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Wine Basics, Volume 1

It is not our intention at Lot18 to just blithely offer you wine. No. We see ourselves not just as arbiters of taste, like Oprah or Larry Flynt, but as educators, like Oprah or Larry Flynt. We want you to experience new and fabulous wines, but we are also bound and determined to teach you something. We don’t know what it is, maybe something as simple as that the word “iconic” is all but meaningless, but we are determined that you learn something about wine every time you visit Lot18. An educated consumer is not only an asset, it’s an oxymoron.

With education in mind, I’ve been asked to begin a series of columns devoted to the basics of wine knowledge. What qualifies me for this daunting task, you may well ask. Like I care what you think. Like anybody reads blogs. Like I wouldn’t exaggerate my qualifications just like you did applying for your miserable job in this crappy economy that’s about to collapse like a travel agent school.

But since you asked, for nineteen years I was a sommelier. You can ask any other sommelier — I know everything there is to know about wine. I combine the absolute authority of Wikipedia with the brilliant insight of Glenn Beck. Only I would think to compare wine tasting groups to Hitler Youth. After all, both grow up to assign numbers.

Let us begin with the basics. When this occasional series ends, you too will be a wine expert. Just what the world needs.

What are grapes?

Grapes are the berries produced by grapevines for the purpose of spreading their reproductive seeds via the intestinal tracts of animals. This is detectable on the nose of many wines. Grapevines are self-pollinating, and often embarrassed when caught at it. Interestingly, it’s those grapes caught self-pollinating that go on to make Blush wine.

How many different varieties of grapes are there?

Most authorities agree that there are at least two: red and white. This ignores the most popular grape among wines that score fewer than 89 points — sour. Okay, all kidding aside, there are approximately 6000 different varieties of Vitis vinifera made into wine in the world. Vitis vinifera is the botanical name for the European grape species that the great wines of the world are produced from. Literally translated, “Vitis vinifera” means “I’m vine, how are you?”

When was wine first “discovered?”

Scientists recently discovered a winery in Armenia that was 6000 years old. Surprisingly, a few amphorae of one of the original vintages were still intact and for sale. The “Reserve” had Cher’s picture on it.

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