Wine Culture and Information - Volume 12
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  Not Just Wine Issue 29, April 2005   
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Salt

Salty is one of the fundamental tastes. Animals walk long distances in order to taste salt, whereas for humans, since ancient times, it has been a resource for profitable trades

 In the Italian culture it is said “having the salt in one's head” or “the salt of life”. Two sayings which let us understand the importance of salt in human culture and society. The fundamental tastes traditionally recognized are four - sweet, salty, sour and bitter - and in recent times it was also added a fifth one, called “umami”. The tongue has a series of gustatory receptors - also known as taste buds - specialized in perceiving fundamental tastes and the ones located at the sides of the tongue seem to be particularly sensitive to salty taste, and - as soon as it is being perceived - it originates a sensation of sapidity while exalting the taste of foods.

 Most of chlorides are noxious or laxative and they frequently have a slightly bitter taste. Sodium chloride - which chemical formula is NaCl - is responsible of salty taste, it is one of the fundamental minerals for animal's life and it is available in nature in huge quantities dissolved in sea water. The ones who are lucky to travel to Himalaya - in particular in Tibet - can see goats carrying bags of salts on their backs. Even in Africa can be seen caravans of dromedaries which from the northern part of Ténéré desert go to Sahel and transport salt, then go back to their original places loaded with goods and foods, exchanged in the crowded and colored African markets. History taught us the importance of salt was so high it was used as a money for the trading of goods. Not only humans are attracted by salt: animals walk long distances in order to go to those places in which it is possible to lick salt.


Salt-works in Ténéré Desert
(Niger)
Salt-works in Ténéré Desert (Niger)

 The daily intake of salt in an adult subject is usually of 9 grams, of which only about one gram is naturally found in foods, whereas the rest is added during the preparation of recipes. Sodium plays an important role in human body and in normal conditions the consumption of salt should not exceed six grams a day, corresponding to 2-4 grams of sodium. An excessive consumption of salt, and therefore of sodium, in some subjects can be cause of hypertension. It should be remembered salt is naturally present in all foods, although in modest quantities, of course. Besides the salt added in the cooking of foods, it should also be considered the one used by the food industry as a preservative and for the exaltation of tastes.

 Sodium is mainly obtained by sodium chloride, the common kitchen salt. In our body there is a system regulating the sodium intake and which is governed by a hormone, the aldosterone. In case the quantity of sodium is too low, aldosterone stimulates the kidneys in order to favor the absorption from the urine. In case the quantity of sodium is excessive, the aldosterone is deactivated and the sodium is expelled by means of urine. Thanks to this system, the excess of sodium does not cause any problem in healthy subjects. In subjects in which the system regulated by the aldosterone does not work properly, the consumption of sodium can be cause of hypertension problems. For this reason subjects suffering from hypertension should limit the consumption of kitchen salt and do not exceed 3 grams of daily intake.

 On this regard it is appropriate to remember some foods contain high quantities of sodium or are however naturally rich in sodium. In this category are found cheese, canned fish, pickled foods, cold cuts, eggs, sea foods, some vegetables such as carrots, onions, spinach, artichokes and beets. Sodium should not be completely eliminated from the diet, it should be adequately reduced and in a pretty gradual way. Sodium helps the regulation of corporal water balance, stimulates muscular contraction and the nervous system, regulates the corporal acid balance and plays an important role in regulating blood pressure.

 Salt is a highly hygroscopic substance, a characteristic which can be easily observed by spreading salt on the slices of a fresh eggplant: after some hours the eggplant will have lost lots of water. Adding the right quantity of salt to a dish is so important that Arnaud Cazenade believes that «French cooks are satisfied only in case the foods leave the kitchen, with their final approval, and nothing else must be added, not even salt or pepper». A bit excessive statement as every individual has his or her personal sensitivity to salt, however it can be said that, in general terms, when someone adds salt to foods for more than two or three times, this means the cook did not do a good job.

 Whenever it is possible, the last adding of salt should be done at the end of cooking, when the sauce has been reduced. In case this simple rule is not followed, it will be more likely the sauce to be too salty. As for broiled meat or barbecue, it is advised to add salt almost at the end of cooking. Adding salt to meat in the beginning means causing the leakage of blood and other liquids, while hardening the meat. Adding salt at the end of cooking, does not allow the complete development of taste. In case it is not possible to add salt at the end of cooking, it is a good habit to weigh salt. When the mistake of adding too salt to a food has made, the remedies that can be used are very few. Sugar is known to contrast salt, however it is not a good idea to add huge quantities of sugar. It does contrast salt, it does not eliminate it. The only efficient remedy is to increase the quantity of the other ingredients in order to dilute the excessive salt.


 

 Salt is also added to the water used to boil vegetables. It is not a matter of taste only: the salt contained in the water used for boiling vegetables avoids the excessive extraction of mineral salts while increasing the boiling temperature of water. Salt - and this is known since ancient times - is an excellent preservative. Thanks to the osmotic effect, salt tends to absorb water and this is the reason why salt is added to vegetables before keeping them in vinegar. The preservative effects of salt are not only because of its capacity of absorbing water. The presence of salt completely prevents or inhibits the development of some organisms: for this reason it is being used for keeping meat, fish and vegetables.

 Salt is not used in kitchen only. In past times - and probably in recent times as well - people working in salt-works who stayed for months with their legs in saltish water and in the mud, rarely suffered from rheumatic diseases. The black mud deposited in the bottom of salt-works was used as a remedy for arthritis and distortions: it was spread on the part and left to dry. The salt of the Dead Sea, very rich in minerals such as magnesium, sodium potassium, calcium and sulphur, is a natural resource used as a remedy in order to give compactness and elasticity to tissues, as antirheumatic, against muscular pain and as a skin purifier. Famous are the muds of the Dead Sea very rich in salt and minerals and that were used since Roman times both directly or added to creams, soaps and cosmetics.

 In case it is being asked a general opinion about wine, the most probably answer could be “which wine?”, as all wines are different one from each other. The same is true for salt as well. The salt usually found in market is never pure and, because of its origin, together with sodium chloride are also found other substances which make every salt different from another, both for its salty properties and for the aromas. Moreover there are appreciable differences among salts from different countries. Rock-salt is found in underground deposits originated by the drying up of seas, it has a crystalline appearance, it is white colored as well as pink colored because of the presence of iron salts. Besides iron salts, in some natural salt deposits it is possible to find traces of soda and noxious salts, such as arsenic salts. For this reason the salt used for nutritional purposes is from safe deposits only.

 

The Production of Salt

 Kitchen salt is obtained from the deposits of rock-salt, the technique of extraction consists in pumping water in the underground layers rich in salt, then the water, which has now diluted the salt, is pumped back. This water is then poured in containers and allowed to evaporate in order to leave salt crystals only. The product obtained this way is usually found in many countries in the form of blocks or tablets. Table salt is obtained with the same procedure, however it is properly treated in order to avoid the hardening and finely ground. The level of purity of this salt is pretty high, it is depurated from other hygroscopic salts and usually added with starch, calcium phosphate and other substances. This type of salt is very poor in aromas.

 Sea salt - so called because it is obtained by evaporating sea water - is very common in many countries, in other can be found in specialized shops only. Sea salt is obtained by allowing sea water to evaporate in large containers usually located in the coasts, the so called salt works. In general terms, the procedure of extraction of sea salt is unique, however every country has its own techniques - more or less efficient - from artisan and traditional ones, to industrial ones. Sea water, during the periods of high tides, enters large vats where it is left to stay and in order to allow scoriae to deposit. The second phase consists in transferring the water from the first vat to the second one where it is allowed to evaporate therefore reducing its volume. In the next phase the water of the second vat is transferred in the third vat and here it will completely evaporate while leaving the salt on the bottom. In traditional salt-works, salt is collected by hand, dried and cleaned in a natural way. In “industrial” salt-works, salt is being collected by using machineries and then refined and purified, an operation which can also make use of other mineral salts.

 Sea water contains high quantities of sodium chloride and other elements, such as iodine (useful for the good health of thyroid), magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron and sulphur, substances which make salt particularly rich and tasty. Moreover can be found salts with a bad taste and even with noxious substances, however their content is so low and can be considered negligible. Refined salt undergoes a cleaning process which eliminates a good part of mineral salts, including iodine, which can be subsequently added in order to obtain “iodine salt” usually sold in shops.

 Whole sea salt has a good aroma and it is more tasty than others, however it is always advisable not to exceed with its consumption. Some believes refined salt lacks of the essential mineral salts useful for the body, therefore believe it is better to make use of whole sea salt, where these minerals are found in higher quantities. Spicy salts are home made products which are now available in shops too. They are made by adding spices and aromatic herbs to the salt in order to give it more aromas. In the market are also available aromatic salts which can be easily made at home. For example it is enough to put in a container salt and garlic, salt and celery, or any other combination suggested by fantasy. Moreover there also are salts of vegetal origin - naturally found in vegetables - which are indispensable for the good health of human body.

 



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Aquavitae

Review of Grappa, Distillates and Brandy

 

Distillates are rated according to DiWineTaste's evaluation method. Please see score legend in the "Wines of the Month" section.



Grappa di Inzolia 2003, Giovi (Italy)
Grappa di Inzolia 2003
Giovi (Italy)
Raw matter: Pomace of Inzolia
Price: € 14.55 - 50cl Score: Wine that excels in its category
The grappa is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose reveals delicate, clean and pleasing aromas of hawthorn, hazelnut, pear and banana, imperceptible alcohol pungency. In the mouth is intense with evident alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, dry taste and balanced sweet hint. The finish is persistent with flavors of hazelnut and pear. This grappa is produced with a water bath discontinuous alembic still. Alcohol 42%.



Acquavite di Melograno, Giovi (Italy)
Acquavite di Melograno
Giovi (Italy)
Raw matter: Pomegranate
Price: € 28,85 - 20cl Score:
This distillate is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose reveals delicate, clean, pleasing and refined aromas of pomegranate, chamomile, raspberry, apple and broom with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. In the mouth is intense and agreeable with alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, good and balanced sweet hint, agreeable. The finish is very persistent with flavors of pomegranate, raspberry and apple. A well made distillate. This distillate is produced with a water bath discontinuous alembic still. Alcohol 43%.



Distillato d'Uva Rossa Spiritus, Scubla (Italy)
Distillato d'Uva Rossa Spiritus
Scubla (Italy)
(Distiller: Distillerie De Mezzo)
Raw matter: Fragolino grape - Isabella variety
Price: € 19.00 - 50cl Score:
This distillate is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose denotes good personality with intense, clean and pleasing aromas of strawberry, beeswax, jasmine, raspberry and cherry with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. In the mouth is intense with alcohol pungency that tends to dissolve rapidly, pleasing sweet hint and pretty dry taste. The finish is persistent with flavors of strawberry and beeswax. This distillate is produced with a water bath alembic still. Alcohol 43%.



Distillato d'Uva Verduzzo Appassita Spiritus, Scubla (Italy)
Distillato d'Uva Verduzzo Appassita Spiritus
Scubla (Italy)
(Distiller: Distillerie De Mezzo)
Raw matter: Dried Verduzzo Friulano Grape
Price: € 22.50 - 50cl Score:
This distillate is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose reveals intense, clean and pleasing aromas of raisin, honey, hazelnut, pear, apple, broom and banana with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. In the mouth is intense with evident alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly., good and balanced sweet hint and pleasing roundness. The finish is persistent with flavors of raisin, apple and hazelnut. This distillate is produced with a water bath alembic still. Alcohol 43%.



Grappa Bianca 2000, Fratelli Brunello (Italy)
Grappa Bianca 2000
Fratelli Brunello (Italy)
Raw matter: Pomace of Tocai, Prosecco e Garganega
Price: € 14.00 - 70cl Score:
This grappa is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose denotes intense, clean and pleasing aromas of pear, acacia, almond, apple and broom, with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. In the mouth is intense, with evident alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, good sweet hint and pleasing smoothness. The finish is persistent with flavors of pear, apple and almond. This grappa is produced with a discontinuous steam operated alembic still. Alcohol 40%.



Grappa di Moscato Fior d'Arancio 2003, Fratelli Brunello (Italy)
Grappa di Moscato Fior d'Arancio 2003
Fratelli Brunello (Italy)
Raw matter: Pomace of Muscat Blanc Fior d'Arancio
Price: € 15.50 - 50cl Score:
The grappa is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose reveals very intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas of grape, apricot, rose, candied fruit, orange peel, hazelnut, lavender and apple with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. In the mouth is intense with evident alcohol pungency that tends to dissolve rapidly, good balanced sweet hint and pleasing smoothness. The finish is very persistent with pleasing flavors of grape, orange peel and apple. A well made grappa produced with a discontinuous steam operated alembic still. Alcohol 43%.





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  Not Just Wine Issue 29, April 2005   
SaltSalt AquavitaeAquavitae Wine ParadeWine Parade  Contents 
Issue 28, March 2005 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 30, May 2005

Wine Parade


 

The best 15 wines according to DiWineTaste's readers. To express your best three wines send us an E-mail or fill in the form available at our WEB site.


Rank Wine, Producer
1 Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 1999, Maison Trimbach (France)
2 Harmonium 2001, Firriato (Italy)
3 Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2002, Domaine Billaud-Simon (France)
4 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Villa Gemma 1999, Masciarelli (Italy)
5 Jerez Fino Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass (Spain)
6 Pinot Noir Napa 2002, Clos du Val (USA)
7 Moscato d'Asti 2003, Vignaioli di S. Stefano (Italy)
8 Turriga 1998, Argiolas (Italy)
9 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Capitel Monte Olmi 1999, Tedeschi (Italy)
10 Palazzo della Torre 2000, Allegrini (Italy)
11 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riparosso 2001, Illuminati (Italy)
12 Edizione Cinque Autoctoni 2001, Farnese (Italy)
13 Brunello di Montalcino Prime Donne 1998, Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Italy)
14 Aglianico del Vulture La Firma 2002, Cantine del Notaio (Italy)
15 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1998, Santa Sofia (Italy)

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