Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Falernian wine

Wine Spectator

The Cult Wine of 121 B.C.

If you were a god, emperor or one of ancient Rome’s nouveau riche, you’d be drinking Falernian—or maybe a fake
Ben O'Donnell
Posted: March 29, 2011
A third-century Roman mosaic, in the House
 of the Amphitheater in Mérida, Spain, depicts
 three men jauntily crushing wine grapes by foot.

Our image of ancient Roman drinking—bloated patricians, slurry sophists and jezebels washing down coarse wine from jars—is only part of the story. Ample evidence exists that ancient Rome had a fine wine culture much like today’s, with prestige regions, cult wines and a love of bold, rich styles meant to be aged for decades. Within this rarefied wine community, one wine stood above the rest, the toast of poets and senators alike.
The origins of Falernian wine are the stuff of legend. The story goes that an old Roman farmer (that would be Falernus) eked a humble existence from the soil of Mt. Massico, about 30 miles north of Naples, when one day he was visited by Bacchus in disguise. Falernus prepared him a simple meal, and in gratitude for the hospitality, the god of wine caused the cups at the table to fill. When a hungover Falernus awoke the next day, Bacchus was gone, and the whole mountain was blanketed with healthy vines.
Probably a varietal wine made from a grape the Romans called Aminea Gemina, Falernian was grown in three vineyards on the slopes of Mt. Massico. (Today, the area encompasses the Falerno del Massico DOC, where the primary grapes grown are Falanghina, Aglianico and Piedirosso.)
Numerous “domaines” held stakes in the three vineyards, but the one midway up the Massican slope was considered to have the best terroir, and it was, at least for a time, owned by one man, named Faustus—think Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and the La Romanée-Conti and La Tâche grands crus.
If the partitioning of the vineyards mirrored a Burgundian system, the hype surrounding Falernian was all Bordeaux. Falernian from 121 B.C. (the vintage of a lifetime!) was celebrated for decades; multiple ancient sources mention having the chance to taste the wine 200 years after its vintage date. (Writing in the first century, Pliny the Elder acknowledges that the wine was a bit past its peak by then.) Gaius Trimalchio, the new-money buffoon of Petronius’ comedy Satyricon, acts the big shot when he serves this vintage—by this time 180-year-old vinegar—at a dinner party.
As Falernian became a byword for luxury, inevitably, the demand for it spurred spurious “Falernians” into the market, another ancient practice still alive today. On one tavern wall preserved at Pompeii, the wine list can be seen: “For one as [a unit of currency; a loaf of bread cost two] you can drink wine; for two, you can drink the best; for four, you can drink Falernian.” This is suspicious, though, the equivalent of your local Sizzler pouring Pétrus.
What was this wine like? Author, philosopher and polymath Pliny identified three types of Falernian—“the rough, the sweet and the thin.” Falernian may have been either white or red—or both, we don’t know. Some people believe Aminea could either be today’s Greco di Tufo (a white) or Aglianico (a red), but so far no one has extracted ancient grape DNA to conclusively identify it.
However, says Dr. Patrick McGovern, author of Ancient Wine and Uncorking the Past, “Roman writings seem to point toward white being more special, which is interesting because white grapes represent a mutation that occurs relatively infrequently.”
The grapes were harvested late and, like many ancient wines, left to dry before being fermented to 15 or 16 percent alcohol—though the Romans cut their wines with water when drinking. The Vin Santo and Amarone we drink today are made much the same way.
“These ancient techniques really stand the test of time,” says McGovern, scientific director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum’s Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory. “When you read these [wine] treatises from the Roman period, it’s almost like you’re reading a modern handbook on viticulture. They follow a lot of the same principles we do of trying to train the vines to grow in certain ways, protecting them from the sun or getting them enough sun, plus managing watering and irrigation issues.”
Falernian likewise stood the test of time, ranking among Rome’s top wines for at least five centuries, through the vagaries of many emperors’ tastes. Not every regent preferred Falernian, though; some even rolled their eyes at the hype. Marcus Aurelius, an emperor who usually shrugged at the finer things, kept a sense of perspective about this luxury: After all, he wrote, even “Falernian wine is just juice from a bunch of grapes.”

A bit of genetic transformation

Chile developing fungus-resistant grapes

March 30th, 2011
A Chilean research consortium aims to create Thompson Seedless table grapes that are resistant to fungal disease, but the product is not yet near the commercialization stage.
The project has been undertaken by the Agricultural Investigation Institute (INIA), Fundación Chile, Agrícola Brown and Biofrutales.
Fundación Chile food biotechnology manager Sylvie Altman says the project is one of the most advanced in the world, thanks to an initiative in 1998 to bring a patent from the U.S. to develop attractive products for the market.
“This work is one of the most advanced in  genetic transformation in the world of grapes,” she says.
Biofrutales general manager Carlos Cruzat says avoiding the attack of fungi is one of the most important aspects of managing table grape crops.
“To have genetically resistant varieties, the application of chemical products should be zero or very low, which together with a lower loss of fruit from this concept, translates to lower costs, better margins for the producer, and in the context of production it’s much cleaner,” he says.
Chile’s Agriculture Minister José Antonio Galilea recently made a field trip to the project site.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The environmental impact of the wine we drink

The environmental impact of the wine we drink

I’ve been seeing more and more wines labeled “natural,” “organic” and “biodynamic.” And just when I finally learned the difference between pinot noir and petite sirah! Are any of these wines demonstrably better for the environment?

The Lantern sympathizes with your plight. Reading a wine label is about as easy as deciphering a Mayan hieroglyph. Unfortunately, there’s no simple solution for oenophiles looking to minimize their eco-footprint. Many factors contribute to an individual bottle’s overall environmental impact, including growing practices, packaging size and type, and shipping distance and method.

First, a basic overview of the terms. There’s a difference between organic wine and wine grown with organic grapes. Wines carrying the “made with organic grapes” label constitute the majority of certified wines in the United States. It means the viticulturalist — the person who grew the grapes — used no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.
But the winemaker may have added sulfites, which kill off unwanted wild yeast and bacteria, and chemical clarifiers. Wine that is labeled simply “organic” is made with organic grapes and has no added chemicals.
Winemakers can also obtain “biodynamic” certification through Demeter, a nonprofit that has trademarked the term. Biodynamic wines must satisfy the same requirements as wines made with organic grapes. Unlike the “organic” label, however, biodynamic certification is not backed by the federal government. Demeter also imposes a variety of other standards. Biodynamic winemakers must use natural pest controls, such as ladybugs, and must supply a certain amount of their fertilizer from within the farm itself. The idea is to make the vineyard a biologically active, self-sustaining operation. Biodynamic wines may contain sulfites, but not synthetic clarifiers.
“Natural” wines have earned a certain cachet in the wine world. They’re supposed to involve as little human intervention as possible. However, because the term is completely unregulated, it’s very difficult to determine what role synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or winemaking chemicals played in the growing, fermenting or bottling processes.
With all other factors held equal, wine that is organic, made with organic grapes or biodynamic is better for the environment than its industrial shelf-mate. But the impact difference is smaller and more variable than you might think — and somewhat difficult to measure.
Organic winemaking practices have only a small impact on greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a 2009 paper in the Journal of Wine Research , in large part because even organic growers need some kind of fertilizer. Instead of synthetics, they use composted manure or plant matter, and a lot of it. Researchers at University of California at Davis compared organic and conventional chardonnay grapes planted in Sonoma Valley. They found that the organic vines required about 80 times as much fertilizer, by weight, as their conventionally grown counterparts. That material has to be shipped in from beef and dairy operations or nearby farms, which usually takes as much as or more energy than manufacturing and delivering the synthetic stuff.
There’s more to organic farming than minimizing greenhouse-gas emissions, though. And organic techniques do offer some substantial environmental benefits; they’re just tough to quantify. The Michael Pollan fans out there know that an organic vineyard supports a thriving ecosystem of birds, bugs and other critters, while a conventional field has been cleared of anything but the precious grapes. Conventional wine-growing can also expose local waterways — as well as farm workers — to fungicides, fertilizers and pesticides.
The most reliable way to minimize wine-related emissions is to avoid bottles that have traveled by air. If possible, choose bottles that spent more time in a boat than in a truck. Since container ships handle most intercontinental wine transport, Americans who live east of Nebraska are better off buying a wine from Bordeaux than one from Sonoma: The California wines would have taken a very long overland journey. Magnums are better than standard-size 750-milliliter bottles, because there’s less packaging mass per mouthful of wine. For the same reason, ask your local wine shope for producers that ship their wines across the ocean in bulk stainless-steel containers and then do their bottling close to the point of consumption.
The good news is that many of the world’s wine grapes are produced organically, even if the bottle doesn’t say so. Traditional vineyards in Burgundy, Piedmont, Mosel and elsewhere often stay in the same family for generations. Many of these vintners have stuck to organic farming practices but don’t bother with the expense and bureaucracy of certification.
Marketing also plays a role. Consumers often assume that organic dairy and produce are superior to the conventional stuff and willingly pay a premium for them. Wine snobs, on the other hand, tend to perceive organic wine as substandard because pioneering organic vintners had trouble overcoming the challenges of shipping and storing wines without added sulfites. (Advocates for organics insist these problems have been solved.) Even if they would qualify, many high-end producers don’t seek organic certification for fear that wine snobs will sneer. So ask your local wine merchant about any particular bottle. It may be covertly organic.
And prepare to do a spit-take, wine snobs. Oenophiles should care deeply about the environment, as the American wine grape could someday be an endangered species. While regions such as Mosel and the Loire stand to gain from a little global warming, one researcher estimates that climate change could wipe out 81 percent of premium wine production area in the United States by century’s end.
The Green Lantern, which is produced by the Web magazine Slate and can be read at , thanks Jim Fullmer of Demeter USA, Pablo Paster of and HARA, and Jonathan Russo of Organic Wine Journal for their help on this column.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Farmer For Future Centuries

Franklin Hiram KingMinimize
A hundred years after his death, monuments to Franklin Hiram King dot the landscapes of farm country all over North America, even in places where his name is unknown or has long been forgotten. King invented the cylindrical silo for the same reason that he wrote the book some say launched the organic agricultural movement, Farmers of Forty Centuries.

King hated waste. Upset at the silage that rotted in the corners of old-fashioned rectangular silos, he pioneered the cylindrical silo with a round base, a design paradigm so influential that Frank Lloyd Wright supposedly borrowed it for the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. King is specifically commemorated by King Hall at the University of Wisconsin's Madison campus – and by a book that may be coming into its own almost 100 years after it was first published in 1911.

A Call to Save Soils

Farmers of Forty Centuries deals with what King saw as the impending problem of agriculture in the Western world – soil depletion. King was an expert on the chemistry and physics of soil, and he realized during the first decade of the 20th century that some American farmland was playing out after only a few generations of agriculture.

The use of chemical fertilizers, just becoming popular, "cannot be considered indefinitely either in Europe or America. These importations for the time are making tolerable the waste of plant food materials through our modern systems of sewage disposal and other faulty practices; but the Mongolian races have held all such wastes, both urban and rural, and many others which we ignore, sacred to agriculture, applying them to their fields … we are to consider some of the practices of a virile race of some five hundred millions of people [at that time, there were about 400 million Chinese, with about 80 million Japanese and 20 million Koreans] who have an unimpaired inheritance moving with the momentum acquired through four thousand years; a people morally and intellectually strong, mechanically able … who have long loved peace but who can and will fight in self defense if compelled to do so."

King's book came out a few years after Jack London wrote an essay called "The Yellow Peril" in which he depicted the nightmare of 400 million sturdy, diligent Chinese led by 80 million fearless Japanese warriors in a survival-of-the-fittest conquest of the decadent West. Less of a Darwinian than Jack London, King was more of a scientist and humanitarian: He saw the real danger to the West not as vengeful Chinese led by savage samurai but as wasteful agricultural techniques. In King's best book, the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans were not racial adversaries but wise elders in the practice of a kinder, gentler and much less wasteful system of agricultural.

From Normal School to USDA

King had been born on a farm near Whitewater, Wisconsin, in 1848, at a time when the land was still a frontier. His father, Edmund King, hailed from the Green Mountain area of New England, and his mother, Deborah Loomer King, came from a family with roots in Nova Scotia. Franklin Hiram King's teacher at the Whitewater Normal School, an institution to train country schoolteachers, was Thomas C. Chamberlin, only five years older than King himself, a man who later became "the ranking geologist of America," a world-class expert on glacial remnants, and president of the University of Wisconsin.

King spent three years as a science teacher in Berlin, Wisconsin, and published his first book, A Scheme for Plant Analysis, in 1876. At Cornell University, where he studied for two years, King examined the stomach contents of 2,000 birds to find out exactly what they ate, while also studying chemistry and physics.

His wife, Carrie H. Baker, whom he married in 1880, was a strong supportive influence. Together they prepared relief maps that were useful in meteorology. In 1888, King was called to the chair of agricultural physics at the University of Wisconsin, where he taught for a number of years and published books on drainage, ventilation of buildings – the cylindrical silo – and the physics of agriculture.

His next full-time position was as chief of the division of soil management with the United States Department of Agriculture from 1901 to 1904, but his beliefs were seen as undermining the theories of Milton White, chief of the USDA Bureau of Soils. White reportedly forced him to resign. King returned to Madison and began to work his notes into a series of books, and in 1909 he took the extended nine-month journey to China, Korea and Japan that led to Farmers of Forty Centuries.

Three Generations Versus Thirty Centuries

"We had left a country which had added eighty-five millions to its population in one hundred years [the United States] and which still has twenty acres for each man, woman, and child to pass through one which has but one and a half acres per capita [Japan] and were going to another whose allotment of acres, good and bad, is less than 2.4 [China]," he wrote. "We had gone from practices by which three generations had exhausted strong virgin fields, and were coming to others still fertile after thirty centuries of cropping."

King's book is a welter of facts and statistics so intense that only his good writing skills and respect for human beings of all races saves it from being tedious. Where others saw traditional Asia as a lurid land of Chinese foot binding and Japanese hara-kiri, he saw organic farming that he believed could solve problems most Americans hadn't anticipated: worn out soil and the rising cost of outside fertilizer.

The Asians King met composted everything that couldn't be eaten or woven, kept oxen as draft animals rather than as a food or milk source, and used human and animal manure as a precious natural resource.

"One of the most remarkable agricultural practices adopted by any civilized people is the centuries-long and well nigh universal conservation and utilization of all human waste in China, Korea, and Japan, turning it to marvelous account in the maintenance of soil fertility and its production of food. To understand this evolution it must be recognized that mineral fertilizers so extensively employed in modern western agriculture, like the extensive use of mineral coal, had been a physical impossibility to all people alike until within very recent years...when we reflect upon the depleted fertility of our own older farm lands, comparatively few of which have seen a century's service … profound consideration should be given to the practices the Mongolian race has maintained through many centuries, which permit it to be said of China that one-sixth of an acre of good land is ample for the maintenance of one person, and which are feeding an average of three people per acre of farm land on the three southernmost of the four main islands of Japan."

King understood that the inappropriate use of raw manure, and human waste in particular, could compromise human health, but he also understood that no Asian would willingly drink water unless it had been boiled and, if possible, flavored with tea leaves. "The drinking of boiled water has been universally adopted in these countries as an individually available, thoroughly efficient and safe guard against that class of deadly disease germs which has been almost impossible to exclude from the drinking water of any densely peopled country."

Fitting Crops to Soils

Asian farmers also adopted family-edible crops to the terrain rather that catering to what brought top dollar: Wet lands were used for rice, plains areas for wheat, dry ground for millet, and the rocky hills for trees that provided timber and firewood. Fast-growing salad green crops or beans were sometimes planted before or after the staple starch crops were harvested.

In Shantung, otherwise famous for silk, the farmers planted cotton in wheat fields three weeks before the wheat was harvested, and sometimes also planted "Chinese clover" [Medicago denticulate] to be turned under to add natural nitrogen to the soil. "In this system of combined intertillage and multiple cropping the Oriental farmer thus takes advantage of whatever good may result from rotation or succession of crops, whether these be physical, vito-chemical or biological," King wrote.

Revolving History

History is replete with irony. King's book was published shortly after his death in 1911, the year the Chinese Revolution swept away the opiated Manchu Dynasty but failed to remedy the cruel landlord-tenant system that became a forcing-bed for Chinese Communism. Threatened by Russia, the Japanese annexed Korea. Soviet Communism and the impending Communist takeover of China led to increased Japanese industrialization and militarism. Impelled by a conflict over the resources of Manchuria, China and Japan went to war. Both nations emulated Western agricultural methods to take men off the land and put them in uniform.

The farming methods King described have largely vanished in Asia but are now being emulated in Western nations, notably England and the United States, where natural farming is becoming increasingly popular as fertilizer becomes increasingly expensive and cropland dwindles in relation to population. A hundred years after his death, Franklin Hiram King's agronomics have gone from anachronistic to futuristic.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Now, it’s time to taste a glass of wine…
Hold the glass at both a 30º and 45º against a white background.
      This produces a curved edge of various depths. Color can cause
      unfair prejudgment, so be careful.
Observe and record…
the wines clarity (is it brilliant or hazy?) Cloudiness is rare, except in
     wines that needed decanting.
the color hue (tint or shade) Eventually, all wines take on tawny
     brown shades.
the color depth (how intense or deep?) There are no standard
     descriptors. Use terms like purple, ruby, red, brick and tawny,
     and straw, yellow, gold and amber. Qualify these with pale, light,
     medium and dark.
the viscosity (thickness) Generally, only high alcohol wine and
     dessert wines have detectible differences.
effervescence (for sparkling wine)  Also can be in table wines with
     residual CO2 from fermentation or a wine undergoing
     microbiological instability; residual sugar fermenting or malo-
     lactic fermentation convert malic to lactic acid.
Odor in the Glass
Don’t swirl the glass but sniff at its mouth to smell the wines most
      volatile odors.
Concentrate. Record the nature and intensity of the odor. Reference
       the Aroma Wheel.
Swirl the glass. Release the less volatile compounds.
Smell the wine again at the mouth of the glass and then deeper in
       the bowl.
Concentrate. Record the nature and intensity of the odor. Reference
       the Aroma Wheel.
Proceed to next wine or step.
In-mouth Experiences
Take a small sample into your mouth…about 8 ml or 1-1/2 tsps.
      Keep the volume of each taste the same. More valid results.
Slosh the wine around inside your mouth to coat all surfaces. The
      first tastes are usually sweet and sour. Sweetness, if there, is
      most noticeable at tip of tongue and sour at side of tongue and
      even inside of cheeks. Sweetness may begin to fade before
      bitterness is detected. It can take as long as 15 seconds before
      bitterness peaks, usually in center rear of tongue.  So don’t spit
      too soon. After tasting, notice mouth feel: astringency, heat,
      and spritz. These will not be localized, but spread throughout
      the mouth. How do all these flavors and mouth feel interact?
      Notice the body, balance and flavor.
Again, note where you perceive sweet, acid and bitter, how soon you
       notice them, how strong they are, how long they last and how
       they change over time.
Concentrate on the tactile (mouth-feel) sensations of astringency,
       body, heat and spritz.
Record your tasting experience. Note interactions.
Other odors
Note the in-mouth odor. The wine has now been raised in
        temperature and other compounds are liberated.
Aspirate the wine by drawing air through the wine to liberate more
        compounds. To do this, tighten the jaw, contract the cheek
        muscles to pull the lips slightly ajar and slowly draw air
        through the wine.
Concentrate on the type of odors, their development and duration. Note any difference between in-glass vs. in-mouth fragrances.
After spitting the sample, draw air into the lungs.
Hold a bit. Breathe out through the nose.
Any odor detected? Record.
Concentrate on all the flavors, aromas and tactile sensations that
        linger. Longer finish usually means higher quality. Superior
        whites have fruity-floral essences, associated with refreshing
        acidity and the best reds will have complex berry fragrances
        combined with flavorful tannins.
Compare these with what you’ve already recorded. Record these.
Overall Quality How do all these sensations tie together? Think of
        complexity, balance, duration, power, elegance and
        memorableness. This is the most important.
Start over by swirling and smelling the glass.
Go through the other steps and see if your perceptions change. Or,
         if the wine has changed.

When tasting wine, there is a set of objective terms that should be used. Other terms are generally open to broad interpretation as to their meaning and should be avoided.

The odor of acetic acid and ethyl acetate, generally caused by bacterial infection. All wines contain acetic acid, i.e., vinegar. Normally the amount is insignificant and may even enhance flavor.  Big, highly tannic wines can tolerate higher levels. The threshold in wine is about 0.07 g/100ml.
A term used to describe a tart or sour taste in the mouth when total acidity of the wine is high.
Acidity is a term used on labels to express the total acid content of the wine. The acids referred to are citric, lactic, malic and tartaric.
        An odor sensation. Part of the aftertaste. Probably due to the less volatile aromas of wine. After the more volatile aromas have dissipated, these may appear.
Term used to describe the lingering taste and odor and tactile sensation left in the mouth after swallowing the wine. Both character and length of the aftertaste are part of the total evaluation. May be harsh, hot, soft and lingering, short, smooth, astringent or nonexistent.
ALCOHOLIC (-) (see HOT).
Table wines do not usually exceed 14% alcohol content - (11% to 12.5% is generally considered the optimum amount).  Modern wines refute that definition. Fortified wines - (Sherry, Port etc) - range from 17% to 21% alcohol content. Wines having too much alcohol leave a fiery sensation in the mouth or nose.
The odors of wine that originate in the grape.
The puckery tactile sensation. Common in young red table wines. Harsh, rough and tannic are related terms. The opposite, usually achieved by fining and aging, is smooth, or soft or velvety. Not to be confused with the bitter taste. 
Primarily the taste sensation of wines in which all the tastes are present in their proper proportions. Used especially for the balance of the sweet and sour tastes in wine. Unbalanced is the opposite.
BITTER (-)  (see TANNIC)
A lingering taste sensation. One of the four basic tastes. A major source of bitterness is the tannin content of a wine. Some grapes - (Gewurztraminer, Muscat) - have a distinct bitter edge to their flavor. If the bitter component dominates in the aroma or taste of a wine it is considered a fault. Sweet dessert wines may have an enhanced bitter component that complements the other flavors making for a successful overall taste balance. Bitterness is partly masked by high sweetness.
The tactile sensation differentiating low-alcohol from high-alcohol wines. The presence of sugar often makes this differentiation difficult. Leaving a wine sur lie (on the yeast lees) can increase body. Fuller bodied wines seem more viscous.
The odors of wine that originate in fermentation, processing, or aging, particularly after bottling.  Both aroma and bouquet account for wine odor.   
Very clear (and transparent in white wines) appearance with no visible particulates or suspensions. 
        The slight haze of a few suspended particles.
Colloidal haze and particulate matter. Noticeable cloudiness is undesirable except in cellar aged wines that have not been decanted properly.
The marrying of several odors. The great desideratum of quality.
CREAMY (+) (see SILKY)
Refers to "silk-like" tactile component of wines subjected to malolactic fermentation as opposed to the same wine lacking the treatment. Wines undergoing sur lie aging have a creamy texture on the palate.
Wine has definite but pleasing tartness, acidity. Generally used to describe white wines only. Most “fish wines” are crisp.
DRY  (+) or (-)
Absence of the sweet taste.  Some wines that should be dry are not. Many consumers prefer slightly sweet wines if they do not know they are sweet.  
The taste remaining after the wine leaves the mouth. As in "this wine has a (whatever) finish". 
FLAT (-)
Lack of sour taste.
Odors that are released from the wine as it warms in the mouth. These in-mouth odors reach the olfactory region by diffusion and through exhalation. 
As opposed to "thin" or "thin-bodied". Fills the mouth, has a winey taste, alcohol is present, the wine has "viscosity on the tongue".  
The tactile (and sometimes visual and auditory) sensation of carbon dioxide escaping from a wine.
Refers to wines with slight particulate content when viewed against the light. Occurs most often in unfiltered or unfined wines where there is no need to worry. If the haziness is intense enough to cause loss of clarity however it may indicate a flawed wine. Haze should go away if the bottle is stood upright for a week. Then decant. If not clear, a likely defect.
Defines a wine high in alcohol and giving a prickly or burning sensation on the palate. Never good.  
How long the total flavor lasts in the back of the throat after swallowing. Counted in time-seconds, known as "caudilie". Ten seconds (caudilie) is good, fifteen is great, twenty is excellent and fifty is superb. Almost a synonym for "finish", as in "this is a wine with an long, extraordinary finish".         
MADERIZED (+ or -)
Distinctive brown color in wine due usually to period of air exposure. Regarded as synonym for "oxidized". Originates from the taste/appearance of fortified Madeira wines. This is a heat-induced, oxidized odor with a more or less caramel character. 
        The color of white wines with this odor is usually very light.
The astringent, tactile sensation, not the bitter taste.
A rare taste in wine. May appear at very low concentrations in very dry flor sherries. The vineyards from which these wines are made are very near the sea. 
An acid taste caused by acetic acid. 
A tactile sensation on the palate. Often appears in wines aged sur lie and certain varieties like Pinot Noir.
Generally has low astringency.
The acid taste. Wines made from green grapes will be sour. 
A disagreeable taste sometimes associated with the activity of lactic acid bacteria in sweet wines.
Considered a fairly major fault stemming sometimes from the onset of malolactic fermentation in the bottle. Consists of pinpoint carbonation typically released when the bottle cork is pulled. Frowned on more if occurring in white wines vinified to be dry. 
SWEET (-) or (+)
The basic taste. A very sweet wine may be cloying.
Caused by the naturally occurring substance in grape skins, seeds and stems. Is primarily responsible for the basic "bitter" taste and tactile astringent sensation in wines. Acts as a natural preservative, helping the development and, in the right proportion, balance of the wine. It is considered a fault when present in excess.
A pleasant, sour taste in young wines.
THIN (-)
Lack of body. Watery.    
        The odor of acetic acid and ethyl acetate.
Nothing basically wrong with the wine. A wine without specific distinguishable grape variety odor. 
Usually denotes high level of volatile acidity and/or other flavor faults.  
Contains all of the essential elements - (i.e.; alcohol, flavors, acid or astringency etc) - in good proportions.  

Amerine, Maynard A. and Edward B. Roessler, Wines Their Sensory Evaluation, 1976.
Dr Bryce Rankine for the Wine and Food Society of Australia.
Jackson, Ronald S., Wine Tasting A Professional Handbook, 2002.
Peynaud, Emile, The Taste of Wine. The Art and Science of Wine Appreciation, 1987.


Napa Valley College Wine Score Card                                  

Date ______________ Taster’s name _____________________________________________
Wine __________________________________________________________________________

APPEARANCE (___ of 3)

Clarity ________________________________________________________________________
Color-Depth ___________________________________________________________________
Other Observations ___________________________________________________________

ODOR (___ of 7)

First Impression ______________________________________________________________
Second Impression ___________________________________________________________
Odor Intensity ________________________________________________________________
Off Characters _______________________________________________________________

TASTE (___of 15)

          First Impression _________________________________________________________
          Middle of palate _________________________________________________________
          Finish __________________________________________________________________
Aroma in Mouth & Aftersmell __________________________________________________
Duration of Aroma & Taste ____________________________________________________
Taste Intensity ________________________________________________________________

FINAL SCORE (___ of 25) and FINAL PRAISES (_________________)

PRAISES: 25-perfect 24-23-excellent 22-21-very high quality 20-19-very good 18-16-good
15-9-ordinary 8-6-below average 5-3 bad 2-0 very bad
Conclusion ____________________________________________________________________
OR, THUMBS DOWN (), BECAUSE___________________________________________

Wine Style: A Social Wine (     ) A Table Wine (     ) Both a Social and Table Wine (      )
At the Table, it would go well with: _____________________________________________
This wine should be drinkable for (how long?) ___________________________________________________
Recommended serving temperature: ____ °F Where to buy ____________________. For $ _____/750-ml
This Wine is a great value (___) a fair value (___) a bit dear (___) overpriced (___)

Social wines are those for sipping and enjoying without an accompaniment. They’re for drinking “standing up”. Table wines are those best with meals or accompanying other foods. They’re for drinking “sitting down”.