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photo credit creative commons license david_jones

I am having a hard time finding something to write about that will top my past two posts about straw wine and underwater wine cellars, especially the latter, which is still actively blowing me away as it doesn’t get much wilder than that. I needed something grounding to gather my pieces from where ever it is they landed after being blown away, and the only thing I could think of was reading about wine makers, where they came from and where they are going to, and of course, about my always favorite non-wine wine, port.

Stéphane Vivier from Napa valley is originally from Burgundy, France, but unlike most European winemakers, was not born into a wine making family and his story is comprised both of tradition, since he grew up in a wine making area and spent a lot of time as a child playing with the children of the neighboring winemakers, thus absorbing a lot of the tradition, on the other hand, being a clean slate left a lot of room for him to carve his own way and start his own tradition, which he seems to be doing with gusto.

(If he ever decided to write an autobiography, it would probably be a very good read)

Another interesting winemaker I read about this week is Maggie Harrison, wine maker for Antica Terra from Oregon. Her journey to wine making utterly different from Stephane Vivier’s, and the conditions in which her vines are growing are both challenging and interesting, resulting in wine that is too.

It’s interesting to see how progress affects wine making techniques and as a result the taste too. Sometimes its for better and sometimes it certainly is not. Technological Change Afoot in Oporto: Port producers try treading machines that mimic the human foot . Watching the short video, It is hard for me to imagine this cold, hard stainless steel machine mimicking the human foot, it might have worked better for me if it was dressed in red plaid and blue shorts dancing in the grapes to the sound of drums and accordions. With all due respect to modern methods, nothing (and I repeat), nothing can mimic that.

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Underwater Wine Cellars

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photo credit creative commons license Del barefoot

Last week I shared an article on straw wine, which lead me to learn a bit about ice wine and all I could thing was wow, the wonders of the human mind! Always trying and thinking, tweaking and changing. Even if what we already know works well enough, There will always be someone who says “Hey, you know what, maybe we should.....” or “I wonder what would happen if....”
Sometimes these thoughts or mind rambles, as I call them, are so wild you have to pinch yourself to believe that they are actually happening or that you are reading what ever it is that you are reading. If I find it way to wild I will usually run a quick google search, and more often than not I will embarrass myself by realizing that whatever it was that blew my mind has been around for a while....
Today it was fermenting wine under the sea! Yes, yes, you heard me: Many winemakers are experimenting with aging wine underwater. Is there a benefit, or is the idea all wet?
Well, if I was curious about tasting straw wine, I am far more curious about tasting wine aged under the sea, but what I would really like to do is taste several batches of undersea wine alongside of the same wine aged in a ordinary, traditional cellar.
As far as me being way behind the times as usual: next year the first underwater cellar will be opened, and clients can “rent space” to store their bottles!
The concept, like all great concepts and inventions was the result of necessity: Piero Lugano an artist turned wine merchant turned vintner ran out of place to store his sparkling wine for aging. Other than a love of art and wine, Mr. Lugano has a great love for the sea.... need I say more? As Oprah would say, he had an Aha moment and in essence, changed the wine world as we know it

Sucba diving anyone?

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staw wine

photo credit creative commons license Letorrivacation

Several things have caught my fancy this week, sending me into fantastic daydreams of making wine in unlikely places like a Manhattan apartment (the thought of the latter is enough to send me into a daydream spin); making straw wine, which I had never heard of before and making vinegar from left over wine.

Wine making facilities might exist in a vast number of terrains, but usually they will be close a vineyard if not actually part of it. Green spaces, rocky terrains, big, open, blue skies and a bearded guy with boots is typically what you would see near a winery. Sky scrappers, millions of people, car fumes and high fashion are an antithesis to the stereotypical winery environment, but life is like a box of chocolates, as Forest Gump’s mother was fond of saying, and even Manhattan can boast an urban winery which is capable of producing cult wines.
As much as I love thinking of wineries in their natural surroundings (green, blue expanses with booted, bearded men) I find the thought of urban wineries enticing in a completely different way, since there is something wonderful about the unexpected jewels we run into now and then.

Straw wine is another thing that surprised me. Wine is made by picking grapes, juicing them by your method of choice and letting the juice ferment.
Straw wine is a little different. Before you go ahead and juice your grapes, you lay them on straw for about 4 months, waiting for them to raisin up, and only then you go through the process of squeezing out the small amount of juice that remains in them before fermenting, leaving you with a concentrated wine, of dense taste.
It could be an interesting experiment, and I would love to taste the results.

Another thing that I have been pondering on is making diy vinegar from left over wine. (Not that we ever have any left over wine, but still, pondering is fun), a little like making sourdough bread or yogurt, with a starter that can be as old as the hills.

Have you tasted straw wine?

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Today I read something quite surprising - most wine makers don’t put a list of ingredients on their wine bottles

Brand name class/type of wine, net of contents, the kind of grapes and where they are from, alcohol level, sulfate warning and heath issue warning, and, the vintner may, if he so chooses, add a list of possible allergens that the wine might contain.

All of the above information is important but it has more to do with wine culture than with ingredients, and let’s face it, unless the wine is made without any intervention, there will be additional ingredients to the wine other than grapes. Water, though seldom mentioned is often added, Sulfur, yeast, dye in some cases, eggs wood chips to name some.

I understand that the same type of grape grown on different soil in a different climate will render a different tasting fruit followed by a wine unique to that particular type of grape grown in those particular conditions, and I think that is important for consumers to know. But I can’t understand why it is not mandatory to declare allergens on the label or other chemicals and substances used in making the wine we consume.
The wine producers like to keep their process under wraps, leaving the consumers (for the most part) under the impression that after the grapes are crushed they are rushed to the cellar as is and after a certain amount of time and magic will immerge as wine
Eric Asimov of the NYTimes said

I believe this fear is overstated. Consumers buy all sorts of foods with long lists of incomprehensible ingredients. They buy foods with ingredients that they know are not healthy. If consumers are made uncomfortable by wine ingredients, it’s more because years of regarding wine through the hazy, Vaseline-smeared lens of marketers has created a phony impression.

Although Mr. Asimov thinks that full disclosure should be voluntary on the part of the wine maker; federally regulating it something like that would lead to a lot of negotiations between the regulators and the wine industry, not all of whom are willing to be forthcoming and open about their ingredients, resulting in less rather than more information on the labels, I am really quite shocked at the though that the only consumable goods that don’t have to list ingredients are wines (even beer and other alcoholic beverages have to list more than wines). I would be interested to know how that came about, wouldn’t you?

photo credit creative commons license gcfairch

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wrapped wine bottles

Photo credit The Drink Business

I can’t say which of my senses is more important to me; taste, hearing, smell, vision, or touch.
I can say that the more my senses are involved in any one experience; the experience will become more powerful, either in a negative or in a positive way.
As I write these lines I realize that in every experience we have we are using all five senses if we are lucky enough to have them all intact, but not every experience puts all of our senses to use. For example, typing is mainly my sense of touch, vision and hearing. My senses of smell and taste are in no way involved in typing.

Wine and wine drinking are totally different kinds of experience, as are all culinary experiences. When we drink wine, we see the color, taste the tastes, smell the aromas and enjoy (or not) the mouth feel of the wine. If we move out from the center a bit, we also enjoy the feel of the wine glass in our hands, on our lips and might find joy in the design of the wine label, though more often than not the label is perfunctory, with not much style and less information that we would like.

I don’t know about you but visuals bring me joy. I am a very visual person and have spent most of my professional life creating visuals for people to enjoy so wine, with all its wonder is a bit lacking in the amount it stimulates my vision.
For example, the taste of a meal can change immensely depending on how the meal is served. Is it arranged in an appealing way on the plate? Is it garnished? Are the colors appealing? Does it look as good as it tastes? Does it taste as good as it looks? If you go to a bakery for coffee and cake you choose your pastry or cake by it looks, right?


I took these on my recent weekend trip to Paris, and I can promise you that at least as much thought, work, skill and passion was put into the look as it was into the taste.
The French are really good at this.


Even in the market place they recognize, that the visual is an inseparable part of the culinary experience. One will by outrageously expensive chocolates and candies if they are gorgeous as well as delicious.

chocolate olives.jpg

All this makes me wonder how come the wine industry doesn’t understand this? I know that some wines (of lesser quality) have adjustments made to the color, and that recently I have been seeing some pretty cool wine labels, but still, no one has attempted to take this facet all the way, that is, until some packaging genius decided to paper wrap wine bottles in recycled paper wraps with a variety of designs containing a range of information from history to food pairings and recipes and beautiful visuals. I can see myself standing in front of the wine shelves, spending more time reading, looking, enjoying and choosing wine, with the sensual experience beginning way before the bottle is even opened.

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