jamie goode's wine blog

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tomato leaf aromas in wine

Was watering my tomatoes today, and struck by the remarkable aroma that comes from the leaves when you brush them with your hand. It made me think of the wines where 'tomato leaf' is used as an aroma descriptor.

Which chemicals are responsible? For the distinctly green leafy aroma, cis-3-hexenol is the prime culprit, but I have also seen 2-isobutylthiazole listed as the signature chemical behind this smell.

Which wines have it? Tomato leaf is a Sauvignon Blanc sort of descriptor. It's pungent and quite green, and it is often used to describe Sauvignons from the cool Awatare Valley in Marlborough. It's a very attractive smell, although I'm not sure I'd want too much of it in my wine.
As with many of these descriptors, after a while it becomes a bit of a code word. As we taste, we decide what sort of wine we are tasting, and then trot out the usual terms that we associate with that wine. To smell and taste what's actually there requires quite a bit of concentration and deliberate effort.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

wine and the brain

Over at the World of Fine Wine website you can download a pdf of the first piece I did for them, back in 2004, on Wine and the brain. It's here. Clearly, I'm biased, because I write for them, but I think that this is a fantastic magazine and you should all subscribe to it.
Off to Spain at 3 am tomorrow (yes...am) with Cube's James Gabbani to visit the Diam factory. Last time I was invited there was the carrot of a Real Madrid vs. Barcelona match thrown in. I couldn't go. This time, they reckoned I was nuts enough to be persuaded without such a carrot, and the impediment of a lost night's sleep.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Teaching children to drink well

Another BBC News article:

'French schools should teach children the virtues of drinking wine, a report by France's governing party says. The report says children who learn how wines are "cultivated and transformed to acquire their taste" are more likely to stay healthy and respect nature'.

Read the full article here. Sounds great.

This raises the issue of whether learning about wine enhances its enjoyment. I think it does. I also think that as you learn about wine, the nature of the perceptive event (your 'experience') of wine changes. Simplistically speaking, there are two levels of appreciating wine. There's the immediate appreciation of 'niceness' (hedonic valence is the posh term). This is where you say to youself, 'yum, that's delicious', or 'yuk, I don't like that'. But then there's the intellectual level of appreciation, where we call on our past experience and context, and also our intellectual understanding of the wine we are tasting. These thoughts might be more along the lines of 'this is well a balanced St Julien, showing good typicity, a bit of minerality and nice acidity as well as rich fruit; it's quite a young wine, with some development potential ahead of it'. In truth, our assessments usually take both forms, and they are richer for it.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Oz and James and their adventure

Last night saw the return of wine to prime time national televsion, in the form of Oz and James' Big Wine Adventure. James May, of Top Gear fame, is the newbie who knows nothing about wine. Oz Clarke, a gifted taster who achieved a degree of celebrity status as wine expert on the Food and Drink Programme, has the task of convincing May that French wines are interesting. He's cast as the 'wine ponce', and James begins by predicting, 'I think Oz will turn out to be quite an annoying man'.

Oz concentrates on getting James to recognize smells he might later encounter in wines. He even gets him to sniff cow pats. James retorts by introducing a whistle which he christens 'the Ozzilator', destined to be blown whenever he deems Oz to be entering wine bore territory.

The first wine stop is Bordeaux, and Pichon-Longueville Comtesse Lalande. Here the producers decide to tackle the drink-drive issue head on: James doesn't taste the wine at all. Sensible enough, but it does make it rather hard for the poor chap to learn anything.

Then we have the embarassing scene where Oz and James share a Jacuzzi of grape juice and are later hosed down wearing nothing but some rather odd-looking posing pouches. Next stop is Pichon Baron with a rather bemused Christian Seely and his wife, who serve three wines to our hosts. Here are James' comments:

2001 Suduiraut - model aircraft dope
1989 Pichon Baron - Trebor fruit salad (an old sweet)
1988 Pichon Baron - Bonfire. Bakes Sausage. Pork fat high note. Virginian tobacco.

After a stunt where Oz drives a 2CV across a field with a basket of eggs on the passenger seat (they don't break), it's off to the Roussillon to pick grapes and try making wine. Interstingly, the featured domaine is Matassa, which is run by Tom Lubbe and Sam Harrop (who I know well).

Next stop is Provence, with Oz' brother, and then Oz and James try their hand at making their own wine from some supermarket grapes. They then present this wine blind at a market, with two other wines - one expensive and one cheap. Almost everyone prefers the expensive wine, although one nutter opts for the bizarre homebrew.

Overall, not a bad programme. It's great to see wine on TV again, and given the constraints of making a wine show for newbies, this was pretty good. The pace was about right, and both Oz and James are good on telly. My only worry is that the contrast between the two (enthusiastic wine ponce versus Victor Meldrew-like curmudgeonly cynic) will be hammed up just a little too much.

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