Thursday, 16 October 2008

Ghost Wine

There are a few wines in the USA whose labels have been inspired by ghosts - Gray Ghost Gewurztraminer from a winery in Virginia, Bogle Phantom Petite Sirah from California (Bogle is a Scottish term for "goblin," incidentally) and Savannah-Chanelle Pierre's Ghost Red Table Wine from California's Central Ghost, sorry, Central Coast.

Australia has its own quota of supernatural activity amongst the vines and Cockfighter's Ghost Pinot Noir 2001 from Western Australia commemorates the vineyard's ghost. The story goes that 175 years ago, while exploring an overland route to the Hunter Valley, the lead horse, called Cockfighter fell into quicksand and drowned in the Wollombi Brook. His ghost is said to haunt the vineyard near the site.

There is also Hermitage Hideaway Estate Ghost Riders Vineyard Shiraz in the Hunter Valley , but that takes it name partly from the winemakers love of horses, partly from the Country and Western Song Ghost Riders in the Sky and partly from the movie The Legend of the Ghost Rider. Incidentally the first Ghost Rider was a cowboy who rode a horse, wearing a hat and mask and it wasn't until the 1970s that the Ghost Rider became associated with a motorbike rather than a horse.

Crete boasts a haunted winery - Boutari's Fantaxometoho Estate Winery near Heraklion. The name translates as "Haunted Cottage". In about the 1880s, the story goes, a local farmer began reporting strange sounds and visions around his cottage at night. Sceptics believe he was just trying to drive off young men who were raiding his farm as a convenient source of free food; others claim it was the ghosts of ancient Minoans.

But in support of the legend, the fields don't seem to have been believed to be haunted, only the 300-year-old cottage. If this was just a negative public relations campaign to scare off raiders, it seems that it would have made more sense to spread the story that the surrounding fields were haunted as well.

Boutari itself has an ambivalent attitude toward its supernatural status. While it mentions the legends in its promotional materials, and has applied the name to its estate and a special vintage, individual employees may or may not know the tales. But the Boutari Fantaxometocho winery is definitely the home to another type of "ghost" - the vintners of Boutari are growing a number of endangered native Greek grape vines which have almost been wiped out as many growers have switched to better-known, internationally-profitable varieties. Some of these grapes have thrived for thousands of years on Greek soil, only to nearly vanish in the 20th century.

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