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Food & Dining // Vino Sense
Roberto Viernes

Some Best And Worst Wine Experiences

I’ve recently been asked about the extremes of oenophilia that I have experience through my career, so I thought I would share them here.

* Oldest wine I’ve ever drunk: 1795 Terrantez Madeira. I can’t remember the producer, but the wine was a complete anachronism. No other wine can withstand the test of time like Madeira. It was a myriad of fruitcake, toffee, marzipan, caramel, toasted whiskey barrel and dates. It was sweet but certainly not cloying. Think about this. George Washington was president and Alexander Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury when this wine was made, and it is still an impressive bottle of wine.

* Most expensive wine I ever sold: A 750ml bottle of 1947 Petrus for the whopping amount of $12,000. The gentleman actually purchased several wines from the 1947 vintage at the same time for a grand total of $16,000. It was his birth vintage, and he planned to drink them on his upcoming birthday. Unfortunately, I never got an invitation to the party.

* Biggest bottle I ever served: A Nebuchadnezzar (the equivalent of 20 750ml bottles) of 1989 Perrier Jouet Belle Epoch “Fleur de Champagne” for a large banquet. It was fraught with challenges, as you can imagine, the first of which was removing the cork. I originally was unable to do it by hand. Then I used a Champagne tong, which actually ripped the head of the cork right off. I eventually had to use a corkscrew to remove the remainder of the cork in the neck. Thankfully, I didn’t lose my eye as I inserted the worm. The bottle still had pressure, but I was careful enough to control the cork.

It was another beast of a story having to pour the bottle. I naturally had help to pour it, but with bottles this large you can’t go directly into a champagne flute. We used crystal pitchers to dispense the Champagne into the flutes. The Champagne was vibrant still and had a wonderful complexity. I’m so glad it wasn’t corked!

* Most expensive bottle I’ve ever drunk: Not sure about this one. A couple come to mind. A 1929 Romanee Conti is virtually impossible to find and it was an exquisite experience. The problem I had with it was trying to describe it. It was like nothing else I had ever had, different even from any other Romanee Conti that I had previously or subsequently. It might have been the fact that it was still on its own root-stocks back in 1921 and they still used the “layering” method of vineyard management as well.

Nonetheless, I’m not sure it will ever pass my lips again. Also, 1961 Petrus from Magnum, which is now approaching the neighborhood of $40,000 per bottle, also is way up there. It was stunning – young still with as much sexiness as any Bordeaux could ever offer. Not to worry, I didn’t mortgage my house to pay for these bottles. They were shared with me by some very, very generous friends.

* Worst experience with a cork: I opened a bottle of 1975 Petrus that was terribly corked. I did pay for this one.

Recommendations: 2007 Fornacina Brunello di Montalcino ($59) This is multi-layered, smooth, almost silky, and has all the lovely flavors, pedigree and richness that one expects from Top Brunello producers. NV J. Lassalle Brut Rose Champagne ($65) Mmm, mmm, mmm! There are those wines that just touch all of the buttons. This one does it for me. Delicious, elegant, luxurious.

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

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