April 21, 1574: On this day in 1574 Cosimo I de Medici, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, died in Florence, having ruled the city of Florence and the surrounding Tuscany region for 32 years. Cosimo has his own place in the history of wine. In 1559 he issued a law decreeing that wine producers in Tuscany could sell their product directly to consumers, rather than relying on middlemen. In response the owners of Tuscany’s vineyards began setting up Buchette del Vino, or ‘wine windows’. These small windows on the sides of buildings were used to sell directly to customers. In subsequent years the ‘wine windows’ became part of efforts to try to stop the spread of disease in Florence during plague outbreaks such as that which occurred across Italy in the late 1620s, as the Buchette were ideal as a means of limiting contact between the seller and buyer. So effective were the ‘wine windows’ in this regard that the Buchette, of which approximately 150 are still extant today, were brought back into service during the Covid-19 pandemic. For more information, see Robbin Gheesling’s ‘The Vivoli Wine Door’, in The Florentine, 7 November 2016. See also Caitlin O’Kane’s article ‘Italy’s “Wine Windows”, used during the plague, reopen for contactless food and alcohol sales’, in CBSNews, 12 August 2020.

April 21, 2010: On this day, David John McIntosh died in Nelson Hospital. A coroner said today that the experienced vineyard manager who was fatally injured by a machine used to remove the netting from vines had ignored a fall-back safety procedure. On his 42nd birthday, David John McIntosh was working at the Greenhough Vineyard near Nelson when his leg became tangled in some netting and he was dragged into the machine. He had significant chest, head, and leg injuries, yet he was able to telephone for assistance before going unconscious. Before his bosses called the emergency authorities, two bystanders heard his cries.

April 21, 2011: On this day, Jess Stonestreet Jackson died. Jess Stonestreet Jackson was an American wine entrepreneur, multibillionaire, self-made businessman, and owner of racehorses. By developing the Kendall-Jackson wine brand, Jess Jackson amassed a billion-dollar fortune. Jackson, who was born in San Francisco in 1930, and his then-wife Jane Kendall Jackson purchased a pear and walnut ranch to use as a weekend getaway when Jackson was a prominent trial lawyer. Jackson started growing grapes but had problems selling them, so he switched to making wine. He aimed to develop crowd-pleasers instead of concentrating on winning over wine critics and he accomplished this brilliantly. The distinguishing characteristics of K-blended J’s Chardonnays were their softness and rapid drinkability due to barely discernible residual sugar, as well as their delightfully powerful acidity, creamy oak vanilla flavors, and unusual pineapple fruit flavor. Jackson, and the creators of Yellow Tail who came after him, recognized that American drinkers unintentionally lie when they claim they don’t like sweet wines and profited from it.

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