We’ve talked about children and wine education before. And recently about divers finding old wine under the sea. So I was surprised to stumble on a reference in a book I was reading to my kids the other day, The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau, by Dan Yaccarino.
“When diving in the waters near France,” Yaccarino writes, “Cousteau and his crew found a sunken ship full of wine jars over 2,200 years old! They tasted the wine. Alas, it was bitter.”
My seven-year-old son thought it was cool to taste something outrageously old, even if it was “bitter.” (Apparently, Cousteau’s comment at the time was that it was “a poor vintage.”) Here’s the same 1952 discovery in another book, for grown-ups:
“[Cousteau] checked his depth gauge. Two hundred and fifty feet. … He tripped his reserve valve to give himself an extra five minutes. … And there it was. Looking like an object in a museum … an amphora lay half buried on the slope in front of him. With the last measure of his strength, Cousteau pulled the amphora free of the bottom.”
Funny we get the tasting notes in the kids’ book. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any video from on-board the Calypso. But I’m sure it was captured in the ABC series “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.”
Last fall, my younger brother, Conrad, sailed from France to Brazil. By himself. In a race. On a 20 foot boat.
He set off from Brittany, where, aged 25, he was living in a used electrician’s van. He sailed about ten days to Madeira where the fleet stopped for fresh supplies before setting off again for Brazil. However, the degree of difficulty was raised for him when he lost one of his solar panels, and had to choose between the long-distance radio or the GPS. Needless to say, he kept the GPS. But that meant that he only talked to a few freighter ship captains over the twenty days from Madeira to Recife, Brazil.
When he crossed the equator he had a half bottle of “some cheap cava” that he uncorked to celebrate. He said he was more concerned about it being small and light than being good. But that said, it was “absolutely fantastic.”
The video of him toasting the boat and King Neptune is above. (To clarify, we are half-brothers and he was raised in New Zealand, which explains his jubilation of about being “home” again in the Southern Hemisphere.) You can check out his site and read about his preparations for his 30,000-mile around-the-world race that he starts next year. Hopefully he’ll have some nice bubbly to celebrate the end of that accomplishment.
Today’s summer wine factoid: Nomacorc, a purveyor of plastic wine closures that require a corkscrew to remove, was the brainchild of a Belgian businessman who made a fortune manufacturing extruded plastics, including pool noodles. So if you’ve been floating around in the pool this summer and sensed a connection, you’re right.
In related news, plastic closures were the closure that consumers disliked the most by a two-to-one margin over all other closures in our recent poll.
Recently, my seven-year-old son dug up some worms, made a sign, set up a table on the street and sold them for ten cents each. “Great for your garden! Great for fishing!” ran his pitch. He made $9, including tips. That’s almost better than wine writing!
On a somewhat related note, check out the profile of Brett Ottolenghi–alternately known as “the truffle kid” or “Hamleg”–in the current issue of the New Yorker (subscription req’d). When he was 13, Ottolenghi started selling white truffles online and later ran the business from his dorm room. Now 25, he “specializes in the small run, the vaguely regulated, the hard to come by, and the near-banned,” which includes foie gras, truffles, caviar, saffron, vinegars, cinnamon, oils, salts, and ham. He sells them to the 375 Las Vegas chefs he claims to know on a first-name basis.
Rather than scaring you about the Iberian lynx, some cork enthusiasts have put out a video to try to save…foxes? Foxes and forests? Bottles sporting wood? Something like that. I am confused.
Have you ever thought, “Gee, I’d love to drink this whole bottle of wine–but not right out of the bottle since that’s not classy–and I don’t want to get up from the couch to do so.”
Then the inventors of the supersized, Kotula’s giant wine glass had you in mind! It fits an entire bottle in the glass, right up to the rim. Be sure to check out the hilarious video. (That’s also a party trick you can perform with some of the enormo glasses from Riedel or Bottega del Vino.)
A downside: you sure need a lot of Wine Away if it’s full of red wine and gets knocked over.
Related: “Big glasses make you drink more”
The world wine glut just found a new category of consumer: cows.
A farmer in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is feeding her cattle red wine for the 90 days before slaughter. According to the Vancouver Sun, Janice Ravndahl of Sezmu Meats stumbled on the idea while watching chef Gordon Ramsey feed beer to pigs on his show, The F Word. Because she thought her Angus would get bloated from the carbonation in beer, she started feeding her cows a liter of local red wine a day, sometimes mixed in with their food, sometimes straight. Here’s how the cows reacted:
“When the cows first drink the wine, it’s like ‘what is this?'” says Ravndahl.
“But once they have it, they’re happy to have it again. They moo at one another a little more and seem more relaxed. There are a few that lap it up out of the pail. After they’ve had it for a while, when they see us coming with the pitchers, they don’t run, but they come faster than usual.”
A little more relaxed? And they seem to “talk to each other”? Hey now–I think someone is asking for a candlelit stall for two in the back.
Why do it? Local chefs attest to the subtly more complex flavor. One even remarked that it came “pre-marinated.” If in boeuf bourguignon, the meat cooks in the wine, boeuf a la canadienne must put the wine in the beef first.
It’s almost as if cork producers have hired Glenn Beck to present their $22 million marketing campaign! The campaign, mostly in Britain, links a switch to synthetic wine closures to the decline of the endangered Iberian lynx.
If you are interested in the Iberian lynx, surf over to SOS Lynx. It discusses the causes of their dwindling lynx numbers (chiefly, a decline in wild rabbits and 70% of their natural habitats allowing hunting), a doubling of females in recent years, and how most of Iberian lynx live in Spain, not Portugal, which produces over 50% of the world’s cork.