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The Essence of Wine is Ready to Buy!

It is with great pleasure that I announce the official publishing and general availability of my book The Essence of Wine. It arrived at the warehouse a few days ago and is now available for purchase here on Vinography for $75 plus shipping costs. The road to get to this point has been a long and occasionally tedious one, but I'm thrilled to have completed this odyssey of self publishing, and with a product of which I am very proud. The book is gorgeous and everything I hoped it would be. I hope you'll agree. BOOK SIGNINGS! I'm going... continue reading


Introducing The Essence of Wine Book

Almost two years ago now, I began a collaboration with superstar food photographer Leigh Beisch that I called The Essence of Wine. The premise was simple. I wanted to celebrate some of the mystery and beauty of wine through gorgeous images of the various aromas and flavors in wine. The resulting feature on Vinography has been one of the most talked about elements of Vinography for some time. Many of you readers have eagerly awaited the results of each new photo shoot. And ever since the series began, some of you have been asking for a book. Today I'm happy... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Flaws

Image © 2013 Leigh Beisch The essence that is not an essence. Universally unloved, the flaws in wine are as insidious as they are unwanted, and come in many forms. The sharp vinegar and acetone tang of volatile acidity; the rotten eggs reduction; the overly nutty or balsamic note of oxidation; the sweaty socks, garlic and stinky cheese of mercaptans; the wet dog or manure of brettanomyces yeast; and yes, the all-too-common wet cardboard or wet band-aid aroma of cork taint. All too be avoided rather than celebrated. But knowing the difference between a faulty bottle and a wine that... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Oak

Image © 2013 Leigh Beisch Few have actually spent time gnawing on a piece of oak, but some know the scent well enough, having perused the selections at their local lumber yard. Some may have even tried their hand at drilling, cutting or planing in the service of one or another project. Many more know the flavor of oak, even if they never identify it as such, thanks to the popularity of whisky, rye, and bourbon, all of which usually taste of planks cut from American forests. The oak we find in wine, on the other hand, more often hails... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Passionfruit

Image © 2013 Leigh Beisch The fruit takes its name from the vine on which it grows. But no matter how sensual the fruit or however beautiful its blossoms, the missionaries who named the vine had something else in mind entirely. The complicated flower's anatomy conveniently facilitated mneumonics for the Passion of Christ — 10 petals for faithful apostles (sorry Peter and Judas), three stigmas for three nails on the cross, five anthers for five wounds before death, and a halo of radial filaments to visualize the crown of thorns. The precious fruits of the vine, in purple and yellow,... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Violets

Image © 2013 Leigh Beisch Before it was the perfume of our sorrows (garlanding poor Ophelia's demise, no less), it was the flower of kings. Ion was the name the greeks gave both the flower and the king of Athens, who wore them as a crown. The violet's scent and symbolism weaves through our entire recorded history — as evidence of love's truth, as medicine, as rare confection, and as the beguiling aromatic calling card of queens and courtesans. Perfumers and botanists agree, its scent is most unique among the flower kingdom, and those who have been lucky enough to... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Green Wood

Image © 2013 Leigh Beisch A childhood spent out-of-doors yields memories of many scents, including the vivid astringency that marked forested adventures, especially with a pocket knife in hand. A well-whittled stick. The peeled curve of willow strung with makeshift bowstring. The gnawed end of a green twig. The sharp green scent of freshly stripped bark hangs between woody and herbal, even approaching fruity in its most juicy form, and can often feature in wine, especially from cooler climes or chilly vintages. When grapes struggle to ripen, or when they are deliberately picked on the doorstep of ripeness, they retain... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Graphite

Image © 2013 Leigh Beisch Perhaps if you were well-behaved or maybe just lucky, your teacher sent you to the edge of the classroom with a tightly-clasped fist of yellow, where you would have the pleasure of producing those wavy ribbon-like curls of beige and gray that litter many a school day memory. There may come a time when, like the clack of a typewriter or the stutter of a rotary phone, children do not recognize the smell of a freshly sharpened Number 2 Ticonderoga or FaberCastell. But for now, the scent of shaved or pulverized graphite brings instant recognition.... continue reading


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... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Grapefruit

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Pendulous globes of yellow dangling like suns from their leafy boughs must have been tempting indeed to those Barbadians who first named this "the forbidden fruit" of their isle. How far the simple grapefruit, and its parent the pomelo, have come from tropical exotic to breakfast tables everywhere, in their shades of yellow, pink and beryl red. Somehow more sensuous than many other citrus, the pearly texture of grapefruit flesh and its starchy, foamy pith mark it just as much as its flavors, which can vary greatly. Yellow yields a soft sweetness with a woody... continue reading


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... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Melon

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch The melon is hard to ignore. Its fullness, dangling awkwardly at the end of a slender vine seems to make a conspicuous show of fecundity and the promise of interior treasures. And what treasures they are. The perfectly ripe melon — its pale green, yellow, or orange flesh dripping with nectar — instantly recommends itself as a food fit for royalty or the gods themselves. In Japan, though imported from its Arabic and African homeland relatively recently, melons have become oddly both an expensive corporate gift, and symbolic of the final taste of this world... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Strawberry

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Bright gems nestled under tiny green canopies represent the perfect summer treasure for fingers small and large. A perfectly ripe plucked strawberry offers the quintessence of flavor. And what a flavor! Sweet. Juicy. Tangy. Fresh. While perhaps not equal to the pleasure of summer foraging, finding notes of strawberry in wine yields delight in good measure, especially when it comes to pink wine of all kinds. Rosé remains the perfect embodiment of strawberry essence — crisp, juicy, refreshing, and hard to resist. But even some red wines carry this fresh brightness. Grenache in particular is... continue reading


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... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Bread

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Science suggests that the smell of freshly baked bread calms us and stimulates the brain the same ways as music and art. But did we really need science to know this? Bread has always meant comfort, home, and basic sustenance for human beings, and few culinary pleasures rival the aromas, taste, and texture of a loaf right out of the oven (growing ranks of celiac notwithstanding). Oxygen, time, oak, and grape variety all contribute to the fact that some wines smell and taste of breadstuffs. Champagne in particular, especially with age, acquires notes of saltine... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Pears

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Which is a better testament to its glory? That the oldest languages we know all have a word for "pear?" Or that its growing patterns spread like alluvial fans along the world's most ancient trade routes? We've apparently been charmed by this awkwardly bulbous fruit since prehistoric times, when its dangling, fulsome ripeness must have been a welcome gift in the wilderness. Time and the experimental flights of our own fancy have produced thousands of varieties, with hues from purple to white, and with characters that are equally diverse. But from the translucent-skinned, velvety Bartlett,... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Umami

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch The fifth taste. The molecular expression of savory deliciousness that explains what bacon, chicken soup, and sautéed mushrooms all have in common. Unlike many of the things we taste, which are more aromas than tastes, the flavor known as umami is perceived directly by the taste buds. Perhaps for this reason it can be just as much a sensation—a sudden rush of mouthwatering goodness—as an actual flavor. Originally discovered by a Japanese researcher looking to explain one of the distinct qualities of his country's cuisine, umami exists everywhere. Sometimes the product of cooking, sometimes the... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Apples

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch In one simple fruit are all man's sins remembered. Dully reflected in the freckled orb we have witnessed some of our deepest archetypes. Forbidden knowledge, betrayal, murder, immortality, respect, sustenance, even civilization itself. Doubtless the first tree to be cultivated by humankind, the apple is woven indelibly into the history of our species, as symbol, as food, and as medicine. Mythological history aside, we have been remaking the fruit for thousands of years, to the point that it truly represents the diversity of our whims and tastes as a people. More than 7500 different varieties... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Blackberries

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Fingers splotchy dark purple, scratched and pricked. Snags and scrapes and dirty knees. The occasional razor burn of nettles and the mad lingering itch of poison oak. These are the hazards of the blackberry patch, where the choicest bundles of shiny, dark goodness hang just out of convenient reach. So we must lean, shuffle, stretch, and occasionally tumble through briar and thorn to capture the prize. Summer blackberry picking stains the memory as easily as it does the fingers. It is easy to recall the scent of dust and dried wheat, the herbal green of... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Plums

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch The tree has become so beloved that its name has become synonymous with beauty. From the grace of its slender boughs, to the spectacular burst of its blossoms in Spring, the plum has inspired some of history's greatest poets, painters, and thinkers. All that, before the delicate flowers give way to their precious fruit. Plums may well be the first tree fruit cultivated by our species, and remains one of the most cherished, playing a prominent role in many Asian cuisines, especially Japanese. With a range of flavor from frightfully tart to tangy sweet, the... continue reading


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... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Roses

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Few things in this world are laden in equal weights of symbolism and perfume. For millennia we have asked an ancient flower to stand in for factions, for status, for sex, for God, for beauty, for secrets, for ideology, and of course, for love. 2500 years of devoted cultivation have produced countless hues and shapes and scents of rose. We paint them, we wear them, we give them, we eat them, we decorate with them, and we anoint ourselves with their remarkable perfume. So distinct and special is the flower's perfume, that finding it in... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Dried Fruits

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Describing the flavor as ancient barely does justice to history. Dried fruits were perhaps the very first prepared food that human beings thought to make or consume. The earliest examples of writing we possess and understand, the barest hint of scratches on clay tablets, all contain sundried morsels. Imagine the delight of the earliest senses at the chewy sweet rush of flavor delivered by a date, a prune, or a fig, its essence concentrated by sunlight. Until global trade unleashed sugar on the world, treats such as these were the most precious of commodities, for... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Blueberries

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch With the feel of suede-like skin on the tongue, a tiny globe yields to pressure from the teeth with an explosion of juice — first sweet, then slightly sour, pure and bright. Occasionally a hint of fresh green herbs in the fruit reminds anyone who has stooped among diminutive bushes of the delightful search for summer's bright blue sparks. Few organoleptic delights compare to the burst of a perfectly ripe blueberry in the mouth, with its unique combination of floral sweetness and acidity. Native to North America, but now found elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere,... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Peaches

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Few flavors so fully speak of summer as the delightfully juicy sweetness of peaches. Long prized for their sensuous skin and delicate flavors, and revered for the vitality shown by blossoms that emerge before the tree has leaves, the fruit was the natural food of Chinese deities for millennia, each bite guaranteeing the gods their continued immortality. Carried back along the Silk Road, peaches later flourished in Persia, where enterprising princes likely first bred the fuzz right off their backs. Peaches, nectarines and apricots, with flavors ranging from delicate rose petal to tangy, almost citrus... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Nuts

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Saying that our relationship with nuts goes back for some time dramatically understates the case. For three quarters of a million years, we've been eating tender morsels pried from armored exteriors that we've crushed with everything from stones to precision machinery. Raw and roasted, warm and toasted, nuts offer flavors earthy, woody, and even meaty. In wine, these flavors add grace notes to fruit, their savory qualities lending complexity and depth. Lean and savory white wines such as Riesling or Chenin Blanc can suggest cashews and brazil nuts. Richer whites often feature roasted hazelnuts, pecans,... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Garrigue

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Through crystalline blue skies, the sun all but drips onto your welcoming skin. With eyes closed, you are nudged by a soft breeze, whose caress brings with it a perfume unlike any other. Redolent with sage, thyme, rosemary, lavender, and juniper, the landscape reaches for you with invisible fingers, stimulating, salivating, and ultimately seducing. This is Provence, its scrubby hills laden with weeds that have made possible some of the world's most enduring flavors and aromas. The French have not only given us this precious landscape, they have also given us the word that describes... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Lemon

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Bright as sunshine, electric in its sour purity, lemon is one of life's most essential flavors. Its true origins in southeast Asia may never be known, but after a long career as primarily an ornamental and occasionally medicinal fruit, lemons found their first real fans during the Italian Renaissance. By the time Columbus began his voyage, lemon seeds were prized enough to be included as cargo, and bestowed as gifts upon the new world. Few cuisines of the world fail now to incorporate lemon, and fewer parents have forgotten the face that accompanies an infant's... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Mint

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch From the wailing currents of the river Cocytus, a river nymph named Minthe glimpsed the passing chariot of Hades, and was seduced by its dark rider. But the instant their passion flamed, a jealous Persephone intervened, transforming the innocent naiad into the aromatic herb we know by the same name. Even before its creation myth, mint was both a medicine and a delicacy. Its aroma in wine often blends with eucalyptus and cut grass, their collective green seeming evidence of transubstantiation and somehow more remarkable than flavors of exotic fruit. Truthfully, a vineyard shadowed by... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Espresso

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Its discovery in the highlands of Ethiopia remains shrouded in the mystery of lost tribal lore. Having bargained for beans, the Sufis were the first we know of to begin the brewing ritual whose mere scent can enliven the soul. Once a sacred Muslim stimulant, its formulation closely guarded, now the world can hardly imagine life without the rich indulgence of coffee and its firm grip on our circadian rhythms. Bitter, nutty, earthy and woody — approaching caramel and chocolate but never quite reach the extremes of confection — coffee's layered and dramatic aromas are... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Watermelon

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Its flavors hold memories of long days, green grass, laughter, and innocence. Of all summer fruits, none holds more spirit of childish delight than watermelon. The crisp red, or more exotic yellow, tantalize with promises of thirst-quenching, lip-smacking sweetness beneath the green rind. In the world of wine, the flavors of watermelon are most often found in the luscious brightness of rosés. In the brief flirtation of skin and juice that produces these delightful wines, we receive aromas most magical, where a sip can echo the gratification of sinking your teeth into a half-moon of... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: White Flowers

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch One of life's great, mysterious pleasures can be encountered on a temperate summer evening in certain places in the world, when from out of the darkness, comes the incredible scent of flowers on the night breeze. The universe of fragrant white flowers contains an amazing array of enchanting scents — tuberose, jasmine, acacia, gardenia, orange blossom, and lilly of the valley are just a few sources of these aromas, whose dynamic range spans angelic delicacy and raw, powerful sexuality. Such scents make regular appearances most often in white wines — both sweet and dry —... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Buttered Popcorn

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Unmistakably redolent of American childhood, nothing quite compares to the scent of freshly popped corn drenched in movie theater butter. Adored or reviled, and sometimes both at once, for its rich, guilty pleasure, buttered popcorn seems to trip the most primal triggers for indulgence and comfort. The creamy, salty, toasty scent entices no less richly in the aromas of wine than it does in a cinema lobby. This unique aroma most often results from the complex chemistry between the toasted oak of a barrel and the remarkable bacteria that convert tart, green-apple malic acid into... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Tobacco

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Broad leaves, kiln fired, transmute a weed into an aromatic wonder that has conquered the world. Before it became a scourge, it was sacred to some of the world's earliest peoples. Like many such medicines, tobacco began its life as a gift from the gods, to whom it would return with messages from the living when smoked. From dark pitch to burnt caramel to sweet fruit, and always laced with wood, the smell of cured tobacco makes its way into many wines, most often thanks to wood itself. The toasted oak of a barrel can... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Oranges

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch A fruit, a color. By its name, we shall know it well. From the ancient Dravidian and Sanskrit we receive the root naari, which means fragrant, and begets the name nagarugam, for the sweet fruit whose origins are lost in time. The Persians borrowed these narangs and carried them to Spain, where the Moors left their naranja groves, and to Italy where a bit of arangia went a long way in Latin, and became the precious arancia in Italian. Along the way the fruit slipped sideways to ancient France, where Gallic tongues preferred orenge, something... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Lime

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Once it was a closely guarded military secret. Anti-scurvy powers lent an indelible nickname to the British, whose superstitious Limeys probably snatched the idea from Tantra, which prescribed the fruit to ward off evil spirits. Perfected in the heart of Persia, limes in great variety have become essential to everything from cooking to cocktails. Tart and grassy, floral and sour — whether in the perfume of fine curry or the rowdy flavors of Margaritaville, lime blinks neon green all the way down. Wines with lime flavors generally abound in refreshing crispness, whether they burst with... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Exotic Citrus

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch There was a time before lemon and lime, when from the far reaches of the East there came fruits of such shapes, colors, and scents that the gods themselves asked for a taste. Ganesh, in his wisdom, chose the citron, sanctifying its sour flesh for rites most holy. The Buddha favored what the Japanese call the bushukan , though it was said the Enlightened One preferred the fruit with its fingers closed, as in prayer. For sukkot Jews require an etrog fruit whose very dimensions determine if it is kosher. All these delicacies persists today... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Green Bell Pepper

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Christopher Columbus was an unwitting pawn, the tool of a plant with grand designs. The seeds of nightshade he carried back to Spain would quickly go on to conquer the world, enslaving cultures for the remainder of history in their culinary devotion to what the ancient Meso-Americans called xilli. As spice, as medicine, as food, there is but a single constant: flavor. But too much of any one flavor in a wine can mean clunkiness instead of complexity. Many of wine's essences are best as grace notes instead of dominant melodies. Such is the case... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Red Berries

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch In the depths of the forest, shafts of sunlight pierce through dark green canopies, illuminating bright red jewels glinting amidst green briars. Treasures of flavor, the berries of forest and heath have long been gathered by eager hands seeking the kind of delights that only come from morsels such as these. Raspberries, red currants, pomegranate, cranberries, thimbleberries, and goji berries. Tiny mouthwatering bursts of tart sweetness that pucker the cheeks, these red berries play the starring role in many wines. The best wines not only evoke their flavors and aromas, but also the juicy, tangy,... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Tropical Fruits

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch The languid allure of the tropics finds some of its most sensuous expression in the fruits of its forests. Equatorial flavors have a sunny perfection about them, an impossibly pleasurable ripeness, that can evoke anyone's idea of paradise. Pineapple, papaya, jackfruit, and guava. Banana, mango, passionfruit, and cherimoya. You don't have to go far to find such flavors in wine, which are no less pleasurable and evocative in the glass than they are on a plate, or better yet, dripping down your chin on a sunny day. Sometimes paradise is only a sip away. Johanneshof... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Cured Meats

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch For omnivores, the scent is unmistakable and for many, just as irresistible. From the smoky scents of cooking bacon and charred meat to the salty, tangy notes of saucisson, few things make the mouth water more. Finding such savory notes in wine can be alarming to the unprepared, and many never get used to the cognitive dissonance of fermented grape juice that smells like fried porchetta. For others, however, these aromas often possessed by older red wines are treasures to be sought and hoarded, or as the case may be, plundered. Certainly when married to... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Chocolate

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Montezuma's gift was given first to the heavens, and only then to the rest of mankind, the latin theobroma cacao, literally meaning "fruit of the gods." When Cortez returned to Spain bearing the exotic dark fruit of the Aztecs, the world was never the same again. Synonymous with pleasure, from an infant's first taste to the connoisseur's careful snap, few foods in existence rival the raw passion of chocolate. Its complex chemistry reveals itself not only on the tongue, but in the hidden pathways of our minds, which react to it not just as a... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Pepper

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Lives were lost. Empires were built. The new world was discovered. All for the sharp spark of taste with the power to transform mere food to cuisine. It's hard to imagine the shock and astonishment that must have accompanied some human's first bite into a dried peppercorn. The incredibly disproportionate rush of flavor contained in these crinkled, colorful motes easily arrests us, even when we know it is coming. Pepper's explosive character finds a dual analogue in wine, which both stirs us with an equally surprising kaleidoscope of flavors, and also occasionally includes notes of... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Cherry

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Biting into a perfectly ripe cherry represents one of life's perfections of flavor and sensation. The firm skin parts under a modicum of pressure, and a gorgeous melody unfolds on the tongue — high notes of juicy acidity, rich baritones of velvety sweet red fruit, an earthy alto bitterness of skin, and a tangy tenor quality burst in the mouth in a way that makes it all too easy to overindulge. Cherry's singular flavors, from the dark black to the bright bing and the sweet yellow rainier, are a familiar refrain in many wines, made... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Wet Stones

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Perhaps you have lingered in a mountain stream, climbed alpine ridge-tops or descended crevasses. Perhaps you have tasted rain on your tongue, or drunk deeply from a stone cistern, echoing with time. Even if you simply revel in petrichor, the smell of pavement just after a cloudburst, or remember washing chalkboards in school, you understand the smell and the taste of wet stone. Some say deep questing roots that probe and fracture rock can transmute the minerals themselves into wine. Science has no easy answers for the relationship between bedrock and berry, but what may... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Vanilla

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Sprung from the legendary blood of forbidden lovers suffering the wrath of a father king, slender jungle orchids climb skyward, their fruit bearing heavenly scents. The Aztecs demanded tlilxochitl, this black gold, in tribute after conquering the tribes who first unlocked vanilla's secrets. As intense as it is ethereal, vanilla possesses a singular, breathtaking purity of aroma. Barrels imbue wine with much of the vanilla we taste. Their singed oak can offer up an echo of flowers in ancient forests, or deeper notes of caramel and butterscotch. Sometimes floating above the wine's fruit, sometimes wrapped... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Honey

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Sunshine, gathered from flowers by tiny apian efforts, forged into ambrosia that tasted of immortality to the Greeks and Egyptians. The alchemy of honey seems no less marvelous even to those that have braved the swarm to witness its creation. Like honey, wine serves to transmute the world's most basic elements into a form seductive and irresistible. When wines taste of honey they seem to taste of sunlight itself, a brightness that coats the mouth with a satin warmth and gently tugs at the heart like a summer breeze. The scents of honey wafting from... continue reading


The Essence of Wine: Earth

Image © 2012 Leigh Beisch Earth. The first of the elements that the ancients held as the basis for all life. The source of all our sustenance. Wine has always been inextricably linked to the dirt, the root of terroir. That wine can sometimes taste or smell of earth should come as no surprise. Like walking through the spongy loam of a dark wet forest, scents of soil and mushroom, dust and mud often resonate with a dark bass note underneath other flavors and aromas. Flavors of earth are often borne on the textures of tannin, as if the very... continue reading


Introducing The Essence of Wine

Many facets of wine contribute to its allure and mystery. But foremost among wine's most magical qualities must be the remarkable landscape of flavor and aroma to be found in the glass. That mere grape juice, given time and the workings of the microscopic kingdom, can yield flavors beyond description has doubtless played a central role in making wine mankind's most historically sacred fluid, beyond our own lifeblood. With eyes closed, a glass of wine can transport us not only to climes far removed, but also through time. These journeys are provoked by flavor. Our deep sense memories are drawn... continue reading

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This page only has the last sixty entries in this category. If you're interested in digging farther into my archives, you'll want to use the complete list of archives to access my articles by month.

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Most Recent Entries

The Essence of Wine is Ready to Buy! Introducing The Essence of Wine Book The Essence of Wine: Flaws The Essence of Wine: Oak The Essence of Wine: Passionfruit The Essence of Wine: Violets The Essence of Wine: Green Wood The Essence of Wine: Graphite The Essence of Wine: The Sea The Essence of Wine: Grapefruit

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune

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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