When we first started the club, there was talk about how few bottles it may take to reach 100 grape varieties. Perhaps 10-20 with Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Port field blends etc. Those speculations now seem quaint and completely blown away by these bottles of vinous steroids
Depending on how you count them, that’s 728 to 785 varieties in 3 bottles! (Heinz, you’ve got nothing on these!) These have been languishing for a few years now in my cellar. Quite frankly, I’ve been afraid to open them, not knowing what kind of horrors or delights might be unleashed by this veritable Pandora’s Box. And, of course, I will be tempted to make the ultimate cuvee that can propel any mere mortal into the exalted Heptavin (700) level of Wine Century Club membership. It will undoubtedly send Deborah and me well over 1000.
Is this fair? I’m not so sure, especially when our current holder of the Grand Prix du Cépage, has never tasted the Poliphonia (he has had the Leth’s Simply Wow!, however). I admire Chris Hamm’s remarkable work in coming up with a speculative list of the 417 varieties in the Poliphonia, but unfortunately, they can’t be confirmed with the winemaker. He and his wife Gayle have recently submitted their applications for 1,220 (wow!) grape varieties. A ruling by the Committee was necessary.
The Committee came back with this ruling:
Applications with grape counts that include performance-enhancing wines will be permitted. However, given the speculative nature of the count in the Poliphonia, all certificates will be marked with an asterisk (like Barry Bond’s record-breaking baseball in the Baseball Hall of Fame). Furthermore, Poliphonia grapes will not count in the Grand Prix du Cépage.
Marc Braes has now won the Le Grand Prix du Cépage 3 years in a row and is currently on 1,111 grape varieties. He is also the only Millenary Member (members who have tasted at least one thousand grape varieties).
Please take a moment to clap 1,111 times for Marc!
2017 Poliphonia Pheasants Tears a 417 Georgian varietal field blend
by Chris Hamm
All Wine Century Clubbers are always on the hunt for new unique grape varietals. Especially on the hunt for a multi unique varietal blend. Historically in the Wine Century Club “the White Whale”, was Cento Uve, from Mario Giribaldi Vineyards in Tuscany, with a purported 152 unique wine varietals. My wife and I got a couple of bottles of that wine 2 years ago, when we vacationed in Scotland and England. In advance of that trip I had called the Mario Giribaldi Winery in Tuscany directly, to place an order for a couple of bottles of Cento Uve, and arranged to have them shipped to our hotel in London. We brought the wine back to the U.S. when we left London, in July 2018.
One “White Whale” vanquished. Next to look for something a bit bigger.
In early 2019 a Wine making friend in Oregon was watching a show on Hulu last year called “The Wine Show”, a United Kingdom based show, that explores Wine, and Winemaking. In season 2, episode 3 the show visits Pheasants Tears Winery in Khakheti, Georgia. Here’s the back story. A few years ago, the Georgian national government took over a project to preserve locals strains and unique native Georgia in a “host” Vineyard. John Wurdeman, co-owner of Pheasants Tears agreed to do so. 500+ varietals were planted on his Estate Vineyard in Khakheti. After nurturing the multitude of new Vines for a few years, Wurdeman, in conjunction with his Winemaker decided to do a 417 varietal field blend. At harvest time, the field erupts in a “rainbow” of color, with red, pink, gray, yellow and green grapes. The grapes are harvested in four sweeps across the Vineyard to pick the grapes at the respective peak of their ripening. All the grapes are combined in a Qvevri, a huge Clay winemaking container lined with BeesWax, fermented and buried in the ground. The Wine is left on the skins for a couple of years, then bottled.
The Wine name Poliphony means “multiplicity of sounds” in the Greek language.
This “Wine show” episode addresses Georgian Winemaking, Pheasants Tears Winery, and in particular, the 417 varietal Wine, “Poliphony”.
The hunt was on for Poliphony. A trip to Wine Searcher yielded a couple of answers. One Wine shop in Tblisi. One in London. One in New Zealand. One in Australia. None in the U.S. Note, here is the best part about the Wine. It costs around $26 U.S. dollars. Since I live in the U.S. I had to find a way to travel to a location selling the Wine, or make arrangements with a friend or family member to traveling to London. I contacted the Wine shop in London and confirmed they would ship to a Hotel in London for me. Next I contacted two family members who had planned business trips to London in early 2020. I started to make arrangements to purchase the Wine and have it shipped to their planned Hotel in London. Then of course, Covid 19 entered the equation. All International travel squashed.
Plan B. No solution on Wine Searcher. I had heard about a Blog/website called 1000Corks, which had a proprietary search logic to track down rare Wines. I visited the website and typed in Pheasants Tears Poliphony. Guess what? I found a Brooklyn shop that had 1 bottle left. I purchased it and had it shipped across the Country. Next how to quantify/document all of the varietals. There are a few web based articles that cover the Wine and the Winery. I gleaned some information from these. I contacted the Winery directly, and opened a dialogue. I got a little information but could only learn about 25 – 30 varietals incluced directly. Exhausting all other sources, I went to the VIVC international database, and got a listing of all documented Georgian Varietals. There are 550 in this database. All with a varietal number based upon, when it was verified and documented. The lower the number, means the varietal has been documented a long time. The higher the number means the varietal was documented and confirmed more recently.
I sorted the list in numerical order. I eliminated varietals that looked to be clones or, had no grape type documented, ie, Red or White, Rouge or Blanc, etc. I also eliminated any varietals that were just listed with a number. I was left with about 500 entries. Then I picked the remaining 390 or so varietals, I had not yet been able to document as being included in the Poliphony blend.
We had a social distancing Wine tasting party in July. Georgian wines only, and Georgian food only. Poliphony is unusual for sure. A bit sour. Pink to Strawberry in color. A broad range of flavors, that changes every few minutes you let it remain in the glass. Enjoyable, especially when it’s chilled a bit. A once in a lifetime type of Wine.
If you’ve been concerned about the glacial pace that certificates are being sent out, please take note that more have been sent out this week.
As of July 4, 2017 we currently have:
Total Members 1,740
US 1,420 Canada 80 UK 62 Australia 25 The Netherlands 16 Germany 14 Finland 13 Hong Kong 12 Sweden 12 Brazil 9 Norway 9 Spain 9 France 8 Greece 8 Switzerland 7 Denmark 5 Italy 5 Belgium 2 Hungary 2 Ireland 2 Mexico 2 Poland 2 Portugal 2 Turkey 2 UAE 2 Bahamas 1 Bulgaria 1 Czech Republic 1 Estonia 1 India 1 Macau 1 Georgia 1 Romania 1 Russia 1 Taiwan 1
The Wine Century Club now has 1,378 members worldwide. Stacked end to end (and assuming an average height of 5ft 6in) we now are collectively taller than Mount Kosciuszko, the highest mountain in Australia.