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!

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