Good Wine, Bad Science


Wednesday night’s dinner was a great opportunity to sample fantastic food and sparkling wines. There was some bad science too, but I’ll explain that in a bit.

First, the fun food and sparkling wines: Tiny tasting plates and sparkling wine samples made a great meal. Il Follo Prosecco, Cuvee Rose Brut accompanied mushroom phyllo purses and maple-glazed pork belly strips. Il Follo Prosecco, Cuvee Rustot Brut went with shrimp sticks with sweet chili sauce and risotto balls with red pepper coulis. Larmandier-Bernier Tradition Extra-Brut Premier Cru Champagne complemented tiny empanadas and mini beef Wellington bites. Raventos Blanc Cava, L’Hereu Reserva Brut matched a mini crab cake and hazelnut-crusted brie. Domaine Bott Geyl, Cremant d’Alsace, Paul-Edouard Brut worked well with a butternut squash shooter and scallops with orzo. Dessert was a chocolate-dipped strawberry. Yum!

Throughout the meal, the wine rep presented fun facts about the vintners, the wines, and pairings with food. She was generally pretty good, except for the bit about sparkling wine’s bubbles. Here’s where the bad science comes in.

The wine rep was right that the bubbles are carbon dioxide. She was flat-out wrong when she said they come from “the sugar and the yeast eating each other.”

After she repeated the error at least three times, though, the man behind me spoke up. “I still don’t understand where the carbon dioxide is coming from,” he said. “Why is it there?”

Okay, at that point I turned around. “The yeast is made of living cells,” I said. “The yeast eats the sugar and uses it for energy. Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of that process.”

“Ah!” he said. “That’s right,” the wine rep added graciously. I’m not sure if she knew that my statements differed from hers. But at least the guy behind me got some accurate information.

So, what did I learn from the evening’s experience? First, think beyond champagne when shopping for sparkling wines. Good bottles of Prosecco sell for less than $20. Prices for the Cava and Cremant that we tasted were $20 and $22, respectively. All were dry and quite tasty.

Second, sparkling wines work well with fried foods, popcorn, and even potato chips. They do not pair well with spinach.

Third, we should all know basic biology. The wine rep picked out some tasty wines. However, not knowing about respiration hurt her credibility.

Last but not least: Good science, good taste, and tact all matter in many areas of our lives.


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