Five Fast Facts about Brouilly

Photo of Louis Jadot Brouilly by Rob Ireton, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Louis Jadot Brouilly by Rob Ireton, via Wikimedia Commons

Five Fast Facts about Brouilly

#1 – Brouilly is one of the ten Crus of Beaujolais. It is the largest and most southerly of the ten Beaujolais Crus,  Although this large area contains a wide range of microclimates and soil types, most of the vineyards face roughly east and capture the bright morning sunshine as it rises over the Saone River Valley. The hills to the west shelter the region from some of the colder influences coming in from western France, while warm sunshine throughout the growing season means that the vines of Brouilly are among the first to be harvest in Beaujolais every year.

#2 – Brouilly is one of the few AOCs of Beaujolais not to be named after a local village; instead, it is named for Mount Brouilly. The vineyard area of Brouilly surrounds the mountain, and covers land in the following six communes: Cercié, Charentay, Odenas, Quincié-en-Beaujolais, Saint-Etienne-la-Varenne, and Saint-Lager.

#3 – The mountain itself, set somewhat apart from the hills to the west of Beaujolais, was named after a Roman soldier named Brulius, who is credited with planting the first vines here over 2,000 years ago. There is a small chapel at the top of the hill, built in 1857 in order to place the vineyards under the protection of the Virgin Mary.  A smaller, separate AOC, Côte de Brouilly, covers vineyards on the higher slopes of the mountain, and is completely surrounded by the larger Brouilly AOC.

#4 – The Brouilly AOC is approved only for dry, red  wines based on the Gamay grape variety. Interestingly enough, the décret for the appellation also allows for white grapes to be grown in the region, and up to 15% of the wine may be based on Chardonnay, Aligoté, or Melon de Bourgogne.

Mount Brouilly

Mount Brouilly

#5 – There’s a legend for that: Brouilly is home to a Lieu-dit (small vineyard area bearing a traditional name) named Pisse-Vielle. Pisse-Vielle which pretty much sounds like what it means, which is for lack of a better way of saying it, “Piss, old woman.’

The  legend behind the name goes like this: A pious old woman, who regularly goes to confession, had her first meeting with the town’s new priest. The woman had very little to actually confess, so at the end of their meeting, the priest gave her his typical salutation of “Go, and sin no more!” Unfortunately, in the local dialect of the town, the word for to sin (pécher) and (for lack of a gentler way of saying it) to pee (pisser) sounded quite the same – and she thought the priest had commanded her to “Go and pee no more.” (Poor thing!) She tried her best to comply, but her husband didn’t quite understand the command, and went to see to Priest. The husband and the priest quickly cleared up the confusion, and in his rush to convey the news, the husband yelled down the street towards his wife – “Pisse Vielle!” (“Piss, Old Woman!”) – “the priest said it’s alright!”  As these things usually go, the neighbors heard his cry, and have not since forgotten!

Five Fast Facts about Entre-Deux-Mers

Map of Bordeaux via The Society of Wine Educators

Map of Bordeaux via The Society of Wine Educators

Five Fast Facts about Entre-Deux-Mers

#1 – Entre-Deux-Mers is named after its geographical location (“between two seas,” sometimes translated as “rivers” or “tides”), which refers to its situation in the lands between the Garonne and the Dordogne Rivers. These rivers provide the location with a mild, maritime climate and soils made up mainly of  a mix of clay and limestone. The area closest to the eastern shore of the Garonne River has a good deal of humidity – enough for the production of botrytis-affected wines.

#2 – The Entre-Deux-Mers AOC appellation is only approved for white wines. 70% of the grapes must be the “principal varieties” of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Muscadelle, or Sauvignon Gris.  The other 30% may include Merlot Blanc (maximum 30%), and a combined maximum of 10% of Mauzac, Colombard, and Ugni Blanc. Entre-Deaux-Mers AOC must contain a minimum of two grape varieties.

#3 – The Entre-Deux-Mers area contains within it 7 different AOCs. These appellations are approved for a variety of different types of wine. They are:

  • The aforementioned Entre-Deux-Mers AOC (for dry white wines), which includes the sub-zone of Entre-Deux-Mers Haut-Benauge
  • Cadillac (botrytis-affected sweet white wines)
  • Graves de Vayres AOC (for dry wines, both red and white)
  • Loupiac AOC (sweet white wines, may be affected by botrytis)
  • Côtes de Bordeaux-Saint-Macaire AOC (white wines – dry [sec], off-dry [moelleux]) and sweet/botrytis affected [liquoreux])
  • Ste-Croix-du-Mont AOC (sweet, botrytis-affected white wines)
  • Premières Côtes de Bordeaux AOC (white wines, off-dry to sweet)

#4 – The area produces a lot of good-to-very good red wine, with the majority of the red grapevines planted to Merlot. Much of this is bottled under the Bordeaux AOC; the best of these wines are sold under the Bordeaux Supérieur AOC.

Photo of Château de Rastignac by MOSSOT, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Château de Rastignac by MOSSOT, via Wikimedia Commons

#5 – Just-for-fun fact: A house (now sub-divided into apartments) in the area, known as Château de Rastignac, was designed to look like the US White House. While the architect, Mathurin Salat, never visited the United States, it is known that our wine-loving third President, Thomas Jefferson -who had reviewed the original architectural plans of the White House – did visit the area and meet Salat during Jefferson’s service as the US Ambassador to France.

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas –

Mother Muscat

MuscatIt is often said that Muscat is an ancient grape, known to antiquity since perhaps 3,000 BC. It is just as often claimed that Muscat was one of the grapes described by Pliny the Elder and his contemporaries as Apiane, named due to the fact that they were so sweet as to attract bees (api in Latin). It has even been claimed that Muscat was the original vinifera grape from which all others sprang forth – heck, I’ve even mentioned that in some of my classes.

But all of this talk is, alas, just talk, and not backed up by any actual history or botanical facts. It may be true – but then again, it may just be the stuff of legends.

It cannot be denied, however, that Muscat is an old grape. With at least 200 grapes going by the name Muscat Something, and dozens more showing the grapey-musty aroma characteristic of the family, we know that Muscat has been swimming in the grape gene pool for at least 2,000 years.

A student of mine recently asked me to give her a list of the main members of the Muscat family. At first I thought such a task would take hours, but determined to “keep it simple” – I came up with the following descriptions of some of the leading members of the Muscat extended family:

muscatbeaumesdeveniseMuscat Blanc à Petits Grains: The main Muscat – that is, the grape that gets the prize for consistently producing the highest-quality wines and the one that is believed (by actual botanists) to be the Muscat from which the other Muscats sprung is Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. This grape has a vast number of synonyms, most of which are really just translations, such as Muscatel, Moscatel, Frontignac, Muskateller, Moscato, Moshcato, and Muscat Canelli. This is the majority grape that is used in the vins doux naturels of southern France, including Muscat de Rivesaltes, Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, and the similar wines of Frontignan, Mireval, and Saint-Jean-de-Minervois. In Italy, this grape appears as the star of Asti and Moscato d’Asti. In Greece, she is known as Muscat of Patras, Samos, and many other, more-difficult-to-pronounce wines.

Muscat of Alexandria:  Another ancient variety, considered to be very close to the top of the Muscat food chain, as a likely cross between an Italian grape known as  Axina de Tres Bias and Mother Muscat (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains). This grape is considered to be somewhat inferior to Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, and is often used to produce very sweet wines with moscatel-de-setubal_1orange or orange-flower aromas. Muscat of Alexandria (which, by the way, has no proven connection to the ancient city of the same name) is used as a minor grape in the sweet Muscat-based wines of southern France. In Italy, the variety is far more likely to be used as table grapes as opposed to wine, except in on the island of Pantelleria, where it is much beloved as the star of Passito de Pantelleria. Much of Spain’s Moscatel is Muscat of Alexandria, where it is used in Sherry, Málaga, and the surrounding areas for many styles of wine, including the sweet and fortified wines of the region. Muscat of Alexandria is also the star of Portugal’s Moscatel de Setúbal, and, as Hanepoot, is used in the fortified wines and brandies of South Africa.

Muscat Fleur d’Oranger: Actually a cross between Chasselas and Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains; often known as Orange Muscat. California, particularly the warmer regions, grows a good deal of Orange Muscat, where it makes its way into sweet wines such as Quady’s brightly-packaged Essencia and Electra. Delightful Orange Muscats are made in Washington State, Canada, and Texas as well. In Italy, Moscato Fior d’Arancio in the Veneto’s Colli Euganei is made with Orange Muscat, and the grape makes its way into many of Australia’s sweet wines as well.

Photo of Elysium via Quady Winery

Photo of Elysium via Quady Winery

Muscat Ottonel: Thought to be a Chasselas X Muscat de Saumur cross, native to the Loire. Used for both dry and sweet wines, mainly in Alsace, where it may be bottled as Muscat d’Alsace. Austria’s Neusiedlersee and Neusiedlersee-Hügelland are known for sweet, botrytis-affected wines produced using Muscat Ottonel (here known as “Muskat Ottonel”). Hungary uses the grapes, mainly as blending partners, in both sweet and dry wines. Other plantings are found throughout eastern Europe, including in Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Russia, and the Czech Republic. 

Muscat of Hamburg: Also known as Black Muscat or Zibibbo Nero. The origin of the grape is unclear, although there is an excellent story about an Englishman named  Mr. Seward Snow who created the grape by crossing Black Hamburg (Schiava Grosso) grapes with Muscat of Alexandria, thus producing Muscat of Hamburg as a “grandchild” of Mother Muscat (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains). Throughout the world, Muscat of Hamburg is used in a scattering of sweet red wines, and widely grown to be used as red table grapes. It is grown extensively in California’s Central Valley, where it is used to produce Quady’s sweet, dark dessert wine known as Elysium.

As previously mentioned, these are just the main branches of the 200+ members of the Muscat Family tree. Muscat is primarily known for sweet, dessert, and fortified wines, but we can’t forget the fact that Muscat is often made into dry wines (known for their hauntingly “funky” aromas of must, flowers, and fruit), as well as its widespread use in table grapes and raisins! For those of you practicing blind tasting, it is widely accepted that while all wine is made from grapes (well, at least the wines that might show up at a blind tasting), Muscat-based wines are among the few and far between that actually have “grapey” aromas in the finished wine. Try it and see!

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas….


The Chocolate Block, Cape Cobras, and Braai

The Chocolate Block 2Here’s a hint for you folks out there that are not in the wine business:  People in the wine industry HATE to be asked about their favorite wine.  And we get asked all the time!! Just yesterday, at Kinko’s of all places….I am minding my own business, making copies of tasting mats, and someone who  just can’t help themselves forces me to admit that I am prepping to lead a wine tasting and the next thing out of their mouth is “So, what’s your favorite wine?”

There are many reasons we don’t care for this question.  First of all, my “favorite” wine is usually the one I am with.  Second, it changes all the time! Third, I really don’t want to offend anyone –and you never know who is listening! Finally, people usually only ask you that question because they want to tell you about their favorite wine, which is sometimes just painful to listen to….

Ok, thanks for listening to my rant. While I stand by the idea that “what’s your favorite wine” is a question wine professionals would rather not answer, over the years I have developed a pat answer that, while getting me out of many a squirmish situation, is also based in truth.

My standard answer to the question is: The Chocolate Block, a South African red blend produced  by the Boekenhoutskloof Winery in Franschoek.  Now, I will admit that my uncanny (and much-rehearsed) ability to pronounce “Boekenhoutskloof” may be part of the package, however, this is also an amazing wine, delicious and seductive, and like all good things…it comes with a great story.

Boekenhoutskloof Tasting RoomThe wine itself has a great story attached to it, which you can read on the Boekenhoutskloof Website. Suffice it to say the wine “has secrets to keep” and “inspired a graphic novel.” But as this wine is my personal favorite, you know there is a personal side to the story of the wine. It’s actually quite simple:  a few years ago, I was on an amazing, WOSA-sponsored trip through the wine producing regions of South Africa, having won a wine-related essay contest. One morning towards the end of our trip, our driver dropped me and my best friend/travel buddy off at the Boekenhoutskloof Winery in Franschoek for a tour and tasting.

The sheer beauty of the region, the technical ingenuity of the winery, and the amazing modern architecture of the tasting room built out over the vines were enough to make us swoon. We tasted through the winery’s range of wines, including Porcupine Ridge, The Wolftrap, and their iconic Boekenhoutskloof Syrah. They were all amazing.  Then our host brought out the big dog…The Chocolate Block, and we entered one of those rare yet coveted, zen-like trances accompanied by a feeling like, “this is so  good I have to just shut up and let this wine wash over me and just allow myself to feeeeeeeeeel it.”

Our host was smart enough to just let us zone out for a while…he was surely used to such things.  When the conversation started up again, he told us a bit about the scenery.  We were located on the edge of a vineyard, just a few hundred yards away from a stream. The stream was lined with Coast Silver Oak trees – a tree native to South Africa, we learned. My friend saw a group of people riding horses along the stream, sauntering under the beautiful trees, dreaming of African skies, and our host told us that horseback riding was an easy activity to sign up for. Perhaps we would like to ride some horses that afternoon?

Boekenghoutskloug WineryWe were about to say yes, but before we could, he told us a “humorous” story of how, just the week prior, a group of tourists had been riding by – just like the group we had seen, when a nest of Cape Cobras had fallen down out of the trees, onto the tourists, wrapped themselves around the riders, and spooked the horses.

Cape Cobras? There is such a thing as Cape Cobras? Turns out there is such a thing as Cape Cobras, and before anyone works the vineyard in the morning, they send brave people running down the rows of vines, banging pots and kettles together to make a joyful noise and send the cobras scurrying off. Ok. We feel better now.

Of course, we spent the last few days of our trip scaring each other with phony “Cape Cobra” sightings – even on the plane home- “Cape Cobras on a plane!”

So that’s my personal Chocolate Block story.  But the wine itself, based on a varying blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Cinsault, and Viognier, is delicious. It’s the wine I invented the tasting phrase “slips down your throat like the good Lord himself in velvet trousers” for. You can seek and find aromas and flavors of cherry, blackberry, cocoa (of course), coriander, cedar, red currant, marzipan, black plum, and raisin. The wine currently sells for about $22.00 in Texas.

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…

What do Lentils, Honey, and Hay have in Common?

Hay BalesSo…what do lentils, honey, and hay have in common?  How about we throw in chicken, lavender oil, and walnuts?  Any ideas?  Ok…lets add 43 types of Cheese and 376 styles of wine.  Now you get it, right???

All of these products are Appellation d’Origine Protégée, or AOP-protected products from France. (Formerly known as or Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, or AOC-protected products, which is still in use, along with the updated, all-EU version AOP .  Got that?)

All of you wine people out there know all about AOC laws, how confusing they can be to wine newbies, how every European Country has it own version (DOC, DO, OPAP and so forth) and how very recently the EU attempted to bring all 27 (soon to be 28) member countries under the same umbrella by creating the all-inclusive umbrella of the AOP.  Or we know just enough to get by!

A recent textbook editing assignment (about 2 months worth) has led me to be a bit more of an AOP/AOC expert than I care to be, but I must admit I have learned an awful lot along the way.  Did you know, for instance, that France currently has 43 AOP Cheeses?  Roquefort, they say, is the stinky cheese that started it all, centuries ago.  It seems that In 1411 King Charles VI (known as “The Beloved” in his youth and “The Mad” as Lentils-le-puy-en-velayhe got older) granted a monopoly for the ripening of the region’s sheep’s milk cheese to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzono.  To this day, according to AOP laws, only those cheeses aged in the natural Combalou caves of  Roquefort-sur-Soulzon may bear the name Roquefort.

The AOP Lentils, Lentils-le-Puy-en-Velay, I actually know from my chef days.  Widely referred to as “French Green Lentils” these AOP lentils are in great demand all over the world due to their high protein content,  unique flavor, and ease of cooking.  All of these qualities derive from the thin soil of the town of Lu-Puy-en-Velay in the south-central France.

About that AOP Hay…Foin de Crau is an AOP designated Hay from the La Crau Region of Provence.  This is special hay due to the diversity of the grasslands where it grows, its rich mineral content, its digestibility and good flavor.  Admit it:  that doesn’t sound that much different from a wine description. If you would like, you can buy some Foin de Crau  here.

The AOP honey, Miel de Sapin de Vosges, sounds amazing.  If ever there was a product produced by buzzing little insects that deserves the protection of the French government, this is it.  “Sapin” is actually a type of fir tree that grow in the Vosges Mountain region of eastern France.  This dark brown, luscious honey is sometimes called “Silver Fir Honey,” and while there are several AOP honeys, this type is produced only in the Vosges.

Wine Bottles on SideMy AOC/AOP research revealed some fascinating information on wine, as well.  For starters, there is a database called e-Bacchus that lists the current regulatory status of all the wines in the EU…from PDO to PGI and using traditional terms as well.  According to e-Bacchus, there are exactly 376 PDO wines in France.  Click here for a PDF of List of French AOP from E-Bacchus .  That should keep you busy for a while.

If you would like to research Walnuts from Périgord, Lavender Oil from Haute-Provence, Chickens from Bresse or any of the thousands of other AOP-protected items in the EU, just click here for the database.  Just make sure you have plenty of free time.  This is very interesting stuff.

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…

A New Branch of the Chianti Family Tree?

Tree Use for ChiantiNews Flash!

Last month (February 17, 2013 to be exact), the Chianti Classico Consorzio approved the creation of a new top-tier classification of Chianti Classico DOCG wines to be known as “Gran Selezione.”  The term is expected to be approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, and if so, will be a quality level “above” Chianti Classico Riserva. 

It is estimated that approximately 7% of the production of Chianti Classico will be eligible for the  designation.  The first wines eligible to display the term on their label will be those from the 2010 vintage.

If you’ve been following my study guide on the wines of the Veneto (or even if you’ve been following Italian wines at all) you know that Italian wines are already surrounded by a jungle of regulatory and legislative classifications.  Luckily, this in no way affects how delicious, delightful, and affordable they can be!

In the interest of “keeping it simple.” here is a quick look at how this new branch of the Chianti family tree fits in with its brothers and sisters:

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG:

  • Must be produced from 100% estate-grown fruit
  • Minimum 30 months of aging  
  • Is intended to acknowledge vineyard-specific wines
  • Will represent approximately 7% of the production of Chianti Classico

chianti classico gallo neroChianti Classico Riserva DOCG:

  • Minimum 24 months of aging
  • Minimum 12.5% abv

Chianti Classico DOCG:

  • Minimum 12 months of aging
  • Minimum 12% abv

All versions of Chianti Classico must be a minimum of 80% Sangiovese, produced from grapes grown within the 100-square miles of the designated Chianti Classico region.  Up to 10% Canaiolo may used, along with up to 15% other varieties, of which Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot are often used.  Yields are limited to 3 tons per acre.

Sangiovese in TuscanyBy the way, not everyone is thrilled about this new development.  A quick websearch on “New Chianti Classification” revealed a wide range of opinions up to and including disgust(!), bewilderment(!), and we are not amused(!).  Of course, many people also think it is a great idea, intended to showcase and honor the highest level of production of the region.  We will be watching how this plays out in the future!

My Source (in Italian):

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas  –

If you think there is a Bubbly Professor Tuscany Quiz in your future…you are correct!


Tales of the Vine: Sherry, Sir?

"Sherry, Sir?" by William Powell Firth, 1853

Most of the students in my beginning wine studies class have never tasted real sherry.  If they have encountered it at all, it was most likely the faux version-in-a-jug known around here as “cooking sherry” and used for deglazing sauté pans in their culinary lab classes (what a shame).

They also tend to be of the opinion, common in North America, that Sherry is a drink consumed by British old ladies who sit around sipping Sherry, pinky fingers extended, while nibbling on cucumber sandwiches and bonbons.  

While this might be a mere cliché, one cannot deny the British love for Sherry.  The British have long had a love for Sherry, and are the largest export market for wines from Jerez to this day.  But have you ever wondered why?

The story goes back to the days of Sir Francis Drake, Queen Elizabeth, the famous Spanish Armada, and Europe’s exploration of the new world. 

In the 1400’s, the great capitals of Europe began sending explorers such as Ferdinand Magellan and Christopher Columbus to find passage ways for trade and to discover what lie beyond the wide oceans.  Christopher Columbus, despite being of Italian birth, made his most famous deal with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain and set sail from Palos de la Frontera, Cadiz, and Sanlucar – all regions well known for wine.

Wine was considered absolutely necessary for these journeys, as any water on board would quickly become unfit to drink due to long length of the journeys. The wines for the ships were fortified with alcohol to give them some preservative effect, beginning the tradition of many such fortified wines.

These voyages were spectacularly successful for Spain as explorers began to return in ships heavily laden with gold, silver, and other wealth from the new world. At the same time that Spain was profiting from the plunder of Mexico and Peru, young Queen Elizabeth of England was benefitting from the wealth brought in by her expanding colonies in North America.

However, it soon became clear that America could not begin to produce the immediate wealth arriving by the galleon load from Spain’s richer New World territories. Knowing that an island kingdom must be strong to survive, Elizabeth turned a blind eye as Sir Francis Drake and other English sea captains raided and seized the treasures from Spain’s heavily laden and slow-moving gold ships. It did not take long for the King of Spain, Philip II, to have had enough of England’s daring Queen and her “sea wolves” and he soon hatched a plan to invade England.   

Golden-hinde_400In 1580, King Philip ordered that a great Armada, or Navy, be built.  His plan was to invade England, remove Elizabeth from the throne, and crown himself king in Westminster Cathedral.  However, Elizabeth heard of the plan and made a bold preemptive strike, led by the skilled seaman Sir Francis Drake.

Drake was sent out from Plymouth, on April 12, 1587. He appeared before Cadiz on April 29th, and late in the afternoon of that day he sailed boldly into the harbor, completely surprising the defenders, and throwing the Spanish land and naval forces there into a panic.

All the remainder of the day, and all the next day, Drake plundered and burned. Thirty-seven naval and merchant vessels were destroyed with very small losses on the English side. During the raid, Drake managed to seize 2,900 casks of Sherry from the Spanish naval stores, which he soon delivered triumphantly to Queen Elizabeth.

amontilladoAs you might guess, it became all the rage in England to drink the captured Sherry.  Spanish Sherry was suddenly the most popular drink in England.  Legend even tells us that the English loved to call it “sack” because, well, Drake had sacked the Spanish supply port. (There are other explanations for the term “sack” as well.)

In the ultimate show of British praise, Shakespeare praised Sherry, or “sack,” when he had Sir John Falstaff proudly declare in Henry IV, Part 2, “If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them should be, to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to sack”.

At top –  “Sherry, Sir?” by William Powell Firth, 1853

Tales of the Vine: Champagne Charlie

Charles Camile Heidsieck was a successful French merchant who founded the Champagne firm Charles Heidsieck in 1851.  Soon thereafter, he visited the United Statesfor the first time, and immediately saw the potential for the American market.  He retained an American agent to facilitate import sales, and in a matter of months the mass import of Champagne was a hit.  In no time, Charles became a fixture in New York high society and earned the nickname “Champagne Charlie”.

In 1861, Charles received news of the impending Civil War in theUnited States.  With over half of his company’s assets tied up in unpaid American accounts, Heidsieck made a hasty trip to try and collect the debts owed him.  Upon his arrival, his U.S.import agent told him a grandiose lie concerning a supposed new law passed by Congress which absolved Northerners from having to pay debts to the South.  This new law, the agent claimed, also absolved him from having to pay his debt to Heidsieck.

In a last-ditch attempt to seek repayment directly from the merchants that had received the Champagne, Charles set sail for New Orleans  With the war now in full-force, he had to travel in secrecy, going as far north as Kansas to avoid detection by the Union Army.  When he finally arrived in New Orleans in 1862, he found the city to be nearly bankrupt and his debtors penniless.

One merchant offered to give Heidsieck a warehouse full of cotton in exchange for payment.  The cotton was very valuable but would have to be smuggled out of Mobile,Alabama with the use of two blockade runners. Despite Heidsieck’s best efforts, both ships were intercepted and all the cargo destroyed.

By this time, all routes to the North were completely sealed, so in order to return to Europe, Heidsieck had to go back to New Orleans to charter a boat toMexico or Cuba.  To facilitate his passage, the French consul in Mobile gave him a diplomatic pouch with a request to deliver some documents to the consulate in New Orleans.  Arriving in New Orlean son May 5, 1862; he found that the city had fallen to Union forces.  As his diplomatic pouch contained documents from French textile manufacturers about supplying the Confederate army with uniforms, “Champagne Charlie” was immediately seized, charged with spying, and imprisoned.  His imprisonment sparked a diplomatic incident between France and the United States government which would later become known as The Heidsieck Affair.

By the time he was finally released from prison, he was in frail health and his business was bankrupt.  He returned to France in November of 1862, demoralized and broke.

In early 1863, Charles Heidsieck was approached by an American missionary with a letter from the United States.  The letter came from the brother of Heidseick’s former agent inNew York.  The man was ashamed of how his brother had swindled Heidsieck out of his obligations and offered him a stack of deeds to land in Colorado as means of repayment.

As it turned out, the deeds were for one-third of all the area of a small town known as Denver, Colorado.  Denver (as we all know) was soon to become one of the wealthiest and largest cities of the American West.

In a few years time, Heidsieck was able to sell the land, repay his debts, and re-launch his Champagne House, becoming the wealthy and debonair “Champagne Charlie” once again.




Tales of the Vine: Bull’s Blood

In the Northern Massif region of Hungary, the famous Egri Bikavér, or “Bull’s Blood Wine” is made in the area around Eger, a beautiful town about halfway between Budapest and Tokaj.

The name of the wine dates back to a Turkish invasion led by Suleiman the Magnificent around 1552.  During the invasion, Suleiman the Magnificent and his army of Turks attempted to siege of the Castle of Eger.  The defending Hungarians, led by Captain Istvan Dobo, were largely outnumbered by the invading army and the situation appeared dim. However, the Hungarian forces, fortified by days and nights of delicious food and large amounts of the local red wine, managed to successfully defend Eger. In doing so, the Turkish army was forced to withdraw, and Turkish westward expansion was delayed for forty years after this battle.

According to one legend, the enemy soldiers were frightened by the fierce fighting and red wine-stained beards of the soldiers.  Among the Turkish soldiers it was rumored that bull’s blood had been mixed into the wine, as otherwise the strength and firm resistance of the town and castle could not be explained.  Another legend states that the swords of the enemy could not cut through the Hungarian blood thickened by the wine.

The wine named for the legendary “bull’s blood” of the siege, Egri Bikavér, is still produced to this day, and is very popular on both the domestic and international markets.  Egri Bikavér is made up of a blend that has varied over the years, although the blend is anchored by the ancient Kardarka grape. Kadarka is a difficult grape to vinify, and has increasingly been replaced by Blaufränkisch, known locally as Kékfrankos.

In modern times, Egri Bikavér must contain at least three of the following 13 grapes: Kardarka, Kékfrankos (known as Blaufränkisch in German), Blauer Portugieser, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Menoire, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Turán, Bíborkadarka, and the modern Austrian hybrids Blauberger and Zweigelt.

Tales of the Vine: The Hungry Black Rooster

The Hungry Black Rooster

The wine region we know as Chianti, running throughout the Tuscan landscape from Florence in the north and spreading south to the medieval town of Siena and beyond, is one of the oldest geographically defined wine regions on earth.  Winemaking in this region can be documented as far back as the 13th Century.  The first defined boundaries of the Chianti Wine Region were set in 1716 by The Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici.

The area now known as the Chianti Classico DOCG contains the original, historic center of the region.  Its wines are considered to be the original wines of Chianti and the best.  Winemakers in Chianti Classico guard the vineyards, the wine, and their region’s reputation fiercely.

In 1924, a group of grape growers and winemakers formed a group to promote and protect the image of the wines of Chianti Classico and took as their symbol the Gallo Nero, or Black Rooster.  In 2003 the Italian government gave the group, known as the Consortium (Consorzio) of Chianti Classico, regulatory control of the entire production of Chianti Classico, and all the wines of the region now bear the symbol of the Black Rooster.

The legend of the Black Rooster dates back to a 14th century boundary dispute between Florence and Siena.   After a long and drawn out battle, the two Republics decoded tp settle the issue with a race between two knights on horseback.  According to the rules of the match, each knight would set off from their respective home towns upon the crow of the rooster. In other words, the race was to commence—you would think—at dawn.  The knights would travel along the road between the two Republics, and the point where they met in the middle would be the official boundary line between Florence and Siena.

The townspeople of Siena chose as their representative a white rooster.  In order to make him a happy, strong singer, they fed and pampered their rooster until the appointed day.

The people of Florence chose a black rooster and fed him sparingly—so little in fact, that on the morning of the contest he was so hungry that he woke up several hours before dawn, and crowed and crowed until he was fed.  Thus, the knight from Florence began his part of the race in what was basically the middle of the night. Not surprisingly, he covered most of the road between the two Republics before he met up with the Knight from Siena.

As a result, almost the whole of the land of Chianti was annexed to the Republic of Florence and the “Black Rooster”, or “Gallo Nero”  became the symbol of the Republic of Florence.  The Gallo Nero became the symbol of the original “Lega di Chianti” in the 16th century.

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…