Saturday, December 17, 2011

A fresh palate

When M was in college, many years before the FWC, he stumbled his way into writing a long paper about early Shang dynasty landscape scrolls. M presented himself to Wen Fong, a special curator of the Chinese collections at the Metropolitan and a professor at M's college, and Fong gave him a list of books to read before heading to the Met on a Monday afternoon to join Fong's graduate seminar in the museum's Asian art hold room. Fong lectured on one side of a table on which he unrolled painted scrolls that stretched on for yards and yards but were meant to be viewed only a foot or two at t atime. As the students were marveling at the gorgeous, millennium-old works, Fong asked M what he thought of the paintings. M with his respect for academic authority did a double-take. Fong told the Met how it should spend Brooke Astor's money; M had only the haziest understanding of Chinese art and culture. But Fong advocated for the value of a "fresh eye," one unfettered by years of study that have conditioned it to see a painting in certain ways. (Thomas Hoving makes a similar point in John McPhee's essay "A Roomful of Hovings.")

MFWC thought of Fong's fresh eye in reviewing the purchases of the last few weeks. The boss bought two more Cabernet Francs from the Loire, the Olga Raffault 2005 Chinon Les Picasses and the 2009 Breton Nuits d'Ivresse from Bourgueil. 2B Sales bought a Bucklin Cabernet Sauvignon for the chief, a big fan of cabs. The coffee connoisseur treated himself to another 2007 Pedrolonga. You get the picture. Sure, I pulled out the Oxford Companion to Wine and learned that reds from Bourgueil generally have "a more powerful aroma and slightly more noticeable tannins" than those from Chinon, but that's pretty interstitial data, helpful though it may be for relating to the boss. There was a Broadside Cab for PG Branch and another one for Johnny Bronx, who was gifting it to the woman who makes his sandwiches every day at Potbelly. (JB has street smarts, no doubt.)

A second look revealed more interesting material in members' exposure to new wines - fresh palates, as Fong might say. Last week, a new MFWC member, call her TBNL, (for to be named later) wanted a bottle of the Coenobium, an Italian white that was all the rage in the office last month. One of MFWC's friends, HF (hedge fund) said the Coenobium reminded him of a Belgian beer without the sweetness. TBNL loves beer. Did she have the same response? Why would the tastes be similar? Would all whites wines whose maceration includes some contact with skins have that quality? Or is HF delusional?

Big Green wanted something to go with Korean barbecue and Brussels sprouts, and the salesperson suggested the Bernabeleva Grenache from the region near Madrid that Mr. Marathon liked. I assumed the BBQ was more spicy than sweet, but Big Green told me when I gave him the bottle that the opposite was true. He said he could kick up the spice; I wondered if a cab franc with some acidity or a fresh Beaujolais might have been a better bet for the sweeter BBQ. Big Green is on a BBQ roll, so perhaps we'll get an answer. The Coffee Connoisseur tried and liked one of the Boss's cab francs, a possible gateway wine to the Rauffault or, more generally, lighter reds than those CC has preferred up to now. At the very least, CC has another reference point as he tastes the heavier reds he likes. His palate, his perspective, will be just a little fresher.   



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