Absinthe’s popularity grew steadily through the 1840s when absinthe was given to French troops as a malaria preventative. When the troops returned home, they brought their taste for absinthe with them. The custom of drinking absinthe gradually became so popular in bars, bistros, cafes, and cabarets that by the 1860s the hour of 5 p.m. was called l’heure verte (“the green hour). Mass production caused the price of absinthe to drop sharply and by 1910 the French were drinking 36 million litres of absinthe per year, as compared to their annual consumption of almost 5 billion litres of wine.
Often portrayed as a dangerously addictive drug, any psychoactive properties attributed to absinthe, apart from that of the alcohol, have been much exaggerated. The chemical compound thujone, although present in the spirit in only trace amounts, was blamed for its alleged harmful effects; by 1915, absinthe had been banned in the United States and in much of Europe, including France. Although vilified, it has never been demonstrated to be any more dangerous than ordinary spirits.
Following the adoption of modern European Union food and beverage laws that removed longstanding barriers to its production and sale, a revival of absinthe began in the 1990s; by the early 21st century, nearly 200 brands of absinthe were being produced in a dozen countries, most notably in France, Switzerland, USA, Spain, and the Czzech Republic.
In 2007, the French Lucid brand became the first genuine absinthe to receive a COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) for importation into the United States since 1912, following independent efforts by representatives from Lucid and Kübler to topple the long-standing U.S. ban. In December 2007, St. George Absinthe Verte, produced by St. George Spirits of Alameds, California, became the first brand of American-made absinthe produced in the United States since the ban. In May 2011 the French Absinthe Ban of 1915 was repealed following petitions by the Fédération Française des Spiritueux, who represent French distillers.
Gigondas, Domaine de Terme
Rolland Gaudin, the Mayor of Gigondas, owns this estate. Given his other duties, his daughter, Anne-Marie, who is a trained oenologist, runs the estate. Harvest is done by hand, with careful fermentation using a mix of modern and traditional techniques. The Gigondas sees an elevage of three years, with 6 to 8 months of that in foudre. It is a blend of Grenache and Syrah. Much of their wine is sold in Gigondas itself, and through the Independent Vignerons association. Stephen Tanzer’s review reads: “Saturated purple. Exotic aromas of dark berry preserves, incense and potpourri, with a kiss of tobacco. Broad and fleshy, with sweet blackberry and kirsch flavors showing no rough edges. A very inviting wine with good finishing sweetness. The natural environment is paramount to the success of a vintage, we are very attentive and respectful. Lovely colour, black cherries on the nose, good concentration with bright structure and very good length. Granache, Syrah
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Pouilly-Fumé, Domaine Jean-Claude Chatelain
The Chantelain family has been growing grapes around the area of Pouilly-sur-Loire since 1630 and now has the 12th generation running the estate. 23-30 year old vines grown on 70% Kimmeridgean and 30% Silicaceous clay soils and vinified in stainless steel. This wine has a bright attractive nose of lemon, melon, tropical fruit and soft chalky minerality. The palate is clean with little wisps of grass, stone and good weight which carries the bright juicy acidity all the way through. 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Fronsac, Château Les Roches de Ferrand
The small appellation of Fronsac is located in the Libourne region of the Bordelais, which contains other well-known appellations such as Pomerol and St. Emilion. Made typically from Merlot and Cabernet Franc, wines from Fronsac are known for their soft richness and accessibility but with enough structure to keep for many years. This selection, made by Rémy Rousselot in the tiny village of Saint-Aignan, is made from Merlot (90%) and Cabernet Franc (10%) and aged in oak barrels for about 12 months before bottling. This wine is rich and medium-bodied and can well accompany meats, poultry, cheeses and other savory dishes. A deep black “toasty” fruit bouquet is followed by full, round fruit on the palate, supported by the structure imparted by both ripe fruit and oak barrel tannins, with a smooth finish leaving you wanting for nothing.