As the vines slowly come out of dormancy and begin breaking bud, this isn't the first activity to occur since last fall's harvest. The harvested grapes have completed their fermentation, a task that has been going on during our winter months. The end product — wine — is now ready to bottle for sale.
Thomas Jefferson's 274th birthday is tomorrow — April 13. Our country's third president was also the first unofficial sommelier for our country — specifically for the first two presidents and the three who followed him. His taste for wine was stimulated while serving as ambassador to France, when he started hobnobbing with Benjamin Franklin, who introduced him to French elite circles.
Uncorking a bottle of wine. Unscrewing a bottle of wine. Opening a box of wine. Which one is your preference? Is it based on tradition, convenience, quality image, or economics? Why did these alternatives to the corking of wine ever get a toehold in the market? The complete story behind the question of corking wine can be found in the book, "To Cork or Not to Cork?" by George W. Taber. I suggest it as a good background follow-up to this article.
In the 2004 movie "Sideways", Paul Giamatti's character Miles made a disparaging remark about merlot, despite his supposed wine intelligence. If he was genuine about his love of wine and not just his precious pinot noir, he would have appreciated the fact that merlot is one of the top-planted grape varietals around the world, tends to ripen early, is soft on tannins and provides a softness of its own and in lightening the impact of tannins in other reds.
Ask most people on the street which country they think has the highest export in wine sales and most will say France, Italy, or Spain. America would seldom be mentioned, but in reality, it is clearly in the running, with more than $1.6 billion in American wine being consumed in 2015. With a 78 percent jump in sales during the last decade, we are moving into a dead heat with the 'traditional 3' leaders of wine consumption. And, to break it down even further, California is responsible for 90 percent of all exported wines.
In my early years living and working in Fargo, I would look forward to participating in the Jim Lauerman St. Patrick's Day race. It broke winter's spell and invited spring to begin making a serious arrival. The race was followed by green beer being quaffed by all who participated. Over the past decade or more, I've had to give that little challenge up due to mechanical knees replacing my original equipment, and wine has worked its way into my life to replace the green beer.
The only way to learn about wine is to taste it, and that's exactly what I did recently at a wine tasting while vacationing in Florida, and back home here, in Fargo, North Dakota. My Florida tasting was from the Brotherhood Winery — the oldest continuous winery in America, which is based out of New York.
This completes my third year of writing "The World of Wine" column, and I celebrate the advancement I've made in the growing appreciation of wine. It is one of those paths in life that one wishes he had started much earlier. Drinking wine alone is something I have difficulty doing. As an extrovert, the allure of wine demands that I share it with someone, a gathering of friends and a selection of food.
Full disclosure: Until about 16 or so years ago, my knowledge of anything known as a mimosa was a novelty herb-like woody plant known also as the sensitive plant — Mimosa pudica. When barely touched, the leaves would fold, making it a novel houseplant for people to play with. My initiation to the mimosa drink — orange juice and Champagne in equal measures — was on a trip to the west coast on Amtrak's Empire Builder, when the conductor offered my wife and me a mimosa as a refresher prior to dinner. We said yes, enjoying every sip.
In a recent survey of the wines in my cellar, I found a preponderance of malbec. Why? The reason for me is something I call 'wine security'. This is the equivalent of what our grandparents referred to as financial security back in the days when people were taking their money out of banks and putting it under their mattresses. What makes malbec unique to all the wonderful other red wines that are offered — the pinot noirs, zinfandels, cabernet sauvignons, syrahs and merlots?