The water of life – Langhe spirits

My sommelier book says that distillation sits between art and science. It’s a mysterious process and I often have visions of what goes on in those copper wombs. Volatile hearts and flying or sinking heads and tails as the case may be.

We spent part of our Tuesday evening helping our friend with the mashing of apples for this year’s spirit. The total racket that the blending machine makes is a long way from any poetry you might imagine but I loved it all the same.

I stand under the noise, selecting the apples, turning them in my hands to check them for imperfections. We have apples from the Valle Bronda, though I’m working on little golden delicious ones, easy to pick up and hold two and three at a time, like birds in the hand. Turning the fruit you look for any rotten spots, sometimes pushing a thumb onto patches to check how firm or dry they might be. If they’re okay, you toss into the machine and move onto the next handful. I’ve never touched apples so much – have never been aware of their skin, their stalks and shades of colour. Such a quiet, tactile experience while the machine continues its deafening grind.

So many apples for such a delicate process. Our friend says the thing he loves best about a spirit is that it can preserve an agricultural product to infinity. I feel that these meek apples are taking on a life of their own. A long way away, when I am dead and gone to dust, this water of life, acqua di vita, will go on.

Our hands, ten hands and five souls….five Langhe spirits in the noisiest of settings, as dusk comes to the giant cedar tree and the turned-red dolcetto vines outside, are working away to make something beyond us. Like art, it could last forever, and the clarity and beauty of a spirit will last forever more. A divine product, a spirit to be forever and ever, Amen.

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