Vinediction’s July reading included wine tales from Ancient Egypt and Persia, plus big news for Willamette Valley wineries and a reference book par excellence.
‘European Union Awards Willamette Valley Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Status’ by LM Archer at WineBusiness.com
July was a historic month for Willamette Valley wine as it finally received ‘Protected Geographical Indication’ (PGI) from the European Union. It is the second United States wine region (Napa Valley is the other) to be so acclaimed.
L. M. Archer explores the significance of the designation:
“The Willamette Valley’s path to PGI designation took nearly twenty years, thanks to the stewardship of winemaker Harry Peterson-Nedry of RR Winery/Ridgecrest Vineyards. “I didn’t project a time for completion, just kept plodding along,” he says. “It’s a little like beginning an industry, or a vineyard or winery – you take it a vintage at a time, and look back only when you stop to take a breath, or are forced to.
“In addition to AVA and state law protections, the PGI seemed perfect to recognize the purity of our aspirations,” says Peterson-Nedry. He also credits Willamette Valley pioneering families like the Letts, Courys, Eraths, and Ponzis for recognizing the importance of protecting “this special place” – and its hard-won recognition – from those eager to appropriate both the name and acclaim.
“The Willamette Valley is a special place to grow grapes, especially delicate varieties like Pinot noir,” says Peterson-Nedry. “Place was what the original founders first sought – not a business environment, or a good place to live, or someplace convenient with balmy weather – a place perfect in all ways for sensitive grapes that make elegant and ageable wines.”
‘The Treasure Thief’ by Roger Lancelyn Green in Tales of Ancient Egypt
Wine has a strong connection to Greece of antiquity but it was vital to ancient Egyptian culture as well. This can be ascertained by the frequency with which it crops up in myths and folk tales. In the characteristically dramatic and gory fable ‘The Treasure Thief’, a man rescues his brother’s corpse by tricking Pharaoh’s soldiers:
“He disguised himself as an old merchant, loaded two donkeys with skins of wine, and set out along the road which ran by the palace wall.
As he passed the place where the soldiers were encamped he made the donkeys jostle against each other, and he secretly made holes in the wine-skins… The good red wine ran out on to the ground, and the false merchant wept and lamented loudly, pretending to be so upset that he could not decide which of the skins to save first.
As soon as they saw what was happening, the soldiers of the guard came running to help the merchant — or rather to help themselves. This they proceeded to do until the two damaged skins were empty, and the wine was already on its way to their heads.”
Buy it from Penguin Random House
‘The Sacredness of Pure Grape Wines in the Zoroastrian Religious Rituals’ by ‘OrthodoxZoroastrian’ at AuthenicZoroastrianism.org
The title is a mouthful. The article is fascinating. Visiting Maysara Winery, whose founders the Momtazi family hail from Iran, piqued my interest in Iranian wine. My stereotyped view is that Middle Eastern cultures are anti-alcohol by virtue of their Muslim faith. This is clearly a limited perspective.
As ‘The Sacredness…’ explains: “In the Persian mystic poetry, the first or olden Magis (Pir-é Moghán) and the Winery provide an alternative, more sensuous mode of worship; in direct contrast to the moslem clergy and the mosque.
In the Avestan lore, grape vines are the ratü “chief, wise counsel” of all the fruits. The main term used in Persian poetry to mean wine, is MAY.”
That explains the name Maysara and a bit about the significance of wine to Persian culture.
‘Pinot Munier vs Pinot Noir’ by Viv Thompson at Best’s Wines
One of the most delicious and surprising wines I tasted recently was Left Coast Cellar’s Pinot Munier. Wine-maker Joe Wright has crafted a complex, sophisticated varietal wine out of a grape most commonly found (along with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) in Champagne.
Best’s Wines description does justice to what I tasted: acidic, a touch smokey, beguiling: “Meunier is French for ‘miller’. A name derived from the appearance of the bottom of the leaf, which is white and thus looks like it’s been dipped in flour. For a long time, the team at Best’s called it Miller’s Burgundy. Blended with other grapes, it helps soften the palate, but Pinot Meunier also has its own distinct flavours. It has a lot of similar flavours and aromas to its sibling, Pinot Noir, but has higher acidity with more citrus characters and lighter, less earthy profile. It can also display slightly cigar-smoky flavours. But the surprising thing for such a prevalent grape is how rarely it’s bottled as a single varietal.”
Wine Folly: The Master Guide by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack
This is my wine encyclopedia. With sections covering basics such as production, tasting and serving; food and wine pairings; individual grape varieties (described in rich visual and textual detail) and the world’s major wine regions, it is an excellent book to keep next to the wine rack, so I do.
Plus, its wine maps are things of beauty, combining meticulous geographical detail with in-depth information on wine varieties. When I have a house with enough wall space to hang, I’m going to treat myself to the full-size posters. Till then, I’ll pore over the book.
All photos by the author