Argentina’s first certified organic, kosher wine hits U.S. shelves

May 21, 2022

Recognizing this is repetitive each year from me, please stop saying, “Happy Memorial Day.” Even those who hope for resurrection. Somehow this day of mourning for our war dead, which formerly was accompanied by muffled drums and dirge-like airs, has devolved into Flag Day with skirling pipes, twittering fifes, parties, gaiety and other joyful excitement. This is not an admonition but rather a gentle reminder to observe the memory of our dead with a modicum of reserve. There is little happy about Memorial Day. 

Thanks to an informed reader, Lucia Gilbert, PhD, I must correct last week’s article. I was informed that Zelma Long was actually the second woman to enroll in enology at UC Davis, and she was chief enologist at Mondavi, rather than head winemaker. The first to enroll was Mary Ann Graf. The good doctor sent a link to verify. I learned the following; this is post-Prohibition: MaryAnn had many ‘firsts’ to her credit. These included being the first woman to earn a degree in enology (fermentation sciences) at UC Davis; first woman winemaker of the modern era in California, and the first woman on the board of directors of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture. In addition, she was a charter member of the California Enological Research Association. Among other awards, MaryAnn was the recipient of the 2008 California State Fair Lifetime Achievement Award. Graf was a disciple of André Tchelistcheff, aka “The Maestro,” a Russian émigré by way of Institut Pasteur and Institut National Agronomique in France.

Tchelistcheff was a prime mover in adapting to California several European methods in vineyard and trellis management, and production methods such as cool fermentation for whites and malolactic for reds, as well as small-lot fermentation, at Beaulieu Vineyards during his coordination with Georges de Latour. Latour hired him as VP and chief winemaker in 1938. Many of Tchelistcheff’s practices are still in wide use today. Tchelistcheff cemented his notoriety, and that of Rutherford in Napa, when he released Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cab in 1941. He also mentored among others, R. Mondavi, Rob Davis, L. Martini and Rick Sayres, stalwarts of Napa’s postwar renascence. Curiosity caused me to look further into the first recognized woman winemaker in California. There I noted the byline, Lucia Albino Gilbert, PhD, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, Calif. We are in the company of true experts; this was an enjoyable and informative read:

Hannah Weinberger (appropriately named, n’est-ce pas?) was first in California in 1982. With glass in hand, I continued my search to worldwide to learn the following. Madame Clicquot, first to run a Champagne house, 1805; Dona Antonia Adelaide Ferreira, the Savior of Port Wine; Louise Pommery, creator of “brut” Champagne; Isabelle Simi, another original Cali wine proprietress/businesswoman of this era. Guys take note, in all five cases, these ladies rose to command on the death of a husband or male relatives. No foul play was suspected.

Origins Organic Import recently delivered the 2021 Alavida Malbec, Argentina’s first USDA-certified organic and kosher wine, and one of few wines worldwide to attain this unusual dual status. Domaine Bousquet Alavida Malbec, Tupungo, Uco Valley, Argentina, is also vegan, gluten-free, and Ecocert-approved. “Alavida” is a toast to life, “a la vida,” and the wine’s front label has many printed on it, two of which I hadn’t read before. They were ”Kippas,” which I thought meant yarmulke, and “Sou’jde,” which I still can’t find. Anyhow, I’m recommending those who set a kosher table as well as those who enjoy well-made wine at value pricing to look into this. Bring some in for the future holidays or enjoy it with meals. Plums and white pepper nose, on the palate more plum, cherry, medium tannic grip and acidity lift makes this a worthy food wine, 89 McD points under $17. When looking up pricing, I was disconcerted at the references to “cheap wine” by several wine snob writers. In my view, these are higher-quality, excellent-value wines like most of those from Chateau Bousquet. I would say it favorably compares to their 90-point Gran Malbec and the 88 McD Reserva I recently reviewed.

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