Friday might be a good enough reason to drink, but this particular Friday also happens to be Mozart's Birthday.
The Mystery of Blackcurrant Flavor
It’s not uncommon to hear wine experts say that a particular wine has blackcurrant flavor but if you’re in the US this might be somewhat a mystery to your palate. As it turns out, this once popular fruit was banned in the US while its cultivation flourished in Europe. How is an American to know what blackcurrant flavor in their wine should taste?
Wine drinkers a hundred years ago would have had a very clear understanding of this description. Prior to the 20th century, blackcurrants were very popular in the United States. So what happened? Blackcurrant shrubs were suspected as a host to a sort of pine blight that was a threat to the lumber industry. This turn of events struck at a very bad time. By this time, what is now known as the Continental United States had been acquired one way or another even if all those territories weren’t yet recognized as individual states. This meant lots of expansion which meant lots of building. Lumber trumped fruit and the cultivation of blackcurrants was banned in the US.
By contrast, not only did blackcurrants continue to be cultivated in Europe, by the time WWII rolled around England was growing mass quantities of the stuff. This was due in large part to the remarkably high vitamin C content of this crop. There’s a reason why Europeans understand this flavor so well. In fact, they tend to really love it because blackcurrant has a nostalgic flavor for many. The British grew this crop and made cordial of it to distribute it freely to British children for its nutritional value. It was a sweet treat that sustained them during many years of rationing which lingered on 15 years beyond the end of the war. It’s this period when limited food supplies were available that England gained a reputation for having terrible cuisine. When food supply was in plenty, this was not the case, as evidenced by the resurgence of England as a leader in emerging food trends. The taste for blackcurrant was set when many of these people were children, so they’re very familiar with this desirable flavor.
Good news for the Americans came when the federal ban on blackcurrants was shifted to something each state could decide for themselves and at the beginning of the new millennium, New York state lifted the century old ban in 2003. Though still prohibited in most states, this crop has been welcomed back in the north eastern part of the country. We think that when everyone dials in on the high fiber and vitamin C levels of this fruit, it’ll roar back to popularity. If you come across some, give them a try. It’s a flavor that’s worth understanding as it’s a popular wine descriptor.
If you show the fine folks at the Ravenswood tasting room your permanent tattoo of their logo you can have wine tastings for free. How much do you love Cabernet Sauvignon? While that’s probably much more of a commitment than any of us is willing to make, we can tell you that their Cabernet Sauvignon is well worth trying.