What’s Emotion Got To Do With It?

You may not know, but I am a bit of a car enthusiast. I can’t collect them as I do wine, but I do appreciate the history, power, visceral enjoyment and beauty of both classic and modern cars.


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An attention-getting and delicious 100 percent old-vine Sauvignon Blanc

So I was reading a piece in Car and Driver by Tony Quiroga on the Singer Porsche. I do profess to having a love affair with Porsches, and the 911 in particular, so this article on a customized 964 priced around $500,000 piqued my interest. Then Quiroga wrote something that struck a chord in me that I associate with wine: “So now we’ve arrived at the big question: Is this remade 911 worth the price of 10 or so used 911s of varying vintages? Trying to assign a number to the craftsmanship involved is like trying to figure out how to pay Sisyphus for his labor – where do you begin? Art is not measured by the labor required to create it. Art purchases are emotional. You’re buying into an aesthetic, a creative vision that moves you.”

The first thing I thought was: Yes! This is someone who knows my pain and my pleasure. I have lost count of the people who ask me if a wine is worth the price. Sometimes I respond with a simple yes or no. But I never get the opportunity to explain so much of the reason why. It is emotion and aesthetic that brings me to the positive, but it does not begin there.

The wine’s first reason for being is to be delicious. Some might say that it needs to be refreshing. And perhaps, in earlier days, to quench thirst was truly an honorable reason, but these days there are so many things that we can drink to satisfy our thirst, wine needs to be delicious for anyone to drink it. If it is not delicious, it is not enjoyable. And, mind you, there are wines out there that sommeliers “appreciate,” but ask them if they really drink the wine, and they tell you, “it depends on the food” or “it has its place.” That kind of wine does not excite.

The deliciousness of the wine also could be called its aesthetic. The way the wine expresses itself in the glass is its aesthetic: how it smells and how it tastes. Each of us subscribe to different forms. Some like pure power and hedonism, others lean toward elegance and finesse, and many look for pure intensity of flavor.

In cars, some love the wild beast that they have yet to tame. Others enjoy the simplicity of driving elegance. To each his own, but the result of this aesthetic is to excite or disappoint. In this sense, the winemaker can be the artist.

This is where emotion enters. When something that you ingest causes emotion, more specifically positive emotions, it is even better. We all have had that experience when we eat “soul food,” something that just reminds us of when we were younger – a more innocent and carefree time. It comforts us. We feel better, maybe even physically. Our sensory system is aligned with our memories to provide us with these types of emotive experiences.

With wine, when you taste and drink it, that combination of aromas and flavors gives you a feeling unlike what you find in anything else. Many things can inebriate us, but much fewer things can cause emotion. Wine is even better when it causes emotion.

Wine has yet one more dimension that can make it great. It is elevated when it has a sense of place. The fact that wine can express a plot of land is truly amazing. The uniqueness of a vineyard site aligned with the grape and conveyed in a glass separates wine from all other things. I think cars can convey a sense of philosophy and aesthetic, but not truly a sense of place. However it would be hard to “blind drive” a car!

So is a bottle of wine worth its price? If it moves you the way only that particular wine can (and you can afford it), the answer is yes. Now about that Porsche …

Recommendations: 2012 Domaine Trotereau Quincy Vieilles Vignes ($26) This is from 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc grown along the Loire River on old vines, the youngest planted in 1943! The only way I can explain this wine is like the brightest star on a clear night. Attention getting and delicious! 2011 Melville Inox Chardonnay ($36) This is an unoaked Chardonnay that has feet in both the tropical as well as citrus fruit camp. But what makes it special is its texture and long-lasting flavor. Another wine that you just have to taste to believe.

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