October 2008


A popular weekly comic in Japan , called “Kami no Shizuki,” or “The Drops of God”,  features a young man learning about wine amid a mysterious setting. As they follow along, the middle class in Japan is collectively learning about wine as the protagonist does, who is seeking information about his recently deceased father’s love of wine. The brother and sister duo who write the series, fell in love with wine after drinking a nice Burgundy for the first time.  They feature inexpensive wines ($16-20) for drinking at the dinner table, which is a novel concept in Japan where wine has thus far been relegated to fancy restaurants and high price tags are meant to impress friends and colleagues.  Wine merchants use the comic as a sales tool, much in the same way we use scores by Robert Parker or Wine Spectator (although, unlike Wine Spectator, the writers don’t take payment or advertising for their reviews.). China, Korea, and Europe are catching the “Kami no Shizuki” fever as well, where the series has been translated into Mandarin, Korean, French and Italian. I’d like to look at the comics in greater detail, because I’m curious about a few things. If they are presenting wine as a complement to the dinner table, do they make an effort to pair the wine with the food? Or is the protagonist drinking Bordeaux with his ame ebi?

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The French government has passed some surprising new legislation restricting wine advertising in a dramatic way. The “Loi Evin” , a law passed almost 20 years ago restricting the advertising of spirits and tobacco, has been extended to wine. The restrictions treat advertisements and journalism the same, so an article about the Champagne region would be required to post a health warning. Television and the internet are not allowed to feature wine at all. That means that a blog like this one, or any of those linked to the right, would be illegal! A website called findawine.com is asking for petition signatures to update the law to allow the internet (at the very least) the same restrictions as the written press. I’m happy that France is developing a public health policy that works towards eliminating cigarette smoking, but I’m very opposed to a trend toward treating wine as poison too. It is an integral and beautiful part of the dinner table, something France has understood for the last 2000 years. I never would have thought the French government would develop regulations against wine that are even more strict than our own here in the United States.

 

[The poster reads: “Tomorrow, in France, hundreds of journalistes and professionals will be silenced. What future is there for wine if we cannot talk?”]

The other night I had a wine made in the village of Bevaix, which is in the Neuchatel region of western, french-speaking Switzerland. The winery is Domaine de Chavigny, or is it Domaine E. de Montmollin? I think the wine must be made from the grapes of an estate called Domaine de Chavigny, and bottled by Domaine E. de Montmollin, an estate based in Auvernier, another Neuchatel wine village. At any rate, the wine is made from the Chasselas grape (called Fendant, Perlan, or Gutedel in other parts of Switzerland), which may be original to Switzerland, France, or possibly Egypt. There is no consensus. It is a neutral grape, and wines made from it vary greatly depending on where it was grown. In this case, it exhibited some floral notes, a hint of graham cracker and honey (perhaps due to its 6 years of age), and although it’s generally a low-acid grape, the cooler climate of Bevaix left it with enough acid to match the goat cheese, tomato, and onion tart I paired with it. The wine was lovely, and Bevaix was a new appellation for me (always exciting!), but I’m not sure the wine was intended for long-term aging. Although I enjoyed the secondary aromas it had developed, it was no longer vibrant in the way I think it might have been when bottled. I’ve enjoyed aged Chasselas from Neuchatel before, specifially, a Dézaley from Luc Massy which was built to age.  I found the 2002 Domaine de Chauvigny Bevaix at Corti Brothers in Sacramento for $15.99.