Thoughts on the Most Exalted of Drinks
In the wide world of alcoholic beverages, wine gets a lot of attention. While craft beers, ciders, and spirits take more of the spotlight, wine nonetheless seems to hold onto an infallible center position. To many consumers it is the holy grail of what can be swirled, sniffed and tasted. No matter how peaty a single-malt whiskey, or hoppy the finest barrel-aged ale, wine seems to remain in a class by itself. Which begs the question: is all this hype about a beverage justified?
This past harvest, to satisfy my curiosity, I brewed a small batch of hard cider in my garage, made from fresh Gizdich Ranch apples and a dose of freshly pressed organic ginger. Alongside it I fermented a half-barrel of Grenache rosé wine, sourced from Martian Vineyards in Los Alamos. I wanted to see if apples, with help, could rival a fairly simple (single vineyard and single varietal) representation of wine. The verdict became glaringly obvious after a few months, as both beverages sat in their respective barrels. The wine was disappearing much faster than the cider.
The rapidly-sinking level of the rosé was not due to a higher evaporation rate; it was simply because I was thieving the wine with far more frequency. It’s not that the cider was bad – it was actually quite good. But the rosé was far more appealing to my palate, and a better companion to my cheese plates and home-cooked meals. I had an obvious preference for the wine, which held far more depth and complexity than its apple-based cousin.
I came to the same conclusion that many generations of drinkers had before me: that wine grapes provide, without question, the most complex fermented beverage on the planet. There is a reason why wine is the most exalted of liquids: there exists no greater expression of what sun, soil and weather can produce. Wine may just be a beverage, but it is in a class by itself. Proof can be found by swirling a healthy dose of Lumen in your glass!
– Will Henry