Tuesday, September 30, 2008


You've heard of the expression "I'll have a medicinal whisky". I bet you've never heard "I'll have a medicinal wine".
When we have colds, sore throats etc we often resort to hot toddy's with whisky, rum or brandy in them but rarely have wine. Why is that? Is it the fact that we think spirits are better as they are stronger? Or is it because we cannot taste wine very well when we are under the weather. The fact is though that there are many more instances of medicinal wines than spirits (and yes I know about the origins of famous liqueurs like Chartreuse, D.O.M. Benedictine etc)

Wines have been used for health reasons since ancient times.

Some of these uses involved drinking large amounts to ease pain although it was often temporary and usually involved waking up to find someone had sawn an arm or leg off. A positive side effect of being drunk during amputations was that blood pressure was lowered which helped in the process.

The Ancient Greeks used wine to carry medicinal herbs and spices as curatives and restoratives. Bitterness in more modern medicines was disguised by wine.
In the early days of the Australian and New Zealand wine industry wines were promoted as containing health promoting additives and named Tonic wines. It was no coincidence that wine pioneers were also doctors e.g. Doctor Penfold. Wine was used as an antiseptic and it was common practice to wash wounds in wine before putting bandages on.

Nowadays there are many endorsements for wine as it is recognised as being beneficial to health as an anti-oxidant, a digestive aid and even prescribed as a sexual stimulant!

Recent research says moderate consumption of wine - around half a bottle a day - leads to a longer, healthier life than that enjoyed both by non-drinkers and by over-indulgers.
So, where is this leading to? I have a cold (a man's cold which is always the worst kind)and a sore throat. I am having a medicinal glass of wine (Taylors 2007 Merlot which is rich and juicy but has a softness that soothes my raw throat - yum).

Saturday, September 20, 2008


We went to the opening of Jenufa tonight, Janacek's dark opera.
It was chock-a-bloc full of God, religion, sin, guilt, redemption(Robert would have been in his element) and the inevitable consequences when these things take over people's minds and life.
The opera started out a bit lame for half of the first act but then took off with some great performances. The sets were perfectly suited for both theme and practicality and the music was in balance with the singing and was not intrusive. I guess a lot of this was to do with the unfamiliarity (to me)of Janacek's music with no classic pop tunes coming out (I do think they could have slipped in Styx's 'Jennifer' or Donovan's 'Jennifer Jupiter' though to liven things up a bit).
re Janacek's music it is a little known fact that there are never Double Basses playing in his music. Apparently he couldn't stand them. The low vibrating noises gave him throbbing headaches so he banned them.
What has this got to do with wine you may ask? Well, not a lot but Steva, the cad in the opera was a bit of a drunkard and often had a bottle in his hand.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I'm just taking a break from doing some tiring work and my mind wandered to winemakers names and winemaking terms (it has been a bit of a joke in winemaking circles when the winemaker is named Brett as 'brett' -brettanomyces in its varying guises is a compound that can impart complexity to wines but often is a detraction from pleasant fruity flavours and seen as a fault - Who says winemakers don't have a sense of humour then?)

Anyway I got to thinking of other names and came up with these:

MALolactic fermentation
ETHYL acetate

There must (pun intended) be lots more.
Send them in and win a prize.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


I drank some Californian Cabernet Sauvignon the other day. It was a massive Christmas pudding type of wine. The label said that it had 15.5% alc/vol. The reality was closer to 17%. The wine cost USD250 per bottle. Robert Parker gave it 96 points. Overall effect was like drinking a pan galactic gargle blaster I imagine.

Yesterday I opened a Kim Crawford SP 2007 Tietjen vineyard Gisborne Viognier. The label says 15.5% alc/vol. I suspect the reality is higher. Not quite the PGGB effect but the alcohol was annoyingly evident rendering the wine virtually undrinkable.

High alcohol red wines taste porty. High alcohol white wines take on a beer character. Neither are very attractive so why do they do it?
At wine shows and early on in their comparative tasting life the high alcohol can make the wine stand out and give it more 'body'. With some age though the alcohol remains undiluted while the other components have melded leaving a hot character.

If I want to drink a very high alcohol wine I prefer to sip a glass of sherry or port.
I don't want to be sucker punched by an innocent looking table wine.

Thor Iverson in his Oenolog blog discusses high alcohol wines for those interested.