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The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne

The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne

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The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne

669 pagine
9 ore
Jan 26, 2014


Renown wine-expert and ‘nose’, Rebecca never imagined she’d also become a wine-detective. But when ruthless ‘Doctor ‘47’ and his dark forces continue saturating the market with chemical, copy-wines, Rebecca must travel across time and space, seeking the first vine.

The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne is an adventure layered out over eleven thousand years to the creation of wine. The god of wine himself, Dionysos, unveils to Rebecca and involves her in how –

- Wine-making started in India and China in 9000 B.C.;
- Pharaoh Narmer signed peace treaties over wine six-thousand years later;
- King Nestor inherited wine and therewith postponed the Trojan War;
- Julius Caesar used vineyards and wine to his advantage to forge Rome into the Empire.

On this trip through time in space, on strings and quarks, Rebecca is joined by friends on their own adventures: Wolfgang Puck, John Scharffenberger, and Julia Child are among those gastronomically and vinously seeking their hearts’ desires as they travel alongside into the civilizations of Homer and Virgil, exposing the truth behind Euripides’s Bacchae and the history waiting for explanation found on Exekias’s krater of Dionysos, detecting wine’s marvelous connections to civilization.

But can wine’s transforming marvels continue?

‘Doctor ‘47’ and his ruthless associates are back at work in chemistry labs and on

Wall Street, economically and fraudulently engineering the end of the world’s vineyards and of wine, and, therefore of Rebecca herself, as they continue spreading deadly ‘Copy Wines’.

Will Rebecca, with Dionysos and Julius Caesar foil ‘Doctor ‘47’, saving the world of wine? Will Rebecca and Julius Caesar invent Champagne in 50 B.C.?

Each time you enjoy a glass of wine made of grapes from any of the now hundreds of thousands of vineyards, you participate in Dionysos’s story. With every frothing of Champagne at your lips, you are drinking stars; for all of us, all things on planet earth, are creatures of star-dust and of Dionysos. The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne tells how it all happened. Nunc bibendum est.

Jan 26, 2014

Informazioni sull'autore

Bouter En Avant! Full Speed Ahead with JULIA CHILD, is Madeleine’s first venture into biographical memoire storytelling. Her first novel, The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne, is an adventure to the first vine and a history of high civilization according to the god Dionysos. Currently she is finishing her fourth stage play and researching the sequel to The Night Julius Caesar.

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Anteprima del libro

The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne - Madeleine de Jean


The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne is an adventure to the beginning of wine, piloted by that driver of High Civilization, Dionysos.

2013-wine-expert Rebecca’s anguish over the murder of Dionysos by Copy-wines made in laboratories, and not by grapes, merits her removal to 9000 B.C. India and China, birthplace of very alive Dionysos. Will Rebecca savor Dionysos’s DNA from The One Vine? Will Rebecca side-by-side with Caesar himself to invent Champagne in 50 B.C.? Caesar trails in a time-line of such Dionysian devotees as Pharaoh Narmer and King Nestor of Pylos. The often dangerous road to high civilization was paved by these, Dionysos’s vineyardists, transplanting his mutable Vine over nine-thousand years from India to Pylos to Reims and beyond. Though each uplifted civilization by continuing their heritage of vineyards and wines, it was that conqueror of Gaul, Caius Julius Caesar, who is responsible for the plantation of the greatest vineyards this planet will ever know.

Will Rebecca survive to bear witness to her heart’s desire? Or will the regenerated evil Doctor ‘47 and his criminal chemicals dissolve civilization, and wine, first?

Each time you enjoy a glass of wine made of grapes from any of the now hundreds of thousands of vineyards, you participate in Dionysos’s story. With every frothing of Champagne at your lips, you are drinking stars; for all of us, all things on planet earth, are creatures of star-dust, and of Dionysos.

Accompanying The Night is a Companion with Glossary and Notes to give the interested reader more about people, places and historic events found in this story.


Voyaging Out To Transformation


December 11, 51 B.C., Evening:

Roman Garrison among the Aedui

Caesar’s war-horse crested the hill.

"For a kylix of Falernian right now, Zephyros, I’d almost trade you. Jumping down, a bloodied Julius Caesar surveyed below. Proprietarily Rome’s Commanding General scanned his garrison where scores upon scores of dinner fires sparked and flared, and silhouetted cooks prepared to feast thousands of victorious legionaries. For his warriors’ dinner service hundreds of amphorae of wines arrived at mess tents, nested in snow. About wine, Greeks had instructed a younger Caesar: ‘Necessary for clean water; necessary for wounds that will not fester; absolutely necessary for raising spirits after a cruel day; for good sleep preparing for another battle. Wine restores order and brings dreams of a better way.’"

Lifting aching arms he beseeched, I can conquer the world; but lead me, Dionysos, to that better way.

A yell of pain grabbed back Caesar’s attention toward the triage tent. From across the defensive scrum and furious scrimmage of this afternoon, he had seen General Rufus’s knee hacked by an Aeduan axe. Now he focused while Spurinna, Caesar’s augur, importuned Dionysos for Rufus’s salvation. Spurinna beckoned, and a priest-healer poured a krater of wine, cleansing dirt and gore from the wound. The god Dionysos is an ancient healing god, Caesar whispered, palming Zephyros a treat. The powerful horse whinnied, nodding.

In the Central Meeting tent, to the left of the Temple to Jupiter and Minerva, Centurions gathered for debriefing around General Labienus, Julius Caesar’s second-in-command. Caesar watched the drill: Labienus crouched, parried, jumped, close to dangerous in his demonstration over the places where they had failed; then, he swirled. Now congratulations poured over each on successful maneuvers. This released a spring; the men leapt up, their Victory Cry ringing.

Sliding songs of nightingales and chatter of other twilight birds, startled, ceased.

Impatient Caesar paced. Eight days ago Spurinna had read the auspices: Labienus was to leave for Durocortorum, as Ambassador, with two full legions. Instead hundreds are now wounded or dead. Hades! The Imperial General chaffed at being cornered. Labienus needs those men in Durocortorum to secure the northern border with the Belgae and to bond the Remi into the Empire.

Two weeks ago our battles were over; all of Gaul was Rome’s; Vercingetorix, in chains; seven years of war ended! he vibrated the evening air. In that moment of success Caesar knew he had to quickly reward lucrative, Ambassadorial, peace-keeping duties to the killing-machines he’d created, otherwise Rome would soon be in trouble. As his reward, General Quintus Tulius Cicero was elevated to Ambassador, to assure Rome’s peace among the local Gallic tribes in Cabillonum and Matioco.

"This move north was Labienus’s reward, with greater responsibilities, just not bellicose ones. But, no!" On the second of December, when Labienus should have left, when Caesar was comfortably convinced all Gallic tribes were pacified and reunited as socii, ‘brothers’ of Rome, those hades Lingones, Caesar’s spit froze the name, felt compelled to take up Vercingetorix’s useless cause against the Empire, dragging our long-loyal Aedui into another war, destroying my plans. I jumpstarted peace; now I might lose the race! His voice was more seen than heard in the twilight. Stupid Caesar! Stupid Lingones! Grinding his teeth he barked, Hades! Zephyros stamped as though he too was annoyed at the waste and carnage. Caesar leaned against his horse, We, Zephyros, spend valuable time; we lose valuable men. But Rome has more to lose; her civilization is imperiled. Zephyros snorted, pawed, ready to charge.

Mine is the fault. I too soon rewarded Cicero, sending him south. He should have handled this. Instead, Caesar, with General Labienus, had executed the re-conquest of the Aedui, delaying Labienus and the north. "Our northern border is vulnerable, as is the Republic’s largest garrison, Durocortorum. And my plane of chalk, my campus magnus, waits economic, cultural development. Soon, too soon, Rome’s Senators will start their pondering. It is so black and white." He turned, grasped Zephyros’s mane and vaulted onto his back.

Labienus, he pointed below and susurrated the order, no matter how tired, no matter how depleted your forces, be on that road at dawn, leading all who can march and ride. Caesar’s great horse swiveled his ears to attend the implications in this tone.

Another yell of pain from the triage tent: Rufus had the towel tight between his teeth as a fresh linen dressing closed the gaping gash. I will visit Rufus while you’re at dinner. He will need memorable consolation. Tomorrow his garrison marches. Without him.

Though the battles were now won, he could not relax; duty attended. With Dionysos, tonight Caesar planned a grand welcome-back into-the-fold of these Aedui leaders he’d re-conquered today. Many were the precious amphorae of special wines Caesar would serve on this special evening. Long had Caesar been an akolyte of Dionysos; and, tonight he trusted the god he served would again lead him to the ways of peace. Dionysos, I am as blind. Show me how to turn war into civilization. Straightening his shoulders, Caesar put heel to horse, and rode down to join his men.

I, 1

Palm Springs, 2013

"That murderer, doctor ’47, is back! Murdering Dionysos. How can I live?" Rebecca’s sadness reverberates from the library throughout the sun-shot glass house.

While outside Palm Springs’s pavements sizzle, in the office Rebecca’s Assistant is removed from that reality. Focused on her computer screen, she’s mired in the bitterest of December days, back in the year 51 B.C., involved transcribing pages dictated by her wine-expert-boss on how Caesar turned killing-machine generals into vineyardists. She’d studied History, and what Rebecca has uncovered for this chapter on the wines of Burgundy has The Assistant in its grip.

"Agents of Doctor ‘47! Copy-wine FIENDS!"

Wrenched from the cold battle zone, the Assistant looks up, perplexed. Today Rebecca is appraising four new Zinfandel vineyards, tasting for an article, and  …

"Assassins! Chemical MURDERERS!"

Now these cries are war-like, and forcefully they assail, lifting the Assistant, staggering, to her feet. She blows blue bangs out of her eyes. What is going on in there?

"Treachery! Bottles filled with fraud! Again! Laboratory-wines. Again. Murderous chemicals again spelling the end of the millennia-long-road of Dionysos’s One Vine, the very soil of my soul." Gasping, Rebecca paces like a tawny lioness.

And The Assistant rounds the corner.

Rebecca glimpses fear in her face and knows she needs to explain. Her blonde locks are agitated as she gestures over a line-up of wines on her desk. "Copy-wines! All. Again! Doctor ‘47 has not been stopped. From prison he’s spreading treachery. Evil perversity is pervasive. This devastating secret Rebecca just discovered about the Zinfandels she is assessing for that article, informs her that the god she follows, the god of wine, great Dionysos, is positively overcome by chemical wines. To fool me, and every wine-lover, they do it! Tears of justifiable distress threaten. To get rich quick they do it; stealing, counterfeiting truth." She staccatos her rhythm, like telling the beads of a Komboli, Destroying Dionysos, they destroy civilization with laboratory-wines. Do you understand? Destroy Civilization?

For as far back as Rebecca remembers, for at least the last thirty-two years, she has been whispered to be Dionysos’s darling. Her grandfather’s vinous knowledge was imparted to her drop by inspiring drop. Then he deeded his much-envied cellar to Rebecca. Thus the world of the god of wine is that into which she has grown. After all the joys we’ve experienced Dionysos, you allow phony-wine-makers to vaporize a god? Yours is the only world I know.

To megaliths of the wine trade Rebecca seems a figure of knowledge beyond some of theirs. But when she stalks past the hall mirror she sees only little Rebecca, the baby of her family who was interested in the wrong things, her mother’s cry is disturbingly real. While other little girls presided over nurseries of dolls, Rebecca religiously checked on, protected and loved hundreds of bottles of wine. Not the right things for girls, her mother’s voice echoes. Besides, they are dusty. The whole family crowds into the mirror, staring back with mournful expressions.

Not granddad. He gratified my thirst with tales of castles and chateaux surrounded by vines. And of dungeons where, instead of dragons and ogres, thousands of bottles of wine, like babes, slept and got ready—to come to live in Rebecca’s and Granddad’s cellar.

Though she is surrounded by soaring ceilings and walls of glass crafted into Palm Springs’s mid-century architecture, this devastation is a wall of pain within which her senses are locked. Memories reassure her of her existence; in her imagination she hears Granddad: Let the games begin! and sees her three-year old self assisting cavist Henri unpack and lovingly nest the annual Homecoming of the Burgundies.

By age four Rebecca had learned to update each cubical’s card with its vintage. I prepared incubation areas for wines Granddad deemed too young. It was a nursery where they slept away enchanted years. I made rounds, checking temperature, lowering any disturbing light, patting and giving, each and all, a little mother’s love.

After the unpacking, over maps Granddad, painting for my imagination the cellars from where the voyages to ours began, described the winemakers: ‘Some’, he said, ‘are cousins; all are trusted noses,’ experts in describing wine’s aromas, able to pick out vintages and varieties by the development of a single scent. All were also Guardians of these cherished land-trusts passed over centuries, protecting, like priests, this heritage for generations to come. With reverence Granddad said, ‘down from the Romans,’ as though he was answering at Mass.

"I dreamed of toga-wearing Roman soldiers, turned vineyardists, working under broad-brimmed straw hats in rocky and chalky soils of burgeoning vines, the recolt of which they later enjoyed while reclining on cline, she demonstrates by stretching out her long legs, in the open atrium, the center of tiled-roof homes situated over aromatic cellars. Since I couldn’t become a Roman, I decided to become a nose."

Instead of a ballerina, unnervingly her Mother’s wail pours from the mirror. Rebecca shakes her mane and paces.

"For my seventh birthday I did fly on Ali-Baba’s carpet to visit Burgundy’s vineyards and nose cousins."

It is the summer of 1984. She pauses: she is there. "When I stand in Burgundy’s oldest vineyard, La Romanee, named for Roman legionaires who planted it, I feel Dionysos’s presence.

"Granddad’s friend is describing the last millennium’s vine-killer, 1860’s phylloxera: ‘The phylloxera pest works far underground, spreading assassination. Using their snouts,’ Monsieur gestures, ‘like vampires they suck the life of the vine and inject a poison that finishes off the precious plants.’

Then, Rebecca shivers, "down ancient stone steps, down a scantily-lit, dizzying spiral staircase, through dripping arches, down even further, we follow to Monsieur’s subterranean lair.

"The Bouchard family make and store their cherished wines in circuitous caves deep under the ramparts of the once ‘Roman fortified-city of Beaune, where the walls are ten meters thick.’ Monsieur Bouchard stopped his history narrative and put a hand on moldy bricks."

"‘Thirty-two feet,’ grandfather’s arms reached toward infinity.

I could not conceive of such walls, she whispers.

‘Fortifications the barbarians could not penetrate,’ Monsieur Bouchard explained.

"Grandfather susurrated of ‘Julius Caesar’s battles with the Aedui in this very area.’"

‘Where they fought, later, together, they planted,’ Monsieur’s old tale telling how ‘Caesar’s Roman soldiers turned swords into plowshares, collaborating with those Aedui, and planted Burgundy’s first vineyards’.

Rebecca grabs the Assistant’s hand … "Claude Bouchard’s eyes flickered in the light of his candle, which light disappeared into the gloom of the ceiling, where racks are stacked with bottles in perpetual twilight-sleep encrusted with ‘helpful molds’. I clutched Granddad’s arm when, in the dark, dank, shape-shifting gloom, we watched Dionysos’s ‘Maenads’ veils’; mysterious transparent clouds of molds flying among countless bottles, leaving one area en masse, passing overhead en route to ‘aid other vintages in their sleep of aging.’ Monsieur climbed high and separated two bottles from their encrustation. Disturbed, molds fluttered, obscuring him."

"One of the two bottles, Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus, its hues shimmering in candlelight like water of rubies, was a pre-phylloxera wine from 1865. It was set side-by-side with a 1944 La Romanee, which was more pomegranate in robe."

"‘From the first vineyard planted by Caesar,’ Monsieur Bouchard cautiously drew the cork from the bottle of La Romanee, and the blood of this sleeping giant he poured. ‘When I taste La Romanee,’ with a flourish his magic cork-screw disappeared, ‘I taste the power of Roman soldiers tamed by care for these vines.’

"The 1865 Monsieur slowly decanted, allowing no aeration, keeping the sediment in the punt. Watching, I was tamed understanding that this wine, spanning generations of caretakers, is semi-divine.

Garrulous granddad and Monsieur uncharacteristically found speech difficult; words hard to find. At seven, I had to take over. I held my glass to the candlelight. ‘The pale pink color tells me that this wine has lost most of its tannins. It is old.’ Both white heads nodded. ‘The perfume is other-worldly. I sniffed a few times gently, ‘I am diving into a garden of roses.’"

Too often, Rebecca eye-to-eyes the Assistant, "I find myself seeking that scent of roses in a wine. But it is a Brigadoon, appearing only once a century. Thus began my quest to taste other wines of pre-phylloxera ‘legend.’—Do you know how rare are plots that are protected naturally from phylloxera by sand or chalk or Dionysos? Even baby Jesus was unable to stop the pest from destroying his vineyard. The wines provided by these precious few hectares of divine terroir are mythic in taste, returning scents and flavors long gone from this planet. Only a sip makes old men cry tears of astonishment and joy. Thus is the enticing trail of Dionysos I was born to follow."

What the Assistant does know is that nothing Rebecca tells her about grapes will surprise her. Rebecca is today’s expert on clonal variations and considered the finest of wine ‘noses’. In her determination to detect Dionysos’s origins, from one vineyard to the next Rebecca tracks ancient clones to rarer grape mutations, tracing the civilizing process of her god through this planet, aroma to aroma: this the Assistant knows. And she hopes one day—…

"Now no one will learn how Julius Caesar Invented Champagne. Monsieur Bouchard was wrong. Barbarians, like Doctor ‘47’s masked ‘Burg Whores’, have breached the fortifications, destroying history, murdering Dionysos. How will I find the god’s First Vine? There will be no vines to lure me ever onward. Doctor ‘47 makes them unnecessary. The god for whom I breathe hereby is assassinated," she gestures to the line-up of phony Zinfandel bottles.

Doctor ‘47? the Assistant queries. But Rebecca is remembering …

It was 2008, and Rebecca was standing in line in JFK to board her flight to Croatia. The background noise that came from her friend’s cell-phone was deafening. You gotta come quick, Becca; you’re the Burgundy expert. Her friend, Director of New York’s premier wine auction-house, sounded desperate. Some of Burgundy’s top proprietaires-vignerons had yanked Doctor ‘47’s personal submissions of their wines from this auction, and her friend needed an answer.—At that moment Rebecca was en route to detect ancient varietals in vineyards above Split. Instead, she tossed her bag into a cab and made it into Manhattan with one hour to auction time.

Standing in front of the line-up of some ten different vintages and vineyards, the greatest examples of both, she lifted her head from her glass of 1929 Clos de la Roche, and spat. Dreadful. Dead.

Bottle variation? her friends’s hoarse voice was croaking in the wind, and he knew it. Chatter from the next room of excited wine-buyers at the pre-aucton tasting was beginning to scatter, mixing with scraping of chairs: the auction was about to begin. And the Director was sweating in his Armani.

Rebecca held up a finger; her friend backed away; and she poured a taste of the Clos St. Denis, 1947. She sniffed; put the glass down; went back to the 1929. "It’s there; barely, but definitely." She tasted the 1947, and spat vehemently. Holding both glasses to the clarity of LED lights, she could even see it. The colors were too gorgeous; underneath she could see a yellow which should not be. Dead, she repeated. "These are not wines. None of them. She picked up the bottles and examined the labels. Look, she pointed out subtle differences from the real labels she brought up on the computer. These bottles are filled with chemically made-in-laboratories counterfeits: ‘Copy-wines.’ Chemists duplicate to the unwary, without grapes, great aromas and tastes. But, taste again, carefully, and you feel wrongness. Your famous ‘Doctor ‘47’ assumes a taster will put any strange odd taste and aroma down to ‘bottle variation’. At this age these gems, with dimished color, should have a silkiness, an old-roses floralness, taste coalescing to totality. These great vintages and vineyards should show even more complete, seamless; the variety should sparkle like a ruby in your mouth, a gem on your tongue. But sadly, these have none of that. They are dead."

The wines were pulled and discovered to be exactly what Rebecca described to her friend. This aberration was perpetrated by such an odd loner, so-called, self-styled, ‘Doctor ‘47’, who, now, since 2012, was imprisoned for counterfeited frauds, laboratory-wines purporting to be from the greatest vineyards and vintages in Burgundy. And she had thought that ghastly chapter was closed.

Now from behind prison walls Doctor ‘47’s obsession continues to obliterate Dionysos; is fostered by others, bigger, even more voracious. Faced with this increase of copy-wines, chemically impersonating the great and unique, again Rebecca sees the shriveling of the One Vine staring her in the face. This fraud will end the need for vineyards, terroir becoming meaningless, ancient varietals withering like the god. Rebecca feels her own existence disappearing.

I, 2

This 2013 afternoon in the desert is perfumed with citrus blossoms. Hummingbirds, drunk on nectar, zip dangerously like quantum dive-bombers among lemon trees. The Assistant wants to let it all in. But in Rebecca’s home things are not so—well—natural.

Like a soldier Rebecca squares her shoulders. The current perpetrators of vinous fraud, four Zinfandel bottles, implacable of purpose, stare her down, flouting treachery. Spurious wines, she glares right back. I’ve tried to turn back Doctor ‘47’s relentlessness. But too many powerful and rich are now involved. She gestures, The principles I guide my followers with are pulverized under your unstoppable, cheap, chemical tide.

Twenty-first century economics and technology are doing-in the god of high civilization: The existence of Cabernet-shootouts, and of black tasting-rooms with garish gnomes standing guard, are silly preludes; protestors against water for vineyards pile fuel on the divinity’s pyre; but these ersatz, chemical products, devastating ridicules of wine’s pleasures, send the god over the Copy-edge, and Dionysos, assassinated, becomes dust among his now-useless vines.

On this afternoon the Zinfandel bottles that cause Rebecca’s ultimate tragedy purport to be from California vineyards. Reference pages on this once-mystery variety, with these vineyards’ imaginary histories, are strewn with her tasting notes.

When California was still the Wild West, the variety arrived with a peripatetic seeker of vines, Agoston Haraszthy, and had randomly been named ‘Zinfandel’. But the bottles in front of Rebecca are not wine by any name. Over the years, since her early tasting epiphanies, Rebecca has taken herself back in time through vineyards, tracing olfactory and clonal mutations, subtle connections to bring her ever nearer to her heart’s desire, the origin of the First Vine, birthplace of Dionysos. So, she knows. These bottles are filled with chemicals, not wines. These are not Zinfandel.

Five years ago, right after that sideways-trip into Manhattan to help her friend, she arrived in Croatia. And there, amid a sea of vines in mountainous hillsides above Split, Rebecca’s nose told her she was nearing the clonal origins of this mistakenly-named ‘Zinfandel’. After weeks sniffing and tasting wines around the Seven Kastelae, an area rich with mutations of ancient vines, she knew, whatever Zinfandel’s true name will prove to be, its clone originated in vineyards somewhere here in south-west Croatia. Somewhere.

I was slumped, feeling stumped, sitting at a small table in a wine-maker’s kitchen, windows open toward the Adriatic. Confidently he set one glass in front of her. An aroma of myrrh enticed. "One sniff in that glass had me sitting up: ‘This is it!’" Scents of myrrh mixed with frankincense tickled her nose: the ‘eureka’; the origin of Haraszthy’s ‘Zinfandel’ was in that glass.

Just as the Adriatic with its barrier-islands south-east of Venice, nurtures within its waters and sheltered coves sweet fish and delicate crustaceans awaited daily by housewives and restaurants in Venice’s market, it also protects the hills that rise directly up from the water’s edge from too harsh sea weather, giving luxuriant life to vineyards and orchards that circle, like stars in a crown above Split, the Seven Kastelae. Here the gardens are envied, and the olives produce some of the finest oil in the Mediterranean. And here the vineyards are filled with indigenous, little-known, ancient varieties of grapes.

‘Crljenak.’ The winemaker, a man working exclusively with indigenous vines of his region in Kastela Novi repeated, ‘Crljenak grape, from Kastela’.

I’d trekked back in time and ‘nosed’ this milestone. ‘Crljenak Kastela’ was Zinfandel. And success made me giddy.

Things turned serious when Rebecca’s host put between them a freshly caught loup de mer, pristinely filleted. From a carafe he drizzled golden drops of his olive oil and reached out the kitchen window to pluck a lemon with which juice he baptized this offering, then confirmed it with a glitter of sea salt. He disappeared again, to return with another bottle: a white, ‘Crljenak,’ his accent was throaty and Croat, ‘Crljenak Masqak. The grape mutates fast. This is Crljenak as it arrived here from the Peloponnesos, centuries ago. White.’ His eyes seemed to search her racing heartbeat. Then he poured, she continues, and aromas of oranges and honeysuckle were offset by dry, stony flavors arising from the flint in the chalky soil. It was perfect with the fish.

‘Crljenak!’ Already my nose was progressing me further back in time, detecting me Eastward in scents, over mountains and seas, to find from where the god Dionysos had carried this vine. ‘In America it is called Zinfandel. In Croatia it is called Crljenak. But what was it called in the Peloponnesos, in that space where it was as well-appreciated, millennia ago? And, what was it before then, when Dionysos packed it over the Caspian Sea and Aral mountains?’ That discovery was to be my future.

Since that trip, in the intervening five years, DNA proved that what Haraszthy haphazardly called Zinfandel is synonymous with Crljenak.

And in those five years chemical treachery continued proliferating. "These are adulterated shit. Rebecca’s pointing hand is as unsteady as her voice. And these over-confident, Wall-Street-vineyard-owners are not going to welcome the article they are paying me to write. They thought to deceive me, pull the wool over, fool me into a positive assessment, making a mockery. Knowingly they murder Dionysos. She glares as though each bottle is sentient. You are all programmed-for-taste, made-in-a-laboratory:—a ‘Warehouse 50’, a ‘Garage 75’?—Copy-wine Murderers!"

The Assistant’s face shows growing agitation at the realization. So, while outside Palm Springs’s day is perfect, The Assistant understands why inside this glass house there is so unsettling a tempest.

"These examples of the death of civilization in front of you prove that Doctor ‘47’s criminal wine-forging is bonding into another generation beyond The Big House. These spurious-wines could never serve in bacchic rituals that are relevant and meaningful. These producers of Zinfandel are not seeking to create wines that elevate, transforming from mundane sensations to the ‘out-of-body’. These fiends decline into manufacturing, chemically, pretend-wines that degenerate, twenty-four-carating their bank-accounts. The god of poetic ecstasy, of opera and dance cannot tolerate such. By ending the evolution of Dionysos’s One Vine they kill civilization. After ten thousand years, this day is Dionysos’s last. Wines from laboratories, not vineyards! Assassins! All."

Now The Assistant too feels herself dissolving in the progression of declarations. She admires Rebecca for her work-ethic and command of her subject; she feels her own life transformed listening to and working with Rebecca, and this scene is hard to take. Normally she’s quick to answer the office phone, eager to commune with wine-connoisseurs from around the globe. But today she is unnerved, wracking her blue hair, and Rebecca has to snuff it and answer.

"Hello?" The word gets away from her and comes out too too as Rebecca tries to stifle powerful emotions, and a large hiccup.

"‘Wine and Food magazine’. Editor calling."

Yes? Rebecca takes a stabilizing breath. Go on, Elizabeth.

Put off by Rebecca answering, falteringly the Editor’s Assistant, Elizabeth, does as she is bid. She detects sorrow and becomes, herself, somewhat unhinged. Please, Rebecca, p-please write an article for us on the history of Burgundy?

Something’s wrong, Elizabeth mouths to Grace, her Editor.

Rebecca snuffles into the receiver, but she cannot hold back: No. Only yesterday such a call would have been right on the mark. Yesterday she began dictating those first History of Burgundy pages for her own book. Now yesterday becomes a long-time ago; now she must face it, spit it out. No one cares, Elizabeth. Who drinks it anymore with appreciation or knowledge? Doctor ‘47’s chemistry lab makes it ‘too late’. Tell your Editor, tell Grace, I will make it official. In three days I am holding a funeral.

A f-funeral? Doctor ‘47? Elizabeth rolls her eyes at her boss.

Her decision’s made. I’ve served the best to the celebrated taste-makers of today: Doctor ‘47’s rich ‘Deaf, Dumb and Blind’ associates, and his ‘Burg Whores’; frauds, all. Displaying strength, she pulls herself together. Cheating producers of imaginary wines are beyond frauds, Elizabeth, her anguish is palpable even on the other end of this conversation, their dangerous practices assassinate the god Dionysos, Elizabeth, ending my heart’s desire. Gastronomy and culture have given place to flashy and disconnected and to spurious creations of no legitimacy. No, Elizabeth; lack of principals has ended Dionysos on this planet. Tell Grace she’s invited to the funeral in three days. Please.

After listening to all that, Rebecca’s Assistant too is coming undone: a funeral? What consolation can she offer? As she hands the just-received mail, this sympathetic assistant’s equilibrium is off. All these phrases require background, true understanding. A lifetime of experience goes into creating a Rebecca. It shatters her to see the embodiment of what she aspires to, the person she almost iconizes, devastated. She tries to reason this through.

"‘Les Sabreurs de Champagne’ invite me to receive an honor in the historic caves at G. H. Mumm in Reims. Why? Rebecca tosses the invitation in the trash, her amethyst ring sparkling like purple tears. The Champagne Sabering Society doesn’t yet know it, but the story of the One Vine is dead. Who in this one-upmanship craziness appreciates great Champagne like G.H.Mumm anymore? Taste buds are killed by criminals pushing chemically engineered pretenders, entwined with glory-hungry PR agencies. Frumpery!"

Ahem? The Assistant stands tall. She is hired to assist: Trumpery?

That’s it, Sylvia. Rebecca gulps more water. "Trumpery. Write it down, please: ‘Palates are dead’. Planting property with fake vines and prancing in front of a Video camera proclaiming the excellence of imaginary-wine? That’s the future. No one will hear Dionysos’s death knell over the screeching of praise for plastic-vines purporting to produce finer than any two thousand year-old plantations in Meursault. ‘What’s Meursault?’ the philistines scoff. ‘Here we have the answer, here at Warehouse Number 50 where they have no need to bother with land, Sylvia. They make it in that chemistry lab, hidden behind fake vines. And the provenance of such is in the Auctioneer’s gavel, knocking down these deadly phonies at thousands of dollars the bottle; while Dionysos lies in the dust begging for a sip of true Falernium, a drop of Apianum or Kydonitsa from real chalky soil, a bubble from Verzenay to wet his pipes that sung us into fields of ecstasy and poesy. No more those fairy tunes, no more the high call to symposia; no more wine games like Kottabos. Even picnics are dead. Would you picnic among plastic vines, sitting on Wall Street’s curb drinking chemical wines?"

From Rebecca’s notes The Assistant has read about Falernium and Kydonitsa, and she’s tasted Verzenay during — Rebecca interrupts her thoughts.

"I used to believe that whole cultures evolved around folk-lore and tradition based on soils, hallowed terroirs, where wines, the principal of gastronomy, upheld economy. As we wrote about yesterday, thanks to Caesar’s conquering garrisons turning swords into plows, planting semi-divine vineyards, the fruits thereof produced civilizations of architecture, drama, and elegant political themes. Not to mention individual ecstasy, and religious mysticism: all because of Dionysos. But his story of One Vine will never be told. He is killed by Doctor ‘47’s cultists. Vines, vessels of the blood of the god, will cease be. Nothing sacred is left to lead me on."

At her desk, she continues adding stamps to the pile of black-edged cards.

You are over-concerned about these particular wines. There are still sacred contracts—

Sylvia, these non-wines are the tip of the ice-berg, and we are on the Titanic.

Remember your friends who make great Zinfandel, Dave and Joel? Invite them for a …? Rebecca continues writing. "Tonight Paul Draper is presenting Lytton Springs’s Croatian-cloned Zinfandels in Santa Monica, at Chinois. Wolfgang will be …—Or? Silence continues. So she shuts up and starts clearing the bottles and glasses. Well, about the funeral …?"

Take it all. Rebecca burps from the fast breaths. Take it home, Sylvia. Let me help. Rebecca stoppers bottles and organizes them into carrying cases.

Sylvia left months ago, Rebecca.

She did? Probably bad wine got her.

I’m Agnes.

Oh. Of course. She pushes more bottles into the cases and hands them to Agnes. Now Rebecca knows that this forced realization of copy-wine expansion has altered her fundamentally. She is embarrassed by her own destruction; but, how could she be so callous and blind regarding the one assistant whom she’s begun to think of giving a raise to, elevating her to the status of ‘Précis Writer’? Of course you are. Agnes. She likes the name ‘Agnes’; and loves the blue hair.

And I don’t think I should drink those wines if you say they are deadly. You know best.

Rebecca stops and regards Agnes. No sign of the mockery as she had received long ago at home. Real concern is what she sees. Forgive me, Agnes.

Why don’t you fix your hair and go to the movies? You love movies.

Like ‘Sideways?’ She laughs. Agnes joins her.

No. More like ‘Bottle Shock’?

It feels good to laugh. Rebecca considers what Agnes says. Now there’s another real Dionysian, Steven Spurrier. His ‘Judgment of Paris’ tasting sure surprised winemakers; scales fell from eyes and taste-buds. With that one event Steven opened-up the wine-world, sending it on a higher course. But that was then. She looks at Agnes. Again Rebecca sees concern . You are right, Agnes. You know, I need to call Steven. Let’s get his opinions about climate change in England, how it’s affecting his sparkling winemaking in Dorset. Tomorrow? You make the call to Brideshead. Steven likes talking with you. Now is your chance to question the master of sparkling wines. Rebecca runs a hand through her rumpled curls. Just throw it all in the recycling and go home.

It’s too early. Back to where we left off? There’s no reply. Or? I’ll continue transcribing: I want to know what Doinysos does at Caesar’s wine-dinner for the Aedui—

But like some wickedness injected by an invisible, chemical enemy of Dionysos, or phylloxera sucking life, the realization of what is happening refuses to release her. The reality of such deceit in her once magical wine-world returns, and, like a festering wound, begins to throb. There is no towel to bite to contain the pain so she passes the hurt to another: Oh, Agnes, what book? About whom; about what? We won’t be calling Steven. It’s all for nothing. Burgundy? Champagne? I’ll never find the First Vine, or the true story: Dionysos is dead. Go home.

She makes a mental note to have a serious talk about possibilities with Agnes after the funeral. Agnes actually is a writer with promise. And one with fine fashion flair.

It will prove too bad she does not have the courage to throw off despair and have that chat here and now instead of falling back into the pit. But she returns to the fatal invitations, her curls tangled with agitation.

I, 3

The sun is sinking behind the mountains shooting up sparks of pink and gold over the desert community when Agnes gets into her Toyota. As she drives though Palm Springs the beauty of the late afternoon makes her dizzy. She pulls over and gets out. And walks along Palm Canyon singing to herself. Agnes turns into ‘Cielo’.

To Agnes’s mind ‘Cielo’ is the epitome of chic and style. Agnes has a practical mind, but she is also a romantic. And to her Cielo is a place out of Mozart’s Vienna. Though the desert temperature today almost slid into the 90s, Agnes races in from a sudden Viennese snow-fall, shakes off and runs smack into—Oh, hello, Max. Hastily she removes the mittens from her mind, smiles and accepts the seat and the menu he proffers. Max is cute.

Agnes studies the menu and hums a bar from Mozart’s ‘Linz’ symphony. She orders a cafe crème sprinkled with chocolate and a miniature torte with the picture of Mozart drizzled on top.

In that romantic vein Agnes is an optimist. She tries not to think about her shrinking bank account, nor what the outcome of today’s almost-crazed boss session might mean to her future. In every way she can, she wants to emulate Rebecca and be a successful writer and wine expert one day too. She loves how this job brings introductions to famous wine-makers. She’s even been dreaming of a promotion? Is she mad? She knows Rebecca doesn’t even know she is there, most of the time. When she does, in those moments Agnes feels she approves of her work.

Rebecca is more than talented. She is the tops. But suddenly, recently, was getting more devastated about ‘copy-wine’ and ‘processed-food’. With a sinking, an owning-up to her omissions, Agnes thinks through the contents of her own pantry and refrigerator: Cheez Whiz, cans of soup with

rice, and some of spinach. Rebecca is right in ignoring me. While I want to be like her, I too am a copy-freak and no true friend. I’m just profiting off her. She says aloud, I don’t have one fresh thing in my kitchen. Even frozen chicken-popcorn.

What’s that you say? The cute waiter puts down her cafe crème and goes on to the next table, balancing a tray full. Deftly he serves the round table next to Agnes’s and is back at her elbow. Sorry I didn’t catch all that. Frozen chicken and frozen popcorn?

I did really think those wines I tasted, tasted strange, maybe like shit. I’m glad I didn’t finish that glass. She smiles and studies the pretty ‘C’ decorating the surface of her Cielo cafe crème. That’s like poetry, she tells Max.

He puts down the cake with Mozart. Is this like music? Max tweeks a blue lock and smiles back.

Well, let me taste him and I’ll tell you. She takes a bite right out of Mozart’s fluffy hairdo, licks the icing from her fingers, and smiles a raspberry-crème smile. "I’d say like his Jupiter. Stupendous! She studies the cake. Max, is the cake real? Is the filling from a box or did someone make it from scratch with real butter and organic raspberries?"

Why? Max wants to know.

"Well, are they real? Not processed, you know?"

Processed? What are you talking about, Agnes? You’re beginning to sound like Rebecca. Everyone eats frozen chicken. Even frozen popcorn. Don’t let her get to you.

What do you know about Processed and Rebecca?

Max whirls around and returns. Lately she’s been more excitable. She came in here the other morning and walked right into the kitchen and demanded to see the milk. She claimed the milk tastes like it is not real, but, you know, like powdered: ‘Processed’, is in fact what she said.

"Don’t take it to heart. She is some kind of genius and sometimes that screws her up. I’m worried her principles are talking herself out of a job. And that means me too. Today she declined Wine and Food magazine’s offer and tore up an invitation to receive a Champagne honor. She says chemically-made wines assassinated Dionysos. She’s planning his funeral instead of working on her history of wine book. I’ve got to help her."

See? She’s going too far. You’d better do what you can to rein her in for starters.

Agnes thinks about it as she enjoys her coffee and torte. She thinks about it all the way to her car. "I’d better think of something, or it will be my funeral."

She is still thinking about it as she throws the processed food from her refrigerator into the trash. Then she goes to the market and buys fresh vegetables, checking to make sure they are organic and not ‘genetically altered’. She is still thinking as she opens Jeremiah Tower’s cookbook, looking for that recipe for vegetable soup. She’d tasted it after Rebecca and Jeremiah made it four months ago. Somehow he’d made leeks taste unforgettably delicious. The pages in the book are so unused Agnes has to use an eraser to turn them. She is going to tell Rebecca tomorrow all about how she is imitating her; buoy her spirits.

Soon she is humming and stirring. Looking for the cookbook she found a Christmas bottle of Meursault in the closet. Attached notes are instructions to pleasure: "Meursault Genevrieres: Roman plantation, ancient clones of Allobrogian Arbane mutated to Chardonnay, aroma of juniper in the soil because of a long-gone forest. Aerate for 30 minutes. Serve in large shallow Burgundy glasses. Baccarat preferred. Relax, inhale, enjoy and dream. Rebecca." The timer goes off: thirty minutes of aeration; the moment it had been made for has arrived.

Though she has no Baccarat, Agnes pours the Meursault carefully into the largest wine glass she can find, and sniffs as Rebecca had shown her. She sips. Then swirls and takes another sip, closes her eyes and aerates the wine imitating Rebecca, making slurping sounds, drawing air into her mouth and through the wine on her tongue. She swallows. Something goes ‘click’, lighting up her brain: a revelation. Wow that is good. To your health, Rebecca, she raises her glass. Don’t worry; I’m going to help you. And the god you talk about all the time is going to help too.

Agnes is really thinking as she takes her enlightening glass to the computer and opens email. She finds the address of Grace at Wine and Food. After a few serious moments of deep thought, she sends an email from ‘Rebecca’ saying she is rethinking the offer and will come back with an outline for the Burgundy article. At the same time she will invite Grace to The Funeral. In this time of grief, ‘Rebecca’ asks Grace to communicate through her assistant, Agnes. ‘Rebecca’ signs. Agnes presses ‘send’.

I hope this does not get me truly fired. But if I don’t save this Burgundy article that will be my job anyhow. Most especially I’ve got to save Rebecca from herself. Grace, please don’t reply for a few days, Agnes whispers. Then she takes another swallow. "Hello? You are good. She stares at the golden wine. And raises her glass: To Dionysos, whom she reveres. Hear this plea and help Rebecca find her way back through these shoals called Copy and Processed."

By the time the soup is ready Agnes has set the table in her miniscule kitchen just as Rebecca taught her. Arranging the best plates she has, she again fills her glass to the correct level; then ladles a bowlful of spring-green soup. When she turns to cut a crusty hunk of toasted French bread, from an invisible hand star-dust cascades into her glass. Agnes swoons so over her first spoonful of leek soup she has another sip of that Meursault. The pairing is ‘poetry in the mouth,’ as Rebecca says. She crunches a crust of baguette. Imitating Rebecca she holds her glass to the light and studies the yellow-gold colors. And has another sip of Meursault. Agnes begins to feel more optimistic. And is still thinking.

I, 4

Agnes called, and the god listened. At this moment Dionysos, his golden self, is snooping in Rebecca’s library, reading what she dictated. ‘Ah, Champagne’! he reads: ‘the sheer lilt the rising inflections give the voice at its pronouncing; the excitement of that inimitable pop" of the tri-partite cork releasing a stream of bubbles frothing into coupes, flutes, glasses of many elegant forms; …’ The god pauses. I’ll add … ‘ancient kylix wine-cups’ before ‘glasses’." Dionysos grabs a red pencil from Rebecca’s desk and adds the words. In the darkened room, his god’s shinning illuminates so well the pages Agnes wrote from Rebecca’s dictation, additional lights are unnecessary. But he’s wearing Rebecca’s reading glasses: he is an old-order god.

"You know, the ‘ancient’ kylix wine vessels are better than flutes, he announces to the shelves full of books. Should I describe those at this point? Dionysos thinks a moment: No. Let King Nestor do it when my story gets to Pylos." The books seem to agree, so Dionysos continues his snooping.

Elsewhere in the house Rebecca is huddled over a pile of those black-edged cards inviting all and sundry of the wine greats to his funeral, and Dionysos is not pleased. He has come to see for himself the gravity of this matter.

Thanks to Agnes’s plea, he understands that the situation is serious enough to warrant an intervention. No one enjoys his own funeral, he stomps about and shouts. Certainly not a god! Well, if this book she’s writing is heading in the right direction, I’ll call out the troops and set things straight. Otherwise … Making the throat-cutting gesture, he picks up Agnes’s sheets and starts again, aloud, once more from the top, loving the sound of his meddling voice:

"‘Ah, Champagne! The sheer lilt the’ … blah, blah, etcetera, let’s see, ‘stream of bubbles frothing into coupes, flutes, ancient kylix wine-cups, glasses of many elegant forms; the joyful hysteria that must have reigned the night it was invented; the stars we see after we consume it: these are some intoxicating descriptions of that divine beverage, Champagne."

The god paces, twirling the reading glasses. "True. As far as it goes. But it’s not nearly as entertaining as was the reality. The ‘joyful hysteria’ that did reign that night was shared by me, god of Champagne, with my devotee, General Caius Julius Caesar. The god sits back and plumps pillows. Also in attendance were other favorites of mine, and we did invent Champagne. Therefore, Rebecca, there is much more to tell, and my plan begins to take shape. Well, let’s see how much more she’s detected …" He returns to Agnes’s sheets, continuing aloud.

‘But Champagne is like the cork in those sturdy bottles …’ Dionysos flings the pages aside. "True, Champagne bottles have to be extra thick so the glass will not explode when the ferments, eating the sugar in the partially-made wine, belch carbon dioxide gas and create tremendous pressure. Up to six atmospheres of pressure those bottles withstand. That’s as though you are six leagues under the sea. So, yes, ‘sturdy’ is necessary. But, he taps the pencil on the page, I don’t happen to like the sound of that word; ‘sturdy’ is not an elegant word. The god puts Rebecca’s glasses back on the end of his long, straight nose, makes a red X through ‘sturdy’, and continues. ‘Champagne did not always describe a bubbly drink; that was a long-time coming, as this story will tell.’ Well? Dionysos is thoughtful. Almost true."

"‘Champagne first steps into cognizance as a collaboration of two ancient Roman words, conjoined by Caesar, to describe a large plain of

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