Professor, Departments of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Physics, and Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Yale University
Date: March 11, 2017
Time: 3 p.m.
Venue: James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT
The history and science of wine distilled into a Tilde Cafe afternoon
We celebrated Chinese New Year with Jonathan McLumski telling us about wine. It was a very different setting for the event, with tables arranged so that attendees could sip the wines comfortably, and get a better appreciation of what Jonathan described.
In 2009, Nayan Chanda spoke at a Tilde Cafe event about the “Globalization of coffee: From Islamic Wine to International Latte“. It was the 8th Tilde Cafe event. Almost sixty cafe events, and eight years later, Jonathan McLumski spoke about non-Islamic wine at Tilde Cafe. We’ve come a long way, and thank you for staying with us and expanding the Tilde Cafe attendee fold! We’ve also significantly improved in our abilities to remember to bring all the things necessary to film the event (if you watch the video for the Globalization of coffee, you might find yourself cringing, if not straining to hear and watch the video!). This of course doesn’t mean we’ve ironed out everything and are now in the TED talk stratosphere, but we like to think that we bring something unique with each event and each newsletter you receive, something that TED talks don’t give you (not to mention, we charge zero dollars to attend).
Jonathan outlined the history of wine – wine has been around for much longer than coffee (you can click this link to see an excerpt from Nayan Chanda’s book that he shared with Tilde Cafe), as far as we can tell. While wine is often associated with the elite and not the hoi polloi, it is really an agricultural product as Jonathan went on to explain. Grow grapes – pick grapes – crush grapes – ferment crushed grapes – drink/bottle/sell.
The oldest evidence of fermentation comes from northern China, and dates some 9,000 years ago. It involved the preparation of a fermented rice based drink.
Archaeological evidence of a winery for grape fermentation in Armenia dates to around 4100 BC, although older evidence of wine production appears in Georgia, Iran and Greece.
Thanks to wars and religion, wine making expanded from its geographic origins, and today wine is produced in more countries than most people are aware of, in bottles of specific shapes and sizes for the type of wine they contain.
Jonathan detailed the process of wine making and how it has changed over time, to make it more efficient and less expensive. Dispensing samples of three different wines, he also demonstrated some of the features that contribute to the complexity of wines and how this varies across regions. From the statistics we heard, it was clear that a wine can either lie unnoticed by the world, or become the drink du jour if marketed relentlessly – case in point is the significant change in sales of Pinot Noir and Merlot after the movie Sideways was released.
Perhaps what he so eloquently told us is to try to ignore the “norms” regarding wines and pairing them with foods – an excellent tip: rather than going with the type of wine, it’s a good idea to choose a wine that is native to the cuisine. Personally, I think that’s going to make it a lot easier than remembering details on pairing. Of course, you can watch the entire event here – although you’ll miss the tasting.
Let’s hope the next time someone offers you wine, it won’t be an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland moment!
‘Have some wine,’ the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.
Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. `I don’t see any wine,’ she remarked.
`There isn’t any,’ said the March Hare.
`Then it wasn’t very civil of you to offer it,’ said Alice angrily.
Thank you Jonathan for distilling more than 5,000 years into an excellent afternoon, and for helping us celebrate Chinese New Year, the year of the rooster.