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Food & Dining // Vino Sense
Roberto Viernes

Jaded By Too Much Of A Good Thing

I know this is going to sound selfish and maybe even a little bit crazy, but I feel jaded.

I know, you are thinking, “You get to taste wine for a living! Are you nuts?!”

The job entails much more than that, but what has got me dulled could be the fact that I have had such stellar moments in wine that the “ho hum” nature of everyday wines just doesn’t get me excited.

Now hear me out before you execute me or send me hate mail for sounding like a snob or elitist. Much of what I taste professionally is wine that is either made for everyday drinking or wines that are special in terms of flavor and intensity, but in the majority lack soul and intellectual stimulation. The former is more palate-numbing and, yes, can be flavor-satiating in some instances, but nothing truly special that would stop people in their tracks to pay attention longer than the wine lasts in the glass. There is always the surprising exception that tastes much greater than its price, but I refer to the word “exception,” as in it rarely happens. The latter is a bit more fun. These are wines that have been given more care and treatment, often reserve wines, and always more expensive. They are often highly critically acclaimed (i.e. high point scorers) and do have some “wow” factor in them.

Herein lies the rub.

This is all well and even good. But there is more, and I have been there, seen, smelled and tasted it. And it is so good, it is addicting. There is the fabulous in wine that can make you question its very existence. It is the type of wine that combines place, grape, culture, intellect and hedonism all in one moment.

This may seem like hyperbole to some, but it truly exists.

And I want more of it. But it is elusive; you really have to chase it.

The chase for greatness is not unique to wine.

There are foodies who search everywhere to find the best dish of something. Music lovers travel to faroff lands to listen to the greatest musicians and singers the world over. Sports fanatics make pilgrimages to arenas, stadiums, gymnasiums and octagons around the world to see it. And we all spend good money for it.

Some might say that, at some point, the wines must taste the same. Oh, no, far from the truth, in fact. There is indeed a difference between good and great.

In sports, it is like the difference between a really good college sports player or team and an all-star professional player or team.

In music, it is the difference between a very good player and a virtuoso. Yet the comparison in sports falls short, because in wine there are no teams or players competing against each other. There is no real competition for points. Music is closer to wine, as there is an intrinsic and indelible beauty and harmony in the notes, rhythm and tone. One can definitely be moved by music as well; it can be emotive without question. But what wine has an added dimension: its sense of place.

So forgive me for being jaded. Some of the wines that have passed my lips may have ruined me, and yet I am thankful. At times, melancholy can take over my palate for longing to taste those wines, and wines like them, again. The time in between them is too long and those occasions too few. May your palate never become jaded.

Recommendations: 2009 Kamen Cabernet Sauvignon ($75) The best Cabernet from Sonoma I’ve tasted all year. Seriously intense with gobs of fruit. Long flavors without being overly done. Highly recommended. 2009 Fontanafredda Langhe Nebbiolo ($25) This smells and tastes every bit like a Barolo, but at a fraction of the price. Anise, violets, dried blackberries and a very good structure.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. Email rviernes@southernwine.co m or follow him on Twitter @Pinotpusher.

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