Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Feb 7, 201808:05 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

In the Beginning…

Kostya Kakaskind, Getty Images, 2011


Much ado is made by distillers and winemakers, sommeliers, and alcohol sales professionals about the products they make and the products they want to sell you.

There are all sorts of stories about why a particular spirit or wine is so much better than the same spirit or wine on the shelf just a few feet away. Or why this wine is better with that dish. Or why five distillations are better than three.

It’s all reminiscent of whether a shaving blade that contains eight edges is exponentially better than the one that only contains four blades.  Back in my youth, which seems long ago, one of the books that caused a buzz was Vance Packard’s, “Hidden Persuaders.” Looking at the volume now, it seems we were all so naïve but back then, the exposition about how marketers positioned products and services, or just downright lied, was a shocking revelation. 

The reality when it comes to adult beverages is that at the very core of every manufacturing process is one of two chemical interactions. No matter where you want to end up, you are going to have to ferment or distill.

The winemaker or the distiller can perform interesting functions in the vineyard or in the field with the raw materials, either fruit or grain, but in the end, every product shares the same experience, passing through a fermentation tank or a distilling apparatus.

All the stories you hear about special treatments, selected yeasts, oak vats, temperatures in the cellars, corks, old athletic socks, or that fruitcake you received as a gift before you went through puberty, are all just ancillary to the main events: distillation or fermentation.

To be clear, those last two items in the list in the previous paragraph were just made-up and neither one has a place in what we are talking about here. Or at least they should not.

It would seem from historic artifacts that distillation and fermentation came at about the same time to our ancestors, around 7,000-6,000 years Before the Common Era, BCE, or about 9,000 years ago. While the dating to the first instance of either process is an ongoing archeological pursuit, with the dates continually moving to older time periods with the discovery and unearthing of clay piece from pots, it does seem clear that the location of either first-use process centers in China, today’s India and Pakistan, Greece, Iran and even Russia.

Think of the ancient world’s taming of agriculture and establishing permanent settlements, rejecting the life of a wandering nomad, and you have defined an area where these two pursuits were very soon present. It appears ancient civilizations valued their liquid rewards at the end of a workday as much as you do.


In digest form:

** Distillation uses especially-designed apparatus which heats up the liquid to a point of condensation when the liquid becomes vapor. As the vapor cools, specific high-quality components of the now-changed liquid are extracted, the vapor returns to liquid, but with more intensity of flavor and aroma.

** Fermentation is the active actions of yeasts going about their work to attack the soft meat of the fruit, and in the process, the yeasts consume the sugars present, changing their chemistry to alcohol.


Over the centuries, the overseers of either process began to understand the role of temperature in controlling the outcome for higher quality, smoother, more agreeable beverages.

Everything else about your beer, wine or whiskey evolves from these first steps to production. You may enjoy, and I am certain you do, the addition of herbs, flavorings, biological materials, honey, other fruits, other grains, pure water, sugars, wood storage and aging, but it all begins and proceeds to the final result in the same fashion for all distillation or fermentation products.

Think about that the next time some salesperson begins to wax eloquently (?) about specific product advantages. The devil may not be in the details. You instead may be looking at the emperor’s new clothes.




Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine.




Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.


Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.


Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.


Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.


They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.


Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.


Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.


Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.


It’s a good gig. 




Atom Feed Subscribe to the Happy Hour Feed »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags