Wine time: The many nuances of wine

November 5, 2012 

We’ve said before that wine is alive – it goes through stages of development over its lifetime, and in many ways, wine is like people. Every wine develops its own personality.

Although psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and wine makers might argue as to what degree, the personality of a wine as is like that of a person, a combination of nurture and nature.

Its personality, or character, is a combination of biology and environment. The genetic makeup of the grapes, what type of grapes they are, is the fundamental basis for what the wine will be like, how it’ll taste.

Beyond that, however, to a very large extent where and how the grapes are raised will determine the final result as to what the end product will be. Growing conditions including soil type; exposure; temperature; weather changes; and many other factors are all critical.

While like a parent, winegrowers and winemaker can make many decisions as to what conditions their charge will be exposed to, many things that affect wine are outside their influence.

Soil, not surprisingly, is extremely important to the development of all plants. Vines are planted in it and absorb nutrients from it via their root system.

Of course sunlight and photosynthesis and moisture and transpiration enter into the equation as well. Whew!

This is starting to sound like a science lesson, and we’re even beginning to bore ourselves. Where we’re going with all this is that wine will have nuances of the soil that it grows in and often exhibits flavors of the other things growing in the area.

Let’s get a little more practical with a real-world example.

We were talking with a winemaker who had a vineyard that he’d purchased near Santa Barbara, Calif. While land in this area is very expensive, he had gotten the land cheap.

It was next to a grapefruit orchard and the previous owner had it planted with Syrah, a full-bodied red wine grape. The grapes were yielding poor results when made into wine.

The new owner replanted the vineyard with Sauvignon Blanc grapevines. While a major undertaking, expensive, and requiring time for the vines to develop, it was very successful.

Sauvignon Blanc, a white grape, often exhibits strong citrus flavors and nuances. Once replanted, the grapefruit influences from the neighboring orchard was a positive influence in the wines that the vineyard yielded.

While it might seem that this solution should have been obvious, all wine growers and winemakers are not created equal.

Cranberry Salsa

1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries

2 tablespoons lime juice

3 jalapenos, seeded and chopped

1 green onion, chopped

1/2 cup honey

3 tablespoons Grand Marnier

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon orange zest

Freeze the cranberries and allow them to thaw to room temperature. Pulse them in a blender until medium texture. In a bowl stir the cranberries, jalapenos, onion, cilantro, lime juice, honey and Grand Marnier together. Top with orange zest and serve.

Wine recommendation

In keeping with our theme of cranberries for holiday meals we ran across this wine. It comes from the Langhe, which is in the Piedmont region, in the northwestern corner of Italy.

It’s somewhat unusual for an Italian wine to have notable influences of cranberries, but with this one does and it works in quite a positive manner. You might consider serving it with your Thanksgiving or other holiday meals.

Cantina del Pino, Nebbiolo-Langhe, Piedmont, Italy, 2010 – about $22. This medium-bodied wine has a subtle floral nose, giving way to the flavors of spice, dark berry and cranberry. It’s subtle with nice texture and mouth feel.

Jim and Marie Oskins live on Lake Wylie in Fort Mill. They may be contacted at

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