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The Essence of Wine: Green Bell Pepper


Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch

Christopher Columbus was an unwitting pawn, the tool of a plant with grand designs. The seeds of nightshade he carried back to Spain would quickly go on to conquer the world, enslaving cultures for the remainder of history in their culinary devotion to what the ancient Meso-Americans called xilli. As spice, as medicine, as food, there is but a single constant: flavor. But too much of any one flavor in a wine can mean clunkiness instead of complexity. Many of wine's essences are best as grace notes instead of dominant melodies. Such is the case with capsicum. Its key flavors reside in molecules called pyrazines, to which we are so sensitive, that just a few molecules are enough to make anything taste or smell exactly like a freshly cut green bell pepper. These vegetal flavors (never mind that capsicum is a fruit) persist in most unripe grapes, but linger especially long in the Cabernet family, to which they add delicacy or distaste, depending on your point of view. Whether for you an imperfection or a mark of honesty, the flavor is unmistakable.

Vérité "Le Désir" Bordeaux Blend, Sonoma County, California, USA
Yering Station Cabernet Sauvignon, Yarra Valley, Australia
Lang & Reed Wine Company "Two Fourteen" Cabernet Franc, Napa, California, USA
Chateau Lynch-Bages Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
Weingut Christ "Mephisto" Red Blend, Vienna, Austria
Jean-Maurice Raffault Chinon, Loire Valley, France

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

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.