October 10, 2003

Wine Snob.

While in Rome...

Oh wait. Where am I? Am I in a bar? Right. I'm in Bordeaux.

While in Bordeaux, take part in wine. Taste it, drink it, experience it. In an attempt to get my education on about the finer subtleties in wine, wine making, and all that jazz, two weeks ago I signed up for a four week course in wine tasting for the hefty sum of 90 Euro. To add to the experience, I'm taking it in French, which initially I thought would be cool because I'd learn all the snobbish words ("It has a taste of 'je ne sais quoi'....maybe 'un peu moulleux'") in French. Alas, it's turning out to be partly a pain in the ass, because there are so many crazy ass subtleties, and technical words that I just can't translate.

Also, sitting through a two hour session of French can get a little tiring, especially when it's 8:00 and haven't eaten since lunch (the best time to taste wine is when you're partly hungry).

The setting is all white (as different colours can affect different tastes....more green, and it will taste more acidic, red, more tannic). The glasses are all the same too, as seen in the picture below.

The first day was spent establishing basic scents (man there are *tons* of them....fruity, floral, smoky, woody, spicy and vegetable are some of the categories). Following that, we tasted the basic tastes: sugary, acidic, bitter (tannins), and the feeling of alcohol (alcohol and water). You also develop a vocabulary to describe wine.

You move from whites to reds in tasting. From sweet to acidic. Also, you're not supposed to swallow the wine (which, initially is sort of hard to do, but you get over it). As such, with all the spitting, it's not really recommended for the first date....or the second. Spitting does have its merits though, as to fully differentiate each wine you are tasting, you can't have aromas and tastes lingering at the back of your throat.

The second lesson was about climate and soil types, as well as different vine types (oh, and I must not forget pruning techniques). It's all quite interesting, and appealing on a geek level. Also taught is a bit about Bordeaux's 57 different appellations.

We ended up tasting the main whites here: Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion, as well as a mixture of the two (I'll get on a rant about that in a second).

In the red neck of the woods: Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a fourth mixed one (50% merlot, 25% each of the others).

It was interesting to see the distinctions between the different wines, even though the wine we tasted (mind you, I'm sure the fact that I could barely smell due to a cold didn't help) weren't signatures for each type of wine (they wee all 2002 or 2003...very young). Oh well.

You're tasting, and smelling, and surrounding you looks like this:

Okay, so here's my beef with some of this. One, there seems to be a significant amount of attitude that goes along with wine tasting. Sure I suppose, you learn to evaluate wine and its subtle complexities, but the whole scientific approach behind it is a little dry. I suppose it's similar to photography, where the techniques are somewhat tedious and boring, but ones you start expressing what you want, it becomes much more enjoyable. You learn to appreciate the wine as an art form, but not necessarily enjoy it any more than when shared with some excellent company (say over an excellent turkey meal).

The other thing that bothers the shit out of me is that Bordeaux prides itself on not mixing wines. What they don't tell you, is that they don't allow mixing wines after the fact, from different vintages and/or areas. They still do however, mix various different types of grape during fermentation to maximize the subtle complexities of the wine. The lady teaching the class seemed to have this magic book with percentages of different grapes. Of course, maybe there was something lost in the translation while watching the news and they were explaining the mixing phenomenon.

The last picture (all these were taken on my colleagues fancy Nokia 7560 or something like that) is kinda funny since the guy sitting in the foreground reminds me of my supervisor that I had in Japan (now four years ago).

Posted by bricode at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2003

Dune du Pyla

Last Friday I was looking to unplug and get away from it all. Bro, pops and I drove to the Dune du Pyla. It was certainly refreshing. After climbing the stairs of what looked to be five story sand dune, we got to walk across the top.

It was nice walking along barefoot in the sand, the ocean breeze blowing. The sand drift across the top was spectacular to watch even if it felt like the bottom of your legs was getting sandblasted. A small price to pay if you ask me.

The wind and sand make some pretty nifty sculptures and cutouts. Variations in dampness and location dictate where the sand travels. Apparently the whole dune moves pretty quickly, and ends up swallowing parts of the forest below.

We ended up walking down to the beach.

Sometimes backwards.

Sometimes you really need to work for a shot. Even if it means getting a little sandy.

War finally got in front of the lens of his digital camera long enough to get a shot with me and him in it.

When you're close to the ocean, you my as well get your feet wet. It was quite a bit warmer than I expected, and warmer than I remember the Pacific being on Vancouver Island.

It's amazing how you can get good shots at arms length. Here's the three of us. The men of the family. I'm sure that if it were several hundred years previous we'd be wearing hunting paint and carrying spears.

It's weird travelling with War. I think I've had more photos taken of me in the last month or two that I ever have in my life (okay, there is one exception. I was a model for a photoclub portraits workshop). He's working on my portfolio I guess. This is my whistling pose.

The whole experience really gave me some perspective to life. I realized that the world is bigger than my problems. That if I were to disappear the sun would continue to rise, and the moon continue to produce tides. It was the most relaxed and joyous I had been for a while. Dad made a good point that true happiness comes from within. You can travel the world looking for love or happiness, and chances are you won't find it out there. I know, from what I've done and seen, I certainly haven't found it on the outside. I think it's this photo that really captured the essence of my tranquility.

Eventually the moon rose, and we left for dinner in Arcachon. That was the end of the day.

Posted by bricode at 09:54 PM | Comments (1)