Wine 101

Pucker Up

How acidity makes wines drinkable, refreshing, and able to age

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I teetered on top of the enormous tractor, careful not to lose my balance as it shook from side to side. The vibrating machine hovered over a single row of vines at a time, shaking their perfectly ripe grapes free into the large bins below. I turned around to glance into the dark rows of vineyards lit only by the moon above.

“Why are we harvesting the grapes in the middle of the night, again?” I asked over the roaring sound of the tractor. “Is everyone here just nocturnal?”

“No, not exactly,” said Juan de Benito Ozores, director of the Alvarez y Diez winery, who was seated beside me. “You see, the fresh juice from the grapes, it would oxidize too quickly in the heat. We don’t want them to lose the perfect sugar and acidity levels they have right now.”

It was just past midnight in Rueda, a small white wine-producing region just a two-hour drive from Madrid. Though the timing was a bit odd to me, I had ventured there to watch the winery’s annual grape harvest, which started at ten o’clock at night and would finish just before sunrise.
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The Brew TM_BR_PAIRING_FI_001

Beer and pretzels. Specifically, a big American stout and some hard and salty sourdough pretzels. This is my perfect food pairing. Why? Well, because I think they taste good together. It’s as simple as that. Okay, maybe it has something to do with the rock salt on the pretzels complementing the rich chocolate malt in the stout, but that’s not what I was thinking the first time I grabbed a bag of pretzels to munch on with my beer. A great deal of fuss is made over trying to pair foods with beverages, with the fine-dining world establishing stipulations about what should and should not be consumed with particular dishes. But does it really matter? For craft beer enthusiasts lately, it certainly seems important. MORE

The Brew TM_BR_HYHOPS_FI_001_2

Phenotype, genotype, genetic crosses, controlled pollination. These might not be the first terms that come to mind when browsing through the beer store, but the genetic background of the hop varieties used in your favorite beers could be a useful tool when trying to pick up a six-pack for the weekend. Ever since hops were first used in beer making, brewers have been combining different varieties and exploring new ways to impart hop flavors and aromas into the finished product. To keep up with this voracious appetite for experimentation, hop farmers have put down their shovels and put on lab coats, using genetics to introduce new flavors and aromas to the brewer’s palette.
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Food Culture

Consider the Cheeto

The simple pleasures of junk food are more complex than they appear

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There are always new studies coming out about why people eat junk food. Or rather, the studies tend to be about the effects high-fat foods have on other creatures, like rats and mice; from these effects, we try to extrapolate possible causes of human predilections for junk food. The most recent of these, as reported in the Huffington Post, noticed that mice fed a high-fat diet exhibited brain chemistry similar to that produced by depression; when their diet was changed, the fat-fed mice appeared to be more anxious and sensitive to stress than those in the study’s control group. These effects suggest a cycle: the poor mice suffered depression-like symptoms while eating their junky diet, and withdrawal-like symptoms when returned to healthier food.
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Food Culture

Sugar Buzz

Printing 3D sweets

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The 3D printer, that marvel of modern
science that makes it possible to fabricate solid objects such as a piece of jewelry or computer part seemingly from thin air,  looks like something out of science fiction. I recently saw one in action at Hive, a science and education co-working space in Philadelphia, and watching three dimensional forms emerge line by line reminds me of the way a sketch artist builds depth in an image from lines and hatchmarks.

The 3D printer “draws” objects from digital models; the printouts can take just about any form that can be created in three dimensions, and can be made with just about any material that can be extruded or pushed through a syringe—even the good stuff: sugar and chocolate.

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