Friday, May 25, 2007

Final bottles of walnut wine

In an earlier article, I mentioned my production of walnut wine and my use of a siphon device. [Click here to see this article.] Today, I've been preparing the final bottles, using the wine in the lower half of the plastic cask. The closer I get to the bottom of the barrel, the more the raw wine looks like sludge. Concerning the last five or six soupy liters in the cask, I had in mind the advice of a colleague, who told me he simply discards them. After this afternoon's experiments, I accept his advice. I tried several techniques in an attempt to extract clear wine from the sludge: siphoning, paper filters and straining through a cloth that I was obliged to wash constantly. There's a delightful old saying in French, applied to things that aren't worth doing: Le jeu n'en vaut pas la chandelle. Literally, this means that the outcome of an operation does not cover the cost of the candles you need to light up the scene where the operation is carried out.

The sludge is heavier than the clear walnut wine, so it remains at the bottom of the barrel. But it remains suspended in the liquid, and never settles as a solid sediment. This suggests that there is no doubt a certain presence of solid matter — remnants of the green walnuts — even in the wine that seems to be relatively clear. And this is probably why the imbiber of a small glass of this beverage has the impression that it's a little like bitter medicine.

Funnily enough, here in the Napoleonic atmosphere of France where most matters are tightly controlled, the production of walnut wine remains a kind of do-it-yourself rural art, akin to gathering medicinal herbs to prepare archaic unctions instead of relying upon the local pharmacist. In any case, for those of us who live in the countryside of the Dauphiné region, surrounded by walnut trees, offering a glass of walnut wine is a traditional gesture of friendship towards visitors.

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