The Ecphorizer

Wine Trivia
Chod Harris

Issue #07 (March 1982)

Obscure facts to ponder while you guzzle the stuff

Are you a wine snob? Do you store wine bottles on their sides to keep the screw caps moist? Do you worry whether to serve white or red wine with lot dogs? Pour out a glass from your favorite jug and test your WQ with this short quiz. Each question is

Haraszthy...was presumed eaten by alligators on his ranch in Nicaragua...

followed immediately by the answer, so you won't have to think and can concentrate on drinking.

[quoteright]Q. Which grape is used to make champagne in France? A. Pinot Noir

Q. Why are some grape plants red in the fall? A. They are sick with a viral infection, limiting their lifetime and grape production. Newer vineyards are free of this disease and have few, if any, red plants.

Q. What is the difference between the following legends on a bottle of champagne: "Fermented in the bottle" or "Fermented in this bottle"? A. In the traditional méthode champenoise, the second fermentation (the one which imparts the sparkle) takes place in the same bottle you eventually purchase (fermented in this bottle"). In some modern bulk processed wines the second fermentation occurs in a "bottle" of several thousand gallons ("fermented in the bottle").

Q. What does the punt have to do with champagne? A. The punt - the indentation on the bottom of a champagne tattle -- prevents the bottom from blowing cut during the second fermentation (see above). Champagne bottles without punts hold bulk processed wine.

Q. How did Colonel Haraszthy, the "father of California wine," die, and where? A. He was presumed eaten by alligators on his ranch in Nicaragua, where he went after leaving Sonoma.

Q. What is the origin of the prized varietal Zinfandel? A. Still unknown. This grape appeared soon after Haraszthy's trip to Europe to collect new varieties, but there is no record of the grape in Europe or anywhere else, nor any relatives close enough to have been the source of Zinfandel. We may never know the origin of this variety.

Q. How many times is a bottle of good champagne touched before it is sold? A. Dozens to hundreds mostly during the remuage process, in which each bottle is gently twisted and tilted each day for weeks or months to concentrate the sediment in the mouth of the bottle.

Q. The Napa Valley has often been compared to the wine growing regions of France. What part of the wine growing world corresponds to the Central Valley, where Gallo and other jug wines are grown? A. Algeria, where much of the vin ordinaire of France is produced.

More wine trivia of this kind will be bandied about at Vintage 82, San Francisco Mensa's premier RG [Regional Gathering] being held April 2-4 at the Napa Holiday Inn. It will be a first-class weekend of wine tasting and wine talk, as well as an opportunity to enjoy springtime in the lush Napa Valley with other Mensans. For details... [very stale details omitted!] 

Oenologist Chod Harris is one of the organizers of next month's Wine Country Regional Gathering. He also publishes Pacific Woodworker magazine and has had photographs printed in the National Geographic.

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Chod Harris