About the only promise I can make for 2021 is more wine information. I have really enjoyed learning more about wine, the vines, and the various countries that produce wine.
Who is the parent? (per Winespeed): DNA fingerprinting at the University of California, Davis in the late 1990s identified gouais blanc (goo-AY blahnk) as one of the ancient “founder varieties.” As such, it is a parent or grandparent to at least 81 distinct western European grape varieties including such disparate varieties as chardonnay, riesling, muscadelle, blaufränkisch, and colombard. Derived from the old French adjective “gou”—a term of derision befitting its traditional status as the grape of the peasants—gouais blanc is considered neutral to the point of mediocrity. Extremely little wine is produced from gouais blanc today, in fact it’s no longer even cultivated in France, where it originated. However, an impressive sweet wine is made from it in the Rutherglen region of Victoria, Australia by Chambers Rosewood Winery from 100+ year-old vines.
Reminds me of my visit to Sauterne: The furry gray mold-covered grapes that make Sauternes may look like miniature mice, but that Botrytis cinerea mold (also known as pourriturenoble or noble rot) is not washed off or in any other way removed before fermentation. In fact, it contributes to a Sauternes’ flavor—and not in a way that seems like something left too long in the back of the refrigerator. Botrytis adds an extra dimension, sometimes described as being faintly like sweet corn or mushrooms, to the overall complexity of the wines. The influence of Botrytis actually begins in the vineyard, as the beneficial mold punctures the grapes’ skins in search of water to germinate its spores, the water begins to evaporate and the grapes dehydrate. Inside the shriveled berries, the sugar in the juice becomes progressively more concentrated. The botrytis also alters the structure of the grapes’ acids, but the amount of acidity in the wine is not diminished—of crucial importance to balance the heightened sweetness in the finished wine. (from Winespeed). While Sauterne is not one of my favorites, the region has great food, namely bread, cheese, and other Bordeauxs.
What about moscato? Sixty seven% of moscato d’Asti is exported from Italy to the U.S., the leading market for the wine globally by a wide margin. Tradition in Italy calls for drinking at least a well-chilled glass of it on Christmas morning. The wine—delicate, lightly sweet, and gorgeously fruity—is particularly low in alcohol: 4.5% to 5.5%. Considered superior to Asti spumante, moscato d’Asti is not fully sparkling, just a tiny bit frizzante (fizzy). It is made from muscat blanc à petits grains grapes and is a specialty of Piedmont.
What is the most visited winery in the United States? A winery in Napa or Sonoma, Central Cost, or Oregon?
The Biltmore Winery is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the estate of George Vanderbilt, grandson of famed industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt. Officially opened to Vanderbilt’s friends and family on Christmas Day, 1895, the Biltmore Estate was donated to the public by his daughter in 1930. Today, approximately 1.5 million visitors come to the estate annually to walk the more than four acres of floor space, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. The estate reports that slightly fewer than half of those visitors make it over to the winery and tasting room, located in the original 1900 dairy barn.
Winemaker Sharon Fenchak notes, ”Since we’re in the Southeast, sometimes we are the first winery people ever visit.” Vanderbilt’s grandson, William A.V. Cecil, planted vineyards with French-American hybrid grapes on the estate in the early 1970s, and opened the winery in 1985. Today, wines are produced from 150 acres of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit manseng from the property as well as grapes sourced from the West Coast. I was there last year, but the Estate was closed while I was in Asheville.
Can you believe only 14 states, plus Washington D.C. allow wine shipments from out-of-state wine retailers, compared to 45 that accept shipments from out-of-state wine producers. U.S. consumers must purchase imported wines through retailers (versus direct from the winery). States that ban shipments from out-of-state retailers limit consumer access to all the other wondrous wines of the world. For more information or to write your legislator, visit Free the Grapes.
Everyone seems optimistic about 2021, perhaps due to the vaccine, perhaps due to a new Administration in DC. Whatever the reason, let’s also keep trying new and different wines, and share the information.
One of my avid readers has forwarded a great wine story. During this pandemic, with restaurants and bars closing, a local Seattle business packages three different cases of wine. You can choose mixed cases of whites, reds, or sparklings, and a three different price points. I am told the wines are both inventive, and a great bargain. What a great idea.