Thursday, May 31, 2007

Divine Wine

Sometimes, enjoying a glass of wine can be similar to practicing religion. Both have specific ceremonies, special glasses and each can cause anxiety. No wait, stay with me on this one.

First, there is opening the wine bottle. In an upscale restaurant, this can be very elaborate. As the customer, do you scrutinize the bottle, sniff the cork or affect a bemused expression upon the first sip? For me, this calls to mind the image of a Lutheran from a small congregation attending a Catholic mass at St. Peter's in Rome. All those furtive glances to see what others around you are doing. Stand, sit, kneel... Repeat.

Relax, the only reason to look at the label is to make sure the wine you are being served is the same as what you ordered. For example, if you want to try a bottle of Bordeaux from a "stellar" vintage, like the 2005 the critics are claiming is the best in the last 50 years, check the label when the wine steward presents the bottle.

Now, on to cork sniffing, which sounds somewhat illegal. Is it really necessary or just part of the stereotype? Yes, unless the cork is synthetic, take a whiff to check for the odor of moldy newspapers or wet dog. Both are indicators the wine may be tainted or more commonly referred to as "corked". This silly aristocratic gesture may just save your taste buds from a very unpleasant experience. Corked wine is a fault is caused by a naturally-occurring airborne fungus reacting with chlorophenols, which are industrial pollutants that are found in pesticides. The cork and oak trees absorb these compounds during their growth and because natural corks and oak fermentation barrels are porous, these fungi can develop 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) during the stages of wine production. Even though corked wine is not harmful to drink, it certainly is not pleasurable.

The choice of glasses can also influence your enjoyment of wine. And we are not talking about Mogan David in a plastic communion cup, people! A basic tulip shape allows the maximum air surface for the wine to release it's bouquet and then concentrates it at the top as you smell and drink it. In general, red wines, with their more concentrated and complex bouquet, benefit from a "fatter" tulip shape than do whites.

Remember, there are no hard and fast rules in wine. It is not a "sin" to drink a red wine with fish or chicken, it just depends on how they are prepared. More on the commandments for food and wine pairings in upcoming days.

From Eccesiastes 10:19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.