1st April 2007
Tocai Friulano cannot be called Tocai anymore.
The grape variety, employed (as you can imagine) mainly in Friuli Venezia Giulia, has no relationship with the famous Hungarian Tokaji wine, but Hungary authorities had appealed to the EU and obtained the change of its name, to avoid confusion.
Despite Italy opposition, Hungary was able to prove the longer history of their Tokaji and ultimately the legitimacy of its claim.
Tocai Friulano was not the only “victim”: France had to abolish Alsatian Tokay Pinot Gris, while Australia, where a fortified “Tokay” wine was being produced in the Rutherglen region, chose the new name Topaque for their product.
2 April 1868
Kawakami Zenbei was born in Joetsu, Niigata prefecture
He is considered to be the father of Japanese wine industry and as such he was the first in the Country to actually face the challenges offered by unforgiving Japanese weather (namely the spring rainy season, the typhoon season and, in Niigata, the heavy winter snow).
At first he planted already available hybrids, but soon he started making his own: he developed thousands of new varieties, but only a bunch of them showed some promise. His most famous creation is the still popular Muscat Bailey A, a pink skinned hybrid of Muscat of Hamburg (vitis vinifera) and Bailey (vitis labrusca) with thick skins and good disease resistance, late budding and early ripening. The wines are very light with low tannins and can miss some grip, but they are very floral and may be pleasant if you are in the right mood and you get used to the style. They are often made sweet (-ish).
Another of creation is the Black Queen hybrid, still employed today.
In his work he was sponsored by Suntory and he even had visits by Emperor Taisho and other members of the Imperial family.
7 April 1780
Benoît Raclet is born in Roanne (France).
Originally a functionary from the Loire region he had marry a girl from Beaujolais and he had moved there, becoming a grape grower in Romanèche.
Even before phylloxera, powdery and downy mildew epidemics the vines had problem: Raclet and his fellow vignerons had to fight against a little caterpillar called “pyrale”.
After constant observation and experimentation he discovered that using hot water on the vines during the winter was an effective way to kill the pyrale larvae. The discovery was not immediately adopted by the other growers, suspicious of this bizarre “foreigner” who strolled his vineyards with a hot water pot in hand. However the system worked and it was widely adopted afterwards.
Raclet died in 1844 without gaining any recognition for his idea. He was awarded a Legion d’honneur, but that happened after his death and today his name is still remembered in Beaujolais where a bust has been erected in the village of Romanèche in what is now the Benoît Raclet square. A wine themed “Raclet Festival” is also hold every year on the last weekend of October.
10 April 1663
Samuel Pepys famously writes about ” Ho Bryan” on his diary
“Off the Exchange with Sir J. Cutler and Mr. Grant to the Royall Oak Tavern, in Lumbard Street, where Alexander Broome the poet was, a merry and witty man, I believe, if he be not a little conceited, and here drank a sort of French wine, called Ho Bryan,1 that hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with.”
Ho Bryan is of course Haut-Brion, the famous Bordeaux First Growth still valued and revered today. This is not the earliest mention of this wine in history, preceded by the one dating back to 1660 in the cellar book of King Charles II, but it is certainly the most famous.
18 April 1855
The list of the Grand Cru Classés châteaux of Bordeaux is published
I think that we all know the story: Bordeaux wine brokers were requested by Napoleon III a classification of the best estate producers of the region, to be used at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1855. They did this by ordering the producers according to the prices they were capable to fetch on the market at the time. Their classification is still very much relevant to the International wine market.
Of course criticism is widespread: the list only includes estates from Médoc (for reds) and Sauternes/Barzac (for sweet whites), with the notable exception of Haut-Brion; it has been never updated (with a couple of notable exceptions) so it may not be really reflective of quality; it classifies the producers and not the “terroir” itself etc etc.
We all know, we all care to some point, but the market ultimately decides the price, thus the classification clearly cannot and will not be dismissed anytime soon.