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PURETICS...

PURETICS...


Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Bluffer's Guide to wine and grapes

Apart from rocket science, there are very few activities that require you to be a rocket scientist to enjoyably and intelligently take part. Yet, in this age of specialization, things often seem more complex than they really are.

Take wine, for example. The drink itself hasn't changed drastically since neolithic Iranians began fermenting grapes some six or seven thousand years ago - certainly not as much as rocket science has evolved over that period. And yet there's a real stigma associated with wine - that we can never know enough about it to take part in even a water-cooler discussion on the merits, or lack, say, of merlot. We certainly don't feel as wine savvy as the person with whom we're drinking it, and nowhere near as well-versed about it as the one who's serving, or selling, it to us.

But, you say, some people go to wine schools for years to become oenology and viticulture experts, stewards and sommeliers. How can I compete with that sort of dedication? Well, you can't. But that doesn't mean you have to curl your tail between your legs at dinner parties, either. To be a rocket scientist, at some point you actually have to make the things go up and down. To pass yourself off as a semi-knowledgeable wine connoisseur, you have only to talk a good game. Ready?

Wine: What is it? Essentially, and for the purpose of this course, wine is fermented grape juice to which someone has added yeast. The yeast reacts with the grapes' natural sugars to produce alcohol (and heat and carbon dioxide, but don't worry yourself about this). There are other significant elements, such as acids, which balance sugar and alcohol, bring out fruit flavours and help the wine age, and tannins, which add to the colour, taste and body, but a little knowledge of these areas can go a long way to causing you embarrassment; it's best to leave these machinations to those who really

care. Never speak of them again.

Where does wine come from? Four countries - France, Italy, Spain and the U.S. - produce and consume more than half of the world's wine. If you understand the global oil diaspora, and can imagine Italy, France and Spain as sort of a vintner's Middle East, it should all make sense. Except relatively few people die in the name of wine, chiefly because Americans aren't nearly as fussy about it as they are about oil.

If it's almost all from those four countries, why confuse me with all these regions? Relax. This is similar to how your car mechanic keeps you below him in the automotive hierarchy - by adding details that aren't important but will make you feel foolish for not understanding them. "You blew a rod," he might say, or "your head gasket needs replacing," or "your stabilizer-bar links are shot." What is he really telling you? Your car is broken and needs repairs. And what do you want? A car that runs. Likewise, you simply want a wine that tastes good. Do you care whether it's made from nebbiolo or tempranillo grapes? That's like passenger-side air-bags - who really cares? That said, you should learn the names of the seven basic grapes, because they're going to come up a lot. Three of them - chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc - are white, while the rest - cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir and syrah (or shiraz) - are, um, the other one - red. These seven account for about three out of every four bottles of wine you're likely to come across, so they're worth memorizing.

How will that help? If you're in a restaurant and your dinner companion says, "How about a shiraz?" you might counter with, "Sure, or we could try a cabernet," suggesting that, rather then being simply acquiescent, you really have an opinion. If you have to pick something from the wine list, stick with an Italian or French red, and choose one from the upper end of your price range. "I had this one last week," you might lie, "and it was excellent." If the one you then receive isn't excellent, or even if it is, counter with, "Hm, this batch doesn't seem to have the same legs" (or "isn't as rustic/clean/subtle/pronounced/firm/delicate" [just pick one]). Remember, the trick isn't in knowing what you're talking about but sounding like you do.

OK, but what about all these adjectives? Which ones should I use? What do they all mean? They're generally used to describe the look, smell and texture of a wine, with terms such as "nutty," "jammy," "oaky" or "plummy." It's important to remember that wine growers don't actually put nuts or jam or plums in their wines. These are just words used to compare a wine to something with which people can relate, and you can make up your own with impunity.

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Posted by Ajay :: 5:23 PM :: 0 comments

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