|I thought this might be the last photo of me, and I was OK with that|
Eight hours later that plane was on fire over the Pacific Ocean. And I really, really regretted not having had a glass of bubbly with Eduardo.
Obviously there is a happy ending as I am not writing this from beyond the grave. But for 25 minutes, smoke slowly wisped through the front of the cabin and tense messages from the crew reminded us where the life vests were under each kind of seat. I had time for regrets. And a surprising number were about wine.
Naturally, my first thoughts were what I had said in my email to my wife just before boarding. I replayed my most recent conversations, especially silly Facebook comments, with my close friends. I am glad I hadn't told anyone to bugger off.
Then I thought, I just got some mid-'90s Bordeaux out of my storage cellar before leaving for Chile. Why hadn't I drunk them?
|How I looked on the plane (artist rendering)|
I tried to read to distract myself, but I was reading "Wolf Hall," about the reign of Henry VIII of England, with people burning at the stake, suddenly dropping dead of "the sweats," and worrying about poison. I put the Kindle aside and sat with my thoughts.
When I look back now, I'm surprised. I had no professional regrets, though I haven't written the Great American Novel. I didn't think about places I haven't visited.
for writing about such, and the thought brought me a wry grin: that plastic cup of red from a plastic magnum, which I didn't even see the country of origin of, will be my last wine. At least I had splurged afterward on a miniature of 12-year-old Glenfarclas Scotch. I wished I had a sandwich in my hand, especially a patty melt, because who cares about calories?
What I regretted was not the wines I had last drunk, but the wines I hadn't had.
My wife has always wanted to try DRC, which I tasted once at a press sampling, and I haven't made that happen for her. I had three bottles of terrific Chilean wine in my checked bag and if I had had the screwcapped Laberinto Sauvignon Blanc with me, I would have swigged some right out of the bottle.
Mostly, though, I regretted wines I own that I could have drunk already, but hadn't. Wines I thought about drinking several times but never found the time for. Some people in that spot probably remember their triumphs and loves lost. One woman gripped the hand of the stranger next to her and prayed aloud. I thought about a bottle of Cabernet I'd declared too young; an amazing bottle of just-ripe Malbec, of all things, which I never had the right food for; a Champagne that might have already aged too long.
Eduardo, publisher of the wine magazine Vitis, had given me a delightful gastronomic day: raw shellfish, some of it weird, at Santiago's Mercado Central, followed by local razor mussels parmesan and one of Pablo Neruda's favorite dishes, fried conger eel with fried potatoes topped by grilled onions and a fried egg. We had pisco sours and a bottle of cheap Santa Rita white blend, and I was satisfied with that as a last meal.
I just wished I had had a glass of Champagne with Eduardo, and that we had opened and shared the Huaso de Sauzal Pais I bought in a local shop. I discovered that wine, made as rustically as possible, while writing a story earlier this year for Palate Press. I thought of it sinking to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. It has no sulfites; it wouldn't last through a shipwreck. I imagined its flavor: light-bodied, savory, complex, shifting. I felt sad that not only I, but nobody would drink it.
|Life is short! Fill 'er up!|
This is what I have to tell you, fellow wine lovers. Don't leave too many prized bottles unopened in your cellar. Drink the good stuff now and have no regrets.
I am proud to have won the Born Digital Wine Award for Best Investigative/Journalistic Wine Story. The other members of the shortlist are great writers; some are personal friends. You can see above how thrilled I was. Here is the award-winning story.