Monday, December 17, 2007

Vinocabulary

wine-glass-kimI was listening, rather than really watching CNN’s program, Your $$$$$Saturday afternoon, as I poached oranges in Pino Noir for Celest’s birthday cake. Single in the city and my bank account has gone into hypovolaemic shock (it has to do with bleeding; Mama is a nurse) because of the stresses I’ve put it through during this season of cocktails, presents, parties, new frocks and fantastic food issuing forth from my kitchen…so taking in a little financial advice while poaching seemed prudent. Truth be told, I was more interested in the ganache I was about to melt for the cake than the feature on making your children into good, young capitalists by forgoing the Barbie and Match Car gifts this holiday, in favor of giving them stock in say, Mattel, or Disney, so they can begin to understand at as early an age as possible how their money and the marketplace “play” together so amiably. Wow!

But then, they started talking about wine. And I started listening intently. The piece touched on some business aspects of California’s wine production, but then it got to the good part. There was a wine expert who was explaining to the vino-novice interviewer how wine has gotten intimidating because the vocabulary around it has become so inaccessible. Then, he went on to break down the two main ways in which wines are talked about, in the simplest, most straightforward way I’ve ever heard. First, he said, there’s body: wines fall on a continuum similar to dairy. You can drink a “light” wine, which would be like the skim variety of milk, up to a very full-bodied variety that would compare to heavy cream. Brilliant! Easily understood what one extreme versus the other feels like on my tongue. I moved closer to the television. Then, there are the taste variations in wine, the expert explained, that result from differing levels of acids and tannins. The taste continuum is comparable to something as easily understood as dairy, citrus. On one end, you have the sweetest possible tangerine, and on the other, a tart and tangy lemon. With lots of possibilities between the two. Wines’ flavor profiles range all along that line. Clear! So when determining what you like, and subsequently describing a wine, you might think about the kind of “dairy” feel you like in your mouth, and what “citrus” flavor best tempts your taste buds.

I can’t wait to talk to the crew at Seagrape and see what they think about this methodology! Me, I love wine and am in favor of anything that means more opportunities to sample and savor and refine my ability to talk with authority about what I like.

By the way, the “expert” on CNN also said to never be afraid to send back a bottle of wine in a restaurant, if you dislike it for any reason. He said the restaurant isn’t taking a financial hit in these instances, because they pass those costs back to the distributors, who would prefer that you drink a wine you love, rather than suffer through one you don’t, because that ultimately creates repeat customers and strengthens the entire industry, (instead of sending people clamoring back to beer or vodka tonics).

Now let’s see, I’d say my favorite Californian Zinfandels are about 2% milk fat/Valencia oranges…

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