Wine trivia

Like many people, I enjoy trivia. I enjoy searching for little known and unusual factoids that are completely irrelevant to just about any occasion and absolutely never come up in the course of general conversation. Are you the same? Well, here’s some of the wine trivia I’ve come across recently —

The first American Viticultural Area (or AVA, which is an officially designated American fine wine area similar to an appellation in France), approved in 1980, was Augusta, Missouri – of all places! The largest AVA is the Texas Hill Country which, at over 15,000 square miles, is larger than both Vermont and Massachusetts.

The wines from Sainte Genevieve, which we sell here at ABC, come from the largest winery in Texas, and are jointly owned by the French wine company Domaines Cordier and the University of Texas. They are named after a fifth-century French nun who became the patron saint of Paris.

A hybrid is created by hybridizing one or more American vine species with the European vinifera vine (e.g. the American-French Seyval Blanc; or Vidal Blanc). A cross is created by breeding two varieties from the same species of vine (e.g. Pinotage = Pinot Noir + Cinsaut; or Scheurebe = Silvaner + Riesling).

While most California methode champenoise sparkling wine producers use Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and occasionally Pinot Meunier and Pinot Blanc for their wines, Korbel uses Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc, and French Colombard. In 1970 Chenin Blanc was the most popular white wine made in California.

The first known wine review was written by the Roman Pliny the Elder, who rated the vintage of 121 B.C. as “of the highest excellence.”

The first vineyard in Florida was established in 1562 in Jacksonville. The wine produced was made from the Scuppernong grape. Scuppernong was also used in what was probably the first branded wine in the U.S.A. It was introduced in about 1835 and was called ‘Virginia Dare’, after the first child of English parents to be born in America. The oldest still existing winery in America is the Brotherhood Winery in the Hudson River Valley of New York State. It was founded in 1839 as Blooming Cove and produced sacramental wines. The winery was bought out in 1885 by a former member of a disbanded commune called The Brotherhood of New Life, and named the Brotherhood Winery.

The wine business in California (with a $52 billion dollar economic impact) is bigger than the Hollywood film industry (a mere $30 billion).

The average price for an acre of unplanted vineyard in Napa Valley is $200,000. (In 1970 the price was $5,000.) It will take another $20,000 an acre to plant, with no return for three to five years.

In 2009 more than 20 million people visited the California wine areas, which makes them California’s second most popular tourist destination (after Disneyland).

Bill Stobbs, Wine Supervisor, West Florida

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