The perfume of an outlandish aftershave of middling price range flares up in its bouquet, quenching the tasters’ curiosity a bit. The feel in the mouth is like going to the theatre only because we have been invited by the actor son of the nice lady from whom we like to buy our soup vegetables on the marketplace. If we add up the years spent maturing in the barrel with the years that passed since embottling, the vintage will seem suspect. There is some snow wine effect, too: in these parts they call snow wine the thawed-out ice that has been removed from chilled wine. Unquestionably, an obdurate prejudice sticks to rosés. This wine could get a far better score in blind tasting. It would then inescapably lose its previous ranking in a control tasting with the labels on view, however much tasters like to deny that their trade is prone to corruption. Besides, the fact that it opens up all too easily tends to be registered as a fault. Because of this quality it risks falling into the trap of well-meaning, fuddy-duddy winemakers’ relentless polyvalence – some of whom might not be above forcing its spirit with forbidden Mutage. A faint odour of clay washed in persists even after breathing, mixing a Gypsy-ish tambourine note beneath the tone of horns, more in tune with its character. While sipping it, we are overcome by a sinister premonition, that we are not drinking wine but kissing a stiff drunk girl or boy.
Everything in it serves to seduce the living and the dead. A sole glance and we are enslaved. It has been demonstrated that the wavelength of its colour is identical with the wavelength of the Javan blood cobra’s skin colour that feeds on small macaques. It commands us to a halt even if we do not look at it. An infrasound wine! Its bouquet is the deep tannic lily of doble-pasta spirits, but according to those who have been to some of the world’s sacred places, it is more like the vulva of goddesses. For some reason or other it is equally avoided by would-be Casanovas and amateur feminists. Not recommended for those with suicidal drives, for it soaks up the long-sedimented extras of old sins. In such cases drinking on top is of no help, on the contrary: as if we made it clear how much we are at its mercy, it starts storming and draws its taffeta skirt of stifling perfumes over our head with tempestuous whirls. Despite its rampant eroticism it calls to our mind the moment we realized that the one we were making love to was making love to us as though we were someone else: was imagining somebody else in our place. We are submerged in the whirlpool of its flavours at such speed as if we had just dropped into the midst of a Vaseline-producing chemical plant working at full gear.
Hairs start growing in the ears, age spots appear on the skin, the body slackens, once irresistible charm diminishes. And yet, and yet! Topaz and sapphire let its light through, being of the same wavelength. It is able to bind with any flavour. Arguably, it develops to its fullest in the coffee-addicted mouth cavity, although any such observation is rather fatuous, especially if it lacks the comparative analysis of mouth cavities. Professional wine tasters are ultimately interested in a wine’s structure of inner relations the most. Its terroir? How would we say it? Its place of growth? Not really. Just as a human gaze is more than simply a face and eyes, the terroir is more than soil and climate, for the deer family hopping among the grapevines at dawn is also part of it. The particular is adjustment to the habitual. The habitual is describable; for the unusual no letter exists. Through the letter, the subject brings to life its own inability to think. Thus, and on the contrary: this is a thinking wine. The letter is the character, the thought the play. It is the Estate’s freest wine. Thoroughly indescribable. A mirror-wine. We look into the glass and the vague contours of our face surface. But it offers a more concrete experience than that: we take a sip and we are overcome by some sort of hope that finally we might be able to suck in all our bodily parts. In wine there is truth because it is able to put the thought into the subject’s mouth.
Zsolt Láng is one is one of the most original and critically acclaimed writers of his generation. He has published eleven volumes of short fiction and criticism, as well as a tetralogy entitled ‘Bestiarium Transylvaniae’. Both his short fiction and his novels are suffused with literary and cultural references (including faked arcania), rich wordplay and a relentless exploration of the poetics and politics of language.
Erika Mihálycsa teaches 20th century British fiction at Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj. Her research is focused mainly on Joyce, Beckett and Flann O’Brien, and she is a prolific translator from English/German into Hungarian. Her translations of Hungarian literature into English have previously appeared in B O D Y magazine and on Hungarian Literature Online.
Editor’s note: ‘The Wines of the Shakespeare Estate’ is sui generis, but described by its English translator as ‘a short story written in the form of wine labels’. It previously appeared in the April 2014 (Shakespeare) issue of Lato magazine.