2016 and Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino Sugarille 2011. (God bless my overworked Corvin.)
I discovered that a Nebbiolo-based Fontanafredda Barolo Lazzarito Vigna la Delizia 1998 and Luigi Giordano Asili Barbaresco 2013, wines from Italy’s Piedmont region have joined other non-Cab Italians I had in my cellar.
Dickens concluded A Tale of Two Cities writing, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done, it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
I did not like Malbecs until I went to the Mendoza region of Argentina about 25 years ago. Now, I love Malbecs and more have been finding their way into my cellar over the last six months. The FedEx delivery driver has gotten to know me very well during these past few months. He said to me, “See you next week,” as he dropped off my latest allocation. He delivered an order of Nicolas Catena Zapata Argentino 2014. This wine is heavenly, and not just because the vineyards are located high up in the Andes.
Tempernillo wines from Northern Spain’s Rioja region can be breathtaking. I went to a wine tasting in 2018 that exclusively featured Rioja wines. That wine tasting was small and intimate, but it was one of the best winetasting I have ever attended. I have collected more Rioja wines since that tasting, but I have really stepped up my game whilst in quarantine. One of the best Riojas I have had during this time was a Christmas gift from a dear friend. The Valdelana Centvm Vitis 2007 is an incredible bottle of wine, both the beautiful, heavy, and very deep punted, physically imposing bottle, as well as the wine itself. It needs to be decanted for at least two hours, but the juice is definitely worth the squeeze (or should I say the stomp).
These are some of the wine I have enjoyed during these trying times. Dickens concluded A Tale of Two Cities writing, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done, it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” However, I prefer to reflect on the wines I have ordered and the wines I have enjoyed during these trying times. These wines have made it, “the best of times… the age of wisdom… [and] a spring of hope….”
Wear a mask, wash your hands often, keep your distance, stay safe, and drink wine.
 All due respect is given to one of my favorite authors, Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez, and his Love in the Time of Cholera.
Note from Irene. Andras wrote this last year. Obviously during the height of the 2020 pandemic. We’re not even talking Delta yet!
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