Wines that Make Grown Men Cry

Throughout my 20 plus years of working as a wine guy, I have been fortunate to taste some amazing wines - wines that I could never afford to buy or acquire. No matter the price or the accolades, I have always tried to approach wine humbly, unpretentiously and with the proverbial grain of salt.

I have never really been tempted by or participated in the commercialized aspects of the business: auctions; I look at wine in the broad context of history, culture, its origins, the making processes and, most importantly, in the social spectrum of human interactions. Without derision or belittlement, I like to say that wine, after all, is a fermented grape juice. Fermented grape juice that has been a major part of my personal and professional life and the accompaniment to some of the best moments of my adulthood. The wine’s appeal lies in the beholder’s sensory experience and should not be considered precise and absolute, but liberatingly subjective. What you like is yours, and do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

There are wines permanently engrained into my life by the sheer impact of their taste. Two of them stand out through the fact of managing to bring me to tears. Yes, I cried tears of exultation twice while drinking a wine. In both instances, it happened at my old job at Rubicon restaurant, where some of the world’s best wines were accessible.

In both cases, it was also a rather embarrassing spectacle of unexpected outbursts of visceral emotions. Other people were present (in one case, the witnesses were guests at the restaurant), and they looked on with confused expressions on their faces, attempting to show empathy, but at the same time not understanding why they should. What were the wines, you ask? Chateau Rayas 1990 Rouge was one, the other: Henri Jayer’s Cros-Parantoux 1978. The former was 100 percent Grenache from Rhône Valley, the latter was 100 percent Pinot Noir from Burgundy.

Aside from the magic, what else could there be that sets these two wines apart from many others? For starters, both wines were blessed with spectacular vintages in their respective regions. As Henri Jayer said himself, “1978 was one of the most beautiful vintages I vinified. Undoubtedly, one of the best in the century.” Fair enough, but other wineries made wines in those years as well, and some of them were spectacular. I h