By Thomas H. George
Founder, Bacchus & Books
Ah, the wine snob. We all know one (or more!). In my view they give wine a bad name, because wine should be about pleasure and conviviality, not arrogance. Furthermore, the wine snob is often quite irritating. When a casual dinner among friends becomes dominated by a one-sided dissertation regarding the merits of why no other wine but Bordeaux is worth drinking, you may be in the presence of such a person!
However, have no fear, because you are now armed with the perfect defense against a potential wine snob encounter: North Carolina sparkling wine from Shelton Vineyards in the Yadkin Valley. Oh yes, North Carolina (and Virginia, New York, Texas, New Mexico, and Missouri, among others) are states that don’t necessarily spring to mind when thinking of wine, but they all make some very good wines. It is said that the first European grape vines were planted in New Mexico and the oldest winery in America is in New York state. In fact, all 50 states contain at least one winery, even Alaska and Hawaii. The latter even makes pineapple wine. I have never tried it, but I would like to. No doubt it is the ideal “après-surf” wine.
I digress. Back to good old North Carolina. I speak specifically of a winery called Shelton Vineyards in the Yadkin Valley, which is situated in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Until very recently, Shelton made a delicious brut blanc de blancs sparkling wine. Sadly this has been discontinued, although if you will permit me a shameless plug, my wine shop Bacchus & Books is offering the very last case that I could find anywhere: www.bacchusandbooks.com/wineshop. Pop quiz for wine lovers: what does “blanc de blancs” mean? – the answer can be found at the end of this article.
Technically this wine from Shelton Vineyards cannot be called a “Champagne” because it was not made in the Champagne region of France, but this wine is essentially modelled on the classic Champagne style. This is a dry sparkling wine and in this case it is made from 100% Chardonnay. Crisp, refreshing, and very easy to drink. I found it to be delicious. I must admit that it caught me by surprise, but that is part of the fun of wine; you never know what you will discover once you pop a cork.
The Yadkin Valley became North Carolina’s first American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 2003. This is a big deal in the wine world and it often takes a long time for an AVA to be approved. In the world of American wine, becoming an American Viticultural Area (AVA) legally designates a specific region as a high quality wine producing area (for example the Willamette Valley AVA in Oregon). AVA’s are similar in concept to the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôllée (AOC) or the Italian Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) classification systems. Viticulture and winemaking research have helped adapt many European grape varieties to the Yadkin Valley AVA, from Aleatico to Zinfandel with plenty more in between. The area is home to more than several dozen commercial wine producers and many have won awards and are gaining recognition nationally.
Wine snobs beware!
Pop quiz answer: Sparkling wines are often made from red grapes, such as Pinot Noir. A “blanc de blancs” refers to a sparkling wine that has been made from 100% white grapes.
Thomas H. George
Founder & CEO, Bacchus & Books
Thomas grew up in London, England and Asheville, North Carolina. He studied in France for a year in high school and spent a semester at the Institute of Political Science (Sciences-Po.) in Lyon during university. While studying in France, Thomas visited Burgundy with his family and experienced the beautiful wines of Montrachet. This trip and Kermit Lynch’s book, Adventures on the Wine Route, provided the inspiration to dedicate himself to the world of wine.
Thomas started his wine career in Napa Valley, working for Round Pond Estate and Failla Wines, then Whitehaven Wines in Marlborough, New Zealand. In 2016 he fulfilled a lifelong dream of moving to Charleston and created Bacchus & Books to be a unique gift to this special city.
Thomas holds the Level 4 Diploma, the highest qualification offered by London’s renowned Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). He is also a WSET Educator and a Certified Wine Educator (The Society of Wine Educators). He is a graduate of The Taft School and The University of Virginia. Thomas has been featured by various media outlets, including Fox24 Charleston, South Carolina Regional Business Journal, Holy City Sinner, CHS Today and LowcountryBizSC.