The Cultural, Sensual Sharing Of Wine

This fine, smooth Merlot sings with plums and blackberries. Photo from Roberto Viernes

This fine, smooth Merlot sings with plums and blackberries. Photo from Roberto Viernes

I think most of us agree that when we open a special bottle of wine, we try to save it for the right moment and to share with the right people. I have always thought this to be a wine truism. But I never went as far as to ask myself exactly why this is.

The other night I was sharing a very special bottle of wine — 2003 Domaine Comte de Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes, to be exact — with a friend, and he asked me the question: Why is it that we feel compelled to share our best wines only with those who will appreciate it?

The answers range from the obvious to the emotional.

First of all, sharing a bottle of wine with someone who doesn’t care what he or she is drinking, or only cares about the quantity rather than the quality, would seem to be a waste. Our most-treasured bottles are given the most value. Value can be monetary or emotional. Maybe this bottle is the most expensive wine you have ever purchased. Perhaps it is your birth vintage, or you drank this wine when you proposed to your spouse. With anything we give value to, we want to make sure we get the optimal return on investment. That means sharing it with those who understand and appreciate its value the same way that we do.

That appreciation can come in many forms. Sharing the wine with a connoisseur is certainly one. Sharing the wine with a loved one is but another. But none of these will guarantee that they actually like the wine.

The hope is that sharing the wine with someone who has the same likes and shared experiences as you do, that person will derive just as much pleasure from it as you do.

But the other essential component of this question is another fact of wine: It should be shared. But why should it be shared? Why is wine different from a bottle of soda or juice? Why don’t we save bottles of nectar or milk to share at a special occasion? Is it simply because the dollar value or commonality of the liquid?

I think it is more than that.

Wine separates itself from other beverages because of its cultural and intellectual value. Its sense of place and its ability to transport our senses to another place and time is unequalled by any other beverage. Not only do wines remind us of fruits, flowers, scents of wood, vegetation and earthiness, but wine also can transcend time. Anyone who has had the experience of an exquisite aged bottle of wine that may be 20 or 40 years old can tell you that wine can live through generations. It also can take us to a time, recalling what we were doing when we smelled that particular scent. I remember a fellow taster said that the wine reminded her of when she walked into her father’s woodworking shop. She smiled as she said it, with obvious joy and nostalgia.

We want to share these values, emotions and experiences with kindred spirits, hopefully not only elevating our own lives but those of the ones with whom we share these treasures. It is part of the convivial nature of the table and a meal. I hope that you get the opportunity to share in these experiences that cannot be measured by money or time.

And to those who have shared with me, a heartfelt thank you.

Recommendations: 2013 Domaine de Fontsainte Rose ($18). Summer is here, and dry rose is the way to go. This one has everything I look for: freshness of fruit, floral notes, balanced acidity and a great price for everything you get. Nicoise salad is a nobrainer, along with seared ahi or just an afternoon sitting by the pool. 2012 Selene Merlot ($39). Smmmmooooth like a baby’s bottom. This Merlot sings with plums and blackberries gushing on the palate with black and blue fruit. This may be the finest Merlot to cross my lips this year. I would serve it with a duck cassoulet or braised beef dish with just a dash of Merlot.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier.
Twitter: @Pinotpusher