21 May 2007

Rotten Grapes

Some good things were discovered only by accident. The case in point for this post? The discovery of the qualities of late vintage wine. It all happened in the Year of Our Lord 1775 at Schloß Johannisberg in the lovely Rheingau, famous for its wines! At that time, Johannisberg was owned by the Bishop of Fulda. Consequently, the monks at Johannisberg had to wait for the bishop's permission before they could start the wine harvest each autumn.

In 1775, however, the messenger who was supposed to bring said permission from Fulda to Johannisberg was delayed for several weeks -- either because he became the victim of robbers or because the bishop was away hunting and thus unavailable. In any case, the monks had to watch their grapes shrivel and rot (and to add insult to injury, they probably became something of the laughing-stock of the whole area), until the messenger finally arrived with the permission of the bishop. Despite the poor condition of their grapes, the monks eventually decided to harvest them and press them. Imagine their surprise when it was discovered that the resulting wine tasted good. In fact, after some maturing, it tasted even better than good: the rotten grapes had resulted in a wine of unheard of quality! "Such wine," a contemporary records wonderingly, "has never before passed my lips!"

Today, a statue in the courtyard of the inn of Johannisberg commemorates the discovery of late vintage wine, or Spätlese. A few years ago, the story of its discovery served as the backdrop for a comic book, which started an extremely successful series: Karl: Der Spätelesereiter.


Addendum (not about wine, but about sex): today my At the Back Fence Column about lust-thought in romance went online. I was tickled pink when Laurie offered to let me write it, and I hope you'll all like the result. :)