The World of Wine & Spirits from HEMANT SINGH

Beverages are potable drinks which have thirst-quenching, refreshing, stimulating and nourishing qualities. By refreshing, one means the replenishment of fluid loss from the body due to perspiration. Simulation results in increase of the heart beat and blood pressure. This is due to the intake of spirits (alcohol) or tea (thein) and coffee (coffein). Nourishment is provided by the nutrients in the beverages, especially fruit juices. Most of the beverages supply energy in the form of sugar or
alcohol. They also provide other nutrients like mineral salts and vitamins. For example, milk gives calcium and citrus fruits give vitamin C.
Generally, people drink for one or more of six reasons; to quench thirst, to get drunk, to enjoy a social setting (social drinking), to enjoy the taste of the beverage, to feed an addiction (alcoholism), or as part of a religious or traditional ceremony or custom (proposing toast).

Wine Legend: Jaboulet, La Chapelle Hermitage, 1961

Wine Legend: Jaboulet, La Chapelle Hermitage, 1961, Northern Rhône, France

Bottles produced 10,000
Composition 100% Syrah
Yield (hectolitres/hectare) 8hl/ha
Alcohol level 12.9%
Release price 10 French francs per bottle
Price today £9,180 per bottle (average price on

A legend because…

While Paul Jaboulet and Gérard Chave are easily the most prestigious producers from the 134-hectare Hermitage AC, no wine has enjoyed the acclaim attached to the La Chapelle 1961. Its power and harmony were apparent from the start, and for decades the wine has been a star at auction. In the 19th century, wines from Hermitage had routinely been used to beef up lacklustre vintages from Bordeaux, but in the 20th century many vineyards were neglected. The recognition given to La Chapelle 1961 helped to kickstart interest in the great granitic vineyard and its wines. US critic Robert Parker has described it as ‘one of the three or four greatest red wines I have ever tasted’.

Looking back

The Jaboulet business was deeply rooted in family. At least four members, brothers and cousins, were involved in both the winemaking and commercial side. A highly consistent négociant business, as well as being a producer from its own extensive vineyards, led to Jaboulet becoming the most visible of the great Rhône houses. In the 1980s and 1990s accidents and premature deaths seem to have robbed the house of its former dynamism and, in 2006, Jaboulet was bought by the Frey family, owners of Champagne house Billecart-Salmon and of Château La Lagune in Bordeaux.

The people

The wine was made under the supervision of Louis Jaboulet, who retired in 1976. His better-known son Gérard would only have been 19 at the time.

The vintage

The granitic hill of Hermitage is always an exceptionally hot site. In 1961, a warm spring gave the vines a head start, but rain in June severely diminished the potential crop. Thereafter, conditions were ideal until the completion of harvest. Extensive coulure (the failure of grapes to develop after flowering) led to unusually low yields.

The terroir

The Jaboulets have long been major vineyard owners on the hill of Hermitage, owning 19ha of Syrah and 5ha of Marsanne and Roussanne, yielding, in a normal vintage, about 7,500 cases. The lion’s share of the Syrah vines lie within the Le Méal sector, but with significant parcels in other prized sites such as Les Bessards. An average age of 40 years is maintained for the Hermitage vines. There is no actual parcel known as La Chapelle, however; the name refers to the small chapel perched on the hill. The wine is a Syrah blend from the different parcels.

The wine

From 1989 onwards, Jaboulet produced a second wine from Hermitage (Le Pied de la Côte) in addition to La Chapelle. In 1961 there would have been no such selection, other than a rejection of substandard fruit in the vineyard. The grapes were trodden by foot and fermented with indigenous yeasts in large, open wooden vats. Although destemming became routine in the 1980s, it is probable that about half the stalks would have been retained in 1961, contributing to the wine’s robust tannins. The finished wine would have been aged for about 18 months mainly in vats, and a very small proportion of barrels, including some made from chestnut wood. It would have been bottled without filtration.

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Unless you’re fortunate enough to own a house built in the 1800s or early 1900s, with its attendant basement or wine cellar already there, you’re going to have to build your own storage environment to house your wine collection. Where did our ancestors store wine? In deep, dark caves or in deep, dark wine cellars. There are good reasons for this: wine hates light, heat, and motion. While storing wine on top of your refrigerator is convenient, it’s the absolute worst thing you can do to a poor, innocent bottle of wine. The mantra for wine storage is cool, dark, still, and sideways. The reasoning behind this is as follows:

Wine hates heat; anything above 70° Fahrenheit wreaks havoc on the wine. 55° Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature, but don’t freak out if it varies a degree or two either way. Humidity is also important; the proper humidity keeps the cork from drying out and letting oxygen seep into the bottle. Oxygen will oxidize a wine, the same way it will a peeled apple. A brown apple is unattractive, but edible; an oxidized wine is not drinkable. It won’t hurt you, unless it’s truly spoiled, but it won’t taste good at all.

Wine hates sunlight like a vampire, and pretty much for the same reason: light, particularly UV light, prematurely ages wine. Whites are more susceptible than reds, but reds fall victim to UV light as well. Ever wonder why wine is sold in colored bottles? The colored glass acts like sunglasses, and filters the UV light out.

Why would wine care if you shook the bottle? Two reasons: too much shaking can prematurely age it, and not in a good way, and if the wine is a red, sediment gets disturbed from the bottom and distributed around the bottle. The result is a glass of grit instead of a glass of wine. So don’t store your wine where vibrations, good or bad, abound.

There are two good reasons for storing wine on its side: first, storing the bottle this way keeps the cork in contact with the wine and this keeps the cork from drying out and shrinking. A dry cork allows oxygen in, and this is not a good thing. Second, storing wine horizontally saves space, letting you keep more bottles in a smaller space.
Given that most of us don’t have a wine cellar already built into our house, where should you store your wine? If you have a basement, and dampness is not an issue, putting wine racks in a cool, dark corner fits the bill nicely. If a basement is not an option, use a cool, dark closet. If the closet is too hot, you can get a cooling unit designed for wine to cool things off.


Winemakers and wine writers use a variety of descriptions to communicate the aromas, flavors and characteristics of wines. Many of the terms seem familiar and natural, yet others are less clear. Use this glossary of common wine terminology to help you better understand and describe the wines you enjoy.
Acidity The presence of natural fruit acids that lend a tart, crisp taste to wine
Aroma Smells in wine that originate from the grape
Astringent Bitter; gives a drying sensation in the mouth
Balanced All components of the wine are in harmony
Barrel Fermented White wine that is fermented in an oak barrel instead of a stainless steel tank
Body The weight and tactile impression of the wine on the palate that ranges from light to heavy/full
Bouquet Smells from winemaking, aging and bottle age
Buttery Rich, creamy flavor associated with barrel fermentation
Character Describes distinct attributes of a wine
Chewy Wine that has a very deep, textured and mouth-filling sensation
Clean Wine without disagreeable aromas or tastes
Closed Wine that needs to open up; aging and/or decanting can help
Complex Layered aromas, flavors and textures
Cooked Wine that has been exposed to excessively high temperatures; spoiled
Corked Wine that has been tainted with moldy smells or other obvious flaws from a bad cork
Delicate Light, soft and fresh wine
Dry No sugar or sweetness remaining; a fruity wine can be dry
Earthy Flavors and aromas of mushroom, soil and mineral
Elegance A well balanced, full wine with pleasant, distinct character
Finish The final impression of a wine on the palate; ranges from short to long
Firm Texture and structure of a young, tannic red
Flabby/Flat Lacking in acidity, mouth-feel, structure and/or texture
Fleshy A soft textured wine
Flinty A mineral tone, aroma or flavor
Floral Flower aromas such as rose petals, violets, gardenia or honeysuckle
Fruity Obvious fruit aromas and flavors; not to be confused with sweet flavors such as berries, cherries and citrus
Full-Bodied Rich, mouth filling, weighty-textured wine
Grassy Aromas and flavors of fresh cut grass or fresh herbs
Green Unripe, tart flavors
Hard Texture and structure that hinders flavor
Herbaceous Grassy, vegetable tones and aromas
Lean Wine is thin and tastes more acidic than fruity
Legs Teardrop impressions of alcohol weightiness that are visible on the inside edges of a wine glass
Light-Bodied A wine with delicate flavors, texture and aromas
Lively Young, fruity and vivacious flavor
Malolactic Conversion of hard, malic acid (green apple flavors) in wine to soft, lactic acid (rich, butter flavors)
Medium-Bodied A wine with solid, but not rich weight and texture
Nose The smell of a wine; aroma
Oak Aromas and flavors contributed during barrel fermentation and/or aging such as vanilla, caramel, chocolate, smoke, spice or toast
Off-Dry (Semi-dry) Very low levels of residual sugar remaining in the wine
Rich Weighty flavors and texture
Round Smooth flavors and texture; well-balanced
Smoky/Toasty Aromas of smoke and toast imparted by fired barrels
Sweet Wines that have a higher concentration of sugar after fermentation
Tannin A drying, astringent sensation on the palate that is generally associated with heavier red wines
Terroir French word reflecting the expression of soil, topography and climate in a wine
Thin Wine is unpleasantly watery and lacks flavor and texture
Vegetal Herbal, weedy aromas and flavors
Velvety Smooth-textured with deep, rich aromas and flavors
Vintage Year that grapes were harvested and fermented to make a wine


ñ The most popular corkscrew, the wing-type, is cheap and easy to use, but it frequently mangles corks and leaves small pieces of cork in your wine. It also tends to pull out just the middle of an old, dry cork. Far superior are the Screwpull, which is also easy to use, and the waiter’s corkscrew, which requires just a little know-how to use effectively. No matter what type you use, you should also have a two-pronged (Ah-So) device to remove problem corks.
ñ Zinfandel first appeared in the United States in the 1820s when Long Island nursery owner George Gibbs imported several grape vines from the Imperial collection in Vienna. One of the vines was Zinfandel. (The current thinking is that Zinfandel originated in Croatia where it is called Plavac Mali.) In the 1850s, Zinfandel made its way to California.
ñ An Italian white wine called Est! Est! Est! got its name from a medieval story. A bishop was planning to travel the Italian countryside and asked his scout to find inns that had good wines, marking the door “Est” (“It is” or “This is it”) when he found one. The scout was so excited about the local wine found in the area that he marked one inn’s door “Est! Est! Est!” Another version of this story is that a priest was on his way to minister to a congregation in the boondocks. Upon discovering the wonderful local wine, he sent the message “Est! Est! Est!” back to Rome, renounced the priesthood, and spent the rest of his life enjoying the wine.
ñ The auger or curly metal part of a corkscrew is sometimes called a worm.
ñ Graves is thought to be the oldest wine region in Bordeaux.
ñ The Puritans loaded more beer than water onto the Mayflower.
ñ In terms of acreage, wine grapes rank #1 among all crops planted worldwide.
ñ Although “château” means castle, it may also be a mansion or a little house next to a vineyard that meets the requirements for winemaking with storage facilities on its property.
ñ Château Petrus is the most expensive of the Bordeaux wines. Its price is as much due to its tiny production as to its quality. Petrus is made from at least 95% Merlot grapes.
ñ The Egyptians were the first to make glass containers around 1500 B.C.E.
ñ The 1855 Classification of Médoc châteaux listed only the best properties. “Best” was defined as those properties whose wines were the most expensive. The top estates were then divided into five categories (the “growths”) based on price.
ñ Margaux is the largest of the Médoc appellations.
ñ Pomerol is the smallest Bordeaux appellation.
ñ “Grand Cru” is French for “great growth” and designates the best. In Burgundy it refers to the best vineyards which usually have multiple owners. In Bordeaux its meaning varies by the specific region, but it always refers to properties under a single ownership.
ñ Rose bushes are often planted at the end of a row of grape vines to act as an early warning signal for infestation by diseases and insects like aphids. A vineyard manager who notices black spots or root rot on the roses will spray the grape vines before they are damaged.

ñ In Empire, California, some 400 copies of Little Red Riding Hood are locked away in a storage room of the public school district because the classic Grimm’s fairy tale recounts that the little girl took a bottle of wine to her grandmother. — Roger Cohen, New York Times, April 23, 1990   [The crazies aren’t limited to Kansas.]