White wine, we are told, should be drunk while it is still young. But I find myself keeping a bottle of fine white Korean wine, perhaps the only bottle of its kind in the United States, and it is not getting any younger. There is another reason why I would like to open it before long. This has to do with a missing report of a congressional committee.
The wine is called Majuang. The word in Korean means "magic, master and king." Quite a name. And,quite a wine, I thought, when it was served at a reception this summer in Seoul; European in origin, but elusive-and also very good.
It was only a few years ago that Koreans imported the Rhineland grapes that are used to make the ranking wines of Germany. They established vineyards in a region with comparable soil and climate. The German winemaking techniques of the viniculture institute at Geisenheim were followed. Now the wines are ready.
I wanted my first impression to stand up. Also, I felt the need for another opinion. It didn't take long for both. I drank a full bottle of the white Majuang the following evening at Seoul's Chosun Hotel. Through a leisurely and serenely solitary meal, I paid attention to the wine through smoked salmon, chicken in a white wine sauce ("California," said the waiter) and a tall souffle. The Majuang stood up splendidly.
The judgment was reinforced later that week at a meal with a friend who writes about Norhteast Asia for a California newspaper. I ordered a bottle of Majuang white. Although he knows more about Korea's rapid modernization than most journalists, he was as surprised as I had been to find that the wine spoken of effusively between swallows was, in fact, local. That was good enough for me. I drank all I could get during the rest of a two-week stay. Where else would I find it?
My last night in Korea was at a farewell dinner with diplomats enjoying their customary imported scotch, gin and vodka. I opted for Majuang white. As the party ended, my host ordered two bottles from the bar for me to take home.
The question then was what to do with the only two bottles of new Korean wine in America. Answers came easy.The first bottle would be for people who care about such things. A Washington friend, Ray Garcia, wine drinker and free-trade lobbyist, had for years tasted wines with a coterie of men women with trained palates and a concern about the cost of what they drank. They leave the rating of great labels to others and sample wines that plain folk might buy for dinner.
After an evening given to tasting obscure Italian white wines, Ray put forward the bottlw of Majuang as a "mystery wine." He said his friends were baffled. "It was the best wine we've had tonight," they said. "What is it?"
And the last bottle? This is being saved to mark the recovery from a long, hurtful episode in Korean-American relations. Its should have over by now. In October, the Senate Select. Committee on Ethics and a House subcommittee issued their final Korean reports. The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct also made its recommendations in October on errant House members, but so far no final report from the committee, no last shoe.
The Majuang is for the media cast- and for me and for a veteran of a news media barrage, the press officer of the embassy of Korea. We have agreed to drink the last bottle of Majuang in America when the last of the congressional committee stories has been written. The wine is alive and aging. We are raising a thirst and waiting.