Novermber 6, 2008

 Navigation

   Home Page

 News & Features

   News

 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note

   Boomers

   Pinings

   Longshots

   Techie

 Pop Culture

   Film

   TV

   Books
   Video Games
   CD Reviews

 Living

   Food

   Wine

   Beer

 Music

   Articles

   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts

   Bandmates

 Arts

   Theater

   Art

 Find A Hippo

   Manchester

   Nashua

 Classifieds

   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad

 Advertising

   Advertising

   Rates

 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover


Spooky wine
Sipping the dregs of haunted tales

By Tim Protzman food@hippopress.com

Last Friday, around cocktail time, as darkness descended, the Haunted Bottle rose from its oaken crate and walked among us.

No, not really. But there are a lot of scary wines out there, lurking in inauspicious green and clear bottles. Waiting for their next victims. Like the old Bordeaux Superior I found on my cousin’s lazy susan. It had sat there since our graduation year. Its age was impressive, but its birth year was not. The 1975 season was hard. Little rain in the spring, then a lot of moisture near harvest. They picked early to avoid the mold. The result was probably good once. But the aging factor wasn’t there. Plus, the storage conditions in the Poconos cabin were a cascade of extremes. Hot then cold, then hot and when they went skiing. Cold followed by the heat of a gas-fired furnace. The wine had turned a brick red. An unnatural clarity had settled on it. It was translucent. You could read through it. The cork slid out with hiss, like that of a serpent. Not from pressurization, but from decay. The air filled with sulfur, not unlike the something Daniel Webster would have noted when he was around Mr. Scratch. Thick black clods poured with the first glass, settling to the bottom. Disintegrated cork and sediment. The taste. Porty, nutty, almondy, no tannins and no alcohol. Was it bad? Evil? No, but it wasn’t what purists would call wine either. Did we drink it? That’s the scary thing. We drank a whole glass each, and politely pushed the sediment from our tongues onto a napkin. We kept trying to see if it would revive. It never did, but it wasn’t putrid. We didn’t gag. It was like a wine post-mortem. That all too human morbid fascination.

I’ve heard a lot of tales about haunted wineries. Buried bodies, treasure, spiritually ruined harvests.

A salesman for a distributor told me about this winery in Walla Walla, Wash. They’d been around 12 or so years, which made them middle-aged in the Walla Walla appellation. They were looking for some good cheap lands to plant merlot. Some place where they could get started and experiment with the terroir. A team of consultants had researched several prospective locations. All they had to do was visit them.

They went at dawn when the light was best. Driving past wheat and apples and stands of oak. They liked the third one they saw. As they headed back to town they stopped at a diner. The place was busy. The waitress came over. She handed the vintner a note written on the paper placemat. It said, “Don’t build there.” They were stunned. They hadn’t told anyone who they were or why they were there. Searching for that logical answer most would later recall they immediately suspected industrial espionage. Were they being followed? Many people knew about their plans.

They asked the waitress who sent the note. She said a man over there, but he left. What did he look like? They asked. Plain, she said. Was she in on it?

Once they placed an option on the land little things started to happen. Flat tires on the way to meetings about the land deal. Missing files. Faxes the sender swore they sent but never arrived.

They never bought the land. On the day the team was showing the property to their banker something strange happened.

They arrived in mid afternoon. The sun was warm, but it wasn’t hot. They walked into the property toward a stand of oak that indicated a water source near the surface. Something moved in the bushes. They stopped. Ahead were squiggly grooves in the dirt road. More movement in the bushes. The delicate s-shaped tracks revealed the creature. Snakes. Hundreds of Western Rattlesnakes moved around them. Feeling surrounded by the unseen menace, they slowly backed out, only turning their backs on the threat when the noise and movement in the bushes stopped. They let the option expire. They saw the land’s still vacant today.

Perhaps the most haunted wine region in the world is the Coonawarra, which means honeysuckle in the Australian Aboriginal language. It is said that restless or earthbound spirits are attracted to the beautiful fragrance. After that, Champagne, which has a longer history as a region full of battlegrounds, is most spectral. The presences are rarely spooky; most are what is known as dislocation or “transmigration of time” event. Ancient peasants appearing in field. Columns of marching men at arms. People often say things like: we went on a walk and as we turned the corner we came upon a picnic where all the picnickers were dressed in Victorian clothes. It was strangely quiet. They seemed not to notice us, but one woman looked directly in our direction. The sky was so clear. We felt strangely alive. Then as we walked on we became aware of the hum of the motorway. We turned back toward the picnic, but when we arrived there was nothing. The grass wasn’t even mashed down where their blanket had been.

Although I’ve never heard of it I suppose there could be a haunted bottle. An old vintage with a curse for those who dare to possess it. Or a bottle damned by an angry, vengeful winemaker, whose intention is pain, not pleasure. A bottle with a soul as dark as midnight, el diablo’s wine. Don’t laugh, I’ve drunk one. And being me I probably found at least redeeming quality. After all, even though it’s possessed, it’s still wine.


10/30/2008 Critical darling

10/23/2008 An epitaph of good wine10/16/2008 A wine crime
10/9/2008 All my personalities love wine
10/2/2008 Harvest magic

9/25/2008 Where fantasy meets reality9/18/2008 The mojito cure
9/11/2008 Spend Fall in Spain
9/04/2008 Making a break for it
8/28/2008 Achieving the impossible
8/21/2008 AVA in search of a movie
8/14/2008 Return to seller?
8/7/2008 Wine at the game
7/24/2008 Reviving a star
7/17/2008 Champagne staycation
7/10/2008 Pair vintage with vintage
6/26/2008 Leftover wine
6/19/2008 Fortune favors Opus One
6/12/2008 In the year 2048
6/5/2008 Tea, the original infusion
5/29/2008 Hello old friends
5/22/2008 Ancient in the new world
5/15/2008 You are the expert
5/8/2008 The must-drink list
5/1/2008 Gaming wine futures
4/24/2008 Chronos and me
4/17/2008 Getting lucky
4/3/2008 The daquiri's of spring
3/27/2008 Germans play well with others
3/13/2008 Complain yourself happy
3/6/2008 Operatic wine tasting
2/28/2008 Everything must go!
2/21/2008 His & hers bottles
2/7/2008 Friends in spam
1/31/2008 Warm up the wine
1/24/2008 A drink to them
1/17/2008 Stalking the barking dingo
1/10/2008 Wishes and predictions
1/3/2008 Bit of bubbly
12/27/2007 Drinking blind
12/20/2007 Not fighting for the right
12/13/2007 The liquor store suite
11/29/2007 World of drinkin'
11/22/2007 Thanks for the Napa cabs
11/15/2007 Drinks with Diwali
11/8/2007 Candy Corn hangover
11/1/2007 Drinks with History Channel
10/25/2007 Schooled in Shiraz
10/18/2007 Spooky wines
10/11/2007 Location, location, location
10/04/2007 Shiraz history
9/27/2007 Ingenious appellation
9/20/2007 Small world of wines
9/13/2007 How not to get screwed
9/6/2007 Wine lover's shopping trip
8/30/2007 Bottle surfing
8/23/2007 Lobster goes red
8/16/2007 Emotional tasting notes
8/9/2007 Stop, wine thief
8/2/2007 Be your own sommelier
7/26/2007 You do know your wine
7/19/2007 Booze free association
7/12/2007 Raiders of the sidewalk
7/5/2007 A sustainable buzz
6/28/2007 We are the merlot
6/21/2007 Forgot Dad? Bring booze.
6/14/2007 Jack & Jill and a pail of wine
6/7/2007 Our lady of the Rioja
5/24/2007 Breaking the fast
5/17/2007 What the best bears drink
5/10/2007It's OK to be pink
5/3/2007 In praise of tastings
4/26/2007 Invention-tini
4/19/2007 More 'Mas'
4/12/2007 Futures in a bottle
3/29/2007 Uneasy glass of spring
3/22/2007 Chateau de blech
3/8/2007 Finding new beauties
3/1/2007 Infatuation or addiction
2/15/2007 The extraordinary ordinary
2/8/2007 A glass of sweetness
2/1/2007 A glass of sweetness
1/25/2007 Ham it up
1/18/2007 Cheating on wine
1/11/2007 Burning down the tree
1/4/2007 New Year's hangover
12/28/2006 Sins of the vine
12/21/2006 Kissing frogs
12/14/2006 Wine for horrible friends
12/07/2006 Like dregs in the wine glass
11/30/2006 Gift of calmer shopping
11/23/2006 YouTube for YouWine
11/16/2006 Welcome to wine
11/9/2006 Fine art, supermarket wine
11/2/2006 The geography of grapes
10/26/2006 Please continue to hold
10/19/2006 The trouble with reds
10/12/2006 Making new friends
10/05/2006 TiVo-ing the wine
09/28/2006 From an unknown battle
09/21/2006 Toast to turkey
09/14/2006 Wine for life
09/07/2006 What are Malpeques, Alex?
08/31/2006 Hanging out wines
08/24/2006 Falling into new wine season
08/17/2006 Where has that wine been?
08/10/2006 Bringing out the dead
08/03/2006 The birth of a wine fop
07/27/2006 Slow process of maturation
07/20/2006 The pain of adolescent wines
07/13/2006 Nice day for a white wedding
07/06/2006 Scoring goals with booze
06/29/2006 Beer, it's what's for dinner
06/22/2006 A drink fit for a czar
06/15/2006 A summer of beer and fried clams
06/08/2006 Keep your cool, fool
06/01/2006 The social lubricant
05/25/2006 Water, water everywhere
05/18/2006 Big fat greek wine tasting
05/11/2006 Drinking to the end
05/04/2006 Schooled in the art of wine
04/27/2006 Make a wish
04/20/2006 Immigrant wines
04/13/2006 A pain in the glass
04/06/2006 Got milk?
03/30/2006 Throw a dart and there's wine
03/23/2006 A life of good wine
03/16/2006 Honoring the dead soldiers
03/09/2006 What once was old i new again
03/02/2006 The taste of sibling rivalry
02/23/2006 Wine travels, doesn’t sing
From grape, to barrel to red-tape jungle

02/16/2006 Love and vine
02/09/2006 A dog-drink-dog world
02/02/2006 The winos' mecca
01/26/2006 Date-nite drinks
01/19/2006 Touring eastern wine country
01/12/2006 Wine, Cheese and Granny Smith
01/05/2006 Resolve to try new wines
10 Wines To Get Lucky With

Adventures in and past the Euro-Cave
A Do-It-Yourself Wine Tasting
A Red For Everything
A Red Wth Your Leftovers?
A Tasty Way To Put Wine To The Test
A Year Of Wine
An Around-The-World Holiday
A wine for every holiday

Basking In The Mondavi Light
Behind One Door Is Great Wine
Beware The Hot Bottle
Brandy and the nude beach
Champagne, The Other White Wine
Cheers And Whines Of The Vine
Days of wine and jelly beans
Deep in the heart of Texas
Drinking for your health
Drinking like a newspaperman

Drinking Whites After Labor Day
Finding A Great Medium-Weight Drink (I)
Finding A Great Medium Weight Drink (II)
Gifts for blood, love or money
Gin
Grill and sip, sip and sip. Finding the perfect wine for barbecue
Hey baby, stay cool
How The Corleones Saved Wine

In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
Keeping up appearances
Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
Mondovino
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
The Best Drinks On A Budget
The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olé! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends — really
Our Northern Neighbor
Poker faces and wine

Presenting A New England Vodka
Presenting The Wines Of Spring
Rewarding Your Support Staff
Schooled In The Art Of Wine
Shopping for Wine Bargains

Sitting By The Fire And Dreaming Of Wine
Slipping A Little Sideways
Spending the holidays in NYC
Spirit World Tales
Springtime calls for wine and ice cream
Sudden ugly mood swings
The new face of fine wines
The wines of fall
Thinking ahead to the holidays
Time To Stay Frosty
Tipples for turkey day
TV worth drinking
What it means to miss N.O.
What To Drink When You Eat Wild
What's Your Wine Sign
White’s OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wine’ll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce