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The Essence of Wine: Lychee


Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch

For what other fruit would Chinese emperors establish networks of galloping couriers to deliver it freshly plucked and in the height of its ripe delicacy? If you grew up in Asia, lychees would be a well known treat, thanks to a 2000-year-old love affair with these curious pink nodules that dangle enticingly from their evergreen boughs. But for western palates, they can be an exotic, even unnerving experience, thanks to the peeled fruit's resemblance to a freshly extracted eyeball—both in appearance and imagined texture. Should such hesitations be overcome, however, the slightly resistant and slippery flesh yields wonderfully unique floral flavors tinged with a subtle, woody sweetness. And this special flavor finds echoes in many white wines, especially Riesling and Gewurztraminer, whose own fruit can be exotic and bright and just as fresh as a precious handful riding like the wind to please a royal palate.

Lingenfelder "Freinsheimer Musikantenbuckel" Riesling Kabinett, Pfalz, Germany
Graf Hardegg Vom Schloss Riesling, Weinvertel, Niederoesterreich, Austria
D'Arenberg "The Money Spider" Roussanne, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Colomé Torrontes, Valle Calchaqui, Salta, Argentina
Pirie "South" Riesling, Tasmania, Australia
Tselepos Moschofilero, Mantinia, Peloponnese, Greece
ZMOR Gewürztraminer Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA
Bastianich "Adriatico" Malvasia Istriana, Istria, Croatia
Clayhouse Estate "Red Cedar Vineyard" Grenache Blanc Paso Robles, Central Coast, California, USA
Douloufakis"Femina" Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, Crete, Greece
Martin & Weyrich "Allegro" Muscat, California
Dutton Goldfield "Dutton Ranch Green Valley Vineyard" Gewürztraminer, Green Valley, Sonoma, California, USA
Folonari Pinot Grigio, Venezie, Veneto, Italy
Domaine Weinbach "Cuvee St. Catherine" Pinot Gris, Alsace, France
Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough, New Zealand
Remelluri Rioja Bianco, Rioja, Spain
Tentaka "Silent Stream" Junmai Daiginjo Sake, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan
Caymus Conundrum White Blend, Napa, California, USA

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

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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