Elanthian Viniculture (essay)

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This is a creative work set in the world of Elanthia, attributed to its original author(s). It does not necessarily represent the official lore of GemStone IV.

Title: Elanthian Viniculture

Author: Tymian Bayvel Illistim (father to Rohese Bayvel)

First published on the 5th day of Eorgaen in the year 5121

Note: Presented as a compilation and summary of Lord Tymian Bayvel's extensive notes on Elanthian viniculture by his daughter Rohese - so essentially an elven perspective by someone who doesn't drink but enjoys writing.

Throughout the ages wine has been cited as the inspiration for all good thought, the driver of passion and the bringer of happiness and well being. It features as a libation in many celebratory toasts, festive events and religious rites for good reason: not only is it symbolic but it tastes good! History also shows us that with exploration, conquest and settlement comes wine. Whilst agriculture is considered the cornerstone of any civilized society, viniculture could be hailed as the capstone.

Despite socio-political and economic instabilities, the Elanthian wine trade is still an integral part of both the elven and human cultures. Successful vinicultural practices have been preserved and perfected, thriving vineyards cultivated and good vintages continue to be traded and enjoyed everywhere. The Elven Nations are undoubtedly one of the largest exporters of fine wines but the burgeoning vintages of the Turamzzyrian Empire should not be underestimated; a pale Aldoran Riesling compares favorably to a crisp Ta'Vaalorian Chablis.

The varied topography and climate of the Elanith continent lends itself to a diverse selection of wines; from the woody undertones of a Ta'Ardenai white to the robust earthiness of a Vornavian red. The presence of good soil, adequate sun, heat and water are all vital to the healthy growth and development of grapevines. In general, they thrive in temperate climates which grant the vines long, warm periods during the crucial flowering, fruit set and ripening periods.

The westerly prevailing winds and fairly steady temperatures of the Elven Nations have proven to be ideal for reliable wine production. The recently abandoned vineyard, just outside the fortress city of Ta'Vaalor, is a perfect example. The plump, glaucous grapes once nurtured by the Farmer Yander can still be seen hanging on the vine and the aromatic, fruity red wine they once produced can also be savored in nearby Malwith Inn.

Whilst suffering a harsher regime of summer drought and winter rain, interspersed with occasional cold snaps, the Turamzzyrian Empire has also been known to produce some commendable vintages. Despite its none-too-salubrious reputation, many a brave wine connoisseur ventures to the Krawling Kraken just to sample the Hendorian Barolo it is proud to serve there.

This is not to say that more hostile environments cannot produce a palatable wine. The effective use of magic to adapt the growth and yield of the vines to the more extreme weather patterns has seen some interesting results. Who can forget their first taste of the exotic, sanguine Shiraz of the New Ta'Faendryl region?

The climate of a particular region strongly influences the type of grape varieties grown and the type of vinicultural practices used. Over the millennia, Elanthians have honed the art of determining the best wine-producing grape and there are essentially only six that you will see gracing a dinner table or enjoyed in one of the many Inns and Taverns.

Chardonnay is often hailed as the Queen of the white grape because it will grow practically anywhere and makes a great wine. Drunk young, such as in a Chablis, Chardonnay is dry and crisp with a tart-apple like quality. More often though, it is aged in oak barrels and acquires a more sophisticated, buttery taste with hints of vanilla or wood smoke. The Legendary Rest in Ta’Vaalor serves only the finest example if the patroness is to be believed.

Playing King to the Chardonnay is Cabernet Sauvignon with its complex, velvety texture and astringency. It demands time to mature but rewards patience with a classic blackcurrant taste. Wine makers often blend Cabernet Sauvignon with the lesser Merlot to offset the harsh tannins and smooth out the hard edges. Standing alone though, the Merlot has its place. With oak aging, the taste of blackberries and plums acquires mellow chocolate notes to produce a very drinkable everyday wine. For one of the more prestigious vintages, try the cherry red merlot available at the Moonglae Inn in Ta'Illistim.

Not to be out wined by the Chardonnay, the crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc has its own distinct perfume and natural taste redolent of ripe, bursting green fruits. Similarly, the Pinot Noir holds its own against the Cabernet Sauvignon, being lighter and less tannic with a somewhat fruitier richness. Notoriously difficult to grow and even more difficult to turn into a great wine, it is no wonder that both these varieties are less prevalent in Elanthian drinking establishments and tend to only surface during special occasions such as festivals.

Last but by no means least, the vibrant blue Shiraz grapes have been known to produce some of the deepest, darkest and most intense red wines. Rich peppery flavors mingle with dark berries and cherries to yield a wine that can age for decades, particularly when influenced by oak barrels. Prosperous vintners have no doubt set aside cases for their own enjoyment as this particular wine is rarely available to the everyday wine drinker. Should you ever be fortunate enough to come across any in your ventures, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity.

Like many things in life, viniculture is not an exact science and some vintages are better than others. Wine is versatile. Although the poorer versions may not reach the goblets and glasses of the more refined palate, the addition of honey, herbs and spices can lift a young wine to greater heights or find a use in medicinal and culinary practices.

Notwithstanding the popularity of the traditional grape wines though, there are also some rather delicious varieties made from the abundant fruits and flora of the meadows and hedgerows. Bottles of dark moonflower and golden marigold liquor jostle with jugs of purple elderberry and hearty plum on the tables of many of the more humble establishments and should not be dismissed. Helga, the infamous proprietor of the self-named Tavern in Wehnimer's Landing, serves a remarkably palatable flaeshornberry wine. In addition, Lem Skinker sells a noteworthy dandelion wine in Spirits of the Delta to be found on the Market Bridge in Solhaven.

But whilst many may extol the virtues of one grape or vintage over another, at the end of the day, what is better than sitting with friends in your favorite Inn and simply enjoying a chilled glass of muscadet or a warm mulled wine...or three!