Obama and the “White Revolution”

written by Michael Oudyn

Obama "White Revolution" Rioja tshirt

“White Revolution” Rioja style

I was covering the Wine Future congress in Logroño, Spain with catavino.net. It was being billed as “the greatest wine congress ever.”  Wine´s  heavy hitters  and glitterati were present: Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson, Gary Vaynerchuck, and Barack Obama.  President Obama? Well, yes. His  “yes, we can”  face was everywhere: on T-shirts, posters, everywhere.  But with a new-twist second slogan: “The White Revolution.”   Our first black president linked to a white revolution?  Was this some kind of weird, surreal image rip-off?  Had I wandered  nto the Rioja chapter of the KKK by mistake?  Was last night´s red Rioja messing with my head?

None of the above.  Not only were these two slogans a brilliant bit of catch-your-attention marketing, they actually made coherent sense. I interviewed Ricardo Amarbarri of Castillo de Maetierra a family-ownedwinery of Valles de Sadacia, a virtually unknown vino de la tierra (vin de pays)  in the Rioja region.  Ricardo said that between 1985 and 2005 white grapes in Rioja were in free fall, going from 23% to 7% of total production. The majority opinion was that the Rioja just wasn´t suited for white wines.  The Amarbarri family disagreed: the problem, they maintained, was that “… the usual white varieties grown in the Rioja D.O.C. (like Viura) just aren´t fruity and aromatic enough for the taste of today´s consumers”. So in 2002 they planted some Muscat a petits grains, a variety which had been extensively grown in the Rioja before the phylloxera plague wiped it out in the late 19th century.  This muscat which is the base of super aromatics like Moscato d´Asti came through with flying colors: “fresh and fruity.”  So they introduced seven more white varieties into La Rioja region: two Spanish ones (Verdejo and Albariño) and five international favorites (Chardonnay, Viognier, Gewurtz, Riesling, Sauvignon blanc). I asked if “any of these experiments had been “difficult”?  Ricardo said that Albariño and Viognier were still in “the experimental stage,” but all were proving “a great success”. They had passed all the requisite quality tests for five years and had won prestigious prizes including “best Spanish white wine” at the Wine and Crayfish contest in Holland and a gold medal at Mundus Vini.   So the Amabarri family has “introduced the greatest revolution in white wines in the entire history of the Rioja”: The white revolution.

And “Yes, we can?”  Ricardo maintains Castillo de Maetierra should be cruising toward a status upgrade from their humble vino de la tierra appellation to a prestigious Denominacion de Origin. But instead they find themselves in a ”David and Goliath struggle” with the Rioja Consejo Regulador (The D.O.C. official governing body). “(The Consejo) has always maintained that Rioja could not compete in the white-wine market” and now they are afraid of “looking stupid”, explained Ricardo.  So they throw up bureaucratic hurdles.  First, they refused to officially authorize the muscat grape in the Rioja.  Then, they tried to keep Valles de Sadacia from expanding throughout the province.   Now, “the beast” is waging all-out war to keep Valles de Sadacia from getting their own D.O. and becoming a rival in the Rioja region.  Can they defeat” the complacent giant”?  Valles de Sadacia says, “Yes, we can.”

So, how are the wines?  We found them pretty much as advertised: “Good wines for bars, aromatic and fruity, wines you can drink alone.” In any case  nothing like some traditional oaky Rioja whites. We especially liked the Riesling.  The Albariño was quite good, the Viognier  fresh and chuggable.  Their market is now “about 80% in bars and restaurants…mostly in the immediate area.”  But they have plans to expand to a place near you.

Well, now I am back in Barcelona and I see that an enterprising young Chinese entrepreneur has come out with a whole line of Oba-mao T-shirts featuring Chairman Mao´s body and clothes with Obama´s face.  So, tonight I will lose some sleep mulling over the following: (1)Will Obama  some day be as ubiquitous an international marketing icon as Che? (2) Will a triumphant Valles de Sadacia put white Rioja back on the international wine map? (3) How long will it take the Fox News troglodyes  to pounce on Oba-Mao in China and the white revolution in Rioja as even more proof positive that Mr. Obama is not only a commie, but also an alcoholic?

For a complete line of Oba-Mao products check out Google Images “Oba-Mao”

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2 Responses to “Obama and the “White Revolution””

  1. Carrie Jorgensen Says:

    Here at Cortes de Cima, in Alentejo, Southern Portugal we have also planted some experimental white varieties both here inland, and also on the Alentejan coast near Milfontes, including – Viognier, Verdelho, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. 2009 was our first harvest, and the 2009 ferments look very promising so far!

  2. oudyn Says:

    Best of luck! I’d love to give them a try. I didn’t have a chance to visit you during the European Bloggers Conference. Maybe next time.

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