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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

An international obsession

When Missouri viticulture comes up in conversation, invariably someone says, "I didn't know you could grow grapes in Missouri. I go into the whole story of how Missouri was the second largest producer before Prohibition, well ahead of California. I explain the state's German winemaking heritage, the strong showing of norton in international competitions in the late 1800s, and the fact that a few tenacious individuals even grow vinifera here. I've also visited vineyards in Canada and at nearly 7,000 foot elevation in Colorado, a pair of unlikely viticultural locales. But it wasn't until I started blogging and getting readers and reading other blogs from around the world that I realized how widespread this pursuit truly is. Carlos is growing wine grapes in Colombia. That's Colombia, South America, with an 'o,' and not nearby Columbia, Missouri with a 'u.' Louise is growing grapes in Kenya, where forced dormancy and baboons are issues we can't even comprehend. Of course, vineyards still grow where you expect them to, in countries like France. Bertrand has, in my opinion, possibly the best wine and vineyard blog going. And that's where I learned about one of the most traditional practices, bulk wine, a time-honored practice that it is completely new to me. His recent story about bulk wine is fascinating: going to the winery with plastic jugs to get your fill and then bottling at home. I doubt any wineries in the States are doing that.

It's a fascinating pursuit. It's an obsession. Maybe it starts with a glass of wine or a photograph. Or maybe you're bitten with the bug when you stand in one of the world's great vineyards. It happened to me outside the little village of Pommard, Burgundy. Whatever the case, once you're afflicted by this strange compulsion to tame unruly vines, tend them until they bear fruit and then stomp the berries into submission so that you can begin the long, slow process of making wine, nobody is going to be able to talk you out of it. I'm glad to see that folks from every conceivable clime are similarly afflicted.

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