Why Should Thomas Jefferson ‘s name on a building in France? The reason might surprise you. A Report on a Gala International Wine Tasting Event by the American Friends of the Cité Des Civilisations du Vin
By John Dunham
What Did Thomas Jefferson have to do with wine? Apparently, a lot! He wasn’t just a President and multi-talented man, he was also a farmer (of sorts) who had his own vineyards and loved wine. He also loved wine. He was the first American to serve wine at a State Function and later grew vines and produced wine on his property in Monticello, Virginia. There are still vineyards at his estate at Monticello.
In fact, a gala international wine tasting event for the American Friends of the Cité Des Civilisations du Vin (AFCCV) was held at the United Nations in New York City on April 30th so significant, it even warranted a pre-event for press on April 7th at the French Cheese Board Pop up Store
The kick off on April 7th was just the appetizer. The main event on April 30th was a spectacular of note-ables, wine, cheese and entertainment so fittingly held at an international venue such as the U.N. The main purpose of the United Nations as outlined in its charter is To maintain international peace and security. We cannot think of a better way for people to make friends than to participate in a wine tasting. That is why it is so appropriate that the The AFCCV was formed to support the development of the Citie des Civilisatons du Vin which is being built in Bordeaux France as a place where wines from all over the world will be represented and celebrated. The center will be more than an attraction, more than an educational environment and more than a museum but will be a place where the culture of wine from around the world can be shared. In many ways it is designed to be a place where our half-joking idea that there is no better way to bring peace to the world than over a glass of wine will actually happen. The goal of the AFCCV is to sponsor and name the auditorium at the Cite in honor of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States who, when he was ambassador to France helped introduce French wines into American culture.
The United Nations event, which was a fundraiser to the American Friends featured food tastes from a number of local restaurants, dancers representing at least a dozen countries, and the former Prime Minister of the Republic of France and current Mayor of Bordeaux Alain Juppe. My editor might have liked more photos of the “Celebrities” but my focus here is on the center, and on wine. Speaking of which, there were a staggering amount of wines (no one would have been able to taste them all) form 55 countries ranging from traditional producers like France, the United States, Chile, and South Africa, but also wines from China, India, Brazil, Lebanon, Kenya, Israel, Australia, Thailand, Tunisia, Ethiopia and many more “unexpected” countries. This gave me an opportunity to sample wines that are unique and not available in the United States so throughout the evening we tended toward wines from unique regions or countries that were truly outside of the norm.
wines I tried: It was difficult to take detained tasting notes, and they would likely not be of much use to most readers because many of these wines are not widely available, but from a perspective of enhancing one’s cellar with unique offerings there were some wines and countries worth noting.
Armenia: Zorah Wines Karasi 2012. Armenia has been producing wines for over 6,000 years, from a large number of native varietals. Traditionally wines from Armenia are aged in amphorae just like they were in ancient times. This wine was light red in color with raisins on the nose. The wine itself had a good structure with peppery tobacco-like notes on the palate.
Croatia: Jako Vino D.O.O. Stina 011 Plavac Mali Majstor. Balkan wines can be quite good and are stating to make their way to shelves around the world. This wine was a dark ruby in color, with a kind of dusty nose that did not want to leave the glass. The wine featured light tannins and a good balance, with raisin, cassis and spicy notes on palate. It paired well with duck and would be a good food wine.
Greece: Estate Argyros 2013. Ok, so Greek wines are common on most wine lists but the Assyrtiko varietal is a fantastic white that people should know about. This is a fantastic pairing wine, fairly easy to obtain, and can make a splash at a party or dinner. This particular wine was clear in color with a salty petroleum nose. The wine had a strong minerality and good acid as would be expected from the Assyrtiko grape.
Lebanon: EL IXSIR Rouge 2011. Lebanon is a mountainous coastal country with a large range of unique microclimates. This wine, which is sustainably produced, was black in color with a strawberry nose. The wine was very tannic and somewhat closed suggesting that it could use some age. On the palatte was an interesting mix of hoar horehound and black fruits with a spicy finish. This will be a very good wine when it has time to age appropriately.
Morocco: Domaine de Sahari Rough 2013 AOG. Viticulture was introduced into the area that is now Morocco by the ancient Romans, and today there are well over 120,000 acres of vinards in production. This was a ruby red wine with a dusty closed nose. The palate featured plum, white raisins and cardamom. This was a well-made wine and it is likely that Moroccan wines will be featured more often on lists in the near future.
Serbia: McC Coupage 2012. This award winning organic wine was dark purple in color with a light strawberry nose. The palate featured cherry up front with a peppery finish. The wine was well balanced and structured. The wine is a Bordeaux-style blend made from Merlot and Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon and aged in Serbian oak barriques (59 gallon barrels) for 12 months. This was probably the most surprising wine we tried all night and would make an excellent addition to any cellar.
I couldn’t try everything although I did my best to try a representative sample. In fact, I fell asleep on the way home (too much wine can take its toll). But among the more surprising samples I tried were wines from Ethiopia (Castel Winery Rift Valley Merlot), India (Dindori Reserve Shiraz 2013) , Mexico (L.A. Cetto Petit Sirah 2010). To be honest, these wines were very different, to me, a bit “strange.” I didn’t feel qualified to report on them here, but with over 90 countries producing wine and showcasing them at this event, there was really something for everyone — an event Thomas Jefferson would have delighted in!
Get more information on the American Friends of the Cité des civilisations du vin
See more photos from the event on Facebook
Read The Advice Sisters report on the kick off event for International wine center in Bordeaux