The Tasting

By Damen O’Brien

The wine remembers disappointment.  He makes

a nod to my husband and down we went,

following the owner’s polished pate, through 

the dusty archives of the cellar shelves where 

bottles are ranked like terracotta warriors

waiting for their call to arms, all to look at, 

not to drink, as so many things in life, all to

have and to keep. And there, a little table and 

a bottle, there, glasses and a decanter, as though

we’d fallen through the smoky glass of

one old wine into Wonderland, and the

trap was set – ‘drink me’, ‘eat me’,

or we’d come upon some Russian Roulette

and had to guess the poisoned chalice.

This was where my husband would have his

birthday tasting, under the bare yellow bulb

of vintage light, under the bare yellow gaze

of our vintage guide, he’d swirl and sniff and 

swig and spit and pretend to detect the notes,

divine the nose, distinguish colour, acid,

tang, or perhaps my husband really can.

I asked the owner what he meant, while

he pulled the dagger from the bottle’s

heart. We had a fella through one time – 

he took the tour just like you, who said they 

have a technique now for the oldest wines, 

so easily forged, so easily falsified, when

shining a light through them doesn’t work,

or checking the level, assessing the cork.

They measure the levels of Cesium-137.

The oldest bottles do not have a memory

of our bombs, our hot nuclear age, they

taste innocent of all that, the sun that

shone on their vines was a different sun,

the rain was a different rain. I wondered

if each bottle’s grapes had felt that season’s

falling dust, what words had drifted

as they swelled, what sounds and sights

had zephyred down on harvest day and

were genied under the cork’s cool mouth.

We’re tasting a wine that was treaded in

the year my husband was born, the cork’s

wet plug stained with the secrets the vineyard 

heard, the lost dark velvet of that day.

There’s wine down there in that labyrinth

of blood red and white grenades, which was

laid down with bright hope on the day 

that I was married. I wonder what I 

would taste if we opened it up and

let it breathe my expectations out.

I wonder what that wine remembers.



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