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My Life in Wine (What a Hoot!)
Here ‘stands’ before you the progeny of a Quaker minister, died-in-the wool Scot Presbyterians, and other assorted Puritans for whom wine (or other equivalent ilk) was sin, with a capital S. None of that liquid was to be found in our home. Nonetheless, I was not the first to fall off the track. My brother lead the way. Bruce was a trumpeter in a swing band. These fellows were not averse to devil liquor.
Myself, I was more tame. My first experience was at a wedding where we were served the finest quality sparkling pink vinegar – and we were supposed to drink that? The second exposure was not much better. My mother and father’s 40th wedding anniversary occurred at a fancy hotel in Toronto. These restaurants do not understand people, delaying serving to some ungodly hour in the evening. I was not only hungry but thirsty. My sister, so considerate, suggested orange juice with Vodka. It was the worst orange juice I had ever tasted. It was wet though. Still more delay and still thirsty. I’ll try another of those awful orange juices. Well, halfway through I detected a funny feeling across my brow. I was afraid to even move my eyeballs. What would happen if there was a fire? I’d fall down on the floor and wiggle like an amoeba. I’d burn. I have not desire to be a heretic (or saint for that matter) – their fate is often the same. Thankfully, there was no fire and I did not burn. Subsequently I learnt the differentiation between drinking and tasting. A valuable lesson for everyone.
Subsequently, by one of those inexplicable twists of fate, my favorite professor (Dr. H. Good) was a plant pathologist (plant diseases). Low and behold, I morphed into the same. However, due to a summer job, I fell in love with modern bearded irises. Part of my minimal earning went to purchase some hot new varieties. In they went, healthy as could be in the fall. In spring half were dead! Damned if I had not also imported a pathogen that loves cool, wintertime temperatures. I knew instantly my true purpose in life – to eliminate that pathogen from the face of the earth. Dr. Good, being older and wiser, asked how many decades I wanted to spend receiving my Master’s. I may be slow, but not that slow! I chose a more reasonable approach. By happenstance my mortal fungal foe was Botrytis. A related species is the Dr. Jekel/Mr. Hyde fungus that causes bunch rot of grapes, but also, under very select conditions, ‘noble’ rot. Thanks to it we have the likes of Sauternes, Ausleses, and Tokaji Eszencia, elixirs for us. Forget the gods, they can make their own!
Thus, by a circuitous route I fell into the wine trap. If you need to fall into a trap it is one of the most pleasant. As they say “the rest was history.” Well, in fact, it was the obstinence of Botrytis do my bidding in the lab that I began to think of writing a text on wine. Being of an ecological bent, I knew of niche. He (or she) who first finds it has first dabs. Establish your dominance and the site is yours. I knew Dr. Amerine (Davis, CA) had the dominant wine technology text, but he was getting on, and it seemed a new edition was not in the offing. Dr. Winkler (also of Davis) had the dominant viticulture text, but like Amerine’s text, it was out of date and no likelihood of a new edition. If I did not doodle too long, I could cover both topics, plus scintillating topics not covered by either. A year after the first edition of my text was out I met a prof. from New Zealand. He had had the same idea as I. I was first out of the starting gate. Unlike wine tasting, as far as texts go, there is only one gold medal. Second best is exactly that. Who wants second best?
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