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Wine

Wine is the fermented juice of grapes. One species of vine, vitis vinifera, pro-duces almost all the grapes used in wine- making (the only exception being some hardy vines native to the northeastern United States which, on the whole, produce rather inferior wines).

Wine is an alcoholic drink, ranging from about 7 per cent to 13 per cent alcoholic strength for table wines and around 20 per cent for fortified wines. Wine can be red, white or rose, still or sparkling, sweet or dry. It can be, and is, almost all things to all men – and is used medicinally, religiously, festively and to quench thirst.

The History

Wine has a history almost as long as that of man. It is known that Noah took wine with him on the Ark and that it was made, drunk and enjoyed in bronze-age Egypt, ancient Greece and classical Rome. All of these civilizations spread its popularity as they conquered, so that it is to the ancient Greeks that Provence and Sicily owe their vineyards and to the conquering Romans that most of the rest of Europe owe theirs. It was, for instance, the Romans who first planted vines in Bordeaux (Chateau Ausone, one of the fine wines of the St. Emilion district, receives its name from

Rome and it is probably due to this that there is still wine around today. Religious orders gradually took over the vineyards, upgraded the quality of production, experimented with fermentation (it was the French monk, Dom Perignon who first produced the sparkling white wine known today as Champagne) and arranged for its efficient distribution to the faithful. (It is not accidental that most early vine-yards were located on or near rivers – the ship was then the only conceivable means of transport for large casks).

With the end of the Dark Ages, vine-yards gradually became more secularized, tion virtually completed secularization of the French vineyards, while Napoleon ‘freed’ most of the German ones, although Church influence continues there to some extent today – the Rhine wine Jesuitcn-garten is still cultivated in vineyards owned by the Church.

The Church had one more service to perform. With the opening up of the New World, she sent her missionaries to convert a motley selection of natives, and the missionaries took along cuttings of vines as well as their Bibles. California, arguably the most successful of the New World wine producers, was first planted by an ancient vineyard and castle, which belonged to the Roman poet Ausonius), and along the banks of the Moselle.

The fall of Rome destroyed or retarded civilization in general for several centuries and there is little doubt that viticulture was affected along with everything else. The quality and quantity of wine pro-duced deteriorated and the only thing that saved it from complete oblivion was that it had, by the end of the Empire, become incorporated into the religious fabric of society. Cultivation, in the interests of the Communion table, was therefore taken over by the Church of although the influence of the Church and pious monarchs continued to be strong; Charlemagne is credited with the early planting of Burgundy and many other monarchs also took an active interest in wine-making and in wine drinking. Eleanor of Aquitaine brought to Henry II of England the vineyards of her native duchy as part of her dowry and started a tradition of claret drinking that reached alarming peaks in medieval England (where, with a total population less than one-twentieth of that of the present, more claret was consumed in the fourteenth century than now). The French Revolu- Spanish missionaries, who also pointed the way in Argentina and Chile, the two most prolific producers of wine in South

America.

The Development

Wine has always needed – and been given – time to mature in casks, but the idea of vintages and ‘laying down’ good wines in bottles is a modern one that can be traced directly back to the invention of the cork (usually credited to the indefatigable Dom Perignon).

The early Greeks are thought to have developed a non-porous amphora (con tainer) which enabled them to keep wine for some length of time, but the secret appears to have died with them and although the Romans developed am-phorae of a sort, they were porous and were used as temporary storage vessels rather than as adjuncts to the maturing process. Wine was drawn straight from the casks or barrels in which it was matured into a serving receptacle – the aforementioned amphorae or goat skins and, later, glass or earthenware decanters. Occasionally, stoppers were used to prolong the life of the wine but these were primitive in the extreme – clean rags and ‘pourriture fioble’ in French, are today the basis of the great sweet white wines of the world, such as SAUTERNES and .

Experiments were also being carried out to try to sweeten (usually for the British palate!) the somewhat harsh, dry wines of Spain and Portugal, and it was the addition of brandy to wine, either during or immediately after fermentation, that brought about the fortified wines now known as SHERRY, PORT and MADEIRA.

And last, but certainly not least, until the experiments of Dom Perignon, all wines had been still rather than sparkling. vine. When the grapes are picked, they are broken to allow the yeast cells to get to the sugar they contain and thus set off the fermentation process (traditionally, grapes were pressed or broken by being stamped upon by the vineyard workers but nowadays this is done by mechanical methods in huge presses). The pressed grapes and their juices are then poured into huge vats where the fermentation process takes place. When fermentation has finished (the whole process takes between five and six days and ends when the grapes’ sugar is used up) the juice is then separated from the pulp and set twisted straw were two popular methods – and wine, by and large, did not develop after it was drawn from the cask. The cork has changed all that for although it shields the opening from the air, it does allow a little oxygen to penetrate the bottle, thus enabling the wine to continue its growth.

There were other developments about this time. In Germany, it was discovered that grapes which were left on the vine until they were over-ripe developed a sort of mould which could be mashed into the grapes to form the basis of a special, sweeter wine. These ‘nobly rotted’ grapes

The double fermentation techniques developed by Dom Perignon eventually produced what is without argument the premier sparkling wine of the world, CHAMPAGNE.

Wine-Making

Commercial methods of making wine are simple (home wine-making is dealt with more fully under the heading Wine – Home- Made). Indeed, wine, alone among the great alcoholic drinks of the world, almost makes itself.

Yeast cells settle upon the skin of ripened grapes while they are still on the Champagne vineyards, Eper nay, France; vineyards at Delano, Cali-fornia; grape picking at Seia, Serra de Estrela, Portugal. aside in casks to mature.

There are variations to the basic method of making wine. Red wine, for instance, is made only from dark grapes, with their skins intact; white wine is usually made from light grapes (although there are exceptions to this, notably Champagne, which is made from the Pinot Noir grape), without their skins.

Clusters of Pinot Noir grapes – the traditional ones that make Champagne.

While the influence of the grape type on the ultimate taste and quality of wine is paramount, it is one of the baffling and fascinating things about making wine that one can plant the same species of grape in two different regions and end up with two completely different wines (sample a Balatoni Riesling from Hungary, for instance, then taste an Alsatian or a German Riesling – they are almost as different as two white wines could be, yet both are made from Riesling grapes). So there are other influential factors present – such as climate (most of the wines of the world are grown in temperate

A typical southern French vineyard near Le Lavandou. regions north and south of the equator); soil, which need not, strangely enough, be very rich and fertile (most of the grand cm wines of Bordeaux are grown in gravel and clay); and position (it is generally thought that vines grow better on a sloping hill-side than on flat ground).

Wine and Food

It was Plato who said that ‘When a man drinks wine at dinner, he begins to be better pleased with himself – and certainly wine is in the happy position of being inextricably bound up with the pleasant ritual of eating good food. Whether it be a simple cheese and bread snack or a full gourmet haute cuisine dinner, there is a wine that will quite positively ADD to its lustre and enjoyment.

There are some general guidelines as to which wine best accompanies different foods, but they are all necessarily subjective and there is no reason why they should be followed slavishly – if you prefer a red wine with fish or a light white wine with a rich meat casserole, the choice is yours.

A chart is included later in this issue, which will serve as a guide for the inexperienced wine drinker if he is uncertain about what to purchase and/or wishes to try something different. But in addition, there are some general ‘natural’ rules to follow – mainly based on common sense rather than on a refined palate.

1) National cuisines and wines (if the country produces them) usually com- A good bottle of wine, well chosen, can complement any kind of food – meat, pasta, desserts and cheese. plement each other and whenever possible should be served together – a Chateau Lafite, beautiful though it is, will do relatively little for a rich Spaghetti Bolognese while a good rustic Chianti Classico will; and by the same token, that same Chianti will not enhance the delicate flavour of Beef Wellington in the same way as a Chateau Lafite. 2) If you are serving more than one wine with a meal, the general – and sensible – thing to do is to serve white before red, young wines before mature ones, dry before sweet. If you are in doubt, Champagne or, less expensively, rose is ideal to serve throughout. The cardinal rule for buying wine, especially if you plan to do it regularly, is to frequent a good wine merchant with the time and inclination to advise you when you are in doubt.

But if you want to be independent, then you can tell a great deal about wines if you learn to read the labels – there is a lot of information to be gleaned from them and they can be helpful if you are trying new wines. A few common examples are given on the next page.

This hillside vineyard in Germany grows Riesling grapes.

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6. Bordeaux from France

7. Claret from Australia j. Orvieto white wine from Italy

German wine laws are strict and German wine labels are required to give precise information on exactly what the bottle contains. Label number 1 gives the district where the wine is produced (Moscl-Saar-Ruwer) and, further down the label, the village of origin (Bernkastel) and the type of grape (Riesling) are also specified. Since the phrase original- kcllerabfiillung (estate-bottled) is NOT mentioned on the label, the wine was most probably bottled by the shipper or blender – a step below estate-bottled, qualitatively. Most German wines also contain what is called an ‘A.P.’ number – yet another guarantee of quality and origin. On the Rhine wine label, number 2, the shipper/blender name appears on the top (Wolfgang Zahn) and, further down, the district of origin (Rheinhesscn) is given, then the village (Nierstein).

In this case the word Domtal does not indicate a grape and/or vineyard name, as is usual, but denotes that it is merely a wine from the Nierstein area rather than from the village itself. The word ‘spatlese’ on the label means that the grapes used were late-gathered grapes – an indication that the wine will be slightly full and sweet. (The word ‘auslese’ on a label means specially selected late-gathered grapes and is an indication of even better quality, fuller wines).

The words to look for on an Italian wine label are ‘denominazione di origine controllata’ which is the equivalent of ‘appellation controlec’ in France. If an Italian wine label docs not include these words, it can be almost anything the producer cares to claim. In the case of the Orvieto wine label, number 3, it contains not only the words ‘controllata’ and ‘classico’, but also (rather unusually for Italian wines) an estate-bottled classification (vino imbottigliato dal produttorc nclla propria tcnuta). Orvieto wine is also always marked as (in this case) ‘secco’, meaning dry, or ‘abboccato’ meaning medium-sweet. (In the case of Chianti, by the way, the word ‘classico’ after the Chianti, plus a black cockerel on the seal, is an indication that it is from a very carefully controlled area within Tuscany and is of very high quality.)

Number 4 is the label for a light red wine, Valpolicella. The word ‘classico’ followed by ‘denominazione di origine controllata’ is one guarantee of its quality; another for this particular wine is the blender’s name (Bolla) at the top of the label.

The white Burgundy wine label, number 5, looks very impressive – but although the wine is a good one it does not rank with the very best wines of the region. The ‘appellation controlee’ for example is a general control rather than a particular one (the more specific the ‘control’ the better the wine, as a rule) and the ‘mise en bouteilles dans nos chais’, which means ‘bottled in our cellars’, does not convey the quality assured by ‘mise en boutcilles a la propriete’ or ‘misc au domainc’. The name of the wine (Puligny Montrachct) means it is a wine from the village of Puligny, situated near the vineyard of Montrachet which produces some of the most superlative white wine in the world. It is therefore a ‘village’ wine, that is, in Burgundy notation, one notch below a vineyard-named wine – although to be sure this particular one is a superior village wine.

Label number 6 is from a Bordeaux bottle and bears the name of one of the most distinguished wines of Bordeaux – Chateau Lynch Bages. It was in the 1855 classification of excellence as a cinquieme cm, that is a fifth growth (hence the right to the phrase ‘grand cru classe’ on the label) but it is generally conceded that, if the classification were redone today, this wine would move up two, or three, ‘crus’. For the rest, all the hallmarks of a great wine are there – it is ‘mise en bouteille au chateau’, that is, estate-bottled, as all fine wines must be; it is entitled to an ‘appellation controlee’ covering the small region of Pauillac in the Medoc; the year of production (or vintage), 1970, is noted (one of the greatest years for claret in recent times, incidentally); and the proprietor of the vineyard (M. J. C. Cazes) also affixes his seal.

In the New World, wine is most often called either by a generic name (Chablis, Burgundy, etc.) or identified by its grape name (Riesling, Pinot Noir, etc.). On this Australian label, number 7, the grape used, Cabernet Sauvignon (the traditional claret grape which has transplanted to both Australia and California with conspicuous success), gives its name to the wine. In addition, the maker’s name is given (Wynns, a much respected name in Austrian wine-making), plus the area of origin (Coonawarra in South Australia) – in this case the wine is given an additional ‘Estate’ qualification, applied by Wynns only to their quality, vintage wine.

Cooking with Wine The addition of wine to a recipe gives flavour to the blandest of stews, transforms the most ordinary pudding into an elegant dessert and adds zest to sauces.

Cooking with wine can actually save money on food, too. Think of the amount of money you can spend on special sauces, pickles and chutneys to liven up dull dishes; a stew or casserole dish cooked with wine never requires such additions at the table. And of course wine, especially when used as the basis of a marinade, can tenderize the cheapest cuts of meat, enabling you to save a considerable amount of money at the butcher’s.

As wine loses its flavour soon after opening, if you use only a small quantity from a bottle it is advisable to transfer the remaining wine into a smaller bottle and recork it. Ideally the wine should be used within a week of opening the bottle. Further Information For further information on specific types of wine, see entries under region and country (BORDEAUX, BURGUNDY, ITALY, SPAIN, etc.).

Bottles of wine come in almost every shape imaginable, but there are some ‘traditional’ shapes which are now firmly associated with specific wines or with wines from defined geographical areas. The bottles pictured below are examples of the main types: on the extreme left is the rather squat, squareshouldered bottle in which wine from Burgundy – both red and white – is contained. This shaped bottle is also used for wine from the Rhone and for certain Loire wines. Vermouth and inexpensive table wines are in litresized bottles of this shape as well. Next is the classic Champagne bottle which is also available in a wide variety of bottle sizes – from a .{ bottle to an enormous one containing the contents of 20 single bottles! These are called Magnum (2 bottles), Jeroboam (4 bottles), Rehoboam (6 bottles), Meth-uselah (8 bottles), Salmanazar (12 bottles), Balthazar (16 bottles) and Nebuchad-nezzar (20 bottles). Wine from Provence fills the third bottle from the left and this type of bottle is used for all wines from this region of France-red, white and rose. Fourth from the left is the tall, slender green bottle associated with German

Moselle wines, while next to it stands an equally elegant, brown bottle which contains white Rhine wine. This ‘German’ bottle shape is also used

3 – ‘ in France for Alsatian wines.

The straw-covered flask, third from the right, is actually a bottle of Orvieto wine from Italy but is also used for several wines from that country, Chianti being the best known, and is the shape of bottle which most resembles the first, ancient storage vessel of wine, the amphora. Next to it is a bottle of Portuguese rose wine while, on the extreme right, the tall, squareshouldered dark bottle indi- cates the classic shape of the region of Bordeaux.

Most French wines are sold in quan-tities of 75 centilitres though this does vary from country to country. A 75 cl bottle gives approximately 8 glasses.

In front of the bottles are a selection of wine glasses that are easily available. It is not essential to have a variety of glasses to serve different wines and the best all-purpose glass that can be used for most wines should be clear – to show the true colour of the wine; a tulip shape, so that the bouquet of the wine isn’t lost and, most important, the right size. Glasses should never be filled more than half-full, therefore a general all- purpose glass for wine should be about a 10 fluid ounce size. Champagne should not be served in the old fashioned shallow shape as these allow the sparkling bubbles to evaporate too quickly.

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FOOD AND WINE CHART ‘

Pate, quiche, etc.

Fairly strong dry white, such as Tram-iner, a Rhine wine such as Rudesheimer, rose such as Rose d’Anjou or light red, such as Beaujolais

Beef, roasted or grilled

Beef casseroles and stews

Salad or cold hors d’oeuvre

Dry white, such as Alsatian Sylvaner or Yugoslavian Zilavka or Riesling

Steaks

Dry sherry or a light Madeira is served with consommes, otherwise wine is not usually served with soup.

Lamb, roasted or grilled

Grilled or lightly poached fish

Light wine, such as Chablis, Pouilly Fuisse or Moselle

Lamb casseroles, stews and risottos

Fish in rich cream sauce

Heavy white, such as white Burgundy (Meursault, Montrachet) or Rhine wine, such as Niersteiner

Game (grouse, partridge, pheasant)

Shellfish

Light white (Chablis is traditional with oysters, for instance), Muscadet, Italian Soave or a slightly flinty Loire, such as Sancerre or Vouvray

Hare, venison

Shellfish served as a risotto or with rich sauce

Rose, such as Tavel, a white Loire wine, such as Pouilly Fume or a white Burgundy, such as Puligny Montrachet

Pork

Smoked Fish

Heavy white, such as white Burgundy, Alsatian Traminer or a spicy Rhine spatlese wine

Veal

Ham

Bordeaux, such as Chateau Montrose or St. Emilion. (Any good Bordeaux is perfect with a roast.)

Sturdy red Burgundy, such as Beaune, a Rhone wine, such as Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a heavier Italian red, such as Barolo or a Hungarian Egri Bikaver

Bordeaux, such as St. Estephe, a medium red Burgundy, such as Nuits St. Georges, or a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon

Bordeaux, such as a Margaux, a light Burgundy, such as Beaujolais or Macon or a light Italian wine, such as Bardolino

Bordeaux, such as a Medoc, Cabernet Sauvignon, an Italian wine such as Chianti or Valpolicella

Bordeaux, such as St. Emilion or Chateau Haut-Brion

Strong red, such as Cotes du Rhone or a heavy Burgundy, such as Chambertin

Medium-sweet white, such as Graves or Orvieto or a rose, such as Cotes de Provence or Mateus

Strong white, such as Montrachet, Pinot Chardonnay or a light red, such as Valpolicella, Zinfandel or Beaujolais

Rose, such as Tavel or Rose d’Anjou or a light red, such as Macon

Chicken, cooked simply

Heavier white, such as Hungarian Riesling or a white Burgundy

Chicken cooked with red wine or in a very rich vegetable-type stew Light red, such as Beaujolais or Fleurie

Duck Heavy white Burgundy, such as Meur-sault or a rose, such as Tavel

Goose White, such as a Rhine wine or an Alsa-tian or Hungarian Riesling

Turkey Heavy white, such as Trammer, a Rhine wine or a rose, such as Cotes de Provence

Soft (Brie, Camembert, etc.) Medium red Burgundy, such as Beaune or a Bordeaux, such as St. Julien

Medium (Port-Salut, Cheddar, etc.) Light, fruity red, such as Fleurie or Beaujolais, or a spicy white, such as Alsa-tian

Gewurtztraminer or a Tavel

Cream or Goat’s Medium white, such as Graves, an Alsatian Traminer or a Rhine wine

Blue cheese (Stilton, etc.) Light red such as Bardolino, a medium Burgundy such as Brouilly or a Cabernet Sauvignon

Sauternes or Barsac are the traditional dessert wines, but any German wine marked spatlese or auslese would also be suitable. For an extra rich dessert, try a Hungarian Tokay

Generally, wine is not served with desserts containing chocolatePort, the heavier Madeiras or, for a change, a mature

Hungarian Tokay or the ‘queen of Sauternes’, Chateau d’Yquem

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