Here we are the Eighteenth Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, and the winner of the last one was Wayward Wine from my theme of “epiphany” and the new theme is “crisis.” As with all the challenges, the concept is to make us stretch from our normal writing styles and accept a theme that we all write on, from our own unique perspectives.
There are many avenues of crisis that one could address, of course the original one, that most of us immediately think of is phylloxera. Phylloxera is a plant louse that unwittingly came over on American rootstock and eventually decimated most of the vineyards in Europe. The most successful way to combat this louse was to graft vitis vinifera wines to American rootstocks, and this worked so well, that I have read that most wines around the world now are of this technique. This louse was so devastating to France that it was the basis of the appellation controlee laws that we are so used to, but they were created to form some sanctuary from all the chaos that the replanting of the vineyards caused.
Mother Nature can also create a crisis for the wine industry as well. Droughts can create havoc with vineyards. I have never grown anything, being a city dweller, and even then sometimes with long hot summers, I claim that I grow dirt, instead of a lush lawn. I have read that most vineyards try to keep water to a minimum to force the vines to do more with less, and that is why certain soils work so well and create that nuance that we enjoy called terroir, or as I jokingly refer to it at some tastings as dirt. A drought on the other hand can deprive the vineyards of even the minimum of water, which can cause damage to the crops, and if there is too much rainfall the grapes become lazy and flabby and do not have the brilliance of taste that a struggling grape achieves.
The other havoc that Mother Nature can cause is something here in Michigan, that both the residents and the vineyards can suffer from; that is too long of a frigid winter and too much snow and ice, which causes its own suffering. People, buildings, automobiles and crops can all be destroyed from extreme winters. That is why one encounters vineyards that are planted with some odd sounding varietals, because they are what is known as Cold Hardy Grapes and have been developed to handle the shorter growing seasons and the longer icy dormant periods.
I consider myself an amateur wine lover or fan, and to me a crisis is more of what can occur at my home, especially when I have company over and of course we are going to serve wine to our guests. I have to admit that we have more then enough wines in our cellar, with an inventory of around thirteen-hundred bottles resting. There is always occasions that arise that can cause anguish. Sometimes it can be a minor inconvenience of a cork crumbling, which guarantees that the wine is decanted through a funnel and a coffee filter, but the wine is totally fine.
Then there can be a crisis, when you want to bring up a bottle that you have been saving for the right moment, or that you think that it is too early to uncork a wine. There are times that a wine is forgotten about, or it is considered too dear for the occasion and it is left resting for another period of time. Months can turn into years. I know that I am not the only one to face this time of crisis or concern, as there was the time my Brother-in-Law from Kentucky arrived, as is his custom, he always brings some wines that he wants to share and enjoy. One of the wines that he brought on that trip was a bottle of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1973, and when he saw what he had brought, he was a bit sheepish, because that was a bottle that he wanted to keep for awhile more. This was the first year that Mouton had even listed that they were in the Classification of 1855 for the Medoc, as they always felt it was a slap in the face that they were the first of the Second Growths, and felt that they should have been a First Growth, and in 1973 they were finally and rightfully moved up, and on top of that, the art work for that year was by Picasso. I told him that it was fine, and went to my cellar and came back with the same bottle and we opened mine, and I let him take his back home. The wine was wonderful.
Of course there have been times, when that good fortune does not always occur, especially with the white wines. Many a white wine has been unceremoniously been poured down the kitchen sink, because the wine has gone over the hill, because we left it, because it was “too good” for the moment. Then there have been times when I thought a white wine was over the hill, but I took a chance, like the evening Oliver of The Winegetter and his wife Nina were over for dinner and I had discovered a bottle of wine that I had forgotten about. I know that Oliver always talked about aged Riesling wines of Germany, so we opened a bottle of Erdener Treppchen Riesling Auslese 1971 and we were all totally amazed at the beauty of this wine, and Oliver even wrote to some of his friends to tell them of having this wine in Michigan. Of course for every good story there is a crisis, and one that I did not anticipate. One New Years Eve party at our house the featured champagne was going to be Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon 1983. Vintage champagne is not something that is always encountered and non-vintage champagne can always be questionable until it is opened. Alas and alack, while the bottle sounded great when it was uncorked, and the tiny bubbles were streaming up the flute like crazy, was bad, and all I could do was pray that it was not a harbinger for the coming year, and then I went to some other back up Champagnes and toasted the New Year properly. I would have to say that a crisis to most wine drinkers occurs more at home in a personal sense then what occurs in the real world.