Dietribes: Wine

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Because I indulged heavily in the stuff last night, I'll let others do the eloquent speaking for me on the subject of this most beloved beverage:

"Wine makes a man better pleased with himself. I do not say that it makes him more pleasing to others.... This is one of the disadvantages of wine, it makes a man mistake words for thoughts." "“Samuel Johnson (1709"“1784)

"Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter, Sermons and soda-water the day after." "“Lord Byron (1788"“1824)

Being as this is such an expansive topic, I'll try and stick to some facts and figure you may not know about wine. To learn more about the basics, check out this site or, you know, this ole standby.

"¢ There are plenty of famous wine advocates besides Bacchus and Johnny "Wino Forever" Depp. In fact, one was a Founding Father. According Jay McInerney's New York Times review of John Hailman's Thomas Jefferson on Wine, "Jefferson was not only a connoisseur, but a proselytizer. He planted dozens of grape varieties at Monticello, and though he never succeeded in producing a vintage, he predicted that someday America would compete with France and Italy as a wine-producing nation. He believed wine was a healthier beverage than the whiskey and brandy that were consumed in such vast quantities in the colonies, and while in and out of office he pushed for lower import duties. 'No nation is drunken where wine is cheap,' he declared, 'and none sober where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. It is, in truth, the only antidote to the bane of whiskey.'" Jefferson even installed wine elevators that led directly to the wine cellar from his dinning room.

"¢ Another famous oenophile is Robert M. Parker, Jr., who started the aptly-named Wine Advocate, which has made him one of the most influential wine critics in the world. His naming the 1982 Bordeaux as one of the greatest vintages ever led it to become one of the most expensive wines to date. However, regarding cheap wine, anyone who's ever picked up a bottle (or three) of "Two Buck Chuck" might appreciate this article on Fred Franzia, "The Scourge of Napa Valley" (not to be confused with Franzia boxed wine).

sideways.jpg"¢ Of course, not all casual mentions of certain wines have led to positive outcomes. Merlot—once America's most preferred wine—was suddenly made uncool by the movie Sideways, where lead character Miles is the merlot-hating, pinot-loving wine snob who uttered the famous line, "If anyone orders merlot, I'm leaving. I am not drinking any (expletive) merlot!" which led to an actual drop in sales of his most hated pedestrian wine.

"¢ Speaking of sales, wine consumption in the US has steadily been rising since the 1930s (when raw data was first tracked), with occasional dips here and there. As of 2006, an average American is said to consume approximately 2.39 gallons of wine a year, with a total of 716 million gallons sipped, and occasionally gulped, nationwide.

"¢ To cork or not to cork? That is the question at the heart of a new movement set on introducing screw caps to wine bottles instead of traditional corks. Read more about the debate here. If the idea of leaving the cork and corkscrew in the past unsettles you, find solace by perusing the Virtual Corkscrew Museum.

"¢ Where would a discussion of wine be without a nod to the maybe-not-classy-but-sure-good invention of boxed wine? Developed by an Australian family winery in the 1960s, the concept of bagged wine, a modern version of the traditional European wine 'bladder' (a leather pouch that collapses as the wine is poured, keeping air out) was born. "The bag-in-a-box concept took off. In 1967 Penfold Wines and C H Malpas patented a plastic, airless flow-tap welded into a metallised plastic bag. This innovation allowed the bag to stay in the box and be tapped like a traditional wine cask, and that's the version most popular today."

OK Flossy readers ... what are some suggestions you have for someone just getting into wine appreciation? What are your favorite (and most reasonably priced) wines? And finally, any good wine-related shenanigans to share?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

"˜Dietribes' appears every Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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April 23, 2008 - 5:38am
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