Regular readers of my wine column know that I have a modest wine cellar with a capacity of 144 bottles. The wine in that cellar represents current and future pleasure experiences, but not because I'll attempt to drink it all for myself. I, of course, share the wine with my wife at dinner and with friends during meals or wine tastings. The nicely convenient 750-milliliter bottle is one that invites multiple consumers to enjoy its contents, view the bottle and either discuss the wine being consumed or work on debating the world's problems.
After seeing hectares and acres of wine vineyards producing tons of grapes per unit, I've often wondered how small one could go and still be considered to have a wine-producing vineyard? That question has apparently been addressed in some parts of the wine-growing world that really are not all that surprising: Vienna, Paris and San Francisco.
Outdoor barbeques are still going strong with continued favorable weather predicted for the next several weeks. While summer grilling and beer go pretty much hand in hand, don't overlook some very tasty wines to accompany the enjoyment of food off the grill. Earlier this summer, I attended an event hosted by Sommelier Jean Taylor and Cam Knudson, where an array of meats and salads were served along with some unbelievably great tasting wines from Argentina, New Zealand, France and Portugal.
Wine fraud: Is it something new? Even Thomas Jefferson was aware of it, and checked it by being among the first to have his wine bottled on site at the winery and sealed with a wax plug to prevent adulteration in shipment. The common practice back then was to ship in bulk to be bottled at the destination. Since most of the shipment in Jefferson's time was via riverboat traffic, sailors were not above pulling a few swigs of wine out of the containers and topping them off with water.
If you were considering going into the winemaking business and you knew the enemies of keeping wine good—air intrusion, light and high temperatures—what kind of packing would you come up with for your product? A dark glass bottle with a natural or artificial cork closure? Wine in a box? How about wine in a can similar to that of a beer can? All of these options would be good choices, but in looking to capture a part of the market that deems bottles and box wines too much at once, then choosing wine being marketed in cans is the way to go.
May 24, 1976, was the "Judgment of Paris," where French wines were compared to America's California wines in a blind tasting by French judges that was hosted by Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant. The tastings consisted of quality chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon wines. The victory of the American wines over French entries was recorded by a reporter that attend the event, employed by Time magazine, who promptly sent the results to his publisher for the world to see. The outrage by the French wine industry came as expected.
One of the techniques I learned from sommelier Jean Taylor is to begin wine- tasting events with a glass of good bubbly wine. It can be Champagne or not, and for my recent tasting that was going to involve a potent red Italian wine, I thought I'd keep it all "Italian." I served Kirkland Signature Asolo Prosecco Superiore, extra dry DOCG, denominazione di origine controllata e garantita, which is Italy's highest designation for wines, cheeses and other foods. With this delightfully refreshing and invigorating wine as a starter, our evening was set up to enjoy the bold red our taste buds were anxious to dive into.
What country can be credited with getting humanity going strong in appreciating wine? Italy? France? Actually, it's Greece. Taking advantage of Egyptian wine-making proficiency and the transportation advances of the Levantine Canaanites, with their long-distance transport of wine around the Mediterranean, they built on this to become the first nation to produce wine on a truly commercial scale.
With the July Fourth celebrations of fireworks and sparklers behind us, why not extend the "sparkle" of the holiday throughout the summer evenings ahead? The sparkle I'm referencing is, of course, the sparkling wines available in our spirit shops. Such treats can run from the original sparkling wine — Champagne — to all the worthy copycats to select from, covering a wide price range from over $100 for a 750-milliliter bottle to just $5. There is enjoyment to be found at every price point, depending on what you are looking for in a sparkler.
Looking to do a little winery hopping this weekend? There are many in the surrounding area of Fargo-Moorhead that would welcome such a visit. One in particular I would like to call to your attention is the 4e Winery in Mapleton, N.D. Its official, full-fledged opening took place on April 15. I was fortunate enough to attend a pre-opening tasting the night before, and was blown away by the beauty of the setting and the fantastic wines that Greg and Lisa Cook are producing.