by Fred McMillin
for November 23, 1999


The YlK Problem



Prof. Enjalbert  
We all know about the Y2K computer problem. That got me to thinking about the YlK (Year 1000 A.D.) wine problem. Let's let University of Bordeaux Prof. Henri Enjalbert (pictured), summarize it... In a word, the problem was INVADERS. "Following the withdrawal of the Romans, the vineyards of France fell victim to the great invasions of the Germanic tribes. The destruction of vineyards in countries that fell to Islam (e.g., Spain) was even more dramatic. The Moslems not only destroyed and pillaged, but for religious reasons even forbid wine production...[By 1000 A.D.] there were no large vineyards in Europe (from the professor's History of Wine & The Vine).

Yet, invaders caused the world's greatest white wine grape to be introduced to the Paris market, and on to the rest of the wine world. Here's what happened.

As the year 1000 approached, it was clear that Vikings could be hazardous to one's health. They had sacked Paris, virtually depopulated Normandy, etc. So the Benedictines at Tours on the Loire River asked French King Charles the Bald for land farther inland. He granted them land at Chablis in Burgundy. Now Chablis is on the Yonne River, which runs into the Seine, which runs into the PARIS MARKET! A few centuries later the black-robed Benedictine monks sold Chablis to the Cistercians. These stern, white-robed monks (average life span about 30 years) introduced the glorious Chardonnay grape. Its wines made their water-aided way to Paris, and it was downhill thereafter. Hence, today's wine is a Chardonnay from Chablis.

Wine of the Day

1997 Grand Regnard Chablis
100% Chardonnay
Proprietor—Zephir Regnard founded his winery in 1860. Over a century later the prestigious Chablis firm was purchased by one of the Loire leaders, Baron Patrick de Ladoucette. The Larousse Encyclopedia of Wine says the Baron "has made a considerable investment in new facilities" [even sodium lamps in the cellars to avoid light damage]. The house style favors no oak."
Rating—My panel gave this serious Chablis a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Contact—Tina Caputo or Michelle Armour, Oakland CA, (510) 286-2000, FAX (510) 286-2010.
Price—$29 range

Postscript—A Y1K Bombshell

In the year 1000 A.D., or very close to it, the first European saw grapes in America. He was a German named Tryker, a member of Leif Erickson's crew. Upon landing on this unknown territory, Tryker went inland, and returned to report finding wild vines. Prof. Enjalbert tells us that when Leif expressed doubts, the German replied "I was born in vinegrowing country." He then brought grapes, and made them into [America's first] wine.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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