Jancis just did a write up on varietal days (eg Cabernet Day, Grenache Day, Champagne Day) and I’ll admit that it seems like every day of the year might soon have a varietal celebration associated with it. Like patron saints of wine-drinking. Not just Saint Vincent anymore.
Jancis’ Article on Grape Days
In her article, I pick up on two very different messages. On the one hand, Jancis acknowledges that the celebration of certain varietals seems a little commercially motivated. For example, Cabernet Day was conceived and brought to fruition somewhat autocratically by Rick Bakas, the social media engineer at St Supery, and it’s a day devoted to a varietal that already has a lot of notoriety when it comes from the right side of the tracks (in this case the right side is the Left Bank). People ask “Does Cabernet need a day?” and I kind of get that vibe from bits of Jancis’ writing.
On the other hand, she managed to use this day in a very personal way. She opened a bottle of Figeac and toasted the passing of its winemaker who was so proud of his unique contribution to Cabernet Sauvignon on Bordeaux’s Right Bank. And this is why Cabernet Day was good. We found ways to personalize and celebrate delicious wines.
My Thoughts on Grape Days
And I think this mirrors my experience. I’m going to reiterate how happy I am with the Cabernet Day celebration we had at O’Vineyards and around the world. We didn’t know how the day would turn out, but we ended up surrounded by neighbors and friends and enjoying some really delicious wines that showed off totally different expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon.
And people around the world cheered us on. Americans trapped in the office in the early afternoon could see us sipping as the sun set in the south of France. And as the French started to get sleepy, folks on the west coast of the United States popped corks in their time zone where the party was just starting.
I’m just so happy. I want to say I’m proud, but it’s hard to be proud in the face of such a massive, humbling event. Next to the work of all those winemakers (and don’t forget how much promotional work goes in on the part of Rick Bakas and all the event organizers around the world), what did I really do? I just threw a little party and drank some good wine.
And next to my neighbors who have been working here for generations or names like Thierry Manoncourt who made Jancis’ Figeac, a newly arrived winemaker like me starts to feel pretty small and unimportant.
These days can be important
Anyway, I know it seems like the varietal days are piling up fast, one after the other. And I personally have to question who decided to put them all right before the northern hemisphere’s harvest, a very busy time of year. But I hope that varietal celebrations don’t become trivial. I hope that people go beyond novelty.
Whether you use these days as an excuse to open a special bottle that you really cherish or you use them as an opportunity to explore a varietal you don’t know very well, the important thing is that you’re attaching real emotions to these wines. Drinking wine is fun, but it’s also effortlessly profound.
Next up: Grenache Day
Anyway, enough waxing poetic. Grenache Day is coming up on September 24th. I don’t make any Grenache, but I love to drink it. The Languedoc-Roussillon does a great job with it. I’ve been looking forward to the day ever since it was proposed at the Grenache Symposium held at Chene Bleu. I’ve been told that some other folks in the region are already organizing stellar events.
I personally will strive to swing down to Domaine Gayda and check out their Grenache Day celebration. A workshop with Vinecole followed by a cuve tasting at Gayda with the winemaker. If I can’t go there, I’ll surely be celebrating at dinner with some of my favorite Grenaches. After seeing all the energy and enthusiasm at the Grenache Symposium, I know just how important September 24th is to all the people involved with this grape. From the growers to the winemakers to the writers and the sales people and NEVER FORGET the drinkers… And I hope you all find a way to make the day personal by opening a special bottle of Grenache or by raising your Grenache awareness.
Thanks again to everybody who makes these celebrations possible. Amazing, tireless winemakers, promoters, and wine-lovers.
A lot of the time, we use the words conference, salon, fair, expo and show interchangeably (not to mention the French equivalents and the ever popular foire). Which is sort a travesty because they all have their own nuanced meaning. This weekend, I’m at the International Grenache Symposium in the Rhone and let me tell you… they have organized a true symposium.
symposium (plural symposiums or symposia)
- A conference or other meeting for discussion of a topic, especially one in which the participants make presentations.
- (in ancient Greece) A drinking party, especially one with intellectual discussion.
So we had 6 panels on topics like winemaking, viticulture, marketing and so on. All Friday, the panelists met to discuss exactly how each panel would approach their topics. Experts from several continents met to brainstorm and bring some pretty cool ideas to the table. There’s a real exchange before and during the presentations. And then, like in ancient Greece, a drinking party with intellectual discussion ensued.
You know I think of myself as an ascended fanboy and this weekend has pushed that feeling into overdrive. Randall Graham is laughing at my stupid jokes. Michel Bettane wakes up and says good morning to me as he comes down the stairs at this gorgeous estate in the Rhone. We share snarky quips throughout the presentations, bouncing back and forth between English and French as we casually discuss the future of the world’s fourth most planted grape varietal.
I am in some sort of storybook where all the people who shape and influence the wine world with their words and their wines have come to share a stage and I get to walk around amongst them smiling and bashfully letting them know that the only reason I’m in France making wine is because they inspired me to be crazy. Then Herve Bizeul pours me a glass of his finest out of what looked like a nebuchadnezzar… or something… it was huge.
Chene Bleu, an independent and rural estate in the cliffs of the Rhone has created an unforgettable gathering place where some of the coolest people on earth are meeting and sharing ideas and wine. People from more than a dozen countries are all just here because we really like Grenache and know that we can do a lot with this grape varietal. The organization has been flawless, all these moving parts quietly and efficiently preparing the next step of our day so that we can almost think it’s effortless. Like it happens every weekend. But it doesn’t happen effortlessly or regularly. This is the first time ever and it’s a once in a lifetime experience.
Incidentally, I really want to get some Grenache vines now. ;D