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Chez Thierry, Nassau, Bahamas

1st article

Articles published in "The Tribune"

by  Thierry Boeuf in The Tribune, Bahamian taste, December 5, 2000

 

The diverse world of wine

 

 

How can you not know this Château?

This is one question that people often ask me, thinking that as a professional of wine, I should know all wines. The same people often say they have one preferred wine, but it usually means that they dont know how diverse the world of wine is and how many different wines there are to taste.

 

Even with the help of the god Bacchus, I have never dreamt I would ever be able to taste all the possible wines, probably not even 10% of them.

 

Just to give you an idea of the wines diversity if you take France alone, you have about 1 million hectares of grape vines or, if you prefer, around 2 million acres (50 times New Providence) that are divided into about 100 000 properties. Even if a number of people sell grapes from their vineyards to big wineries, youll still have thousands and thousands of different wines every year, which means even more will be available when you consider that you have often several vintages on hand, each one different from the preceding because of the climate of the year. Each winemaker can lend originality to the taste: depending on the grape, on his or her cultural and technical background and taste.

 

So, you can see with this simple question of taste, you open the door to what I often refer to as the world of wine, which I should perhaps call the ocean of wine with the quantities available in so many tanks, vats and barrels.

 

So far, I have only spoken about France, but imagine Spain, which has the worlds largest vineyard with all kinds of wines imaginable, and Italy with its Sicilian Marsala. Then there is Germany with some of the best-known sweet white wines, made in the wonderful region of Rheingau; Switzerland with the charming Fendant wine; Greece, which is the country of the Retsina and Hungary with its great Tokay, which is reviving after the hard times wrought by the communism. The same is true in Bulgaria and the rest of Eastern Europe. In fact, each country of Europe has grown vines for centuries, but in Middle East and Egypt we have evidence of wine being made from more than 3000 years ago.

Furthermore wine is made on every continent. In Africa, you have wine made in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and South Africa (and probably other places that I dont know about).


 

On the American continent, I am sure there are vineyards in every country even if some are not widely known: from Canada, where you have some very good ice wines made in Niagara, to Chile, going through the US vineyards, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and even in Peru, where only a war stopped me from going there to make wine. Most people know wine is made in New Zealand and Australia (I spent a while there making all kind of wines in the middle of the kangaroos). But do you know the Japanese have been making wine for more than a century, admittedly with the help of some French experts. And in China there are many new vineyards, which have often begun in association with French winemakers, who have had to learn how to get up in the morning with the village bell calling everybody to participate in the group gymnastics. I must say that the few samples of Chinese wines that I tasted in 1987 were far from what I like but I am sure they have improved a lot since then, even if they still have to please the taste of Chinese people first, which has no reason to be like our western taste.

I heard that some young French men have made a fortune recently with a new vineyard in India. Even in Bali, an island of Indonesia located right on the equator, I tasted wine, which, even if it had suffered from the heat, was made locally. I am not speaking about rice wine or any of these exotic fruit wines but the real thing, made only of grape juice. Personally I dont have anything against other products but I keep using the European legal definition, which is that wine is only the result of fermentation of fresh grapes. Do you remember that Iran had vineyards before the Islamic revolution? I still remember my Professor of viticulture who was a world leading authority on grape growing feeling so sorry for this country. Not for the people who were killed, mind you, but because his heart was broken when he thought about these millenary vineyards threatened by the Islamic extremists. In short, there are plenty places where grapes are grown to make wine, with many varieties of grapes: but this is another story.