our years ago, just as the clock struck midnight and in the midst of rowdy horn blowing and too-loud TV versions of “Auld Lang Syne,” my friend Duncan turned to me, took me by the shoulders, and held my gaze unblinkingly.
“Lynda, make sure every day is worthy of a toast, not just this one,” he told me seriously.
He then squeezed my arms like some patrician plantation colonel, and pinched my cheeks.
Maybe it’s because Duncan meant a lot to me and lost his battle with cancer before the first buds of spring, or that his words reverberated in the furthest reaches of my wine psyche, but since that night I have tried consciously to live by his axiom.
Some years I do better than others, but as each anno draws to a close, I take stock of just how many of my past 365 days were toasted, or could have been. December reminds me that my life has gifted me with occasions for toasting: the birth of a healthy child, the arrival of that long-awaited permesso di soggiorno, even getting Telecom Italia to hook up a phone line.
When I still lived in Washington, D.C. I marked my toasts by penning their date on the bottle’s cork and then chucking them wantonly into a seldom-used glass decanter. At the end of the year I’d take them out, line them up one by one, and take a small trip down memory lane. I’d read the dates, remember the specific wines, and appreciate the occasions that generated the toasts.
In Rome, a wonderful friend of mine taught me an even more memorable way to record special moments — one that gives the book lover in me goose bumps (and can also looks good on a shelf).
Corks are small. There’s barely enough room to scribble a scrawny date, let alone memorable, sentimental details. So unless you know the Chinese art of writing on a grain of rice you might want to consider recording life’s toastable moments by saving the etichette (labels) and placing them in a blank journal. This technique gives you not only a tangible record of the year’s special days, but also a handy reference book if you want to take a year-end trip down tasting’s memory lane.
Here are some special entries from my 2007 book:
January 23: Shane’s 18th birthday. Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Cabernet Sauvignon Veneto 2000, Capitel Del Monte: A different take on Amerone, both playful and irreverent.
May 25: Twenty-one years ago, the birth of my daughter. Bellavista 1999 Brut Franciacorta Gran Cuvee Pas Opere: It tastes of honey and herbs and the bubbles are fabulous, as she is.
October 1: My one year anniversary with The American. Cigliuti 2001 Barbaresco Serraboella: Concentrated and long lasting finish. Good now, but even better in a few years.
October 27: Carl and Margie’s Wedding Anniversary. Cantina Sociale Di Santadi 2001 Carignano Del Sulcis Superiore Terre Brune: Complex and spicy, with hints of chocolate. A wine well-worth exploring.
SOAKING OFF LABELS
At my house, where water is plentiful, I submerge the labels overnight in the kitchen sink. But this makes the sink unusable and wastes large quantities of water.
A greener approach is to use a recycled two-liter plastic soft drink bottle, with the top cut away. Fill the wine bottle with hot water and place it in the plastic bottle. Fill that bottle with hot water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid and most labels will detach by morning.