LITTLE SCHOOL OF AMERICAN WINES

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Wine is one of the oldest kinds of beverages in human history. The oldest preserved written document in which wine is mentioned dates from 4,000 years B.C.E., while wine is also often mentioned in the Bible. Approximately 2,700 B.C.E., ancient Egypt had a royal winery in the Nile delta, while the process of making wine is depicted in paintings that decorate the tombs of Pharaohs.

Today, almost every country produces wine and boasts wine regions. America occupies a special place on the global wine map. Suffice to say, the United States is the largest non-European wine producer in the world. In the structure of world wine production, the United States’ share is around 9%. America has its own paradise for wine fans and connoisseurs, and its name is California. Apart from Hollywood, beautiful mansions and wealthy people, California is also the home to great wine labels.

California, as one of the most important wine regions in the United States and the fourth largest wine producer in the world, has set standards for the New World Wines. In the past few decades, the number of wineries has increased tenfold here. California is the leader in wine production, i.e. it produces 90% of the total wine production in the United States and it is the place where almost 50% of the US wineries are located. Apart from a designation of variety, wine usually carries the label of origin, like, for instance Californian Riesling. Given that natural conditions significantly affect the quality of grapes and wines, the best areas for wine making in the US are Napa Valley, Sonoma, Mendocino & Lake County, Carneros, along with Sierra Foothills, Central Valley, Nord Central Coast, Livermore Valley, Monterey County, Carmel Valley, and Paso Robles. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Rhine Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Black, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, and Syrah are the most common varieties of white grapes.

The Americans have managed to accomplish exactly what they wanted – although the fourth biggest wine producer in the world, right behind France, Italy and Spain, as a result of their bold moves and mixing varieties, they created many of the currently leading patters in modern-day wine making. Let’s go back to California as the biggest wine region in America and its wine regions.

The following wine regions are located on the coast of Northern California – Napa Valley, Sonoma, Lake County, and. Mendocino. Wine regions Monterey County, Livermore and Santa Clara County are located on mid-coast of Northern California, while Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo are positioned on the coast of Southern California. California produces top-notch wines, and one of the most renowned red wines here is Zinfandel. This wine has the iconic status of “the real Americana”, and there are even festivals dedicated entirely to Zinfandel.

Today, 60% of the American wine production is located in Napa Valley and the neighbouring Sonoma Valley. Napa Valley is one of the most famous wine regions, located north from San Francisco. As a wine region, Napa Valley is synonymous with the popularity of Californian wines in the world and the American wine making in general. This is also one of the first wine regions in the States that attracted worldwide attention and recognition due to its large and very successful wineries. Vine grows the best in the Mediterranean-like climate and in the soil that is rich in oceanic fossils and volcanic dust. The world-renowned wine maker, Robert Mondavi and his brother Peter are credited with bringing fame to Napa Valley, as the founders of one of the first ever wineries in the United States.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Mondavi brothers introduced new wine making methods to the Californian wine scene and thus played a crucial role in California becoming one of the most important wine regions in the world. Mondavi’s Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most reputable wines in the world. Apart from Mondavi, the Gallo brothers also made a huge contribution to the development of winemaking in California. They stand shoulder-to-shoulder to the wine making greats from Europe such as Baron Philip Rotshchild, Antinori and Frescobaldi.

For decades, Robert Mondavi has been one of the most renowned and most reputable wineries in the world which produces the top-notch wine, both quality- and pricewise, called Opus One. Today, most of the wineries located in Napa Valley specialize in the production of one, maybe two types of wine.

Sonoma County is also one of the more famous wine regions in California. According to some data, the first vines in this region date back to 1812. After the year 2000, the number of wineries in Sonoma has increased. In this region you can find all kinds of wines, from Chardonnay to Zinfandel. These are some of the most reputable wineries in Sonoma – Gallo, Kendall-Jackson, Sebastiani, Simi & Jordan, Dry Creek Vineyard, Ferrari-Carano Winery, and Francis Ford Coppola Winery. While reading this article, you might want to pour yourself a glass of wine from America, or California, to be precise. Just hop over to the nearest, well-supplied wine shop, because you can buy several famous labels of Californian wine in Serbia too.

While drinking Californian wine, we suggest that you watch the film “Bottle Shock” from 2008, which is based on true events and shows the rise of a small Californian winery that seeks its validation in far-off France. Should you want to drink a glass of Californian wine with a meal, and you like white wines, you can combine Californian Chardonnay with salmon, fish or seafood. If you are a fan of full-bodied red wines, like Zinfandel, then, by all means, pair it with a chicken liver mousse or red meat.

If you want to do a tour of California, by all means, take a train. It will take you three hours by train from Napa to St. Helena, and during the journey you can taste various wines or dine at the Napa Valley Wine Train. Travelling through sun-drenched vineyards on a rustic train that dates back to 1915 is a special treat. Last but not least, there are the prices of California’s wines so that you know how big your wine budget should be should you go to America and buy several bottles of wine, instead of, let’s say, shoes or a mobile phone.

The prices range from $20 to $450 per bottle and there is no such thing as bad Californian wine. In Serbia, the prices for a bottle of Californian wine start at 1,500 dinars, while Napa Valley wines are somewhat more expensive and they cost around 2,500 dinars per bottle. Please, be mindful of labels and look for A.V.A. (Approved Viticultural Area) sign that wine regions carry. Wines that contain the A.V.A. designation have at least 85% of grapes. There is also the Millesimé designation, meaning that 95% of wines of a certain winery are produced in the same year, and the Estate-Bottled designation which means that such wine is made entirely from grapes owned by the winery.

Glasses up for California!

by JELENA SAVIĆ

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