Celebrated wine aficionado, Ron Kapon, who is known in the wine circles as the Peripatetic Oenophile — the traveling wine expert — answers questions that Cheese Connoisseur readers have asked.
Celebrated wine aficionado, Ron Kapon, who is known in wine circles as the Peripatetic Oenophile — the traveling wine expert — answers questions that Cheese Connoisseur readers have asked.
Cheese Connoisseur: What is sake?
Ron Kapon: Sake or saki (pronounced sah-keh) is a naturally-fermented alcoholic beverage made from a combination of rice, water, yeast and koji.
Because sake is fermented, not distilled, it is not a spirit. It is more akin to beer than wine, as it is produced from rice, which is a grain, rather than from a fruit. However, flavor-wise, sake is closer to wine than beer.
CHEESE CONNOISSEUR: Is Cognac considered a type of brandy? And what are the different types and production techniques?
RON KAPON: Cognac is both a spirit and a place. It is produced only in the Cognac region, which sits on the banks of the Charente River about 200 miles southwest of Paris and north of Bordeaux, bordering the Atlantic Ocean. This spirit must be made of a blend of specific grapes, most notably Ugni Blanc, also known as Saint-Emilion. It must be double distilled in copper pot stills, and then, by law, aged in French oak barrels at least two years, although most Cognac are far older. Some types are cured up to 40 or 50 years in oak. What’s unique is that all Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac.
Cheese Connoisseur: You have written about wines and spirits from around the world. I live in upstate New York and am proud of our wines. What can you tell me about production in New York so that I can claim bragging rights and spread the word?
Ron Kapon: There are wineries in all 50 states. Yes, dear readers, Alaska and Hawaii do make wine. Clearly, California is the juggernaut with 89 percent of all U.S. wines coming from the Golden State. Eureka! On a global scale, the United States is the fourth-largest wine producing country after France, Italy and Spain. New York is the third state in the production of wine and fourth in total number of wineries with 320. The state of Washington is number two in the production of wine. As for wineries, California leads the count with 3,782, Washington boasts 681 and Oregon has 599.
CHEESE CONNOISSUER Reader: I’ve been reading a lot about ice wines, and I’m curious about what they are and when is a good time to order one. The other night I was eating in a very nice restaurant, and noticed the wine list included an ice wine. At $150 a bottle, I was very uncertain. I didn’t mind the price as much as I was hesitant to try such an expensive wine without knowing anything about it.