• Conversational wine.

    I’m going to get a bit existential in this blog.

    Wine talks to you through taste, touch, sight and smell. Honestly, it even talks to you audibly. When someone removes a cork and you hear a light pop; immediately a bottle of wine comes to mind. When a resounding POP breaks the dull murmur of a room. Champagne is on the forefront of your thoughts.

    The actual definition of conversation is a verbal communication between two people. My definition of conversation is communicating by any means. Now if you want to argue the point and say well that’s merely communicating then I say bah humbug its a fricken conversation (like how I so eloquently retorted?)

    With wine, the cork is the beginning of the conversation. It says ahhhh let it begin. I give the cork a quick whiff to see whether or not its been contaminated by TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) a taint that can give the wine a moldy wet newspaper smell. Once I’ve determined the wine to be free of said “cork taint” I pour the wine.

    Once the wine is in the glass it says the world by its color.

    The extracted juice from a grape gets its color by how much time is spent on the grape skins. There are many different methods used including pouring the wine over the skins and a punch down method..

    ..where the skins are pressed down into the juice repeatedly. The longer the skins stay in contact with the juice the darker the color gets. Some grapes have more polyphenols (a chemical compound found within grape skins that gives color to the wine which if you wanted to get really specific its the anthocyanin flavonoids that are the true culprits.) This is why the grape Syrah is nearly always darker in color than Nebbiolo even if Nebbiolo sees skin contact for twice as long.

    Then the composer lets the strings play bringing the first harmonic coda of the conversation.

    The aromas waft up from the glass bringing scents of fruit, earth or industry. With Moscato unmistakably honeysuckle seems to have been crushed in the wine. The old Austrian Riesling has a distinct petroleum nose, while the Burgundian Pinot smells of dust and red brick. It sings to you with stories of it’s origin, heredity and the wine maker’s style.

    From the nose to the palate the topic often remains the same, but changes in depth.

    If the aromas of fruits and earth one finds when smelling the wine are also there on the tongue when you take your first sip—in wine speak we say it translates to the palate.

    The conversation is getting more complex here with layer upon layer of hidden innuendo and intrigue especially if you are trying to blindly guess what the wine is telling you in terms of varietal and origin. With palate we also experience the weight/body of the wine. The acidity (mouth puckering salivation) along with the tannin level and finish are garnered at this point as well.

    Now touch holds some of the tasting’s arena as well, for the drying awareness from tannins is less taste than it is touch. Body is a mouth feeling and so is the sensation felt from bubbles. Thus bringing us back to Champagne.

    Wine, if you let it, will tell you a story. If it’s a beautiful wine that has aged well then that story will be a glorious, epic tale of romance and adventure. It will on rare occasion take you to a far away land for a brief moment in time. A place that you can visit again with the next sip.

    – Jonathan Hood