Chapter 4: Romanée-Conti
She looked like she was eighteen or nineteen. Her skin was as white as jade, and her neatly combed, long wine-red hair flowed down her head. She wore a white French Romantic-period palace-style flower dress, which perfectly showed off her figure.
Only, this young lady was panting just slightly. Her head was lowered. Her fair white face and her neck, as elegant as that of a swan, were all slightly red. Her long eyelashes were trembling slightly, and she had a look of embarrassment on her face.
“Forgive me. I came late.”
The Wine Master stared at this young lady with a severe look on his face. He said calmly, “You can leave. Tardiness is an unpardonable mistake.”
“Why not give her a chance?” Lan Jue’s voice rang out.
The Wine Master sat there, unmoved. “Tardiness represents discourtesy.”
Lan Jue said, “When we were young, we also cared about spending time on our appearance. Why not just give her a chance. Consider it as just giving me some face.”
The Coffee Master, dressed in a white suit, said, “He’s calling us old.” He had a faint smile on his face, as if to say, ‘I’m not the sort of person to cause trouble.’
The Wine Master furrowed his forehead.
The Gourmet spoke. “Jewel Master, for the sake of that bottle of wine in your hands, I’ll support you this time.”
The Wine Master unconsciously turned to glance towards Lan Jue, but when his gaze fell upon the bottle of wine in Lan Jue’s hand, he was no longer able to remain calm.
The normally always sedate, solemn Wine Master rose to his feet. Both his lips as well as the finger he was now pointing at Lan Jue began to quiver at the same instant. “I told you to pick a bottle casually!” He all but ground out these words, gnashing his teeth.
Lan Jue said seriously, “But I’ve never been a casual person.”
“Give it back to me!” Like an arrow, the Wine Master shot towards Lan Jue, immediately grabbed the bottle of wine in Lan Jue’s hands.
Lan Jue didn’t dodge. The bottle of wine arrived in the Wine Master’s hands, but in Lan Jue’s hands, there was an undamaged cork, a cork which emanated with the faint, fragrant scent of wine.
“You bastard! You actually opened it!” The Wine Master said with frantic fury.
“Cursing is an unpardonable mistake for a noble.” Lan Jue waved the wine cork in his hands admonishingly at the Wine Master.
The young lady in the white dress raised her head as well, and saw the bottle of wine. Her sky-blue eyes seemed to flash with brilliant, gem-stone like light.
The Wine Master’s breathing as rather ragged. After taking several mighty breaths, he snatched that silver piece of metal in Lan Jue’s other hand. “Eva, warm water and slices of white bread. Spanish Iberico ham, cured 72 months, shaved into slices.”
“Wait a moment.” The Gourmet called out to Eva, rising to his feet. With a smile that wasn’t a smile on his lips, he looked at the Wine Master, still clutching that bottle of wine tightly. “So you have something as fine as Iberico ham that has been cured for 72 months. Only, you normally were too stingy to bring it out.”
The Wine Master said viciously, “The old master had only brought over to here nineteen hams in the past. There are only fourteen left. I was planning to enjoy them myself. You are taking advantage of me.”
The Gourmet smiled. “Don’t be angry. Sampling fine wine and delicacies requires one to be in a good mood. In addition, a single ham will last for many eating sessions. Eva, bring the entire ham over, and also a larger serving platter, as well as twenty candles. I’ll handle it.”
Eva looked at the Wine Master, who nodded at her. Perhaps because of words of the Gourmet, the anger on the Wine Master’s face was slowly subsiding.
Lan Jue walked towards his seat and sat down, then glanced at the young lady, who was secretly drooling. “Do you recognize this bottle of wine?”
The young lady immediately nodded vigorously.
Lan Jue smiled. “Tell me about it.”
The young lady didn’t hesitate at all. “This is one of the finest types of wine, Romanée-Conti. It is the ‘king’ of the wine production area of Burgundy of France. It was the pride of Burgundy, and a wine master once said that Burgundy, just by relying on Romanée-Conti alone, was superior to all eight of the chateaus of Bordeaux. In the previous era, it was the most exalted red wine in the world.”
Lan Jue said, “Tell me about its taste.”
The young lady’s eyes suddenly revealed a hint of intoxication. “This is a sort of flavor that can sink into your taste buds and your teeth. It is a flavor that feels as though it could burrow into every single cell of your body. The fragrance of it is a long lasting one, and it is both exquisite and heavy, both delicate and strong, both balanced and condensed. It has the smooth, graceful texture of velvet. It is virtually the distilled essence of the finest strengths of Pinot Noir grapes. It is an inimitable, fantasy-like wine. After entering the New Era, due to the environmental changes and damages in our home planet, no more true Romanée-Conti was ever produced again, after year 2025.”
Hearing the young lady’s words, Lan Jue, the Wine Master, and the Gourmet all revealed looks of surprise on their faces.
The Wine Master said. “You’ve drank it before?”
The young lady nodded gently, somewhat embarrassed. “I was once lucky enough to sample a cup of Romanée-Conti of the 1981 vintage. Although that wasn’t the finest year for Romanée-Conti, the flavor of that wine still lingers in my soul.”
The Gourmet smiled. “This is a girl with fine taste. It seems the Jewel Master is right yet again.”
Lan Jue looked at the Wine Master, who nodded and said, “For the sake of Romanée-Conti, I’ll consider you to have passed the interview. Remember, in the future, no matter what you are doing, as a noble, you cannot be late, regardless of the reason.”
The young lady made a deep curtsey. “Yes.”
The Wine Master said, “You can go now. Eva will take you through the procedures.”
“Thank you.” The young lady curtsied yet again. Pausing for a moment, she finally summoned her courage and asked, “In the future, after I obtain the Skyfire emblem, can I come to your place to purchase Romanée-Conti?”
The Wine Master, his face cold, waved dismissively towards her. “Romanée-Conti is only for my friends to drink.”
A hint of disappointment appeared on the young lady’s face. She curtsied yet again, then turned and left.
Several servers came, bearing four Pinot Noir wine glasses, a platter of white slices of bread, four cups of warm water, a square white tray, and an enormous ham that was a meter long and thirty centimeters thick at the thickest part.
The Wine Master stared coldly at Lan Jue. “In the future, I will never let you help me interview again.”
Lan Jue smiled. “Wine Master, you need to learn to be more charitable. Fine things need to be shared with friends.”
The Wine Master snorted. He picked up the Romanée-Conti bottle with one hand, his thumb pressed against the neck of the wine bottle and his other four fingers pressing against the other side.
Looking at the label on the bottle, he murmured to himself, “Romanée-Conti from year 2005 of the previous era…you punk, you are too vicious.”
Lan Jue stared at the wine glass in front of him. “I saw that you also had Romanée-Conti of year 1990.”
The Gourmet’s eyes bulged. “Then why didn’t you take it? Although 2005’s product was top-tier, 1990 was a legendary year for Romanée-Conti!”
Lan Jue said seriously, “A person can never go too far. I don’t want to be blacklisted by the Wine Master.”
A not-quite-smile on his face, the Gourmet arranged the twenty candles into place. “Don’t worry. Perhaps others might do that to you, but we definitely wouldn’t.”
The Wine Master said unhappily, “Are you getting revenge on me for some reason?”
Lan Jue and the Gourmet shared a look and a smile, and said in almost the exact same breath, “Drinking buddies are hard to find.”