There are a few ways to avoid this heartbreak: a) become so rich that it doesn't matter; b) make yourself a regular fixture at wine-tastings; or c) visit a wine shop that happens to have an Enomatic.
The Enomatic, a self-service wine-tasting kiosk, landed back in October of last year at Vino Vino Wine Market, located at 1457 Merrimon Ave. in north Asheville. It is an impressive device -- as it ought to be with its shelf-price of $20,000. A cylindrical, brushed-aluminum exterior cradles 16 bottles of wine. Stainless-steel taps finger out from it. Insert a pre-paid card, pick your wine and press a button, and a precise amount of it jets into your glass. Roll it around. Chew it. Slurp it. Shove your nose down in it. There's no sommelier around to wince or look contemptuously at you.
"It helps people expand their palate," explained Aryn Hood, wine-buyer at Vino Vino. "We try to keep a good mixture on the machine, at different price points, from different regions and made from different grape varietals."
Currently on tap are wines for the both budget-minded (the Spanish-made Rioja "Cortijo III," 2006, 40 cents for a one-ounce pour) and the moneybags (the Italian-made Gaja Barbaresco, 2001, $8.20 for that same ounce). "Not only are you able to try a particular wine without dropping a bunch of money on it, but you can also experience types of wine you might know nothing about," said Hood. She pointed to a bottle of the South African varietal Pinotage. "Your average wine bar might not have a Pinotage," she said.
A supply of clean wine glasses is located above the machine. Below-decks, an unseen tank sends up argon gas to blanket the wine bottles and keep each pour as fresh as the last. "Typically an open bottle of wine has a shelf life of two or three days," said Hood. "With the Enomatic, bottles stay fresh for several weeks."
And should you wonder just how such a Jetsons-like machine fits into wine's noble history, there's a bust of a Classical hunk atop the Enomatic, looking bravely forward to whatever the future brings.
"I think it's David," said Hood. "But my boss calls him Bacchus."
For more information, visit www.vinovinowines.com or call 258-2177.