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Food & Dining // Vino Sense
Roberto Viernes

The Loud And Subtle Nuances Of Wines

A real bargain

As a man, I know I am at a disadvantage when it comes to noticing and interpreting all the nuances in women’s (mainly my wife’s) gestures and words. Sometimes women say they have to ‘”spell things out” for us men. And, women, you must admit that sometimes you are a bit subtle. Subtlety is not usually a man’s strong suit when it comes to emotions, desires or communication.

There is a parallel in the world of wine. In most cases, the most subtle wines get overlooked by the drinking public in favor of louder and bigger wines.

One need look no further than wine critics. The wines that garner the highest ratings are the ones that have the highest degree of flavor, alcohol, oak influence and body. But are they truly the “best” wines? There is still a measure of elegance and finesse that other wines can offer that would make for better pairing with foods or even without food.

This is nothing new to Vino Sense readers. I’ve mentioned this before. But I’m going to go a step further and say that the large majority of wine consumers are like men when it comes to picking up cues and signs from women. They either physically cannot detect the subtleties and nuance and need wines that are “bigger” and louder, or they don’t care to.

It is has been found that we all fall on a bell curve when it comes to our abilities to taste (and smell). At one end of the curve there are the “super tasters,” who most would assume include master sommeliers and the like. Although there are many keen tasters in the court, I would venture to say that not all master sommeliers are super tasters. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who have difficulty detecting differences in flavors and aromas. At the ends, the population is quite small.

The majority of people fall somewhere in between, and most somewhere in the middle. Those who fall into the back half of the bell curve require wines that go beyond finesse and subtlety. The wines that are overt, some might say over the top, extremely verbose and loud, are more easily appreciated.

It is akin to listening to music. Some listeners like the volume on seven and others need it on 17. They want to feel the bass and hear nothing else, not even their own thoughts. Wines such as Zinfandel, Shiraz/Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and even Merlot are typically the loud volume wines. For whites, Chardonnay and Viognier are usually the culprits of volume.

There is no judgment here. We fall where we fall on the graph. We don’t decide to be born a super taster or non-taster. We just taste what we taste and drink what we like. For me, harmony, beauty and sense of place are the hallmarks of greatness in wine more so than weight or extract. But if bigness and volume are your thing, there is plenty of wine for you. Just don’t forget to listen to your wife and get her something to drink, too. She may not be on the same side of the graph as you.

LOUD: 2009 Rail to Rail Zinfandel ($13) Juicy fruit, plump blueberries and mulberries. Notes of spices, with a round texture to the palate. A real bargain for the money. Subtle: 2010 William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux ($24) Beautifully delineated fruit melted with minerals and wet stone. Medium to light body with a delicious core of orchard fruit and a lengthy, lingering finish. Just plain delicious.

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

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