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Answer: False.

In the late 1800s, the aphid-like insect known as phylloxera destroyed most of the vineyards of Europe, South Africa, and many in the Americas. Relatively isolated from the rest of the world, Australia was one of the last wine regions to be invaded by the pest. Swift, and it must be said—Draconian—measures imposed in the state of South Australia made it the only winegrowing region on the continent and one of the few in the world to side-step the scourge. Even today, South Australia is phylloxera-free, as a result of the strict quarantine laws it put in place in the 1890s. Those laws protected what are now some of the oldest vineyards in the world—vineyards which possess the original genetic plant material of Europe’s indigenous grapevines. Two important examples are in the Barossa Valley. The Hewitson family owns the Old Garden Vineyard which contains the world’s oldest mourvèdre, planted in 1853. And Penfold’s famous Kalimna “Block 42” of cabernet sauvignon planted in 1888 is thought to be the oldest cabernet sauvignon the world over. While definitive records do not exist, some of these vines are thought to be first generation cuttings from the famous James Busby Collection of vines originally planted at Sydney’s Botanical Gardens in the 1830s.

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Answer: True.

South Africa is among the top 9 wine producers in the world. But while Black South Africans represent nearly 90% of the population, they represent fewer than 8% of wine producers. Elected in 1994, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was South Africa’s first Black president. Mandela’s release from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl, in 1990, after more than twenty-seven years in confinement, paved the way for the lifting of trade sanctions and the importation of South African wine into the United States. During this time, many wineries were established or taken over by new owners and black entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to enter the wine industry. In 2010, Nelson Mandela’s daughter Makaziwe and granddaughter Tukwini launched the House of Mandela wine brand, which includes a chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, and a sparkling wine. Tukwini has said: “When we started out, many people thought that House of Mandela was just a little project, a gimmick that would not last.” For the Mandela family, who are part of the royal aba Thembu lineage and the Madiba clan, honoring the ancient wisdom of one’s ancestors and honoring the earth give meaning and purpose to life. Upon the release of their wines, the family wrote, “we have chosen wine as a bridge into the future.”

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Answer: True.

The Jurassic period occurred between 145 million and 200 million years ago and is best known as the Age of the Dinosaurs. It was named for the Jura Mountain Range, on the border between France and Switzerland, where limestone rocks of this age were first studied. The Jura skyline is punctuated by occasional limestone crags, the most dramatic of which are the reculées—steeply faced, horseshoe-shaped rock formations that form abrupt dead ends to valleys. The Jura is one of the smallest wine regions in France, known for producing wonderfully unique wines. The Jura’s most celebrated offering is Vin Jaune, or “Golden Wine,” made exclusively from the native white grape variety, savagnin. Vin jaune must be aged in oak casks for at least six years and three months, during which time it is neither racked nor topped up. As it ages, a film of yeast known as the voile (veil), forms on the wine’s surface, protecting it from oxidation. The resulting wine is golden in color with aromas of walnut, dried fruits, and toasted sourdough bread. The Jurassic period is also marked by the continued breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea, when oceans flooded the spaces between new landmasses, creating vast inland seas. One of the Jura’s four appellations, L’Etoile (the star), is said to be named for the ubiquitous star-shaped marine fossils which crunch underfoot throughout its vineyards.

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Answer: False.

Unlike virtually all wines, most Cognacs are expected to be consistent year after year. Cellar masters achieve consistency by a complex and continual process of blending different lots of brandy, each of which may be a different age. Cognacs are classified according to the age of the youngest oak-aged brandy (or eaux-de-vie) in the blend. So, the average age of a Cognac is usually considerably older. The original age designations of Cognac are in English because Cognac has been exported for centuries, and the first importers were English. Today 96% of production is sold outside of France. Dozens of other nicknames in both English and French have joined the lexicon, making Cognacs labels notoriously difficult to decipher.

The official aging classifications used most often:
VS – Very Special, 3 Etoiles, ***, Sélection, De Luxe                                           minimum of 2 years
VSOP – Very Superior Old Pale, Réserve, Vieux, Rare, Royal                            minimum of 4 years
XO – Extra Old, Hors d’âge, Extra, Ancestral, Ancêtre, Or, Gold, Impérial      minimum of 10 years
XXO – Extra Extra Old                                                                                            minimum of 14 years

Other aging classifications:
Supérieur, Cuvée Supérieure, Qualité Supérieure                                              minimum of 3 years
Vieille Réserve, Réserve, Rare, Réserve, Royale                                                   minimum of 5 years
Napoléon, Très Vieille Réserve, Très Vieux, Héritage, Très Rare, Suprême      minimum of 6 years

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Answer: False.

It’s actually the polyphenols in grape skins, not ethanol (the type of alcohol in wine), that give wine the antibacterial and antioxidant properties to kill pathogens and prevent infection. (As an aside: isopropyl rubbing alcohol, 2x more toxic than ethanol, will disinfect most germs). During the Middle Ages, physicians of the time believed wine could cure most ills, but it was principally used to clean wounds. Because red wine has spent more time in contact with grape skins, accumulating more polyphenols, it was preferred over white. As the medieval water supply was often contaminated, doctors would also use wine to clean their surgical instruments. Hospitals often accepted vineyard plots as payments and made their own supply of medicinal vino. A number of hospitals (hôpital or hospice in French) in Europe built impressive cellars to store this pharmacopeia, and a few now operate as museums. The Cave Historique des Hospices de Strasbourg offers tours of the caves originally installed at the Hôpital Civil de Strasbourg in France in 1395. The Hôtel-Dieu museum in Lyon, France, commemorates the Hospices de Beaune, founded in 1443, which is funded by the celebrated annual wine auction of the same name each November.

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Answer: True.

Emilia-Romagna, where Lambrusco originated, is Italy’s ultimate food region—the land that gives the world such serious delicacies as Parmigiano-Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, and prosciutto di Parma. Not surprisingly, the area’s trademark lambrusco wine tastes quite good with the region’s hearty sausages, cured meats, and rich, meat-sauced pastas. Moreover, locals insist that the light, fizzy, slightly bitter, fairly high-acid wine is the perfect aid to digestion. Lambrusco wines are made from at least thirteen different varieties with the word lambrusco (which means “wild grape” in Italian) in their name. Sadly, the only lambrusco most wine drinkers know is the highly commercial, slightly sweet stuff popularized in America by the giant Riunite Co-op in 1967. (It was America’s number-one selling imported wine brand from 1976-2002). However, the top versions of lambrusco, which use the traditional (Champagne) method of second fermentation in each bottle, are not sweet, but rather, dry and savory. Until recently, the zesty, artisanal lambruscos that any wine lover would prefer were available only in Emilia itself. But today, a number of fantastic small-production versions are easy to find, including Cleto Chiarli, Fattoria Moretto, Fiorini, Francesco Vezzelli, Lini, and Tenuta Pederzana.

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Answer: False.

Prestige cuvée Champagne bottles may come dressed in finery, but it is what’s inside that earns them the title. These are the finest (and most expensive) wines that a producer makes, from the best grapes in the top, highest-rated crus or vineyards of Champagne. The French refer to these singular offerings as têtes de cuvée, a term that can be loosely translated as “top batch.” Prestige cuvées are almost always vintage-dated, and are made only in exceptional harvests, on average 3 times per decade. One reason for this is that Champagne is one of the most northern wine growing regions in the world—at roughly the same latitude as the U.S.-Canadian border—with an inherently cool climate where the grapes struggle to ripen. Prestige cuvées are aged longer than other vintage Champagne wines (on average 10 years versus 3 years) and continue to develop in the bottle for another decade.

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Answer: False.

The first patent on twist cap technology was granted in 1858 to John Landis Mason (yup, the Mason jar) for a zinc twist cap. However, wine’s high acidity is corrosive to metal, making the screwcap a poor choice for sealing wine bottles. It wasn’t until the 1960’s when the French company Le Bouchage Mécanique in Chalon-sur-Saône, Burgundy invented an aluminum twist cap with a non-reactive underside, that the technology gained traction with the wine industry. The Swiss were among the early adopters, using the closure to bottle chasselas, a white wine that was particularly subject to cork taint. It wasn’t until the late 1990s, as Australia was experiencing rapid growth in its wine industry and a subsequent shortage of corks, that screw caps were used in significant volume and the successful results shared with the world. At that time, the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) published the findings of their groundbreaking closure trial, which showed how well the screwcap retained wine’s freshness and prevented cork taint. So it would be more accurate to say that it was the Australians who threw their weight behind promoting the screwcap internationally and helped dispel the idea that screwcaps were only fit for low quality wines. Today, an estimated 5 billion full-size bottles a year are sealed this way.

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Answer: False.

But it’s not the Napa Valley either. The honor actually goes to Augusta, Missouri, which earned the official U.S. federal designation in June 1980, eight months before Napa Valley. An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated appellation of origin used on American wine labels. An AVA is distinguished by geographic, geologic, and climatic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). There are currently 246 recognized AVAs in the U.S.—over half (139) are in California. Beginning in the mid 1800s, German settlers founded the Missouri wine region and Augusta became, for a time, the wine capital of the country. Prohibition forced growers nationwide to pull up wine grape vines (vitis vinifera), and many (including in Missouri) replanted with American species grapes such as concord, a vitis labrusca (or table grape) variety. Following the end of Prohibition, Augusta was slow to return to wine grape cultivation and California eventually took the wine capital title it still holds today.

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Answer: True.

Well, there’s one. Originally built by two Frenchmen, Jean Adolphe Brun and Jean Chaix, the Brun and Chaix Oakville Winery became the 9th bonded winery in California in 1877. In the late 1870s, as wineries were founded and legally permitted, they were required to post a bond (a type of insurance) to guarantee payment of the federal excise taxes they would incur based on production volumes. Permit numbers were given in sequence beginning with, of course, BW-CA-1 (California bonded winery #1). Today the winemaking facility is called Napa Wine Company and is owned by the Pelissa and Hoxsey families of Ghost Block Estate Wines.

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Answer: False.

In fact, they could not be more different. South Australia is one of the six Australian states. (These are comparable to states in the United States, although Australian states are much larger.) Within the state of South Australia are some of the country’s most famous wine regions, including the Barossa Valley (renowned for shiraz), the Clare Valley (remarkable for dry riesling), and Coonawarra (known for cabernet sauvignon). By contrast, South Eastern Australia is not a state, and in a sense, not a place in the same sense. It’s a legal designation that means the wine in the bottle is a blend of wines made from grapes that can be grown thousands of miles apart, often in three different states—New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. To give a New World analogy, a wine labeled South Eastern Australia is the rough equivalent of a wine hypothetically made from a blend of grapes grown in California, Oregon, Washington State, and Texas and then called “Western United States.” Not surprisingly, South Eastern Australia wines are often inexpensive wines meant for everyday drinking, while wines from South Australia are among the most expensive in the country.

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Answer: True.

Forget what you think you know about Moscato D’Asti, often misidentified as cheap, sweet, bubbly plonk. The Italian semi-sparkling wine called Moscato d’Asti DOCG hails from Piedmont, also home of towering Barolos—many producers of which have long made Moscato d’Asti as well. DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) certifies that the wine comes from a delineated place, is made using a specific method and uses traditional grapes. Moscato d’Asti is made in a style that is fresh, fruity, gently fizzy, sweet and low in alcohol, at around 5% abv. Its signature is its aromatics, courtesy of a compound called linalool which is also found in mint and citrus flowers. They burst from the glass with apricot, peach, tangerine, rose, orange blossom and even lychee. Moscato d’Asti is made from the grape muscat blanc à petits grains –the second most planted variety in Piedmont behind barbera. Muscat blanc à petits grains is just one of hundreds of grape varieties with the word “muscat” in its name even though most of these are genetically distinct.  Today, grapes with muscat in their names are made in virtually every style imaginable: dry, sweet, still, sparkling, and fortified. And grown virtually everywhere in the word—from France, Spain, and Austria, to Cyprus, South Africa, and Slovenia to Israel, Oregon, and Greece.

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Answer: False.

While Oregon has opted to regulate itself even more strictly than U.S. law mandates, it hasn’t gone that far….yet. According to current Oregon law, the state’s most widely produced wines: pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay, pinot blanc and 50 other varieties must contain at least 90 percent of whatever grape variety is named on the label. (U.S. law mandates a minimum of 75 percent.). Bills still pending before the state legislature may increase that requirement to 100% by 2030. However, there are 18 grape varieties exempted from the 90 percent rule (including cabernet sauvignon, syrah, sauvignon blanc) as they have a long history of being used for blending in their respective European regions. Oregon also requires that 95% of grapes must be from the AVA named on the label (compared to federal law of 85%)

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Answer: True.

The English word “coffee” comes from the Dutch koffie, which came from the Turkish kahve, which is borrowed from the Arabic qahwa. Qahwa is a short form of qahhwat al-bun which means “wine of the bean.” In Europe, coffee was called “the wine of Arabia.” Fermenting the coffee berry is still done today in Ethiopia and some Arabian countries.

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Answer: False.

Close but no cigar. Côte Rôtie (COAT roh-TEE), or “roasted slope” is home to some of the steepest vineyards in all of France—gradients can be up to 60 degrees or more in some of the steepest parts of the granite, terraced plantings. While the name implies hot weather, the Côte Rôtie has a relatively cool climate as it lies at the far northern boundary of the region. In fact, to optimize warmth, ancient growers chose slopes that faced south toward the sun, which affords the vines more light as well as heat.

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Answer: False.

Despite the word riesling in its name, the central European grape welschriesling (pronounced: WELSH-rees-ling) is not directly related to the noble German variety at all. Nor are olaszrizling (Hungary), riesling italico (Friuli, Italy) or cape riesling (South Africa).  While it’s not riesling, welschriesling is used to make delicious late-harvest, botrytized wines, especially in the Burgenland region of Austria. BTW, true riesling is considered by many—possibly even most—wine experts to be the most noble and unique white grape variety in the world.

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Answer: True.

The single region of Bordeaux—the largest Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée in France—covers more territory than all of the vineyard areas of Germany put together, and is nearly three times larger than the vineyard acreage of New Zealand. Even after a six-year effort to pare back acreage, Bordeaux has 279,000 acres (112,891 hectares) of vineyards planted compared to 252,000 acres (102,000 hectares) in Germany. In Bordeaux, some 6,100 growers produce some 450 to 650 million bottles of wine every year.

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Answer: False.

Many people think of Parmigiano as something you grate over pasta and imagine washing it down with a humble house red out of a straw-wrapped jug (this was a recent Wine Word—do you remember? WineSpeed 03-06-2020). But in Italy, eating chunks of this cheese accompanied by nothing more than a glass of good sparkling wine is considered one of the great gastronomic experiences. True Parmigiana-Reggiano is powerfully flavored, complex, nutty, and salty, and has an almost sweet richness. This combination actually sinks many red wines, making them taste hollow and bland. But a dry sparkler’s cleansing acidity and refreshing bubbles, stand up perfectly to the complexity of the cheese. There are many delicious options available, from Prosecco Superiore de Conegliano Valdobbiadene (WineSpeed 07-26-2019) to Lambrusco and Franciacorta (all Italian), to something like our Wine to Know this week—Roger Goulart Cava.

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Answer: True.

The world’s oldest wine still in barrel is a white wine from Alsace vinified in 1472. When tested by Agence France Presse, it was found to have “astonishing spriteliness and a very fine aroma.” Many white wines that age phenomenally well do so because of their acidity—rieslings in particular and some chardonnays from cooler regions such as Burgundy. Fortified white wines such as Madeira and Sherry—some of the longest-lived wines on earth—age well because of high alcohol and acidity, and Sauternes and eiswein benefit from their high sugar content.

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Answer: True.

French wine laws are famously restrictive, dictating everything from how the grapes for the wine must be grown to which grape varieties can be grown. But while the regulations may stipulate certain aging requirements, there are none that require French winemakers to use French oak versus, say, American, or Hungarian.