Wines, Like People, Can Disappoint

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - January 18, 2012
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You know the feeling: You are expecting to have something great happen, but instead it turns out to be mediocre. The dish looks so good with a beautiful presentation, but it’s not seasoned. You order the chocolate decadence cake, but it’s made of milk chocolate instead of dark. Your blind date is supposed to be good-looking and fun, but turns out to be a dud.

So much of disappointment comes from our own expectations entering into the experience.

Take, for instance, a wine that you have heard so much about. It was rated a zillion points and is only made every other year from one single barrel. The wine is built out of “unobtainium.” But you got your hands on a bottle and now you want to drink it with your closest wine buddies. You make all the arrangements. You go to your favorite restaurant or invite them over for dinner, plan the perfect accompanying meal, set the right glassware. You make sure you serve it at the right temperature and even decant it as recommended by the winemaker.

You’ve built up all the expectation and anticipation possible, and now you are ready for the wine. You taste it, and ... Where are the choirs of angels? Where are the knee-buckling flavors? The wine is OK, but it’s not what you expect. It doesn’t suck, but it doesn’t meet up to all the hype. What happened?

It’s happened to me. My friends and I were saving an extra-special bottle of Burgundy for a special dinner. I will withhold the producer’s name, but it was definitely a Red Grand Cru from Burgundy from the fabulous 1978 vintage. Writers rave about the wine, even now. Notes like “approaches perfection ... incredible ... one of the greats” pour from the pens of some critics about this wine. And so we gathered at one of our regular joints expecting to be thrilled. I opened the bottle myself.

Capsule looks fine, and the “fill” of the bottle looks great. I get the cork out quite nicely. I pour it first for my friend, who brought the wine. He looks at me with a scrunched-up face and asks, “Is that the way it is supposed to taste?”

Uh, oh. I pour myself an ounce and smell it. It is as if the wine is not even in the glass. There is almost no aroma in the glass at all. I taste it and it tastes like Pinot Noir, but just plain Pinot Noir. There is no juice, no fruit. It was as if the wine was completely filtered of its flavor.

We chalked up this experience up to bottle variation, but it didn’t lessen the disappointment. The amount of money spent on the bottle, the expectation that comes with it was not met.

So what do we do about it? We rationalize it, act like adults and realize that wine is never perfect. Even though some wines come with 100 point ratings, there are no perfect wines.

We also should approach wine ever hopeful, but knowing that it is made by human hands and therefore susceptible to error and fault. Just like people, wine can and will disappoint you.

Recommendations: 2009 JL Colombo Viognier “La Viollette” ($17) Coming from the uber-aromatic white grape Viognier, this is a delicious example with a floral and juicy white fruit-scented nose the leads to a round but not overpowering mouth feel. It lingers with a vibrant peach and apple flavor. 2008 Coppola Director’s Cut “Cinema” ($25) This ripe and juicy blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet and Petit Syrah is boastful and fun. It’s like that uncle you had when you were a kid who you wanted to be around because he was fun and inviting. Gobs of blackberry and blueberry fruit with a full body.

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