Since you seem to like my wine emails, here is a subject, near and dear to us Californians. French wine. Let me start out by saying this about the French. They love to bad mouth Napa Valley, after their BIG loss decades ago. On most wine tours in France, they always say bad things about Napa Valley. Funny thing, when I go on wine tours in Napa Valley or California in general, they NEVER mention France!!! Napa has their issues too, but bad mouthing France is not one of them.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the first French wine Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC)—a term meaning “controlled designation of origin”—registered in 1936. Until the early 19th century, much of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape harvest was sold in bulk to Burgundy, to be used as vin de médecine—a shot of alcohol to boost Burgundy’s strength. However, in the wake of phylloxera and World War I, efforts by the region’s winemakers to improve the quality of wines resulted in a set of regulations to govern—among other elements—yields, winemaking, and varieties allowed, in order to be eligible to use the Châteauneuf-du-Pape designation. Before this, wine naming laws in France defined only geographical territory (not unlike our AVA system). In 1937, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC commissioned the bottle with the crest of the papal crown and St. Peter’s keys, as an acknowledgment of the region’s history as the temporary home of the Papacy in the 14th century, and as an added measure to protect the authenticity of the wine.
What do Sleeping Beauty, Coco Chanel, and Joan of Arc have in common?
The Loire Valley of France, southwest of Paris. Coco Chanel (fashion legend and inventor of the “little black dress”) was born there in the village of Samur. It was in the village of Chinon that the peasant girl Joan of Arc presented herself to the Dauphin, later Charles VII, and asked to head his army. And the valley’s majestic Chateau d’Ussé was the inspiration for Charles Perrault’s most famous work, Sleeping Beauty. (BTW, I love the Loire for their delicious cremants)
What is Le Mistral? Each year, the vineyards of both the northern and southern Rhône are subject to a howling, icy northern wind known as Le Mistral. In the Occitan dialect of southern France, the word means “masterful.” Strongest between winter and spring, the wind often reaches speeds of over 40 mph (65 km/h) and has been known to get as high as 115 mph (180.1 km/h). The wind, which can pick up a grown woman a foot off the ground (this is based on personal research), can be destructive, but it can also be beneficial in its ability to quickly cool the vines during periods of intense heat. The winds of Le Mistral have long had an influence on the architecture of the region. Houses traditionally face southeast, with their backs to the wind, and many churches have open iron grill bell towers, which allow Le Mistral to pass through.
What is the birth year of the modern Oregon wine industry? 1961 In that year, Richard Sommer, a graduate of the University of California at Davis, planted riesling at Hillcrest Vineyard in the Umpqua Valley. Five years later, nursery owners Charles and Shirley Coury, as well as David Lett, founder of The Eyrie Vineyard, planted pinot noir in the Willamette Valley. All were warned by university professors that vinifera-species grapes would not fare well in cool climate Oregon. And with that piece of advice unheeded, the Oregon wine industry was born. May is Oregon Wine Month. (A few that I recently tried are pictured above)
More from Winespeed:
We were heartened to hear that JaM Cellars invented butter. The first (and only) time we had one of their chardonnays, we said to ourselves, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” But it WAS butter. And we have JaM Cellars to thank. What brilliance! What insight! The wine world should genuflect. If it were not for JaM Cellars, we’d be sensorially deprived–driven to wander, butterless, in a linguistic wine desert. Butter, alas, was only the beginning. JaM has also given us jam. And god knows we need jam in our lives, especially right now. So, dear wine friends, a toast (with butter and jam) to JaM Cellars. Is this a joke???
Napa-based JaM Cellars, maker of the wine brand Butter Chardonnay, has sued 6 wine producers for trademark infringement based on those winerys’ use of the word “butter” to describe chardonnay. Just recently, they also sued Franzia for its use of “jammy.”