December 15, 2009

Holiday 2009 Edition

Wine Secrets, by Marnie Old

My favourite wine books are the ones that step outside the rather narrow established mould and approach the topic in a manner that is both interesting and useful. Here Ms Old uses the standard Q&A framework to gather lots of field-tested advice from a variety of wine experts. This certainly lends the book ample authority, but the real treasure is having wine truisms either confirmed or denied by those who have been there.

There are six chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of living with wine. The chapters feature brief discussions on each topic by six or seven writers drawn from several sectors of the industry. You will find advice from sommeliers, winemakers, wine writers, wine educators, and wine agents. There are quite a few master sommeliers and wine masters in this crowd.
You can work your way through the book from start to finish or just pick and choose. The individual entries are short enough to be read in just a few minutes, and each essay is followed by a “Marnie's Corner” wrapup of the topic.

Wine Secrets - Advice from Winemakers, Sommeliers and Connoisseurs
Marnie Old
Quirk Books, 2009
184 pages,Hard cover
ISBN: 978-1-59474-261-3
$19.95 US   

Yet Another Update on Closures

We've seen a lot of change in the area of wine closures and containers over the past few years. I was about to say “progress”, but it seems the issue needs a harder look.

Beaujolais has announced that they will not be putting their wine in plastic bottles; elsewhere in France wineries are shipping wine in cans and even in drinking bags complete with straw. But that movement is at the low end. How about mid-market and above? Screwcaps, plastic corks and the like are starting to show their limitations. Oxidation is not as dire an ailment as cork taint, but it is an ailment and it can be avoided with closures that work. And it seems the answer is ... cork?

The onslaught of the screwcap movement cost the cork makers dearly. But rather than whine and gripe, they put all their efforts into solving cork's fundamental problem: TCA contamination. Now it looks like cork is poised for a dramatic and perhaps decisive comeback. If you’re looking for real quality wine, the new slogan may soon be “Insist on natural cork”. Since I've had more failed screwcaps than corked wines, it's a move I can applaud.

Want to help?
I saw a wonderful program recently on the wildlife of Portugal’s cork groves. The groves themselves are splendid enough to warrant protection, but the range of wildlife that is being nurtured by the cork growers is astounding. You can help fund cork grove preservation by adopting a cork tree through the World Wildlife Fund. You can find out more -- and get started on your personal cork grove -- by visiting 

From US Navy's 1986 "Mess Night Manual" as quoted on
“A toast is a social formality in which wine or liquor is drunk in honor of an individual or organization. The custom of toasting is very old, dating from the pre-Christian era. Today it is practiced throughout the world with slight variations in different localities.

“The term ‘toast’ has its origin in sixteenth century England, where it was fashionable to add a small piece of toasted bread to drinks. The toast was a delicacy, somewhat like the olive in a martini. It thus became customary for the term "toast" to be applied to a drink proposed in honor of a person during a meal or at its conclusion. Although the bit of toast is no longer used, the term has survived to the present day.”


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