Here is a rather curious word: A portmanteau, as Humpty Dumpty describes it to Alice in “Through the Looking-Glass,” is “two meanings packed up into one word.” Or, in other words, it’s a linguistic combination of two words smashed together. If you’re headed out for a late breakfast or an early lunch, you might say you’re going to brunch (a blend of breakfast and lunch). If your laugh comes out like a snort, you might say it’s a chortle (a blend of chuckle and snort). And if you’re in the mood for a funny fake documentary, you could probably go for a mockumentary. These are just a few examples of portmanteaus, a word which originally referred to a suitcase opening with two equal halves. (A compound word, meanwhile, is a combination of two complete words, such as sunflower, bathtub, or grandmother.)
Think of European mountain ranges, and you might think first of the Alps, the famous mountains full of yodelers and scenes from “The Sound of Music.” But there are other incredible mountain ranges in Europe, including the Pyrenees, the Urals, and, of course, the Carpathian Mountains. The Carpathians wind through Central and Eastern Europe, the third-longest of Europe’s mountain ranges (after the Urals and the Alps). Romania is home to much of the range, which also runs through many other nations, from Austria and the Czech Republic in the West to Ukraine in the East and Serbia in the South. The Carpathians form a flourishing ecosystem that includes a huge portion of Europe’s native plant species, as well as its largest populations of brown bears, wolves, and lynxes. Many of these animals make their homes in the wilds of Romania, where spooky stories and real-life wilderness abound. (I was in the Carpathians just last year, on my way to Brasov, and Dracula’s Castle)
From Winespeed, some Calvados information: Unlike its French cousins Cognac and Armagnac, both of which are distilled from grapes, Calvados (CAL-va-dose) is distilled from apples (and sometimes pears). But not just any apples. Approximately 800 or so heirloom varieties of apples grow in Normandy, the French region most famous for this drink. Of these, most producers would grow 20 to 25 different varieties, among them, Douce Moen, Kermerrien, Douce Coet Ligne, Bedan, Binet Rouge, Frequin Rouge, Marie Menard, and Petit Jaune. The apples fall into four flavor categories: sweet, bittersweet, bitter, and acidic. By distilling different kinds of apples in different proportions, the Calvados maker crafts a subtle, complex apple spirit. About 17 pounds of apples are needed to make one bottle of Calvados.
More Winespeed: The Jurassic period occurred between 145 million and 200 million years ago and is best known as the Age of the Dinosaurs. It was named for the Jura Mountain Range, on the border between France and Switzerland, where limestone rocks of this age were first studied. The Jura skyline is punctuated by occasional limestone crags, the most dramatic of which are the reculées—steeply faced, horseshoe-shaped rock formations that form abrupt dead ends to valleys. The Jura is one of the smallest wine regions in France, known for producing wonderfully unique wines. The Jura’s most celebrated offering is Vin Jaune, or “Golden Wine,” made exclusively from the native white grape variety, savagnin. Vin jaune must be aged in oak casks for at least six years and three months, during which time it is neither racked nor topped up. As it ages, a film of yeast known as the voile (veil), forms on the wine’s surface, protecting it from oxidation. The resulting wine is golden in color with aromas of walnut, dried fruits, and toasted sourdough bread. The Jurassic period is also marked by the continued breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea, when oceans flooded the spaces between new landmasses, creating vast inland seas. One of the Jura’s four appellations, L’Etoile (the star), is said to be named for the ubiquitous star-shaped marine fossils which crunch underfoot throughout its vineyards.
Estufagem The Portuguese term for the step in the process of making Madeira that involves heating the wine. Depending on the quality of the Madeira being produced, there are several estufagem methods. The most basic involves placing the fortified base wines in containers that are then heated to an average temperature of 113°F (with a maximum temperature of 131°F allowed) for three to six months. To make the very finest Madeiras, however, the containers may be placed in a warehouse attic, which builds up tremendous heat thanks to the intense Madeiran sun. There the Madeira-to-be may be left for twenty years or more.