When Wine Brings Out The Worst In Us

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - November 09, 2011
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With all of the wonderful characters that wine represents to us including culture, cuisine, conviviality, celebration, and the winemaker’s art and the vinegrowers’ dedication and toil to the soil and its vine, wine also represents another side of the human experience. greed, hoarding, elitism, snobbery and status symbol.

I mention greed because as much as we would like to think of wine in a purely romantic light, part of its identity is as a commodity. It is bought and sold as such. Some wines are exceedingly expensive, far beyond the realm of a beverage made for pure enjoyment and refreshment, and to go with food. Let’s be honest, there are wines that cost more than what they are worth. I will let you define exactly what it is worth to you. I have my own ideas of what it is worth as well. But the bottom line is that there are producers, auctioneers and others sellers that make amazing amounts of money on selling wine. I do not fault them. But I do have a distaste for wines that are overpriced.

Greed is what also leads to hoarding. I’m sure some collectors would disagree, but what is a wine collection if not a noble disguise for hoarding? Some collectors try to corner the market for some of the most prized wines in the world. What would you do with 20 cases of Chateau LafiteRothschild? I’m not sure I need 20 cases of any wine. I may want it out of greed or desire. Or is it so that one can resell it in ten years for double the money? Again, this is not illegal or immoral. Many collectors do this to finance their collections and continuously replenish. But how much is enough? With 1,000 bottles, a person can drink a bottle each day for 2.74 years. And yet I know some who have over 10,000 bottles in their collection. If you are doing the math, that is 27.4 years worth of a bottle a day.

Elitism and snobbery go hand in hand in the world of wine. There are many who use wine or their own knowledge of wine to exclude others from its enjoyment. Can you believe that some would think they are superior because of what they drink? They snob the Yellow Tail fans, or think that anything that is cheap must taste cheap. There are even those that only drink Grand Cru or First Growths but never venture into village wines or fourth and fifth growths. Part of me wants to say “screw (cap) them!” They don’t know what they are missing. Finding a village wine that tastes great for a pittance can be quite satisfying. Part of me also feels sorry for those whose vision is so myopic that they cannot see beyond the name and status of a wine to find real beauty in others.

The elitists and snobs are often the same people who make wine a status symbol. They love for the sommelier to parade their bottle out from the cellar around to their table so everyone can see exactly what they are drinking.

Yes, most of the great wines are expensive. But drinking names purely on name alone or because the wine is expensive is simply ignorant. A restaurant I frequent told me that a couple left the restaurant because they didn’t have the exact vintage of the wine they were looking for. The restaurant had the wine but it wasn’t the vintage they wanted. No vintages are not listed on the wine menu. They missed out on a great meal. On top of that, the wine was from Napa Valley, one of the most consistent growing regions in the world and from one of the most consistent producers in the valley!

Wine is not perfect. In my opinion there is no perfect wine. And the wine world is no Utopia for humankind. But I will say that the world is better with wine than without it.

Recommendations: 2010 Birichino Grenache Vieilles Vignes ($18) This is like pure freshly crushed strawberries and currants, deliciously fruity with more than a little floral hints. 2010 Layer Cake Chardonnay ($14) this unwooded Chard screams “Drink me!” Ripe melon and citrus notes bordering on tropical fruit.

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