My Most Memorable Wines (June 20, 2002)
Women have babies; men try to replicate the experience by making
Pinot Noir. My most memorable wines have been red Burgundies, which,
when they are good, no other wine can match – but when they
are mediocre they are merely bad and expensive. Claret (red Bordeaux)
is much less dangerous, being reliable most of the time and less
of a roller coaster ride.
The finest red Burgundy I ever tasted had more to do with my state
of mind than the condition of the wine. Given the occasion, even
wormwood would have tasted like nectar: the night my son Guy was
born (in 1975, the year I started wine writing) I opened a bottle
of Musigny 1964 Comte de Vogüé. I can still taste its
velvety richness, but then I had a lot of practice – I finished
the bottle all by myself.
The oldest bottle of wine I ever tasted – a claret –
was also one of the most memorable: Château Lafite 1865, purchased
at Christie's auction in London, England, in 1974. Pale pink it
colour with an intense nose of tobacco and raspberries, it was magnificent
for 20 minutes and then it turned brown and tasted like geriatric
balsamic vinegar. I can only describe it as a beautiful old dowager
who put on her ball gown and tiara, entered the room on crutches,
gave a dazzling smile to the assembled company and then dropped
I remember fondly, too, the first Ontario wine I tried on my return
to Canada from England in 1976 (the day René Lévesque
won the Quebec election). It was Inniskillin Vin Nouveau 1974 (Marechal
Foch), the first wine Karl Kaiser made professionally when Inniskillin
got Canada's first winery license since Prohibition. I tasted it
again in 1984 and it was still showing well. That vineyard now supplies
the grapes for Inniskillin's Old Vines Marechal Foch.
Wine disasters can also be memorable in a masochistic way. For
my wedding in August, 1997, I had ordered a Balthazar of champagne
(16 bottles in one). When it came time to open the monster, the
restaurant's sommelier whispered to me that he couldn't serve it.
It was maderized and completely flat. In future I’m staying
away from very large bottles – magnums of champagne will suffice.
As to the future of wine in the next 25 years? I predict that Australia
will become a major supplier of wines for export, particularly to
the expanding Far East market. The Chinese will become a wine-drinking
nation and polish off the European wine lake. The tradition-bound
regions of France and Italy will make wines in New World style,
following the example of Languedoc-Roussillon. Riesling and Sherry
will make a comeback in popular favour and sparkling wines and dry
rosé will also enjoy a renaissance. Ontario will become known
for terrific Riesling, Pinot Noir and Late Harvest wines; British
Columbia will excel in Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and sparkling wines.
Canada will enjoy an international reputation for finely crafted
wines, emulating New Zealand's current position in the global market.