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Apr 4, 201310:14 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Why You Like Your Favorite Wine

Tim Hanni

Courtesy of napastyle.com

We have all met people who just scare the bejusus out of us.


There suddenly is a recognition on our part that the person standing in front of us is seeing us in all of our true colors. And it ain’t pretty. These daunting people have come to an understanding of what makes us tick, why we do the things we do and how completely screwed up we are. We are naked to their insights.


Tim Hanni is such a guy. Okay, so maybe he is not all that frightening, but he does have insights and viewpoints, reasoned out and proven by practice, taking what we thought we knew, and then tossing it out the car window. Children, do not throw anything out the car window. Leave that to trained and educated adults, like Hanni.


A bit about Hanni: he is a professional chef; he was the first of two resident Americans to earn the coveted and difficult to obtain designation, Master of Wine; he has been involved with culinary and wine education for 35 years; and he is self-proclaimed the “Swami of Umami.”


Which brings us now to what you need to know about your own senses of taste and smell. The taste thing is relatively straightforward. On your tongue are taste buds, specialty items which participate in how you taste and what you taste. Keep in mind the word “participate.” There will not be a test later but you will need to refer back to that verb.


In truth, the human mouth, and its taste buds, can only taste five things. Think about all the flavors you think you are tasting. But, alas, you can only really “taste” five.


For the longest time, scientists defined only four. Those were salt, sweet, sour and bitter. That, so the theory and proof said, was as far as we could taste. Notice that our sense of taste does not include strawberry, rutabaga or Snickers.


Then in the mid-1980s, along came another base aspect of taste, umami, which is the ability to discern a savory aspect to what goes on in our mouth. And that’s it for taste. We have likely more than 4,000 taste buds on our tongue (there is a scattering of other taste buds along the sides and roof of our mouth) and each taste bud possesses 50-100 receptor cells. All this bodily architecture to pick out only five defined taste sensations.


Our sense of smell, olfactory, can discern quite a bit more territory, probably numbering way up into the hundreds. And those smells we receive can be identified by our brains in pretty minute quantities. It really is the “smells” that provide us the “tastes.”     


Putting the whole picture together is where it gets really interesting. You were wondering when that part was going to begin, weren’t you?


And this is where Hanni steps in and mucks up what we think we know.


Those of us who are a bit along the road with our wine appreciation efforts tend to look down upon people who enjoy white zinfandel, a freak of winemaking and a mistake of vinification that has become one of the most popular wines in the world.


Flying into the headwinds of wine snobbery, Hanni looks upon people who enjoy sweet wines, like white zinfandel, as candidates for the designation, “Super Taster.” Did you see that one coming? His research has proven that these folks, the sweet wine lovers, have greater sensitivity to certain aspects of wine and food, and can discern/appreciate the presence of sugars and salts better than most “wine lovers.”


One of the tests Hanni uses to determine the sensitivities of Super Tasters is to ask them if they wear their underwear inside out. Seems being sensitive in the area of taste also translates to the sense of feel, and softer fabrics, with no labels against the skin, is what these people must wear to be comfortable. Wonder if he gets slapped a lot at cocktail parties and wine tastings while doing research.


Then there’s the matter of food and wine pairings. Hanni has turned that world on its ear. He says that the whole area of pairing wines with foods needs to be relegated to the dust bin, assuming any of us still have dust bins.


“I think we should be pairing food and drink with the diner, aligning tastes that work for us individually, not because some lecturer tells us that pinot noir absolutely works well with salmon, or that cabernet sauvignon and chocolate are a match made in heaven,” Hanni notes.


It’s all quite fascinating, and the entire story of taste and smell, as laid out by Hanni, is eye-opening, to clumsily mix a sensory metaphor.  


Hanni has even created a short questionnaire, really simple and to the point, that will tell you immediately what indications point to what kind of taster you are. The fun exercise is located here. (Click on "My Vinotype" towards the bottom.)


The tasting categories into which you may fit are Sweet, Hypersensitive, Sensitive, Tolerant, or some variation/combination of those. I am, according to this exercise, Sensitive. But then you, and everyone who knows me, know that. I am a real sensitive guy. Okay, which one of you laughed out loud? ‘Fess up.


Then, if this topic really interests you, and it should since the more you know, the more you are able to gravitate to what you like, Hanni has written a new book, fascinating in every way, Why You Like the Wines You Like: Changing the Way the World Thinks about Wine, which can be found on Amazon, of course.


Hanni sets very high goals for himself, as you can tell.


Anyway, just having this knowledge gives you a better idea about what wines really ring your chimes and what foods do the same. This information could be about combinations that maybe never occurred to you. Or avoiding combinations that are unappealing but you keep hearing are the “perfect pairing.”


After all, who else is going to take any interest in you and your likes if it’s not you? Nuh uh, don’t look at me. 




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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.


Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.


Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.


Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.


They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.


Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.


Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.


Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.


It’s a good gig. 




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