Wine Articles IV

What kind of pink will China drink?

Palate Press, Erika Szymanski March 15, 2016

It’s no secret that the wine drunk in China is, overwhelmingly, red. Chinese tradition has it that red is a prosperous color. Red wines Some Chinese drinkers see red wine as having health benefits, good for the skin or for blood circulation. Wine consumption is often a social status-building move in China, and with few exceptions red wines (like red Bordeaux, infamously) rank higher on the prestige scales than whites.

But it’s old news that more and more of the Chinese wine market is about middle- and upper-middle class consumers looking for a pleasant beverage for home consumption China appears to be tilting toward a culture of middle-class wine drinking for enjoyment, not just ritual wine consumption by the business classes alone. A majority of middle-class Chinese wine shoppers are female, and women have historically (however unfortunately) been prime targets for marketing whites and rosés. From an aesthetic view – at least from a Western aesthetic view – whites and rosés pair better than reds with a lot of Chinese cuisine. And if “everyday bubbles” gave “drink pink” some competition for hip wine slogan of the year in 2015, “rosé isn’t just for summer” is still a regular wine media proclamation against decades of seasonally limited pink drinking. Rosé is big in wine. Wine is big in China. Surely it’s only a matter of time before everyone decides that rosé should be big in China.

But what kind of rosés do Chinese wine drinkers like? It’s not necessarily true that nationality affects wine preferences. As sensory science has become a more important part of wine marketing over the past decade, a number of studies have concluded that wine preferences hold a lot steadier across borders than you might expect. Nationality isn’t the thing, it seems, so much as habituation. People grow to prefer the styles of wines they see most often, and our general diet predisposes us to prefer some flavors over others. Australians, unsurprisingly, are a lot more comfortable with high-alcohol reds with bold black fruit and pepper flavors than are Chinese consumers, who prefer lighter, sweeter wines dominated by red fruit flavors according to an Australian study conducted a few years ago. Those big flavors may be an acquired taste, but the plentiful domestic shiraz market gives Australian drinkers plenty of opportunity to acquire it. Experienced tasters also tend to develop different preferences compared with novices, one of those obvious-sounding points that’s also been borne out in scientific testing. The steady pattern across all of these sensory studies is that every group of wine drinkers will contain multiple subgroups with different preferences, but the relative size of those groups varies. Sure, some Chinese drinkers will like peppery wines, and some veteran oenophiles will still prefer “beginner” wines, just not very many.

In other words, Chinese folk’s rosé preferences may lean in their own direction, but there’s little data on which direction that is. So, sensory scientists in Australia – whose third-largest wine market is China, and who’s beat only by France for foreign presence on Chinese wine shelves – are at work mapping out the unknown.

Australian scientists led sixty-two Chinese wine professionals through blinded testings for eighteen Australian rosés in about the US$7-35 range, plus two rosés from Provence and three from China. The tasters ranked those wines for total quality, expected price, and how much they liked them.

The Chinese wine experts preferred – and ranked as higher-quality, and expected to pay more for – rosés with “fruity, floral, honey and confectionery” notes, to use the formal, standardized terminology. They thought less highly of “citrus” and “yeasty” flavors, of “savoury, spicy, oaky, earthy, and leather” notes. “Red fruit” was better, herbal aromas were worse. The several savory, oaky, smoky wines in the line-up – Australian, French, and Chinese alike – didn’t fare well. Good acidity and high-intensity fruit bumped wines up on the perceived quality scale. All three of the Chinese wines, incidentally, were rated as being very different from each other, and one of the three fell consistently at the top end of the rankings while the other two were dealt middle-of-the-road scores.

The Chinese wine experts preferred less sweet rosés over sweeter wines, even though Chinese consumers seem to prefer sweeter red wines. The difference may be about expertise: experts have learned to appreciate many more of a wine’s characteristics, and unlearned the simple but unfashionable “sweet is good” equation. Something else to consider, though, is a lesson you’ll have learned first-hand if you’ve ever inadvertently mixed up your supply of semi-sweet eating chocolate with the unsweetened baking kind. Sugar tempers bitterness. Red wines, with their higher tannin quotients, can have a bitterness that (like dark chocolate) is very much an acquired taste; preferring reds with some residual sugar may be as much about not liking bitterness as about liking sweetness.

So formal sensory testing indicate that Australians and anyone else looking to open up a Chinese market niche for imported rosés should start with dry, red fruit-y, floral, honeyed pinks regardless of what grape variety they’re made from.

Why did we need science to figure that out? Maybe we didn’t. But here’s the thing: rank-ordering a large number of wines is one matter; identifying which characteristics are responsible for the rankings they receive is another. Science takes complex problems and makes them simpler until conclusions can be drawn about small, single pieces of the puzzle. Wine is complex. In this study, every taster was given a list of standardized tasting terms and asked to write their descriptions using only that list. But wine flavors are complex, and so those lists still have to be long and detailed if they’re going to be of any use. With all of those variables, figuring out which characteristics sit behind tasters’ wine preference ratings calls for some fairly fancy statistics, first to isolate individual characteristics, and then to put them back together again. Sensory scientists are well-practiced at fairly fancy statistics, on top of having protocols for choosing appropriate tasters and sample wines, and for standardizing tasting protocols themselves. Moreover, they ran chemical analyses on the wines that allowed for mapping sensory qualities the Chinese professionals like and didn’t like to associated molecules. A list of favored molecules may not do much to help a wine store stock shelves, but for the analytically-minded producers who have done so much to build the Australian wine empire, that sort of detailed chemical information adds a lot to “dialing in” new styles for new markets. Could this have been a marketing study instead of a sensory science study? Probably, except for the chemical analysis. Being published in a science journal instead of a marketing journal may have had as much to do with the difference as the content of the study. No matter; it’s science for having taken a complex problem and made it simple enough to find patterns amidst the complexity.

So, the latest sensory science research can say that Chinese wine professionals are likely to respond well to floral, fruity rosés, a simple response to a complex problem with lots of moving parts, made possible by carefully standardized methods. Now it’s up to rosé producers, and to marketers, to test the waters with uncontrolled wines and uncontrolled consumers, and to make things more complicated again.

 

Tuscany creates a major new body

Meiningers, Friday, 11. March 2016

Fabrizio Bindocci, current president of Brunello di Montalcino Consortium, and owner of Il Poggione winery was elected president of the newly founded Tuscan Consortium AVITO (Associazione Vini Toscana) this week.

The aim of AVITO is to bring together large and small Tuscan Consortiums and combine forces to lobby and coordinate on future Tuscan viticultural issues. The intention of AVITO is to represent the interests of the entire sector, from the larger consortiums to the smaller ones, giving voice to the many and diverse experiences that constitute the real wealth of Tuscan viticulture.

“We need to be united in global promotion, especially regarding smaller Consortiums, who have fewer resources, smaller volumes of production and less experience and visibility,” said Bindocci, going to on explain that “AVITO will be of vital importance in increasing the region’s competitiveness and positioning in markets around the world. As a single Consortium we will have greater strength when lobbying with regional or national government for EU and other funding.”

So far, 16 of the existing 23 Tuscan Consortiums have already joined. These 16 consortiums constitute about 5,000 wineries, with estimated sales of around €1bn, and 70% of Tuscany’s exports.Those who didn’t get their paperwork ready in time will be signing the agreement in the coming weeks; it appears that only a few minor consortiums have no interest in joining at this stage.

The initial steps were taken back in the summer of 2014 when the main Consortiums started to discuss issues regarding a Territorial Plan (Pit) to coordinate a response to agricultural issues, such as the construction of wineries, or the growing problem of the increase in numbers wild boar and deer that can ravage entire vineyards.

“We need to extend the hunting season and cull the wild boar and deer that trample through the vineyards, causing extensive damage, as well as eating the grapes at harvest time,” adds Luca Sanjust, newly elected vice-President of AVITO, and president of one of the smaller Tuscan Consorzios, Valdarno di Sopra and owner of Petrolo Estate.

AVITO is now fully operational

 

EU refusing Japan’s request for use of smaller wine bottles

The Japan Times, MAR 5, 2016

The European Union is refusing Japan’s request in free-trade talks to allow the import of Japanese wine in bottles smaller than those commonly used in Europe, sources close to the matter said Friday.

Japan is asking the European Union to accept 720 ml bottles, which Japanese wineries typically use. But the European Union maintains such bottles would allow Japanese sellers to undercut prices, and demands Japanese wines be exported in 750 ml bottles widely used in Europe and other major markets.

The EU side expects Japanese producers to “move uniformly to the internationally practiced standard size,” according to an EU internal document.

The Japanese government claims that use of different bottles would be a big burden to bear for Japanese wine producers, which are mostly small-scale enterprises, and that there is no discriminatory measure against EU wine bottles in Japan.

Japan and the European Union are also at odds over the bottling of shochu, a Japanese distilled liquor. Shochu is typically sold in 720 ml and 1.8 liter bottles.

 

English wine makers target tenfold export rise in four years

Horticulture Week, 4 March 2016, by Gavin McEwan

Britain's wine producers will get government support for a bid to increase exports tenfold by 2020, Defra secretary Elizabeth Truss announced yesterday following a round-table meeting with industry representatives.

The target will mean an increase from 250,000 bottles to 2.5 million, and an increase in value from £3.2 million to over £30 million.

The area of planted vineyards should also increase by 50 per cent from the current 2,000 hectares to 3,000, while production should go up from 5 million bottles per year to "up to 10 million".

The new targets will be backed by the government's Great British Food Unit, launched this year to boost exports and inward investment.

The government has also pledged to help producers identify an additional 30,000ha suitable for sparkling wine production by making available new data on soil types, water resources, and infrastructure networks.

Truss said: "Our goal is to harness the ambition of our English wine producers by flying the flag for British produce internationally and exploiting the huge potential for increasing exports."

The area of land under vine in England and Wales has already doubled over the last ten years, while production has doubled in five, reaching £100 million last year.

UK Vineyard Association chairman Sam Lindo said: "New markets and opportunities are opening up all the time. We anticipate our exports to increase from what is currently 5 per cent of production to represent up to 25 per cent,"

Wine & Spirit Trade Association chief executive Miles Beale added: "The first ever English Wine Round Table was a fantastic opportunity to have a full and frank conversation about how Government can support the industry to meet its goals by 2020."

 

 

Big bag in a box a winner for Accolade Wines as CHAMP mulls exit

March 30, 2016- Simon Evans

The industrial-sized giant 24,000-litre plastic bags heading to the large Bristol bottling plant owned by Accolade Wines are 6000 times the size of a traditional cask wine bladder. It might sound like a cask of wine on steroids, but the 24,000-litre plastic bladders of wine that arrive at a giant bottling facility in Bristol, in Britain, have become a core part of the business model of Australia's second-largest wine company, Accolade Wines.

Accolade is 80 per cent-owned by CHAMP Private Equity, which is weighing up a potential exit after five years of ownership.

The company is a pioneer in the cost-saving bladder approach, which substantially cuts freight costs and reduces the environmental footprint because of the lower weight of the giant bags, compared with transporting finished bottles of wine stacked on pallets from countries such as Australia, Chile and New Zealand.

Accolade has just expanded the Bristol facility, officially opening a sixth bottling line last week after spending $16 million. British Minister for the Environment and Food George Eustice was at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The enormous bags hold the equivalent of 32,000 bottles of wine and are protected by a steel casing. The expanded Bristol plant, known as Accolade Park, can fill 1200 bottles a minute.

The in-country bottling approach has also been embraced by rival Treasury Wine Estates, owner of Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Rosemount, which in 2012 struck a deal where Accolade bottles and packages a large proportion of the Treasury wine sold in Britain and Europe at the Bristol site.

Reciprocal arrangement

The July 2012 bottling deal included a reciprocal arrangement, where Accolade closed all of its packaging and warehousing facilities at its Reynella headquarters, south of Adelaide, and shifted most of the bottling and packaging of its wine to the large Wolf Blass bottling plant owned by Treasury Wines in the Barossa Valley, north of Adelaide.

Accolade's chief executive Paul Schaafsma said the strategy was an important part of the company's approach in Britain and Europe because it could deliver to big retail and trade customers a range of wine from different countries from one facility.

Brands such as Hardys and Banrock Station from Australia, Mud House from New Zealand, Vina Anakena from Chile and private label brands are all bottled at the Bristol facility and transported to retailers such as Tesco, making the process much more efficient than transporting bottles from the individual wineries in different countries.

The decision by Accolade in 2012 to shut down its bottling hall and warehousing at the corporate headquarters at Reynella had a sequel three weeks ago, when the 32-hectare site was sold to unlisted public company Tarac Technologies.

Tarac chief executive Jeremy Blanks said on Tuesday the company was planning multiple uses for the site under a "business park" theme. Tarac generates $40 million a year in revenue from its core business of making spirits and other products from grape skins, seeds and other byproducts of the wine-making process.

"It is fundamentally an investment for us," Mr Blanks said.

Accolade will retain use of several heritage-listed buildings on the Reynella site under a long-term lease. CHAMP acquired its 80 per cent stake from United States alcoholic beverage giant Constellation Brands in February 2011, for almost $300 million.

CHAMP is weighing up a potential exit, which could include a public float or a trade sale. Accolade is the leader in the British wine market with a share of 13 per cent and sells about 35 million cases of wine annually from its stable of wine brands in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Chile.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/big-bag-in-a-box-a-winner-for-accolade-wines-as-champ-mulls-exit-20160328-gnsrpf.html#ixzz44YzhrEeX

 

 

Billionaire Koch Brother Will Sell 20,000 Bottles of Wine


Bloomberg, James Tarmy, March 29, 2016 T

On May 19, 20,000 bottles of wine from William Koch’s cellar will go to auction at Sotheby’s. The blockbuster sale, spread across three days (May 19–21), represents close to half of the billionaire’s total collection and was acquired over the course of nearly 40 years.

“He’s bought on scale,” said Connor Kriegel, head of auction sales for Sotheby’s Wine, who organized the sale. “Whenever he saw an opportunity to buy the things he loved, he bought.”

Koch’s wine, which will be broken up into about 2,700 lots, is estimated to go for $10.5 million to $15 million. More than 120 lots are from the coveted Château Latour, including one that consists of six 1961 magnums, which carries an estimate of $42,000 to $60,000. There are also more than 80 lots of Château Mouton Rothschild; one, composed of 10 bottles of Mouton’s 1945 vintage, is expected to sell for $80,000 to $120,000. “That’s one of the most legendary wines,” said Kriegel. “It’s the wartime vintage, and it’s one of the greatest wines they’ve ever made. To see it on such a scale is pretty spectacular.”

Koch has made headlines with his wine collection before. In the late 1980s he paid $500,000 for four bottles that had supposedly once belonged to Thomas Jefferson but were later determined to be fake, and in 2005 it was discovered that a fine-wine dealer named Rudy Kurniawan had sold Koch 211 suspicious bottles for more than $2 million. (Koch filed suit, and Kurniawan was eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison.)

The Sotheby’s sale, in contrast, came about for a different reason: Koch simply had too much of a good thing. “He realized he could never get through all of this wine,” said Kriegel. In a statement announcing the sale, Koch echoed that sentiment: “With around 43,000 bottles, I could not possibly consume everything in my cellar so I am delighted to offer this selection to allow collectors all over the world to enjoy the glorious moments that come with these wines,” he wrote.

The auction comes at a relatively robust time for wine sales. The market is down from its 2011 highs, but recent auctions have seen strong prices for unique bottles. At a Sotheby’s London wine sale last week, for instance, a single bottle of the same 1945 Mouton Rothschild offered in Koch’s collection sold for more than $12,000.

“Mr. Koch is a big name, and I suspect there will be a lot of excitement,” Kriegel said. “You’re going to be seeing clients from all over the globe—individual collectors, all sorts of people interested in wine.”

 

Wine Industry Recruiting in a Tight Market

Wines & Vines, 30 March 2016

Tips for wineries and vineyards on finding good people (or mechanizing instead). Vineyard labor is becoming increasingly difficult to find in California’s winegrowing regions.

Sacramento, Calif.—The U.S. labor pool is very shallow at the moment, with the unemployment rate at a low 5% and wineries struggling to fill most open positions. At the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento earlier this year, a panel addressed this situation and offered some approaches to finding the right people—or automating so you don’t need them. The moderator was recruiter Amy Gardner of Sacramento-based Wine Talent. Joining her were Terry Bates of Cornell University in New York, who focused on mechanization; vineyard manager and grower Steve McIntyre of McIntyre Vineyards in Monterey County, Calif., who addressed finding and keeping vineyard workers; and Shanne Malilay of Jackson Family Wines in Santa Rosa, Calif., who discussed the company’s unusual approach to recruitment—treating it like marketing products.

A healthy economy means tough recruiting

Gardner began by setting the stage. “The December 2015 Jobs Report was significantly stronger than anticipated, with low unemployment continuing and longer term employer confidence than in recent years.” She noted that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January 2016 the highest level of workers voluntarily quitting their jobs since April 2008, the beginning of the recession. “2.8 million Americans left an employer voluntarily last year,” she said. “That’s a strong barometer of economic health; people are confident enough to leave a job they have. They wouldn’t leave during the recession.”

During the recession, one job was open for every seven unemployed people. Now it’s one job per only 1.5 people looking for work. Gardner commented, “Monthly level of job openings has reached a new peak with over 5 million jobs posted since February 2015.”

The good news for workers is that more jobs are available, but that leads to bad news for employers who are not able to fill positions. In the wine business specifically, Wine Business Monthly’s winejobs.com website had the most job postings in the site’s history in 2015—almost double where things were at the last peak in 2007, when Winejobs became an industry resource. “Winejobs is a great resource and an accurate indication of wine employment. It’s the first place I post,” Gardner said. The site listed 809 more postings in 2015 than 2014.

According to Eric Jorgensen, publisher of Wine Business Monthly, which operates Winejobs.com, postings for January and February 2016 were up an average of 9%. Gardner commented that some companies are even listing jobs that aren’t yet open just to be on the safe side. Then they can move quickly if a position opens.

Shortage of vineyard workers

The next speaker, Steve McIntyre, discussed the pressures on growers due to increasing scrutiny on undocumented laborers and regulations as well as inflammatory rhetoric by Republican presidential candidates. “We used to depend on farm labor contractors, but now workers working for them are treated like your employees—especially regarding health care reform.” He added that probably 60% of the vineyard labor pool (60,000-70,000 people) is undocumented. “If I use E-Verify to check them, I can’t hire them.”

One positive program he mentioned is the H2A program for guest workers who can legally return to Mexico. The local industry in Monterey also has started a program to use disabled laborers. Terry Bates of Cornell University in New York talked about mechanizing grapegrowing, admitting that he was addressing only part of the issue. “There’s no labor where I come from, but we have 32,000 acres of grapes,” mostly Concords for Welch’s, which have comparatively low value per ton. In the past, labor was plentiful and prices higher; now the reverse is true.

One result is that labor for at least 40% of the vines is at least partly mechanized. He quoted a price of $220 per acre for hand pruning if wages are $11 to $14 per hour. “Minimal pruning didn’t work,” he added. Most companies pre-prune mechanically, then follow up by hand. “They leave more buds than they need on the vines with mechanical pruning, then thin when they know they don’t need the canes.”

A new approach to recruiting

Moderator Gardner suggested that the process of recruiting candidates is much like that of selling wines direct to consumers (DtC): direct to candidate. That led to perhaps the most interesting and useful talk of the session: how Shanne Malilay, director of talent acquisition at Jackson Family Wines, led the company to treat recruitment like product marketing. Malilay mentioned that he has worked for Jackson for less than two years. “When I arrived, they weren’t looking strategically at hiring. There was no recruitment branding, and they had a small budget for hiring.” They also had gaps in talent in production. He helped the company develop a strategy through a series of meetings with leaders in DtC, production, sales, marketing and corporate teams at various locations. Part of the new approach was to treat recruitment like the company treated the marketing of its products: This included branding the company (JFW) as an employer of choice using marketing collateral, event displays and social media. They moved all recruitment and career information to jacksonfamilywines.com from individual brands like Kendall-Jackson. They actively sought new sources of talent including veterans and individuals with disabilities as well as forming partnerships with high schools and community colleges for internships. “There are huge opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Malilay. “We wanted to create talent communities to draw on,” he added. “We sought to engage passive candidates and build a pipeline of people who were ready to be hired.” This required them to identify internal candidates and leverage their employees and their contacts. “We have about 1,500 employees, and we filled 453 positions last year from inside,” said Malilay. This led to enhanced career pages online and frequent communications to applicants. “We send a minimum of two responses to each candidate and include a 30-second video clip from employees.” They also improved the application process with editable online English and Spanish applications and enhancing technology like DocuSign while continuing to build JFW’s presence on LinkedIn, the primary job-oriented social medium, and JFW’s Twitter feed. “It hadn’t been treated as a recruitment tool before,” Malilay said. More than 4,000 people follow JFW on LinkedIn, and they’re now actively engaged, not just passive. And a high percentage of candidates enjoy Jackson Family wines as well, which the company is able to leverage. In addition, the company has created 10 formal internships across the country; their goal is to hire 80% of the interns. Malilay mentioned that agencies get 20$ to 30% of first year’s pay, and Gardner added, “You need to charge your employees to help in recruiting,” and selflessly suggested offering bonuses.

Copyright © Wines & Vines

 

Canada's Wine Industry Eyes Fresh Investment

23 March 2016, by Peter Mitham

Kelowna, B.C.—Canada’s federal government has pledged to re-invest in agricultural research stations across Canada as part of an ambitious, decade-long investment in the nation’s infrastructure. The promises amount to more than $90 billion over the course of the next 10 years, a timeframe that is twice as long as the term of the newly elected government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who swept to power in October on a tide of discontent with how his predecessor, Stephen Harper, handled an array of social issues. Many of the initiatives of the new government have sought to alter, if not outright reverse, the policies of the previous regime. With respect to agriculture, the new government embarked on a public consultation regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, which was finalized during last fall’s election campaign (the government has since signed the deal, but ratification by lawmakers has yet to occur). It also lifted previous restrictions on public communications by federal scientists, restoring their independence and creating a more liberal and open environment in the public eye. However, all eyes were focused on this week’s budget to see if the government was willing to bolster the resources scientists receive. (Unlike the extended budget negotiations in Washington D.C., budget day in Ottawa is an annual event that provides the country a view of how the ruling party is managing the nation and economy; governments have been known to fall when the budget legislation goes to a vote.)

$54 million in investments

With an emphasis on the importance of “public agricultural research” and “federal support for fundamental science,” the new government’s first budget promised $54.1 million in new investments over the next six years for both research and research infrastructure. The line items include $31.4 million in cash for the rehabilitation and modernization of research stations and labs across the country, including British Columbia, home of the Summerland Research and Development Center (formerly the Pacific Agri-food Research Center), and Ontario. According to the budget document, “In addition to ensuring that these assets are in a good state of repair, this investment will facilitate advanced biological and environmental research through the procurement of state-of-the-art scientific equipment.” Complementing the spending on infrastructure is a pledge of $22.7 million by 2022, “to support advanced research in agricultural genomics.” Specifically, this includes digital recording and analysis of the more than 17 million specimens of insects, plants, fungi, bacteria and nematodes held by the federal government. By allocating the funding, the government hopes “this will improve public accessibility to this collection and will support research in priority areas, including climate change and the rapid identification and prevention of biological threats to agriculture.” While not all the spending will have a direct impact on the country’s wine industry, located primarily in Ontario and British Columbia, industry leaders like Kathy Malone, chair of the B.C. Wine Grape Council research and development committee and winemaker at Hillside Winery in Penticton are sanguine. “BCWGC welcomes any new investment,” she told Wines & Vines. “We expect that any funding commitment to the Summerland Research Center would have a positive effect on research in enology and viticulture in British Columbia.” Miles Prodan, executive director of the B.C. Wine Institute, agreed.

Hope for Summerland funding

A previous round of infrastructure spending announced by the former government in 2009 saw upgrades to the premises of the B.C. Wine Authority in Penticton, and interim announcements supported market development and other initiatives. While details on specific investments are still not available, Prodan said he hopes funding will pick up where previous rounds left off. “[It’s] too early to tell whether [Summerland] could benefit from the modernization, but since B.C. is identified, our hope is that it will be a beneficiary,” he told Wines & Vines. The promise regarding additional investments in agriculture science and research are also encouraging, however, he said there’s plenty else to cheer the wine industry. He points to pledges for skills and training funding, as well as $3.8 billion in the next five years for wastewater management and green infrastructure. Commitments to deepen trade with China and India and boost Canada’s profile as a tourism destination also appeal to Prodan, whose term with the wine institute has coincided with growth in wine tourism as well as exports to the U.S. and Asia.

Copyright © Wines & Vines

 

Yes, you can taste salt in wine

Decanter Staff March 31, 2016

Salt in wine? Surely not! But what are wine experts referring to when using the word 'saline' in wine tasting notes?

David Baxter, from Nottingham, asks: Recently I’ve noticed the word ‘saline’ cropping up in more tasting notes. Surely wine can’t be salty. So what are your experts referring to?

Stephen Brook, for Decanter, replies: You’re right, saline has been creeping into tasting notes. But it’s not entirely without meaning. There are white wines – from Sicily, for example – that have a salty tang which may (or may not) be related to proximity to the sea.

I think of ‘saline’ as a cousin to ‘mineral’. We think we can detect mineral tones in, say, a Mosel Riesling or a Puligny-Montrachet, and that’s not entirely fanciful either.

Similarly, salinity does often seem appropriate when describing wine.

To confuse matters further, Italian tasters also refer to sapidità (sapidity), which is dictionary-defined as having a strong, pleasant flavour, but in Italian it seems to carry overtones of salinity too.

Research identifies protein behind costly grape leaf disease

The Sacramento Bee- 16 jan 2016

 

Leaf browning disease costing state wine industry more than $100 million yearly

 

Pierce’s disease has been known to be transmitted by a winged insect, the sharpshooter

 

UC Davis scientists say bacterial protein and not insect is the main culprit

Scientists at UC Davis have identified a key protein at the root of a disease likely ravaging California’s grapevines and costing the state’s wine and grape industry more than $100 million yearly.

Pierce’s disease is caused by a bacteria known to hurt crops including almonds and grapes. It’s transmitted from vine to vine by a small winged insect called the sharpshooter, which lives near rivers and streams. The disease causes the yellowing or browning of grape leaves and results in leaves dropping from vines.

The disease has been a problem for grape growers since the late 1880s and decimated vineyards in the Los Angeles Basin in the 1930s and 1940s. Recently, the disease forced the replanting of 775 acres of vines in California’s North Coast and affected 25 percent of the Temecula Valley’s 3,000 vineyard acres. In the latter event, the result was an estimated $13 million in damage, according to The Wine Institute, an industry group.

It’s not well understood why the bacteria is so persistent in grape leaves, said Abhaya Dandekar, a plant geneticist at UC Davis and a co-author of the research. But the research represents a small step forward in understanding the problem.

“We stumbled on this by looking at what the bacteria is secreting,” he said. The work was published in the online journal Scientific Reports and was funded by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the wine industry.

The research suggests that a protein secreted by the bacteria spread by the sharpshooter – and not the bacteria itself – is at the root of the spread of the disease and its persistence.

The only way to currently control the disease is by killing the sharpshooter. The research findings are expected to lead to new diagnostics and potential treatments for the disease without targeting the insect – and may help diminish the use of pesticides on grapevines, Dandekar said.

More research is needed to learn how the protein affects grape leaves, he said.

“We have no way of controlling the bacteria itself,” he said. “If you can control the bacteria, then it does not matter whether you have the insect.”

 

Luxembourg vintners begin ice wine harvest

Luxemburger Wort, 19 January, 2016

The first winemakers began their ice wine harvest on Monday morning, as temperatures had dropped to -8° C.

Even after the adverse weather conditions in December, it looks as though ice wine may finally work out for Luxembourg's vintners this year: thanks to the recent frosty temperatures, the ice wine grape harvest started Monday.

In December, the Institut Viti-Vinicole had a pessimistic outlook for an ice wine vintage --weather was simply too mild. In order for grapes to be processed into ice wine in the first place, they require a night's freeze of at least -7° Celsius (grapes have a lower freezing point than pure water).

Once this condition is met, the frozen grapes are harvested by hand, delivered to the winery and made into ice wine.

As was announced at the New Year's reception of the Institut Viti-Vinicole in Remich, the first winemakers began their ice wine harvest on Monday morning, as temperatures had dropped to -8° C. On Tuesday, the grape harvesting continues.

Whether the must weight is enough for ice wine remains to be seen. Ice wine grapes must have a must weight of at least 120° on the Oechsle scale; if this requirement is not met, the wine is sold as a Spätlese (literally, a "late harvest").

 

Woman winemakers in CA? Still not very many

http://www.steveheimoff.com/

Posted by steve on Jan 20, 2016

Reading about the upcoming Women of the Vine Global Symposium, a great event which takes place this April in Napa Valley, made me think of how difficult it was for women to gain a toehold in the wine business, even in “liberal” Napa Valley, as recently as the 1970s.

I was talking just yesterday with Cathy Corison, who related to me how, when she got a job in Freemark Abbey’s cellar, in 1978, Napa “never had a woman hauling hoses before that!” Indeed, it was rare for women to be found anywhere in wineries, except maybe in the lab; at Robert Mondavi, for example, that’s where Genevieve Janssens began, as did Zelma Long.

(It’s only fair to point out that Genevieve was hired by Zelma Long, who by then had become Mondavi’s winemaker—a rare exception at that time to the no-women rule.)

Another tale from that period concerns Merry Edwards, who related to me, in New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff, how shocked a winery owner was when she showed up for her job interview. You see, Merry had sent in her resume with her first name, Meredith, which made the owner think she was a man. As she told me the story, this winery owner “practically lost his teeth when I walked in. I said, ‘You didn’t know I was a woman, did you?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘You never would have interviewed me if you’d known?’ He goes, ‘No.’”

How far we’ve come since then. Some years ago, I heard that the Viticulture and Enology Department at the University of California, Davis, finally had achieved parity of the genders in terms of students majoring in V&E. After 125 years, not bad! Today, of course, it’s common to find woman winemakers (although this article asserts that, in 2014, the percentage of “female lead winemakers” in California still was only 14.8. One can only hope that this percentage will increase).

This is why certain wineries make such a big deal about the women who were instrumental in their histories. Freemark Abbey points out, with justifiable pride, how Josephine Tychson, who bought the winery in 1881, was the first recorded female winemaker in Napa Valley. The Guenoc and Langtry wineries of Lake County rightly note how Lillie Langtry established the original winery in 1888.

Related to this notion of gender equity in winemaking are the issues of race equity and sexual preference equity. Here in California we do have a number of talented Black winemakers and winery owners, but for some reason African-Americans still seem underrepresented at all levels of the wine industry. I’m somewhat at a loss to understand why. As for the GLBT community, there’s a ton of gay and Lesbian winemakers; not all of them are out of the closet, nor should they be if they don’t want to. I don’t think anyone wants to be known as “the gay winemaker,” any more than they want to be known as “the female winemaker” or “the Jewish winemaker” or any other such descriptor. Winemakers want to be known for their talent and work ethic. As do we all…

 

Emerging ‘it-grape’ Garnacha is ready for its close-up

Christopher Waters JANUARY 20, 2016

The enduring popularity of superstar grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay has seen their dominion spread across virtually every wine region in the world. In the past 10 years, they have catapulted up the ranks to be among the most widely planted varieties in the world.

But it’s clear the winds of change are stirring. The grape variety that has wine journalists, sommeliers and winemakers buzzing at the moment isn’t one of the mainstays. It’s Grenache or Garnacha, as it’s known in its native Spain.

Authorities such as British wine writer Jancis Robinson are anointing Grenache as the next “It-Grape”. “But – at last – Grenache's time seems to have come,” she wrote recently in print and on her influential website, jancisrobinson.com.

Fashions come and fashions go. What’s interesting to note about the growing hype surrounding Grenache is that there’s enough wine to meet the needs of interested consumers.

This isn’t the usual case of some rare grape variety that’s threatened with extinction — say, the otherworldly minerally and complex white wines made from Assyrtiko on Santorini in Greece — being celebrated as the next big thing.

Grenache is widely planted across the southern Rhône Valley of France and down into Spain and beyond, notably in South Africa and Australia where exciting juicy reds that brilliantly convey the ripe red berry flavour of the grape are produced at attractive prices.

A recent tour of five regions in northern Spain that specialize in Grenache opened my eyes to the across-the-board quality of the grape variety as well as the passion of producers ranging from small family estates to large co-operatives who are waiting to be discovered.

Grenache isn’t going to knock Cabernet off its lofty perch, but it will assert itself on the world’s stage and show wine lovers everywhere that it’s a world of choice out there for anyone looking for alternatives.

 

Turkey wine-making tradition under threat from Islamic-rooted government's new alcohol laws

The Independent Laura Pitel 25 December 2015

The ancient culture dates back to the time of Homer but today’s workers are suffering as rules introduced by conservative Muslim politicians mean the industry cannot advertise and produce is heavily taxed.

Wine has been produced in Turkey for thousands of years – Pliny the Elder lauded the sweet spiced wine from Galatia in central Anatolia, while Homer’s Iliad features pramnios, which was produced on the Aegean coast.

The successors of the ancient winemakers, however, are having a difficult time. Two years ago, Turkey’s Islamic-rooted government imposed a raft of new alcohol laws, including strict rules on the promotion of drink. Newer producers hoping to ride a fresh wave of interest in Turkish wine have been particularly badly hit.

Selim Ellialti began investing in vineyards on the Gallipoli peninsula in 2003. The endeavour was a retirement project for the successful IT entrepreneur and lifelong wine-lover. His first vintages were released for sale under the label Suvla Wines in 2012. The following year, the new laws came in. “It was a big shock,” Mr Ellialti said. “We can’t offer tastings, promotions, information or website visuals and it is forbidden to advertise any kind of an event.

While Suvla Wines is “surviving”, he is saddened and frustrated that he cannot trumpet a series of successes at international competitions in order to reach new customers. “The only way to reach the customers is to be on the shelf of a store or the menu of a restaurant,” he said.

Yunus Mermerci, whose Kastro Tireli label got up-and-running in 2010, wasted huge amounts of work. “We had to close our website, change and add warning labels, bring down the sign boards we had recently made and put up in several places in Istanbul,” he said. “All publicity materials – business cards, company letter heads – had to be changed, so related materials were all unusable.”

“Being a young winery, we were particularly negatively affected, as we are not allowed to even talk about our wines to the consumer,” he added. “The older wineries, with more established brand names, were not impacted as much.”

Turkey, where the vast majority of citizens are Muslim, has long had a complex relationship with alcohol. About 85 per cent of Turks do not drink, though only about two-thirds believe it is morally wrong to consume it.

The current battle is one of a series of totems in a deeper political struggle about Turkey’s cultural values and outlook. When the Justice and Development Party (AKP) swept to power in 2002, it became the first party with a religious bent to take the helm in modern Turkey. Its leaders, who see themselves as pious Muslims, set about rebalancing what they saw as the long-standing social oppression of Turkey’s social conservatives by the secular elite that had dominated politics for 80 years.

The right to wear the headscarf, previously banned from public institutions, became one symbolic front. Another was alcohol, which had long been held up by those with a more secular, Western outlook as a sign of their enlightenment. In the words of the anthropologist Jenny White: “In Turkey, a sip of whisky, like a drop of blood, is a highly charged cultural marker of social class, lifestyle and political values.”

The AKP began by increasing taxes on alcohol. In 2013, still flush from his third election victory, the then Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan went further, with a highly-divisive new batch of laws. They included the new marketing restrictions, a ban on new bars opening near mosques, and the introduction of labels warning consumers that “alcohol is not your friend”.

Mr Erdogan, who last year assumed the post of President, said that the changes were to protect society from the ills of drink and to stop young people “wandering about in a state of inebriation”. Critics, such as Mr Mermerci, say that such statements obscured his true agenda. “These changes seem to be introduced to make life difficult for producers of wine and other alcoholic beverages,” he said.

Mr Ellialti blames the government’s attitude on what is he says is the “less educated background” of the majority in Turkey, claiming: “They do not have any international background or awareness of different lifestyles.” Supporters of the AKP would point to such language as evidence of the culturally superior attitudes of the old ruling class.

Bans on alcohol are not new to Turkey. For much of the Ottoman Empire there were tight restrictions, though there was the odd exception – the son of Suleiman the Magnificent was known as “Selim the Sot”.

Champions of Turkish wine warn that the current climate is damaging the industry and exacerbating cultural rifts. Mr Ellialti, of Suvla Wines, says the government is treating wine producers “like drug dealers or terrorists” and wishes it would display more tolerance towards their craft.

Mr Mermerci was more optimistic. “I am pretty sure the Anatolian wine will rebound with the efforts of the recently emerged, diligent boutique wineries, no matter what obstacles there may be.

“Wine has been produced for thousands of years in these lands,” he said, before adding a metaphor that would surely meet with Homer’s approval: “This has been a hiccup in the process.”

Disappointing Christmas champagne? Blame the glass

telegraph 26 Dec 2015

If you were unhappy with the taste of your Christmas Day champagne, it may all be down to the shape of the glass in which it was served.

Researchers have found drinking from a champagne flute rather than a wider coupe glass can help to enhance the flavour of sparkling wine.

While both are popular glasses for drinking champagne, analysis conducted by at the University of Reims in the heart of France’s Champagne-Ardenne region, has shown the movement of bubbles in the wine is different in each of them and can dramatically influence the taste.

As bubbles rise and burst from the surface of the wine, they release tiny droplets of champagne that partly evaporate to produce the distinctive aroma and flavour.

The scientists found that in a narrower flute, the bubbles mix more of the liquid in the glass, creating a stronger flavour.

In a coupe there is a far larger ‘dead zone’ around the edge of the glass. This means less of the important aromatic compounds are released into the drinker’s palette when they take a sip.

The results may also help to explain why champagne never tastes as nice from a plastic tumbler or a wine glass when the glassware starts to runs a bit low at a party.

Professor Gérard Liger‑Belair, a chemical physicist at the University of Reims who led the research, said: “A liquid is able to release its aromatic compounds more efficiently if it is in motion rather than if it is at rest, thus helping the evaporation of compounds from the champagne surface.

“In the coupe, the central bubble flow is simply not able to drive the fluid at the edge of the vessel.”

"A liquid is able to release its aromatic compounds more efficiently if it is in motion rather than if it is at rest, thus helping the evaporation of compounds from the champagne surface."

Professor Gérard Liger?Belair, chemical physicist at the University of Reims

Their research, which is published in the journal Experiments in Fluids, found only half of the surface of the wine in a coupe is involved in the mixing process and the production of aromatic droplets.

In a flute by comparison, once the bubbles reach the surface, vortexes form in the liquid that help to reach the edge of the much narrower glass.

The research team used a technique called laser tomography to reveal the movement of bubbles inside the liquid in the glass.

The average glass of champagne produces around one million bubbles if it is left undrunk. Flutes were able to retain their fizz for far longer as the carbon dioxide dissolved in the champagne escaped less rapidly.

The findings build on previous work conducted by the team that showed glasses with dimples etched into the bottom can help to improve effervescence when drinking champagne.

Previously Professor Liger-Belair and his team have shown chilling champagne can also help to reduce the amount of alcohol carried up in each bubble, which can also help to prevent the more delicate flavours from being overpowered.

He has also found cooling a bottle of champagne to 39 degrees F (4 degrees C) can help to reduce the speed of the cork as it leaves the bottle, helping to prevent accidents.

 

 

The Best of 2015 (USA)

The editorial staff of Wines & Vines toasts 2015 with this special feature that includes reports on the best sales by varietal, best growth by wine package type, best direct-to-consumer market and even the best day to buy wine online. The section also includes the most-read stories published on winesandvines.com and in the pages of the print magazine.

Much of the data used to determine what was the best comes from Wines Vines Analytics, IRI and ShipCompliant. Most-read articles were determined by metrics.


Best Growth by Type SPARKLING WINE:

Sparkling wine sales grew twice as fast as table wine this year in the off-premise channel, according to market-research firm IRI. Counting imports and domestic sparkling together, the category gained 12% in value and 9% in volume, compared to 6% and 2% for table wine. Moreover, sparkling wine sales passed Pinot Grigio/Gris sales to become the third biggest wine varietal or type in the multiple-outlet and convenience stores tracked by IRI. That meant only Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon sold more. Domestic sparkling wine grew by a respectable 9% in value and 6% in volume, but imports stole the show as they rose by 17% and 15%, respectively.

Best Brand BAREFOOT
Barefoot, a brand of E. & J. Gallo Winery, was far and away the off-premise sales leader in 2015. It led second-place Sutter Home by 44%. Barefoot’s sales grew by 6% as the average bottle price dropped by 2% to $5.61. The brand’s strength was apparent particularly when compared to performance of the $5-$7.99 domestic table wine category as a whole, which grew only 1% in sales.

Best Bottle Price by Varietal ZINFANDEL
Collectible Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley gets a lot of attention for pushing the price envelope upward, so it may seem surprising that the varietal with the highest average bottle price in U.S. off-premise outlets is the California heritage variety, Zinfandel. Zin grew by only 4% in sales and 1% in volume, but it averaged $11.24 per 750ml bottle, which was 35 cents more than a year ago.

Best Bottle Price by Region OREGON
With an average bottle price of $14.52, Oregon led all major wine-producing states and import countries. The price of Oregon wines went up 31 cents per bottle, while also increasing in sales dollars by 13% and volume by 11% in off-premise stores measured by IRI. Oregon’s emphasis on high-priced Pinot Noir and the non-existence of wines under $10 helped the average stay high.

Best Growth by Package Type PREMIUM BOX WINES

Bag-in-box wines at the premium price range of $3.50 to $4.99 per 750ml equivalent were the hottest package type in terms of sales growth, according to IRI. These grew by 24% in both value and volume. The majority of premium boxes were 3 liters in size. In contrast, 5-liter boxes grew only 1% in value and dropped by 4% in sales volume.

Fastest Growing Import Category NEW ZEALAND
A 27% increase in U.S. off-premise sales made New Zealand the hands-down winner among import countries. It has only 2% of market share, according to IRI, but a fast-growing following among consumers, along with a high average bottle price of $11.53. Sauvignon Blanc is driving these sales, and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is responsible for much of the rapid growth in the varietal category as a whole.

Fastest Growing Varietal SAUVIGNON BLANC
Domestic Sauvignon Blanc and Fumé Blanc wines had the fastest rate of growth in direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipments among the 10 top varietals and types. Sales increased 19% in 2015, according to the Wines & Vines/ShipCompliant Model, and totaled $47.2 million. Cabernet Sauvignon remained the top-selling varietal or type and grew by 17%, which was impressive considering its much larger base.

Fastest Growing DtC Market MASSACHUSETTS
Consumers in the Bay State lost no time taking advantage of legislation that allowed open access to direct-to-consumer shipments of wine beginning Jan. 1, 2015. Through September, they received 40,268 cases of wine worth more than $18.91 million from U.S. wineries, according to the Wines & Vines/ShipCompliant Model. That more than doubled the previous year’s total, for a growth rate of 129% from a small base of $8.27 million. Only bonded wineries are able to apply for a direct-shipping permit, which costs $300 and $150 to renew. Consumers are limited to a dozen 9-liter cases per year.

Most New Wineries CALIFORNIA NORTH COAST/OREGON

The majority of new wineries continue to open in California, but the Pacific Northwest is starting to take a larger share of that growth. The region with the most new wineries (139) was California’s North Coast, which includes Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties. Napa County recorded 78 new wineries, and Sonoma County had 56 open this year. After California, the most new wineries opened in Oregon, which opened 93, according to Wines Vines Analytics. Of the new Oregon wineries, 78 are located in the Willamette Valley. Oregon’s neighbor to the North, Washington state, had 61 new wineries; the Pacific Northwest combined accounted for 22% of all new wineries. The rate of growth in the Midwest and eastern United States is still much smaller, but those two regions combined accounted for 38% of all new wineries. Outside of the Western United States, New York had the most new wineries at 39, and 11 of those were in the Finger Lakes region.

Copyright © Wines & Vines

 

Berry Bros & Rudd losses deepen for most recent financial year

Decanter, Richard Woodard December 21, 2015

Berry Bros & Rudd ‘has fallen well short of expectations’ in its most recent financial year, chairman Simon Berry has said - adding that he is confident of turning the situation around with the company's new management team.

Berry Bros & Rudd losses worsen in latest financial year:

Berry Bros & Rudd posted a net loss of £8.9m for the year ended 31 March 2015, against a loss of almost £5.9m in the prior year, according to accounts filed at Companies House.

Net sales fell by 5.1% year-on-year to £142m, while the company’s operating loss more than doubled to £4.1m.

Hong Kong costs

The losses have been magnified by an ongoing legal dispute between Berry Bros and a former distributor in Hong Kong, which cost the company £5.7m during the year, compared to £2.3m the year before.

The dispute encompasses several different cases, at varying stages of progress, the company said. It added that it would continue to defend its position ‘vigorously’.

Weak Bordeaux 2013 en primeur campaign

Overall group sales were impacted by a lacklustre Bordeaux 2013 en primeur campaign, with restricted volumes and high prices leading to disappointing trading.

This was, however, somewhat offset by stronger interest among fine wine buyers in Burgundy and Italian wine, the firm said. The BBX wine trading platfrom is also believed to have performed well.

‘Short of expectations’

‘It is clear that the financial performance of the group over the year has fallen well short of expectations,’ said Simon Berry.

‘The delivery of our business performance was also slower than we anticipated, most evidently in Asia.’ There was ‘more work to do’ to refine Berry Bros’ business model in the region, he added.

Since the end of the company’s last financial year, Berry Bros has appointed Tesco’s former head of beers, wines and spirits, Dan Jago, as the company’s new chief executive, and former BBR Spirits head Jeremy Parsons as COO.

‘Confident’ in the future

‘We are confident that the changes we have made will enable us to maximise our strategic potential, realise future commercial opportunities and take the necessary operational and financial steps to deliver our objectives,’ said Berry.

A spokesperson for Berry Bros told Decanter.com that the business has ‘strong underlying stability’ and the merchant has invested heavily in recent years.

 

B.C. Winemakers Cool to Ice Wine

12.17.2015

Oliver, B.C.—As temperatures plunged late on the night of Nov. 25, the pickers prepared to move in and pluck frozen grapes from their frosty vines on the slopes above Okanagan Lake. But fewer wineries than usual registered intentions to produce ice wine this year, and fewer acres are slated to be harvested for the golden liquid that constitutes a sweet slice of Canadiana for consumers across Asia. According to the B.C. Wine Authority, just 20 wineries designated 169 acres for ice wine this year, for a potential harvest of 722 tons. That’s the least since 2010, when 24 wines registered their intention to harvest 520 tons. The shift comes despite some of the earliest ice wine harvests on record: In 2014, grapes were picked Nov. 12, the second-earliest harvest ever, while the harvest Jan. 1, 2013, is the only occasion since 2010 that grapes weren’t picked in November. While some of the hottest, driest years on record have focussed attention on climate change, ice wine seems unscathed.

So why did producers step away this year, and why have long-time producers such as Hainle Vineyards—which made Canada’s first commercially produced ice wine in 1978—chosen to pull out their vines? The answer is two-fold, and as much the result of shifting tastes as shifting weather patterns. Part of the gamble of ice wine production is actually getting a cold snap sufficient to meet production requirements. By law, ice wine must be made from grapes frozen on the vine at temperatures of -8? C (17.6? F), or lower and the pressed grape juice must be a minimum of 35? Brix. This isn’t necessarily a challenge in cool climates, but warmer winters in recent decades have meant an overall reduction in opportunities to achieve those requirements, said Greg Jones of Southern Oregon University. Jones’ most recent weather update to growers noted that average temperatures year-to-date continue to run 1? to 4? F or more above the 30-year normal, with winter conditions in the Northwest also proving to be warmer than usual. “Globally 2015 is on track to be the warmest year since good records have been kept,” he said.

Desication of grapes as the winter progresses, which can concentrate flavours, not to mention losses to birds and other critters, also means less tonnage—as much as 25% less for each month the grapes are left. Many winemakers, also mindful of scheduling, are keen to harvest the grapes they’ve designated for ice wine as soon as possible to ensure they’ve got the most juice possible. “Usually I jump at the first opportunity to pull off the fruit for ice wine because you just don’t know,” Derek Kontkanen, winemaker at Jackson-Triggs Okanagan, told Wines & Vines. “Last year we left quite a bit on the vine for ice wine, and the harvest came very early, Nov. 12, so we didn’t actually lose any of the grapes we thought we were going to lose.” The result was effectively a bumper crop of grapes that kept Jackson-Triggs’ cellar stocked. Since ice wine is a significant capital investment for wineries, most take pains to tailor production to demand to ensure cash flow. With more ice wine than expected from last year’s vintage, reserving grapes for the harvest this year wasn’t necessary. “By next year, we’ll be harvesting ice wine again,” Kontkanen said. Shifting tastes have also factored into production decisions, however. The Huber family, the current owners of Hainle Vineyards, announced plans to replant the vineyard that provided grapes for Canada’s first commercial ice wine to Pinot Noir earlier this year, a move contemplated since wildfires scorched the property in 2012. (See “Northwest Winegrape Harvest Begins.”) Similarly, as the Golden Mile Bench subappellation proceeded to approval in 2014, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards made the call to pull out three acres of Kerner grapes that lay within the proposed subappellation. Pull out will complete next year, and the acreage replanted to Roussanne. “It was the only wine at the time that we had that could have been labelled as Golden Mile Bench,” said Sandra Oldfield, president and CEO of Tinhorn. “We really want to start making wines from the Golden Mile Bench from single vineyards to show that subappellation off, and I don’t think the best way to do that is with ice wine.” This isn’t just an aesthetic decision, but one that reflects demand from consumers, who aren’t coming to Tinhorn for its ice wine. As nice as it was, they were seeking out everything but ice wines. “It was basically getting lost in the lineup and the broad spectrum of people that came into the winery weren’t looking for it,” Oldfield said. And, with just 3 acres of vines, it couldn’t be shipped in the quantities export markets require. “If we were growing an awful lot of it, we would be wanting—and having—to market it to Asia, but with a smaller amount…you’re basically marketing it right from your wine shop,” she said. “It’s still unique and very few wineries as a percentage now do it in B.C., but the desire’s not there as much for…the really sweet wines.” Oldfield said not making ice wine also streamlines operations for wineries, eliminating a variable from the lives of B.C.’s primarily small, family-run wineries—but Kontkanen said the strategic selection of location can help reduce some of the uncertainties. “We have a site that’s usually about 4? to 5? F cooler than the rest of the valley,” he said. “We’re up on a plateau, and there’s a lot of air drainage into that from the mountains.” This means the chances of grapes freezing in a cold snap are that much better than in other locations, and allows growers work with Mothe r Nature rather than suffer her whims. “You’ve got to pick your site properly,” Kontkanen said. “You never know what (Mother Nature’s) going to throw at you.”


Copyright © Wines & Vines

 

Meeting Sassicaia

Decanter, Andrew Jefford December 21, 2015

Andrew Jefford reports from a special dinner with Sassicaia at the Italian embassy in London and offers tasting notes on wines served, including the SuperTuscan estate's 2012, 2004 and 1988 vintages.

Something like this isn’t meant to occur in Europe, where wine has been made for thousands of years. The event I’m thinking of was what took place in New Zealand’s Marlborough region in the last three decades of the 20th century.

Virgin land, some experimental plantings of Sauvignon Blanc — and bang: suddenly you have a new global reference for a sought-after variety, straight out of the box. It gradually became apparent, as Pinot Noir followed Sauvignon in Marlborough, that this morsel of the South Island might be one of the Southern Hemisphere’s great terroirs.

It’s a jackpot every ‘New World’ vineyard pioneer is hoping for. Impossible, of course, in somewhere like Italy.

Except that … it happened here too, during the second half of the last century, after a Piedmontese aristocrat called Mario (Incisa della Rocchetta) married a Tuscan aristocrat called Clarice (della Gherardesca). She owned thousands of hectares in the Maremma. Like France’s Camargue, this coastal zone of Tuscany was famous for cattle breeding, mosquitos and malaria.

And like the Médoc, it had once been a desolate marshland; drainage works undertaken by rulers from the Medicis to Mussolini, though, had slowly rendered its gravels agriculturally useful. Mario liked fine red Bordeaux, so when he and his wife settled on their forgotten farm (Tenuta San Guido) in this vineless landscape, he thought he’d plant a few Cabernet vines — which he did in 1941. For almost twenty years, between 1948 and 1967, the resulting wine was for private consumption alone, but it met claret-fancier Mario’s standards rather well. And seemed to age nicely.

This is the often-told story of Sassicaia (‘stony ground’). ‘People thought he was completely crazy,’ remembers Mario’s granddaughter Priscilla. ‘But he was eccentric, eclectic, very strong-minded.’ Some cousins (called Antinori) took an interest, provided advice, and when Mario’s son Nicolò steered the wine on to the market, beginning with the 1968 vintage, it proved a success, notably winning a 1970s Decanter tasting of non-Bordeaux Cabernets.

Well, ‘success’ is an understatement: it launched the region of Bolgheri on the world stage (now 1,000 ha and 50 producers strong, majoring in Bordeaux varieties and blends), and became one of modern Italy’s emblematic fine wines. Marlborough plus, if anything.

It was, of course, a Vino da Tavola superTuscan in the early years, but when the DOC of Bolgheri was extended to red wines in 1994, Sassicaia won its own ‘monopole’ DOC of Bolgheri-Sassicaia.

‘Was that hard to get?’ I asked, ready to be sympathetic at tales of lengthy dossier compilation, endless delays and marathon rule-wrestling sessions with hostile bureaucrats. ‘No,’ said Priscilla. ‘They just contacted us and said ‘Would you like your own DOC?”

We met over dinner at London’s Italian Embassy, which Italy’s ambassador opened to some of Sassicaia’s devoted British customers earlier this month. That in itself was significant — political endorsement of a varietal rebel. I was staying with friends (one Italian) in London at the time. My sommelière hostess smilingly shuddered when I said where I was going: the Cabernet still rankled in her soul.

But as Ambassador Terracciano confidently announced, looking up and down the long, candlelit table at the start of the dinner, ‘We taught the French how to make wine. Without us, there would be no French wine.’ Hmmm: perhaps success with one of France’s greatest red wine grapes was a belated Gallic thank-you. Or perhaps not.

Prior to this dinner, my practical inexperience with Sassicaia and its siblings (Guidalberto and Le Difese) had been almost total, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I certainly hoped it wouldn’t be ‘varietal wine’. I’d also read how there was no second wine per se (current production is around 200,000-220,000 bottles; the 85 ha are used for all three wines), and had noted the dusty reviews and modest scores awarded to vintages like 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2001, when the wine was criticised for a lack of concentration.

In addition to the 2012, we also tasted and drank the 2004, 1999 and 1988 – as well as 2013 vintages of Guidalberto and Le Difese. Notes for all the wines are given below.

A hallmark of Sassicaia seemed to be its vitality, from which it derives natural poise and drinkability. Moreover it endures in time exceptionally well: the 1988 was mature, but in no way thin or bony, which some Chianti will be by now. The fact that there is no obvious striving for ‘density’ or ‘concentration’ in a way makes this cloak-retention all the more impressive, and a telling tribute to the terroir potential of the coastal gravels in which it is grown. I didn’t, in fact, note any lack of concentration, even in the 1999, and the wines had ample innate complexity.

They were, I would say, old-fashioned in the best sense, as Anthony Barton might define it: graceful, comforting and comfortable, built for drinkers rather than tasters, dry and tannic enough for the table, unshowy in their articulation, digestible and satisfying.

Quite the opposite, in other words, of the caricaturial SuperTuscan. The fruits mingle pastel-shaded blackcurrant and plum, but with the exception of the 1988 they seemed more Tuscan than Bordelais, with a quiet autumnal reserve in place of chic pencil and cedar. I asked Priscilla about the winemaking. ‘My father is against doing too much stuff in the winery. You cannot control wine.’

And dinner (prepared in the Italian embassy kitchens by Danilo Cortellini and his colleagues) was wonderful. The first course — braised hare tortelli with white truffle, served with a scented jus and tiny morsels of courgette — was one of the simplest yet most memorable dishes I’ve eaten in 2015.

London’s mighty US Embassy faces that of Italy at the opposite end of Grosvenor Square: could it have organised a similar meal? Would it ever chose to do so for a leading Californian wine producer? Somehow I doubt it. I walked out into the night loving Italy, and Cabernet, a little more than before.

 

McLaren Vale: geology in a glass

December 21, 2015 by Jen Barwick

Did you know McLaren Vale is one of the most geographically diverse regions in the world?

Under those rolling hills, vineyard vistas and vegie patches is a smorgasbord of clay, sandstone, shale, quartzite, siltstone, and limestone – some of it dating back 600 million years.

About five years ago, a group of McLaren Vale winemakers and viticulturists banded together to try and find a way to better understand the influence this geology has on their wines – in particular, on Shiraz, one of the region’s key varieties.

With the help of the McLaren Vale Grape, Wine and Tourism Association (MVGWTA) they created ‘Scarce Earth’ – a sort of annual competition for single-site one-year-old McLaren Vale Shiraz.

In doing so, they found a unique way to show consumers that Shiraz not only changes from one region to another but Shiraz grown in the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges, or with beach views to Port Noarlunga or even, in many cases, just a few metres apart throughout the Vale, can deliver some surprising and quite identifiable differences in style.

MVGWTA general manager Jennifer Lynch said Scarce Earth was not a traditional competition in the sense that there’s no one winner and the judging criteria focus isn’t on typical wine quality parameters.

“Its chief aim is to identify those one-year-old Shiraz that best reflect the geology of a single site – and that includes soil, climate and topography,” Jennifer said.

Though Scarce Earth stemmed from a genuine self-interest of winemakers to better understand the influences of their environment, it didn’t take long for the concept to capture the attention of wine traders and consumers.

“I don’t think it was initially meant as a marketing concept but it’s provided the ability to have a selection of wines that can quite simply tell the story of McLaren Vale’s unique geology. It’s become another way for our wineries to deliver that important sense of place… another connection to site and McLaren Vale,” Jennifer said.

Given its strong ties to the environment, it’s not surprising that the criteria to enter the program also insists wineries must be a member of Sustainable Australia Winegrowing, and the wine must reflect minimal winemaking intervention, including minimal oak influences.

The Scarce Earth wines are judged by a panel of three local winemakers, a high profile wine journalist, an Australian Master of Wine and a prominent member of the Adelaide wine trade.

“It’s quite a rigorous selection process, as the integrity of the program and criteria are essential in its success. This year 23 wineries entered 44 wines from the 2013 Vintage, and just 15 Shiraz were selected,” Jennifer said.

“There’s an annual selection tasting by the full panel, and then the winemaker panel conduct a second pre-bottling tasting a few months later, and then a post-bottling tasting.

“It doesn’t mean that all 44 wines weren’t amazing wines – the vast majority will be outstanding wines – but the chief focus of the program is to find those examples that best reflect the environment they came from.”

New reference dates Haut-Brion to 1500s

Drinks Business, 3rd October, 2014 by Rupert Millar

A new historical reference mentions Bordeaux first growth Haut-Brion in 1521, over 100 years before Samuel Pepys’ famous diary entry.

The famed English diarist mentioned drinking “Ho Bryan” in 1663 and the estate is mentioned in the cellar book of Charles II in 1660 but the new shows that the estate was in existence over a century before, with two documents from the early 16th century noting orders of wine from a Pessac estate called “Aubrion”.

The documents were uncovered in the Gironde Departmental archives by art historian Laurent Chavier as part of the “Historical Challenge” laid down by the estate’s owner, Prince Robert of Luxembourg, in May of last year.

The challenge was for a researcher to uncover a reference to the estate that pre-dated the 1660 mention.

The oldest of the two new mentions dates to 21 January 1521 and is written in French (rather than Gascon) and concerns the sale of a perpetual annuity in wine between Jean de Monque, lord of the locality of Monque and a merchant of Bordeaux, Guilhem de Mailhois.

de Monque writes that he will repay the loan of 400 Bordeaux francs (around €50,000 today) with an annual delivery of “four pipes of wine” (eight barriques or 1,800 litres) from “the place known as Aubrion” and that if there is not enough of that wine then he must provide the shortfall with wine of a similar quality.

The original reference states: “« quatre pipes de vin, seront du cru des vignes appartenant audit de Monque du lieu appelé Aubrion, appartenant audit vendeur. Lesquelles sont sises derrière son bourdieu assis audit lieu appelé du Brion, en la paroisse Saint-Martin de Pessac, ensemble des vignes de Pins Bouquet, de la Gravette et de Cantegrit, le tout appartenant audit seigneur de Monque, assis en Graves de Bordeaux et si cas était que ne vint aucuns fruits de raisins qui fussent pour satisfaire lesdites quatre pipes de vin de rente, bon, pur et net et marchand, le dit vendeur sera tenu lui en bailler d’autres aussi bon provenu du cru desdites vignes dessus déclarées ».

[“four pipes of wine, will be from the vineyard (cru) belonging to the said de Monque from the place known as Aubrion, belonging to the said seller. The said vines being found behind his smallholding established in the said place known as Le Brion, in the parish of Saint-Martin de Pessac, all of the vines of Pins Bouquet, la Gravette and Cantegrit, all belonging to the said lord of Monque, domiciled in Graves in Bordeaux, and if there are no grapes to fill the said four pipes of wine as an annuity – good, pure and clean and sellable, the said seller will be obliged to provide him with others that are just as good from the vineyard of the said abovementioned vines”.]

The second reference dates from 1 September 1526 and concerns the sale of “two barrels of clairet or red wine from the vineyard of Haulbrion in Graves”, which is being sold to Pierre Gassies and Pierre Mulle (possibly merchants) by a woman, Esclarmonde de Lagarde.

As the contact is made before the harvest, allowance is made for its colour and concentration hence the reference to red or “clairet” (a dark pink colour).

Wine snobs must learn to love Supermarket wines

The Land, 02 Oct, 2014

ONE of Australia's biggest wine companies says the entire $5 billion wine industry needs to accept that the market power of Woolworths and Coles will only increase and joining forces with them is the best business model.

Michael East, general manager of Australia and New Zealand at Accolade – the re-named former BRL Hardy business with brands including Hardys, Leasingham and Houghton – says the firm's business model is deliberately centred on deep strategic partnerships with both big retailers.

This involves close planning with the retailer around what shoppers want to see on the shelves and responding to that, rather than making certain styles of wine and then trying to sell it.

He said while some outsiders view the big chains as having "gorilla" status, working closely with them brings the best financial results.

"The market structure is what it is," he told The Australian Financial Review on the sidelines of a wine conference in Adelaide.

"It's not going to turn back," he said, referring to the estimated 70 per cent market share held by Woolworths and Coles in liquor retailing.

Woolworths has the two biggest chains in Dan Murphy's and BWS.

Mr East also says the Australian wine industry places too much emphasis on higher-end products, and it needs to be remembered that one in three glasses of wine consumed in Australia comes out of a cask, rather than a bottle.

The Accolade story

Mr East declined to comment on Accolade's financial performance, saying that was a matter for CHAMP and the owner of the other 20pc, Constellation Brands, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Constellation acquired ASX-listed BRL Hardy for $1.9 billion in 2003 and privatised it, before selling 80pc to CHAMP in 2011 after a slump in profits.

Mr East said an exit by CHAMP was not something the executive team focused on day to day and the timing is up to them.

"It's not something we discuss," he said.

Accolade has close links with Treasury Wine Estates, which ended ­takeover talks with two private equity suitors on potential $3.4 billion buyouts on Monday.

Treasury bottles most of Accolade's wine in Australia, while Accolade has a large bottling facility in the United ­Kingdom where it bottles many ­Treasury products for the European market.

Accolade also has a large cask wine business.

Mr East said Accolade would be closely watching the process about to be undertaken by ­Treasury where it is looking to trim back its commercial wine ­portfolio by either selling assets or doing joint venture partnerships or alliances.

"You are always assessing what's going on in the market," he said.

Too much complaining

Earlier, in a panel discussion at the conference, Mr East said there was too much negativity in the Australian wine industry and too many people complaining.

"We've spent a lot of time bemoaning the things that didn't go our way," he said.

Brian Croser, the founder of ASX-listed Petaluma – acquired more than a decade ago by the former Lion Nathan, now known as Lion – told the conference that the United States economy was accelerating and demand for fine wines from Australia would accelerate if it was marketed correctly.

"The economy in the US is just booming," Mr Croser said.

This is one of the locations where Treasury chief executive Mike Clarke is eyeing bolt-on acquisitions at the upper end of the luxury wine market to help fuel profits, even though the US has been a troublesome market for Treasury in the past few years, resulting in heavy write-downs.

Following Treasury's decision to end talks with private equity suitors Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and TPG Capital, the Financial Review on Wednesday revealed the company is assessing up to five ­different options before making a final decision on an internal structure likely to include a separate sales and marketing arm for the company's top-end wine brands.

They are aggressively moving to "unzip" them from the more commercial wine brands, which will also have a dedicated sales and marketing force likely to be in place by the end of the year.

Treasury has also singled out several commercial brands in its troubled US operations as "non-priority'' but won't divulge which ones they are, as it attempts to move higher up the value chain and divert more investment into the luxury end of the market.

The non-priority lower-priced brands may be sold, or funnelled into a joint venture structure. KKR, with junior partner Rhone Capital, got closest to an indicative $5.20 a share value in final proposals last Friday, but TPG Capital was some way lower.

Treasury shares closed up by 0.94pc or 4 cents to $4.28 on Wednesday giving the company a market value of just under $3 billion.

Young Spanish winemaker dies in wine vat accident

Decanter, Wednesday 1 October 2014

The winemaker niece of respected Spanish producer Raul Perez has died after falling into a vat of wine.

Nerea Perez is believed to have fallen into the vat after being affected by fumes while working in a cellar in the village of Salas de los Barrios in the El Bierzo region of north west Spain, according to Spanish media, which first reported her death this week.

It is thought that Perez, 25, suffocated in the vat itself after falling in. Emergency services were unable to revive her after arriving at the scene, according to local publication InfoBierzo.

The news has prompted an outpouring of grief on social media, including those connected to the Spain's network for young socialists. Perez was the secretary of the Young Socialists of El Bierzo group.

Raul Perez, the uncle of Nerea Perez, is a widely respected producer among Spanish wine experts. Grape varieties that he works with include Albarino, Mencia, Bastardo and Godello. He could not be immediately contacted following the accident.

Winemaking taint smoked out

September 30th, 2014 by Rob Payne in Biology / Other
Local firefighters work with scientists to study the effect of bushfire smoke exposure on grapes and wines. Credit: David Kelly

Winemaking methods influence the degree of smoke taint in wines made from smoke-exposed grapes, new research suggests.

Smoke taint can have a significant economic impact on winemakers in bushfire-prone areas, and its prevention could represent major savings for producers, with flow-on benefits for wine exporters and consumers.

Researchers at Curtin University's Margaret River Education Campus focussed on the complex chemical processes that smoke instigates in grapes.

"Wine grapes exposed to smoke from wildfires and controlled burns produce wines with an elevated concentration of volatile and glycoconjugated phenols," says Dr Ayalsew Zerihun.

The phenols cause unpleasant flavours and aromas, tasting burnt, smoky, medicinal and dirty, Dr Zerihun says.

"These wines have low consumer acceptance, which means significant economic impact for the industry."

Merlot scores high on phenol levels

The study examined the relationship between fruit exposure to smoke and the phenol levels in wine, identifying grape-processing and winemaking methods as the key driver in determining how much phenol made it into a wine.

The traditional method of red winemaking using skin contact released the highest phenol levels.

When making Merlot, for example, 88 per cent of grape phenols were released into the wine.

White winemaking methods produced far lower phenol concentrations, with crushing before pressing (Sauvignon Blanc) releasing only 39 percent of phenols, and whole-bunch pressing without crushing (Chardonnay) releasing just 18 per cent.

Through further testing researchers ruled out this difference being due to malolactic fermentation, a common technique in red winemaking that uses lactic acid bacteria to influence wine aroma complexity.

The type of smoke was also ruled out, as trials were replicated three to six times to test the effects of smoke from pasture grass and Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) respectively.

Nor was the type of grape, known as the cultivar, a factor.

"For the three cultivars evaluated, when exposure to smoke occurred at the same state of berry development, no significant cultivar sensitivity was observed in the accumulation of total phenols in grapes, although the phenol composition varied," Dr Zerihun says.

The findings have a direct and practical impact for industry.

"Our results provide practical guidelines on the likely proportion of grape phenols to be expected in the wines for the three traditional methods studied," Dr Zerihun says.

"This understanding can help grape growers and wine makers improve their decision-making abilities, thus helping to mitigate and manage smoke taint."

No doubt, wine drinkers everywhere will say 'here's cheers' to that.

More information: "Winemaking practice affects the extraction of smoke-borne phenols from grapes into wines." D. Kelly, et al. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research Volume 20, Issue 3, pages 386–393, October 2014. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10… /ajgw.12089/abstract

Provided by Science Network WA

Rioja shows Burgundian-style ‘revolution’

The Drinks Business-30th September, 2014 by Gabriel Stone

Riojan wine is going through a “revolution” that is far more meaningful than the region’s “misleading” traditionalist versus modernist debate, believes Tim Atkin MW.

Speaking at the annual Wines from Rioja UK trade tasting in London this week, the writer and critic presented a series of wines to illustrate a growing shift away from large scale blending of regions and varieties in pursuit of consistency in favour of single vineyard or single village expressions.

“What we’ve seen is a move from a Bordeaux or Champenois model, where people are buying grapes across regions, to something much more akin to Burgundy or Piemonte, where individual sites and soils determine style,” reported Atkin.

As a result of this development, he observed: “I believe that Rioja in the last 25 years has been through a revolution just as important and far reaching as any in the wine world.”

However, Atkin suggested that because “Rioja is a very, very successful brand”, such a dramatic change had remained largely overlooked. “You can see why commercial Rioja is so popular,” he continued. “It’s a soft, fruity, easy wine to understand, but there is another story to Rioja.”

While discussion about Rioja during the last decade has tended to focus on a division between “traditional” and “modern” producers, Atkin argued that this represented “a misleading distinction”.

Instead, he suggested, “the distinction now in Rioja is between people who farm their vineyards and care about their vineyards, and the people who don’t.”

Despite Rioja’s history of larger negociant style wineries who blended across different regions, Atkin pointed back to an earlier tradition of “cosecheros” – family winemaking operations based largely around their own vineyard holdings.

As a result, he stressed that the region’s shifting focus towards individual vineyards represented more of a revival than an innovation. “What we’re seeing today is a return to a much, much older tradition,” he maintained, noting that even today, “Rioja’s vineyards are quite small – very few growers are over 30 hectares in size.”

Among the region’s most interesting sites, Atkin acknowledged a personal preference for the limestone soils that dominate Rioja Alavesa and a “handful” of vineyards in Rioja Alta.

Describing this area as “Rioja’s Côte D’Or”, he remarked: “At the top end Rioja should be known for its villages. They should be just as marked as the difference between Gevrey Chambertin, Volnay and Pommard.”

In short, Atkin concluded: “It’s an incredibly exciting phase in Rioja’s lifetime. Rioja in the next 25 years will not be seen as a place that makes reliable and fruity wines, but some of the greatest wines in the world.”

This vision ties into a shift in marketing strategy from Rioja’s Consejo in some of its more mature export markets such as the UK, which accounts for around 37% of the region’s total exports.

Ricardo Aguiriano, international marketing director for Wines from Rioja, told the drinks business: “The last four years have been focused on democratisation, building the brand among consumers.”

However, he revealed: “Now we are going to focus on premiumisation, promoting wines with added value, especially reserva and gran reserva, and promoting the diversity of our wines and producers.”

While acknowledging that it was still too soon to adopt this strategy in less mature focus markets such as Russia or China, Aguiriano explained: “Once consumers know Rioja is a brand they can trust, now is the time to show them the differences inside that brand.”

For the moment, this diversity message will be channelled primarily through the trade and media. “This is not something new we’re doing in Rioja,” emphasised Aguiriano. “We’re just explaining what we already have.”

Tasting the Effects of Wine Closures

Wines & Vines -9 Aug

Napa, Calif.—The recent Wines & Vines Packaging Conference featured two tastings that showed how closure choice can affect wine quality. The first tasting, sponsored by Guala Closures, took place in the morning and featured wines by CADE Winery in Napa Valley. CADE is part of the PlumpJack Group, and John Conover, general manager of PumpJack Winery and partner in CADE, said the company had been open to alternative closures because the founding partners saw first-hand how unpleasant a corked wine was for customers of the original PlumpJack Wine & Spirits shop in San Francisco, Calif. He said that experience helped motivate the company’s willingness to bottle its estate wines under screwcap as well as participate in a study on closures with the University of California, Davis. Both sessions, held in the demonstration kitchen of the former Copia building in Napa, Calif., drew a full crowd of 75 people. The tastings were conducted with Rastal glassware from Germany, provided by conference sponsor Chrislan Ceramics. Dr. Anita Oberholster, cooperative extension specialist in enology for UC Davis, provided an overview of the research project that is being headed up by Dr. Andrew Waterhouse as well as some early conclusions. “The first question the research is attempting to answer is whether variability using a specific closure is large enough that a consumer can taste the difference,” Oberholster said. Collaborative closure study PlumpJack and UC Davis arranged to have 200 bottles of the 2011 CADE Sauvignon Blanc bottled with an Amorim natural cork, Nomacorc Select 300 synthetic cork or Amcor Saranex screwcap, for a total of 600 bottles in the study. The rate of oxidation was observed through color darkening (or color absorbance) over time as measured by a spectrophotometer, with each bottle acting as its own control. Using each bottle as a data point, the researchers were able to create a slope based on the observed OTR. Based on the study, screwcaps appear to offer the most consistent OTR, followed by synthetic corks. The greatest variation came from natural corks. Oberholster said getting a better understanding of closure variability should help winemakers make informed decisions at bottling to ensure wines conform to a specific style. While the screwcap and synthetic closures did a better job of preserving the wine as it tasted at bottling, natural corks added “more aging character,” which resulted in a more complex wine. Depending on the wine or winemaker, this aged character could be a desirable trait. “At the end it is also about helping the winemaker to make informed decisions based on objective data,” Oberholster said. “We are currently planning the sensory testing, so the answer to the key question has yet to be answered.” Preserving versus aging The PlumpJack team including CADE winemaker Danielle Cyrot brought bottles of the Sauvignon Blanc that is part of the UC Davis study as well as its 2008 CADE Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, which was bottled under screwcap and natural cork. The tasting was conducted blind, and Cyrot gauged the opinion of those in the audience. The greatest variation in taste came between the synthetic corks and screwcap versus the natural cork, which almost tasted like a different wine. Cyrot described the Sauvignon Blanc bottled with natural cork as exhibiting more pear, melon, honey and cantaloupe with less acidity and being a bit more rounded, softer and showing more of the oak. The synthetic cork and screwcap wines were both “fresh, flinty, floral” in Cyrot’s opinion, but had slightly different fruit flavors. “Basically, I thought the synthetic and screwcap closures performed best at preserving some of the aromas and flavors I was trying to capture in the bottle,” she said. “They both tasted more like the day the wine was bottled.” The cork-sealed wine tasted the most different to Cyrot, and this appeared to be the consensus of those in the audience as well. “The cork closure stood out as most different, but not necessarily in a bad way,” she said. “It was just more aged.… I felt the closure had played a role in stylistically changing the wine.” The Cabernet Sauvignons tasted relatively similar, and when Cyrot asked the audience to raise their hands to indicate preference, the room was about evenly split between the two. Cyrot said she still needs more time to understand what type of closure is best for CADE’s reds. “I am making sure that the tannin structure and mouthfeel are balanced before putting the wine in bottle. The wine still tastes like Howell Mountain, but hopefully the tannin structure isn’t a grippy, hard, undrinkable kind of tannin,” she said. “So I want a closure that will preserve the fruit aromatics without overly oxidizing the wine.” Screwcap options Later in the day, Doug Fletcher the vice president of winemaking for the Terlato Wine Group, presented wines from his own trial on different screwcaps. The tasting was sponsored by Mala Closures and featured a 2012 Pinot Grigio bottled in February 2013 under five VinPerfect closures with different oxygen transmission rates, a Saranex lined closure and one with Saran-tin. The bottles with the lowest OTRs had some sensory attributes of reduction as well as a lean texture. On the other end of the oxygen-transmission spectrum, the wines were rounder and more fully developed. Fletcher’s preference, which was also the preference of those in the audience, was for the wines bottled with a closure offering a mid-range OTR. He said he used a screwcap with a Saranex liner for the trial wine's commercial release because at the time he knew it resulted in less reduction issues than the Saran-tin liner. He later opted to use the VinPerfect liners because they provided a more consistent OTR, and wines sealed with the VinPerfect Medium were among those preferred by the audience at the tasting session. Fletcher said the trial was to see what OTR level works for each wine and he said he’s still not sure what the answer is. While he thought wines bottled under closures with higher rate OTRs would have browned or gone oxidative, Fletcher said they have held up quite well. In light of what he’s learning through the study, Fletcher said he thinks less sulfur dioxide could be used in the cellar in tandem with a nitrogen-drip system on the bottling line. He said he also has more confidence in the stability of wines with higher OTR closures—at least for the short term.

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Applying Packaging Innovations
Wines & Vines-09.09.2014

Napa, Calif.—As executive vice president of marketing for Purple Wine Co. and Sonoma Wine Co., Lisa Ehrlich has been at the helm of a three-year packaging transformation for Purple Wine Co.’s brands. Ehrlich discussed the process while speaking at the Wines & Vines Packaging Conference in August. Purple was best known for its 600,000-case Mark West Pinot Noir brand, which it sold in 2012 to Constellation Brands, triggering the redesign and new focus on its other brands. All products but one have changed in the past two years: Four packages have been redesigned, four new brands were introduced, and one stayed the same. Ehrlich noted that change is not always good. “You don’t want to just change for the sake of change. You don’t want to lose existing consumers and accounts loyal to a brand.” But there can be good reasons to change since the market is competitive, she said. There are more brands and labels every day, and innovation may make sense to stand out from the pack. Wineries can use packaging to tell a story about the wine, explain where it comes from and give it a sense of place and identity. Elements in packaging can also suggest luxury, elevating the value of the wine among potential buyers, Ehrlich observed. And the right package can help set expectations about how the wine will taste. Unusual packages can create buzz, providing something new to talk about with distributors and key accounts, as well as a reason to visit them or present new information. But more than that, she said, exciting packaging will generate interest among consumers and the press. The best packaging does all the above. Ehrlich presented four case studies to illustrate Purple Wine Co.’s packaging innovation. The October issue of Wines & Vines will contain details about all four: two recent brand introductions and two screen-printed package designs—each with different goals. Ehrlich’s experience with Avalon C A B, Purple’s best-selling product, is described here. The art of redesign With Avalon C A B, Purple Wine Co. encountered a unique set of problems due to the scale of the program. It was a packaging redesign, not a new item, but the company wanted to add value, repositioning Avalon California Cabernet from the $8-$10 range to the $10-$12 segment. “We needed stronger branding. The packaging was undifferentiated and did not stand out on the shelf. We were looking for a way to set the wine apart.” The company worked on the strategy for more than a year, with the intention to use screen-printing from the start. Purple Wine Co. also wanted to minimize the cost impact of any change, so they used gold ink rather than 24K gold and only three colors in a relatively simple design. “Vendor selection and the bidding process was key. With well over 200,000 cases, no single bottle decorator could meet the production runs.” They split the production between two different vendors—Bergin and Universal Packaging—requiring coordination between the two vendors and glass manufacturer. They worked very closely with glass supplier and bottle decorator as early as possible. Logistics were complicated, and they started working nine months out with long-term production projections of 12-18 months broken into smaller production runs. “It required close management of wine inventory to make sure wine and supplies match—particularly at the end of the vintage.” Ehrlich said that due to its scale, Avalon C A B was the most difficult project for purchasing to manage. The bottling crew, however, loves screen-printed bottles, as they are the fastest and easiest package to run on line. “The early reaction was very positive,” Ehrlich reported. They also moved to a zero-carbon, plant-based non-cork closure from Nomacorc, which also received good press. Volume has held steady and started to grow despite taking the full price point increase, she said.

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Former Cru restaurant owner's wine fetches $6.6m at auction

Decanter, Wednesday 17 September 2014

Fierce bidding for thousands of wines amassed by ex-Cru restaurant owner Roy Welland has sent prices soaring above pre-sale estimates at a first auction in New York.


Auction house Wally's said the first of two sales dedicated to Welland's extensive collection fetched $6.6m, driven by an array of top Burgundy, Champagne and Piedmont wines. All 1,767 lots offered for sale found buyers.

Wally's had estimated the auction, held during 12 and 13 September, would fetch a maximum $5.3m. But, it said that 'unprecedented pre-auction bidding saw most lots open in the sales room at or above their top estimates'.

A second auction is planned for 21 and 22 November,in Los Angeles. Some of the wines will also be offered online.
Altogether, Wally's plans to sell around 100,000 bottles collected by Welland, with an estimated value of $15m.

Burgundy shone at the first auction last weekend. Wally's highlighted a 55-lot cache of Burgundy's Domaine Bachelet, which sold for a total $216,480 versus a pre-sale high estimate of $162,850.

It said 196 lots of fellow Burgundy estate Domaine G Roumier sold for a combined $882,468 against a pre-sale high estimate of $746,340.

Beyond Burgundy, 89 lots from Piedmont producer Giacomo Conterno sold for a collective $404,400 versus an expected maximum price of $343,600. And, 42 lots of Krug Champagne fetched a total $326,400 versus a top estimate of $276,500.

There were also high-performing individual lots from Chablis. Twelve bottles of Domaine Francois Raveneau, Les Clos, 2002 sold for $13,200 - close to double its pre-sale high estimate of $7,000.

'The Roy Welland Collection is a once-in-a-generation collection, and the wine world has responded accordingly,' said the president and chief executive of Wally's auction division, Michael Jessen.

Welland began collecting wines in the 1980s. Cru restaurant, now closed, quickly garnered a high-profile reputation for its extensive wine collection and was the setting for a number of Acker Merrall & Condit auctions in the mid-2000s.

Bordeaux 2014: Winemakers optimistic ahead of red harvest

Decanter, Friday 19 September 2014

Brief but heavy storms have failed to dampen Bordeaux winemakers' optimism for the 2014 red wine harvest, as figures show producers across France plan to increase yields to compensate for shortfalls last year.

Up to 17mm of rain fell across Bordeaux on Wednesday night (17 September). A Small amount of hail fell on Entre-Deux-Mers on Thursday afternoon, but no significant damage was reported.

Bordeaux has otherwise enjoyed some of its hottest days of the year in the past couple of weeks, and the Merlot harvest is due to begin as planned, starting largely next week.

Temperatures on Thursday morning hit around 18 degrees celsius by 10am, said consultant Antoine Medeville, of Oenoconseil.

‘The soil was already drying out. Forecasts of localised storms for next week might be more troublesome, but for now optimism remains for an abundant and good quality harvest,’ he told Decanter.com.

Officials expect Bordeaux’s 2014 harvest to be up to 50% larger than the weather-hit 2013 vintage.

The sparkling wine harvest for cremant Bordeaux is already finished, and most Sauvignon Blanc is finishing up, with Semillon fully underway in the dry white regions. In Sauternes and Barsac, Aline Bayly of Chateau Coutet said September has been an ideal combination of mist and heat.

In the Medoc, Chateau Cos d’Estournel plans to start picking merlot around 25 September, while fellow Saint Estephe estate Chateau Montrose began picking its young merlot vines on 15 September for the earliest-ripening terroirs.

‘This year the flowering was quick and even, and a warm and sunny September has meant that these early-ripening soils are now perfect for harvesting to ensure we keep the aromatic freshness of the grapes,’ said director Herve Berland.

Vignobles Dourthe expects to begin picking its red grapes at Chateau La Garde and Chateau Rahoul in Pessac Leognan and Graves between 22 to 27 September and are reporting ‘lots of colour and healthy grapes,’ according to technical director Frederic Bonnaffous.

Producers across many parts of France have been hoping for a bigger harvest this year to cover 2013 shortfalls. The country’s National Institute of Appellations (INAO) said producers have requested permission to raise yields above official appellation limits in some areas.

Acker Merrall auction house pays out to settle Koch fake wines case

Decanter, Wednesday 16 July 2014

Auction house Acker Merrall & Condit has agreed to pay a lump sum to billionaire wine collector Bill Koch and change its business practices in order to settle legal action over alleged counterfeit fine wines.

Neither Koch nor Acker would disclose the fee that the New York-based auction house will hand over, but Koch said it was a 'significant payment'.

The out-of-court settlement ends six years of Koch's legal action against Acker, which he has accused of selling more than 200 bottles of counterfeit wine at auction.

Acker sold many bottles consigned by convicted wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan, although the auction house has always denied wrongdoing.

As part its deal with Koch, Acker has agreed to accept returns of 'suspect or counterfeit' wines, regardless of whether it printed disclaimers in its auction catalogues. The term 'caveat emptor', or buyer beware, is a common feature of auction houses' pre-sale brochures.

Acker will also submit all of its pre-1970 vintage wines to expert authentication.

'This is a big victory for consumers,' said Koch, who has spent more than $25m chasing alleged counterfeiters and was recently filmed choking back tears during a television documentary on the number of purported fake wines in his home cellar.

'I am pleased that the auction industry is changing the way business is conducted. Acker, Merrall & Condit was by its own account the largest reseller of vintage wines. Consumers will now have more protection from unscrupulous collectors as a result of this settlement. We have cast a bright light on a dark industry.'

Acker said in a statement, 'Acker is extremely pleased that its litigation with Mr Koch has been settled and discontinued. We look forward to continuing to focus on our customers and clients.'

Koch still has a lawsuit pending against Kurniawan, who is due to be sentenced on 25 July.

Previously, Koch has prevailed in legal actions against wine dealer Hardy Rodenstock and wine collector Eric Greenberg. He also settled out-of-court with Royal Wine Merchants, which is now banned from selling any wine prior to the 1976 vintage.

Champagne council raises 2014 harvest limit
Friday 18 July 2014, Decanter,   by Chris Mercer

Champagne's ruling council has said houses and growers can harvest more grapes per hectare in 2014 than last year, reflecting a slight upturn in consumer demand.

The CIVC said this week that it has brokered a deal between growers and the region's top houses to increase maximum yields for the 2014 harvest to 10,500kg per hectare. Up to 400kg can be from a producers' reserves from previous vintages.

This year's limit is 500kg up on 2013 and the CIVC said the decision reflected a 1% increase in global Champagne shipments in the first half of 2014, versus the same period of last year.

'The situation in France does however remain fragile,' it warned.

Setting maximum yields in Champagne has been known to cause heated debate, with growers and houses often arriving at the table from different financial and commercial perspectives.

This year's maximum yield has been set several weeks earlier than in 2013, which also reflects that many growers in Champagne expect an earlier harvest.

'All the signs indicate that the crop should be ready to pick at the start of September,' the CIVC said.

Alongside the 10,500kg limit, producers can put up to an extra 3,100kg per hectare into their own reserve stocks.

Any alcohol increases dementia risk, middle aged are warned

Telegraph 14 july

Millions of adults will be advised how to reduce the risk of dementia as part of an NHS MOT given from the age of 40

Any alcohol increases dementia risk, middle aged are warned

The report says middle-aged patients should be warned that 'there is no safe level of alcohol consumption' when it comes to their future dementia risk. Photo: Alamy

Middle-aged people should be told to cut out alcohol to reduce their risk of dementia as part of new health checks from the age of 40, under new NHS proposals.

The recommendations say a current system offering all patients a mid-life MOT at their GP surgery should be expanded to provide millions of adults with advice on protecting themselves from the dementia.

Research published yesterday says one in three cases of Alzheimer’s disease could be prevented by changes such as taking more exercise, losing weight and giving up smoking.

New draft guidance from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) suggests lifestyle advice should be included in NHS health checks currently offered to all patients aged between 40 and 74.

It says middle-aged patients should be warned that “there is no safe level of alcohol consumption” when it comes to their future dementia risk.

The watchdog says health information for those in mid-life should be changed so that it “informs people that alcohol consumption, even within current guidelines, can increase the risk of dementia, disability and frailty and encourages them to reduce the amount they drink as much as possible.”

Current NHS guidelines recommend men should limit themselves to “three to four units a day” little more than a pint of strong lager, beer or cider, with women advised not to regularly drink more than two or three units a day – one 175 ml glass of wine.

The draft recommendations proposes sweeping changes to improve lifestyles in Britain in order to reduce the chance of dementia, such as an expansion of “smoke-free” policies to ban smoking in parks, and limits on marketing of unhealthy foods.

It suggests that “social norms” which mean some people drink daily should be “challenged” as they pose a threat to health.

Health officials said those in middle-age should be advised that “it’s never too late to start” making changes to lifestyles.

Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Centre for Public Health at Nice, said the advice aimed to prevent and delay dementia and other forms of disability and frailty.

He said: "Everyone now understands that smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being inactive or overweight can seriously damage your health, but what many people don't realise is that these factors also increase the likelihood of them developing dementia.”

“What is really clear from the evidence we looked at is that people who become more active, even when they are a bit older, are far less likely to develop dementia; they are also less likely to develop cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

The recommendations say health workers should "take advantage" of significant life events among the middle-aged to get them to be healthier.

People whose children are leaving the nest, those who are going through the menopause, or taking retirement should be targeted to be encouraged to be fitter and to stop harmful behaviours, Nice said.

"These are times when people may consider adopting new healthy behaviours," according to the guidelines, which say the public should be told that becoming ill is not an inevitable part of ageing.

Alzheimers’ charities welcomed the recommendations.

George McNamara, Head of Policy and Public Affairs for the Alzheimer’s Society said: “NHS health checks play a vital role in reducing the risk of dementia.

“Therefore GPs and others must do more to increase their use and issue advice and support. Giving people the right information and understanding of the risks of excessive drinking, smoking and physical inactivity in mid-life can be a powerful driver to help individuals make healthier choices.”

Tim Parry, from Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "Research suggests that lifestyle choices in mid-life could have important knock-on effects for health in later life, including brain health.

"With research suggesting that a third of cases of Alzheimer's could be prevented, we need to see concerted efforts to develop better ways to encourage healthy living across the population.

In separate research scientists discovered that drinking even one glass of wine a day can raise the chance of developing an irregular or abnormally fast heart rate by eight per cent.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, who followed nearly 80,000 adults over 12 years, warned that the risks should be weighed against previous studies which suggest moderate drinking is beneficial to health.

Irregular heart rate, or atrial fibrillation, increases the chance of having a stroke or heart attack by up to five times.

Wooden barrels and vats: the New World, a growth driver for “Made in France”

9 july

The French coopers federation, the Fédération des Tonneliers de France (FTT) has just elected Jean-Luc Sylvain, the managing director of the Sylvain cooperage (Libourne), as its president for a third consecutive term.  At its last general meeting, the FTT also presented the 2013 results of its 49 member companies. With a turnover of € 331.7 million and 532,990 barrels sold (+3.6 % by volume and +3 % by value compared to last year), 2013 confirmed the recovery of the market, which began in 2012 (having returned to the 2007 level of sales, i.e. pre-crisis). Although France remains the FTT’s top market (with 29 % of total volume), demand remains fairly flat, compared to good growth in the export market (+0,3% and +5,3 % respectively). ”With the exception of France, all markets are growing again, driven by exports [which represent 80 % of Seguin Moreau’s sales turnover]”,  Nicolas Mähler-Besse (general manager of Seguin Moreau, a FTT member) recently told us.  According to French cooperage industry experts, the stability of sales in France is due to the small harvests in Bordeaux and Burgundy, offset by purchases in the Charente region for ageing cognacs.

With 29% of volume, the U.S. confirmed its position as the top export market for French barrels, while Australia has just moved ahead of Italy and Spain (with a drop in demand), which “illustrates the growing strength of New World markets, while the old continent continues to suffer”, notes the FTT.

[Source: Vitisphere; Photo: Tonnellerie Billon (Serge Chapuis)]

“Cut back in times of crisis? Mouton Cadet did the opposite!”
7 july

In 2013, the Baron Philippe de Rothschild France Distribution (RFD) company, whose sole shareholder is the Baron Philippe de Rothschild Group, achieved a sales turnover of € 91.6 million and sold 13.3 million bottles (+12 % compared to the previous year). These results are largely due to the efforts of a sales team led by Géraud de la Noue, RFD’s general manager: ”since 2010 we’ve been saying that the economic crisis would affect us sooner or later. Instead of cutting back and running the risk of being caught short when things picked up again, we did just the opposite!

RFD’s good performance is also related to its portfolio of 54 brands, ranging from the famous Mouton Cadet to Campari spirits, and including Rosé de Provence wine and Italian Prosecco. This portfolio has the strength of ranging “from € 3 to € 20,000”, points out Géraud de la Noue, who focuses above all on adapting the offer to the specific requirements of each distribution channel. The tailor-made Mouton Cadet range is an illustration of this: for supermarkets there is a red, white and rosé generic range, for specialist wine stores there is a varietal Bordeaux (Sauvignon Blanc) and a reserve range (Bordeaux, Graves, Saint-Emilion AOCs, etc.), for restaurateurs, a heritage range, etc.

In all, three million bottles of Mouton Cadet are sold in France each year (of which one third goes through the traditional channels). But don’t go comparing the company’s winemaking facility at Saint-Laurent du Médoc to a factory. “We are not a big industrial company, but a medium-sized family company which makes wine”, responds Géraud de la Noue, citing the Mouton Cadet selected vineyards scheme, which is based on contracts with 400 Bordeaux wine growers and producers. This strategy for the supply of grapes and wines has enabled the company to limit the price increase on its 2013 vintage to 2%.

[Source: Vitisphere]

Wines of Saint-Emilion: The Jurade sets up in mainland China

20 june

Another example of French delocalisation in China, the Jurade de Saint-Emilion has officially opened a chancellery in Beijing. The first round of Chinese inductions took place in Hong Kong on 26 May, for the opening of Vinexpo Asia Pacific. Hubert de Boüard de Laforest (co-owner of Chateau Angelus), as “Premier Jurat“ of the wines of Saint-Emilion, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Lussac Saint-Emilion and Saint-Emilion Puisseguin, inducted Xing Hai Cui and Nicolas Billot Grima, respectively as chancellor and vice-chancellor. Importer and distributor with his company 25 Brix, the former is the vice president of the Changyu Group (China's top wine producer with 17,500 hectares of vineyards) and the owner of Château Saint-Jacques (7 ha to the north of Beijing). The latter founded France Château China Vineyard Consulting (F2CV - a consulting firm for vineyard planting/reorganisation in China).

Through its system of chancelleries, the Jurade currently has a network of ambassadors in England (Oxford and York chancelleries), Belgium, Malta and Hong Kong. According to CIVB data, mainland China was the third largest export market for Saint-Emilion and Saint-Emilion Grand Cru AOCs for the 2012-2013 campaign, with respectively 3,100 and 10,600 hectolitres shipped (down -27% and -16% compared to the previous period).

[Source: Vitisphere; to the forefront of the photo: Xing Hai Cui and Nicolas Billot Grima, Conseil des Vins de Saint-Emilion]

Guard the integrity of SA’s wine brands

12-Jun-2014 | Ross Sleet

We need to change the way we think about the long-term future of South African wine, writes Ross Sleet

THE global wine industry is a rather fractured reality. The traditional "tiering" of wines, in which a flagship label leads the top end of an estate’s range with sub-brands accommodating the pricing realities of those feeling the pinch at the lower end, is almost certainly under threat from the permanently reduced consumer spending in many wine-consuming nations.

But this may be an opportunity for savvy wine makers and marketers to bring new consumers to their brands. Consumers no longer seem interested in, or capable of, engaging with a brand’s complete tier of wines. They are picking their starting point and staying with it or, at their most adventurous, switching from brand to brand at similar price points within promotional slots. If consumers struggle to aspire to purchase top-tier wines, it is now more important than ever that the industry creates opportunities for consumers to engage with a brand at mutually beneficial entry points, whatever their level.

However, long-term growth may lie in taking another tack. SA’s wine industry is continually asked about the role that bulk versus branded "premium" wine plays in the global market. The industry is tiring of SA being best known as an exporter of bulk and, thus, generic wine. New Zealand has sauvignon blanc as its defining cultivar, while Argentina has malbec — can SA punt chenin blanc and pinotage as our "country-defining wines"? The reality is that bulk wine plays a role in balancing SA’s wine payments as well as fulfilling the sub-£4.99 and the equivalent euro and dollar price points. It keeps cellars busy; it keeps them cash-rich; and, vitally, it keeps farmers on the land. Bulk wine is a commodity with the inherent risks found in any commodity environment.

If Languedoc, or Chile, or Australia, or Argentina’s harvests are poor, then prices in SA rise, and vice versa. Wines that are created from these crops inhabit shelf space that helps retailers service their cash-poor consumers. There is, however, nothing wrong with elements of the South African wine industry servicing this sector. Wine makers and marketers with nous will cross from one side of this divide and back again as they make a living. The point, however, is that our country needs to pick a brand-building position and get on with it — and that position should not be about being known as a bulk wine supplier with a few big brands. Logic dictates that SA’s wine industry as, primarily, brand promoters, should be moving towards a global market position in which our terroir, the profile of our wine makers and the industry’s heritage come to the fore, not just price.

The reality is inescapable: Brand SA can survive the next 20-30 years only if we move aggressively towards value statements and not volume statements. Commodities such as oil and petrol have no basis in consumers’ eyes — do consumers care if engine oil has tiny molecules of super-engineered "bits" that clean their engines? I doubt it; most only care what the price at the petrol pump is. However, those that really do care about what they put into their car — and their belly — want to hear the product’s virtues extolled.

Punting mass-market, cheaper wines exclusively is not going to pay off in the long run; SA needs to extol its own brand stories. We have a rich heritage, passionate wine makers and brand marketers, and specialist industry advocates of cultivars and types. Some farms of less than 100ha have nine soil types and seven slope aspects — we should focus on these extraordinary narratives and circumstances and let the commodities take care of themselves. Supermarkets can only gain from our enhanced stories and value offerings as this will drive up prices and profits over time. No-one seriously thinks that they are winning by over-promoting cheap and cheerful wines; they clog up valuable shelf space, and generate significantly lower margins than higher priced wines.

Almost every estate or wine-marketing body in SA will include words such as heritage, respect, innovation and passion in their mission statements. These concepts may not represent the most obviously successful path for now, given global financial restraints, but in 20 years’ time, it will be the only way growth and brand integrity will be guaranteed. As hard as it is to do now, when the near future looks anything but bright and bulk offers the most obvious short-term economic relief, we need to change the way we think about the long-term future of South African wine.

Bringing the cellar to your door

May 21, 2014    by Winetitles

IF necessity is the mother of invention, frustration must run a very close second.

Just ask Lynton Manuel and his mates Todd Nelson and Rob Dunn.

Now based in Sydney, South Australian expat Manuel just couldn’t find retail outlets which stocked the boutique wines he loved from the Barossa, or Clare Valley and McLaren Vale.

And he could only drive home and truck a load back so many times.

So the trio launched WineCloud.com.au which, in Manuel’s words, lets consumers track down their favourite wines and discover new ones.

The concept is simple. WineCloud is a portal to link consumers with the boutique wine industry. You pay WineCloud; it pays the winery and the winery ships direct to you.

“I just couldn’t find the ones I wanted anywhere. The large liquor stores were only stocking the bigger brands” he said.

The three musketeers make a good match. Manuel does social media servicing, Nelson is an e-commerce specialist and Dunn a professional website developer.

They have worked together in those roles in the same company so they knew they were a good match and the rest, they hope, is not so much history as an exciting future in cyberspace.

Manuel’s interest in wine was casual at best. Until he started at the University of Adelaide where he hooked up with assorted offspring of some of the state’s most famous names.

Including a couple of Lehmanns.

“Wine was one thing, but these guys would occasionally nick something from their fathers’ cellars and that’s when I discovered there is wine and then there is wine,” Manuel admits.

“That opened my eyes, I mean really opened them, about what wine could be and how much you could enjoy it,” he says.

“Once I got to Sydney I found it so hard to keep in touch with the wines I had discovered were so good.

“Not just the Lehmann wines but also wines that were being lovingly crafted by so many smaller players in areas across the state.

“Sure you could get all the big labels in stores in Sydney, but I wanted access to everything – and I think a lot of other people do as well.”

So the boys built WineCloud.

Could red wine be used to prevent dental cavities?

MNT, Tuesday 27 May 2014

Its healthful effects on the heart are well documented, but a new study suggests another part of the body may benefit from moderate red wine consumption: our teeth.

The researchers behind the new study, which is published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, explain that the oral cavity is "an enormously complex" and unique habitat within the human body.

Hundreds of microbial species co-exist within the human mouth simultaneously. Because the teeth are "non-shedding surfaces," microorganisms are able to adhere to them for long periods of time, which can lead to the formation of biofilms and dental plaque.

Forming a symbiotic relationship within dental plaque, bacteria such as streptococci or lactobacilli are able to produce organic acids in high levels following the fermentation of dietary sugars. These acids demineralize the surface of the teeth, leading eventually to periodontal disease or tooth loss. Up to 60-90% of the global population are affected by these oral diseases.

Antimicrobial agents can be prescribed to control plaque and reduce oral biofilms, but side effects are associated with some of these, including reduced taste perception and discoloration of the gums. Also, it is possible that the use of these antimicrobials is contributing to drug resistance in the bacteria.

As such, scientists are on the lookout for natural products that may be used to control biofilms and are suitable for long-term use.


Novel strategies for new antimicrobial treatments

The researchers note that polyphenols from tea and cranberries, and phenolic extracts from wine and grapes, have recently been implicated in inhibiting the growth of strains of Streptococcus.

Red wine - both with and without alcohol - and the combined wine and grape seed extract were most effective at combatting the bacteria.

Using a biofilm model of a dental plaque that integrates five species of bacteria associated with oral disease, the researchers further investigated the potential for red wine to inhibit biofilm production.

These biofilm cultures were placed variously in red wine, alcohol-free red wine, red wine with grape seed extract, water and 12% ethanol for a couple of minutes each.

The researchers found that red wine - both with and without alcohol - and the combined wine and grape seed extract were most effective at combatting the bacteria.

"Our results show that red wine, at moderate concentration, inhibits the growth of some pathogenic species in an oral biofilm model," the researchers write in their conclusion.

They continue:

"These findings contribute to existing knowledge about the beneficial effects of red wines (one of the most important products of agriculture and food industries) on human health. Moreover, the promising results concerning grape seed extract, which showed the highest antimicrobial activity, open promising ways toward a natural ingredient in the formulation of oral care products specifically indicated for the prevention of caries, due to its antimicrobial properties."

Recently, Medical News Today reported on a study that questioned the health benefits of the antioxidants in red wine. In particular, the researchers found no evidence that the antioxidant resveratrol - which is also found in grapes, berries, peanuts and chocolate - protects against cardiovascular disease or cancer, or makes people live longer.

Despite this, the researchers did acknowledge other studies that find a positive association between consumption of red wine, dark chocolate and berries and heart health.

"It's just that the benefits, if they are there, must come from other polyphenols or substances found in those foodstuffs," said the researchers. "These are complex foods, and all we really know from our study is that the benefits are probably not due to resveratrol."

Egg shortage leaves industry in a fining pickle

29/05/2014 Daily Wine News

IF in a few months’ time you realise it’s getting harder and harder to find an egg or two, you’re not the only one scrambling.

A national egg shortage caused by an avian influenza outbreak in NSW last October is forcing prices as much as 8 per cent and is expected to continue until spring.

And it’s now become a threat to winemakers who use egg whites as a fining agent to clarify and stabilise their wine.

The incident is one of seven outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza strains and nearly half-a-million birds had to be destroyed.

Country Fresh Eggs, one of SA’s largest producers, says the avian influenza outbreak cut production by 2.5 million eggs a week and has led to a continuing shortage.

Owner Dion Andary told Grapegrower & Winemaker the current situation isn’t looking bright and the business is still desperately short of eggs.

While some winemakers only use eggs as their first meal of the day, others are using it to improve the quality of their wine.

Egg whites absorb and precipitate the colloids suspended in the wine, an important step in the winemaking process.

By encouraging these microscopic particles to fall out of the wine, it is less likely to become cloudy or hazy.

While some winemakers are being forced to pay more, producers such as By Jingo! are a step ahead of the rest with its own four-bird production enterprise.

By Jingo! marketing manager Annick Bahen says the winery averages 21 eggs per week with three out of the four chickens laying.

Ontario Vineyards Escape "Total Disaster"

Wine Searcher, By Leslie Gevirtz | Posted Wednesday, 28-May-2014

The same brutal winter that forced the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare the Finger Lakes wine region a disaster area also damaged many vineyards in neighboring Ontario, Canada.

“In Ontario, we have a similar case with some regions and areas having significant damage (Southwest Ontario) but in Niagara, the largest production area, the amount of injury is highly variable,” Brock University Professor Kevin Ker told Wine-Searcher.

Ker, a grape and wine industry consultant, who lists vine winter hardiness as one of his areas of research, said that, while the field examinations would not be completed until the end of June, he expected yields for the 2014 harvest would be down by 25 to 50 percent of the average crop, with some growers having even less depending on site and cultivars grown.

Paul Pender is a winemaker for Tawse Winery near Hamilton, Ontario. Its vineyards sprawl across the neck of land that separates two Great Lakes – Erie and Ontario. “There’s no Merlot. No crop at all. That’s the worst hit for us,” he said.

“I’m quite pleased with the Cabernet Franc, the Pinot Noir and the Riesling. I think we’re only going to be down about 35 percent of our buds,” Pender added. “We’re not looking at a total disaster. I don’t think we got hit as bad as the Finger Lakes.”

His remarks echoed those of Debbie Zimmerman, head of the Grape Growers of Ontario, an organization that represents more than 500 growers in the region. She explained that the situation was not as dire as Finger Lakes. “Due to our technology and pruning practices, we are doing okay to date.”

At Constellation Brands’ Inniskillin, Keith Brown, vice president of winemaking and viticulture, said that growers weren’t out of the woods quite yet.

“Other risks beyond spring frost, include late spring start (which we are seeing), poor set due to rain at that time of year, poor ripening due to lack of growing sunshine hours, fall frosts, high disease pressure, pest problems including birds and, lastly, rain-days during harvest," he said. "But apart from that all is golden in the vineyard.”

Generation Y prepared to pay more

28th May, 2014 by Gabriel Savage The Drinks Business

UK consumers under the age of 35 are willing to pay considerably more for wine than older demographics, according to a new report commissioned by London Wine Fair into the attitudes and buying habits of “Generation Y”.

Sponsored by bottling specialist Encirc Wines and carried out by Wine Intelligence over the last six months, the Carpe Vinum report involved an online survey of 4,136 UK wine drinkers, followed up with Generation Y focus groups held in London during February.

Among its key findings, the report reveals that while “most shoppers are willing to pay between £5 and £5.99 a bottle” in the off-trade, “more people under 35 are willing to pay over £8 for a bottle than those over 35.”

However, Carpe Vinum also highlighted a “growing affinity for discounters” among this same generation, which is more averse to supermarket own-label brands, feels that wine lacks the consistency of beer or spirits, and finds wine lists in the on-trade “overwhelming”.

Despite their confidence with the online world, Generation Y displayed an overall hesitation about using this medium for buying wine, showing a tendency to stick to familiar brands and preferring to browse in the familiar surroundings of their local supermarket, where 92% of under-35s buy their wine.

Wine Intelligence categorises 83% of UK adults as wine drinkers, with 56% consuming wine at least once a month – equivalent to 27.5m people. Under-35s currently make up 25%, or 6.9m of these “regular” wine drinkers.

Comparing Generation Y to older demographics, Lulie Halstead of Wine Intelligence described them as “typically more in debt with higher levels of education; they travel more and are more likely to live at home with their parents or in rented accommodation. They’re much more mobile and less likely to save to become home owners.”

The report divides Generation Y into four main groups: Wired Confidents, Mainstream-in-the-making, Female Indifferents and Young Kitchen Casuals. Of these, by far the largest group is Mainstream-in-the-making, which represents 44% of wine drinkers under 35 and accounts for 58% of their total spend.

Although Wired Confidents were defined as the “most knowledgeable group”, accounting for 17% of Generation Y but 29% of total spend, Halstead stressed: “They love wine, they want to interact with wine but their knowledge level is really in its infancy.”

While 10% of regular UK wine drinkers said they would spend over £8 on a bottle of wine in the off-trade, this rose to 52% for Wired Confidents. Within the total 18-34 age group, 15% said they would exceed the £8 mark, compared to 9% of wine drinkers in the over-35 category.

Describing the report as “a bit of a first for an event like ours,” Ross Carter, event director for London Wine Fair, revealed a plan to commission research on an annual basis but highlighted the importance of this initial focus on Generation Y.

“The last six years have seen slower growth in terms of consumption in the UK and so we’re now looking to the next generation to see where that future growth will come from,” he remarked.

Outlining the opportunities for the UK trade flagged up by the report, Halstead remarked: “It’s about communication; that’s key. The days of stopping at a Facebook page for your business are well and truly over.”

Instead, she continued: “It’s much more about understanding how wine is part of their lives, not viewing it isolation. It’s about recognising that wine is just one part of a very complex and evolving lifestyle, and then communicating in a way that’s not intimidating but not dumbing down. It’s about giving small nuggets of information they can remember and then share.”

A copy of the Carpe Vinum report will be given away free to the first 1,000 people through the door of London Wine Fair when it opens next Monday. It will also be available on stands and in restaurants within the fair, while all exhibitors will be able to access the full publication free of charge.

Science finds wines’ fruity flavors really do fade first
Source: Washington State University (27/5/2014)

Testing conventional wisdom with science, recently published research from Washington State University reveals how different flavors “finish,” or linger, on the palate following a sip of wine.

“A longer finish is associated with a higher quality wine, but what the finish is, of course, makes a huge difference,” said sensory scientist Carolyn Ross.

The study is one of the first to look at how different flavor components finish when standing alone or interacting with other compounds in white wines.

The idea for the work began with a question from one of Ross’ students in a wine and food sensory science class.

“We were talking about flavor finish and which compounds finish later or earlier,” Ross explained. “I said, well, anecdotally, fruity flavors finish earlier while others, like steak or oak, finish later.”

In a recent article in the journal Food Quality and Preference, Ross explains how her team trained panelists to identify and measure fruity, floral, mushroom and oaky (or coconut) compounds in wines. They found that, indeed, fruity flavor perception disappears from the palate earlier than oaky, floral and earth flavors perception.

The researchers chose the fruity, floral, mushroom and oaky compounds to reflect the diversity of the wine aroma wheel.

“There can be hundreds of different flavor compounds in wine,” said former graduate student and co-author Emily Goodstein, referring to the intricate relationship between taste, aroma and flavor. “We wanted to ask: What finishes longer? Are these assumptions really supported? Can we back it up with some sensory data?”

Young US Drinkers Help Spanish Wine Soar in Sales and Popularity

Latin Post, By Scharon Harding May 26, 2014 12:27 PM EDT

Spanish wine sales are increasing, and the industry can thank the United States' young drinkers for that.

Recently, the Spanish Embassy held a wine tasting function in Washington featuring over 200 different kinds of wine. At the event, Katrin Naelapaa, director of Wines from Spain (part of the Spanish Trade Commission) told EFE that these increasing sales "will drive them into the future."

"The youngest segment, the Millennial generation, is the one that drives wine sales," Naelapaa said. "It is drinking much more of them than previous generations."

Apparently, it's the desire to both try something new and be hip that has young drinkers helping Spanish wines become popular. According to Naelapaa, these patrons "are curious and want to buy the latest thing that none of their friends know about." And it's working. According to EFE, Spain is the biggest producer of wine in the world as of 2013.

"It's an excellent moment," Naelapaa continued. "For several years now a radical change has been observed in the acceptance of wine on the American market."

In fact, Spanish wine imports to the United States rose 11 percent in 2013. According to Naelapaa, this success is because Americans know that these wines offer "quality for their price." This quality, she argued, is seen in all wines, whether they're priced at $10, $50 or $100. Naelapaa did admit, however, that the cost of Spanish wine is not as pocket-friendly as it used to be.

"Around 30 years ago, Spanish wine was considered cheap," she said. "That idea no longer exists, but rather that at whatever price, it offers more quality that its competitor from Italy, France or California."

The director is not the only one who sees the Spanish wine trend growing.

"Seven or eight years ago, Spanish wine was an unknown quantity. First there was the comfort factor. People are familiar with Merlot and Cabernet, but they aren't inclined to order a Rioja or Garnacha," Andrew Switzer, sales rep for Richmond's Christopher Stewart Wine and Spirits (which carries wine from 14 countries), told Richmond-News. "They were making over-oaked, oxidized wines. It's the most revolutionary change in the history of winemaking. ... Spain is the best region to go and experience drinking world-class wine for under $16."

Researchers start a wine revolution

Posted on May 20, 2014 by Winetitles

THE global wine industry may be on the cusp of a revolution thanks to pioneering genetic research conducted by scientists at New Zealand’s Lincoln University and Plant & Food Research that not only has ramifications for controlling disease and increasing productivity, but will quite likely mean completely new varieties of grapes and styles of wine.

The research project initially began to fill a gap in the identification and function of the genes that underpin the key characteristics of grapevines.

The goal was to bed down a research framework such as those used by researchers with other plant species to establish a knowledge base for the study of gene behaviour and the critical processes of grape production.

But as research developed, new opportunities became apparent and a greater emphasis was placed on investigating the potential for manufacturing and encouraging the expression of genetic elements within grapevines which may, in turn, come with commercial benefits.

At the heart of the research are transposons: naturally occurring, mobile DNA sequences that have the ability to replicate and insert themselves into new positions within the same or another chromosome.

All living organisms have transposons and often in very high quantities.

Up to 40 per cent of the grape genome is made up of transposons with most inter-clonal diversity within grapevines caused by them.

Yet, while most transposon expression within a grape variety is unwelcome or harmful, they usually remain ‘silenced’ through the plant’s own internal system which looks to prevent new mutations.

There are numerous cases, however, where transposons can be activated; under certain stress conditions, for instance, such as UV exposure, temperature shocks, or exposure to certain microorganisms such as bacteria or fungi.

As such, the researchers explored how to activate and identify transposon expression within grapevines with a view to producing a population of plants in which each plant contained a number of new insertions.

“Through our five year project with Plant & Food Research we have now proven this to be possible and are looking to extend this work to produce populations of grapevines in which every gene in the genome contains a transposon insertion,” Lincoln University project team leader and senior lecturer in plant molecular biology Dr Chris Winefield says.

“In a sense we’re looking to create stress conditions so as to ‘hyper-activate’ the genome, thereby creating conditions conducive for dense, multiple transposon insertions.

“We can then search the individual plants for transposon insertions in their genes and subsequently assess to what extent the transposon has disrupted the gene and what impact this will have on the plant.

“From there, we can assess which plants we could be interested in from a commercial perspective; for instance, for reasons such as disease tolerance, sustainable production, or a capacity to produce an interesting new variety of wine.”

In order to activate the transposons, the researchers worked with plant tissue cultures from grapevines.

After subjecting these cultures to a range of stress treatments, the plants were regenerated from the cultures and new transposons insertions identified using bioinformatics.

The work of Lincoln University PhD candidate Darrell Lizamore was crucial in developing a means for identifying and measuring these genetic mutations: work which earned him the prestigious David Jackson prize in 2013, awarded for research showing rigour, innovation and the potential for beneficial changes to the wine industry.

The problem of finding a method for identifying new transposon insertions was made all the more difficult by the large ‘background’ of ancient transposons in the grapevine genome, and the fact that new transposon insertions might only make up 0.2 per cent of the entire transposon compliment.

To overcome this, transposons were ‘tagged’ using a fluorescent dye, after which the tagged DNA was sorted using a capillary DNA sequencer.

This allowed transposons to be grouped according to their particular type and position within the grapevine’s DNA.

The systematic, multi-experimentation approach to overcome the problem of transposon identification, as well as other problems, such as the development of treatment protocols capable of activating specific transposons, has meant a considerable body of information is now available to the wine industry.

This information is of particular importance as it involves sequencing approaches across the entire grape genome.

Now that the ‘hard yards’ are done, this sequencing and resequencing information is openly available to researchers who wish to identify individual plants with interesting new mutations with an eye for replicating them further.

Resequencing is a process whereby the complete set of genes making up a genome are catalogued and usually compared to the sequence (or catalogue) of genes from an original reference genome.

“The upshot of this work is that we are now in a position to encourage, identify and replicate mobile genetic elements so as to increase genetic diversity in grapevines,” Dr Winefield says.

“This approach is non-GE and uses the same processes that underpin the formation of common bud-sports in grapes and other similar species.

“As far as the wine industry itself is concerned, we now have the means to generate new clones of existing varietals and the experimental framework to explore the production of completely new wines. This is very exciting and significant.”

The possibility of New Zealand leading the world in the production of completely new varieties has exciting commercial implications for a competitive industry where differentiation is important and where grape types are used to market products as a marker of style and quality.

The ground-breaking research also stands to contribute significantly to the international research community by having established a robust experimental research platform and database for other researchers to build on and leverage off for their own projects.

Likewise, the research methodology and technology employed has considerable implications for other plant species important to New Zealand’s primary industries.

Plant & Food Research has played a pivotal role in the project.

As a Crown Research Institute, it is responsible for delivering research and development to support a range of primary sector industries, including wine, and has a long history of working closely with these industry partners.

“We’re very pleased to be working in partnership with Lincoln University on this project,” Plant & Food Research chief operating officer Dr Bruce Campbell says.

“The research really does have the potential to create a range of new opportunities for the New Zealand wine industry.”

As well as Dr Chris Winefield and PhD candidate Darrell Lizamore, the research team is made up of:

Dr Ross Bicknell at Plant and Food Research, who coordinates the Crown Research Institute’s particular involvement in the project and has a background in grape genetic improvement

Dr Susan Thompson at Plant and Food Research, who has been instrumental with sequencing analysis and informatics development

Joshua Philips, lab manager and research associate for the project

Tirthanker Ghosh, a Lincoln University PhD candidate who will be expanding on Darrell’s work to research a larger plant population and further examine the impact of new transposon insertions.

The Feud Over Italy’s Most Mysterious Wine Estate

Punch, April 23, 2014

The Fiorano wines, created by the eccentric Prince Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi, have been elevated to near mythical status in the wine world. Now, nearly a decade after his death, his estate and legacy are at the center of a complicated family feud.

It’s hard not to contemplate the notions of death, myth and legacy while approaching Tenuta di Fiorano, a sprawling noble estate southeast of Rome and bordered by the Via Appia Antica. The ancient consular road, which stretches 350 miles from central Rome to the Adriatic port of Brindisi, was prime funeral real estate during the Republic and Empire. Powerful families invested huge sums in mausoleums that showcased their achievements and perpetuated their own mythology for posterity. Just mere yards from the Via Appia Antica’s basalt pavement and crumbling funerary ruins sprawls the former estate of the late, legendary winemaker and papal descendant, Prince Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi.

His land, which encompassed hundreds of acres of farmland, vineyards, buildings, olive groves and quarries, is now divided among several owners, including two rivaling relatives, both of whom claim to be fulfilling Prince Alberico’s enological legacy through their own vineyards, Tenuta di Fiorano and Fattoria di Fiorano.

Prince Alberico inherited the estate from his father in 1946. He began making wine there under the guidance of a nearby winemaker, Dr. Giuseppe Palieri, and replaced the existing local grape varieties with cabernet, merlot, malvasia di candia and semillon. For five decades, the Prince and his team of local farmers produced stunning, age-worthy wines in a region known for its conventional (some would even say undrinkable) swill.

The wines of Fiorano were made with a deep reverence for nature. The Prince eschewed chemical fertilizers and planted based on lunar cycles. He insisted on low yields, relied on indigenous yeasts for fermentation, left his wines unfiltered, aged them in large old barrels and embraced the pillowy white mold that naturally grew in his cellar.

During his five decades as a winemaker, Prince Alberico made wines that he himself wanted to drink, and though they remained obscure to most, they garnered a cult following.

His whites, with their complexity and minerality, were suitable for long periods of aging and raised the profile for their genre across Italy and beyond. He saw these wines as his legacy and jealously guarded them during his lifetime. Even when they were available—today they have nearly vanished from the market—the Prince shunned distributors, insisting that customers come to his estate to purchase the wines in a building called “L’Amministrazione”—the office building.

Of course, the historic Fiorano wines can never be replicated. The land—and even a few old vines—might be the same, but for reasons that are both tangible (a changing climate) and intangible (the spirit of Alberico’s winemaking), the magical, mythical Fiorano cannot be reproduced. But as long as Fiorano is being evoked by two vineyards, the lovers of those old wines have the right to decide which more faithfully mirrors the Prince’s approach.

The name hardly seemed fitting as the structure near the corner of Via Appia Antica and Via di Fioranello was centuries old and the entrance was topped with the Prince’s noble coat of arms. Once inside, clients would conduct the transaction through a secretary who would only accept exact change. Bottles were brought up from the cellar below, dusted off and labeled to order.

On a recent visit to Tenuta di Fiorano, I visited the infamous room where so many eager buyers had patiently awaited the Prince’s wines. Today, boxes of Tenuta di Fiorano’s wines are stacked on the tables inside the room. The Tenuta, the vineyard of Prince Alberico’s heir and cousin, Prince Alessandrojacopo Boncompagni Ludovisi, uses the same office building and cellars Alberico used, which are maintained in the same state in which he left them. In the fields below, the same farmers who aided in Alberico’s harvest now guide Alessandrojacopo’s plantings, prunings and harvests. It would seem Alberico’s legacy is intact.

But the progression between Alberico’s and Alessandrojacopo’s vineyards wasn’t seamless. After the 1995 harvest, Alberico tore out nearly all his vines, citing poor health and advanced age. But others, including Alessandrojacopo, acknowledge the motivation was likely linked to legacy. “He tore the vines out because he didn’t think anyone could continue his work,” explained the Prince at his home at Tenuta di Fiorano.

But after a change of heart, Alberico reconsidered and from the hotel room where he would live out his final years, he counseled his younger cousin, who had purchased plots of land around the historic vineyard between 1999-2004. At Alberico’s behest, Alessandrojacopo planted grechetto and viognier, as well as merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Following his older cousin’s methods, Alessandrojacopo began bottling and selling his own wines under the label Tenuta di Fiorano. Though still young, the wines show great promise and are made in the methods and spirit of Alberico’s historic wines.

But the story of Fiorano hardly ends here. Just across Via di Fioranello, a meandering country lane, Prince Alberico’s granddaughters—Albiera, Allegra and Alessia Antinori—have begun making wine on their organic farm, Fattoria di Fiorano. The property’s immaculate cellar and its fragrant new barrels, stylish restaurant and neatly planted garden seem at odds with their grandfather’s anti-commercial approach to wine. Yet a parade of well-placed articles in the Italian media have already declared that the Antinori’s new vineyard is the reincarnation of their grandfather’s mythical vineyard.

But both his actions and own words suggest he didn’t intend for the Antinori’s modern and commercial approach to winemaking to enter his estate in the first place. In a 2001 interview with Luigi Veronelli, Prince Alberico said, “My three granddaughters [Albiera, Allegra, and Alessia] have inherited their interest in wine not from me but from their father Piero [Antinori], an eminent producer of fine wine.” That same year, the Prince was assisting the development of Alessandrojacopo’s vineyard across the street.

Though Prince Alberico isn’t around to speak for himself, Alessandrojacopo and Alessia have plenty to say about their competing estates. Alessia, who characterizes Alessandrojacopo as a “far-away cousin,” says she is in talks to merge the two wineries under a single Bordeaux-style label depicting the Antinori’s Appia Antica villa, a claim that is vehemently denied by the Tenuta di Fiorano camp. Exacerbating the apparent tension is the arrival of Fattoria di Fiorano’s wine Fioranello, a ready-to-drink blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. But the name, “Fioranello,” happens to be registered already to Alessandrojacopo and it is also the name of an existing wine made by his Tenuta di Fiorano.

There is clearly a lot to gain from the Fiorano name, and what seems like deliberate brand confusion on the part of Fattoria di Fiorano begs the question of whether or not Prince Alberico’s legacy is being exploited for commercial gain without actually fulfilling the promise of Fiorano’s name.

It’s true that trying to replicate the wines is futile. The land—and even a few old vines—might be the same, but for reasons that are both tangible (a changing climate) and intangible (the spirit of Alberico’s winemaking), the magical, mythical Fiorano will never be the same. But as long as Fiorano is being evoked by two vineyards, the lovers of those old wines have the right to decide which more faithfully mirrors the Prince’s approach. And while it will be decades before we can properly judge the wines of both estates, standing outside “L’Aministrazione” at Tenuta di Fiorano, just steps from the Prince’s rock-hewn cellar where his former staff continues to work, his legacy felt safe.

American buyer seeks £15m in damages over ‘fake’ vintage wine

US property developer claims several bottles bought from British dealership are counterfeit

Cahal Milmo- 23 April 2014

When an American property developer, Julian LeCraw Junior, paid £55,000 for the world’s most expensive white wine, the British seller underlined its appreciation by flying the 219-year-old bottle of Château d’Yquem across the Atlantic by private jet.

Eight years on, relations between Mr LeCraw and the London-based Antique Wine Company (AWC) are somewhat less cordial after the Atlanta-based millionaire alleged that the wine – and several other bottles bought from the same dealership – are fake. A lawsuit filed by Mr LeCraw seeking recompense of up to $25m (£15m) claims that AWC sold him 15 counterfeit bottles of wine bearing such sought-after names as Yquem, Lafite Rothschild and Margaux. In legal documents obtained by The Independent, Mr LeCraw claims expert analysis has unveiled tell-tale clues, including computer-printed wine labels purporting to be centuries’ old, which confirm he has paid huge sums for “worthless glass containing unknown liquids”. AWC and its founder and chief executive, Stephen Williams, have strongly denied their former client’s claims and said they have provided evidence to prove the authenticity of the wines. The company said it will “vigorously defend” the case.

The dispute is the latest to erupt in the rarefied world of trophy wines which has been hit repeatedly by claims of fakery and fraud. Last year, Florida billionaire Bill Koch won $25m, later reduced to $900,000, in damages for 24 bottles of centuries’ old wine which turned out to be fake.

Château d’Yquem, most famous of the Sauternes dessert wines fashioned in Bordeaux from grapes shrivelled by a benign fungus, is in the pantheon of great French vineyards. In its sales material, AWC made much of the extraordinary history of the 1787 bottle which, it said, had been recorked three times at Château d’Yquem between 1953 and 1994.

The eventual purchase price of about $100,000 was hailed as the highest ever paid for a white wine. When Mr Williams delivered it in person by private jet in February 2006, he said: “It might be the most expensive and pampered travelling companion I have ever had, but at £10,000 a glass, I have to be sure that our client is left with a sweet taste in his mouth.”

That taste turned sour for Mr LeCraw last year when he commissioned an American wine expert who declared two bottles of Yquem, 12 of Château Lafite Rothschild and a six-litre bottle of 1908 Château Margaux from his collection were counterfeit.

The report found evidence of alleged fakery which included computer-printed labels and incorrect corks and bottle shapes. The absence of authenticity was then confirmed by experts at Château d’Yquem and Château Lafite Rothschild. The head of wine at the latter vineyard declared each of the bottles to be “faux, faux, faux”, according to Mr LeCraw’s complaint.

AWC, which supplied 70-year-old wines to mark the 70th birthday of George H W Bush and also a consignment of 1912 wines used by Paramount Pictures to celebrate the Oscar success of the James Cameron movie Titanic, said it “strongly denies” all allegations made against it by Mr LeCraw, adding that it has supplied hundreds of bottles of wine to clients across the world with proof of authenticity from producers.

In a statement, Mr Williams said: “The proceedings brought against the Antique Wine Company will be vigorously defended.”

Famous wine myths busted

Telegraph, By Victoria Moore, 22 Apr 2014

Do you drink your champagne at room temperature? A recent study by the University of Reims suggests that it might be better to do so because champagne served at 64F (18C) is likely to form more bubbles. Personally, I prefer mine chilled. But there are a few more myths out there just waiting to be busted…

Red with meat, white with fish: Matching wine and food is more about looking at the intensity, or volume, of the flavours involved than it is about going for red or white. Shouty food needs shouty wine, and vice versa. So it is true that you might prefer not to bludgeon a delicate piece of steamed sea bass into oblivion by downing a big fat shiraz or Chilean cabernet with it. But a meaty fish, such as swordfish or tuna, can work beautifully with a light red – say beaujolais, bardolino or frappato. Pan-fried salmon is delicious with pinot noir. Cod wrapped in prosciutto with Puy lentils goes well with Italian reds, and if you have a hearty, tomato-based fish stew then how about a rustic red from Portugal or Spain? As for the meat side of the equation: what if you had lamb cooked Greek style, with lemon juice, oregano and olives? Might you consider an oaked assyrtiko – a white from Santorini? Go on…

The heavier and more impressive the bottle, the better the wine:No. The heavier and more impressive the bottle, the bigger the winemaker’s ego.

Old wine needs decanting: Hold back. Put that decanter down. It’s true that more expensive wine can sometimes be improved by decanting – it might have intense concentration and tight tannins that will ease and open if they are given time and air. But older wines can also be fragile. They have already aged, slowly and gently, in the bottle, and may, like a griddled steak, have reached the moment at which they are á point. Swilling them around in a decanter may send them over the edge.

Old wines, decanted, sometimes just fall apart in front of your eyes. My advice is to open the bottle a couple of hours before serving, pour a small amount into a glass and recork the bottle. Taste the wine immediately, and again when it’s been in the glass for 10 minutes or so. You will know if it needs decanting.

Beaujolais is thin and old-fashioned — don’t touch it:Okay, the gamay grape makes red wines in a lighter style that you might want to drink slightly chilled.

It’s fair to say that beaujolais nouveau, the baby wine that once flooded into this country a couple of months after harvest, is not the best this region has to offer. Look at the more complex wines from the 10 crus – the likes of Morgon, Juliénas and Fleurie – where there are lots of single-minded, focused winemakers, young and old, making great quality wines that are relatively inexpensive for the level of craftsmanship you’re buying.

Wine under screwcap can’t possibly be corked: I’m afraid it can. The culprit here is a chemical known as TCA and it can infect the winery. I once had dinner with a winemaker in a restaurant in the Barossa Valley in Australia. One of her (red) wines clearly tasted corked – and she went off to retrieve the screwcap from the bin that would give her the lot number of the wine, so the rest of the batch could be tested. That said, it’s rare to find a corked screwcap wine.

Red wine is best at room temperature: Maybe it once was. Maybe it still is if you go to my parents’ house where they doggedly set the thermostat at 57F (14C). But too often red wine is served too warm so that it tastes soupy and indistinct. There’s no need to get the thermometer out – just try cooling it down slightly and see if you prefer the taste.

Champagne should be drunk out of flutes: Leaving aside the fact that I’m not a fan of the word “should”, in almost any context, I prefer not to drink champagne out of skinny, straight-sided flutes. I threw all mine in the bin when I moved house. Better to use an ordinary wine glass – you get much more pleasure from the smell of the wine. Or go for the increasingly fashionable option of the so-called bowed-flute, a voluptuous flute that shows off the wine but also looks the part.

It is sacrilege to put ice cubes in wine that is too warm: No, it’s not. You can put ice in your glass if you want to. I did it in a cheap Chinese in Soho the other night. And at the ballet last week when I’d been treated to a glass of champagne that was too warm. The friend I was with looked a bit put out and said: “I’d have put ice in mine if I hadn’t been with you.” Just do it. It’s wine, not holy water.

Americans are buying more wine and paying more for it.

By W. Blake Gray | Posted Friday, 25-Apr-2014

Party on, Americans. At a time when wine sales are slow in Europe, the U.S. wine market grew for the 20th year in a row in 2013.

Total U.S. wine sales were up 3 percent in volume and 5 percent in value over 2012, according to the Californian wine industry representative body The Wine Institute.

The $36.3 billion in wine sold in the U.S. in 2013 is more than double the value of wine sold in 1999.

Moreover, the average amount of money spent on 750 ml of wine edged over $8, to $8.06. This figure includes boxes and jugs; the actual average price for a 750 ml bottle would be higher

Americans purchased a record 3.38 billion liters of wine in 2013, which is almost double the volume bought in 1993.

California wineries were the beneficiary of America's thirst in 2013. Sales were up 3 percent in volume and 4 percent in value. These were important figures for large California wineries because in 2012 Americans actually bought less California wine, by volume, than the year before for the first time since 2001.

California wineries continue to dominate the U.S. wine market, accounting for 57 percent of sales by volume and 64 percent by value.

“In 2013, wineries gradually released the highly acclaimed wines from the large 2012 California harvest, offsetting the slowdown in American wine market growth due to short vintages in 2010 and 2011 and continuing soft economic conditions,” explained wine industry consultant Jon Fredrikson of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.

Chardonnay continues to be the most popular type of wine by a large margin, accounting for 20 percent of all sales in retail stores, according to market analysts Nielsen. Cabernet Sauvignon (13 percent) and Merlot (9 percent) are next in the popularity stakes while Moscato, Malbec and red blends all experienced double digit growth.

Everybody wants a crack at the world's largest wine market. Nearly 99,000 new wine labels were approved by the Tax and Trade Bureau, the majority from foreign producers.

Haut-Brion Price Cut With Margaux for 2013 Follows Mouton

Bloombergs, by Guy Collins - Apr 25, 2014

A 10 percent price cut on the 2013 vintage from both Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau Margaux this week followed reductions from rival first-growths Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Mouton Rothschild as top Bordeaux estates tested market demand.

Margaux and Haut-Brion each put their 2013 wines on sale at 215 euros ($297) a bottle from Bordeaux wholesale merchants, down from 240 euros for the 2012, according to data compiled by the London-based Liv-ex wine market.

Yields fell more than 30 percent in many Bordeaux vineyards last year after cold, wet weather during flowering, according to winemakers. Investors are focusing on so-called en primeur sales of 2013 wines, which are maturing for future delivery, after prices for other vintages declined since 2011. The Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 has fallen about 4 percent this year after a 3 percent drop in 2013 and a 10 percent decline in 2012.

“The wine market is quiet, not helped by another so far badly judged 2013 en primeur campaign,” Will Beck, partner at Wine Asset Managers LLP in London, said in a market report. “The industry has so far watched this with disappointment.”

Greek retail magnate Andre Mentzelopoulos bought Chateau Margaux, whose wines have been sold in London since the early 18th century, in 1977. It has been run since his death in 1980 by daughter Corinne.

The estate has 80 hectares (198 acres) planted with red-grape vines of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc and 12 hectares with white Sauvignon Blanc.

It produces an annual average 130,000 bottles of its main wine, a similar quantity of Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux and 15,000 bottles of white Pavillon Blanc, according to its website.

The vineyard is on the left bank of the Gironde estuary and ranked among the top Medoc first-growth estates in the classification drawn up for Napoleon III’s 1855 Paris Exhibition, which remains in force.

Haut-Brion has been making wine for more than 400 years and was bought in 1935 by U.S. financier Clarence Dillon, whose descendants still own the estate.

Further north in Pauillac, Mouton Rothschild priced its 2013 wines at 216 euros a bottle last week, down 10 percent from the previous vintage, while holding its Petit Mouton second wine unchanged at 66 euros, according to Liv-ex data.

Rothschild Wines

Mouton, which has been under the control of the Rothschild family since being acquired by Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild in 1853, has 84 hectares planted with red-grape vines. The vines have an average age of 44 years and are planted at a density of 10,000 per hectare, according to Mouton’s website.

Lafite Rothschild, a neighboring wine estate owned by another branch of the Rothschild family, cut the price of its 2013 vintage by 14 percent from 2012 this month following the rain-hit crop and pressure from merchants for cheaper wines.

Lafite put its 2013 wines on sale at 288 euros a bottle, down from 335 euros for the 2012, according to Liv-ex data.

The 2013 vintage of the estate’s second wine Carruades de Lafite was priced at 90 euros a bottle, down 5 percent from 2012, while 2013 wine from Chateau Duhart-Milon, a nearby Pauillac producer with the same winemaking team, was set at 48 euros, 9 percent below the 2012 vintage, according to Liv-ex.

Clos Fourtet, a producer from Saint-Emilion on the right bank of the Dordogne, priced its 2013 at 44 euros a bottle, down 2 percent from the previous year, while Chateau Brane-Cantenac, in the Margaux region, reduced its price by 6 percent to 27 euros, according to Liv-ex.

In Saint-Emilion, Chateau Angelus and Chateau Pavie, two estates which were promoted to the region’s top status of Premier Grand Cru Classe A in 2012, both cut the price of their 2013 vintage by 8 percent from the previous year to 165 euros a bottle, according to data compiled by Liv-ex.

The sales campaign has gathered momentum since Bordeaux estates hosted annual tastings for the wine trade at the start of this month. Chateau Pontet-Canet, a Pauillac grower neighboring Mouton, set the pace by releasing its 2013 wine at 60 euros a bottle in March, unchanged from its 2012 vintage.

Chateau Pichon Longueville, a Pauillac second-growth, priced its 2013 wine at 54 euros a bottle, down 17 percent, according to Liv-ex, while neighboring Chateau Lynch-Bages announced a similar reduction to 50 euros a bottle. Chateau Montrose in Saint-Estephe was unchanged at 57.60 euros.

Bordeaux 2013: Lafite releases to energise 'flat market'

Decanter, Thursday 17 April 2014 - by Chris Mercer

Two of Bordeaux's first growths, Lafite Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild, have entered the en primeur fray just ahead of Easter, dropping prices for their 2013 wines by 14% and 10% respectively.

Lafite released yesterday (16 April) at €288 ex-Bordeaux, in a move that was initially well received by several UK merchants. Mouton Rothschild followed this morning, priced at €216 ex-Bordeaux.

'We think it’s a very good price indeed and are confident we’ll have willing customers,' Oliver Sharp at Bordeaux Index told Decanter.com.

Analysis by Liv-ex, the fine wine trading platform, showed that Lafite 2013's price makes it the chateau's cheapest vintage available on the market - something that many observers have said will be the acid test for success in a vintage that is likely to be ready for drinking relatively early.

Speaking to Decanter.com, Christophe Salin, managing director of Lafite owner Domaines Barons de Rothschild (DBR), said it 'wasn't difficult' to decide the price for 2013. He said it was important to give buyers an incentive.

Regarding the timing of the release, he said, 'We always release around the 20 April. [This year] I thought the market was a bit flat and that we had to give some news.'

He said that expects the remaining big names in Bordeaux to follow relatively quickly. 'There is no reason to wait,' he said.

Some merchants, including Sharp at Bordeaux Index and Will Hargove at Corney & Barrow, expressed some concern that negociants may try to 'bundle' other DBR wines in with the Lafite grand vin, which might make the Lafite price less attractive.

Salin said that he does not agree with bundling wines together. 'We don't do it,' he said, adding that he would encourage negociants not to either.

Philippe Dhalluin at Mouton could not be immediately reached for comment.

Among the other releases in the past couple of days, both Lafite and Mouton released their second wines - Carruades Lafite and Petit Mouton - with the former down 5% at €90 and the latter flat against 2012's price, at €66.

Chateau Kirwan released down 4%, at €21.5 ex-Bordeaux, and Duhart Milon released down by 9% at €44. Evangile was flat against 2012, at €100 ex-Bordeaux.

New ventures brew in old wine bottles

Financial Chronicle-By Michael Gonsalves, Apr 16 2014

As paradoxes go, this one clearly tops the tipple. At 15 ml per capita consumption, India is among the lowest wine consuming countries in the world. But at 25-30 per cent year-on-year growth, it is also the fastest growing wine market in the world. Now, the latter is what a new breed of entrepreneurs have been quick to raise a toast to. Sniffing a lucrative opportunity in grappling with grapes, some have even quit corporate careers to get into the brewing business.

So, there’s wine aficionado Ajay Shetty, who once crunched numbers for Morgan Stanley in New York and Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong, decided to shift base to Bangalore to set up Myra Vineyards and launch his wine brand in March 2012.

Then there’s Ashwin Rodrigues, once a chartered accountant, and now director and chief wine maker at Good Drop Wine Cellars at Nashik, who stormed the market with his Rio brand last year. Encouraged by the response at home, Rodrigues is eyeing the overseas market that includes China, Vietnam, Thailand, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria.

Aiming at the American market is another Uma Chigurupati, co-founder of KRSMA Estates.

A new entrant, the company won international awards for its wines before it launched its range of reds and whites under KRSMA brand in Bangalore this February.

Said Shetty: “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and after working for eight years as an investment banker, I got into the wine business and sold my first batch of labels in March 2012 at Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune markets.” He says he invested a total of Rs 3 crore from his own savings in the business. “Mine is a zero debt company and I am targeting to break even and start booking profit within a couple of years,” he added.

Last year, the Bangalore-based Myra Vineyards began selling the special limited edition of red and white wines produced at its winery at Dindori, near Nashik in Maharashtra and at Bijapur in Karnataka to test the market. There has been no looking back since and Myra now has a range in red and white wines in the entry, premium and super premium categories. A 750 ml bottle starts with a range of Rs 800 while a 375 ml bottle starts at Rs 330.

Myra has also entered the International Wine Challenge competition being held in London this year. The Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc and Reserves Cabernet Sauvignon labels have been entered for wine challenge, Shetty said. The Sauvignon Blanc won a bronze at the Indian Wine Consumers Choice Awards (IWCCA) held in January 2014, while its Shiraz won the gold medal at IWCCA in 2012.

Bitten by the brewing bug, Rodrigues, who gave up his job in financial services in Sydney, Australia, and moved to Barossa Valley, a well-known wine valley in Adelaide district in 2007 to learn the art of wine making.

“I worked at three wineries in the valley and returned to India to make wine in 2009,” he said. First, he also joined a wine company in Nashik, the wine bowl of India, for one year to learn the nitty-gritties of the business before starting his own. Rodrigues, who made wines from a rented winery in Nashik for two years, set up his own winery with a total investment of Rs 1.5 crore from his savings in 2013.

Last year, he launched his first collection of sparkling wines made in an Italian frizzante (semi-sparkling) style with a lower alcohol content of 9 per cent compared to 13 per cent in normal wines. The wine sold under the Rio Fizzy Wine brand tastes fresh, fruity and semi-dry. “The frizzante style sparkling wine is inspired by Italian bubblies like Asti Spumante, Prosecco and Lambrusco which carry a sticker price tag of over Rs 1,500 per 750 ml bottle,” Rodrigues said.

Rio, says Rodrigues, is a new concept in wine, tailormade for the Indian consumer. The lower alcohol content makes it light and easy to drink and ideal for Indian weather, he said. “The idea is to popularise wine drinking and make it a mass market product in India,” he said.

Love for wine also led Chigurupati and her husband, Krishna Prasad, to invest Rs 7 crore to buy a 170-acre estate in Hampi Hills in north Karnataka. KRSMA brand is carved out of their first names, Krishna and Uma.

“We have launched four premium and super premium labels in red and white wines this February in the Rs 750 - Rs 1,500 price range,” Chigurupati said. The super premium Magnum 1,500 ml bottle costs Rs 3,100. “We are now all set to export our wines first to the US market,” Chigurupati said.

“The world class wine is aged in fine grain French oak barrels, the bottles are imported from France, labels from Australia, capsules from Spain and natural cork from the US,” Chigurupati said.

The wines from KRSMA brand like the Chardonnay of 2013, Cabernet Sauvignon of 2012 and the Sauvignon Blanc of 2013 won the double gold, gold and silver medals respectively, at the China Wine and Spirit Awards 2013. The Sauvignon Blanc of 2012 has also picked up the bronze medal at the New Zealand International Wine Show 2012, while the Chardonnay was commended at the recently held International Wine Challenge 2014.

“Last year, India consumed about 20 lakh cases of wine (one case comprises 12 bottles of 750 ml each), out of which 4-5 lakh were imported,” Jagdish Hokar, chairman at the Indian Grape Processing Board told Financial Chronicle.

Bordeaux Estates From Haut Bailly to Cos Cut ’13 Prices

Bloombergs, By Guy Collins - Apr 15, 2014

More Bordeaux estates cut prices for their 2013 vintage this week as they sought to balance lower yields from the rain-hit crop with pressure from merchants for wines cheaper than those of 2012.

Chateau Haut Bailly, a grower in the Pessac-Leognan region south of the city, priced its 2013 wine at 39.60 euros ($54.70) a bottle from Bordeaux wholesale merchants, down 6 percent from 2012, according to data compiled by the Liv-ex wine market. Chateau Cos d’Estournel, a Saint-Estephe producer, priced its 2013 wine at 81.50 euros a bottle, down 8 percent from 2012.

Yields fell more than 30 percent in many vineyards after cold, wet weather during flowering, according to winemakers. Investors are focusing on so-called en primeur sales of 2013 wines, which are maturing for future delivery, after prices for other vintages declined since peaking in 2011. The Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 has fallen about 3 percent this year after a similar drop in 2013 and a 10 percent decline in 2012.

“People tended perhaps in the past to buy en primeur because they felt it was a speculative move and they would make some profit from it,” Peter Lunzer, founder of Lunzer Wine Investments in London, said in an interview last week. “I don’t think anyone’s under an illusion that 2013 is an investment prospect.”

Marketing Campaign

Among other producers releasing this week, Chateau Canon, a Saint-Emilion grower, priced its 2013 vintage at 33 euros a bottle, down 10 percent from 2012, while Chateau Doisy Daene, a maker of sweet white dessert wines from Barsac, held its price unchanged at 26.40 euros a bottle, according to Liv-ex data.

The sales campaign has gathered momentum since Bordeaux estates hosted annual tastings for the wine trade at the start of this month. Chateau Pontet-Canet, a Pauillac grower neighboring Chateau Mouton Rothschild, released its 2013 wine at 60 euros a bottle in March, unchanged from its 2012 vintage, before most merchants had arrived in the city.

Chateau Gazin in Pomerol this month cut the price of its 2013 wine to 38 euros a bottle, down 3 percent from 2012, while Chateau Pichon-Longueville, a Pauillac second growth, priced its 2013 wine at 54 euros a bottle, down 17 percent.

Early Releases

Chateau Gloria in Saint-Julien cut its price 6 percent to 19.80 euros, while neighboring Chateau Beychevelle reduced its price by the same amount to 38.40 euros, according to Liv-ex. Chateau Montrose in Saint-Estephe was unchanged at 57.60 euros.

Other growers releasing wines included Pauillac estate Chateau Lynch-Bages, which priced at 50 euros a bottle, a cut of 17 percent from 2012, and Chateau Rauzan-Segla, a Margaux vineyard, which set its wine at 33 euros, down 9.5 percent.

Lunzer said that while wines from recent years have suffered in the market, older vintages from the mid-1990s and early 2000s have attracted more demand.

“The real crash is in the young vintages,” Lunzer said. “When you have a run of poor vintages, people who like collecting wine will perhaps divert some of their annual cash reserves into something that they think is genuinely worth having.”

Australian wine sales to China plummet

Sydney Morning Herald-April 16, 2014

Latest figures on Australia's wine export performance show a steep 12 per cent decline in sales to China, underlining the earnings impact of the central government's austerity drive and crackdown on ostentatious banquets to the local wine sector.

Australia's winemakers have warned since last year of slowing demand in one of its most important growth markets, with other international beverage companies across wine and spirits also forced to scale down their earnings targets as Chinese drinkers stay away from upmarket restaurants, bars and tone down their schmoozing of government officials.

Wine Australia said on Wednesday morning that exports to China fell 12 per cent to 37 million litres for the year ending March 2014, worth $217 million – a modest 2 per cent increase in value.

"The austerity measures on government bodies have continued to impact on the mechanics of the imported wine sector," Wine Australia's chief executive, Andreas Clark.

"As a result of this, we encourage Australian wine companies to work with their importers and distributors on long-term, brand-building strategies in China.

"This will help ensure that Australian wine maintains the highest average value per litre of the eight largest imported wine countries now and into the future."

There was some good news in the export figures, however, with a concerted focus by the sector on higher-priced wine – and a move away from cheap commercial bulk wine – delivering some positive results.

The average value of wine exports continued to rise, up 1 per cent to $2.59 a litre, due mainly to a 6 per cent increase in the average value of bottled wine to $4.68 a litre.

Mr Clark said that while volume was declining at the lower end, increases in volume and value at the higher end showed the industry's efforts to create interest in Australian wines at the higher end of the market were paying off.

When it came to key export markets, in the US the average value of Australian exports increased by 15 per cent although volumes fell by 21 per cent. In the UK, export volumes declined by 2 per cent in line with the overall decline in UK wine consumption. However, the average value of bottled and bulk exports to the UK increased.

But it was China, which for a number of years has been the sector's key growth engine, that has worried winemakers both in Australia and overseas.

Pernod Ricard, the world's second-biggest drinks group and owner of Jacob's Creek, in March warned that beverage sales were flat since the Lunar New Year, citing the austerity drive and crackdown on luxury gift giving.

In October, Treasury Wine Estates, the world's largest pure-play winemaker and owner of Penfolds and Wolf Blass, warned shareholders that consumer demand for wine in China had softened in line with souring demand for luxury products ranging from beverages to fashion.

And it's not just wine. Data from the Scotch Whisky Association this week revealed that sales to China slumped 30 per cent to £51 million ($90 million) in 2013.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/australian-wine-sales-to-china-plummet-20140416-36r5i.html#ixzz2zEtEKRG4

Vintners hope to cork wine glut

Crains New York Business, Aaron Elstein- April 13, 2014

New York's booming market is partly to blame.

At the second New York State Wine, Beer, Spirits and Cider Summit last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he is dedicating $6 million to marketing the state's producers of wine and other fine adult beverages. Certainly it's worth raising a glass to the high quality of Finger Lakes Rieslings, but in truth these are challenging times in the wine world.

While blockbuster sales of ultra-expensive Bordeaux and Burgundy still make news, the bellwether Liv-Ex Fine Wine 100 Index has fallen by 31% since the summer of 2011. Auctioneers like Sotheby's and Acker Merrall & Condit saw a 15% drop in wine sales last year, according to Bloomberg News. Constellation Brands, which sells Robert Mondavi and other affordable labels, said last week that wine sales would grow in the low- to mid-single-digit range this year because of pricing pressures.

Simply put, there's a glut of decent wine on the market—and New York is part of the reason. During the past decade, grape harvests in the state have grown by 20%, according to the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, and in just the past three years the number of wineries has leaped by 30%.

Relief may be on the way for winemakers, though. Between 2008 and 2011, regulators in Europe offered subsidies for farmers to grow fewer grapes and drain the continent's "wine lake." Sure enough, wine production in France fell by nearly 17% in 2012 and in Spain by 11%, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine.

"In 2016, the supply of wine will fall below demand for the first time since records have been kept," said Kevin Parker, a former head of asset management at Deutsche Bank who owns a winery in southern France called Chateau Maris.

While Mr. Parker waits for supply and demand to balance out, he says he's finding a growing audience for his wines, which have been rated as high as 93 (out of 100) by leading trade publications and are made without pesticides.

Making wine using traditional means has its challenges. It takes up to seven years to get adequate yields from vineyards accustomed to boosts from man-made fertilizers, Mr. Parker said. To prevent rabbits from devouring the fruit, his chateau's staffers trap the bunnies, liquefy them and spray the soupy remains around the fields. The smell keeps other rabbits away.

Lest that approach to pest control put off ecologically aware New York winemakers, Mr. Parker assured that many of France's top vintners also grow grapes using earthy biodynamic methods but aren't keen to talk about it. "To a lot of them, it still sounds cuckoo," he said.

LVMH Acquires First Burgundy Vineyard Clos des Lambrays

Bloombergs, By Guy Collins - Apr 14, 2014

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, the world’s largest luxury goods company, bought the Clos des Lambrays vineyard to expand into Burgundy, adding to its holdings in Bordeaux, Champagne and the New World.

The acquisition, for which no price was disclosed, is for an 8.66 hectare (21.4 acre) vineyard which produces Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru red wine, a ranking classifying it among the top wines of Burgundy, as well as Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru and white wines Clos du Cailleret and Les Folatieres from Puligny-Montrachet, LVMH said in an e-mailed statement.

The purchase comes after first-quarter sales of wines and spirits at Paris-based LVMH fell 3 percent on an organic basis, partly reflecting lower Chinese demand for cognac due to a clampdown by President Xi Jinping’s government on spending on banqueting and gifts. LVMH’s founder and chief executive officer is Bernard Arnault, France’s richest person with a net worth of $34 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“For a wine that has a sense of place and individuality, I’ve always really loved it,” said Joss Fowler, director of fine wines at London broker Fine+Rare, noting that Clos des Lambrays’ wines generally sell for a lower price than those of its neighbor Clos de Tart.

Fourteenth Century

The Clos des Lambrays vineyard, in Morey-Saint-Denis in Burgundy’s Cote de Nuits region between Dijon and Beaune, traces its winemaking history back to 1365, when it was cited in the deeds of Citeaux Abbey, according to the vineyard’s website. The property was broken up during the 1789 French revolution and put back together again in 1868.

LVMH has acquired it from Ruth Freund, who bought the vineyard with her German husband, Guenter, in 1996. Her decision to sell follows his death in 2010. LVMH will retain Thierry Brouin, the estate’s chief winemaker, who has produced its past 35 vintages.

The estate makes about 35,000 bottles a year with an average retail price of 120 euros ($165) each, according to LVMH.

Fine+Rare lists the 2012 Clos des Lambrays at 1,550 pounds ($2,590) a case and the 2010 vintage at 1,453 pounds a case, according to its website. That compares with 3,186 pounds a case for the Clos de Tart 2012 and 2,845 pounds for its 2010.

Bordeaux Estates

Outside Burgundy, LVMH already has a stake in Chateau Cheval Blanc, one of the top four wine estates in Bordeaux’s Saint-Emilion region, according to its 2012 classification, and owns top-ranked Sauternes estate Chateau d’Yquem, a producer of sweet white wines.

LVMH also controls Champagne brands including Moet & Chandon, Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Krug, Ruinart and Mercier, and through its Estates & Wines division owns vineyards across the New World.

Principal holdings include Cloudy Bay in New Zealand’s Marlborough region, Cape Mentelle in the Margaret River area of Western Australia, Newton Vineyard in California’s Napa Valley, Terrazas de los Andes in Argentina and Numanthia in Spain’s Toro region, as well as Chandon sparkling-wine estates in Argentina, Brazil, California and Australia.

LVMH wine and spirits sales fell 8 percent to 888 million euros in the first quarter of this year, according to an e-mailed statement April 9. While the decline reflected pressure on cognac sales in China amid destocking by retailers, the company said Champagne had a good start to the year, with prestige vintages posting strong growth.

Bordeaux 2013: The Decanter verdict

Decanter, 11 April 2014

Forget about buying Bordeaux 2013 en primeur, says Decanter consultant editor Steven Spurrier, but our experts say there will still be plenty of wines to enjoy in this 'drinking vintage' - with Sauternes and dry whites scoring well alongside strong individual performances from the reds.

Tasters descended on Bordeaux for en primeur week with some trepidation following a difficult 2013 growing season that wine consultant Stephane Derenoncourt described as a 'war against nature'.

Perhaps it was inevitable that many would be pleasantly surprised.

Yields are drastically down, and 2013 will not enter the Bordeaux hall of fame, but a combination of gadgets and guile in the vineyard and the cellar means 'there's much to like' in the wines, according to Steven Spurrier.

In a comprehensive list of scores and tasting notes published by Decanter.com today (14 April), Spurrier, James Lawther MW and Jeannie Cho Lee MW offer a guide to the best of the left bank, right bank and Sauternes respectively.

Only a few grands vins on the right and left banks broke through the 18-point barrier, but this included all the first growths, which each scored 18.25 for their reds. Chateau Leoville LasCases in St Julien equalled that total, while other notable left bank successes were Ducru-Beaucaillou, Montrose in St Estephe. In Pessac-Leognan, La Mission Haut-Brion was the highest scoring red after Haut-Brion itself, with 17.75.

On the right bank, Pavie and Lafleur topped the rankings for St Emilion and Pomerol respectively, also scoring 18.

Behind those, Petrus, Cheval Blanc and Ausone achieved 17.75, while Angelus - promoted to St Emilion Grand Cru Classe A status in late 2012 - came in at 17.25. Two Grand Cru Classe B chateaux, Valandraud and Larcis-Ducasse, scored 17.5.

Spurrier noted the lack of greenness in the grands vins, something which Thomas Duroux at Chateau Palmer attributed to warm, sunny weather in July and August. Palmer scored 17.75.

For all of the intrigue surrounding the tricky 2013 vintage for Bordeaux's reds, some observers have pointed to Sauternes and dry whites as the real stars.

Chateau d'Yquem and Chateau Haut-Brion's dry white topped the Bordeaux 2013 ratings, each with a score of 18.5. Several other Sauternes also performed well in a year when botrytis was quick to take hold in the vineyards.

Two unclassified Sauternes chateaux mixed in with the appellation's best; Chateau Raymond-Lafon, located just down the hill from d'Yquem, scored 18, and Chateau des Fargues got 18.25.

Other high scorers were Clos Haut-Peyraguey and Guiraud, which both got 18.25, and Rieussec, which got 18.

Overall, Spurrier described the Bordeaux 2013 vintage as one of money and terroir. 'The châteaux that lacked both could do nothing with the bad hand dealt to them by nature.'

He said the 2013 vintage is unlikely to work as an en primeur purchase, predominantly because various back-vintages are available at attractive prices.

That said, pricing will be key, and many chateaux are yet to release. Of those who have released, Pauillac-based Lynch-Bages - which scored 17.25 - dropped its price by 17% versus 2012, making 2013 its cheapest vintage available on the market. 'It looks like a good deal for the consumer,' said Oliver Sharp at Bordeaux Index.

Montrose, meanwhile, has drew criticism from merchants for holding its price level with 2012, even though buyers praised the quality of the estate's wine.

Summing up, Spurrier said, 'While there are many pleasant wines, more than a few are interestingly different from each chateau’s previous vintages and will be fascinating to track over their drinking lifetime.'

Bordeaux 2013: Calls for price cuts as chateaux gear up for quick-fire campaign

Decanter, 4 April 2014 by Chris Mercer

Chateaux, negociants and buyers expect a short-lived en primeur campaign for the 'early drinking' 2013 vintage, amid growing calls for the top estates to drop their prices.

Several chateaux could release next week on the basis that there is no point waiting around with a 2013 vintage which is not expected to excite those buying wine for financial returns.

'The light is orange and it will turn to green very soon,' said Hubert de Bouard, of Chateau Angelus in St Emilion and also a consultant to around 60 estates in the region.

'Demand will be small because of the reputation of the vintage,' Justin Onclin, managing director of Chateau Prieure Lichine told Decanter.com. 'This year, en primeur will be calm. There's just not a big demand.'

Despite several producers referring to 2013 as one of the most expensive vintages to produce - thanks to a combination of low yields and extra effort required to battle bad weather - there are calls for prices to drop.

'Even if it were symbolic, we would prefer to see a slight change in prices,' said Christian Moueix, of Lafleur-Petrus and also the negociant business Jean-Pierre Moueix.

At Dourthe, managing director Patrick Jestin, told Decanter.com, 'The question is will you keep the same price or will you go down, not will you go up.'

Of the first and second growths, he said, 'I think they should go down, but we will see.

Some have named €200 as a 'magic number' for first growths. 'If they say €200, they still have money. €200 is a good price,' said Jestin.

It does, however, depend on the particular chateau's circumstances. At Angelus in St Emilion, executive manager Stephanie de Bouard said the chateau had 'no regrets' about raising its price by 30% last year. The estate is pleased with the wine that is has produced in 2013, albeit at lower volumes, and de Bouard said it would make no sense to erode last year's increase by a significant margin.

Jestin said estates further down the pricing ladder will have a tougher time. 'It depends on the price of the estate in the past. When you have cru bourgeois selling wine for €8, it will be hard to go down by a lot.'

Several buyers in Bordeaux for en primeur week have told Decanter.com that they do not expect to buy en primeur this year, but would prefer to wait for the wines to be released in-bottle.

However, others point out that a key reason for buying would be to secure an allocation of the top estates, particularly because volumes are down by around 30% to 40% in many cases.

'It’s not a wine to age for 30 years,' said Sophie Schyler-Thierry at Chateau Kirwan. 'It lacks concentration and thickness of Cabernet Sauvngnon, but you still have very decent wine. It’s hard to tell about the campaign. We will be reasonable, we will be around 2012 [price].'

Philippe Dhalluin, of Chateau Mouton Rothschild told Decanter.com in an exclusive interview prior to en primeur week, 'As we were at the end of the winemaking presently very surprised by the quality of this vintage so I will say simply that and of course there is a clear interest with this vintage.'

'We will receive many people [during en primeur week] and we have registered exactly the same number of people as last year.'

Steve Winter, a buyer for Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation, said 'I will be buying and I think this vintage will sell in our market. It should be comparable to 2012 in pricing.'

There have been several French supermarket buyers at en primeur week, and there is a general feeling that 2013 could perform well in the market, as well as in restaurants. Chateau owners also believe the best wines could still age for around 20 years.

Northwest Vineyards Sees Bud Break

Wines & Vines 1 April 2014

Dundee, Ore.—Buds broke this past week, starting the journey to vintage 2014, with those in Oregon’s Dundee Hills among the latest to join the pilgrim vines. Gentle rains nourished local vines through March. Swelling buds finally began to break March 27 at Stoller Family Estate in Dundee, where vineyard manager Rob Schultz told Wines & Vines, “Bud break is just starting.” The activity is a week to 10 days ahead of normal, but not as early as Schultz anticipated earlier this month, when it looked like buds could break as early as March 20. Schultz said that as of March 7 sap was rising and vines were approximately three weeks ahead of schedule. While a good start on the season is welcome, too early a start increases the chance of damage from unexpected spring frosts. Buds broke on April 6 last year, so the delay has lowered Schultz’s anxiety by launching the season closer to a normal April start. Patty Skinkis, viticulture extension specialist with the Oregon Wine Research Institute at Oregon State University, doesn’t expect bud break to occur in any general sense until later this week for much of the Willamette Valley. Effects of weather The good news is that despite fears of damage from a sharp blast of cold weather in early December, just a few vineyards appear to have sustained any significant damage. Those were primarily in southern parts of the state, where temperatures plumbed 40-year lows. Younger vines and those that had failed to harden off sufficiently were deemed most at risk, but most indications at this point suggest that vine losses are not widespread. “There is spotty winter damage in the Willamette Valley,” Skinkis told Wines & Vines this week. “Most growers did not see appreciable (or any) damage due to our cold December temperatures. The only reports of bud damage have been from southern Oregon, where they had much colder minimum temps in December.” El Niño brewing? Greg Jones of the Department of Environmental Studies at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore., told Wines & Vines in December that he expected the winter to bring growers a grab-bag of weather, thanks to a lack of well-defined weather systems—El Niño and La Niña—over the Pacific Ocean. Speaking at the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium in February, Jones said he expected the pattern to continue and contribute to a growing season similar to 2013. The current three-month forecast from the Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service indicates that temperatures will be above normal across the Northwest this spring, while precipitation will be below normal. Drawing on this data, Jones noted that chances are good for the emergence of El Niño weather patterns this fall. “An El Niño watch has been issued, which indicates conditions are favorable for El Niño development within the next six months,” the NWS advised March 20. El Niño is a warmer pattern of weather that typically brings greater precipitation to California and South America, while it causes drier winters to the Pacific Northwest. Some climatologists are predicting a “devastating” El Niño season. Washington and British Columbia Buds further north in Washington state and British Columbia will begin to break forth in April as temperatures increase. Typically, buds begin breaking in mid-April in the Columbia Valley and shortly afterwards in the Okanagan. While photos of vineyards in California have been tantalizing for John Skinner of Painted Rock Estate Winery in Penticton, B.C., he is optimistic about the coming season. His own crews have finished pruning Painted Rock’s vineyards on the east shore of Okanagan Lake, and he doesn’t expect bud break for a few weeks yet.

Copyright © Wines & Vines

Bordeaux 2013: Chinese en primeur interest wanes

Decanter, Thursday 3 April 2014 by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

There have been fewer non-French wine buyers attending en primeur week for the 2013 vintage, with notable absences by the Chinese in particular.

The 2013 en primeur week has seen 20% non-French buyers coming to Bordeaux, compared to 24% in 2012 and 30% in 2011. Overall, the number of tasting badges issued by Unions des Grands Crus (UGC) was down 10% from last year.

China-based buyers were the most active in the 2009 and 2010 campaigns, and still sent large teams over in the 2011 and 2012 campaigns. This year, however, their presence is much more low-key.

‘We are not surprised,’ Arnaud de la Forcade at Cheval Blanc told Decanter.com. ‘There have been plenty of warnings that their interest in en primeur is waning, and the nature of the Chinese market has changed for many Bordeaux estates.’

Jean-Christophe Mau, of Yvon Mau négociants, reported that, while China represented 50% of sales for the 2010 vintage, he expected it to be closer to 10% in this vintage.

John Watkins of ASC is missing the main week itself, but will be in Bordeaux from this weekend – arriving from Burgundy.

‘The latest China customs import data shows a significant year-over-year drop in imports with French wines particularly hard hit (down 31%),' he told Decanter.com.

'The well-documented government policy factors in to this, as well as channel destocking. [My guess is that] the drop in buyers at en primeur is due to a drop in demand and the need to sell down existing inventories. But as in previous en primeur campaigns, as long as the pricing level is reasonable, ASC plans to buy both for our customers as well as our own strategic stock’.

Other Asia-based buyers are also willing to purchase at the right price.

Kenneth Ren, of Vintasia in Hong Kong, said that Bordeaux still represents 90% of sales by volume, and 80% by value. ‘I bought €2 million of wine in 2010, €400,000 2011 and €500,000 2012. This year the volumes I buy are dependent on price. I still have stock left of the last three vintages, including 2010. Of the past two years, 2012 sold better than 2011; I have only 50% of stock left of the 2012, whereas the 2011 has nearly not moved at all.'

Ren commented that this year the Hong Kong and Chinese buyers that he has seen are only here if they have a specific reason to be in Bordeaux. ‘There is none of the fun factor that there has been in recent campaigns, when buyers come for the experience’.

Three chateaux representatives in Asia – Thibault Pontallier of Chateau Margaux, Rufus Beazley of Chateau Latour and Adrien Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier – all reiterated that Chinese government curbs on officials' entertainment budgets have had a big effect.

‘The government’s new policy has been very successful,’ said Bernard, ‘but this will be a good thing in the long run. The market is stabilising, and we are now speaking to the real drinkers’.

‘We didn’t hold tastings in China of the older vintages that we have put on the market,’ Beazley told Decanter.com, ‘as we expected that more Chinese buyers would be coming to Latour, but numbers are certainly down.’

Italian wine producers join forces to reach Chinese market

Xinhua, 2014-03-30

Italy's wine producers have begun to fill the gap with other export-driven countries in what they consider a "highly promising" Chinese market.

Wine exports are an important motor of the Italian economy, official figures have shown. Last year, wine was the most exported agri-food product, with €5.1 billion (US$7 billion) and a growth rate of 8% compared to 2012.

However, Italian still wine bottles only saw a 6.5% market share in China's wine imports last year, less than half compared to some 10 years ago, marketing director of Casa Vinicola Zonin, a leading Italian wine producer, Stefano Silenzi, said at a conference at the Milan Foreign Press Association.

France retained its spot as market leader, with more than 50%, he noted.

Italy's low performance in a fast-developing economy that has become the biggest market for red wine last year raised some questions, Silenzi said.

"Looking at global players that have already worked in China for some 20 years, we realized that we could not maintain a traditional approach to the Chinese market, but we needed to join forces and deepen our knowledge of that country," he said.

The new awareness resulted in a €2.7 million (US$3.7 million) joint project, which will be developed over the next three years, aimed at informing and educating Chinese consumers about Italian wine. The project was launched by Italia del Vino, a private consortium which includes Casa Vinicola Zonin, together with another influential wine consortium, Istituto Grandi Marchi.

"Recent studies have estimated that Italian wine exports could reach €7 billion (US$9.6 billion) over the next four years," said Ettore Nicoletto, president of Italia del Vino. He added that his company has grouped together with 11 of the most important Italian firms in the wine production sector since 2009.

Italy's main competitor France registered wine exports of €7 billion last year. "Therefore this threshold is psychologically important for us to be reached," Nicoletto noted.

The project, which will begin this year, will include guided visits to Italy for Chinese consumers, students and wine professionals as well as information campaigns, cultural exchanges and also a Chinese dictionary of the Italian wine sector.

"Currently some 70% of Italian wine exports are directed to five markets, namely the United States, Germany, UK, Canada and Switzerland, but we think that our biggest potential destination is China," Nicoletto said.

The estimated target is around 19 million nationals belonging to China's upper middle class, who have developed a taste and a growing interest for wine.

Though joining forces in a country that counts some 500,000 wineries is already a very positive step, although there is still much to do to overcome excessive fragmentation and heavy bureaucracy, according to Andrea Sartori, vice president of Italia del Vino and past head of the Italian Association of Wine Producers.

Sartori also quoted "Italian sounding," or the use of names and images that evoke Italy to promote foreign brands, among the problems faced by the wine sector. Awareness-building among Chinese consumers, who have shown increasing attention to the high quality of products, will be another task of the project, he said.

Sartori also told Xinhua that fortunately Italian wine exports were not negatively affected, as feared by many local producers, by China's antidumping and anti-subsidy probe into wine imported from the European Union. Earlier this month, the two sides reached an agreement to end the probe.

China had initiated the investigations last year into wine imports from the European Union, especially from main producers in France, Spain and Italy, in response to petitions from domestic associations.

"The diplomacies have worked well and the result was positive," he said.

Robert Parker Launches Luxury Lifestyle Mag

© Bob McClenahan/Napa Valley Vintners, 25-Mar-2014

Not content with ruling the wine world, Robert Parker is branching out into the wider luxury leisure sector, with a new magazine aimed at the jet-set.

The Wine Advocate (TWA) publication has signed a deal with publishers Hubert Burda Media to publish the new international lifestyle magazine for "high net-worth individuals and corporate leaders", which will be called 100 Points by Robert Parker.

It appears that the new quarterly’s remit will go well beyond wine into articles and reviews of other "lifestyle products, services and experiences". It will, of course, cover wine but "will not comment on, critique or evaluate wines", Burda's Laura Lim told Wine-Searcher. And unlike Wine Advocate it will also accept advertising from non-wine related international brands.

The Wine Advocate itself will continue unchanged. "The shape and form of TWA will remain an independent vehicle, providing detailed consumer advice, unbiased reports and tasting notes," Lim said.

The magazine launch has been pushed back to June when it will be unveiled in London at a series of promotional events hosted by Parker, his first visit to London in nearly a quarter of a century.

So far, only one of these events has been officially announced: on June 6, Parker will appear at a consumer tasting at Hedonism Wines.

To date, no one has been appointed as the magazine’s editor, but an announcement is to be made shortly.

Burda was also tight-lipped as to who would write for the publication saying that it would be an international team of writers and contributors. When asked whether that would include Robert Parker and other Wine Advocate writers, Lim replied that The Wine Advocate team "would contribute on an ad hoc basis. Generally, the writers and photographers will be selected by Burda as the magazine’s publisher."

This is not the first time that the two companies have worked together since Singaporean investors took a stake in The Wine Advocate. They have already co-operated on a number of custom-publishing projects and events in China.

Are interruptions in Georgia’s wine export economic warfare?

by DFWatch staff | Mar 31, 2014

TBILISI, DFWatch–There are interruptions in the export of wine from Georgia to Belarus, although formally the export is not stopped.

The sale of wine to Ukraine and Russia is continuing without any restrictions, according to Levan Davitashvili, head of Georgia’s National Wine Agency.

Media in Belarus have reported that Georgian wine is disappearing from the shelves not only in shops and supermarkets, but also from specialist shops.

Some people expect Russia to create obstacles for Georgia as a means to scare the country into not signing a treaty with the EU, especially on the historical background of the Russian wine embargo introduced in 2006.

After the change of government in Georgia, this embargo was lifted and export of wine to Russia was resumed.

In Tbilisi people now look at the close relations between Russia and Belarus and wonder whether the obstacles in the sale of wine to Belarus might be a form of hidden economic sanctions by Russia.

Levan Davitashvili told DF Watch that wine export hasn’t stopped to Belarus, but there are certain interruptions, and negotiations are in progress to solve the problem.

“A week ago, a delegation from Belarus visited Georgia and this issue was brought up. In a week, a delegation from Georgia will visit Belarus, and I hope this issue will be solved on the level of governments and that restrictions will be eliminated,” he explained.

Davitashvili also remarked that export to Russia and Ukraine is continuing normally without problems.

In 2013, Georgia’s export of wine was 46.7 million bottles, worth USD 232 million. This is twice as many bottles as in 2012, and USD 68 million more in value.

In January 2014, Georgia exported 4 million bottles of wine and alcohol, which is 45 percent more than in the same period last year. Export of wine to Russia increased by 80 percent.

Georgia’s export of wine to Ukraine increased by 78 percent, to Kazakhstan by 275 percent, Latvia – 596 percent, Poland – 36 percent, Estonia – 289 percent, Azerbaijan – 58 percent, Belarus – 2 percent, UK – 61 percent, Lithuania – 3 percent, Hong-Kong – 16 percent, Netherlands – 17 percent.

Wine export in January, 2014, was USD 11.3 million, which is USD 9.2 million more than last year.

Metrics Signal Popularity of Red Blend Wines

14 March Wines & Vines

Winery hiring activity stays strong in February, overall wine sales remain.

San Rafael, Calif.—The popularity of red blend wines is clearly evident in the most recent batch of wine industry metrics by Wines Vines Analytics. At both the relatively low price points of off-premise sales and in the rarefied air of high-end direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipments, red blends are hot. All other key wine industry metrics also posted positive growth in February, with the Winery Job Index growing by more than 20% over 2013 figures for the fourth consecutive month. Off-premise sales According to data from Chicago-based market research group IRI, red blend wine sales grew by nearly 20% in the past 12 months. The company tracks sales in liquor, grocery, drug and convenience stores, and red blends in the $8 to $10.99 segment were exceptionally strong during the past 12 months, growing to nearly $300 million. Sales of red blends priced higher than $20 also did better in the past 12 months than the same period the previous year. Total off-premise sales grew by 7% in February compared to the same month in 2013, and the 12-month total also grew by 7% to $7.4 billion. While red blends/Meritage wines had the strongest level of growth for the past 12 months, Fumé/Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir also grew by more than 10%. At the high end, red blend wines with an average bottle price of more than $100 accounted for more than $90 million in DtC sales during the past 12 months through February. Wineries with allocated sales make up a significant portion of DtC shipments, and these wineries often have non-varietal labeled proprietary blends. Total DtC sales grew by 12% from February 2013 to $126 million, and the 12-month total came to $1.6 billion, which is 7% more than the same period last year. Hiring remains strong The Winejobs.com Index rose 21% in February over a year ago to maintain a steady streak of strong growth. The index increase was led by job offers in the hospitality sector, which increased 45% over last year and is up 41% year-to-date. Winemaking job offers in February stayed relatively flat compared to January, but hiring activity in production was still 13% above where it was last year. Winery activity on flash sites Although the number of wineries with flash offers each month has steadily increased since Wines Vines Analytics starting tracking flash offers, it appears the total number of wineries participating in the channel is on the decrease. Generally the number of unique wineries making an offer has increased each month, yet a detailed look at the offers reveals they’re often from the same wineries. Based on data for the past 12 months through February, the total number of wineries with a flash offer was 1,041, or 13% of all U.S. wineries. For the 12 months ending in November 2012, 1,352 wineries, or 18% of all wineries, made a flash offer. The rate of participation fell for wineries of all sizes except for the 56 largest, which each produce more than 500,000 cases of wine. Of the 1,041 total wineries with an offer, most of them are small wineries making between 5,000 and 49,000 cases per year. These wineries accounted for 373, or 36%, of the wineries with an offer. Very small wineries, those making 1,000 to 4,999 cases, had the next highest share of 30%, or 313 offers. Wineries with an average bottle price above $50 had the highest level of participation in flash offers (26%), and the lowest was for wineries with an average bottle price of $1 to $19.99. Most offers came from wineries with an average bottle price of $30 to $49.99. This category accounted for 438 wineries with an offer in the past 12 months, or 42%. Flash websites made 408 offers for domestic wines in February. The monthly total was 6% higher than a year ago, and the 12-month total of offers for domestic wines grew 4% to 5,585.

Copyright © Wines & Vines

New wave Vinho Verde threatens region

The Drinks Business, 20th March, 2014 by Patrick Schmitt

A new wave of drier, varietally-labelled Vinho Verde is boosting international sales for the Portuguese wine, but there’s a concern the region may be abandoning its traditional approach too quickly.

Concern is mounting that Vinho Verde may be abandoning its traditional viticultural approach too quickly.

“Exports of Vinho Verde have been increasing because of the type of wines we are now producing,” said Manuel Pinheiro, executive president of the Commisão de Viticultura do Região dos Vinhos Verdes (CVRR), during a discussion with the drinks business yesterday.

He said there had been a stylistic shift due to a move towards varietal wines made with Alvarinho or Loureiro, which are higher in alcohol, drier, as well as “more complex” – and driving such change for a region best known for its spritzy, off-dry, high acid and low alcohol blends is a change in vineyard location and management.

In essence, growers are moving away from the old pergola trellis system to wire-trained vines planted on the region’s slopes rather than valley floors.

“We have made a huge effort to encourage producers to plant new vineyards based on our local varieties on the slopes, not the valleys, as well as manage their vineyards better,” explained Pinheiro.

Continuing, he said that this has led to the replanting on modern lines of up to 800 hectares of Vinho Verde each year – the region covers 20,000ha in total – helped by subsidies from the European Union.

“Before Vinho Verde was 9% abv, a bit sweet and a blend, but now it is 11-12%, varietal, drier and more complex,” he explained.

“We are not denying traditional Vinho Verde, but we are trying to create a second segment above it, one with a different quality which will naturally add more value,” he added.

Indeed, as a result of such a upwards trend in quality, Vinho Verde is seeing a growth in the value of its exports, with sales to the UK, its third largest export market after the US and Germany, up 20% from €1.3 million in 2012 to €1.5m in 2013.

As for the US, a new record of €9.5m worth of Vinho Verde was exported to the market in 2013 – a high figure Pinheiro attributes both to the quality revolution in the Portuguese region and a new base of consumers in North America.

“We have found new consumers in the US, because we have broken out of the Portuguese community, which was mainly in Massachusetts,” he said.

However, the success of Vinho Verde’s new wave of trellis-trained wines is having a negative effect on the region’s appearance, according to Pinheiro.

“The success we are having renovating our vineyards is changing the landscape because the pergolas are fast disappearing,” he said.

Continuing, he observed, “Because the small plots with pergolas are being replaced by linear vineyards, we are losing some of the personality of the landscape as well as the personality of traditional Vinho Verde.”

Consequently, the region has now secured EU subsidies from 2015 to protect its traditional pergola-trained vineyards.

Pinheiro explains, “We are now encouraging producers to keep a small amount of traditional Vinho Verde that will connect to the roots of the region, so there is a balance between progress and defending the tradition of the landscape.”

Currently, Vinho Verde receives an annual grant from the EU totaling around €3m, of which €2m is put towards marketing the region in key export markets, as well as domestically – 55% of Vinho Verde is consumed in Portugal.

A significant amount of the other €1m grant is put towards insuring all Vinho Verde’s 20,000 growers against adverse climatic conditions, according to Pinheiro.

“We insure 100,000 tonnes of grapes each year,” he said, adding, “And our insurer told us that this is the largest crop insurance policy in Europe, including cereals.”

Admitting that it costs Vinho Verde “a fortune”, he said the policy, which amounts to a €2.5m annual expense for the region, entitles every grower to free cover for their crop.

Finally, Pinheiro told db that he had a “positive outlook” for the future sales performance of Vinho Verde, and noted that the region would further benefit from changes to the legislation for regionally-produced sparkling wine next year.

“In 2015 the Charmat method will be authorised for Vinho Verde sparkling,” he said.

Previously, those producers making sparkling Vinho Verde had to use the traditional method.

Nevertheless, Pinheiro said that he didn’t want to overstate the impact of such a change to the laws of the region.

“Sparkling Vinho Verde is very small; we make less than 500,00 litres of sparkling, compared to over 50m of still wine.”

Perrier-Jouet moves early with 2007 release
Decanter, Thursday 20 March 2014, by Chris Mercer

Pernod Ricard is seeking to capitalise on strong consumer demand for vintage Champagne with an early limited-edition release from the Perrier-Jouet 2007 vintage.

The first bottles of Perrier-Jouet's Belle Epoque Edition Premiere 2007 are set to arrive in the UK from next month, carrying a recommended retail price of £205-a-bottle.

It's relatively early for a Champagne house to be releasing 2007, and Premiere Edition has only spent five years in bottle. One has to go back to the 1995 vintage to find the last time Perrier-Jouet released a vintage so quickly.

'I think with this kind of wine, it's enough,' Perrier-Jouet cellar master Herve Deschamps told Decanter.com in London.

He said the wine, which is 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir with a pale pink hue to its appearance, is focused on freshness with a floral nose and a 'slightly salty' acidity.

Only 20,000 bottles have been produced. 'It's not all on the market [yet],' said Deschamps.

Strong consumer demand for prestige cuvees and vintage Champagne ensured that Perrier-Jouet was one of Pernod Ricard's best performing brands in the drinks firm's most recent fiscal half-year, with value sales up 9%.

Several vintage Champagne releases have seen initial allocations sell out quickly over the past two years, including Dom Perignon 2004 and Krug 2003.

'I think it shows more people understand that Champagne is also a wine, and that you can pair it with food,' said Deschamps. 'It's not just for celebrations or nightclubs, but also restaurants.'

Suspected Roman vineyard discovered in UK
Decanter, Thursday 20 March 2014   by Chris Mercer

Archaeologists have found what they believe could be evidence of a near-2,000-year-old Roman vineyard in southern England.

englsih vines

21st Century vineyards in England, like this one, could be part of a legacy from Roman times

A team from the University of Cambridge's division of archeology has uncovered a series of Roman-era planting beds set in 'zebra-like stripes' on part of a 150ha area believed to have been a Roman settlement.

The site, located near to Cambridge, is thought to be more evidence that the Romans introduced winemaking to the UK following their invasion from AD 43.

'The gully-defined planting beds were closely set and, only some two metres apart, were probably for grapevines,' said the team.

Chris Evans, executive director of the university's archaeology unit, told Decanter.com the theory was based on precedent at other Roman vineyard sites, including one found in Northamptonshire several years ago.

However, there is a possibility that the land could also have been used for asparagus. 'We await our pollen results which hopefully should provide a more definite answer,' Evans said.

He added that the site also shows evidence of irrigation, suggesting the Romans were practising intensive farming there.

Pernod prepares for Champagne rebound

The Drinks Business, 21st March, 2014 by Patrick Schmitt

A slowdown in Champagne sales in Europe hasn’t dampened Pernod Ricard’s belief in the potential for profitable growth for Mumm and Perrier-Jouët.

In September 2013 Perrier-Jouët launched Nuit Blanche – a sec style Champagne for the US market

During a discussion with the drinks business in late January, Frantz Hotton, marketing director for the pair of Champagne brands at Pernod, said that “the short term situation would have no impact on our long term policy”.

Referring in particular to a 2% decline in volume sales for Mumm (and 1% drop in value) during the last six months of 2013, he said that the brand had suffered slightly because it had avoided heavy discounting to boost its performance in European retailers.

“It’s a question of policy, we did not want to go further in our promotions and defend volumes at any cost,” he told db.

Instead, he said that Pernod Ricard had put greater emphasis on the Mumm rosé, which he said had jumped by 49% in volume sales last year.

He also blamed the slight dip in sales of Mumm overall on the fact “it is a European brand” and consequently dependent on recessionary markets for the majority of its sales, particularly France – Mumm sells almost 50% of its volumes in the troubled domestic market.

On the other hand, he described Perrier-Jouët as “mainly an export brand” with a particular following in the more buoyant Champagne markets of the US and Japan.

As a result, Perrier-Jouët enjoyed a 1% volume increase and 9% rise in value during the last six months of 2013.

Explaining the increase in value sales, Hotton said Pernod had put greater emphasis on the brand’s prestige cuvée.

“We have been active on Belle Epoque, and sales have risen 8% on this globally,” he said, adding, “We are focusing on value.”

Speaking generally about Pernod’s approach to the Champagne business, he said wine and spirits group was planning for future growth.

“We intend to be fairly aggressive in our long term view and use the crisis period to get into some markets and prepare our growth.”

Continuing he said, “These days we are building some sustainable business and expect to expand in emerging markets, so we are in a position to be very dynamic when the global market is rebounding, and we are very confident that it will rebound.”

As for fueling this expansion, Hotton assured db that Pernod would have the supply for future growth.

“As we have done with Cognac, we will manage to get the supplies we need in Champagne, and we are preparing the rebound on the supply side,” he explained.

Jefford on Monday: Crimea's Crisis

Decanter, 17 March 2014

Has Ukraine lost its most significant wine-producing region? Quite possibly.

Under Ukrainian law, of course, the March 16th referendum and its result are illegal; the result will not be recognised internationally; sanctions will follow. Russia, though, is in control of the peninsula. Since no party wishes to see armed conflict there, it is hard to envision the Crimea making a swift return to the Ukrainian fold, no matter how fervently its Ukrainian and Tatar minorities might wish for this. There are many regions of the world where international recognition (or restitution) of re-assigned borders is a diplomatic nicety which must wait decades for resolution. Every superpower behaves with expedience and hypocrisy in these matters.

The situation in the Crimea, in fact, is an unusually complicated one, as I discovered last week in attempting to assess the feelings of local growers, as well as discuss Crimea with fellow wine journalists in both Kiev and Moscow.

The customary historical accounts of winemaking in the Crimea stress the key role played by wealthy Russian aristocrats in the nineteenth century, following the region’s accession to the Russian Empire under Catherine the Great in 1783; the region’s emblematic winery, Massandra, was built under the impetus of the final Russian Tsar, Nicholas II. Winemaking in the southern coastal strip of the Crimea, though, is much older than that – certainly datable back to the Greek settlers of Chersonesos Taurica (Sebastopol) in the 6th century BC, with wine amphorae found near Inkerman being earlier still. Winemaking here continued in the Byzantine period, and the Genoese both grew and distilled wine here in the Middle Ages; it even prospered in relaxed Ottoman times. Rulers came and went; wine endured.

The 1853-56 Crimean War was essentially a superpower squabble played out on the hapless peninsula’s territory, and the Crimea’s strategic significance led to it being much tussled over in the twentieth century, too, resulting in two famines in the inter-war years, German occupation in World War Two, and the ethnic cleansing of Crimean Tatars in the early Soviet period. Its passage from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954 came, significantly, when the General Secretary of the Communist Party, Nikita Khrushchev, was a politician with Ukrainian roots. It was a gesture to mark the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav. Subsequent Ukrainian independence, of course, was not part of the script back then, and it is entirely possible that Moscow now views that ‘gift’ as more of a loan. The chaotic ousting of President Yanukovych provided the perfect opportunity to grab the loan back.

Fellow wine-writers in Kiev such as Olga Markovets, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Drinks+ magazine, are very proud of the Crimea, and regard it as “the cradle of Ukrainian winemaking”. I also contacted Dmitry Merezhko, the publisher of Simple Wine News in Moscow, and asked how Russian readers and friends viewed recent events. “There’s the same split that we have in the whole of Russian society,” he told me. “I personally know people who were at the severely dispersed meeting near the Defence Ministry [a March 4th demonstration against President Putin’s actions in the Crimea], as well as those who are celebrating a new Russian winemaking region.”

Existing economic interests in the Crimea are, likewise, deeply split. Many of the older enterprises and institutions (like the Sevastopol Winery or Noviy Svet) are owned by the Ukrainian state, but private enterprises often have Russian shareholders. The Russian wine trading company Legendy Kryma (Legends of Crimea) presented a major investment project to the Crimean government shortly before the recent crisis. “Among the new wineries and vineyards,” says Tetyana Bolshakova, a Crimean wine enthusiast, “I would say more than half belong to Russian people. If Russia comes here, I do not see any problems for them. Under Ukraine, it would totally depend on the new government and how wise they are going to be.”

I contacted leading local growers Igor Samsonov of the 49-ha Esse and Pavel Shvets of the 10.5-ha biodynamic domain Uppa, both sited near Sevastopol. Each stressed that life for small Crimean winegrowers wasn’t easy under Ukrainian administration – it was hard to buy agricultural land, and they were beset with regulations meaning, Igor says, “high corruption and bribes”. Worst of all, though, was that the wholesale licence required to sell wine costs €50,000 a year. “Yes: 50,000 euros,” said Pavel. “And every winemaker who wants to sell bottled wine in the restaurants and shops of Ukraine has to have it. This doesn’t contribute to the creation of a competitive environment, and it makes it impossible for many small producers to get going.”

They also both pointed out that Russia was a much more important market for Crimean producers than continental Ukraine itself. “I’ve toured many cities in both Russia and Ukraine,” said Pavel, “and there’s a big difference. The Russian market is much richer and more diverse, and the wine consumers there are more knowledgeable. Crimean wine is special there. Kiev and Odessa are lovely cities with lovely people, but a lot of wine is made in other parts of Ukraine and so our wine doesn’t seem so special in those places.” Tetyana, Igor and Pavel all stressed that the local market was potentially the most important of all – providing tourism could continue to flourish there. “The present situation kills it” said Tetyana. “We don’t have much time.”

“Wine, like money, likes silence,” summarised Igor. “Any big political or economic upheavals are not good for business. But our business is connected with the land. So whatever happens we are going to stay and to make wine here in Crimea, and in the long run we hope that our wine will be welcomed both by the new Ukraine and by Russia.” “Time will put everything in its place,” agreed Pavel. “The main thing is that we keep everything peaceful and no one else gets hurt. The worst thing is anarchy and chaos. We are nervous and concerned right now, but we have other things to think about -- the sap is rising in the vines. Nature is also a confrontation between the strong and the weak, and about the balance between the two. Like every winemaker every spring, I just hope that this year brings the chance to make a great wine. And to have fair conditions to sell it.”

Deal marks first Margaux chateau sale to Chinese firm

Decanter, Thursday 20 February 2014   by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

A state-owned energy firm has become the first Chinese company to acquire control of an estate in Bordeaux's Margaux appellation, after Luc Thienpont sold his majority stake in Clos des Quatre Vents.

Quatres Vents

Alongside Thienpont’s seven hectares of vines in Margaux, Chinese energy firm Liaoning Energy Investment has also gained control of the Belgian’s 21ha Chateau Bonneau in AOC Haut-Médoc.

Thienpont will remain as co-director of Clos des Quatre Vents for at least two years, and is still a minority stakeholder in his former vineyards, as well as in the wine shop Clos des Quatre Vents in Margaux village.

The négociant company SARL Thienpont is not included in the sale.

‘I have six children,’ Thienpont told decanter.com. ‘Dividing up the estate between them all would have been too difficult with succession taxes.’

Thienpont said Liaoning plans to retain the current sales system of the estate, using Bordeaux négociants to distribute worldwide.

‘Maintaining the quality of the wine is the single most important thing to the new owner.’

A new Chinese director, Lina Fan, will run the Margaux property, initially working alongside Thienpont.

Fan has lived in France for 10 years, working in Champagne and the Loire before moving to the Chinese-owned Chateau de Pic in the Cotes de Bordeaux.

She is the wife of Peng Wang, a financial advisor who was killed in the helicopter crash at Chateau de La Riviere just before Christmas and who was to have run the Fronsac estate on behalf of China’s Brilliant Group.

Constellation splits from Accolade in Europe

Drinks business, 19th February, 2014 by Rupert Millar

Constellation Brands and Accolade Wines have separated their portfolios in mainland Europe although the partnership will remain in place in the UK and elsewhere around the world.

Constellation BrandsTim Fogarty, vice-president for Constellation’s Europe Middle East and Africa division, told the drinks business that the split would take effect on 1 March this year.

“We’re parting way with Accolade in mainland Europe,” he said, “but staying with Accolade as a distributor in the UK for Mondavi, Nobilo, Blackstone, Ravenswood and other key brands.”

He said that Constellation was putting together its own sales team for Europe now with a focs on Spain, Germany, Russia, Luxembourg, Finland and Norway.

He praised Accolade’s team for a doing a “great job” with the brands which he said were in “good health”.

He added that the split was “amicable” and that the decision was similar to Accolade’s split from Constellation in the US some years ago.

“We still own a percentage of Accolade,” Fogarty continued, “we were just looking to do something in the best interests of all.”

Constellation will continue to co-operate in other world markets.

Nationwide forums promote cover crops

Matthew Weaver, February 19. 2014, Capital Press Washington

Finding the right mix of cover crops remains a major hurdle for Eastern Washington farmers, they said at a forum Tuesday promoting the practice.

Cover crops are grown and then incorporated into the soil to improve it and retain moisture.

“Our challenge is integrating (cover crops) into our annual cropping systems and even our no-till fallow situations, trying to figure out just what that mix looks like so it doesn’t drain moisture out of the ground and be a detriment to the next crop,” Spokane Conservation District production agriculture manager Ty Meyer said.

The Airway Heights meetings was one of 225 the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service hosted around the nation in conjunction with a national conference on cover crops and soil health in Omaha, Neb.

Advocacy will be a big step in increasing support for cover crops, said Howard Buffett, a farmer and chairman of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which sponsored the conference. Buffett’s comments were broadcast from the meeting.

Buffett is the son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

“Our biggest challenge is the mindset of many farmers,” Buffett said. “It’s hard to change behavior. We have to raise the profile of farmers who are having success, of those individuals who understand the processes....”

Richard Ott, who farms north of Spokane, said he has experimented with cover crops. He attended the local forum to share his successes and failures with other farmers.

“It’s still kind of in the trial-and-error stage, really dealing a lot with our growing season and weather patterns,” he said. “It’s pretty tough to try and use a Midwest-type system.”

Ott’s long-term objective is better soil health.

“I think as we develop (cover crops) more in the area, more people will see the benefits,” he said.

Genesee, Idaho, farmer Russ Zenner recently tried cover crops for the first time. Raising cover crops in the middle of harvest caused a conflict with his workload, and he said he was disappointed in the value he received grazing cattle on the crop.

But Zenner said his soil looks like it will benefit from the cover crop. He plans to try again. North Dakota farmer Gabe Brown’s story of improved soil health, quality and increased yields while cutting back on chemical use appealed to Zenner.

“It’s just going to take more growers trying it,” he said. “We don’t have experience with timing of seeding, how to incorporate it into our cropping system, whether or not livestock are going to be a very essential part of this.”

Prosecco bar sets sail in the Baltic

Drinks Business, 20th February, 2014 by Gabriel Savage

Prosecco brand Bottega has launched a Venetian-style “bacaro” on board the MS Viking Cinderella cruise ferry in the Baltic Sea.

With menu and décor designed to celebrate the “Italian ethos of eating and drinking”, the Bottega Prosecco Bar not only offers its own range by the glass, but serves a selection of “speciality dishes” for lunch and dinner, as well as “midnight appetisers” and a number of food and wine pairing options.

Promising “the hottest dance floor on the Baltic Sea”, the Cinderella operates a daily round trip service between the Swedish capital Stockholm and Mariehamn in Finland’s Åland islands. It offers up to 2,560 passengers overnight entertainment ranging from spa treatments to restaurants and live bands.

This venture from Treviso-based Bottega marks the first in a series of similar bars planned internationally and the format has been designed accordingly to be easily adaptable to airports or downtown locations.

“At Bottega we advocate the importance of a healthy lifestyle, based on varied and unsophisticated food, which is innate in the Mediterranean diet,” explained chairman Sandro Bottega of the concept. “We thought of introducing a new and unique experience that could convey an Italian touch and spread the ritual of wine drinking to global destination hubs”.

In addition to its Prosecco business, Bottega also manages wineries in Valpolicella and Montalcino, with a brand portfolio which includes Alexander, Bottega and Cantina dei Poeti.

UK retailers split over calories on wine labels

Decanter, 20 February 2014, by Chris Mercer

Top supermarkets in the UK are divided on whether to print calorie counts on wine labels, as Sainsbury's earns government praise for backing the policy.

Sainsbury's, which late last year overtook Asda-WalMart to become the UK's second largest supermarket, has committed to printing calorie amounts on all its own-brand wines over the next two years.

Its move drew praise from the UK government, but also revealed division between multiple retailers, which together account for the vast majority of the country's wine sales and have large own-brand ranges.

Sainsbury's said its own research found 85% of consumers surveyed didn't know how many calories are in the average glass of wine.

Even though a majority of respondents said they don't include wine when counting calories, two thirds still said they would like to see calorie labelling on alcohol.

'It is clear from our research that shoppers are confused regarding the calories in alcohol,' said Helen Buck, chair of Sainsbury's responsible drinking steering group.

'We hope that by clearly displaying this information on the bottle, we’ll be able to help our customers to make responsible choices more easily.'

Public health minister Jane Ellison said, 'the use of calorie labelling on alcoholic drinks is a key way the industry can help support responsible drinking.'

But, not everybody agrees. A spokesperson for Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket, told decanter.com 'there are currently no plans to label own-label wines with the calorie content on the bottle'. Rival retailer Morrisons has also said it doesn't plan to introduce calorie labelling on wine.

Upmarket retailer Waitrose, by contrast, has been printing calories per 100ml and per glass on its own-brand alcoholic drinks for the past three years.

Why the 'Penfolds curse' could strike again

The Sydney Morning Herald, Date: February 19, 2014 , Simon Evans

Is there a Penfolds curse at work? A succession of six corporate owners of Australia's most famous wine brand over the past three decades have either been taken over or run into financial strife, and the prospect of it happening again remains high.

It's as if the ghosts of the founders Dr Christopher and Mary Penfold, who started Penfolds in 1844, are wreaking their revenge because the wine brand has strayed so far from its original purpose of being a medicinal benefit for patients of Christopher's medical practice.

“ A potential predator of Treasury will be closely eyeing the red wine inventory sitting in barrel halls at Penfolds”.

The latest custodians, Treasury Wine Estates, have earned the wrath of investment markets and the credibility of the board and management is in tatters, as they battle to try and restore some confidence in the company's direction after a run of disasters. Much depends on the reception received by Treasury chairman Paul Rayner and his stand-in chief executive Warwick Every-Burns, who stepped out of the Treasury boardroom to run the company last September. They will attempt to defend their strategy on Thursday when they outline the full details of the $40 million full-year profit downgrade announced three weeks ago, as Treasury officially unveils its first-half profit results. But how long will Treasury be around in its current form?

The irony is that Penfolds itself is a highly-profitable business and the jewel in the crown of Treasury. Penfolds is estimated to make around $180 million in profits annually, which is about three quarters of the total profits of Treasury's sprawling wine business which also includes the Beringer brands in the United States, and Wolf Blass, Rosemount, Seppelt, Lindemans and Wynns in Australia.

Penfolds' earnings potential in the next two years is vast, as a treasure trove of up to $280 million worth of high-quality red wines currently maturing in barrel halls will hit the market.

This is why potential suitors are closely eyeing the corporate mess that Treasury has found itself in and the potential upside for a new owner. Speculation centres on Chinese firms and private equity buyers as those most interested.

The Penfolds brand, with a 170-year-old history, has proven very resilient over three decades of corporate ructions with the brand having passed through six different sets of corporate owners since the early 1980s. The prestige of the flagship Penfold's Grange, the latest release of which the company was selling for $785 per bottle, is a huge strength and the halo effect down through the range is a winner in the marketplace.

Bruce Kemp was chief executive of Southcorp Wines, a forerunner of Treasury, for most of the 1990s and is today chairman of Tasmanian wine company Pipers Brook. He says Penfolds has enormous cache in the marketplace.

"It still stands out,'' Mr Kemp says. Penfolds Grange and the higher-quality Penfolds range that sits underneath it were big profit drivers in the 1990s, and two decades on, the "halo" effect is still intact. "There's a pretty big halo, and a big shadow down the line,'' Mr Kemp says.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst David Errington has all but given up on Treasury's current board and management and says ''if the board's focus turns to maximising shareholder returns, it will need to consider breaking the company up''.

A break-up would result in a scramble for the best assets, with Penfolds at the top of the tree. The one possible saviour in the ongoing Treasury saga is the prospect of a new, highly-respected chief executive being appointed soon. There are persistent rumours about the long-time boss of Coca-Cola Amatil's Australian operations, Warwick White, having been approached to take the job. Outgoing CCA chief executive Terry Davis, who had been the subject of speculation that he has being courted, says he has no interest in taking another chief executive role at a public company.

But Penfolds has been through a lot. It's had six owners in just over three decades. In the mid-1970s, Penfolds was acquired by then NSW brewer Tooth & Co, and then in the 1980s became part of corporate raider John Spalvins, Adelaide Steamship Company, which also owned Woolworths, David Jones and a host of big-name food brands including Peters ice-cream and Four'N'Twenty pies.

Mr Spalvin's empire fell apart after the 1987 sharemarket crash under the weight of $7 billion in debts, and Penfolds was sold off to another beer company, SA Brewing, in 1990. SA Brewing, an ASX-listed company, changed its name to Southcorp in 1993, sold off packaging and water heaters businesses, and Southcorp Wines became a stand-alone wine business. It then merged with privately-owned Rosemount Wines in 2001 in what was effectively a reverse takeover, to become the world's largest wine company. But things went awry under new management and in 2005 it was taken over by Foster's Group. But plans by Foster's to extract efficiencies from selling beer and wine into the same liquor retailers didn't work properly, and after further management changes, Foster's was split into two companies in 2011. The wine company was re-badged Treasury Wine Estates and in May, 2011 set sail on his new voyage as an ASX-listed debt-free wine group, with Penfolds as the biggest brand.

Chief executive David Dearie lasted a little over two years but was then punted by the board in September, 2013, taking the blame for $160 million in writedowns connected with the United States wine operations.

A potential predator of Treasury will be closely eyeing the red wine inventory sitting in barrel halls at Penfolds. Bank of America Merrill Lynch believes the profit increase from the Penfolds business over the next two to three years is substantial, with Penfolds having increased inventory levels of its higher-priced wines from $50 million worth in 2011, to $280 million in 2013. The stockbroking firm estimates that Penfolds currently contributes 75 per cent of Treasury's total depressed earnings before interest and tax, and given the difficulties Treasury has faced with under $10 bottled wines in Australia with its other commercial brands, that proportion of profits may be even higher.

Film director James Cameron buys Canadian winery

Decanter, 19 February 2014, by James Lawrence

Veteran Hollywood director and producer James Cameron has moved into wine production in his native Canada. The 59-year-old director of The Terminator and Avatar has purchased Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery in British Columbia for an undisclosed sum.

Beaufort's manager, Mark Timmermans, said the sale completed on 6 February. An official statement from Cameron is expected in the next few weeks.

'Despite the excitement surrounding the sale to Cameron, we don't foresee any big changes,' Timmermans told decanter.com. 'Our plan is to continue to release approximately 2,000 cases this year, and we are finalising our plans for this vintage.'

Beaufort is located in the Comox Valley on the east coast of Vancouver Island and with just over three hectares under vine.

It was founded in 2006 by Jeff and Susan Vandermolen, who previously worked in the oil industry, and produces a range of wines including a traditional method sparkling red, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir rose.

'We look forward to working with the Camerons to carry on with the Beaufort Vineyard & Winery, and will do what we can to assist them,' the Vandermolens said.

'Susan and Jeff will remain involved as vineyard and wine making consultants through the 2014 vintage. Beyond that, decisions haven't been made yet,’ Timmermans said.

Several other film stars have also gone into wine, including The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola in California, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Provence, France, and Drew Barrymore, who has her own label of Italian Pinot Grigio.

Body of Bordeaux Wine Estate's Chinese Owner Found

By AFP | Posted Thursday, 20-Feb-2014

The body of Chinese billioniare Lam Kok, a 46-year-old tea magnate who sealed the biggest deal ever made by a Chinese national on a Bordeaux wine estate in December, has finally been recovered – two months after going missing in a helicopter crash.

French police said Wednesday a body found near a river in the Bordeaux region has been identified as Kok whose helicopter plunged into the Dordogne river, as he took a celebratory flight over his newly-acquired wine estate.

The body was found on February 14 near the accident site.

"The body was formally identified after DNA tests to be that of Lam Kok," confirmed colonel Ghislain Rety, who heads the police department in the Gironde area.

The 46-year-old tea magnate had invited the press to his new property, Château de la Rivière, on December 20 to celebrate his $41-million purchase.

He later took off on a helicopter tour over the estate – which he intended to turn into an elite tea- and wine-tasting retreat – with his 12-year-old son, his financial advisor and the château's former owner James Gregoire.

It crashed soon after taking to the air. The three other bodies have been found.

Gregoire, the previous owner and pilot of the helicopter, had purchased the château and accompanying vineyard in 2003 after the former proprietor died in an aeroplane crash.

Kok was the latest Chinese investor to acquire a vineyard in Bordeaux's Fronsac wine-producing region, close to Saint-Émilion.

Spanish resurgence fuels record Rioja sales in 2013

Decanter, Wednesday 19 February 2014, by Chris Mercer

Global consumption of Rioja wines hit an all-time record in 2013 as Spain's domestic drinkers rediscovered one of the country's best-known wine regions.

Spanish consumers appear to be reappraising Rioja, trade body Wines from Rioja said today (19 February). It announced a 4% increase in global Rioja wine sales for 2013 versus 2012, to a record 277m litres - equivalent to 369m bottles.

It is the first time Rioja wines consumption has risen in Spain since 2008. Total wine consumption in Spain has fallen by a third since the year 2000, according to figures from the Organisation of Vine & Wine (OIV).

A Wines from Rioja spokesperson told decanter.com the recent recovery in Rioja sales is reassuring. 'We’re confident that this encouraging trend will continue into 2014.'

The wider world is also consuming more expensive wines from Rioja, said the trade body, without providing value sales figures.

In particular, volume sales of Grand Reservas increased by 17% in both Spain and export markets last year, albeit global sales of 5.87m litres fits around 17 times into worldwide sales of Rioja Crianza, which stood at 101.5m litres.

Crianza remains crucial as an entry-point for new drinkers, a Wines from Rioja spokesperson said. In Spain, 'with the younger generation often choosing beer over wine, the Crianza category is key to helping us convert them', he said.

The UK continues to be a major market, even though a report by Accolade Wines two years ago found that only one in four consumers surveyed knew Rioja was a winemaking region.

One of the leading Rioja labels, Campo Viejo, saw sales increase by around a quarter in the second half of 2013, versus the same period of 2012, brand owner Pernod Ricard revealed during a briefing in London this week.

Beyond the UK, Wines from Rioja said volume sales to Belgium and Russia rose by close to a third last year, while the exports of Reserva wines to the US jumped by 48%, following a strong marketing spend by the Rioja DOCa council.

Globally, the overall sales figure for 2013 masked a 9.4% drop in volume sales of white Rioja wines, to 13m litres. That meant rose wine sales from the region overtook white varietals, rising by 3% to 13.34m litres for the year.

Mosel and Sonoma Meet in the Finger Lakes

Wines & Vines 2 Feb 2014

 Watkins Glen, N.Y.—On Feb. 4, Paul Hobbs, winemaker and owner of Paul Hobbs Winery in Sebastopol, Calif., and Johannes Selbach, winemaker and owner of Weingut Selbach-Oster in Zeltingen, Germany, announced that they plan to establish a vineyard and start a winery on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The two winemakers have purchased approximately 65 acres on the southeastern side of the lake in an area known locally as the “banana belt” because of its microclimate with a longer growing season and more moderate temperatures than other locations in the Finger Lakes region. The Hobbs-Selbach property straddles Route 414, the north-south road to the east of the lake, and is located in the town of Burdett. According to Christopher O’Gorman, communications manager at Paul Hobbs Winery, 38 acres of land had previously been planted with vines, but the vineyard had fallen into disrepair and “went to wild.” Land preparation has begun on the property, but there are plenty of challenges ahead. The limestone soils in that area are thin, the slopes in many places are steep, and conversion of wooded areas to vineyard under such conditions can be difficult from an environmental standpoint. Selbach’s experience with steep sloping vineyards in Germany should be a valuable asset. When two well-known winemakers create a partnership to start a winery, it is a reflection on how far that area has come in establishing an excellent reputation for its wines. David Peterson, owner of Swedish Hill Winery in Romulus, New York, and Penguin Bay Winery in Hector, N.Y. (the next town north of Burdett), told Wines & Vines, “It’s a credibility boost to the wine industry in New York, and the region, that two well-known vintners would choose to site a winery here.” Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, agreed with Peterson’s assessment, and added “When two famous winemakers recognize that the Finger Lakes is a prime location for growing and making world-class Riesling, it’s a tribute to the growers and winemakers in the Finger Lakes who have worked so hard to produce great wine. We welcome them!” A native of Niagara County, New York, Hobbs helped his father plant hybrid grapes on the family apple farm when he was a teenager. However, instead of returning to New York after receiving his master’s degree in viticulture and enology from the University of California, Davis, in 1978, he stayed in California and took a job as enologist at Robert Mondavi Winery. He began wine consulting in 1989 in Argentina, and in 1999 became a partner with Luis Barraud and Andrea Marchiori in Viña Cobos, a winery located in Mendoza. Hobbs now has consulting clients in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Armenia, France, Canada, and California.

The Paul Hobbs Winery was founded in 1991. Hobbs purchased property in Sebastopol, California, in 1998 and planted the Katherine Lindsay vineyard on the site. The first crush at the Paul Hobbs winemaking facility took place in 2003 and the hospitality room, Lindsay House opened in Sebastopol in 2006. Hobbs now owns or controls more than 190 acres in California and produces 18,000 cases between the Paul Hobbs brand and his second label, CrossBarn.

Selbach’s family has been growing Riesling in the Mosel valley in Germany since the 1600s; currently Selbach and his wife Barbara run the Selbach-Oster estate. Their vineyards consist of 20 hectares (49 acres), most of which is Riesling planted on the steep slopes above the Mosel River. The winery produces approximately 12,000 cases per year. In 1998, Hobbs visited the Selbach-Oster estate while touring wineries along the Mosel, and the two men developed a friendship that led to this partnership in New York. The Seneca Lake property is their first joint winemaking project. Hobbs and Selbach have not yet made the final decision concerning which varietals (other than Riesling) to plant on the site, and they also have not given a name to the project. The partners may begin to produce wine from purchased grapes in 2015 until the vineyard on the site comes into production. David Hobbs, Paul Hobbs’ brother who lives in Rochester, N.Y., will be involved in overseeing the project.