Wine without boundaries
Here's a short story inspired by a glass of wine, an American blend from California with a French background that made me stop and think about how truly international this remarkable beverage really is.
First made long before humans invented the written language to describe it, wine's archeological roots go back to the Bronze Age in the ancient Near East, with the earliest evidence of its production found around the Black Sea in what is now the Republic of Georgia.
Vines and wines spread quickly throughout the Near East (it's no coincidence that the Bible is full of references to wine, both in praise and dismay) and then throughout the Mediterranean, where the ancient Greeks and Romans knew them well. Before long, vines were planted across Europe, wherever the Roman Empire went that grapes would grow. And even in modern times, when wine is made commercially on six of Earth's seven continents (Antartica's icy climate and lack of a permanent population rule it out as a wine producer), its European heritage remains strongly felt in the names of most grapes and the wines themselves.
The moral of today's sermon? Nothing too deep, really. But as I prepare to take off next week for a tour of Bordeaux with an international group of wine lovers, I can't help but ponder a philosophy that I for one hold dear: In a modern, high-tech globalizing world, the international story of wine makes a decent parable for the common-sense idea of bringing people together rather than driving them apart.
Today's wine is made by a tiny Northern California producer who selected eight grape varieties with their roots in the Rhone Valley, seeking to make a wine that honors the French red wines of the Rhone region. And just like many of us in the melting-pot United States, it's an entirely American product that's shaped by both its native soil and its European heritage.
WEB LINKS AND ADMIN NOTES: Speaking of our Bordeaux tour, although the May 10-17 trip is filled, it's possible that we could fit in a last-minute procrastinator or two; there are also openings in a July repeat of the same itinerary (although I won't be there) and other tours by our friends at French Wine Explorers. Check
Because of our trip, we'll go on vacation schedule next week. The 30 Second Wine Advisor will be published only on Mondays, and the Thursday Wine Advisor FoodLetter will take a one-week break. Regular publication will resume May 19.
Finally, if today's discussion has piqued your interest in wine history, you might enjoy a visit to a couple of my favorite Websites on the topic.
Elyse 1999 California D l'Aventure ($18.99)
Very dark garnet color with grapey, warm aromas of berries, plums and spice. A pleasantly herbal "tree bark" note suggests that there's Mourvedre in the mix, and the ripe berry character hints at Grenache. (The label doesn't disclose the identities of the eight Rhone varieties in the blend that it describes as "in the style of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.") Ripe and juicy plums dominate the flavor, full and fresh, with plenty of snappy acidity for balance. (April 28, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with a dinner crafted to match a Rhone-style red: Chicken pan-braised in a simple fricassee style with lots of onions and garlic and a taste of fresh sage.
VALUE: Not cheap, but certainly competitive for less than $20.
WHEN TO DRINK: Body and balance and the record of its French equivalent suggest that this wine, delicious now, will benefit from careful cellar storage for up to a decade.
WINERY WEBSITE: I can't find a Website for Elyse, a tiny producer; but the label indicates that serious inquiries about the winery and its wines may be directed by phone to 1-707-944-2900.
Penfolds Brings Red Wine Recorking Clinics to the United States
Penfolds, Australia's most famous wine, brings the ultimate in after-sales service to the United States with its Penfolds Red Wine Recorking Clinics. In October 2003, Penfolds will hold two Red Wine Recorking Clinics – in New York City on Oct. 24 and Chicago on Oct. 28. Penfolds has been conducting these clinics in Australia and the U.K. since 1991. In the last 12 years, Penfolds has opened more than 50,000 bottles of wine for over 7,500 consumers and trade. The clinics are popular with personal collectors and those that trade on the secondary market.
At the clinics, Penfolds winemakers will open and test any bottle of Penfolds red wine 15 years or older. After tasting, the Penfolds winemaking team will top, recork, re-capsule and certify that the wine is good, if the condition is found to be sound. Penfolds provides this service at no cost to the customer. To register for the clinic email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-255-9966. To find out more about the clinics visit
Australia's most famous wine, Penfolds Grange, today holds iconic status around the world, and has been described by esteemed wine writer, Robert Parker, as a leading candidate for the richest, most concentrated, dry red table wine on planet earth. To stay in the know about events like the recorking clinics, sign up for the Penfolds quarterly newsletter – Work in Progress. This educational publication is full of tasting notes on new releases, including the much-anticipated 1998 Grange, information on the winery's history and heritage and events in your area where Penfolds is participating. To sign up, email email@example.com or call 1-800-255-9966.
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Wednesday, April 30, 2003