An Exclusive On Inclusive Wine

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - February 17, 2006
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After many years of drinking and enjoying wine in so many ways - straight from the bottle and from the most elegant handcrafted glasses on earth - and at such different venues from the beach to three-star Michelin restaurants, I still think wine is made for everyone to drink. I always try to keep wine simple with the belief that wine is a grocery, not a luxury.

But I also realize the reason why wine can be so intimidating and treated with such awe and honor. At the heart of this privilege and pomposity is exclusivity.

It seems to be part of human nature that people always want something that nobody else has, as long as it is within their means. Either it’s the newest, greatest thing or the last of a dying breed. It’s like a pyramid. At the very top there are what most consider the finest wines of all. These wines decrease in quantity year after year, especially the old ones. After all, wine production is finite, despite what jug-wine manufacturers make it look like. Or as my friend likes to say, “They don’t make them that old anymore.” At the same time these wines garner more value over the years with their additional rarity and mythical character that people who have tasted them recount. The rich and famous, collectors and wine lovers all over the world, spend enormous amounts of money to secure and drink these legendary wines, wines that 99 percent of the drinking public will never taste.

Now that’s exclusivity.

Yes, money has plenty to do with it. If you had the money, would you spend it on a 1947 Cheval Blanc ($7,500 average bottle price) or a 1959 Romanee Conti ($10,000 average bottle price)? I’ve had plenty of wine that I enjoyed in immeasurable amounts, because of the people and food I had them with, that I paid a pittance for in comparison to these two wine icons. But what people enjoy with these wines is not only their intrinsic greatness, but also the exclusivity that almost no one else in the world can share.

It’s easy to find out what the greatest wines of the past are. Just pick up a magazine and look for the 100-point wines, or just Google it. And let’s face it, not everyone can afford or will pay that much money for wine.

But how many people truly have the time or passion to study about all the winegrowing areas of the world to find the next really great wine? Even the knowledge of where to look for these things is exclusive.

Here’s where my pyramid structure comes in handy again. The more you know about wines, the higher you climb up the pyramid, but there are less people who know as much as you. As in all other areas of life, it’s easy to gravitate to people who have the same level and areas of interest. On the other hand, it again becomes exclusive. People who don’t understand your passion or excitement don’t take as much interest in you or your quest for great wine.

But for my part, wine is an inclusive thing. Wine is meant to be shared, especially the great ones. They help to show people just what the passion and obsession are all about. Even though they may not be able to afford it, or completely understand the fanaticism, they can certainly understand the enjoyment. I have plenty of friends who love to share their greatest wines with people because they love to see the look on their faces when they try it and realize just what they’ve drunk. That’s what I love to see. In the end, it’s all in the attitude, just because you make more money than anyone else, or know more than anyone else, doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk about it. That’s the type of person whom I would like to see excluded.

New “Classics” and Collectibles:

2002 Grange des Peres Rouge $60. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Mourvedre is a wine that anyone with whom I’ve shared it says “Ooh, what’s that?” Sensational, gulp-able and ageable, and not as expensive as most Bordeaux at the same quality level.

2003 Carlisle, Carlisle Vineyard Zinfandel $35. I’m not usually a Zinfandel fan but this one goes baboom - huge fruit, gushing with fruit essences. But it still holds an edge of elegance that belies its enormous character. This is a Zinfandel producer that is certainly out to make a BIG splash.

2003 Ente Meursault Clos des Ambres $75. This old vine cuvee is sensational and produced in minute quantities. This is for any white Burgundy lover/collector that is looking for the next Coche-Dury.

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