Friday, January 7, 2011

A Salute To Winemaking-Charleston Wine and Food Festival

What list contains names like Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Methuselah, Salmanazar, Balthazar, Nebuchadnezzar, and Sovereign? No, it doesn't have anything to do with the Bible. These are designated names for wine bottle sizes. The most well known wine bottle size is the Magnum, which is the equivalent of two standard size bottles of 1.5 liters. There are hundreds of wine types in the world, each with its own flavors and styles. Most people know about the popular varieties, such as chardonnay, cabernet, zinfandel, muscadel, pinot blanc, and merlot. Even more daunting is the glossary of wine terminology. When I take a glass of wine, I don't ask to sniff the cork, role it around in the glass, smell it, or swish it throughout my mouth. I just drink it. One could very well say I seriously lack the cultural sophistication and elegance required in wine selection and recognition.

Wines were first introduced to the United States as early as the 17th century. On the East Coast, early settlers were disappointed by the native wine varieties, which made strong and earthy wine, so they imported wine cuttings from their European homelands. Unfortunately, disease and severe weather took their toll on the fledgling vines, and they didn't survive. In the 19th century, due to the work of horticulturist Thomas Munson, growers discovered that by grafting European varieties to American rootstock, they could produce flavorful wine. This process also saved the European wine industry from extinction when American rootstock was taken over to England infected with phylloxera.

On the west coast, 18th century Spanish missionaries planted vines at each mission to produce sacramental wine. The 1849 Gold Rush brought a growing number of immigrants, mostly of the Italian descent, who planted in the Napa and Sonoma valleys and the Sierra foothills to satisfy the increased demands of the thirsty miners. Prohibition in 1919 nearly decimated the American winemaking industry. It was illegal to produce wine except for medicinal, sacramental, or home winemaking purposes. A handful of California winemakers survived by making sacramental wine. It wasn't repealed until 1933. In the following years quality wines were produced, but had difficulty marketing them.

Then, in 1976, two California wines beat their French counterparts in a blind taste test in Paris. The ancient European wineland's rigid grip on the hiearchy of quality wine was broken. Now, California is the largest producer in the country, producing 90 per cent of the nation's wine. Other top wine-producing states include New York, Oregon, and Washington. The United States is the third largest wine-consuming country in the world, following only France and Italy.

The hot and humid summers of South Carolina make it a challenge to grow grapes for wine production. It requires viticulturalists to adapt their canopy(the parts of the vine visible aboveground) to minimize direct sunlight on the grapes, which are often harvested early in the summer. South Carolina is not a designated American Viticultural Area. An American Viticultural Area is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and the United States Department of the Treasury.

Still, there are numerous wineries in SC, one of which is in Charleston, the Market Street Winery. Charleston is also host to a four day event called "one of the top five food and wine festivals in the U.S." by Forbes Traveler, the annual BB&T Charleston Wine and Food Festival. This year it will take place March 3-6. March 4, at Marion Square, the 6 Top Chefs Challenge will take place. The Festival for the first time will celebrate the Bravo hit TV show, Top Chef, with a bash and “Lowcountry Ingredient” challenge. A fan favorite from each season will be on-hand to serve a small plate of their signature recipe. Tickets are still available. This is just one of the numerous events scheduled throughout the four days. Click for the complete list. In conclusion, "If your heart is warm with happiness, you'll need a glass of wine-if sorrow chills your heart, have two!"

Other wine and food festivals:
Coastal Uncorked Food and Wine Festival
Beaufort Wine and Food Weekend
High Museum Wine Auction
Atlanta Food & Wine Festival
New Orleans Wine & Food Experience
Cincinnati Wine Festival
South Beach Wine & Food Festival
Looking for accommodations or flights go to Vacation Rick Travel (Priceline affiliate)

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