Friday, December 31, 2010

A REASON of Wine

Happy New Year to one and all!  May our year be filled with Health, Prosperity, and Peace.  ...and, we can't forget wine.  How about best wishes for a New Year filled with discovering new, wonderful quality wines from value driven producers from around the world?  We all should enjoy the best of wine this New Year!

"It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking wine: the arrival of a friend; one's present or future thirst; the excellence of the wine; or any other reason."
Latin Proverb

Monday, December 27, 2010

BURGUNDY: Overpowered by small Possessions

Within its vineyards are 116 AOC appellations, and 33 prestigious Grand Cru's. Today, Burgundy produces only just about .05% of the world's wine, yet it remains the enduring standard for the greatness of wine. It's long wine-producing history still today remains overpowered by its small possessions, the uniqueness of it's vineyards, the terrior.

Chablis to Dijon, the Cote d'Or south to Macon, we know that the vine was in Burgundy as early as the first century AD, but its prized soils and sub-soils were created over more than 250 million years. From the Middle Ages, this regions vineyards were influenced by the Monastic dominance of the Benedictines and Cistercians for more than four centuries, followed by more than a century of a succession of the high living, well traveled Dukes of Burgundy.  Today's Burgundy was created as a result of the French Revolution, when the prized lands of the Church and expansive lands of the nobility were fragmented in small parcels to the common Frenchman.  Inherited lands were split still further, when the Napoleonic Code, divided property assets equally among surviving sons.

As a result, even a divine Grand Cru, such as the 900 year old Clos de Vougeot, has today over 80 owners! In the village of Vosne-Romane'e lies one of its six(6) Grand Crus', Richebourg. Farming slightly more than 18 acres of Pinot Noir, this esteemed vineyard itself has ten owners, producing just about 2,000 cases of what can become some of the best wine in the world!  A narrow land, spanning the sunny banks of the Sao^ne River in Eastern France, here noble grape varieties Pinot Noir and Chardonnay dominate. South of Dijon in the Co^te de Nuits region of the Co^te d'Or, 24 Grand Cru's produce the world's standard expression of the PInot Noir grape. The Co^te de Beaune lies south of that city, with 7 of its 8 Grand Cru's producing great Chardonnay, even as most of the regions production is from the noble red variety.

Over the centuries small growers began to sell their grapes to negociants, still today a dominant force in Burgundy, who would marry many vineyards together.  As an alternative to Burgundy's controlling quantity wine producers, growing numbers of small vineyards formed cooperatives under the singular name of their commune.  Recent decades have seen a resurgence for small producers willing to try their luck bringing their diminutive  vintages into the thirsty marketplace through the hands of an importer. Throughout it all, Burgundy remains about the power of the site of each vineyard, unyielding quality and the small amount of special wine produced there.

Unlike Bordeaux where large 18th & 19th century estates(chateau) have long dominated their wine trade(along with brokers), in Burgundy the power and influence lie with the small possessions(domaine), making tiny quantities of wines that keep us wanting more!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

GIFTS under the VINE

In my preparation for an upcoming Wine Educators exam, I added a few new wine books to my library. There subjects were intended to cover a broad spectrum of wine study, from vineyard to bottle.  But, the publication that I am most enamored with is Hugh Johnson's, "Vintage: The Story of Wine".  First published in 1989, this volume is a richly detailed, broadly researched inspection of the cultural histories surrounding the grape vine.  As I turn pages the wonder of wine unfolds and I am again reminded of many of the blessings that I am thankful for this Holiday Season.  This time of year is filled with family memories, the special gatherings and meals, and of many celebrations around wine.  How fortunate I am to have loving family, good friends, my health and also to find Gifts under the Vine!
  • From its founding in the early 12th century, the Cistercian order of white robed monks, the alternative to long established Benedictines, expanded its land holdings and its influence in Burgundy religiously. In little more than 40 years, the Order had founded around 400 abbeys, and its formidable influence was felt from Rome to England.  The Cistercian Order of St. Bernard in it's first century were responsible for the skilled establishment of Burgundy's best vineyard sites, establishing vineyard management practices still followed today in the cultivation of the Cote d'Or, and with strategic political maneuvering, creating the beginnings of the quality control systems formalized 500 years later by the AOC.  Cistercian Burgundy had Clos de Vougeot(whose stone-walled boundary was laid by Cistercians), and Germany's Rheingau had the splendid Kloster Eberbach, both benchmarks established by the Order. Venerable global quality benchmarks in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling are today remaining a wonderful gift to find under the vine!
  •  Sparkling wine consumption in the U.S continues to climb upwards, at least 50% more than in 1970, according to Wine Institute data. Sparkling wine imports to this country have increased by more than 25% this year over '09 totals, according to recently revised data offered by wine industry analysts. And with a quick price check at local retailers, we find broad discounts across the board on most brands, including the prestigious Champagne imports. With the annual Holiday quarter's sales volume spike(estimated to be as much as 60% of annual totals), there is no better time to find and enjoy some of the world's best sparkling wines.  Celebrations with a non-vintage Champagne or Cremant (traditional method)would be a fabulous gift to find under the vine!
  • Wondering what gift to give those who seem to have everything?  How about the gift of clean water?  A North Carolina vintner, Jessup Marion, has established the non-profit charity, Wine To, to bring clean drinking water to those in need in the Third World. By providing safe wells and water filters to regions such as Haiti and Cambodia, the organization hopes to contribute to improved water quality for the estimated 1 billion who currently lack adequate water resources. And, it feels so good to do good with a gift found under the vine.
A very Merry Christmas and a healthy, Happy New Year, to all!