Tactical Intoxication Program: S4E02 “The Wind Cries Mary”

Black pepper, licorice, violet, blueberries, black currant, cassis, raspberries, tobacco, pencil box, chocolate, black cherry, toffee, clove, bay leaf, ripe plums, clay, nutmeg, saw dust, espresso bean, warm spice, vanilla, cigar box, star anise, wet stones, prunes, leather, coconut, asparagus, ginger, mushroom, pimento, cedar, smoke, toast, green olive, musk, allspice, juniper, coriander, mint, green bell pepper, eucalyptus, raisin, oak…

I think you probably know where this is going.

WINE: It tastes like grapes!!!

Drunken grapes.

Drunken grapes that taste and smell like a combination of a farmers market and Hemingway’s beard.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that wine descriptions are bullshit. What I found while researching this TIP was that there really are common themes for each variety of wine. For instance, above is a list of possible descriptors of Cabernet Sauvignon. I took those words from various sources that included general descriptions of what cabernets typically taste like and also from the description of specific years and bottles. The recurring theme for cabernets would likely be something like this: dark berries, earthy, chocolate, herbal, oak. To be honest, that’s a pretty solid base to start with. From there, with each specific Cabernet that you taste you try to describe what that bottle has which is outside of the common flavors. These variations can be subtle or very obvious.

Green bell pepper. That one is special, ain’t it? I honestly don’t know that I would want that flavor in a red wine, but it’s kind of interesting to think about. What is even MORE interesting about it than the flavor, is what that flavor says about the wine and/or where/when it was made. The flavor is caused by a molecule called pyrazine. It’s an aromatic, organic, heterocyclic (not what it sounds like) compound, and it can be perceived by humans with as little as 2 nanograms per liter. (Who says that homeopathy has no merit? Oh… Right, this group called everyone-with-a-medical-degree.) Pyrazine is found in cabernet sauvignon grapes that have been raised in climates that are either too cool for the grapes to fully ripen, or in areas like Monterey, where it is not only cool, but also windy, which stresses the grape vine, inhibiting complete ripening of the fruit. Because of this, Cabernets from Monterey are sometimes called Monterey Veggies.

Some other notable fun facts about Cabernet Sauvignons:

  • Sauvignon is kind of tough to spell.
  • It is the most widely grown wine making grape on the planet, growing on every most continents, and in many regions, all giving their own local characteristics to the grape.
  • As a name, it was documented as being grown in the 18th century in the Médoc region of France. It was once rumored to have been an ancient grape breed, dating back to roman times, and was thought to be the grape which Pliny the Elder wrote of in many of his works. This turned out to be false. In 1996, a DNA test of cabernet sauvignon grapes showed that it was a cross breed between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Double duh.
  • This wine typically ages well. Older style Bordeaux cabs can age several decades, while many “New World” varieties are ready in only a few years.
  • When pairing with food, avoid aggressively spicy dishes. This wine goes well with mild flavors, like buttery sauces, and dark meats: Black pepper crusted ahi tuna or fatty meats like lamb or duck. As for cheese, stay away from strong blue cheeses, but cheddars, brie, or mozzarella do nicely.
  • The compound resveratrol, found in cabernet sauvignon and other red wines, has been shown to decrease the levels of amyloid beta peptides, which are a contributing factor to alzheimer’s. To put that in inaccurate, simple terms: Red wine makes you less likely to forget things and stuff.

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