Vin Nouveau: La Première Partie

tandemselfie

When you don’t have to steer, your hands are free to take avant-garde shadow selfies.

This is part one in a four-part series of new-to-me French wine regions, brought to you by the Tour de France.

Now that the World Cup is over (sniff, sniff), we’re watching a lot of the Tour de France at our house.  I’m starting to think Phil Liggett is narrating my life.  The Mr. Armchair Sommelier and I have been doing a fair amount of our own cycling lately — on our tandem bike.  I’m the stoker (the backseat driver), which is an exercise in pure trust.  I have no steering (my handlebars are purely decorative), no brakes, no gears, and I can’t see in front of me.  I guess that last one is kind of a perk — if we crash, at least I won’t see it coming.

I now have a whole new appreciation for hills.  You can’t truly appreciate a hill from the inside of a car.  True appreciation can only come from the saddle of a bicycle.  Hills are a bear.  And estimating the steepness of the hill you just climbed is a lot like a fish story.  Once you get to the top, conversation goes something like this:  How steep would you say that hill was?  Oh, it was at least a Cat 3 climb, probably Cat 2.  And going down some of those hills??  Borderline terrifying. We’ve hit 37mph (I realize this pales in comparison to Tour downhill speeds of 60+mph, but I’m a neophyte cyclist, so indulge my fear).  And btw, 37mph isn’t a great time to start thinking about the only thing between me and becoming a road pizza:  nothing.

The other day, I was looking at a map of this year’s Tour stages (because maps make me happy), and I noticed the Tour passes through just about every major wine growing region in France.  Not a difficult feat in and of itself — you can throw a rock from just about anywhere in France and hit a major wine growing region.

But Le Tour also passes through some of France’s lesser known regions — at least lesser known to me (I’m obviously not ready for a cameo role in SOMM II).  So I decided to make myself a wine assignment:  learn something about the new-to-me French wine regions on Le Tour, and try some new wines.

I left Burgundy off this list because it looks like most of the tour passes just to the southeast of the region proper, but you could just as easily include it.  Geography can be squishy sometimes.

  • Champagne
  • Alsace
  • Jura
  • Savoie
  • Beaujolais
  • Rhone Valley
  • Provence
  • Languedoc-Roussillion
  • Jurançon (part of Sud Ouest)
  • Bordeaux
  • Bergerac (part of Sud Ouest)

There are four regions on this list (in bold, italics) that I know almost nothing about.  And by almost nothing, I mean I’ve heard of them.  That’s it.  So guess what that means?  You get to read a four-part series on new-to-me wine regions of France.  Read in Napoleon Dynamite’s voice:  Lucky.

I’m going to start with Jura.

In the eastern corner of France, sandwiched between Burgundy and Switzerland, there is a tiny stretch of real estate (about a 50-mile stretch) called Jura.  It’s a mild-climate region and most of the grapes are grown at altitude (it is right next to the Swiss alps).

Jura trivia:  Both Louis Pasteur (father of microbiology) and Louis Vuitton (father of luggage) were from Jura.  The Jurassic Period (the age of dinosaurs) is named after the Jura Mountains. Jura is also home to Comté and Laughing Cow (yes, that Laughing Cow) cheeses.

There are main five grape varieties used in Jura:

Savagnin (white):  This is the grape used to make the special oxidative wines from Jura, and is the only grape permitted in vin jaune.

Chardonnay (white):  Most of the lighter, fruity white wines from Jura are made with Chardonnay; it’s known there as Melon d’Arbois and Gamay Blanc.

Poulsard (red):  Jura’s native grape.  The color of wines made with Poulsard is very light and often compared to rosé. 

Trousseau (red):  Wines made with Trousseau have intense black fruit flavors and are capable of aging.  Trousseau wines are also lighter in color.

Pinot Noir (red):  Pinot Noir in Jura is lighter and more acidic than in Burgundy.  It’s used in Jura’s sparkling wine, Crémant du Jura.

Jura produces some light, fruity white wines from Chardonnay and some lighter reds from Poulsard and Trousseau, but Jura is best known for these wines:

Vin jaune:  Made from the Savagnin grape, Vin jaune (yellow wine) is Jura’s most well-known wine.  After fermentation, these wines are aged in barrels that aren’t quite filled to the top. This gives the wine space to oxidize and age under a crust of yeast (called flor).  The wine ages for about six years, and it’s never topped off.  The wines are Sherry-like, with a distinctive nuttly flavor.  Vin jaune has its own special bottle called a clavelin.

Vin de paille (straw wine):  Vin de paille is made with grapes that are picked and then laid out on straw trays to dry.  The wine is usually a blend of Chardonnay, Poulsard and Savagnin, with concentrated sugars and flavors of honey and nuts.

Cremant de Jura:  These are Jura’s sparkling wines.  At least 50% of the white blend must be Chardonnay, and the remainder is Savagnin.  The rosé version is made with Poulsard and Pinot Noir.  The wines are made in the methode traditionelle.

Macvin du Jura:  This is a fortified wine made by adding Marc du Jura (a brandy-like liqueur) to unfermented grape juice.  All five of Jura’s main grape varieties are used in the production of Macvin du Jura.  Most Macvin is white, but some red versions are also produced.

There are six AOCs for Jura (dates of AOC status are in parentheses):

  1. Arbois (1936) — the most productive of all Jura appellations, wines are made here from all 5 grapes.
  2. Château Chalon (1936) — only Savagnin based wines made in the vin jaune (yellow wine) style.
  3. Côtes du Jura (1937) — red and white wines from all 5 grapes.
  4. Crémant du Jura (1995) — sparkling wines.
  5. L’Étoile (1937) — tiny quantities of almost exclusively white wines, made with Chardonnay, Savagnin and Poulsard (only for color in vin de paille).
  6. Macvin du Jura (1991) — Vin du jura fortified with marc du jura.

I ordered some Jura wines from the Internet (I threw a dart to make my choices) and sat down with a cheese board to try them:

DSCN5369Domaine Rolet Savagnin Jura Arbois Vin Jaune 2005 ⭐⭐⭐/87
100% Savagnin.  This is definitely Vin jaune (yellow wine). Turmeric yellow, in fact.  And if someone handed me a glass and asked me to identify the wine, I’d swear it was Sherry.  The nose is a bowl of walnuts and a hot summer sidewalk (yes, that’s a smell in my world).  A super unusual wine.  It’s not sweet at all.  Dense and acidic, but balanced. I’m struggling a bit with flavors.  Walnuts and a distinct earthy note.  Mushrooms?  An otherworldly match with the Comté cheese.  Very good with the Gruyere, and meh with the Raclette.  14.5% ABV.  $35 for 375ml.

DSCN5365Domaine Berthet-Bondet Cotes du Jura Rubis 2012 ⭐⭐⭐/86
45% Trousseau, 45% Poulsard and 10% Pinot Noir.  I’m blown away by the pale color on this wine.  It looks like Rosé’s big, angsty brother.  The nose is whole mess of barnyard funk.  A surprising amount of structure given the lightweight mouthfeel.  Some plum and cranberry flavors. A knockout with the Gruyere and Comté cheeses.  Again, meh with the Raclette.  I made fried okra for dinner and you know what?  Not a bad match.  12.5% ABV.  $22.

DSCN5363Chateau D’Arlay Vin de Liqueur Macvin du Jura Rouge NV ⭐⭐⭐/87
Roughly 75% Pinot Noir blended with 25% brandy (Marc du Jura).  The color on this wine is borderline weird.  There’s a ton of sediment zooming around in this bottle — it looks like a glass of prune juice.  And the nose?  Open a bag of Sun-maid raisins, throw in a handful of tobacco, shake and inhale.  Surprisingly pretty mouthfeel, soft and delicate . . . yet intense flavors of raisin and Riccola (the herbal cough drops).  Comté is the cheese winner again. Not sure I’d seek it out again, but so glad I tried it. 17% ABV.  $24 for 375ml.

I learned some new things new today, and Score!  I got to add three new grapes to my Wine Century tally:  Savagnin, Trousseau, and Poulsard.

Bucket list supplement:  Visit Jura and sit in an Alpine café, drinking Vin jaune and eating Comté cheese, while watching Le Tour climb by!

Stay tuned for La Deuxième Partie:  Savoie.

A votre santé!
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Photo Credit (1)

Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 10

armsMonday was Ernest Hemingway’s 115th birthday.
I’ll bet you can’t guess what you’re getting for Wine, Words & Wednesday today.

These words are from A Farewell to Arms . . . a book that could provide fodder for this series for an entire year.

If it’s been a while since you dusted off your copy,
A Farewell to Arms
takes place in Italy and Switzerland during World War I.  The main character, Frederic Henry, is an American ambulance driver in the Italian army.  It’s essentially a love story between Frederic and his nurse, Catherine Barkley, but it’s also Hemingway’s treatise on the pointlessness of war.  The book is based on Hemingway’s own experiences as an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I.  And Catherine is a little more than loosely based on Hemingway’s own nurse and unrequited love, Agnes von Kurowsky.  Hemingway had wanted to marry Agnes, but once he returned home to America after the war, she sent him a Dear Ernie letter.  And so Hemingway did what any scorned writer does (spoiler alert) . . . he kills Catherine at the end of his book.

These particular words occur after the Austro-Hungarian and German rout of the Italian army at the Battle of Caporetto.  Frederic, an officer, is captured by the Italian battle police.
The Italian battle police are interrogating officers for treachery (guess who got the blame for that Italian defeat?), and Frederic notices that after interrogation, all the officers are being executed.  Frederic escapes by jumping into a river.  He decides to desert the army — his farewell to arms — and hops a train to Milan to reunite with Catherine.

Once in Milan, Frederic encounters a sympathetic proprietor at a wine shop.  The proprietor seems to be somewhat of an oracle and senses Frederic is in some flavor of trouble.  He offers to keep Frederic there at the wine shop, but Frederic insists he’s not in any trouble and moves on.  But not before they share a glass of grappa together.  Because that’s what you do when you’re on the run from the Italian army.

hemingway stain-3
Now there’s a collection of things I never really thought of as having a smell . . . until now.  It’s collectively brilliant.  If Hemingway ever moonlighted as a professional wine writer, I imagine his wine reviews reading a lot like that.  I’d buy a bottle of wine based on that description. Maybe two.

Salud!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hemingway!

Today is Ernest Hemingway’s 115th birthday.  And if you’ve read more than a handful of my blog posts, you know I have a crush on Ernest Hemingway and his short, powerful sentences.

Of course I’m going to celebrate . . .

Last summer, we visited the Hemingway House in Key West.  If you ever find yourself halfway to the equator, I highly recommend a visit.  Though I recommend a winter visit, because the house is not air-conditioned, and the Mrs. Heminway of that time (Pauline) had all the ceiling fans removed in favor of fancy light fixtures.  Seriously.  Who removes ceiling fans from a house in Key West?  Apparently, Pauline thought the ceiling fans weren’t stylish enough. Sweating isn’t very stylish, either.  Hence the $20,000 swimming pool Pauline had put in while Hemingway was away covering the Spanish Civil War.  Hem was a little less than pleased when he found out how much the pool had cost him.  Reportedly, he threw a penny at Pauline and yelled, “Pauline, you’ve spent all but my last penny, so you might as well have that!”  Pauline had the penny cemented into the end of the pool.

Here are a few pictures I took on our tour — click on a picture to launch a slideshow with more detailed captions.

It’s not a secret that Hemingway loved to drink.  And he wasn’t a picky drinker, either.  He’d drink just about anything.  Phllip Greene wrote a fantastic book about all of Hemingway’s drinks called, To Have and Have Another.  It’s full of great recipes, history, and anecdotes.  If you’re a Hemingway fan, or just a cocktail fan, you’ll want to add this book to your collection.

In honor of Hem’s birthday, I’m trying a drink recipe from the book:  Green Isaac’s Special

This drink is one of Hemingway’s own creations (honestly, bar tending would have been an outstanding encore career for Hemingway).  While Hemingway lived in Key West, coconut water was one of his favorite cocktail ingredients.  And Green provides an excellent Hemingway quote in support:  “This is really going to be the hell of a fine house.  Will plant more limes and coconuts.  Wish you could plant a gin tree.”  Me, too, Hem.  Me, too.

The Green Isaac’s Special appears in Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream.  It’s apparently named after a Bahamian island (well, island is a bit of a stretch — it’s mostly a big rock) north of Bimini called, Great Isaac Cay.  Fresh, green coconuts grow everywhere in the Bahamas, but nowhere here in Virginia.  But thanks to the coconut water craze of late, I have an entire aisle of coconut water to choose from at Wegmans.

2 oz. London dry gin (I’m using Tanqueray Ten)
4 oz. green coconut water (not coconut milk)
Juice of 1 lime (about 1 oz.)
2-4 dashes Angostura bitters, just enough to give it a “rusty, rose color”

Shake all ingredients well with ice, then transfer contents of shaker into a collins glass, adding more ice as needed.  Garnish with a lime wedge or peel.

I don’t own a collins glass, so I repurposed a stemless wine glass.  I’ll say this much — it’s a pretty drink.  It looks like pink lemonade.  And, if I’m being honest, it tastes like unsweetened pink lemonade.  I can’t say I’m a fan.  Now . . . if I was sitting on Hemingway’s veranda in Key West in late July, and Hemingway himself handed me one, I’d happily indulge.  But I won’t make myself another one.

I’m going back to an old Hemingway stand-by — plain Gin & Tonic.  Hem loved Gin & Tonic, so I don’t feel like I’m being unfaithful.  Now this . . . is more like it!

photo 5
Here’s to you, Hem!

Salud!
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Related Hemingway posts:

Accidentally Delicious: Bourbon & Roasted Marshmallows

I just had the happiest of accidents!  Every once in a while I stumble upon a wine (or general booze) pairing that’s not just good . . . it blows my mind.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t share the joy with you.

A couple of weeks ago, I was enjoying a lovely glass of after-dinner bourbon (Jim Beam Devil’s Cut) at my brother’s house.  And yes, I drink my bourbon over ice.  I love the flavors that develop as the ice melts.  That, and drinking bourbon neat just tastes like fire.  Anyway, we were sitting outside and the kids asked if they could roast marshmallows over the leftover charcoals.  I actually like roasting marshmallows, but over charcoals, not fire.  Fire is temperamental, and it’s too too easy to end up with Cajun marshmallows.

How’s that for a roasted marshmallow?  I popped it into my mouth, and chased it with a sip of bourbon.  My next thought:  Holy Wow!  And then I may or may not have eaten another 5 marshmallows.  But marshmallows are fat-free, so they’re practically health food.

Have you ever tried bourbon and roasted marshmallows?  If you haven’t . . . give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

Salud!

Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 9

joyceI’ve already shared a few words from one of my favorite authors of all-time, Ernest Hemingway (and there will be many more of Hem’s words to follow).  So, I thought I’d balance the scales and share a few words from one of my least favorite authors of all-time, James Joyce.  I know there are legions of James Joyce fans out there — I’m just not one of them.

James Joyce is the reason I hated every English class I took in college.  English professors spend a lot of time arguing James Joyce is one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.  I’m convinced it’s all part of a loyalty test for potential English majors.  A test I failed in spades. Often considered Joyce’s Magnum Opus, Ulysses might not be the worst book I’ve ever read, but it’s probably the worst “important” book I’ve ever read.  Ulysses is basically a collection of run-on sentences, some of them 40-pages long.  I got to the end of the first chapter and thought, I don’t get it.  I got to the end of the book and thought, I still don’t get it.  Until a few years ago, when I was devouring Pat Conroy’s novel, South of Broad.  The main character in that book, Leo Bloom King (his mother named him after the Ulysses hero), describes Joyce’s Ulysses as, “the worst book ever written by anyone.”  I cheered.  Out loud.  It was a glorious moment.

And Joyce’s other “literary masterpiece”, Finnegans Wake?  That’s a strong candidate for the biggest question mark in the history of literature.  I abandoned it on page 3.  Hell, I’m not sure even English professors understand Finnegans Wake.  If anyone ever tells you they truly understand Finnegans Wake, they are either lying . . . or high.  Here’s a random sample from page 3 (right after I waded through this paragraph, I threw the book out of my third story dorm window).  I mean . . . WTF?!?!  It looks like a cat sat on his keyboard.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.56.46 PM
Masterpiece, right?

But wine does make an appearance in Finnegans Wake – it’s buried in tongues (can I get you a glass of rhubarbarous maundarin yellagreen funkleblue windigut?), but it’s there.  Joyce compares his favorite white wine, Fendant de Sion (a Swiss wine made from the Chasselas grape), to . . . wait for it . . . the urine of a duchess.  Not just pee (wine has certainly been compared to pee before), but royal pee.  The mind reels.  And just to prove I’m not making this up, here’s the passage:

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 1.41.03 PM
Personally, I think the cat sat on his keyboard again, but according to the Finnegan experts (yes, they exist), the translation for that gaggle of letters boils down to this:  Shem told his drinking buddies the wine came directly from the vat of a duchess, saying, “What are you grinning at?  You could fancy it was her urine”.1  

Fanny Urinia is secret Joyce code for Fendant de Sion.  Obviously.

James Joyce was one of Hemingway’s drinking buddies in Paris.  Joyce had a chaffing personality (especially when anyone started talking about his writing) and often got himself into trouble in bars.  Reportedly, Joyce and Hemingway once faced a potential bar fight, and Joyce hid behind Hemingway yelling, “Deal with him, Hemingway, deal with him!”.
I’m actually kind of surprised Hemingway didn’t punch Joyce.

And while Hemingway wasn’t a picky drinker, Joyce was. One of Joyce’s favorite libations was absinthe (which could explain most of Finnegans Wake).  If you’re at all interested in the history of absinthe, you can read my post about The Green Fairy here.  But when it came to wine, Joyce drank almost exclusively white wine, his favorite being, “her most excellent excellency’s the Archduchess’s most excellent piss (Pardon! Fendant de Sion)”.1   Joyce seems pretty committed to that description.

Occasionally, Joyce stumbled into the land of the lucid, and wrote something earth dwellers can understand.  Joyce disliked red wine, and described his feelings with these words (which would actually make a pretty good Tweet):

james joyce
I can’t decide if Joyce tried a new white wine, or a new way to describe it.  Myself, I happen to love a good liquified beefsteak.

I have another James Joyce wine quote, but my head is about to explode, so I’ll save it for another day.  I’m gonna go read some Hemingway and cleanse my palate.

Salud!

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1Critical Companion to James Joyce:  A Literary Reference to His Life and Work.

A Brotzeit for Deutschland

world cup ballThere are some very happy Germans in my house right now — a tremendous game by Die Mannschaft!  My kids are going to sleep in their Deutschland jerseys tonight . . .

I’m thrilled Germany won the World Cup, but I’m going to go have the World Cup DTs in a bad way tomorrow.  The World Cup has been the soundtrack to my life for the last month, and I’m really going to miss it.  I’m considering downloading that catchy ESPN jingle as my ringtone so I don’t have to go cold turkey.  But not to worry . . . my consolation prize is the Tour de France.  I’ve been a Le Tour fan for years, but now that I’m a fledgling cyclist myself, I have a whole new appreciation for hills.  I still don’t understand how people who are built like tree twigs can summon so much power from their legs.  These guys are climbing mountains most cars would balk at.  Incredible.

Football (the world kind) has been a constant in our family.  My husband’s grandfather lives in Munich.  When he was younger (he would say, “in former times”), he played professional soccer for FC Union Berlin.  My husband grew up playing soccer for 4 different teams in Southern California.  My mother-in-law used to referee men’s college soccer.  Yes, men’s college soccer.  My daughter has been playing soccer since she was four.  Me?  I played one season of soccer.  One spectacularly bad season of soccer.  Picture the worst kid on a rec soccer team. That kid looked at me and said, “I don’t think soccer is your thing.”  I have many skills, but playing sports games isn’t one of them.  I am, however an excellent spectator.

We cheer loud and proud for the German Fussball team at our house — in every game they play except when they’re playing the USA. Ich liebe Deutschland, but if you prick me, I bleed Stars & Stripes forever.  And right now, I don’t feel so bad about losing to the Germans 1-0 after they unleashed Blitzkrieg on Brazil last week.

German_Flag__BrushedMetal_DFB__by_Freakadelle91

They’re gonna need another star.

Win or lose, we wanted to send Germany out of this World Cup with a Brotzeit celebration!
If you’ve never had the pleasure, Brotzeit is a traditional Bavarian snack, though we eat it as a meal.  It’s basically a smorgasbord — an array of bread, meats, radishes, and cheeses.  And beer.  Because beer is a side dish in Germany.

Brotzeit is served on fantastic wooden platters.  Several years ago, we were eating Brotzeit with Opa in Munich, and I mentioned how much I loved the beautiful wooden serving platter. About a week after we got home, a beautiful wooden serving platter showed up on my doorstep.  It’s one of my favorite treasures.

DSCN5305

So what’s on our Brotzeit menu?  Along with some assorted cold meats and cheeses, we’re having Bratwurst and Weisswurst sausages.  Oh, and pretzels — you gotta have pretzels.  Most Americans are familiar with Bratwurst, but Weisswurst is less known (and less available) here in the USA.  What’s in Weisswurst?  I once asked Opa that question — he told me every butcher in Bavaria has his own secret recipe, which is German for there’s probably something weird in this.  I’ve heard rumors (totally unsubstantiated rumors) that Weisswurst used to be made with a pinch of cow brains.  But I’m almost positive it’s brain-free now.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

I also made sauerkraut.  Sauerkraut isn’t a traditional Brotzeit food, but I made some anyway (to go with the sausages).  I’ve converted many a kraut-hater with this recipe.  Straight out of a bag (or a can), sauerkraut is awful.  The bag is just the base — you have to embellish it.  It’s easy, I promise.  Be sure to notice the difference in color between the sauerkraut that came out of that bag, and the finished product.


And no Brotzeit is complete without Radis (German beer radishes) and radishes.  I cannot get a radi in the USA.  I’d give My Kingdom for a Radi.  I’ve tried growing them from seed, but it just doesn’t work (at least not for me).  A halfway decent Radi substitute is a Daikon radish.  Sliced über-thin and topped with chives on brown bread with butter . . . Wunderbar!

And what to drink with our Brotzeit?  Weissbier (wheat beer), naturlich!  Weissbier used to be scarce in the USA, but blissfully, it’s everywhere now.  Weissbier has a very low level of hops at 15 IBU (International Bitterness Units), which is why I love it so much — I can’t stand hoppy beers, they make my face pucker.  Weissbier is made by replacing part of the malted barley with malted wheat.  The Bavarians use a couple of special strains of yeast which give the beer it’s hallmark banana and clove flavors.

I’m sure it’s verboten to drink Erdinger Bier out of a Paulaner glass in Deutschland, but I’ll allow it here . . .

DSCN5342

If you see the word Hefeweizen on the label, the beer will be in its traditional, unfiltered (slightly cloudy) form.  If you see the word Kristallweizen on the label, the yeast is filtered from the beer, giving it a crystal clear appearance.  You can also get a Dunkelweizen or dark wheat beer. Weissbier is served in a very specific glass, designed to hold every drop of the plus-sized Weissbier bottle (a standard US beer bottle is 12 ounces; a standard Weissbier bottle is 500ml, or 17 ounces).  Whenever we’re in Germany, I make a B-line for this beer.  It just tastes better in Bavaria.  Plus, it’s really fun to say “Weissbier, Bitte!”.

Thanks World . . . for a great Cup!

Deutschland Vor!!

Prost!

Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 8

world ballThe other day, my daughter asked if there were any countries playing in the World Cup that were still communist countries.  Good grief.  Why couldn’t she just ask me why it looks like Puma collaborated with Spanx for their contribution to World Cup jerseys??

The short answer to her question is no.  But my daughter is the Queen of Why, so I knew she wasn’t going to let it go at no.  Plus, my parents paid a lot of money for me to get a degree in Political Science, so I thought I’d at least try to answer her question with more than one syllable.

Let’s see . . . there’s Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovia — they used to be the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia.  She didn’t ask why (oh, Happy Day!).  And then there’s Russia — we’ll just call them communist-light since Putin’s favorite color these days seems to be Red.  She shrugged and said, “Putin kinda looks like Dobby from Harry Potter.”  OK, he kinda does.  And then she asked, “Isn’t the Republic of Korea a Communist country?”  So we talked about difference between the Republic of Korea (Democratic South Korea) and the oxymoronically named Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (Communist North Korea), who didn’t qualify for this year’s World Cup.  I’m sure that went over well with The Supreme Leader.

And then she lobbed this one at me:  What’s the difference between communism and socialism?  Again with the big questions.  So I went with this:  Socialism is an economic system dreamed up by a guy named Karl Marx.  Communism is a form of government that uses socialism.  By that point, she seemed a little bored and asked if she could go watch Chopped!  Yes!!  Please. Go. Watch.

Is she ever going to get to the wine??  Stay with me . . .

Somewhere underneath a pile of cobwebs in my brain, I remembered (or thought I remembered) that Karl Marx (socialist dreamer) was a wine lover.  True story?

Karl Marx was born in the town of Trier, Germany.  Trier is in the heart of the Mosel wine region (The Cradle of Riesling).  And Marx’s family owned several vineyards in the Ruwer Valley. Can you grow up near a vineyard and not be a wine lover?

A lot of Marx’s early socialist economic writings were in support of the winemakers from the Mosel Valley.  Without putting you into a narcoleptic seizure, all you need to know is that the Mosel winemakers were the oppressed peasants and the Prussian government was the Bourgeoise oppressors.  Class struggle was imminent.  Beyond that, it’s pretty dry stuff.

Karl Marx lived most of his adult life in London.  And he was indeed a big fan of the Rieslings from his home town.  He often asked friends to send him wine from Mosel.  Having friends ship you special wine doesn’t seem like the Badge of the Proletariat to me, but when you’re craving a crisp Mosel Riesling, I suppose a London pint just won’t cut it.

I’ve come across this quote many times, and as a student of history (not a fan of oppressive government regimes) I’ve always liked it:

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I haven’t had much success in finding a direct attribution for Marx’s words.  But I did find a letter Marx wrote to his son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, in November of 1866.  BTW, Lafargue’s best known piece of writing is an essay called, The Right to be Lazy.  Lafargue somehow managed to remove himself from his thinking-couch long enough to send his father-in-law some wine:

“My sincere thanks for the wine.  Being myself from a wine-growing region, and former owner of a vineyard, I know a good wine when I come across one. I even incline somewhat to old Luther’s view that a man who does not love wine will never be good for anything.”

Wine-drinkers of the world . . . unite!

Salud!