Thursday, 2 August 2012

Alcohol Reductase


The road is undulating and winding like a rollercoaster track, on either side of us the meseta stretches off into the sun baked distance, vines alternate with wheat and isolated copses of ragged trees draw the eye.

Talk turns to wine critics who’ve obviously never made wine and the way that they make what they think are clever knowledgeable comments on how the wines could have been improved. Dropping suggestions of spinning cones and reverse osmosis alcohol reduction like bon mots at a fashionable salon lunch.

‘Can we push through another 60 litres of Alcohol Reductase’

J’s telling it like it is, detailing the common high tech method for lowering alcohol in hot country wineries across the world. Whack in a shed load of water, it’s just like a nice controlled application of late growing season rain, you know the sort that winemakers always say arrived just at the right time.

The alley way smells faintly of piss and there seems to be at least three different music sources battling for our attention, it’s pushing 3am and the streets are rammed. This is fiesta in Santiago de Compostela. T and I are perched at a table with a couple of glasses of Ribeira Sacra. They’re just a little bit too warm. I give up, and nip inside to get a glass of ice cubes. I doesn’t take long, maybe a minute before I’m picking them out with my fingers. The deep purplish liquid slipping all chilled of my fingers. I suck what remains off and we both agree that the wine is just that much better. The alcohol tamed, the texture all of a sudden much more satin like, the perfume somehow a little bit more suave, like the difference between how you feel fresh out of the shower, all energized and ready to pulling yourself out of a car after a long hot drive.

The taxi is pulling up outside my friends house in Peckham, all the proper shops have long shut but there’s a definite hankering for a couple of last glasses of something. Casillo del Diablero Pinot Noir seems to be the least unpleasant of bottles on the shelf. On opening though it’s just unpleasantly soupy, that special mouthfeel that can only be achieved with very careful tannin management and some clever highish pH winemaking. I’m getting all wistful thinking about careening acidity and those ever so slightly acerbic and herbaceous tannins that rustic French Pinot often gives me. Then it hits me, a couple of ice cubes later and the Pinot is behaving that much better in the glass. And yes, the bottle did get finished.

I should probably clarify that I’m not advocating a wholesale adoption of an over ice red wine policy, just that with a large portion of the everyday wines that end up coming my way, especially the slightly more worked commercial new world ones, that little bit of slick watery chilling just seems to make a huge difference. Think of it a bit like the way that slight dilution in a martini changes the structure of the drink.

Oh and feel free to chuck shit at me and call me a heathen, I’m big enough and definitely ugly enough….

-names have been changed to protect the reputations of those involved-