Show Me Some Goals….

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

The nice part of goals is missing them sometimes. Yes, it was your editor’s goal to complete podcasts for all four Missouri viticulture areas before leaving for the Show Me State… but that sadly hasn’t happened. Something about teenagers and their crazy schedules screwed that up. Oh, and randomly placed Spring Breaks. Ahhh.  Good times…

So, instead of showing you are about the Ozark Mountain and Ozark Highlands AVAs, I will postpone the publication of these videos so that I can gather some footage of my own…. and instead will talk about where I am planning to go on my Missouri adventures. While I am only going to be in Missouri for a long weekend and most of that time will be spent in St. Louis, I have found that I will be able to visit all four viticultural areas. Yeah!

As you can see, I have gotten lucky that all of these appellations are located at least in part near St. Louis. So naturally, given that I have no obligations to teens and/or volleyball (like last year or next week) I get to explore Missouri.

The conference location is the starting or ending point of the trip. At least from a planning perspective this is the raison d’être for my get away. Kevin is watching the teens, which earns him my pity as it is their spring break. He initially wished to join me along this journey but thought better of it as it is likely teens would have sucked all the joy out of me for this adventure, and I thank him profusely.

Why Ste. Genevieve? Simply, it is the oldest town in the state. Founded by the French along the Mississippi River before even the French and Indian Wars, the town has a collection of Creole-French buildings that were common among French settlers or habitants…  Obscure?  Perhaps.  But I love that kind of stuff.  Plus there are wineries there too which are located within the Ozark Mountain AVA. This AVA is the biggest in Missouri (especially since it extends into Arkansas and even Oklahoma) and the Ozark Highlands and Hermann appellations are located within its boundaries.

My next must see stop is the town of Kaskaskia, Illinois.  Crossing back over the Mississippi, you say?  Hardly.  Kaskaskia, also a French settlement, was located east of the Mississippi but as the river has changed course, so has the location of the town and it is currently located just a couple of miles south of Ste. Genevieve.  Actually, most of the original town has been lost to flooding and hardly anyone lives there anymore (the 2000 census indicated a population of 9).  The appeal of Kaskaskia is twofold.  It is the original capital of the state (or maybe territory) of Illinois.  Also?  It has a bell that was a given to the local parish church by Louis XV (Yes.  Louis XIV is dead, to answer my husband’s snappy response whenever hear hears the name of a monarch with a number attached to his name.. Thanks so much, dudes from Monty Python).

The next goals of the trip are to visit all three appellations that I haven’t been to before.  This means, stopping at wineries in Ozark Mountain (done… with stops in Ste. Genevieve), Ozark Highlands  (done with stops in and around Leasburg or Steelville, MO) and in Hermann.

As if this isn’t a busy enough weekend, I will then be attending the conference in St. Louis.  Whew.  I am going to be tired come Monday.  But I will have lots to talk about when I get back!

Hope you have as much fun this weekend!




Next stop

Alain Junguenet Selection: Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Leaving the Corton Grancey/Corton Charlemagne seminar that beautiful January morning, I was hard-pressed to imagine that anything could top the experience of those Burgundies.  Until I arrived at the afternoon seminar, that is, and got to spend 90 minutes with 10 Châteauneuf-du-Papes.

The seminar was hosted by Alain Junguenet and his son John from Alain Junguenet Selection, Wines of France, Inc., New Jersey-based wine importers since 1984.  Alain Junguenet has been dubbed “Mr. Châteauneuf-du-Pape” by Robert Parker, who also has named him “Wine Personality of the Year.”  The seminar wines were all chosen personally by Alain and John Junguenet from the 2007 vintage.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in the Southern Rhone Valley, was founded in the 12th century when the Bishop of Avignon began planting vines in his fief.  By the end of the 13th century others had followed his example, and more than 300 hectares were under cultivation across the region surrounding the town of Châteauneuf-du-Calcernier.  In the 14th century, the Catholic Church experienced upheaval and schism and seven popes lived in exile in Avignon from 1305 until 1378.  The first “French pope,” Clement V (1305-1314), actively embraced wine making, developing even more land across the region for wine cultivation, a practice continued by his successor, Pope John XXII (1316-1334) who is often credited with increasing the region’s reputation for wine during his reign.    John XXII also built the  chateau, which the popes used as their summer retreat, and which today stands at the heart of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region.   The region’s wines and winemakers continued to grow in sophistication, and in 1836, Commandant Joseph Ducos, then mayor of Châteauneuf and proprietor of Chateau La Nerte officially changed the name of the village to Châteauneuf-du-Pape in honor of the Popes who had reigned there.  One hundred years later, the Baron Le Roy de Boiseaumarie of Chateau Fortia together with other vintners from the region formed the Syndicate of Châteauneuf, which declared the “Appellation d’Origine Controllé Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” the first official AOC.

Today the region is comprised of 125 vineyards spread out across the five communes: Sorgues, Béddarides, Courthézon, Orange, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which make up the Appellation.  While there are a small number of white varietals grown and produced in the region, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is known primarily for it’s reds, which account for 95% of total production.  The primary grape of the region is grenache, the “base” of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines.  In addition to grenache, the region’s winemakers grow an additional 12 varietals, each having their own hallmark characteristics which they carefully select and blend:

  • Muscardin – good aroma and fullness
  • Vaccarese – spice
  • Cinsault – big arome and body
  • Terret Noir – color and body
  • Counoise – acidity and spice
  • Mourvedre – black fruit, leather, spice, tannin
  • Syrah – peppery, red fruits & structure
  • Roussane – aroma & ageability
  • Clairette – alcohol and depth
  • Bourboulenc – acidity and floral notes
  • Picardan – acidity
  • Picpoul – citrus and roundness

As with all AOC’s, the region’s winemakers are bound by a series of very strict rules governing wine production, including the mandating of manual harvesting of all grapes, minimum alcohol content of 12.5%, and three sortings with each domain required to exclude 5% of its harvest each year to ensure only the highest quality grapes are used in the wine production.

A fascinating history, accompanied by a beautiful slide-show of the region’s vineyards and wineries, but through it all the wines were calling.  10 wines, ranging in color from deep ruby to a dark, rich plum, they lined up in front of us, teasing us…

Thursday, April 15th – 10 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Papes.

More Champagne Stories…

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Once upon a time when our Maman was just a girl of 15, she made a magical trip to France with the Emmett Belknap Junior Highschool French Club.

It was her first time away from home on a holiday, that being Easter Sunday. And after a crack of dawn mass at Notre Dame de Nice where we kept getting woken up by the dripping of candle wax on her hands and being driven throughout the south of France in bus listening to the narration of a tour guide who NEVER ceased filling our stupid little upstate New York brains with facts we finally headed to dinner.

Those of us who’s parent had signed the additional permission slip were allowed to drink wine with our dinners. I was one of those students. Alas at the end of the meal, I was feeling a little extra melancholy.

After dinner, the students from my school met with our teachers. Now that year, there were four students on the trip and two teachers. One of the teachers spoke no French. Only German and was there for the pure joy of being in France. She was the music teacher at our school and according to my mother, something of a floozy. Well, whatever…

Anyway, we met after dinner and our teachers, noticing that we were a bit down suggested that we go out for a while before heading back to our spectacular rooms at the Hotel Terminus (I kid you not on the name). Their idea? Well, what else do you suggest with a pick of 15 year olds? We went out for drinks.

As we approached the bar, Mme. Berger explained that at many drinking establishments in France there was differential pricing based on where you sat. Those sitting out on the patio payed the highest price. The lowest prices were paid by those sitting at the bar. When asked where we wanted to sit, being young and stupid we sat on the patio. Why? Well, it was April in France, the bar was across the promenade from the Mediterannean and the moon was shining on the shimmering water.

When the waitress asked what we wanted to drink, Randy, Gina and Gwen (yes, we had a Gretchen, Gwen and Gina all on the same trip) able to order what they pleased, all ordered Screwdrivers. Which, naturalement are not called Screwdrivers in France but just plain Vodka and jus d’orange. Our teachers order beers. But me? Champagne. Moet & Chandon White Star.

I had two glasses then we went walking in the moonlit surf. It is a beautiful story, n’est ce pas?

Well sure. White Star has been my favorite Champagne ever since. Oh, the next day. I wanted to be dead. I was so hung over. And I was bruised. Why? Well, the beaches in Nice are rocks, not sand. Ouch.

Marguerite, knowing me for the last 24 years, knows this story.

And that is why she gave me White Star for my birthday.

Fun New Packaging Options

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Over the last couple of years the way that wine is packaged has begun changing more rapidly. We no longer have the choice between big bottles and little ones and the occasional bag in a box scenario.

Aseptic packaging (juice boxes), and cans have become more common and fake and recycled corks, glass on glass systems and even screw tops have been readily available.

But this system is one that I have never seen before and I can see it’s advantages.

WineSide packaging allows small tastes of a variety of different wines that can be grouped by tastes, terriors, varietals, etc. The small glass tubes that resemble cigar tubes and are sealed essentially the same way screw tops can be packaged in individual boxes or in display packs, or used as corporate gifts.

Currently available options include:

Wines: Banyuls, Maury, Rivesaltes Ambré, Muscat De Rivesaltes
Classic Right Bank Bordeaux: Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Blaye, Côtes De Bourg, Pomerol
Classic Left Bank Bordeaux: Médoc, Haut Médoc, Pessac Léognan, Graves
Sauternes: Years 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
Bas Armagnac: Years 1968, 1978, 1988, 1998
Eau De Vies: Plum, Pear, Mirabelle, Gentian
Crèmes: Cassis, Raspberry, Blackberry, Peach

They are anticipating adding to the collection in the future with additional wines from the Loire, Côtes Du Rhône, Burgundy, etc..

Like I mentioned, I can see the advantages. This might encourage people to try a wine without having to invest in a full bottle only to find out that they don’t like it.

And the packaging? Well, very frankly, it is adorable. I can see this being the next crazy Hampton’s thing next summer. Can’t you?

There should be a law

But there isn’t… and I continue to gather more facts via The Wikipedia… Let’s just call it a WikiWine Fact.

Today’s knowledge nugget:

Château de Goulaine
is the oldest family run business in Europe. No one is exactly sure when their wine became commercially available (instead of just for personal consumption) but the Marquis’ de Goulaine have been calling this patch of La Loire home for over 1,000 years.

They produce a Muscadet, Sancerre, Vouvray, Folle Blanche and the first commercial Chardonnay in the western Loire.

La tour carrée
May 2007
Via Flick’r

Famed 1976 American Triumph In Paris Becomes Not One, But Two Films!

Americans love to be the best. We have spent most of the past 100 years proving our dominance to the rest world in terms of military prowess, economic strength, technological innovation, and mass media distribution. Yet, despite all that, we have a giant inferiority complex when it comes to Food and Wine. And why not? If there is any nation that surpasses the U.S. of A. in arrogance, it is surely France, the home to all things gourmand. And so when Uncle Sam rolled into to Paris (the most arrogant of all cities) in 1976 to compete in a blind tasting versus the best of La France and won? Well, a legend was born. And legends don’t go long before becoming immortalized in our oh-so American way of commercial consumerism in the form of a book (George Taber’s best selling “Judgement of Paris” was published only a few years ago) or film (the ultimate compliment in our society).

Now two films are competing for the telling of the validation of the Wine America (why does that always happen?). “Bottle Shock“, directed by Randall Miller, just screend at Sundance and stars Bill Pullman and Alan Rickman. Rickman plays Steven Spurrier, British wine merchant and the organizer of the ’76 tasting. It is Spurrier that is now quoted in Decanter Magazine saying that “Bottle Shock” is a “defamation and gross misinterpretation”. Spurrier is involved in the other, “official“, telling of the story that is based on Taber’s book.

But is American wine better than French wine? I have tasted a lot of wine from all over the world. And though I am as American as Apple Pie (actually more like Motzah Ball Soup or Gefilte Fish, but that’s another story), I cannot honestly say that the best of the U.S. does not match the best of France. There is only one Champagne, there is only one Burgundy, and so on. But that is my opinion. Apparently on that famed day on our nation’s bi-centenial year, in a city that prides itself on culinary eminence, the judges found favor with California. And ever since then, deep inside our national consciousness, we have claimed another victory for the stars and stripes. We can do wine.

Wine Cocktails

I know, I know… New Years Eve is all about the Champagne…. and Champagne Rory would be the first to tell me that…

But There is something about a Kir that makes me nostalgic, which makes it appropriate on the last day of the year.

Kir is a cocktail made of dry white wine and Crème de cassis, a thicky syrupy liqueur made from black currants most often made in Burgundy.

It makes me nostalgic because it reminds me of my first trip to France, when I was 15. We were at our hotel in Paris and had been on a busy all day long touring various sites when two elderly ladies who had joined our tour asked my room mate and I if we wanted to join them for drinks before dinner. This girl, who’s name I don’t remember, and I thought it was lovely that these ladies screwed up their courage and finally went to Paris as they had always wanted. OK, they went with a bunch of high school kids, but frankly, I think that it gave them a different perspective on the trip. After all, we played frisbee in the Amphitheater in Nimes… How many times do you see that?

Well anyway, I think the ladies appreciated that we didn’t treat them like three headed space aliens. And so we met them….

and we drank Kir.

And so did I last night….

Happy New Year!