What grape do you ski like?
With winter winding into spring, the fastest ski racers in the world are in Aspen for the FIS World Cup ski races. The best of the best, the Grand Cru, if you will, of the skiing world will be competing for the Crystal Globes, the symbol of excellence in skiing.
While it’s called “World Cup,” virtually all the skiers in the finals hail from the Northern Hemisphere. The majority are from Europe and North America, which fits the sweet spot of this column. The skiers’ home nations are those with great wine traditions. It got me thinking: What wines could represent the world’s best skiers?
WHITE WINES FOR CHAMPIONS
Take the Austrian Marcel Hirscher. The most accomplished athlete on earth who most Americans have never heard of, Marcel has won six straight overall World Championships. That’s the equivalent of a winery being named the best by every significant wine journal for more than half a decade.
In Marcel’s home country, there are 35 grape varieties that can be used in the production of Qualitätswein (quality wine). Perhaps the best known are the grüner veltliner white wines that can show as peppery, racy and full of power. While Champagne will, no doubt, be sprayed this week in celebration, I’d like to pour Marcel some FX Pichler Grüner Veltliner “M” — in a glass made by his countryman, Georg Riedel, of course.
Then there’s precise and charming Mikaela Shiffrin from Vail. Mikaela celebrated her 22nd birthday last week and is coming off a pair of victories in Squaw Valley, California. She’s favored to win the overall title. Though youthful, she also represents the future of ski racing, and will have an unprecedented shot at five medals in next year’s Olympic Games in Pyeong Chang, South Korea. If she approaches that, her fame will rise to the Michael Phelps stratosphere.
I suggest she sit down after the season with a glass of Sonoma Coast chardonnay. It is a region that, like Mikaela, is getting more and more recognition on the international scene, and one known for precise, charming wines. May I recommend a 2013 Hirsch Vineyards Estate Chardonnay? Though the Hirsch is better known for their outstanding pinot noir, this release is a wine for the times — much like Mikaela.
RED WINES WORK ON SNOW, TOO
Of course, if you are looking for a powerhouse American skier who has not just had world-class success, but has also overcome the vicissitude of her sport like no other, consider Lindsey Vonn. Nature imposed its will on Lindsey, who severely broke her arm in training at Copper Mountain in November. But she is back racing downhill and just missed victory two weeks ago in Pyeong Chang, where she was second by .07 to Italy’s Sofia Goggia.
Somebody should give that girl a bottle — make it a magnum — of the California Cult Cabernet from Harlan Estate, preferably one from 2010, the year she won two medals, including a gold at the Vancouver Olympics. Big, beautiful, balanced and powerful, it is the perfect pairing with Lindsey’s book, “Strong is the New Beautiful.” Oh, and you can find that magnum on Wine.com for $2,199.
Speaking of Goggia, she comes into Aspen from her home region of Bergamo in Lombardy, where the Bellavista DOCG Franciacorta wines are made using the Champagne method. Sofia trails Slovenia’s Ilka Štuhec in the downhill standings by 97 points. Slovenia is the home of the renowned Ales Kristancic, who makes Puro, a legendary white sparkler that is best opened while upside down — a position none of the skiers hope to be in this week.
I could go on, but I’d rather go watch the races.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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