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Edward Peters

Personal Dessert Wines

Porto IV: TF '70

            When I was young, the hours between Christmas Eve dinner and our departure for Midnight Mass seemed interminable. Forbidden fruits lay under the tree whence they could not be removed till morning; older relatives spoke of persons and places I had no knowledge of; little kids watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and fell fitfully asleep on couches. I mostly poked in the fireplace.

            But one Holy Night, someone gave me an early present: a paperback edition of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. After dinner, I went to my room and read it, reaching the last page just as my father called us all down to the car. Reading that book, on that night, at that time in my life, resulted in one of the deepest experiences of living literature I have ever had. Many Christmas Eves since then, I have revisited those pages, if only to read a few lines to children who have already seen the video.

            To bring us from one of Dickens’ finest works to one of port’s finest vintages, may I present Vincent Whelan, Esq., who has unstintingly shared his love of Chesterton, Dickens, and fine wines with us and so many others. A few weeks before Christmas last year, as we exchanged remembrances of Christmas readings and suggestions for wines during the holy days, he said quietly “You know what Barbara and I just opened? A 1970 Taylor-Fladgate.” Now, the TF 70 is a legendary port, but that was not what I thought of as Angela and I settled down to our boon glass later that week.

            Instead, over the finest experience of port I have ever had, my mind turned back to Christmas of 1970. The worst-dressed decade in American history was starting. The Beatles were cracking up. And I was in the eighth grade, reading A Christmas Carol in my bedroom. But somewhere up the Duoro River in Portugal, working men had set aside a bottle of wine, which after passing through so many hands and miles and years, was now being relished by us nearly three decades later. It was all planned by Providence.

            Contrary to popular impression, experiencing true greatness never takes away from one’s enjoyment of lesser goods. Having read A Christmas Carol thirty years ago did not render me unable to appreciate lesser short novels, and drinking Vince’s superb port last year did not make me look askance at my much smaller and younger collection. Indeed, it somehow made it easier to see how Dickens and port and Chesterton and Christmas are all related, if only because each sits safely in the broad hands of God. +++

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