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Wine News in Books, Studies, & Articles
Preisers’ Reserve: It seems that every time someone finds out we write about wines we are inevitably asked our favorite. As most wine lovers know, that is a question that needs to be answered in subsections – what varietal, what food will it accompany, what price, and even what time of day. Yet we are able to pare down our list of Chardonnays to about 15, one of them being the 2006 Nickel & Nickel Truchard Vineyard ($45). Nickel & Nickel specialize in 100% varietal single vineyard wines. Anthony and Joanne Truchard not only make wonderful wines, but also grow some of the best fruit in Napa. Putting this Carneros vineyard in the hands of Nickel & Nickel winemaker Darice Spinelli is an inspired move. Consistent in most years, the Nickel & Nickel Truchard Chard (say it fast) offers lots of tropical fruit and citrus notes, as well as good spices and a creaminess borne not by malolactic fermentation (there is none), but by the fruit itself. Interestingly, perhaps, because of the fruit and citrus we do prefer this wine during the daylight hours as it is a lovely accompaniment to lighter fare more often served at brunch or lunch. www.nickelandnickel.com 707-967-9600
We didn’t first report the following news, but we find it interesting and potentially important enough to pass on just in case you might have missed it:
On the Health Side
According to Dr. Seth Baum, one of the country’s leading lipidologists and preventive cardiologists, evidence not only suggests red wines lead to good health, but also that Pinot Noir is the best of the reds for this purpose. Writing in the Preiser Key to Napa Valley, Dr. Baum reiterates the findings of many that the polyphenolic compound “Resveratrol” is the “hero” behind a red wine’s benefits, and then goes farther to point out that it is at its highest levels in Pinot Noir.
Why? Because Resveratrol is produced by grapes when they are stressed, most notably by fungi that typically attack in cool, damp climates where Pinot so often grows.
While human trials are not complete, Resveratrol has in fact been found to prolong life in yeast, worms, invertebrate fruit flies, vertebrate fish, and over-fed mice.
“Quercetin” is an anti-inflammatory chemical found in vegetable and fruit skins. It is present, then, in red wine. Apparently, people who are active have a greater chance of contracting the flu. So you wonder, as we did, what bridges the above two statements.
Tests at the University of South Carolina on physically exhausted mice that had been infected by the flu virus found that those given quercetin in a similar dose as we would find in red wine were much less likely to come down with the flu than non dosed mice.
The suggested reason for the result centers around the theory that the chemical may block the ability of the virus to replicate itself.
And at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, mice with attributes of Alzheimer’s were fed grape seed extract. Studies thereafter confirmed that the polyphenols found in the extract inhibited the formation of the compounds that are important to the build-up of the plaques that cause increased nerve cells associated with Alzheimer’s.
The researchers hope to begin human studies at any time, and have stated that they will also be looking into many of the other 5,000 compounds found in red wine.
WineWise – Seek it Out
We are not prone to writing book reviews or critiquing other authors, but we discovered one work that is of immeasurable help to wine (and food) lovers and wanted to bring it to your attention. And under the theory that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, we also discovered a work that we ultimately decided should also be brought to your attention, but for an entirely different reason.
Starting with the positive, we recommend WineWise:Your Complete Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Enjoying Wine by Steven Kolpan, Brian H. Smith, Michael A. Weiss, and The Culinary Institute of America (Wiley Hardcover, September 2008, $29.95). This is a well written, easy to follow work authored by three wine professors at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Even if one is an experienced wine person, it is hard for most of us to remember all we want to know about the major wine regions in the world. This is a great reference source. And even if you are skilled in food and wine pairing, Chapter 14 will make you think, teach you a thing or two, and make your pairings even more daring.
The text covers a great deal more, however. There are, as mentioned, the ten chapters on wine regions, each covering how to read labels, grapes native to the country, and how wines are classified. Maps are up to date and instructive. Early chapters delve into winemaking, important definitions, how wines are priced, and the names of major red and white grapes. While you might at first doubt that reading about the major grapes will keep your interest, this is one of the most fascinating parts of the book as you learn what grows best in what soils and climates, and how recognizing these differences can enhance your overall enjoyment of wine.
In fact, the entire 360 pages of WineWise reflect the combined experience of three incredible instructors who know what their readers (students, maybe) want to see and what will best help them navigate the expanding universe of grapes and people who seek them out.
The Printed Word – Not Always the “End-All”
Psychologists and historians have long written about the influence of the written word. Simply put, when people see something in a newspaper or a book (and, we readily concede, a wine column) they tend to believe it whether or not it is accurate. At some point, however, we become frustrated with so called successful wine related publications (many of them self promoted and often out of date) that contain incorrect information. It is even more appalling when the authors fail to make any amendments, especially if they have been made aware of the inaccuracies. Such is the case with the book, Secrets from the Wine Diva, by Christine Ansbacher, who obviously styles herself the “Wine Diva,” and a wine expert.
In apposite to WineWise, which was replete with research and factual material, Secrets contains many errors – not of opinion, mind you, but of fact. Thus, we do not recommend it. Before publishing this negative review, however, we did take the time to write Ms. Ansbacher for a comment on at least four occasions. She seemed interested at first, but did not answer any of the follow-ups. We took the time with her to point out her errors in writing, yet she and/or her publishers have done nothing we can see to ameliorate the problem.
When we saw the book was still selling on Amazon and other places, and, in effect, still disseminating wrong information, we though it a journalists’ responsibility to set out the facts correctly.
Ms. Ansbacher called the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon of Pride Mountain a “second label” to its Reserve Cab. That is certainly not the case. It is, put simply, just “another” label made by the same winery – a common occurrence. The explanation of second labels in the book is incorrect. Factually, second labels usually come into being when some of the wine produced by a winery is not good enough, in the winery’s opinion, to be used in their top of the line product. And so the winery creates another label and uses the “secondary” wine for that. Just to be even clearer, this does NOT mean the second label is bad wine – it just does not reach the standards the winery has set for their best product under their best label. But there are no hard-and-fast rules, and some wineries have so-called parallel brands - wines that are not second labels – which people still mistake for second labels (examples: Joseph Phelps Vineyards and Phelps Vin du Mistral). It is not unusual, as Pride Mountain does, for wineries to have an outstanding Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, sold under its best label, and a “Reserve” Cab, which they deem to be superior, also sold under the same name. That is not a “second label” as Ms. Ansbacher wrote.
Note: We talked to one of the managers at Pride to double check this information.
On pg. 12 Ms. Ansbacher says Viognier is from California. Not so. Viognier is a Rhone varietal most closely associated, of course, with France. But no one knows its origins (though no one but Ms. Ansbacher has ever suggested in comes from California as far as we know). DNA profiling conducted at University of California, Davis, showed the grape to be closely related to the Piedmont grape Freisa and to be a genetic cousin of Nebbiolo.
On pg. 68 Ms. Ansbacher writes that if any Sauvignon Blanc is aged in oak, it is called Fume Blanc. This is incorrect. Fume Blanc was merely a name made up by Robert Mondavi when he put his Sauvignon Blanc in oak. It was a marketing move, and some think a good one. Some other wineries have adopted the name “Fume Blanc,” but it has no legal or formal significance. There are many Sauvignon Blancs that see some oak yet are not named Fume Blanc.
On pg. 75 the author says Pinot Gris is the big brother of Pinot Grigio. No. It is the same grape that is called by different names relating to the country in which the bottle is produced. In Italy, Pinot Grigio. In France, Pinot Gris. The naming exception is in the U.S., where producers might call it anything in an effort to best market it or suggest a style in which the wine is made.
On pg. 93 Ms. Ansbacher says $5 to $10 is usual and sufficient for corkage charges. Few places of note we go to permit that, so we suggest you not take that as a guide line (we know, this is sort of opinion over fact, but our opinion is the result of many facts gathered over many years in many restaurants). $15 to $20 is much more common, with more expensive restaurants now charging $35 to $50.
In conclusion, we do not seek to attack the author who may indeed be a wine expert. Yet when a book is in the public domain, it is subject to review, criticism, praise, and correction. We know what we write faces the same. It will be no surprise that we have been called on our own errors, but if you have followed us over the years you also know we correct them as soon as possible. We think that’s the way to go.
Wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser divide their time between Palm Beach County, Florida and the Napa Valley in California. They publish the world's most comprehensive guide to Napa Valley wineries and restaurants titled, appropriately, The Preiser Key to Napa Valley.