Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Useless Facts & Party Tricks

Let me first start by saying: I’m DONE my vinification course! It was a fascinating and challenging course, and nothing short of intense (in a really good way!). I actually re-grew that writer’s bump on my middle finger, reminiscent of my high-school and university days from the serious amount of note-taking I did for 8 hours straight every Saturday.

For any of you planning to take a Sommelier certification, regardless of where you take the program, you will have to take a vinification course of some sort. The school that I’m attending (http://www.sommelier.ca/) suggests that students take the course fairly early on in the program, which I’ve done, and I would have to agree… it really gives a solid foundation from which to build a deeper knowledge about the specific wine regions needed for subsequent courses.

In addition to learning how grapes are grown and ultimately crushed into wine – including the gazillion different soil types; how grapes are planted, maintained, and harvested; the various ways of crushing, soaking, macerating, fermenting, and filtering wine; and how to age and cellar the elixir … I also learned some interesting (and possibly useless) facts:

Sabering a Champagne Bottle – opening a bottle of champagne with a saber, sword or large kitchen knife by running the back of the blade along the bottle seam until it dislodges the collar and cork from the neck of the bottle. This is something I feel I should absolutely learn as a “finale!” to my Sommelier certification. Here’s a link to the “Norwegian way” of opening a champagne bottle with a ski! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eUcGBQ_Zwg

When you don’t have a cork screw – a friend of mine recently shared this link with me… the video says it all (even if you don’t speak French!): http://www.wimp.com/wineshoe/

Why is the standard bottle 750ml? When glass bottles were first being mouth-blown for the wine industry, this was the size that equaled 1 breath.

French Wine has American Roots – literally! In 1863, a root-eating “bug” called Phylloxera was brought back to Europe from America, and effectively wiped out thousands of European vineyards. Devastated, The International Phylloxera Congress in Bordeaux implemented a “grafting” practice in 1881, where the disease tolerant American root stock was grafted to grape vines. Nowadays, all European vines (in fact, most grapes vines around the world) are grafted with root stock that has North American origins. Next time you visit a vineyard, you’ll see where the root stock was grafted to the vine, about 6-12” from the ground.

Helpful Pests and Pretty Roses – ever notice that vineyards have a lot of bees and wasps? Well, it may not be due to the fact that they are attracted to the fruit of the vine, but rather that certain “miniscule” wasps are released by grape farmers to eat the egg clusters of glassy-winged sharp shooters – nasty little bugs that spread “Pierce’s Disease” across vines. Similarly, farmers will plant rose bushes near grape vines, as roses are more sensitive to a powdery mildew called Odium, and act as early indicators to the disease.

Ok, enough trivia for one day!!

I need to find time to study for my Grape Varieties exam tomorrow night: Merlot, Pinot Noir, Carmenere, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignan, to name a few…

Before I sign off, my good friend recently reminded me to make a Chilean wine recommendation, so for her, and for all you other Chilean wine lovers (self included!), here are two:

Ramirana Grand Reserve Syrah, 2004, ~$18

Mont Gras Quatro, 2007, ~$24 – blending the big, bold and signature grapes of Chile: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Carmenere, and Syrah. Fabulous!!!

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