Fine Wine Writing by Jonathon Alsop

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Wines Without Borders
Playing the international wine game...

By Jonathon Alsop
August 27, 2004

Fun, tasty, carefree, the way things used to be with the French.The US men's Olympic basketball team is in Greece right now setting new indoor records for attitude and self-importance, exactly as critics predicted. This is killing the "NBA Wine Making" book idea I had, and I'm thinking of changing its focus to gymnastics.

Living in an international wine world means being flexible and getting along with other people -- a skill most of us develop as soon as our personalities allow -- and tasting their wine, something that comes more naturally.

In the next few years, the wine regions to watch are Austria and central Europe, the former Yugoslavia and Greece. They will start to export their already huge winemaking capacity, and we'll be seeing lots of new wines. Romania will be the new Portugal, and Slovenia could end up the next south of France.

2003 Red Bicyclette Chardonnay and 2003 Red Bicyclette Syrah (both about $12, distributed nationally)

Before war, America and France actually used to be friends, and the whole French countryside thing had a lot of fun carefree appeal. Red Bicyclette (pronounced bee-see-KLETT) is working hard to recapture some of that good feeling with a line of southern French wines that are delicious, un-stuffy, and labeled right for the US market.

The Chardonnay is crisp, fruity, ripe and flavorful without much oak and butter, which is kind of a refreshing break from the tarted-up California style. These grapes come from the town of Limoux in Languedoc, a region southwest of the Rhone and Provence.

Even further south and west, Minervois provides the juice for the very soft and drinkable Syrah. I tasted fig and plum with just a little bit of tannin. This is a juicy red wine you can easily serve with chicken or meaty fish.

North Of The Border

It's no surprise to wine lovers that wine goes so well with so many of life's great pleasures, whether it's food and travel or great conversation and music. Wine finds its own level, and in my experience, there's always a lot of good stuff at that level.

Montreal's Galerie 1225 Art et Vin (Art and Wine) has developed another of these famous affinities: a great wine tasting program coupled with an ever-changing fine art exhibition. The Galerie offers an education series, the ABCs of Wine, and the wine list has Muller-Thurgau, a rare Germanic white grape I've only seen on a wine list once or twice in my life, so I'm hooked. This summer's group show, EXTRAVAGANZA, featured the works of local and international artists.

Galerie 1225 Art et Vin, 1225 rue de la Montagne, Montréal. For more information, go to or call 514-395-1225.

It's Not Wine, But I'd Drink It

Ever dream of owning your own winery? This offer isn't exactly the same thing, but the MacDonald family of Scotland -- controlling owners of the excellent Scotch whisky maker Glenmorangie (pronounced glen-m'r-ANNE-jee) -- put the "for sale" sign on the yard this week.

Glenmorangie is one of the first Scotches I ever tasted, and I still remember the shock of that initial blast of spring water, peat moss, and Band-Aid box. In the back of my mind, I'd always pictured the place as a remote jewel, not necessarily a mom-and-pop distillery, but small and specialized, the spirits equivalent of a "boutique" winery.

In fact, Glenmorangie is a commodity all of a sudden, a thing to be bought and sold -- in the case of the MacDonald's share -- for almost half-a-billion dollars. If you're interested, your competitors will be international business heavyweights, but no one said a dream would be easy.

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