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Wine and Poetry

August 19, 2014

My siblings recently sent copies of poems we read while growing up, a few of which we had to memorize (as required) for school. These included Ozymandias (King of Kings) by Shelley, and Fair Daffodils by Robert Herrick. There was also mention of Poems on the Underground in the UK (where passengers appreciated poetry placed on billboards), as well as Poetry in Motion, where the same took place along New York’s public transport system.

Poetry is motion in New York....(the orange? Christo's 'Gates' project)

Those poetic New Yorkers….(the orange flags are part of Christo’s ‘Gates’ project)

Good verse includes compact, powerful imagery that hits our emotions. Poetry is the literary equivalent of – ? Perhaps Red Bull. Or whiskey. Maybe wine.

During the opening scene of the classic movie Bottle Shock, a helicopter cruises over hills and vineyards while a voice recalls words of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson (which are also written on the entrance sign to Napa, California), that ‘Wine is bottled poetry.’

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See? Bottled Poetry

Shakespeare never doubted the power of the grape, and in Antony and Cleopatra wrote:

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Come, thou monarch of the vine,

Plumpy Bacchus with pink eyne
In thy fats our cares be drown’d,
With thy grapes our hairs be crown’d!
Cup us till the world go round,
Cup us till the world go round!

 

 

John Keats’s wrote Wine Poem: Women, Wine, and Snuff

Give me women, wine and snuffIMG_6534
Until I cry out “hold, enough!”
You may do so sans objection
Till the day of resurrection;
For bless my beard they aye* shall be
My beloved Trinity.

[* always shall be]

 

Picture 031Wine is often intertwined with romance; Robert Burns wrote of wine and his beloved woman at the beginning of his poem about departing for battle:

Go fetch to me a pint o wine,

And fill it in a silver tassie;

That I may drink, before I go,

A service to my bonie lassie:

 

Jonathan Swift wrote about the power of an empty wine bottle, unearthed in 1722, in Stella’s Birthday – describing it as though it were a womb containing medicine.

Behold the bottle, where it lies???????????????????????????????
With neck elated toward the skies!
The god of winds and god of fire
Did to its wondrous birth conspire;
And Bacchus for the poet’s use
Pour’d in a strong inspiring juice.
See! as you raise it from its tomb,
It drags behind a spacious womb,
And in the spacious womb contains
A sovereign medicine for the brains.

 

DSC_0576Part of the poem Ode to Wine, by Pablo Neruda, is below. This Chilean romantic had homes in both the city of Valparaiso, as well as along the coast of Chile. I was fortunate enough to visit both when I began writing Wine and Work years ago. Inside his beach house we learned how Neruda, renowned lover and poet, drank wine out of multi-colored glasses because he believed they changed a wine’s flavor.

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View from Pablo Neruda’s beach home in Chile

 

My darling, suddenly
the line of your hip
becomes the brimming curve
of the wine goblet,
your breast is the grape cluster,
your nipples are the grapes,
the gleam of spirits lights your hair,
and your navel is a chaste seal
stamped on the vessel of your belly,
your love an inexhaustible
cascade of wine,
light that illuminates my senses,
the earthly splendor of life.

Want to invest in a decent book of poetry? Consider the classic Norton Anthology of Poetry, a serious tome to plonk beside your nightstand. 100 Best-Loved Poems, a bit slimmer, includes  more classics than contemporary verse. My favorite, because it’s a paperback stuffed with verse, and also light enough to have packed away for a two-year trip to Africa with the Peace Corps years ago, is Immortal Poems of the English Language.

Next time you’re alone with a glass of wine, turn off the TV. Try enjoying some verse instead.

 

 

Biodynamic Bordeaux in the Médoc

August 5, 2014

Médoc means middle territory, appropriate for the French wedge of land seated between Atlantic Ocean waters on the west, and the Gironde Estuary to the east.

Map courtesy The Wine Cellar Insider

Map courtesy The Wine Cellar Insider

Pine trees grow on the ocean side of this land strip, while swamps and vineyards sprawl eastward. The soil is crappy. It’s so poor ‘you couldn’t even grow potatoes here,’ our energetic guide, Matthew, told us. But vines that struggle through nasty soils often produce excellent wines. Combine that truth with the underlying complex limestone substrate, ocean winds deflected by a massive pine forest, well-drained gravel soils, seasoned winemakers, the best French oak barriques, and the particular soup of all natural elements on the Médoc – the terroir - and the resulting ‘left bank Bordeaux’ wines are some of the most prestigious, and expensive, in the world.

For renowned wines, there are the usual suspects: three châteaux classified in 1855 as Premier Crus (Lafite, Latour, Margaux; the fourth, Haut-Brion, is located south of Médoc, within Bordeaux city) and another added in 1973 – Mouton Rothschild.

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The Tower of Latour

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Swampy bottomlands of Lafite

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The gated bastion of Mouton Rothschild

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The stately chateau of Margaux

Yet the beautiful Médoc is electrified by contradictions. It is traditional yet anachronistic, conservative but liberal, pure and still polluted. The strict, ancient laws of viticulture and wine production adhered to locally are admirable: irrigation is illegal, wines must be produced from grapes grown on châteaux properties – not imported, and for red wines to be labeled ‘Bordeaux,’ they must include a blend from at least two, but no more than six, specific grape varietals. (Whites, making up only eleven percent of Bordeaux’s wine production, usually include three varietals, although a total of nine are allowed.)

That’s tradition.

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Très Swish

But the ranking of which châteaux produce the best wines is an anachronism. Four of the five top Bordeaux Premier Crus were ranked highest by Thomas Jefferson during his visit in 1787, and re-ranked the same by the French in 1855. This accepted classification system has not changed since, with one exception: the addition of Mouton Rothschild in 1973, in a dodgy act of political legerdemain.

To agree on the utter validity of this century-and-a-half old ranking system is a compliment to Thomas Jefferson as well to Emperor Napoleon lll. Otherwise, it is nonsensical. Soils change depending on how they are cared for, as well as due to effects of erosion; climates shift to favor slightly different patches of land over time; excellent winemakers may be replaced by mediocre, and winemaking techniques have improved dramatically during the past two decades, much less century. The dogmatic adherence to an ancient classification system flies in the face of logic, natural resource economics, and science. Yet regardless of discussion over the history of the classification system, the entire region of the Médoc as a whole retains a valid reputation for producing excellent red wines.

Back to the land

Back to the land

There is  also the conservative versus liberal slants on wine production. Chateau Pontet-Canet, a stone’s lob from Premier Cru Mouton Rothschild, was classified in 1855 not as a first, but as a far lower fifth grow. Yet it now produces wines that sell for a fraction of those from neighboring Premier Cru lands, and are often ranked as highly. Wine Spectator Magazine rated the 2005 Mouton slightly lower than the Pontet-Canet, yet it sells for over $500 a bottle, while you can get a bottle of the Pontet for about a hundred bucks. And while the 2009 Mouton may rank a tad higher than the 2009 Pontet, a bottle will cost you two to three times as much as the Pontet.

Pontet is also now embarking on some vineyard techniques that might appear liberal within the local context, certainly in a universe separate from most of their Médoc brethren.

Mmmm, was it sniff, then swirl, or the other way around?

Mmmm, was it sniff, then swirl, or the other way around?

To understand this is to grasp an agricultural perception of the difference between pure versus polluted. Some soils of the Médoc have been nuked with fertilizer and pesticides for decades. The result? No one is quite sure what soup of trace chemicals they’re quaffing down with each sip of their beloved Bordeaux. Whereas most of these stately châteaux selling bottles for the price of small diamond brooches utilize traditional fertilizer and pesticides, others forge ahead with more ecologically sustainable ways of keeping their soils healthy. Pontet-Canet is now certified as a biodynamic wine producer. Considering that it is located in the heart of the traditional wine-producing country of Médoc, that’s like hanging a Jackson Pollack painting next to a Monet at the Louvre – certain to raise eyebrows.

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All sizes for the family

But whether or not you subscribe to all biodynamic practices – be they planting and harvesting by lunar cycles or spraying nettle teas on your crops – biodynamic methods are fundamentally healthy for soils, and promote the notion of working in concert with natural cycles, rather than trying to dominate them. The practice encourages bugs to return to abandoned soils to burrow and aerate the land. Pontet-Canet is also moving toward using horses rather than tractors to work the soil – resulting in less compaction and erosion.

The results? Taste to find out. You won’t be disappointed.

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Horses? Biodynamics? Ancient cellars? I’ll drink to all that…

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Bastille Day in Bordeaux

July 15, 2014

Too busy for a post this week – so instead, a quick question:

What renowned Medoc château is named after the tower in the photograph below?

 

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Secret From North Italy Alps – Lagrein Wine

July 1, 2014

The seventh edition of the World Atlas of Wine, edited by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson (thanks for the gift, Lisa Hazard!) informs me that the Lagrein grape, grown around the far northern Italian city of Bolzano, produces wine that is “serious stuff…with aging potential and a growing number of followers around the world.”

 

 

Lagrein grows in the Alto Adige province, so far north in Italy that the region is also called the Südtirol, or southern Tyrol, because it is heavily influenced by the bordering country of Austria (and was part of the Austro-Hungarian regime until the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, after the First World War). The predominant language of Bolzano is German, not Italian. Alto Adige produces just one percent of Italy’s wine, on a total vineyard area of 5,300 hectares (over 13,000 acres). The Alto Adige produces a complete range of wines – from sparkling to dessert, but is particularly known for cool climate white wines, including Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürtztraminer, and Riesling as well as lesser known whites more commonly grown in Germany than Italy – including Sylvaner, Müller Thurgau, and Kerner.

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Le Montagne Dolomiti

The region is prone to maritime climate influences from the west (Mediterranean sea) and the east (Adriatic sea), while the range of altitudes within this alpine terrain provides vineyards with multiple microclimates. If you stand in the city of Bolzano and gaze upward you’ll see mountains covered in vineyards. A recent promotional advertisement for Alto Adige wines in Decanter Magazine tells how red porphry sandstone provides mineral tones to the region’s white wines. Some vineyards are located above three thousand feet above sea level, while vineyards closer to the valley floors produce more reds. The sometimes wickedly hot daytime summer temperatures in the Bolzano basin – around the convergence of the Adige and the Isarco rivers – produce rich Lagrein grapes, which are used for both red wines and rosés. Wines bottled under the Denominazione di Origine (DOC) Alto Adige Lagrein label must contain at least 95 percent of that grape, and any wine labeleled ‘riserva’ must age for at least 24 months. IMG_1400_2In this region, the commonly grown red ‘workhorse’ grape is Schiava (also known as Vernatsch). Other local reds, according to the 2014 edition of Guida Vini [published by Altro Consumo], include Marzemino, and Teroldego, and Lagrein – which is velvety and distinct. A cousin of both Pinot Noir and Syrah, Lagrein is tannic enough to provide it with decent ageing potential. Lagrein’s flavor has both zest and minerals – green grass and rock salt, lemon and tar. For dinner in the  town of Muncion, my brother ate partridge and wildfowl risotto, while I munched on Tyrolean ham spaetzle, served with Lagrein wine. Lagrein goes well with both dishes – both poultry and local ham (known as ‘speck’ – and which is distinctive because it is both cured and smoked).   IMG_1287   Lagrein Wine Lable Photo

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Lagrein – goes well with appetizers as well as main courses

Harvest and Chopping Block – Here’s a recipe for a light dish with potatoes and ‘speck’ ham (you can use prosciutto ham) to go with Lagrein wine – from bon appétit magazine. Also, at my nephew’s wedding near Venice a week before this trip, his friend Hanna told me about the website Smitten Kitchen….which happens to have a recipe for making another excellent dish to accompany Lagrein – spaetzle.  Looking for a distinct wine, or even a travel destination few of your friends know about? I recommend Lagrein, and Italy’s Dolomite Mountains. Can you take a 45 second survey to help improve this site? This will provide you with more of what you want. Thanks.

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Angels all around us

 

Modena, Italy – Sparkling Lambrusco and Superb Food

June 17, 2014

In late May, after attending a nephew’s wedding near Venice, then exploring Italy’s northern Dolomite Mountains – I considered how best to spend the rest of the trip.

I looked at a map. Having visited Bologna and Verona years ago, I was drawn to the city of Modena.

Modena? Isn’t that renowned for balsamic vinegar?

Indeed. As well as for manufacturing Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati cars. It’s also within the province of Emilia-Romagna – famed for exquisite food, as well as Lambrusco wine. Cars? No big deal. Good food and wine?

I drove there in two hours.

 

Whereas Sangiovese wines of Tuscany (Chianti, Brunello) are often rich, red, and tannic, the province of Emilia-Romagna has – Lambrusco! – pink or red, fresh and frothy. Serve in a chilled glass.

Modena’s large open plaza – Piazza Grande – resembles that of many ancient Italian cities, surrounded by concentric ring roads pierced by perpendicular avenues shooting toward the center like spokes to a bicycle hub. After parking, I walked ten minutes before happening – by chance – across a splendid wine bar.

Fabrizio, the manager of Modena’s wine bar Enoteca Athenaeum told me that Lambrusco, “is an easy wine, like Prosecco.”  During a late Thursday afternoon we listened to music by the Doors, U2, and Buffalo Springfield while he explained how most – over 90 percent – of Lambrusco sparkling wine is made using the Charmat Method, as opposed to the Classical Method (also known as Metodo Classico, or Méthode Champenoise), which is used to make Champagne and several other sparklers, including Franciacorta from Italy, Cava from Spain, and Crémant from France.

Both methods require adding additional yeast and sugar to the wine after it has undergone primary fermentation (where sugar first transforms into alcohol) to initiate a secondary fermentation. In the Charmat Method, this fermentation is speeded up in pressure controlled tanks (often steel), whereas in the Classical Method it takes place more gradually in the bottle (the sugar and yeast are added to the bottle before it is capped).

Modena's Piaza Grande in the evening

Modena’s Piazza Grande in the evening

 

The Charmat method produces fresh wines that are rich with fruit and floral aromas, but which lack complexity found in Champagne (or other Classical Method products) – which typically undergo longer secondary fermentations – often 24 months or more. Lambrusco can be frizzante (fizzy) or spumante (sparkling). Though bubbles in a Lambrusco are often larger than those found in sparkling wines made using the Classic Method, the overall pressure in the bottle is, paradoxically, often less – resulting in little or no foaming over the rim on opening.

IMG_1646Lambrusco is the name of both grape and wine. True Lambrusco is neither sweet or white, and contains at least 11 percent alcohol. There are over a dozen Lambrusco grape varieties (and dozens of clones), and wine is made primarily from six of them. Additionally (and confusingly) there are at least eight separate separate Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) regions producing Lambrusco wine. Be wary – some of the grapes and the DOC regions share the same names.

Fabrizio chilled a wine glass by swirling ice cubes inside, then filled it with Lambrusco di Modena, assuring me this was from the vicinity of the city. He referred to other varieties of Lambrusco in his English (learned while visiting America) as being “from the suburbs.”

Below is a  brief description of four of the main grape varieties (not clones) used to make Lambrusco wines.

  • Lambrusco di Sorbara – From north of Modena, producing high quality, dry to medium dry fragrant wines.
  • Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce – At least four Lambrusco grape varieties come from this, the largest Lambrusco producing and exporting region, with both light-colored wines, and drier, darker wines. Both Sorbara and Salamino Lambrusco grapes are often cultivated on plains, often in proximity to each other.
  • Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castlevetro - This Lambrusco grape comes from a small hilly region 20 kilometers south of Modena, and produces deep purple, tannic, dry wines. Not only the leaves, but the stalks turn rich red during autumn. The quantity of production is relatively low, but the quality is high. The wine is intensely ruby-red and violet, with its foam the same color. In general, fruit and acidity are reasonably balanced, and there is often bitter aftertaste (not unpleasant). For many, either this or Lambrusco di Sorbara produce the cream of the crop of Lambrusco wines.
  • Lambrusco di Modena – This is what Fabrizio served – decent wine, decent price, made from grapes produced in various regions close to Modena. The quality has elevated over time enough to result in the inclusion of the wine in DOC status.
Excellent ristorante in Modean

Ring the doorbell first – for excellent food served in Modena at Trattoria Aldina (see the two upstairs window signs?)

 

Lambrusco wine turned into a huge, welcome surprise. Sit in the sun on a summer afternoon,  fill your glass with frothy, purple, and delicious, low-alcohol vino and enjoy it with cuts of prosciutto, olives, and cheese. You’ll enjoy. This fizzy wine goes well with rich foods from appetizers through desserts, including sweet sausage, salami, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, lasagna, tortellini, and all types of pasta. As the Italian writer and musical composer Bruno Barilli said, “il Lambrusco fa boom nello stomaco,” meaning – obviously – that the wine goes ‘boom’ in the stomach.

photo (85)

photo (86)

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Eating well in Modena is not difficult

Eating well in Modena? Not difficult

 

According to a book I bought in a Modena bookstore, written by Sandro Bellei and titled – La Rivincita del Lambrusco – Il vino più venduto nel mondo (The Revenge of Lambrusco – the best selling wine in the world), the word ‘Lambrusco’ derives from two Latin words – labrum, meaning margin, and ruscum, meaning wild plant – indicating a grape that once grew wild along forest edges. Romans harvested these grapes from Apennine Mountain slopes. Before them, Etruscans also made wine from Lambrusco grapes.

Between 1960 and 1970, the grape grew in international stature, and in the 70’s Lambrusco invaded the US market. Today it is largely exported to the US, UK, Germany, Russia, Japan, China, and Brazil. Much of this exported wine is a blend of Lambrusco grapes from at least eight separate Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) regions, and can contain up to 15 percent of juice from non-Lambrusco grapes. Fortunately, the benefits of genuine Lambrusco are replacing wines that in the recent past were sold overseas (many in the US) which were overly sweet and fizzy, as Eric Asimov described in his New York Times piece. The better and genuine Lambrusco wines are mentioned in an article about wines that are best to drink young in a recent piece by Will Lyons in the Wall Street Journal.

 

Enjoying life at Enoteca

Enjoying time with new friends and fresh wine at Enoteca Athenaeum in Modena

Words and Wine -

1. Lambrusco Book PhotoSandro Bellei’s paperback book (mentioned above) is titled  La Rivincita del Lambrusco (The Revenge of Lambrusco). It includes a series of independent essays about Lambrusco. Written in Italian (though approachable if you understand Spanish or French), the book is a love song to a grape and wine, as well as to excellent food, rich history, and a culture that takes pride in enjoying the beauty of long meals and slow drinks with companions.

Different chapters describe types of Lambrusco grapes, history and marketing of the wine, and also include recipes, a long poem, and even an essay on how well Lambrusco pairs with sushi.

Enjoy!

 

Harvest and Chopping Block -

Here is the translated introductory paragraph from the book titled i Sapori dell’ Emilia (The Flavors of Emilia), by Ambra Ferrari.

“Sundays in summer, when the city is quiet and deserted, about noon I leave the house and go hunting for perfumes, seeking scents of the kitchen. On weekdays it’s impossible to catch them, as they are confused among a thousand other smells – the scent of meat sauce and broth, so gentle and delicate, cannot withstand the bully of car fumes. I wander streets and sniff the air like a bloodhound. If I take a slight hint of foods I do not let them get away. I follow, with patience and expertise, into the heart of old houses and finally stand with eyes half-closed in the hallways of those who know lasagna noodles.”

And below is a dessert recipe from the book, listed with a recommended wine to match.

Modena Bonnissima Pie 

Ingredients -

  • 5 cups (500 grams) sifted flour
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • grated peel from 1/2 a lemon
  • 3/4 cup (250 grams) melted honey
  • 2 cups (250 grams) chopped walnut kernels
  • 1 small glass of rum

Steps -

  1. Mix the flower, sugar, butter, egg yolks, and lemon peel.
  2. Divide this dough in two.
  3. Take one half of the dough and use it to line a buttered baking pan.
  4. Mix the melted honey, chopped walnut kernels, and rum.
  5. Pour this honey nut mixture over the dough in the pan, then level it with a knife blade.
  6. Cover this with the remaining dough.
  7. Bake at 350 to 375 (medium heat) for about 30 minutes.

Finally -

Serve with Lambrusco di Sorbara Dolce (sweet) wine.

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The Season for Rosé Wine

June 3, 2014

For those of you interested, even peripherally, in French wine, I suggest you subscribe to the web log The Riviera Grapevine – Pronto! In recent posts, Chrissie has written about rosé wine from southern France and about the Rolle grape. She’s included photos of hedonistic midnight swimmers and wine aficionados on green landscapes below peach colored moonlight. Chrissie’s blog clues readers into the nuances of varied wine appellations dotting the Riviera – where some striking rosé is produced. There’s so much going on in this region, I cannot keep up.

Rose from Provence....even in Islamabad

Rose from Provence….appreciated in Asia

 

Here, in the humble outreaches of a Diplomatic Enclave within the capital city of an Asian country, I frequent a semi-autonomous restaurant associated with the French embassy. It has access to a smattering of decent Bordeaux, Côtes du Rhône, and bottles of rosé – exceeding the wine capacity of any other restaurant located within this nation of close to two hundred million souls. The back label of the 2012 Marius Peyold Côtes de Provence (photographed above) informed me that this rosé is made from Grenache, Syrah, and Censault (classic grape varieties in many Languedoc wines), and that it has notes of red fruit, white peach, and citrus. It tasted crisp and slightly tangy – a fresh way to ring in summer.

Summertime in Provence wine country

Summertime in Provence wine country

Over a year ago, my French friend and accomplice in sampling introduced me to rosé. We usually shared bottles of Rosé D’Anjou from the western, Loire Valley region of France.

Provence 3

Provence – more than Roman engineering

But in the Provence region of southern France, where Peter Mayle penned his books and Russell Crowe drove multiple times around a roundabout to thrill movie audiences, rosé is king. Perhaps queen. Certainly for royalty, as well as regular folk. It’s wine to enjoy – blush, fresh, mildly zippy. Rosé is ubiquitous in Provence – bright, light, fresh, and fruity, and the antithesis of all misgivings Americans once had about rosé after they excoriated the marketing triumph of White Zinfandel years ago. Truth is, the success of that wine was responsible for saving the Zinfandel grape from virtual abandonment and extinction within California (and the United States). Zinfandel now gains nothing but respect for producing hefty red wines. And when you drink a hit or two of it as rosé you may realize that it also still provides an excellent way to kick off summertime. But don’t trust my limited experience. Tune into Chrissie’s primer on Provence rosé.

Words and Wine -
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Capers and caper

Peter Mayle retired from England and moved to southern France, where he scribbled notes about contract workers fixing up his home in Provence. His subsequent non-fiction book A Year in Provence turned into a best seller more than two decades ago – detailing the highs and lows of renovating a home. His recent fiction book The Marseille Caper [A.A. Knopf, 2012]  is a quick read about the deception of already deceitful land developers. Thrown in are scenes from a private airline and yacht, and the rantings of a few dim-witted hit men piloting stolen motorcycles. There are also plenty of meals where characters enjoy glasses of rosé with artichoke hearts, smoked salmon, clams wrapped in Spanish ham, goat’s cheese, and foie gras.

This book is an easy kick off to summer reading.

Etrsucan Wine, and New Blog Format

May 21, 2014

A 2013 article from Smithsonian Magazine tells, basically, how French wine originated in Italy.

 

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View southward from Mount Falco, near the source of the Arno River in Tuscany’s Casentino Forest

 

Before Roman society blossomed, the Etruscan civilization shone as a bright light of ingenuity, innovation, and civilization on the region of Italy now known as Tuscany. It was Etruscans, not Romans, who invented the structural arch above doorways, who laid out the fundamental rectilinear street system used to this day for city planning, and who first drained marshes to recover land used for agriculture throughout what is now Italy. The Etruscans were a hilltop dwelling, sometimes seafaring, bawdy lot who loved a good party, creatively concocted food, and who relished downing ample wine. Women enjoyed more respect than offered to females in Greek society and in the later Roman Empire. Many Etruscans belonged to the League of Twelve Cities, each city circled by defensive stone walls that followed contours of rolling landscapes.

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Today’s Tuscany – formerly Etruria

I wrote about Etruscans in my fictional book River of Tuscanywith an excerpt quoted below.

The Greeks envy us! They criticize us as drunks, sneering that Etruscans taught Gauls the pleasure of wine. They scoff at how we treat women, saying we are too decent to them, which emboldens females with independent and adventurous spirits. They say we descended from Odysseus and his lover Circe and that we share their traits of shamelessness and promiscuity.

Tuscany's city of Pisa - long after the time of Etruscans

Tuscany’s city of Pisa – long after the time of Etruscans

 

According to a recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, chemical analyses of ancient amorphas used to carry wine in southern France – south of Montpellier – show these contained wine which originated in Etruria in what is today’s Italy – undoubtedly ferried there by ships. These amorphas were dated to between 525 and 475 BC. The wine also contained basil, rosemary, and pine resin – perhaps preservatives, perhaps additives for medicinal purposes.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano - legacy of Etruscans?

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wine – legacy of Etruscans?

 

DNA analysis of cattle in Tuscany shows that they descended from cattle brought to the Italian peninsula by seafaring immigrants. These people, who formed Etruria, were likely from Lydia, an Iron Age kingdom located in what is now western Turkey. They may have brought vitis vinifera grape species along, although ample wild grapes likely thrived on the peninsula already. Apparently Etruscans did not train their grapes or prune vines, and considered wine as both common and sacred: wine vessels were buried with bodies in tombs, and wine was used at religious and funerary ceremonies. The Etruscans also apparently liked to grate cheese into their wine to add flavor, and kept cheese graters on hand for visitors to any banquet.

By the second century BC Etruscan society was largely conquered by and absorbed into the growing Roman Empire.

What is the legacy of the Etruscan people? Tuscany. Home, eventually, to Florence – a city-state that flourished in the 1500’s because of its wealth, progressive notions and tolerance (sometimes, not always), as well as magnetism for bold and spirited Renaissance artists, thinkers, architects, engineers, bankers, and politicians. Today, the signature wine grape of Tuscany is Sangiovese (the primary grape in chianti, in Brunello di Montalcino, and in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano). What grape did the Etruscans use? We don’t know yet, though archaeological evidence will likely reveal that answer in the not distant future.

Montepulciano wine route

Montepulciano wine route

Interested in knowing more about Tuscany? A list of books about Tuscany is included at the end of this post.

 

Changes to Format – 

The original title of this web blog was Vino Expressions – because it was about thoughts, viewpoints, quotes, and people’s attitudes toward wine. That’s still what this site is about. But the focus of this blog is about to get tighter. This site will now include specialized sections. When this blog is published – every second Tuesday (more or less) – it will include at least one of these sections, in addition to the main post. This will add structure and a dose of predictability. The section names, and topics they hit on, will be:

 

Vino Video -

Will be brief and focused on different locations producing wine.

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Small town, big wine

The first should be a feed either from Italy’s Alto-Adige, or Venezia.

 

 

 

 

 

Traversing Time -

Wine country

Roman wine country

Delving into specific Geography or History relating to wine.

 

 

 

 

 

Provence

Bon apetit

Harvest and Chopping Block -

Exploring one bottle of wine, or one recipe.

 

 

 

Words and Wine -

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Pablo Neruda – lover of women, poetry, wine

Reviewing wine related books – non-fiction, and fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

Working with Wine -

Wine tasting - challenging work

Wine tasting – challenging work

Quotes, often from winemakers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to read more about Tuscany? Below is a bibliography, compiled for the book Wine and Work.

  • Fortune Is a River, Roger D. Masters, Plume, New York, 1999
  • The Hills of Tuscany, Ferenc Máté, Delta, New York, 1998
  • The Etruscans, Raymond Bloch, Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, New York, 1958
  • Hannibal: One Man Against Rome, Harold Lamb, Doubleday & Co., Inc., New York, 1958
  • Pride of Carthage, David Anthony Durham, Doubleday, New York, 2005
  • Hannibal – The General from Carthage, Ernle Bradford, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1981
  • Leonardo Da Vinci – Engineer and Architect, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Quebec, 1987
  • Leonardo Da Vinci – Flights of the Mind, Charles Nicholl, Viking, New York, 2004
  • Daily Life in the Middle Ages, by Paul B. Newman, McFarland & Company Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2001
  • Tuscany in Mind, edited by Alice Leccese Powers, Vintage Departures, 2005
  • In Tuscany, Frances Mayes, Edward Mayes, Bob Krist. Broadway Books, New York
  • Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes, Broadway Books, New York, 1997
  • Travelers’ Tales Italy, edited by Anne Calcagno, Travelers’ Tales, San Francisco, 2001
  • The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy, Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban, Silvano Serventi, Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1998
  • Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, Pellegrino Artusi, University of Toronto Press, 2006
  • A Taste of Tuscany, Eyewitness Travel Guides, DK Publishing Inc. New York, 2004
  • The National Park of the Casentine Forests – where trees touch the sky, Giunti, Florence-Milan, 2003
  • Vroom with a View, Peter Moore, Centro Books, New York, 2006
  • Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds, by Harold Bloom, Warner Books, Inc. New York, 2002
  • Dante, by Thomas G. Bergin, The Orion Press, New York, 1965
  • Brunelleschi’s Dome – How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture, by Ross King; Penguin Books, New York, 2001
  • La Bella Figura, Beppe Severgnini, Broadway Books, New York, 2006
  • A Thousand Days in Tuscany, Marlena De Blasi
  • The Most Beautiful Villages of Tuscany, James Bentley
  • River of Tuscany (Rivers of Time Series), T. Mullen, Roundwood Press, 2013
  • Fortune Is a River, Roger D. Masters, Plume, New York, 1999
  • The Hills of Tuscany, Ferenc Máté, Delta, New York, 1998
  • The Etruscans, Raymond Bloch, Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, New York, 1958
  • Hannibal: One Man Against Rome, Harold Lamb, Doubleday & Co., Inc., New York, 1958
  • Pride of Carthage, David Anthony Durham, Doubleday, New York, 2005
  • Hannibal – The General from Carthage, Ernle Bradford, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1981
  • Leonardo Da Vinci – Engineer and Architect, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Quebec, 1987
  • Leonardo Da Vinci – Flights of the Mind, Charles Nicholl, Viking, New York, 2004
  • Daily Life in the Middle Ages, by Paul B. Newman, McFarland & Company Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2001
  • Tuscany in Mind, edited by Alice Leccese Powers, Vintage Departures, 2005
  • In Tuscany, Frances Mayes, Edward Mayes, Bob Krist. Broadway Books, New York
  • Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes, Broadway Books, New York, 1997
  • Travelers’ Tales Italy, edited by Anne Calcagno, Travelers’ Tales, San Francisco, 2001
  • The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy, Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban, Silvano Serventi, Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1998
  • Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, Pellegrino Artusi, University of Toronto Press, 2006
  • A Taste of Tuscany, Eyewitness Travel Guides, DK Publishing Inc. New York, 2004
  • The National Park of the Casentine Forests – where trees touch the sky, Giunti, Florence-Milan, 2003
  • Vroom with a View, Peter Moore, Centro Books, New York, 2006
  • Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds, by Harold Bloom, Warner Books, Inc. New York, 2002
  • Dante, by Thomas G. Bergin, The Orion Press, New York, 1965
  • Brunelleschi’s Dome – How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture, by Ross King; Penguin Books, New York, 2001
  • La Bella Figura, Beppe Severgnini, Broadway Books, New York, 2006
  • A Thousand Days in Tuscany, Marlena De Blasi
  • The Most Beautiful Villages of Tuscany, James Bentley

Also -

  • The Etruscan World, Jean MacIntosh Turfa, Routledge, New York, 2013

 

 

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