Food For Thought & Thought For Food

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Enzo Pérès-Labourdette

The food for thought is by way of Curt Stager, a professor of natural sciences, who celebrates citizen science in a powerful ominously-titled op-ed:

Why care about this new silence of the bugs? An across-the-board decline in flying insects, if true, means that an entire sector of the animal kingdom is in trouble, representing an immense diversity of life-forms, from butterflies and beetles to hoverflies and damselflies. The eminent biologist Edward O. Wilson, who has spent much of his life studying ants, has warned: “If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”

And the thought for food is also from an op-ed:

Why You Should Be Drinking Weird Wines

By Jason Wilson

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Alicia Adamerovich

…For years, the global wine industry had been devolving toward a monoculture, with local grape varieties ripped out in favor of more immediately profitable, mass-market types. There are 1,368 known wine grape varieties, but nearly 80 percent of the world’s wine is made from just 20 kinds of grapes. Many of the rest face extinction.

Yet in small geographic pockets, winegrowers have stuck with their native varieties. It’s probably not a surprise that the kind of winemakers who grow obscure grapes are often the same ones who are committed to organic farming, hand harvesting and natural winemaking techniques.

I spent some time recently in the Swiss Alps with a man named José Vouillamoz, a world-renowned geneticist and botanist. He’s also a co-author of the encyclopedic tome “Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavors.” Needless to say, he knows a lot about a lot of grape varieties, but that day we were talking about Swiss wine.

Switzerland is hardly a wine powerhouse, and only 2 percent of its wines are exported. Mr. Vouillamoz poured me what he called “one of the rarest wines in the world,” made from a grape called himbertscha, which he’d helped rescue from a forgotten vineyard high in the Alps. Its two acres represent all that’s left of himbertscha vines, from which less than 800 bottles are made each year.

Himbertscha is one of the strangest white wines I have ever tasted — like a forest floor that’s been spritzed with lemon and Nutella. “Critics claim that obscure varieties like this will never be as good as Bordeaux or Burgundy,” Mr. Vouillamoz said. But tastes change. “What about in 50 years? One hundred years?”

My question was different: Why had grapes like himbertscha nearly disappeared in the first place?

“People became ashamed of the old-time grapes, the grapes of grandpa,” Mr. Vouillamoz said. “They began planting the so-called noble grapes, and they would disregard the rest.” (“Noble” is the historic designation for grapes like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir that made Bordeaux and Burgundy famous and are now grown everywhere from California to Australia to South Africa to China.)

Wine has long been tied to power and money. Mr. Vouillamoz poured a wine made from gouais blanc, a white grape that had been banned across Europe, by various royal decrees, since the Middle Ages. Monarchs considered it a peasant grape that made bad wine — “gou,” in medieval French, was a term of derision. Through DNA testing, though, gouais blanc was found to be the “mother” of around 80 modern varieties, including chardonnay.

Throughout the centuries, one monarchy after another decided which noble grapes were to be grown, and then they outlawed others. In the Holy Roman Empire, Frankish wines were favored over ones that were Heunisch (“from the Huns”), a pejorative describing anything from the eastern Slavic lands…

Read the whole op-ed here.

 

 

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