An oenophile ordeal - Editor
Bottle in Bordeaux
by Bruce Memblatt
I am Louis Supree. I am five feet and ten inches tall. It’s no accident the vineyard I own in Bordeaux is the most successful vineyard in France. I humbly submit I have an incredible sense of smell which allows me to blend and break down the nuanced aromas of each wine to produce the highest quality vintage in the region. I’ll tell you how good my sense of smell is, my nose is insured by Lloyd’s of London. It’s true, for five million dollars. Wine is my life; I can ascertain the intensity and development of any wine in an instant. My love for wine has brought me happiness and many comforts like the exquisite home I own that overlooks the vineyard. The house is a very old house and it was built by a Duke. It’s hard to grasp how good times were in this dark hour, but I can still remember the fragrant days, the banquets, the grapes filling the fields in the sun, but you don’t want me to talk about these things. You want to know how I got here. All right, I will tell you.My vineyard is large, acre after acre of rows of leaves seem to stretch forever. The rows are perfectly spaced; from the house they look like walls, but wait, I should tell you more about myself first, no? I told you I’m five feet ten inches tall but I didn’t talk about my eyes. My eyes are black, and my daughter says they’re very intense. My nose in addition to the attributes I’ve mentioned before is narrow and fairly short; you’d never know to look at my nose how impressive it is. My mouth is pleasant and perfectly set on my face, people have told me it’s kissable, but I don’t know. And my hair, although it’s graying now used to be a quite an impressive shade of brown touched by red. Since I’ve told you my hair is graying you’ve probably guessed I’m not a young man. That’s correct, I turned fifty- nine in January. Fifty- nine is not so old. But when the tragic time began I was fifty-eight. It was at the end of spring during Vinexpo. Vinexpo is a wine trade exhibition held every year in Bordeaux. The people come; all the wineries open booths and open their doors to wine lovers from all over the world. It’s a special time. You feel a sense of rebirth as the wine aficionados’ enthusiasm can be quite inspiring. It was after dinner, I hold a special dinner every year and I invite the owners of all the other wineries in the region to attend as a way to demonstrate my gratitude for all the blessings this region has provided, and to keep relations good with my neighbors. It’s true we’re competitors but we have goals in common. We want to see everybody here prosper. Or, at least, I thought that’s how the way things were.
It’s very cold in this cellar and there’s such sadness in my heart which corresponds to the bleakness born by my misfortune. Most of the time I feel like weeping, but I’m so sorry, pardon my selfish interruption, I should continue. When the Anginada’s arrived I was excited because they were new to the region. They took over my friend Pierre’s vineyard after he died. He had a fine vineyard, not as unique as my vineyard, but his wines had a nice earthy body. When they entered the house I greeted the Anginada’s as they walked past the art deco statue of the ballet dancer I have in the hall. The wife was beautiful her name is Angelina, Angelina Anginada; doesn’t that flow off the tongue like wine? Just like a good wine, I think. Mr. Anginada’s name is Caesar, as you would guess they’re from Italy. She wore a red dress. I remember it now; she winked at me and smiled. How was I to know? I flatter easily. Let me tell you something; all men take compliments freely; a man will believe any praise you shower on him and that is a natural truth. During dinner she winked at me again. Her husband didn’t seem to notice, or if he did, he didn’t seem to care. I thought, perhaps it was her nature to be flirtatious, and he was accustomed to her ways. But I was certain in my mind that there was something more to her wink than a friendly gesture. I didn’t think deeply about it as I was flattered and curious. My wife passed away ten years ago. I don’t have any obligations, but I tell you even if my wife were here, I still would have followed Angelina. It pains me mildly to confess I wasn’t the most faithful husband in a sexual sense, but it embarrasses me somewhat to talk about my exploits. Some men like to brag about their adventures, I prefer to keep my affairs close to my heart, but this one was different, of course, because it led to the tragedy. That night after dinner, we served the most succulent veal; much to my surprise Angelina slipped a note to me on a small piece of paper. In the note she said she would meet me later that evening in front of my house. She would be waiting at the hour of eleven by the door. If I wanted her I was to open the door and if I didn’t she instructed me to leave the door closed. If I left the door closed she would disappear into the night, and all would be a forgotten. I opened the door.
As if it were possible she looked even more fascinating in the moonlight. As I led her up the stairs to my bedroom she began to speak to me.
“You’re home is so beautiful,” she said, and I immediately thought how impersonal the comment seemed after her romantic overture, but then she continued, “It takes a beautiful man to create such beautiful surroundings.” And her words went to my head. Really, I felt like a boy on his first date, awkward, and even shy.
But I was enchanted and I responded, “My surroundings pale in comparison to your beauty.” And she smiled; I didn’t know if my response was perhaps too much, you know? But she seemed to like my words. Still the conversation seemed too formal to me. I was curious, I wanted to know more, so I continued.
“The note you left me, Angelina I was so surprised when you handed it to me. No one has pursued me like that before. I find it intriguing. Perhaps I’m insecure, but I don’t see myself as the object of a beautiful woman’s pursuit.”And a curious expression appeared on her face. It reminded me of a song I once heard about a girl who fell in love with a beast. I don’t mean to imply I resemble a beast, but her expression contained a hint of pain, as if I had somehow insulted her sensibilities, because my assumption was her interests were purely physical. Angelina was very clever as you will see, but she said.
“You underestimate yourself, Louis. You’re not only a handsome man, but what you’ve accomplished with your life, becoming the best wine producer in France. That took talent, and discretion. I find the choices you’ve made to be just as attractive as the physical qualities you possess.” At that point we were in the bedroom and I must say I was quite taken with her words. She knew my wine was my life, or rather Angelina knew which strings to pull. We sat down on the bed and I offered her a glass of wine. I keep several bottles of the finest aged vintages from my vineyard in the bedroom. Wines I’ve taken just a little extra care in producing. I even let these wines ferment in special casks I had constructed from the finest oak trees in Virginia. When I visited the States many years ago I liked the scent of the trees from Virginia the most. I bottled this blend in small bottles referred to as eight bottle imperial, they hold about six ounces. But I prefer the imperiales because the distance between the cork and the wine is small which allows the wine to develop more slowly. Speaking about bottles is very painful for me now; when I say this I refer to the glass of a bottle not its contents. But I keep these bottles in my bedroom, not just for special occasions like my night with Angelina, but because their presence brings me great comfort in the night. Just knowing they’re in the room holds a satisfaction that moves me beyond description. Perhaps I’ve said too much about the details of theses bottles, you’re probably not interested in bottles, but on that night I served the wine to Angelina from a crystal decanter I had made in Venice. That is how possessed I was by her beauty. What a fool I became. When I woke the following morning Angelina was gone, as well as one of my special bottles. To this day why she took the bottle remains a mystery to me. Maybe she stole it as a memento of her conquest. Her victory over Louis Supree .What profit could she possibly gain in its possession? The profit she realized was contained in what I discovered next. This would mark the beginning of my descent.
You know how there are times when you discover things slowly? In the beginning I didn’t realize that my sense of smell was gone. I went down to the kitchen to prepare coffee, and I when I drank the coffee I couldn’t taste it. I didn’t have a cold, but I wasn’t too concerned at that moment. I thought perhaps the coffee was weak, maybe I didn’t prepare it correctly. How little I knew. When the tragedy finally hit me, I couldn’t believe it. I was in denial, after all, this was my life, and how I made my living. My nose had the keenest sense of smell in the world. My sense of smell was essential to everything that made my life worthwhile. My blessed vineyards, my wines depended on the special talent god gave me, and when I realized I would never taste a glass of wine again I was decimated from within. I was destroyed. I can’t describe the feelings that came over me. They were beyond anything I’ve ever known. I even lost my faith in God. I wondered how God could let this happen to me. I hope you feel sad for me, because I would feel sad for you if you went through the hell I was sentenced to on earth.
I said at first I was in denial, and I was, I couldn’t accept this horrible fate. I went to doctor after doctor I begged, I pleaded for help, but none came. The doctors couldn’t even say how it happened, but I knew how it happened. It was Angelina; it was the Anginadas. A plot to destroy me so they could become the most successful wine producers in Bordeaux. I didn’t even file a claim with Lloyds for the five million dollars my nose is insured for. I’ll tell you why. What good would it do me if I had five million, or a hundred million dollars? How could I prosper from money earned through my destruction? The money couldn’t bring back my sense of smell; I would never have another happy moment again. This is what Angelina and her husband stole from me. Not only had they stolen my god given talent but they ripped the desire to live from my soul. And there was even more to come.
I fell into a deep depression. Almost every waking moment of my life was consumed with one thought in mind; getting back at the Anginada’s for the pain they had caused me. They, of course, denied any involvement in my great loss and they feigned surprise at my condition. They were even so bold as to offer me their help. This is how devilish the Anginada’s were. This angered me so, I can’t tell you, and the anger that grew inside me, the hate I felt in my heart was unparalleled. Perhaps in some way I am paying for the hatred I felt then. It was on the last time I confronted the Anginadas that this other horror was initiated.
The last time I drove up to the Anginada’s vineyard I parked my car under the davenport near their driveway. I shouldn’t have been driving that afternoon because I had drunk more than my limit, not wine, I had been drinking scotch. I’m usually not a consumer of the harder liquors but the state I was in brought me to such despair I began to drink heavily in the afternoons. From the distance, the Anginada’s house is quite impressive. Its design is more modern than my home. Their house is white and the walls outside are stucco. They have a bronze fountain in the front with an angel soaring above it. Imagine an angel? I heard the raindrops beating down on the davenport when I exited my car. When I rang their bell, a servant led me into their library. I had been in that room before, yet once again I was overpowered by their fine collection of books. Very old books, I imagine, with beautiful leather bindings. Books on art; I saw one very lovely book about Seurat and there were books on wines, of course. I was turning a page in one of the books when Caesar Anginada entered the room. He approached me cautiously, I could see in his eyes that he knew I had been drinking, but he was casual and he said as he walked towards me.
“Greetings Louis,” with a smile, but it wasn’t a happy smile. In the corner of his mouth I could tell his smile was forced. His eyebrows were raised, as well, indicating the discomfort he felt by my presence. I assumed his discomfort was caused by the guilt he held in his heart which must have been tremendous. Although I can’t determine what is in another man’s heart with certainty. Caesar is a large man; I would say he’s six and one half feet tall, and quite rotund. He’s a much larger man than me. I hadn’t any feeling of fear, though. Fear was an emotion that left my soul when the tragedy began. There was nothing in the world that could frighten me, because there was nothing left to take from me, at least, that is what I thought.In fact, on that day I tore right into Caesar without the preliminary pleasantries. I said to him.
“It must be wonderful to have such a nice house and books and a vineyard, Caesar?” And, of course, he could sense the obvious sarcasm in my words. Then I saw his lips begin to quiver like he was losing his patience and he replied.
“Now, Louis we’ve been through this before.” I was so angered by his continued denial, I stood close to him and leaned into his eyes and I shouted.
“What kind of man uses his wife’s body like a whore to destroy their neighbor?” There in that instant something happened. It was apparent that he didn’t have any knowledge of the sexual rendezvous I had with Angelina.
In his confusion he said, “What are you saying? That wasn’t part of the plan.” And I could see his anger grow intense. He began to scream for her “Angelina! Angelina!” But there it was by accident, the confession I had been seeking at last. I assumed he had known every detail of Angelina’s involvement in their conspiracy so I never brought it up before that moment, but in that moment I knew Angelina had lied to him too. I turned to him and smiled devilishly and I said.
“At last you admit it, and I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me to know your wife lied to you too.” Then I went even further and I added,” She’s very good in bed; I want to thank you for sharing your wife with me.” Perhaps I went too far, but after all the Angianadas did to me, I thought my remarks were justified. Still there’s no reasoning in moments like these, there’s just anger and the anger Caesar displayed after my remark was tremendous. He grabbed me by the collar of my shirt and he threw me to the floor. I didn’t even feel my body hit the floor because I was stunned, and I was enlivened by his confession. It was the only sense of relief I’d felt in such a long time, and I’ll tell you this, it felt good. I didn’t know what I would do next with the information I learned that afternoon, but at least I knew I wasn’t insane. He began to pound my head against the floor and that did hurt. I fought back of course, but I was so full of drink and with his physical advantage, I confess, I didn’t put up much of a fight. He pulled me through the hallway by my legs, and he threw me through the front door with great force. There I sat on the cement on the sidewalk that led to their driveway bloodied and in pain, and the rain was falling hard, but at the same time I had a feeling of great satisfaction. I didn’t know what would happen behind the Anginada’s walls next, what he would do to Angelina, but at that point I wasn’t’ concerned with their destiny. No matter what happened inside their house that day I would still be living in the hell they created for me.
I used to love wine cellars immensely; the hours I spent down here picking out the wines for dinner were such relaxing moments after a hard day. Never, not even in my saddest hours did I ever imagine I would hate this wine cellar. But on that afternoon, the day I confronted the Anginada’s, when I arrived home I poured myself another glass of scotch. I sat down in the living room to gather my thoughts. I wondered if I should call my attorney and tell him about Caesar’s confession. This was not something I could just pick up the phone and call the police about. It would be a very big case and I wanted to go over all the details with my attorney before I proceeded. Also on my mind was the now ever-present question, what good would come of it? If the Anginada’s went to jail, like every other cure for my frustrations, I still would be without the things I loved the most. I poured another glass of scotch and then I retired to the bedroom.
I must have been lying on the bed for hours drifting in and out of sleep, as you know an alcoholic sleep isn’t very restful. And, of course, the Anginadas were on my mind, like so many nights before that night, but on that night my thoughts were more intense because of Caesar’s confession that afternoon. It must have been around ten, I’m sure it was because I checked the clock right after I heard the noise down stairs. I was going to get out of bed, but I was so sleepy, I convinced myself it was nothing. Moments later I knew that someone was in my room. I could hear him breathing. I didn’t know what to do, in that moment fear returned to me, probably the greatest fear I’ve ever known. I tried to get up but I felt something holding my leg, that something was Caesar Anginada’s arm. I was so terrified, I couldn’t react, I couldn’t move, and then I saw the knife coming close to my neck.
I can’t say what happened afterward, but I theorize Caesar must have drained my blood and poured it into this bottle of wine. That’s the only possibility that makes sense to me now, as if things could make sense down here, but how else could I have wound up in this bottle. In this bottle in my wine cellar in Bordeaux is where I lie, and where I remain. It is madness, and it’s cold, and I feel like a lunatic. I cry all the time and I howl into the night, but no one can hear me. Sometimes I sense Angelina’s presence in the bottle next to mine, but it could be my madness. Who can say, but won’t you help me? Please help me, drink me, and make me vanish, please drink me.