That’s it, I was finally able to bring this column to conclusion! One year looking at the History of wine and at some of its most interesting happenings. Probably I could keep going on for a long time, starting all over again from January, but I want to find something new, a new topic for a new regular column.
Maybe three or four years from now I will resuscitate this “One month in the History of wine” series, who knows. There are still many interesting facts waiting to be told.
For now enjoy the last episode of this first edition.
7th December 1901
André Tchelistcheff (1901-1994) is born in Moscow, Russia.
What a life for Mr Tchelistcheff. He fled his Country in 1917, during the Russian Revolution; fighting with the White Army he was left for dead in 1921 in Crimea, but managed to survive and started wandering Europe. He then studied viticulture and enology in Czechoslovakia and France where in 1938 he was “discovered” by Georges de Latour, owner of Napa Valley winery Beaulieu Vineyards.
In the USA he devoted to create the best Cabernet Sauvignon possible, becoming one of the most influential winemakers of post-Prohibition America. He retired in 1973, but his work (especially as a mentor of Mike Grgich) was instrumental in the impressive victory of Californian wines at the 1976 Judgement of Paris.
12th December 1614
Graf Philip Ernst von Hohenlohe-Langenburg (“Pippo” to his friends), Count of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (Baden-Württemberg, south Germany) commands to replace Gouais Blanc in his dominions with better varieties, including Räuschling and Elbling.
It was very difficult to enforce this kind of decrees before 19th century (when ampelography was finally born), because many growers did not even know what they had in the vineyard. Philip the Bold encountered the same problem in Burgundy when he banned the “disloyal” Gamay in favor of Pinot Noir.
Today Elbling is a minor variety found in the Mosel, while Räuschling has almost disappeared and is grown only in german speaking Switzerland. Well Pippo, at least you tried.
13th December 1913
Romeo Bragato dies in Vancouver at the age of 54.
Born in Lussinpiccolo (today Croatia) when it was still part of the Austrian Empire, he is one of the most famous historical figures of Australia and New Zealand wine history.
From 1879 to 1883 he studied enology at the Regia Scuola di Viticoltura ed Enologia in Conegliano (Veneto, Italy). Uhm, where have I heard this name? Yes, it is the school founded by Antonio Carpene’ of Prosecco Carpene’-Malvolti! Likely he had even been one of his professors! It’s a small world, isn’t it?
In 1888 he emigrated to Australia where he worked with the government for the development of viticulture and winemaking of the Victoria State, promoting the cultivation of varieties like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling and so on and so forth. He also battled against phylloxera.
In New Zealand he published the famous “Prospects of Viticulture in New Zealand” report where he pointed out the regions with the best potential for viticulture (he particularly liked Hawke’s Bay) and experimented with different european grape varieties. Again, he recommended to plant phylloxera resistant rootstocks to contain the damages of the terrible louse.
Really one of the most far-sighted viticulturalists of the XIX century! Respect!
26th December 1906
Antonio Argiolas, “Tziu Antoni” is born in Serdiana (Sardegna, Italy).
He was the man behind the birth success of the eponymous winery, Argiolas, which together with Capichera is today one of the top producers of Sardegna and has contributed to put the region “on the map” as they say. The company exports all over the world and prices for its flagship Turriga easily surpass 10,000 yen in Japan (around 70 euros), something very rare for wines from this region.
The first vineyards were planted by his father in 1918, but Antonio managed to expand his property year after year and today the company owns around 230 hectares in the south of Sardegna.
Antonio passed away in 2008, at the age of 102. His legacy lives on in the hands of second and third generations of Argiolas family.
28th December 1688
Francesco Redi (physician, naturalist, biologist, poet… genius, billionaire, playboy, philantropist?), author of the famous wine-themed poem “Bacco in Toscana” (“Bacchus in Tuscany”), addresses a letter to Monsignor Rinaldo degli Albizi.
The prelate in fact is disappointed by what Redi has written in his poem about his favorite drink: coffee. (“I would rather drink poison, / than a glass full / of bitter, vicious coffee”)
The author however explains that he just hates bitter coffee drank from glass, while he loves sweet coffee, but it has to be sipped from cups made in fine Savona china.
Well, excuuuse me Francesco if I use a paper cup!
What about wine? There is space for it as well in the letter. For Redi wine is the worst drink of all, but only when it is too big (“generoso”), powerful and drank without diluting it with water. In this judgement he is quite similar to Sante Lancerio, who had lived 100 years before.