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The Essence of Wine: The Sea


Image © 2013 Leigh Beisch

With your eyes closed, even absent the screams of wheeling gulls, and the throaty slap of waves against the sand, you'd know where you are. The tangy scent of the sea is unmistakable. The flavor is equally familiar thanks to the crunch of seaweed, the tiny tidepools of oyster liquor that some of us slurp, or even the saline shock that accompanies an open-mouthed tumble in the waves. Isak Dinesen said "the cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea" reminding us of the affinities between our bodies of water. If we find the sea in us, then how hard is it to find it in wine? The Romans, never short on subtlety, were known for adding seawater to their finest vintages. Today we taste and smell the sea in tinier, more piquant doses — a whiff from a glass, or a trace on the tongue. The French, in their elegance, have repurposed the word iodé to capture the iodine tang of the ocean in wine, while others find crushed shells and kelp in everything from Champagne to Sherry. Like many of wine's more savory notes, a hint of the sea goes a long way towards another gulp, or even another glass.

Benanti "Pietramarina" Etna Bianco Superiore, Etna, Sicily
Sandhi "Rita's Crown" Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California, USA
Chateau de Maltroye "La Dent de Chien" Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, Burgundy, France
Cape Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Cape Point, South Africa
Weingut Franz Kunstler "Hochheim Hölle Erstes Gewachs" Trocken Riesling, Rheingau, Germany
Massican "Annia" White Blend, Napa Valley, California, USA
Domaine Sigalas Santorini White Blend, Santorini, Greece
Hajszan "Weissleiten" Gemischter Satz, Vienna, Austria
Charles Heidsieck "Blanc des Millenaires" Vintage Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France
Ottella Lugana Superiore, Veneto, Italy
Domaine de la Pepiere "Granite de Clisson" Muscadet, Loire Valley, France

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

Comments (5)

Sean Spratt wrote:
05.05.13 at 8:25 PM

This seems like the perfect segue into a discussion on the addition of Umami as a basic character of taste.....and....go! ;-)

david pierson wrote:
05.06.13 at 12:39 AM

wtf are you talking about... do you
want to know what it is? the Matrix is everything.. what is that yoga? with just a hint of asparagus...

damon wrote:
05.06.13 at 10:25 AM

Alder, among our new wines from Chile - the wines from Amayna have a distinctive saline character especially on the finish. Not just on the whites -- sometimes it is even more present on their Pinot.

Alder wrote:
05.06.13 at 10:55 AM


I tasted it in the Torrontes in particular.

Attilio wrote:
05.10.13 at 10:01 AM

The Benanti Pietramarina is really great. It is Carricante 100%, grown as alberello (free standing bush), in part root stock. This indigenous vine is cultivated only on Etna. It seems that the name Carricante has been given by the vine-growers of Viagrande because of its constant production over the years.

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