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The Essence of Wine: Dried Herbs


Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch

The mystery of the medicine man's pouch. The secret to grandmother's stew. The smell of the apothecary. Sundried leaves, perfectly cured, have long been treasures to be carefully guarded. Dried herbs heal, soothe, salve, and protect. They preserve, prevent, perfume, and flavor. They stimulate, and they even kill. In varieties to many to number, they have found their way into almost every facet of our lives, and we are much the better for it. Sage, marjoram, assam, rosemary, lavender, thyme. Anise, chamomile, oregano, cannabis, parsley, hyssop. Sometimes singular, sometimes swirled into a bouquet of uncertain origin. Finding dried herbs in wine can be like stumbling over a set of your childhood journals, so evocative these flavors and aromas are of time gone by. No surprise then, that the savory notes of delicate, crackling leaves and flowers often emerge from wines that have gathered dust for some time on the shelf. Five, ten, or twenty years can produce a cornucopia of changes in a wine's flavors. But these delightful aromas are not limited to aging bottles. They can emerge from the freshest of vintages and a wide range of varieties, depending on everything from where and when the grapes were picked, to how they were aged. Often the perfect counterpoint to fruit, a hint of dried herbs in a wine, much like in any fine recipe, can make the difference between the ordinary and the delightful.

Cadaretta Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA
Torres "Salmos" Red Blend Priorat, Spain
Renaissance "Claret Prestige" Proprietary Red Wine, North Yuba, Sierra Foothills, California, USA
Bollinger Brut La Grand Année Rosé, Champagne, France
Kapcsándy Family Vineyards "Grand Vin" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California, USA
Rivers-Marie "Summa Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California, USA
Errázuriz "La Cumbre" Shiraz, Aconcagua Valley, Chile
Domaine Marcel Deiss "Mambourg" Grand Gru White Blend, Sigolsheim, Alsace, France
R. López de Heredia Rioja Gran Reserva Viña Tondonia, Rioja, Spain
Jean Mâcle Vin Jaune, Château-Chalon, Jura, France
Ridge "Geyserville" Zinfandel Blend, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California, USA
Fiorano (Boncompagni Ludovisi) Botte 48 Semillion, Roma, Italy

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