Djokovic, Alcaraz & Sinner: French Open Vin Stars


S.W. and Rich Hermansen
Guest Writers

The French Open dominates the tennis world this time of year. The draw of this fabled grand slam event has players from across the globe competing for the title. The seeded players, those rated in advance as the top contenders, do not compete against other seeded players in the first round of matches. The three top seeded players come from countries and regions that produce distinctive wines.
Novak Djokovic from Serbia has the top seed in the 2024 tournament. He has a much more widely known image than Serbian wine. His Serbian wine venture, Novak Djokovic Winery in Serbia, has released wines made from the French Chardonnay and Syrah grape varieties. Nonetheless, Serbia does produce highly regarded wines from native grapes. The 2022 Vinarija Ivanović No 3/4 Tamjanika ($14) has a golden color, spicy aromas on the nose, and tastes of crisp apples and lemon zest. Its dry acidity (ABV 14% !) enlivens pork, bird, and fish dishes. The complexity of the wine serves as a reminder of the complex political and ethnic history the Balkan region.
Jannik Sinner from the South Tyrol region of Italy has the second seed in the draw. He won the immediately prior Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open, and defeated in the semifinals the then and now top ranked player by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Novak Djokovic.
Sinner is recovering from a hip injury that has slowed his pursuit of Djokovic in the battle for the number one tennis player in the world. The 22 year old Sinner was born and grew up in a German speaking region of Italy not far from the border of Austria, from which South Tyrol was split after World War I. The popular South Tyrolean Wine Road meanders through picturesque villages with wineries using traditional methods to grow grapes and make the original local versions of Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Lagrein, and Gewurztraminer for which they are known. The 2022 Ritterhof Weingut-Tenuta Auratus Gewurztraminer Sudtirol DOC ($25, ABV 14.5%) has floral aromas and moderately sweet fruit tastes. It moderates the heat of spicy Asian and Mexican dishes, and it serves well as a light dessert wine.
Third seed Carlos Alcaraz Garfia defeated the top seed Djokovic in the 2023 Wimbleton final and, after recovering from ankle, torso, and forearm injuries, has become the oddsmakers favorite to win the 2024 French Open title. The 21 year old Spanish star was born in El Palmar, a village in the Murcia region of Spain near Playa (beach) El Palmar. Largely situated in the highlands above El Palmar, the Murcia wine region has three subregions: Bullas, Jumilla, and Yecla. Each has its own take on the red-black Monastrell grape, the French grape Mourvèdre, also known in Spain as Montero. The different altitudes of the subregions gives a different taste to the Monastrell grape.
The young Alcaraz has become an ambassador for the Murcia region. He’s an original akin to wine grapes that have been planted in Murcia for generations. The 2022 Bodegas Juan Gil Plata – Silver Label Jumilla, Spain ($14) has the deep tannins tastes of a Monastrell, Best with savory meats and rich sauces.
So do distinctive wines create an environment for tennis champions? Probably not. Djokovic and Alcaraz began playing tennis at four years old. Sinner at seven. A strong tennis player development program within a country or region discovers talented youth at young ages and accelerates their preparations for play at the highest levels.
S. W. Hermansen has used his expertise in econometrics, data science and epidemiology to help develop research databases for the Pentagon, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Agriculture, and Health Resources and Services. He has visited premier vineyards and taste wines from major appellations in California, Oregon, New York State, and internationally from Tuscany and the Piedmont in Italy, the Ribera del Duero in Spain, the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in Australia, and the Otego Valley in New Zealand. Currently he splits time between residences in Chevy Chase, Maryland and St. Armand’s Circle in Florida.
Rich Hermansen selected has first wine list for a restaurant shortly after graduating from college with a degree in Mathematics. He has extensive service and management experience in the food and wine industry. Family and friends rate him as their favorite chef, bartender, and wine steward. He lives in Severna Park, Maryland.


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