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by Fred McMillin
Get Set for an Upset
There was no way Wine B could win the tasting. There were 23 rivals, consisting of other white varieties, plus some pinks and some sparkiers. Eleven of them were more expensive.
Worst of all, here's what the press said about this particular white variety, which we'll call "Y."
"Growers are pulling out Y grapes, wineries are dropping Y from their lines, and restaurants are cutting the wine from their lists."
"Y is the Rodney Dangerfield of wine—it gets no respect."
...Gerald D. Boyd, San Francisco Chronicle
The Rest of the Story
Here's the wine that pulled the upset.
It was a Riesling!
Our winning-wine grape has several names, Riesling, White Riesling, and Johannisberg Riesling. I like Roy Andries De Groot's description of the origin of the names, written some 30 years ago.
It all started with the Emperor Charlemagne at the end of the Eighth Century. He ruled from his Palace of Ingelheim on a hill overlooking the valley of the Rhine. On a spring day he noticed how the snow was melting first on the south-facing slope. [I've been there and seen the sunlight reflecting off the river's surface, providing additional warmth.]
Charlemagne said something like this to one of his nobles. "It would be a good place to plant vines. See that it is done."
The hill was found to be covered with wild black currants, called Johannisbeeren in German. A few centuries later, black-robed Benedictine monks took over development of the vines, and named the grape Riesling...Germany's greatest grape now had a name.
But while the origin of Johannisberg (BERG means HILL or MOUNTAIN in German) seems clear, Riesling isn't. A good guess—Jancis Robinson points out that the vine's bark has deep grooves, in German, Rissig.
Note: About the time Roy De Groot was writing the above words, my wife was taking cooking lessons in James Beard's Greenwich Village apartment. What did he pour after they prepared Salad Nicoise (tuna)? A Riesling!
04/20/00—How Sweet It ISN'T!
04/19/00—The Hex on Grape X
04/18/00—Shake and Bake
04/17/00—Well Done, Byron!
04/14/00—It's the Price, Stupid
04/13/00—The President's Pick
04/12/00—Tamas for the Boss
04/11/00—Clear Lake Takes the Cake
04/10/00—Out Damn Bubble
04/07/00—Sure Thing Sterling
04/06/00—Sing a Song of Syrah
04/03/00—Noah to Napa
This page created April 2000