It shouldn't have happened. I should have been guzzling, imbibing with reckless abandon. But there I was, thinkin' 'bout it. This bright, light, chillable red, meant for BBQ and poolside debauchery- this wine of revelry- had become a wine of contemplation. It's like a great pop song- you're humming that earworm when you realize, “oh damn, she's saying something deeper here.”
In wine, revelry is a partner to contemplation perhaps more frequently than in other artforms, if only for the fact that it contains alcohol. Nevertheless, there are wines that seem designed solely to elicit joy- if you can't smile while drinking a bottle of La Spinetta's Moscato d'Asti, you are truly depressed- and wines designed to make us think; to sit with a bottle of Chateau Musar, a wine that challenges on so many levels, is to taste wine at its highest heights.
Yet wines where thought and joy meet- think of it as getting turnt up to turn inward- take us to new places both physically and mentally, the joy of the corporeal transitioning to the deeper pleasures of the mind. My most recent experience with this dichotomy was elicited by a Pinot Noir from the Cotes de Toul, an obscure region in Lorraine, France. The producer, Domaine Lelievre, was totally unfamiliar to me. I went in with no preconceived notions; I just thought it sounded like an interesting wine to try on a Tuesday.
At first sip, fresh out the fridge with a light chill, its burst of berry and tangy acid suggested slurpable fun. It was a perfect accompaniment to our weeknight salmon, and, as one of the first wines my wife was able to relax for a moment and enjoy since giving birth to our son, an equally adept pairing for conversation. Yet as we got deeper into the bottle, and it warmed slightly, it unfolded, revealing earth, and spice, and forcing me to think about what this producer, and this new-to-me region, had to say about Pinot Noir. Can California make a Pinot this vibrant? What really is a “serious” Pinot? I was hunkering down in thinking mode, and put on some Coltrane.
“No, Boo, let's listen to Frank Ocean, I haven't heard that in a while.” Enjoying the moment, not in the mood to fight for my musical selection, I threw on channelOrange. “Thinkin Bout You” came on. The sighing violin intro leads perfectly into the track's kick-drum-thud and wispy keyboard, Ocean's youthful remembrances fluttering on top of it all. It is truly a perfect pop song, hook after hook, impeccable vocals that seesaw from vulnerable to confident, lyrics with a singular worldview about a youthful tryst, incredibly personal yet filled with a longing that is universal. Like that wine, its mix of pure pop joy and intellectual depth lodged it somewhere deep in my conscience. In both cases, the visceral sensation- be it Ocean's twinkling falsetto or Lelievre's twig-and-pepper snap- is inextricably linked to a particular moment; one rooted in joy, enhanced by contemplation. “It will never get old, not in my soul, not in my spirit, keep it alive...”