Time is a construct we use to mark the progression from past to present to future. Supposedly linear, technically consistent but in practice, erratic. To me at least, a muddle: as sequential as a ball of wool. Like gravity, it is one of the most difficult properties of our universe to understand. From space-time to time-travel to the mystery of where did 2020 go? Last year has left more than just the physicists scratching their heads.
So how to make sense of it? I won’t pretend I understand, but I think I’ve opened up some kind of portal by calling up these memories of 2020’s four most momentous wines.
Aurelien Lefort – Alka-Seltzer 2017
May, 10:30: kitchen table with the art box out.
We’re in confinement and we decided to live like we are going to die. Part of this means drinking our ‘save’ wines at unconventional, situationally disrespectful times. This is one of those wines.
A Riesling on paper only. At a molecular level, a tightly coiled composition that tastes like you’ve thrown fireworks at the sun. I looked up synonyms for ‘effervescence’ and we have a match vivacity, ebullience, zing. The wine (18 days of maceration, de-stemmed) is still.
Aurelien’s wines have a special clarity, like a knife so sharp that you don’t feel the cut. This is sharper than that: origami angles cut from ice. More samurai sword. Another flawless balancing act pulled off in the most human-sized cellar I know.
Gérard Schueller et Fils – Pinot Blanc H 2018
September, 12:27: late because I was circling the block for a spot to park.
This wine marks half-time (lunch) on a day that feels like it has been running forever. I’d already driven 350 km to the Beaujolais by 9 a.m. A revival wine. Cucumbers-on-tired-eyes try to find some shade and park the van the grapes will be OK; a slice the day in two kind of wine. It’s vibrating a bit — I think — it’s so tense. What I appreciate as higher than the average threshold of volatile acidity, I appreciate at this moment to be exactly what the doctor ordered: something white, something bright, something de-soifé.
This is one of those domaines I didn’t know I should know about until now, now that I’m drinking my second shooting star (first was a 2017 Pinot Noir), but I still don’t know anything about the domaine. I look them up: started with 10 hectares over a mosaic of soils in the 1960s, worked organically since the 1970s with fils Bruno taking it over at age eighteen. Seems he makes about a million cuveés, each of them branded with a Clippy delirium of neo-gothic fonts and non-primary Mondriaan.
Like Clippy, Bruno obviously gives zero fucks.
Christian Binner – Scholssberg 2015
October, 13:00-ish: started with Bloody Marys.
Looking back, this will be the last time I’m in a restaurant for the foreseeable future. Looking forward: I ought to drink more Riesling. Sinuous, crystalline, rich; it feels so nourishing that I could probably justify moving to the Alsace on health grounds alone. In the meantime maybe I should just drink more Grand Cru.
I believe you should always drink your favourite wine first because that’s the one that slakes the thirst, and I like wines that make you thirsty while drinking them. I don’t know if it’s fair to associate this quality with honesty in a wine or if I’m just influenced by Christian; as heart-on-his-sleeve a farmer as they come. Winemakers from father to son since 1770, the Binner family channels the esprit paysan. Christian is explicit about his search for harmony through biodynamic practice, adamant that this makes digestible wine. And maybe it’s too easy to say, but the Scholssberg has such puissance, maybe the cosmos has aligned.
Jérôme Saurigny – Sakurajima 2016
December. Late. Paris.
We’re with too many people and full of puttanesca. It’s December. No one knows what we’re drinking – the wine has a sock around it. The consensus is no consensus. Are we in Catalonia? Italy? Anyway, definitely not France. Oh, someone just changed tack.
The sock comes off: It’s Loire! A harvest devastated by frost, one tank with all the remaining grapes. At first I think this sounds romantic but then I discover the blend: Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, Chenin. The list continues: Cabernet Sauvignon and Grolleau?! I love them individually. Together? If this were any other wine I would say less so.
It’s stained ballet slipper pink. Elemental. Both youthful and wise. Grapefruit! Litchi! Tiny spongy strawberries! We discuss a bit whether Jérôme achieved such fragrant purity by luck or by design. Hardly luck of course, he just made the best out of a year that could have been so much worse.
In hindsight, I wish I’d pointed out what a perfect metaphor this is for our time.