Archive for August, 2018

The Douro Wine Company and the world’s first appellation!

August 19th, 2018

douro duoro wine port oporto portugal

By Joseph Temple

Next year the International Wine and Food Society will embark on a luxury cruise along the Douro River to sample some of Portugal’s best wines!  Sailing through one of Europe’s best kept secrets, IW&FS members will visit the city of Porto and the Douro Valley, home of both port wine and the world’s very first appellation – an appellation created under unique circumstances in the late 18th century as a result of a power struggle between Britain and Portugal over vino-supremacy.

The story dates back to the Anglo-French War which began in 1702 as part of the War of Spanish Succession. With champagne and claret no longer available to British wine connoisseurs, an alternative was desperately needed. Moving quickly, they soon found it on Portuguese soil as English merchants arrived at Oporto, shipping in bulk a red table wine from the Douro Valley back to London. And with the addition of brandy, this fortified wine, known as port, suddenly became all the rage across England.

After the signing of the Methuen Treaty in 1703 which allowed port to be brought in at low levels of duty, imports skyrocketed to 116,000 hectolitres annually—the equivalent of 15 million standard bottles by 1728.  However, British influence in the Douro was tense to say the least. “Such was England’s control over Portugal during the first half of the seventeenth century that, at times, it was treated like a colony,” according to author Richard Mayson in his book Port and the Douro.

With demand exceeding supply, growers also started cutting corners as overproduction spiraled out of control. Examples were the addition of spices such as cinnamon and ginger to enhance the flavor, using elderberry juice for color, putting more sugar and alcohol into the wine for sweetness, and finally, importing Spanish wines to make up for a dwindling number of grapes. Not surprisingly, as quality diminished, exports plummeted to 54,000 hectolitres by 1756.  Likewise, the price of a pipe of port went from 60 escudos in 1700 to just 6.3 by 1750.

Realizing that it was becoming a buyer’s market, British merchants formed an association to control the price of port, paying growers next to nothing and on top of that, making them wait until the wine had been sold back in London until they received payment. With the animosity reaching a fever pitch, those in the Douro took their complaints directly to an autocratic leader, the Marquis of Pombal, who served as the Portuguese equivalent of a Prime Minister.

Using a recent earthquake as a pretext, in 1756, he took up their cause by forming the Real Companhia das Vinhas do Alto Douro, also known as the Douro Wine Company. A state monopoly, this company fixed the price of port from 25 to 30 escudos and had far-reaching powers as to what taverns in Oporto would be allowed to serve port. To maintain quality, rules were created that forbid the addition of certain substances to enhance the wine’s flavor as well as ripping out all elderberry bushes just in case anyone was tempted. Additionally, a commission was established that drew up boundary lines around the Douro region, creating the first wine appellation in history.

To the delight of Portuguese growers, no British shipper was allowed to serve on the company’s board of directors. But even domestically, there were issues as tavern owners protested the increase costs of port, leading to a bloody riot one year after the company was created. By 1770 though, the situation stabilized as approximately 160-180,000 hectolitres of port was being imported into England on an annual basis.

As the International Wine and Food Society tours this historic region next year, they will be visiting a region knee deep in a rich history where an international skirmish took place, pitting a nationalist uprising against foreign influence. And to think – it was all over a wine most of us today have with our dessert!

Sources:

Clarke, Oz. The History of Wine in 100 Bottles: From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond. London: Pavilion Books, 2015.
Mayson, Richard. Port and the Douro. Oxford: Infinite Ideas, 2016.
Phillips, Rod. Alcohol: A History. Chapel Hill: UNC Books, 2014.
Robinson, Jancis. The Oxford Companion to Wine, 4th Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.


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Ask Sid: Did 2017 or 2016 have the worst drop in Chablis production?

August 15th, 2018
Ask your question here

chablis production wine
By Robert S. Donovan [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Question: Which of the last two years in Chablis had the lowest production of wine and is this affecting the prices?

Answer: Yes both 2017 & 2016 vintages in Chablis have seen a fair drop from their normal harvest due to weather conditions including frost, hail, and the like. This has contributed to the average Chablis village price nearly doubling in the last 2 years from over 600 euros to now about 1200 per feuillette barrel of 132 litres. You will notice in the wine stores that this is reflected in the prices of all 4 levels of Chablis being raised for the 2016 vintage. The stats show that the average Chablis harvest of about 293,000 hectolitres (100 litres) was reduced to 237,000 in 2017 and more substantially in 2016 to 159,000. Therefore 2016 had the bigger drop in production.


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Food Day Canada 2018 Well Celebrated by Fairmont Chateau Whistler

August 13th, 2018

Sunday August 4, 2018 was #FoodDayCanada highlighting the diversity of food in Canada. @FoodDayCanada is about many things including celebrating the beautiful produce you have #HomeGrown as #LocalFood in your own #BackyardGarden. We have been growing food on a small scale for many years first mainly unique heirloom tomatoes (now widely available seasonally at all the farmer’s markets) but more recently most successfully with “mangetout” snow peas (eaten whole in its pod) and delicious “extra fin haricot vert nain filet sans fil” (fine bush green beans without any string). Enjoyed these local special treats during all of July and early August.

However an outstanding menu shared @FairmontWhistlr at the base of Whistler Mountain on The Wildflower patio really raised the quality bar of this admirable concept. Executive Chef Isabel Chung, Executive Sous Chef Derek Bendig & brigade prepared a delightful picturesque seven course menu that used only produce grown in the hotel rooftop herb garden (including now 12 hives of bees) or their own personal gardens. A remarkable feat well done! Also featured were grass fed beef from Hanceville Cattle Company, sustainably land farmed West Creek’s Coho Salmon, and Langley’s Berezan Shrimp sweet and fresh as alive in tanks just prior to cooking. Each course was appropriately paired with the hands-on artisanal farming plus quality winemaking @RocheWines on #Naramata Bench #Okanagan. The meal certainly reached their excellent goal of “marrying tradition with innovation” but indeed celebrated the idea of Food Day Canada in just the right way. A remarkable feat very well done!

Do you have a special annual day on which you celebrate the glorious local food in your city or country?


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10 interesting facts about Madeira

August 12th, 2018

Madeira wine facts

By Joseph Temple

Ever since the discovery of Madeira by Portuguese explorer João Gonçalves Zarco in the early fifteenth century, the island has become world renowned for a toffee-caramel like fortified wine bearing the same name. For hundreds of years, sailors bravely crossed the oceans bringing with them pipes of this exotic drink loved by the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Today, whether it’s paired with dessert or used to cook with, Madeira can definitely enhance an evening with family and friends! So have a look below at this wine and its unique history.



1. The wine is named after the island of Madeira, located 370 miles from the Moroccan coast. After being colonized by the Portuguese in 1420, they began planting both sugarcane and grape vines across the island.
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2. Madeira became an important outpost for sailors due to the winds that blew from the northeast. With the prevailing winds in the British Isles coming from the west, it would be impossible to sail directly from London to the Americas. As such, Madeira became a vital stop in order to get to the New World, which boosted sales of its wine.
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3. Although Madeira is a fortified wine, it started out unfortified. During long voyages across the world on board merchant ships during the 1500s, the wine would spoil while under the intense heat.
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4. Using brandy as a preservative by the late seventeenth century, this new and improved Madeira actually got better in a tropical climate, making this wine basically indestructible.
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5. Today, in order to simulate this heating effect, the wine goes through a process known as estufagem. This involves placing the wine in casks, vats or cement tanks where the temperature is set to an average of 105 degrees Fahrenheit for anywhere from three to six months. Fine Madeira however is heated naturally.
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6. Because of Madeira’s near-invincibility, it became a hit in the southern colonies and coastal towns such as Charleston and Savannah. One blend that proved to be extremely popular included the addition of rainwater to slightly dilute the wine. “Soft as rainwater” became the saying!
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7. The founding fathers of the United States drank Madeira after signing the Declaration of Independence.
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8. With over 5,000 acres of vineyard land, which produce approximately 38 million gallons on an annual basis, just 10 percent are planted with the four noble varieties—Sercial, Verdelho, Boal and Malmsey.
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By Alexander Baxevanis (Flickr: Vineyards) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

9. After phylloxera hit the island, the Portuguese opted for cheaper grapes and hybrids to replant. As a result, nearly half of all Madeira production today comes from Tinta Negra Mole, which can be used either to drink or to cook with.
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By star5112 (JOH_0242) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

10. Although extremely popular in the eighteenth century, Madeira faced tough times as shipping technology evolved, no longer requiring vessels to stop there. Also, with the Russian Revolution and American Prohibition, the wine lost two of its biggest markets during the twentieth century. However, interest in Madeira appears to be gaining steam again!

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Sources:

Clarke, Oz. The History of Wine in 100 Bottles: From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond. London: Pavilion Books, 2015.
Dominé, André. Wine. Hamburg: Könemann, 2004.
MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. New York: Workman Publishing, 2015.
Robinson, Jancis. The Oxford Companion to Wine, 4th Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.


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Ask Sid: Are you aware of an Asian cartoon mentioning wine?

August 8th, 2018
Ask your question here

Question: Are you aware of an Asian cartoon mentioning wine?

Answer: Suggest you must be thinking of the popular hit comic series “The Drops of God” by two Japanese manga authors. It was a lot of fun because they selected “The Twelve Apostles” of wine with two brothers searching around the world to find them. They picked some classic wines including Les Amoureuses in Chambolle-Musigny by Roumier, Chateau Palmer, Barolo Cannubi from Sandrone and Chateau d’Yquem but not always from the very best vintages. The series provoked an interesting discussion in Asia on the specific wines chosen and and certainly helped their sales. However, most important of all it encouraged consumers to seek out and find their own special “Drops of God” bottle. Have you found yours? For more details check the series out online.


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