“Coming right up!” The normally cool and collected Gourmet was quick to his feet to accommodate his guests. He brought over the glasses, which had been prepared earlier.
They were fine looking large burgundy glasses, composed of beautiful crystal. The thin walls of the glass reflected the shimmering light of the wine Master’s residual power.
The Wine Master coldly watched his every move. “I’m surprised you don’t expect me to take this and keep it for myself. I won’t even tell you how much this single bottle costs. Suffice it to say that every one of you owes me, tremendously. If you can’t agree to that, then I’m leaving and taking my wine with me. I’d have to seek recompense afterward, and I won’t be nice about it.”
The Pauper gave a bitter smirk. “Well when you put it that how, how can we say no? I accept, I accept.” The strongest portion of the wine Master’s murderous aura had been direction at the Pauper, who had done the actual thievery. He dare not upset an already intensely irritated Paragon.
The Gourmet looked sheepishly at his old friend. “I agree, but I can’t help my cravings. But consider this, the Seamstress and I are together now, and you haven’t presented us a congratulations gift. You have a commitment…”
They could all see the veins in the old master’s forehead growing large and prominent. “And who the hell in their right mind would offer a Henri Jayer bottle as a wedding present?! If you plan to then I’ll get married every day and find a new one every night.”
“Pfft!” The Seamstress couldn’t help herself, and broke in to a fit of laughter. “Don’t lump me in with these rascals. I’m just here for the entertainment, I’m not having any. A sip is equivalent to the cost of a power gem.”
Lan Jue quickly interjected. “I’ve already agreed to help you with that other business. Look, I’m trying to do the right thing here. I never once refused to help since you came to me with this. I’ve paid my dues.”
The Wine Master snorted. “No, the fact that you brought us fifty power gems makes you square.”
The Gourmet cackled at this. “Alright, alright. We don’t all need to be so nervous. It’ll mess with the taste! You only have this bottle, and we don’t want to ruin this chance to taste something so exquisite. Seeing as none of us have had anything like this before, are there any special considerations?”
Now able to educate his colleagues on a matter of interest to him, the Wine Master relaxed somewhat and took a seat. “Pour it like you would a Romanee-Conti. The only difference is, one should keep a ten minute break between sips of a Jayer.”
This was the first time Lan Jue had heard this. “Oh? Why?”
The Wine Master shot him a look. “Have some, then you’ll understand.” He followed up by gripping the base of the bottle, and pouring approximately two fingers in each of the four cups.
Te moment the wine left the bottle, it’s fragrant scent wafted out among them. It was restrained, like a bashful maiden.
“A Jayer bottle is the ultimate treat. After about two minutes, we can have our first sip.” By now, the Wine Master’s expression had calmed. However, a smoldering excitement could be spied behind his eyes. This was a very special bottle, and it deserved the requisite excitement and respect.
The Gourmet’s small place sunk in to silence. The Seamstress – not in the least upset she was not participating – tittered to herself. Everyone had their hobbies, and hers didn’t involve red wine. The Driver’s influence had actually imprinted more of a love for single-malt whisky.
The Driver always complained that he was unable to taste the subtleties of red wine. He preferred simpler fare, and single-malt whisky was his go-to choice. Perhaps it was his yin nature that contributed to his desire for the very yang-oriented drink.
Contrary to popular believe, red wine also wasn’t the most expensive alcohol out there. While something like a Jayer would fetch quite a windfall, single-malt whisky was in a class all its own. Classified as a spirit, it could be left for ages without any requirements, and didn’t need special storage like wine. Those whiskies which had survived from the Former Era until now were known to be exceptionally rich in flavor. The price was just as dramatic. To true connoisseurs, they were priceless treasures.
“Alright.” The Wine Master lifted the fine crystal glass by the stem. He swirled its contents, looking for sedimentation. Lan Jue, the Gourmet, and the Pauper mirrored him.
It was important to note that the Pauper had looked very clean the last few days. Though he was only clad in little more than a wife-beater, he had taken pains to look as presentable as one might expect a beggar to be. He was even surrounded by a faint, pleasant scent. All of this was certainly to maintain the proper atmosphere for their tasting party.
The wine’s scent wasn’t strong, and nor was it entirely fragrant. It was complicated, and possessed layers of peach and pear blossoms, apricot, lily, forget-me-nots, cornflower, and tulips. Although the scents were faint, it contained a wealth of pleasant aromas. Once the bottom opened, it was like they were transported in to a flower garden. They could almost see them blooms in their minds eye.
If Bordeaux were considered a more masculine wine, then burgundy was its feminine balance. This, was its extreme, and the scent was like a punch with an open fist – hard and soft. It passed through ever cell, and settled in their hearts. It was like the essence of the scent was melting through them.
Lan Jue was suddenly somewhat unwilling to drink. He shook his head ever so slightly, then took another wiff, then again. It was like he truly was in a flower garden. He could almost see the lilies, and a vision of a beautiful garden blanketed in moonlight swam behind his eyes. He felt the wine was even more complicated, now that he had his nose in it. It was a feeling very difficult to describe.
The Wine was first to partake. He took a sip, and not a small one. Only half of the treasured liquid remained. Truly exquisite alcohol needed to be enjoyed in somewhat larger quantities, only then could one experience all of its flavors.
The Wine Master’s face scrunched in pleasure, and then Lan Jue and the others took their sip as well.
Romanee-Conti, it is said, penetrates your gums, right down to your very soul. The Cros Parantoux was something altogether different. As the crimson liquid slipped passed his lips, Lan Jue’s mind went blank.
There was only one word to describe this sensation: boom!
Indeed it was like the flavors of the wine had exploded in his mouth. In contrast to its gentle smell, the flavors filled his mouth without subtlety. He – like the wine Master – winced as he felt his whole body react.
How could this be? It was just pinot noir, how could it have such a stupendous flavor? Lan Jue hardly noticed swallowing the mouthful. All he knew was that staggering, intoxicating sensation as the flavors overcame him. He’d never tasted anything like it in his life.
The four of them placed their glasses upon the table, one after the other. For a long time, no one spoke.
Lan Jue finally understood why the Wine Master had instructed them to pause for ten minutes between drinks. The flavor lingered, much to his delight.
The first few moments when a wine touched the tongue was called the foretaste. While in the mouth, the flavors were referred to as the mouthful, and then finally the aftertaste. When determining the quality of a wine, all three sections are important. It had to have all three, well balanced and pleasant, and only then was a wine even considered decent.
This wine, though, didn’t have those three. It had one – an explosion of flavor! It penetrated to the bone, even after the sip was done.
Even now he felt as though the aroma was seeping from his very pores. All three ‘sections’ of the wine were one in this complicated flavor that lingered on the tongue, as though it had been branded on the taste buds. It felt rooted in his mouth.
As predicted, ten minutes later the flavors had begun to subside, and gradually disappeared.
Licking his lips, Lan Jue wanted to say something, but ultimately refrained. He didn’t want to say anything that would effect this ambrosial flavor. At any rate, he didn’t think he could summon the words to tell them how this wine made him feel.
The five Avenue denizens sat just like this for the rest of the morning, quietly sipping wine.
Once the wine was gone, the Wine Master reverently gathered up the cork and bottle. The Gourmet shot to his feet. “I’m sorry.”
The Wine Master glanced at him. “No need. Just remember that you owe me.”
“I used to think drinking a bottle was much better than having one,” the Gourmet said. “But now that I’ve had the Cros Parantoux, I know I was wrong. In order to truly appreciate this wine, everything needs to be perfect. The right place, the right food, the right atmosphere… every detail seen to. We were curious and capricious. Drinking it in this way was blasphemous. I not only owe you a favor, but a bottle of wine. Just tell me where another Jayer can be found, I’ll do anything in my power to recover it. The next time, everything will be perfect.”
A small smile finally appeared on the crotchety old man’s face. “Understanding is enough. In a few days, the Jewelry Master and I will leave in search of the Great Master’s descendants. I can’t make any promises, but if while we’re gone we do need assistance, I’ll call on you. Make sure you don’t leave the Avenue.”