“Everything that needs to be said about wine has been said already,” said Jonathan Palevsky, program director at WJBC, Maryland’s classical music radio station and host of its show, “Word on Wine,” to a group of JHU friends and alumni gathered at the Culinary Institute of America in Poughkeepsie, NY. But assuming that his audience had not read all of the thousands of books that have been published about wine, he pressed on, taking us on a whirlwind tour of France, Italy, Germany, Spain and their respective wines.
Palevsky compared the difference in taste between French Burgundy and Bordeaux to the difference between New York and Los Angeles, and let us in on the secret that Dom Perignon was actually the person who tried to figure out how to remove the bubbly from wine!
He talked about many different types of wines, and the grapes from which they are pressed, as well as some pairings. “My favorite pairing, by the way,” he said, “is wine with nothing.”
Palevsky expressed admiration for Chardonnay – not my favorite wine by the way – telling us that Chardonnay is blended into many different kinds of wine, including champagne. Good vintage Chardonnay can be kept for years, he said. “In a lousy vintage, just drink them now.” He referred to pinot noir as “the problem child of the wine world.”
Wines labeled ‘Gran croux’ come from a single vineyard. Wines labeled “village,” (best to say that with a French accent, like ‘vee-lajh’) come from different vineyards in a region.
When he moved on to talk about Italian wine, Palevsky told us that moscato is only 5.5% alcohol. “Perfect for breakfast,” he said.
Pinot Grigio is the top-selling wine by the glass in the U.S. – it’s medium body, medium fruit, medium flavor, medium color. “It’s the high fructose corn syrup of wine.”
Super Tuscan is a mixture of indigenous grapes and non-indigenous grapes. In the early 1900s, Tuscan vintners who wanted to blend sangiovese, cabernet and merlot grapes could only get the designation of ‘table wine’ for these blends. So in an early display of marketing genius, they came up with the name Super Tuscan so they could sell their expensive product with a more impressive name.
It’s hard to give a lecture on wine when your audience is not actually tasting, but Palevsky’s clear expertise and love for his topic made this an entertaining opportunity. Tomorrow we’ll be tasting wine at a local winery, so I’m looking forward to putting my new knowledge to work!