A Pinch of Salt

Nathan Myhrvold is at it again.A pinch of salt may improve the flavor of wine

   For the uninitiated, Myrhvold is the former Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, and an amateur chef who has morphed into an authority on molecular gastronomy. His treatise on the subject—a book titled Modernist Cuisine, published in 2011—runs to six volumes and 2400 pages, and costs a hefty $625.

   The last time we discussed him in this blog, Myhrvold had outraged the wine world with his theory of hyperdecanting. His thinking was that if most wines benefited from aeration, then the more air the better. He proposed putting red wines into a blender and agitating them at top speed for 30 seconds or so, which he claimed worked just as well with Chateau Margaux as with your weeknight quaff.

   Now the easily-outraged wine world is aghast once again. It seems that Myrhvold was seated at a dinner next to Gina Gallo, one of the heirs to the Gallo wine empire. She told him that savory tones were what she valued most in a Cabernet, at which point he said he could make the wine more savory and added a pinch of salt to the glass. Gallo was initially shocked, but tasted the wine and (according to Myrhvold) agreed that it improved the taste. His latest theory has touched off some spirited debate.

   Does it work? Most likely, yes. Salt does make many things taste better, and would logically improve the flavor profile of a coarse, rustic and cheap red wine; to be sure, it would probably work with a number of Gallo products. If you’re a purist, however, you choose to believe that the finished wine is an expression of both the vineyard site and the winemaker’s talent, and shouldn’t be tampered with.

   The main objective of Myhrvold’s theories, I suspect, is to draw attention to Myhrvold. Given the volume of publicity he has generated lately, it seems to be working. His ideas also serve to breathe new life into a culinary trend which has passed its peak. When it comes to incorporating them into your daily routine, though, it’s best to take them with a grain of salt.


Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press; his second book, Moonshine Nation, is forthcoming from Lyons Press in June. For more information, go to amazon.com

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