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Classrooms of One

Author: William S. Silver, Ph.D.
November, 2016 Issue

Unforgettable Soils

How long does it take to make a cubic foot of dirt? The mixture of minerals and dead animal and plant matter needs time to get the chemical balance just right, and a human’s lifespan is a blink of the eye compared to the dirt-making process. Everything that lives and breathes above the forming soil eventually returns to it. The Land Remembers, written by wine pioneers George M. Macleod and Arthur Dawson, explores the concept of terroir and how it manifests on Macleod Family Vineyards in Kenwood.
An introduction to how terroir identifies a specific location segues into the history of the land before Macleod purchased it in the 1970s. Everything from the soil and water to the geographic positioning of the hills, the direction of the wind from the Pacific Ocean and the workers harvesting grapes is chronicled in Macleod’s analysis of what gives the wines grown in his vineyard a unique taste compared to other locations.
While terroir is still a debated subject in the wine industry (see “The Science of Terroir”), Macleod’s experience making wines, and tasting not only his, but also other makers’ wines over 40 years, gives the wine pioneer plenty of expertise to weigh in favor of the concept.

Breathe In, Pour Out

Breathing is just as important to wine as it is to us. Sealing wines in an airtight bottle works for storage, but wines need time to release their aromatics before the full flavors of the vintage become palatable. Crystal and glass decanters can solve this problem by letting the wine breathe as its poured into its new container, but once the wine enters the decanter, it won’t have as long a shelf life and should be consumed relatively quickly.
Grass Valley’s Gallicchio Glass offers a unique single-glass solution. Hand-blown by wine lover, It looks like a light bulb with a longer, tubular neck, and fits snugly on the top of most wine bottles. Once fitted, the bottle is tipped toward the bulb, which collects the wine. The pouring aerates the wine, and the bulb gives more surface area for the wine to breathe. After resting, the bottle is tipped toward the exit, pouring the aerated wine into the glass.
This device marries the purpose of a decanter with the convenience of bottle storage, as a rubber stopper applied to the aerating neck reseals the bottle, which can be stored upright. The aerator is also reusable and easy to clean by flushing hot water through the neck and letting it air dry.

Strange But True

Q. Next time you offer a glass of cheap wine to guests, what might you tell them to enhance their sipping pleasure?
A. If you’re OK with lying to make others happier, tell them it’s a really expensive wine. First, most casual wine drinkers can hardly tell the difference between cheap and expensive wines. In thousands of double-blind taste tests involving hundreds of Americans and hundreds of different wines ranging from $1.65 to $150 per bottle, the assigned rankings (bad, OK, good, great) showed that subjects typically had a slight preference for the cheap stuff, report Robin Goldstein et al. in the Journal of Wine Economics.
Second, we expect expensive wines to taste better. As reported by Harvard professor Joseph Henrich in The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter, the pleasure someone gets from a glass of wine is influenced by how expensive they think it is. In tasting tests, brain scan (fMRI) studies have confirmed this bias: When two identical wines were labeled “cheap” and “expensive,” those drinking the “expensive” sample usually had higher activity in their brain’s pleasure centers.
Concludes Henrich, “In terms of rational gift-giving strategies, this suggests that when giving wine as gifts to Americans without wine training, you should buy cheap wine, remove any price indications and tell them it’s really expensive wine. This will maximize their pleasure and yours—by saving money.”
Source: Bill Sones and Rich Sones, Ph.D.


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