If you are over age 40, you are either wearing bifocals or squinting to read this print. On this day in 1785, Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals, a fixture that has been a part of my life over four decades.
If President Thomas Jefferson was alive today, he would be pleased to see Americans enjoying wines from southeastern France for their regular evening meals. When some of our favorite wines — Burgundies and Bordeauxes in particular — became too expensive, Jefferson turned to what he called "country wines", Côtes du Rhône (CDR) from the Rhône Valley of southeastern France. These wines, in addition to being a bargain, are generally light, fruity and not offensive.
Cinco de Mayo is Saturday and, along with some fantastic Mexican styled food, there are some great wines to enjoy as well. Not to be confused with Mexico's Independence Day (Sept. 16), Cinco de Mayo celebrations the outnumbered and under-armed Mexican army's unlikely victory over the vastly superior French army at the Battle of Puebla on this date in 1862 under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza.
Tannins are part of the biochemical makeup of living, fruit-producing plants. In high concentrations in under-ripe fruit, they remain unpalatable until a particular level of ripeness takes place. The fruit is considered most highly edible with a sugar content and acidity level that makes them appealing to the consuming animal. That consuming animal could be anything including an insect, a bird, or one of us.
This day in history has two possible reasons to raise a toast. On this date in 1956, the beautiful actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco, depriving director Alfred Hitchcock of one of his favorite blonde actresses to use in his movies. It is also the date that San Francisco was devastated by a severe earthquake and subsequent firestorm in 1906. The first reason to raise a toast is to mourn her removal in movies for her admirers, and the latter to give thanks that another quake has not hit San Francisco.
When in the Burgundy or Bordeaux regions of France, the bottles of wine from those particular regions have distinct shapes. The high-shouldered Bordeaux bottle (also called the Claret) communicates the Bordeaux wines that make up the blend. The same goes for the sloped-shouldered Burgundy bottle. If it is a red wine in the bottle, it is pinot noir, a white wine, chardonnay. The bottles from the Rhine regions of Germany in their tapered, flute-like form will be a white wine such as riesling or gewürztraminer.
March is always the month of weather battles: wind, snow, rain, sunny, balmy days. Repeat. With the arrival of April comes more consistency of warmer temperatures and visible life returning to deciduous plants, including our regional vineyards. With nicer weather being more dependable, it is time to celebrate with some bubbly wines, Prosecco selections in particular. Italian bubbly wines are all made from the glera grape and fermented in stainless steel tanks, so they will typically have retail prices below those of non-vintage Champagne.
Because I'm on the threshold of being at the beginning of a "ripe old age" and wanting more years, I'm attracted to anything credible that would help me accumulate those extra years. According to an insurance calculator, I have a 75 percent chance of making age 90, with a pretty good potential of making it to 95, which is well past the prediction of 56 years when I was born.
Some of my wine-loving colleagues asked about differences between sparkling wines and why some cost so much. All agreed they were enjoyable to drink, giving an air of celebration, no matter if it is a good dinner with someone, a group of friends, or a special occasion.
Making wine — the growing of the crop, the fermentation process, aging in barrels, bottling and sealing — is a study in proper sequential science. Blow it somewhere along these lines, and the winemaker could be out of business quickly. Dr. Paulo Lopes, research and development manager at Amorim Cork, has found that with proper temperature and humidity control, wine can be stored upright with no ill effects.