The Wine That Was
On Saturday night i was at the house of a friend, catching up and drinking wine from his cellar. As happens with these sorts of things the night spilled over into the wee hours of the morning. More friends showed up and more bottles were opened. It was a wine crowd, that thoroughly geeky animal which can argue aglianico for an hour while others say “what the fuck is Aglianico?”
At some point, midway through the discussion my friend hops up and runs down to his cellar for the third or forth time, and brings up one of those wines that, for me, is a sort of holy grail, a wine made by the great Chinon producer Charles Joguet before his retirement. Charles Joguet, for those of you don’t know, was one of the true masters, one of those rare vignerons spoken of in hushed tones even among the truly gifted.
Joguet brought his gifts to bear on an appellation that was, and still is, humble. No one is going to get rich making Chinon in small quantities which makes his gifts all the more impressive. Like a handful of vignerons in Muscadet or Beaujolais he was working in an area where increases in quality can mean very little. This isn’t Burgundy where merely passable can net you outrageous prices, these are areas where quality can often times mean going broke. These are people working the great unknown terroirs of the world and, through force of talent making them great. Hopefully someday the books will record Clisson and Clos de la Dioterie among the greats, but only because Marc Ollivier and Charles Joguet recognized they could be and devoted there life to showing that. Recently i saw these pictures of Cannubi in Barolo taken during a visit to the late, great Bartolo Mascarello’s winery. Cannubi isn’t much more than a humble hill at the end of the day, it exists independently of people, but it is because of people like Bartolo Mascarello we remember these places, they attach meaning.
i have had only a few opportunities to try the wines that Joguet himself made. They are not expensive even now, but the trouble is finding them. People who have them what they are and hang on to them. They are wines with a Schwarzchild radius all their owndrawing in focus for days and weeks afterwards (the first bottle i had is seared on my memory, a part of my vinous memory will always know what Clos de la Dioterie tastes like, at least for one year, while long ago scows have hauled off the detritus left from flashier bottles).
It is a curious legacy, this memory. There are still bottles waiting to be drunk of Joguet’s wine, but like all wines the actuality is over in a single night. We’re peering backwards into what someone did years ago in a different place but we only get to see it briefly and the filter is a bottle of wine, an impermanent thing if there is ever one. All that work, all that history, hardship condensed into something that we simply interpret as pleasurable. Later, when someone mentions the wine we smile. We can talk about the facts, soil types, cellar work all we want but it’s that smile that really counts.
Sadly, this bottle was corked. It is something that happens. It wasn’t the end of the world, and it made me want to get reacquainted with Joguet if i can. The Joguet of 1995. Or maybe the Joguet of 1985, or of 1989. Hopefully i’ll get the chance again, and when the name comes up again, i’ll smile that much more.