Deep breath. One more. Few things in the wine world rile me more than supposed authorities misinforming the public either through lack of knowledge or outright lying to disguise their inadequacies. Clearly, the latter is more egregious than the former but both are inexcusable in the context of a taped television program.
Please, "Vine Talk", "take wine snobbery and pour it right down the drain," as you have claimed to do but you must seek to educate and demystify properly. Stephanie Caraway, I'm talking to you. She appears in more than half of the episodes (often not where French or Italian wines are tasted - pronunciation issues?) as Ray Isle's assistant. She stays on camera while he goes to get the next wine.
During a recent malbec tasting you missed an opportunity to define malbec when one of the guests asked if the word, in French, meant "bad nose." Stephanie laughed, the normal reaction of someone who does not realize. The guest was close, "mal" means bad or even evil and "bec" means beak or mouth. The wine offers lots of tannin and it can be rough on the palate in its youth. Argentina's climate tames the grape and produces wines with plenty of color, reasonable structures and good values.
That was merely a missed opportunity, no harm done. However, she offered a potentially confusing note about Mendoza, the heart of viticulture in Argentina, observing that it is "very cool at night, so it brings up the acid levels."
"Why does the coolness make them [the grapes] more acid," poet Paul Mills inquired.
Her response? A quick bit of blather that reminded me of the unfortunate Miss South Carolina from a few years back. You remember her, "that our education like, such as South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like such as..."
Sorry Stephanie, it wasn't that bad. It really went like this: "Brings up pH levels in, in fruit, anything that's grown is an agricultural product that, that pH level just comes up." Oh. Maybe it was that bad. For someone billed as a "wine expert" that answer sucks. It's also wrong.
First, let's have a quick science tutorial. High acidity means lower pH levels. If pH levels are going up, as Stephanie says, acidity would actually decrease.
Second, even if we excuse the pH confusion it's still wrong. Acidity reaches a peak before verasion, where the grapes begin to develop color and more flavor, then continue to decrease as ripeness approaches. Sugars increase and acids lessen.
Cool nights act to preserve acidity in the grapes longer than in warmer regions. The grapes take the night off in the cooler weather, meaning sugars accumulate slower and acids remain longer.
Regardless of Ms. Caraway's error, or anyone else's for that matter, someone should catch it in editing and delete it entirely or offer clarification.
My irritation with Stephanie stems from the show calling her a "wine expert" when she clearly is more of a spokesmodel. I guess her blond tresses and pleasing countenance trump wine knowledge for the program.
Come on "Vine Talk," you claim to demystify, don't re-mystify.