Friday, January 7, 2011

Matching the Right Wine to the Right Rare Book

Let Vincent Vinmerde, the Rare Book Sommelier, former winemaker at Chateau Saint Livre and consultant to the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), help make your next bookish event a vintage affair fit to print. Maybe.

by Stephen J. Gertz

I'd like to thank the Director, Father Michael Suarez S.J., for inviting me to present this, the final class of the year at UV's Rare Book School, and for giving me a last only chance. The man's a saint, is what he is. A saint.

Of the debacle at the ILAB Congress in Madrid, where I denounced all Riojas as swill not suitable to even gargle with and to be accompanied only with cheap reprints of Lorca on a bad day, and of the subsequent riot outside the U.S. embassy and then nationwide strike, I shall say no more.

I promised to be on my best behavior but right now I imagine Father Suarez  is in a rectory praying that I don't make a complete wreckery of things.

I've brought a selection of some of the finest wines that starving librarians, rare book dealers, and collectors can buy. Which means that the only Lafite you'll be tasting will be the ones at the end of my ankles.

Hmmm. Not even a chuckle? Time for the first tasting. Mine. Since I got out of the car. Excuse my sumptuous sip; none of this polite thimbleful, swirl and spit nonsense for me!

Oh, dear, I seem to have forgotten to bring  the glasses. Oh, well. No shame in chug-a-lugging; the spirit of the winemaker is pleased when votaries of the vine tip the bottle back. Here's to Bacchus and rare books!

Well, now. Much better. Much, much better. Oh, yes! Great legs, insouciant nose, yet astringent, ultimately the dregs. But let's leave my ex out of it.


Fuck-a-doodle-doo! Wake up, everybody.

Lesson #1: It is not necessary to drink white wine while reading rare books on marine natural history. I once shared a bottle of '76 Romanée-Conte so ruby we called it Tuesday, with a fish. At least she drank like one. The phone number she gave me afterward was for a mortuary.  I hate bad reviews.

Another tasting? Why, sure, thank you for asking!

That takes care of that bottle. Oh, fuckity. Where do we toss the damned empties?

Lesson #2: When reading the Christian Hebraists do not, under any circumstances, drink Manischewitz. Do not engage in literalism - in religion or wine-drinking.

Oh, fuckity-fuck - I've insulted religion. Fortunately, I brought along a nice Châteauneuf-du-Pape so I'll drink just a tiny little bit strictly in honor of His Holiness; maybe get a dispensation out of it.

Whad'I do with the corkscrew? Fuckity-fuck-fuck! Oh, there's the little sucker.

Lesson #3: When using a corkscrew be sure to carefully center it on the cork, like THIS, and begin screwing. At least, that's what she said last night.

What a crowd. I'm searching for signs of intelligent life here, folks; terrestrial, extra-, makes no difference to me.

Now pull out carefully. The cork, you filthy book lovers! Oh, fuckity-fuck-fuck!  Damned cork!

Lesson #4: When the fuckity cork breaks off  in the fuckity bottle, grab a pencil, jam it into the bottle's neck and ram what remains of the demonic bottle-stop down in there. Allow for spillage. No time to grieve; immediately, raise bottle to lips, and swig, like this.

Divane pipisy, er, divine papacy! Ah, sweet mystery of life at last I've found you!

Lesson #5: In vino veritas. And in truth, I don't give a fuckity-fuck. Let's drink some more! Or, anyway, I'll drink some more. That a problem, my little fuckadees?

Lesson #6: When reading rare volumes of Charles Bukowski the obvious  vinous accompaniment is what, class?

Thunderbird. Come on, people! Do I have to spell everything out for you?

Okay, nest, er nesh, eh next!

Answer: Gewürztraminer.

Question:  When shitting, er sittting down for some nice Szechuan while reading Schopenhauer what minor Alsacian philosopher should you drink?

A scholastic detour: Let me put to rest, once and for all, the Shakespeare - Bacon controversy. The bard preferred pancetta, end of story, okay? Geesh!

Lesson #7: It should go without saying, so, naturally, I will anyway, that alcohol and the literature of psychotropic drugs do not mix. Recently, I was drinking an '81 Martin Ray Stelzner Vinyard Cabernet while reading a few lines from a beautiful first edition copy of Mortimer's Peru: History of Coca. The Divine Plant of the Incas (1901). Soon, I was compulsively reading long lines from the book, one after another after another after another after another, while simultaneously running a NG-tube from the bottle, up a nostril and down into my stomach to avoid the inconvenient labor of swallowing. Wine is an intellectual experience; at this point I don't need to taste it to enjoy it.

Which reminds me, when attending a wine-tasting, always follow the advice that all mothers give to their daughters upon reaching sexual maturity: Don't. Swallow, that is. That, at least, has been my experience. What am I, poison?

What? Have I offended someone? Well, fuckity-fuck la-dee-fucking-la!

Did I just hear the track bugler call the horses to post? I'll drink to that!

Don't let the name Gallo throw you off. This is good shit; can’t be beat - but Beat it is. Goes with everything: Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Corso, 'course not - anything.

You give a bunch of women the best years of your married life and whad'ya get? You wind up alone, living in a crap bachelor with a hot plate and cruising Craigslist for distaff members of the desperately seeking solace club. So much for gratitude!

You there, the ugly one with hairy arms, wearing glasses and a thrift shop rag, looking at me with such scorn - my place, later? I'll read you sonnets from my latest collection, The Bilious Imbibing Bibliophile: An Alky's Misadventures in Rare Book Land.

Oh, fuckity-fuck-fuck-FUCK!! I knocked the bottle over with my expansive, gross motor coordination-be-damned gesticulations and the wine's spilling over the side. A wandalous scaste, er, scandalous waste! Quick, someone lie down on the floor and let it cascade into your gullet!

Fuckity-doo-dah, fuckity-aye, my oh my what a wonderful fuckity day - I guess I'll have to do it myself; the cultivated oeno-bibliophile's work is never done. Put THAT in your English Short Title Catalogue and drink it!

I will.

Ah, good to the lasht drop.

Pop-quizh: What did Dom Perignon shay when he took his first ship of champagne?

"I'm drinking stars!"

And I'm sheeing them.

Clash dishmisshd!

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