That night, in the middle of the night, the wind came up and blew away the clouds. I got out of bed and stuck my head out the window. The air was cool but not cold. The sky was full of stars. The stars told a story. This was the story they told.
After God created the earth, the earth began to look at itself. The more the earth saw, the more it learned, but the earth learned things the hard way. Whenever it saw things as facts, it turned those facts into mysteries. Whenever it saw things as mysteries, it turned those mysteries into facts. This happened because God himself was a mystery. It was in his nature to sow confusion wherever he went, and God was everywhere.
The people of the earth were God's children. They inherited his nature and went into the business of creating their own confusion wherever they went. Each time they looked in the mirror of history, they saw a different version of themselves. "What's wrong with us?" they said. "Why do we keep changing? That cloud looks like a hand. That rock looks like a face. Is this an accident, or is it happening on purpose? Why don't things make sense?"
Of all the mysteries the people of the earth encountered, love was the most mysterious. The people of the earth took one look at love and fell madly in love with it. They thought love was the answer. They wrote songs about it. They staged plays. They made paintings. They told stories. They believed in love, and they talked themselves into believing that love believed in them. They thought if they celebrated love-if they worshipped love as a sacred mystery-love would reveal its secrets and then they would know everything.
Love had other ideas. Love had been around the block a time or two. Love knew how to make fools out of people, but love was nobody's fool. Love was a survivor. Love had a plan for the people of the earth, but love was not about to give away its secrets.
The people of the earth became tense. After they became tense, they got frustrated. After they got frustrated, they got angry. They had a hard time accepting the fact that love didn't want to come clean and reveal its secrets. In their anger, they began to doubt the existence of love. "If love is so great," they said, "why won't love tell us the truth? We can handle it. What if all of this is an illusion? What if it's an accident? What if life has no meaning and love is just here to distract us?"
Which brings us to the 1999 Veuve Clicquot Champagne Vintage Rosé.
The cepage of the 1999 Clicquot Vintage Rosé is fifty-five percent Pinot Noir, thirty-three percent Chardonnay, and twelve percent Petit Meunier. This is the best Champagne I've tasted in years.
In the glass, the 1999 Clicquot Rosé is a transparent alloy of blood and gold. You can see through it. You can also see into it. Its meticulous bubbles form and rise in lazy spirals. The bouquet is ambiguous.
It combines understatement with surprise. The attack is a concerto. The Champagne tastes so good, and the goodness of its flavors lasts so long, it makes you wonder. What, exactly, is the point of drinking anything else? The finish leaves you haunted and refreshed. There are many Champagnes out there that dance around the issue of celebration. They flirt. They hint. They tease. The 1999 Clicquot Rosé hits celebration on the head. To say yes to this Champagne is to say yes to life.
Some Champagnes lie to you. Others tell the truth. The 1999 Vintage Rosé tells a story. The story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, but it does not have a happy ending, not unless you think of an empty bottle as a happy ending. What the story does have is a memory. It remembers all the Champagnes that have been bottled, riddled, and tasted. It remembers the corks, the laughter, the tears, and the toasts that came and went with those bottles. It remembers the weddings, the anniversaries, the noisy banquets, and the intimate evenings. It remembers all the women who had the nerve to jump into fountains. When you drink the 1999 Vintage Rosé, you drink its story. As you drink it, those memories enter your bloodstream. Your blood remembers the earth, the people of the earth, and all of our contradictions. Your mind may have a little trouble accepting those contradictions but your blood knows them all too well.
The people of the earth are in crisis. We like it that way. We talk a good game. We talk about faith, hope, and charity. We talk about peace. We talk about forgiveness and grace. We talk about change. But when push comes to shove, we like to push and we like to shove. We like to fight first and ask questions later.
Above all, we like a good mystery. We can't always solve it, but we like the transition from confusion to resolution and from resolution back to confusion. We look for love in all the wrong places. Somehow-by the grace of God?-we continue to find it.
We have a thing about love. We keep trying to kill it, but love survives death. We keep trying to worship it, but love refuses to be an idol. Love laughs at us. Lightning strikes the earth. Thunder approaches. Clouds cover the sky. In the middle of the night, the wind blows away the clouds. The sky fills up with stars. And the stars tell their story.
One Bottle is dedicated to the appreciation of good wine and good times, one bottle at a time. The name One Bottle, and the contents of this column, are © 2008 by onebottle.com. If you need help finding a wine or building a cellar, write to Joshua Baer at firstname.lastname@example.org.