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The Essence of Wine: Pepper


Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch

Lives were lost. Empires were built. The new world was discovered. All for the sharp spark of taste with the power to transform mere food to cuisine. It's hard to imagine the shock and astonishment that must have accompanied some human's first bite into a dried peppercorn. The incredibly disproportionate rush of flavor contained in these crinkled, colorful motes easily arrests us, even when we know it is coming. Pepper's explosive character finds a dual analogue in wine, which both stirs us with an equally surprising kaleidoscope of flavors, and also occasionally includes notes of the pungent spice itself. The scent of pepper in wine, from faint to full frontal, can be an alluring, mysterious, exuberant or joyful, and occasionally, even overpowering.

Cruz "Andina" Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Casa Marín "Miramar Vineyard" Syrah, Lo Abarcas, San Antonio Valley, Chile
Gabriel Meffre Reserve Cotes du Rhone Villages, Rhone Valley, France
Ridge Geyserville Red Blend, Sonoma County, California, USA
Stellekaya Winery "Orion" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Bonny Doon "Alamo Creek" Syrah, Central Coast, California, USA
Ravenswood "Big River" Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA
Raúl Pérez "El Pecado" Mencia, Ribeira Sacra, Spain

This is part of an ongoing series of original images and prose called The Essence of Wine

Comments (3)

Paul wrote:
02.22.12 at 8:24 PM

Peppercorns are indeed amazing little nuggets of flavor. Put them in wine, and no wonder it's so flavorful!

Dave Forer wrote:
02.23.12 at 4:04 PM

I saw a great Taints/Faults presentation a few weeks ago from a guy who works at the AWRI and he said that 20% of people have an anosmia (can't smell it) to rotundone, the chemical that is responsible for that pepper aroma in Syrah in particular. I am part of that 20% and have always been confused when people call out the pepper in syrah in blind tastings.

Dom wrote:
02.24.12 at 4:35 AM

It is a shame you can't pick out peppery notes. One really great thing to try is a young vintage port and a really good peppered steak. A surprisingly good match!

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