God of Wealth Riding on a Tiger, early 20th century
HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!
For this month’s issue, we take a break from our solar Gregorian calendar and enter the Chinese Lunisolar Calendar. The Lunisolar calendar combines both the moon phase and the sun’s position in relation to Earth to determine the dates and significant events. For example, months begin on the new moon, and years begin on the second (sometimes third) new moon after the winter solstice. The sun determines when the months end. We have always been fascinated with the historical and cultural interpretations of how to measure time. While celebrating a new year feels very familiar, celebrating it on a different calendar brings a new definition, and a new reason to be optimistic for what’s ahead. The Chinese New Year uses their twelve year animal zodiac to determine the year’s identity. Each animal contains certain characteristics related to Chinese mythology and their relationship to the Five Phases (fire, earth, metal, wood, and water).
To celebrate this ancient holiday a step further, we have paired wines with each aspect of the new year you need to know to discover this year’s personality. The diverse nature of wine will be guiding our exploration into what makes 2022 such a particularly special year: it is the year of the Tiger, it is the year of Water, and the year of Yang. Whether or not you are a believer of these external influences, it will be delicious.
HuShuang'an, Tiger, 1916-1988
There and not there, the tiger’s markings simulate shadows that allow them to move like the wind through the leaves. In the Chinese zodiac system, the tiger is the brave warrior and represents courage, strength and passion. It is believed that those born under the tiger’s sign embody those same characteristics. According to Chinese mythology, the tiger is seen as the Yin and the protector of the earthly world, while the dragon is a representation of Yang through his protection of the heavens. In stories they are often enemies, but both similarly ferocious and brave with a dutiful mission of protecting their realm. It is also believed that on its forehead, every tiger carries the Chinese character for “king” 王. Their presence is powerful, with a strong body and calm face (when not in battle) and it is said that a tiger that has lived for 500 years turns white.
Their presence is also shrinking. Tiger territory used to stretch from Turkey to Bali and other Pacific islands. Tigers now occupy 93% less territory than they once did and are more fragmented, concentrating in temperate areas of Siberia and tropical regions of India. This also contradicts their inherent need for congruous territory in order to have access to enough prey and resting ground. They are now on the Endangered Species list and today there are only about 3500 mature tigers alive and residing mostly in India.
Wu Cho Bun, Longing for the Motherland
Pedro Gonzalez Mittelbrunn, Castilla Y León Roja 2019
SPAIN, Castilla Y León
Grape: Prieto Picudo
Like the tiger, this is a rarely seen variety in the world of wine. With land being given over to more internationally recognized varieties, it is rare to find wines made with Prieto Picudo, let alone a single varietal wine such as this. Winemaker Pedro Gonzalez Mittelbrunn has worked with a passion to revive this rare and historic varietal with other local growers. The grape itself is quite small, but its wines are packed with aromatics and a sense of freshness. Pedro uses all biodynamic and organic grape growing practices, and the winery is a leader in sustainability with regards to energy and water usage.
International varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah have broader recognition and financial value. The spread of these varieties feeds commercial needs but can literally destroy what is distinct about various growing regions on the planet. So, when we see producers choosing to work with what's historic in their regions, we pay attention. Given the right climate, most grapes can grow almost anywhere. However, most grapes thrive in only a select number of locations. Finding these elusive matchings of grape and place can be a challenge. This is why we look to history (and not the economy) of wine as a guide.
Prieto Picudo is grown almost exclusively in the northwest area of Spain, specifically Leon. The unique color, aromatics and high quality of this variety are leading others to begin working with it. Don’t let it’s rarity overshadow the ease of drinking.
Zhu Ruoji, Returning Home, 1695
The Chinese Zodiac refers to earthly elements as Wuxing or The Five Phases. These elements (Wood/ Fire/ Earth/ Metal/ Water) are used to explain everything from astrological phenomena to the effectiveness of medicine. Our current year 2022, happens to be a year of Water, the final phase of Wuxing. Water is the most Yin element and represents a downward and inward flow, the low point, the hiding or dying stage. From here, life can be born and the cycle can begin again. In Chinese astrology, water is connected with wisdom, darkness, black, night, the planet Venus, the moon, the black tortoise, the north, winter, and cold.
However, because the year 2022 is actually a Yang year, this means the type of water being represented is active: running water, river, waterfall, or ocean. Yang water is also seen as male and and it can become flood discharge, storm rain, or surging ocean. Because water is connected to intelligence, the characteristics of Yang-Water are acute, agile, and restless.
Rank Badge with Tiger, Ming Dynasty, 18th-19th century
Matic Wines, “Ya Yeh” 2020
Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc
What we’d call an orange wine, this Sauvignon Blanc juice is aged in large concrete eggs while in full contact with the grape skins and pulp for 3 weeks. This produces a full bodied wine filled with notes of fresh grass, wet stone and freshly baked bread. Made by Matija Zerjav (known to his friends as Matic), he works entirely by organic and biodynamic standards. He believes this produces the best quality fruit that is representative of the region of Stajerska where it is grown, rather than conforming to an international flavor profile. The wine is bottled unfiltered, so you may see some harmless sediment.
Using ceramic clay for wine storage and fermentation is nothing new. Amphorae were used as far back as Romans, Greeks and Egyptians. The benefits of aging wine in concrete eggs is that the shape allows for a natural convection of the lees (dead yeast) throughout the fermentation of the wine. This constant lees contact adds complexity and texture to the wines, which can affect mouthfeel and the perception of acidity in the wine. The thick walls of the egg also provide a stabilized temperature for an optimal, natural cooling of the wine.
Additionally, there is the unexplainable draw to the shape itself. There may be something celestial about it. These shapes have a power that we can’t totally deny or explain. Much like water, the egg is a symbol of life and birth. Within these concrete eggs, a whirling wine is being born as it interacts with time and gravity.
YIN AND YANG
The concept of Yin and Yang stems from the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism or the practice of living in harmony with the Tao or the “Way”. This concept of unity through duality can be found not only in philosophy, but mathematics, psychology, biology, and art. The symbol for Yin and Yang is one that is familiar; a light side and dark side swirling together in a circle. Each side has a dot of the opposite color within its fullest area. This shows that despite being distinct opposites, each element carries the other within it making each side necessary for the other to exist. This harmony depicts Yin as the dark, passive, and receptive side, while Yang is the light and active side . Chinese cosmology explains that the universe is made of chaos that has organized itself into physical beings that each hold a Yin and Yang within.
In order to name each year, the Chinese calendar uses the twelve animals, the five elements, and assigns a Yin or Yang force to each year. While the animals and elements have their own affiliations to yin and yang, the year also gets its own. This year's full name is the Yang Water Tiger.
Below are meanings associated with each side from the John DeFrancis's ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary:
Yin 陰 or 阴
Noun: ① [philosophy] female/passive/negative principle in nature, ② Surname; Bound morpheme: ① the moon, ② shaded orientation, ③ covert; concealed; hidden, ④ vagina, ⑤ penis, ⑥ of the netherworld, ⑦ negative, ⑧ north side of a hill, ⑨ south bank of a river, ⑩ reverse side of a stele, ⑪ in intaglio; Stative verb: ① overcast, ② sinister; treacherous
Yang 陽 or 阳
Bound morpheme: ① [Chinese philosophy] positive/active/male principle in nature, ② the sun, ③ male genitals, ④ in relief, ⑤ open; overt, ⑥ belonging to this world, ⑦ [linguistics] masculine, ⑧ south side of a hill, ⑨ north bank of a river
Tiger, Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644
Cantina Marilina, “Fedelie” Bianco Frizzante
ITALY, Sicily, Siracusa
Marilina and Federica Paterno took over winemaking for their father and have been working organically with minimal intervention in the fields and winery. Their 60 acre estate is split between grapes and polyculture crops that help to develop a natural diversity in the ecosystem. This sparkling wine is made by Methode Ancestral (aka: Petillant Natural or Pet-Nat). Before the wine is finished fermenting, it is bottled. In the bottle, fermentation continues, trapping any CO2 to create the fizz.
And the fizz is always the fascinating part, right? With Pet-nat wine in particular, we see what’s in the bottle as a representation of a dynamic yin-yang process between sugar and yeast. Without one or the other, we’d never have these quality bubbles. Now, there are other, simpler ways to get bubbles in wine (ie: forced carbonation, aka Prosecco), but this is not that kind of wine. The yeast eat the sugar converting it into alcohol with CO2 as a byproduct. In the end it's difficult to imagine this wine any other way than how it is. All of the forces at work to create this wine were at work since the process started, distinct but inseparable.
YEARS OF THE TIGER
You are courageous, optimistic, tolerant, humanistic and generous. You are independent, and can expect a long life that you were born to command, not obey. If you were born during a year of the tiger, let this be your year to own!
1926: Fire Tiger
1938: Earth Tiger
1950: Metal Tiger
1962: Water Tiger
1974: Wood Tiger
1986: Fire Tiger
1998: Earth Tiger
2010: Metal Tiger
2022: Water Tiger
Our aim is to give a glimpse into the many roles wine has played throughout history. All subjects mentioned deserve more attention and research and we encourage you to keep exploring. We are only here to pop the cork.
Many Thanks, Caravan Wine Shop