ROYAL SCHOOL OF VITICULTURE AND (ENOLOGY,
A preface should give an immediate idea of what the author has proposed to do in writing his book. As Balbo rightly says in the preface to one of his books:
"It is the duty of every writer to give the reader a terse and clear idea of the work which he presents him. This sincerity benefits both: the reader, because it puts him in the position of knowing whether or not the book is likely to be of interest or utility to him; the writer, because, whilst it may reduce the number of his readers, it insures him more interested, attentive, and indulgent ones.
" The clearest and most sincere way of giving an explication of the object of a book is to tell how it was written.
"Thus I will explain, as well as possible in a few words, why I have written this book, which treats especially of the classification, the qualities, and the defects of wine.
When I commenced to give particular attention to viticulture and oenology, I soon perceived that in oenology, and especially in that part which regards classification, qualities, and defects, all authors were not in accord in their use of terms to express the same characters. Thus, for example, some would mean by " seve," a slight sweetness in the wine; others by the same term would intend to express that character by which a wine of good quality affects the mouth and olfactory organs with a certain perfume, for a longer or shorter time after it has been swallowed.
I will say nothing of the classification of wines according to dishes, as wine to be drunk with oysters, fish, roast meat, etc., which shows a marked tendency to become a veritable chaos. In this classification, the work of Mr. Bertall, " La Vigne- Voyage Autour des Vins de France," is taken too literally.
How could one speak of the classification of wine, of its qualities, of its defects, without giving some explanation of the mode and proper conditions for tasting ? It is for this reason that I have devoted a chapter to the tasting of wine, a chapter, moreover, of great importance, as it is by tasting, more than by chemical analysis, that we can best judge of the constitution and future of a wine. Who is a better judge than an experienced taster of the bad flavor produced in wine, for instance, by the tartaric fermentation, which even in its incipiency he can detect by a certain burnt taste, which, with the progress of the malady, gradually develops into an insupportable bitterness? Among these gradations of bitterness we do not find that slight pleasing bitterness peculiar to certain wines, such as Barolo and Gattinara.
Chemical analysis gives us the principal components of wine, and from the presence or absence of certain of these and from their proportions, wome judgments may be formed of the character of the wine. The taster alone is able to detect diseases at their incipiency, and, one might almost say, before they have commenced, whilst the chemist can only state the final consequence. In other words, one might say that whilst the chemist is limited to making a diagnosis, the taster can make a prognosis.
In the case of some defects of wine, I have not confined myself to a simple definition or description. I have also added notes, brief in some cases, more extended in others, on the determining causes and the means of prevention or cure. I have done this, believing it would be useful to the taster or the dealer, who is not always fully informed on all the details of technical cenology. With this information for a guide, he will be better able to judge of the relative gravity of this or that defect, and the dealer especially will be able to judge of the utility or inutility of attempting to cure a wine of a certain defect.
I have also tried — wishing to be useful to the greatest possible number of readers — not to neglect a secondary part, which has its importance in tending to make the consumer better appreciate the wine he drinks. Profiting by the Consigli di un amatore di vini, I have indicated the form of glass to be used with each kind of wine, how wines should be presented and distributed during the repast, and how they should be drunk. In this part, which I have called secondary, it is not to be denied that fashion is the determining factor.
And now the reader may judge if I have succeeded in my intentions. Even though his judgment should not be favorable, I shall consider myself fortunate in being the first — as far as I know — to call attention, in an extended manner, to this part of cenology, which in former treatises on the subject has been but lightly touched upon.