Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Well, thank heaven for that

Thank heaven it was stored upright for more than two years. Calvados. Apple brandy from Normandy and only from Normandy. Karen MacNeil, of The Wine Bible, says that all Calvados, along with cognac and armagnac, must be stored upright because if it is "laid down" on its side, like wine, the high alcohol content will eat away at the cork and cause the development of unpleasant flavors. I have always wanted to try real Calvados, and since the customer who wanted a good apple brandy some years ago rejected this because the label did not say apple brandy in English, well, -- we have been sitting on an over-supply of it. Stored upright. Retail, my fatheads, about $50.

You know what Constable said of painting his favorite things:
But the sound of water, escaping from mill dams, & c., willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts, and brickwork, I love such things.  …As long as I do paint, I shall never cease to paint such places. They have always been my delight…
I can't give you slimy posts and brickwork -- actually, probably I could -- but I can give you one of October's last hollyhocks amid a lush desolation of fallen mulberry leaves and God knows what, plus the ornament of a single Chinese lantern, down in the corner. I even hear a robin, just now. Probably a juvenile bird, confused about when April starts.

Would you believe some people can look at a wine as black as ink, taste thick flavors that go beyond mere "jamminess" and blueberry-chocolate caramels, and then pronounce it flat and watered down, and decline to buy? What else are they drinking?

It's very good, though I am not sure I want it with a meal. Think of it as a cocktail, or dessert. Retail, about $10 on sale. I like to imagine that the ancient wines we know nothing about, except we know they were prized, must have tasted like today's hot-climate New World reds. Why not? Egypt is hot and Rome is hot, and the Romans loved their Falernian and of Egypt, Hugh Johnson writes that certainly we know enough about their production methods to produce wine as they did, but in doing so we "would not expect wine of any quality. ... Yet to dismiss what people of such culture as the Egyptian aristocracy described as good, very good, or excellent, took such trouble in making and pleasure in drinking, clearly cannot be right" (Vintage: the Story of Wine, 1989). Why shouldn't a lot of it have been Carnivor-style delta fruit bombs?

Do you know what else occurred to me? I wonder if the human passion for control of one's fellow man -- control of his major life options, control of his neighbors' attitudes, most subtle -- has been so horribly thwarted by a few centuries of pantywaist democracy that now the passion is simply coming to its full flowering, or rather to its autumnal slimy decay and blowsy seed-scattering, not with physical violence but with a kind of moral violence? I am talking about our own experience of judicial fiat overturning realities that the stupid "People" want to enshrine in their laws, or of the global warming mania that has crawled its way actually into the idea of the military. In a way, we are lucky. The same clerics (essentially they are) who enforce today's catechisms would have had the power to burn non-believers at the stake five hundred years ago, and might have thoroughly enjoyed doing it. At least today, pantywaist democracy still keeps them in some check; but I wonder if the moral violence they do will at some point prompt a really violent response that everyone will claim to be shocked by.   

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