Wine, Food, And The Pursuit Of Happiness

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.

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