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05.01.2013

The Essence of Wine: The Sea

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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

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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