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wine implementsIn Vino Veritas
by Marjorie Dorfman

How long has wine been around? Here are some answers about the history of viniculture and the different varieties available on the market today.

"Age improves all wines except the whine of man" -Anonymous

Learn how to turn grapes into delicious table wine.

Whoever coined the phrase, In Vino Veritas, was right on target. With a little too much wine tongues become loose and the truth comes out, whether or not it will set you free. As an admirer of Bacchus and a lover of the white wine grape myself, I am aware of its many pitfalls. It’s difficult to think about what and where they are, however, when one is indulging in its fruity splendor. Wine tastes fine almost anytime and life, my friends, is short and getting shorter with every breath that we take.

Whenever I think about wine, images of Lucille Ball battling with a peasant woman in a vat of grapes in an Italian vineyard come to mind. The hilarious struggle, which results in squishing and smashing the grapes into each other’s faces, will be with me forever. For all we know, grapes may truly be squashed in that manner, but there really is so much more to know about viniculture in general. My knowledge is limited, but I will attempt to give a fair representation of both white and red wines and hope that I either will or will not offend the makers of both types equally.

It has been said that wine can only be as good as the grape from which it is made. (I think it was the same guy who said that you couldn’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but I can’t be sure.) There are many different kinds, but the best wine grape is the European Vitis vinifera. It provides the right balance of sugar and acid to create a good fermented wine without the addition of sugar and water. There are some things that are true of all wines. For example, the key to a wine’s quality lies in its harmony with fruit acid, tannin and alcohol and in its after taste. If the after taste is short, the wine is not high quality, if it is longer it usually is. Wines with less alcohol content are light bodied, while those with higher alcoholic content have medium or full-bodied texture. So what, you say? Well, read on, knaves.

The first record of wine dates back to the Neolithic Period (8500 to 4000 BC) with the appearance in the Zagros Mountains of Northern Iran of pottery vessels whose porous structures were ideal for the storage of wine. Although the wine grape was never grown in ancient Egypt, a thriving winemaking industry had been established in the Nile Delta, most probably the result of trade between Egypt and Palestine during the Bronze Age. Wine making scenes appear on the walls of many tombs and hieroglyphics indicate that five wines constituted a fixed menu for the after life. My only question would concern whether one could buy it by the glass or by the bottle even way back then.

Gamay produces a fruity wine, such as French Beaujolais. In the United States a wine cannot be called by its varietal name unless the grape comprises at least 75 percent of the wine. There are three different grape species; the Gamay noir, Gamay Beaujolais and the Napa Gamay. Each one claims to be the one and only "true variety." I say "no way, gamay." Try them all and after a while it won’t matter. To date there is no heir to the throne, as there are many "wannabe Gamays" to compete with.

Merlot has the distinction of being both easy to drink and pronounce. The grape is fruity, with cherry like flavors and hints of tobacco and mint. The Pinot Noir is more delicate, offering strawberry and tealeaf aromas. It is excellent with grilled salmon, lamb and roast chicken. California’s native red and perhaps the world’s most versatile grape is the Zinfandel. It makes everything from blush wine (white Zinfandel) to light Beaujolais style reds. The zesty, berryish flavor makes it the perfect complement for tomato sauce pastas, pizza and grilled barbecued meats. The origin of the name is thought to be a corruption of a white European wine known as ‘Zienfandler’, arising from a naming error. Whatever it’s called, it’s good in any language!

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food humor"Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks."
Lin Yutang
The Importance of Living, 1937

"Talk of Joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes and home-made bread
. . . there may be."

David Grayson
Adventures in Contentment, 1907

Don't miss this excellent book:

The Wine Bible

The Wine Bible

This book was eight years in the writing and covers all aspects of viniculture. Thorough and entertaining, the author uses illustrations, anecdotes, maps, charts, photos and passionate opinions to express the fundamentals of mastering wine.

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