My first response to seeing this post about the Mighty Wine Fight is, when can we adopt this wild, amusing activity in Sonoma and Napa? Here’s what’s happening in La Rioja –

Each year between the 27th and 30th of June, thousands of thirsty locals and a handful of lucky (wine addicted) tourists climb a mountain in La Rioja, Spain, and throw the sweet red liquid all over each other. This is St Peter’s Feast Day, though you’d be lucky to find a local who could tell you so, and the event is known around these parts as La Batalla del Vino de Haro – or better known by us guiris as the Wine Fight.

Mighty Wine FightWhen It Begins

The madness of the annual wine fight starts the night before, on the evening of the 28th of June. This is by far the biggest party that the quaint town of Haro sees. As the night unfolds, the whole town gathers on the streets, from children to grandparents, who all party the night away in the town’s cobbled streets, buzzing bars and picturesque Spanish squares.

As If That Isn’t Enough

After a few hours of frolicking and fun, the fight descends down the mountain and moves into the town of Haro, where the only fight is done with traditional dances – the kind that can only be induced by hours of red wine pouring down one’s throat.
Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Don’t miss your chance to take part in the Wine Fight, also known as the Batalla del Vino en Haro.

For the history and more news click here.

 

This is the 11th year the UK publication Drinks International has presented a list of the world’s most admired wine brands. 

Drinks International editor Martin Green said: “The Most Admired Wine Brands 2021 highlights the most iconic, exciting and innovative producers in the world.

The brands were chosen by an academy made up of the world’s leading wine experts, including buyers, sommeliers, wholesalers, bar owners, Masters of Wine, writers and educators from 48 different countries.

European brands featured 29 times on the list, led by France with 11 brands, Spain with eight and Italy with six. Needless to say, this is a global list so don’t be put off by the fact that only four wine producers in the U.S. made the list.  Those four should be quite proud. What is astonishing are the highly respected French Chateaus that landed behind two of the North American brands.

THE LIST

Ranking

Brand

Country

1

Familia Torres Spain

2

Catena Argentina

3

Vega Sicilia Spain

4

Henschke Australia

5

Concha y Toro Chile

6

Penfolds Australia

7

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti France

8

CVNE Spain

9

Antinori Italy

10

Château Musar Lebanon

11

E. Guigal France

12

Château Lafite France

13

Errazuriz Chile

14

Felton Road New Zealand

15

Villa Maria New Zealand

16

Yalumba Australia

17

Planeta Italy

18

Château Cheval Blanc France

19

M. Chapoutier France

20

Château d’Yquem France

21

Ridge USA

22

Symington Portugal

23

Château Petrus France

24

Frescobaldi Italy

25

Château Palmer France

26

Gaja Italy

27

Montes Chile

28

Cono Sur Chile

29

Jackson Family Wines USA

30

Craggy Range New Zealand

31

Château Margaux France

32

Campo Viejo Spain

33

Château Haut-Brion France

34

Nederburg South Africa

35

Château Mouton-Rothschild France

36

Bruce Jack South Africa

37

Bodegas Abadal Spain

38

Esporão Portugal

39

Gallo Family Vineyards USA

40

Sassicaia Italy

41

Louis Latour France

42

McGuigan Australia

43

Ramón Bilbao Spain

44

Oyster Bay New Zealand

45

Royal Tokaji Hungary

46

Beringer USA

47

Raventós Cordoníu Spain

48

Santa Rita Chile

49

Tignanello Italy

50

La Rioja Alta Spain

You can read The World’s Most Admired Wine Brands 2021 magazine here to learn more about the brands featured on the list.

If a bottle of Petrus was aged in space for one year would it taste differently than one on Earth?

This month, researchers at the Institute for Wine and Vine Research in Bordeaux analyzed 320 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapevines and 12 bottles of wine that returned to Earth in January after travelling aboard the International Space Station for a calendar year.

Until now, the identity of the bottles remained a secret. According to The Associated Press, Space Cargo Unlimited, which is spearheading the experiment, revealed on Wednesday that the bottles are from Château Pétrus — one of the most expensive wine estates in the world. More specifically, bottles of the Bordeaux estate’s 2000 vintage were selected for the mission. At the time of writing, the going rate for one such bottle (that hasn’t been aged in space) is between $6,500 to $7,000.

The experiment is a result of long-term efforts to make plants on Earth more resilient to climate change and disease by exposing them to the stresses of space’s atmosphere and studying the ways in which they adapt. Researchers also hoped to further understand the aging process of wine.

According to Dr. Michael Lebert, a biologist at Friedrich-Alexander-University in Germany, the findings could help scientists discover a way to artificially age fine vintages.

During a blind tasting of the wines in March, 12 connoisseurs appraised samples of the space wines alongside a bottle from the same vintage that was cellar-aged on Earth for a year. Wine expert and Decanter’s Bordeaux taster Jane Anson remarked that the wine from Earth tasted “a little younger than the one that had been to space.” As for the space wine, Anson claimed “the tannins had softened, [and] the side of floral aromatics came out.” She added that perhaps it tasted two to three years older than its counterpart.

Other panelists noted that the wine had flavors akin to burnt orange, cured leather, or a campfire. As a whole, panelists seemed pleased with the extraterrestrial vino.

Why would the wines taste different? Lebert explained that on Earth, the phenomenon of convection mixes oxygen around, resulting in a stable oxygen concentration that affects all chemical reactions, such as oxidation. Ultimately, “oxidizing substances change the taste [of wine],” he said. In space, this convection doesn’t occur.

Furthermore, the lack of gravity in space “creates tremendous stress on any living species,” Nicolas Gaume, CEO and founder of Space Cargo Unlimited, told The Associated Press.

Oddly enough, the vine snippets in space grew faster than those on Earth, despite environmental challenges like limited light and water supply. While Lebert asserted that this discovery could lead to winemaking in space, Christophe Chateau of the Bordeaux Winemakers’ Council predicts that it will be more than a decade before we see practical applications of this.

Who knows, in a few years, maybe we will all be sipping on wine that has been through a space odyssey. Let’s hope it’s otherworldly.

Story compliments of VinePair.com
Written by Kelly Tesoriero

Yes, Coca-Cola is related to wine. You might even say the world’s favorite cola owes its existence to wine.

In the mid 1800s ”tonic” wines were introduced. In 1863, a Parisian chemist, Angelo Mariani, combined wine with coca, short for cocaethylene (a drug made by mixing cocaine and alcohol – whew!). He sold it under the name “Vin Mariani” and the tonic drink became extremely popular.

Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Edison, and even Queen Victoria were among the millions who indulged in the tonic beverage.  Even the chief rabbi of France is quoted to have said, “Praise be to Mariani’s wine!

Witnessing the commercial success, Dr. John Pemberton of Columbus, George, created his own version. He called it Pemberton’s French Wine Coca, and produced it in Atlanta. In 1885, local temperance legislation forced John Pemberton to produce a non-alcoholic version. He removed the cocaine, pepped it up with caffeine-rich kola nuts,  replaced the wine with non-alcoholic syrup and Coca-Cola was born.

 

Where was the first successful American winery located? The answer is Cincinnati, Ohio.

In the mid-1830s, Nicholas Longworth planted a vineyard of Catawba on the Mount Adams hillside and began making a sparkling wine from the grapes using the traditional method used in Champagne.

From the 1830s through the 1850s, Longworth’s still and sparkling Catawba were being distributed from California to Europe where it received numerous press accolades. In the 1850s, a journalist from The Illustrated London News noted that the still white Catawba compared favorably to the hock wines of the Rhine and the sparkling Catawba “transcends the Champagnes of France”.

Another who was impressed was the famous Ohio poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who was inspired to write Ode to Catawba Wine, which begins: “Very good in its way/ Is the Verzenay,/ Or the Sillery soft and creamy;/ But Catawba wine/ Has a taste more divine,/ More dulcet, delicious and dreamy.” (source-Wine Spectator)

At it’s peak, Longworth’s winery was producing 100,000 bottles a year with distribution to Europe and across the U.S. Unfortunately, by the 1860s, black rot and downy mildew struck heavily in the Ohio Vineyards. Little by little this prompted many up and coming winemakers to move to the Fingerlakes region in New York, which continues to thrive to this day.

Missouri also had a large wine region in the mid to late 1800s and was second only to California in wine production by the end of the century.

(source-Wikipedia)

nicholas longworth

Nicholas Longworth

Maybe this is why we love wine so much.

According to a story on NPR’s The Salt, studies by Yale Neuroscientist Gordon Shepherd show the flavor of wine “engages more of our brain than any other human behavior.” That includes such challenging tasks as hitting a baseball or solving a complex math problem. The simple act of sipping wine involves a multifaceted interplay as molecules in wine stimulate thousands of taste and odor receptors, sending a flavor signal to the brain that triggers massive cognitive computation involving pattern recognition, memory, value judgment, emotion and of course, pleasure. I don’t know about you but that made me thirsty.

Taste + odor receptors + flavor signals + cognitive brain computation = Pleasure!

In Greek Mythology Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, wine, winemaking, grape cultivation, fertility, ritual madness, theater, and religious ecstasy. His festivals were the driving force behind the development of Greek theater. He may have been worshiped as early as 1500 BC.

Dionysus

Marble statue of Dionysus on display in the Louvre Museum, Paris, France

To the Romans the god of wine was known a Bacchus. He was also the Roman god of good-cheer, hilarity, ecstasy, mirth and revels. It was written that Roman festivals thrown in the name of Bacchus, Bacchanalia, got a bit out of hand becoming scandalous, extremely colorful ecstatic events. Viewing them as a religious cult the Roman Senate prohibited the festivals. It is believed that thousands of revelers were jailed and even put to death.

Bacchus

Michaelangelo’s Bacchus on display at Bargello, Florence, Italy

You can find all kinds of paintings and sculptures based on both Gods of Wine and Bacchanalia in museums, libraries and Google Images. Be warned, they can be graphic…enticingly so.

Young Dionysus

 

 

 

Blame it on Climate Change

Following last week’s heatwave in France that scorched many vineyards, Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur have approved to allow seven heartier grape varieties to be planted in the tightly controlled region.

The varieties are Arinarnoa, a Tannat/Cabernet Sauvignon cross; Touriga Nacional, one of Portugal’s finest; Marselan and Castets, an older Bordeaux variety from the past;  and three whites, Alvarinho, Petit Manseng and Liliorila.

A Sign of the TimesBordeaux to allow seven new grape varieties

For the full story in Meininger’s Wine Business International click here.

 

In the past I’ve reported that grape growing and winemaking goes back approximately 6,000 years. But how many of those grapes enjoyed by the ancients still exist? Here’s new research presented by SmithsonianMag.com about ancient grape DNA & the history of wine.

Grape seeds dating back to medieval and Roman periods share many similarities with the wine grapes we enjoy today

Vin jaune, literally “yellow wine,” is not your typical French white. The rare wine is made in the Jura region of eastern France. It matures under a veil of yeast in a barrel for at least six years, during which time it develops a golden color and an intense, nutty aroma that apparently pairs well with Comté cheese. It also attracts hardcore wine enthusiasts. A 244-year-old bottle of the yellow stuff sold at auction last year for $121,000.

Now vin jaune has a new distinction. Scientists discovered that people have historically enjoyed the grape variety so much that it’s been cultivated for at least 900 years.

Researchers conducted DNA tests on 28 samples of grape seeds dug out of waterlogged wells, dumps and ditches at archaeological sites across France. The results, published today in the journal Nature Plants, show strong connections between modern wine grapes and those used as far back as the Roman period.

To propagate grapevines, farmers often use cuttings from a preferred plant to grow new, genetically identical vines. The practice means that, theoretically, the DNA of an ancient grape and a modern grape of the same variety should be the same. Though many wine varieties we know and love allegedly have ancient pedigrees, it’s hard to know whether the pinot noir or syrah we drink today is really the same type of wine that filled the cups of French monks or Roman magistrates.

Nathan Wales, of the University of York, and colleagues study DNA from archaeological plant remains to learn more about ancient agricultural practices. The researchers decided to look more closely at ancient grapes so they could compare the genetic information to a growing body of reference data for different varieties of modern and wild grapes.

Ancient Grape DNA & The History of WineWaterlogged Roman grape seeds like these were genetically tested to investigate grape varieties in the past. (Laurent Bouby / CNRS / ISEM)

Wales and his colleagues were able to sequence the entire nuclear genome of 28 grape seeds. One seed, pulled from a medieval cesspit in the remains of a monastery in Orléans, central France, was a perfect match with the modern savagnin blanc grape.

Not to be confused with the better-known sauvignon blanc, savagnin blanc is a white wine produced today in eastern France and parts of Germany. The same grape is also used to make vin jaune. The seed found in Orléans dates to 1050 to 1200 AD, several hundred years before savagnin blanc is even mentioned in historic texts.

“What that means is that this variety has been around for at least 900 years,” Wales says. “Genetically, it’s identical. It has been maintained through cuttings. We didn’t previously know how long different varieties were maintained.”

The researchers also found archaeological samples dating to the Roman period that were very close to modern grape varieties.

“We didn’t find [another] perfect match, but we can see that winemakers have maintained certain varieties for hundreds of years,” Wales says. “That gives us a new insight into the cultural relevance of wine and how long certain traditions can be maintained.”

For example, the team found genetically identical seeds dating to the second century in Roman wells at the sites of Horbourg-Wihr in eastern France and La Lesse-Espagnac in southern France. These seeds were just one generation removed from Mondeuse Blanche, a white grape grown today in the Savoy region. The connection means there was just one reproductive cycle in this grape lineage over the past 1,800 years.

Ancient Grape DNA & the History of Wine

The researchers also found that the Romans grew grape varieties in southern France that are closely related to the grape varieties grown today in the Swiss Alps to produce the white wines arvine, amigne and humagne blanc. The findings offer scientific evidence to support tales from folklore which hold the Romans indeed brought amigne to Switzerland.

The wine industry has a clear interest in assembling DNA data for grapes. Genetic testing helps root out misnomers and put to bed longstanding wine mysteries. For example, DNA tests of zinfandel show that this American favorite is genetically identical to Italian primitivo and that both are also identical to an obscure Croatian grape called crljenak kaštelanski. (For more details on this topic click to my post Carole Meredith Solves the Zinfandel Mystery)

Ancient Grape DNA & the History of Wine

The DNA data of ancient grapes is harder to come by, so the researchers collaborate with archaeologists in France working to excavate sites like monasteries, farms and Roman settlements where there is evidence of grape cultivation and winemaking. When the archaeologists find grape seeds, they freeze the organic material as soon as possible to preserve the DNA.

“This is a phenomenal dataset that they’ve been able to put together,” says Logan Kistler, curator of archaeobotany and archaeogenomics at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, who wasn’t involved in the study. “You can sequence all the genomes in the world, but unless you know what questions to ask, it just might not make sense. They were able to ask specific questions and get really cool, ‘smoking gun’ answers.”

It’s hard to know what the ancient and medieval wines would have tasted like, even if the grapes were genetically identical or similar to modern grape varieties. A host of environmental conditions can affect the final product, and winemakers have historically added other ingredients, like pine resin, to wine.

Wales and his colleagues also found some grape seeds that were not closely connected to any known varieties. Would it be possible for future scientists to resurrect a lost grape? “It’s ethically less complicated than bringing back the mammoth,” Wales says, “but I think you’d still have to have a good reason to do so.”

For now, we will just have to imagine what the wine of ancient emperors and abbots tasted like, perhaps while enjoying something of similar, if more modern, stock.

This story is by Megan Gannon

Compliments of SMITHSONIAN.COM 

Header photo by Jeff Davis

To get to the other coast? He’d be the first to do so? Madness? There could be a number of reasons, but it happened. Which leads me to wonder, why didn’t I hear about the wine barrel boat on the news? This is a major feat!

The Story

On May 2, French adventurer Jean-Jacques Savin became the first (known) person to cross the Atlantic without the aid of sail, motor, or human power. His vessel of choice? A giant, three-meter long “wine” barrel.

Savin’s voyage was sponsored by a number of French tonnelleries (coopers, barrel makers), along with other companies. The 72-year-old set off from the Canary Islands on December 26, 2018, and spent 127 days crossing the ocean in his craft Le Vagabond. The 3,125-nautical-mile voyage took slightly longer than expected after strong winds delayed progress as he crossed the west meridian and entered the Carribean.

For the final leg of his journey, Savin was aided by a Dutch oil tanker, which took him to the island of Saint Eustatius. Following two days’ rest, a tug boat then towed him to the shore of the French Carribean island Martinique, where Savin was met by his partner Josyane, and Dr. Pierre Galzot, the man who helped him organize the voyage.

During calm days, Savin passed the time reading, fishing, and playing the mandolin. He also enjoyed the occasional glass of Sauternes.

A Brief Celebration

In January, to celebrate his birthday, the Frenchman savored a special meal that would make many of his compatriots proud: foie gras washed down with a bottle of St. Emilion. Some might argue that Sauternes would have been the better pairing here, but it sounds like a great birthday meal, regardless.

 

photo: Jean-Jacques Savin /Facebook.com

For other images visit The Times.

Story Compliments of Tim McKirdy @Vinepair.com

Just off the southwest coast of Britain, 100 meters below sea level, lies a First World War merchant ship holding an extremely rare and valuable cargo.

Codenamed “Mercury,” the ship has laid on the seabed undisturbed for over a century, according to luxury adventure tourism company Cookson Adventures. Torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1918, Mercury was making her way to the U.K. from Bordeaux, carrying a precious cargo of Champagne, brandy, fine wine, and Benedictine.

The ship’s location was only discovered recently, and a team of divers has just completed an initial exploration of part of the vessel. According to Cornwall Live, the dive revealed “hundreds of intact bottles of vintage alcohol including Champagne, wine, and brandy.”

Though they’ve spent more than a century underwater, wine experts believe the darkness and constant cool temperatures will have helped preserve the cargo, and the wine should be drinkable upon its return to the surface.

That’s incredible news but it gets better…if you have enough $$$

Cookson Adventures is partnering with a team of marine scientists and wine experts to salvage the historical artifacts, and they’re allowing (paying) members of the public to join them for the adventure.

The next stage of the expedition will see submarines and remotely-operated underwater vehicles dive to the seabed to complete a further survey of the area and recover a few bottles.

Cookson Adventures hasn’t disclosed how much this is all going to cost, but private chefs and helicopter rides don’t come cheap. On the other hand, century-old Champagne…

The story is courtesy of Cornwall Live, and VinePair.com. Written by McKirdy  Photo by Cookson Adventures.

Drinking with your dog

I saw a post recently that said “If I’m by myself enjoying wine and my dog is with me, does it mean I’m not drinking alone?” Well, get some Cat and Dog Wine and the answer is a definitive “No.”

Apollo Peak is making Cat and Dog wine with names such as Catbernet, Pinot Meow, MosCato, CharDognay, Malbark & ZinfanTail. It doesn’t contain alcohol but the cat wine does contain cat nip. Which means your feline can now join you with a tingly buzz.

I know you animal lovers enjoy pampering your loved ones so this is certainly something to consider if you don’t like to drink alone. It also makes for an hilarious gift for those feline and canine loving friends of yours. You can find them at apollopeak.com.

The post photo is compliments of Pinterest. The Cat photo comes from Apollo Peak. 

Drinking with your cat

Drinking with your dogDrinking with your dog

 

Saint Junipero Serra

In early America the indigenous grapes on the east coast didn’t make good wine. As a result, the early colonists imported European vitis vinifera vines, like Cabernet Sauvignon. They were so determined to make wine a 1619 Virginia law required every male in Jamestown to plant and tend at least 10 vines. However, the lack of experience, new vine diseases, and that troublesome Phylloxera pest led to the experiment ending in failure. Interest in winemaking faded and cider, beer and whiskey became a favorite.

But, alas, the first wine appeared in California less than a hundred years later.  Roman Catholic priest, now a Saint, Junípero Serra and his padres brought wine and the vines to San Diego California in 1769. The grape brought is known to us as the Mission Grape. It is a varietal of the desired vitis vinifera that the colonists found to be a challenge to grow. Spanish Missionaries used the grapes for making sacramental, table, and fortified wines. It was the only grape grown in California until the 1830s when European settlers in Los Angeles added some classic European varietals to their vineyards.

Saint Junipero Serra

Saint Junipero Serra

Madeira Wine, which hails from a Portuguese island off the African coast, has a rich history here in the United States.

When it came time to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, this is the wine that filled the Founding Fathers’ glasses, and it is believed that George Washington celebrated the British leaving New York City with the fortified wine.

Workers at the Liberty Hall Museum in New Jersey recently discovered three cases of the stuff dating from 1796 — too young to be the wine that Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams raised for their toast, but old enough that they might have sipped it a few years later.

There was a time you could find it prominently displayed on the top shelf of any reputable drinks shop, it was that popular. That’s not the case anymore. Aside from the competition of Port and the growing dessert wine category, the other reason is there’s not a lot of Madeira wine produced. Vineyard land is not plentiful on Madeira, about 500 hectares in total cling to the steep mountainsides, astonishingly just enough to provide raw material to eight producers. To me, that makes it a very good reason to have some on hand to raise your guest’s eyebrows. But don’t let its reputation for sweetness steer you wrong. Drier Madeira, like a sherry, is pretty versatile and might surprise you.

 

Madeira Wine

If you listen to my radio show or podcasts you’ve heard me mention wine regions as AVAs. American Viticultural Areas are federally designated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the TTB).

Would you believe the first official wine region designated as an AVA was in Missouri?  Yep, on June 20th, 1980. The Augusta AVA encompasses 15 square miles around the city of Augusta near the intersection of St. Charles County, Warren County and Franklin County. I find this of particular interest as I grew up outside of St. Louis, about 45 minutes from Augusta.

What prompted that decision?

In 1859, Georg and Friedrich Muench founded one of the earliest wineries in the area, Mount Pleasant Winery. Flooding in the Missouri River valley caused the river to change course in 1872, drying up the area’s riverboat landing leaving behind a distinct soil type between the town and the river. You guessed it, that made for ideal conditions to grow grapes for wine.

America's first official wine region

You may be surprised to hear that Missouri also had some of the earliest winemaking successes, dating back to 1837. By 1848 winemakers there produced 10,000 US gallons per year, expanding to 100,000 US gallons per year by 1856.

In case you’re wondering, Napa Valley received the second AVA distinction just eight months later.

 

Most of the world’s well-known wine varietals derive their name from the location where they were discovered or made famous. Not Merlot.

The name traces its meaning to a word of the dialect of Occitan called Gascon. This relatively obscure Romance language is closely related to Catalan and still spoken in a few regions of France. The Gascon word merlau refers to a ‘little blackbird.’ Whether this refers to the color of the Merlot grape or its popularity while on the vine with small birds is an open question.  Be sure to bring that up the next time your sharing a bottle with friends.

The Origin of the Name "Merlot"

Compliments to VinePair.com for the following story.

As WWII drew to a close, and Adolph Hitler committed suicide, American and French armed forces closed in on the Führer’s compound in the Bavarian Alps. The American 3rd Infantry Division and the French 2nd Armored Division raced to the resort town of Berchtesgaden. The alpine village was home to vacation villas belonging to high-ranking Nazi officials, Hitler’s residence, The Berghof, and the Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus), which was furthest up the mountain.

The allure of capturing Hitler’s personal hideaway was only part of the reason the Americans and the French each maneuvered to make it there first. As the Nazis rolled over Europe they carted all sorts of war spoils back to Berchtesgaden – fine art, jewelry, gold, currency, and a lot of wine. Berchtesgaden was believed to be home to hundreds of thousands of bottles of wine, including the best of the pilfered bottles. To the French, reclaiming the wine was a matter of particular pride, so as both armies closed in on Berchtesgaden, orders were overlooked; first the French and then the Americans attempted to sprint ahead of or around each other.

It’s believed that the French reached the final prize, the Eagle’s Nest, before the Americans (though the American’s may have let that occur according to some sources). After an arduous climb to the top, the French discovered roughly half a million bottles of wine, some of the finest vintages of Bordeaux and Burgundy, rare ports and cognacs, and massive quantities of Champagne.

The Eagle’s Nest was connected to the complex below by a 407-foot car-sized elevator shaft, which had been blasted out of the mountain itself. Fleeing German troops had destroyed the elevator – which led to an interesting question: How do you get hundreds of thousands of bottles of wine down a steep mountain. According to Wine & War, Donald & Petie Kladstrup’s fascinating history of wine and WWII, the answer was a convoy of medical stretchers.

With help from the Alpine team, the stretchers were carefully lowered a few hundred meters from the peak to where pairs of stretcher-bearers waited below. The stretchers were then carried slowly down the mountain to where tanks, trucks and other military vehicles were waiting.

Soldiers stripped their tanks and trucks of everything that was not essential, tossing out clothes, tools, even extra ammunition, to make room for the new cargo. Some of the men emptied their canteens and refilled them with such legendary greats as Latour ’29, Mouton ’34 and Lafite ’37.

The race to hitler's wine

Enjoying the sweet taste of victory at the Eagle’s Nest

In the ancient world wine was carried in what were known as wineskins. These handy liquid vessels, similar today’s bota bag pictured above, were made of animal skin, especially pig skin. The skin was thoroughly cleaned, tanned, and finally turned inside out so that the hairy side remained inside. Wine was then stored in it with the animal hair staying in contact with the wine. I imagine the ancient people were constantly pulling hair out of their mouth. But hey, at least they had wine.

Wineskins

What is a vintage wine?  It’s the wine made out of the single year’s harvest, the date on the label is the vintage. It does not indicate the year the wine was bottled.

Non-vintage wines are those produced by mixing harvests of two years or more. On occasion you’ll see NV on the label marking the distinction.  This is a common practice with Champagne and sparkling wine producers as winemakers provide a continuous house style through the blending of various vintages, to create the yearly non-vintage Champagne.

It’s not uncommon to see vintage year sparkling wines in California. However, in the Champagne region of France, vintages are generally produced three or four times a decade. This represents less than 5% of total Champagne production.

Vintage and Non-Vintage Wine

As you see, the vintage of this Lanson Champagne is 1998

Vintage and Non-Vintage Wine

This label does not indicate a year which would suggest a non-vintage Champagne

I should note, often a vintage date may appear on the foil of the bottle or on an attached tag,
especially these days with screen printed wine labels.

As you see here, Lanson does put their vintage dates on the label so it is likely the Black Label is a
non-vintage Champagne. As it turns out, Black Label was chosen to indicate a specific non-vintage Champagne they bottle to honor the long relationship it has with the British Court.

For centuries the French monk Dom Perignon was thought to have invented champagne in the late 1600s. However, the facts are as grounded as the bubbles in the wine itself.  Dom Perignon he was cellar master at the Abbey of Hautvilliers but there is no evidence that he was the first person to taste sparkling wine. Additionally, his famous quote, “I am drinking the stars!” also is false, with the first documented mention of that line appearing in an advertisement in the late 19th century. But to give credit where credit is due, it is said he was the first to use cork as a bottle closure.

Interestingly, the first sparkling wine is considered by some wine historians to have been invented by Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire, near Limoux, in Languedoc in 1531, almost a hundred years before Dom Perignon was born. Research has been unable to unearth any exact date of the creation of sparkling wine using, what is referred to today as méthode Champenoise…with one exception.

An English scientist, physician, naturalist and metallurgist is said to be the first to document “How to put the fizz into sparkling wine” in 1662.  The scientist, Christopher Merrett of Winchcombe was the first person to describe the second fermentation process and use the word “sparkling” when referring to the end product, says Winchcombe historian Jean Bray. The fine English residents of Winchcombe in the Cotswolds, U.K. are so convinced Dr. Merrett was the first to create sparkling wine they have installed a plaque in his honour. (Yes, that’s honor with a “u” out of respect for the locals)

Merrett                                                             

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