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The Essence of Wine: Dried Fruits


Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch

Describing the flavor as ancient barely does justice to history. Dried fruits were perhaps the very first prepared food that human beings thought to make or consume. The earliest examples of writing we possess and understand, the barest hint of scratches on clay tablets, all contain sundried morsels. Imagine the delight of the earliest senses at the chewy sweet rush of flavor delivered by a date, a prune, or a fig, its essence concentrated by sunlight. Until global trade unleashed sugar on the world, treats such as these were the most precious of commodities, for little in the world besides honey itself offered such sweetness. Wines from white to red offer the full panoply of dried fruits to the palate, from berries to cherries to exotic tropicals. Indeed, some wines are themselves made from dried fruit, whether thanks to the helpful natural action of the Noble Rot botrytis, or the carefully orchestrated combination of air, sunlight, and human ingenuity that goes by many names — passito, de paille, pasas, slámové, forzatura, strohwein, and more. But wine need not be sweet itself to display these flavors. A later harvest, the effects of age, certain grape varieties, and even just a lot of oxygen during winemaking can capture notes of dried fruit in the bottle. Too much, and a table wine can taste tired or overly candied, but when balanced against other elements, the taste of dried fruits in the glass can summon that first, eye-widening primal bite.

Clos des Papes Rhone Blend Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley, France
D'Arenberg "The Derelict" Grenache McLaren Vale, South Australia
Nicolas Catena Zapata Red Blend, Mendoza, Argentina
Cooper Garrod "George's Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains, California, USA
Brutocao Cellars "Quadriga" Mendocino County, California, USA
Mas de Daumas Gassac, Vin de Pays de l'Hérault, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
Nino Negri Sfursat, Sforzato di Valtellina, Lombardy, Italy
Chateau de Rayne Vigneau White Blend, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Alois Kracher "Nummer 2 TBA Zwischen den Seen" Scheurebe Burgenland, Austria
Pittacum Mencia, Bierzo, Spain
Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Veneto, Italy
Jasper Hill "Emily's Paddock" Shiraz, Heathcote, Victoria, Australia
Quinta de Roriz Vintage Port, Porto, Portugal

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 Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise 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 Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud