A Virginia wine chronicle in the heart of Alsace
By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com
28 November 2015
My wine loving pal Dave McIntyre should have been there. Well, at least it will make him smile.
It was an ironic evening. I had gone to the recently revamped wine bar, the Hotel Hannong’s “Black and Wine” with a couple of friends: journalists based in Strasbourg, France.
Javier Aguilar prolifically reports on all sorts of stories for EFE, the Spanish news agency. He had just gone to an annual international art show in Strasbourg.
Also with us was the equally prolific writer for the Italian news agency ANSA, Samantha Agro. I see Samantha and Javier on a regular basis, as they both report on the work of my employer, the 47-member Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
Anyway we are all wine fans so we decided to go to Hotel Hannong’s wine bar: a relaxing venue with fine service and a very good selection of wines. Indeed, it features plenty of non French wines, which is still not very typical in France. Although a bit expensive, we did enjoy a lovely Federspiel Grüner Veltliner and a solid Crianza Rioja. Javier knows his Spanish wines, and explained that he has had better experiences with other Crianzas (as most readers know, Crianza Rioja is aged for a minimum of one year in casks and a few months in the bottle and at the Crianza level, the aging is usually in used oak, so oak flavors are not too present).
I liked both: I really liked the “salty mineral” and crisp focus of the Grüner Veltliner, coming from a top producer, even if it was not a top of the line bottling from that producer. And I also liked the rather easy-to-drink, red fruit aspects of the Crianza.
In any case, just next door, the hotel was hosting a presentation by a tourism agency on the virtues of visiting the Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland parts of the United States. My home town is Arlington, Virginia so I was rather surprised to see this, especially since in less than one month, I am heading back home for the holidays. But that was not all: No, the travel agency also teamed up with a promoter to serve two wines from Virginia.
One of the two, dubbed 1813, a red-blended wine was created to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Richmond, Virginia’s Executive Mansion. The Veritas Vineyard & Winery in Afton and Silver Creek & Seaman’s orchards in Tyro contributed barrels of wine to craft the bicentennial-theme blended red wine, which had been unveiled by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell at a reception at the Executive Mansion in Richmond on June 27, 2013. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, the wine is the result of a mission started two years ago by Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell, who planted 10 Chambourcin grape vines in the garden behind the Executive Mansion for the sole purpose of creating … 1813.
In Strasbourg, France at the Hotel Hannong, promoter Olivier Barthez said it was more recently served in June this year in Paris by current Virginia governer Terry McAuliffe to celebrate Franco-American friendship.
The wine, clocking in at a modest 12.5% alcohol was merely OK for me. It came across actually as somewhat bland, but the important thing was that many of the French participants that evening were enjoying its quaffable nature.
The other wine, a white Viogner, proved more interesting to my palate. The 2013 King Family Viognier from the Monticello American Viticultural Area came across as quite supple and bright enough. While not having the same tension as the Grüner Veltliner tasted earlier, it was both quite easy going and with a certain amount of backbone lending character.
And for those readers who think that your average French person would know more about wine than your average American because, well, they are French, I’ve got news for you: most average people anywhere often have no clue what grapes are used to make what wines (when not named after the region).
So, for example, one French participant at the promotional event who intends to visit Virginia next year, said that he likes Condrieu and that the Virginia Viognier reminded him of Condrieu. He did not know that Viognier is the grape used to make Condrieu – and he learned something that evening.
Many thanks to Olivier Barthez and Aude Livet of the travel agency Aventuria for letting me take part in their promotional event. To all #winelovers: you can go almost anywhere, and good wine can be found. In Vino Veritas!