Quick – how many abbeys are there in the U.S.?
The answer is “way more than you’d think!”
Abbeys – their contemporary ways of life, histories, and (most importantly) culinary delights – are the subject of Madeline Scherb’s first book, A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Monks and Nuns.
Part travel guide, part history lesson, part valentine to all things Catholic, and part cookbook, A Taste of Heaven makes for interesting reading and is structured around a gourmand’s fantasy meal (the book’s sections, in order cover Spirits, Cheese, Sweets, and Other). Those who love beer and cheese will especially appreciate the substantial portions of the book devoted to Belgian Trappist abbey brews (such as Orval) and the abbeys of France (such as the walnut-liquor-enhanced fromage of Echourgnac), respectively.
Now, I’m not religious and this is not a beer and cheese blog (though I love beer just as much as I adore wine), and while I love my foodie friends I don’t share their keen ability to translate culinary thought-experiment (recipes) successfully into visceral reality (food that actually tastes good), and I struggled with whether or not I should cover A Taste of Heaven (which Madeline kindly sent to me as a sample copy). But, I did in fact find a wine angle in this book, albeit a small one.
Citeaux Abbey, situated just outside of Dijon in the Cote-D’or in France, is covered in A Taste of Heaven and the abbey’s history is fascinating. Citeaux was founded in 1098 and initially struggled to find recruits for monks in an area of France that was already known as a lap of luxury. At one point, the Abbey owned 10,000 acres of land in Burgundy, including… Clos Romanee. That would probably be worth enough to buy a space shuttle nowadays. Apparently, the cheese there is… well… heavenly to this day.
Those who get the travel bug to check out the famous Abbeys of Europe (or the not-quite-as-famous Abbeys of the U.S.) would do well to first check out A Taste of Heaven. But be warned, by the looks of the butter, egg, and lard content of the recipes found in Scherb’s book, eating abbey food isn’t exactly for the (literally) faint of heart.
Oh, yeah – and whatever you do, don’t sing or chant along loudly with the monks (apparently that’s bad abbey-visiting form)!
Those of you who dig Austrian wine (did someone say Grüner Veltliner? no? it was just me then…) and are looking fro something to do for seven days in 2010 might want to check out the Austrian Tourist Office’s “It’s Got To Be Austria” (yeah, I know, the name is a total #Fail) sweepstakes being held now through January 15, 2010.
The sweepstakes winner (and a guest) get to choose between four different themed 7-day vacation packages, one of which is centered around “Food and Wine” (presumably Austrian food and wine).
The contest is notable in that contestants enter via Facebook. Once you’ve fanned them up on Facebook, you can receive an additional sweepstakes entry by tweeting about Austria using the hashtag #itsgottobeaustria (ugh… honestly, is that the best name that they could come up with? maybe it sounds totally awesome in Austrian…).
This might be the first significant wine-related giveaway (the vacation packages are valued at $4,500) that’s taken place exclusively on Facebook and twitter, and certainly the first to also include a choice shot of an Austrian accordion-player rockin’ the moustache in its promotional material:
Got thoughts on the contest, Austrian wine, or moustaches? Shout ‘em out in the comments!
Who’s a Big Winner today?
YOU’RE a Big Winner today.
No doubt that the wide world of wine media is awash in well-weathered year-end recaps (not too mention consonation!), with thoughts about the wines and wine-related happenings of a 2009 that has nearly gone by. While I enjoy the year-end recap thoughts as much as the next guy or gal, I’m not going to provide another look-back wine list or article review, mostly because I already have those posts published and can’t fool you into reading another one because you’re too smart.
No, I just want to tell you how lucky you are this year, wine-wise anyways.
Yeah, YOU. You’re one lucky S.O.B.
Look at it this way: Was 2009 perfect when it comes to wine? Of course not. But consider this:
You have access to more wine of higher quality and for lower prices than at any other time in the history of the world.
You also have access to more sources of quality information about wine (and all aspects of how it is made, distributed, etc.) than ever before.
So, you not only can get great wine for a great price, you also can gain as much knowledge about wine as you’re hungry for, at almost no cost to you.
Think about that for a second. Most of you reading this have more opportunity when it comes to wine than your parents ever dreamed of. Unless you’re like 14. In which case, you should know that I do not have reviews of Peppermint Schnapps on this website. And no, I am not going to buy some for you at the liquor store down the street. Look, kid, just buzz off already, will ya?!?
The cherry-on-top of this have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too scenario is that the price of entry for your say in the growing wine conversation (which can positively influence where the wine industry goes in 2010 and beyond) is approximately $0.00. In short, you have a wealth of wine knowledge available at your fingertips, and as they told you at the end of the G.I. Joe cartoons in the mid-eighties, "Now you know, and knowing is half the battle." And knowledge, as we all know (ha-ha!), is power.
In other words, who’s the big winner after the wine trials, tribulations, travails, and victories of 2009? YOU are, my friend, you are.
So, as we draw the curtain on 2009, take a moment to toast yourselves, as you are potentially the most powerful influencer of the future of wine.
Cheers and Happy New Year!