Ep. 129: Hot Gazpacho

Crozes-Hermitage gets touchy about temperature, Linfield University's Wine Studies Program gets a director with hometown roots, there's real science behind that red wine headache, and impending rules around labeling in the EU are turning those headaches into migraines. These are the stories we're following this week.

[00:00:00] Katherine Cole: Hey listeners, this is Katherine, your host, speaking, and in case you are just catching up with us, I want to let you know about our new format. We are now running weekly and in most of those episodes we will be covering the four top wine news stories of the week. Now, don’t fret, we will still have long-form conversations with your favorite co-host Martin Reyes, Master of Wine, including one coming up about ingredient information on wine labels.

But in between, we will keep you up to date on all the wine news worth drinking to. So now, it’s time for the show. 

[00:00:40] Nick Toole: So Katherine, we are just coming out of a holiday and it was a bit of a slow wine news week.

But we did notice a headline in Le Figaro that we could just not ignore. The headline was, “Who eats hot gazpacho?”

[00:00:55] Katherine Cole: Hot gazpacho. I don’t think even Jabba the Hutt would stoop so low.

[00:01:00] Nick Toole: Well, Jabba eats Klatooine paddy frogs, so I’m guessing he’d eat just about anything.

[00:01:09] Katherine Cole: Crozes-Hermitage gets touchy about temperature. Linfield University’s wine studies program gets a director with hometown roots. There’s real science behind that red wine headache. And impending rules around labeling in the EU are turning those headaches into migraines.

These are the four wine stories we’re following this week, and this is The Four Top. And now, a quick word from our sponsor.

[00:01:40] Nick Toole: Which could be you! Are you looking to get your message into the ears of wine pros and fans? The Four Top offers quick, easy, and affordable podcast sponsorships to like-minded partners. You can easily support our programming while promoting your brand. You can email me, Nick, at nick@thefourtop.org, or click the link in our bio to learn more.

[00:02:03] Katherine Cole: So getting back to the hot gazpacho, this was a story that came out of the Northern Rhone appellation of Crozes-Hermitage. Winemakers of this region are fed up with restaurants serving their wines too hot. And they have this petition going because they are demanding change now!

[00:02:24] Nick Toole: Yeah, their petition asks if any sane human would debase themselves by serving gazpacho warm or a dish called sausage rougail cold.

[00:02:33] Katherine Cole: Outrée! Indigne! Sacre Bleu!

[00:02:36] Nick Toole: Yeah, they are asking wine and food professionals as well as connoisseurs to sign their petition demanding, demanding that red wines be served at between 14 degrees and 18 degrees celsius, or about 57 to 64. 5 degrees fahrenheit. From this day forth!

[00:02:53] Katherine Cole: Okay, so this petition may sound a little overdramatic, but they are in the right, you know, like red wines are always served too warm. The key of course is to serve the wine cool and then enjoy the unfurling of the aromatics as the glass warms up to room temperature and the wine interacts with oxygen.

[00:03:11] Nick Toole: One sec, one sec, sorry. I’ve got a, uh, camp stove going next to my computer here, just making some mulled wine. I’m just add in a little bit of cinnamon and a little bit of…

[00:03:19] Katherine Cole: okay, okay, you’re done. You’re done. This episode is done.

[00:03:22] Nick Toole: Katherine, I think it might be time for you to come clean about something. Something you’ve been hiding from us these past few years.

[00:03:32] Katherine Cole: Yes. Yes. I have a confession to make. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit if you work in the wine industry and yeah, I’m, I’m not sure if I’m ready to share it, but…

[00:03:42] Nick Toole: This is a safe space. No one but me and a few thousand other folks are listening.

[00:03:48] Katherine Cole: Okay. Okay. So over the past few years, I have started to get headaches from red wine. This is so embarrassing. Ah, um, now, of course, folks who work in the industry always poo poo this notion that you can get a headache from red wine, but I, I get them and, you know, I’ve long maintained this has nothing to do with overconsumption.

You don’t want to see me overconsume, hand me some champagne. But now it seems I’ve been vindicated by some heroic researchers at the University of California, Davis. They found that a polyphenol found in red wine called quercetin, I hope I pronounced that correctly, inhibits the body’s ability to quickly metabolize alcohol and that is my problem when I get a red wine headache.

[00:04:30] Nick Toole: Katherine, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to get into the science a little because I find it pretty interesting.

[00:04:35] Katherine Cole: You may proceed.

[00:04:36] Nick Toole: Okay, so I’m, I’m pushing my tape-wrapped glasses up my nose, if you can’t tell. Okay, as Mitch Frank reports for Wine Spectator, alcohol is metabolized in your liver.

[00:04:46] Katherine Cole: Oh, is it? I, I never would have guessed.

[00:04:49] Nick Toole: No, just kidding. Okay, so here’s the real science: your liver employs an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase to break down alcohol in wine into a compound called acetaldehyde. Then, your liver brings in another enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase to break down the acetaldehyde. But…

[00:05:06] Katherine Cole: Say that, five times fast!

[00:05:08] Nick Toole: The listeners don’t know, but I’ve said it five times! Uh, but if your body doesn’t break down that acetaldehyde, that acetaldehyde in a timely manner, then it can make you feel nauseous and headachy and gross.

So as those researchers at UC Davis found that polyphenol found in red wine that you mentioned earlier, quercetin, it slows down your body’s ability to process acetaldehyde. So you’re stuck with that toxin sitting in your body for longer.

[00:05:34] Katherine Cole: Ah, that acetaldehyde, that’s some nasty stuff.

[00:05:38] Nick Toole: I found this story interesting because, as I’ve mentioned before, I work in beer, and acetaldehyde is a natural byproduct of the fermentation process that’s converted into alcohol in a healthy fermentation. But if your yeast isn’t healthy, or you expose your fermenting beer to too much oxygen, then that acetaldehyde isn’t converted and it shows up in your beer.

And there are some beer styles where it’s okay and it depends, but it’s mostly considered an off-flavor. And I say all of this because at work, we taste our beer daily to make sure it’s good to go to market. And sometimes our quality control team will purposely add things like acetaldehyde to the beer to see how sharp our noses and taste buds are.

And it’s, it’s a really nasty experience.

[00:06:18] Katherine Cole: Ew, well that keeps you on your toes I’m sure. Um, now I’m thinking in wine acetaldehyde is also considered a fault when it’s found in large concentrations and it smells like rotten apples or sherry, so like what does it smell like in beer? 

[00:06:32] Nick Toole: It’s pretty similar. It comes off as like, uh, green apples, solventy, or even pumpkin flesh.

[00:06:39] Katherine Cole: Uh, none of that. Halloween’s over. 

Ooh, I’m excited about this next story because it allows me to talk about my home turf, the Willamette Valley. Many of our listeners may have heard of Linfield University because it hosts the wonderful international Pinot Noir celebration every July, but Linfield was in the news this past week for a different reason.

It was just announced that Anna Maria Ponzi will be interim director of Linfield’s Wine Studies Program. And I think this is worth talking about for a couple of reasons.

[00:07:15] Nick Toole: First, let’s get the controversies out of the way. This program keeps coming up in the news because it’s had a rocky few years. Uh, so if you rewind back to 2021, its executive director, the renowned vineyard climatologist, Greg Jones, resigned, along with a number of his colleagues, when a tenured professor was fired without due process after raising allegations of antisemitism and sexual harassment.

Things like that happen all too often. So, Linfield replaced Jones with wine industry exec Tim Matz to run the program, but now Matz is stepping down. And he told Michael Alberty of the Oregonian that he wanted to get back with his family in Napa.

[00:07:51] Katherine Cole: Yeah, and I’d like to add that Dr. Greg Jones and Michael Alberty have both been excellent past guests on The Four Top, and I’m a big fan of both of those guys, and I’d really like to encourage listeners to check out Michael Alberty’s reporting for the Oregonian covering Linfield University.

This is a long story with a lot of twists and turns including, back in 2020, spicy revelations about the, uh, let’s just say the disconnect between public statements made and political donations made by the couple who funded the wind studies program back in 2018 with a $6 million donation. But that’s another story for another time.

And like I said, Michael Alberty has done such a great job reporting this story. So check it out in the Oregonian folks.

[00:08:37] Nick Toole: So, plenty of controversies, but luckily there is a positive side, Katherine.

[00:08:41] Katherine Cole: Yeah, I think when we get caught up in these controversies, we forget to focus on all the good news out there. So I just want to say, I’m super excited to learn that Anna Maria Ponzi, who goes by Maria, will be running the Linfield University Wine Studies Department as interim director.

This is a program that is really powered by the local wine industry and Maria, who is of course the former owner and past president of Ponzi vineyards in the Willamette Valley, has forged so many connections over her career around here. And, and, you know, even in other wine regions beyond I think at least from my perspective, it feels really good to have an Oregonian back at the helm of what I think is a really strong program, at least for the interim. 

[00:09:25] Nick Toole: Yeah, and the program is pretty cool. It’s one of a kind. It’s only been around for five years. It’s the first university in the U. S. to offer an interdisciplinary liberal arts degree in wine studies. And it offers a five-year joint bachelor’s and master’s degree program in partnership with École Supérieure of Agriculture in Angers, France.

[00:09:43] Katherine Cole: Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of colleges and universities where kids can study viticulture and oenology in the U. S., but this is a really unique program. And I’ve been to campus a few times and met some of the students and they’re just awesome. I mean, every time I meet one of these kids, I’m just overwhelmed by their enthusiasm.

They’re just so fired up about working toward careers in wine hospitality, wine business, and even wine journalism. So Linfield, let’s have a few quiet years with no more drama and get some more of these talented students launched in the wine industry. 

[00:10:19] Nick Toole: So, for our final news story today, according to The Drinks Business, hundreds of millions of wine labels may need to be destroyed due to a new European Union requirement that ingredient and nutrition information be provided on wine labels via a clearly identified QR code.

[00:10:36] Katherine Cole: Yeah, winemakers knew this change was coming up on December 8th, but just last week the European Commission issued new guidelines that suggested that most of the European wine out in the market right now is not labeled properly because there is no clear explanation of what the QR code is for.

[00:10:55] Nick Toole: This sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare, and there’s definitely more that we can get into, so it’s a little bit too much to bite off in this episode. But, I think you and our co-host Martin Reyes, Master of Wine, should dig more into this topic. 

[00:11:09] Katherine Cole: Well that is a marvelous idea because this is definitely a very complex issue and it deserves a very long conversation. So Martin and I will dig into this very soon. Uh, stay tuned to our feed folks to learn more about the wine labeling brouhaha going on in Europe right now. 

[00:11:31] Nick Toole: Alright, time to wrap up. But first, Katherine, I want to hear about your dessert course.

[00:11:36] Katherine Cole: Yeah, I have some cozy winter Netflix viewing for you all. A few years ago, I stumbled across the English translations of this wonderful series of novellas about Arsène Lupin, The Gentleman Burglar. The author Maurice Leblanc wrote a ton of these books between, I believe it was 1907 and the mid-1930s, and about half of them have been translated into English, as far as I know.

And they are the stories of this dashing criminal who ingeniously outsmarts the law every time. And he always has a twinkle in his eye and a little pep in his step and wonderful disguises and he’s just, it’s just very charming. So if you’re looking for something to watch, there’s a series on Netflix and it’s about a present-day gentleman thief who models his escapades after the Arsène Lupin books. He’s a very similar character, um, but it’s, you know, present day, the plot is more serious, the stakes are higher. And I have to say, the, the main character is played by an actor named Omar Sy, and he has that wonderful twinkle in his eye, this sly smile on his face every time he’s pulling off a caper. So as you’re watching, you’re just, you’re rooting for who you think is the bad guy, uh, the, the, the criminal, the burglar, but then you get into the series and you realize he’s actually more of a Robin Hood type, sort of motivated by justice rather than greed. So of course this being a French show about the upper echelons of society, you do see wine making an appearance. I definitely remember champagne being poured in the first episode. And you know, if you’re just looking to see some French cityscapes or work on your French, it’s a fun way to pass some cold winter evenings. There are three seasons in total on Netflix and it’s called Lupin. That’s L U P I N. 

All right. Well, that’s it for this week, folks. This has been The Four Top podcast. I am our executive producer. Nick Toole is our producer. Ruby Welkovich is our media and design manager. Kielen King is our sound supervisor and the composer and performer of our fantastic theme music. Please visit our website, thefourtop.org, to learn more about us, listen to back episodes, and purchase books written by our amazing panelists. If you have not already subscribed to The Four Top on iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app, please do so, and please leave us a rating. Feed that algorithm, my friends. And with that, from the high fiber, protein-packed city of Portland, Oregon, this is Katherine Cole signing out.

[00:14:02] Nick Toole: And from the Carhartt-clad city of Portland, Maine, this is Nick Toole signing out. Stay safe out there, folks, and thanks for listening.


Sources & Citations

Citations reference first appearance, without repeating for subsequent usage:

00:00:40 – Le Figaro: «Qui mange un gaspacho brûlant ?» : une pétition pour servir les vins rouges à la bonne température

00:02:03 – Crozes-Hermitage: Taking a Stance

00:04:09 – Wine Spectator: Why Does That Red Wine Give You a Headache? It Could be a Healthy Polyphenol

00:06:40 – The Oregonian: Anna Maria Ponzi named interim director of Linfield wine studies program

00:10:20 – The Drinks Business: ‘Hundreds of millions’ of wine labels to be destroyed