It is a hotel visitor’s card, which I have only recently unearthed; dog-eared, buried amidst possessions, long forgotten.
I can recall practically nothing about the Hotel Rincón Escandinavo in Quito. Not its appearance; not its location; not what my room was like; nor the view from the window. Without the solid evidence of the visitor’s card, I could be convinced that I have never visited it. Except… Just that one thing.
A glass of wine. A dark, ruby-red glass of wine. The nicest glass of wine I have ever tasted.
I had flown into Quito earlier that same day. A flight from Bogotá; a difference in elevation of 700 feet between the two capital cities. It may not sound a lot, but it makes a difference. Quito sits on the eastern slopes of Pichincha, at a height of 9,350 feet above sea level. The air is thinner here; breathing slightly laboured.
I had always understood that taste buds were meant to become less sensitive the higher the altitude; isn’t that why they add so much extra salt and flavourings to airplane meals? But here in Quito, sitting above the clouds, my taste buds were working overtime, savouring every mouthful of the nicest glass of wine I have ever tasted.
It was rich and smooth and fruity and velvety. But more than what the taste of the wine owed to the terroir of its production or to the skill of its maker, what was really distilled into that single glass of wine in the unremembered restaurant at the Hotel Rincón Escandinavo were all my hopes and anticipation for the trip ahead. The following day, I was due to fly out to the Galápagos Islands. For me, that glass was brimming full of trepidation and excitement and a spirit of adventure and unimagined dreams about to be realised.
I never took a notice of the name of that particular wine at the time; have never been able to find a wine to match the taste since, but I also know that there is no point even attempting to track down the particular vineyard and the particular grapes and the particular vintage because, in other circumstances, the nicest glass of wine that I have ever tasted would not taste half as nice again.
© E. C. Glendenny
E. C. Glendenny still enjoys the occasional snifter.