Friday, August 15, 2008

Sense For Sale

"I'm stupid rich, got r*tarded money
I'm special ed, I got special bread" ~G-Unit

As the only legitimate partnership of luxury and drugs, wine offers endless opportunities for financial idiocy. To their credit, 50 and Tony Yayo never dropped 80% of their weekly income on a bottle of '98 Margaux. Still, there is no shortage of "special bread" changing hands in the booze game. The consumoisseurs who know how much better Serralunga Barolo ages in a bowlegged garcon wine rack and how nothing carbonates your johnson like a skankified bottle of Piper-Heidsieck will always have a gaping hole in which to jettison their cash.

I wonder if I've suckled the bait myself by purchasing the red wine edition of Le Nez du Vin, a kit promising to hone your all-important olfactories via twelve vials of concentrated scents--cassis, raspberry, licorice, violet, etc. There is some accompanying literature more akin to a pamphlet than a book. The whole thing is expensive enough that the price per milliliter of the liquid essences is on par with an above-average vintage of Mouton.

I've been "seriously" into wine for lo these past two years, and I guess I've grown impatient with the development of my sensory apparatus. Between publicly misidentifying Cabernet as Chianti more than once and regularly scourging myself with Jay McInerney's boasts of his blind-tasting mojo, I yank corks and crack Stelvins every day in fear that I'm doing more wanton consuming than wise considering.

Jean Lenoir
, assuming he exists/existed, had me in mind when he created his product. Me and everyone else tortured by our inability to parse the fury of white noise that roars in our brains every time we nose a glass: Black Cherry? Truffle? Red Cherry? Chocolate? Strawbecznxcj,dncksdvkn... Ability to confidently name these elements and arrange them into a tidy profile of the wine's character is the men-from-boys divider of intelligent drinking. The names themselves are fraught with complications, but they're the only train running if we're to get as far away from "it just smells like wine" as possible.

Sold. To all of us dreading mediocrity in wine appreciation, Le Nez du Vin represents a blast of buckshot for the wolf at the door. If RMPJr is willing to insure his schnozzle for a cellar-temperature million, I can part with a the cost of a top Meursault to make every red wine I drink from now on more. . . sensible.

Most importantly, I've had it for two weeks and it's working. I can remember what cassis smells like, and the differences between white and green peppercorns. I'm recalling the scent of blackberry right now--something I could never do before getting these neat little bottles, even though I've always scarfed blackberries by the handful. Unraveling these olfactory threads with a bullish glass of Madiran hoofing the dust in front of you is another story, but it's an incomprehensible one if you can't place the scents to begin with.

I believe this was a good investment, and I'll probably get the white wine counterpart when I run out of guesses about the ethereal aromas in my next bottleful of bub.

Recent notables:

  • Stone "Ruination" IPA - Alluring dark amber color. Aromas not as floral as many IPA's. Intense--not f'ing around with the bitterness. For serious IPA addicts only.
  • Chateau Rouget 2001 - Brooding low-acid Pomerol has developed rich, mellow red fruit flavors with an edge of earth. Velvety and easy to drink. The finish is pure smoke on the water and I guess you could describe the color as... Deep Purple? Hah!
  • Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 - Opulent and full with dark berry/plum flavors and a sticky kiss of residual sugar. Great value for anyone who likes porty reds.
  • Concha y Toro "Casillero del Diablo" 2006 - Restrained without being wimpy, featuring peppery spice and earth flavors framing black black cherries. The bookend to the Excelsior on the "Great cabs for under $8" shelf.
  • Mitolo "Jester" Shiraz 2006 - Not as syrupy as some other Parker darlings, but with supposedly 20% dried grapes used in the blend, this doesn't lack for weight. No over-the top flavors--instead, smoke, blueberry, etc. converse civilly in a well-balanced Shiraz.
  • Salomon Finniss River Shiraz 1998 - Bet you don't have this in your cellar. I was worried that it would be a dead dog, but its core of tarry fruit hasn't gone anywhere. Age has brought out some bonus acidity and what I'm going to guess they call "terroir". The pale maroon halo around a deep center color may be the most memorable thing here.
  • Domaine de Blanes Muscat Sec 2007 - If you will, glance at the prior post about whites I can't stand. I wish every "refreshing" wine tasted like this tropical, honeysuckle-drenched beauty. Still bone dry, great acidity, and crisp as H20.
  • Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge 2006 - Not the reputed "Latour of the Languedoc", but a serious red nonetheless. Cassis, dark cherry, and loamy earth rides in on chewy tannins and takes an impressively long time to quit your mouth. Supposedly ages forever--anyone know where to find an old bottle?
  • Chateau Pibarnon 2004 - Clear aroma of... Prosciutto? Won't find that in Le Nez du Vin, but it's unmistakable on the Pibarnon nose. I'd heard cautionary tales about these Bandol bruisers, but this is more elegant and less gamey than your typical Monastrell or Mourvedre-heavy Rhone.


Director of Lab Science said...

Good "palate training" by you. I'd argue you're better off going to the farmer's market and squishing blackberries, currants and cherries to see what they smell like. But you can't really put a price on good education. Look forward to hearing about your nose work.


JBH said...

i've been doing that sort of thing as well--from eating lots of figs and apricots (good idea) to taking a deep breath over a container of white pepper powder (bad idea).

i do think there is value in experiencing some of these aromas via a concentrated syrup. they beat your olfactory bulb over the head, temporarily burning it out but ultimately leaving it with a better memory of the aroma--i hope.

Sam said...

I want an update. Also, I had a great beer last night. The Rougue Brown Ale Nectar - or something to that affect. Also was at Brewery Ommegang this weekend fun stuff. I heard you tried my Utopias and Rudi Schultz where's the review??