How to Find and Buy a Well-Aged Wine + Hellblazer + Thieves & Kings (Episode 4 Deep Dive)
Jamie Delano's Hellblazer run, Mark Oakley's 90's indie sensation Thieves & Kings, how to find your own 30+ year old wine on the cheap!
Just one wine to rule them all in this ep, so let’s start with that:
Château Lagrange 1990 Pomerol & How to buy a well-aged wine
Typically sells for: $130 - $150
We paid: $75 (thanks to winespies.com - and you can get $20 off your first order with them by using this link!)
If you ever have the opportunity to buy a well-aged vintage of any particular type of wine, the best thing to do is google up a vintage chart, which will tell you which years were the best years, which were the ones to avoid, and where all the others might fall in-between.
Not only will these charts rate the “excellence” of the vintage but also inform you on how this relates to the wine’s ageability. Generally speaking, vintages are heavily defined by their likely longevity.A wine that is approachable now but won’t last more than a handful of years, is generally considered a poor or average vintage/year for the wine, and so is usually paired with the advice to drink it all up now, while it’s still decent (and it may even be quite excellent, as a young wine).
Most vintage charts will contain advice along the lines of “Drink”, “Hold”, and “Drink or Hold”, each suggesting how best to handle it. Vintage charts are refreshed and redone regularly, so a 1990 may be “Hold” on a vintage chart for a decade, before becoming “Drink or Hold” (it’s ready but could still continue to develop), and then finally “Drink” (it’s at the end of its line, but hasn’t gone bad yet, so slurp it up!) Some vintages of a specific wine may be “Drink” right from the get-go, the first year it’s released, if it’s a style meant to be drunk right away upon release, or is a problematic year and produced lackluster product, and has little prospect for aging any further.
For the Pomerol region (a part of Bordeaux), 1990 ranks fairly high on the list of top vintage charts. It hit the “Drink” stage at about 20 years of age, though with the caveat that it could age yet longer. At 30+ years, the suggestion became: Drink NOW. Hence the great discount we got on our bottle.
The vintage was still suggested to be stellar, even at the current age (and boy howdy was it ever!!!). But there is always a level of risk when buying old wine, even when you’ve checked out the vintage charts. Because any individual bottle of wine can go bad for a variety of reasons completely unrelated to how well it should have aged. “Cork taint” (Google it) could have occurred, or maybe deterioration of the cork to where additional oxygen seeped through the pores, or heat or UV/sunlight spoilage (you never know how well a wine was handled and/or stored for however-many-years of its existence.)
As you probably noted from the ep, we thought this wine was revelatory. And that’s why the risk is often worth it: when it works, the result is seared into your soul. It’s a borderline spiritual experience. When it’s a fail, it’s a blow to your wallet and your mood for the evening, but that’s about it. The pros far outweigh the cons. Just do yourself a favor and never depend on a specific bottle to pay off when the moment is, emotionally, super-important. Don’t let wine ruin an emotionally meaningful event. And never spend more than you can comfortably afford. Go in with the complete understanding that the wine could be browned and raisined sludge.
Where do I find older wine?
Wine shops often carry older, expensive bottles, usually locked up behind glass, and you’ll rarely get a deal on them, but they’re available there.
You can also look into Flash Sale sites like we did with Wine Spies or Casemates, which occasionally feature older bottles. And then there are “Closeout Retailers” like Grocery Outlet, who often stock older bottles of wine from wineries that have shut down or had to get rid of old stock in a hurry. I recently nabbed a 2005 Mendocino Petite Sirah from a Grocery Outlet for $4.99! And it was amazing! ( I ran back and got 4 more.)
Lastly, but most critically, there are Wine Auction Sites, which basically handle nothing but older bottles. Much like learning how to bid smartly on eBay, there’s a lot to know before trying your hand at a wine auction. But auction sites are unquestionably where most of the action is these days.
Jamie Delano’s run on John Constantine: Hellblazer (Issues 1 - 40)
“John Constantine, Hellblazer” is the actual title of the comic that featured John Constantine as the main character for 300 issues throughout the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, with the character’s name in tiny print and the word “Hellblazer” being for all intents and purposes the actual title of the book.
Originally created as a supporting character by writer Alan Moore in the comic book Swamp Thing, Constantine (apparently pronounced Con-stan-TYNE rather than Con-stan-TEEN, which I will never be able to accept) was popular enough to get his own book. Writer Jamie Delano came on board to flesh him out as a full-on character, with a backstory/history, family, friends, etc. Writers who came later, when comics were more popular and widespread, get credit for characters and ideas that Delano actually set down in the first place - John’s best friend, the taxi driver Chas; his sister, Cheryl; his niece, Gemma; his youthful days with the punk band “Mucous Membrane”; the terrible tragedy at Newcastle that sent John to an asylum for years and scarred him for life. The list goes on.
But the storylines in question here were Delano’s final two, published between late 1989 - early 1991. “The Family Man” has John having to deal with a mundane serial killer, and he f**king freaks out about it. He’s terrified to have to battle someone so casually violent and murderous and magic has nothing to do with it. He buys a gun but can’t quite muster the confidence to be okay with using it. A gun or any other mundane weapon.
I wish Warren Ellis had somehow referenced this period in John’s life when he wrote the story “Shoot” many years later, about a school shooting, which Vertigo for some time censored and canned and refused to publish. It’s available today as part of the recent omnibus trades, but, alas, it doesn’t tie-in or even nod to John’s first real experience with a gun here.
Anywho, John hides out and hesitates so much that a major tragedy in his life occurs. One that will haunt him throughout the entire run of the original Hellblazer comic. Future writer Paul Jenkins even made it a core focus of the 100th issue when it hit!
The art for “The Family Man” storyline was handled by Ron Tiner - a British artist who worked a lot on “boys adventure” comics - old west shootouts and the like. This was an odd, and yet kind of perfect match for a story involving Constantine having to confront mundane evils in mundane, non-magic ways.
Then comes the final Delano storyline, often referred to as “The Golden Child”. Here, it’s revealed that Constantine’s original sin, as it were, was killing his twin brother in the womb. The twin was meant to be THE “magus”, the golden child, the second coming, essentially. And what the world got instead was a second-hand wannabe, a grifter magician: John Constantine.
I cannot recommend these stories enough to any fan of the character. So much is laid down in Delano’s run, that makes sense of how future writers have since treated John. Delano is a poetic, dense writer. These aren’t breezy reads. His final issue is borderline impenetrable in its density. But it’s never dull. And it’s all canon.
Mark Oakley’s Thieves & Kings
I have been collecting Mark’s T&K comic since it was coming out in single issues back in the 90’s. I was slightly late to the party, I think my first issue was #6 or 7 or 8 or something like that, but I quickly discovered I could order the latest printing of issue #1 (my memory fails on which edition he was on, but I think it was something ridiculous like 5th or 6th printing!) and then backordered the other issues I didn’t yet have.
This is one of the formative series of my teen and young adult years. It was for creator Mark Oakley, too. When Dallas and I formed an LA-based agency for comic creators, we reached out to Mark, and asked him about T&K, which had been dormant since hitting issue #48.
Mark’s original plan was that T&K would run exactly 100 issues. He made it almost halfway, but interestingly the trade paperbacks only collect material from issues #1-45. He has since edited the contents of issues #46-48, and added a bit of additional, new material and released these as TPB Volume 6: Apprentices Part 1.
When we reached out to Mark, he was largely distancing himself from T&K - not the content of the work, but he admitted that he was no longer the person who began the series, that he was far more interested in his new titles Stardrop and Jenny Mysterious (both of which are absolutely excellent and crossover with each other, btw) and that T&K no longer spoke to him the way it used to.
We did manage to get T&K Vol. 1 and 2 reprinted by publisher OnePeace in a brand new, combined single volume (a new “Vol 1”, which was great as the original Vol 2 was OOP!). The book didn’t sell that well, so the publisher did not choose to continue with additional volumes, but we’ve been thrilled to see that Mark is back to slowly but surely producing new pages for T&K on his website and Patreon. He’s up to page 102 of “Apprentices Part 2”. With more to come!
There are many exceptions to this very general rule, but wines that are “harmonious” - good acidity, tannic structure (for reds), and concentration/body for the varietal types - mostly suggest wines that have the necessary elements to age gracefully. That said, many wine styles are meant to be consumed young, and their lack of ageability is not necessarily a detraction in regard to these wines’ overall quality.
My God. How was I not subscribed?