by Fred McMillin
for September 2, 1998


Voltaire Had It Right


"Wine is the divine juice of September."

... Voltaire, 1694-1778
French Satirist, Author & Historian

"We harvested this South Ridge Syrah on September 19,1994."

...Jerry Lohr Founder/Owner J.Lohr Winery

The Rest of the Story

J. LohrThe September-harvested J.Lohr Syrah is definitely one of Voltaire's "divine juices," and it's no accident. To start with, when the vines were planted some years ago in the Paso Robles district, viticulturist Steve Carter called on his experience with the grape in Australia, where it is the dominate red-wine varietal. He selected a south-facing slope; hence the name "South Ridge Syrah." Also, he liked the lean, mean soil that would thwart Syrah's tendency to "carry more grapes than it can properly ripen."

Good choice! This is only the second vintage from the vineyard, and already the wine has rich berry flavors with plenty of power...a fine $14 value.

The Wine

J. Lohr 1994 South Ridge Syrah, Paso Robles
J.Lohr Winery
Food Affinities—Lamb, pork, ham, vigorous pasta, assorted cheeses after the entree.
Contact—Mark Dirickson, (4O8) 288-5O57
Price—$14 range


Voltaire may have unwittingly consumed some wine made from the Syrah. The nearest prestigious wine would have been from Bordeaux...but I own a wine book written when Voltaire was living, Sir Edward Barry's Observations [on wine], 1775. He notes that "French Wine merchants, encouraged by the great demand for Bourdeaux (sic) wines... began to mix them with inferior wines." In 1824, another London physician, Alexander Henderson, wrote that "to each hogshead of Bordeaux... sometimes Hermitage (Syrah) was added." So, there may have been some Syrah in Voltaire's "divine juice."

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 and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. 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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