In a place as old as New Orleans, legends are bound to be created, and the stories surrounding those legends are equally bound to be enhanced in every re-telling. You know how the childhood game of “gossip” or “telephone” worked. By the time the story reached the end of the line, it bore little resemblance to how it began.
I remember sitting in the Napoleon House one fine spring day, enjoying a cold beer, when along comes a carriage driver extolling the romance and history of New Orleans, explaining to his interested and gullible load of passengers, “This is where Napoleon lived when he was here.”
In the adult beverage world, there are similar items of skewed information that can hold us back from making an informed choice. What we think we know that is not true can hurt us, or at least keep us from enjoying the highest possible results.
“A wine’s legs are indicators of the quality of the wine.” Simply not true. Legs is that aspect of a wine when after you take a sip from a glass, the residual of the wine runs down the inside of the glass leaving a wine trail. Many people think that the speed of the wine running back to the bottom of the glass, or the viscosity of wine, are indicators of quality. What legs really are an indicator of is the level of alcohol in a wine. Nothing more. And the percentage measurement of alcohol in a wine is certainly not any indicator of quality.
“I cannot drink red wine. It gives me a terrible headache.” All wine contains histamines, and a small percentage of the adult population are susceptible to headaches caused by histamines. Interestingly, there are more histamines in white wine than in red.
“Wait, it’s not the histamines, it’s the sulfites. That’s what I meant.” Again, the US Department of Agriculture and other medical research organizations, have not found a cause and effect relationship among human behavior/response and histamines and sulfites present in wine. That does not mean you are not affected, but there is likely to be another source of your discomfort.
If you continue to feel that sulfites are affecting your health, seek out wines with labels that do not have the phrase, Contains Sulfites. Our government requires that phrase on the label even though the relationship between health issues and sulfites is not clear. But since sulfites are an additive, placed into the wine to preserve freshness, the government requires the notice on the label.
Organic and Biodynamic
Both of these designations are used by wines and all sorts of food items. They are indicators, most times without specific and legal definition of the terms. Wine can be organic or even biodynamic, along with sustainable, which is related to ground and crop management and to inclusion of pesticides, fertilizer and irrigation water used during the growing process. Many times, unfortunately, the terms are used as a feel-good labeling feature with no associated or defined health benefits or quality outcomes. Usually the terms are indicators of steps taken by the farmer and winemaker to protect/minimally impact the environment. Here again, a higher level of product quality is not guaranteed or even defined. There is just a higher price for the item.
But hey, if we consumers can contribute to a cleaner and healthier earth, then it’s worth a couple of extra bucks of cost on just about every food item we purchase, isn’t it? Why did you hesitate before answering the question?
Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com on Wednesdays, 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 about cocktails in New Orleans, every month in New Orleans Magazine.