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Briefs: No new Rhines, sauternes?

By CHRIS SHERMAN
Published April 5, 2006


Winemakers in the United States the European Union have come to an agreement at long last that will boost exports in both directions and settle some old squabbles over terminology.

Sort of.

The agreement signed last month agrees to accept traditions and technology on both sides of the Atlantic rather than ban the import. Europeans were always sticky about geographic place names - place is extremely important in wines and long-established in practice. That is why early winemakers all around the New World stole Old World names, such as Champagne, Rhine or Port, to use on generic wines that were sometimes similar only in color to the European original.

For now, the EU will agree to accept U.S. wines that already use these "semi-generic'' names, on the conditions that there are no new ones and that the United States will try to eliminate the existing ones: burgundy, chablis, champagne, chianti, claret, haute sauterne, hock, madeira, malaga, marsala, moselle, port, retsina, rhine, sauterne, sherry and tokay.

That's not that big a deal; most U.S. wines by these names are not expensive. Europe also agrees to accept that some American wineries want to call themselves Clos or Chateau in a pseudo-French manner.

More intriguing, both sides agree to accept technical practices at which the other sneers: Calfornians sometimes add water to wines that are too ripe. Burgundians add sugar to wines that are not ripe enough. And inexpensive wines in many places acquire their oak flavor from wood chips, not oak barrels.

Vive la difference and all that.

BEST NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBORS

That would have to be the amateur brewers who brought home medals just like the pros during beer judging in March.

Placing first statewide in the amateur section of the Best Florida Beer Championship was Bob Sylvester of Tampa, who brewed up Flanders Red for the Tampa Bay BEERS Club. Virgil Wasko of Largo, who belongs to the Dunedin Brewers Guild, won third place for a cream ale.

DINNER WITH MR. RIDGE

Paul Draper, champion of single vineyards, defender of zinfandel, partisan of American cooperage, and all-round fine winemaker, will be the guest at this year's Bern's Wine Fest. The pioneer from Ridge Winery will host a seminar during the tasting April 30 and a grand dinner on May 1. For information, call (813) 253-0358.

CORRECTION

Yuengling Brewery, America's oldest continuous brewery, is the pride of Pottsville, Pa., has brewed beer since 1823 and recently added a brewery in Tampa. An article on the Cork & Bottle page on March 8 incorrectly located it 50 miles southeast in Pottstown.

WINE OF THE WEEK

Twin Fin Pinot Noir 2004

No pretense here, not even pretending. Screw-cap bottle, screwy name, silly label of surfboards and a non-fin convertible, all for a fun price, under $10.

There are plenty of these wines: call them critter wines, jalopy wines or just gimmicks. But this one is good, and a good cheap pinot noir is a grand thing.

Pinot noir is known to be finicky, frail and fragile, which accounts for its uncertain quality, higher prices and its cult following.

Enter the Australians. Constellation, the big wine combine, gave the job of inventing this new brand to two no-worries lads from Oz, a winemaker and a vineyard guy. Constellation set them down in the surf and gave them Central Coast grapes, which is why they could make pinot noir, as well as the usual line of cab/chard/sauv-blanc/merlot.

It's not Burgundy, yet it's still plummy fun, easy to drink with surprising depth and long finish. This is pinot that can take a light chill and be at ease on the boat, beach or backyard table.

Availability: Supermarkets, liquor stores, under $10.