Mid-Week Tangents: Wine!

If that post title doesn’t get your attention, we probably can’t be friends.  I love my wine, so much so that my recent adventures in France and Italy were largely centered around each respective country’s wine regions. In the process, I discovered many new favourite wines and learned many a fascinating fact about wine and wine production.

Warning: You may not find these facts fascinating if you don’t love wine. But then, if I might be so bold, can I ask why? Wine is the perfect beverage, equally valuable for good days and bad. It makes great days better and terrible days tolerable. It can be bold or mild, rich or light, earthy or fruity. No matter your palate, there is a wine for you. So, what I’m basically saying is: get on the wine train!

With that off my chest, here’s some of the more interesting (to me) finds and observations:

  1. You want to taste? You’ve got to ask.  Here in BC, if you walk into a tasting room it’s pretty much assumed that you’re going to taste. The people there are all over you asking if you want to taste. We walked into many a tasting room where we were completely ignored. We quickly learned we had to ask to taste, and in some places we almost felt like we were causing them a massive inconvenience just by being there…though perhaps it was really because we lacked any ability to speak Italian and little ability to speak French.
We were the only two people in this giant tasting room and no one said a word to us.
We were the only two people in this giant tasting room and no one said a word to us.

2. People crawl through some tiny-ass holes to clean out massive wine barrels: This is NOT the job for the claustrophobic. It never really occurred to me that the inside of wine barrels have to be cleaned nor how it’s done.  Let’s just say it isn’t a job I’d want to do.  See that tiny silver doorway on the front of the giant barrel below? Someone goes through that! I’m not even convinced my shoulders (let alone my ass) would make it through.

Yes...that tiny silver doorway.
Yes…that tiny silver doorway.

3. Is there really a difference between cork and screw tops? Wine snobs have long criticized the screw top as an insult to wine. I’ve never really looked into it. While sort of snobbish, I am equally willing to drink a screw top and they are becoming increasingly popular as cork stocks decline. What I learned is it’s not indicative of the wine being better quality, but a cork does allow a small amount of oxygen to get into the wine which is essentially for wines to gain complexity and depth as they age. The screw top can be a great wine but there’s no point in holding on to it. It won’t age once it’s capped because there’s no way for additional air to get in. #winescience

4. There are some legit rules to wine making: Did you know that to call a chianti a chianti, it has to be at least 80% sangiovese grapes and has to be produced in the chianti region? I didn’t. Did you know that Chateauneuf du Pape traditionally allowed only 13 grape varietals to be used, and its appellation rules prevent roses from being made? I sure didn’t. To be honest, the rules could be equally as strict in North America and I’ve just never cared to learn, but I appreciated this hard-core approach to purest wine production.

5. So. Much. Tasting…and no tasting fees: In the Chapoutier tasting room, we tried at least nine wines without making a single request. We spent an hour and fifteen minutes there, with one representative, and he just kept bringing out bottle after bottle, including an exquisite 2006 something-or-other–I didn’t even write down its name because, at 400 EU per bottle, it’s well out of my price range–that we only got to try because some important person in their restaurant had them open a bottle so he could drink just one glass. All of these samples were sizeable, and all of them free, with no commitment to buying. In fact, aside from one place with a nominal fee, I think 2 EU without purchase, all our tastings were blissfully free of charge.

My happy place.
My happy place.

6. You can just waltz on through vineyards: In fact, there were trails through the vineyards in Tain l’Hermitage (more to come on that tomorrow).  No one seemed to care if you just went waltzing through row upon row of grapes.  I don’t know why this was so fascinating to me but ask my boyfriend how hard it was to drag me out of the hills of hermitage.

See? Legit Trails!
See? Legit Trails! With trail signs and everything. And look at those grapes!
This is what happens when I'm left to my own devices...(no, I didn't actually eat them. I know from experience they don't taste good).
This is what happens when I’m left to my own devices…(no, I didn’t actually eat them. I know from experience they don’t taste good).

Ah, writing this is making me want to open a bottle of wine…



4 thoughts on “Mid-Week Tangents: Wine!”

  1. I am definitely going to retire and take a wine tasting class….didnt know some of these facts – love the cork myself because I collect them. Love visiting vineyards – my son got married in one and it was a beautiful day surrounded by vineyards.


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