Ferocious Memories

Ferocious wines create ferocious memories. For the initial post of, I would like to share my seminal wine experience, my first ferocious memory. I had previously submitted this piece to a writing competition organized by the wine critic Jancis Robinson. It didn’t win, but it was published, which was nice.

When I was in my final year of high school, sometime ago, my parents took a trip to Bordeaux and returned with several bottles of wine. My father was particularly excited about one bottle from Pomerol. I don’t remember what the bottle was, but some sleuthing through family albums suggests that it may have been from Chateau L’Eglise Clinet. What I do remember is my father rattling on about how the wine tasted like pepper and how the flavor came from the soil. I also remember making a joke about how I only drink wines with hints of sweaty leather shoes mixed with a sea breeze on the first day of summer. Given that I was a teenager and thought that taking multiple shots of tequila in a short span of time was cool, my joke was probably even more annoying.

But my father, always persistent, opened the bottle for dinner one night. For those wondering, we lived in Brussels for my father’s work and where the drinking age was 16 years-old. I was legal. So, I took a sip.

It started from the front of my tongue, moved along the sides and the back and then there it was! I tasted pepper, black pepper. It was not strong like when you accidentally inhale while your waiter grates fresh black peppercorns over your salad or steak. It was more like this tingle on the side of my tongue that played peek-a-boo with other fruit flavors. But it was there.

I exclaimed, “I taste the pepper!” My father beamed.

That Pomerol showed me that wine is a different kind of beverage. It is made from grapes but doesn’t taste like grapes. And, in the case of that Pomerol, the winemaker didn’t grate pepper into his barrels or add some artificial flavoring to make it taste like pepper. Instead, the soil or the winemaker’s skill or both brought out that flavor from the grapes. It struck me as magical, Disney Land in a bottle.

That Pomerol also showed me how interesting wine can be. Before that sip, drinking wine was not new to my family in any way. We had always drunk wine. But that Pomerol introduced an awe, an enthusiasm that was new and infectious.

Decades later now, my father and I still carry that enthusiasm: We visit wineries together; we go to tastings together; and we email each other almost daily about what wines we are drinking. Whenever we discover a wine that excites us I remember that peppery Pomerol.

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