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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

We Have a Pope

New World Pope

"Let's Drink to That!' Don Merlot of the Writers Clearinghouse News Service reports from New Orleans

Once I left the New World and started travelling to the Old World, seeing what existed before our culture was even created made me understand the old saying that was created by Rudyard Kipling – “East is east and west is west and never the Twain shall meet.” Because Columbus sailed west and he thought he found the Indies, the Caribbean became the West Indies. Once it was figured out that the West Indies are really not India, China or Japan as known in the Old World going east, what had been found was the New World, which was untouched by the old World Civilizations & which comprised of Western Europe the Middle East Africa and Asia (to the Pacific), where the Spice World had already been carved up by the Portuguese and Dutch. Western Europe, the old World, had only started at the height of the Roman Empire, which moved west to bring in the new order of Western Civilization.  I love my mentor's rule: 'Aloncito,  can send you to Paris for two weeks and you will come back and write a book. I can send you to Paris for two months and maybe you can come back and write ten pages; and I can send you to Paris for two years and you will come back and not be able to write anything because you are confused!' 

Travel for me through Western Europe was a triple experience in that as I was seeing it for the first time, I had to put into perspective the growth of the West as the European civilization moved west from Greece in the Atlantic Ocean as the east tamed the barbarian world and it was creating a new civilization/culture, religion and wine. It is France and Italy that epitomize the renaissance others may have their own catharsis but this is mine.
The Christian world included the Greek and Latin Language; and the Early Christian church rotated from its Centers of Constantinople and Rome. Western thought created the concept that the Middle East was the cradle of Civilization.
Seeing modern Paris and seeing its medieval castles and vineyards along the Loire, Soane Rhone rivers, made me think: maybe I had seen too much Hollywood, but so when I stood in the fields of Poitiers where Charles Martell drove off the Moors, allowed my mind to go imagine the sounds of battle and horses grunting and soldiers’ steel swords clashing and clanging. The Christian Church warded off the invasion in 732 A.C.E. Christianity prevailed north of the Pyrenees. Poitiers was also the site where Edward the Black Knight – the legendary soldier – captured John II. The Struggle for control of France and England over Aquitania (1356). Aquitania was the area where Bordeaux /British Claret were developed. Wine and religion had paved the way. When Catherine de Medici married France’s Henry II and brought her Florentine chefs to show the French how to cook (1560 ACE) France was on its way to lead the new culture in Europe.  
Wine was a key protocol in the French culture. As the Early Christian Church moved west and time moved toward the development of Western Europe, the center of religious activity that focused its core in Rome thus directing the Christian world. Soon after Muhammad carved up the Middle East and moved Islam to the East and southwest around the northern Africa coast - up to Iberia – the secular world became the Christian society. Barbarians became Christians and The Christian Church became the spiritual governing body of the religious world.  Albeit that the first Christian disciples spread the gospel, and different sects were spawned. Even after the 4th Century the Nicaea gathering, the Roman Catholic faction of Western Europe focused on the administration from the Italian peninsula.
We find that early Greeks in the years before the arrival of the Common
Era that the Roman army had brought their wines and vines west and planted vineyards in France, Iberia and Germany and the wine tradition became part of the religious fabric of the early Christian church. We know that Charlemagne, as King of the Franks - 742) and then the Holy Roman Emperor unified Western Europe politically and Christianity became the religious fabric. The daily routine of the population was guided by two concepts: the    political world of the emperor and the religious world of the Pope in Rome.
The church control had struggled with two pillars - one supporting the Greek Orthodox in Constantinople and the other supporting the west as the Roman Empire declined.  In 1073 Pope Gregory the VII who was the Bishop of Rome, declared that only the Bishop of Rome could be the Pope. The Orthodox Church did not recognize this and Greek Orthodox remained Greek and eventually the Protestant reformation did not follow that path either. So a Vatican bishop, a single man, became the head of the Roman Catholic Church controlling it out of Rome. Holy Roman Emperor received his crown and coronation from the Pope. [1]
The Papal state that grew around Rome was protected by major powerful kings and Bishops. The struggle as to what (Culture/Nation) controlled the Papacy was difficult for the Italians. In 1305 the first shift took place when The College of Cardinals became deadlocked for eleven months. Finally Bertrand de Got was elected and he became Clement V. Although not even a Cardinal and was French and not Italian, he was an astonishing choice. [2] He had founded a vineyard in Bordeaux called Chateau Pape Clement. He moved the seat of the Church from Rome to Avignon, which became in Ecclesiastical history known as the “Babylonian captivity.” Some building structures still survive: Le pont d’Avignon (famous song) and a summer place, which became known as the Château-neuf-du-Pape. In French that is the “New House of the Pope.”
Ten miles upstream north from Avignon was the location of the summer palace because it allowed fresh breezes during the hot summers. It is unknown who was the first Pope that allowed the wines of the new area demarcation to be grown. Agreeable wines that were grown in this area became famous, but because transportation systems had not developed well, the wines were relatively unknown. After the Napoleonic wars, the water way (canals) was created and Railroads spread the national net work across France. A notorious citizen from this area was passionate rouge who became known for his feats of debauchery, as he aged he felt that his elixir of life was due to his beloved Chateau-neuf-de Pape wine. Fellow French Copain sought out the wine.
After World War I the wine became so popular that surrounding Rhone areas called their vintages Chateau-neuf-de Pape. Original vineyards stood up and created a safeguard to stop this. This led to the French government creating the Institut national des Appellationd’Origin, which based its classification on the Chateau-neuf-du Pape system. Classified Wines were protected by the new system.
Today the wine must come from a delimited area – 6,000 acres. Each acre can produce no more that 374 gallons – which restricts the guarantee of its name. Inferior ones are pruned off.
Red is the primary wine, but a few vineyards vinefy a white wine. The Red wine is made from 13 red varietals: Piepoul, Terret Noir, Counoise, Muscardin, Vaccarese, Picardan, Cinsault, Roussanne, and Bourboulenc. Usually only four or five are used and the mixture is a secret.
Although Latin remained the Lingua Franca of the Roman Catholic Church, Center of power for a while relocated to Avignon, A new premium wine was created. Since the Aquitania came from a blend of wines: Medoc was primarily Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and or Petit Verdot& Pomerol Merlot, Cabernet Franc and or Malbec.  As Aquitania developed its wine the primary customer was Britain. The English name for Bordeaux is Claret.[3]
In Burgundy the Ducs of Bourgogne did not blend the Classified Reds or Whites. The Red varietal was Pinot Noir and the preferred white was Chardonnay. The Ducs would not let the Reds be blended and had to be pure Pinot Noir. [4] Under the Cistercian Monks the Clos de Vougeot prepared wines for the Papal princes and other regal consumers.
The Chateauneuf-du-Pape can be blended using up the 13 varietals, but the vintner/oenologist does not usually use more than 3 - 5. The wines are the largest district in the Rhone area (Part of Southern Rhone) and Transportation in early years prevented European growth, but is considered one of the great French red Wines.
When the new Pope was elected, the paradigm changed again. A new World Pope from Argentina - which started out as an original Spanish Colony. Francis the new Pope was of European descent. (Grand parents were Italian immigrants) And in last few years the Argentine wine is the Malbec which came from France. The Malbec rivals the great French reds of Medoc. So the future bodes well for Premium red wine. Religion his having a renaissance, and the People of the New World are recognized as a frontier. Religion was carried to the New World, the Europeans took their wine grape varietals with them and now they are their own standard wines, and the New World of people who ended up creating a new culture that has been recognized by the Church as the largest catholic population.   

[1] World History – Oxford, 1999 Oxford University Press.
[2] A Wne Tour of France. Fredrick S. Wildman, Jr. 1972.p.160.
[3] The Wines of Bordeaux – by David Peppercorn. Pp. 53, 129.
[4] The Wines of Burgundy – by Serena Sutcliffe pp. 28 -31

(Don Merlot who in his other life as a New Orleans-based businessman is known as Ron Alonzo. Merlot/Alonzo is The PJ's food and drink columnist).