It was not Benjamin Franklin but Daniel Defoe who first made that crack about “death and taxes” being the sole certainties. No biggie … it doesn’t really matter which one said it because they’re both wrong. For in some parts of the world, such as Downeast Maine during the month of August, there are four sure things: death, taxes, zucchini and houseguests.
We did especially well in the houseguest department this summer. Some brought good will and grace, others arrived with a contagiously giddy appreciation of the beauty of the place and still others came bearing gifts. Our most recent guests, a couple from Vermont, brought all three: grace, giddy and gifts.
One of which was this handsome bottle of Francis Ford Coppola’s Diamond Collection 2015 Black Label Claret. A new experience for us. We’d never had a claret, but we’d read about them. Characters in English novels, particularly Regency romances, are forever tossing back glasses of claret. We came to understand that claret was a red wine but that was all we understood. Turns out it’s actually a cabernet sauvignon or merlot blended either in Bordeaux or blended in the Bordeaux style.
Which is what?
It refers to the grapes used in the blending. Traditionally, these would be cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and petite verdot grapes. Our claret had all of the above except for the merlot.
The word “claret” was coined by the British to describe cabernet-based wines in general, which seems rather broad. The word is a British corruption of the French caliret, meaning dark rosé.
Anyway, there is nothing corrupt about this dark, divine wine from Geyserville, Calif. It has depth and texture and accents of plum and anise. It also costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 — our wine budget for the whole week. As we waved goodbye to our generous houseguests, they might have perceived, rightly, that we really meant it when we called out, “Come back soon!”
They rounded the corner and we were alone with the empty bottle and a whole lot of zucchini.