Die Zauberflöte

When was the last time you went to New York? By the way, this is not an existential question by any means. I last visited New York (Manhattan) back in the 1985 vintage and only just have a few lasting memories of freshly ironed cigarette holes burnt into crisp linen pillow cases (don’t remember the name of the hotel) and eating meatloaf at Mortimer’s (very trendy)something that they called, and I had never heard of before, a ‘Saturday Brunch’Remember this is 1985! I dined with my godfather Max KitKat (what a surname and what a guy!), fell in love with a beautiful girl, Henrietta, and then flying out of JFK all the way back to Heathrow with an American football team on board (don’t remember which one). They where indeed huge, drank a lot and kept the whole flight on their toes for eight solid hours, I’ll never forget it. This June 2023, I am back in N.Y.C., virtually thank goodness, and with the courtesy of their two splendid Metropolitans housed only 15 blocks away from each other, and a bit of Central Park in between. The Museum of Art and The Opera House. Both have caught my eye for two very different vinous reasons in the last few days. The M.M.O.A. nudged me whilst I was sipping on a well chilled glass of the new local 2022 Gruner Veltliner Special Edition, Bodega Norton and thumbing through some of the periodicals that eventually make their way down here for me to keep in touch with the ´growing-up´ world.

I was slightly bemused in one of the rags to read that the Metropolitan Museum of Art had just received a petition of more than 8.000 signatories requesting that the museum remove, at once, from it´s walls the painting Thérèse  Dreaming´by Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, painted in 1938. You may know the artist, as I do, as Balthus (1908-2001). The painting portrays a young teenage girl, Thérèse Blanchard, who would model for him in at least a dozen or so more compositions, sometimes alone and sometimes with her cat and brother. Balthus, like countless modern artsists, believed then that the subject of the child to be a source of raw spirit, not yet molded by societal expectations. Many other early 20th century avant-garde artists, Munch, Picasso, Gaugin also viewed adolescense and adolescent sexuality as a potent site of psychological vulnerability as well as lack of inhibition, and the artists would project these subjective interpretations into their works. While, apparently, these works of art may be unsettling to the eyes of the woke-ary today, Thérèse Dreaming and other great works by Balthus draws heavily on this history, for all of us to appreciate now and forever. I will get to the wine-connect in a moment, stay with me please dear reader.

As you can see from the photo here, Thérèse’s eyes are closed in reverie, with one leg propped up so that her skirt falls back a little exposing her undergarment. The ensuing wokie-fussy-ness started blathering on that this was again another work of Balthus, far too sexy and supporting voyeurism and the objectification of children. If you are not so familiar with the works of Balthus, he also painted landscapes, street scenes, still lifes and portraits, and is definitely still one of the greats and one of my favourite painters. He was good friends with Rilke, Cocteau, and Picasso, Giacometti and Camus. Imagine eh! During his life he of course received objections to his works portraying young girls, being told that they where sexually prevalent, and yet he had the good sense to accept that maybe some of these images could be or where disturbing for some and that such a reading was purely the fault of the viewer and not the painter’. The painting of Therese still hangs on the wall today (June 2023) at the Met-Art-museum, so somebody in charge there either needed more signatures or they just simply had the good common sense to leave the masterpiece where it should be. UP! 

You may be wondering by now, why on earth this Wine Merchant, supplier of the good stuff and lover of good art, including of course good Opera, should be sharing this news with you. Here´s the rub. When I first properly came across Balthus, perse, was when a chum gifted me a birthday book, ‘Vanished Splendors’ a memoir, Balthus. And then again, when the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, the owner of Ch.Mouton Rothschild released her 1993 vintage. And as you know in every new vintage at Mouton there is a new work of art chosen by the head of the family to illustrate the wine label for that specific vintage. They also keep the original.

In 1993 the Baroness chose the lovely Balthus label, ‘child reclining’. The 1990s En Primeur market was very much alive and swinging then, unlike now, and I purchased a palate from my reliable negociants. In those days everything was being shipped in OWCs of 12x75cls…lovely stuff! I even managed to sell 10 cases to a good client in San Fransisco. What I did not know, at the time, was that when those ten cases physically arrived at US Customs in California, all of the ten cases where immediately returned to our shipper by the same US Customs as the labels did not correspond with the local wine import law of the day. When we dug a little more into as what had gone wrong, I was told that an American neo-puritan movement had just previously convinced the US Lawmakers that the Balthus label (Mouton 1993) depicting a delicate and unprovocative portrait of the child should be banned from arriving in USA. This was in 1995. The group won their argument and Mouton ended up having to print a ´blank´ creamy white colored label specifically for the US market. This blank creamy label is still available in the United Mistakes of America, on each bottle imported of 1993 Ch.Mouton Rothschild. We sent those 10 original cases all the way back to Mouton for re-labelling with the blank label, can you believe, and then re-shipped to the customer @ S.F’s.Pier 9. Make of this what you will, but 30+ years on, and with all the current world-wokiness banging on, please remember the Balthas phrase ´purely the fault is of the viewer and not the painter´, needeless to say that this label is still banned in US today. Balthus’s other works can be and are still seen, enjoyed, all over the world, from Washington (MOMA) to London (Tate), Paris (Pompidou) to Tokyo (MAM) and numerous American galleries of course. Please take time to go and visit, if you can, some works by one of the most important painters of the twentieth century, whilst they are still up that is.

In stock, we do have two bottles 1993 Ch.Mouton Rothschild with full original Balthus labels @ GBP575 per bottle

ex taxes/shipping, should you be interested.

 “The wine has a lovely, deep colour with a slightly orange hue and an open, refined nose that displays blackcurrant, leather and cold smoke aromas along with delicate caramel notes. It is round, forward and richly flavoured from the attack, warm notes of humus mingling with black fruit, and displays superb balance on a mid-palate where the tannins become more velvety. The finish is long and compact, leaving a lingering sensation of warmth on the palate.”

If you have gotten this far and are wondering what happed to my vinous connect to The Metropolitan Opera House. Well, just yesterday, I was thoroughly enjoying a live screening-transmission in HD from the Met-Opera of W.’A’ Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflote).  A very modern adaptation with the full Met Orchestra doing what they do best. Putting on a big show of it! In Act 2 when Papageno, the birdcatcher, consoles himself with more booze. Remember that he is in the service of the Queen of the Night and receives daily food and daily drink from her ‘en lieu’ of his services. He would infact have no problem at all living the rest of his days, catching birds for the Queen and eating, drinking only the best of

what can be supplied. In one scene, he is drunk playing musical bottles and one of the bottles of wine, I could not help notice was a half full/empty bottle of PETRUS! Even from this distance I could see the soiled Petrus label up there on the stage amongst five or six other indistinguishable bottles. I

do of course have a useless tendency to notice something more often than after noticing it for the first time, leading to a useless skill that it has increased my frequency of occurrence & focus. My theme normally being famous wines appearing in movies, theatre and opera. I am not really sure if it comes under the condition Baader-Meinhof syndrome but I am sure that you know what I mean here.

There where the various vintages (1953 & 1955 onwards) Dom Perignon, cinema’s first product placements, in James Bond 007 movies. (More recently Bollinger RD and Bordeaux, St.Emilion’s own Ch.Angelus). The southern Trentino wine, Marzemino, as always toasted by Don Giovanni (opera) since 18th century. The 1974 Towering Inferno disaster movie, where William Holden straps a full 12 bottle wooden case of Romanee-Conti to himself before they blow up the water tanks in the attic above to extinguish the fire. Even H.Lecter, in Silence of the Lambs, once recommended an Amarone with liver (someones of course). And now bang up to date we have a Norwegian comedy? satire movie, Sick of Myself. Directed by a Kristoffer Borgeli pulling the leg of the ”look at me, look at me” generation addicted to social media. In the first five minutes of this movie the boy/girl couple, los protagonistas, are celebrating her birthday in a posh Oslo restaurant and the waiter brings a bottle, as ordered by Thomas, of 2006 Richebourg from Maison/Domaine? Leroy to the table. Should be domaine no!? Before drawing the cork the waiter checks with Thomas that this is the correct wine, as it is listed on their wine list at U$D2.300 for the bottle. He accepts it, the cork is drawn and some of the wine (very little) is drunk at the table. The rest of the wine is consumed elsewhere. No spoiler alert here folks! Now, I reckon that Kristoffer Borgeli (Director) is a huge wine fan with a great sense of humor, and he chose this wine specifically so that he could drink some of it on the film’s budget. Either way, I don’t think Leroy even knows or has much interest in the wine being in this movie or not. But what does tickle me a bit is that if I go into the world famous Winesearcher.com and look for 2006 Richebourg from Bize-Leroy, the cheapest available bottle on the market is @ GB£9.000 for 75cls, or U$D11.300 in Benjamin Franklins excluding taxes/shipping! Maybe we should all move to Norway and start buying some good wines to drink.

W.P.H. (6 de junio de 2023, Buenos Aires)