The Curious World of Wine

I was asked to review Dr. Richard Vine’s book, The Curious World of Wine. Being a book lover, I accepted the offer to add this delightful book to my both my library and to my mind’s expansion. I’m so glad I did. What an easy, fun read about the world I love so much… that of wine. Just about 20 years ago, when I started to work with wine, I remember thinking, “Well, I’ve got a lot to learn.” Twenty years later I’m still thinking, “Well, I’ve got a lot to learn,” and a lot of it right now is coming from this book…

[Left: Richard Vine, PhD, Professor of Enology Emeritus at Purdue University]

The Curious World of Wine is a lotus experience for me. Richard Vine has jammed so much information into this hard cover, just over 200 page book, that it makes me marvel… It includes facts, legends, and lore (as his subtitle states), and it’s clearly one of those books that I’ll be reading over and over again… Its fun and amusing anecdotes are just what I need right now. (#holidaygiftidea)

For example, while my background includes a French-Scottish upbringing, I’m very limited in my knowledge about French wines, save what I should know about regions, varieties, etc. Getting to the heart of who’s who in France, their first growths, their Premier Cru, etc…. I’m very lost. I’ve not had a reason to study this as extensively as – say – what I know about Portuguese wines. A trip to any wine country instantly delivers the goods. I need to get to France.

Fast Forward: CHAPTER TWO ~ French Connection

Richard Vine’s book has remedied that situation. Perhaps I’ll never buy a Petrus (which he calls “Prominence without Pedigree”) at $4,000 a bottle, or… a Romanee-Conti at $10,000 a bottle; but, now I know how and why others do.

I’m in the middle of it, I haven’t finished The Curious World of Wine ~ which I’ll be doing very quickly ~ but it’s currently tying into another story I want to write about; some Greek wines that I just got as samples.

I was reminded of the two stories coming together as I was reading Richard Vine’s Chapter One, Wining With The Ancients. Some quick background on Greek wine culture, because a I’ve written before, to understand a wine you must first know its people’s cultural background. I’ve not studied ancient history, except how it relates to the gods. That’s always a fun read, but the people who were creating these gods had still eluded me. Reading what Richard Vine had to write has really inspired me, to the point of wanting to share this with you, in case this is somewhat news to you, too, then I’ll get to two really delicious wines…

Socrates and Hippocrates ~ The Hellenic, or Golden Age, of Greece circa 510 – 323 BCE diminished barbarism and fostered human rights. Democratic government was an idea born in Greece, as were the disciplines of economics, education, and mathematics as well as the arts of literature, theater, and architecture. Any concerns today about how we govern, earn, learn, and create can be directed to the original precepts of Greek thinkers twenty-five hundred yeas ago. [The Curious World of Wine, p.14]

Vine states that the Greeks enjoyed wine not only for its cultivating benefits, but also because water was questionable during those times, as it still is today without some purification.

What’s changed is that the world’s population has grown, but the importing of Greek wines hasn’t played a major role in our own wine culture in the past; especially on the west coast, as we’ve been busy crafting and exploring our own grape growing and winemaking. That said, I just love what the Internet and social media has done in terms of opening up the world to all of us in ways that we couldn’t have even imagined in as few as 10 short years ago.

The Wines of Eklektikon

A recent post about Greek wines: “Anh Phan, the communications manager at Eklektikon LLC, an importer of eclectic Greek wines in the US.”

Anh wrote: “I wanted to inform you about our company’s unique approach to wine. Eklektikon is more than just exquisite wine; it is about the embodiment of the best of Greek art, culture and history, appealing to oenophiles on a deep emotional and cultural level. With the shift in interest towards Greek wines, Eklektikon is becoming a unique source of Greek culture in the United States by sharing our expertise and passion for wine. In order to better explain our concept, we have put together a feature article titled ‘A Museum Inside a Wine Bottle.'”

After that story, Ahn contacted me again wanting to know if I’d like to receive samples of his company’s wines. You know my answer…

And so, a box arrived and I found myself on a delicious journey. Also, I’m big on sharing, so this image is of a dinner party in South San Francisco with sisters out-law… You know, the ones you came to love as sisters-in-law, before the divorce.

2011 en oeno … (the dots are part of the written name) ~ 2011 blend of 50 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 50 percent Assyrtiko.

  • Appellation: Protected Geographical Indication Macedonia
  • ALC: 12.5 percent
  • This is a white Greek wine grape that’s indigenous to the city of Drama, in Macedonia (northern Greece, on the mainland). The Assyrtiko grows in alluvial, mountainous soil. Assyrtiko, even though indigenous to Santorini, is also being planted in northern Greece and a couple of other Greek regions. According to the experts, Assyrtiko has found its second home in northern Greece, where it tends to be more aromatic and more elegant than the one in Santorini.

This is a great wine for you Wine Century Club buffs, because the Assyrtiko is an unusual grape variety, as we have come to know the usual European suspects.

From the Eklektikon site: “En Oeno. . .” references Ancient Greek proverb ‘En Oeno Alethea,’ which means ‘In wine, there is truth.’ Since ancient times, Greek wine consumption has led to the revelation of secret varities locked mysteriously inside one’s self. (This belief surely supersedes our cultural fast-food kind of thinking, in my humble opinion.)

And the wine? Είναι τρομερά νόστιμο  (Translation: It’s tremendously delicious.) It’s also light, lively. The Sauvignon Blanc was very easy to detect; the Assyrtiko was very characteristic to what I’ve read (and tasted) about it: it has fresh and tart citrus aromas mixed with earthy minerality. This is a very delicious wine for foods that are rich; like a creamy chicken or seafood dish, and cheeses ~ like a dry Jack cheese.

I’ll be writing about a lot more Greek wine, as Eklektikon has given many examples to taste. I really enjoyed this first one.


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