Capturing The Personality Of Wines

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - January 25, 2012
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Grapes at Staglin Family Vineyard in Napa Valley. Photos from Roberto Viernes

You should know by now that the first thing I recommend for people who want to appreciate their wines better is to smell and taste everything all the fruits in every market, take note of the smells when you are at the garden or flower store, or when you’re hiking or traveling, or even when you are at one of those pretty stores that sells aromas and beauty products. Taking note of these things will help your palate build a vocabulary of aromas and flavors from wherever you go.

But there is more to this story.

There is more than the essences of fruits, earth, wood and nature. There is intellect in wine. This is different from intelligence, lest you think I’ve gone off the deep end and given wine a complete human persona. What springs forth from wines with soul and character are not only sensations and flavors, they also spark ideas, stories and emotions.

I love it when wine writers go beyond the basic flavors of each wine and look at the whole of it to describe its personality. How many times can you describe a Sauvignon Blanc as having grapefruit and grassy notes, or Chardonnay with butterscotch and vanilla? I would venture to say that most Pinot Noirs will have cherry flavors in them, quite different from the blackberry and plum exhibited by Cabernet Sauvignon. From the everyday wine drinker to the connoisseur, we already expect certain flavors when we buy a bottle of wine. The typicity of the wine is inherent and goes without saying, although it can be suspect at times.

Henri Perrusset

But what every wine drinker wants to know is how it is different from the one it sits right next to on the shelf or is listed with on a wine list. And the best way to express it is through the myriad of ideas sometimes best described in terms completely outside of flavor. How do these wines sound? This wine’s flavors take off like a jet from the tarmac. The wine shows wave after wave of flavors like the perfect set at your favorite break. Like Vivaldi’s Spring, the wine showcases note after note of heroic flavors. This wine falls apart like a pizza being tossed by a 7-year-old. This wine is built like Mr. Olympia. There is more structure in this wine than the Golden Gate Bridge. This wine was so good it made my senses seem lacking. It was so good, my knees buckled and I wanted to praise the Lord above!

Get my drift?

It does take some talent to describe wines in such a manner, but I dare say that one need not have the most sensitive palate. What is more important is your imagination. After all, isn’t that what makes wine so special and unique? It is the best beverage to tell a story, spawn ideas and emotion. It is not just taste that makes wine so great.

Cabernet on steroids

Recommendations: 2008 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon ($175) High ticket and high adrenaline. This wine is like Cabernet on steroids: inky, thick, gargantuan. This would give Harlan, Araujo, Bryant Family et al. a run for their money. This is a collector’s delight. 2010 Henri Perrusset Macon-Farges Vieilles Vignes ($18) Made from a minimum of 30year-old vines, this Chardonnay piles up plump apples and pears along with a hint of almonds on your tongue. This is the kind of wine that you drink the bottle through and ask yourself why you didn’t get a second bottle.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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