There is something wholly satisfying in opening a bottle of wine classified as one of the Fifth Growths of the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. It brings with it a sense of entitlement, privilege, and bit of justified snobbery. There is also something therapeutic in the vulgarity of enjoying it, guilt free, well after its date of maturity, and sitting in the trunk of a car at the edge of a cliff at the westernmost point of the European continent. My favorite places in the world are at its edges, and the distant crash of waves and the deep blue of the open ocean precipitate in me a sentimentality and traveler´s longing that I am always glad I haven´t lost.
I had been carrying this bottle of wine for so long, that it had become the oldest of my material possessions (for more on this poor bottle´s life, click here). Since packing it in my backpack on a ferry near Cherbourg, France, in 1992, it had been searching for the right time and place to be opened.
At a place called Cabo da Roca, in Portugal, there is a dirt side-road where anyone can park at the end of the continent and gaze at the sea. It is often very windy, and one has the genuine feeling of being on the precipice of an important land mass. The top of the cliff is covered with a green carpet of iceplants, with the occasional pink flower protruded, twitching in the wind.
The Romans called it Promontorium Magnum, and during the Age of Sail it was labeled The Rock of Lisbon. The giant granite blocks at the water´s edge look like slumping pieces of layer cake, revealing strata, like an open history book of millions of years of geological processes.
For me, next to the lighthouse, it was a place to partake in something at once very private and doubly enjoyed with someone special. Wine, of course, tastes better with company, and I have always hoped that I would drink my old bottle with someone. And as I dug the corkscrew into the soft cork, I found an immense sense of gratitude, both for the freedom to travel as I do, and, simply, for the one whom I sat with in that cramped car trunk.
Under the tight foil wrap, there was a grey powder coating the top of the cork, showing the age of a bottle first filled with wine in 1982. The cork was so soft, I had to push it through, but it had the rich, oaky nose that I had hoped it would have. And even at 14 years after its date of maturation, it still had a rich, complex taste, a worthy representative of the vineyards of its birth in the green acres of Chateau Dauzac.
I suppose now it is inevitable that I visit the Bordeaux region and explore the rolling hills of old growth vineyards, the birthplace of so many wines of incomparable quality. In the meantime, I will try to appreciate all that is before me. Cheers.