Chinato: Cocchi, or Cappellano?

cappellanoIf you love Italian wine, you can most likely discuss the intricacies of Brunello, Barbaresco, and Bardolino.  If you love Italian food, you probably crave Bolognese, Balsamic, and Burrata on a daily basis. But what can you tell us about Barolo Chinato?   

Don’t worry – you don’t have to give up your Italophile badge just yet.  Barolo Chinato is rare – it’s not exactly easy to find in America, despite it being more widely available than ever these days, thanks to the longevity of the craft cocktail craze and an ever-growing American fondness for all things Italian.

Barolo Chinato is digestive (equally qualified to serve as aperitif) produced in Piedmont, Italy created from a base of Barolo wine.  The word “china” (pronounced “key-na”) in Italian refers to “cinchona bark,” known to Americans as quinine. This, if we want to stay literal, Barolo Chinato (pronounced “key-not-o”) is Barolo wine that has been  infused with quinine bark and other herbs and spices. 

Technically, Barolo Chinato is considered a quinquina (an aperitif that contains cinchona bark) as well as an aromatized (flavored) wine.  With alcohol levels of 16.5 – 18%, Barolo Chinato may also be considered a fortified wine, as some of the flavorings may be added in the form of extracts produced using alcohol.

Cocchi ChinatoWhile the actual recipe of Chinato varies by producer and is a closely guarded secret, the flavorings are rumored to include sugar, rhubarb root, cinnamon, mint, vanilla, star anise, citrus peel, fennel, juniper, gentian root, and cardamom in addition to quinine. Don’t forget that all those layers of flavors are added to a base wine of Barolo – undisputedly one of Italy’s most complex wines to begin with. This is a smooth, spicy, flavorful sip with a hit of bitterness on the end – enough to wake up any appetite, or help smooth out an over-indulged one.

Barolo Chinato was first produced in the area around the city of Turin sometime in the 19th century.  By this time, companies like Martini & Rossi and Cinzano were already producing Vermouth and other aperitifs in the region.   

A Tuscan pastry chef named Giulio Cocchi is often cited as the inventor of Barolo Chinato.  After moving to Asti, he was inspired by the region’s vermouth industry and founded his winery in 1891. Soon after, he invented a formula for Barolo Chinato. Dr. Giuseppe Cappellano is also believed by many to the Barolo Chinato’s creator.  Dr. Cappellano was a pharmacist in Turin and the second son of the owner of the Cappellano Winery, which was founded in 1890.

Luckily, both companies are still around, and Barolo Chinato from both the Cappellano and Cocchi wineries are available in the United States. We may never decide who was first, you can decide for yourself who you think is best. 

While the debate rages on, there are a few things that fans of Barolo Chinato can agree on:  Barolo Chinato can help calm down a rumbly tummy after a hearty meal; it be used like an Amaro or Vermouth in a creative cocktail recipe, and it pairs very well with chocolate cake. 

Cappellano Barolo Chinato:  http://madrose.com/index.php/italy/piedmont/cappellano#barolo-chinato

Cocchi Barolo Chinato:  http://www.cocchi.it/eng/barolo_chinato.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cannons of Cape Town

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa

If you ever visit the wine regions of South Africa, and find yourself wandering around Cape Town at lunch time, be warned:  a cannon is about to go off! There’s no need to worry, but if you aren’t expecting the resounding boom, the sound of the Noon Gun may have you running for cover.

The Noon Gun has been fired in Cape Town at noon, every day except Sunday, since 1806.  The gun – two cannons, actually – is located just outside of the center of the city on Signal Hill. Signal guns have been a part of Cape Town since the Dutch settled here in 1652, and the two cannons on Signal Hill were part of the original artillery stashed at the Imhoff Battery at the Castle in Cape Town. In 1806, the two cannons were removed from the Battery and placed in town for use as signal guns.  After the loud retort from the cannons unnerved a few too many citizens, the cannons were move to Signal Hill, where they still stand.

The Noon Guns atop Signal Hill

The Noon Guns atop Signal Hill

The original signal cannons of Cape Town, 18-pounder, smoothbore muzzle-loaders, are still in use today. The ritual represents one of Cape Town’s oldest living traditions. They fire every day at 12 noon sharp, except Sundays and public holidays, and are maintained by the South African Navy. On Friday January 7, 2005, both the main gun and backup gun failed to fire owing to a technical difficulty. This was the first time in 200 years that the noon gun had not fired as scheduled.

The Noon gun was used as a time signal for the sailing ships in the harbor, to allow them to calibrate their navigational instruments and accurately calculate their location. However, their original use as a “signal gun” is much more interesting.

In the 1800’s, Cape Town was known as “The Tavern of the Seas,” as one of its main commercial functions was the provisioning of vessels making the long trip from Europe to India and the rest of the East. As the ships approached, the cannons atop signal hill were fired to let the farmers and the merchants know that provisions were needed.  A series of cannons, all set on hilltops, would relay the message far inland.

The Kanonkop Wine Estate

The Kanonkop Wine Estate

One such cannon was located on a farm called Kanonkop, Afrikaans for “Cannon Hill.”  Kanonkop, located in the “red wine bowl” of Stellenbosch, is now a well-known, fourth generation family wine estate producing highly regarded red and rosé wines.  The vineyards at Kanonkop are heavily planted to Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

The top-flight wine at the Kanonkop Wine Estate, Paul Sauer, is a Meritage blend named for one of the original owners.   Their widely distributed Cape Blend, Kanonkop Kadette, is produced as both a medium-bodied, crisp red wine and a dry, lively rosé.

The term Cape Blend can be used to denote any red wine produced in the Cape Winelands made with a minimum of 20% Pinotage, South Africa’s “native home” vinifera variety.  However, many winemakers think that Pinotage should a larger part of the blend, in homage to the unique characteristics of the region and the grape.  Kanonkop’s Kadette is 57% Pinotage, while the rosé version is 100% Pinotage.

For more information on Cape Blends: http://www.capeblend.co.za/news.aspx

Pineau de Charentes…Extreme Fortification?

Vieux Pineau“Fortified Wine Day” in my professional wine studies class is one of my favorite classes to teach.  The incredible array of colors, aromas, and flavors offered by fortified wines amazes the students, and the rich histories of Port, Madeira, and Sherry are full of tales ripe for the telling.

It’s a favorite day for the students as well, although that could be due to the 20% alcohol content of some of the wines.

Yesterday, after tasting Ruby Port, one of my students asked, “dude, what would happen if you just added brandy to grape juice…would it be like extreme fortification?” At least that’s what I think he said.

It’s a good question, albeit in need of some editing. What if we asked it question a bit more properly, as in: “What would happen if a winemaker added grape spirits to wine must, before it even begins to ferment?”

The answer would be “Vin de Liqueur!” Vin de Liqueur is a unique type of fortified wine that is fortified just before or just after fermentation begins, creating a strong, sweet liquid.  Vin de Liqueur is very close in style to Vin Doux Naturel; the main difference being that Vin Doux Naturel is allowed to ferment until the residual sugar reaches around 10%.

Vins de Liqueur are made in many places throughout Europe. They are often referred to as “Mistelle” or “Mistela,” and the style has been copied in the new world as well.  The Italians make good use of the technique, producing a blend of unfermented grape juice and brandy called “Sifone” that is often used, in turn, as a sweetening agent in Marsala.

CharentesThe most famous French Vin de Liqueur is Pineau des Charentes, made in the départements of Charente and Charente-Maritime in Southwestern France.  The region of origin is technically the same as the region of origin for Cognac.  Pineau de Charentes is produced by combining Cognac with freshly pressed grape juice, in a ratio of approximately one part Cognac to three parts must.  The Cognac must be at least one year old, and the mixture is aged for at least 18 months in oak.

Two older varieties are also made, including Vieux Pineau, which is at least 5 years old, and Tres Vieux Pineau, (“Very Old Pineau,” if my high school French hasn’t failed me), which is at least 10 years old. These older versions are rich, complex works of art as compared to the fruity, floral, and crisply acidic young version.

Many of the large Cognac houses make Pineau, and there are several small, artisan producers that focus on Pineau exclusively.  The Cognac house of Normandin-Mercier makes several versions, including white, rosé and “Tres Vieux.”  Almost 90% of the Pineau de Charentes that is produced is consumed locally, with another large percentage going to Belgium.  However, it is available in the United States and seems to have been discovered by the “Craft Cocktail Movement,” so it should be easy to find…just ask your local celebrity mixologist.

Cognac and Pineau de CharentesAs with many fortified wines, Pineau de Charentes has a good back story. This one tells of a wine and brandy making Monk who, in 1589, filled a barrel with freshly pressed grape must, not knowing that the barrel was already partially full of aging Cognac.  Five years later, a bumper crop had him emptying out a series of barrels to use for new wine, and he discovered what he had done five years earlier.  By this time, of course, his Cognac and grape juice “mistake” had evolved into a rich, thick, sweet liquid…and, as they say, the rest is history.

Pineau de Charentes from Nonmandin-Mercier:  http://cognacnm.fr/products-page/pineau-des-charentes/pineau-des-charentes-tres-vieux-blanc-75-cl-17-vol

 

 

 

 

 

Prince Golitsyn’s Award Winning “Crimean Champagne”

76 years before the famous “Judgment of Paris,” at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair, a sparkling wine from Crimea defeated all the French entries to claim the internationally coveted “Grand Prix de Champagne.”  You may need to let that sink in for a few minutes.  In 1900, in France, Sparkling Wine from the Ukraine won the top prize for Champagne. 

Prince Lev golitsynThe wine, known as Novy Svet, was made by Prince Lev Sergeievitch Golitsyn, a highly educated member of a Russian Royal Family, at his wine estate in Crimea. Crimea is a peninsula of the Ukraine located on the northern shore of the Black Sea.  Lying between  44° and 45° in latitude, the region has an excellent climate for growing high quality grapes.  As a matter of fact, during Soviet times this region was the largest wine supplier in the USSR – which sounds like a good story for another day.

Prince Golitsyn, having studied both law and winemaking in France, established his winery in 1878 on the southern coast of Crimea. He dug a series of wine cellars into Koba-Kaya Mountain (Cave Mountain), much of it below sea level. All in all the tunnels stretched on for over a mile. He planted experimental vineyards of Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Aligote and Pinot Meunier and spent ten years perfecting the art of sparkling wine.  The Prince used a variation of what we would call the Methode Traditionelle, allowing his wines to rest on the lees, in the bottle, for three years in his cellars at a constant, underground temperature of 59 – 60°F.

By the late 1890’s, the Prince was an experienced enologist and was producing a large array of sparkling wines.  In 1896 his wines were served at the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II (who would wind up being the last in a long line of Tsars) and Golitsyn was granted the right to display the family coat of arms on this wines.  Soon thereafter, in 1899, Novy Svet

Novy Svet Winery's "Coronation" Sparkling Wine

Novy Svet Winery’s “Coronation” Sparkling Wine

produced its first large-scale production, making over 60,000 bottles of sparkling wine…one of which won the Grand Prix in Paris.  

Legend has it that Prince Golitsyn was was inspired to build an estate in the area during a passionate love affair with Nadezhda Zasetska, an aristocratic young lady who had inherited large land holdings in the Crimea. It is rumored that the Prince bought the land to be near to her and studied enology in order to impress her.  We may never know if the rumors are true, but it does seem that wine and romance often go hand-in-hand.

Prince Golitsyn passed away in 1915 and was buried in a large tomb on his beloved estate.  The Novy Svet winery did not survive the Russian Revolution and the beginnings of the Soviet Union intact, and was plundered and nearly destroyed several times.  Today the restored winery, including the underground tunnels, is government-owned.  Under the leadership of Ms. Yanaina Petrovna Pavlenko, the winery produces a wide range of unique sparkling wines, many of them reflective of the original style and spirit of Prince Golitsyn.

In 1978, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Novy Svet Winery, the Golitsyn House Museum was opened in the house where the Prince lived for over 37 years.

The Novy Svet Winery in Crimea:  http://nsvet.com.ua/en

Rosé for the Sun King

Rose de RiceysBefore Louis XIV, known as “The Sun King,” sipped Champagne at Versailles, he became a fan of a rare wine – a still rosé of Pinot Noir known as Rosé de Riceys– produced in the Champagne region.

Louis XIV is said to have discovered this aromatic and lightly tannic rosé when a group of workers from the village of Riceys-Haut arrived at the construction site of the Palace of Versailles, bringing a supply of their local rosé along with them.  The King was a big fan of Provence rosé, so he asked to try a bottle. (Well, he probably demanded it, but we’ll pretend he asked.) The King liked the wine so much that he soon dispatched the workers back to Les Riceys to bring back more Rosé de Riceys for the royal court.

This unusual, non-sparkling pink wine, produced within just a few miles of Burgundy, is officially part of the Champagne region.  The wine comes from a tiny spot called Les Riceys.  Les Riceys is made up of three close-knit villages named Riceys-Haut, Riceys Haute-Rive, and Riceys-Bas. Wine has been produced in this region since the 1100’s, made by the Cistercian Monks living at the nearby Abbey of Molesme.  The monks  selected the particular south-facing slopes where the grapes are grown as one of the few spots in the whole of the chilly Champagne region with enough sun and heat to ripen Pinot Noir to the point where it can be turned into this aromatic, brightly colored rosé. 

Making rose de riceysThe AOC regulations for Rosé de Riceys are among the strictest in France for a rosé wine, with the goal of keeping the tradition started by the monks at the Abbey of Molesme alive.  The wine is produced using the saignée method of vinification, and the grapes must be picked at a minimum ripeness of 10° Baumé from vines that are at least 12 years old.  The minimum ripeness standard is not always possible to reach, particularly in cooler years.  If the ripeness standard cannot be met, Rosé de Riceys will not be produced that year and the grapes will be used in the production of the region’s other wine, Champagne.  

This tiny appellation has only about 70 acres planted to Pinot Noir designated for Rosé de Riceys. No more than 20 producers make the wine, with an annual total output usually about 70,000 bottles a year. The wine is hard to find, even in Paris (perhaps even at Versailles), so aficionados of the wine drive to the edge of the Champagne region every spring to buy their year’s supply.

Mr HoriotThe Rosé de Riceys AOC was approved in 1947.  However, there was a time not too long ago when the wine was almost lost for good.  It was the 1970’s, and Champagne production was running high.  Champagne was more popular than ever, and growers were making a good living selling their grapes to the large Champagne houses.  In addition, for a few years in a row, the weather wasn’t cooperating enough to sufficiently ripen the grapes to make Rosé de Riceys.  For a few years in a row,  nobody wanted to produce Rosé de Riceys.  However, according to INAO regulations, if a certain type of wine is not produced for five consecutive years, the AOC will cease to exist. 

Pierre and Jules Horiot, 12th-generation proprietors of Horiot Père & Fils, were not about to let that happen! Despite being producers of Champagne as well as rosé,  they strived to keep their part of French wine history alive and continued to produce Rosé de Riceys, even when it would have been much more profitable to  turn their Pinot Noir into Champagne. In time, the other vignerons of the region joined in the fight to save the historical Rosé from ruin, and today this tiny region tucked into the far southern corner of Champagne still makes a rosé fit for a king – if he can find it!

For more information:

 

The Forgotten Grapes of Champagne

Forgotten Grapes of champagneEvery good wine student knows the three main grapes of Champagne – repeat after me, “Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.” And yet, there are more!  While the three well-known varieties are far and away the most planted in the region, the Champagne AOC actually has seven grapes approved for the use in the famous bubbly.  The other approved grapes include Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris.

The Champagne House of Aubry is an interesting part of this story, and their story is how I first came upon this information.  It seems that back in 1986, the owners, Philippe and Pierre Aubry, started to think about how they could create a special wine to celebrate the producer’s 200 year anniversary, to be celebrated in 1991.  They got the idea to create a wine that would reflect the wines that were being made in the region in the 1770’s, when the business began. 

After extensive research, they discovered that many of the grapes that were grown in the Champagne region at the time were almost  forgotten, and in some cases, verging on extinction.  They located the grapes, and planted Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris. While the grapevines were not mature enough to harvest for their bicentennial champagne pupitresvintage, they did begin harvesting their “forgotten” grapes in 1993 and by 1994 were able to harvest all 7 grape varieties.  The cuvee they created in 1994 is named “Le Nombre d’Or,” meaning “The Golden Number, ” representing the 7 grapes of the Champagne Region.

Arbane is a white wine grape variety that was historically planted in the Aube region of Champagne.  It is now very rare; its plantings in the entirety of France add up to less than one hectare (2.5 acres).  The Champagne House Moutard-Diligent makes a 100% Arbane Champagne called Vieilles-Vignes as well as a Cuvée 6 Cépages that includes Arbanne as well as Pinot Blanc and Petit Meslier.   

pinot blancPetit Meslier, a white variety, is a close relative of Chardonnay, being the result of a cross between Gouais Blanc (one of the ”parents” of Chardonnay) and Savagnin. While the grape is extremely rare, it used to be widely planted in Champagne due to its ability to retain a good deal of acidity even in the region’s warmer areas.  There does seem to be some growing interest in the grape, as plantings have recently increased from 4 to 20 hectares in France.  Irvine Wines, in Australia’s Eden Valley, has planted a small amount as well.

Pinot Blanc, another mutation of Pinot Noir, was historically widely grown in both Burgundy and Champagne. It is grown in tiny amounts in the Champagne region, where it is likely to be referred to as “Blanc Vrai.”  In principle, it may still be grown in small amounts in Burgundy, but we won’t say that too loud, and no one is stepping up to confirm the suspicion!  I did find several Champagnes that use Pinot Blanc in the mix, including Champagne Tassin’s Brut Cuvée Elegance, which states that it is made from 50% Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, 50% Pinot Noir.  

Pinot Gris is most likely native to Burgundy, and is thought to be a clone, mutation, or at least a close relative of Pinot Noir.  Along with Pinot Noir it spread from Burgundy, and was widely grown in the Champagne region back in the 18th century Drappier_Quatuor_bottle_shotunder the name “Fromenteau.” Eventually, plantings in Champagne dwindled as the grape was found to be very low yield and unreliable. I found just a few references to Pinot Gris vineyards on the dozens of Champagne Producers’ websites I researched, and only three  wines that claimed Pinot Gris in the makeup, all of the them claiming to be made from the “7 grapes.”  At least from this vantage point, it seems like Pinot Gris might be the most obscure Champagne grape of all.   

The House of Drappier produces a Champagne called “Quattuor.” Quattuor features Petit Meslier, along with Arbanne, Pinot Blanc (here called Blanc Vrai) and Chardonnay in equal amounts.  The wine is described as fruity, floral, and delicate, and is dedicated “To The Forgotten Grapes of Champagne.”

Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org

For more information:

The Maestro

Andre TTTAndré Tchelistcheff (1901-1994) was so impressive as a winemaker that he earned the lasting nickname “The Maestro.”  Born in Moscow, he fled Russia during the Revolution and studied agricultural technology in Czechoslovakia before landing in France, where he studied microbiology, fermentation, and oenology at the Institut Pasteur.

In 1938, Georges de Latour, the owner and founder of Beaulieu Vineyards in Napa Valley, made a tour of France in search of a new winemaker. He was looking for someone with a sophisticated palate and a scientific background.  He found it in André, who was working at the French National Argronomy Institute at the time.  André had already received numerous offers of work from all over the world, yet he accepted the challenge and, in 1938, moved to Napa to become the Vice President and chief winemaker at BV.

Upon his arrival in California, he stopped the over-sulfuring of wines and put an end to the practice of dumping large amounts of ice into the crusher to combat the searing heat of the Napa Valley in fall.  He pioneered the cold fermentation of whites and rosés, the control of malolactic fermentation in red wines, and the use of small barrel aging.  He spent years replacing rusty cast iron piping and pumps that were causing the wines to have unacceptably high levels of metallic concentration.

Napa AndreAndré also pioneered the study of viticulture and terroir in Napa Valley, implementing frost protection in the vineyards and the prevention of grape diseases. He studied the various sub-regions of Napa, identifying areas where world-class Cabernet Sauvignon could be made, and is credited with coming up with the term “Rutherford dust.” Most importantly, he created Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which quickly became the benchmark style for high-quality Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

During his time with Beaulieu, Tchelistcheff trained many soon-to-be-famous winemakers, including Mike Grgich and Joe Heitz. He remained vice president of Beaulieu Vineyards until he retired in 1973.  In his “retirement” he consulted with dozens of wineries and winemakers in California, Washington State and Oregon. One of his first clients was Mary Ann Graf at Simi Winery, who is now recognized as the first woman winemaker in America. In full circle style, he consulted once again with Beaulieu Vineyards from 1991 until his death in 1994.

Always a gentleman, André was well-known and much beloved for his for his quick wit, sharp intellect, and European charm.  He was considered a master of the language of wine, and once described a Beaujolais as “a young woman, barefoot, the wind blowing in her hair, ruffling her blouse.  She has the look on Andre Tchelistcheffher face of an early peach, a teen-age beauty.”

Considered the most influential California winemaker since the repeal of prohibition, his many honors include being inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame in 2007, Wine Spectator’s Distinguished Service Award of 1986, and the 1970 Merit Award of the American Society of Enologists.  He was also recognized internationally, being named both a “Chevalier” and an “Officier du Mérite Agricole” by the French government.

However…to all those countless winemakers, grape growers, wineries and wine drinkers from the early days of the California wine industry and beyond, he will always be “The Maestro.”

 

Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org

 

Le Pays Diois

Clairette VendageAs the legend goes, more than two thousand years ago, in a land called Le Pays Diois, a shepherd lowered a jug of wine into the icy waters of the Drôme River to cool it down.  The wine was forgotten and left in the cold water over the winter.  The shepherd returned in spring, and to his surprise found the wine right where he left it.  When he opened the jug, he discovered a light sparkle to the wine…what the French call pétillance. For centuries afterward, Gallic tribes left jars of wine in the river over the winter, to recover them in the spring…

Many years later, distant relatives of that first Gallic shepherd can drink the same type of wine, now called Clairette de Die.  The vineyards of Die are located about 30 miles east of the Rhône River, at just about the spot where the Northern and Southern sections of the Rhône Valley meet.  This section of the French département of the Drôme, actually part of the Rhône Valley wine region, is home to four distinct AOCs.

France-Rhone ValleyThe vineyards, somewhat isolated in an area of otherwise very little wine production, are planted at altitudes of up to 2,800 feet, making them among the highest altitude vineyards in France.  Planted on the slopes of the Vercors Mountains, the vines are sheltered from morning frosts in the spring.  The chalky argilliferous soil, rich in clay, helps to retain rainwater, which helps the vines survive the long, hot, dry summers.

To make authentic Clairette de Die, the grapes are pressed immediately after harvest and placed in vats to ferment at very low temperatures, replicating the process used in ancient times when jugs of wine were kept in the icy waters of the local rivers.  After one or two months of slow fermentation, the sweet, still-fermenting wine is bottled.  The bottles are kept at a constant temperature of about 50°F and the wine is allowed to continue fermenting for another four months.  Fermentation ends naturally when the wine is still slightly sweet.  The wine is usually clarified by being emptied and quickly re-filled (this is the ancient method, after all).  This method of making Clairette de Die, based on the tradition founded 2,000 years ago, was officially recognized as the “ancestral dioise process” in 1941, and considered unique to this area.

There are four AOC’s in the Pays Diois:

clairette de dieClairette de Die AOC, the most famous of the wines, is a low-alcohol (about 8%), semi-sweet, slightly sparkling wine made using the officially recognized “ancestral dioise process.” Clairette de Die is made from the Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains (75% minimum) and Clairette (25% maximum) grape varieties. Look for aromas and flavors of apricot, peach, tropical fruit, citrus, honeysuckle and white rose.

Crémant de Die AOC, a Traditional Method sparkling wine, historically produced from 100% Clairette, is now made with a Clairette/Aligoté/Muscat blend.  This wine is dry and crisp with aromas and flavors of apple and green fruit.

Coteaux de Die AOC is a still, dry white wine made from 100% Clairette grapes.  The annual production is quite low…only around 1,500 cases, so you’ll most likely have to take a trip to the Diois for a sip!

Châtillon-en-Diois AOC is a still wine made in white, red, and rosé.  The red and rosé versions, produced from Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah, are only made in the vineyards immediately surrounding the village of Châtillon-en-Diois.  The more widely available white version, made from the Aligoté and Chardonnay grapes, is produced throughout the Pays de Diois region.

And please…pronounce it as in Diois (“dee-wah”). Say it right, and you’re halfway there.

 

Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org

 

Sir Francis Drake and the British Love of Sherry

sir-francis-drake-statueIt’s one of the best stories in the history of wine:  How Sir Francis Drake “singed the beard of the King of Spain” in a 1587 raid on the Port of Cadiz and made off with 2,900 barrels of wine. It also might just be the reason behind the somewhat cliché, but at the same time, undeniable love the British have for Sherry.

The tale goes back to the 1400’s, as Europe began exploration of the new world. The great capitals of Europe were sending explorers such as Ferdinand Magellan and Christopher Columbus to find passage ways for trade and to discover what lie beyond the wide oceans.  Christopher Columbus, despite being of Italian birth, made his most famous deal with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain and set sail from the Spanish ports of Palos de la Frontera, Cadiz, and Sanlucar – all regions well known for wine.

These explorations were spectacularly successful for Spain as explorers began to return in ships filled with gold, silver, and other wealth from the new world. At the same time that Spain was profiting from the plunder of Mexico and Peru, young Queen Elizabeth of England was benefitting from the wealth brought in by her expanding colonies in North America.

However, it soon became clear that British colonies in North America could not begin to produce anywhere near the immediate wealth arriving by the galleon load from Spain’s incredibly lush New World sherry barrelterritories. Knowing that an island kingdom must be strong to survive, Elizabeth turned a blind eye as Sir Francis Drake and other English sea captains began raiding Spain’s slow-moving, heavily laden ships, seizing the riches for their own.

It did not take long for the Philip II, the King of Spain, to have had enough of England’s daring Queen and her “sea wolves” and he soon hatched a plan.

In 1580, King Philip ordered that a great Armada, or Navy, be built.  His plan was to invade England, remove Elizabeth from the throne, and crown himself king of England in Westminster Cathedral.  However, Elizabeth heard of the plan and made a bold preemptive strike, led by the highly skilled ship’s captain, Sir Francis Drake.

Drake was sent out from Plymouth on April 12, 1587. He arrived just outside of Cadiz on April 29th.  Late in the afternoon of that day he sailed boldly into the harbor, completely surprising the defenders and throwing the Spanish land and naval forces into a panic.

Drake's map of his planned attack on Cadiz.  (Public Domain)

Drake’s map of his planned attack on Cadiz.
(Public Domain)

All the remainder of the day and into the next, Drake plundered and burned. Thirty-seven Spanish vessels were destroyed with only minor losses on the English side. As part of the spoils of the raid, Drake and his crew famously stole 2,900 barrels of Sherry and delivered it up to the British Court. This devastating battle became known as “the singeing of the beard of the King of Spain.”

As you might guess, it became all the rage in England to drink the captured Sherry.  Spanish Sherry was suddenly the most popular drink in England.  Legend even tells us that the English loved to call it “sack” because, well, Drake had sacked the Spanish supply port.  In the ultimate show of British praise, Shakespeare praised Sherry, or “sack,” when he had Sir John Falstaff proudly declare in Henry IV, Part 2, “If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them should be, to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to sack”.

Note:  There are other explanations for the term “sack” as well.  For instance, some say the term comes from the Spanish verb “sacar,” meaning “to draw out.”

 

Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org

Champagne Riots!

champagne harvestToday, the Champagne region is a glorious place to visit.  Just hop on a train in downtown Paris, and in less than an hour you can find yourself surrounded by rolling vineyards, gorgeous cathedrals, and miles of underground tunnels lined with millions of bottles of resting Champagne!

It has not always been so serene, however.  As a matter of fact, on April 13, 1911, the headlines of the world’s newspapers read “Blind Fury of the Mob…Incendiarism and Loot…Riots in Champagne!”

The Champagne Riots that erupted in 1910 and 1911 were the result of a series of problems and frustrations faced by the grape growers of the region, whose livelihoods depended on the Champagne production houses who purchased their grapes.

One of the first problems they faced was the Phylloxera epidemic, which had begun its rampage of the area, resulting in disastrous crop losses and years of devastatingly low income for many of the families working the vineyards.

Another issue was that some producers of Champagne had begun to import grapes.  The development of an efficient French Railway system, while undoubtedly a boon for business, had provided Champagne producers access to inexpensive grapes Champagne Riotgrown outside of the Champagne region.  It was a well-known fact that many Champagne producers had begun to buy grapes from the Loire Valley and the Languedoc.  Some even brought in grapes from as far away as Spain and Germany. These grapes reportedly could be had for less than half of the price of the local grapes.  There were even reports of some producers buying Rhubarb from England to make into wine.  We can only hope that rumor was false!

At the time, there were no AOC laws in place to protect the grape growers or regulate the wine.   In 1910, however, the grape growers petitioned the government to put laws in place limiting the use of these “foreign” grapes in Champagne.  The government responded and passed a law requiring that a minimum of 51% of the grapes used in Champagne be grown in the region.  However, the use of unapproved grapes continued unabated, with many houses using 100% imported grapes. At the same time, many of the Champagne Houses banded together to drive down the price of locally-grown grapes.

In January 1911, the frustrations of the grape growers reached a peak and riots erupted in the towns of Damery and Hautvillers.  Farmers intercepted trucks loaded with grapes from the Loire Valley and pushed them into the Marne River.  They marched upon the Champagne warehouses, smashing bottles and throwing barrels into the River.  The owner of the house of Archille Princier had his house set aflame by an angry mob chanting “A bas les frauders!” (“Down with the cheaters”)!

champagne vineyardsThe worst of the riots occurred in the sleepy town of Aÿ, located just three miles north of Épernay.  An angry mob descended on the city, ransacking the homes of Champagne producers and private citizens alike.  After a fire started to spread and the entire village was burning, the government intervened and sent in 40,000 troops.  Soldiers were stationed in every village and town.

This first round of riots was soon followed by more and more trouble.  The French Government, in an attempt to quell the violence once and for all, attempted to create a true definition of “Champagne” and define its region of origin.  The first version included a geographical delineation of the area that included just the villages of the Marne Department and a few from the Aisne Department. This blatantly excluded the Aube region and its capital, the village of Troyes. Riots broke out again as the growers from the Aube district protested their exclusion.  This prompted the government to create a second zone within the Champagne appellation for Aube, which in turn lead to more riots as the producers in the Marne District lashed out against the loss of their exclusive status.  Once again, vineyards were burned, houses were ransacked, bottles were smashed, and barrels were tossed into rivers. Violence, riots, and attempts at negotiation were still underway up until the beginning of World War I, when the region and country faced much bigger problems and internal hostilities ceased.

CelebrateFinally, in 1927, the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée standards for the Champagne region were agreed upon.  The regulations declared (thankfully) that geographical boundaries of the region included the Marne, The Aube, and parts of the Aisne departments; and that only grapes from those regions could be used in the wine now known (and loved) as “Champagne.”

Click here for SWE’s Map of the Champagne Region

For more information:

The New York Times Archive:http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9A00E3DD1031E233A25755C1A9629C946096D6CF

The Argus/National Library of Australia Archive:  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10894733

 

Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org