Saturday, December 31, 2011

Champagne from black grapes?

Pinot Meunier
Vitis vinifera (Pinot Noir grapes)
Much of the champagne drunk tonight will have been made not from white grapes, but actually from black grapes of the Pinot Noir and Pinot Mernier varieties, grapes usually associated with deep red wines. Black grapes like Pinot Noir have a white flesh, which under the correct harvest and production conditions yield a light colored juice. This juice is fermented in the bottle to produce the bubble drink many of us will consume tonight. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A not so merry Christmas?

Bosweillia sacra (Frankincense tree)
Frankincense, a traditional staple of the Christmas story, is produced from the resin of Bosweillia trees  much in the same way that syrup is tapped from Maple trees. The smallish Bosweillia tree is native to the southern Arabian penninsula and the neighboring Horn of Africa . A recent study has shown that Bosweilla populations are in severe decline due to over-harvest, with the number of trees projected to decrease by one half within 15 years, and to be wiped out by the middle of the century. This would leave the Catholic church, one of the main consumers in frankincense, with a big problem. In addition to its religeous uses (or maybe explaining them) frankincense smoke is psychoactive and may relieve depression and anxiety!