Noblesse oblige: The unwritten obligation of people with a noble ancestry to act graciously and generously to others.
I don’t think too many of us commoners can claim noble ancestry. If you can, I hope you act with noblesse oblige to the rest of us non-nobles and, in doing so, fulfill your moral duty to the general population.
Being noble is, well, noble and I can honestly say I’ve never associated with anyone with noble ancestry. I’ve been around a lot of folks who think they are better than others because of an accident of birth but that’s another story!
As a history buff, it’s been my pleasure to study American and world history to some depth and to have learned that the story of humanity is filled with nobility — either by birth or by force of arms. What I’ve also learned is most of the story of nobleness is not the story of noblesse oblige.
I guess it’s too easy to take advantage of folks you see as less than yourself — rather than simply treat them with, well, nobility. However there is one story of noblesse oblige that is as true today as it was over 400 years ago.
In the little Slovenian village of Maribor, grape vines grow that have been continually producing grapes for over four hundred years — despite wars, famines and natural disasters. They produce a local wine called zametovka and because the vines only produces about 50 liters of wine annually, it’s never sold on the retail market. Only visiting national dignitaries are honored with a bottle of this noble wine.
So, what is a noble wine?
It seems there are 18 grape varieties that possess the noble title: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Riesling, Syrah, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Moscato, Granache, Viognier, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo.
Of these 18 varieties, only seven are internationally known as noble grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Riesling and Pinot Noir. Why these seven? Because of their relative ease of growth, adaptability and likeability.
But, there’s more…
Remember those 400-year-old vines noted earlier in this column? Well, age doesn’t only bring gray hair and wrinkles but also depth and beauty.
The American wine industry loves to call their oldest vines “noble” and for good reason. Our country has vines that are over 125 years old and these vines are precious to the industry. Besides the obvious marketing elements to the grapes, they produce very few grapes and make extremely intense fruity wines. For instance: Noble Vines (California) produces a number of wines from vines that originated in Bordeaux, France and these vines have been gifting us with wines for over a 100 years. The various wines are identified not only by name but, also, by a number that refers to the original root stock. I don’t have a favorite because that would be insulting to all the Noble Vines — they are all excellent.
Noble Vines 337 is a Cabernet Sauvignon. It pours darkly red into your glass and its aroma is intensely cherry. It’s a dry wine that finishes very quickly after you’ve enjoyed the luscious cherry flavor.
Noble Vines 181 is a Merlot. Unlike many Merlot wines, this is a dry Merlot but still possesses the characteristics of a Merlot. It has a terrific mild cherry and oak taste, it’s very subtle, soft and ends with a hint of spice.
Noble Vines 446 is a Chardonnay Again, it’s a dry wine but still has the iconic green apple flavors that are enhanced with a touch of creaminess and vanilla. The finish is longer than one would expect from a wine with this dryness.
Finally, Noble Vines produces an excellent blended wine called The One. It’s made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel grapes and, although, the Cab gives the wine its basic dark cherry flavor, it allows the other two wines to give finesse and subtle tannins to it. An excellent wine.
These wine not only give us graciousness but are very generous with their aromas and flavors — they are definitely Noblesse oblige.
You know, thinking from a historical perspective, it’s a shame nobility couldn’t have been more noble. Maybe what we need to remember is simply this: all of the human race is noble and deserves to be treated with graciousness and generosity.
As always, eat and drink in moderation but laugh with reckless abandon!