The French presidential election is heating up. Polls show Emmanuel Macron defeating Marine Le Pen in the decisive second round on May 7 by 62-38 (yes, polls have been deceiving ahead of recent elections but this is a big margin).
We are single-issue voters around here and that issue is wine! Actually, that’s not true but we will roll with it. Recent French presidents have hovered at or near zero when it comes to passion for wine. Jacques Chirac’s tipple of choice was reportedly Corona. Nicolas Sarkozy famously didn’t even like wine. Current president Francois Hollande sell off a chunk of the presidential wine cellar–but he also canceled a lunch with the Iranian president after the guest insisted no wine be served.
Macron, a former minister of Finance who is a mere 39 years old, exhibits some wine savvy. Although he was raised in Picardy, not a region known for wine growing, he says that his grandparents told him that red wine was “guilt-free” since it is an antioxidant.
The journalists from Terre de Vins and Sud-Ouest conducted a wide-ranging interview about wine. Among other things, Macron admitted that a meal without wine would be “a little bit sad because wine is a part of the French table…our civilization.” He even talks about the pleasure of food-wine pairings! It may not seem like it since you’d expect all French presidents to support wine. But these are kind of fighting words right now as the rate of wine consumption has been in decline and the health crowd that takes a dim view of wine has been ascendant in policy circles.
Macron then submitted himself to a blind tasting with the journalists! (Video above) Can you imagine a leading presidential candidate doing that here? Usually they run away from it, heading toward beer, if anything. And a blind tasting? That’s high-risk stuff for anyone!
But Macron comports himself amazingly well, showing a breadth of knowledge (even though he did offer that the likes Miraval rosé, which comes from the estate of erstwhile Brangelina) as well as taste preferences (says he doesn’t like high-acid whites). He correctly guessed both a Bordeaux blanc and a Coteaux de Provence by region, and even the red he guessed as a Bordeaux but was off by a few appellation (trust me, it’s easy to make mistakes…). I’m sure he will pour some fun wines at the Elysée Palace over the next five years.
Tonight at the White House, President and Michelle Obama will welcome not one Nordic leader–but all five! What will they be drinking out of horned helmets in the viking style? Actually, it will be out of crystal glasses but we have the deets for you on the Nordic state dinner wines. Read more…
I had fun the other day when a new channel from Canada called. The reporter asked me which wines I would serve for tomorrow’s state dinner at the White House in honor of PM Justin Trudeau, the first state visit of a Canadian prime minister in 20 years.
Without knowing the menu, I recorded a quick video hit about my selections, playing fictional sommelier for a day. Since the piece may not make it online, here were my selections (BREAKING: the official wines chosen for the dinner have now been released and they follow below): Read more…
Last night after winning the Michigan primary, Donald Trump gave a press conference more worthy of QVC than C-SPAN: he had on display a variety of his Trump-branded products, including Trump steaks (free ginsu knife set?) to Trump Water and Trump Wine.
At one point, Trump, an avowed teetotaler, launched into a discussion about Trump Wine saying that it was the biggest winery in the East coast! And one of the biggest in America! Somehow, he stopped short of exclaiming that it’s yuuuuge, but, as we all know, when it comes to bank accounts, hands, and polls, size matters with this fellow.
Let’s fact check this! Trump bought Kluge Estate Winery and 776 acres of adjoining land near Charlottesville in 2011. At the time, twitterati derieded this wondering if he would rename the wine “comb-over cuvée.” He then commented on the acquisition: “I’m really interested in good real estate, not so much in wine. This place had a $28 million mortgage on it, and I bought it for $6.2 million. It’s a Trump deal!”
On the winery web site, they state that the estate today has 1,300 acres with 200 acres of vines planted to vinifera. The winery is 50,000 sf with 100,000 gallon tank capacity. the site size nothing about relative size but modestly states that they are proud to be among the 260 wineries in Virginia today. And hidden under the “Legal” tab, there’s this nugget: “Trump Winery is a registered trade name of Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC, which is not owned, managed or affiliated with Donald J. Trump, The Trump Organization or any of their affiliates.” Oops.
To say that it’s the largest winery on the East Coast is a bit like being the tallest in Lilliput: California makes 89% of American wine and some vineyards there, such as Fred Franzias, have tens of thousands of acres of vines planted.
And from a tourism perspective who would ever want to vineyard because it is the biggest? If that were the case, Modesto would be the epicenter of wine tourism, rather than places like Napa. Try googling “biggest vineyard in Finger Lakes” and you’ll see how wine people don’t care as much about size since the results are for the best wineries to visit. But for a real estate developer who doesn’t drink wine, I guess you can see how quantity is more important than quality.
What do your stats tell you–does this claim hold up? Have you tried the wine? I see they have a “fortified chardonnay…”
We all knew that Winston Churchill had alcohol in his veins for a good part of his life, but how much did all that grog cost?
The Economist reviews a couple of new biographies about Churchill, one of which looks at his finances. (No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money. By David Lough.) Although he was born into an aristocratic family, he didn’t have lots of money. but he knew how to spend it on Cuban cigars, polo ponies and Champagne. One vinous tidbit that emerges from the balance sheet analysis: they write that between 1908 and 1914 (his early years in politics) “the Churchill household spent an average of £1,160 on wine alone each year—£104,400 ($145,000) in today’s money.” Gives me a hangover just thinking about it!
Churchill also had some other memorable quotes about wine. In the War, he said, “Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne.”
“Champagne should be cold, dry, and free,” he said at another time.
And, finally, he is renowned for a few zingers, including this:
“Dinner would have been splendid…if the wine had been as cold as the soup, the beef as rare as the service, the brandy as old as the fish, and the maid as willing as the Duchess.”
Tomorrow night, President and Mrs. Obama will host President Xi Jinping of China for a State Dinner at the White House. And we have been able to procure the menu for the “Autumn feast”–with the wine pairings!
The White House has a tradition of serving only American wines. This policy has been in place since the 1960s, though “Tricky Dick” Nixon was known to pour American wines for guests, while he had Chateau Margaux served to him from a bottle wrapped in a white cloth napkin.
Thus it seems odd that the first wine on the menu tomorrow night is listed as “Shaoxing wine.” Shaoxing wine is a traditional Chinese wine fermented from rice. While no vintage or producer is listed on the menu, one is left to assume that this is, in fact, a wine…from China! Is this a break from the tradition of serving only American wines? It turns out: no. A query to a White House staffer clarified that the rice wine from China is in fact only an *ingredient* in the soup and will not be served qua wine.
Even if it were served , it’s not necessarily a bad thing to pour a wine from the guest of honor’s country. In fact, it can be respectful to show the honored (American) guests to the country’s wines. But I’m fine with the all-American approach too. Earlier this year, there was a sake toast (after the domestic sparkler) for Japan’s PM Abe.
The last state dinner for a Chinese president, the White House served Read more…
Today’s installment of “Leaders and Liters,” our series on world leaders and the wines they drink, features an unusual figure: Vladimir Putin, purported teetotaler. His partner in what seems like a buddy flick was none other than Silvio Berlusconi who is certainly no teetotaler, instead known for his bunga bunga parties.
Vlad and Silvio met up in the Crimea late last week and, among other sites, they toured the Massandra winery, which apparently houses a formidable collection of old bottles. After the cellar tour, Berlusconi asked the pro-Russian winery director if they could taste. The winery director then uncorked a 1775 sherry from Jerez de la Frontera, brought to the winery under the reign of Catherine the Great by Count Mikhail Vorontsov, a “wine-loving count served as governor-general of Crimea for more than two decades in the early 19th century.” Wine geeks might say, after the tour, they hit the sack together!
The winery director now faces prosecution. “This is one of the five bottles that constitute not only Massandra’s or Crimea’s heritage, but the heritage of all Ukrainian people,” the prosecutor was quoted as saying. He valued it at $90,000. But since Crimea is no longer part of Ukraine, it will be difficult to prosecute. Ukraine has also banned Berlusconi for three years.
There was a state dinner last night at the White House–the eighth for the Obamas–in honor of visiting Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. About 200 people attended, new china was revealed (above), and “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto was in da haus. Recall that Obama and PM Abe ate at the counter of sushi master Jiro Ono last year, so they clearly like good food.
But what vin-quiring minds want to know is…what were the wines? Would this be a lucky 8 for PM Abe given the lackluster wines the White House wine steward served previously?
The full menu is reproduced below so you can see the wines with the various course. The headline is that the head of the Sonoma Marketing Board (is there such a thing?) must be grinning like a cheshire cat since it was an all-Sonoma lineup. A vinous grand slam (or wait, with three wines, would that only be a triple?). First up was 2013 Ryo-fu Chardonnay from Ken and Akiko Freeman, followed by the 2010 Morlet Family Vineyards “Joli Coeur,” a pinot noir from the Sonoma Coast, and finally, the 2007 Iron Horse “Russian River Cuvee.”
While Sonoma is a wonderful place, It’s not clear what was driving Daniel Shanks, the White House Usher, in featuring the all-Sonoma lineup: there are other great places making wine in America. I personally would have included a domestic dry riesling as a white because there are some good ones now; they are also spring-y and pair well with Asian foods. And Luc Morlet, wow, one of his wines hasn’t been featured since…oh, last year’s dinner for Francois Hollande. Again, same comments as Sonoma: there are a lot of great pinot noirs being made in the US, so why the repetition, Mr. Shanks? And Iron Horse is frequently served (btw, this specific wine is not on their web site so it could be a sweet sparkling wine, which Shanks has served previously).