A Toast to the End of Days


We’re re-posting Alexander Foot’s wine advice column for the impending end of the world (according to ancient Mayan wisdom) coming on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. If the world continues, so will regular posts on TWR:

One of the questions I get asked a lot is: “Alexander, what do you think is the best wine to accompany the End of Days?” This is an excellent but difficult question to answer. On the one hand – if it truly is your last day on earth – one would think this is the time to break the Richebourg out of the cellar, even if it is still a little young and uncouth.

On the other hand, some of these prognosticators (well, all of them actually) have been wrong before. Perhaps it would be best to hedge and uncork a decent Chilean.

As it turns out, I have a little experience in drinking wine during apocalyptic conditions. There are a few key points to remember: Is there a back door? Is there a priest in the house? Are you eating red meat or white meat?

A few years ago I was invited to sample the just-released 1990 first growth Bordeaux. For the occasion, a wine store operator in Calgary had rented the top of the ski jump at Olympic Park. For a horizontal tasting, the event seemed very vertical as we see-sawed back and forth in a strong south wind some hundred metres above the ground.

The small room from which Finns and Norwegians had launched themselves during the 1988 Olympics had been converted into a tastefully-appointed reception area. Our host lined up bottles from Latour, Lafite, Mouton, Margaux and Haut-Brion, along with crystal glasses and mild cheeses.

The wines were brilliant, especially the Margaux which transcended the deep tannins of young premier crus and hinted at the greatness to come. The Haut-Brion, having a high percentage of Merlot, also proved immediately satisfying.

As we swirled and sipped, the sun dropped behind the Rocky Mountains. To the west and south we could see an orange and red bar flickering in the distance. Was it some weird reflection of the sunset?

Unaware of the optical anomaly, our host continued to pour. My fellow guests sipped and spit (something I will only do when drinking Russian wine) and chatted companionably. My glances out the window turned to stares as I observed the flickering colours in the distance begin to advance, rather quickly, towards us. Billows of dark smoke were now visible.

I waved to our host and pointed out the window. She turned and gasped. “It’s a wild fire,” she choked out, “and it’s headed this way.”

Immediately, the servers began to gather up the wine and food. I reached over and retrieved a bottle of Margaux. With no one looking, I took a deep satisfying chug. This was no time to risk a panicked waiter dropping it on the floor.

As we assembled in orderly lines by the elevator, sirens wailed in the distance. A phalanx of yellow water-bombers appeared from the north and began dropping their loads on the cinder-dry grasses that surrounded the suburbs to the city. A few homes on the southern edges had already burst into flame.

In order to calm my fellow tipplers I considered telling the joke of Jesus on the cross observing “I can see my house from here” but that might have been regarded as poor taste. Instead I made myself useful by wrestling a case of Haut-Brion away from a surprisingly strong waitress. Crate under my arm, I yelled that the elevator was unsafe and that we should take the stairs.

Like any herd, the wine connoisseurs were uncertain whom to follow. Our host announced that the elevator was perfectly safe and, brave woman that she was, stepped in to prove it. The rest followed meekly behind.

I managed to make it down the long flight of stairs and out into the parking lot. By that time, firefighters and police were in attendance. Grief counsellors were lined up taking names and numbers. I slipped into my vehicle and drove off into the night.

Now some of you more astute readers might be asking yourself: What did Alexander do with that case of Haut-Brion? Well, after sampling a bottle to make sure it wasn’t smoke-damaged, I put it in my cellar to recover and to await my next visit to the wine shop. Sadly, during one of Alberta’s many recessions, it went out of business.

Consequently, last Saturday (May 21) when I was waiting for the earthquakes in New Zealand and wondering what wine to drink for the End of Days, I looked downstairs and found a dusty bottle of 1990 Haut-Brion. Worried that it might be past its prime, I gently pulled the cork and poured a little into my handy Reidel. One sip and I knew what all the fuss was about. Rapture.

One Comment

  1. Bubbles
    Posted May 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Dear Dr. Foot:
    Now that it appears we have an extra five months until the end, should I drink steadily until then and, if so, what do you recommend? (I am currently unemployed.)

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The Lush Life

Alexander Foot

Alexander Foot was born in Rhodesia, raised in Lithuania and now makes his home in Churchill, Manitoba. He has worked as a chicken-sexer in New York City, an elevator-operator on Baffin Island and a marriage counsellor in Utah.