Let’s start with the short version: we all need to calm the hell down.
If social media reaction is any indication, the wine world is losing its shiz over the potential implications of an interesting study highlighted recently on The Academic Wino blog by Becca Yeamans-Irwin. Why we seem to go through this in April of each year I don’t know, but maybe the pursuit of an answer to that is worthy of its own study?
Anyway, according to that blog post, a 2015 study from the journal Food Chemistry suggests the following (quoted from the article):
“…it is possible that the perception of different wine aromas can be altered by physiological factors like mouth temperature, saliva composition, or the oral microbial community present in each individuals’ mouths.”
The study found that an individual’s unique oral microbiota makeup is capable of hydrolyzing certain compounds found in both grapes and in wine, thus changing how the wine’s flavor and aromas are perceived on an individual basis. The process potentially gives some scientific explanation as to why individuals perceive different aromatic and flavor aspects when tasting the same wine. All of which lead Yeamans-Irwin to conclude that
“This [sic] result could have profound implications on how we understand wine tasting and the perception of aromas and flavors for any given wine.”
The problem is that a lot of people seem to be ignoring the “could” part of her statement…
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[ Editor’s note: This piece was originally written for my old Playboy.com gig, was purchased, but due (I think) to staff turnover there, was never published. I’ve attempted multiple times to buy this back from PB, because I really liked how it turned out, but never heard back from them. So… I’m reprinting it here, because it seemed appropriate for April Fools’ Day, and it was fun to write so I really wanted it so see the light of day at some point. Enjoy! ]
O. Fournier, Bond Villain Lair
When you’re standing at the bottom of the hill upon which the ultra-modern winery of O. Fournier is perched, as the base of the mountains in La Consulta, two explanations for the elaborate construction spring immediately to mind.
1) The O. Fournier building is actually an extra-terrestrial scouting ship that landed in Argentina, got sidetracked by asado barbeques, half-naked girls and soccer, thus abandoning its mission deciding to stay and make wine.
2) O. Fournier founder, Spaniard José Manuel Ortega Gil-Fournier, is actually a Bond super-villain, the Argentine winery being a front for his fiendish plans to hold the planet hostage to his whims. Clearly the huge hollow columns supporting the winery house some sort of missile silos?
It’s easier to daydream like this when you’re standing in the dusk half-light as the sun sets behind the mountains, and you’ve already had multiple asados and wine tastings that same day.
Ortega, a stout man with a slightly ominous beard and small, round glasses, looks every bit the part of potential international evil mastermind bent on world domination when he greets me at the winery. He’s impeccably polite, but slightly self-absorbed and there’s no mistaking the undercurrent of agitation he feels at me being a bit (okay, more like several hours) delayed due to my lunch asado, which means the diner asado will be even later than planned (note: do not visit Argentina if you dislike eating the equivalent of several cows’ worth of meat in a week).
Ortega speaks in grand terms as we tour the O. Fournier complex. “It doesn’t make sense to talk about ‘Argentina’ wine now,” he says defiantly, “it’s too broad. The ‘New World’ of wine is old enough now.” The passion shows in his eyes when he says it; do I detect the air of malignant narcissism that could serve as back story for a Bond bad guy’s motivations? Better be careful with this guy…
Ortega’s a former bank exec who then got into winemaking, so we know that he probably had some serous cash to get the winery going. “The money-printing machine broke in 2007,” he quips, “so everyday now I check if the banks own the winery, or I own it.” Ah, more motivation? Revenge on the world’s banks? This guy’s definitely an evil mastermind. From here on out, we’re calling him Dr. O (Fournier)…
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