Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Bubbles, stickies and female preachers

Champagne & Sparkling wine

Most ‘Champagne’ is very poor indeed: ‘if it didn’t have bubbles, no one would drink it’ (to quote a Parisian caviste specialising in Champagne). For it to be any good at all it is usually very expensive. If one is not buying into the Champagne marketing legend (i.e. Champagne as a wine for celebration), it is a very poor deal.

Sparkling wine is in our experience even worse. It is only very rarely comparable to even modest Champagnes and never to the best. We reckon is therefore even worse value although cheaper.

Sweet wine

On the other hand, good Sweet wine seems to be relatively easy to produce and most wine-growing areas normally have a very agreeable example. There is a huge price differential between some of these and the accepted classics of Bordeaux, Hungary (Tokaj) and the Rhein where prices start high and go higher and the sweet wines of Alsace, Australia (Orange Muscat etc.), Austria, Banyuls, Canada (Eiswein), Jurancon, Loire (Vouvray), Portugal (Moscatel de Setubal), Malaga, Massandra, Sicilia (Malvasia delle Lipari, Moscato di Pantelleria), South Africa (Constantia), Tuscany (Vin Santo), Veneto etc.

Indeed a hit on Wikipedia furnishes the following list in addition to those above:

Australia New South Wales • South Australia • Tasmania • Western Australia

France Rhône • Languedoc-Roussillon • Provence • South West

Italy Friuli-Venezia Giulia • Lombardia • Piemonte

USA California • New York • New Jersey • Oregon • Washington state

Other Argentina • Chile • Greece • Lebanon • New Zealand •

…and many more. Indeed it may be better to list the regions which do not produce a sweet wine: even England has them.

Wines from out-of-the-way places

Our experience of wines from obscure wine-producing countries and regions such as Brazil, Mexico, Texas, Virginia etc. leads us to the conclusion that it is possible to produce ‘correct’, decent, pleasant, drinkable, enjoyable wines there but as Dr. Johnson said of women preachers, "It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." and we sadly conclude there is an element of this in the evaluation of these wines, (not that we agree with Johnson who by the way uttered his aphorism without having heard the woman preacher Boswell had just mentioned).

Probably if we lived in Virginia we would make a point of trying as many Virginia wines as possible just to be sure there was nothing truly exceptional or indeed memorable, but the conclusion has to be that it is terroir and tradition that make the difference between these wines and the wines of California or even New York: perhaps an example to quote to anti-terroiristes who argue against the concept categorically?

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