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