Wine, Food, And The Pursuit Of Happiness

Monday, August 19, 2013

Just Around The Corner: In Love With White Wine

The history of wine is the history of people saying it will never work.

Just 25 years ago, California wine was OK but not thought by a lot of people to be "real" wine. Sure, you could drink it, but if it was a special occasion, you'd always go with the Euro option until well into the 80s.

Washington State and Oregon have been an adventure until the last decade or so. And at this very moment, as I write that North Carolina and Virginia are going to be big like Oregon and Washington in the not too distant future, someone somewhere is saying, out loud probably, "North Carolina wine? Never happen!" Let's not even talk about China.

It's worth remembering that the ancient Romans said exactly the same thing about France. Granted, it took a thousand years, but they were still wrong, just like we are wrong today when we kind of by default look sideways at local wine. We love everything else local, but we appear trapped by a perfect negative fusion of snobbery and America's Euro-inferiority complex that makes it impossible to perceive - at first anyway - how good our local wines are too.

Quality and emotional quality
Marco Montez makes some of the best wine in the Atlantic northeast just down the road in New Bedford, originally an old whaling town turned Portuguese - American power center. Travessia in English means traverse: more than a trip, a journey that covers a vast dramatic physical and emotional territory, something that could be called, at the end, great.

The distance traversed by these wines - Vidal Blanc (an unsung local white wine hero), Chardonnay, Riesling, and a fantastic pink Pinot Noir - is one step over the line into competing with new world-wide whites like Gruener Veltliner, Savatiano, Albarino, and others.  Except 200 cases at a time, not a million.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wine and Water

2007 Le Fiacre du Pape Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Four grape blend, still mostly water.
One of the questions that comes up in wine class over and over again is why wine is so very hard for a lot of people to describe.  After we get past the first obvious exclamations like "love it" and "hate it" or "damn, that's yummy" and "why are you doing this to me," many wine lovers get bogged down trying to say more.

There are about as many reasons for this as there are wine lovers, but most folks start out blaming themselves.  If only they were smarter, or born rich and classy, or had better palates — whatever that means — talking about wine would be so much easier.  Sometimes the intimidation factor reaches such a fever pitch that they conclude, not without some pretty good reasons, that wine tasting is just a gigantic load of crap whipped up by wine snobs to make the rest of the world feel small and stupid. (See "Wine tasting is bullshit. Here's why." for a romping overview of this world view.)

Truth is, wine is a challenge to describe because wine is overwhelmingly water — odorless, colorless, and flavorless.  In general, dry white wine is about 12 percent alcohol, plus less than 1 percent acidity and another 1 or 2 percent other compounds.  That makes it around 85 percent water, the flavor equivalent of nothing.

Think of it this way: if wine were another kind of art — a painting, for example — it would be more than three-quarters blank canvas and just a tiny bit of paint.