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by Fred McMillin
for November 28, 2000

 

A Wine From Gibraltar??


Prologue

Herakles, Pride of Europe 
The Rock of Gibraltar is a limestone mass which rises 1,400 feet above the water and covers an area of about two square miles.


Monkey Business

In Gibraltar, I saw many happy monkeys running wild around The Rock. As for wine, I saw no vineyards. Yet, the label on today's wine reads, "Product of Gibraltar." Furthermore, the red wine is named Herakles. I think we better go back to ancient Greece.

Herakles is another spelling of Hercules, the mightiest of the Greek heros.

A giant named Erytion guarded oxen to the west of Greece. The oracle of Delphi pulled some hanky panky and Hercules found himself assigned to recover the beasts. On his way west, he passed the 10-mile-wide strait that separated Spain from North Africa. Here he placed a large rock on each side of the water, the Pillars of Hercules. Hence, Gibraltar is the northern Pillar of Hercules.

Later, the vine-carrying Phoenicians establish vineyards in Spain, but not on The Rock. Nor did the Spanish, nor the Moors, nor the British when they seized it three centuries ago.

OK. So, how does Crag Wine and Spirits (Gibraltar) Ltd. do it? They bring in wine from France, Italy, and, of course, Spain. They blend and bottle in the stone caves of Gibraltar, and name their wine, Herakles, Pride of Europe.

Availability— Ask a friend to bring back a bottle. One of my sharp-palate panelists, Doris Hadley, brought today's bottle.
Rating—Solid every day red. RECOMMENDED.
Price—Love it. Four bucks (in Gibraltar).


Postscript—The Name Game

The origin of "Gibraltar?" A thousand years before the British took Gibraltar by force, a Moorish invader named Tarik crossed the Strait and did the same. Hence, the name Jebel Tarik (Rock of Tarik). JEBel TARik became "JEB-ral-TAR."

 

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

 
 


 
 

This page created November 2000

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