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May 26, 200910:51 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

A little of this, and a little of that

The French Fracas is over, for now.

Andre Bogaert Photograph

Seems nothing is ever easy, particularly when you are dealing with winemaking in an Old World country, like France.

As you know, there is a hierarchy, a wine ranking system, whereas certain wines are considered to be of higher quality levels, and therefore commanding higher prices, than other wines. These “classifications” are taken quite seriously in Bordeaux, with two rankings, one in the Medoc and another one in the St. Emilion region.

In the Medoc, which runs, in general, from just outside the city of Bordeaux to the north along the Gironde River, the classification of 1855 is still considered to be generally correct. Although many quality changes have occurred in the 150 years since, the ranking of the wines and their respective chateaux continues to be referred to and

Off to the east, in the completely charming area of the village of St. Emilion, along the Dordogne River, is a classification system that must, by law, be updated every 10 years. That allows for an estate or chateau to make changes to their quality and style and be rewarded, or it can go the other way too.

The classification process in St. Emilion of 2006 took a number of winemaking operations and elevated them to a higher status and, as can happen, took a couple and demoted them. The folks who were demoted were not happy, to say the least. They claimed that “politics” and personal agendas were at work on the evaluation committee and took the whole enchilada, or better yet, crepe suzette to court.

The courts reviewed the new classifications and said it was a flawed process so the entire classification was made mute and all chateaux were ordered to revert back to the way things were, dating back to 1996.

Of course, the decision was not handed out with expediency and it took the courts over a year to consider the “stay” order.  Meanwhile, the wine business has to go on. Labels were printed, as were promotional materials, denoting the new Classification of 2006. And those operations who were rewarded with a higher designation were stuck with a lot of printed material, and bragging rights, and forced to duplicate all communication efforts, not knowing which information to use when their wines are released.

Just last week, no less an august political body than the French Government itself decreed that those chateaux who were rewarded with a higher classification could indeed use their new status on labels and promotional materials. And those who were demoted were allowed to maintain their old status dating back to the classification of 1996.

Solomon would have been proud to see such a result. Elected officials pleasing everyone, kissing babies, and promising a coq au vin in every pot.

Ahh, but in the process they could not just gut the classification system. That too needed attention and respect. The new ruling only extends to 2011, so in just a few more years the process begins anew and I will no doubt have further material for a future column.

Let’s Do the Twist

Screw caps, a lovable development for most sane people, and the bane of every wine snob’s existence, now account for 15% of all wine closures of any type.

Of the more than 17.5 billion closures manufactured annually worldwide, more than 2.5 billion are screwcaps. And the number is rising in every wine-producing country around the globe.

Sending the Juice Your Way

France, that perennial winner of all things wine, has fallen to third place among wine exporting nations, being bested by both Italy and Spain.

Italy has long been numerare un, but the rapid rise of Spain has been somewhat of an interesting development.

And it looks like France is not going to regain the second place spot anytime soon. More than 15,000 hectares under vine in France has been dedicated to other uses, as New World wines continue to accumulate market share in their respective regions and in France’s traditional destination turf, such as Great Britain and the US.

Keep It Straight

A quote that many of us see with some regularity is, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

A kind thought and one that brings a smile to parched lips.

But the author, one Benjamin Franklin, in 1779, writing in French to Abbé Andrè Morellet, actually said, “We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes.

“Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine – a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”


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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.


Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.


Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.


Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.


They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.


Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.


Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.


Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.


It’s a good gig. 




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