By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Tuesday, October 25, 2016 at 12:36 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Some six decades ago, when things were considerably better for Americans in Turkey than they are now, I spent a year in Izmir and continued to make annual trips to Istanbul, Karamursel, Ankara, and, of course, back to Izmir over the next twenty years. That year in Izmir introduced me to Turkish wine, something whose existence hadn’t even occurred to me prior to my arrival in that ancient city. Because wine is a beverage that evokes nostalgia, I was pleased to come across a couple bottles of Kavaklidere not long ago in Bloomington’s Sahara Mart.

Kavak was my wine staple in 1957, both red and white. At the time I didn’t know anything about the grapes that produced the wine and have to admit that I didn’t think much about that. I was just grateful that a somewhat evangelical government allowed limited wine production for public consumption, this in a region where wine as we know it could trace its origins. Some kind of wine production in Anatolia has been traced back more than 7,000 years.

I confess the Cubs making it to the World Series provoked this recall of Kavaklidere. The hype that made much of the 71-year time frame since the team last got that far started my nostalgic look back to when playing baseball was the most important thing in my life, then moved to how wine became an important part of my life. As a news junkie today, whenever I hear of conflicts in the Middle East, especially involving the Kurds and the Turks, my palate returns to Okuzgozu and Bornova Misketi and other Anatolian grape varieties and makes me wonder if more Middle Eastern tribesmen and warriors would sit around a table to share a bottle or two of good wine they could resolve their quarrels.

It’s been a while since I consumed those Turkish wines from Bloomington, but the flavor lingers, just as my loyalty to the Cubs of so many years ago also lingers. I wish both the Turks and the Cubs well this autumn of 2017.

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By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Friday, October 21, 2016 at 3:12 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

At last it came — Champagne Day. The message from Champagne USA made it clear: the seventh annual Champagne Day is Friday, October 21. (They attribute the day’s origin to a wine blog “Vintuba.” Perhaps I’ll hear more about the 25th, recently pointed out to me as International Champagne Day. No matter, as I said earlier, I take no chances and will drink Champagne on both days. Determining the precise date recognized world-wide is not an exact science.

My choice today has been a 2008 Pertois-Moriset, the oldest vintage-dated Champagne in my little collection. I don’t know if Pertois-Moriset has declared a vintage since 2008, but I have a few bottles and I used one of them, delighted to see that it has weathered well.

When I used to visit the Champagne country several times a year, nearly always to see my late friend, Al Ricciutti, the only American at that time making Champagne, I would leave his estate in Avenay val d’Or and drive through a neighboring village, Mesnil-sur-Oger, where I was told the finest of all Champagne Chardonnay grapes are grown. Mesnil is home to the Pertois-Moriset vineyards, taking their name from two generations-old families whose son and daughter married and renamed the property in 1951. Their impressive red-brick winery is at 1, Avenue de la Champagne, making it one of the first grand cru mansions you see coming into Epernay.

My bottle was 100% Chardonnay, qualifying it to be classed a Blanc de Blanc. I have long since stopped doubting the ageability of Chardonnay and of Champagne, so I was not surprised to experience lively, tiny bubbles and a freshness quality smacking of a yeasty, nutty character with an impressive length.

My wife and I drank half the bottle before dinner and stuck the bottle in the fridge to be finished tomorrow. Even though the fizz will still be strong for another day or two, I don’t think the remaining wine would last till the 25th when I shall find yet another Champagne for that observance. It is good to honor our wine holidays!


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By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Thursday, October 20, 2016 at 2:33 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Still basking in the WINE SPECTATOR 40-year glow, I watched a short video this morning showing Alison Napjus talking with the late Etienne Hugel about pronouncing Alsace grape names. Having sat several times in that same spot with the Hugels, especially with Jean (Johny) Hugel, I felt a bit of envy, wishing I could once again be there.

Alison has done many interviews with Alsace wine people and really knows the region. Her mission in this video, was specific: just how do you say those German names in France.

Most of you have learned enough history to know that in the space of just over a hundred years, the French province of Alsace went from France to Germany back to France three times until it remained French starting in 1945. Even today, as I walk through Strasbourg, I can point out holes in building walls where German street names had been screwed in next to where today’s French names are placed.  I am familiar with the humor in older Alsace families whose names had gone from Garde to Wache to Vache to Kuh to Cul in a single generation.

That means, of course, that the wine trade in that region — where Johny Hugel used to say “we are specialists in wine and war” — the productio0n of wine vacillated between German and French administrations. The grapes, however, have always been common to both nations on both sides of the Rhine River.

I won’t attempt to explain production techniques of the two former adversaries, but will praise Alison’s effort to teach Americans that Riesling is really Reeesling and not Riceling. That the wurz gets the accent in Gewurztraminer and that the s is silent in Pinot Gris.

I even learned the argot a bit — Jinette Humbrecht, for example loved her “Gewurz” ; Johny referred to Klevner almost as often as to Pinot Blanc for the same varietal.  Anyway, just before writing this, I went to my cooler and took a bottle of 2012 Zind-Humbrecht Reeesling for dinner. It will not only be pronounced correctly, it will be consumed with appreciation.  Salud. Or Zum Wohl.

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