Saturday, May 14, 2005

Wine: Conde de Valdemar Rioja

"...there are no maps nor disciplines to help us find the duende. We only know that he burns the blood like a poultice of broken glass, that he exhausts, that he rejects all the sweet geometry we have learned...." ~ Federico Garcia Lorca

Federico Garcia Lorca, a Spanish poet killed by Franco's fascists, spent much of his later years (those which should have been his early years, in reality) obsessing over the duende. Translated literally by many as 'hobgoblin' or perhaps 'boogey man', the duende for Lorca and people of Andalusia was something like the Greeks' muse but unlike the muse it is present when death or darkness is near.

Lorca himself said that he once heard a guitar virtuoso observe that the "duende is not in the throat, the duende comes up from inside, up from the very soles of the feet." He tells a story of a famous gypsy dancer loving Bach and saying that it had duende while becoming bored with Brahms.

While the Code de Valdemar doesn't come from Andalusia (Rioja is another region of Spain), it does have a touching set of "black sounds" to it. I drank a few bottles with a handful of friends: half of them hated it, the other half of us kept turning our heads to look at it while listening to others speak.

K&L calls it a great pizza and burger wine. My friend with a PhD in biology called it a poisonous, acidic monster. Another wine-geek friend said it was one of the best reds he's had in a long time. I think it's somewhere between all of those: its seriousness comes from the combination of its flaws (overly acidic, lack of balance, too much spice) and not from what it excels at (explosive fruit, wonderful color, almost overstated bouquet). The wine has words of drunken sailors and visions of women passed by on horseback; that is, even though it's rough and nasty in some ways that are also fun and exciting, it still has some layered beauty to it.

Lorca also told a story of an Andalusian singer with great skill who could not excite a crowd because they were looking not for skill, talent, or practiced nuance but rather for the duende. She downed a glass of Cazalla liquor and mangled her voice. She removed the nonessential parts of the song and suddenly the crowd was lifted; she turned out the muse, the lover of perfect balance and technique, and left herself vulnerable.

The wine costs ten bucks a bottle, their reserva being more acceptable to the masses and coming in at fifteen. We won't rate this one, but we will drink it again.


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