Archive for November, 2010

Introduction

The mere mention of fortified wine may summon imagery of young adults with bottles of MD 20/20, Thunderbird or even Scotsmac (Wikipedia – fortified wine, 2010), however, there is a much classier side to fortified wines with, perhaps the classiest being port.  Alongside this classy beverage have grown a number of somewhat interesting and somewhat bizarre behaviours, also known as ‘port-iquette’ (for an amusing overview, see Intowine, 2010).  The history of port production stretches back to the 17th century and strict protocols surround its making, aging and naming.

Taylor’s is a 300 year old producer of most types of port, but they are also investing in the future of port production by devising ‘Port-Toes’ to replicate the manual treading of grapes in an automated manner (Taylor’s, 2010).  Additionally, Taylor’s have a Port Professor working for them who provides notes on sampling their beverages, judging their ages, decanting tips and hints on matching port to food (Taylor’s, 2010)

Aim

This experiment was designed to investigate numerous characteristics of Taylor’s 20 year old Tawny Port including, but not limited to, aroma, flavour, colour and satisfaction.

Method

Glasses of Taylor’s 20 year old Tawny Port were purchased in a restaurant for NZ$23 each.  The samples were delivered by wait staff and were determined to be between 16 to 18oC.  Aroma was evaluated by smelling the port.  Flavour was analysed by tasting the port and discussing it with a research collaborator at great length and, subsequently, satisfaction was assessed.  The glass was held up to a standardized light to evaluate the colour and aesthetic aspects of the vessel were considered from the Taylor’s website.

Results

Results for Taylor’s 20 year old Tawny Port are shown in table 1 below.

Table 1. Characteristics of Taylor’s 20 year old Tawny Port.

Characteristic Result
Aroma Rich, dried fruit with honey and a smidgen of vanilla prompts a researcher to exclaim that “it smells like Christmas”, although the researcher did not distinguish between their preconceived ideas of Christmas and that port was a part of that, or whether it actually tasted like Christmas itself
Flavour Mellow, but substantial amounts of raisiny prunes slide effortlessly onto the tongue and linger to reveal an undertone of honey
Colour An orangey-yellowish-brown synonymous with ‘tawny’ port
Satisfaction It is hard to imagine a finer way to finish a meal than with port
Vessel Design A matt-black bottle, embossed with the 4XX crest of Taylor’s and swathed in a classic white label with a big ‘20’ on it
Drinkability 9

Conclusion

The bizarre behaviours of the “port classes” may on first inspection appear to be the foibles of posh, eccentric people with far too much time on their hands.  However, beverages of this quality seem to almost demand rituals and reverence.

The easy-drinking of Taylor’s 20 year old Tawny Port could lead people to conclude that the beverage holds mysterious therapeutic properties in the way that “the British Prime Minister, Pitt the Younger when a boy, was given port for gout.  He began at the age of 14 (1773) with a bottle a day” (Wikipedia – port, 2010).  Truly not a bad medicine at all.

References

http://www.intowine.com/port3.html

http://www.taylor.pt/prof_frame.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-end_fortified_wine

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_wine

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Figure 1. Coopers Best Extra Stout

Introduction

Coopers Brewery, based in Adelaide, South Australia, offers complete beer solutions with both homebrew kits and recipes as well as pre-prepared bottled or draught beer (Coopers, 2010).  Coopers make purchasing easy for their clientele by colour-coding their bottled products to avoid confusion.  One of their pre-prepared bottled products is Best Extra Stout, a stronger 6.3% alc. vol. stout which is identified by theorangey-yellow colour on the label.  Coopers Brewery is an exception among large contemporary breweries in that it is still owned and run by several Cooper family members.

Aim

This experiment was designed to investigate numerous characteristics of Coopers Best Extra Stout including, but not limited to, aroma, flavour, colour, satisfaction and vessel design.

Method

A 750 ml bottle of Coopers Best Extra Stout was obtained from a local supermarket for NZ$3.99.  The sample was refrigerated to 4oC.  The cap of the bottle was removed under controlled conditions using a bottle cap leveraging device.  The contents of the bottle were decanted into clean glass vessels.  Aroma was evaluated by smelling the beer.  Flavour was analysed by tasting the beer and discussing it with a research collaborator at great length and, subsequently, satisfaction was assessed.  The glass was held up to a standardized light to evaluate the colour and aesthetic aspects of the vessel were considered.

Results

Results for Coopers Best Extra Stout are shown in table 1 below.

Table 1. Characteristics of Coopers Best Extra Stout.

Characteristic Result
Aroma Juicy prunes steeped in licoricey chocolate with an finish of caramel and a hint of espresso
Flavour Substantial fizziness is quickly interrupted by considerable bitterness with an almost smokey undertone and a recollection of leather, with a burnt-like coffee aftertaste
Colour Deepest brown with a splash of red culminating in an almost black pour.  The final pour provides a view of a personal, micro-universe in the bottom of the glass as thousands of yeasty ‘stars’ pepper the black ‘void’ of space … where no one can hear you scream.  A feeling of omnipotence is difficult to avoid.  Unfortunately, the ‘stars’ soon coalesce to form a beige sludge, perhaps providing evidence of the Big Crunch and the ultimate fate of our universe
Satisfaction A beer to share over good conversation, probably in the cooler months.  The carbonation detracts slightly from the drinking pleasure
Vessel Design An choppy, brown bottle, embossed with the brand name and adorned with a no-nonsense black, white and yellow label (see figure 1)
Head A fizzy caramel-coloured head steadily diminishes over 192 seconds to leave a thin coating of tiny bubbles on the surface
Drinkability 6

Conclusion

The beer was tasty, but the analysis revealed questions about the fate of the universe.  The yeasty precipitate appeared to model the Big Crunch (Wikipedia, 2010), however, it is beyond the scope of this study to determine the final outcome of the universe.  Luckily, since contraction of the universe may not even start for another 10 or so billion years (new scientist, 2002), it seems that there are plenty of opportunities to investigate this phenomenon through beer-related research.

References

http://coopers.com.au/#

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2759-universe-might-yet-collapse-in-big-crunch.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_crunch