WineSpeed | Fire // Tradition // Necessity
Fires are still raging all across wine country here in northern California. Anxiety and sadness are everywhere. We fled our little town of St. Helena. Emails are pouring in from exhausted vintners who have stayed behind to try to protect their wineries. With what result is not yet clear. This will be an abbreviated version of WineSpeed. There is no wine that I can recommend. The only numbers I can think of have to do with fires and destruction and loss. We will regroup and hope to create a full WineSpeed next week.—Karen
In the meantime, if you’d like to help, here’s a quick list of organizations that are providing direct assistance to those devastated by the fires that continue to burn throughout Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino.
- The Napa Valley Community Foundation
- Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership
- American Red Cross Wildfire Relief Fund
- Napa Humane Society
- Community Foundation of Sonoma
- Redwood Empire Food Bank
- SHARE Emergency Housing
- Sonoma County Animal Services
OTHER IMPORTANT SOURCES
What is saperavi?
A. A colloquial Sicilian term for the powerful flavor of a wine that’s high in alcohol
B. An Italian method of post fermentation maceration intended to increase color saturation in a wine and amplify a wine’s body
C. A ancient leading grape variety in the Republic of Georgia
D. The process by which proteins in human saliva bind with various molecules including tannin, creating the impression of dryness in the mouth
Scroll down for the answer!
Wine’s Other Self
Wine’s “other self” is vinegar. One of the two best vinegars in the world is Italy’s traditional balsamic vinegar; the other is Spain’s solera-aged Sherry vinegar. Needless to say, the inexpensive balsamic vinegar you find in a supermarket is decidedly not great. It’s just ordinary red wine vinegar that’s been sweetened and colored with caramel. Real balsamic vinegar is made only in Emilia-Romagna, just north of Tuscany, around the towns of Modena and Reggio. It’s labeled aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena or di Reggio, and the Italian government grants it a DOP (Denomination of Protected Origin), equivalent to DOC status for wines. Price is always a tip-off: A small 3-ounce vial of balsamico tradizionale can be $100 or more. For many Italians, the most godly of all culinary combinations is a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese moistened with a few drops of an especially lush, old, traditional balsamic vinegar.
Ullage (ULL edge) is the space that develops near the neck and shoulder inside a wine bottle or container because wine has been lost through leakage or evaporation. In a bottle with significant ullage, the wine will often be oxidized and spoiled. In a wine auction, a wine with ullage will not command top dollar.
“A few e-issues ago you stated in WineSpeed that all wines should be aerated (swirled), but in The Wine Bible you make an exception for older pinot noir. Please clarify.”
—Ted B., Northern California
Ted, nice catch. I should have said all current vintage wines should be aerated by swirling. However, older pinot noir (~15 years or more) can be very fragile, and pinot noir in general is prone to quick oxidation (which is why its flavors change so rapidly in the glass). You can of course still give an older pinot some gentle swirls, but it isn’t a good idea to bang a lot of oxygen into it by aggressive swirling or cuisinart it by splashing it into a decanter or through an aerator.
Send your questions/comments to AskKaren@winespeed.com.
C. The Alazani Valley (pronounced: al a ZAH knee) of Georgia, on the edge of the Caucasus Mountains, considers itself the “cradle of wine.” Archeological evidence suggests that wine has been made here for more than seven millennia. The valley’s specialty is saperavi, a dark skinned red variety. Saperavi, like dozens of other grape varieties that grow in Georgia, is often still fermented in large subterranean earthenware pots called qvevri (ke VEV ree).