Morning Edition, December 20, 2007 · Napa Valley may be America's wine capital, but wine is now produced in all 50 states. Across America, wineries and tasting rooms can be found in converted buildings — a bordello in Arizona, a cotton gin in Texas, a church in Ohio. There's even a tasting room in an Alaska shopping center.
And with that broad reach, there are all kinds of ideas of what wine can be, according Charles O'Rear and Daphne Larkin, the authors of Wine Across America, a photographic survey of the U.S. wine industry.
A retired nuclear physicist in Los Alamos, N.M., calls his label — what else? — La Bomba. There's a cranberry wine from Michigan and a garlic wine from California.
Larkin says she and O'Rear didn't discover the next Chateau Margaux or any really spectacular vintages, but they did find a lot of fascinating people making wine because they love it.
"People from all walks of life are making wine, whether they're retired nuclear physicists or firemen or doctors or housewives or big families," Larkin tells Renee Montagne.
O'Rear says technology is making it easier to get into the wine business. "The Internet, for example, makes it so easy to learn the basics of making wine, of growing grapes."
Now, there are vineyards seemingly everywhere, Larkin says.
"We found that they're making it with whatever fruit they have," Larkin says. "If they can't plant the classic European grapes, like chardonnay and cabernet, then they have blueberries, or they have pineapple like they do in Hawaii."
MAYOR SERGE MOUSSEAUX may run one of the poorest city halls in France. A lifelong farmer, he governs this village of 50 people from a three-room structure whose only adornments are the shredded flags of France and the European Union. But behind the building is a hiding place that for Mr. Mousseaux holds the key to prosperity.
It is here, in a troglodyte 穴居 limestone cave, that Mr. Mousseaux, 66, keeps hundreds of bottles of the fizzy wine he makes from his grapes. One day, he hopes to call it Champagne. At an impromptu, non-Champagne tasting at City Hall, he held up a glass of his creation. “Look at the fizz, the tininess of the bubbles!” he exclaimed. “That is magic, poetry — so different from what big Champagne houses do.”
Under French law, the only sparkling wine anywhere in the world that merits the name Champagne with a capital C must be made from grapes grown on officially designated plots of land in France.
But as global demand for Champagne soars, pressure is mounting to expand Champagne country. Champagne-producing houses want guaranteed long-term access to more of the pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier vines that are used to make the real thing. Farmers and landowners who are not on Champagne-designated land hope to join the exclusive club of insiders.
To that end, a team of French government-appointed experts drew up a secret list last October designating 40 communities — communes — for possible addition to the 319 communes with the designation Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, or A.O.C., a convoluted if coveted certification that authenticates the content, method and origin of production of a French agricultural item.“原產地命名控制”（AOC）法國消費者很重視產品的產地。“原產地命名控制”標識是最古老的辦法。這種辦法創立於1935年，只有擁有地理概念上的原產地特色的產品，才能獲得這種標識。http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/hcdeming/article?mid=26
If approved, the initiative would start the largest expansion of Champagne vineyards in eight decades.
The list was promptly leaked by the local newspaper of Reims, setting off waves of protest, calls for justice and heated speculation about who might strike it rich. Mr. Mousseaux’s fields, for example, were left out. Only one community in Aisne, the region where his land is located, was included.
“This is incomprehensible,” said Mr. Mousseaux, whose family has grown grapes and other crops on the stony, spare earth here for generations. “We have exactly the same soil as the areas that were chosen, the same sun, the same beautiful hills. This land is so perfect that the grapes even grow wild in our gardens.”
Even though his land is only six miles from official Champagne-producing territory, he is an outsider, forbidden to sell what he informally calls Vin de Serval. He seals his bottles with metal bottle caps; Champagne-like corks are expensive.
For several years, he has been part of a lobby of 350 retired and active farmers — with the unwieldy name the Association for the Delimitation of a Champagne Vineyard and AOC Champagne Hills in the Valleys of the Aisne and the Vesle — whose goal is to expand Champagne-growing onto their farmland.
The association keeps a file of decades-old photos of fields of Champagne grapes and receipts proving delivery of his family’s grapes to an official Champagne-making house as recently as 1962, an era when legal controls were less rigidly enforced.
But others involved in redrawing France’s Champagne map take a harder line, saying the decision is much more complicated than the size of bubbles.
They dismiss farmers like Mr. Mousseaux as hopeless romantics who understand little about the five criteria involved in the current investigation: Champagne’s history, geography, geology, agronomy and an obscure field called phytosociology, the study of plant communities.
“It’s like the Miss World contest, all the contestants think they are the most beautiful,” said Ghislain de Montgolfier, the departing president of Bollinger and the head of the Union of Champagne Houses, the Champagne makers’ trade group. “I’m good friends with some of these farmers, but I tell them that old rules are not the criteria. We now have a fixed juridical and scientific system that is more rational. So there are going to be some who win, and some who lose.”
The main reason there is so much furor over the Champagne expansion is that so much money is at stake. The value of farmland for Champagne grape-growing is at least 200 times more than that of land where crops like wheat and beets grow, according to Daniel Lorson, spokesman for the Interprofessional Committee of the Wines of Champagne, a professional trade organization. Tom Stevenson, the British author of “World Encyclopedia of Champagne and Sparkling Wine” (Wine Appreciation Guild, 2003), estimated in an analysis in November that based on the location of the 40 proposed new communes, between 3,000 and 12,000 acres will be added. That, he said, could create up to nearly $9 billion of wealth for landowners.
Historically, grape-growing was not a ticket to wealth in this part of France. Many areas never recovered from phylloxera, the parasitic insect that destroyed vineyards in the 19th century, and then from the devastation of World War I.
Between the end of World War I and 1927, many mayors did not want their villages to be part of Champagne country because landowners tended to be aristocrats rather than businessmen. Besides, grain, dairy and cattle farming was more profitable.
The definition of the Champagne region came with a 1927 law that considered the quality of the soil, groundwater levels and exposure to the sun. The area has expanded haphazardly over the years to more than 79,000 acres today. In 1990, for example, the village of Fontaine-sur-Ay was quietly added without any fuss, because it had seemed like the logical thing to do.
“People started to ask why was Champagne status given to one commune and not another,” said Hervé Briand, an associate director of the National Institute of Appellations of Origin, the governmental agency in charge of food and drink quality in France. “It made us realize we had to have a global approach.”
Most official Champagne-designated land already had been planted, and demand in the $6 billion-a-year industry was increasing, particularly from new markets including Russia, China and India. So four years ago, the institute ordered a study on the expansion question.
Certainly there will be no new overnight millionaire farmers. If the National Institute decides to accept the initial recommendations, there will be a year-long public inquiry, in which all interested parties can object and lobby.
Then come the most difficult decisions. In 2009 at the earliest, the specific Champagne-worthy parcels of land will be chosen.
In principle, their topsoil will have to be light and not too fertile, their subsoil chalky, their slopes facing south. The fields must not be too vulnerable to frost or too close to forests. To maintain quality, the maximum volume of production per acre is laid down by law every year.
The first new vineyards probably will not be planted for several years, with the first harvest coming sometime after 2015.
For the most part, the 40 proposed communes fill in holes in existing Champagne areas, much of it near the Champagne centers of Reims and Épernay, rather than extending the perimeter. For reasons that have yet to be explained, Germaine and Orbais-l’Abbaye, two of the villages in the Marne region that currently enjoy Champagne-growing status, would be thrown out.
Complicating matters, identities of the government-appointed experts who chose the 40 communes are secret, raising suspicions about their impartiality.
“Nothing is quantified and amazingly, no minimum requirements have been set,” Mr. Stevenson wrote in his analysis. “This is how and where it could all go pear-shaped, because Champagne’s continued success depends on maintaining its reputation, which is already under threat due to the bad timing of its expansion.”
Officials at the big Champagne houses barely disguise their glee at the eventual expansion. “We are very serene, very unperturbed,” said Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, managing director of the giant Taittinger Champagne house, which has lobbied for the change for more than two decades. “It’s so obviously logical.”
Some farmers in areas that are on the list, however, are reluctant to celebrate just yet.
Noël Maury, for example, and his brother grow grapes for Champagne on 12 acres of land in the communities of Broyes and Fontaine-Denis. They use half of their crop to produce various types of Champagnes every year under their own label, and sell the other half to the spirits giant G. H. Martel & Co.
They also grow wheat, rapeseed and beets on hundreds of acres on a plot higher up the hill in the adjacent community of Péas, one of the 40 potential new Champagne communes.
“People in town are talking about winning the lottery, but we have no idea how the experts did their work or which pieces of land will be chosen,” Mr. Maury said as he showed a visitor the two very different fields. “I expect it will only be a tiny percentage. I prefer to be very, very, very prudent and wait and be happy later on, than to celebrate now and be disappointed.”
Paradoxically, even if the proposal proceeds, some outsiders, like Mr. Mousseaux, would benefit, by being freed from a frustratingly French Catch-22.
Now, he cannot sell his wine because he is in a larger “zone of production” that bans any wine except Champagne from being made. The plan would redraw the zone’s borders to eliminate Serval and other communes.
Mr. Mousseaux could then sell his product as “vin mousseux,” sparkling wine.
Maia de la Baume contributed reporting from Reims.
Dec 21st 2007
IN 2008 America will become the biggest consumer of wine in the world, overtaking both Italy and the previous champion, France. Americans are drinking more as the French consume less. But where wine drinking per head is concerned France still wins hands down. Each French adult will quaff 58 litres in 2008 compared with a more abstemious 10 litres in America. More worrying for France’s winemakers is their declining share of the export market, thanks to competition from the New World.
︹ 記者楊倩慧／通霄報導︺在國內葡萄酒釀造大賽，連續奪銀摘金的謝育峰表示，葡萄酒每批口感均不同，品酒首重均衡協調，找到適合自己的香氣就是好酒，掌握這 原則，不必迷信歐洲才有葡萄佳釀，他投入專業釀造，一步一腳印，打算把自家酒莊當成百年事業來經營，近幾年自釀的台灣紅酒品質穩定，已經讓人找得到值得繞 舌的口感。
Hungarian folk tales often start with the phrase: "What follows may or may not be true."
Thus a story unfolds. And at the end, the story might refer to a character by saying: "If he is not dead, he may be living still," according to a collection of Hungarian folk tales, published by Iwanami Shoten, Publishers. The stories are very heartwarming.
One is about three housewives drinking in an inn. They tell the innkeeper they have decided that whoever among them can't manage to fool her husband will pay the tab.
All three go home, play tricks on their husbands and return to the inn.
As they all have fooled their husbands, the innkeeper says, "All right, the drinks are on the house." ...
A plate of sugar-dusted cornes de gazelles, baklava and dziriate at Le Miyanis, an Algerian shop.
IN the recent history of whiskey, bourbon would seem to have had a lot going for it. It’s homegrown, for one thing. Grass-roots acceptance counts for a lot when you are battling for shelf space. Bourbon has always been right up there with college football, Nascar and canned beer — the sort of whiskey that anyone can order without fear of being labeled effete or snobbish.
Yet, awareness is not always enough in the whiskey business. The days are long gone when “Dallas” ruled the airwaves and J. R. Ewing made bourbon and branch a household term. When bourbon distillers looked up 20 years ago they saw the market moving in two directions, both away from them. Affluent drinkers were exploring the wonders and complexities of single malts while younger bar-goers were turning to vodka and rum.
The dive in sales forced bourbon producers to accept that the whiskey market had changed. They might not be able to compete with vodka, but to avoid permanent relegation to the dusty back shelves of liquor stores, bourbon producers would have to find a way to attract the budding connoisseur class.
Enter the small batch, the single barrel and the special selection, marketing terms for what the industry calls high-end and superpremium bourbons. These whiskeys are chosen to emphasize complexity and even elegance, a quality that has rarely been associated with bourbon and a word that no doubt panics bourbon marketers who still favor the rural look of bib overalls, boots and gimme hats (that effete snob thing).
If you love whiskey but haven’t thought of bourbon as being in the same league as a good Scotch, Irish and even, these days, rye, you owe it to yourself to give it another try. A well-made, well-aged bourbon offers a gorgeous spectrum of flavors, beginning with a distinctive sweetness that can, depending on the distiller’s aim, turn spicy and peppery with clear fruitiness, or mellow into a creamy caramel toffee with highlights of citrus.
Confidence bred of success has led distillers to pay more attention to their best whiskeys. Meanwhile, microdistilleries all over the United States are getting into the act. While they have not yet made their presence felt on a national scale — whiskey takes a lot of time — it’s easy to anticipate their eventually making a mark.
Clearly, the producers’ efforts to improve quality, coinciding with the rebirth of the cocktail culture, have been a big success. The resurgence in spirit sales in the United States has been led by the high-end brands, said David Ozgo, chief economist for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a trade group, and that is especially true of bourbon.
From 2002 to 2006, sales of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey rose by 12.23 percent. In the same period, sales of high-end whiskeys ($20 to $30) rose by 27.62 percent and sales of superpremium bourbons (above $30) rose by 60.52 percent.
Sales are one thing. The Dining section’s tasting panel recently evaluated 25 bourbons strictly to answer another question: How good are these whiskeys, anyway? The short answer is, very good. For the tasting, Florence Fabricant and I were joined by Pete Wells, editor of the Dining section, who has written extensively about drinks, and Ethan R. Kelley, the spirit sommelier at the Brandy Library in TriBeCa.
To begin, let’s get our nomenclature straight. While many people believe that bourbon must come from Kentucky, it’s not true. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States as long as two federal conditions are met. First, the blend of grains from which the whiskey is distilled must be at least 51 percent corn. Second, the whiskey must be stored in charred new oak containers. If it is aged in the oak containers (federal regulators do not seem to like the word barrel) for two years or more it qualifies as straight bourbon whiskey.
Bourbon is not Tennessee whiskey, like Jack Daniel’s, which is essentially made like bourbon until it is filtered through charcoal, at which point it becomes Tennessee whiskey. Bourbon is also not corn whiskey, which by law cannot be stored in charred oak containers. A whiskey can be distilled 100 percent from corn, but if it so much as kisses those charred oak containers it becomes bourbon.
While these laws may seem rigid, they leave a lot of room for creative distilling. Once you’ve got your 51 percent corn in the blend of grains (which distillers call the mash bill), you’ve got important decisions to make. Most distillers probably use 65 percent to 75 percent corn, blended with some proportion of rye, wheat or malted barley, and each grain provides different characteristics. The corn offers the sweetness and lush texture that are the basis of so many bourbons. Wheat adds a mellow roundness, while rye provides a spicy, peppery fruitiness and a dry quality. Barley can add a creaminess and a grainy sweetness.
Producers must also decide how long to age their whiskeys. Younger whiskeys tend to be more aggressive and fiery. Aging tames the whiskeys, rounding off raw edges and bringing out a smooth complexity.
Younger and older whiskeys have their attractions, but with bourbon long-term aging is particularly beneficial, at least in my opinion. I loved the smoothness and the added complexity in some of the older bourbons we tasted, but the combination didn’t always sit well with Ethan.
“I don’t know if bourbon was designed to be so elegant and proper,” he lamented, though not unhappily.
We all noted the wide range of flavors in these bourbons, from creamy chocolate and fruity to grassy and herbaceous. “It was not the full frontal corn assault that once dominated bourbon,” Pete said, noting that the flavors in some bottles seemed beyond the realm of what might be acceptable in bourbon.
The bourbons we tasted ranged in price from $14 to $120, and while a $20 bottle, Jim Beam Black, was our best value, there was some correlation between price and quality.
The most expensive bourbon, the 16-year-old A. H. Hirsch Reserve, was something of an anomaly. It was among the last batches of whiskey distilled at Michter’s Distillery in Schaefferstown, Pa., which closed in 1989.
The name Michter’s lives on as a brand, but it is distilled in Kentucky (Michter’s U.S. 1 Bourbon did not make our cut). The A. H. Hirsch is a fine whiskey, smoky and complex, but the $120 is mostly for its rarity.
Naturally, the bourbon industry wants to capitalize on the cocktail craze, which is fine, but anybody who makes a mixed drink of our No. 1 bourbon, Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20-Year-Old, needs some remedial shaking and stirring. This is clearly a sipping whiskey of wonderful complexity, which would be wasted in even the finest mint julep or bourbon punch. The same goes for our No. 2, the fruity and chocolate-and-caramel-flavored Vintage 17-Year-Old.
If mix you must, I would suggest our No. 3, the brisk, spicy Knob Creek, which tastes as if it has a rye component. It might be the perfect whiskey for one of those cocktails that seem to be at home with either rye or bourbon.
Some of the biggest names in bourbon did not make our list. Wild Turkey just missed. It was good bourbon, but the panel did not find it distinctive enough in this company. We also liked the Van Winkle’s 10-Year-Old, which we thought would be great for cocktails. Maker’s Mark did not come close.
While the rules do not require it, most bourbons do, in fact, come from Kentucky. One that does not is the Hudson Four Grain Bourbon, distilled by Tuthilltown Spirits in the Hudson Valley. We liked it very much but left it off the list because it is virtually impossible to find.
Each of us also had a favorite or two that did not make the list. Ethan liked an Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old and an Eagle Rare Single Barrel 10-Year-Old. Pete liked the Eagle and the Wild Turkey. Florence liked the Elijah Craig and the Virginia Gentleman, an old brand that has the distinction of being distilled in Kentucky then redistilled in Virginia. I very much liked a Corner Creek Reserve 8-Year-Old and Bulleit.
The strongest bourbon in the tasting was Wild Turkey, at 101 proof. The final strength of a whiskey is another choice that distillers must make.
While the just-distilled whiskey can be as high as 160 proof, those pesky federal laws mandate that it must be watered down at least to 125 proof before entering those charred oak containers.
By the time it is bottled, it can be as low as 80 proof, so producers have a lot of room to find just the right strength. If you find a bourbon that seems too strong, do what the producers do and add more water. Or ice.