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The Essence of Wine: Licorice


Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch

Many of the world's true delicacies walk the razor's edge between danger and deliciousness. Licorice is not fugu, of course, but too much of this innocuous little confection can lead to everything from hypertension to liver failure. On the other hand, apart from being tasty, this extract from a woody-looking root has been used as medicine for centuries, and continues to be today. Most, of course, encounter not the physic but the candy: a drop, a vine, or a chew — some salty, some sweet — but all offering that unique pungency which speaks in the tones of earth, but sings with notes of green herbs. From the delicate scents of dried fennel seeds, to the intensity of star anise, to the sweet earthiness of chewy black licorice, red wines find many ways to express this flavor. No single grape possesses a monopoly on the scent of licorice, rather many varieties planted in many grounds can all offer a taste and sometimes even a texture. For many it is a taste of childhood. For others it may be a flavor to avoid. But as a chord in the song of some wines, it offers a complex harmony to any major melody.

Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA
Ridge Vineyards "Monte Bello" Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, USA
Domaine Skouras "St.George" Agiorgitiko, Nemea, Peloponnese, Greece
Chapel Hill "The Vicar" Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia, Australia
Cinnabar Merlot, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California, USA
Nicolas Catena Zapata Red Blend, Mendoza, Argentina
Lions Drift "Silkbush Mountain Vineyards" Pinotage, Breedekloof, South Africa
Artezin "Evangelho Vineyard" Carignan, Contra Costa County, California, USA
Ty Caton "Caton Vineyard" Petite Sirah, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California, USA
Klinker Brick "Old Ghost" Zinfandel, Lodi, California, USA
Torres "Salmos" Red Blend, Priorat, Spain
Chateau d'Aussieres Red Blend, Corbieres, France
Dow "Vale do Bomfim" Red Wine, Douro, Portugal
Domaine des Tourelles "Marquis des Beys", Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Ravenswood "Big River" Zinfandel, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, 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