n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 6 A L I V E E A S T B A Y 25 fermentation, tertiary characteristics, or autolytic complexity with authority, such characters tend to pipe down. What is it about wine that we love? For me, it’s the opportunity to “visit” a country through its wine. Well-made wine reflects its country of origin. If the grapes are grown on volcanic soil, you can taste the smoke. If the grapes are grown on ironrich soil, you can taste the minerals. If the grapes are grown overlooking the sea, you can taste the salt of the ocean breezes. That’s the beauty of wine and why each bottle of good wine is like a holiday in a bottle. If you can’t afford to fly to the warmth of a Sicilian island, taste the sunshine in a bottle of Sicilian wine! I am also drawn to wine for the incredible history behind it. Wine has played a role in society since ancient times. Jugs of wine were buried with pharaohs in Egypt to be enjoyed in the afterlife. Wine is mentioned in famous works like The Iliad and The Odyssey. Wine plays a prominent role in many biblical stories. It’s been a part of man’s life since the beginning. In many European cultures, wine is considered a food and regularly served at meals to adults and children alike, although the children usually enjoy their wine mixed with water. A meal isn’t considered a meal unless wine is served with it. How very civilized. Wine hasn’t always been a part of American culture. We didn’t grow up drinking it. We drank coca-cola and ate hamburgers in the classic American style. As illustrated on episodes of Mad Men, Americans have always enjoyed a cocktail. Beer has also been popular for centuries. Wine has been produced in the USA for years but never became part of the fabric of our society. Until now. Immigrants from wine-producing countries brought European grapes and classic winemaking techniques to this country in the mid-1800s. After that, wine steadily gained in popularity but hit a wall in 1920 with the advent of Prohibition. Wine producers across the country were immediately put out of business and vineyards were plowed up to make way for other types of agriculture. Only a few vineyards survived under the auspices of providing wine for religious ceremonies. By the time Prohibition was repealed, Americans had lost their taste for wine. Sweet, uninspired wines like Mateus and Blue Nun were enjoyed sparingly but wine consumption had lost its sheen. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that wine came back into vogue in the United States. In 1976, two wines from Napa, a Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and a Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, were entered into a French wine competition and had the nerve to win. The success of these two wines propelled Napa into the spotlight. From a sleepy, northern California town known more for its sanitarium than anything else, Napa was suddenly a bright star on the map and California has never looked back. Today, Napa produces some of the best wine in the world and wine-producing areas all over California are revered for their quality. In the last 20 years, Oregon, Washington, and New York have all have become recognized in their own right for fine quality wine. In fact, every state in the union, including Alaska and Hawaii, produces wine. It may not be made from grapes, but wine it is! In fact, you may have already had the pleasure of sipping pineapple wine in Hawaii or rhubarb wine in Idaho. But wine as a classical beverage is made from grapes, Vitis Vinifera, to be exact, although in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, interesting and delicious Lambrusco wines are made from Vitis Labrusca. The wines of today are better than they ever have been, and modern wine production is the most advanced it has ever been. Great wines have come out of all corners of the world – Australia, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa – and they are delicious, beautiful wines worthy of world attention. The classic wines of Europe, like Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chianti, and Barolo, are still shining leaders in quality and popularity. Why drink wine, you may ask. Why indeed? Drink wine because it is legendary. Drink it because it is a piece of history. Drink wine because such great effort and care is taken in producing it. Drink it because it is healthy. Drink it because it gives you the world in a glass. But most importantly, drink wine because you love it. Cheers! Elizabeth Kate is a freelance writer specializing in Wine and Spirits. She holds the coveted WSET Diploma (DWS) and is the first graduate of the prestigious Los Angeles program. Also a French Wine Scholar and an Italian Wine Specialist, Elizabeth was the In-House Wine Consultant to KSFO Radio’s popular “Edible Escapes” in San Francisco. Elizabeth adores bringing the joys of wine and spirits down to earth for the non-specialist in her podcast on TheTalkPod.com. She authors a monthly Wine & Spirits column in Los Angeles and is delighted to join the team at ALIVE Magazine.
Alive November 2016
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