Wine has been around longer than people have had the ability to write about their pleasure in partaking of it.
It may surprise some of you to know that the epicenter of winedom was not in France or any other European location, but in China.
Archaeologists recently unearthed an ancient manuscript dating back to the 6th Century BC written by Foo Yu, entitled The Art of Wine. Foo Yu was apparently considered to be the Robert Parker of his day.
His groundbreaking work contains 13 chapters, each dealing with one aspect of the wine tasting experience and how to make the most of it. In Yu’s mind, drinking wine was a constant battle between man, who sought to maximize the pleasure derived from this magical elixir, and the wine itself, that through some mysterious inner force, sought to hide its true majestic beauty.
Yu postulated that this inner force was inherent in grapes, acting as a survival mechanism lest the discovery of the rapture of wine cause all grapes to be harvested without any survivors to propagate future crops.
Here is an excerpt from chapter 4, on evaluating the aromatic characteristics of the wine:
Many a wine has proven to be reticent, even stubborn, in revealing its true aromatic composition. Often a wine will offer up a primary scent to placate the taster, after which he smiles and happily places the porcelain to his lips and drinks.
In such an event, the wine has been victorious.
What the taster does not realize is that the wine contains a multitude of scents, of varying degrees of strength, arranged in amazing complexity. It is just such an array that the wine desires to hide from the taster.
Ga Cha was standing at the tasting table, sampling various wines. I strode towards him, observing the vessels in which the elixir sat.
“Ga Cha,” I said, “tell me, how many different wines are you sampling today?”
“Four, Master Yu,” he replied. “Two red and two white.”
“More details, please,” I asked.
“A Pi No from the Yang Tze Valley and a Mao Lo from the Peking Fields for the red, along with Vo Ni Ha from the Shanghai Lil region and a Mu Kat from the Tsu Tse Wu Valley.”
“Four very distinctly different wines,” I noted.
“Yes, Master Yu.”
“Then tell me, Ga Cha, why then are all of the porcelain vessels you are using of the same size and shape?”
“Sir, that is what we always use for tasting.”
“That is what we always use, that is what we always use,” I mocked. “If we always jumped off a cliff would we do that, too?” I asked.
“No sir. If we jumped off a cliff we would only do that one time,” responded Ga Cha.
“Don’t get smart with me,” I reminded him. “You know what point I am trying to make. Just because we have ‘always’ done something doesn’t mean it is the best way to do it. Does it?”
“No, Master Yu.”
“Each of these wines deserves to have a vessel of particular shape and size most suited to enhance the delicate characteristics of that wine. That is one way the wine tries to hide its true character from us – by allowing us fools to continue tasting them with unsuitable ware. I have assembled containers made of the finest porcelain – paper thin – and each the correct size and shape to prevent the wine from hiding its true aromas and flavors from me.”
I then placed the appropriate vessels on the table and transferred the wines from the small, pathetic vessels into which Ga Cha had so foolishly poured the wines, into my own vessels.
“Now we can properly evaluate the wines,” I declared.
I instructed Ga Cha. “Now it is time to give the wine a sniffy sniff,” I said. He picked up the first porcelain vessel containing the Mu Kat and gave a tentative sniff.
“No!” I shouted. “Put that down! This is how you give a sniffy sniff!” I proceeded to demonstrate by taking the vessel and moving it in a most violent circular motion that caused the wine inside to resemble a combination tidal wave and whirlpool. Immediately I raised the vessel to my nose and inhaled mightily. “Ah,” I exclaimed, then motioned for Ga Cha to try it himself.
“Ah,” he exclaimed. “I did not know that wine was capable of such intense aromas!”
“And most people don’t. That is the wine’s secret. That is why you have to sneak up on it and give it a violent twirl. You take it by surprise. It is not expecting that you will cause such a movement and the aroma inside is helpless. It has no where to go but up to your proboscis.”
“Yu the Man!” declared Ga Cha. “We are the champions.”
“Come, you have much to learn,” I told him. “This is only the beginning.”
The Art of Wine will be released for sale on December 11, just in time to be a stocking stuffer treat for all wineophiles. Check out Amazon.com for the pre-release information on this ancient granddaddy of winophilia.