Thursday, June 03, 2010

Richard Feynman, wine, terroir, and global warming

In The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Richard Feynman invokes a glass of wine: “a distillation of the earth's rocks, and in its composition we see the secrets of the universe's age, and the evolution of stars”, a terrific quote that Author and Professor Steven Kolpan cites in his latest article on how soil and climate affect wine.

“Grapes can grow in plenty of places,” says Kolpan, “but since the best soils for grapes are those that stress the vines, the best climates are those that are just barely warm enough for them to ripen, and wine growers are keenly attuned to the weather and temperature of their vineyards.”

So in a follow-up article, Kolpan wonders what will happen to great wines when classic wine regions get too hot. Yes, what will happen when Napa Valley becomes as hot as California's Central Valley?

“Cool climate conditions grant the grapes a healthy dose of acidity, ” explains Kolpan, “the refreshing, citrus-or-green fruit-sour flavors that make a wine interesting, even compelling. It is that acidity that makes our mouth water, and encourages us to have another bite of food, another sip of wine.” However, “grapes that grow in warm climates obviously have no trouble ripening, but their lack of acidity can translate into a flat, flabby uninteresting wine. Also, in hot climates grapes easily overripen, creating huge amounts of sugar that turn into alcohol bombs during fermentation.”

Unfortunately, argues Kolpan, global warming and wine is just another inconvenient truth for the global wine industry that has been ignoring the facts for too long, as well as for wine consumers.

“The message is clear,” concludes Kopan, “Wine is a precious product of nature, and its future is threatened. In your glass of pleasure there is also a microcosm of our shared environmental concerns, concerns that can no longer be ignored, no longer be denied.”

“How vivid is the claret, pressing its existence into the consciousness that watches it!” says Richard Feynman at the end of his great speech on wine. “If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts — physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on — remember that Nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for. Let it give us one more final pleasure: drink it and forget it all!”

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Wine bottle labels said...

Wine is truly an art. Definitively the bottle and label are big contributors of this art, regardless of the fact that some commenters do not care for the packaging. For me the Turner Ducksworth is the best.So American! Look at French and Italian wine bottle design, you will never find anything like this. Nobody will even buy wine called “yellow tail”.

Ó Seasnáin said...

Art indeed! Just think if someone were to say, "I advocate a beer daily!" We jump up and respond with a suggestion of AA... ironic - the disparity of the two drinks.