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MARQUETTE AND PEER GYNT:
WINE AND MUSIC FOR A WHITE CHRISTMAS

by John Axelrod ©2014

What wine would the Weihnachtsmann drink for Christmas?

Not such an easy question to answer. With the advent of Christmas and holiday seasons, we tend to adorn our tables with champagne and fine wines that go well with goose, duck, ham and other foods that leave us immobile for a few hours after eating. Most of these wines come from Mediterranean or cool climates.

Cool and cold can be defined as a cool growing season that limits fruit ripening and a cold winter that threatens the vines with winter injury. In this relationship, cool areas may not necessarily be cold, but cold areas are always cool.

Germany, Champagne, Burgundy and northwest Spain are cool; Bordeaux, Piedmont and Tuscany are warm; parts of southern France, southern Italy and Spain are warm to hot. In between these seasons remains the danger of frost in the spring and fall. None of these regions has the regular risk of winter injury. But what about the North Pole?

Poor Weihnachtsmann. Santa Claus has to work. He can’t lounge around after a hearty meal and watch repeats of Christmas specials on television. And the hardest thing for him would be to import the best wines from France, Italy, Germany or Spain. They simply would freeze. It is cold at the North Pole, as cold as the backside of the Mountain King!

But there is a red wine grape that can handle the cold and goes very well with Peer Gynt. And one that Santa could easily grow in his backyard. And, lucky for us, it is a wine we can all enjoy for the holidays.

We know, of course, the story of Peer Gynt, written in Ibsen’s 1867 play, and set to music by Edvard Grieg in 1876, and later made into the popularly known orchestral suites between 1888 and 1891. The music not only portrays the tragic story of Peer, Ase, Solveig, trolls and the Mountain King though music, but captures the landscape tundra of the frigid fjords and forests of Norway. The music is meant to make you shiver, not only from fright, but in the same way a freezing northern wind can chill the bones. A fire can melt away the ice, but a good wine can warm the heart and soul in the way only a child’s hug or a loving embrace can.

Where can Santa, or the rest of us for that matter, find a Marquette? All Santa has to do is follow the Peer Gynt tune and end up in a Scandinavian settlement called: Minnesota. Yes, the Northern Midwest.

The Marquette grape, and other cold weather grape varietals like La Crescent, Brianna, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, and Frontenac Blanc were developed by the University of Minnesota for the purpose of identifying wines that could be locally grown. These grapes are able to thrive in shorter growing seasons and withstand temperatures below -30 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius!) No worries then for Santa and Mrs. Claus for their Christmas dinner.

And the best of these cold winter grapes is probably the Coyote Moon Vineyards Marquette, an award winning wine, that costs less than 20€, and gives smooth complexities for anyone to enjoy. But why a cold winter grape for the holidays?

Who can resist the Christmas table description from Coyote Moon: “Imagine the aroma of chocolate-covered caramel blended with vanilla and spice luring you to your wine glass. As the wine passes over your lips, savor the delicacies of warm black cherries, raspberries and hints of spice as the flavors caress your taste buds. You may want to stop there and revel in the moment, but indulge yourself with a second sip. You will be glad you did as silky smooth flavors of chocolate-drizzled popcorn, caramel and spice arise to envelop your senses.”

Ive tasted the wine. It is remarkable, bordering on a non tannic dessert wine or port combined with chocolate and cinnamon. It works with anything: from the appetizer to the entrée to, naturally, the many desserts one expects at a holiday feast.

This wine will leave you mystified under the spell of its music. Like the Morning Mood from Peer Gynt whose birdsong can melt the icicles dripping water from the rooftops. Like Solveig’s Song, whose melody pulls at your heartstrings. Like being in the Hall of the Mountain King, with rumbling bassoons and pizzicati building into an enormous clash and clang of trolls. This marquette wine will take you by surprise and hold your tongue hostage.

I’m dreaming of a White Christmas. The Weihnachtsmann is dreaming of a good wine after a long day’s work. With the Coyote Moon Marquette in the glass and Peer Gynt on the stereo (not sure Santa has an MP3 yet, he is kind of old fashioned, and he doesn’t need to worry about bothering his neighbors), this will be a warm Weihnacht with a cold wine.