Since 2009, wine lovers gather with friends and family around glasses, bottles, and decanters to celebrate National Wine Day every May 25th! The United States has an incredibly rich and surprisingly long history when it comes to grapes in the States, and to even scratch the surface is difficult in a limited blog post; however, we want to highlight a few vines that have taken root in our country and have changed some of the landscape of the wine world. Links are provided below to check out the wines mentioned in the post, and we hope you enjoy!
For the past few thousand years, it’s been a general trend that wherever people went they brought grapevines. This is the case for civilizations dating back to the oldest known winery in Armenia to the Phoenicians, to the Egyptians, and, of course, to the Greeks and Romans. Though separated by thousands of years, this is also true of those who came to what is now the United States. The Spaniards were likely the first to bring wine to the U.S. with the British following closely behind. Unless you’re really into Muscadine, international, and primarily French, grapes were the vines of choice even for early Americans.
Early Roman wine amphora, from Ancient History Encyclopedia: https://www.ancient.eu/image/5531/amphorae/
There are hundreds of different grape varieties grown in the United States, but some truly have impacted the international wine market in profound and enduring ways. Here, let’s focus on three grapes: Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay.
What’s the first place you think of when you think Zinfandel? Maybe California? Maybe Napa, Lodi, or the Sierra Foothills? In many people’s views, these areas are producing the best Zinfandel in the world, but it wasn’t always this way. Until recently, people thought of Zinfandel as being native to the United States until Carole Meredith PhD, a world-renowned vine geneticist, traced the grape’s origins to Croatia. Under the name Tribidrag, Zinfandel was extremely popular as far back as the Middle-Ages. This grape that does very well in hot climates eventually found a new home in California during the 19th Century. When conditions are right and when these grapes can retain their acid and balance in the resulting wine, what happens with well-crafted Zinfandel is a fresh fruit experience that also carries a powerful elegance into the glass. In honor of National Wine Day and Zinfandel’s accent to California wine greatness, why not try some wine from some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in the country? The Original Grandpére Vineyard in Amador County is still producing grapes for Andis Wines from vines planted in 1869. These wines are incredibly complex, aromatic, and rich without succumbing to the oak-filled jam-bombs that some younger and less-traditionally made Zinfandel can become. We can’t wait for you to try this wine!
Carole Meredith, from Decanter: https://www.decanter.com/premium/decanter-interview-carole-meredith-406792/
Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay
Next, let’s turn to some Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and see how these grapes have captivated the American wine market. Carol Meredith is back at it again in proving the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon to be Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, thus the name Cabernet Sauvignon. Bordeaux has been the epicenter of Cabernet Sauvignon ever since the Bordeaux Classification of 1855. To essentially show off for a world exhibition in Paris, Emperor Napoleon III had Bordeaux’s wines classified into five tiers or ‘growths.’ The first growth Bordeaux wines were all Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blends and carry names with them that still resonate to this day: Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour, Chateau Lafitte, and Chateau Haut-Brion with Chateau Mouton moving up in ranks in the 1970s. These were considered the best producers of Cabernet on the planet (with some political motivations involved as well), but as we will see shortly, they were eventually met by American challengers.
Wine map of Bordeaux, from Wine Folly: https://shop.winefolly.com/products/bordeaux-wine-region-map-poster
Chardonnay has a similar relationship with prestige and French origin before making an impact on the United States. The area of Eastern France known as Burgundy is where Chardonnay first grew and continues to grow. The most expensive white wines in the world come from this area that is rooted in winemaking tradition. Montrachet, Meursault, Chablis, and Corton-Charlemagne may be familiar names due to their quality, limited availability, and high price tags, but Chardonnay has spread throughout the world developing a variety of flavors, winemaking techniques, and blends that make it one of the most planted grapevine in the world. Just like Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux, however, Chardonnay from Burgundy would be challenged by American winemakers.
For those of you who saw the late, great Alan Rickman in Bottle Shock, you may be familiar with ‘The Judgement of Paris.’ In 1976, Wine industry innovator, Steven Spurrier, set out on a quest to pit some of the best Cabernet and Chardonnay from California against some of the best wine from Bordeaux and Burgundy. With all French judges, all blind-tasting, the American wines came out on top. Ever since, Napa Valley and Northern California have produced some of the most sought-after Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons in the world. We want to highlight two fantastic wines that exude a sense of place in California. The first, Brassfield Estate Winery’s 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that is concentrated, full of plum and blackberry flavors, and smooth tannins from its aging in partially new French oak barrels. This new vintage is absolutely delicious. For Chardonnay, the 2016 Jax Y3 Chardonnay retains that more restrained Burgundian style and is not overly oaked or overly buttery. This is a profoundly balanced wine that represents Napa Valley Chardonnays extremely well. If you are interested in the aforementioned wines, please check out the links to our selections below, or give us a call!
Tasting at the Judgement of Paris, from Time: https://time.com/4342433/judgment-of-paris-time-magazine-anniversary/
Lastly, we want to honor this year’s Memorial Day. We hope you have the opportunity to toast those who are serving, those who have served, and those who we have lost through their service. Happy National Wine Day, happy Memorial Day, and Cheers!