Monday, 16 August 2010

Vintage year

I gather that last year was an incredibly good year for Bordeaux wines and people are paying ridiculous prices for them even before they've been bottled. I came across this in an article about investment in the This is Money website:
"Insiders are suggesting that the finest First Growth labels could be worth £1,000 a bottle by Christmas.
Robert Clark

"Joss Fowler of merchants Berry Bros & Rudd is one of those bowled over by quality of the 2009 vintage.
'Parker's got this vintage more or less spot on,' he says. 'The 2005 may have been stronger across the board, but some of these 2009 wines are off the planet. They actually had us weeping in Bordeaux – it was almost like tasting paradise.'"

I gather that Robert Parker (pictured) is the doyen of wine buffs, and that his opinion MATTERS. So if you've got £10,000 + to spare and if you can get hold of a case (which is highly unlikely), then you could buy one and then have the dilemma of what to do with it. Do you lay it up as an investment, and then sell it at an enormous profit a few years down the line, or do you pour it into a glass, swill it round and do all the poses - and enjoy it? Well, one things is certain: you won't taste it unless you crack open a bottle. 

However I have to disillusion Mr Fowler. However much you spend, it will fall far short of paradise! Not that I'm dissing wine. It can a considerable source of enjoyment in the right hands. 

Now when I walked into the big tent at the Bath & Wells Showground the Monday before last, I have to confess the volume of the music might have knocked me off my feet, only I was in a wheelchair. "Oh no," I thought, "I'm too old for this sort of thing." But then there was Lisa who seemed genuinely pleased to see us. (She's one of the people who make sure that disabled people are comfortably sorted among the thousands in Venue 1 of New Wine CSW.) The first lesson about paradise, dear wine connoisseur, is it's not what you consume but the company you're in that will eclipse everything else in Heaven. For readers who don't know New Wine is a network of churches across the UK and abroad, which has its focus in summer festivals. This is the fifth year Jane and I have been - and for me it was the best. I hear I'm not alone in that view. They say 1994 was an historic vintage, but I wouldn't know as I was sampling the joys of Windermere at the time. But this year New Wine was a bargain: six days of the best company and not much more than the cost of a tenth of a bottle of best Bordeaux primeur!

Why was it so good? Those of us who aren't wine buffs tend to dismiss their lingering aromas and delicate bouquets as esoteric mumbo-jumbo - as I suppose I did until I saw that scene in one of my favourite films, French Kiss, where Luc Teyssier shows Kate his boyhood wine-sampling collection. That partially dispelled my scepticism. 

And I suppose it may be similar vis-à-vis New Wine, but the difference is you don't have to be a connoisseur to be moved by it. It's not the number of people there (multitudes), not the style of worship (full on) or music (contemporary popular and usually loud), and it's not the weather (which unusually was pretty dry), and it's not the accommodation (mostly in tents and caravans). I've been reading Timothy Keller's The Prodigal God, which I bought while I was there, which is about the parable of the prodigal son but as he points out is more accurately about the two lost sons. I've nearly finished it, and have been struck by something he says:
"Though we need love that lasts, all our relationships are subject to the inevitable entropy of time, and they crumble in our hands. Even people who are true to us die and leave us, or we die and leave them.... but the home we have lost,... exists only in the presence of the heavenly father from which we have fled."

What's special about New Wine is that the majority of those there are serious about finding His presence. They may be younger brothers returning from a far country, or older brothers realising that for all their familiarity with the home estate they too are far from sharing the father's heart. In the parable, Jesus deliberately leaves us in suspense about whether the older brother eventually comes in to the feast. One can only imagine that should he do so, the father would be wildly happy - and 'the music and dancing' which had so irked the righteous brother would have reached another pitch of joy! I'm not proposing something unique to New Wine, as there are many places and occasions where the same is happening. It's just that I was there a couple of weeks ago, and experienced the Father's welcome and the love of His extraordinary family - and immensely enjoyed the noisy slightly messy party. I felt nourished in my mind (with some excellent Bible studies and seminars), in my emotions (with freeing worship) and my spirit (with some sensitive prayer). The Lord was there, as we Anglicans say. His Spirit was with us. And, sorry, that knocks any Bordeaux into a cocked hat!
Hannah Atkins performing at New Wine
One postscript to New Wine, I was delighted to find that the up and coming sing/songwriter, Hannah Atkins, was doing a late night gig (I believe that's the term). So we broke all our bed-time rules and stayed to listen to her. I gather her music is acoustic with an electronic twist. Whatever, she's a gifted musician, playing keyboard, guitar and violin (and some cunning gismo) as well as having a pure singing voice. I loved You make me fly which I'd not heard before. She's Manchester-based - which is how I've come across her. As well as being a great musician, she's a lovely person to boot. You'll not be surprised that I recommend her ( You can buy albums through iTunes, I think. I slightly regret I didn't queue up and get a signed one at the end. But she was driving back to Manchester that night. 

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