How women are changing champagne

BBC

One of the most famous brands of champagne bears a woman’s names, but for many years women played little role in the industry. Now that is changing. Juliet Rix met some of the new wave of female tastemakers.

I am sitting in a contemporary stripped-wood conservatory looking out at a much more traditional view.

Beyond a gentle slope, neatly striped with perfect vines, stands a fairytale French chateau, its decorative creamy façade topped with turrets and spires. It was built by Widow Clicquot – Veuve Clicquot in French – a name more closely associated with famous champagne than with an actual woman.

But she was very real. In 1805, when she was just 27, her winemaker husband died. And, against all 19th Century expectations – and considerable opposition – the young widow took over his winemaking business.

Adapting and improving it, she spread its effervescent product across the globe, turning it into one of the most successful maisons de champagne. Clicquot was the first female champagne producer. A few more followed. All were widows, the only women French society of the time would allow to take such a public role.

They did a remarkably good job. In fact the Champagne Widows were so successful that some champagne houses without a widow added Veuve to their labels nonetheless!

But this was not exactly a female takeover. It was just a handful of women there, as it were, “by accident”. Most champagne production remained firmly in the hands of men. Until now.

Sitting with me at one of the conservatory’s narrow, polished tree-trunk tables is Charlotte Le Gallais. Her great-great-grandfather – an Armenian diamond merchant – bought the turreted Clicquot chateau and the domaine surrounding it, nearly a century ago.

Five generations later, it is not the son, but the daughter, who is taking over the champagne-making. She is part of a new wave of women making significant inroads not only into selling but also growing and blending.

There are now three organisations specifically for women working in the business and 60% of the students studying winemaking in the Champagne region are female. So does it make a difference if champagne is made by women? “Of course!” laughs Francoise Peretti, director of the UK Champagne Bureau, which promotes and educates about champagne: “[They] are more intuitive and more attentive to aroma and taste – and maybe more curious, more daring”. Other leading women in the industry agree. “Women are more aware of the delicate flavours of champagne,” says Sophie Signolle, president of the Commission of Women Winemakers of Champagne. “Their nose and palate have more finesse, more subtlety.”

One of the few female cellar-masters in a big champagne house, Floriane Eznack, says “there is love” between women and champagne.

“Champagne was first bought for the mistresses of the Kings of France – and even today, to seduce a woman, a man wouldn’t buy red wine, he would buy champagne!” she says.

It must be said that Eznack is no bubbly girly type. Her first choice of career was fighter pilot. Only having failed to do that did she turn to making champagne.

Charlotte Le Gallais makes no claims to superiority over male champagne-makers, but as she shows me the shiny silver tanks that receive the juice pressed from her grapes, and carefully explains the details of the highly regulated production method, she does reveal that her favourite part of the process is the blending – the repeated mixing and tasting of wines from different grapes, soils and years to find just the right combination of flavours.

The rise of women winemakers will certainly change champagne, says Eznack, though exactly how is yet to be seen. Blends created today will not be on the market for another four or five years and the number of women involved is still rising.

Le Gallais points up at one of the towers of Clicquot’s chateau. “That was her room,” she says. It’s empty now. The Le Gallais family moved out of the chateau during World War Two and now occupy the 16th Century manor house across the vineyard that the Clicquots used for the servants. The manor house is unheated – hard on the people but perfect for the bottles of champagne laid in neat racks in the cellar.

Back in the warm conservatory, I raise a sparkling glass of Le Gallais’ golden bubbly to my lips and have to agree that this woman makes excellent champagne.

 

Grape marc proves a superfood for abalone

By The lead, Andrew Spence / 8th of June, 2017

WASTE from the wine industry is being developed into aquaculture feed with highly promising results.

The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) has partnered with Barossa Valley company Tarac Technologies to work on the project. The research has so far produced a cheaper, better performing food source made from grape marc for the farmed abalone industry.

Tarac produces about 130,000 tonnes of steam distilled grape marc a year from the heat-treated skins, pulp, seeds, and stems of grapes left over after wine is made.

It is a world leader in turning grape marc, once known as a waste product, into value added products ranging from grape spirit to stock feed, grape seed extract, grape seed oil and soil improvers.

A six-month trial of a test feed produced by Aquafeeds Australia containing 20 per cent of Tarac’s steam distilled grape marc, registered as Acti-Meal, is set to begin at an abalone farm in November after successful lab trials in Adelaide last year.

During the three-month lab trial, greenlip abalone fed on an experimental formulated diet containing 5-20 per cent Acti-Meal outperformed the other abalone in Food Conversion Ratio, which is the amount of food given compared with the amount of weight gained.

The abalone on the grape marc diet showed a 6 per cent improvement in biomass gain and a 2.9 per cent increase in shell growth rate, and had a 100 per cent survival rate.

Tarac Technologies CEO Jeremy Blanks said the Acti-Meal product was originally developed for agriculture as a feed source for cattle, sheep and pigs.

He said it was the first time he was aware of that wine industry bi-products had been used in aquaculture feed.

“It was really through the discussions we had with SARDI and picking up on some of the early research they were doing that we identified aquaculture as a potential opportunity,” Blanks said.

“Finding ways to value add that bi-product and apply it into areas such as agriculture and aquaculture is something we’ve been looking at for a long time and this is starting to show some early positive signs.”

“Our byline is all about reuse, recycling, reformulating and revaluing – it’s all about trying to find better and more sustainable ways to reuse products out of the wine industry.”

Blanks said while Australian abalone were prized in Asia, the size of the industry on a global scale was relatively small.

However he said the feed could potentially be exported and adapted for other aquaculture products such as fish.

“The opportunity in terms of volume is undoubtedly into export, particularly into Asia and the work we’ve done with SARDI suggests that if it is successful with abalone then that is a good indicator for its potential for some of the fin fish varieties and that would be the next step,” Blanks said.

SARDI Nutrition and Feed Technology Associate Professor David Stone, pictured above, said cereals such as wheat, lupins and soy were traditionally used as a carbohydrate and energy source in commercial abalone feed. He said the lab trial showed that Acti-Meal had the potential to replace some of those ingredients.

“The other bonus here is that we are removing something that costs $500-$800 a tonne and replacing it with what is effectively a waste product that costs $250-$400 a tonne – it’s a price reduction with a growth benefit,” he said.

 

SA Power station putting the bubbles in beer by capturing carbon dioxide

ABC News, by Nick Harmsen

Next time you’re sipping on a nice South Australian sparkling ale, or a Barossa red, you could be sucking on the waste of the state’s biggest power station.

A new processing plant has begun taking exhaust from the gas-fired Torrens Island Power Station in Adelaide’s north, recovering carbon dioxide (CO2) for use in food processing and other manufacturing industries.

The CO2 produced by the power station’s turbines is captured, concentrated, purified, liquefied and then pumped into trucks for distribution around the state.

The plant’s owner, Air Liquide, said it is an Australian first.

“There’s no other plant like this one. There are no plants like this where we recover such a quantity of CO2 from a power plant,” Air Liquide Australia’s managing director Michele Gritti said.

“It’s a unique one from a technology point of view and an environmental point of view.”

Air Liquide supplies C02 to companies like Coopers and Schweppes to be used in carbonation of beverages.

Its customers also include Treasury Wine Estates and Sundrop Farms at Port Augusta.

Air Liquide used to source its carbon dioxide for South Australia from a well in Mount Gambier and via Victoria but the Mt Gambier well is now closed.

Carbon produced is food-grade quality

Mr Gritti said despite the perception that power station outputs were dirty, the carbon sourced from Torrens Island would be of food-grade quality.

“The best sources of CO2 are the petrochemical ones. They are the purest ones, compared to the natural ones like the wells,” he said.

The power station’s owner, AGL, said the capture of such high quality CO2 would not be possible in a coal-fired plant.

The Air Liquide plant is expected to capture 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

AGL’s own figures show 1.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases was emitted from the Torrens Island Power Station last financial year.

“Look, this isn’t a major reduction in CO2,” AGL managing director Andy Vesey said.

“It’s the equivalent of getting 15,000 cars off the road but every little bit helps in this journey.”

AGL has spent recent months warning the ageing Torrens Island A Power Station would soon need replacing.

The company was reported to have shelved plans for a new gas plant on Torrens Island in the wake of the SA Government’s intervention in the energy market.

But Mr Vesey said the arrangement with Air Liquide showed Torrens Island remained a key part of AGL’s plans.

“It sends a very strong signal that this is an important market to us and it’s a place where we’ll continue to operate and add to the system in a big way.”

 

Aldi Rosé: creating a false sense of success

Daily Wine News Archive, by Camellia Aebischer

You may have click-bait style articles popping up in your Facebook feeds recently praising the Aldi rosé that was placed as “one of the best in the world” by an award “just like the wine Olympics.”

Although Daily Wine News did cover the silver medal award, which is a great achievement for the winemaker and retailler, there are some major flaws to this claim.

The Aldi marketing team did a stellar job at publicising their award considering there hasn’t been much press from other winemakers who won Platinum Best medals, which are three levels higher than the Aldi win.

To put this in to perspective, Aldi’s Rosé – named The Exquisite Collection Côtes De Provence 2016 – was among 3340 entries that were also awarded silver medals at the International Wine Competition. It was also one of six wines that Aldi won silver medals for, so why the specific praise right before summer? (Hint).

That was out of a total 14,693 wines that were placed, ranging from Platinum Best, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Commended categories. These are only wines that were acknowledged, and don’t include any that had entered without success.

One last major flaw in the claim, is that unlike the Olympics, the wines judged in these competitions were only included because of their initiative to enter. There is a 126GBP entry fee plus VAT (tax) for those who are part of the European Union.

The winemaker also must arrange shipping of the wine (4 bottles to enter) to the UK at their own expense, and if they are successful in receiving a medal must pay additional fees for the stickers to place on their bottles.

Aldi have every right to talk up their success, but it seems that the credit is being unevenly distributed. Perhaps it’s time for smaller wine labels to take notes on marketing techniques.

 

Record number of English and Welsh wine companies launched in 2016

The Guardian, 29 May 2017

Industry experts say weak pound is factor in popularity of English and Welsh wines with overseas buyers

A record number of English wine companies were launched last year, as new vineyard owners sought to capitalise on a growing taste for their products.

Sixty-four new wine businesses put down roots in England and Wales during 2016, up 73% on the previous year, according to HM Revenue and Customs.

Industry experts put the rise down to factors including demand from abroad as a result of the weak pound and growing recognition around the world that English wine is not to be scoffed at.

The success of existing producers has also encouraged entrepreneurs to try their hand at making English wine – not to be confused with British wine, which is made from imported grapes and generally considered of lower quality.

Kent-based Chapel Down, England’s leading winemaker, reported wine sales up 22% to £6.8m last year. Norfolk’s Winbirri Vineyards was named the surprise winner of the world’s best value single-variety still white wine in the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards earlier this month.

While the UK’s climate makes it tough to produce quality red wine, the south of England has developed a reputation for whites – in particular sparkling wines. The area has even attracted investment from French champagne house Taittinger, which recently planted a vineyard near the Kent village of Chilham.

Taittinger’s move is the first time a grande marque champagne house has grown vines in the UK, with the aim of producing a top-quality English sparkling wine. Its first bottles should be ready in 2023.

“Word has spread of the world-class wines being made by the pioneers in the English wine industry,” said Miles Beale, the chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. This has attracted investors who have shown the foresight to see English wine’s potential and who are prepared to be patient.

“The new problem facing UK winemakers is that there are not enough grapes to meet demand. With the number of awards for English wine piling up year-on-year, planting more vineyards to meet that demand makes good economic sense.”

The weather has been a problem this year after hard frosts prompted English winemakers to say in April that at least half of the year’s grape harvest had been wiped out.

The fact that English vineyards are winning global acclaim is encouraging budding winemakers into the industry, according to James Simmonds, a partner at accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young. “English wine production – in particular English sparkling wine – is now being taken seriously on both a local and global platform which has enabled the industry to thrive,” he said.

Simmonds said the slump in the pound since the Brexit vote had also made English wine more attractive, both for foreign buyers and British oenophiles who are paying more for imported bottles.

“As the cost of exporting to Europe falls and imports are rising, English sparkling wine has an opportunity to become a real contender for prosecco and champagne in the global market. With Brexit now on the horizon, it is more important than ever to support local industry and to cement the UK as a globally recognised exporter of high-quality goods.”

There are 502 vineyards in England and Wales, as well as 133 producers making wine from other people’s grapes, according to English Wine Producers, with production reaching 5m bottles a year. About 1m vines will be planted in the next year, which will result in 2m more bottles of English wine a year, according to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

 

 

 

Are Single-Site Expressions the Future, or just a Fad?

WineEnthusiast, April 2017, by JOE CZERWINSK

Is Chardonnay “cool” again? Was Jura just a fad? Is natural wine the future? In the fickle world of wine, what trends matter and what is just noise?

The worlds of fashion and wine have a lot in common. Ownerships are intertwined, similar descriptors are used and both undergo constant change.

Shawl lapels appear on tuxes one awards season and are gone the next, just as hemlines rise and dip. And as fast as those things happen, Moscato soars and dives, replaced by Prosecco. Wine has become as much about fashion as, well, fashion.

Many of the same Napa Valley producers who made malnourished, “food-friendly” Cabernets during the 1980s went on to make overripe beasts within a decade or two. The wines still haven’t shrunk back down to 12.5% abv and pH levels of 3.5, but the fickle pendulum of style is moving back in that direction.

Remember the trendy “ABC” (Anything But Chardonnay) movement? It’s over. While American consumers have more diverse tastes than ever, Chardonnay is cool again. But big, buttery Chardonnay? As uncool as Uggs.

With the explosion of social media, the turnover in these trends has been accelerated and globalized. Those wines from the Jura made Instagram darlings by New York City sommeliers two years ago were all the rage last year in Melbourne, Australia, and are already fading in popularity there, replaced by local versions of natural wines.

Wine trends aren’t limited to the popularity of particular grape varieties, regions or winemaking techniques, like the current infatuation with whole-cluster ferments in some circles, or the use of concrete eggs in others. Jean-­Guillaume Prats, who oversees LVMH’s wine businesses, says that what he calls the Burgundian approach has become “a trend all over the world.”

What he’s referring to is the emphasis on single vineyards and away from the Bordeaux norm of a single, blended wine. Even in regions where blending has long been the practice, producers increasingly select fruit from specific plots and bottle the resulting wines on their own.

Besides the ubiquitous examples of single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from Burgundy and the New World, readers can find many examples of these wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, or from regions as diverse as Bierzo, in Spain, Barolo, in Italy, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in France.

In the process, winemakers find themselves doing less, as blending options become much more limited. The goal is to let the vineyard speak, to have its voice be transmitted by the wine as clearly as possible. It’s a reflection of broad societal trends surrounding sourcing and authenticity, and it shows no sign of letting up.

Picking wine grapes by machine means better efficiency with no loss in quality

Seattle Times; April 28, 2017

THE TRUTH OF the matter is that Washington’s agricultural industry relies heavily on migrant labor to bring food to our tables and wine to our lips. It doesn’t matter whom you voted for or where you stand on immigration policies in this country. It takes a lot of laborers — some, but not all, of them here illegally — to pick our asparagus, apples, peaches and wine grapes.

In recent years, that labor pool has vanished as more migrants have returned to Old Mexico than have crossed the border north. Or they have settled their families into a permanent home with better, less-strenuous jobs.

It’s a problem in California and up the West Coast to Washington. Plus, the labor pool here often is lured away to work in more-lucrative cherry and apple orchards — and not in vineyards.

Washington has been experimenting with machine-picking for nearly a half-century. The first success with machines took place in the Yakima Valley in 1968.

Today, by some estimates, 90 to 95 percent of Washington vineyards are machine-harvested.

In fact, it is the height of wine snobbery to refuse to drink wines made from machine-harvested grapes.

Because of labor shortages, even higher-tiered wines are being machine-picked. It simply comes down to the winemaker accepting grapes that are picked mechanically, or not getting grapes at all.

Over the years, blind tastings of hand-picked vs. machine-picked grapes have shown little difference, an exercise repeated at this winter’s Washington Winegrowers annual convention.

While labor shortfalls were the initial driving force in the push toward mechanization, next on the list is efficiency. A talented picker can make $20 an hour picking premium cabernet sauvignon grapes on Red Mountain. A crew running a mechanical harvester can pick an entire vineyard efficiently and affordably, keeping farming costs down and allowing the Washington wine industry to compete on the world wine stage for both quality and value.

More than the harvesting process is being mechanized. Machines are able to prune vines, thin leaves and clusters, and even move trellis wires. All of this significantly cuts labor costs with the side benefit of preventing on-the-job injuries.

Fortunately, the grape varieties grown in Washington — especially thick-skinned cabernet sauvignon — are perfect for mechanization. Machines are able to deliver fruit to winemakers in pristine condition.

And the technology continues to improve. Already, harvesters equipped with optical sorters can provide even better grapes for reserve-tier wines. The technology exists for growers to map terrain, soil types, moisture content and more, which allows for better resource management.

Anymore, virtually every new vineyard in Washington will be planted with mechanization in mind.

The wine industry doesn’t have much choice. There simply aren’t enough bodies left to pick the grapes any other way.

MOËT HENNESSY: CHINA WILL BE A FINE WINE PRODUCING COUNTRY

The Drinks Business, 18th April, 2017, by Natalie Wang

Jean-Guillaume Prats, CEO of Moët Hennessy Estates & Wines, predicts that China will become a fine wine producing country, affirmed by the luxury group’s first ever high-altitude wine ‘Ao Yun’ produced in Shangri-la of Yunnan province.

Every market in the world which is consuming fine wines is a country where fine wine is produced. There are three exceptions. One is Japan even though there’s a little production in Yamanashi, the other one is Hong Kong and the third one is the UK even though they are trying to produce some sparkling wines, we wish them good luck,” said the executive during a masterclass held last week in Hong Kong to introduce three of its estate wines – Cloudy Bay, Newton Vineyard and Ao Yun.

China has to be a country where fine wines are going to be produced. It has so much diversity in terms of soil and climate. It has a long-standing tradition with spirits such as Baijiu. It has a long-standing tradition with arts and so on,” he argued.

China, which is currently ranked as the world’s fifth largest wine producer, is often associated with producing inexpensive wines despite a few small quality producers from China’s northwestern Ningxia and Xinjiang provinces.

LVMH’s Ao Yun, which literally translates as ‘flying above the clouds’ is made from vineyards located between 2,200 and 2,600 metres above sea level in the northern part of Yunnan province that borders Myanmar in the Himalayan foothills. Ao Yun, selling for a staggering HK$2,300 (US$300) a bottle, is even said to cost more to produce than Château d’Yquem, due to the high logistics and human costs of making high-altitude wines in a desolate region like Shangri-la, as Prats previously told db.

The first vintage 2013 is made in a very ‘non-interventionist’ way with no electricity, sorting table, destemmer or vats, Prats stated.

The vats did not arrive, so we used amphorae from a local producer. We of course had no temperature control, the barrels did not arrive, so the wine only had three months in barrel, 100% new oak because we don’t have any old barrels,” Prats explained citing a few examples.

The wine is made in a very basic way,” he admitted. However, “it’s the perfect demonstration of the extraordinary potential of the northern Yunnan. It’s simply the quality of the fruit made in a very obscure way.”

The 2014 vintage will be released later this year.

UK wine industry to plant 1m vines as sector bubbles with confidence

The Guardian, 18 April 2017

Wine producers in Britain will plant a record 1m vines over the next 12 months, allowing growers to produce 2m more bottles of wine a year in the south of a country not historically known for its viticulture.

The figures demonstrate that wine is one of the fastest-growing agricultural products in the UK. Over the last 10 years the number of acres planted with grapevines in England and Wales has grown by 135%, according to the English Wine Producers trade body.

Among those planting new rootstocks are two big French champagne houses, Taittinger and Vranken-Pommery Monopole, which have announced English wine projects in the past year in Canterbury and Hampshire.

Rathfinny wine estate near Alfriston in East Sussex is one of the largest new vineyards, with up to 400 acres being cultivated. Its owner, the former London hedge fund manager Mark Driver, plans to release its first sparkling wine in 2018. A French winemaker who trained at champagne houses Louis Roederer and Moët & Chandon is overseeing the blend.

The French finally admit they like our wines,” said Oz Clarke, an expert who is helping to judge a new award for for wines made in Britain. “New York decides that English bubbles are the next big cool wine ‘thing’. And we are planting a million new vines in our nation this year. We are bubbling with confidence.”

Global warming has been credited with providing a later English growing season and making the industry viable across Kent, the east of England and as far west as Wales. Improving technology is another key factor. Sophisticated meters that determine grape sugar levels allow growers to determine the best picking period in what can be a few brief days to harvest the crop. More precise meteorological forecasts have also helped the English to cope with one of the world’s most changeable weather systems.

A shift to buying more expensive vintages has also encouraged consumers to trade up to English wines, which typically start at £10 a bottle, although the top sparklers such as Nyetimber, made in West Sussex, retail for about £35.

Sales of domestically grown wine have been on an upward swing since 2000, with Waitrose and Marks & Spencer now offering dozens of different English and Welsh wines, and top retailers and restaurants stocking more and more lines.

In recognition, the industry has launched a competition to celebrate England and Wales’s wine producers, and to crown the UK’s very best wine.

The inaugural UK Wine awards will be led by experts including Susie Barrie, who appears on BBC One’s Saturday Kitchen, Clarke and the sommelier and wine writer Hamish Anderson.

Wines from English and Welsh producers will be tasted blind by the judges over two days, with the results announced on 31 May.

Rebecca Hull, the English wine buyer at Waitrose and one of the prize judges, said demand for domestic wine had been growing for many years and that she expected the trend to continue.

These wines are world class and the awards will serve to highlight some of the gems produced on our own doorstep,” she said.

Harvey Nichols is introducing four new producers and 15 new English wines to its wine shop shelves in time for English wine week at the end of May. The bottles from Gusbourne, Hattingley Valley, Litmus and Wiston include still wines for the first time.

Sales have been steadily increasing since 2011, but in 2016 we saw a peak in interest,” said Rob Graves, the head of wine and food buying at the upmarket retailer. “Our customers are hugely supportive of this category and they are keen to taste wines from lesser-known producers.”

Nick Jarman, the general manager at the Oxo Tower restaurant on the South Bank in London, said: “English wine is growing in popularity among our customers and we’ve seen a steady increase in sales over the last few years. We recently introduced two English wines by the glass which have performed well Often our customers are surprised that the quality is so excellent. We now list eight still wines and 13 sparkling, more than double than two years ago.”

This article was amended on 19 April 2017. Because of an editing error, an earlier version said the award was for “British wine”. That term is used to refer to the product of imported grapes or grape concentrate that is made into wine in Britain.

Phylloxera spreads north in the Yarra Valley

Daily Wine News, 5/05/2017

New detections of phylloxera have seen the boundary of Victoria’s Maroondah Phylloxera Infested Zone (PIZ) boundary extended to the north – incorporating four additional vineyards.

While the new detections were found within the existing PIZ boundary, it has been extended to maintain a 5km buffer zone between an infested property and the PIZ boundary.

While the size of the extension appears large, Vinehealth Australia said it encompasses national and state forests and aligns with main roads. For example, the Healesville-Kinglake Road was the first main road to the north, therefore the Maroondah PIZ has been extended to this point.

Inca Pearce, Vinehealth Australia chief executive officer, said the extension to this PIZ boundary was a concern.

Phylloxera doesn’t respect vineyard boundaries or state borders. We must work together nationally to ensure we stop the spread of phylloxera,” Pearce said.

Vinehealth Australia recognises the need to act with urgency to respond to a constantly evolving biosecurity environment, with trends in trade, tourism, climate change and business ownership increasing the extent and nature of biosecurity risks. These new detections underscore the urgency.”

Pearce said the new infestations are a reminder for growers and vineyard managers to report any suspect vine decline early.

If your vines are declining, investigate quickly to identify the cause. If you suspect a phylloxera infestation, you must notify your state agricultural department or Vinehealth Australia,” she said.

And it’s imperative that vineyard owners, managers, staff and all visitors respect state plant quarantine standards and implement best practice farm-gate hygiene on every property. Biosecurity is a team game and we are only as strong as the weakest link.

Vineyard owners, wineries, contractors and carriers must understand the regulations and documentation required for the movement of grapes and grape materials, machinery and equipment, diagnostic samples, soil, cuttings, rootlings and potted vines, within and between states. And ensure all people who visit your property clean and disinfest their footwear on entry and exit, in accordance with the Footwear and Small Hand Tool Disinfestation Protocol.”

This latest boundary extension is the sixth expansion to the original Maroondah PIZ, which was established in 2006 following the first detection of phylloxera in the Yarra Valley.

Grape phylloxera is a small insect that lives on the roots of grapevines. Once established, death of own-rooted vines is inevitable.

Vinehealth Australia said it was imperative for vineyard owners and managers to check any links they might have with businesses operating in the extension area. Vinehealth Australia also welcomes calls about the Maroondah PIZ on (08) 8273 0550.

For interactive maps showing Phylloxera Exclusion Zones (PEZ), PRZ and PIZs across Australia’s grapegrowing regions visit: https://maps.phylloxera.com.au/virtual/pmz/

For information about movement requirements for phylloxera risk vectors visit: http://www.vinehealth.com.au/essentials/regulations-and-policies/phylloxera-regulations/

Or: http://www.vinehealth.com.au/essentials/regulations-and-policies/national-phylloxera-management-protocol/

Here’s the Challenge

Wine Spectator, May 2, 2017

Tomorrow’s great-wine repertory—will it be composed altogether differently?

Everyone likes pretending that they know—or at least can imagine—what the future will look like. Wine is no different.

But what is different with wine is that forecasting a future is new. Prior to the 1970s (probably it’s more like the ’80s, but let’s be generous here), you could say that fine wine actually didn’t have a forward-imagining future. It only had a sanctified past, one that was endlessly recycled: the famous Bordeaux châteaus; Burgundy’s premiers and grands crus, a handful of prestige Champagnes, a few Port houses and, for the cognoscenti, a select group of German Rieslings from the Mosel and Rheingau. And that was about it.

What about Italian wines, you ask? Effectively, they didn’t exist. Yes, Italian wine sales surged in the 1970s. But they were confined to just five inexpensive Italian wine types, with Lambrusco (read Riunite) accounting for fully 50 percent or more of all Italian wine sales in America.

I will always remember a poignant comment made by the Piedmontese producer Bruno Ceretto, quoted by Burton Anderson in his landmark book, Vino (published in 1980, mind you): “I don’t want to outshine the French. I just want to sit down at the same table with them.”

Since then, the boundaries of the fine-wine world have expanded with an explosive effect, both in production and demand, the force of which we continue to feel even today. You know the roster of ambitious newcomers—again, both in production and consumers—as well as I, so I won’t bother to enumerate them. No one back in the 1970s or ’80s could possibly have imagined either the extent of this change or its effect upon traditional, established producers.

Worth noting is that in some cases, such as Burgundy, this explosion of both production (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) and intense consumer interest served to improve quality and help raise the wines’ prices.

In cases such as Bordeaux, explosive demand certainly expanded the worldwide market for the most famous names (to say nothing of increasing prices stratospherically), but a worldwide increase in Cabernet and Merlot production brought the balance of the vast, less-prestigious Bordeaux wine industry to its financial knees. The monopoly on market prestige that Bordeaux once enjoyed was permanently disrupted: Why buy second-rate Cabernet goods from non-illustrious Bordeaux producers when you could get demonstrably superior wines from California, Chile or Australia at the same or even lower prices?

All of which brings us to “The Challenge.” If the past is instructive—and I think it is—there’s no reason to believe that today’s great-wine repertory will inevitably comprise tomorrow’s great-wine performances.

The musical concept of “repertory” is a useful one here. The Pulitzer Prize–winning music critic Donal Henahan (1921–2012) defined it as well as anyone:

By repertory must be meant a select body of works, popular and otherwise, that may be heard with regularity in the world’s concert halls, recital rooms or opera houses. These works have risen to the repertory level because they have been particularly admired by musicians, taken to the heart by a sizable public, or both.”

Of course, there’s no knowing for certain what will be “particularly admired” or “taken to the heart by a sizable public” 20 years from now. But one can guess or predict with at least plausible reasons.

Before I take a stab at that, however, allow me to note the one structural feature that will inevitably affect the choices of which wines will comprise tomorrow’s new great-wine repertory: the Millennial generation.

The tastes, preferences, ambitions and, not least, the economics, of the Millennial generation (i.e., those born between 1978 and 2000; there’s no definitive set of parameters) will more than anything else determine tomorrow’s great-wine repertory. They own the future; and as the largest demographic cohort in America, with some 76 million people now between the ages of 17 and 39, they own it in a really big way. Happily, they have a demonstrated interest in wine, so at least that’s not up in the air.

There’s also the wild card, it must be noted, of the effects of climate change: Is 20 years too short a time frame for pronounced wholesale effects in traditional wine zones? Opinions differ. But it may be a factor. And even if it is, one should never discount the ingenuity of producers in affected areas for contending with whatever changes may occur.

With that out of the way, what will the great-wine repertory look like in 20 years? Here are one observer’s predictions:

Napa Cabernet will still be king. It’s trendy in certain circles right now to suggest that once the Baby Boomers (and their fat wallets) shuffle off—either to nursing homes or worse—Napa Valley and its expensive wines will be yesterday’s wine news.

Myself, I don’t see it. Why not? Two reasons. The best Napa Cabs are world-class great. And there’s always a (high-priced) market for that. The other reason is that no place on earth does a better job of entertaining, feeding, housing and just plain inviting wine tourists than Napa Valley. Also it’s gorgeous. People will pay to play, in every sense.

Northern European red wines—Germany, Austria, Croatia, northernmost Italy—will be highly esteemed. Here, I think climate change will indeed play a role, along with the already-reviving red-wine ambitions of local (and often young) producers in those countries. Just which grape varieties will triumph, I don’t know. Likely Pinot Noir in Germany, to name but one.

Conventional solid corks will be, if not obsolete, at least passé. Today’s new generation of wine drinkers, from every anecdotal account I’ve heard, really doesn’t care about corks the way more traditionalist Baby Boomers do. Screwcaps? Fine. Agglomerate corks certified free of taint? Sure. Growlers? Bring ’em on! Wine packaging, including closures, will be much more creative and varied than today.

Natural wines, so-called, won’t exist. Why not? Because they will have been mainstreamed, that’s why. It will be normal for producers to create wines more or less along the lines that are deemed “natural” today. What will be different will be that these same wines will be universally well-made rather than today’s more hit-and-miss “naturalism.” It’s already happening, I believe.

Conversely, wines made using reverse osmosis and spinning cones to reduce alcohol will be ever more common and—here’s the kicker—producers will be forthright about it. Strange as it sounds to us today, it will be the new “natural.”

Here again, climate change may be the prime mover. If producers in now-warm and possibly-getting-hotter zones can demonstrate that judiciously removing alcohol with technology does not materially affect the remaining “naturalness” of the wine, then a new generation of tech-savvy and tech-accepting wine drinkers will say, “No problem.” The only requirement will be honesty.

So those are some predictions. Surely you have others. Will Chardonnay continue to rule among dry white wines? Will blends be the fine-wine future, variations on the already popular likes of Meiomi, Apothic Red and the like?

Will Portugal become the new Italy, what with all its many indigenous and often unique grape varieties? Not least, will the very definition of “privilege”—always a selling point in fine wine—change? Will tomorrow’s notion of privilege differ from today’s? Or is a sense of exclusivity, real or imagined, eternal?

Over to you.

Vikings ‘may have produced their own wine’

Guardian, 29 APRIL 2017

The Danes are renowned brewers, But new research suggests that their Viking ancestors were skilled winemakers as well.

It had always been assumed that the Scandinavian climate was too harsh for viticulture. But there is now evidence that some grapes were grown locally, the Local reported.

According to the Danish science news site Videnskab.dk. Scientists are analysing two centuries old grape pips discovered at a Viking settlement at Tissø, 61 miles west of Copenhagen. They were found by Peter Steen Henriksen of Denmark’s National Museum. “This is the first discovery and sign of wine production in Denmark, with all that that entails in terms of status and power,” he said. “We do not know how the grapes were used – it may have been just to have a pretty bunch of grapes decorating a table, for example – but it is reasonable to believe that they made wine.”

A scientific analysis of the grape pips suggested that they were grown in Zealand.

Even though there is a possibility that the grapes were grown locally just to eat, the extensive travels of Viking explorers would have brought them into contact with wine growing areas.

In addition, Roman wine cups have been found elsewhere in Scandinavia.

Before we only had suspicions, but now we can see that they actually had grapes and therefore the resources to produce wine themselves. Suddenly it all becomes very real,” added professor Karin Margarita Frei of the National Museum.

 A chat with the professor

Decanter, March 6, 2017

France, like Australia, undertakes copious, high-quality oenological and viticultural research in order to back up its position as the world’s leading supplier of quality wines (based on an export price more than double the global average), with university centres in Bordeaux, Dijon, Reims and my adopted home town of Montpellier. When I lived in Adelaide between 2009 and 2010 (home of the Australian Wine Research Institute), I was hugely impressed by the level of outreach and the readiness to share research findings publically. As a mere journalist, I was able to learn a lot and share some of that knowledge with Decanter readers.

In France, by contrast, wine-research institutions seem to be tucked away in their silos with no public interface, and I’ve found it difficult to reach researchers, find out what they’re working on, and help their findings inform a broader audience. The research itself may be cutting-edge, but the communicative function is decades behind the times — perhaps because public funding still plays a disproportionately large role in this, as in so many other French institutions. If wine producers themselves had a direct stake in the research, as they do in Australia, a more communicative culture might take root.

All of this, as it happened, was far from my mind as I stood in the sunlit Place de la Liberté in St Guilhem le Désert after the funeral of Aîmé Guibert last May. That was when I met Alain Razungles, Professor of Oenology at Montpellier SupAgro’s Institute of Higher Studies in the Vine and Wine. We chatted a while, and made an autumn plan for a longer discussion about his work (he’s spent 37 years at Montpellier) as well as the broader Languedoc-Roussillon scene. Razungles is unusual among his colleagues in that he also runs the 35-ha Domaine des Chênes in the spectacular setting of Vingrau in Roussillon, a family property since 1919, and he has also taken part over many years in tasting panels for the Revue du Vin de France and the Guide Hachette. He’s regularly, in other words, climbed out of the silo.

His academic career began as a detour. “My parents were wine growers for many generations – I’ve found a reference to a gold medal won by my great-grandfather in 1912. But my father worked with my uncle and the domain couldn’t support three people, so I left and made my way elsewhere, knowing that it would eventually come my way. My plan was to take over the consulting laboratory in Estagel in the heart of the Agly valley, but I needed finance to buy the business. Viticulture was in such a bad way at the end of the 1970s that the banks wouldn’t lend me the money. I applied for the post of Assistant Professor at Montpellier and got the job, so my career as a teacher and researcher began in 1980.”

As a teacher, he’s had to keep up with the vast amount of technical change the last four decades have brought; but as a researcher, his main areas of interest were chemical and sensorial analysis, and in particular work on ‘aromatic precursors’ and aromatic exhausteurs (meaning substances which augment aromatic profiles). “When you taste the grapes of Pinot Noir, Grenache or Merlot, you can’t really discern much of a difference between them. But when you taste a Pinot Noir from Burgundy, a Syrah from Hermitage or a Merlot from St Emilion, you see that they are clearly different. What’s happened between the grape and the wine? If there is such a sensorial difference between them, it’s because there were different molecules in each wine. They were present but not expressive in the grapes; they were in the form of precursors. It’s that logic of precursors which we’ve done so much work on.”

In his pure research work, he’s helped tease out and identify a number of these substances; while the practical applications of this research have included work on the impact of sunshine and shade on the aromatic precursors of different grape varieties, as well as work on the terroir-related impact of vine nutrition, and different vinification techniques, on these often fragile molecules. And he gave me a practical tip, too: don’t start swirling a wine in a newly poured glass. “You shouldn’t move the glass when you are served wine. You should sniff it as it is, and you’ll then notice all the most volatile molecules – like, for example, the ‘truffle’ aroma of dimethyl sulphide in certain older wines. Once you’ve noted them, then you can move the glass.”

I asked him about a number of contemporary wine topics. On the question of wild yeasts, for example, he points out that “there’s no difference between a wild organism and a selected organism. A selected yeast is just a wild yeast that has been encountered by a researcher who has multiplied it a bit.” As a wine producer himself, he favours a population of different selected yeasts, since “they will give you the assurance of a normal fermentation. Wild yeasts don’t give you that assurance. And in any case voracious, quickly developing yeasts always end up by dominating less voracious yeasts. Even with wild yeasts, one yeast strain will generally be dominant by the end of fermentation.”

The renewed interest in whole-bunch fermentations for red wines amuses him, “since we have spent so much money and effort in sorting equipment and personnel to remove every tiny speck of non-grape matter from a harvest – and then, with whole bunch, back it all comes. When you keep stems in a ferment, you will extract above all potassium (which will precipitate the tartaric acid from the wine, which may not be a good idea in times of global warming) and tannin. And the tannins of the stems are less interesting than the tannins of the grape skins. So I say that if you have enough tannins already from the grape skins, then you don’t need to extract them from the stems. If you have enough acidity and need tannin for ageing, by contrast, then stems can be useful if they are lignified, which is why some burgundy producers (like DRC) use them.”

He’s a fan of wood (though not necessarily new wood) for any wine which is intended to be aged, both white and red. “For white wines, a barrique is a porous system which brings very interesting oxido-reduction effects during fermentation and ageing, which enables you to keep the fine lees and do bâtonnage, which brings a wealth and structure to the wine which will enable it to be stored. And which in turn will release storage aromas which are much more interesting and complex than the aromas of youth. For red wines, barrique storage brings oxygen, which is very beneficial if you want to make red wines which are soft-contoured in terms of tannin but have plenty of substance nonetheless.” And amphorae? “Well, they’re beautiful. I don’t know too much about their porosity, though I’d be interested to find out more. But I do know that the students I’ve had who’ve worked with them all say that cleaning them is a nightmare job. There’s no tap at the bottom, and if you get into them you are always terrified of them falling over and breaking, so everyone has problems maintaining them. Whereas cleaning a barrel is easy – it’s virtually unbreakable.”

Climate change is an issue he has faced personally at his domain as well as professionally at the University. “When I was a boy, we harvested on September 25th. Now harvesting in my village begins on August 25th — and that’s in just one generation.” He’s not keen on acidification. Early picking “could be an appropriate response — but we know that all of the aromatic precursors are more present as maturation advances. The longer you wait, the more present they are and the more aromatic richness advances. If you pick too early, you will generally deprive yourself of that aromatic richness.” His solutions include replanting with better chosen (later ripening) varieties or moving vineyards up in altitude, but he is also hopeful that the research community will be able to help by selecting vines “which know how to react to excessive heat or drought by limiting shoot production or by closing their stomata in periods of great heat or drought.”

When I asked him about the enigmatic ‘minerality’ question, he replied that it was something he had often asked himself — without reaching a definite conclusion. “Wine pH, salts and some volatile molecules like vitispirane or trimethyl dihydronaphthalene may play a role — but causal relations at the molecular level are very difficult to discern. Don’t forget that we are talking about the combination of hundreds of molecules. The intimate link between the molecular profile of a wine and the aromas and flavours which result from that profile … is work for my colleagues in the future.”

What, finally, about Languedoc-Roussillon itself, and its character and potential? Will we see Languedoc wines rival those of Hermitage and Côte Rôtie in a decade or two? “They already exist! When I first tasted Prieuré de St Jean de Bébian 35 years ago I said to myself ‘Wow! This could be a great Châteauneuf du Pape.’ Marlène Soria, Sylvain Fadat, Olivier Jullien and many others do fantastic work here. The problem is that it takes time to achieve public recognition.”

I recently took my wine to the Salon des Vignerons Indépendants at Paris and I had colleagues from a Beaujolais cru and from Gigondas and Vacqueyras to each side of me. There were twice as many people stopping at their stands as at mine. That’s historical recognition. The growers tasted my wines and admitted they were as good as theirs, but cheaper. Back in `74 or `75, I was at the co-operative at Tautavel in Roussillon when Emile Peynaud visited, together with a dozen or so Bordeaux professionals. He wrote a letter to the co-op director afterwards, commenting on all the vintages he had tasted. And at the end he wrote: ‘In the opinion of all of us, these were like very good St Emilions’. Signed Emile Peynaud. There were big percentages of Carignan there at the time; macerations of eight days; the winemaking was protective but plain — but the wines were very, very good. It was the terroir that spoke. We have enormous advantages and can make great wine here; it’s just that you need a generation or two to get that message across.”

Looking for Greatness in Pinot Noir Around the World

Vinography, 3 March 2017

When we say a wine is great, what do we mean? How is greatness defined in a wine. That’s far too hard a question to answer, even when attempted by luminaries of the wine world. So instead of defining greatness in wine, four panelists at the recent New Zealand Pinot Noir festival did their best to explore the idea in the context of Pinot Noir.

Winemaker Marcel Geisen, writer Mike Bennie, Master of Wine Kenichi Ohashi, and critic Jancis Robinson took to the stage in Wellington to conduct a blind tasting of Pinot Noirs from anywhere except New Zealand and to spend a little time ruminating on the “g” word. Frankly, it was hard enough to simply get one’s head around the wines, let alone try to define something so purely philosophical as greatness. Blind tasting is damn humbling. Even when you know the grape you’re tasting. I did my best to guess as I was tasting, as well as to capture some of the remarks from the folks up on stage. Here then are the wines we tasted, along with excerpted (and perhaps badly paraphrased*) comments from some wine luminaries.

I have followed the speaker’s quotes with the wines they selected for the tasting.

MARCEL GEISEN

“Greatness is there when a wine gives you pleasure. What are the building blocks? How the wine is formed, how it ages, where does the flavor focus my palate. Great wines engage you on many levels. Great wines are benchmarks, distinct in old world history and tradition. In some times cultivated on the same parcel of land for many years. As much as we have tried to use science, it has resulted in shortcuts and too many commercial opportunities. Great wines require good site selection, hands on viticulture, and low intervention winemaking. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Len Evans once said that for every average bottle you drink you can take a great bottle and smash it — as you just wasted an opportunity. There’s a lot of wisdom in those words. True quality wine has an ability to transform a situation. Moments shared with partners, colleagues, friends families. Seldom do you have wine like that on your own. Great quality wine has a great quality to create memories that we carry with us. Real wines have real people behind them driven by a quest. Think of the holy grail. These people are respecting the land, they have dirt under their fingernails. They are pushing the boundaries, dealing with nature as a business partner. They are pursuing a dream not necessarily for money but for other gains. True quality does not happen by accident. It needs to be planned and executed with unwavering spirit.

Greatness will come with time if the principles of quality are adhered to and the site can speak. True craftsmanship means producing detail at every level. Great wine is ultimately the symbiotic relationship between land and winegrower with harmony, humility, patience.”

2005 Au Bon Climat “Sanford and Benedict” Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California

Medium garnet in the glass with a hint of cloudy haze, this wine smells of red apple skin and raspberry and redcurrant. In the mouth, velvety tannins wrap around and penetrate a core of redcurrant and raspberry with herbs and a hint of citrus peel. Very good acidity, moderately long finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $75.

My best guess was 2008 or 2009 from the New World somewhere.

2014 Domaine de la Cote “Bloom’s Field” Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California

Brilliant light garnet in color, this wine smells of redcurrant and raspberry leaf. In the mouth, crystalline flavors of redcurrant and raspberry have a stony brightness to them with a very floral note on the finish. Fantastic acidity. Faintest of tannins. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. My best guess was 2013-2015 Burgundy from up in the hills, such as Saint Romain, or some village level wine.

MIKE BENNIE

“The brief I’ve been given for this speech is broad: tease out notions of quality and greatness. This grand metaphysical concept investigated through a clutch of wines is no easy task. when I sat down to think about quality, it opened up raging highways of thought. To examine quality, I think we have to look for classic interpretations of quality. Balance. Length. Depth. Complexity. Finish. Typicity. This is part of the classic interpretive base. The dummies guide. It’s the paradigm of judgement of wine. Judging involves different factors — and it is ultimately a sterile interpretation of wine. In this role, influencers hold might and right in discussing quality and assigning value to quality. Even in self reflection, I find myself and my peers, instead of assigning context to wine, we describe scores and values in terms of tangible numbers.

If we’re not judging wine, we express things through faults. What is wrong comes before what is right. Wine criticism is the raising of flags at faults. This reveals some competitive spirit that often trumps real understanding. Without the language of faults we might not have the same sense of quality, but if we lift it, behind we might find ourselves on a different track, a different path.

We forgive the grand marques their faults for being totems.

It comes to pass that some of my learning comes from staring into glasses but not souls of winemakers. We look at sites, at a single glass, not the culture or the life that put that wine in the glass.

Some canons need reassessing. There are some predetermined quality marketers. Nostalgia. Reputation. Expectation. Balance.

But I want my wine unbalanced, on the knife edge of thrill.

What are the tenets of quality I want to uphold? I thought about emotional impact: it’s at its most powerful when it creates a memory. Drinkability: we all know what great wine is, we want to drink the hell out of it. Winemaker intent is more important than subjective assessment. What is the place that culture rests in? What is the broader palette (palate?) in which the winemaker works?

Great wine hangs between usefulness and beauty. When it comes to beauty, our minds have been trained to glamour. But beauty is that, in the presence of which, we feel more alive. Quality isn’t aping burgundy or kowtowing to a standard. It comes in its own unique way. Expressions are just that.”

2013 Mythopia “Illusion” Pinot Noir, Arbaz, Switzerland

Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of meaty bacon fat and redcurrant and cherry. In the mouth redcurrant and raspberry mix with a savory dashi note and an herbal splash. Funky, animal, and likely vinified without added sulfur. But, despite its rough edges, interesting. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $76.

My best guess was German Pinot or possibly Australian, from the 2013 vintage.

2014 Mount Pleasant “Mother Vine” Pinot Noir, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia

Medium bright garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet stone. Wonderfully restrained aromas of raspberry and redcurrant and wet chalkboard give way to flavors of red currant and pulverized stone and wet pavement. Fine grained tannins and excellent acidity. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Not for sale in the USA. My best guess: 2015 Burgundy from the Cote de Beaune.

KENICHI OHASHI

Hello, my name is Kenichi Ohashi. I gradUated from MW in 2015. I have yet to gain as much experience as the other experts here today. Regardless, this is a great opportunity to tell you my concept of quality.

Pinot Noir is one of my favorite varieties. I hope you enjoy my talk. Until relatively recently, working in Japan has involved working and interacting with other Japanese people. This has resulted in a subjective national sense of quality. The Pinot quality I’m going to explain might strike you as different. I’m not a viticulturalist or winemaker. You may feel my perspective is a trader’s perspective. I’m a merchant after all. English is also not my native language. I have had my presentation professionally translated so you may better understand me.

I want to show you what Pinot Noir looks like through a Japanese mindset. Here is a photo [Shows a photo of Ginkakuji – the golden pavilion in Kyoto – perfectly reflected in a still pond] What do you see? A temple, a shrine, a golden pavilion? This temple was established in 1397. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The stunning sight of this temple is majestic beyond belief. But if you lower your gaze just a little you will see the reflection of this temple in the surface of the pond before it. For this image, it captures the key element of Pinot. The still transparent pond water reflects the image above.

If I was to summarize what I look for in high quality Pinot I would say great Pinot Noir is transparent with the best qualities of premium water. You may be surprised with my comparison to water. What I mean is that it is pure, lustrous, and smooth, with a completely pure aroma and taste. Let’s talk about transparency. This is the cornerstone. In this context. Transparent is more complex than the traditional English meaning of the word. For me it means wine has three things. An unadulterated pure aroma and palate. A finish suited to the wine with a focus on harmonious aroma and palate. And silence and understatement.

Understatement may be tricky I’ll come back to that.

Pure aroma and palate means a wine that doesn’t have an out-of-balance sensation. There are no pressing characteristics. Oak derived tannins or sulfides can make scars in the aroma. The finish must be in balance. The finish of a wine from overripe grapes or ones that have been over extracted, or tannins that dry the mouth, doesn’t achieve a finish with pure aroma. Optimizing fruit spectrum on aroma and extraction in the palate is important.

So what do I mean by silence. In a sense it is a form of modesty, subtlety, understatement. It is harmony, simplicity, a sense of peace. This silence is all important. It is a white canvas on which the terroir of the grape can be reflected. Too much enhancement prevents the terroir from leaving its mark on the canvas of the wine.

My definition of transparent is a pure aroma and palate, a finish suited to the focus of the aroma and palate, silence and understatement.

Now let’s talk about best qualities of premium water. They embody silence and understatement. They are suitable and clean, the flavors and aroma are almost imperceptible. When I link Pinot to water, I don’t suggest a texture sensation like water. The softest waters in the world contain few minerals. But where the water is of utmost purity, low levels of mineral enhance the smoothness and sense of concentration. Minerality in wine is still being debated. But in a positive sense there can be chalkiness. In my mind I see minerality as having both aromatic and textural quality. A subtle flinty earthiness and a vitality on the palate. Because Pinot has thin skins, and limited phenolic content. It tends to express minerality more than other varieties. Minerality can heighten the transparent qualities. Winemakers need to search for subtlety in winemaking if minerality is to shine. In Pinot Noir minerality can elevate the wine from good to exceptional. I will try to explain why from a Japanese point a view, but I have been told by non-Japanese friends that this is a subjective concept.

Imagine you are sitting somewhere in complete silence listening. But then imagine the same thing with the faint sound of the ticking of a clock. The Japanese concept of silence is the second one, not the first. The tick tock draws attention to the silence more keenly. I don’t want to pretend this is common to all Japanese people but the minerality is the thing that emphasizes the transparency and silence of the palate as a whole.

Back to the golden temple. [Shows a photo of the same temple with the reflections in the water hazy as the surface is disturbed by a breeze] Where do we find the minerality in these photos? The ripples on the water in a faint breeze. The ripples draw attention to the fact that the image on the surface isn’t the real thing, only a reflection. But if a breeze is too strong, and the ripples too large, the scene is not reflected properly.

This is what I look for in a quality Pinot Noir. The essential elements of Pinot Noir are transparent with the best qualities of premium water. Pure from beginning to end. A palate with good concentration of flavor, mineral that highlights their silence and transparency, and finish suited to the focus of the palate.”

2014 Timo Mayer “Doktor” Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia

Light garnet, this wine smells of herbs, forest floor, and a hint of smoky meat. In the mouth, crystalline notes of redcurrant mix with forest floor and a hint of umami. Nice stony finish, fine grained tannins. 100% whole cluster. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $90. My guess: Volnay 2012.

2014 Meyer-Näkel “G” Spatburgunder Qba Trocken, Ahr, Germany

Light garnet in color, this wine smells really, incredibly floral with notes of red fruit underneath. In the mouth, that floral quality continues with amazing raspberry and floral perfume welded to crushed stone minerality. Muscular fine-grained tannins, excellent acidity. A surprising, very unique wine. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30.

My guess was Burgundy for sure. Nuits-St-George. 2015?

JANCIS ROBINSON

“My talk will be more mainstream. I think we’re all agreed here on the panel, we’re apprehensive at following yesterday’s opening sessions. Now I’m assuming I’ve been invited here for historical and geographical notions. Historical because I’ve been writing for such a long time, 41 years. And geographical because in my role I have to look at the whole world of wine. Inevitably I have a European bent because I’m in London. If this were taking place in the last century, I think we would have mentioned the “B word” far more times than has been mentioned so far. It’s quite surprising we haven’t looked at Burgundies yet. Many of us have seminal wines and mine was when I was a student. It was a bottle of Chambolle Musigny Les Amourouses 1969.

There has been a sea change as you know in the world of Pinot Noir. Many of you have played a part in this. For the last 15 years, possibly more, many were brought up to think that Pinot outside of Burgundy wasn’t any good. That is palpably not true. There are now good Pinots from Chile, Languedoc, Spain and Portugal — surprising because they are thought to be too hot. Thanks to Ken, I have tasted one from the far north of Japan in Hokkaido. Argentina, Brazil, Czech Republic, England, Austria, South Africa, Alsace. There’s very good Pinot Noir in Germany, Austria, California and Oregon. There are some good Pinots from Canada. And of course, not forgetting, New Zealand.

In fact I thought you might be interested to look at our DB of tasting notes on JR.Com and see how many Pinot Noirs in there we’ve scored more than 18 out of 20 that aren’t from Burgundy. 18 is a very high score, but of course we don’t want to reduce these discussions to something as a crass as numbers. 0.1% of our tasting notes are on Pinot Noirs over 18, and that comes down to 140 wines. Mostly from four places. In 4th place is Oregon with 18 of them. In 3rd place with 37 was Australia. 38 from California. And in first place was NZ with 46 wines over 18 points. With an awful lot from Ata Rangi I must say.

Initially we were all asked to supply two wines that we thought were great. I found this terrifying. Great Pinot Noir signifies something really absolutely amazing and unforgettable. I’m so glad we managed to get things arranged to talk about quality rather than great. If I had been asked to bring truly great Pinot Noir perhaps I would have nominated Roumier, Rousseau, or DRC. But something told me you hadn’t the budget.

Of course we weren’t given a budget, but I thought I should choose something a bit more affordable. You should know we had to choose our wines almost a year ago. That is difficult for Pinot Noir. I wanted to choose a wine robust enough to travel.”

2013 Mark Haisma “Premier Cru Les Chaffots” Morey-Saint-Denis, Burgundy, France

Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of flowers and redcurrant. In the mouth, gorgeous wet chalkboard brightness and stoniness delivers flavors of dried flowers and wet earth and herbs. Fantastic acidity and nice fine-grained tannins. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $120. My guess: definitely Burgundy. Pommard 2013?

2015 Tolpuddle Pinot Noir, Coal River Valley, Tasmania, Australia

Light garnet in color, this wine smells of green woody herbs and floral notes backed by forest berries. In the mouth, bright raspberry and cherry flavors have a wonderful citric brightness to them and a nice underlying mineral backbone. Herbs linger in the finish. Faint tannins. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. I thought I really had a chance at getting this one, as I had pegged it as California, Sonoma Coast and the 2015 vintage. I thought it might even be Kutch Wines’ 2015 Sonoma Coast.

MY THOUGHTS

Goodness greatness. Are we talking great to you, great to me, or great according to the standards of the canon. While I don’t believe winemaking is art (I prefer to describe it as a craft), it is nonetheless judged, evaluated, and written about more like an artform. Like arts of different kinds, there is an accepted, historically defined discourse that defines greatness. Neither you nor I get to define whether Picasso is a great artist. It has been firmly established that he is, in fact, great by an historical, critical consensus among the established and credentialized critics of western culture. The world of wine has, likewise anointed wines and producers as truly great, whether through established hierarchies, such as the 1855 classification of Bordeaux, through the prices set in the market, such as with Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, or through a mass of critical acclaim, such as the endless, and well-justified praise heaped upon Chave Hermitage Blanc, for instance, which might be argued to be one of the great white wines of the world. Those are the wines that the historically and culturally rooted discourse of wine have determined to be great.

That’s my official answer to what great wine is.

But there’s another answer that is purely subjective. What makes a wine great? It depends. Sometimes what makes a wine great is the fact that it’s there, it’s wet, it tastes great, and you get to drink it with someone you love. Sometimes it’s that the wine makes you think, or feel, or experience something you’ve never experienced before. Great wine can sometimes be as simple as a wine that makes you smack your lips and say, “that’s great!”

We all need more of that, don’t we?

 

 

A little microbiology goes a long way
Wine Australia, 10 FEB 2017

Can wineries improve the performance of their wastewater treatment plants if they know more about the microbiology that makes it all happen?
The short answer is yes, which means it will be well worth their while taking note of the longer answers and recommendations that will be released over the next few months.
Researchers are completing the final report of a three-year Wine Australia research project that provided a much clearer picture of the diverse microbial populations that exist in treatment plants, and threw up several specific issues to be addressed – or in some cases further studied. A series of sector updates and scientific papers is planned.
Thirty wineries were surveyed over three successive vintages – and four wineries studied in depth – by a team from the University of Adelaide working in partnership with CSIRO Land and Water and JJC Engineering.
‘It’s an area that’s been poorly understood until now but it’s important financially as well as environmentally’, said project co-leader Associate Professor Paul Grbin. ‘There is significant capital expenditure in setting up treatment systems, plus running costs, especially for aerobic systems, which are the most common; you are using pumps and blowers and electricity to drive them.
‘If they work more efficiently you are going to save money, and if you are producing better quality water then that water can be reused quite comfortably for irrigation. There are lots of good reasons to make sure your system is effective.’
A key finding is that, as in industrial and domestic settings, a diversity of bacteria is important in a winery wastewater treatment plant to cope with (i.e. consume) the broad range of substrates that find their way into a plant. When the researchers noted a lack of diversity in one of the four winery systems they studied in depth, they were able to suggest specific actions to address this.
One concern is an apparent link between the heavy use of activated carbon and poor treatment plant performance. Experiments showed that if carbon finds its way into the waste stream after being used to treat wine or juice it can manipulate the chemistry of the water to make it more difficult for the bacteria to function. ‘This is an important finding that we will actively promote to the sector’, A/Prof Grbin said.
Also surprising was the discovery in many systems of the so-called G-bacteria that stays in suspension rather than settling out of the water like a solid should, producing lower quality water from the treatment process. A PhD project has been established to pursue this further.
More broadly, the researchers noted a higher than expected level of yeasts and bacteria finding their way into the treatment system, suggesting upstream solid separation is not always as good as it should be.
‘Wineries need to adopt cleaner production techniques to reduce that load’, A/Prof Grbin said. ‘If you put yeast and bacteria into the system they have to be degraded by the waste water bacteria that are present. You are adding more work for the plant to do, which makes it more expensive.’


New app to measure water stress of grapevines

Wine Australia, 24 JAN 2017

A new smartphone app that helps grapegrowers measure the water status of their vines is being trialled across Australia. The portable viticultural tool has the potential to help grapegrowers make improved water management decisions for their vineyards.
Grapegrowers use a thermal camera attached to their smartphone to take images of the canopy of the grapevine. The image is analysed by the app, which calculates the vine water status.
The technology is being tested by 15 vineyards in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania for the rest of the growing season.
The Wine Australia-funded project is being led by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), a division of Primary Industries and Regions SA, in close collaboration with The University of New South Wales (UNSW).
Dr Kathy Ophel-Keller, Acting Executive Director of SARDI said, ‘Water and associated pumping costs can be a significant component of the production costs for grapegrowers.
‘Uncontrolled water stress has the potential to reduce the yield and quality of grapes and the resulting wine, which in turn reduces the return to growers.
‘The management of vine water status is a key tool for grapegrowers to regulate yield and optimise fruit quality and style.
‘This new app offers grapegrowers instant feedback on the water status of their vines, and provides them with the flexibility to assess multiple blocks or sections of blocks, and to make irrigation decisions in real time.’
Dr Liz Waters, General Manager of Research, Development and Extension at Wine Australia said, ‘Irrigating effectively and efficiently helps to optimise vineyard production to produce high-quality winegrapes for fine Australian wines.
‘Through many years of extensive research, methods have been developed to assess grapevine water status. This new app provides a portable solution to measure water status quickly and easily in the vineyard.
‘The app allows growers to make informed irrigation decisions that support the production of high-quality fruit grown to specification.’
Background
The 18 month project aimed to evaluate a range of smartphone-based sensing systems to develop a cheap, easy-to-use vine water status monitoring app, to assist growers to manage irrigation.
Initial trial results found the thermal camera was the easiest to use and provided accurate information.
The app was developed by UNSW and the tool is now being tested by a variety of wineries, with their feedback helping to inform the further development of the innovative technology. The aim is to release the final version of the app later in 2017.

Working Women in Japan Are Drinking More Wine Than Ever
by Aya Takada and Hiromi Horie, Bloombergs, February 7, 2017

Chilean vintners have emerged as the biggest beneficiary of Japan’s booming wine market. Their low-priced, fruit-driven product has found a receptive niche among women in their 40s and 50s, who have helped boost wine consumption to a new record every year since 2012.
“Women drink more as their participation in the labor market is increasing, and their disposable incomes are expanding,” said Naoko Kuga, an analyst who tracks lifestyle changes at NLI Research Institute in Tokyo. “This trend works positively for wine consumption.” And for Chile. The Latin American nation overtook France as Japan’s top wine supplier in 2015, commanding a dominant presence in supermarkets and convenience stores – fertile ground for marketers targeting women. Vina Concha & Toro SA, the Santiago-based producer of Casillero del Diablo cabernet sauvignons and merlots, reported a 24 percent jump in third-quarter sales volumes to Japan in November.
Japan imported 74.6 million liters of wine from Chile in the 11 months through November, compared with 57.7 million liters from France, data from the Agriculture Ministry show.
Aeon Co., the nation’s largest supermarket-chain operator, hired wine judge Yumi Kunimi in 2014 to help promote sales through in-store tastings in Osaka, Japan’s industrial heartland. “Some customers said they’d never tried wine before, and became big fans from the tastings in our shops,” Kunimi said. Featured lines are typically priced at less than 2,000 yen ($18) a bottle and picked by an annual gathering of female sommeliers, wine buyers and consultants as being the most appealing to women, and the best to enjoy with Japanese food, Kunimi said.
Sake, made from fermented rice, is the dominant wine consumed in Japan, though sales volumes haven’t increased since 2011, according to Euromonitor International. In contrast, consumption of still wines made from grapes has increased an average of 4.5 percent a year in Japan over the past six years, Euromonitor data show. Consumers in their 20s and 30s are starting to drink wine at home after trying it in tapas bars, which have become popular in Japan, the market researcher noted in August.
On a per-capita basis, consumption of wine from grapes has swelled 50 percent since 2006 to an average of 2.4 liters (81 ounces) a year, Euromonitor estimates. Still, Japanese consumption is a fraction of the 40.2 liters of wine the average person in Portugal swills in a year and much less than the 8.6 liters Americans knock back.
‘Big Potential’
“Wine consumption in Japan is still four bottles a year per person,” said Kiyoshi Yokoyama, president of Mercian, the wine-making subsidiary of Kirin Holdings Co., and the chairman of Japan Wineries Association. “We have a big potential for growth.” Mercian plans to boost sales by 3 percent to 7.22 million cases this year, helped by a 10 percent expansion in imported wine and 7 percent growth in sales of wine made from locally grown grapes, said Hirofumi Mori, a director in the company’s marketing department. Sales of wine made by Mercian from imported grapes are predicted to decline 3 percent.
“Our main target is women,” Mori said in an interview in Tokyo. “We want to increase products that will attract their attention.” Midori Saito, a 32-year-old music teacher in Tokyo, said she drinks wine almost every day after work, and chardonnay is her favorite. “We emptied four bottles in five hours,” Saito said after having drinks with three of her friends in a Spanish-style bar in Tokyo. “We all love to chat over good food and wine.” Saito is fairly typical of the clientele at the bar Kiyofumi Iwasaka runs in downtown Tokyo. “A majority of our customers are women working in nearby offices,” Iwasaka said. “They come here after work with their colleagues, and enjoy drinking with a casual bite to eat.”
In volume terms, wine sales will probably grow only marginally through 2020, researcher Euromonitor International predicted in August. Kuga at the NLI Research Institute said Japan’s stagnating economy has meant fewer businessmen are going out drinking with work associates, hurting demand. Industry stalwart Yumi Tanabe is trying to bolster growth. Tanabe, whose father Kaneyasu Marutani founded Japan’s first public winery on the northern island of Hokkaido 54 years ago, is working to double per-capita consumption in the decade through 2020. Tanabe began the Japan Women’s Wine Awards three years ago to help match wine with Japanese food, and help other women find jobs in the industry. This year’s event attracted 4,212 entries from 37 countries including Australia, Chile and the U.S. The results, decided by more than 400 female judges, will be announced on Feb. 14.
Rose for Yakitori
“We’re the only organizer of a global wine competition that selects the best bottle for sushi,” she said, noting that a sparkling wine from Spain won that title last year. Judges said the best pairing with yakitori, or Japanese-style grilled chicken with vegetables, was a locally made rose from Suntory Holdings Ltd., Japan’s second-largest winemaker.
Chilean wines featured prominently too, with more than a dozen garnering top “double gold” honors, including bottles from Concha & Toro and Spanish producer Miguel Torres SA. Chile is expected to continue to expand sales volumes through 2020, according to London-based Euromonitor. Tariffs on Chilean wine will be gradually reduced to zero by 2019 from 4.6 percent in 2015, giving it a major price advantage over other countries, the company said. The average value of Chilean wine imported by Japan in 2015 was $2.97 a liter, compared with $9.74 for wine from the U.S. and $7.95 for French wine, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in June.
“Japanese favored French wine for a long time, but the trend is changing,” Tanabe said. “Chilean wine is seen by Japanese as affordable and tasty to drink.”

Cowra oyster grower cultivates an unexpected ‘sensory thunderbolt’ French wine match
7 Feb 2017, ABC Rural By Peta Doherty

It seems nothing will stand in the way of a producer looking for the best wine to complement his food. For oyster grower Steve Feletti that has meant introducing a new grape variety to Australian soil. He described bottling the first of his piquepoul blanc as a “bit of a very personal milestone” after an eight-year quest to first procure the vines from France and finally convince a winery to emulate the glass he first tried at a fish market.
“It’s been a fantastic journey,” the Moonlight Flats Oysters owner said. “When I tried piquepoul blanc at the markets I was struck by the sensory thunderbolt of how sweetly the two flavours went together.” Piquepoul blanc is traditionally grown in the Rhone Valley and Languedoc, and is served with oysters at fish markets in the south of France. Mr Feletti said it got him thinking that he could turn his Cowra farm into a piquepoul vineyard and produce the perfect wine for his south coast oysters.

“I went to Languedoc in southern France and personally cadged some cuttings from an old gentleman with the story that we had some farmland and we had oyster leases and piquepoul didn’t exist in Australia,” he said. After the descendants of those cuttings were released from quarantine in 2013, they were planted in Mr Feletti’s Borrowed Cuttings vineyard in the NSW central west by the then-state minister for primary industry, Katrina Hodgkinson.
Along with Coriole Vineyards in South Australia, which imported vines from France at around the same time, his Languedoc vines were the first piquepoul planted in Australia, according to the NSW Department of Primary Industry.
Despite the warmer climate, the piquepoul vines are thriving in Cowra and Mr Feletti expected to double last year’s first commercial bottling when the second harvest kicks-off in coming weeks.
‘Cheap and cheerful’ style guide
Grape growing has been only half the challenge for Mr Feletti and the Cowra winery he has teamed up with to produce his oyster vintage, Windowrie Estate. Established winemaker Anthony D’Onise admits he was initially hesitant to take on an unknown grape and style, especially after Mr Feletti supplied a “cheap and cheerful” bottle from the French market as a style guide. “Initially I thought ‘what the hell are we going to do here’,” Mr D’Onise said.
Mr Feletti supplied Windowrie with two bottles — an inexpensive citrus and a more costly bottle that Windowrie’s winemaker described as “a very rich 1980s Australian Chardonnay”. Mr D’Onise said the examples had some simple and obvious wine making flaws. “But we looked past that and tried to nail a style that married the two with a nice texture in the wine, as well as keeping it citrus, fresh and vibrant,” he said. “I think it’s a valid style and a valid variety for us to grow here in Cowra.
“But what is most impressive with the wine, and the style we’ve been able to achieve from it, is that it does match with oysters incredibly well.” In the final stages of the process, the team tried 48 different treatments while consuming several dozen oysters to determine the best match.
“I think working out the best thing to do for the wine while eating the oysters really did help us create a fantastic wine,” the winemaker said.

Will Chinese law change hurt vineyard purchases?

Decanter, February 9, 2017

January saw the now-usual announcement of a Chinese property purchase in Bordeaux. This time it was Domaine de Bellair in Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux to Golden Field, a food and drinks company based between China and Taiwan. A few months earlier it was Domaine de Corteillac in Bordeaux Superieur to Daohe Wine and Spirits, a Chinese conglomerate with a wine and spirits subsidiary. The company that seems to be racheting up these sales, MSB Christies International Real Estate in Bordeaux, estimates that these two purchases bring the number of chateaux in the region under Chinese ownership to somewhere around 160, which seems to me either about right or slightly low.

From Bordeaux to Burgundy, Languedoc and Rhône

There are of course Chinese investors in the rest of France, although in significantly smaller numbers. The Cognac brand Menuet was purchased in 2012 by Xiangzhong Yang (who three years later also bought Domaine du Breuil, a hotel in the region).

 

In Burgundy, there have been several small investors and joint-ventures but the most high profile has been Louis Ng, the 60-year-old Hong Kong COO of SJM Holdings, who bought Château de Gevrey-Chambertin on the Côte de Nuits for a reported US$10 million, also back in 2012.

In January 2015 the first Chinese purchase in the Languedoc was reported in the form of Chateau la Bastide in the Aude department, which went to HBC International Wine Assets Management, a company based in Beijing and Hong Kong. In 2015, Domaie des Pialons in the Cotes du Rhone village of Séguret was bought in a joint-venture purchase by Jack Zhang, an importer based out of Shanghai, and a French negociant house Clovis Wines. It was the second joint venture after Domaine Bouche in the Rhone in 2012, again with a French partner.

 

Chinese vineyard buyers go global

The Knight Frank Global Vineyard Report from 2014 (the most recent one produced) found that Chinese buyers were also increasingly active in the US, New Zealand and Australia. In 2014 an Adelaide-based wine consultant Stephen Strachan estimated that half of all recent Australian winery sales had been to Chinese residents, mainly in Barossa but also Margaret River, Yarra Valley and McLaren Vale.

 

The Knight Frank report backs this up, noting that Chinese investors make up the largest set of overseas buyers in both Napa (Silenus Vinters, parts of Sloan Estate and Quixote among them) and the Barossa Valley (Yaldara, 1847 and Reis Creek to name a few), and the second largest in Marlborough (Castlebrae Farm, Awatere, Otuwhero among others). Italy has also proved attractive. In September 2014 the Casanova la Ripintura estate in Chianti was sold to a Chinese businessman You Zi Zhu, taking the percentage of overseas members of the Chianti Classico Consortium to 15%, but the first from mainland China. Reportedly this was a few months after another Chinese businessman bought the Poggio Romita estate also in Chianti Classico.

 

A new Chinese law could change everything

But is all of this about to change? New laws that came in at the start of 2017 have significantly tightened up the laws governing money being taken out of China.

The State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) that acts as currency regulator released a statement on 31 December that said it specifically wanted to close loopholes exploited for purposes of money laundering and illegally channelling money into overseas property. In an attempt to clamp down, SAFE has added extra requirements for Chinese citizens looking to convert yuan into foreign currencies.

To legitimately take money out of China an application must be made to SAFE, usually through a bank, to show proof of income taxes paid in China. This is to stop too much money leaving the country at one time, so diminishing foreign reserves and causing a further drop to the value of its own currency (the timing with Trump’s arrival in the White House and his hostile comments about China’s currency manipulation is almost certainly coincidental but will have added to the pressure to comply). The personal limit in China for money transfers is US$50,000 annually and that figure has remained unchanged – but the many work-arounds for getting more out have become significantly more restrictive.

More than $600 billion flowed out of China in 2016

According to a Bloomberg Intelligence report, around US$672 billion flowed out of China in from January to November 2016, much of which went into residential property markets around the world. Goldman Sachs gave this number as US$1.1 trillion from August 2015 to November 2016, during which time the renminbi devalued by just under 10% against the dollar.

Anyone transferring money out of China now must pledge that it won’t be used for overseas purchases of property (this has long been true but previously they weren’t asked to attest in writing). They must give detailed accounts of how the funds are going to be used and the timings, and will be held liable for sticking to the stated plans. Violators will be banned from any foreign exchange for three years.

So what impact will all of this have? Vineyards aside, plenty of property agencies are bracing for impact. The Chinese overtook Canadians to become the biggest foreign buyers of US homes in 2015, spending a total of US$28.5 billion. But many imagine that it is the middle to high income Chinese that will be most affected, not the seriously wealthy. Of the three Chinese vineyard owners or managers that I spoke with in Bordeaux, none have come across any issues so far, and do not expect any change in demand from their fellow buyers in the near future.

‘At this stage we are waiting to see what the impact is,’ Michael Bayne of Christe’s International in Bordeaux said. ‘It is purely speculative to discern what is going to happen, although we expect residential property to be affected more than vineyards. For the coming year, most clients have already taken their money out of the country in anticipation of this, so they are less sensitive to the new rules. If there are issues we expect to see them from 2018’.

Not all Bordeaux agents are so optimistic. One real estate agent who didn’t want to be named said he has two Chinese buyers intending to make offers on properties in Bordeaux and that in both cases they are waiting for confirmation that they have available funds. And there are increasing signs that this difficulty is also true for moving money out of Hong Kong, although this has not been confirmed.

Kevin Foster, Associate Director of Newmark, Cornish & Carey in California also expects numbers of purchases by Chinese buyers to remain stable, mainly because there are so few anyway. ‘Chinese buyers tend to select properties that others pass on,’ Foster told me. ‘They do not buy for the return on investment like wine companies. They buy for prestige and typically acquire trophy properties. They account for less than 2% of the purchases both in terms of dollars and transactions for us’.

He also made the point that buying vineyards is not traditionally seen as a way to move to the US via the EB-5 investor visa programme, where a US$1 million investment is usually required, which again should lessen the impact of the new laws. ‘It is difficult to go the EB-5 route for vineyard or winery purchases because you are not creating enough jobs after acquisition’.

Back in Bordeaux, we shouldn’t worry too much for the estate agents. There have been other vineyard purchases this month. In Saint Estèphe Chateau Lafitte Carcasset, a 30 hectare cru bourgeois has just today announced selling a majority stake from the de Padirac family to Pierre Rousseau (so both sides are French), and I know of at least three other sales pending to American or eastern European buyers.

And further prospective buyers might be interested to read one particular statistic within the Knight Frank 2014 report. In the 12 months leading up to its publication, investments in fine wine brought at 3% ROI on average. A ‘lifestyle vineyard’ as they put it, saw returns of 4.5%.

 

Working Women in Japan Are Drinking More Wine Than Everby Aya Takada  and Hiromi Horie, Bloombergs, February 7, 2017

Chilean vintners have emerged as the biggest beneficiary of Japan’s booming wine market. Their low-priced, fruit-driven product has found a receptive niche among women in their 40s and 50s, who have helped boost wine consumption to a new record every year since 2012.

“Women drink more as their participation in the labor market is increasing, and their disposable incomes are expanding,” said Naoko Kuga, an analyst who tracks lifestyle changes at NLI Research Institute in Tokyo. “This trend works positively for wine consumption.” And for Chile. The Latin American nation overtook France as Japan’s top wine supplier in 2015, commanding a dominant presence in supermarkets and convenience stores – fertile ground for marketers targeting women. Vina Concha & Toro SA, the Santiago-based producer of Casillero del Diablo cabernet sauvignons and merlots, reported a 24 percent jump in third-quarter sales volumes to Japan in November.

Japan imported 74.6 million liters of wine from Chile in the 11 months through November, compared with 57.7 million liters from France, data from the Agriculture Ministry show.

Aeon Co., the nation’s largest supermarket-chain operator, hired wine judge Yumi Kunimi in 2014 to help promote sales through in-store tastings in Osaka, Japan’s industrial heartland. “Some customers said they’d never tried wine before, and became big fans from the tastings in our shops,” Kunimi said. Featured lines are typically priced at less than 2,000 yen ($18) a bottle and picked by an annual gathering of female sommeliers, wine buyers and consultants as being the most appealing to women, and the best to enjoy with Japanese food, Kunimi said.

Sake, made from fermented rice, is the dominant wine consumed in Japan, though sales volumes haven’t increased since 2011, according to Euromonitor International. In contrast, consumption of still wines made from grapes has increased an average of 4.5 percent a year in Japan over the past six years, Euromonitor data show. Consumers in their 20s and 30s are starting to drink wine at home after trying it in tapas bars, which have become popular in Japan, the market researcher noted in August.

On a per-capita basis, consumption of wine from grapes has swelled 50 percent since 2006 to an average of 2.4 liters (81 ounces) a year, Euromonitor estimates. Still, Japanese consumption is a fraction of the 40.2 liters of wine the average person in Portugal swills in a year and much less than the 8.6 liters Americans knock back.

‘Big Potential’

“Wine consumption in Japan is still four bottles a year per person,” said Kiyoshi Yokoyama, president of Mercian, the wine-making subsidiary of Kirin Holdings Co., and the chairman of Japan Wineries Association. “We have a big potential for growth.” Mercian plans to boost sales by 3 percent to 7.22 million cases this year, helped by a 10 percent expansion in imported wine and 7 percent growth in sales of wine made from locally grown grapes, said Hirofumi Mori, a director in the company’s marketing department. Sales of wine made by Mercian from imported grapes are predicted to decline 3 percent.

“Our main target is women,” Mori said in an interview in Tokyo. “We want to increase products that will attract their attention.” Midori Saito, a 32-year-old music teacher in Tokyo, said she drinks wine almost every day after work, and chardonnay is her favorite. “We emptied four bottles in five hours,” Saito said after having drinks with three of her friends in a Spanish-style bar in Tokyo. “We all love to chat over good food and wine.” Saito is fairly typical of the clientele at the bar Kiyofumi Iwasaka runs in downtown Tokyo. “A majority of our customers are women working in nearby offices,” Iwasaka said. “They come here after work with their colleagues, and enjoy drinking with a casual bite to eat.”

In volume terms, wine sales will probably grow only marginally through 2020, researcher Euromonitor International predicted in August. Kuga at the NLI Research Institute said Japan’s stagnating economy has meant fewer businessmen are going out drinking with work associates, hurting demand. Industry stalwart Yumi Tanabe is trying to bolster growth. Tanabe, whose father Kaneyasu Marutani founded Japan’s first public winery on the northern island of Hokkaido 54 years ago, is working to double per-capita consumption in the decade through 2020. Tanabe began the Japan Women’s Wine Awards three years ago to help match wine with Japanese food, and help other women find jobs in the industry. This year’s event attracted 4,212 entries from 37 countries including Australia, Chile and the U.S. The results, decided by more than 400 female judges, will be announced on Feb. 14.

Rose for Yakitori

“We’re the only organizer of a global wine competition that selects the best bottle for sushi,” she said, noting that a sparkling wine from Spain won that title last year. Judges said the best pairing with yakitori, or Japanese-style grilled chicken with vegetables, was a locally made rose from Suntory Holdings Ltd., Japan’s second-largest winemaker.

Chilean wines featured prominently too, with more than a dozen garnering top “double gold” honors, including bottles from Concha & Toro and Spanish producer Miguel Torres SA. Chile is expected to continue to expand sales volumes through 2020, according to London-based Euromonitor. Tariffs on Chilean wine will be gradually reduced to zero by 2019 from 4.6 percent in 2015, giving it a major price advantage over other countries, the company said. The average value of Chilean wine imported by Japan in 2015 was $2.97 a liter, compared with $9.74 for wine from the U.S. and $7.95 for French wine, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in June.

“Japanese favored French wine for a long time, but the trend is changing,” Tanabe said. “Chilean wine is seen by Japanese as affordable and tasty to drink.”


Cowra oyster grower cultivates an unexpected ‘sensory thunderbolt’ French wine match

7 Feb 2017, ABC Rural By Peta Doherty

It seems nothing will stand in the way of a producer looking for the best wine to complement his food. For oyster grower Steve Feletti that has meant introducing a new grape variety to Australian soil. He described bottling the first of his piquepoul blanc as a “bit of a very personal milestone” after an eight-year quest to first procure the vines from France and finally convince a winery to emulate the glass he first tried at a fish market.

“It’s been a fantastic journey,” the Moonlight Flats Oysters owner said. “When I tried piquepoul blanc at the markets I was struck by the sensory thunderbolt of how sweetly the two flavours went together.” Piquepoul blanc is traditionally grown in the Rhone Valley and Languedoc, and is served with oysters at fish markets in the south of France. Mr Feletti said it got him thinking that he could turn his Cowra farm into a piquepoul vineyard and produce the perfect wine for his south coast oysters.

“I went to Languedoc in southern France and personally cadged some cuttings from an old gentleman with the story that we had some farmland and we had oyster leases and piquepoul didn’t exist in Australia,” he said. After the descendants of those cuttings were released from quarantine in 2013, they were planted in Mr Feletti’s Borrowed Cuttings vineyard in the NSW central west by the then-state minister for primary industry, Katrina Hodgkinson.

Along with Coriole Vineyards in South Australia, which imported vines from France at around the same time, his Languedoc vines were the first piquepoul planted in Australia, according to the NSW Department of Primary Industry.

Despite the warmer climate, the piquepoul vines are thriving in Cowra and Mr Feletti expected to double last year’s first commercial bottling when the second harvest kicks-off in coming weeks.

‘Cheap and cheerful’ style guide

Grape growing has been only half the challenge for Mr Feletti and the Cowra winery he has teamed up with to produce his oyster vintage, Windowrie Estate. Established winemaker Anthony D’Onise admits he was initially hesitant to take on an unknown grape and style, especially after Mr Feletti supplied a “cheap and cheerful” bottle from the French market as a style guide. “Initially I thought ‘what the hell are we going to do here’,” Mr D’Onise said.

Mr Feletti supplied Windowrie with two bottles — an inexpensive citrus and a more costly bottle that Windowrie’s winemaker described as “a very rich 1980s Australian Chardonnay”. Mr D’Onise said the examples had some simple and obvious wine making flaws. “But we looked past that and tried to nail a style that married the two with a nice texture in the wine, as well as keeping it citrus, fresh and vibrant,” he said. “I think it’s a valid style and a valid variety for us to grow here in Cowra.

“But what is most impressive with the wine, and the style we’ve been able to achieve from it, is that it does match with oysters incredibly well.” In the final stages of the process, the team tried 48 different treatments while consuming several dozen oysters to determine the best match.

“I think working out the best thing to do for the wine while eating the oysters really did help us create a fantastic wine,” the winemaker said.

New Zealand wineries checking damage after earthquake
Decanter, Ellie Douglas November 14, 2016

Wineries in Marlborough and Canterbury in New Zealand have been assessing the damage caused by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and several reported aftershocks.Yealands Family Wines, in Marlborough, said that ‘while there is some damage at the winery, the winery building withstood the conditions well, as it was designed to do.

‘It remains closed for safety reasons while the damage is being assessed and cleaned.’

The cellar door will also remain closed for the next few days, and visitors are advised to call in advance before coming to the winery.

The epicentre of the earthquake was northeast of Christchurch, and the South Island has had hundreds of tremors since the initial earthquake.

At least two people have died in the earthquake, and the aftershocks have left some people without power and water.

Mt. Beautiful Winery, in North Canterbury, said on Twitter ‘Thankfully no injuries incurred to our team; only minimal damages to our tank farm, barrel room & office.’

Yealands also said on its Twitter account that it was ‘grateful for your kind words and support. Look forward to raising a glass with you all very soon!’

Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers, said in a statement that winemakers in Marlborough and Canterbury appeared to all be safe.

‘Wineries are now very much in assessment and clean up mode. There have been plenty of reports of broken bottles and damaged tanks which is what you would expect in an earthquake of this size, but most wineries are reporting any damage as minor.’

Drones Take to the Skies Over Napa Valley Vineyards

Wine Business, October 28, 2016

Napa, California, October 29, 2016 – “VineView” Scientific Aerial Imaging has formed a strategic partnership with Hawk Aerial and SkySquirrel Technologies to bring drone technology to the vineyard management industry.

SkySquirrel Technologies manufactures the Aqweo drone and Quanta camera system designed specifically to acquire multispectral data from wine-grape growing operations.

Hawk Aerial markets and sells the Aqweo and Quanta drone systems, and also provides contracted drone flight services (using Hawk Aerial’s pilots and drones) for those customers who choose not to own and operate their own drones, but want the benefits that aerial imaging can provide.

All images are processed by VineView Imaging, the leading provider of aerial imaging in the Napa Valley. After processing the data, they create and deliver actionable reports, in the form of scientifically calibrated images and maps, so vineyard management can make informed operational decisions to increase their grapes’ quality, as well as their business revenue and profits.

Drone-based imaging offers several advantages over previous technology. Drones are able to fly closer to the ground, allowing for greater accuracy and higher image resolution. They also allow customers to obtain aerial data on demand, according to their own schedules. Drones are currently considered most efficient for imaging small- to medium-sized properties.

The use of aerial imaging services benefits vineyard management by providing critical, actionable information on vine stress, vigor, and disease. Studies show that aerial imaging has the potential to increase vineyard revenue by up to $10,000 per acre per year while decreasing operational costs, if the data is used appropriately.

Drones are available immediately for purchase or contracted flight service, and wide-spread use is expected in the Napa Valley and other wine-grape growing regions during this coming season.

How Seña changed the Chilean wine landscape

Decanter, Amy Wislocki November 21, 2016

Today the concept of a Chilean icon wine is nothing revolutionary. Twenty or so years ago when Seña was conceived, however, the Chilean wine landscape was very different, the estate’s co-founder told masterclass guests at the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter.Chile’s first icon wine was the result of a joint venture between two visionary men, two pioneers in their own field, Eduardo Chadwick, owner and president of Viña Errazuriz in Chile, and the-now-late Robert Mondavi in California.

The name Seña means ‘signal’, signifying the intention to show the world what Chile is capable of producing from its word-class terroir.

‘Buyers at the time were only interested in cheap wine from Chile, and we were keen to help elevate its image,’ said Chadwick, at the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter.

But it wasn’t enough to make a good wine. Chadwick understood that getting out there and showcasing Seña alongside other great Bordeaux blends of the world was the best way to show that Chile could compete at the top level.

On 23 January 2004, 36 respected European wine critics gathered in Berlin for what has become known as the Berlin Tasting, to blind taste 16 wines. What was a huge gamble paid off: Viñedo Chadwick 2000 and Seña 2001 came first and second respectively, triumphing over famous clarets including Châteaux Lafite, Margaux and Latour, as well as Italian cult wines Tignanello, Sassicaia, Solaia and Guado al Tasso.

The tasting was recreated in capital cities across the world, with similar results, before Chadwick set out on a new world tour to showcase the wine’s ageing potential. With the reputation of Seña, and Chile’s premium wine sector, now firmly established, Chadwick is optimistic about the future.

‘When Seña was launched there were not many critics praising finesse and elegance,’ he told the masterclass attendees. ‘Robert Parker was the voice of authority and the US was the biggest market. Today there are new markets opening up, and the important Asian market has a European palate. The wine world has grown up.’

About the wine: A red Bordeaux blend since its first vintage in 1995, the wine was made from vines planted on north-east facing hillsides in Aconcagua, just 40km from the Pacific shores – the location was selected specifically with a wine style in mind that accentuated freshness and finesse. Cabernet Sauvignon accounted for 50% of the plantings, but the blend also contains a varying proportion of Carménère among other varieties, to impart a distinctive, Chilean signature.

Vinventions And Cork Supply Join Forces To Launch New Generation Of Wine Closures

Posted on November 17, 2016

Paris, France (Nov. 17, 2016) — During a joint presentation held at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, Presidents and CEOs of two global leading closure providers to the wine industry, Heino Freudenberg of Vinventions and Jochen Michalski of Cork Supply Group, have announced the market introduction of SÜBR, a next generation wine bottle closure made of natural cork and biodegradable materials. The product has been jointly developed by both companies, who will market it through their own sales channels. Companies target sales of over 500 million units by 2021.

SÜBR is the result of several years of development and is now ready for final market validation. With the majority of its composition based on natural cork and the remainder consisting of biodegradable materials, this new closure offers the benefit of being glue-free, recyclable and long-term biodegradable. With the high quality granules sourced from Cork Supply’s premium natural wine cork production and Vinventions’ patented production method, corks are TCA-taint-free, with levels less than 0.5 ng/L. SÜBR offers 100% oxygen management consistency and is designed for excellent cellar aging. Meticulous attention was given to the look and feel of SÜBR, resulting in a closure with ideal texture and character.

The product is currently in final market validation. It will be available for global commercial rollout starting Q2 2017. A full-scale manufacturing operation is being built that will have an initial capacity of 200 million closures. “SÜBR is a natural alternative to glue-based micro-agglomerated closures,” stated Heino Freudenberg, President and CEO of Vinventions, “and we are delighted to have developed this innovation together with Cork Supply, a true leader in top quality natural cork. We combined our invention culture and technology capabilities with Cork Supply’s unrivaled natural cork experience and quality commitment. This is truly the best of two worlds in one offering.”

“Vinventions has been a key partner in developing several important aspects of our business and closure range, and was the perfect match for the joint development of this revolutionary product,” said Jochen Michalski, President and CEO of Cork Supply. “With their expertise in oxygen management, Vinventions brings unique knowledge specific to wine preservation and closure consistency, which are critical product considerations. The SÜBR product family will fit perfectly in our existing product range.”

Both partners will present SÜBR to the world public during the Vinitech Trade Show in Bordeaux, France, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.

Sussex wine closer to joining Champagne in Europe’s elite club

Decanter, Chris Mercer November 22, 2016

Sussex sparkling wine has climbed the next rung of the ladder to protected name status, but its application for EU-wide name rights may overrun the timeline set out for Brexit by the UK government. Britain’s agriculture ministry has put forward the application for Sussex wine to get PDO status in the European Union’s Geographic Indication (GI) scheme.

Sussex enjoys temporary protection within the UK in the interim, according to producers.

But these are contradictory times; the application was conceived before Brexit but is being put forward by a government also seeking to chart a course out of the European Union.

Supporters of the Sussex plan dream of creating a regional brand with the pull of Champagne.

‘We believe that Sussex will become synonymous with high quality sparkling and still wine,’ said Mark Driver, founder of Rathfinny Wine Estate.

‘So when you go into a bar in London or Tokyo you will be asked – would you like a glass of Champagne or a delicious glass of Sussex?’

Several English wine producers outside of Sussex have said it would be better to promote English wine as a whole, over individual regions.

Approval at EU level often takes several years to achieve, a spokesperson for English Wine Producers told Decanter.com.

England’s Camel Valley is still waiting for a PDO application for its Darnibole vineyard in Cornwall to be ratified by EU member states, according English Wine Producers. It applied in 2012.

Brexit adds an extra complication, following the 23 June referendum in the UK.

British prime minister Theresa May has committed to starting the two-year leaving process next year.

English Wine Producers said it was still considering the possible effects of Brexit on the industry and would release a statement soon.

English Sparkling Wine Competition: the results

The Spectator – 13 September 2016

As we all know, the finest English sparkling wines are now unquestionably world class. Made using the same method as champagne, using the same grapes (by and large) and grown in similar conditions, the best English fizz now rivals and – in some cases – beats the best Champagne in blind tastings and competitions. The one thing we can’t do, though, is call our sparklers Champagne.

So it was that in our most recent competition readers were asked to come up with a less cumbersome term than English sparkling wine to describe our wonderful native vino, the prize being two bottles of the very finest wines these islands produce – Ambriel Classic Cuvée and Ambriel Rosé from Pulborough, West Sussex. My fellow judge was Ambriel’s barrister-turned-winemaker, Wendy Outhwaite QC.

It was just a bit of a fun and we had some fine entries – clever, apposite, droll and even occasionally rather convoluted – as well as the inevitable late-at-night-after-a-bottle-or-so ones. Yes, yes I’m talking about you at the back, Fizzy McFizz Face.

One reader reckoned we should stick with English Sparkling Wine (“No sense in confusing the customer on the issue”) whilst another reckoned that since we’re leaving the EU we should stick one in the eye of the French and call our fizz Champagne since we might no longer be bound by EU protected food and drink names. (Many American sparkling wine producers, for example, call their product Champagne although they cannot export to the EU.)

Several readers suggested such Frenchified terms as Cru Anglais, Cuvée Anglaise, Éblouissant, Anglais Bolle and Crémant Bretagne which seems somehow to miss the point and many suggested Albion or its variants, which doesn’t. Some came over all middle English with Saxone, Spearclen (sparkling) and some came over all Latin with Maxima, “From Maxima Caesariensis, denoting the South East of England, to satisfy neatly the competing counties with an all-encompassing name,” (but what about West Country fizz?), Britannia Prima and Vinbulla, which sounded a bit like a nasty skin condition but was in fact cleverly derived from vinum for wine and bulla for bubble.

Some suggested terms that harked to our past such as Iceni and Boudica and others that harked back to historical figures such as Asquith, Kitchener and Merret (after Christopher Merret, the English scientist who delivered a paper on sparkling wines to the Royal Society in 1662, but whose name is already in use by the producer Ridgeview in Sussex). Someone suggested Grenadier and a couple of folk (I thought there’d be more) suggested Farage

There were witty but rather too ephemeral suggestions such as Britpop (one of my favourites), Splosh, Shampain, Merrie, Anglosia, Blighty Bubbles, Cork Blimey and there were, of course, one or two hilarious ones far too rude to print in a family publication such as this.

Wendy liked Fiz (“It sounds like the wine, its distinctive spelling means it’s identifiable and why not something short and snappy?”) and I liked Magna Cava but since this turned out to have came from Wendy’s son, Ran, it was regretfully discounted.

After much agonising, however, Wendy and I finally decided that the best term for English sparkling wine was simply Britannia. Maybe a bit obvious but it’s dramatic, familiar, easy to pronounce and remember and, in its way, rather noble. A couple of bottles of Ambriel are on their way to Mr Simon Blowey who suggested it. Congratulations!

Waiter, I’d like two glasses of Britannia please, well chilled.

Clemens: Cab is world’s most-planted red wine grape
Lubbockonline, October 18, 2016 – By Gus Clemens

Cabernet sauvignon is the progeny of two grapes — one inky black, the other white and fabulous with food. Their child became the most successful red wine grape of all time.

Cab is genetic cross between cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc. It is characterized by small berries and very thick skin, which engenders tannin and character. Cab also possess a remarkable ability to grow in almost any climate, from California’s sultry Central Valley, to Bordeaux’s storied left bank gravel, to exotic austerity of China’s Gobi Desert. Cab is world’s most-planted red wine grape.

Other grapes grow many places — chardonnay springs to mind — but typically those grapes are significantly influenced by terroir. Cabernet sauvignon, not nearly so much.

Pretty much everywhere cab grows it is complex, has a dry flavor profile, strong tannins (those thick skins and high seed-to-pulp ratios), and semi-savory flavors. It also has high alcohol, another result of thick skin that allows it to ripen late and build up sugar needed to elevate alcohol. Tannin and assertive flavors allow cab to stare down oak and give backbone and character to blends.

Cab is the most popular red grape variety in the U.S. with some 16 percent of sales, topped only by its white rival, chardonnay, with 19 percent. It is an intriguing competition.

Chardonnay is the chameleon of grapes. It will deliver almost anything you want depending on where you plant it and how your treat it in the winery. Chard is Meryl Streep.

Cabernet sauvignon swaggers into your vineyard and winery and does its thing. Its attitude is “you brought me to this party, you knew what you were getting, here it is, pilgrim.” Cab is John Wayne.

There are subtle differences between Napa and Bordeaux, South Australia and South Africa, Chile and China cabs, but operative word is “subtle.” When a winery saddles up cabernet, it pretty much agrees to just hang on for the ride.

Russia may increase wine imports tax: Views from Georgia
Hvino.com, 17.10.2016.

Georgian wine exports to the Russian Federation may decline. Higher taxes will create problems to distributors and producers. It is not known when exactly the new rate will come into force, but the working process was intensified in this direction.

Russia plans to double excise tax on wines. Ministry of Finance of Russia has already submitted due initiative to the government. The amendments are part of the 2017-2019 tax strategy project and it will not supposedly refer to sparkling and fruit wines. The information was published by the Commersant Russian newspaper. Meanwhile, Georgian winemakers expect that wine exports to Russia will decline after growth in wine imports excise tax.

Under the project, excise tax for imported wines will increase to 18 Rubles from 9 Rubles per liter, while the rate will rise to 10 Rubles from 5 Rubles on wines with geographical indications protected by Russian brands.

Pavel Titov, President for Wine House Abrau Durso: Higher excise tax will cut wine consumption and decrease domestic production and hinder imports replacement process.

Maxim Kashirin, President for Simple wine importer company, said that higher excise tax will reduce consumption of more expensive and imported wines.

«This is very bad signal for our business that currently is in unfavorable condition amid currency exchange rate fluctuations and demand reduction», the businessman said.

Caucasus Business Week was interested in how higher excise tax may affect Georgian winemaking companies. A majority of heads of winemaking companies noted that this decision will bring negative effect, but not destructive.

Mikheil Khundadze, director for Georgian Wine Corporation, said that it is difficult to talk about what we do not know definitely in advance. It is impossible to determine preliminarily how the market will receive it. «Naturally, if excise tax grows, importers will have to supply products at higher tariffs and the market realities depend on consumer conduct. Based on economic factors, when something grows in value, its consumption declines», Khundadze noted.

The company exports a major part of its wines to the Russian market, he said.

Zurab Margvelashvili, Tbilvino’s director general, explained that this decision will make quite negative impact on Georgia and Georgian companies.

«As a rule, higher taxes and prices do not bring positive results, even more so there is crisis in Russia, solvency of population has declined. Therefore, any growth in tariffs will negatively affect sales indicators», Margvelashvili noted.

Badagoni’s director Gia Shengelia explained that the mentioned decision will negatively effect Georgian winemakers. Namely, Russian distributors may ask Georgian winemakers to lower product tariffs. As a result, Georgian winemakers will have to bear losses. Moreover, if product prices grow in retail sector, sales will decline definitely, he said.

«If wine price grows, Georgian wine sales will be suspended, in practice, because market competition has sharpened because of wines imported from Crimea and Abkhazia», Shengelia noted.

Russian market accounts for 35-40% in Badagoni company exports, Shengelia said. Zurab Chkhaidze, head of Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking, also expects negative results from the mentioned decision.

Over the past years the Russian Federation has been trying to develop winemaking sector and viticulture and the Russian Authorities pay much attention to the domestic production development. However, the mentioned decision will not extremely affect Georgian wines, he said.

«We do not expect good results, but this is not tragedy», Chkhaidze noted.

Russian market accounts for 35-40% in total exports of Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking, he added.

Since Russia ranks first among Georgia’s wine exports markets, the CBW also asked National Wine Agency to comment on the mentioned initiative. The agency director Giorgi Samanishvili abstained to make analysis at this stage. This is only idea and initiative, he said.

It is very difficult to analyze what will be effect on the Georgian market. It is only idea and this is less important. When the Russian Authorities adopt these changes, I will comment then”, Samanishvili noted.

According to the National Wine Agency, as of August 2016, Georgia exported 28 156 547 bottles of wines to 46 countries (in 0.75 liter bottles), up 42% year on year. In the reporting period, the exports value made up 64.8 million USD, up 16% compared to the same period of 2015.

Exports have increased to EU countries, China and other traditional markets: China – 184% (3 368 361), Ukraine – 75% (3 042 192), Belarus – 47% (667 656), Russia – 45% (14 664 610), Poland – 34% (1 367 960), Estonia- 39% (413 364), Kyrgyzstan – 107% (163 966), the USA – 10% (171 316) Japan – 12% (101 448), Great Britain – 65% (67 522), Latvia 9% (772 926) and so on.

As of August 2016 Russia ranks first among Georgia’s top five exports countries. Top five exports markets are as follows: Russia (14 664 610), China (3 368 361), Ukraine (3 042 192), Kazakhstan (2 287 826) and Poland (1 367 960).

Jefford on Monday: On the trail of the organic supervines

Decanter, Andrew Jefford October 10, 2016

In the ennervating heat of late August in Languedoc, at Maraussan just outside Béziers, I tasted five wines – experimental, non-commercial and with incomprehensible names (the two whites were labelled 3159 and the three reds 3176). They were attractive in themselves, but it was what they stood for which roused me from my end-of-summer torpor. They promise an organic revolution, since both are made from varieties which are comprehensively resistant both to oidium (powdery mildew) and mildiou (downy mildew).

I tasted them with Gabriel Ruetsch, chief agronomist for giant co-operative group Vignobles Foncalieu (1,000 members, and almost 27 million bottles produced in 2015). One of those member co-operatives, the Vignerons du Pays d’Ensérune, traces its origins to France’s first ever wine co-op (opened by the intellectually brilliant French social democrat Jean Jaurès in 1905 with a speech in Occitan, and purchase of the first share). Communally owned vineyards were created at that time and given the beautiful name L’Emancipatrice — ‘the emancipatress’.

They still exist, and it’s in one of those that Foncalieu has planted 3159 and 3176, hoping to include wine from them in its ‘Extraordinaires’ range due course. More memorable commercial names will be chosen for the varieties; those names will almost certainly include the word ‘Bouquet’. Here’s why.

Alain Bouquet was a visionary researcher and wine-breeder who, beginning in 1974, set out on a quest to obviate the need for the colossal chemical inputs with which many vineyards are still drenched by crossing Vitis vinifera plants with a Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia, sometimes regarded as a separate genus and named Muscadinia rotundifolia). Rotundifolia, native to Southeastern USA, is not only naturally resistant to both mildews, but also to phylloxera, to nematodes, to black rot and to anthracnose. The long and arduous challenge, of course, is to transfer that mildew resistance into vinifera varieties without jeopardising their aromas and flavours – by conventional plant-breeding means. This was something Alain Bouquet had achieved at the time of his premature death in 2009, and his work has since been continued by his colleagues at Montpellier SupAgro and at INRA (France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research).

The researchers are now satisfied that these vines are ready to pass into commercial use – but INRA has refused to allow this so far, claiming that the resistance is monogenic, i.e. relying on one gene only, and therefore susceptible to possible deviation in the field. (In fact two genes, Rpv1 and Rpv2, are responsible for the resistance to downy mildew, and one, Run1, to powdery mildew).

The latest work by Irish researcher Angela Feechan and colleagues, though, suggests (according to Bouquet’s former colleague Alain Carbonneau) that there are complementary genes present in the vines which help reinforce the work of the resistant genes. The French researchers also point out that Rpv1, Rpv2 and Run1 have all proved durably resistant over millennia to the two mildews in the original Muscadine vines, and that some of the Bouquet plants now have 30 years of successful history behind them. Moreover even if the worst happened and there was some kind of deviation, the vines would still be likely to offer better-than-usual resistance to the mildews.

From your point of view and mine, of course, what really matters is that these supervines produce wine which is drinkable and enjoyable, and not overly strange (as is sometimes the case with other part-mildew-resistant varieties like Rondo and Regent). So here are my notes. It’s worth noting that another research area of Professor Bouquet’s was breeding to achieve lower alcohol levels, and that none of the samples below had more than 12.5% abv. The wines were vinified by INRA at Pech Rouge, near Narbonne, where there are 2,200 plants of each variety planted, with full resistance to both mildews.

2015 Vine 3159, white wine

I tasted two different samples made from this variety, one at 12% and another (grown and vinified to organic standards) at 11%. The 12% version had fresh, lively, engaging, floral and leafy aromas, like a southern cousin of Sauvignon Blanc though with a little more flesh and warmth to it. The lower alcohol version was more neutral, but still attractively clean and fresh. On the palate, both were complex, drinkable, supple, vivid white wines. The 12% version had some apple and cream notes, while the crisper 11% version had a peachy note to it. I could imagine buying either – and enjoying both more than, for example, most Languedoc-grown Sauvignon Blanc.

2015 Vine 3176, red wine

There were two samples made from this variety in 2015, both at 12.5%, with one being grown and vinified to organic standards. A sample from 2010 was also shown to indicate something of the variety’s ageing potential. The organic wine was the more successful of the younger pair, with pretty, fresh cherry scents; the non-organic version had red fruits and a sweet sheen but was also slightly herbaceous. Both were impressive on the palate, with complete profiles: tannins and texture, some acid balance, some sinewy length and depth. They have the potential to be serious, food-friendly reds, while the older version had kept its colour and structure encouragingly well. Once again, none of the samples had anything disconcerting in its aromas and flavours which would betray its hybrid origins.

The vinifera parentage of these two varieties, by the way, is complex: both include genetic material from Cabernet, Merlot and Grenache. The white 3159 further includes material from the south-western variety Baroque and from Chasan (a Palomino-Chardonnay cross), while the red 3176 includes material from the old Rhône variety Aubun.

Plant breeding work is not a job for those in a hurry; the developmental cycle is always measured in decades. Human skills with gene manipulation, by contrast, are advancing at startling speed. Having tasted these wines, I find it hard to believe that we won’t, sooner or later, find ‘invisible’ ways to use the resistant genes from Muscadines (as well as other non-vinifera vines) in new versions of every classic variety in the future. At that point, organic vineyard cultivation really could become the norm.

France’s Wine Output to Slump to 4-Year Low as Vineyards Ravaged

Bloombergs-October 7, 2016

French wine production will be the lowest in four years after spring frost, hailstorms, grape rot and drought combined to damage crops from the northern Champagne region to the Charentes area in the southwest, the Agriculture Ministry forecast.

The 2016 vintage will slump 12 percent to 42.18 million hectoliters, the least since 2012, the ministry predicted, cutting its outlook for a second time since July. Champagne and the Loire valley were hardest hit, followed by the Charentes region and Burgundy. The estimated output equals about 5.6 billion bottles.

This would be one of the lowest productions in 30 years,” the ministry said. “In many vineyards, the output drop is accompanied by a wide disparity in production depending on the parcel or the grape variety.”

In Italy, output will slip 1 percent to 48.9 million hectoliters, according to a September forecast from that country’s association of wine technicians. Based on that forecast, the country is the world’s biggest wine producer.

Wine is France’s largest agricultural export with a value of 8.27 billion euros ($9.21 billion) last year, boosted by Champagne and Bordeaux, customs data show. Spirits accounted for 3.95 billion euros of exports, led by Cognac, distilled from grapes in the Charentes region.

Champagne, Burgundy and the Loire valley suffered from spring frost that killed flower buds, and Charentes, Burgundy, Beaujolais and the southern Languedoc-Roussillon region faced damage from consecutive hailstorms, according to the ministry. Mildew attacked grapes in Champagne and the Loire valley, while drought weighed on output around the Mediterranean.

In the Burgundy-Beaujolais region, which produces the world’s most expensive wines, volumes may fall 20 percent, while Champagne output is predicted to fall 32 percent.

For Charentes, the source of Cognac grapes, volumes may slump 22 percent, while the Loire valley is France’s hardest-hit wine region with a 35 percent drop, based on the ministry outlook.

Not all wine makers suffered, with Bordeaux volumes predicted to climb 6 percent after September rain followed a heatwave earlier in the month. Output in Alsace is seen rebounding 18 percent as farmers controlled mildew on vines loaded with pinot grapes, the ministry said.

Courtwatch: Treasury Wine Estates Files Motion to Dismiss “The Stag” Lawsuit

“The Stag” is actually associated with St Huberts, a winery Treasury Wine Estates owns in Australia”

Winebusiness, October 06, 2016

Treasury Wine Estates is seeking a green light to sell wines under the name “The Stag” in spite of opposition from one of Napa Valley’s most renowned winery, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, according to court documents filed recently.

In August, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars LLC and its owner, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Ltd., Washington State’s biggest producer, filed a federal lawsuit against Treasury Wine Estates Americas Co., a division of Treasury Wine Estates, over the name of the wine brand “The Stag.”

The plaintiffs alleged Treasury Wine Estates created a false and misleading connection to the Stags Leap District, one of the Napa Valley’s sub-appellation, and Stag’s Leap trademark name, by naming the wine “The Stag,” according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California.

According to the complaint, which alleged trademark, advertising and other violations, “The Stag” is a “spurious knock-off” wine made with “cheaper, lower-quality fruit.”

A proposed label for “The Stag” said the wine was produced at Stags’ Leap Winery, one of Treasury Wine Estates’ properties, according to the lawsuit. Both Stags’ Leap Winery and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars are in the Stags Leap District.

Treasury Wine Estates has denied all the allegations; on Thursday, the company filed a motion to dismiss the entire case.

And in a counter lawsuit, also filed Thursday, Treasury Wine Estates said “The Stag” is actually associated with St Huberts, a winery Treasury Wine Estates owns in Australia. The company already sells wines under “The Stag” label in Australia.

St Huberts, which was established in 1862, was named after the Patron Saint of the Hunt; its emblem is a stag.

The Australian-based company filed the counter complaint to seek a court order to sell and market the wine in the United States under “The Stag.”

Its new label for the Cabernet Sauvignon would be similar to the one designed for wines sold under “The Stag” brand in Australia. The label does not mention Stags’ Leap Winery, its winemaker, or the Stags Leap District.

The Stag proposition for commercial use in the (United States) has no connection to Stags’ Leap Winery or the Stags Leap District – this was made very clear to (Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates) before they filed their complaint,” Treasury Wine Estates said in a statement from Australia. The company said it was disappointed in the actions taken by Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

We believe (Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates) are not trying to protect the Stags Leap District, but instead are trying to use the legal system to stifle lawful competition,” according to the statement.

An attorney for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars on Friday said in an email “Treasury protests too much.”

Treasury got caught trying to play off the value of this important wine region and confuse consumers about the source and nature of its new product, which was clearly intended to capitalize on the prestige and reputation of the Stags Leap District,” wrote attorney Ann K. Ford of DLA Piper LLP in Washington, D.C. “Treasury’s pleadings are therefore filled with contradictions which will come to light shortly.”

According to Treasury Wine Estates, the wines to be sold under “The Stag” brand are produced at a number of wineries in the United States, not just Stags’ Leap Winery.

Following the success of The Stag tier of wines by St Huberts in Australia, (Treasury Wine Estates) intends to launch a North Coast Cabernet under the St Huberts brand with a similar label design, for sale in the US. Our strategy is to build global brands across multiple markets and wine sourced from multiple regions – this is no different,” according to Treasury Wine Estates. The company noted Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars produces a North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon under the brand “Hawk Crest.”

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Stags’ Leap Winery have struggled in court over the years over trademark and other issues. The companies, under different ownerships, settled their differences in 1985. Renowned vintner Warren Winiarski in 2007 sold Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars to St. Michelle Wines Estates and Marchese Piero Antinori.

A hearing on the motion to dismiss the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars case is set for Nov. 10 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

China grows wine in space to beat harsh climate
Decanter,Sylvia Wu, September 20, 2016

China has flown vines into orbit on its new ‘space palace’ laboratory, Tiangong-2, to experiment with vines’ resistance to drought and cold weather.

China launched Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir vines into space on a rocket during its mid-autumn festival celebrations on 15 September.

As reported on DecanterChina.com, The young vines were onboard China’s new ‘space palace’, the Tiangong-2 laboratory, which was originally set for blast off in 2015.

It is part of China’s manned space programme.

Chinese scientists hope that growing the vines in space for a short time will trigger mutations that may make the plants more suitable for the harsh climate in some of the China’s emerging vineyard regions.

In particular, scientists want to see whether genetic mutations in space make the vines more resistant to cold, drought and some viruses.

Chinese growers in some areas, such as Ningxia, have to bury their vines in winter to protect them from freezing temperatures.

The vines came from a nursery based in Ningxia’s Helan Mountain East region, one of China’s most renowned quality wine regions, reported Ningxia local media.

The nursery is owned by the Chenggong Group, which has been importing vines from France’s Mercier Group since 2013.

In October, China will send two male astronauts to Tiangong-2 via the Shenzhou 11 spaceflight to perform research for 30 days, according to China National Space Administration.

When the vines return to earth, they will be compared to a control group in the Ningxia nursery.

Wine on airplanes
Decanter 23 Aug 2016

Stephen Bridge, Leamington Spa asks: Does wine really taste different on airplanes? If it does, most of the wine served, at least in economy class, suggests that airlines aren’t taking this into account.

Andy Sparrow replies: Wine appears to change character when consumed in a pressurised aircraft cabins. Most airliners are pressurised from 6,000- 8,000 feet.

Of course the wine doesn’t change, but rather the consumer does.

There are a number of different influences that exist in a pressurised environment that don’t exist on the ground.

The key influence is humidity. The dryness of cabin air affects nasal passages and makes it more difficult to appreciate the smell and taste of fine wine.

Other influences range from stress, background noise, vibration, time change, biorhythms and so on. The longer the flight, the greater the effect.

A well-balanced wine at ground level will remain so at altitude, but fruit and sweetness tend to be suppressed and unripe tannins/harsh acidity exaggerated.

Ripe, fruity New World wines work well, and technological advances – micro-oxygenation, better understanding of physiological ripeness and tannin management – have all made life easier for the airline wine buyer.

While there may be a perfect airline wine, passengers want to see recognisable brands and labels, all of which will demonstrate different flavour profiles and match different food styles.

In addition there is an expectation that wines, such as top Bordeaux and white Burgundy, will be served in the premium cabins.

So the not inconsiderable task of an airline wine buyer is to find a wine that meets expectations, and then make sure that it tastes great at 35,000 feet.

(Andy Sparrow is head of travel retail at Bibendum, which supplies British Airways with wine for First Class passengers.)

Jefford on Monday: On the trail of the organic supervines

Decanter, Andrew Jefford October 10, 2016

In the ennervating heat of late August in Languedoc, at Maraussan just outside Béziers, I tasted five wines – experimental, non-commercial and with incomprehensible names (the two whites were labelled 3159 and the three reds 3176). They were attractive in themselves, but it was what they stood for which roused me from my end-of-summer torpor. They promise an organic revolution, since both are made from varieties which are comprehensively resistant both to oidium (powdery mildew) and mildiou (downy mildew).

I tasted them with Gabriel Ruetsch, chief agronomist for giant co-operative group Vignobles Foncalieu (1,000 members, and almost 27 million bottles produced in 2015). One of those member co-operatives, the Vignerons du Pays d’Ensérune, traces its origins to France’s first ever wine co-op (opened by the intellectually brilliant French social democrat Jean Jaurès in 1905 with a speech in Occitan, and purchase of the first share). Communally owned vineyards were created at that time and given the beautiful name L’Emancipatrice — ‘the emancipatress’.

They still exist, and it’s in one of those that Foncalieu has planted 3159 and 3176, hoping to include wine from them in its ‘Extraordinaires’ range due course. More memorable commercial names will be chosen for the varieties; those names will almost certainly include the word ‘Bouquet’. Here’s why.

Alain Bouquet was a visionary researcher and wine-breeder who, beginning in 1974, set out on a quest to obviate the need for the colossal chemical inputs with which many vineyards are still drenched by crossing Vitis vinifera plants with a Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia, sometimes regarded as a separate genus and named Muscadinia rotundifolia). Rotundifolia, native to Southeastern USA, is not only naturally resistant to both mildews, but also to phylloxera, to nematodes, to black rot and to anthracnose. The long and arduous challenge, of course, is to transfer that mildew resistance into vinifera varieties without jeopardising their aromas and flavours – by conventional plant-breeding means. This was something Alain Bouquet had achieved at the time of his premature death in 2009, and his work has since been continued by his colleagues at Montpellier SupAgro and at INRA (France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research).

The researchers are now satisfied that these vines are ready to pass into commercial use – but INRA has refused to allow this so far, claiming that the resistance is monogenic, i.e. relying on one gene only, and therefore susceptible to possible deviation in the field. (In fact two genes, Rpv1 and Rpv2, are responsible for the resistance to downy mildew, and one, Run1, to powdery mildew).

The latest work by Irish researcher Angela Feechan and colleagues, though, suggests (according to Bouquet’s former colleague Alain Carbonneau) that there are complementary genes present in the vines which help reinforce the work of the resistant genes. The French researchers also point out that Rpv1, Rpv2 and Run1 have all proved durably resistant over millennia to the two mildews in the original Muscadine vines, and that some of the Bouquet plants now have 30 years of successful history behind them. Moreover even if the worst happened and there was some kind of deviation, the vines would still be likely to offer better-than-usual resistance to the mildews.

From your point of view and mine, of course, what really matters is that these supervines produce wine which is drinkable and enjoyable, and not overly strange (as is sometimes the case with other part-mildew-resistant varieties like Rondo and Regent). So here are my notes. It’s worth noting that another research area of Professor Bouquet’s was breeding to achieve lower alcohol levels, and that none of the samples below had more than 12.5% abv. The wines were vinified by INRA at Pech Rouge, near Narbonne, where there are 2,200 plants of each variety planted, with full resistance to both mildews.

2015 Vine 3159, white wine

I tasted two different samples made from this variety, one at 12% and another (grown and vinified to organic standards) at 11%. The 12% version had fresh, lively, engaging, floral and leafy aromas, like a southern cousin of Sauvignon Blanc though with a little more flesh and warmth to it. The lower alcohol version was more neutral, but still attractively clean and fresh. On the palate, both were complex, drinkable, supple, vivid white wines. The 12% version had some apple and cream notes, while the crisper 11% version had a peachy note to it. I could imagine buying either – and enjoying both more than, for example, most Languedoc-grown Sauvignon Blanc.

2015 Vine 3176, red wine

There were two samples made from this variety in 2015, both at 12.5%, with one being grown and vinified to organic standards. A sample from 2010 was also shown to indicate something of the variety’s ageing potential. The organic wine was the more successful of the younger pair, with pretty, fresh cherry scents; the non-organic version had red fruits and a sweet sheen but was also slightly herbaceous. Both were impressive on the palate, with complete profiles: tannins and texture, some acid balance, some sinewy length and depth. They have the potential to be serious, food-friendly reds, while the older version had kept its colour and structure encouragingly well. Once again, none of the samples had anything disconcerting in its aromas and flavours which would betray its hybrid origins.

The vinifera parentage of these two varieties, by the way, is complex: both include genetic material from Cabernet, Merlot and Grenache. The white 3159 further includes material from the south-western variety Baroque and from Chasan (a Palomino-Chardonnay cross), while the red 3176 includes material from the old Rhône variety Aubun.

Plant breeding work is not a job for those in a hurry; the developmental cycle is always measured in decades. Human skills with gene manipulation, by contrast, are advancing at startling speed. Having tasted these wines, I find it hard to believe that we won’t, sooner or later, find ‘invisible’ ways to use the resistant genes from Muscadines (as well as other non-vinifera vines) in new versions of every classic variety in the future. At that point, organic vineyard cultivation really could become the norm.

France’s Wine Output to Slump to 4-Year Low as Vineyards Ravaged

Bloombergs-October 7, 2016

French wine production will be the lowest in four years after spring frost, hailstorms, grape rot and drought combined to damage crops from the northern Champagne region to the Charentes area in the southwest, the Agriculture Ministry forecast.

The 2016 vintage will slump 12 percent to 42.18 million hectoliters, the least since 2012, the ministry predicted, cutting its outlook for a second time since July. Champagne and the Loire valley were hardest hit, followed by the Charentes region and Burgundy. The estimated output equals about 5.6 billion bottles.

This would be one of the lowest productions in 30 years,” the ministry said. “In many vineyards, the output drop is accompanied by a wide disparity in production depending on the parcel or the grape variety.”

In Italy, output will slip 1 percent to 48.9 million hectoliters, according to a September forecast from that country’s association of wine technicians. Based on that forecast, the country is the world’s biggest wine producer.

Wine is France’s largest agricultural export with a value of 8.27 billion euros ($9.21 billion) last year, boosted by Champagne and Bordeaux, customs data show. Spirits accounted for 3.95 billion euros of exports, led by Cognac, distilled from grapes in the Charentes region.

Champagne, Burgundy and the Loire valley suffered from spring frost that killed flower buds, and Charentes, Burgundy, Beaujolais and the southern Languedoc-Roussillon region faced damage from consecutive hailstorms, according to the ministry. Mildew attacked grapes in Champagne and the Loire valley, while drought weighed on output around the Mediterranean.

In the Burgundy-Beaujolais region, which produces the world’s most expensive wines, volumes may fall 20 percent, while Champagne output is predicted to fall 32 percent.

For Charentes, the source of Cognac grapes, volumes may slump 22 percent, while the Loire valley is France’s hardest-hit wine region with a 35 percent drop, based on the ministry outlook.

Not all wine makers suffered, with Bordeaux volumes predicted to climb 6 percent after September rain followed a heatwave earlier in the month. Output in Alsace is seen rebounding 18 percent as farmers controlled mildew on vines loaded with pinot grapes, the ministry said.

China grows wine in space to beat harsh climate
Decanter,Sylvia Wu, September 20, 2016

China has flown vines into orbit on its new ‘space palace’ laboratory, Tiangong-2, to experiment with vines’ resistance to drought and cold weather.

China launched Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir vines into space on a rocket during its mid-autumn festival celebrations on 15 September.

As reported on DecanterChina.com, The young vines were onboard China’s new ‘space palace’, the Tiangong-2 laboratory, which was originally set for blast off in 2015.

It is part of China’s manned space programme.

Chinese scientists hope that growing the vines in space for a short time will trigger mutations that may make the plants more suitable for the harsh climate in some of the China’s emerging vineyard regions.

In particular, scientists want to see whether genetic mutations in space make the vines more resistant to cold, drought and some viruses.

Chinese growers in some areas, such as Ningxia, have to bury their vines in winter to protect them from freezing temperatures.

The vines came from a nursery based in Ningxia’s Helan Mountain East region, one of China’s most renowned quality wine regions, reported Ningxia local media.

The nursery is owned by the Chenggong Group, which has been importing vines from France’s Mercier Group since 2013.

In October, China will send two male astronauts to Tiangong-2 via the Shenzhou 11 spaceflight to perform research for 30 days, according to China National Space Administration.

When the vines return to earth, they will be compared to a control group in the Ningxia nursery.

Jefford on Monday: ‘Work together or die’

September 12, 2016

On the day Plaimont Producteurs’ 2016 Rencontres Ampélographiques opens, Andrew Jefford traces the history of South West France’s leading player.

Why hasn’t André Dubosc been given the Légion d’Honneur? This now-retired Gascon wine innovator certainly deserves France’s national garland as much as the hordes of well-paid civil servants and industrialists who queue up every July (654 recipients this year). Has anyone in French wine had a more transformative effect on his home region?

I visited Plaimont Producteurs in St Mont in early August 2016 as part of my search for France’s greatest co-operative. André Dubosc finally left Plaimont in 2006 and I haven’t seen him since then, though I enjoyed catching up with the co-op’s present managing director, the energetic Olivier Bourdet-Pees. You can’t, though, survey Plaimont without talking about Dubosc’s legacy, which is astonishing.

How can I put it most simply? In terms of wine production, the region was dying when Dubosc arrived in 1973. It produced white base wine to be distilled into Armagnac – but in the post-digestif era, demand had collapsed.

Since the region is a polycultural one, this wouldn’t have been a total catastrophe; poultry and cereals would have seen the locals through. But viticulture has long roots here; the local red wine is particularly healthful, as Professor Roger Corder has shown in his book The Red Wine Diet; and there are hidden resources of vine diversity which have only come to light recently. To have lost all that would have been a tragedy.

“We have the impression that no one knows us,” said present-day co-operative member Régis Dupuy (who manages to cultivate 27 ha of vines as well as grow organic cereals and look after 8000 organic chickens on his own, astonishingly enough, using only seasonal help). “We’re too obscure here. So we work together or die.” Lying at least two hours from either Bordeaux or Toulouse, and with vineyards falling into both of the new giant regions of Nouvelle Aquitaine and Occitanie, this ‘lost’ zone of Gascony has all the geographical cards stacked against it.

Dubosc, and Bourdet-Pees since him, has turned this to advantage. Dubosc managed to stitch the co-operative forces of the region together, making Plaimont the leading wine producer in the South West, with 800 members, 5,300 ha and almost 200 employees. It produces 98 per cent of the AOP of St Mont, as well as over half of Madiran and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, and almost half of the hugely successful Côtes de Gascogne IGP. And it does this well: see my tasting notes below.

Dubosc, furthermore, was full of prescient ideas. The cooperative itself has become the owner of almost 300 ha – so that this land can be rented out to younger co-operative members with a strict quality challenge, to keep them involved and stimulated rather than drifting off to aerospace jobs in Toulouse. Every grower, too, is encouraged to create a small ‘grand vin’ section of their most propitious vineyards which they manicure, with the aim of qualifying for that year’s edition of Plaimont’s top blended red and white wine, Le Faîte. Everyone, that way, gets a stake in the summits as well as the lowlands. The final blend is chosen by visiting sommeliers or writers, to ensure objectivity.

All Plaimont members, moreover, have to give one day a year per 1.5 ha of vineyard to promotional activities – which meant, in the early days, that older growers who had never left their village suddenly and surreally found themselves in Paris or New York, wearing the obligatory Plaimont black beret, talking to consumers and drinkers with their delicious south-western twang. The growers loved it – and so did the consumers. If members don’t want to (or can’t) get involved, you pay a small ‘fine’ – which helps subsidise the promotions. And the berets? They turn a geographical disadvantage (living in deepest rural France) into a marketing tool; indeed ‘Beret Noir’ is now a Plaimont brand.

Then there’s hidden Gascony’s astonishing patrimony of ancient vines. When I was recently in St Mont, I drove between the vineyards with Nadine Raymond, the cooperative’s talented young research co-ordinator. “Come and look at this,” she said, stopping in a quiet country lane. And there, romping up the bushes and trees which divided the fields, were true wild vines (Vitis sylvestris) of a previously unknown strain; some, indeed, think that the Petit Manseng may be the cultivated vine which is genetically closest to ancestral wild vines.

André Dubosc always insisted on giving those growers who had very old parcels a subsidy to keep the ancient vines alive, even though they were usually of mixed and sometimes unknown varieties, and didn’t all produce useful grapes. (When the rules were written for St Mont, he also insisted on obligatory hand-harvesting – since he knew that if machine harvesting was possible, growers would begin to abandon the hard-to-harvest old hillside sites.)

Since then, several parcels of extraordinary antiquity have come to light in St Mont, including one which has now become France’s first ‘vegetal’ historical monument, the Pédebernade vineyard at Sarragachies, thought to date back to 1830 or so. Nadine Raymond and her colleagues have been propagating promising plant material from this and other vineyards, and are hopeful for the prospects for a variety called Tardif as well as for Manseng Noir (the latter is now creeping into commercial production). They’re also investigating varieties of Tannat which produce lower levels of alcohol than those propagated at present. This fascinating genetic patrimony has inspired Plaimont to organise an annual two-day conference called the Rencontres Ampélographiques: the 2016 edition opens today.

There’s a huge amount, in sum, to fire up wine enthusiasts. At the other end of the spectrum, Plaimont produces no fewer than five million bottles every year of a single blended white Côtes de Gascogne called Colombelle L’Original: it’s a simple and inexpensive wine, but delicious, and must bring much drinking pleasure to those wine drinkers who never want to read a word about wine, couldn’t care less about appellations, and have no interest whatsoever in grape varieties. In buying, drinking and enjoying in such volume, of course, they do more than any of us geeks can manage to keep the region’s wine-growing traditions alive.

And all of that is the great Dubosc legacy. So why no Légion d’Honneur

Glutathione May Help Preserve Wine Aroma

© Wines & Vines 2 Sep 2016

Fresno, Calif.—Fresno State Winery winemaker Matt Brain discussed a new research project and current knowledge about glutathione in winemaking at Fresno State Grape Day, held biennially on the California State University, Fresno (CSUF) campus by the Department of Viticulture & Enology, the Viticulture and Enology Research Center (VERC), and the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology. Brain joined CSUF in 2015 as the winemaker at the 10,000-case production Fresno State Winery and teaches wine production courses for enology students. He has worked extensively with grapes from Central Coast vineyards, currently as co-owner and co-winemaker for the 1,600-case production Baker & Brain brand that produces Pinot Noir and Rhône varietals. Past winemaking experience includes stints at Tolosa Winery and Edna Valley Vineyards in San Luis Obispo County. While working at Edna Valley he became interested in the role of glutathione in preserving freshness and aromas in aromatic white varieties and rosés. “I liked these wines for their aromatics after fermentation, but after they were in bottle, they could prematurely lose their freshness and aromas,” he said. Varieties such as Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and others can have desirable but fragile aromas associated with volatile thiols that are commonly described as box tree, guava, passionfruit, grapefruit, pineapple, green apple, banana, floral, honey, and rose.

Glutathione in grapes and wine

Glutathione (GSH) is a tripeptide antioxidant (glutamate, cysteine, glycine) found in plant and animal cells, and it can play an important role in protecting white and rosé wines against oxidation. Significant levels of GSH correlate with higher levels of desired fruit and floral aromatics in finished wine, and slower oxidation rates. GSH is more important as an antioxidant in white wines, as compared with red wines that have tannins with antioxidant properties for protection during aging. GSH can potentially be managed in the vineyard. GSH levels in grapes correspond with nitrogen (N) status, and healthy, properly fertilized soils can improve N and GSH content in grapes. Recent research has investigated methods to maximize GSH levels in grapes and wine. Brain is focused on understanding the protective power of GSH in production scale winemaking, and how GSH and sulfur dioxide work synergistically to preserve fresh wine aromas.

Brain said it is currently not legal to add glutathione to wine, however, certain yeasts produce more GSH as part of the fermentation process. Brain said one such yeast is Laffort Zymaflore X16. In addition, yeast nutrition aid products are available that have GSH precursors (cysteine, N-acetyl cysteine) that can be consumed by yeast to produce GSH and increase levels in the wine during fermentation. One product is “Fresharom” from Laffort USA, designed to increase aromatic and aging potential and inhibit browning in white wines. Brain’s research at Fresno State is part of a project started in 2015 through the Laffort Applied Research Cooperative (ARC) in which multiple wineries work on a single trial using the same defined protocols. Wines being tested at Fresno State include Semillon, Barbera Rosé and Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé. Other California wineries are doing in-house trials with Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay. Additional wineries and more varieties will be included in the ARC project this year and in future vintages. Under the ARC trial protocol, fermentation begins in standard commercial stainless steel tanks. After the wines go through about one-third Brix depletion, they are then transferred into stainless steel drums.

Fresharom is added as a fermentation nutrient to create lots with higher GSH levels. Lower GSH level lots continue fermentation in drums without Fresharom additions. The wines are bottled with high and low GSH levels, and at a mid-level with a blend of the two. Each of these three GSH level lots are bottled with three different levels of sulfur dioxide—0, 10 parts per million (ppm) and 20 ppm. Bottle closures used are Diam 10 technical corks designed for low oxygen ingress. During bottle aging, the wines will be analyzed for sulfur dioxide and GSH degradation rates over time, and for levels of dissolved oxygen and oxygen appetite. The wines will be analyzed at three month intervals after bottling for 18 months, and will also be evaluated by a sensory panel for preference and fruit expression. “A goal of this project is to create a chart, similar to the chart created years ago on the relationship of wine pH to sulfur dioxide additions,” he said. “My idea is to propose new SO2 addition targets based on the GSH levels in wines.” As an example, it is possible that with wines having GSH levels of 10 ppm or less, winemakers should maintain their current levels of sulfur dioxide, but with GSH levels above 10 ppm, the sulfur dioxide addition rate could potentially start being reduced. It is generally believed that GSH levels of 20 ppm and above in wine are needed to offer significant protection. “Understanding how GSH levels impact aging curves will allow winemakers to safely reduce SO2 levels through aging and at bottling, allowing the production of more expressive and desirable aromatics in relation to the expected wine sales and wine consumption time frame,” he said. Grape Day attendees tour new research facility In addition to lectures and research presentations, the Grape Day event, which took place in early August, included a tour of the campus vineyards that produce wine, raisin and table grapes managed and processed by students as part of their course work and educational training. In addition, attendees received a tour of the new Jordan Agricultural Research Center (JARC) that held a grand opening in May and is receiving the finishing touches on laboratory and research space to begin use during the fall 2016 semester. The JARC, located about a half mile from the V&E Department and VERC facilities, is a 30,000 square foot, three-story building designed as an interdisciplinary agricultural research center that will allow researchers across all ag related sciences to perform individual projects, as well as collaborate on projects of mutual interest. Each floor is roughly divided in half, with laboratory facilities on one side of the hallway, and space for interaction and meeting among researchers, students and faculty on the other side of the hallway. The JARC includes a Sensory Evaluation Laboratory that will be used by the V&E Department for wine sensory research and product evaluations, and by other food science researchers. Other lab space will be used by the California Water Institute to coordinate campus water-related programs and research. A robotics laboratory will be used by ag scientists and engineers to develop and test robotic instruments and sensors for ag applications. Instrument analysis laboratories will enable students and faculty to test, calibrate and experiment with new instrument technologies for research and field applications. Individual laboratory spaces have been dedicated for plant physiology, plant pathology, microbiology, entomology, plant genomics, and bioenergy systems. Although V&E Department research will continue at the VERC facility, the JARC is available for additional projects and to collaborate with other ag science and engineering departments on multi-disciplinary projects.

New TV drama ‘Connoisseur’ to focus on fake fine wine – report

Decanter, August 24, 2016

A US television network is reportedly creating a drama series with Star Trek actor John Cho about a con artist who dupes wealthy collectors into buying fake versions of the world’s rarest wines.

Star Trek’s John Cho has been lined up to play the lead character in the series, named Connoisseur, according to US publication Variety. NBC is set to air it on its USA Network.

A spokesperson for NBC could not be immediately reached for comment.

The move comes after a spate of high profile fine wine fraud cases in the US.

He starts by tricking collectors into paying millions of dollars for fake wine. But, he ends up entangled with an organised crime gang.

The idea for the show follows recent FBI investigations into counterfeit fine wines.

Rudy Kurniawan is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for making and selling millions of dollars-worth of copycat fine wines in his Los Angeles kitchen.

Earlier this month, John Fox, owner of California’s Premier Cru retailer, turned himself in to the FBI and admitted conning customers out of at least $45m.

Do your wine habits match where you live….UK?

Decanter, August 25, 2016

Discount supermarket Aldi has revealed the wine drinking habits of its shoppers in different areas of the UK. Using the data collected from the first 16,000 transactions on the Aldi online site, which launched in January this year, the supermarket has found the most popular wine styles across the UK.

Sauvignon Blanc was the most popular wine style in the UK as a whole, followed by Prosecco, based on the Aldi shopper data.

Glasgow is the biggest drinker of Prosecco in the UK, and London is where Champagne is most popular. However, Champagne only came tenth in the nationwide list.

Residents of Reading enjoy Chablis the most. In Leicester, the most popular wine is Rioja.

Tony Baines, managing director of corporate buying at Aldi, said ‘Despite the dominance of Sauvignon Blanc, we are more experimental than ever in our choices, with shoppers regularly trying new grapes and niche styles of wine.

‘We expect consumers to keep trading up to more premium wines and for new, less well known variations of wine to become more prominent in the next five years as consumers become even more discerning. ’

Malbec was the third most popular in the UK, beating Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Where grape varieties and wine styles are the most popular:

• Chablis – Reading

• Chardonnay – Liverpool

• Champagne – South West London

• Rosé Champagne – Nottingham

• Rosé – Birmingham

• Gavi – Tonbridge

• Malbec – Edinburgh

• Pinot Noir – Coventry

• Prosecco – Glasgow

• Riesling – Chelmsford

• Rioja – Leicester

• Malbec rosé- Ipswich

• Sauvignon Blanc – Newcastle

• Shiraz – Norwich

Aldi shoppers’ 10 favourite wine styles:

1. Sauvignon Blanc

2. Prosecco

3. Malbec

4. Shiraz

5. Pinot Noir

6. Chardonnay

7. Rosé

8. Rioja

9. Gavi

10. Champagne

Hail-hit French winemakers allowed to buy in grapes

Decanter, 25 Aug

France has revived a controversial rule allowing winemakers to buy in grapes to cover extensive losses from severe frost and hailstorms in some areas.

The story in brief:

  • Rule allows 80% of crop to be bought from same appellation as hail and frost play havoc with 2016 harvest in Burgundy, Loire and parts of Languedoc

  • Winemakers question whether policy is workable

  • French agriculture minister pledges ‘full support’ to producers

Full story

Officials abolished the rule last year but have relented after a spate of severe frosts and hailstorms across French vineyards ahead of the 2016 harvest.

Last week’s deluge of hail in Languedoc appeared to be the final straw.

Some growers lost their entire 2016 crop in the Pic-St-Loup area, north of Montpellier.

The rule specifies that growers may purchase up to 80% of their harvest providing the grapes come from the same appellation as the grower’s vineyards.

Wines cannot be sold under the usual brand names, but they can be sold as a new cuvée. The wines would have RM status, which stands for Récoltant Manipulant.

Merchants will likely be upset by the move, after succeeding in having the rule revoked in April last year.

The catch

The catch for winemakers lies in finding grapes from the same appellation.

‘We lost between 60% and 75% of our crop to late spring frosts,’ said Boris Desbourdes, from Domaine de la Marinière in Chinon in the Loire.

‘Most of our neighbours are in the same situation, so it will be very difficult to find a suitable grape supply.’

It’s a similar story in Pic-St-Loup.

André Leenhardt, of Château de Cazeneuve, lost his entire harvest in last week’s hailstorm.

‘The appellation lost 50 to 60% of its potential harvest, so this means there is no extra grape supply available.’

We only want to use our own grapes’

Leenhardt and Desbourdes also have issues with the spirit of the rule.

‘As independent winemakers, we only want to make wine from grapes we have grown ourselves,’ said Desbourdes. ‘It is the only way to be transparent to our customers.’

Leenhardt described the system as a two-edged knife. It can help growers who have no reserves or who face financial pressure, but it could also tempt people to stretch the rules and buy grapes outside the appellation borders.

‘Pic-St-Loup has invested a lot in its appellation status,’ he said. ‘We need to be extra careful to control the origin as well as the quality this year.’

Leenhardt said that he will use reserve stocks rather than buy grapes.

Decanter.com understands that some producers in Chablis are considering using the rule. But, no one was willing to be quoted on the record.

France’s agriculture minister, Stéphane Le Foll, has pledged the full support of the state for winemakers. He was scant on details, but this will include tax breaks, the ministry said.

eBay gets boozy with wine site
Cnet 27 Apr 2016

When people think of wine, they might imagine California’s Napa Valley or Italy’s farmland, but almost certainly not eBay’s website.

The giant marketplace, which includes 900 million listings of various items at any given time, wants to shift that vision. The company is seeking to become an online destination for your next purchase of pinot noir or chardonnay, along with the place to find eBay staples like handbags, smartphones and Beanie Babies.

On Wednesday, eBay unveiled a new US-based site called eBay Wine and a partnership with startup Drync to bring a broader selection of reds, whites and rosés to eBay’s new online store.

“It’s a great opportunity for eBay to harness the power of the marketplace to offer customers more selection and listings,” Alyssa Steele, an eBay executive leading the wine effort, said in an interview.

The new site and section in eBay’s mobile app will start with over 10,000 wines from around the world, with inventory expected to double in the first three months. That could help eBay provide a wider selection than Amazon’s online wine store, which already includes thousands of listings. All wine sellers are vetted by eBay, and customers need to check each listing to see whether a particular seller can ship to their state.

eBay has actually been selling thousands of wines on its site for years. However, company executives would be the first to admit that eBay has done a poor job helping customers sift through its massive selection to find what they’re looking for. That’s where eBay Wine will come in, providing a layout, instead of a mess of listing pages, to help people search for regional favorites, specialty bundles or even specific wine glasses.

eBay is trying to become a more-structured storefront, like its rival Amazon, and less like a bazaar. As a result, eBay Wine may be the first of several new curated destination sites within eBay. CEO Devin Wenig hinted at this possibility during an earnings call Tuesday, saying people should “expect several exciting new category launches soon.”

Amid heavy competition from Amazon, Walmart and a slew of e-commerce startups, eBay hopes sites like eBay Wine and its already-popular eBay Motors can goose revenue from its main marketplace business, which has been on a slow decline for the past year.

eBay’s new wine push comes as online sales of beer, wine and liquor have been showing strong growth. The category has been slow to come to Internet shopping due to state regulations for shipping alcohol. Market researcher IbisWorld reported that online alcohol sales in the US reached $743 million last year, up 11 percent. Yet online alcohol sales remain a tiny niche of overall sales in the industry.

Drync CEO Brad Rosen sees the eBay deal, which will bring Drync’s partnering retailers to eBay’s new site, as an opportunity to change that situation.

“This launch of wine on eBay…is the pivotal moment when we’ll see the mainstream e-commerce of wine,” he said. “And I think that’s huge, because it’s one of the holdout industries to take advantage of the Internet.”

Vector Transmitting Red Blotch Virus Found

Growing Produce- Brian Wallheimer 27 April

A virus known as grapevine red blotch-associated virus (GRBaV) was discovered in vineyards planted with red wine grape cultivars in Napa County in 2008. It creates a disease on vines that presents as red blotches that start on leaf margins or blades and continue onto primary and secondary veins. In white grape cultivars, the blotches appear white or pale yellow.

The effects vary based on cultivars, but vines infected by red blotch have reduced total soluble solids in juice. Titratable acidity and pH can also be affected.

But a team of scientists has discovered that the three-cornered alfalfa treehopper (Spissistilus festinus) carries and is able to transmit the virus that causes red blotch.

We still have to confirm transmission in the field, but we have some indications now that we have the vector,” said Frank Zalom, Distinguished Professor of Entomology at UC-Davis, who made the discovery with post-doctoral researcher Brian Bahder and USDA virologist Mysore “Sudhi” Sudarshana.

Zalom said there are several other insects that carry the grapevine red blotch-associated virus, but it hadn’t been clear whether one of those insects, a nematode or some other method of transmission, delivered it to grapevines. The team was able to show the three-cornered alfalfa treehopper could transmit the virus in a lab setting. Now the team members will set out to show the same result in a field trial.

There is a good indication that we’ll be able to repeat that in the field,” Zalom said.

Knowing how the virus is transmitted is key to stopping red blotch’s spread. Zalom said another research path will focus on how to manage three-cornered alfalfa treehoppers.

A grower with a vineyard that has signs of red blotch should flag vines and have them tested by a commercial laboratory. If present, growers will need to decide whether to remove those vines and plant new vines. There is no current method for curing vines infected with red blotch.

MERCHANT SURVEY: MARGAUX ‘WINE OF THE VINTAGE’

The Drinks business-27th April, 2016 by Rupert Millar

Merchants taking part in Liv-ex’s annual en primeur survey have declared Château Margaux to be the ‘wine of the vintage’ in 2015, but the first growths in general have been called a “mixed bag”.

Every year before the campaign gets underway, Liv-ex sends a survey to its 440 international members asking them a series of questions about the latest Bordeaux vintage.

The overall impressions with regards the 2015 vintage are that first growth Margaux is the year’s top wine; for the sixth year in a row Grand Puy Lacoste was expected to be the best value wine, the average price was predicted to be 18% more expensive than in 2014 and, surprisingly, almost three quarters of merchants said they were expecting more demand this year than there had been for the ‘14s.

With price being no barrier, two thirds of merchants put Margaux as their top wine of the vintage and 40% were fans of Haut-Brion, while Cheval Blanc was ranked third favourite.

Many critics and commentators have already noted that the 2015 Margaux is a fitting tribute to the late technical director, Paul Pontallier, who sadly passed away this Easter.

Evenly split between Left and Right Bank wines, with the exception of one (Lafite) all of the wines were from Margaux, Pessac-Léognan, St Emilion or Pomerol, which were generally considered to be the best-performing communes in 2015.

The top 10 were:

Margaux

Haut-Brion

Cheval Blanc

Petrus

Vieux Château Certan

Ausone

Lafleur

Palmer

La Mission Haut-Brion

Lafite

Despite much praise being given to the vintage’s high points, there has also been a lot of discussion on its lows and, generally, the consensus is it is not a ‘great’ vintage.

There was a wide variety of opinion on the ‘worst’ wines of the vintage with Lafite being the one wine to appear on both the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ lists. Ultimately however, with 112 different wines listed in this category the data was too disparate to compile a list said Liv-ex.

Nonetheless, the fact that 112 different wines were listed as ‘disappointments’ should be a clear sign of the vintage’s less than homogeneous character and further evidence that it is not uniformly ‘great’.

In terms of its similarity to other vintages, over a third of respondents said the 2015s were “too varied” to make any firm comparison, although there were others who said it was reminiscent of 2005 or 2001 in places. As Liv-ex said, those with “longer memories made comparisons to the 1985”.

Using the 100-point Robert Parker model, the 2015 was awarded an average 94 points overall – which puts it above the averages merchants gave for the 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 vintages and just below those they gave for 2009 and 2010.

In considering the quality of the first growths alone, the 2015 was ranked below the 2010, 2005, and 2009 vintages, with some merchants calling the 2015 firsts a “mixed bag”.

Woolworths Liquor Group Rebrands as Endeavour Drinks Group

Drinksbulletin-April 27, 2016

Woolworths Liquor Group has announced that it will be changing its name to Endeavour Drinks Group. The company informed supplier partners on Wednesday.

Endeavour Drinks Group will incorporate Woolworths’ banners: Dan Murphy’s, BWS, Cellarmasters and Langtons.

Rose Scott, General Manager Merchandising and Marketing said the company wanted a new name that would differentiate its liquor business from its supermarkets food business.

Woolworths is synonymous with the customer facing supermarkets food business. Our association with them through ownership is strong and proud, but it is time for a story about us, for us,” Scott explained.

The term “liquor” doesn’t fully encompass how our customers feel about our business. Liquor is a dated term. “Drinks” is more aligned to the social atmosphere our customers want to associate with beer, wine, cider, RTD and glass spirits,” Scott added. “We need to separate our ownership from the strong customer facing brands that sit underneath it.”

As for the choice of Endeavour, Scott said, “We landed on Endeavour as we believe it reflects our attitude and desire to always be looking for great opportunities…. It’s about the strength of our commitment to keep discovering.”

Endeavour Beverages and Endeavour Vineyards

Endeavour Beverages has confirmed that it will continue to trade under its existing name, as will its beer brand, Endeavour Vintage Beer Co., despite the cross-over of names.

Woolworths approached us some time ago and we positively agreed to co-exist,” Ben Kooyman, Founder of Endeavour Beverages, told drinks bulletin. “We will continue to just be mutually-valued trading partners, and ‘little ole’ Endeavour Vintage Beer Co. will continue to be independently owned by the original mates that banded together back in 2010…”

drinks bulletin was unable to reach Casama, which owns Endeavour Vineyards, in time for comment.

Endeavour Drinks Group will be reflected in a new logo for Woolworths Liquor Group as well as email addresses used by its support office team from 1 June.

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.