Thursday, 25 September 2014

Wine and Warfare Part 15: Marlborough Goes To War

By Rupert Millar

John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722), 
painted by Adriaen van der Werff

One of the legacies of colonialism is that the colonisers leave their mark in the place names of the land they have settled. Often these names are places the settlers have left behind, think of (New) York and Boston in the US and (New) South Wales in Australia. Then there are the names of the explorers themselves, George Vancouver, Abel Tasman and James Cook for example.

Kings, queens and politicians all have places in the “New World” named after them and the stories and histories behind those would be enough to fill a small book. But this is a story about wine and war and there are plenty of generals and famous battles to which vineyards owe their name.

Australia’s Barossa Valley was named after an obscure (if victorious) battle in the Peninsular War and New Zealand’s most famous vineyard region was also named in honour of a general and the victory he won on the other side of the world - the northern tip of South Island and the southern tip of North Island are full of military-themed towns. Wellington on the end of North Island needs little introduction and across Cook Strait (Captain James Cook) on South Island is the town of Picton, general Thomas Picton being a divisional commander of Wellington’s who was killed at Waterloo. Meanwhile, there is the town of Nelson to the west (no prizes for guessing who he is). However, the town and region that should excite our interest is that of Blenheim and Marlborough.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Visiting Rioja: the Ancient and the Ultra-Modern

Fifteen years ago when I first visited Rioja, it was a region visited almost exclusively by Spaniards and the
wine trade. Only a handful of wineries opened to the public and it was rare to hear another English accent.
When I visited just a few weeks ago, it was an entirely different experience. Winery hotels have gone up, a tour group filled the square in Laguardia and there were plenty of American, as well as English accents to be heard.

But it presents an interesting conundrum for Rioja’s wineries. Obviously, they want to capitalise on the increasing interest from wine travellers but how best to do it?