The Taste of a Place

It’s a feeling we come back to again and again, especially when talking about foods we love. Coffee, cheese, wine, tea…the  significance of each one resonates with both a sense of culture and place to where quite a few of the contributors to this site have called home.

In the case of the image above, we peer into the poro trees we have mentioned numerous times. This particular poro, whose thick diagonally oriented trunk is situated at the uppermost point on the land where our coffee grows, is home to several orchids, both wild and cultivated. And in the foreground of the image a young cecropia tree is making its way upward, with a reddish top.

Next to the cecropia, out of the frame, is a mature coffee tree. Next to that is a young lime tree, and surrounding are various flowers and mano de tigre, aka monstera deliciosa. Just downhill from the trees and flowers in this image are bananas, plantain and sugar cane. The best coffees enjoy diverse company as they grow.

Adaptation In The Vineyard

Jacquez vines at Michel Arnaud’s farm in the village of Saint-Mélany in the Ardèche region of France. The American hybrid variety has been banned in France since 1934. Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

We admire many French traditions, except for those, especially, having to do with birds. When it comes to wine, the French are often but not always right:

For France, American Vines Still Mean Sour Grapes

French authorities have tried to outlaw hardy American hybrids for 87 years. But climate change and the natural wine movement are giving renegade winemakers a lift.

A tasting of forbidden wines at Hervé Garnier’s “Memory of the Vine” association in the village of Beaumont. Mr. Garnier, standing third from right, is one of the last stragglers in a long-running struggle against the French wine establishment and its allies in Paris. Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

BEAUMONT, France — The vines were once demonized for causing madness and blindness, and had been banned decades ago. The French authorities, brandishing money and sanctions, nearly wiped them out.

But there they were. On a hillside off a winding mountain road in a lost corner of southern France, the forbidden crop was thriving. Early one recent evening, Hervé Garnier inspected his field with relief.

In a year when an April frost and disease have decimated France’s overall wine production, Mr. Garnier’s grapes — an American hybrid variety named jacquez, banned by the French government since 1934 — were already turning red. Barring an early-autumn cold snap, all was on track for a new vintage. Continue reading

Common Language For Wine Pairing

Big Macs & Burgundy Wine Pairings for the Real WorldThanks to an episode of the podcast All Of It, this book  came to our attention. We swore off Big Macs and Cheetos and other over-processed foods decades ago, so the title was off-putting. But if you listen to Vanessa Price explain it the purpose of the book is clear: commonsense language, for a topic that normally is full of fancy language, is a good thing. Abrams books says this:

Essential wine pairings for everything from popcorn to veggie burgers to General Tso’s Chicken, based on the wildly popular Grub Street column Continue reading

Wine & Biophilia

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Brian Britigan

Biophilia is a frequent topic here; wine, only a fraction as much. An article touching on both is a rare treat:

From Good Wine, a Direct Path to the Wonders of Nature

For this city dweller, wine provided the opening to a greater understanding of food and agriculture, and their precarious balance.

Last year a friend asked me a question I had never considered before: Over the many years I had been writing about wine, what was the greatest thing this job had given me?

I answered almost reflexively. As a New Yorker who has spent most of my life living in Manhattan, wine had provided me a connection to nature that I most likely would never have experienced otherwise. Continue reading

This Headline Catches My Attention

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Organic cabernet sauvignon grown near the town of Cowaramup in the Margaret River region of Australia. Frances Andrijich for The New York Times

During 2003 and 2004, life in Paris was full of wonders for our family. Bread was really art, we learned. And tarte tatin, which Amie had modified for years using mangos in Costa Rica, is best of all modified by using various French heritage plums available in a nearby marché in late August. And cheese! Plus plenty more, but for now I am reminded of the occasional wine expositions–cavernous spaces filled with hundreds of kiosks of artisanal wine makers–we would attend. At one of those I first tasted natural wine. So today, this headline shouts down all the others. Just the fact that Eric Asimov is still on this particular beat is enough to make me think things are okay, or will be okay, or at least could someday be okay:

France Defines Natural Wine, but Is That Enough?

The wine industry and many consumers have long sought a definition, but the adoption of a voluntary charter may not clarify anything.

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Marie Carroget

Natural wine is healthy and pure; natural wine is wretched and horrible. It’s the future of wine; it’s the death of wine.

For 15 years, natural wine has been a contentious time bomb that has divided many in the wine community, creating conflicts fought with the sort of anger that stems only from extreme defensiveness.

Since 2003, when I first encountered what has come to be called natural wine at the seminal restaurant 360 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, I have been a fan, though a cleareyed one, I hope.

I believe in the promise and beauty of natural wines, while acknowledging that many examples are not good, as is true with all genres of wine. The truth is that natural wines have made all of wine better. Continue reading

Bottled Virtuosity, Tasting Good

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Winemaking methods that once seemed suspect now look like authenticity. Illustration by Greg Clarke

What does good taste like? Perhaps goodness is the better word to use in that question, because the question is not about what good taste is, as in how we determine when something is tasteful. This article, using wine as a prop, offers a way to think about goodness, in the virtue sense, and what it might taste like, without simply rehashing the tiresome complaints about virtue signaling. The author had me at the title, because it touches on themes we have been thinking about lately; then the mention of working of Mendoza, where I worked in 2007, ensured I would read on. In the second paragraph seeing Itata, a region that was part of my workplace 2008-2010, I was triply hooked:

How Natural Wine Became a Symbol of Virtuous Consumption

The mainstreaming of natural wines has brought niche winemakers capital and celebrity, as well as questions about their personalities and politics.

In 2010, Dani Rozman had just graduated from the University of Wisconsin. He was so deliberate and thoughtful that his friends claimed it was inevitable that he’d end up a history professor with a closet full of cardigans. But Rozman went to Argentina instead, and wound up in Mendoza, the hub of the country’s wine scene, working at a startup that helped wealthy people realize their wine dreams—you could buy a vineyard from afar, have someone else farm it, design the labels, and receive cases of “your” wine to show off at dinner parties.

One summer, Rozman went to Itata, at the southern tip of Chile’s wine-producing region, to work the grape harvest at a local winery. He had the impression that winemakers were like the clean-cut guys in Napa with family money and fleece vests. Itata was different. The winery was just a shipping container and a mesh tent, and the work was non-stop. Rozman had grown up in a health-conscious family that nonetheless “had to be reminded that food was farmed,” he said; being in daily contact with plants felt revelatory. Some of the vines had been planted centuries earlier, by conquistadores and missionaries. The grapes were País, a varietal that had fallen out of favor as winemakers turned to popular ones like Cabernet Sauvignon. The methods were traditional, too—the fruit was picked by hand, destemmed with a bamboo implement called a zaranda, then fermented in clay pots. The finished product was startling, in a good way. “At that time in Argentina, Malbec was king,” Rozman told me. The country made lots of homogeneous, high-alcohol wines aged in oak barrels, catering to international appetites—“the French-consultant thing,” as Rozman put it. To him, they tasted heavy and expressionless, while the Itata wines were stripped down and elemental. “It was like night and day,” he said. Continue reading

Climate, Wine & Adaptation

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Don Valley, Australia John Laurie for The New York Times

Eric Asimov, wine critic, is also a pretty good explainer of the practical implications of climate change:

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Catena Zapata, Argentina Horacio Paone for The New York Times

Wine, which is among the most sensitive and nuanced of agricultural products, demonstrates how climate change is transforming traditions and practices that may be centuries old.

Around the wine-growing world, smart producers have contemplated and experimented with adaptations, not only to hotter summers, but also to warmer winters, droughts and the sort of unexpected, sometimes violent events that stem from climate change: freak hailstorms, spring frosts, flooding and forest fires, just to name a few.

Farmers have been on the front line, and grape growers especially have been noting profound changes in weather patterns since the 1990s. In the short term, some of these changes have actually benefited certain regions.

Places, like England, that were historically unsuited for producing fine wine have been given the opportunity to join the global wine world, transforming local economies in the process. Continue reading

Adaptation, Climate Change, Winery Operations

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Solar panels dot the buildings at the family’s Carneros Hills Winery. Jason Henry for The New York Times

When a family does its homework on the property that represents its livelihood and our own appreciation for their craft, we take note just as we do when the professor teaches:

Falcons, Drones, Data: A Winery Battles Climate Change

Jackson Family Wines is among California
winemakers employing both high-tech and old-school
techniques to adapt to hotter, drier conditions.

By

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Harvested grapes. Jackson Family Wines is one of the largest family-owned winemakers in the country. Jason Henry for The New York Times

On a misty autumn morning in Sonoma County, Calif., Katie Jackson headed into the vineyards to assess the harvest. It was late in the season, and an army of field workers was rushing to pick the grapes before the first rains, however faint, began falling.

But on this day, Ms. Jackson, the vice president for sustainability and external affairs at Jackson Family Wines, was not just minding the usual haul of cabernet, chardonnay and merlot grapes. She also checked on the sophisticated network of systems she had put in place to help crops adapt to a changing climate.

Continue reading

Trees & Wine

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The wine writer Hugh Johnson in Central Park, where he admired one of the last stands of American elms in North America. Credit Andrew White for The New York Times

The New York Times keeps us looking at the trees…

Hugh Johnson’s Lifelong Journey Among the Trees

By

Hugh Johnson, the venerable English wine writer, had just arrived in New York City on a trip he tries to make every year, especially in the fall when “the elms start to fire up.”

As is his custom, he visited old friends, took in a few restaurants — Le Coucou, the new Rouge Tomate Chelsea and an old favorite, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s JoJo. He stopped at a few museums and strolled through Central Park, where he indulged another passion that is as dear to his heart as wine — trees. Continue reading

Traditions Taken Beyond The Limit Of Logic

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The annual harvest of the sangiovese grapes at the tiny Colombaia winery outside Siena. Credit Susan Wright for The New York Times

This story touches on many of our favorite themes, so thanks to Mr. Pergament for telling it well (click the image above to go to the original, at the New York Times website):

By DANIELLE PERGAMENT

It was a hot, late summer evening in Tuscan wine country — and, unexpectedly, I was getting a lesson in astrology.

Inside a grid of cool, lush green vines, amid hills and valleys rippling toward the horizon, a cherubic woman in a wide straw hat named Helena Variara was pointing toward the sky.

“You have days of fire, air and days of earth — the 12 constellations are our helpers,” she said matter-of-factly. “Our work is to enter the rhythm of the planets.” Continue reading