Sharing The Wine Experience

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - January 12, 2007
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Wine is meant to be shared. We’ve all heard this at some point or another. I couldn’t agree more.

But what is it about wine that makes it such a beautiful thing to share? How does it bring people from all different walks of life together to pass some time and linger in the moment? Is it because most people can’t finish a full bottle (750ml) of wine by themselves? This can’t be the only reason. I know a few people who can, and they still want others to share in the experience. Not to mention wine comes in half bottles (375ml) and even in splits (187ml) that are much easier to drain dry for an average person. I also know that even when people go out to dinner and have a glass of wine, they often pass the glass around so that their companions can taste it too.

Wine is a sensory and even a sensual experience, one of the few that can actually be shared. When surfers talk about an awesome ride, they can’t share that experience because no one else is on the same wave. Sex? I won’t go there. The closest thing we have to wine that can be shared in the same fashion is food.

Wine is food stuff in my book. They are almost inextri-cable. Both wine and food bring people together for the purpose of enjoyment, celebration and education. There is a bond of camaraderie between people when they share a meal and a bottle of wine. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually share meals or wine with people I dislike, at least not twice.

I’ve done my fair share of wine dinners, and it’s always interesting that at the beginning of dinner there is an awkward wall of quiet between new people at the table. But by the end of the meal, the wine has lubricated people’s sentiments, and they are deep into conversation and enjoyment. Quite often, wine also raises the volume of conversation at a meal or event as well.

Wine tastes good. Some taste better than others, and a few even defy words. But it is a hedonistic pleasure that we can enjoy with every sense of our body: sight, smell, taste, touch and even hearing (clink, pop!). It makes people feel good, too. (Although too much can make you feel really bad.) Sharing this pleasure with others even heightens our own. The smiles on peoples’ faces as they are enjoying it, or the compliments give the host who served the wine no small amount of pride and satisfaction as well. It gives even more to the people who make the wine.

Human beings are usually selfish in nature owing to survival instincts. But there is always a sense of civility that surrounds wine. It reflects class and refinement. It is something to be drunk at leisure and comfort, not in split-second gulps or in yards. And there is a sense of generosity when a bottle of wine is opened and shared among a group, because that one bottle of that specific wine may be the first and last time one gets to taste and drink it.

A friend of mine says that it’s like having a witness. When you have such a great wine that knocks your socks off or sends your palate whirling into ecstasy, it’s so good you want to make sure that someone else is there to taste it too, or no one will believe you. It’s like when you play a prank on someone - it isn’t as enjoyable unless someone else sees you do it. And the more people who do, the more you enjoy it.

I can still remember watching the movie Sideways and seeing the character Myles in a diner drinking his 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc, one of the greatest wines Bordeaux, from a Styrofoam cup, all alone. It made my stomach turn to know how selfish a person he must be not to want to share it with anyone else. What a sad life that would be.

Wines I’d like to share: 2002 Judd’s Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ($38) from Napa Valley is a very smooth wine with plenty of juicy fruit and nice vanillin spice. 2004 Mueller Old Vine Zinfandel ($36) isn’t your typical over-the-top, “headache” jammy Zin. It drinks more like a rich Merlot with elegance and goes great with saucy grilled baby back ribs!

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