The Sazerac: World’s First Cocktail

Guest Author Jade Helm, CSW, DWS takes us on a trip to New Orleans to try the World’s first cocktail…

Sazerac Cocktails.jpg[1]

World’s first cocktail…it’s quite a claim to fame! But that’s what they say about the Sazerac…

The creation of the Sazerac dates back to 1838 and is credited to Antoine Amedie Peychaud who owned an apothecary in New Orleans.  Peychaud liked to treat his friends to a mixture of Cognac and his special blend of bitters.  He served it in a little egg cup called a “coquetier” (pronounced “ko-k-tay”), and some say this lead to the word “cocktail.” This would indeed make the Sazerac the world’s first cocktail, and the cocktail a truly American invention.

The Sazerac has evolved over time, due in part to necessity.  When the phylloxera epidemic decimated the vineyards of Europe, Cognac was in short supply, so in 1873 American Rye Whiskey became the base spirit of the Sazerac. In the same year, absinthe was added to the recipe. This addition soon revealed its own set of limitations, as we all know how Absinthe’s reputation for causing hallucinations and mental illness caused it to be banned for a time.  However, that was not about to stop the party in New Orleans, and a rinse of Herbsaint replaced the Absinthe in the Sazerac.

Sazerac Bar.jpg[1]With all this folklore at stake, I decided to make a trek to New Orleans to try the Sazerac for myself – in the interest of history, of course! The Sazerac Bar seemed like the right place to start.  The Sazerac Bar is housed inside The Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans, just off Canal Street. Richly appointed with sparkling chandeliers and decadent golden hues this is the type of hotel that makes you at least want to visit the restroom just to have an excuse to look around.  Luckily the Sazerac Bar is just as inviting.  Honey colored walnut and dim lighting remind us of a time when men were men and…well, back to the drink.

While the modern “official” recipe uses Sazerac Rye Whiskey, The Sazerac Bar offers both a whiskey and Cognac version.  I tried them both side by side and am happy to report that I loved both renditions.  The Cognac version was smoother, fruitier, and seemed sweeter. The Peychaud’s Bitters gave the drink added flavors of orange, cardamom seed, and star anise. The rinse of Herbsaint added a hint of anise that seems to linger on the finish.  The version made with Rye Whiskey had a smoky rye flavor and more “bite.” Somehow the whiskey, bitters, and Herbsaint combined to give the drink the aroma of candied citrus peel and floral, honey-like flavors.   What’s not to love?

If you would like to try to make a Sazerac at home, click here for a copy of The official Sazerac Recipe, courtesy of The Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel.  Cheers!

Jade Profile PicGuest Author Jade Helm, CSW, DWS is a wine writer, educator, and consultant, as well as the primary author of the Tasting Pour Blog.  She enjoys helping people explore wines whether they are simply tasty and affordable for everyday enjoyment, or worthy of cellaring.  For those who want to understand wine in greater depth, Jade offers information about tasting terms, regions, wine making methods, and just about anything wine! You can find Jade on Facebook, Linkedin, or the Tasting Pour Blog.

 

The Grands Crus de Bordeaux of 2010

Guest Author Paul Wagner takes us along as the Grand Crus de Bordeaux of 2010 travels to San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Washington DC, L.A. and beyond…

san franciscoThe Garden Court at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco began life 140 years ago as an open-air courtyard for horse-drawn carriages. Modeled on the Paris Opera House, the Palace enclosed the courtyard in 1904 and covered it with a glorious expanse of Belle Epoque stained glass. The Garden Court normally serves breakfast and lunch to hotel guests, but on January 18, 2013 the Garden Court is closed for a private event.

Twenty-four hours earlier, more than 110 owners and winemakers of the top chateaux in Bordeaux left their homes to promote the wines of the great 2010 vintage. The tour is a combination of military logistics combined with the grand opera of great wine.

By eight o’clock the next morning the Garden Court is a flurry of activity. Fifty-five tables are draped with sparkling white linen and crystal arranged throughout the room, each to be shared by two of the chateaux. In the center of the Garden Court, a small army of highly trained staff is given a briefing to prepare for their roles in the show.

red wine tasting line up of glassesAt 12:50 the chateau owners begin to arrive at the Garden Court, and the staff takes up its stations. Outside, a crowd of more than 200 importers, distributors, restaurateurs, retailers and media have already registered and are anxiously waiting to get in. The last few chateau owners push their way through the crowd and take their positions at their tables. It’s show time.

The critics are raving about the 2010 vintage.  The Domaine de Chevalier white is described by Gilbert and Gaillard as “Fleshy, polished, very fresh attack with clean, clear-cut aromas. Full, long and ethereal.”

The Wine Spectator describes the Smith-Haut Lafitte red as “Gorgeous, with alluring black tea and warm ganache notes that unfurl slowly, while the core of intense steeped plum, anise, blackberry compote and black currant confiture sits patiently in reserve.”

The buzz in the room is audible. Every chateau seems to have its share of fans and old friends. The chateau owners are now opening more bottles.  Robert Parker says of the Canon La Gaffaliere, “On the palate, the wine is dense and full-bodied, with stunning concentration, purity, texture and length.”  Decanter says that the Pomerol of Petite Village is “Impressive wine this year. The best ever? Dense, complex nose. Explosive fruit on the palate. Velvety texture.”

SauternesNear the end of the tasting, the crowd slows its pace and packs the space in front of the Sauternes tables. A top distributor puts his arm around the shoulders of a famous restaurateur and leans in to share a story. A winemaker from Napa buries his nose in a glass of Suduiraut and then slowly shakes his head in wonderment. His companion chuckles. Exhausted, smiling, with teeth stained black from scores of red wines, the tasters slowly walk out of the Garden Court into the night.

Early the next morning the chateau owners leave for Los Angeles, where they pour at a consumer tasting for more than 2,000 people that afternoon.

The Wine Enthusiast raves about the Cantemerle: “A great success for this southern Médoc chateau, this is fine, elegant and perfumed. It bursts with a black fruit flavor, balanced by smooth tannins and acidity.”

James Suckling says of the Chateau La Lagune, “What a lovely texture to the wine, with super soft and supple tannins and blackberry and currant character.”

new york mapSunday is a travel day to New York, followed by a tasting in the ballroom at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square on Monday, with more than 900 in attendance. It’s time to focus on the Médoc itself, from Margaux to St. Estephe. “Shows serious, well-embedded grip, and the core of fruit is spot on. This has the range, length and cut for the cellar,” the Wine Spectator notes of the Chateau Giscours.

Stephen Tanzer loves the Branaire-Ducru: “Bright ruby-red. Floral aromas of fresh red cherry, redcurrant, violet, gunflint and minerals. Suave on entry, then pliant and sweet, with a plush texture and a smoky quality to the redcurrant, blackberry and floral flavors.”

Jancis Robinson says that the Beychevelle is “Inviting, savoury dark fruit. Wonderfully juicy in the middle of all that tannin structure. Chewy and dense and then a chocolate sweetness at the very end.”

chicago mapIn Chicago, the legendary Drake Hotel sets up the Gold Room the night before in preparation, but a malfunction in the fire sprinkler system soaks one end of the room in the middle of the night. The staff works through the night, and by 11:00 a.m., when a few Bordelais arrive to inspect, the dark red carpet and marble floors are flawless. The grapevine motif in bas relief  glitters on the gold pillars that line the room.

Berry Bros. & Rudd sing an ode to the Pichon Comtesse de Lalande: “Silky, creamy and lush, it has a killer body and a spectacular finish.”

Farr Vintners is enchanted with the Phélan Ségur: “Layered, opulent, ripe and fleshy, this beauty should drink nicely for 10-15 years.”

The group leaves early the next morning to fly to Washington, DC, for their fifth tasting in six days.   While 2010 was a stunning vintage throughout Bordeaux, perhaps the greatest wines are the Sauternes. And like the wines, the reviews are effusive.

dc mapThe Wine Spectator says that the Coutet “Offers a bright inner core of honeysuckle, pineapple, star fruit and white peach flavors, coated for now with heather honey, marzipan and mango notes. Fresh and racy through the finish, this is an elegant beauty, showing terrific cut and precision”

Chateau Suduiraut got the attention of the Wine Enthusiast: “Richly textured, with an opulent feel, concentrated, the fruit buried in the dense flavors. It makes for a big, powerful wine, looking to a long future.”

James Suckling notes the Chateau Guiraud has “Ripe lemon peel and orange. Some honey and vanilla with loads of new wood. Dense and very sweet on the palate with nice pure fruit and firm tannins from the oak that still needs time to soften.”

As they fly home, the Bordelais leave lasting memories of both their wines and themselves. Clyde Beffa of K&L wines notes, “We are told that the 2010s will be long lasting wines. One journalist said that the wines would age for a century… it was another monumental vintage from a magnificent Bordeaux decade.”

Indeed it is. And sixteen days later, one hundred and five chateau owners fly to China. There are other worlds to conquer.

1 paulwagner1 12 11 (3)Paul Wagner is president of Balzac Communications & Marketing and is also an instructor for Napa Valley College’s Viticulture and Enology department and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. He is a regular columnist for Vineyards & Winery Management Magazine, and contributes to Allexperts.com in the field of wine and food.

Paul is a founding member of the Academy of Wine Communications, a member of the nominations committee of the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Spadarini della Castellania di Soave in 2005.

In 2009 he was honored with a “Life Dedicated to Wine” award at the Feria Nacional del Vino (FENAVIN) in Spain. He is also a member of the board of directors of the SWE.

Avvinare…To “Prepare the Glass for Wine”

Guest Author Susannah Gold of Vigneto Communications tells us about the lovely Italian tradition known as Avvinare…

avvinaireMany people are put off by wine jargon and by certain actions that people take when pouring a wine, whether it be decanting a wine or preparing wine glasses. While it is true that some people just like to put on a show, in many cases all of the pomp and circumstance actually has a practical purpose! Most of us would agree, for instance, that decanting a wine allows the wine to breath and can bring out the bouquet of a “closed” wine.

The Italian have a lovely tradition called “Avvinare” which is a method of preparing the glasses to receive the wine.  While it may appear to be just another wine tasting ritual, the purpose is to make sure the glass is clean and odorless.  Often wine glasses are washed in chlorinated water or have some dust or other substances on their surface. The process of Avvinare will neutralize any unwanted aromas, clean off any dust particles, and leave you with a perfectly primed glass!

Start the process of Avvinare by pouring a very small amount of wine into your glass and swirl it around a bit. This is done to “season” the glass. In fact, it is almost always done with the wine you are about to drink in that particular glass.  After you are finished, pour the wine into the glass of the person next to you and continue around the table until everyone’s glass is primed and ready to “receive the wine.”

Of course, there is some showmanship that goes into this process, as one would expect with anything that originates in Italy – dramatic flair, creativity, and a thoroughly practical element.  So the next time you take your wine glasses out, see if you too enjoy avvinando (past participle) your glass. It is a practice well worth doing and one that will become second nature to you.

susannahSusannah Gold, CSW, CSS, has been in communications for 18 years. Formerly a journalist for Dow Jones Newswires, Susannah has worked in PR agencies, in-house and on her own. In 2007, Susannah decided to marry her communications and wine interests and the result was Vigneto Communications, a boutique public relations, marketing and educational consulting firm specialized in the food & wine industry. Susannah has worked with numerous wine importers, producers, and institutions such as Vinitaly, Slow Wine, and numerous retail wine stores.

In addition to holding her CSS, CSW, and a Diploma of Wine & Spirits (DWS) from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, Susannah is one of only a handful of non-Italians in the Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (AIS) and has completed her certification as a Spanish Wine Educator at the Wine Academy of Spain. You can learn more about Susannah and her work at her popular blog, titled quite appropriately, Avvinare.

 

Cash and Prizes: March Re-cap Quiz

CT food-wine-robinson-book009.jpgAs promised, here is our monthly quiz with Cash and Prizes (well, in this case, prizes)!

This month’s winner will receive a copy of Jancis Robinson’s beautiful new book, Wine Grapes.

We will be offering an end-of-the-month quiz (with prizes, of course) on the last day of every month.   Quiz questions will cover the educational material posted to Wine, Wit, and Wisdom for the previous month.   This month’s quiz has 20 questions that cover the topics and information included in our posts for the month of March. Everything you need to know to pass the quiz is here on our blog!

To refresh your memory, our posts for the month of March were:

Everyone who takes and passes the quiz with 100% of the questions correct by April 7, 2013 (midnight CST) will have their names put into a drawing for a copy of Jancis’ beautiful new book!  You can take the quiz over and over again if you like…it’s all about the education! The winner will be notified via email on April 8!

Click here for a link to the quiz.

If you have any questions, contact us at: bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org .

Good luck!

Update on April 8, 2013:  Congratulations to Douglas Trapasso for winning our March Contest!!  Douglas lives in Chicago and works for the local school system in a department that funds child care agencies throughout the city. As rewarding as he finds his day job, he dreams one day of making a difference  in the world of wine.  Whether by selling, publicizing, serving or even possibly making it, Douglas nurtures his sommelier dreams by participating in tasting groups, and attending as many wine events and classes as he can.”

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

The Story of Brunello di Montalcino

Guest Author Don Kinnan, CSS, CWE tells us the story of Brunello di Montalcino

Don - BrunelloThe story of Brunello embodies man’s quest for perfection.  It begins with the discovery of a special grapevine on a steep Montalcino slope in 1842.  That vine’s subsequent propagation by its founder, Clemente Santi, resulted in the creation of the Brunello wine.

Today, Brunello is considered one of Italy’s greatest wines and a supreme example of Sangiovese at its best.  It has also become Italy’s most recognized premium wine, internationally.  With a total production of 750,000 cases (9L), 65% finds its way into the world’s finest restaurants and connoisseur wine cellars.  The United States has become the largest importer of Brunello, embracing 25% of the total production.  Brunello’s international prominence was recognized by the Wine Spectator when it was selected the “Top Wine of the Year” in 2006.

Now, the rest of the story…

The Place:   The Montalcino zone takes its name from the town, which sits high on a hill as a fortified citadel with commanding expansive views in all directions.  The zone encompasses 8,000 acres of vines, 4700 of which are dedicated to Brunello.   The name, Montalcino derives from the Latin, “Mons Ilcinnus”, or mountain of holm oak.  These oak trees grace the commune’s logo.  Vineyards, while extensive, only cover 15% of the land, with forests, pastures, and fields of grain making up the rest.  Indeed, Montalcino is like an elevated island amidst a sea of undulating wheat fields and pastures.  The scenic beauty of the place won it a coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site award in 2004.

Don -Lying some 27 miles south of Siena and 27 miles east of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Montalcino enjoys a much warmer and drier climate than its Chianti Classico neighbor to the north, and Montepulciano to the east.  This, together with diverse soils (including rocky “galestro,” limestone, marl, clay, and sand) make for growing conditions which consistently ripen its finicky Sangiovese grapes earlier the either Chianti Classico or Montepulciano.  In Montalcino, harvest is normally completed by late September, usually before the arrival of the October rains.

The Montalcino Zone resembles a square formed by 3 perimeter rivers: the Ombrone on the north and west, the Asso on the east, and the Orcia on the south.  It rises from the perimeter to a crest at the Poggio Civitella (2168 ft), a short distance south of the town, Montacino.  There are presently four notable wine production areas.

  • Just southeast of the town, the highest vineyards in the zone are located on steep terrain at an elevation of 1,300-1,600 feet.  The site’s cool conditions favor slow ripening, producing wines that are more austerely structured, but are very age-worthy.  Biond Santi’s “Il Greppo” estate is located here.
  • Northeast of the town, on lower slopes, near Montosoli and Canalicchio, the terroir allows the wines to show fuller, riper qualities to complement their structure.
  • Don - Brunello MapFurther north, toward the perimeter of the zone and at slightly lower elevations, the soil contains mainly clay with deposits of marl and sandy limestone.  Areas such as Altesino and Catiglione del Bosco produce a more forward style of Brunello in this area.
  • Recent plantings in the southwest corner of the zone, near Sant’Angelo in Colle, Argiano, Pian della Mura, and Camigliano, have produced impressive wines with balance and structure.  Here, sandy clay soils are often mixed with limestone and “galestro” at the higher sites.  This area is closest to the sea and has a warmer microclimate.

The Grape: The name Brunello, meaning “the brown one,” came from the description of the Sangiovese Grosso grapes at harvest time – a dark colored, dusky brown berry.  Brunello was the local name given to this type of Sangiovese Grosso, originally identified in 1842 by Clemente Santi.  Today, the term is officially reserved for the name of the wine.  Sangiovese grown in Montalcino has comparatively thicker skins, compared with grapes grown in other regions, and excellent anthocyanins. Both of these factors contribute to Brunello’s deep tannic structure and rich hue.

Sangiovese is Italy’s most planted single grape variety.  It comprises 67% of the Tuscan vineyard acreage and is the main grape in 25 DOC(G)’s of Toscana. Sangiovese is an ancient grape, believed to have resulted from a spontaneous crossing during the Etruscan period.  Recent DNA evidence reflects its parentage as a crossing between Ciliegiolo and Calabrese di Montenuovo.

However, there is significant diversity within the grape variety.  Sangiovese tends to be genetically unstable and very adaptable; thus, many clones exist.  Banfi Vineyards has documented over 600 versions of Sangiovese on their estate alone!  Currently, as a result of extensive clonal research trials, the best clones are being propagated.  Most estates are using multiple clones in order to add better balance and more complexity to their wines.

Don - SangioveseThe Wine:   Brunello di Montalcino projects an image of majesty and mystery that heightens its allure.  This aura was cultivated by the Biondi Santi family.  For 100 years, they were the only producers of the wine.  The Biondi Santi estate “Il Greppo,” where Brunello was born, has been called Italy’s first “grand cru”.

However, the wine remained somewhat of an Italian secret until the 1960’s, when word began to spread about the tastings of the extraordinary Biondi Santi vintages of 1888 and 1891.  Soon, the wine world turned its attention to this special place and its remarkable wine.  The Biondi Santi family, led by Franco and his son Jacopo, carry the flag and continue to produce age-worthy Brunello at the family estate.

A growers’ consortium was established in 1967, and has become one of Italy’s most effective with 98% of today’s 208 producers being members.  The consortium has guided a smooth growth in production, while advancing quality standards.

There is, however, growing internal controversy.  Some “modernist” producers would like to shorten the 4-year aging requirement prior to release of the wine.  Some also argue for the right to use small amounts of non-Sangiovese grapes.  These changes are opposed by the “traditionalist” producers who have successfully, thus far, resisted these changes; aside from agreeing to reduce the required time in oak from 4 years to two years.

The Future: The path to wine stardom for Brunello has been like a “shooting star.”  The influx of quality investment over the past 50 years continues and serves to accelerate and reinforce its meteoric rise to prominence.  There are no “industrial” producers among its wine estates.  Although there have been a few bumps in the road, the prospect for continued success is excellent.

Click here for the study aid:  Brunello Fast Facts

Don KinnanDonald P. Kinnan, CSS, CWE has been in the fine wine trade for over 30 years.  In 1985, after a successful military career, he joined Kobrand Corporation as a sales manager and, in 1992 was promoted to Director of Education.  As such he was responsible for Kobrand’s wine and spirits education programs nationwide for over 20 years.   Don is a long-time member of the Board of Directors of the Society of Wine Educators and currently serves on the organization’s Executive Committee.

A frequent top-rated presenter at the Annual SWE Conference, he will be co-presenting “Barolo vs Brunello – A Clash of the Titans” on Friday, August 2nd at this year’s Conference in Orlando.

 

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

Heaven and Earth

Hermanus HarborIf you are ever lucky enough to make a trip to South Africa, as a wine lover you will most likely tour dozens of the gorgeous wineries of Stellenbosch, make an excursion to Groot Constantia, take the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, and spend a few nights on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town.  That would make for a wonderful trip!

But if you could extend your trip for just one more day, you might find yourself in a place that deservedly calls itself “Heaven and Earth.”  Here’s how to get there:  Rent a car and drive 70 miles southeast of Cape Town.  Stop in the town of Hermanus, a former fishing village built alongside Walker Bay that rivals the beauty of any beach-front Riviera in the world, complete with umbrella-tabled wine bars lining the sand.

Hermanus Whale CrierHermanus has many a claim to fame, including the fact that it employs the only full-time whale crier in the world.  The town’s centerpiece, Walker Bay, is a breeding ground for the Southern Right Whale and in 2001 was declared a whale sanctuary – meaning no boats or water craft of any kind are allowed in the water from July until November.  During season, the whales can be seen from the cliffs along the shore, and when the whale crier sounds his kelp horn people pour out of their homes to watch the show.

Just before the entrance to Hermanus you’ll find the turn-off to the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.  It is a valley of indescribable beauty, the name, after all, is Afrikaans for “Heaven and Earth.”  Hemel-en-Aarde is home to the southernmost vineyards in South Africa, and due to its proximity to Walker Bay and the South Atlantic Ocean, some of the coolest as well.

Part of the Walker Bay Wine District, there are three wine-producing wards in Hemel-en-Aarde.  Hemel-en-Aarde Valley begins less than a mile from the shore.  A few miles inland, along the scenic Hemel-en-Aarde Road (R320), resides the second ward, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.  Extending 11 miles into the valley formed by the majestic Overberg Mountains, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge is the furthest inland.

hermanus vineyardThere are currently just over a dozen wineries in Hemel-en-Aarde.  The pioneer in the area’s wine history is undoubtedly Tim Hamilton Russell, the founder of the Hamilton-Russell Estate.  Tim purchased his 170 hectare property in 1975 after a ten-year search for the ideal spot in which to plant cool climate grapes in South Africa.  Soon thereafter, the estate began producing world-class wines; one of which won the 2003 International Wine Challenge as the best Pinot Noir in the world.  This success paved the way for other wineries in the region.

Another Hemel-en-Aarde Winery that might sound familiar is Bouchard Finlayson. Established in 1989, Bouchard Finlayson is a boutique winery located on a 125-hectare property with just over 22 hectares under vine.  The remainder of the property remains a conservatory dedicated to the pristine, indigenous “fynbos” flora of the Western Cape.  The leading wine of Bouchard Finlayson is Galpin Peak Pinot Noir, grown in the Bokkeveld Shale and clay-based soils of Galpin Peak Mountain, at an elevation of 2,000 feet.

hermanus vineyards bouchardOther outstanding wineries of Hemel-en-Aarde include Creation Estate, Southern Right, Newton Johnson, and Jakob’s Vineyard, but, alas, they are hard to find outside of South Africa.  You’ll just have to make that trip…

For more information:

 

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

 

The Society of Wine Educators

SWE New logo wtext

 

 

The Society of Wine Educators is a membership-based nonprofit organization focused on providing wine and spirits education along with the conferral of several certifications. The Society is internationally recognized, and its programs are highly regarded both for their quality and relevance to the industry. 

The mission of the SWE is to set the standard for quality and responsible wine and spirits education and professional certification. 

Extreme AVA’s

vernaccia san gimignanoAccording to the website for the TTB (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau), an AVA is defined as “a delimited grape-growing region having distinguishing features, a name, and a delineated boundary.”  The website goes on to state that “these designations allow vintners and consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of a wine made from grapes grown in an area to its geographic origin.”

 

Anyone, including a winemaker, landowner, or interested party may file a petition for the recognition of an AVA.  The petition must include:

  • Evidence that the proposed name of the AVA is “directly related to the location” and that the name is locally or nationally known to refer to the region.
  • USGS maps with the boundaries of the proposed region clearly marked.
  • An explanation as to why the geographic boundaries are drawn where they are as well as a description of the distinguishing features such as climate, geology, elevation, or soils that differentiate growing conditions from the area outside the proposed AVA’s borders.
  • While there are no size restrictions, proof must be provided that either total acreage or a broad distribution of viticultural activity across the region is enough to constitute both a “grape growing region” and “an area in which viticulture exists.”

Cabernet TopOnce an AVA is established, at least 85% of the grapes used to make a wine must be grown in the specified area if an AVA is referenced on its label.

While of course I agree with the official governing body, I also like to think of The American Viticultural Areas like a big, unruly political family.  Someone, it seems, is always trying to take the helm or grab all the attention as the biggest, the newest, or the always-and-forever reigning patriarch. I’ve been trying to keep up with it all since the AVA system since it began back in 1980.

As of today (March 13, 2013), here are the contenders:

Oldest AVA:  Augusta – Located near the town of Augusta, Missouri, the Augusta AVA was approved on June 20, 1980.

Smallest AVA:  Cole Ranch – Located in Mendocino, California, the Cole Ranch AVA spans just 62 acres.  That’s less than one quarter of a square mile.

Largest AVA:  The Upper Mississippi Valley – The Upper Mississippi Valley AVA, approved on July 22, 2009, covers 29,914 square miles and includes parts of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

077Runners Up:  Coming in at #2, The Ohio River Valley AVA covers 26,000 square miles.  Third place goes to The Columbia Valley at 26,000 square miles.

Happiest AVA Names (Just for Fun):  Fair Play, Happy Canyon, Horse Heaven Hills, High Valley, and Rocky Knob.

Best Use of an Abbreviation:  Sta. Rita Hills

Most Mysterious Names:  Linganore, Lime Kiln, and Jahant (Comment below if you know what they mean!)

 

For more information:

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