This past Wednesday was the Summer Solstice, the first day of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, the day of the actual moment this year when the sun was (for a moment) directly above the Tropic of Cancer. Each year the point is different, but always falls (more or less) on the line of latitude at 23° 26′ N, aka the Tropic of Cancer. All of this relative motion occurs because the Earth’s axis is tilted at a constant (more or less) 23.5° from the ecliptic. Can you imagine how weird the world would be if it weren’t tilted?
That means our next “cross-quarter day” will be in six weeks, roughly in early August. It is called Lammas, and celebrates the wheat harvest, as well as the beginning of the descent into winter. Here’s a good story about the holiday.
In any case, as usual around here, Spring has kind of dissolved into being in the last few days. We’re just past the New Moon, with its characteristic “lower low” and “higher high” tides; winds have been very light; and it seems uncharacteristically sultry. If you have ever read Conrad, you will naturally be concerned that we are in the lull before the Big Typhoon: a little restless, a little anxious, a little “this doesn’t feel Quite Right.”
Is Midsummer Night’s Eve the Solstice?
Those of you who for whatever reason actually read this blog from time to time have probably noticed I have a fascination with the seasons and the ancient ways of observing and finding meaning in them. One thing I have wondered about and not found a satisfactory answer for is the relationship between the Summer solstice (around June 20 or 21) and the more mythic and poetic phrase “Midsummer Night’s Eve.” Because for some reason I often take language literally, I think of “first day of summer” (i.e., the Solstice) as being something quite different from “Midsummer Eve,” which seems a much more appropriate name for the Cross-quarter day halfway between summer solstice and fall equinox, in the first few days of August. It’s a puzzle. It probably comes down to when is the more likely time that people went out and rutted in the fields– in early summer (solstice) when the greens are coming up or in REAL mid-summer when the grains are harvested? My own sense is the latter, when evenings are warmer, the ground is dry, and the stars are bright. What do you think?
And, as incentive, bring in the definitive answer and get a free tasting!
Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria
There is certainly some resemblance among public markets everywhere. But like wine, each one has its own special characteristic look, sounds, and smells. The public market in Barcelona is just off the Ramblas, with its constant strolling throngs all hours of the day. This video captures both the restless-wave feeling of the Ramblas plus the unfolding array of carefully displayed fruits, vegetables, jamon, chocolate, cheeses, jamon, fish, and even more jamon, very expensive, very delicious, a gastronomical world unto itself, on display at the mercat.
Our own slides provide an echo of the video, but capture of few of the images that grabbed our attention…(click on “slideshow”)
This week’s wines:
Marques de Casa Concha chardonnay ’09 Chile 90pts $15
A medium-bodied, ripe, plush Chardonnay with vibrant tangerine, spiced apple, melon, and heather notes, with savory flavors, lively acidity, and excellent length.
Chateau D’Oupia “Les Heretiques” ’09 France $10
Made in Minervois from Carignan and syrah with native wild yeast; delivers aromas and flavors of dried herbs and pressed ripe blackberry; fruit-rich, hedonistic, and a great buy. (see video review)
Stephen Vincent “Crimson” 09 California $11
Firm and spicy, with appetizing blackberry, wild berry, pepper, spice and chicory notes that firm up on the finish. Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Condado de Haza Ribero del Duero ’05 Spain 93pts $27
A lot of flavor on a supple frame. Black cherry, blackberry, smoke, mineral and espresso notes show focus and depth, backed by firm but well-integrated tannins that dissolve on a finely etched, floral-scented finish.