Saturday, June 21, 2008

If someone brings a $75 bottle of wine to a party...

If someone brought a $75 bottle of wine to a party, would you--or anyone--recognize it as a special bottle? Unless you are a wine geek, you probably wouldn't...just as you might not notice if a world class violinist were performing for tips in the subway. It's partly a matter of context and partly a matter of paying attention.

I bring up the question because that's exactly what happened a few days ago: someone brought a bottle of the 2004 Frederic Magnien Nuits St. George Premier Cru Coeur du Roches to a party. My eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw the label, but it wasn't my party so I didn't have to agonize over the decision of whether or not to open it. It so happened that it was not opened so I cannot really answer the question posed above. This Nuits St. George Premier Cru sells for upwards of $75 a bottle.

If the wine had been opened and if no one had noticed or had actually preferred the Kendall Jackson Merlot sitting beside it, that would NOT have proven a thing to me about the quality of expensive wines nor the intelligence of those willing to pay high prices for them. Although this is not a wine I would buy, it is unquestionably worth a good bit of money.

Wine is art--created in part by humans and in part by factors such as vines, soil, climate and vintage. Wine growers and consumers discovered many decades ago that wines from certain areas of Burgundy (including Nuits St. George) are worth a premium and that certain vineyards within this appellation are situated so that they produce special wines. Contrary to popular belief, special wines do not necessarily blow you away or call attention to themselves. They have qualities that unfold slowly and subtly for those who know what they are looking for and paying close attention.

I think the bottle was brought to the party by mistake by someone who did not know the quality of the wine. I'm glad it wasn't opened. But if it had been, I would have been lining up for a taste.

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