Showing posts with label wine101. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wine101. Show all posts

  • Sunday, July 29, 2012

A History of Wine

Wine and the art of wine making has been part of human culture for eons. Indeed, archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest wine production came from sites in Georgia and Iran, dating from 6000 to 5000 BC. Evidence of the earliest European wine production has been uncovered at archaeological sites in Macedonia, dated to 6,500 years ago. Traces of wine dating from the second and first millennium BC have also been found in China. The history of people enjoying a good drop, therefore, stretches far into history, and far around the world.

Wine was also common in classical Greece and Rome, as you might expect with all the opulence, extravagance and sophistication of those societies. In addition, many of the major wine producing regions of Western Europe today were established with Phoenician and later-Roman plantations.

However, in medieval Europe, following the decline of Rome’s power and influence, there was a drop-off in widespread wine production. While the universal consumption of wine suffered a lull, wine production continued due to the fact the Christian church was a staunch supporter of the wine necessary for celebration of the Catholic Mass.

Similarly, whereas wine was forbidden in medieval Islamic cultures, Geber (a colossal figure in Persian science, alchemy, philosophy and geography) and other Muslim chemists pioneered the distillation of wine for medicinal purposes and its use in Christian libation was widely tolerated.

Wine production gradually got back on its feet in the West and its consumption became popularised from the 15th century onwards in Europe, surviving the devastating Phylloxera louse of the 1870s throughout the continent (a pest outbreak that nearly totally destroyed the wine plantations of France during this decade). After this, wine growing regions were established throughout the world, with wine production and the commercial nature of wine becoming recognizable as how we know it today.

Another particularly important development in the global wine trade was the expansion of production into the ‘New World’. In the USA, vineyards in Ohio were the innovators, before the industry firmly moved to California – American wine’s spiritual home to this day. Australia also picked up the slack in earnest in the late 19th century, while at the same time such things as port, sherry and fortified wines were becoming popular in Europe.

Other countries that have expanded wine production in the 20th century include South Africa, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Japan, Romania, Brazil, Uruguay, China and Canada.

Written by Julia Binkheart, a commentator and amateur wine enthusiast specializing in Wine Australia.

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  • Friday, March 16, 2012

Minerality in Wine

I Tried 3 Rocks So That You Don’t Have To.

Today I understand minerality in wine by going directly to the source. What does chalk, river stone and slate actually taste like? Learn the definition of minerality in wine and see if wine sommeliers and wine experts are full of... chalk.

That Rock Looks Delicious from Madeline Puckette on Vimeo.

Slate Minerality in Wine

Slate is commonly associated with riesling and I feel this to be very true when actually licking a slate rock. I encourage you all to lick slate, it’s delicious! Be sure to boil it to remove all the dangerous microbes. I don’t recommend making yourself sick.

Chalk Minerality in Wine

Chalk is feels like licking a hard sponge that sucks all the moisture out of your mouth. The flavor of chalk reminds me mildly of a very dry Champagne or Brut Zero (a Champagne with no added dosage..aka sugar). However the drying sensation reminds me more of Italian Wines with very strong tannins such as Barolo, Barbaresco and Chianti.

River Stone Minerality in Wine

River stone is supposed to remind people of chenin blanc, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir. The flavor of a river stone is so gross and offensive I don’t feel comfortable talking about it. Please don’t make me try it again. Oh! And! In case you’re curious... You too can buy a bag of rocks for only $6 on

Getting Serious About the Definition of Minerality in Wine

Minerality is neither a single compound or the vines ability to “suck the minerals out of the soil.” It is in fact a combination of all of many different aspects including esters, trace minerals, acidity level and a wines’ alcohol level. To define minerality is like trying to define why someone is tall, there’s too many genes at play that affect someone’s height. So, when wine writers write “Minerality” they are trying to put a name on a multi-faceted characteristic that science doesn’t have a definition for. Instead, as a wine drinker focus more on what you like about a wine in particular and observe the following list of wines that are known for their mineral-like character.

  • Riesling from Germany as “Flinty or Slatey”
  • Chardonnay from Chablis as “Chalky”
  • Sangiovese from Italy (aka Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo) as “Clay” or “Brick”
  • Assyrtiko from Greece as “Gritty” or “Concrete”
  • Red Bordeaux from France as “Gravelly”
  • Pinot Noir from Burgundy as “Rustic” “Barnyard” or “Forest-floor”

Author of this post: Madeline Puckette of WineFolly

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  • Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How to Host Your Own Wine Tasting

How to Setup a Wine Tasting

I find myself slightly envious of those who live downtown, surrounded by an endless supply of restaurants, patios, and other potential dining opportunities. Need a glass of wine? Just text a friend and hook-up in, say 20 minutes at the bistro around the corner. On occasion though, even these folks ask themselves: What would it take to host a wine tasting in my own home?

I’ll let you in on a little secret; it’s not that difficult. Let me give you a few pointers, but first, some background: I don’t live downtown. In fact, I’m so far removed from the concrete jungle that modern amenities like fibre optic phone lines and natural gas are a figment of my imagination. But rather than make the trek southbound to the urban sprawl for a regular dose of the wine tasting experience, I took it upon myself to recreate the same concept closer to home. I call it North of 9 Fine Wine.

Setup wine tasting in your home

Hosting a wine tasting in your own home or at a local restaurant does involve some preparation and planning. To simplify the process, I’ll break the necessary considerations down as a step-by-step checklist to ensure that we cover all the bases.

Pairing wine with food for your wine tasting party

  • Choose a style of wine or a region that you wish to profile
  • Pick a theme: stand-up and mingle or sit-down and focused
  • How many people will attend? ____
  • 1 standard bottle will serve 12 people a 2-ounce pour
  • Food should always be available when alcohol is served (at the very least, a sliced baguette)
  • Consider the legalities and liquor laws in your area
  • Select 4 to 6 different labels to represent your theme
  • Consider food pairings to compliment your wine choices
  • If ranking the wines, provide grading sheets and pencils
  • Select your stemware (something large enough to swirl but not too cumbersome to handle).
    7 oz. / 200 mL ISO tasting glasses cost ~ $4 each
  • Consider separate glasses for each wine or one glass with a rinse station
  • Provide wine charms if using one glass per person or use a paint marker to write each person’s name on the base of their glass
  • Labelled placemats will help keep multiple glasses organized
  • Spittoons should be made available as an option
  • Whites and sparkling wines may require ice buckets for chilling
  • Provide drinking water in a separate glass or bottle
  • Have a plan if someone has too much to drink i.e. a key bowl, taxi phone#
  • Know your material
  • As your guests arrive, consider serving a glass of sparkling wine. The bubbly will give them something to discuss while you fine tune last minute details.
  • Consider your crowd and set the tone: fun/informative or wine snobbery (there is a place for each)
  • Reinforce the need to consume responsibly before you begin
  • Explain the basics (not everyone will be comfortable with the concept)
  • Taste in order of dry to sweet and light to full bodied
  • Consider the use of props such as decanters, various corkscrews, maps and literature related to your subject
  • When finished, allow some social time between the last wine sample and your guests’ departure by offering tea, coffee, and a selection of baked goods.
Coordinating a wine tasting at an establishment outside of your home involves taking the concept to the next level and I recommend that you hire a BYOB licensed restaurant for the event. Initially, the thought might seem intimidating but in actuality, much of pressure to perform is alleviated by leaving the food prep and wine service to the restaurant staff. Consider reserving a small room for your group and rather than a large meal, prearrange several rounds of appetizers specifically chosen to pair with your wine selections. As you conduct the tasting with the group, the staff will circulate with the food and wine which will make you look like a real hotshot!

Enjoy yourself and have some fun with it! That’s why we drink the stuff in the first place.

- Cheers
Tyler is the founder of North of 9 Fine Wine and also writes about wine in Footprints Magazine.

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  • Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Oenophile's Guide to Grape Sex

Wine grapes have been sex-starved for centuries to satisfy our palates.

So keep that stem to yourself, Mr. Merlot. Only viticulturists get to touch the likes of luscious Ruby Cabernet. Otherwise, a wine’s flavour can be dramatically altered when plant nookie occurs naturally in fields from Bordeaux to the Niagara region.

That abstinence has been great for the discriminating oenophile, but not so great for the grape.

It’s been farmed to remain chaste over 8,000 years while filling amphora, flagons and, more recently, crystal stemware with modern vintages pressed from cloned berries not much different from those fermented by ancient civilizations.

The lack of fruity booty action means grapes have become one large, genetically stagnant family — which makes the crop vulnerable to ever-evolving diseases, pests and fungi, says Canadian geneticist Sean Myles.

“If the grapes don’t change and the pathogens do, then it’s an arms race between pathogen and the host,” says Myles, a researcher at Cornell University who’s developed a gene chip that quickly identifies genetic traits in grapes.

Myles would like to see some pulp friction — the breeding of new grapes to find pest- and disease-resistant plants. His gene chip could speed up this experimentation by years, if not decades, to detect hardy, wine-worthy plants.

The problem: Breeding is expensive and time-consuming. It could take 30 years for a new hybrid grape to become commercially available. Many experiments don’t make it to market at all.

Europe is slower to embrace change, but Canada — a newbie in the wine game — is not.

The l’Acadie grape, for instance, is a hardy 20th century cultivar born and bred in Vineland. It turned out that Ontario’s summers were too hot for the grape, but Nova Scotia’s cooler climes were perfect.

“I find in the new world, we tend to be more willing to try things because we’re not burdened by tradition,” says Ed Madronich, chair of the Wine Council of Ontario and president of Flat Rock Cellars in Jordan, Ont.

“We have hybrids where we’ve crossed breeds . . . with (native) labrusca grapes that are winter-resistant and (cultivated) vinifera varieties to create things like baco noir, a big bold red that people love and we can grow here in Niagara.”

Myles led a team of researchers that studied more than 1,000 samples of the domesticated grape Vitis vinifera and its wild relative, sylvestris, from batches in Geneva, N.Y., and Davis, Calif. The team extracted DNA from grape leaves to develop a genetic fingerprint for each vine using more than 5,000 sites in the fruit genome. Their work was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January.

What Myles didn’t expect to discover was that 75 per cent of grape cultivars (plants bred for certain characteristics) are directly related as parent, offspring or sibling.

It’s a tight bond that allows vintners to perfect their wines by growing clones, which are genetically identical plants snipped from existing stock. Should natural plant sex unexpectedly occur from winds blowing fertile matter across neighbouring vineyards, it’s not unusual for those offspring to be weeded out.

“Once we have a plant that we like a lot, we don’t want it to have (natural) sex because it will change that plant,” says Gina Haverstock, a Nova Scotia winemaker and Myles’ wife.

“It might change the flavour of the grape, it might change the growth habit, it might change many things.”

Stubborn loyalty to go-to grapes may present problems for growers if chemical insecticides and fungicides are banned — a day many in the industry feel is coming as consumers increasingly demand untainted food and drink.

“A lot of regions are still using varieties that have been vegetatively propagated for hundreds of years,” says Myles, “and that doesn’t really make a lot of sense scientifically but it makes a lot of sense commercially, so it’s a conundrum.

“When it comes to horticulture, grapes are so much more romanticized than any other crop. People don’t realize they are requiring quite a bit of (chemical) spray. Seventy per cent of the fungicide used in the U.S. is used on grapes. (Grapes) need to be treated chemically in order to produce the amounts we demand (for wine).”

Wineries will have to think outside the Tetra Pak should governments outlaw chemical sprays.

Myles says growers have three main options: breed hardier varieties of grapes (his gene chip comes in handy here), go completely organic (a labour-intensive prospect for high-volume commercial businesses, or use genetically modified strains to combat insects and pathogens.

Traditional wine markets have survived one sweeping, deadly scare — barely.

In the 19th century, European vineyards were almost wiped out by the phylloxera louse.

A desperate but successful fix was found in grafting shoots onto American root stalk, which was resistant to the aphid. Yet after that disaster, growers didn’t aggressively continue to diversify.

More recently, that attitude is changing, with research and development picking up in Germany, Italy and France, notes Myles.

In Ontario, the industry tries to keep chemical sprays to a minimum, but sometimes they’re necessary to save crops, Madronich says.

“We know we’d like to reduce sprays. We know that mildew (a rot) is a problem for us and we know there are bugs and insects affecting grape vines, but we tend to find solutions.”

Those solutions can be a blend of chemical, organic and old-fashioned elbow grease, says Madronich.

His Flat Rock Cellars is not an organic operation, but when rot and bugs appear, his 32 hectares of plants are first hand-tended. Leaves are clipped by hand for better air flow to prevent rot taking hold when hot, humid, rainy weather smothers the area. Powdery and downy mildew are two types that might require chemical fungicide, since they can quickly decimate a crop.

Though the grapes aren’t having sex, the mating game is used to deceive a killer pest: the grape berry moth.

Pheromone traps are set away from the plants to lure the male moth to a scent he believes is from a female moth. The trap confuses the unfortunate bug, which lives for about 24 hours, and curtails the need for insecticide.

“We tend not to use insecticide, but if I ever had a really serious insect problem, I would use it because I’m a small business and (an infestation) could ruin my business,” Madronich says.

The largest centres of Canadian winemaking are in British Columbia and southern Ontario. However, Nova Scotia is emerging as a plucky upstart, using l’Acadie blanc wine to bump up its output, says Haverstock, the winemaker at Gaspereau Vineyards near Wolfville, N.S.

Sipping wines with DNA rooted in antiquity is an oenophile’s pleasure — after all, he or she may be drinking much the same thing a Renaissance king enjoyed. But surely there’s room on the wine lover’s palate for newer tastes.

People like Haverstock are banking on it.

Written by Mary Ornsby. Source -

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