I never touched a drop of alcohol until the age of 25. What changed my mind was realizing the social import of sharing a quiet drink between friends and the ritual of buying. Now, I have come to love the anectodal side of drinking as well. There is something archaic and alchemic about the esoteric preparation of brandies and absinthes and vodkas that draws me into a world of barrels, masonry, and basements. A fine spirit tastes like history and earth.
For example, some friends of mine gave me a bottle of 1994 Barolo DOCG (Viarengo G.L. & Figlio) as a going away present.
Defined as "the king of wines and the wine of kings” because of its regal characteristics, this splendid Piedmontese red is one of the standard-bearers of Italian enology.
Barolo began acquiring its royal standing as early as the Middle Ages and its reputation steadily grew in succeeding periods. It was customary for sovereigns, as well as many nobles, to enrich their tables with classic Bordelais or Burgundian bottles of the wine. It is reported that Barolo was often found on the table of Louis XIV, while other admirers of the wine included King Charles Albert, the Marquises of Saluzzo and of Monferrato and Maria Cristina of Savoy.
Many other illustrious figures in history also contributed to the growth of the wine’s reputation, chief among whom was Count Camillo Benso di Cavour. Cavour used to give dinners at which the wine was featured. He took a personal role in the making of the wine at his estate at Grinzane and the results he obtained were outstanding. In a short time, he became a highly expert grower and the Barolo of his vineyards was fully competitive with the finest French wines.
Pontiffs were also enchanted by the wine. At the beginning of the 19th century, Pius VII exclaimed, after having tasted an excellent Barolo: "Ah, La Morra! A beautiful sky and good wine!” Afterward, he ensured that the wine was always available at his court and he drank it frequently.
Because of the absolute excellence of the quality of Barolo, there has never been any dearth of poets and writers to render homage to the wine.
Makes me reluctant to drink the thing, actually.