Why the Natural Wine Movement Can’t Settle on Its Lingo

VinePair, 9 March 2022, by Morgan Goldberg

In a 2019 Financial Times article, wine writer Jancis Robinson posed a provocative question: “Why is natural wine so divisive?” She was, of course, referring to the deep rift between those who drink, produce, and sell wine made without pesticides or additives and their traditional industry counterparts. The groups have long turned their noses up at each other, but lately, it’s the chasm within the natural wine community that seems to be growing. Language — primarily, the emergence of the term “low-intervention” — is at the root of the debate.

Though most members of the natural wine movement accept that the label “natural” requires the use of organic or biodynamic farming practices, fermentation without added yeast or sugar, and a lack of filtration, some believe the introduction of minimal sulfites is still considered “natural.” Others maintain that only zero-zero wines deserve the distinction. It’s this dispute that has ushered in the use of “low-intervention,” a term that acknowledges a light touch from the winemaker to stabilize flavor, but fundamentally lacks clear definition.

“Most of our use of language is not regulated,” explains Dr. Marjorie Pak, a senior lecturer in linguistics at Emory University. “Words end up just meaning what the community passively agrees that they mean. It’s totally normal for people to disagree about exactly what a word means and whether it’s appropriate to use it in this or that context.”

So when, why, and how should “natural” and “low-intervention” be employed? At face value, “low-intervention” appears to be more descriptive than “natural,” which has a fraught reputation across several industries as a vague, overused word. “I think ‘low-intervention’ is both more informative and accurate,” Robinson comments. “I don’t like the fact that the term ‘natural’ implies absolutely all other wines are unnatural.”

Author, former beauty editor, and language scholar Amanda Montell takes issue with the use of “natural” as well. “The word ‘natural’ is tossed around willy-nilly in [the beauty] world a lot,” she says. “The problem with it is that it doesn’t mean anything because there’s no FDA regulation associated with the term. I bristle when I hear the word because I don’t find that it’s specific enough to have any meaning. In a lot of industries, it has been beaten to death and rendered meaningless.”

But for some, the choice of terminology is a more emotional one. Australia-based winemaker and writer Rachel Signer has such a strong attachment to the word “natural” that she used it in the title of her debut novel “You Had Me at Pét-Nat: A Natural Wine-Soaked Memoir.” She reasons, “I still like the term ‘natural wine’ because it was the original term that got me interested in the movement and it referred to that original crowd of people. … I find myself continuing to use it because of that. It’s almost nostalgic.”

When it comes to a shift toward using “low-intervention,” Signer detects nefarious undertones. “It’s a marketing term,” she says. “It’s kind of an insult to natural wine. They’re saying, ‘I still add some sulfites and I’m pretty happy with sulfites. I’m going to keep adding them, but I want to market myself as part of the natural wine world, so I’m going to choose this very carefully phrased term so that you’ll know that I am part of that trend.’”

RAW WINE founder and author Isabelle Legeron views the issue more matter-of-factly. Since she started hosting fairs in 2012, she’s categorized zero-zero wines as “natural” and those with few sulfites added as “low-intervention.” She makes a point to note the farming practices used to grow the grapes for each bottle, which she values more than what happens in the cellar.

“Farming is the most important thing now because there’s a whole generation of young drinkers who think of natural wine because of its [cloudy, funky] looks and the fact that it’s quite trendy, but no one really thinks about what’s happening to vines and the soil and the bugs living underground,” Legeron laments.

Winemakers are mired in the debate, too. For example, Martha Stoumen of Martha Stoumen Wines tends to choose one term over the other depending on her audience. “My main goal is to push forward more responsible farming in this industry,” Stoumen says. “It’s more of a philosophical decision to make ‘natural wine.’ For those who aren’t quite on the same wavelength, ‘low-intervention wines’ is a little bit of an easier term to use.”

Meanwhile, Megan Bell of Santa Cruz Mountains-based Margins Wine exclusively uses “low-intervention” in her branding to cater to the community bias. “I think they’re interchangeable, but not everybody does, which is why I don’t use them interchangeably,” she says. “I use ‘low-intervention’ because I am reserving the term ‘natural wine’ for the folks that are making zero-zero wines and not adding any sulfites. They think they’re the only ones making natural wine, so I just go along with that because I don’t care to fight about it.”

Ultimately, attempting to define “natural” and “low-intervention” is futile when no one is seeing eye to eye. LaLou co-founder Dave Foss summarizes the conundrum well when he says, “It’s a very gray area. … There are some very popular ‘natural’ winemakers who add some sulfites and some winemakers who identify as ‘low-intervention’ who don’t add sulfites. It’s a complicated question.” Divisive, indeed.



Forget Cans: Wine Can Now Be Sold in These Full-Size Aluminum Bottles
 Food & Wine , 8 March 2022

 Think screw caps are controversial? What if the entire bottle was basically a screw cap?

Producing bold reds packed with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Bordeaux is often considered the world’s best wine region. But if you want the world’s most expensive wine, you have to head east in France to Burgundy, home of Romanée-Conti. Overall, Burgundy wines are known for commanding some absurd prices. So here’s an unlikely question: Would you be willing to buy a Burgundy packaged in an entirely aluminum bottle?

CCL Container — which calls itself “the leading North American manufacturer of impact-extruded aluminum packaging for a broad range of consumer products” — recently announced that they’ve added a new Burgundy-shaped aluminum wine bottle to their portfolio. The company says these metal bottles are a “first of their kind” with a 76-centimeter diameter.

While many wine bottles, including the style for Bordeaux, tend to have a consistent cylinder shape, Burgundy bottles traditionally have a more extensive taper at the top and are wider at the bottom (to the bane of some wine racks). It’s an elegant package for any wine, whether it’s from the French region or not. And thanks to canned wine, aluminum is certainly a more popular packaging than in the past. But full-size 750-milliliter metal bottles for wine in any shape are still extremely rare. Is a specifically Burgundy-shaped bottle even necessary?

CCL Container focuses on the packaging’s many advantages over traditional glass bottles. These aluminum bottles are “resealable with a threaded cap that can keep the wine fresh for longer,” and since “the threading in the cap does not contain plastic, the entire container, made from virgin aluminum, is 100 percent recyclable,” they write. Aluminum bottles weigh less, making them cheaper to ship, and they’re also less likely to break. CCL adds, “With higher thermal conductivity and chill retention than glass and plastic, aluminum bottles cool quickly and stay cooler for a longer period of time.” Plus, aluminum allows for design elements across the entire bottle, not just on a label, to help these already unique bottles stand out even further.

But at a time when even choosing between a cork versus a screw cap still creates loads of debate, are consumers ready for a Burgundy-shaped bottle that, in one way of thinking of it, is made entirely of screw cap?

In the announcement, Kimberly Kizer, CCL’s vice president of sales, acknowledged this problem, but pointed to opportunity. “The wine industry is steeped in tradition that dates back thousands of years, yet many brands and wine drinkers are clamoring for innovation,” she said. “The new, Burgundy-shaped aluminum wine bottle provides the best of all worlds in terms of quality, freshness, sustainability, and unique branding opportunities.”

Of course, just because something can be made doesn’t mean winemakers — especially those in a very traditional wine region like Burgundy — will jump on board. In the announcement, CLL Containers only says that the company “looks forward” to partnering with wineries. And, in fact, a spokesperson for the company admitted that they’ve yet to produce 750-milliliter wine bottles of any kind for any customer.

That said, there’s always a first for everything, and being the first brand to sell them at retail could certainly grab people’s attention. Still, it’s probably safe to assume that Romanée-Conti won’t be calling just yet.


When will sustainability matter to wine consumers?

 Wine Intelligence, March 2022

The concept of sustainability – in all its forms and definitions – has become a powerful driver of consumer sentiment in recent years. Brands from categories as diverse as airlines and accountancy firms have rushed to burnish their sustainability credentials. Similar trends have also taken root in the global alcohol industry – and for good reason. According to data collected for the IWSR Covid Tracker 2021, nearly half of American adult drinkers of beverage alcohol (48%) and 70% of Chinese alcohol drinkers said they were ‘positively influenced’ to buy brands that had demonstrable environmental or sustainability credentials.

The history of sustainability and wine goes back longer than most industries. Organic wines have been a feature of upscale restaurant wine lists and independent stores since the early 1980s. Thanks to strong advocacy from its state retail monopoly, Systembolaget, organic wine in Sweden accounts for almost 1 in 4 bottles of wine sold in that market.

More recently, the wine category has witnessed further developments of sustainability. These include biodynamic wines, which take the concept of organic wine further by applying agricultural techniques developed by the philosopher of Rudolf Steiner (who also founded the Steiner Schools movement), and natural (or low-intervention) wines, which take the concept of sustainability down to a fairly basic level by allowing natural fermentation processes to take place free of any chemical inputs or engineered yeasts. A number of wine-producing countries and regions have also set up their own sustainability standards, and used their marketing muscle to incentivise producers to comply.

As one might expect, wine consumers are at least as keen on sustainability in general. In our latest Strategic Report, Opportunities for Alternative Wines, Wine Intelligence research found that between 56% and 67% of wine consumers across major wine markets (US, Canada, UK, Sweden and Australia) had a high connection with sustainability in general, judging from their answers to a number of statements about the subject.

However there seemed to be a disconnect between their broader attitudes to sustainability and their willingness to translate this desire into their wine purchasing behaviour. Among all regular wine drinkers, the willingness to pay more sustainable wines, or to opt for sustainable wines given the choice, fell to around a third of drinkers across the same markets.

This discrepancy between what consumers say they would like to do with regard to the environment and sustainable products, and what they actually do, is well documented. In a landmark Harvard Business Review article in 2019, Katherine White and two colleagues at the University of British Columbia note that the gap between desire and action in sustainability is wide – in fact, their research found near identical gap to the one we documented above. Their prescription for bridging it came down to a variety of factors, including social influence (people copy habits of others), the domino effect (people like to be consistent) and pitching messages that resonate at both a rational and emotional level.

However White and her colleagues concluded that getting people to buy in a sustainable way remains a major challenge, as there are plenty of reasons to revert to less sustainable alternatives – the (typically) higher price being one of the key dissuading factors.

The silver lining for the wine category, as documented in our tracking data, is that the usage trend appears to be moving in a positive direction. The Wine Intelligence Alternative Wine Opportunity Index, a compound measure of consumer engagement in wine categories including sustainable, organic, natural, biodynamic and Fair Trade, is showing gains across the board.

Within this group, the standout performer over the past two years has been natural wine. This sector has benefited from widespread advocacy over the past few years from within the wine trade, particularly the influential sommelier community, and can now be found on wine lists at many fashion-conscious bars and restaurants in major developed world cities.

What appears to set natural wine apart from many other ‘sustainable’ wine products is that its fundamental attraction is more focused on the intrinsic – the process in which the wine is made makes its taste profile very distinctive. This contrasts with the much more long-established organic wine, which is also continuing to build an audience, but at a less spectacular rate of growth. Organic wines may claim to offer a better consumer taste experience, but broadly organic’s selling point is more likely to be extrinsic – perceptions of the category as an ethical or sustainable choice. 

That said, the deliberate strategy of Systembolaget in Sweden to list a growing number of organic wines in its retail stores has led Sweden to become one of the largest and most successful organic wine markets in the world, providing a good example of White et al’s “social influence” effect. Natural wine also seems to be benefiting from the same effect, among a more involved segment of the wine drinking population in larger cities such as London and New York. It may be that the sustainable wine market simply requires more of these social influence nudges to become acceptable in the mainstream.

 Anger over calls to label wine as ‘unhealthy’ in France

08 March 2022 The Drinks Business, By Christian Smith

The adoption of Nutri-Score rankings for alcohol in France would see wine labelled as nutritionally unhealthy, prompting upset across the industry in Europe.  

France adopted the Nutri-Score system as a means to improve the quality of nutrition standards in the country in 2017. However, the system is far from being universally liked.

 Indeed, calls in France for the Nutri-Score system to be adopted on wine labels has lead to anger and upset in the industry, particularly since the scientists who created the system believe that all alcoholic drinks should be labelled an an ‘F’ on a scale that currently only runs from A-E.
In February, we reported that the European Commission had approved the conclusion of a report from BECA – the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer – which stated that any amount of alcohol consumption carries a health risk; there is “no safe level”.
However, after debate and votes, a key distinction was made between harmful and moderate alcohol consumption.

 It is worth noting that Nutri-Score is not currently mandatory in France, though there are those who believe it ought to be.

Christophe Château, head of communication at the CIVB, the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux, said of the adoption of Nutri-Score:

 “We will not have to have an extra label on the bottle, but instead a QR code or an internet link.”
Châteaux admitted that being given a lowly score on the scale would not “make us happy, but you have to go with the flow”.

He commented: “It is a reminder that wine does contain a lot of calories – around 80 for a glass of red wine. We are confident most people will see the information for what it is. We always advise people to drink for enjoyment and in moderation.”

 Meanwhile, Italy’s agriculture minister Gian Carlo Centinaio said:
“I want to know what Macron thinks of the latest propositions from Nutri-Score, who now say we should have a black F for all drinks containing a little bit of alcohol.”

The report from BECA – the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer, which we referenced above, still recommends “the mandatory indication of the list of ingredients and nutritional information”.

 How did Australian beer slobs become wine drinkers?

The Wine Gourd, 7 March 2022

 Writing about a single country may seem like a bit of a restricted viewpoint, but in this case the example may contain interesting ideas for the wine industry at large. Wine is currently consumed by a greater percentage of Australians than is beer (46% versus 36%, according to a Roy Morgan poll), and Australia is in the Top Ten for wine consumption (according to the OIV). Believe me, this was not always so!

When I was young (in the 1970s), young people in Australia did not drink wine. They drank beer — wine was snobby / snooty / elitist, and the cheap stuff was undrinkable. These days, wine is quite respectable, and Australia is a leading global wine producer (and quite proud of having some of the oldest grapevines in the world). This is a pretty serious change. I am not going to try to explain this change, but it does seem to me that a number of relevant factors have been involved, and I will look at some of them here.

The archetypal, cliché, Australian male of the 1960s and 1970s, often referred to as Norm, was like this (Let sleeping Norms lie):

He slumped on a lounge chair, gazing at the TV over an enormous beer gut, tinny [beer can] in his hand … He was an unapologetic middle-aged slob, who resisted all entreaties to exercise. “I’m an all-round sportsman,” said Norm, but he was referring to the games he watched on the small screen, not to actually playing sport.

 This situation got so bad that, in the mid 1970s, a cartoon character Norm (pictured above) became the anti-hero of TV ads for an official government Life. Be In It health campaign. He drew laughs, for sure, but also embarrassed gasps of recognition across Australia.

This, then, was one of the major changes — being a beer slob was no longer an aspirational lifestyle. The re-evaluation of what a healthy lifestyle actually meant, in practice, created a climate that the wine industry could (and did) take advantage of. After all, one drinks less wine than beer, and not usually while slumped in front of a TV. So, wine was presented as part of the new aspirational lifestyle.

Another background change was the recognition of cultural diversity. Other countries have lots of migrants, sure, but Australia is in a very different situation because of the large percentage of them (as opposed to a large number). According to government statistics, at least 40% of the people are either migrants themselves (c. 25%) or their parents were. That is, the “language of the home” (as opposed to school or workplace) may not be English (or the Australian version of it). So, that cliché “ocker” Australian image (eg. Crocodile Dundee), so beloved of the foreign media, misses a lot of the reality. This blatantly obvious ethnic situation was ignored under the previous British cultural dominance. *

I am happy to say that my generation was the one that started to change this. We Baby Boomers were the first ones to explicitly have a government minister for “ethnic affairs” (the flamboyant and unforgettable Al Grasby), and (much later) one for “Aboriginal affairs”. Things have continued to improve since those formal recognitions of the state of affairs in multi-cultural Australia. More recently, of course, there has been interest in other forms of cultural diversity, such as gender and sexual equality, in addition to this ethnic diversity.

For the wine industry, the recognition of ethnic diversity was a veritable boon, because many of these migrants came from countries where wine was a normal part of the culture. The importance of this cannot be overstated (as shown in the graph below). Once you recognize the people, you also recognize their cultural heritage, and this then becomes part of your own contemporary culture. Drinking wine was no longer snobby, but was instead now perfectly normal; and the subsequent TV and print ads produced by the wine industry reflected this.

Naturally, Australian Millennials are rightly carrying on the work. It does seem possible, to me, that this may have something to do with the recent observation that these Millennials are apparently also drinking wine (Australian), unlike their contemporaries elsewhere (Australian millennials drive wine consumption post-pandemic).

There is, of course, no purpose to changing the culture if there is no-one to lead the way towards something new, in this case wine. This is where Len Evans comes in. The adjective always used to describe him was “ebullient”, and it fitted perfectly. Len was your classic “man of the people”, and he loved to communicate the enjoyment of wine. I have described his many, many (lasting) effects on the Australian wine industry in my post on The Len Evans effect, so I won’t repeat them here.

Of course, this is not to say that there was no-one else involved, because there were plenty of other prominent people in the Australian wine industry. The most notable of these was James Halliday, especially through his roles as writer and educator. His approach was more up-market than that of Len Evans, but no less important, once a person got started on their interest in wine. His James Halliday’s Australian Wine Guide (1986) was invaluable to me.

Lastly, we should not overlook the inestimable concept of bag-in-box wine, or Cask Wine, as Australians know it. This classic wine presentation had its 50th birthday quite a few years ago (The wine cask turns 50), having been pioneered in Australia in 1965 (1965 — Cask wine invented).

There are many aspects to this practical invention, from storing open wine without spoilage, to portability for parties, to its eminent recyclability (being a plastic bladder in a cardboard box, not glass) (The wine innovation that deserves more attention). There is much current discussion of putting wine in cans, instead of bottles (Wine in cans in 2020), but this long-standing method should have just as much appeal for environmentally conscientious wine consumers (Wine packaging in the modern world is not (yet) sustainable).

The point here is that Millennials have made it clear that they care about their future, and the wine industry must join them. Innovative packaging helped change Australian drinking culture back in the 1970s, and there is a need for this to happen again now, globally. The best stuff comes in bottles, we all know that! You don’t lay down a cellar full of “Chateau Cardboard” (as we also called it in Australia); and, so, the bag-in-box packaging has not been used for the best-quality wines. Presumably the same will be true for cans — cellaring “a 12-pack of wine” will not be the same as laying down “a case of wine”. This must change; and it may already be doing so (Is a boxed wine revolution on its way?).

The advertisers can do it. Back in the 1970s, the most successful Australian brand of bladder wines, Orlando Coolabah (launched in 1973), had a series of television ads based on the slogan: “Where do you hide your Coolabah?” (see Australia Remember When). It showed examples such as hiding your wine cask behind a large pot plant, so that the other party-goers could not get their hands on the good stuff. This is still firmly embedded in my memory, over 50 years later, so there is no reason to expect current advertisers to be any less successful.


This may all sound pretty extreme, since I have covered a change in an entire national culture, with many aspects to it. However, isn’t that what the wine industry is currently faced with? If Millennials are not happy with the current wine culture, then the future must also involve a cultural change, one way or the other (The wine industry is asking the wrong question).

*  In Australia, the most murky past is therefore not being a migrant! My own murkiness thereby comes from the fact that 7 of my 8 great grandparents were all born in Australia, which makes me pretty rare. The 8th one, by the way, was the Scotsman who brought in the Morrison name. Through one lineage, I can actually trace myself back to the Second Fleet, which was the second lot of British boats to invade, in 1790. Should I be proud of this?



Chardonnay grape residue has been found to contain human health benefits
The California Aggie, 17 May

Recent study finds the oligosaccharides in pomace could contribute to intestinal health

Chardonnay pomace, which is the solid remains of wine grapes after juicing, has been found to increase health benefits in humans, according to a study written by a food science research team at UC Davis. 

Oligosaccharides are a type of carbohydrate characterized by 3-10 simple sugars linked together. Chardonnay pomace (or marc) consists of the seeds, flesh and skin of the grapes that are classified as waste and benefit one’s health. The bioactive compounds responsible for the health benefits were uncovered through a seed extract.

The pomace has been identified to be a product of winemaking that is about 30% of the grape’s original mass. Along with having health benefits, Chardonnay pomace can also be an ingredient for making grape seed oil, a source of food for livestock, and can be used to produce alcoholic beverages such as grappa.

Dr. Daniela Barile, a professor and chemist at the UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology, was one of the authors of the study. Barile is the principal investigator of the Barile Lab, an analytical chemistry lab that focuses on identifying small molecules in food with a bioactive function. According to Barile, having a bioactive function means that the molecules are not in the food for nutritional purposes, such as calories, but are beneficial for health like feeding the bacteria in a gut.

Amanda Sinrod, the lead author on the published paper and a master’s candidate and graduate student researcher in the Barile Lab, led the carbohydrate portion of the research.

This consisted of conducting a gross characterization of the grape marc to find the protein, fiber, fat and total carbohydrates, including analyzing the medium-sized carbohydrates called oligosaccharide compounds. Sinrod partnered with the Wang Lab, led by Dr. Selina Wang in the food science department at UC Davis. Dr. Wang’s lab manager, Xueqi Shirley Li, MS, Food Science and Technology, conducted the phenolics research. 

The main finding of the study was that Chardonnay marc has other properties besides being extremely rich in phenolics, which are well-studied health compounds. These phenolics have antioxidant, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, according to Sinrod.

According to Sinrod, the researchers also discovered that the Chardonnay pomace has really diverse and complex oligosaccharides that could potentially improve gut health by encouraging good bacteria to grow.

Since wine is a major industry in California, a large quantity of grape marc is being produced each year. These grape marcs are filled with bioactive compounds that could benefit human health and help feed people. 

“Food waste is a tremendous issue that the food industry is facing right now,” Sinrod said.

The research started in this study is going to continue for another year. Now the researchers have a method to fractionate the two types of bioactive compounds, phenolics and oligosaccharides. 

“The next step is to analyze one fraction of purified oligosaccharides, another fraction of phenolics and then study the two together in vitro in collaboration with microbiologists in our department […] and understand what is the contribution of oligosaccharide and phenolics,” Barile said.


Future wine land 
Meiningers 3 Sep

Some of the world’s most prestigious winemakers list five top regions for making wine in the future.

L.M. Archer has the details.

Anderson Valley, CA, USA

Anderson Valley perches in Northern California near the Pacific Ocean. The area’s cool, marine conditions prove ideal for cultivating Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

“My father Jean-Claude Rouzaud, former president of Champagne Louis Roederer, understood that outstanding estate vineyards create exceptional sparkling wines,” says Frederic Rouzaud, scion and president of Roederer Estate. Further local holdings include historic Scharffenberger Cellars and biodynamic Domaine Anderson.

“When expansion in the Champagne region was not feasible, he looked at California and settled on the Anderson Valley in 1982,” says Rouzaud. “He chose the region because he thought it would be perfect for producing the best quality fruit for sparkling wine, and he was right.”

Corsica, France

Corsica, or Ile de Beauté, anchors off the French Mediterranean coast. The 183 km (114 mi) long island boasts rocky, high-altitude schist and granite soils, abundant coastline, and wind-blocking mountains.

It captured the heart of François Labet of Château de La Tour – Clos de Vougeot and Domaine Pierre Labet of Bourgogne, whose family traces their noble winemaking heritage back 500 years. Labet spends his summers in Corsica every year.
For his project François Labet, Corsica offers a sunny spin on Pinot Noir. “My goal was to produce in France, outside of Burgundy, Pinot Noirs that could match with New Zealand Pinot,” he says. “In Corsica, we want to bring the lovely delicacy of the Pinot to young drinkers.”

Patagonia, Argentina

Anchored in southern Argentina, Patagonia proffers intense luminosity, cold nights, abundant mineral-rich Andes mountain water for irrigation, equally mineral-rich soils, and strong, drying winds that help mitigate odium. 

“I chose Patagonia because I drank a wine that came from Rio Negro, and felt that it was a tremendous potential,” says Piero Incisa della Rochetta of Bodega Chacra, nephew of famed Sassiciai – Tenuta San Guido founder Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta. “When I finally went to visit the ‘Sunken Desert Valley’ where these vineyards were planted, I immediately noticed the perfect condition [sic] that are conducive to making pure organic and biodynamic wines.” 

“In Patagonia, most vineyards are pre-phylloxera,” adds Incisa della Rochetta. “This means pure unique rare genetic material that is massale selection, free of clones, and American root stock. In my world, this is priceless – it’s like finding Alibaba’s cavern – and I am not joking either!”

 Santa Rita Hills – Santa Barbara County, CA, USA 

François Labet of Domaine Pierre Labet  also finds great potential in California. Here, Labet partners with John Terlato of the Terlato family and Terlato Wines on Domaine Jean François, a joint venture they started in 2018 using fruit from Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Rita Hills appellation.

Original co-founders Michael Benedict and Richard Sanford planted historic Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in 1972. The site’s marine-based Monterey shale soils and Mediterranean climate, cooled by the nearby Pacific Ocean, proved ideal for cultivating quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

“This is a project for which François and I have great passion,” says Terlato. “Sanford is owned by the Terlato Family – by my brother Bill and I – and the joint venture with François came out of our great respect for the place along with the same great appreciation for what our vineyard has to offer.”  

“Our goal was to use the fruit from this extraordinary, iconic and historic vineyard and make wines with Burgundian heart,” concludes Terlato. “It does not mean that we’re trying to copy Burgundy. That’s impossible. It means that we’re taking many hundreds of years of experience of the Labet family in Burgundy, and then applying that knowledge and experience to this specific unique place to show what this might yield. And we’re very, very happy with what it has yielded.”

 Willamette Valley, OR, USA 

Société Jacques Bollinger (SJB) purchased Ponzi Vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 2021, a wine region which resembles Champagne in latitude and climate.

“The terroir of the Willamette Valley also proved to be an important factor as to why we invested in the region” says Etienne Bizot, chairman and CEO of SJB. “Ponzi Vineyards was one of the earliest to recognize the potential of this region, taking a huge risk to plant some of the first Pinot Noir in the late 1960s.”

Ponzi Vineyards lies between the Coast and Cascade ranges, “providing the ideal balance of temperature, humidity and soil for cool climate varietals that are grown there,” continues Bizot. “It is also a region that welcomes wine tourism, and Ponzi’s accessibility to Portland offers a wonderful escape for wine lovers to visit and share memorable experiences around wine. Our hope is to drive value growth and visibility for Ponzi Vineyards, engage with American consumers, and produce outstanding wines that appeal to their preferences.”


Rioja leaves bad taste in the mouth for Basque winemakers

The Guardian, 18 May 2021

More than 50 winemakers from Basque part of Rioja denomination no longer want to be associated with name

Harvesting of tempranillo grapes in Lanciego, in the Basque country province of Álava. Photograph: Elena de las Heras/Alamy

 A group of winemakers from northern Spain are seeking EU approval for their products not to be labelled Rioja, the country’s most famous denomination.

The Rioja denomination embraces three regions: La Rioja, part of Navarra and the Basque province of Álava. More than 50 Rioja Alavesa winemakers now want to break away and have created their own denomination, the somewhat unwieldy Arabako Mahastiak/Viñedos de Álava.

The move has won the approval of the ruling Basque Nationalist party and the government in Madrid, which depends on the Basques for its parliamentary majority. The denomination now goes to the European Union for approval.

Identity politics play a part. The Basque government likes the idea of a Basque denomination, while local winemakers say that cave paintings show they have been making wine in Álava for millennia and that their wines and the way they make them is distinct from their neighbours.

Ultimately, though, it’s about quality versus quantity. Rioja’s 473 wineries produce 3.1m hectolitres (310m litres) and, inevitably, not all of it lives up to its name.

The Rioja Alavesa producers want to distinguish themselves on the grounds of quality, even if it means forsaking the internationally recognised Rioja brand name.

“Spain is Europe’s biggest wine exporter by volume but only the third in income, whereas France is only the third largest but its exports earn four times as much as Spain,” said Javier Ruiz de Galarreta, the president of a major group of exporters of Rioja Alavesa.

Supporters of the breakaway point to research that shows a trend towards consumers wanting to drink smaller amounts of higher-quality wine.

What they want is something similar to the French system, where there is a regional appellation contrôlée such as Bordeaux or Bourgogne but within it numerous smaller ones such as Médoc or Meursault. There are also further quality indicators such as premiers or grands crus.

Rioja also has its ratings of crianza, reserva and gran reserva but these are unreliable guides to quality and simply indicate the age of the wine.

“Quality is the key, not the time it’s spent in the bottle,” said Benjamín Romeo of Bodegas Contador in Rioja.



The Changing Landscape of Alternative Wine Containers  
18 May 2021, The Examiner.

In last week’s column I focused on the carbon footprint of shipping wine. This week my focus is on reducing the carbon footprint further, by changing the wine container. Slowly, but inexorably, the wine industry is moving to alternatives.   

How might this foreshadow an environment impact? To ensuring the quality of wine? To the sensibilities of consumers?

Bottles have been the preferred containers for centuries and, until recently, never questioned. But now we’re at a crossroad of being environmentally conscious (which we all support) while possibly periling the quality of our wines (which we all resist).

We’ve been through this before. Remember Almaden Hearty Burgundy in the ’80s and ’90s that was sold in boxes? Remember the – ugh – wines in those boxes? As it turns out, those rudimentary containers may have been ahead of their time.

Now that the entire planet has become eco-conscious, the wine industry has been studying the ecological impact of their current packaging and, in the true spirit of American entrepreneurialism, a marketing angle to exploit.  

In the last few years, the wine industry has increasingly embraced a radical change that initially met with pessimism and snobbery: screw caps. Winemakers – and marketing companies – have been exploring new ways to change their packaging.

This outside-the-box thinking has resulted in an inside-the-box answer. Quality wines are slowly becoming “green.”

The capability of packaging quality wines at a reduced cost is having a major impact on traditional winemakers. I believe this will usher in a brave new world of improved packaging for quality wines (but not high-end wines). Consumers are becoming more demanding in their pursuit of ecologically sustainable purchases, including wine.

The weight of a case of wine in glass bottles is 40 pounds (or more) and is typically distributed 50-50 between the wine and the packaging, compared to paper and plastic containers, which are nearly half the weight with a distribution of 95-5 between the wine and the packaging. This results in a significant reduction in the raw materials utilized, the environmental impact and the transportation costs of wine.

So, what innovative packaging has hit the market over the last few years?
  1. Flat Bottles. Garçon Wines of Great Britain produces a slimmed-down version of a plastic wine bottle. No wider than a traditional screwcap (less volume footprint) and much lighter than a glass bottle, it addresses two carbon footprint issues (notwithstanding the ecological issues of plastic recyclability).
  2. Paper Bottles. The “Frugal bottle” is composed of 94 percent recycled paperboard around a food grade liner, similar to the bag inside boxed wine. According to the manufacturer it is up to five times lighter than a typical glass bottle and has a carbon footprint up to six times lower.
  3. Tetra Paks. This is the wine in a box, which comes in many shapes and sizes. The plastic “bag” in a cardboard, recyclable box preserves wine better than a bottle. It collapses around the wine, eliminating oxygen and thereby delaying oxidation and spoilage. Wines in opened boxes have a shelf life of 30 to 60 days, compared to 12 to 24 hours for bottles. Recently, a number of mass-market wine companies have embraced this technology and are producing much higher quality wines than in the past.
  4. Single-serving Containers. The wine in a box has typically been marketed in one- to three-liter sizes for convenience. For today’s typical on-the-go consumer, a number of wines are available in single-serving pouches, the equivalent of kids’ juice boxes (replete with straw if you so desire).

The single-serving container trend has evolved into several alternatives. When hiking or picnicking, glass bottles can be cumbersome and even dangerous. Why not pack your wine in an aluminum can? Or an esthetically more pleasing aluminum bottle shape?

The hurdle facing winemakers – and it’s huge – is the psychological image of an other-than-glass vessel containing an inferior drink for the masses. As more and more winemakers introduce quality wines in boxes, I think this image will change. How many of you turned up your noses when screw caps first came on the market?



Dom Pérignon cooperates with Lady Gaga

Meiningers 1 Apr 2021


The champagne house and the musician do a joint advertising campaign.

Dom Pérignon today announced the new partnership with Lady Gaga / Credit: Dom Pérignon

The champagne brand Dom Pérignon is relying on Lady Gaga as a testimonial. As the company announced today, the cooperation is to start on 6 April with an advertising campaign, limited edition bottles and a sculpture designed by Lady Gaga.

“Today, more than ever, the world needs the power of creative freedom. A power that opens new horizons and moves us forward. A force that unites Lady Gaga and Dom Pérignon in a joint project,” the house writes. “This is a celebration of the way that moving old boundaries, reinventing the known and passionate engagement can motivate us all, individually and as a collective.”

The project will also support the work of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way Foundation!”, which works for the mental well-being of young people.


Italy distributes planting rights for 6,722 hectares

Meiningers -12 March 2021

Demand is high, but only ten percent is satisfied.

Despite the mood of crisis, Italy’s producers eagerly applied for planting rights in 2020. Producers wanted 64,036 hectares, almost ten times the available quota of 6,722 hectares.

Since the EU rules on planting rights came into force in 2016, the focus of applications has completely shifted. In the first two years, around 70 percent of the requests came from just two regions, Veneto and Friuli, mainly due to the successful DOCs Prosecco, Delle Venezie and Valpolicella. From 2018, the rush for permits shifted to the south, to Puglia and Sicily. According to the trade journal Corriere Vinicolo, Puglia accounted for a full 44 percent (28,000 ha) of the quota in 2020 and Sicily for 21 percent (15,500 ha). “Despite the rules limiting the transfer of rights from one region to another, the market seems to be stronger than bureaucracy,” states the Corriere Vinicolo.

Although demand from the northeast of Italy has fallen, vineyards in Veneto and Friuli have grown. Veneto will exceed 100,000 hectares in 2020 (+12 percent compared to 2016) and Friuli will be at 28,000 hectares (+13 percent). This growth includes rights acquired by producers within the first two years, those still in their possession and, above all, purchases made before there were restrictions on transfers between regions.

In the south, the situation is completely different. The strong demand from Sicily is countered by a two percent decline in vineyard area since 2016. In Puglia, the area under vines grew by three percent in the same period, but the explosion of applications since 2018 suggests that the interest is not solely due to Puglian producers, but also comes from the north.

Despite the rules blocking transfers, the mechanisms still seem to be working. “Out the door and back in through the window,” is how the Corriere describes the producers’ bypasses. The quickest and safest way to import planting rights from Sicily, for example, is to buy a planted area, i.e. one with planting rights, then clear it and replant it in the north. This can be done in the course of a year, usually by reselling the land to the original Sicilian owner. Sicily is preferred for the emigration of planting rights for economic reasons. There are plenty of cheap vineyards for sale, just don’t look for them on Mount Etna.


When lack of Covid vaccines inspires a wine label

March 12 2021, by Vitisphere

Continuity, but not convenience. “Many customers were looking forward to the sequel to ‘Test-Covid’. But I preferred to hold back until I had the right idea for the label, which I wanted to be in the same good-natured spirit”, explains Bordeaux winegrower Jean-Christophe Mauro, owner of La Chapelle Bérard, which has 68 hectares of organic vines in Saint-Quentin-de-Caplong. After giving it some thought, Mauro came up with his latest quirky label: “One for everyone”, using a cartoon published in Ouest France by Chaunu showing injections ready for use in countries around the world, and a corkscrew for France.

The drawing is funny, it picks up on all the controversy we have witnessed surrounding the speed at which the vaccination policy has been rolled out in France and quarrels between the pharmaceutical companies”, says Mauro. Unlike other initiatives, such as Christophe Avi’s ‘Vaccs-vin’ label in the Brulhois region, Mauro did not want his bottle to be mistaken for a substitute for the vaccine. “To be taken strictly with a touch of humour”, says the label.


Wine.com sales surpass $300 million in 2020

Meiningers -18 Jan 2021

The online wine retailer sees continued shift to e-commerce.

Wine.com benefits from a growing online business.

Wine.com, one of the USA‘s leading online wine retailer, closed calendar year 2020 with $329 million in revenue, representing 119% year-over-year growth according to the company. For the most recent quarter, ending 12/31/20, revenue was $111 million, up 64% over the prior year.

Highlights over the last 12 months demonstrate a continued acceleration in the company’s growth as wine and spirits consumers engage online in record numbers:

Revenue from StewardShip members (Wine.com’s subscription program for unlimited free shipping), increased 149% to $189 million for the trailing 12 months, with members saving over $30 million in shipping costs.

Customers continue to shop from their phones and Wine.com’s 4.8 star mobile app (56,703 reviews). Revenue from mobile devices increased 111% to $110 million.

Millennials and younger represented 44% of all new Wine.com customers during the year, the largest and fastest-growing generation of new customers.

Customers dove deep into wine discovery on Wine.com – engaging in 378,841 live chat sessions with Wine.com Sommeliers and purchasing wine from 198 different grape varieties and 52 regions.

The company’s new personalized wine club subscription, Picked by Wine.com, got off to a good start in the fall, with 25,817 wines hand selected by Wine.com Sommeliers according to individual customer preferences.

“We encountered many challenges during 2020 to keep up with demand, including doubling our workforce in operations and customer service and keeping our people safe during the pandemic,” said Rich Bergsund, Wine.com CEO.  “We are grateful to all of our people and partners for the incredible job they did during a very challenging year.”

Bergsund will be presenting at investor conferences this week, including ICR Conference 2021 on January 13th and the Needham Virtual Growth Conference on January 14th.


The pigments responsible for a wine’s colour also change its flavour

11 March 2021- Vitisphere

Anthocyanins not only give wine its colour, they also change its flavour. That is according to Maria Alessandra Paissoni, from the University of Turin, speaking at the latest Enoforum session on winemaking.

As part of her PhD, the Italian researcher began by extracting all the anthocyanins from a Barbera and a Nebbiolo vinted in 2015. “Then I divided them into three groups according to their level of acetylation, glucoside, acetyl-glucoside, or coumaroyl-glucoside” she explained. She then put each fraction in the presence of salivary proteins. “The higher the acetylation level, the more the anthocyanins precipitated them”, she said. Paissoni organised sensory analysis sessions with trained students from the Bordeaux Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences.

She also asked them to describe the sensations they felt when tasting solutions with 12% alcohol, 3.5 pH and 4g/L of tartaric acid, to which had been added either 1g/L of anthocyanins from the skins or 1g/L of anthocyanins from the pips, 300mg/L of a total fraction of anthocyanins, or 400 mg/L of the glucoside fraction. “Bitterness”, “aggressiveness”, “salinity” and “heat” were the most commonly used descriptors.

“When I asked them to rate the intensity of these descriptors, the strongest astringency was found in the solution containing the anthocyanins in the skin”, continued Paissoni. When she added the total anthocyanin or glucoside fraction to this solution, the perception of astringency decreased. “I obtained opposite results using the anthocyanins in the pips”, she said.


Measuring fruit mass on the vine a step forward

RD&A News | March 2021

A multi-faceted project that has been exploring how to use sensors to inform vineyard management strategies may well be on the cusp of a pioneering technology: a low-cost, foliage penetrating radar that can measure fruit mass on the vine at scale immediately before harvest.

‘If it works, it will be a gamechanger in terms of accurate yield prediction – but it’s early days yet’, said Dr Everard Edwards, from CSIRO Agriculture and Food.

Dr Edwards is leading a project in the Wine Australia and the CSIRO Strategic Partnership Agreement, which continues work previously supported by Wine Australia and the Australian Government’s Rural R&D for Profit program and was co-led by CSIRO’s Dr Mark Thomas.

Dr Edwards has targeted three phenological periods to determine how best to accurately predict yield for growers – each with distinct advantages and disadvantages.

‘Bud dissections are the earliest indicator, but are limited in scope, expensive to do and are not amenable to being replaced by a vehicle mounted on-the-go sensor[1]. Therefore, our earliest estimate is of yield potential and we are doing this with simple consumer action cams (e.g. GoPro) and machine learning tools to identify, track and count inflorescences after budburst.’

The team’s second target is yield prediction from fruit that is pea-size onwards. To estimate this, they have been using video cameras and machine learning tools to count not only developing bunches, but also berries per bunch.

‘This provides a more direct prediction but is more difficult once the canopy reaches its maximum size and covers many of the bunches. If a bunch can’t be seen from a particular angle it can’t be assessed’, Dr Edwards explained.

The team’s third target is yield estimation in the weeks leading up to harvest.

‘This can be done using the same techniques as previously, but we are also looking at the foliage penetrating radar to directly assess fruit mass which, if successful, would negate the problems of occlusion by canopy.’

Dr Edwards said the technology to determine yield potential post-budburst was probably the most well developed application – and worked well even in vigorous vines.

In other work, the use of hyperspectral imaging/sensing in the near infra-red range has allowed the team to remotely examine the chemical composition of the target.

‘This can be fruit (for estimating maturation and quality) or canopy (for estimating nutrition status)’, Dr Edwards said.

‘However, hyperspectral imaging requires very expensive and quite sensitive equipment, so we are developing a simpler and more robust system more suited to use by vineyard managers.

‘We are concentrating on measuring fruit composition at present and hope to be able to give growers the ability to accurately measure fruit maturity and quality simply by driving down the row in a vineyard vehicle.’

Finally, the team has been using LiDAR to examine the structure of the whole canopy, ‘seeing between leaves to the inside of the canopy and producing quantifiable measures of the canopy structure, such as density, size and light interception.’

‘For growers that use detailed canopy management, such as leaf plucking, this will allow them to associate a canopy structure with a desired outcome and reliably reproduce that season after season, with less dependence on the skills and expertise of the vineyard manager.’

Dr Edwards said the LIDAR, ground-based video imaging and drone-based imaging all provided methods to estimate canopy size and/or ground cover.

He said the tools would help growers finesse canopy management strategies to maximise fruit quality under both high and low production targets.

[1] The sensor is used while the vehicle is in motion. A separate project at the University of Tasmania developed a handheld sensor to measure bud fruitfulness, see further details here.


What they’re drinking in Norway

Meiningers, 5 March 2021

The pandemic has started an interesting development in Norway: Travel restrictions made it impossible to shop for alcohol in neighbouring countries with lower taxes.

Now the country with its state-owned-and-governed monopoly on alcoholic beverages can monitor precisely what the Norwegians were buying and drinking.

Leaving 2020 and all its misery behind, an interesting development has occurred in the Norwegian market related to the population’s alcohol consumption. For the first time in decades, there are accurate numbers covering trends and consumer behaviour.

As one of the few countries in the world with a state-owned-and-governed monopoly on alcoholic beverages above 4.7% ABV, Norway should be in an ideal position to monitor what, and how much, is being consumed by its inhabitants. However, with steadily increasing taxes imposed on all imported and locally-produced alcohol, Norwegians have been known to purchase their alcohol across the border in Sweden where taxes are lower, or at duty-free shops while travelling. Its inability to monitor this activity has long been a frustration for the monopoly. In 2020, all of that changed.

How COVID-19 has given more clarity on consumer behavior

With the arrival of the pandemic, there were dramatic changes in everyone’s lives across the globe. Among these were travel restrictions. The effects of these restrictions gave the monopoly unprecedented insight into how much alcohol Norwegians actually consume and where they buy it. Norwegians living along the long border with Sweden were no longer allowed to buy their wine and spirits in the Swedish shops on the other side. The airports and duty-free shops also closed their doors. The only places to buy alcohol were the local monopoly shops, of which there are 337.

The monopoly’s mandate and sales figures for 2020

It is in the monopoly’s mandate that 97% of the population should either live in a municipality with a monopoly shop or no further than 30 kilometres from a store. At present this has been fulfilled, with 97.7% living within that 30 kilometre-radius and 94.5% living in a municipality with a shop.

In the past 20 years, annual growth in alcohol sales has been marginal at 0 to 4%. However, a comparison of 2019 and 2020 shows an unprecedented 40% increase across the country. This is mainly due to the closed borders and the absence of duty-free sales at airports. This trend is uneven, however, with lower growth on the west coast and a 60% increase close to the Swedish border.

There are several other reasons for this increase. Among these was a two-month  national ban on the sales of alcohol in restaurants from the first lockdown on March 12th. A subsequent ban was imposed in the capital, Oslo, from November 9th until the turn of the year. People were restricted to enjoying alcohol in their homes. Norway is also a country where most people own a cottage, either in the mountains or by the sea, with some even having both.

Throughout the year, people who do not specifically need to be at the office have been encouraged to work from home. This led to a large part of the population moving into their cottages for longer periods of time, and shopping for alcohol locally. Monopoly shops in areas with a high density of cottages saw a remarkable increase in sales. As Norwegians were forced to holiday in their own country, in July, the time when a large part of the population would normally be abroad, they bought 59% more alcohol than the previous year.

Consumer trends

The monopoly served over 7.5 million more customers in 2020 than in 2019 and saw a 21% increase in visits to the shops, up from 34.5 million. With the current COVID restrictions, there has been an immense effort to increase distance between shoppers and ensure stores are safe for both the employees and customers. There are guards outside the shops during the busiest times of day, and people are lining up and waiting their turn patiently as a maximum number are allowed in the shop at any time. With the introduction of working from home, people are also doing more shopping during off-peak hours. A “traffic light system” has been introduced online, depicting red, yellow and green lights to help people avoid shopping during the busiest times of day.

Even though the figures clearly show a sizeable increase in sales volumes, a survey of 60,000 people conducted in 2020 by Norwegian analysts, Opinion, shows that Norwegians do not seem to have increased their drinking habits during the pandemic. Quite the opposite.

Three out of ten say they are drinking less alcohol and only one out of ten admits to consuming more than before the arrival of the virus. Focusing on December alone, normally a month with high alcohol consumption due to holiday festivities, a mere 8% admitted to drinking more, while 29% say they had reduced their intake. This might be associated with the forced shift to drinking at home rather than in bars and restaurants. Total numbers for the whole period show that only 9% drank more while 19% drank less and the remaining 63% did not change their habits.

The reduction in consumption in the context of increased domestic purchases illustrates how much alcohol was being purchased in Sweden and duty-free shops before the pandemic. 

Figures from Statistics Norway show that in the third quarter of 2020 the consumption of wine measured in pure alcohol was the equivalent of 0.76 litres per inhabitant. If one includes beer, spirits and alco-pops as well as wine, per capita consumption was 1.93 litres of pure alcohol.

Turning pink

Norway is a small country with 5.3 million people and red wine has always been the preferred drink by quite a large margin. In the past, this has slowly begun to change with white and sparkling wines both gaining ground. In 2020 though, rosé was the segment to watch, with a 72% increase in sales. This was from a low base, compared to red and white initially, but with the whole population spending the summer in Norway, it shows that this is what consumers prefer to drink in the warm months. Another segment that, in recent years, has not been very popular is fortified wines. However, in 2020, vermouth sales rose by 37%, making it the clear winner in this segment. The vermouth trend that has been evident in Europe for a while has finally reached the far north of Europe. In the spirits segment, gin is clearly the preferred choice with an increase of 71%.

Given the extremely difficult year with the restrictions and complete lockdowns experienced by the hospitality trade, there have not been many new trends to be seen in the on-trade. Natural wines have enjoyed some activity, with several new wine bars having opened their doors in the past couple of years. However, this is a trend that only caters for a niche audience. Norwegians maintain their traditional values when it comes to wine consumption: Italy, Spain and France take top places for reds; Germany, France and Italy for whites; and Italy, France and Spain for sparkling. Rosé, which has had the largest increase in percentage terms, is significantly dominated by France, possibly thanks to the popularity of Provence among Norwegian holidaymakers. Buying these wines at home might have been a small compensation for not being able to enjoy them on the French Riviera.


‘Know Your Worth’: Nine Women Winemakers on Mentorship and More

By Stacy Briscoe

From the vines to the lab, tasting table, boardroom and beyond, women have long made waves in wine production. They’ve developed farming techniques, proved yeast’s impact and connected clonal specificity to terroir; they’ve built businesses and brands to share research, and created quality wines for all palates. However, they’ve also faced incredible adversity within the wine world simply because of their biological gender.

In recent years, such struggles have increasingly been highlighted by the media. And thanks largely to the work and counsel of female pioneers before them, so, too, have several of women’s vinous accomplishments. This recognition may be a significant stride toward equality in the industry, but crucial conversations around diversity and inclusion remain and mustn’t be overlooked.

To explore how wine business hurdles, and perspectives of those encountering them, have and have not changed over time, consider the paths taken by nine very different U.S. women winemakers.

Generally, those in the business longer took a more traditional path to wine that began with formal education or emphasized the importance of training. The various directions taken by comparatively newer makers demonstrate that, while formal scholarship helps, multiple more accessible starting points now also prove successful.

Theodora Lee, owner and vintner at Theopolis Vineyards in Mendocino, CA, studied law initially, and had a successful career as a senior partner and trial lawyer with Littler Mendelson P.C. Lee has worked in the industry for 17 years.

“I started in the tasting room at Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda [California] and quickly became one of the tasting room managers,” says Shalini Sekhar, who studied music education and music performance. Sekhar, the winemaker and owner at Ottavino Wines San Francisco Bay Area, has been in the industry for 15 years.

“Wine is the result of a collaboration between many living systems,” says Cathy Corison. “That pulled me in as a biologist.” Corison has a bachelors in biology and masters degrees in food science and enology. She has been in the industry for 42 years and is the winemaker and founding partner at Corison Winery in St. Helena, CA.

“This field is the best way to combine [creative arts and sciences]… I worked for Lisa Van de Water at the Wine Lab in St. Helena in 1976 [and] was her first employee,” says Carol Shelton, who holds a degree in fermentation science. She is the winemaker, president and co-owner of Carol Shelton Wines in Santa Rosa, CA and has been in the industry for 44 years.

“I learned from working in restaurants… I wanted to travel and explore through the lens of wine… I wasn’t sure where exactly that would take me professionally.” says Rae Wilson, who studied music and photography. Wilson has been working in the industry for 13 years. She’s the winemaker and owner at Wine for the People in Austin, TX.

Leah Jorgensen, who has worked in wine for 20 years, earned a degree in English literature and creative writing followed by a postgraduate degree in holistic nutrition. She is the owner and winemaker at Leah Jorgensen Cellars in Newberg, OR.

For those who started in wine earlier, some of the biggest perceived challenges included assumptions based on appearance and forming or maintaining a family. These impediments continue to face women today.

“I had to sit on a buyer’s lap if I wanted him to take my weekly order,” says Jorgensen. “Meanwhile, a line of sales reps from other distributors, all male, watched and yucked it up”

“Being small and blonde [has been a challenge]. I heard the phrase ‘that little blonde in the lab’ too many times,” says Shelton.

“If you want to have a family it is hard to combine, especially in production and during harvest,” says Anne Moller-Racke, owner of Blue Farm Wines in Sonoma, CA. She’s been in the industry for 39 years.

“My pregnancies were significant obstacles,” says Sekhar.

“People have an image of a male winemaker or maybe a young, tall and slim woman—I am none of the above and they assume that someone must be making the decisions for me… The assumption, among many, that men are the ones that make wine [is the biggest challenge today.]” says Corison.

“People making assumptions that [being a female winemaker] is somehow different from just being a winemaker,” says Rae Wilson.

Regardless of industry experience or identity, all of these women admitted to one consistent strategy: continued hard work to fight for what is right.

“Very lucky timing and a lot of hard work helped me achieve my goals,” says Corison.

“[Being] steadfast and strong willed,” says Rae Wilson, “and I would be in the wrong industry if I wasn’t.”

“If [your work] shows results, in the end, it doesn’t matter if you are a woman or a man,” says Moller-Racke.

Though somewhat more visible after the Black Lives Movement became more widely known last year, BIPOC voices in wine continue to jockey for equality and recognition.

“[Racial] barriers still exist for me and for others … I own my business and work with great people,” says Sekhar. “But any BIPOC person knows if I had to step back into a more traditional role in a single winery that most of these barriers will still be there.”

“I would really like that ‘familial’ feeling of cooperation among winemakers of any race, nationality, gender or belief to keep blooming along,” says Delia Viader, who is the owner and founding winemaker at Viader in Napa, CA. She’s been in the industry for 34 years.

“[We need] more diversity—there are so many white guys, especially in the cellar,” says Jorgensen.

Through the years, hands-on experience has continued to be pivotal for these women regardless of background or education level.

“I worked on a 1,000-acre vineyard in the Central Valley [for] 10 hours a day, six days a week for minimum wage with no overtime, “says Katy Wilson, proprietor and winemaker at LaRue Wines in Sonoma, CA. She has worked the industry for 18 years.

“Really the best education came growing up with wine at the table,” says Viader.

“I developed my skills on the viticulture side for the first 20 years,” says Moller-Racke, “expanding and redeveloping the vineyards.”

“[I worked in] fine dining restaurants with large wine programs in St. Louis and Austin, Texas,” says Rae Wilson.

Challenges consistently stack up higher for women who identify with other marginalized groups.

“Race, ethnicity and gender have all shaped my path, for better or worse. Proving my skills, my worth and my place on the team are always going to be part of my story,” says Sekhar.

“As a Black female wine producer… people are still surprised to learn that I am the owner and own the land on which the grapes are grown,” says Lee.

Mentors have always been key to increasing industry inclusivity and diversity. In more recent years, however, women have gone out of their way to open doors for others.

“With the help and direction of women from all different backgrounds… [I hope to] build an internship/ apprenticeship program to create pathways for women that may not see a place for themselves in this business,” says Rae Wilson.

“I’m trying to carve out time to network with colleagues and mentor younger folks,” says Sekhar.

“Being part of Women-Owned Wineries and Bâtonnage,” says Katy Wilson, “helped me see that I have sisters in wine where we can be supportive of each other.”

Several women winemakers were inspired to chart their own paths by those who didn’t work in wine. Others were drawn to the wine itself.

“Though there are many people I admire in the wine business,” says Corison. “Oddly enough, it’s the great wines of the world that have inspired me most.”

Katy Wilson says her great-grandmother was an inspiration. She “was such a great influence in my life that I named LaRue after her—Veona LaRue.”

“My father taught me how to drive on a tractor at the age of eight and instilled in me a love for the land,” says Lee.

“My husband Mitch Mackenzie was the most encouraging force behind my career decisions,” says Shelton.

Don’t be shy: What would you say is the most/are some of the most innovative ideas you’ve so far brought to the wine industry?

“I was able to plant my first vineyard in the mid 80’s, then replanted in the mid 90’s using new plant material and vineyard designs,” says Moller-Racke. “After that I started a huge clonal experiment at The Donum Estate.”

“I can’t say it’s unique,” says Corison, “but understanding that great grapes make great wine has been key.”

“Getting people to let down their guard of what they believe wine to be … Once someone opens up from what they think they already know about a wine or a place, then that’s where the experience can truly begin,” says Rae Wilson.

“All of the vineyards that I work with are within seven miles of the Pacific Ocean offering a pronounced ocean influence in the vineyards and in my wines,” says Katy Wilson.

Notable First Women in Wine History

“A vineyard design to plant non-terraced rows in a 4″ x 5″ and 4″ x 6″ configuration, translating to a density of 2200 to 1800 vines per acre,” says Viader. “Berry production, in turn, became so much more full of flavor.”

“Explore less known (in California) white wine varieties [like Grüner Veltliner and Fiano]. … While I love these varieties in the classical places they grow in the world and am curious about how I can translate that to California,” says Sekhar.

“Recognizing the potential for Cabernet Franc in Oregon and becoming the first U.S. winery to produce Cabernet Franc Blanc,” says Jorgensen.

“In the 1970’s the industry did not believe yeast strains made much of a difference in wine flavors. I did experiments … and I was able to prove them wrong,” says Shelton.

Education, passion and mentorship are important for all women and female-identifying people in the industry.

“Know your worth and don’t settle for anything less,” says Katy Wilson. “Rest assured, you have an industry of women winemakers here to back you up.”

“Don’t take “no” for an answer. Just start walking,” says Corison.

“In the words of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, ‘Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you,’ ” says Lee.

“Look for mentors,” says Rae Wilson, “don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t think that you have any less right to place in the room.”

“Make education a priority,” says Jorgensen. “It’s not enough to be anecdotal or hands on. Be an expert. Learn everything you can. Have curiosity.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of building your network … if not for career advancement alone, for support, guidance, and camaraderie,” says Sekhar.

“Acknowledge those who supported you along the way and pay it forward by helping those just starting out,” says Shelton.


Online wine retailers facing cardboard shortage

1st February, 2021 by Patrick Schmitt

Such has been the demand for online deliveries in the UK, wine retailers are now facing a cardboard shortage – exacerbated by Amazon stockpiling the packaging material.

According to a report in The Telegraph today, web-based shopping has led to a UK-wide shortage of cardboard, and it’s affecting smaller businesses in particular as large online retailers, especially Amazon, have been buying up vast quantities of the material.

Notable among those affected have been wine merchants, who of course rely on cardboard to pack bottles for delivery. The Telegraph mentioned Wanderlust Wine, which has had to resort to unbranded boxes due to the diminished supply of cardboard. Meanwhile, some UK supermarkets have moved to plastic boxes for selling eggs due to the cardboard shortage.

Elsewhere, in an interview with The Times, Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Recycling Association, said, “Home delivery is sucking the cardboard from the system.”

Finally, The Telegraph said that paper mills were investing in new machinery to keep up with the demand.

Dark times, bright ideas

Meiningers, 19 Feb 2021

The wine industry faces a new normal. Sommeliers and winery owners came up with strategies to do business in a world with no restaurant guests and no winery visitors. Roger Morris talked to people in the industry. 

If there is still truth in the old adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” then the year of living with Covid-19 saw life raining lemons on the wine trade and many businesses and individuals creating their own brands of lemonade.   As they look beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses and individuals from wineries to importers to sommeliers envision a future that relies on data mining and analytics, the embracing of virtual events and virtual communications, increased efforts for direct to consumer sales and, for some, a backward integration of careers.

Nowhere were the negative effects of the coronavirus lockdowns felt more keenly than at restaurants and, to a lesser extent, small wineries heavily dependent on restaurant or tasting room sales. In the United States alone, more than 100,000 restaurants permanently closed last year or will need additional funding to re-open – about 17 percent of total restaurants operating pre-Covid.

Hundreds of thousands of restaurant workers lost jobs – some temporarily, others permanently – and many strapped owners determined sommeliers were nice but not critical to business. At the same time, small wineries also struggled, but, unlike restaurants, they were used to the cyclical nature of harvests and inventory management and were less likely to go bankrupt. But the experiences of the past year told wineries they could do business better and that out-of-work sommeliers might be part of the answer.

From gatekeeper to winery worker

Traditionally, wineries had known on-the-floor sommeliers as customers and gate keepers to restaurant wine lists and occasionally employed them as paid ambassadors or spokespersons. They were often treated as visiting royalty. The new Covid reality changed all that and wineries have begun to view out-of-work sommeliers as well-educated, well-trained employees to run their tasting rooms, DTC programs or even assist in winemaking. Jennifer Hendrickson had worked 25 years as a “floor” sommelier, most recently at the Yellowstone Club in Montana, when she was hired as director of hospitality for Oregon’s Domaine Serene, which has extensive wine and food offerings both at its winery and at its three remote venues or lounges around the state. “Now, seven or eight of our hospitality team have sommelier experiences, and we actually look at ourselves as a team of sommeliers,” Hendrickson says. “We’ve given them the opportunity to see the wine business in a different light,” one more family friendly with mostly daytime hours.

“We hired three sommeliers this year during harvest,” says Kelby Russell, winemaker at Re Newt Winery in New York’s Finger Lakes region, one of whom stayed on to work in the winery. “And we’ve learned a ton from them about the larger wine business.”

Getting to know your customers

In addition to skills brought by sommeliers, wineries also discovered during the pandemic they needed another kind of expertise – analytics. Zoom and other online tasting and education formats not only kept wineries in touch with customers normally seen in tasting rooms, if at all, and the far-thinking ones saw DTC opportunities they had never before realized.

At a Silicon Valley Bank wine industry seminar in early 2020, consultant Paul Leary, already looking beyond the pandemic, told winegrowers “the worst thing we can do is to go back to our old ways” once the worst of the pandemic was over. Rather than worrying about bringing customers back to tasting rooms, he reminded wineries that because of online tastings and seminars, “You now have the opportunity to go directly into the customers’ dining rooms.” Taking that a step further, Paul Mabray, CEO of the analytics firm, Pix.com, recently advised, “The investment in a CRM [consumer relations management] analyst will pay dividends in customer understanding – psychographics, buying behaviors and more – improving better measured campaign performance and building data sets for experimental design for new efforts. The ROI of understanding your customers starts with understanding the data.”

One Napa Valley winery – ultra-premium Far Niente – has hired personnel from outside the wine industry trained in analytics, and data collected led the winery to pay attention to corporate customers in online events. “It’s been a sweet surprise in pivoting away from the tasting room,” says Vida DeLong, Far Niente’s analytics-trained vice president for DTC sales. “We’ve been able to segment our offers as well as learn how customers want to be contacted – text, phone, emails. We like to say we’ve become ‘data curious.’”

While wine distributors already used data collection and mining, the fact that sales and marketing personnel could no longer visit accounts in person during the pandemic caused them to expand data collection. Winesellers Ltd., a Chicago-based importing and distribution company, had put in place in March software designed algorithms predicting customer buying behavior and ranks them into different buying categories. “Because of Covid and travel restrictions, we were pushed to see if the system could work more efficiently,” says Todd Nelson, VP of marketing.  “We are focusing on connecting with the top 18 percent of our accounts who are committed and engaged. Before, you had to take the shotgun approach in pushing brands,” he says. “Now, we can see each account’s purchasing tendencies and ask whether or not it’s worth our time and money to send someone in there.”

Winesellers now ranks accounts for its top 10 brands into three categories – “Rising,” “Consistent” and “Declining.” With information gained during the pandemic, Nelson is putting into place a post-pandemic sales incentive program to move lagging accounts to the next level.

Expanding sales through online tastings

The large American online retailer, Wine.com, represents one wine trade segment that profited greatly during the pandemic by delivering wine to home-bound wine consumers who, market statistics show, drank more during lockdowns than they would have normally. As a result, in 2020 Wine.com collected $329 million in revenue, a 119 percent year-over-year growth from 2019.  But Wine.com says the lockdown experience has pointed to ways to expand sales and marketing beyond the pandemic by bringing wine producers and wine consumers closer together – both virtually and in-person. During 2018 and 2019, Wine.com had experimented with live events hosted by wine personality James Suckling and others. One such event in February 2020, just as the pandemic was brewing, involved 1,200 customers.

“But a couple of days into the pandemic, we changed our focus to live streaming,” says Wine.com founder Michael Osborn. “We soon found ourselves having as many as 5,000 online guests for some events, with perhaps 4,000 of them pre-purchasing wine.”     Typically, a Wine.com event lasts 45 minutes and features three purchased wines from a given winery pre-shipped to participants. Now Osborn plans to hold as many as 72 events during 2021. “We found that 7 p.m. on the East Coast is the best time,” he says, “although that means winemakers in Europe are leading tastings at 1 a.m.”

Another Wine.com initiative, one that could have a great impact on the wine travel industry, involves leveraging the company’s data knowledge to serve as wine travel matchmaker between consumers and wineries. “We’re just now getting started because of the existing Covid travel restrictions,” Osborn says, “but we see ourselves as being a concierge to customers who want to travel.” Anticipating a pent-up demand for such consumer wine exploration, Wine.com can use its knowledge of customer purchases and their winery and regional preferences and match them with wineries selling on its platform. Osborn says it can thus creating bespoke itineraries for its key customers, beginning with wine club members.

As a way to keep it in touch with restaurants and bricks-and-mortar retailers who may be struggling financially, Winebow, a large American import company, has initiated live online business education seminars to help updating their skills during a period when they have extra time on their hands.

“The Covid-19 shutdown brought an immediate look to innovation within the Learning Department of Winebow, which was complemented by a similar spirit within our Imports Division,” says Ron Edwards, the company’s director of education. “We started collaborations for outreach to endangered businesses in a way that was supportive and empathetic,” offering bi-weekly hospitality training webinars to engage those in the stalled restaurant trade. Attendance usually is more than 100 people per event, and Edwards says Winebow will continue the programs post-pandemic.

Similarly, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) in late January launched a business academy for teaching distillers skills beyond their craft, such as safety programs, cash-flow management and organizational structure. According to Chris Swonger, the association’s CEO, “DISCUS Academy will facilitate the transfer of knowledge from our industry’s legends and business luminaries to develop the next generation of leaders, allowing for a more diverse, inclusive and successful industry.”

In short, to use another popular analogy – dark clouds with silver linings, the past year has been one that has resulted in the wine trade looking to the future and constructing their individual “Silver Linings Playbooks.”


Grape Research Helps Answer Climate Change Question

By Nicki Donnelson Jan 19, 2021

Root of the problem

Some regions are known for their ability to grow the most flavorful agricultural products. Ancient farmers, through trial and error, determined the best fit between a crop, the soil and weather conditions. They had plenty of land to choose from to find the perfect fields for their crops.

But as the availability of cultivable land diminishes and as climates change, our ability to grow enough food is becoming limited, too. This is the root of Dr. Laszlo Kovacs’ research. He’s a geneticist interested in the agricultural industry.

“For most of history, we didn’t have to worry about food,” said Kovacs, biology professor at Missouri State University. “Now, with a huge and rapidly increasing population size, we are faced with many challenges. We have to start using land that is not ideal. And, as a result of the climate emergency, we have to deal with more extreme weather conditions.”

All of this leads to an impending food shortage. “Not just any food will do,” he said. “We desire quality food, right?” His focus is on studying grapevine rootstocks to identify genes that will make plants hardier for the necessary conditions. He looks at the genetic makeup to identify traits for disease and pest resistance, drought tolerance and flood tolerance among many other characteristics.

Two wild grapes

Kovacs’ current research projects build upon his previous findings, like the identification of genes that make grapes more resistant to a fungal disease. He’s contributed more than 20 peer-reviewed journal articles in the past 10 years and serves as a reviewer for 10 industry journals. “Laszlo Kovacs is a leader in the field of plant genetics and grapevine natural history, and an outstanding collaborator and mentor,” said Dr. Allison Miller from St. Louis University. “The breadth and depth of his knowledge provides novel insights into grapevine biology and beyond.” More than anything, this Hungarian-American loves being in the beauty of the Ozarks collecting wild relatives of the cultivated grape.

He and his students have been collecting plants of two interesting North American grapes: the riverbank grape and the rock grape. These grapes have been the cornerstone of his studies during the last 10 years. “Once I see that glitter in my students’ eyes, they hit the ground running on helping with research.”

The riverbank grape roots where the soil is always moist. Instead of rooting down, the riverbank grape spreads its roots horizontally. But why? It’s in the genes. On the contrary, the rock grape grows in drought-stricken areas. Its roots grow straight down to find water. Again, this trait is encoded in its genes. These two species have adapted to their respective habitats as a result of evolution. “Evolution is ‘product development’ over millions of years,” Kovacs said. In the wild, a plant dies if its genes don’t match the environmental conditions under which it grows. A plant that has the “right genes” will be healthier and develop into a stronger, larger individual, he noted.

This results in more seeds. Then, a greater percentage of the next generation of plants will have the “right genes” for that area and climate. Kovacs is attempting to identify genes that allow vines to adapt to the dry or moist conditions. “We are interested in those genes and can transfer them to cultivate grapes or possibly other plants,” he said.


The rock grape is found in the riverbeds of intermittent rivers and creeks. For instance, Swan Creek, one of his study locales, fills and flows for a couple of days, then dries up for weeks. To find the water and nourishment to survive in this nutrient-poor area, the roots dive deep. His team realized that this would be a valuable trait for drought-prone areas. “Every organism is trying to find its niche,” Kovacs said. “The rock grape found its niche by eking out a living under very poor conditions where other plants cannot.” This is very advantageous in agriculture, he said. “If we can identify the genes that enable these grapes to grow there, we have extremely valuable resources,” he said. “If you go to a desert area, maybe grapes with these rootstocks can grow. That provides huge economic opportunities.”

He’s not going to become a grape breeder, though. And he isn’t interested in transplanting these specific grapes in the desert. He’s experimenting with grafting other grape shoots onto these roots. Grafting technology has been around for more than two millennia. A rose bush or the apple tree that you purchase is often the result of grafting two separate plants together. For the past 150 years, grafting has also been used in grape culture. “What we’re doing has an impact both locally and globally.”

Up to this point, the driving force behind grafting has often been to enhance the ability of growth of fruit trees and ornamental plants. For Kovacs, it’s for our survival.

Team effort

To better understand the role the rootstock can play in crops, Kovacs is collaborating on a study with Miller and other scientists throughout the U.S. The multimillion dollar study, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, will be completed in 2021. However, the study has already produced results. “For years, Laszlo has contributed to the collection of data and tissues, always generously sharing his knowledge, jokes and making light conversations during the long and very hot days in the vineyard.”  Using the riverbed grape and rock grape rootstocks, Kovacs and his team made a cross. Then, they grafted each of these new plants with the same scion, that is, a different plant which is forced to live with the rootstock and form the entire shoot system of the resulting composite plant. The genes of that scion are exactly the same in 300 plants — only the genes of each root are different.

“By doing this, we can very precisely study how the rootstock influences the characteristics in the shoot,” Kovacs said. His team is also grafting other scions on the rock grape rootstock to map and identify genes. With this knowledge, the team can learn how to subtly modify features to make grapes more appropriate for different climates and conditions. “Even though we’re interested in the root system, once we make an experimental hybrid, it’s easy for us to find genes that are responsible for disease resistance,” he said. “It’s a long process, but it’s important work. We are experimenting with plant biodiversity to make a more sustainable crop.”

For example, Kovacs noted that there’s a wild Norton grape variety in Missouri that is too high in potassium. If there’s a rootstock that is known to pull very little potassium from the soil, the two could be grafted together to improve the grape production.

Back to the wild

Our ancestors, Kovacs said, selected plants with the largest seed and tastiest fruit to propagate the next generation of crops. However, they didn’t select based on ability to grow in poor soil. “They didn’t have to, and they didn’t know how,” he said. This selection method caused many ancient plant varieties and wild relatives of crops to become extinct or depleted over the years. “Many people think this type of research is kind of romantic – this idea of going to the wild. Oh, but it’s very practical.” Much of Kovacs’ work involves wild grape species because, biologically, saving native plants provides great benefits. Those species may have critical genes for something in the future, which is worth preserving. In fact, that’s how his team discovered the downy mildew resistance gene.

“We found it just because we looked at a new plant,” he said. “If we look at maybe 10 more plants, we might find five more new genes.” This study helps grape growers, but ultimately, the knowledge can be widely applicable to all agricultural products. “The future of humanity, to a great extent, is based on how we can provide enough food,” Kovacs said. “We have to dip into the vast genetic diversity of wild plants to see what they can provide.”


Germans drink more wine
Meiningers 13 Jan 2021

The wine consumption in Germany has risen. Wine consumption in Germany rises: blue: still wine; red: sparkling (litre per capita) / source: Deutscher Weinbau Verband

Germans are drinking more wine. The wine consumption balance confirms: Germans consumed 17.2 million hectoliters of domestic and foreign wine in the wine year (from 01.08.2019 to 31.07.2020). This corresponds to a per capita consumption of 20.7 liters of still wine, 0.6 liters more than in the same period of the previous year, converted to 83.1 million inhabitants.

The balance drawn up by the German Viticulture Association on behalf of the German Wine Institute (DWI) includes consumption in the catering trade as well as purchases in retail and from producers. „The fact that wine consumption has risen despite some of the restaurants that are closed can also be attributed to unusual holiday trips abroad. And more wine was bought in stores and supplies were replenished”, explains DWI managing director Monika Reule. However, the consumption of sparkling wine fell over the same period. 2.6 million hectoliters were consumed, which corresponds to a per capita consumption of 3.2 liters and thus 0.1 liters less than in the same period of the previous year.

In a global comparison of wine and sparkling wine consumption, Germany ranks fourth with 19.8 million hectoliters. According to the International Organization for Vine and Wine (OIV), the largest consumer market is the USA (33 million hl), followed by France (26.5 million hl) and Italy (22.6 million hl).


New warning for wine on climate threat
Decanter-January 29, 2020

More than half the world’s vineyards could be unviable if the planet warms by two degrees Celsius, but switching grape varieties may help, says a new study.

Swapping grape varieties can significantly offset damage that would be inflicted on some wine regions by higher temperatures linked to climate change, says a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this month.

Up to 56% of current wine growing land may no longer be suitable for vineyards if the planet warms by two degrees Celsius – the upper limit set by the Paris Climate Agreement – says the study.

That figure rises to 85% if warming hits four degrees, says the study, which used historical growing season data for 11 grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, to create its model.

It is one of the starkest warnings so far about the size of the climate challenge facing vineyards.

But, it says there’s still time to adapt and that switching grape varieties could reduce losses by more than half in some cases.

However, the research acknowledges the financial, cultural and legal hurdles to, say, replacing Pinot Noir with Grenache in Burgundy or uprooting Cabernet Sauvignon for Mourvèdre in Bordeaux – even if expanding the number of varieties allowed in certain Bordeaux appellation wines was approved by winemakers last year.

The PNAS study authors said they had taken previous studies further by using more comprehensive data and looking at several grape varieties simultaneously.

Dr Elizabeth Wolkovich, one of the lead authors and from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, told Decanter.com that extensive adaptation of vineyards might prevent the worst scenario in some cases, perhaps with fewer good vintages.

But she added, ‘We’ve only seen to date roughly a quarter of the warming we expect by the end of the century given the current emissions, so growers need strategies that will work for much greater warming; or an aggressive global strategy to limit further warming.’

Paris Agreement targets

The Paris Climate Agreement set a goal of limiting warming to, at most, two degrees above pre-industrial levels this century.

Cooler wine regions, such as New Zealand, the Pacific Northwest and Germany, would be relatively unaffected in this scenario, says the PNAS study.

However, the world was on-course to overshoot the Paris target last year, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

More about the study

The PNAS study, led by Dr Ignacio Morales-Castilla at the University of Alcalá in Spain alongside Dr Wolkovich, looked at 11 varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chasselas, Chardonnay, Grenache, Merlot, Monastrell/Mourvèdre, Pinot noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah/Shiraz, and Ugni Blanc.

They mainly drew on French records for bud break, veraison and harvest dates going back to 1956.

They used existing data on warming scenarios to help build models for how the 11 different wine grapes would perform in future and produce forecasts for wine growing regions.

Researchers said they hoped the study would also be of use to other agricultural sectors.

‘In some ways, wine is like the canary in the coal mine for climate change impacts on agriculture, because these grapes are so climate-sensitive,’ said study co-author Benjamin Cook, from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

‘The key is that there are still opportunities to adapt viticulture to a warmer world,’ said Cook. ‘It just requires taking the problem of climate change seriously.’


Coronavirus and China’s wine market

The outbreak of coronavirus has already impacted the Chinese economy. Jim Boyce considers its effect on the wine trade.

The new coronavirus spreading throughout China, and the world, has resulted in quarantined cities, travel restrictions and delayed returns to work and school from Chinese New Year holidays. Not surprisingly, this has also been bad for the wine trade.

“I think it will heavily impact us and many other restaurants and bars. I think in general people will be afraid to go out,” says Isabella Ko, owner of wine bar The Merchants in Beijing. A wealth of online photos of empty streets and shops underscores her point. But Ko does see one bright silver lining: the potential for boosting retail sales of unique wines.

“A lot of people these days feel ‘life is short, we need to enjoy it now’,” says Ko.

Most people contacted for this story say they will shift more focus to online retail, too.

“The key change is we will put more effort into home delivery services,” says Campbell Thompson, co-owner of importer The Wine Republic. He says the hard part is actually getting the wine to consumers from the company’s warehouses in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Chengdu.

Case in point, Claudia Masueger, who says virtually all recent sales from her 60-shop CHEERS wine chain have been O2O (online to offline) via her app on social media platform WeChat or third-party platforms like Erleme.

“But how many guys will be in Beijing to deliver that wine?” she asks of the migrants who make up the vast majority of the drivers but, due to the holidays, are spread across a nation that is increasingly locked down.

“I don’t know how to run a business without people,” says Masueger. She says that even when her employees do return to Beijing, they will be self-quarantined at home for seven days to ensure they are not infected.

Travel issues aren’t limited to those in China. They are also set to upset events such as tastings and dinners, led by visiting wine KOLs, that already seemed a dubious draw given the current climate.

“All events such as wine dinners are cancelled. All supplier visits in February are also cancelled,” says Alberto Fernandez, the managing partner of Torres China,

Some even wonder if the virus crisis might have a major impact on Tang Jiu Hui, the China Food & Drinks Fair that is only eight weeks away. It’s the country’s biggest fair and considered a must-go for many.

“We are already considering to cancel our presence at Tang Jiu Hui,” says Fernandez.

He’ll have lots of time to think about it. Torres’ office is in a complex run by a state-owned company that, due to concerns about coronavirus, informed him today that it won’t reopen until February 10. Like many others in the trade, he’ll have to make other plans.

French wineries hit hard by US wine tariffs

French wineries are considering their options as their trade with the US collapses, while other Europeans watch the situation anxiously. Sophie Kevany reports.

The 25% tariff imposed by America on various European products, including still wines from France, Germany, Spain and the UK, has collapsed orders for many producers.

The tariffs were imposed by the US after the World Trade Organisation ruled that those countries had failed to eradicate illegal state support for certain aeroplanes built by Airbus.

At the family run vineyard, Domaine La Colombette in southern France, Sophie Pugibet said the effect was instant. “Basically we have had no orders since the tariffs were imposed on October 18th. From one day to the next they stopped. American retailers are just emptying their stocks.”

Luckily Pugibet, who sells about one third of the family’s wines to the US, has committed importers. “We had our American buyers here this week and with them we agreed to split the tariff, we will lower our price and they will lower their cut to preserve the market.”

Looking ahead, Pugibet was downbeat. “Our buyers said they would not be shocked if it [the tariff] continued, nor if it went to 100%.”

With that in mind, Pugibet is exploring other routes to market. “We are considering shipping our wine to the US in bulk and bottling it there. It’s not an easy option, but we at least need to explore it.”

Meanwhile, in Bordeaux, a region synonymous with wine for many Americans, a spokesperson for the area’s producers said the latest sales figures for November 2019 show US exports down 24% in volume and 46% in value.

Asked about the outlook, the spokesperson said the focus is on the French state taking responsibility for the situation. “For the whole of France that loss currently stands at €300 million,” she said, citing a joint statement from two national federations that represent French winegrowers and exporters. The two entities are currently asking for that sum to be released to growers as an emergency compensation measure.

At Bordeaux chateaux level, director of second growth vineyard, Dauzac, Laurent Fortin said their sales are down 30% by value since the tariffs were imposed.

In Spain, concerns are just as high, although one of the country’s best-known wines has been lucky to date.

“We sell about 16% to 18% of our production to the US,” said Dominio de Pingus spokesperson, Paula de Santiago. “We are not affected by the tariffs for the moment because our wines are over 14 degrees of alcohol. The tariff applies to still wines under 14 degrees.”

Precautionary measures were still taken, however, with their importer, The Rare Wine Company, collecting the latest 2017 release early. Now the focus is on Pingus 2018, due for release June or July.

“We are concerned the tariff will be expanded. The worst-case scenario is that it goes to 100% and that it applies to wines up to 16 degrees of alcohol,” Santiago said.

There are fears too of a geographical expansion. In Portugal, general manager for port maker Niepoort, José Teles, is watching the situation closely.

“For now the tariff does not apply to us since Portugal was not involved in the Airbus project,” he said. But, he understand there is a chance tariffs could be applied to all European wines.

“The US is a small export market for us, about 7% of our sales, but it is growing. And we have been investing in it,” Teles said. “So yes, we are concerned.”


Online Alcohol Sales Grew In 2019, Yet All Is Not Rosy

Forbes- 18 Jan 2020


According to Rabobank’s Alcohol 2020 report, U.S. online beverage alcohol sales hit $2.6 billion in 2019. Yet, Rabobank cautions, “The industry must take assertive action to address the challenges facing alcohol e-commerce…failure to act could have profound consequences.”

The reason Rabobank broadcasts its cautionary message: “Despite the strong growth of e-commerce sales…penetration of the online alcohol category remains abysmally low…alcohol’s share of food-and-beverage spending drops by 88% online, compared to its share of wallet in brick-and-mortar stores…without effective participation online, e-commerce could become a wedge that separates alcohol brands from their customers.”

In an odd twist, the report states that brick-and-mortar online versions are, “…the most mature online channel in alcohol.”

At $295 million for 2019, overall beverage alcohol e-commerce experienced 115% growth in grocery online marketplaces since 2017. Wine came in at $145 million; beer at $115 million and spirits at $35 million.

While grocery stores have come to understand beverage alcohol’s contribution to their profits online, Rabobank says not enough grocers are online with alcohol and those that are have yet to embrace experiential rather than transactional selling. Rabobank points out that not one major retailer it studied allows shopping online by price, and most do not provide “…tasting notes, product pages or third-party ratings.”

In the third-party unlicensed realm, Rabobank identifies the top players as InstacartDrizlyVivino Minibar DeliveryReserveBar and Thirstie. This marketplace grew by 60% since 2017—at $265 million. As it had in the grocery marketplace, wine came in at $145 million; but spirits and beer reversed their standing in grocery sales, at $85 million and $40 million respectively in this third party marketplace.

The e-commerce alcohol figures account for just over half a billion in an estimated $200 billion-plus category. Rabobank says sales online must grow large because those sales serve to drive sales in the more traditional store setting. In other words, miss the opportunities in the online cloud and your products will slow down on the ground as well.

By coincidence, a Thirstie press release arrived the same day the Rabobank report arrived. In its announcement of three new partners in its new Thirstie Access beverage alcohol product program for small beverage alcohol producers, the company says this is “…the only way these smaller brands are going to be able to compete with the industry leaders.”

Thirstie claims to have partnered with retailers in close to 50 cities that deliver spirits, wine, and beer on-demand, as well as scheduled delivery and shipping to consumers where permissible by law, and that the company does its business, “…fully compliant within the 3-tier system.”

The Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America recently announced a commitment to establish and/or enhance the wholesalers’ beverage alcohol online presence, but the organization didn’t describe what that presence will look like. When taken into consideration that Rabobank predicts a bright future for the third-party unlicensed online companies, and that companies like Thirstie have focused on smaller producers often with difficult or no access to the 3-tier system, it brings up the possibility that the online beverage alcohol retail marketplace landscape may soon be divided by producer size: the small, perhaps upcoming producers in one digital realm and the large, often mass producers in another digital realm.

Another possibility, one that the spokesman for the National Association of Wine Retailers, Tom Wark has expressed many times, is that e-commerce could precipitate the fall of the 3-tier system in the U.S.—although it’s doubtful anyone should bet on that scenario for the immediate future.

Finally, according to Rabobank, e-commerce is responsible for $950 million in Direct-to-Consumer (DtC) wine sales, representing a year-over-year growth of about 9%. The rise of private label clubs selling DtC in part addresses an apparent difficulty wineries face in trying to develop better ways to attract customers beyond a visit to the tasting room.

Challenges mount for Champagne in 2020, says trade body chief

January 23, 2020


Higher demand for expensive prestige cuvées cannot fully mask concerns about weaker overall demand in traditional markets and rising costs, the head of France’s Comité Champagne has said.

Even without the prospect of US import tariffs, Champagne houses and growers face a difficult situation at the dawn of the new decade, said Vincent Perrin, general director of the Comité Champagne trade body.

Perrin said provisional numbers pointed to lower shipment volumes for Champagne in 2019 for the second consecutive year, despite a rise in the value of bottles shipped.

Volume versus value

Final figures won’t be released until March, but Perrin indicated that total Champagne shipments dropped by around 2% in volume last year. Based on 302 million bottles shipped in 2018, that would roughly amount to six million fewer bottles shipped in 2019.

Weaker demand in the traditional strongholds of France and the UK, and particularly among lower-priced supermarket orders, were a primary problem, said Perrin, speaking at the annual festival St Vincent de l’Archiconfrerie de la Champagne.

Total turnover from Champagne shipments was expected to come in slightly above five billion euros, which would indicate a year-on-year increase of 2%, Perrin said.

Stronger demand for prestige cuvée Champagnes versus weaker sales of non-vintage wines explained the dichotomy in volume and value figures.

Higher costs

Perrin said that the strong value performance did not make up for the significantly increased costs linked to entering new markets and establishing brand awareness abroad.

The extra vineyard investments required to meet the zero herbicide promise in 2025 have also added to the growers’ economic stress, he said.

Perrin drove home the point that Champagne needs to fight in 2020 and beyond to meet its ecological promises and increase its market share.


He said fraternity and solidarity between Champagne producers would help and he promised investment to help producers meet ecological targets and for marketing abroad.

‘We need these investments to create a new desirability for our product in the coming decades.’

CGA Report: Where biggest threats to wine are coming from

By Richard Siddle, January 16, 2020

Well, that’s a headline to get the heart rate going, particularly in a market that is already having to come to terms with a steady decline. But forewarned is forearmed which makes the latest CGA report such an important and fascinating read. It looks to dig behind the headlines and crunch the numbers to identify what are the other drinks categories that are the real clear and present dangers to overall wine sales in the on-trade. Here are the top line findings.

Rival premium drinks categories, particularly spirits, are the ones to watch if wine suppliers and restaurant buyers are to keep hold of wine’s share in the on-trade, according to the latest CGA report.

The decline of still wine sales in the on-trade has become very much the elephant in the room when it comes to discussing the key trends that are driving the overall wine trends in restaurant and bars. Those with a nervous disposition might want to skip over the fact that in the last 12 months there has been £146m less sales of still wine in the on-trade than in the previous 12 months. Which adds up to a 4.5% decline in value sales and 7.7% in volume, according to CGA latest figures.

What’s more there are, it adds according to CGA, 2,417 less on-trade outlets overall going into 2020 to even try and sell wine to in the first place. Whilst it’s some comfort that 74% of diners say they still drink a similar amount of wine as they did previously did, a growing proportion, 19%, said they are cutting back, compared to the 9% who admit to drinking more.

The rise in craft beer has had a big impact on wine sales

It is in this context that the latest CGA on-trade report – the third in a series of four that it is producing in partnership with The Buyer – looks to tackle the issue of declining on-trade wine sales head on. It pulls back the curtain to examine what are the reasons behind the slowdown in sales, and what other drinks categories are benefiting as a result.

The report, which is available to buy either on its own or as part of a package of four (see below for details), might make for hard reading for some, but it does demonstrate quite clearly that although there are a growing number of consumers who are cutting down on drinking, or not drinking at all, the overall drinks categories are still very good business for restaurants, bars and hotels.

It might just mean they will be better placed to recruit more buyers with specialist premium spirits and world beer experience. For those are the categories that are really benefiting from the decline in wine sales. Gin sales were up a further 42% last year, flavoured gins by 200% and premium world lager up 9%.

Demographic influences

The ‘Threats’ report looks closely at the trends within different demographic groups, particularly the role that younger and female drinkers have in dictating the overall picture. Interestingly one of the key findings is that there are actually more younger drinkers (18-34 year-olds) coming into the wine category, with 23% saying they have drunk more wine in the last year.


The report also analyses the occasions when people are drinking wine, and there is perhaps not surprisingly a big difference between eating out and drinking only occasions. With 70% of consumers saying they ‘only’ or ‘mainly’ drink wine when eating, compared to 34% on drinking only occasions.

Other reports

You can buy the full report and the others in the exclusive CGA/ The Buyer series.  These include.


·       Casual Dining– Changes in the High Street.
The first in the series started with casual dining. The headline figures from this report make both encouraging and startling reading. For on the one hand the value of wine sales in casual dining restaurants has jumped by close to 7% in the last year, with nearly half of guests choosing to drink wine when dining out, but only a quarter of those guests actually rate the win choice as very good.

Data from this report highlights just how big this sector has become for wine. The 46% of consumers who regularly choose to drink wine in casual dining outlets is not only up on 2017, but is significantly higher than all other drinks categories, including lager (31%) and cocktails (21%). The report also looks at which type of casual dining restaurant is most tuned into wine, and picks out the Italian-focused brands such as Carluccio’s, Prezzo, Jamie’s Italian, Zizzi, Bella Italia and PizzaExpress as leading the way.

·       Global Origins
CGA new report shows how the Old World still controls the wine market. What regions and grape varieties within those countries are selling the most are of most interest to UK wine buyers. Whether you are looking to source wines to then distribute and push out to your restaurant, pub and bar customers, or you are a restaurant group, or sommelier, looking to buy direct. This it was the second in the CGA Wine Insight Report series is all about. The chance to take a deep dive into exactly what is selling and moving off wine lists and back bars across the country.

It shows that Old World countries continue to dominate the UK’s wine market, but consumers are increasingly open to new sources and varietals, and if they like the wines they taste then they are also willing to spend more for higher quality. Based on recent CGA on-trade data the value of GB total wine and Champagne sales remains in decline, down2.4% year-on-year, but it over indexes significantly against volume, which is down 7.4% year-on-year, which suggests spend is greater in relation to consumption. Wines from Old World countries accounted for nearly two thirds (63.4%) of volume sales in the last year, with France and Italy the two most popular countries.

Is wine facing the perfect storm? Hard seltzers & cannabis threaten to entice younger drinkers away

28 Jan 2020-William Reed Business Media Ltd

Hard seltzers are soaring, attracting consumers with their low cal image and bright branding. Cannabis drinks look set to battle wine for the attention of younger consumers. And this is all against the backdrop of declining wine volumes. Is wine facing the perfect storm in the US?

In a survey among US wine drinkers, Wine Intelligence found that 39% had reduced their wine consumption over the last 12 months. While the majority of this group said they were simply cutting back on alcohol, a third said they were drinking less wine because they were switching to other alcoholic beverages.

And among those switching to other alcoholic beverage categories – estimated at 9 million regular wine consumers or 12% of the regular US wine drinking population – the most popular alternatives were hard seltzers and beer. Cannabis, meanwhile, remains an unquantified threat as it continues to emerge.

Competition from other beverages is nothing new to the wine category: it’s had to compete with a number of trendy drinks over the last decade such as craft beer, hard cider or craft spirits. But the rise of hard seltzers is notable because of its speedy assent to stardom and consequently its sudden impact on wine. Hard seltzers have the advantage of tapping into several key trends at once: being relatively low in alcohol (4-7% ABV); low in calories (typically less than 100 calories); and packaged in light, eye-catching cans.

And consumers aged 35 are the most likely of regular wine drinkers to try hard seltzers: according to the report, 49% of hard seltzer drinkers who also drink wine monthly are under this benchmark, while 73% are 45 or younger.

Those entering the hard seltzer category are also among the more involved wine drinkers, who would normally be the ones spending at premium levels when buying wine. However, this could also indicate a positive point of difference for wine, in that hard seltzer drinkers still attach a certain prestige to wine and consider it for certain drinking occasions.

Hard seltzers are still, however, a small category compared to wine: at $3.4bn retail value compared to $70bn for wine. But while wine volumes headed into decline into 2019, hard seltzers continue to rise.

Hard seltzer’s volume share of the US alcohol market jumped threefold from 0.8% in 2018 to 2.5% in 2019, to 82.5m 9-litre cases, worth approximately $3.4bn at retail value, according to IWSR figures.

Although the US wine market has grown consistently for the past 30 years – and doubled in size since the turn of the century – it’s suffered its first fall in 25 years with US wine volumes for 2019 showing a year-on-year decline of 0.9%.

Understand what consumers want

So what can wine brands do to tempt consumers back to the category?

Understanding seltzer’s success and drawing lessons from it will be key, says

Wine Intelligence COO Richard Halstead. “What’s notable about the recent surge in hard seltzer sales is that a few far-sighted brand owners, chief among them White Claw, have positioned themselves precisely and very successfully to meet today’s consumer needs,”

he said. “Therefore, to compete more effectively with hard seltzer – and the next,fashionable beverage that comes along – the wine industry must understand better those consumer needs and how hard seltzer made itself a must-buy in 2019.

“Hard seltzer is meeting a consumer need for a light, refreshing, pleasant tasting and lower-in-alcohol product – beer without the bitterness, or wine with less alcohol. The most successful hard seltzer brand, White Claw, promotes itself as low carb (2g per 19.2 oz / 545 ml can), low in calories (100 cal per can) and gluten free.

“Interestingly, a standard glass of wine (5 oz / 150ml) can also claim very similar attributes: for a relatively dry wine at 13% ABV, 3g of carbs, 120 calories, and no gluten either. Unlike wine, the typical hard seltzer can offers simplicity and reliability in terms of flavour: while wine may offer a tasting description but this may be a bit vague.

“And there is a lot more visual branding in hard seltzer – bright colours, clear logos, and so on – which allow consumers clear sight of a brand proposition, and the opportunity to make a quick and reassuring decision.”

But another threat to wine comes from a completely different direction: cannabis. Some 7% of consumers said they are drinking less wine as they’ve switched to cannabis products: but 29% of consumers aged 21-34 said they considered cannabis products to be a good alternative to wine.

Cannabis-infused drinks often market themselves as the perfect alternative to wine: hoping to tap into the same relaxation occasion without the calorie count of wine.

So how can wine brands tackle the cannabis threat?
“This is a more difficult question to answer than hard seltzers, because we have yet to see a strong mainstream cannabis-based beverage on the market,” said Halstead. “However, the same logic of need identification and positioning applies here.

What consumer needs might the cannabis drink meet, and at which occasion?
Is it the wind-down-at-home-after-work moment, where all you want is something pleasant and reliable to help decompress out of work mode; or is itthe social discovery moment, where you go out with a view of trying something new and exciting, perhaps in combination with a new venue or food style?  “The requirements for each occasion are very different, and successful cannabis drinks producers will have thought carefully about that moment, and what might be required.”

Australian fires damage vineyards, but industry calls for context

Decanter , Jan 20 2020

Several vineyards have suffered ‘devastating damage’ alongside wider communities from the deadly wildfires, said Wine Australia, but it cautioned that around 1% of national vineyard land was in the fire zones.

A number of wineries and vineyard owners across parts of South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland were believed to have suffered serious damage from bushfires that may take years to recover from, Wine Australia said this week. Full damage assessments have not yet been possible, in some cases because it was still not safe for people to return to vineyards, and Wine Australia warned that a full picture would take time to assemble.Its comments provided another example of how bushfires have affected communities. However, the wine industry has naturally not been a major focus amid a series of fierce fires that have killed 27 people nationally since September, destroyed homes, caused mass evacuations – particularly in New South Wales and Victoria – and may have killed as many as one billion animals, according to an estimate by professor Chris Dickman, from the University of Sydney.

For now, Wine Australia has sought to provide context on the situation for vineyards and their customers.

It said that around 1% of the country’s vineyard land was located in fire zones and it confirmed that not all of that land has been damaged.

‘We are confident that as of 6 January 2020 less than 1% of Australian vineyards were potentially impacted,’ a spokesperson told Decanter.com.

This percentage could be higher in some areas. Around 30% of vineyards in Adelaide Hills had been caught up in the fire zone, according to the wine region’s executive officer, Kerry Treuel.

However, fires hit properties sporadically rather than universally and damage assessments were ongoing.

‘Unfortunately some vineyards are completely burnt but there other areas where vines are still intact with no signs of fire damage,’ Treuel said.

‘The fire moved quickly and sporadically throughout the region, jumping roads, vineyards and properties,’ she said

‘So, while the fire scar is spread across a vast area, the emergency services and local volunteers and growers themselves did a truly amazing job to limit its impact to certain areas. It’s important to note that there was minimal to no smoke in the region over the days following.’

Wine Australia’s chief executive, Andreas Clark, said that assessing damage was complex and would take time.

‘It is easy to see when vines are burned but often it takes much longer to establish the damage caused by heat.’

He added, ‘What we have seen in the past and no doubt will again in the future is an astonishing generosity where people have donated grapes and labour to assist their neighbours and friends to recover.’

Wine Australia said it was working with Australian Grape & Wine, plus the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), government bodies and local agencies to co-ordinate both a short-term response and a ‘longer-term action plan’.

Tony Battaglene, chief executive of Australian Grape & Wine, said immediate support for growers would need to be backed up by a campaign to bring back tourism over the medium-term.

‘We need donations to the relief funds, support for our emergency services, and consumers to buy our wine and visit our regions,’ he said.

In the UK, several high-profile London restaurants have created events to raise funds for communities affected by the fires.

Research uncovers interesting findings in Chardonnay’s family tree

RD&E News | January 2020
Until now, it has been impossible to definitively identify particular clones of any given grapevine cultivar.

However, new work by researchers at the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) characterising clonal genetics for a single cultivar now makes that a possibility.

‘This is exciting, because it opens the door on a new set of tools for grapevine germplasm management that provides not only a means for identifying specific clones, but also permits an assessment of diversity within a cultivar’.

– Simon Schmidt, AWRI Research Manager.

Chardonnay is a particularly rich example of a cultivar with many commercially available clones. Many of these clones exhibit differences in key viticultural and oenological traits – the result of centuries of asexual propagation.

However, the genetic variation that underlies these differences was largely unknown.

To address this knowledge gap, a multi-centre research team – including Anthony Borneman and Michael Roach from the AWRI – set out to characterise the differences between the many clones of Chardonnay. To do that, they used the latest long-read genome sequencing technologies, high-performance computing and customised bioinformatics tools – and combined it with re-sequencing data from 15 different Chardonnay clones.

‘We specifically looked for single base differences (SNPs)[1] between clones, rather than copy number differences of repeat elements (transposons and microsatellites) that have been used for the identification of varieties in the past’, explained Simon.

The team identified 1620 base pair changes that were different among the 15 Chardonnay clones that they examined in this study. They found individual clones ranged in their diversity, having as many as 221 (Mendoza) or as few as 27 (Clone 118) unique SNPs.

A key finding was that very few of the clones in the study shared these SNPs, indicating that few clones shared a common clonal heritage.

‘We would expect to see shared SNPs if multiple clones had, at some point in the past, been derived from the same plant but had diverged during subsequent propagation. This type of divergence was apparent when we examined two samples of the same clone, one obtained in Australia and one obtained from Canada. For example, both samples of clone 95 shared 109 marker SNPs, with the Canadian sample having 11 unique marker SNPs and the Australian sample having 15 unique marker SNPs. This example shows how plant material continues to evolve despite our best efforts to capture and maintain a particular lineage’, Simon said.

One finding in particular surprised the team.

‘It is well known that Chardonnay is the product of a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc; therefore, the Chardonnay genome should be made up of half from each parent. But our initial assessment of the Chardonnay genome showed that large parts appeared to be derived only from Pinot Noir. We were lucky to have access to Gouais Blanc at the SARDI Research station at Nuriootpa, and sequencing of that material showed that Gouais Blanc is also closely related to Pinot Noir. As a result of this work the wine grape family tree just got a bit more interesting’, the team said.

[1] Measurement of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) is a way of assessing DNA sequence variation.


Bright Old Things

Punch – 15 December 2019

A group of Sicilian winemakers is on a mission to bring back the original, unfortified Marsala. They’re calling it “Pre-British.”

“Young wine is for pedophiles,” says Pierpaolo Badalucco, as he pulls a few tastes of his old, oxidative, unfortified grillo out of the barrel with a wine thief. This is not the Marsala lining grocery store shelves, or even the stuff you might find at your local wine store. This is Marsala as it was produced two centuries ago, before the British arrived to make it both a fortified wine, and a household name.

“I can’t stand all this talk of glou-glou wine, easy wine,” Badalucco says of the style of juicy, easy-drinking wine that has defined the current drinking zeitgeist. He pops the cork on a bottle of a new cuvée called “Perpetuum,” which he has not yet released, that is made from a base of old grillo combined with new catarratto each year. He’s not happy with the wine; it needs more time. He goes inside and returns with an open bottle of the same thing. “I uncorked this a month ago,” he says. “It’s amazing now. But can you sell a wine that you need to open a month before you drink?”

Before the British came to the Sicilian city of Marsala in 1773, locals had long made a wine they called perpetuo. A barrel of it sat in nearly every house in the land, from Mazara del Vallo, north along the coast to Marsala and Trapani, and east to inland Alcamo. Each year that barrel would be topped up with wine from the newest vintage, drunk down about halfway over the course of the next 12 months, and then topped up again each subsequent year with new wine. This yielded a mature wine with plenty of contact with air, almost certainly the kind of wine John Woodhouse, the first British exporter of Marsala, tasted when he landed.

Woodhouse realized that, like Sherry, Port and Madeira, Marsala would need to be fortified before shipping so that it wouldn’t spoil on the journey. That’s when the wine as we know it today was born: a long-aged, oxidative white wine, which passed through a solera-like system blending older and newer vintages and was then fortified with brandy before bottling. In subsequent years, though, Marsala devolved from Woodhouse’s original formula into many things unrelated—and injurious—to good wine: a flavoring used in preparing dishes like veal marsala or zabaglione; a novelty alcoholic drink mixed with random substances like almond, banana, coffee or egg; a souvenir that tourists buy because they imagine they ought to bring home something—anything—from their Italian holiday. This devolution, which began in the early 20th century, ultimately brought the Marsala industry to its knees. Nearly a century later, it’s given birth to a new movement back not just to the drier, higher quality fortified Marsala of the 1800s, but to something many consider to be a much more authentic expression of the region.

The land stretching from Mazara del Vallo to Marsala and Trapani, and inland to Alcamo, has produced wine for centuries.

Winemakers like Badalucco, as well as the De Bartoli family and Nino Barraco, among others, are devoted to reviving what they call “Pre-British” Marsala, a term coined by Barraco in 2015 to describe aged, oxidative nonfortified wine. (A much larger, traditional Marsala wine producer, Intorcia, has even recently tried to trademark the term “Pre-British” much to Badalucco’s dismay, as he sees it as a process and a tradition, not a brand.) The godfather of this kind of wine—and this new wave of local winemakers—was Marco De Bartoli. De Bartoli was heir to an industrial Marsala winery, but initially rejected the trade to strike out on his own, first as a race car driver, then eventually as an independent winemaker. He took over his mother’s family baglio, or wine estate, in 1978; in 1980 he released “Vecchio Samperi,” perhaps the first Pre-British perpetuo wine that had ever been bottled for sale. Two things distinguished it from the Marsala of the time: First, it wasn’t fortified. Second, the new wine in Vecchio Samperi came entirely from one contrada, or vineyard site, rather than the typical mix of bought and grown grapes that obscured Marsala’s sense of place.

It didn’t exactly take off. “Things were incredibly difficult for my father in the early years,” De Bartoli’s daughter Josephine says. “Even this first wine, Vecchio Samperi, which he loved the most, really only started to be widely appreciated in the last decade.” De Bartoli died in 2011, but not before he had, singlehandedly at first, created a renaissance of independent winemaking in a region dominated by industrial-scale Marsala makers.

Vecchio Samperi is now joined by a number of other Pre-British wines. Nino Barraco’s “Altogrado,” first released in 2016, is a single-vintage grillo aged for years with exposure in the barrel to oxygen. It’s topped up during the first two years, as needed, with wine from the original vintage. Badalucco’s “Pipa” cuvée, first released in 2018, is somewhere in between De Bartoli’s blended, multiyear Vecchio Samperi and Barraco’s single vintage. Pipa starts with a single vintage as its base and then ages in the barrel, with a quarter left empty for air. As it evaporates and needs to be topped up, Badalucco uses the wine of the previous year, or an older wine, to do so. The movement hasalso begun to expand beyond the original three to include Pre-British cuvées from the natural wine producer Viteadovest; from Intorcia, who recently introduced their own perpetuo cuvée; and Fodera, who, when I visited them in October, offered me a glass of theirs, which they had not yet begun to bottle.

These Pre-British wines are made in tiny quantities—Barraco makes 700 bottles a year, while Badalucco makes less than 1,000—but as soon as they are rolled out to customers in Japan, throughout Europe and at natural wine events like RAW, they become underground classics, sought after by Sherry lovers in Tokyo as well as natural wine geeks in America. Just a few years ago, though, this newfound relevance felt like a long shot.

Winemaker Nino Barraco coined the term “Pre-British” Marsala in 2015.

“The Fields Make You Poorer and Ruder”

Badalucco’s grandfather abandoned winemaking in 1970 when he saw the wine world he knew, in which local landowners didn’t just grow grapes but also made quality wine, destroyed by industrial Marsala manufacturers and the grape growers’ cooperatives that supplied them. When he shuttered his cellar, he issued an ultimatum to his children, including Badalucco’s father: “Go to Palermo and study. Don’t come back here until you’ve earned a university degree.” Badalucco’s father became a professor of agronomy and raised his son in Palermo. Pierpaolo later moved to Madrid to work in a bank.

One night in 2000, Pierpaolo’s father called: “I got an offer to sell our three hectares of vineyards in Triglia [a seaside contrada],” he recalled. “Unless you want me to hold onto the land, I’ll sell it.” Pierpaolo asked him to wait so he could think it over. That night he reflected on the harvests of his youth, when the entire family would move to this land from their home in Palermo, spend all day picking grapes, then eat alongside the workers. He thought about his grandfather, who had to abandon what he’d loved, and about his father, who had been forced out of his hometown because of the collapse of this industry.

In the morning he called his father and said, “Papa, do you need the money you’d get for selling Triglia?” His father said no. “Then I think I’ll come home,” Pierpaolo said. A week later he quit his job and returned to Sicily. He and his partner, Spaniard Beatriz de la Iglesia Garcia, who makes the wine with him, spent almost all of their personal savings cleaning up the vineyards, which had been leased to growers who used chemical fertilizers that polluted the land. That left them very little capital to begin with. “There’s an old saying among winemakers here,” says Badalucco. “‘The fields make you poorer and ruder.’”

The couple had no formal training in winemaking but came to share a cellar with Nino Barraco. Through trial and error, and with guidance from friends, Badalucco and de la Iglesia Garcia started to realize the potential of the grillo they were harvesting from Triglia, which was very high in sugar but had extremely balanced pH. As a test, Badalucco stuck some of it in a barrel and left it there for years, as he did with many other wines, to see what might happen. He wasn’t convinced the wine, which was unusually high in alcohol, would ever become something he wanted to drink; he was still in pursuit of a younger, fresher style. But around 2008, a few years after it had been put in the barrel, a French sommelier came to taste through his experiments, all piled up in one corner of the cellar. She got to that long-aged grillo and immediately turned to Badalucco to ask if he would sell it to her. “That made me think,” he says. “I thought I’d been looking for something else entirely different. But maybe there was something here.”

Pierpaolo Badalucco uses a wine thief to extract and sample his aged, oxidative white wine, representative of his family’s heritage in Marsala.

Badalucco, ever patient, waited for his grillo to properly mature; a decade later he made the first bottling of what he’d call “Pipa ¾-1,” a reference to both the name of the barrels once used to export Marsala and the fill of those barrels—3/4, to get sufficient contact with air—decreed by the second British producer of Marsala, Benjamin Ingham. Badalucco’s Pipa is the only wine made today following a document called the decalogo, authored by Ingham in 1834, which laid out his ideas of the proper production process for wine: separation of grapes, crushing by foot, proper maceration, the vital importance of hygiene. It could be thought of as a kind of early blueprint for clean natural winemaking. (Ingham’s decalogo laid out not the process for making fortified Marsala wine, but for producing the best base wine for aging.) Pipa has an unmistakably different nose than any of the other Pre-British wines: intensely savory, with a strong initial whiff of butterscotch, then an acid bite that cuts through its nearly 16 percent alcohol.

Though De Bartoli started bottling and selling perpetuo decades ago, this style of wine, and the movement that is giving birth to it, is in its infancy. But this desire to go out in search of something purer, and more meaningful, is a perfect symbol of the wine world’s fresh look backward—not as a form of cosplay or dogma, but as a way for a new generation of winemakers to engage with their own personal history in new ways.

So Old, It Is Actually New

One way of thinking about the extremes of wine taste that have recently come back into fashion—intentionally oxidative production, long skin contact, super high acidity—is as a return to challenging flavors that people probably at one time appreciated, even adored, but were eclipsed by tastes easier to enjoy. That is, in essence, why fast food and industrial food and drinks, and the instant, direct pleasure they deliver in the form of addictive fat, flavor, sweetness and texture have become so popular. Though easy-drinking glou-glou wine is one face of wine today, especially natural wine, there is also an increasingly relevant counterpoint to be found in Jerez, the Jura, Sardinia and beyond, that showcases the complexities, depths and differences that come from wine aged with long contact with air.

“Things were incredibly difficult for my father in the early years,” says Josephine De Bartoli, whose father, Marco, created a renaissance of independent winemaking here.

“Now is the time to make this kind of wine,” Nino Barraco told me. “People are finally ready to appreciate it.” That said, the streets of Marsala aren’t yet flowing with Pre-British, but the style is starting to gain some local fans. I first learned about it through the owner of Enoteca Bellini, located on a pedestrian street in the old city, whom I asked about the best Marsala-style wines. She pointed out a couple of classic Marsalas, but it was clear she was holding something back. She sized me up, looked back at the shelf, then steered me to the Pre-British section. “These wines don’t technically count as Marsala,” she said. “But they’re really special.” At Le Lumie, a fine-dining restaurant situated in the wine country just outside Marsala’s city limits, I ate busiate, the classic, coiled pasta of the region, looked out over vineyards that stretched down to the sea and drank Altogrado and Vecchio Samperi, both offered by the glass.

But the real return of Sicilians to this style of wine is happening, if it’s happening anywhere, in Palermo. That more cosmopolitan city an hour and a half north of Marsala has recently seen a flurry of interest in natural wine, and in the wines from this side of Sicily, which have long been overshadowed by Etna wine, made in the east. At CiCala, a new wine bar in the Kalsa district, I spent a night drinking Pipa with its young owner, Filippo Cosentino. Like Badalucco, Cosentino lived abroad for years, then came back home. When he did, he found Sicilians had become much more open. “That’s not to say everyone is drinking Pre-British,” he said. “It’s still something for wine geeks and people nostalgic for the past. But that’s a beginning.” One of the best restaurants in the city, Gagini, now has a section of its by-the-glass offerings devoted to Pre-British, which it classifies as “wines for meditation.”

“For every local winemaker, especially the natural winemakers, making a Pre-British wine has become something you really have to do,” said Antonio Corsano, sommelier at Bocum, a Palermo wine bar. Corsano, an opera singer turned sommelier, told me about his first time tasting these wines: “I was up all night thinking about them,” he says. “In the bottle you find the life of the winemaker.”

Back at his family baglio, Badalucco showed me the old tanks, now in disuse, that his grandfather had purchased when he had a particularly successful harvest many decades ago. Those tanks are still empty, for now, but nearby are the many smaller barrels in which Badalucco continues his impassioned experiments in search of the past—and the future. “From the time that my grandfather stopped making wine to when I began,” he said, “no one made wine here in our family’s cellar. This isn’t a product to me, it’s much more. I hope others like my wine. But if they don’t, I’ll drink it myself.”



The Drinks Business – 11th December, 2019 by Phoebe French

Almost one billion bottles of organic wine are expected to be consumed around the world by 2023, new research has revealed, more than doubling from the 441 million bottles recorded in 2013.

The research, commissioned by Millésime Bio, a trade show devoted to organic wine, and its organiser SudVinBio, was conducted by research group IWSR.

A total of 976 million bottles of organic wine are expected to be consumed in 2023, up 34% from 729 million bottles consumed in 2018.

In 2018, organic wine accounted for 2.6% of global wine consumption, and this is expected to rise to 3.5% by 2023. In 2013, it represented just 1.5%.

In the world’s top five wine consuming countries – the USA, France, Italy, Germany and China – the organic wine market was worth €3.3 billion in 2018.

While Germany currently consumes the most organic wine, France is set to overtake it by 2023, consuming one in every five bottles. Germany will account for 17.6% of the market.

The US is set to overtake the UK and place third, representing 9.3% of organic wine consumed, equivalent to 91 million bottles.

In terms of countries with the highest area of organic certified vineyards, Spain is expected to have 160,000 hectares of organic vines by 2023, having tripled what it had in 2013.

France will remain in second position with some 115,000 hectares by 2023, while Italy will have over 96,000 hectares.

The study also examined the consumption of organic wine in five key wine markets: France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the US.

Singling out organic sparkling wine, it found that consumption rose by 19.1% in these markets between 2013 and 2018. Between 2018 and 2023, the study predicted that consumption of organic fizz would rise by 8.2% on average year on year in the five selected markets.

Patrick Guiraud, president of Millésime Bio, said: “This new research demonstrates how more and more consumers around the world are choosing organic wines as they reject the use of pesticides and other unnatural products that damage the environment and can enter the food chain.

“This trend will only increase as large and small vignerons switch to more sustainable winemaking, and retailers stock a larger range of organic wines to meet rising consumer demand.”

Millésime Bio will hold its annual show from 27 to 29 January in Montpellier next year. Now into its 27th edition, organisers are expected to welcome over 1,300 organic wine producers from 22 countries, as well as some 7,000 international buyers.

According to figures published by IWSR last year, almost 10% of all wine sold in the UK will be made organically by 2022. Major retailers, such as Waitrose, have revealed that sales of organic wines are rising, with the supermarket reporting a 57% year-on-year rise last year.

Among the high profile, big brand launches include Cono Sur which told db that it will launch a range of organic wines, comprised of a Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, red blend and a Malbec, in the UK next year.


Winegrowers are the most socially active farmers

Friday December 13 2019 by Vitisphere

Mickaël Ménager, marketing director of the NGPA group: “Interestingly, 65.8% of respondents have a social media account”.

Commissioned by Vitisphere and conducted by Datagri, the Vitinaute survey presented on 27 November at the Sitevi exhibition reveals that social media is popular with winegrowers.

For the first time ever, Vitisphere and Datagri, an expert in agricultural and viticultural research, have published a trends barometer on connected wineries which they presented jointly at Sitevi in Montpellier on 26 November. The study, which involved 360 French winegrowers, aimed to gauge use of the Internet by winegrowers. One interesting finding is that winegrowers are particularly active on social media, much more so than farmers at large. “Interestingly, 65.8% of respondents have a social media account. A similar study conducted among farmers (Ed: Agrinautes 2019) showed that just 57% of farmers say they use social media in a personal or professional capacity”, said Mikaël Ménager, director of the NGPA group (the media group to which Vitisphere belongs). Winegrowers are also much more engaged than the French population in general. According to a 2018 Credoc study, 59% of the French use social media. Importantly, age is a significant divider with the under-35s over-represented in social media usage.

Facebook, the most popular social media:

Not surprisingly, Facebook is the social platform most used by winegrowers. 47.5% of the winegrowers surveyed are personally active and 39.7% are professionally active. Then comes Instagram with a slightly higher professional usage (18.3% of winegrowers surveyed) than personal (15% of winegrowers surveyed).


OIV rejects names of existing varieties for disease-resistant hybrids

Vitisphere, 12 Dec 2019

Advocates believe that labelling statements featuring kinship with a varietal name familiar to consumers (Cabernet, Merlot…) would speed up the spread of new disease-resistant varieties without misleading consumers.  “For new varieties, the use of names that could lead to confusion with those of existing varieties should be avoided, especially when those varietal names are already used for approved official labels of existing commercial products”, states Resolution 609-2019 of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). The organisation therefore advises against the use of known, or international, grape variety names (Cabernet, Merlot, Sauvignon, etc.) to name new varieties resistant to downy and powdery mildew, as well as on the labelling of the wines that will be produced from them.


Hybrid names:

Based on a French approach, from the perspective of its administration and wine industry, the OIV Resolution must now be translated into EU regulations. As European law currently stands, a claim to kinship with a famous grape variety (Vitis vinifera species) through the designation of a new hybrid variety derived from American or Asian varieties (Muscadinia rotondifolia, Vitis amurensis…) is not prohibited, particularly as regards Article 63 of EC Regulation 2100/94, stress legal experts with the Community Plant Variety Office (click here for more information).

The European Wine Market (and Price) Observatory launches

November 14 2019 by Vitisphere

Year in, year out, European wine production accounts for 60% of volumes produced worldwide.Year in, year out, European wine production accounts for 60% of volumes produced worldwide.

Following similar initiatives for the beef, dairy and sugar industries, a specific market observatory for wine has just been launched by the European Commission. On 4 November in Brussels, the Directorate-General for Agriculture (DG Agri) convened a meeting of the twenty members appointed to launch the observatory. Complementing the European Commission’s specialised civil dialogue group on wine, the DG Agri observatory aims to be less political and more technical in monitoring trade dynamics.

First on the observatory’s agenda was taking stock of the economic data available and how to create a timely price monitoring system. The current dashboard is indeed rustic. Ultimately, the wine market observatory should enable DG Agri to monitor the situation and factors affecting the marketing of European wines on an annual basis.


Rugose wood diseases and associated viruses

by Dariusz Goszczynski | 1 Nov, 2019 | Viticulture research, Winetech Technical

A potential threat to vineyards and an unexplored, fascinating subject for scientific study. Grapevine species Vitis vinifera is planted on about 7.4 million hectares, being one of the most economically important crops worldwide.1 At the end of the nineteenth century, vineyards in Europe and South Africa were devastated by a tiny sap-sucking insect known as phylloxera (Dactulosphaira vitifoliae), which feeds on leaves and roots of grapevines. The insect was introduced to Europe from North America and was spreading fast in vineyards as it could not be controlled with chemicals. The grapevine industry was rescued with the introduction of grafting Vitis vinifera onto native American Vitis species, usually hybrids created from V. berlanderi, V. riparia and V. rupestris, which are naturally resistant to phylloxera.2 Since then grafting has become a common practice in viticulture.

Grafting, however, that combines two different Vitis species, is not without its problems. Perfect grafting requires full connection of vascular tissues (phloem and xylem) of grafted grapevine species.3 Failure of this connection, which may go unnoticed by the farmer, results in poor growth of grapevines, delayed bud burst, low fruit production, or decline of grafted plant after initial good growth. The problem with graft union compatibility is sometimes exhibited by external symptoms like “swelling” of scion above the graft union in some rootstock/V. vinifera combinations. Although the abnormally developed with graft unions can be environment-, rootstock- or scion-related,4 investigations revealed that virus infection of grapevines are also associated with these symptoms.5,6 The term “rugose wood diseases” (RWD) of grapevines refers to the modified grapevine woody cylinder (grooving and pitting), and exceedingly thick bark of a scion, which are putatively induced by virus infections.5,6

A comprehensive progress review in the study of RWD, between 1962 to 2013, which provided a solid foundation for further investigation of this disease, was published in the Journal of Plant Pathology in 2014.7 Briefly, a breakthrough in the clear identification of RWD was the discovery of grapevines especially sensitive to RWD. This has led to the identification of four diseases of rugose wood complex: Rupestris stem pitting (RSPD), Kober stem grooving (KSGD), corky bark (CBD) and LN33 stem grooving (LNGD). The discovery was followed by descriptions of virus species associated with RWD, grapevine virus A (GVA) and grapevine virus B (GVB), and transmission of these viruses between grapevines by insect pests common in vineyards, such as mealybugs. The full molecular characterisation of genomes of these viruses has led to establishment of a new taxonomic group, the genus Vitivirus.7,8 In addition to the members of this group, viruses of the genus Foveavirus, like grapevine rupestris stem pitting-associated virus (GRSPaV), discovered in 1998,9 were also found to be associated with RWD. The number of recorded members of the genus Vitivirus, rapidly expanded after the introduction of high-through sequencing (HTS). This modern technique generates sequence data for any genetic material, including viruses, present in the investigated sample. Currently 11 virus species of the Vitivirus genus, named with sequential letters of the alphabet: GVA, GVB, GVD, GVE, GVF, GVG, GVH, GVI, GVJ, GVK and GVL, were discovered in grapevines in Italy, France, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand, USA, Argentina and South Korea.7,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18 It indicates that the genus Vitivirus comprises a large number of virus species and suggests that these viruses are common in vineyards worldwide.

This is highly intriguing considering that accumulated research data strongly suggest that two of them, GVA and GVB, induce two diseases of RWD complex, KSGD and CBD, respectively.7 Thus, should we consider that the remaining nine vitiviruses, GVD – GVL, are also potentially able to cause abnormal development of graft unions? If yes, the industry should be concerned. There are reports that the vitiviruses, unlike members of the family Closteroviridae, associated with grapevine leafroll disease (GLRD), are relatively difficult to eliminate from grapevines using commonly used virus elimination techniques.19 In addition, these viruses are easily transmitted between grapevines by common vineyard pests like mealybugs.7

There are many questions regarding vitiviruses that should be answered. If these viruses are really widely present in vineyards worldwide and are able to induce RWD, what prevents them from inducing pathological changes in graft unions? Perhaps only a small number of grapevine cultivars are susceptible to RWD? Or, perhaps only a small percentage of populations of genetic variants of each member of the Vitivirus genus are pathogenic to grapevines. It is possible that a high titre of vitiviruses is needed to visualise the pathogenic effect of these viruses in grapevines and to reach this hypothetical threshold titre they might need support from other viruses.

In South Africa, CBD-affected LN33 grapevines are always infected with GVB and a closterovirus, grapevine leafroll-associated virus 3 (GLRaV-3). This virus and the other members of the family Closteroviridae encode strong suppressors of anti-virus grapevine defence system.20 A recent article published by the USA laboratory strongly suggests that the synergy between grapevine vitiviruses and grapevine leafroll-associated viruses is a reality. It was found that the titres of GVA and GVB in co-infection with the closteroviruses, GLRaV-2 and GLRaV-3, were clearly higher than the titres were in the absence of these co-infections.21 In addition, despite the association of vitiviruses with RWD, the pathogenicity of these viruses to grapevines is still not well known. An anatomical study of CBD-affected grapevine revealed abnormal development of xylem and phloem tissues.22 Thus, GVB, which is the suspected cause of this disease, is able to deregulate differentiation of cambium cells to xylem and phloem. How does GVB do it? What grapevine genes are targeted? Does GVB, and other vitiviruses, have a special “affinity” for grapevine meristematic cells? All these questions can be answered only if we have established an easy model to study vitivirus-grapevine host interactions.

The ideal is the model comprising a LN33 hybrid grapevine (Courderc 1613 x Thompson Seedless) and GVB-associated with corky bark disease (CBD). Although the RWD-associated viruses do not induce easily visible external symptoms in most grapevine cultivars, CBD is an exception. LN33 reacts to CBD infection with severe swelling and longitudinal cracking of canes between internodes (Figure 1). The symptoms are the result of the rapid and excessive proliferation of the secondary phloem cells.22 After CBD infection of LN33 grapevine the symptoms of the disease appear consistently every year in new growing canes. This secures a constant supply of genetically identical CBD-affected grapevine tissues for study. Also, it was found that young, in vitro-propagated LN33 plants are very susceptible to CBD. Transmission of CBD by micro grafting induced clearly visible swelling of stems of LN33 plants in 8 – 12 weeks.23 The result was confirmed by other laboratories.24

The second component of the GVB/LN33 model are cDNA clones of GVB variants. The construction of biologically active and stable cDNA clones of GVB is crucial. Although GVB was isolated from grapevines by mechanical transmission of this vitivirus to its alternative herbaceous hosts, Nicotiana sp.,25 transmission of this virus back to grapevines is impossible with current knowledge. Our laboratory has made clear progress towards creating the model to investigate pathogenicity of GVB to LN33 grapevines. The virus is extensively genetically heterogenic.26,27,28,29,30,31 Currently seven complete genome sequences of genetic variants of GVB, sharing 74.9 – 85.2% nucleotide identity, are available in the GenBank/EMBL database. Four of these variants were identified in our laboratory.27,28,32 Also, we reported that the genetic variants of GVB differ in pathogenicity to LN33 grapevine. LN33 plants in our grapevine collection are infected with variant GVB-H1 and, over the years, consistently do not express CBD symptoms.27 The genome sequence of this variant, that is not pathogenic to LN33, is clearly divergent from other GVB variants. Finally, we constructed biologically viable cDNA clones of GVB.33 The clones are crucial for the pathogenicity study of GVB variants, because constructing of clones is the only way to obtain a pure culture of genetic variants of this grapevine virus. In South Africa, CBD-affected LN33 grapevines are usually infected with a mixture of various divergent genetic variants of GVB and other viruses, like GRSPaV and GLRaV-3.27,28,34 Separating GVB from mixed virus infections is practically impossible. The GVB/LN33 model has enormous scientific potential. The severe and relatively quick reaction of LN33 to GVB infection, the easy manipulations in the genome of GVB using cDNA clones of this virus, and the comparative analysis of expression of the virus and molecular changes in grapevine cells infected with GVB genetic variants differing in pathogenicity to grapevines, may reveal which part of the GVB genome confers CBD-inducing pathogenicity determinants of the virus, and how the virus de-regulates cambium cell differentiation. This could lead to identification of grapevine genes targeted by GVB in CBD disease development and modification of these genes to make grapevines not susceptible to GVB, and possibly also to other vitiviruses.



The discovery of new viruses by researchers using the latest scientific diagnostic methods are inevitable. Although the grapevine industry cannot ignore these new findings, the importance of these emerging viruses must be confirmed by Koch’s postulates, or their etiological role must be confirmed by association with certain diseases. Both results will help to improve the phytosanitary status of our material.



Moderate Wine Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Lung Disease

Wine Spectator, Nov 13, 2019

When it comes to respiratory illnesses, there are few studies exploring the link between alcohol consumption and lung health. However, new research from Sweden appears to breathe life into this field: Its findings suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may lower the risk of lung disease in men.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a respiratory illness that restricts airflow into and out of the lungs, making breathing difficult. The illness advances over time, increasingly diminishing pulmonary performance, often with fatal results.

The leading cause of COPD is smoking, followed by asthma and environmental factors. Symptoms of COPD include a cough that produces a lot of mucus, shortness of breath, especially during physical activity, wheezing and chest tightness, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The disease impacts an estimated 16 million people yearly in the U.S. alone. “According to investigators in the Global Burden of Disease Study, COPD was the third leading cause of loss of life in the United States and the fourth leading cause in the United Kingdom in 2016,” the study authors write.

The study, conducted by a team from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and the U.K.’s University of the West of England, Bristol, and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, involved over 44,000 men between the ages of 45 to 79. Researchers began tracking the men, starting in 1998, to the moment they were diagnosed with COPD or until the end of 2014. The study took into account the subjects’ health, age, weight, body mass index, level of education, economic class and various other factors.

The median age of the participants was 60. Of those, 24.4 percent were smokers, 38.5 percent were ex-smokers, and 35.8 percent had never smoked. Participants were also asked how much they drank per week. The researchers defined 1 standard drink as 12 grams of ethanol, approximately 5 ounces of wine. (That’s slightly lower than the 14 grams defined as a standard glass of wine by the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.)

The study found that moderate drinkers had a lower incidence of COPD than both abstainers and heavy drinkers. In fact, the individuals who didn’t consume alcohol had a 21 percent higher incidence of the disease than individuals who drank moderately, roughly 7 to 14 drinks per week. Heavy drinkers (those consuming more than 20 drinks per week) had a 34 percent higher incidence of COPD than moderate drinkers.

The researchers were careful to make sure they adjusted their results to take into account possible confounding factors. The data revealed that wine drinkers are more likely to have higher incomes as opposed to liquor drinkers, and liquor drinkers are also more likely to be smokers. Also, those who consumed one or more glasses of wine per week tended to have a college education. Income and smoking are both factors that affect health outcomes and the incidence of COPD. However, even after adjusting for these confounding factors, the researchers still found that moderate drinkers had lower risk factors for COPD than non-drinkers and heavy drinkers.

“We can hypothesize that the protective association for moderate alcohol consumption, especially beer and wine consumption, relates to the antioxidant impact of polyphenols present in alcoholic beverages,” the authors write. However, because the researchers had little information on other COPD causes (like chemical fumes, pollution, etc.), aside from smoking, they were not able to conclusively say that moderate drinking alone was the only factor in these positive outcomes. Further research on the antioxidant qualities of wine and beer may help bolster these findings.


Digital system has the potential to reduce production costs

RD&E News | November 2019

Riverland grapegrowers have just completed road-testing the first stage of a digital vineyard guidance system that aims to save on production costs, particularly in labour and operating expenses.

A collaboration between Riverland Wine and University of Adelaide engineers, scientists and economists, the system uses a range of agricultural technologies including sensing, connectivity and data analytics, to assist prediction and decision making.

The project emerged from a ‘Hack Fest’ held between Riverland growers and a team of academics with expertise in engineering, computer science, robotics and viticulture in 2018, which was then piloted for six months this year.

The project emerged from a ‘Hack Fest’ held between Riverland growers and a team of academics from the University of Adelaide.

‘Riverland growers consistently produce grapes “fit for purpose”, and there were perceived to be significant opportunities to use digital systems to reduce production costs’, said Chief Executive of Riverland Wine Chris Byrne.

‘Growers expressed a desire to work with researchers to share and develop their vision for viticultural innovation through research, analysis and implementation of digital vineyard management systems. With this focus, over following months the Integrated Vineyard Precision Control System concept emerged.’

Researcher Seth Westra from the University of Adelaide said while there are many useful systems in the market that provide growers with readings from various sensors, the research team was intrigued with the question of what the explosion of sensors and other data acquisition technologies might mean for how growers operate their vineyards.

‘In particular, we wanted to know what might be possible if a computer system could be designed to learn about all aspects of vineyard operation and vine growth over multiple seasons. From tracking the water used for irrigation and how efficiently the irrigation system is performing, to monitoring what is happening in the soils and plants using newly developed camera-based systems that show how the canopy is developing over the growing season; providing real-time feeds of the price of energy and water; and recording data such as spray diaries and vine management activities.

Specifically, the team set out to answer a couple of key questions:

What if a system could be built that collates all of this information in a single and easily accessible one-stop-shop?

And if such a system could be built, how could the team harness this information to help inform growers to make better decisions?

In less than six months, the team was able to demonstrate that building such a system was not only technically feasible, but has the potential to provide advice to growers to support decisions in a whole range of operations.

‘What is more, we found that such a system could be built economically, yielding a strong return on investment for the grower’, said Seth.


Seth said taken as a whole, the technologies used in the pilot project have the potential to transform vineyard processes by enabling near real-time tracking and/or future prediction of vineyard decisions.

He said while an operational version of the system is not yet built, ‘that was never the role of a pilot project.’

The long-term aim of the project is to create a system that collates a variety of information that collectively could support on-farm decision making.

‘But as we move into the next phase, we know what is achievable and possible, and we have a much better idea of what should be prioritised and where the greatest value for growers lies. But most of all, the university team has built close personal relationships with the Riverland growers who will guide the system development, and help make sure that what is produced is practical and useful to the whole wine grape growing community.’

He said the long-term aim of the project was to create a system that collated a variety of information that collectively could support on-farm decision making and ultimately improve gross margins and profitability for growers.


Brits are among heaviest drinkers in the world, according to new study based on 2017 data…

Decanter, November 8, 2019

The average Briton consumes the equivalent of 108 bottles of wine a year – far more than the rest of the Western world – according to a major new report published today.

The figures were revealed in the ‘Health at a Glance 2019’ report compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and show that Britons over the age of 15 consume 9.7 litres of pure alcohol each annually.

This is equal to 108 bottles of 12% wine or 342 pints of 5% beer, and is 800 mL more pure alcohol per year that the average American drinker consumes.

American drinkers consume an average of 8.9 L of pure ethanol which is also the mean average of all nations polled for the report.

The data are based on sales of alcoholic beverages in 2017 across 44 countries and form part of a report on the health and wellbeing of populations in developed countries across the world.

As well as the USA, British drinkers consume more alcohol than their Spanish and Italian counterparts, but lag behind France – where they drink 11.7 L each year – and Germany, where the average consumption is 10.9 L.

Lithuania tops the list, followed by Austria, France, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg and Ireland. At the other end of the scale, Turkey, Israel, India, Costa Rica, Mexico and Colombia all drink fewer than five litres each.

The report warns that the levels of alcohol consumption among Britons is far above the OECD average and amounts to a public health issue. ‘Many British people lead unhealthy lifestyles. Alcohol consumption is a public health issue,’ it states. It also flags up the relationship between consumption and dependency across the world, and here the UK’s proportion of drinkers classed as ‘dependent’ was among the lowest, despite alcohol consumption being higher than average.


Effective spray application can save growers time, money and resources – and better protect the environment.

Wine Australia, 9 November 209

But how best to spray?

Andrew Hewitt and a team from the University of Queensland have been developing an innovative new spraying system, which is due to finish its trials in May next year. In this article, Andrew provides his top tips for growers for this coming spraying season.

Calibrate your sprayer

Even the best sprayer can do a lousy job if not optimally set up, says Andrew. Assess coverage using water sensitive papers throughout the canopy, or use fluorescent dyes and check coverage with a UV light, or simply use a coloured spray mix and hang white paper in the canopy. If coverage is not good or uniform, then adjust the sprayer, water volume rate and driving speed and repeat.

Target the canopy

Only target the canopy and one row per spray pass. ‘Don’t have the spray go over the top of the canopy, or through several rows. That just wastes chemical.’

Spray on time

Timing is everything with most pests. Scout regularly for pests and diseases and if you find them, time your spraying accordingly.

Check the weather

Always check weather forecasts when spraying to avoid rain events soon afterwards; spray losses through drift if high winds are forecast (above 15 km/ h); or temperature inversion issues when there is little or no wind.

Use the right nozzle and pressure for the job

Highest coverage may be with finer sprays, but drift is lowest with coarser sprays, says Andrew. ‘For example, herbicide work should be as coarse as possible for good coverage.’

Replace sprayers

Consider new spraying systems if your sprayers are old. ‘Recaptured and recycled sprayers did among the best in our studies’, said Andrew.

Consider sensor and precision spraying systems

‘We are getting excellent results with drones in our current work and with sensors for canopies.  The Wine Australia-funded app Viticanopy can assess the leaf area index and support your sprayer calibration water volume rate.’

Use adjuvants

Adjuvants can help with droplet spreading, sticking and uptake – particularly when cutting water rates. ‘We have not seen conclusive results yet showing their help with drift management, so it is still essential to manage drift using the well proven ways: avoiding adverse weather, correctly targeting only the canopy with the row being sprayed, watching wind direction and speed relative to any non-target sensitive areas and setting up the sprayer and nozzles correctly.’


‘My most memorable wines’: Jancis Robinson MW and Hugh Johnson

Decanter 6 Nov

As the eighth edition of the World Atlas of Wine is published, co-authors Jancis Robinson MW and Hugh Johnson talk about the most memorable wines they have tasted.

It won’t surprise you to hear that Jancis Robinson MW and Hugh Johnson have tried some of the world’s rarest wines.

But here are the names and vintages they picked out from an already-enviable list, in a special Decanter interview to mark the eighth edition of the World Atlas of Wine.

Jancis Robinson MW :

Cheval Blanc 1947: ‘When asked about the best wine I’ve tasted, my stock answer is Cheval Blanc 1947, which is a wonderful wine – so much so that it has been counterfeited multiple times. ‘I’ve been luckily enough to taste 12 different bottles and magnums with Cheval Blanc ’47 on the label and I am confident that only two were, actually, the real thing. But they were absolutely marvellous. A taste of absolute heaven.

‘One bottle was shared by a great wine lover, [who is also] known to British television watchers – Phillip Schofield – which was very kind of him. He treated us to a lovely dinner, with multiple vintages of Cheval Blanc, and ’47 was the star.




‘Rayas 1998 is completely stunning, and I’ve been lucky enough to taste it twice recently. I think this is now tasting even better than the famous ’78 and ’89. This is just magical.’


Dom Pérignon 2002 vs Cristal 2008


‘Some really top bottles of Dom Pérignon have hit the spot I must say, [such as] 2002 even when it was launched, and now it’s in its P2 late release stage – and that is stunning.


‘I think I have to put a Cristal in there – 2008 will be completely mind-blowing, but probably not there quite yet.’


And finally…


‘Well perhaps the last one, it’s a funny one, and not by any means a ‘grand’ wine, but utterly memorable. When we had just two children and they were very, very young, we were flying to New Zealand, via Tahiti. We were stopped in Tahiti and the Air New Zealand air hostess perhaps was sorry for me travelling with two such young children.


‘There was a leftover bottle of Charles Heidsieck Champagne, before Charles Heidsieck was really good, and she very kindly gave me that for our time there. I just remember looking at that amazing southern sky, sipping this pretty ordinary, but wonderful bottle of Champagne.’


Pinot Grigio – the end of the affair?

Harpers, 08 November, 2019

Ines Salpico reports on a strategic rethink as sales of Italy’s favourite white experiences a dramatic fall.

The Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC Consorzio recently hosted its first congress to discuss current and future challenges both in terms of production and market placement. The event’s heading – The Values of the Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC – hinted explicitly at the perplexities faced by the producers. Following the stunning success of the Pinot Grigio (PG) phenomenon, they have come to depend on the large volume exports of the varietal’s entry-level wines. Changes and increasing pressures in the main export markets (USA and UK) clearly demand some strategic rethinking.

The 2018 vintage was the second year in which single varietal PG hailing from the Triveneto – an area also known as Tre Venezie, covering Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol – was bottled under the Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC. Created in 2016, the new denomination was the result of the combined lobbying efforts of multiple producers from the three regions, now all gathered under the Consorzio di Tutela della DOC Pinot Grigio delle Venezie’s umbrella.

At the congress two guest speakers, Emma Dawson MW and Christy Canterbury MW, were invited to contextualise the scenario and challenges for PG consumption and sales in those key markets. They were also asked to give their views on how the new DOC might claim a sense of origin and penetrate more premium sectors.

This is a key concern for the Consorzio in a time when consumer behaviour, especially at low price levels, is changing dramatically.

Dawson questioned whether the UK has reached “peak PG”. The variety is seeing the strongest sales decline (8%) in the off-trade, in line with an overall decrease of 9% for all Italian wines (Nielsen, 12 months to 23 March 2019).

And in the on-trade, where Italy still performs well (5% growth), PG also declined, by 5% (CGA, 12 months to 23 March 2019).

As Dawson explained, British consumers are drinking less but better, increasingly emphasising sustainable attributes, and favouring more expressive, fruit-forward styles (which would explain the sustained growth of off-trade sales for Sauvignon Blanc).

On the other hand, the collapse of the mid-market casual dining sector – and crucially of some key Italy-focused chains – along with a shift in on-trade consumption from still to sparkling wines (the latter is in 12% growth) further suggests why the ubiquity of PG in the UK market is under threat.

The challenges in the US market are different, but no less complex. Canterbury’s presentation was eye-opening for many of the producers in the audience: the American consumer remains relatively loyal to the PG brand but does not associate any specific provenance with it. If a cheaper bottle is available on the same supermarket shelf, this will likely be the label of choice, regardless of whether it contains a PG produced in Italy or California (where plantings of the variety have been steadily increasing).

If ‘going Premium’ seems a possible way to cope with all the issues laid on the table at the congress, this will certainly not be an easy or straightforward goal to achieve. As Dawson candidly stated, Italian PG remains anathema to sommeliers in the high-end on-trade.

The inception of the Consorzio – and the creation of the DOC – may have been an initial response to the impending crisis over a mass-produced wine sold as commodity, and thus without emphasising a sense of origin in favour of easy market penetration and consumer understanding.

But can an all-encompassing DOC that in itself erodes the nuances of terroir across the different regions, along with an enduring commitment to a neutral wine style, be the answer?

Certainly not if premium market penetration is one of the key goals.

Italian PG producers are therefore confronted with a dilemma they themselves created: by foregoing specificity and variability they were able to bank on scalability and fast growth without developing any discerning consumer engagement. Strategic repositioning therefore requires some soul-searching about quality, style and price level.

It might be worth looking at what is already happening with Prosecco DOC, for which subzones and specific DOCGs have begun to distance themselves from the Prosecco deluge, educating the consumer about the granularity of terroirs and the different quality levels they can produce.

Dealing with the possible unravelling of the PG phenomenon will not be an easy task for Italy’s producers. But the social and economic importance that many of the stakeholders in the Consorzio have gained through and because of it does make a case for the joint effort.

Changing the mindset of producers, as much as of consumers, might be a fundamental part of the equation.

Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC in numbers:


• 25,810ha under vine


• 43% of world’s plantings of Pinot Grigio


• 82% of total Italian production of the variety


• 95% of total production exported, of which 37% to the USA, 27% to the UK and 10% to Germany


• 1.74 million hl produced in 2018


Source: Consorzio di Tutela della DOC Pinot Grigio delle Venezie (2018 data)


Why you should be drinking organic wine

by Ali Devine | 4 Nov, 2019 | Blog

The organic wine sector is a relatively small one, accounting for only 3.6% of global consumption. But it’s a category that’s growing significantly each year.

It’s estimated that by 2022 more than one billion bottles of organic wine will be consumed annually. But just because a wine is labelled organic doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for you and the environment. Here’s why you should rather be on the lookout for biodynamic wines.

The health benefits of wine

It’s a long-established fact that wine can be beneficial for your health as it’s rich in antioxidants, most notably resveratrol. But not all wines are created equal. Unlike white wine, grape skins are used in the production of red wine. Because the antioxidants in wine come from grape skins, red wines are better for your health than white wines.

Drinking small amounts of red wine every day is believed to help prevent heart disease, cancer and even skin ageing. But because grape skins are used to make red wine it’s also more likely to contain pesticides. Widely used in South Africa, pesticides have been linked to cancer, infertility and Parkinson’s disease, among many other health dangers. And in a water-poor country such as South Africa pesticides that contaminate the aquatic environment can have a huge impact on both humans and wildlife.

The danger of pesticides to environmental and human health is precisely why more and more people are choosing to drink organic wines. Besides containing no pesticides, organic wines don’t contain any added sulphites, which have long been used as preservatives to prevent wines from ageing too quickly. Some people have allergy-like reactions to sulphites, so organic wines also make fantastic options for those with food sensitivities. While conventionally processed wines contain 350 parts per million (ppm) sulphites, organic wines may only contain up to 10 ppm.

What’s the difference between organic and biodynamic wine?

While all biodynamic wines are organic, not all organic wines are biodynamic. In organic farming synthetic pesticides and fertilisers are simply replaced with natural alternatives, which may not necessarily be better for the environment. Biodynamic producers, on the other hand, use holistic agricultural practices in their vineyards to create a self-regulating ecosystem. Instead of using potentially harmful methods to keep pests at bay, they work with nature. For instance, they grow crops that cultivate insects that are the natural predators of pests. They also use small sheep to graze between vines. They’re also conscious of how they use resources such as water and soil on their farms.

To check if a wine is biodynamic, look for the Demeter International seal on the bottle. It indicates that both the vineyard and final product have been certified biodynamic. For wines to gain this certification, no synthetic chemicals can be used on the vines, nor can any acid, sugar or enzymes be added to the wine during production.

Many oenophiles also believe organic and biodynamic wines taste better than conventionally produced wines. Even in blind tastings wines made from organic grapes score higher than conventionally produced wines. This should come as no surprise, especially when you consider a biodynamic vineyard. Because these farms work with nature, the soil is healthier, yielding a fresher and more flavourful product that’s good for you and the planet.



Touriga the terrific

by Dan Traucki | 3 Jul, 2019 | Blog

Touriga or Touriga Nacional, to give its full name, is a native Portuguese red variety that is one of the key components of Portuguese Port. It is not well known as a grape variety, even in its native land as it is almost always used in blends. Thus, if you have ever enjoyed Portuguese Port you will have almost invariably tried Touriga Nacional. It is the leading and best known Portuguese variety used for making both vintage and tawny port.

Touriga Nacional along with Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, Tinto Cao and Tinta Barroca make up the vast majority of the grapes used in making Port. They are also the best quality grapes out of the list of 82 allowable grape varieties which can be used in the making of Port. Out of these 82 varieties, 30 are recommended whereas the other 52 are simply allowed, despite being judged as minor/lesser varieties. Can you imagine being told by the government what varieties can and can’t go into a particular wine style. This is a concept that is totally bizarre to us here in Australia, however, it is common place in the “old world” wine growing regions of Europe such as, Oporto.

According to Darby Higgs excellent new book, “What Varietal is That?” Touriga Nacional is ranked as the 67th most planted grape variety on the planet.  Here in Australia at present according to www.vinodiversity.com there are just on 50 wineries growing Touriga. The vast majority of Touriga in Australia is grown in the warmer regions such as the Barossa, Rutherglen and Riverland. These are closer in climate to its native Porto region of Portugal than cooler areas such as Canberra, Yarra Valley, Bendigo and the Victorian Alpine region. Incidentally whilst Touriga is an emerging variety here in Australia, there are some very old Touriga vines in Rutherglen and the Barossa as the variety was originally planted in these regions for the production of Australian Port more than a century ago.

In the vineyard Touriga is an extremely vigorous variety and needs to be kept on a tight leash, including severe pruning, in order to produce quality wine. Surprisingly for such a vigorous variety, the vine produces only a few small bunches of very small black/blue grapes, thus being one of the lowest yielding varieties used for the making of wine. In order to overcome this challenge, in recent years scientists in Portugal have been working hard on clonal selection with the aim of improving the yields by being able to better pollinate the variety.

Because the berries are so tiny, the skin-to-flesh ratio is very high leading to wines which are very aromatic but with a high to very high tannin content. This is part of the reason why straight varietal red wines are the exception in Portugal, with most of their red table wines being blends of several “port” varieties rather than single varietals as we are more accustomed to here. Intrinsically the variety offers good cellaring potential. Touriga ripens late in the growing season making it more susceptible than many other varieties to the impact of changing vintage conditions.

For the tasting associated with this article, several producers were kind enough to send through one or more back vintages of their Touriga wines. This is always great as it allows us to see the development of the wines over the years, both in terms of its maturation and also how the style changes and evolves as the winemaker becomes more comfortable and familiar with this emerging variety.

Vinteloper Wines from Langhorne Creek sent the 2010, 2016 and 2018 vintages which was a great example of the “learning curve” with the wines growing in depth and complexity with each vintage. Their style has also developed into a more “drink now” style which is ideal for these “now” times that we are living in. The other Langhorne Creek representative was New Era Vineyards with their Touriga Nacional Basket Pressed 2015 and the 2016 that was more svelte and elegant than its masculine elder brother. Both appealing wines but the 2016 is just that little bit classier.

McLaren Vale was ably represented by the Battle of Bosworth 2016, 2017 and 2018 Organic Touriga, with each successive vintage being slightly bigger bodied and richer than its predecessor. In particular, the 2018 had some gorgeous “Christmas Pudding” characters making it absolutely divine.

From First Drop Wines in the Barossa, we tasted the 2014, 2015 and 2017 Nacional (Touriga) wines and again you could see the stylistic development over the vintages, becoming more stylish and sophisticated.

Another Barossa producer was Dell’uva Wines in Greenock with a 2014 Touriga that has all the right stuff to be a great wine. It just needs a bit more time to fully integrate and show its true potential.

The final but by no means least Barossa wine was from Seppeltsfield with their fresh young 2018 Touriga. Despite its youth this gorgeous wine is ready to enjoy right now with lovely cherry and chocolate characters leading to a bright, crisp finish.

The Riverland was represented by 919 Wines, 2016 Touriga, which is an absolute sensation, with masses of colour, complex aromas and oodles of rich flavour.

Western Australia was ably represented by Mazza Wines, 2014 Touriga, made from vines planted in 2002. It is bright and spicy on the bouquet, smooth and tasty on the palate with a perfect fruit to acid ratio so as to make it oh, so drinkable.

The other ‘westerner’ was Myattsfield Wines with their brilliant, ‘Left Field Club’ 2016 Touriga, which was made by their Portuguese lady winemaker. This wine is deep and dark in colour with spicy nutmeg aromas, a hint of fruit sweetness on the front palate, gentle oak and beautiful balance. Superb! As one of the panellists said, “This is the style to aim for”.

Unfortunately a direct comparison between Aussie Touriga and Portuguese ones wasn’t possible as most of the Portuguese Touriga wines are blends without stating so on the label. Thus one can’t compare apples with apples, but I can tell you that the Portuguese Touriga-based wines I have tasted thus far have all been really enjoyable, tasty, well balanced wines.

There were as many blended wines submitted for this tasting as there were straight varietals, which is unusual for emerging varieties. Usually the winemakers focus on the varietal examples first before tinkering with blends.

The blends that really shone in the tasting were the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Stanton & Killeen “The Prince”, a blend of Touriga, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz, Souzao and Tinta Barroca. Wow! What a mouthful! But also what a wine! The 2015 is just really starting to hit its straps as a magnificent, silky-smooth, divine wine. Stanton & Killeen Wines have well and truly mastered this exotic blend.

The other standout in the blends was the S.C. Pannell Tempranillo/Touriga- a blend that works really well. Made from McLaren Vale and Barossa fruit, the style has been evolving from the 2014 through to the 2017 vintage. They describe it perfectly as being, “Naturally balanced, complex and full of flavour”.

Other notable blends included the Mazza 2017 Touriga/Sousa from Geographe in Western Australia, which is brilliantly balanced, smooth and rich. A ripper wine.

Big Easy Radio from Langhorne Creek, make a rare combination of Touriga and Malbec, of which they submitted a tank sample of their 2018 and a bottle of their 2016. The 2018 was outstanding and will be simply stunning when it is released, while the 2016 is, as one panellists said, “pretty, bloody good”.

From the (relatively) colder King Valley region in Victoria, we had the Piano Piano ‘Mario’s Blend’. The vintage 2015 was a Tempranillo/Touriga blend, whereas the 2016 was a Touriga/Tempranillo blend, with the latter being preferred by the tasting panel, i.e. heading in the right direction.

Overall, the blended wines tasted proved to me that Touriga “plays well with others” and it is a cracking variety for blending.

Interestingly, the main reason that this variety was first brought into this country was to use in the blending of fortified wines. So the final wines in the line-up for this Touriga tasting were three fortified wines. These consisted firstly of the very elegant Myattsfield “Kenneth Green” 2006 Vintage Fortified (500mL), which was an unusual blend of Touriga, Durif and Shiraz. It was more in the Portuguese style (slightly lighter, very elegant and less sweet) of fortified than the Australian (heavier, sweeter and bigger bodied). It had some hints of sarsaparilla on the bouquet and a smidge of nutmeg on the delicious palate – very drinkable.

The other two fortifieds were from the renowned Rutherglen fortified producer, Stanton & Killeen Wines, who sent a Vintage 2000 Port and a Vintage 2006 Fortified, which is a blend of Touriga / Tinta Cao / Tinta Barroca / Shiraz / Durif. A real melange of varieties and flavours. Both are made in the bigger, Australian style with the 2006 being an absolute cracker at 13-years-old.

While it is still early days, I strongly suspect that the real future of Touriga Nacional here in Australia will be as a “blender” – either taking the leading role as in the wonderful, Stanton & Killeen ‘The Prince’ blend or as the junior partner like in the classy, S.C. Pannell Tempranillo Touriga blend. Although the straight varietal wines are pretty darn good, the well-structured Touriga blends are absolute belters!! I believe that they have a great future in Australian wine.

So here is to Touriga the Terrific!!!


Ferocious frost hits Chilean vineyards
Decanter-11 Oct 2019

Last week nighttime temperatures plummeted below zero for three days in a row with a cold front which caused significant frost damage to some vineyards in Chile’s Central Valley.

Some vineyards are reporting losses of up to 100% of their shoots following a severe frost last week, which peaked on Wednesday 2nd October with temperatures recorded as low as 2.5 degrees Celsius below zero.

Damage in Colchagua

Although temperatures were cold across Chile, the region most affected is emerging to be Colchagua which was already in a developed stage of budbreak. ‘We had 31 hectares affected from last week’s frost,’ said the Head Viticulturist of Colchagua-based producer Casa Silva, René Vásquez. ‘In our 25 hectare estate near Angostura we were worst affected, because bud break was almost 10 days before the frost, and we lost 100% of our shoots. It was a really big frost… but all we can do is wait and see what we get in the second bud-break.’

There are no official estimates of the damage yet, but damage wasn’t only limited to grape vines. ‘Colchagua is a big fruit-producing zone too and we had three really cold days which was really hard for all the fruit industry here,’ explains José Miguel Sotomayor of Wildmakers who also works as a consultant for growers in the region. ‘The lower zones were worst affected and earlier budding varieties – which has been significant for Merlot, Syrah and Malbec in Colchagua.’

Coastal frost damage

Frost damage last week also extended to the coastal zones, especially in Casablanca and San Antonio. ‘We have frost every year here in Lo Abarca, but we had already lost buds three weeks ago to a frost, and now we’ve just lost the second buds to this frost last week,’ Felipe Marin from Casa Marin told Decanter.com, about his family estate, just 4km from the coast.

‘At the moment we’ve lost about 65% but it’s still early to come to conclusions, because the weather forecast says we still have more frost to come.’

The usual sprinkler systems for frost protection have also been compromised as Chile is in its tenth year of extreme drought.

What do people say about wine on Twitter?

Meiningers 16 Oct. 19

A new survey by GlobalData shows the wine topics that grabbed people on Twitter in the third quarter of 2019

If you’ve ever wandered into the wine section of Twitter, you could be forgiven for thinking it was nothing but an endless debate about the merits of commercial wines versus artisanal wines. But it turns out that people use Twitter to talk about wine styles and specific wines.

According to GlobalData, people who talk about wine on Twitter like talking about Pinot Noir, one of the top tweeted wine terms of the third quarter of 2019. National Pinot Noir Day on 18 August saw plenty of Pinot Noir action, including mentions of brands such as Maison Louis Latour, Domaine Begude, Cono Sur and others. The overall result suggests that the “National Day of…” campaigns may have some traction.

The second biggest topic to pop up over the period was rosé, with people sharing articles and recommendations. More significantly, news broke on Twitter that brewers are hoping to cash in on rosé’s popularity by offering a rosé flavoured beer.

French winemaker and online personality Julien Miquel was mentioned or tagged into conversations 286 times, and Sorcha Holloway’s Thursday night UK Wine Hour also trended, with 198 mentions. Her top wine chat was on French Crémant.

The top tweets were chosen from influencers as tracked by GlobalData’s Influencer Platform. Influencers are selected after an analysis of the influencer’s relevance, network strength, engagement, and leading discussions on new and emerging trends.

Cover crops – get it right, and reap the benefits

RD&E News | October 2019

The correct type of cover crop does not adversely affect vine yield and performance, a current research project has found. In fact, in some instances, cover crops have been found to help retain moisture in the soil, increase soil nitrogen, increase soil microbial diversity and increase the abundance of earth worms.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Tim Cavagnaro, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine based at the Waite Campus, said the findings are exciting because cover crops are more cost effective than mulch – and can reduce the requirement for herbicides.

Traditionally, the soil immediately under vines has been kept free of vegetation because of concerns that weeds will compete with vines for precious water and other nutritional resources.

Associate Professor Cavagnaro’s project – which capitalises on existing (and a new) undervine cover crop field sites – is investigating the impact of different plant species planted undervine on soil moisture, soil nutrients, soil biodiversity (microbiomes), pathogenic nematodes, beneficial plant-microbe associations (mycorrhizas) and weed growth. The team is also investigating the potential for undervine cover crops to build soil carbon stocks. ‘The aim of the project is to identify practical, reliable, environmentally friendly and cost-effective undervine cover crop options that improve vine performance, soil quality and financial returns to growers.’

‘We want to discover the mechanisms by which undervine cover crops benefit viticultural systems, for example, nutrient cycling by soil microbes, enhanced nutrient delivery by mycorrhizas, a living mulch that lowers soil temperature and reduces evaporative loss, and the use of N-fixing legumes under vines to provide nutrients. By understanding the mechanisms we can better predict how best to establish and manage under vine cover crops, and roll this ‘green technology’ out over larger areas,’ he said.

‘Together, we hope this will help develop a more holistic approach of using cover crops – with the end goal of helping to achieve sustainable vineyard management.’

Measuring the impact of soil microbial communities:

The impact on soil microbial communities is being measured by a number of innovative technologies, including NextGen sequencing, molecular analysis of key pathogenic nematodes, and mycorrhiza bioassays.

‘To study microbiomes we collect soil samples, freeze them, extract DNA and analyse the diversity of the microbes using NextGen sequencing and bioinformatic analysis.’ ‘This allows us to identify the microbes present, and their relative abundance. When coupled with other data about the site (e.g. cover crop identity, soil properties, management, etc), we can then use bioinformatics and multivariate statistics to determine what factors are driving changes in the soil microbiome.’

The team is also investigating how the presence of a cover crop can support the formation of mycorrhizas in vineyard systems. Mycorrhizas are beneficial associations between specialised groups of soil fungi and the roots of most terrestrial plant species (including vines and many cover crop species). The fungi take up nutrients (especially Phosphorus, Nitrogen and Zinc) and deliver it to the plant in return for a supply of Carbon.

Finally, the team is looking at the potential to use biofumigant cover crops (mustard) undervine to determine whether they can be used to help control root knot nematodes in the soil.

Associate Professor Tim Cavagnaro said while it was still early days to report on all aspects of the project, the research project appeared to have another ace up its sleeve. ‘We have made wines from the different cover crop treatments and early indications are that there are clear impacts of undervine cover crops on the wine too – more to come!’

The movers and the shakers of the bulk wine industry to meet at the WBWE

October 10 2019 by Vitisphere

The 11th World Bulk Wine Exhibition will be held on 2 and 3 December 2019 in Amsterdam. Over two days, 200 exhibitors and more than 6,000 visitors will attend the event due to cover 10,000 m2 of floor space, announced its organisers. “The WBWE offers the opportunity to discover and buy more than 80% of the world’s bulk wine crop over just two days”, they claimed. Visitors will be able to find “a wide range of bulk and bag-in-box wines, PDO and PGI wines, varietals, generic blends, sparkling and flavoured wines such as vermouth, brandy and now distillates”. The tasting bar will allow visitors to discover the full range of wines on offer.

The show will also be punctuated by events: the presentation of the ‘Voice of Wine’ award, which the board of directors awards to an individual, a company or an association “that distinguishes itself in promoting the values of wine”. As a reminder, Prochile, Wines of Moldova, Coop de France Languedoc-Roussillon, Wines of South Africa (WOSA) and Corporación Vitivinícola Argentina (COVIAR) have been previous winners. There will also be training sessions on blending wines.


How the Bordeaux 2019 harvest is looking now
Decanter- 10 Oct 2019- Jane Anson

Bordeaux winemakers may need a ‘seriously brilliant’ 2019 vintage given the problems in major markets, says Jane Anson, who reports in-depth on how the vintage is shaping up now that most grapes have been picked.  ‘The Bordeaux 2019 harvest has been excellent so far, but the rest of the conditions are terrible,’ says Florence Cathiard, of Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Pessac-Léognan. It seems likely that she speaks for most of Bordeaux, and possibly the wider world of wine, with those words.

The global backdrop to the Bordeaux 2019 harvest

Harvest is being carried out against a backdrop of Trump’s 25% tariffs hitting many European wines under 14% alcohol, the continued black hole that is Brexit and the Hong Kong protests, which have seen the city’s annual Wine & Dine festival cancelled and its wine imports suffer a 26% drop in value in the first six months of 2019 alone, according to HK government figures.

And in stark contrast to the 2008 financial crisis, the mainland Chinese market is no longer hoovering up any extra supply that Bordeaux might find on its hands.

A deeper look at Hong Kong’s figures give you a clue to just how serious a change we are looking at it in China. Around 90% of wine that is re-exported out of Hong Kong goes to mainland China, but this category that saw a 64% drop in value in the first six months of the year, show HK government figures.

And across all of 2018, China’s imports of Bordeaux wine, from France, saw a drop of 31.02% in volume and 21.64% in value versus 2017, according to a recent report citing data from the Business France agency.

With all of that to contend with, Bordeaux had better hope its 2019 wines are seriously brilliant to be able to make any headway on the market. So, now that the grapes are 95% in the cellars, how are things looking?

A year of contrasts

I would say that there is cautious optimism for the Bordeaux 2019 vintage right now, but it has been a year of contrasts.

Key points include:

·        The growing season has seen temperatures that have been 1.5°C above the average of the past 30 years, with 21% less rain than average.

·        There were episodes of both frost and hail, but nothing like as widespread as in recent years.

·        There was no mildew pressure, like in 2018, but the threat of rain has disrupted harvest schedules.

·        And as ever, although hot and dry conditions are promising, a more varied picture emerges when you look more closely at what happened.

·        Rain was heaviest during the flowering period, so there has been some poor fruit set and generally uneven bunches, meaning that careful green work was needed in the vineyards to avoid uneven ripening.

·        The summer months saw several heatwaves, with the highest temperatures recorded in Mérignac on 23 July, when things climbed up to 41.1°C.

·        Colour change happened under drought conditions, which meant veraison was spread out over a number of weeks. Data from the Bordeaux Raisins website shows colour change across the region going right through to the very end of August.

·        Things stayed dry through to mid-September, but the last few weeks have seen intermittent rainfall, which is never easy to manage during harvest and increases the threat of rot.

·        Overall volume is likely to come in at around five million hectolitres, according to consultant Pascal Hénot, director of Enosens in Coutras.

·        If correct, that’s not so dissimilar to the 2018 vintage, equivalent to around 660 million bottles and pretty much in-line with the 10-year average. For comparison, 2017 produced the equivalent of 350 million bottles, and 2016 close to 580 million.

The 2019 growing season step-by-step

Looking more closely at the data, winter was warmer than average which meant an early bud burst, followed by a cold spell from mid-April through May, before heading back upwards in June and staying extremely hot through July.

Rainfall overall was 54% lower than the average from 1981-2000 and 21% lower than the average over the last 30 years.

The rain in April and June was not enough to recharge the water table, which meant that the heat of July caused a number of cases of vines shutting down, slowing progress to maturity – particularly on dry or well-drained soils. Sandy soils were a particular problem this year, for example.

Frost was recorded on both 13 April and 6 May, followed by hail on 19 June in Blaye, the Médoc and Fronsac, and again on 6 July in Entre-deux-Mers and St-Foy.

Flowering began at the end of May, reaching its peak on 4 June, with later flowering happening under rainy conditions – but not cold, and it is temperature that creates the most issues at this stage.

Veraison began on 6 August, helped by the small amounts of rain – around 25mm – that fell on 25 July.

This was three days later than the 30-year average and one week later than 2018. Many producers, though, will be thankful that there was no mildew or black rot on any serious scale this year, even with organic and biodynamic producers.

Thomas Duroux, at biodynamically-farmed Château Palmer, has said he is confident in both quality and volume after an extremely tough 2018 that saw a fraction of the usual crop.

Harvest dates

The whites came in at the end of August. Château Olivier was pretty much typical in Pessac-Léognan, harvesting from 29 August to 13 September, and nearby Château Brown from 5 September to the 13th, with potential alcohols around 13.5%abv.

Young Merlots in Pomerol were already underway by 9 September, with almost all in by the end of the month, while Pessac-Léognan and the Médoc saw the first Merlots picked a little later, closer to mid-September.

Almost all Cabernets across the region will be finished by the end of this week.

Antoine Médeville, of Oenoconseil consultancy, has recorded rains of between 15mm and 50mm over the last two weeks, which should be at low enough levels to help kick-start the final ripening process while avoiding diluted flavours.

Tasting Bordeaux 2019 tank samples

I’ve been tasting around the region, across Pomerol, Pessac, St-Emilion and the Médoc, and most of what I am seeing is high sugar content mixed with high acidities, lots of tannins and good deep colours.

I’ve also seen excellent aromatics, although not as seductively fruity as at this stage last year, with the benefit of slightly lower pH than in 2018.

This last point is certainly true of Pauillac and St-Estèphe, where estates saw grapes get extremely concentrated in the final week or so before picking in 2018 – sending alcohols extremely high.

The worry in 2019 in some places, though, may be that lower alcohols reflect blockages in the growing season over the summer. Jean-Christophe Mau, at Château Brown, said that this affected both Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. It was important that grapes had time to reach full phenolic ripeness.

And crossing the 14%abv threshold has potentially taken on special significance in wake of the new tariffs announced by the US government. But Mau says this will not overly influence decisions. ‘The reality is that Bordeaux Left Bank wines are still routinely below that level, and we will still be looking for the natural balance of the vintage.’

So, there is cautious optimism for an excellent vintage with serious quality in the bottle. Promising, but I would think not quite enough to banish the worries of the wider economic clouds.

Direct-to-consumer wine sales grow 9 per cent to reach $1 billion in Australia

Winetitles October 8th, 2019

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) wine sales reached an estimated $1 billion in 2018–19, driven by year-on-year value growth of 9 per cent – the strongest among domestic wine sales channels.

DTC accounted for an estimated 17 per cent of total Australian wine sales value, significantly over-indexing in value compared with its volume share of 3 per cent, according to the Cellar Door and Direct-to-Consumer report 2019, published today by Wine Australia. Based on survey responses, the smaller the wine business, the greater its reliance on DTC for sales revenue. For wineries producing under 5000 cases, DTC represented more than half their revenue.

‘The survey indicates DTC is driving solid growth in revenue, particularly for Australia’s 1500 or more wine businesses that produce under 5000 cases’, Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark said.

‘The growth of the channel is consistent with the wine sector’s increasing focus on premiumisation and value growth.’

Cellar door at the heart of DTC:

Cellar door sales accounted for 53 per cent of DTC revenue – up from 44 per cent in 2018. ‘We found that cellar door operations are becoming more diverse and high value’, Mr Clark said. ‘Most wineries are offering various food options, winery and vineyard tours, while many also have other facilities or services, such as galleries, accommodation and hosting weddings.’

A big change since the survey was conducted last year was in the approach to wine tastings, with the proportion of wineries charging for wine tastings increasing from 29 per cent to 52 per cent, while the proportion reimbursing fees based on a purchase or wine club sign-up also decreased significantly – from 85 per cent to 70 per cent.

Growing Wine Tourism facilitator Robin Shaw of Wine Tourism Australia said, ‘Wine businesses are offering tasting experiences that have value in their own right that appeal to travellers – especially international visitors – who are seeking more immersive experiences.

‘We are promoting this in the Growing Wine Tourism workshops that we are running for Wine Australia, because it offers wineries an opportunity to develop a new source of revenue, recoup the cost of tastings and provide offerings that distinguish them from other cellar doors.’

One area where the survey identified potential to improve was in conversion rates from visitors to wine club members. The average number of visitors per winery was estimated at just over 17,600 per annum, while the average number of wine club sign-ups was 572 – a conversion rate of just 3 per cent.

The report also covers wine clubs, customer communication methods and software options for customer management and point of sale.

Mr Clark encouraged all wine businesses with an investment in DTC to read the report and compare their own key metrics with the sector benchmarks. ‘Knowing your key statistics enables you to measure your performance, set targets and assess the success of your strategies. Most of these metrics are simple to collect and provide very powerful insights.’

The full report is available from www.wineaustralia.com/market-insights/cellar-door-and-direct-to-consumer-survey-report.


Sitevi 2019 backed by positive developments in the equipment market

October 03 2019 by Vitisphere

Will this year’s Sitevi, the wine equipment exhibition due to be held from 26 to 28 November in Montpellier, be a landmark vintage? Certainly the context is very positive for the show to generate good business. According to Alain Savary, CEO of Axema, 2019 is proving to be particularly dynamic for investments in agro-equipment. New registrations of high-clearance tractors increased by 19% over the first months of the year, vineyard and orchard tractors by 47% and harvesting machines by 47%. “The momentum should slow down at the end of the year and overall, wine tractor registrations should increase by 10% in 2019”, said a more measured Alain Savary at the press conference to launch the show on 24 September in Montpellier. The sprayer market, for instance, is stable, a trend that could change over coming years following publication of LabelPulvé certification, which will certify the quality of machine processing.

Exhibitor attendance:
The new tractor certification is one of the 19 Sitevi Innovation Award winners. The innovations will feature at the show which had to expand in order to accommodate the 1,100 exhibitors attending (including 186 new exhibitors). “There will also be some 300 new products to discover”, said Sitevi director Isabelle Alfano. A pop-up hall will be set up to house the start-up village where 10 French start-ups will be on display. There will also be job dating, masterclasses (bolstered by a free-pour tasting area curated by French oenologists) and the Research and Development Centre. The show also features an action-packed programme of 50 conferences and workshops.


French wines and Scotch whisky targeted by US tariff hikes

Decanter 3 Oct 2019

Bordeaux and Burgundy wines will be among those hit by a US decision to impose $7.5bn of extra tariffs on European imports this month, potentially causing headaches for both merchants and wine lovers, unless a deal is reached with the EU.

Which wines are being targeted by the US tariffs?

French wines will face a new 25% import tariff from 18 October, said US trade officials last night (2 October), in a move that has been met with dismay by wine trade bodies on both sides of the Atlantic.

Spanish, German and UK still wines, plus single malt Scotch whisky, face the same 25% tariff as part of $7.5bn of extra levies on a wide range of goods, from Stilton cheese to bed linen.

Approval for the tariff hikes was granted by the World Trade Organisation following a ruling against EU subsidies for the Airbus group – a main rival to US group Boeing.

Champagne and sparkling wines appeared to have avoided the new tariffs, after a list published by the US Trade Representative’s office specified ‘non carbonated’ wines.

Italian wines, too, were absent as US officials named France, Germany, Spain and UK as the main protaganists.

EU reaction: Wine in a fresh trade war?

Wine may be a pawn in a new trade war unless a deal can be brokered between the EU and US.

The EU has also asked the WTO for permission to impose tariffs on American imports, over a parallel dispute relating to US government subsidies for Boeing – the main rival to Airbus. European trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, called the US decision to go ahead with tariffs ‘short-sighted’ and ‘counterproductive’. But, she said the European Commission would follow suit. ‘Our readiness to find a fair settlement remains unchanged. But if the US decides to impose WTO authorised countermeasures, it will be pushing the EU into a situation where we will have no other option than do the same.’

Both sides have expressed their desire to find a solution. ‘We expect to enter into negotiations with the European Union aimed at resolving this issue in a way that will benefit American workers,’ said US trade representative Robert Lighthizer.

Wine trade concerns

European wines trade body, the CEEV, said it ‘regretted’ the decision and warned of a loss of market share for French, German, Spanish and UK still wines in the US. ‘The disruption caused by retaliatory tariffs will result in significant reduction of business activity,’ said Ignacio Sánchez Recarte, secretary general of CEEV. EU wine exports to the US were worth €3.76bn in 2018, with still wines from France, Spain, Germany and the UK worth €1.38bn of that total.

News of the US tariff hikes was also met with dismay at the California-based Wine Institute, fearful of EU reprisals. ‘We are concerned that this action will lead to increased tariffs on US wines and set back our efforts to continue growing US wine exports,’ said the Institute’s president and CEO, Bobby Koch. The EU is the largest export market for US wines, worth $469 million in 2018. ‘[The] Wine Institute has always supported the fair, open and reciprocal trade of wine around the world,’ said Koch.

At CEEV, Ignacio Sánchez Recarte said that US wine lovers and merchants would also be affected. He called on both sides to leave wine out of the aerospace dispute. ‘We do not understand why agricultural products such as ours are involved in a conflict generated by other sectors,’ he said. One US merchant previously told Decanter.com that he had cut down on purchases of European wines as a precaution. ‘We have temporarily drastically decreased our European wine purchases, as we fear a potential increase in import tariffs,’ said Shaun Bishop, CEO of California-based JJ Buckley, prior to news of the latest WTO ruling and subsequent tariff hikes. ‘We will have to deal with it,’ said Clyde Beffa, co-owner and buyer K&L wine merchant, following news of the tariff plans this week. ‘Hopefully it will be a short-term problem.’


Researchers Find Moderate Wine Drinking Does Not Increase Dementia Risk
Wine Spectator- 2 Oct 2019

A new study suggests that regular, moderate alcohol consumption may have little to no effect on cognitive ability as we age. The data suggests that enjoying a glass of wine with dinner a few nights a week is better for our brains than several glasses on Friday.

When it comes to wine and health, once again, quantity makes all the difference. A new study out of Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that people who drink in moderation suffer from lower rates of cognitive decline leading to dementia than heavy drinkers. What’s more, they suffered no greater risk than non-drinkers.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), analyzed data from the separate Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study, which tracked 3,021 Americans ages 72 or older from 2000 to 2008. The study tracked participants’ alcohol consumption, among other factors, including social activity and BMI, allowing the researchers to control for numerous variables.

Based on surveys and the number of participants who suffered from cognitive decline and dementia, the data was clear that heavy alcohol consumption over a lifetime is bad for cognitive ability. But, “daily low-quantity drinking was associated with lower dementia risk compared with infrequent higher-quantity drinking,” Dr. Majken K. Jensen, senior author of the study, told Wine Spectator via email. In other words, if you’re going to drink four glasses of wine a week, it’s better to spread those glasses out over four nights rather than down them in one sitting.

The researchers found that participants who drank in moderation, specifically small, regular amounts, fared roughly the same as those who did not partake at all. A drink here and there did not adversely affect cognitive ability.

The researchers stressed that their study should not be read as advice to drink more, or start if you haven’t. “Given the clear risks and costs of its overuse, and the uncertain balance of risks and benefits of moderate use, individuals who choose to drink should do so in moderation,” said Dr. Manja Koch, lead author of the study, via email.

Portuguese Wine Company Esporão Looks to Vinho Verde, Buying Quinta do Ameal

Wine Spectator- 26 Sep 2019

Portuguese wine company Esporão AS has purchased the historic Quinta do Ameal estate, in the heart of the Vinho Verde appellation. With this move, Esporão continues its strategy of expansion from its original home in the Alentejo region to more northern regions, such as Douro and Minho, home of Vinho Verde. “[Our ambition] is to make great wines with identity and a sense of place, but also to challenge the region’s traditional status quo,” Esporão CEO João Roquette told Wine Spectator.

Quinta do Ameal is a historic property located close to Ponte de Lima, in a subregion of the Vinho Verde appellation known for the prevalence of the Loureiro grape variety. It was Quinta do Ameal, under the management of Pedro Araújo, that helped bring Loureiro into the limelight, showing the grape’s potential for great wines. Araújo farms organically and is known for high production standards and a knack for encouraging tourism.

The farming was one factor that helped spark the deal with Esporão. The company has been moving toward organic farming at all its wineries since CEO João Roquette took over in 2008.

Roquette is a former musician and son of José Roquette, who co-founded Esporão in 1973, although their family winery, Herdade do Esporão, dates back 750 years. In 2008, the company expanded to the Douro, purchasing Quinta dos Murças, and more recently entered the craft beer sector. With total annual revenues of $55 million and production of 1.3 million cases of wine, Esporão has become a major player. The company owns over 4,200 acres in several locations in Alentejo, of which 1,600 are under vine.

Quinta do Ameal, which dates to 1710, is located on the Lima river. It has a total of 75 acres, 35 of them planted to Loureiro. The range of wines is based solely on Loureiro, and includes still, sparkling and late-harvest, with a 6,000-case annual production. Revenue is approximately $500,000 per year.

Roquette told Wine Spectator that his strategy for the years to come is to grow organically. “By 2025, we plan to be selling $2.5 million a year.” To make that happen, he is looking to acquire additional vineyards, build a new winery and hire more people. “In the last decade, a great job was done in Vinho Verde by Pedro Araújo at Ameal, but also by producers such as Anselmo Mendes and Soalheiro, proving the region’s potential to make and value world-class whites. We feel that Esporão’s investment in Ameal will also add to the acclaim and availability of great Vinho Verde.”

Pedro Araújo will remain linked to the project, though his role is yet to be defined. Anselmo Mendes, the chief winemaker of Ameal for over 20 years, will oversee this harvest, then remain on board as a consultant. José Luís Moreira da Silva, winemaker of Douro’s Quinta dos Murças, will take over day-to-day operations. Mendes expressed happiness for both the estate and the region. “[It’s] important that key players such as Esporão enter the region—it needs such an injection of energy,” he said. “This deal is a prize, and recognition for the work of the past 20 years.”


Grapevine trunk disease – a snapshot of the latest findings

RD&E News | September 2019

Australia is at the forefront of research into the practical management of grapevine trunk diseases, leading the international effort in preventative wound protection, remedial control strategies and spore surveillance.

But eutypa dieback (ED), botryosphaeria dieback (BD), esca disease complex and young vine decline continue to have serious global economic impact, and the wine sector has much to learn.

Dr Mark Sosnowski from the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) recently returned from the 11th International Workshop on Grapevine Trunk Diseases in Canada, where he was keynote speaker on the control of grapevine trunk diseases in mature vineyards.

Mark shares a few highlights from the conference that the Australian wine sector can learn from.

Eutypa dieback, botryosphaeria dieback, esca disease complex and young vine decline continue to have serious global economic impact.

New detection methods

Dr Sosnowski says the development of rapid and inexpensive detection methods for trunk diseases using techniques such as loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) and fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) analyses will not only improve research tools for developing management strategies, but also provide the Australian wine sector with improved diagnostic capability.

‘This is an exciting area and LAMP technology is already being developed for ED and BD as part of current Wine Australia research’, he said.


Inoculum dispersal surveillance is informing the sector about the prevalence of trunk disease pathogen spores throughout the year, and under different climates.

‘International research in this space is confirming observations from Australia and highlights the importance of protecting winter pruning wounds, and the need to consider susceptibility of summer pruning practices in future research.’

– Dr Mark Sosnowski

Early intervention

Outcomes from assumption-based economic analysis in California – which has since been confirmed in an independent analysis of survey data in New Zealand vineyards – impresses the importance of early adoption of preventative and curative trunk disease management strategies.

‘Vineyard profitability and longevity can be maximised using relatively inexpensive practices undertaken from planting, and consistently each winter following pruning’, he said.

Chemical control

The conference heard that a Greek vineyard trial found that application of the fungicide Tessior® (boscalid and pyraclostrobin) resulted in significant reduction of esca disease incidence and severity when applied either on the day of pruning or six days after. Pyraclostrobin has been reported to be effective in control of ED and BD in Australia. The long-term trial in Greece will continue to monitor disease incidence with regular winter post-pruning applications of Tessior.

Eutypa grows slowly, causing stunted shoots and progressively killing spurs, cordons and trunks and eventually the entire affected vine.

Cross-sections of cordons with stunted shoots reveal characteristic dark brown, wedge-shaped zones of dead wood. These zones can be traced back to cankers.

Host-pathogen interactions

Co-infection of grapevine with multiple pathogen combinations may affect disease severity.

The findings of one study suggest that an infection by a grapevine trunk disease pathogen may induce systemic changes in host physiology that could alter progress of an independent infection elsewhere in the vine.

Looking forward

Dr Sosnowski said there was immense international interest in the pro-active nature of the Australian wine sector towards grapevine trunk disease.

‘Australian grapegrowers have a great advantage with access to a range of options for wound protection that many countries do not, thanks to local research that is leading the world in developing practical management strategies for trunk disease’, he said.

Dr Sosnowski said it was important to continue the search for alternative natural compounds or biocontrols for wound protection; and to evaluate rootstock and scion material in the search for greater tolerance to trunk disease.

‘We also need to work towards a better understanding of the risk of wound infection at all times of the year – and the complex relationships between spore dispersal and climate variables.’


Simon Woolf on how orange wines have only just got started

The Buyer- By Richard Siddle, July 29, 2019

Simon Woolf first fell in love with orange wines in 2011 and has since then become one of the biggest voices and evangelists for this fast growing wine style. So much so that he has given up his previous career in IT to start a new one in wine writing, culminating in the publication last year of his breakthrough book on orange wine, The Amber Revolution. He told his story to the recent MUST conference in Portugal and explained why the momentum behind orange wine will not be stopped as it continues to grow and be one of the most influential wine categories in the world.

Where do you stand on orange wine? According to Simon Woolf the consumer, admittedly a small section of wine drinkers, can’t get enough of them and they are changing the way an increasing number of younger people are getting into wine.

Simon Woolf says he “first got into orange wine” in 2011, when it was a very different scene to what it is now. In fact it’s fair to say there was not a lot to really “get into” in 2011 as the orange wine scene was not really a scene to speak of.

Fast forward to 2019 and we are, as he says, “in a very different place”. So much has changed that it does not seem strange to see Woolf stand up at a major international wine conference and ask the question: “Has the world really started to love orange wine?” Woolf is convinced. So much so that the strapline of his breakthrough book on orange wine, the Amber Revolution, carries the statement: “How the world learned to love orange wine. He admits at the time of writing that it felt quite a bold statement to make. But in the months that have passed it has become less and less of a brave thing to claim. More and more countries are switching on to orange wine. When Woolf wrote the Amber Revolution he said there were 20 countries that had producers making orange wine. It would now be at 34 and rising.

He claims there are now over 700 orange wine producers around the world with particular strongholds across Eastern Europe, noticeably in Slovenia and Georgia and then into Austria and Italy. “There is orange wine being made in every continent,” he said with new producers coming on board all the time, be it in Serbia or Greece, Argentina or Chile.

What is orange wine?

So what do we mean when we talk ab0ut orange wine? Put simply it is essentially white grapes that have been fermented with their skins on. Skins that then help the fermented juice turn orange.

“Orange wine is just a winemaking technique,” said Woolf at MUST.

Within the world of orange wine, there are some wines that are more orange than others. With those who prefer some deeper in colour orange wines than others. Woolf is not bothered either way. Providing they are orange.

“I don’t like to get hung up about the colour, in the same way that white wine is not really white but can be a range of colours,” he said.

Simon Woolf says orange wine do and should come up in a number of different styles. If you are still coming to terms with what orange wine is, then not to worry, for, as Woolf says, it is still a relatively new way of making wine. He traces the roots of orange wine back to 1997. And the work of natural wine pioneers from Italy, Stanislao “Stanko” Radikon and Joško Gravner. He said they had to learn the hard way for others to follow and reap the rewards. In fact when they first started producing so called orange wines they lost a lot of customers, and up to 50 to 70% of their wines were returned. Often un-opened. But they persisted and slowly but surely “more people started to see what they were doing” and the reinvention of what wine is all about started, said Woolf. “An attempt to find an authenticity in wine.”

Building momentum

From around 2000 the orange wine scene started to build thanks to a “few evangelists” in key markets like New York, which attracted journalists and sommeliers alike.

The big change came in 2003 when Radikon first went to Japan to show his wines. That was then a real momentum started to happen around orange wine. In fact Japan has become one of the most important and dynamic markets for orange wine.

So much so that when Radikon now visits Japan, not only do his wines sell out as soon as he bottles them, but he is welcomed like a celebrity. “These are wines that sell for €100 and more,” said Woolf.

“I went to Japan for first time last year and it really is a paradise for orange wine drinkers. There are hundreds of orange wines from all over the world. I held a tasting in Osaka and there were 70 orange wines there,” he explained.

“Most winemakers now say they can out sell their wines in Japan. Why? It could be the umami factor and how well they pair with Asian cuisine. Japanese consumers also love strong sustainability stories and orange wines fit nicely into that.”

Japan has also become an influential wine producing country for orange wine in its own right. Its cool climate makes it an ideal location, plus, explained Woolf, “there are a lot of US hybrids in Japan and they can be good for orange wine”.

Orange wine is now being made in every continent in the world and a growing number of wine countries, but arguably the most influential orange wine country of them all is Georgia, particularly with its tradition of fermenting and making wine in qvevris. “Orange wine is very much part of its DNA,” said Woolf.

“There has been an extraordinary growth in the number of Georgian producers who see the commercial opportunity for orange wine. There were five producers in 2009 and now there are over 200.”

All of which adds up to 3 million bottles of Georgian amber wine being made every year, according to the Georgian Wine Agency.

Wines that have reached the mainstream in the UK. There is now an orange wine in M&S from Georgia, a Romanian orange wine in Aldi, produced by Cramele Recas, an orange wine in Asda version and other big chains around Europe have followed suit, like Hema in the Netherlands.

“Supermarkets now realise there is a lot of interest in these wines. Supermarkets that are usually risk adverse. They know their customers have discovered orange wine,” claimed Woolf.

“Orange wine is now widely seen in local wine shops and fine restaurants. In 2011 it was very rare to see an orange wine on a list. Now in new, edgy Michelin-chasing restaurants it is quite common, if not a must, to have an orange wine,” he added.

New consumers

Natural wine bars have “exploded” in Amsterdam says Woolf. Orange wine is also bringing new, younger consumers into wine, said Woolf. He points to Amsterdam, where he lives, as a good example. “We got our first orange wine bar in 2015 and there has since been an explosion in these kind of bars. They attract a young audience, but these are not wine geeks. They are young people who want to go some where that is cool and when they do they want to have something their parents are not drinking. These are also people who like other niche trends like sake or sherry. So, yes it is a niche. But it is a growing niche.”

Better definition

As the orange wine sector grows and matures into a distinct wine category of its own then so does the pressure to be clearer, as with natural wine, about what we mean when we call a wine “orange”.

Woolf agreed “there should be a classification” to make things clearer and more transparent. Ontario and South Africa have already tried to put a line in the stand by describing them as “skin fermented” wines.

“There is a model there now for others to follow. It would be good to see France and Italy wake up to this and help producers categorise these wines,” said Woolf.

It was pleasing, he said, to see orange wines now accepted as part of the curriculum for the Master of Wine by the Institute of Masters of Wine. “The WSET is still dragging its heels,” he added.

“But we will get to the point where all these accreditations will have to include it in their syllabus in future,” he added.

As for the objectors and distractors who continue to throw cold water on orange wines? Woolf said it was time for them to catch up with what was happening in the sector.

“We see objections for orange wine from some traditional elements, who don’t understand how grapes can taste like this. But we don’t get this from young people as they have no baggage, no expectations, so they are embracing it more.”

That’s where the future of orange wine lies.


Algarve wine production to reach five-year high

Portuguese Resident, 8 Aug 2019

The Algarve’s wine production in 2019/2020 is due to reach a five-year high. According to estimates from the Portuguese Vine and Wine Institute (IVV), production during the 2019/20 period is expected to increase 5% compared to 2018/19. When taking the average of the last five years into account, the increase is of around 32%.

This translates into a total of 1.8 million litres wine made in the Algarve.Says IVV, the increase is due to the introduction of new grape varieties in the region. The institute also said that the region’s wine production thrived despite the discovery of powdery mildew, a fungal disease that affects a wide range of plants, and plant-eating leafhoppers, which wine producers were able to control and are confident won’t affect the quality of regional wines.

Meantime, the president of the Algarve Wine Commission Sara Silva has told Correio da Manhã that the region currently has 41 wine producers and that the number has been increasingly steadily over the years. She also said that while the Algarve used to be a wine region where almost every wine produced was red, there is now a growing number of whites and rosés which are “favourites among foreign visitors”.

More information about the Algarve’s wines can be found online at https://vinhosdoalgarve.pt (available in English and Portuguese).


The natural growth of organics

The NZ Winegrower, Written by  Tessa Nicholson– 7 Aug 2019

 Since 2015, when the conference took on a professional persona, there have been some subtle and not so subtle changes. Whereas originally people who attended were very much into the ethos of organics and or biodynamics, there were very few attending who hadn’t taken a step down either road. A tightly held belief (by some) that going organic or biodynamic was plain hippyish, had to be overcome. People had to be shown that organics was a way of increasing quality, not the reverse. There was genuine angst about how to gain recognition for organic wines and just how good organic and biodynamic wine actually is – for the planet and the consumer.

Now I am not saying that those issues have all magically disappeared. But in 2019, at this year’s conference, the desperate wish to get the message across to the unconverted was replaced by a steady confidence. There was no need to preach, or hit your head against a brick wall. The message was not only out there, it had been taken up by hundreds of people who have heard and what’s more implemented.

This year’s conference was a sell-out, two weeks before the opening day. Held in Blenheim, there were people from all over the country, and the world. It became clear very early on from some of the international speakers, that this conference was unrivalled in places like Australia and the US. The fact that it attracted international speakers from the US, Europe, Australia and Chile is an indication of the esteem it is held in. The fact the conference managed to keep those attending interested for three whole days was impressive. And the information that was shared was enlightening – at times frightening – but always enlightening.

Over the next few pages we will break down some of the inspiring information that came out of the conference.


Where are organics at in New Zealand? 

“We have just over 1700 hectares certified organic production in New Zealand at the moment,” OWNZ Chair, Jonathan Hamlet says. “That is only 4.5 percent of our total vineyard area. It has been pretty steady for a number of years and it has been higher in the past. Probably one of the biggest factors is that the organic area hasn’t kept up with the overall area of viticulture that has been planted out in the last five years.”

Given 550 hectares of new vines came on stream in Marlborough alone in the 2019 vintage, a third of the total organic plantings, it appears Hamlet is correct.

He admits that historically organics has been led by growers, rather than wineries, although now there are 72 wineries holding organic certification – or 10 percent of the country’s total.

If one area is hitting way above its weight, it is Central Otago. The total percentage of organic vineyards in that region stands at 23 percent, way and above any other region in the country.

In terms of globally – New Zealand’s 4.5 percent is around average. There are over 300,000 hectares of organic grape production in the world – 4.7 percent of all production. The vast majority of that is in the EU, Spain, Italy and France in particular.

So, while Organic Winegrowers New Zealand may not have achieved their initial goal of 20 percent organic by 2020, Hamlet is not disheartened. He believes the steady increase in support, the fact a number of recently planted vineyards are considering converting to organics in the near future, while other organic growers are increasing their current holdings, and the way the world is clamouring for transparency in all food and beverages, the future is looking bright. By the time the next conference rolls around in 2021, what’s the bet that 4.5 percent figure is mere memory?

The rise and rise of Chinese wine

By Chris Wilson

Published:  24 July, 2019

There’s been a lot written about China’s growing appetite for wine consumption (much of it from well-heeled Bordeaux estates and Burgundian domains), but the Chinese are serious about wine production too and are the world’s leading grape producer, growing 11.7 million tons of fruit in 2018, equating to around 15% of global grape production.

Second only to Spain in terms of area under vine with 875 k Ha of vineyard, China is on track to top this table too very soon with significant year-on-year increases in plantings.

Clearly much of this wine never leaves China but increasingly it’s finding its way onto export markets, with a growing interest from UK importers and consumers.

One such importer is Panda Fine Wine, which is the UK’s first specialist importer and distributor of Chinese fine wines, whose aim is to bring to the UK some of the most interesting and distinctive wines that are emerging from China’s burgeoning industry.

Panda was founded by husband and wife team Michael Sun and Meiyu Li. Sun’s background in sales and marketing, while Meiyu Li has worked as a wine buyer and sommelier in China and has a unique knowledge of and access to some of the best wines China has to offer.

“We started in October last year,” Michael Sun told Harpers. “It was my wife Meiyu Li’s idea – she was China’s first female sommelier – she wanted to do something meaningful for Chinese wine and try to introduce it to the world.”

“I went to school and university in the UK so I know the UK well and think there’s great potential in the market here for Chinese wine. Over the past four years we have visited many wineries in China and we were impressed by the effort they put in to winemaking and China is definitely making better and better wines now.”

Panda is concentrating its trade on the high-end restaurant and hotels sector, as well as independent merchants, and its customers include The Ritz Hotel, Kai Mayfair, Oxford Wine Company and Theatre of Wine.

“We have great diversity within the range and our portfolio is made up for wines from China’s six most important regions and from what we believe are China’s most iconic wineries,” said Sun.

The portfolio includes examples of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Chardonnay, but also Marselan which Sun is very excited about. “It’s originally a French grape but has adapted very well to China and a lot of people say that it is going to become the future signature grape in China,” he said.

As well as international grapes, China is forging ahead with its own indigenous varieties such as Longyan (translation, Dragon Eyes), a white grape producing creamy but fresh wines with tropical fruit characters. “It’s a table grape that’s very big and which looks like a dragon’s eye,” said Sun. “Although originally from Europe it has been growing in China for nearly 900 years, and now it’s only grown in China.”

Sun understands how hard it can be to sell Chinese wine, especially from unknown varieties, in the UK, but has a plan to educate the trade on its joys and pleasures.

“We do a lot of wine tastings and attend many wine fairs, such as ProWein and London Wine Fair, and have worked and with a brand ambassador to help promote our wines. We have SITT coming up too, which we are really looking forward to. There’s still a lot to do, but we stand by our wines and will continue to bring the best Chinese wines to the UK. We are getting great feedback from consumers and buyers and professionals.”


Universities join forces to fuel Chinese wine industry

By Lisa Riley

Published:  09 August, 2018

The University of Adelaide and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University have joined forces to launch a dual masters degree in winemaking and viticulture to help fuel China’s wine industry.

The new two-and-a-half year course will begin in 2019 and will involve students spending the first 12 months in Shanghai, the second year in Adelaide and the final six months back in China working in a winery or vineyard while completing a research project supervised by staff from the universities.

The new course would attract a “slightly different cohort” of students and would therefore not result in a reduction in Chinese students enrolling in other University of Adelaide winemaking courses, said Chris Ford, interim head of agriculture, food and wine at the University of Adelaide, which has one of the world’s leading teaching wineries on the doorstep of Barossa and McLaren Vale.

“The course will provide graduates with the ideal preparation for a career in China’s growing domestic wine industry and is also an opportunity for our students from Australia who’d like to take a period of study in China to do that and graduate with a Masters Degree from Shanghai Jiao Tong University as well as the University of Adelaide,” said Ford.

The fact that students had done their placement in China meant they would be “hitting the ground running”, he added.

The partnership follows China overtaking the US to become the biggest buyer of Australian wine in 2016. Exports to China, including Hong Kong and Macau, leaped 51% to $1.04 billion, according to Wine Australia (MAT to March, 2018) driven by wine tariffs having dropped again in January 2018, in line with the China–Australia Free Trade Agreement.

In late 2016, the University of Adelaide unveiled plans to build a new expanded teaching winery, which it said it was “still developing”.


Which Famous Global Wine Region Prohibits Swearing in the Vineyard?

JULY 16, 2019 / LIZTHACH

Though vineyards can be very beautiful with their lush green foliage and jewel-like clusters of grapes, anyone who has worked amongst the vines knows that it can be back-breaking work with long hours of suckering, thinning, and sculpturing the vines.  Obviously on certain occasions, this could result in some exhausted workers letting loose a few swear words. However, there is one famous wine region of the world where the vineyards were considered to be so sacred and a gift from God that anyone caught cussing could be fined.

“The fine was actually doubled if you were a noble man,” explained Dr. Peter Molnar, General Manager of Patricius Winery and President of the Council of Tokaj.  Yes, the region was Tokaj, Hungary, and the timing was probably between 1631, when the sweet noble wine of Tokaj was said to be discovered, through the mid 1700’s, when the Church held so much dominance over the region.

“Our special Tokaj Aszu and Eszencia wines were coveted by kings, queens, and priests,” stated Peter. “From the beginning, these wines were so special that they were considered to be the wines of royalty.” Still called “liquid gold or liquid luxury today,” the rarest Eszencia’s are only produced in special years, each single berry picked individually by hand, and are so expensive that they are often served in a crystal spoon.

Given this background, it only makes sense that swearing in the vineyard was outlawed.  Indeed the “vineyard was like a church” and they had to be protected. This may be why Catherine II of Russia sent members of her royal army to guard the vineyards for more than 90 years. Yes, the history of the Tokaj region is rich, fascinating, and delicious.


12% of French vineyards organic in 2018

Monday June 10 2019 by Vitisphere

Organic winegrowing continues to expand in France. In 2018, the number of hectares committed to organic winegrowing (certified + in the switch-over phase) reached 94,020 ha, a 20% increase on 2017. This brings the national total up to 12% of overall acreage. “In terms of surface area, this year has seen the highest level of commitment ever”, explained Dorian Fléchet, from the National Observatory of Organic Agriculture at Agence Bio. In 2018, 13,968 ha started the first year of the switch-over phase, an increase of 61% on 2017.

Strong demand in the domestic market
6,726 farms had made a pledge to farm organically at the end of 2018, an increase of 15% compared with 2017. “Ten years ago, we could never have imagined reaching these figures”, admitted Philippe Henry, the new chair of Agence Bio, at a press conference in Paris on June 4. Florent Guhl, the director of Agence Bio, said he believes the growth in French organic vineyard acreage is primarily supplying the domestic market, where demand is high. “There has been almost no increase in organic wine exports for the past two years”, he commented.

The 9,000-euro Instagram post for Provence rosés

Friday June 07 2019 by Vitisphere

This is a one-of-a-kind recruitment. On the colourful, fast-moving Instagram page of the American brand Rosé All Day, breaking news features a call to the people. To promote five of their French-produced rosés (three bottles and two cans), the brand is tapping into the #roséallday or #roseallday phenomena on social media, which have become extremely popular with Americans and effective communication tools posting nearly a million tags.

“We are looking for beautiful images that demonstrate your love of rosé”, explains the brand. The aim is for people to publish their most beautiful holiday shots featuring their favourite rosés from June 8 to September 2 inclusive and of course to subscribe to the Rosé All Day Instagram page, which currently has only 25,000 subscribers.

Five image posts will be selected at the end of the period, and the finalists will have to create one last image to select the winner who will receive $10,000, or approximately 9,000 euros. But more than that – they will become the brand’s influencer for a year with one mandatory post a month. To enable the winner to create an image bank for the year, a four-day trip to France in one of the brand’s Languedoc-Roussillon estates will be given as a prize.

To enter the game, candidates must live in the United States and be over 21 years of age.


What Do We Know About Modeling Red Wine Fermentations?

June 14, 2019

David Block presented this research at the last Innovation+Quality (IQ) conference. The lead author, Konrad V. Miller, is a Ph.D. candidate at UC Davis and has produced a number of papers around the subject of producing a red wine reactor model for red wine fermentations. This research may end up being really important. That’s easy for me to say after a couple of related papers ended up being on the cover of the issues of AJEV and AJGWR in which they appeared.

This work constitutes a step in the progression from understanding what happened in a given fermentation to understanding what will happen in a fermentation for a given lot of grapes to being able to design a fermentation regime to get the results one wants. Put another way, if the model really matches enough real-world results, it can be used to predict the results of the next fermentation. From there the model becomes a tool for achieving a particular desired outcome.

Call it “Block’s Black Box” or “Miller’s Magnificent Model” but if successfully taken to its logical conclusion, the work could change the way we approach winemaking.

Red wine fermentations have long eluded accurate simulation because of their inhomogeneous nature. In this work, a three-dimensional, time-dependent, reactor engineering model for jacketed red wine fermentations was utilized to explore the effect of fermentor volume (500; 50,000; and 500,000 L), aspect ratio (height:diameter of 1:1 and 3:1), temperature set point (15, 25, and 35°C), and initial yeast assimilable nitrogen (YAN) concentration (100, 225, and 350 mg/L) on fermentation dynamics. The model simulated N-limited, ethanol-inhibited, and temperature-dependent Monod fermentation kinetics; mass transfer of sugar, yeast, N, and ethanol; evaporative, convective, and conductive heat transfer; and the motion of the bulk fluid beneath the cap. Fermentor surface area-to-volume ratio, temperature set point, and initial YAN were all found to significantly affect fermentation performance in simulated fermentations. Heat transfer by conduction into the cap was nondimensionalized and analyzed as well. Finally, the formation of temperature gradients in the cap between cap-management cycles was visualized from simulations using the model.


Climate change comes for oak

Friday, 29. March 2019 Meiningers

Winegrowers looking to cope with climate change can respond relatively quickly: vines can be replanted and productive in less than a decade; in the shorter term, irrigation and canopy management might address issues from one harvest to the next. In contrast, imagine how hard it would be to plan if your harvest came 150 years after planting. That’s the challenge the cooperage industry is confronting.

What is known

The long-term nature of an oak tree’s life leaves climate change research to governments and universities rather than in private hands. In France, governmental management of oak forests dates back to 1670, making research the responsibility of today’s Office National des Forêts (ONF). “In the US,” says Christopher Hansen, general manager of Seguin Moreau Napa Cooperage, “most of the land where the trees come from is privately owned, so it’s hard to get any good information about how climate change is affecting them.” The University of Kentucky is doing good research, he says, but work is in its early days.

Three species of oak are typically used for wine barrels: sessile oak (Quercus petraea) and pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) in Europe, and white oak (Quercus alba) in the US.

Each is reacting differently to climate change; if there’s good news to be had, it’s that the most desirable, sessile oak, seems to be coping the best so far.

Researchers have focused on not only the effects of higher temperatures, but also on the impact of higher CO2 levels and drier growing conditions. A 2001 report by A.B. Tate in the Journal of Wine Research reported that CO2 levels were spurring pedunculate and white oak to grow at as much as twice their usual rates, leading to wood that might be weaker and less structurally sound as barrel staves. Pedunculate oak also seems to produce fewer ellagitannins (a type of tannin) under these conditions. These play a major role as antioxidants, absorbing dissolved oxygen; sessile oak’s more pronounced ellagitannins, along with whisky lactones, are the main reasons for sessile oak’s premium status.


Research on white oak in the south-eastern US has focused more on drought effects, which can be devastating; a brief but intense drought in 2011 and 2012 led to the loss of up to 75% of white oaks in some areas. In general, it seems the trees are struggling. “There’s a researcher at the University of Kentucky studying the speed of regrowth of American white oak,” says Hansen. “Some of his data shows that the trees aren’t regenerating or growing at the same speed as they used to.” He notes, however, that this may be the effect of poor forest management practices rather than climate change.


In Europe, “Quercus robur oak grows on lowlands, and sessile oak on slopes and hills, with drier soil,” says researcher Antoine Kremer. As conditions become drier, “the prediction is Quercus robur will be in a more and more difficult situation, rather than petraea.” A 2018 study showed the more desirable Quercus petraea was already expanding into areas where robur was more common in the past, “which would be good for the barrel industry”.


Immediate impacts

Despite the long growth period of a usable oak tree, climate change is affecting the barrel industry in more immediate ways. In Hungary, warmer winters are making harvests difficult. “In our case,” says Peter Molnar, president of Kádár Hungary cooperage, “we can only really go into the forest when the roads are frozen hard because otherwise it just becomes a boggy mess. The expense of repairing the roads becomes more than the trees are worth.” Hansen reports similar problems in the US.


The practical impact of climate change continues even after harvesting. In Burgundy, cooperage François Frères has begun monitoring rainfall itself, rather than relying on government data, to ensure quality seasoning of the wood. “We need enough rainfall to guarantee a quality seasoning, to eliminate the sappiness of the wood,” says managing director Max Gigandet. In the stave yard, Gigandet say they’re stacking more tightly to maximise moisture, and shading the top rows of each pile to lessen sun exposure.


Taransaud has done similar research. “We’ve done a good amount of work on how seasoning is affected by drier, warmer summers,” says research and development manager Rémi Teissier du Cros. After several trials, Taransaud found seasoning staves near stands of live trees helped mitigate climate change effects and allowed the mycological process – the breaking down of the wood by fungi – of seasoning to proceed properly.


Meanwhile, as the wine and whisky industries continue to call for more and more barrels, Hansen is concerned that France’s ONF could respond to demand by allowing younger trees to be cut. So even as research struggles to determine the effects of climate change on cooperages and their raw materials, everyone concerned knows the business is heating up.


Ingenious ways to reuse bottles instead of recycling them

Meiningers- Sunday, 24. March 2019

Innovative wine bottle reuse projects have emerged in European wine regions, with producers of all sizes now involved in moves towards establishing a circular economy for wine. Wine bottles can be reused at least seven times to substantially lower the carbon footprint for wine production and prevent waste.


Collecting used bottles from wineries, restaurants, bars, hotels and supermarkets, then transporting them to washing plants for cleaning before returning them to bottling lines, allows producers to reuse bottles instead of buying new ones. Recycling involves melting bottles at 1,500°C to make new bottles – and despite the increase of recycling in the EU, many wine bottles still end up in landfill sites. Reuse presents economic and logistical challenges, but also marketing opportunities.


Styria paves the way

The region of Styria in Austria pioneered wine bottle reuse in 2011, when it launched a collection system using the Styrian wine bottle, which is taller than a standard 750ml wine bottle and features the emblem of the Styrian panther. “The unique design of the bottle makes its easy for consumers to recognise. It causes no confusion for them: the bottle is easily distinguishable in shape and size,” says Christian Schreyer, head of waste management for the regional government of Styria.


Styria has inspired partners in Catalonia’s reWINE, the newest major European reuse project, to consider introducing a standard bottle. Inèdit, an eco-innovation solutions company based in Barcelona, says the use of a standard bottle would facilitate the logistics of bottle washing. But some reWINE producers wish to retain freedom of choice over the wine bottles types they use.


A survey of 150 Spanish wine producers in Catalonia, Valencia and Aragon conducted by the Catalan zero waste agency Rezero in 2018 found that many larger producers would consider reuse, but for lower-priced volume-driven wines rather than for premium bottles. “I can imagine that all parties involved have to see whether it’s possible to agree on some standard bottles for certain segments, for example for the more volume-driven wines,” says Miguel Torres Maczassek, managing director of Torres.


Sixty Austrian producers are now involved in the Styrian reuse project that works at regional level for small- and medium-sized wine companies. It operates within a relatively small area with bottles circulating between vineyards, supermarkets, shops, restaurants and bottle-washing facilities. Between 5m and 6m Styrian wine bottles are filled each year. The number of refills increased by 3.5% during the project’s first year, but the regional government says it has not continued tracking how many bottles are refilled annually. “During the last two years we have not been directly monitoring the project,” Schreyer says. “There are no new experiences as there were no new subsidies made by the government. The project simply runs on its own.”


Sales of Styrian wine have increased, but the Styrian government says this could also be a result of an increase in production, and not uniquely attributed to bottle reuse. Austrianwines.com says wines from Austria now account for a greater share of domestic wine consumption, rising from 84% in 2003 to 90% in 2016.


“We made a huge effort in selling Styrian wines in the early 2000s and since then have increased plantings from 3,600ha to almost 4,900ha in 2018,” says consultant winemaker Martin Palz. “In 2017, Styria produced 256,000hl of wine – an amount which is less than what we supposedly drink. I’m sure that we have lost some share in the Austrian market to other regions due to the bad vintage in 2016 [which totalled 85,000hl], but we are fighting back with a high level of price-performance ratio.”


In similar fashion, reWINE’s partners say its prospects have been lifted by the rise of demand for locally produced wines in Catalonia – the region with the fastest growing rate of wine consumption in Spain. Figures from the Catalan Institute of Vines and Wines (INCAVI), based on a Nielsen study, show that in 2018, for the first time, consumption of local Catalan wines outstripped Rioja in restaurants in Catalonia, with Catalan wines holding a 35.7% share of wine consumption in the region.


This trend in demand, reWINE partners say, will help promote the reuse system to bring down costs. Catalan authorities estimate that about 600,000 wine bottles are used each day in Catalonia (soft drink and beer bottles are already reused for hotel and restaurant distribution).


Having secured almost €1m ($1.14m) in funding, 60% of it from the EU, reWINE has reused more than 30,000 bottles in Catalonia since its launch last autumn. Backed by the public Waste Agency of Catalonia, it aims to reuse 100,000 wine bottles and reduce 45 tonnes of waste by the end of 2019.


Bottle washing

In its pilot phase, reWINE covers the transport and bottle washing costs of participating Catalan producers, which include large co-operative Falset Marçà as well as the smaller producers Celler La Vinyeta, natural wine producer Talcomraja and Vins Pravi. Falset Marçà reuses its Etim wine in the project, which represents about 10% of its production. Torres is playing an advisory role in the project through its R&D team as part of its quest to reduce CO2 emissions per bottle by 30% by 2020.


Vins Pravi has its own bottle washing facility, but the other wine producers use a washing plant in the neighbouring region of Valencia. The project could lead to the construction of a facility in Catalonia, to bring down transport costs.


Styria has two large washing stations, as well as smaller private washing facilities at vineyards, and producers have introduced soluble wine labels to make reuse easier. “About 2,500 bottles can be washed per hour. It’s a fast enough rate for small and medium-sized vineyards,” says Palz.


In France, the Bout à Bout reuse scheme, based in the Muscadet country of Pays Nantais and in use in the Loire Valley, allows producers to wash seven sizes of Burgundy bottles at a nearby facility in Clisson. Launched two years ago by Célie Couché, Bout à Bout has secured partnerships with wine producers, distributors, shops and restaurants and bottle-washing plants. It won the city of Nantes’ social innovation prize in 2017 and has secured further funding at regional level. In a bid to reduce costs by increasing reuse volumes, Bout’ à Bout’ wants to attract French supermarkets to participate in its reuse scheme.


There is also a new bottle reuse scheme in Provence led by the Ecoscience association, in which wine bottles are washed in Beaune, some 500km away, at a facility which predominantly washes beer, rather than wine bottles.


Elsewhere in the EU, wine bottle washing is limited to certain types of bottles and closures. In the German region of Württemberg, for instance, wine service company WSG in Möglingen washes bottles for large wineries and cooperatives. However, producer Michael Maier says WSG limits cleaning to one-litre bottles with MCA screwcaps.



In France, organic, biodynamic and natural wines feature in reuse schemes. Vins Richard has invested €700,000 in a bottle reuse system which last year included the launch of Le Titi, a new range of organic and vegan wines produced in five French wine regions. Vins Richard bottles wines and supplies restaurants and hotels in Paris, offering on-trade establishments €4.50 per 12-bottle case to store empty bottles until they are collected. The Castel Group last year started selling an organic Côtes du Rhône wine with a €0.20 deposit fee at 46 of its Nicolas wine shops in France.


In December 2018, biodynamic wine producer Domaine de la Marseillaise washed and reused 1,200 Burgundy wine bottles as part of the launch of a new reuse scheme led by Ecoscience in Provence. The producer, which offers a free bottle of wine to customers using the system, says its motivation is centred on environmental concerns rather than the potential economic benefits of reuse.


In that same month, the French government’s environment ministry held a meeting with Bout’ à Bout’ to assess the potential of a nationwide deposit payment scheme.


However, such schemes have not found favour elsewhere: the Styrian regional government says a deposit return scheme would involve excessive administrative costs, so its reuse project provides discount incentives for consumers of Styrian wine. TOMRA bottle return stations installed at 150 Spar supermarkets offer 5% discounts on purchases of Styrian wine, with wine producers offering €0.10 vouchers for purchases ex-cellar.


In Catalonia, participating producers use reWINE stickers on labels and offer consumers a chance to win free wine and wine tours with each purchase.



The regional government of Styria says reuse of Styrian bottles, including transport and washing, costs less than half (€0.20) the price of buying a new Styrian bottle (€0.45 per new bottle). Thomas Schabl, sommelier at Gross vineyard, a medium-sized producer, says Gross uses Styrian wine bottle because of their strength and resilience, but says it has only a return rate of 10% as much of its production is sold further afield than Styria.


But large producers which buy big quantities of bottles are able to secure lower prices than the average cost of new Styrian bottles. And large producers like Neumeister, which do not use the Styrian bottle, can buy bottles at lower prices than the cost of cleaned bottles. “We pay €0.15 for each new bottle,” says Sebastian Bruckner, assistant manager at Neumeister vineyard.


However, the regional government of Styria points out that cleaning bottles requires only around 0.09kWh of energy per bottle, compared with approximately 1.1kWh to produce a new bottle. Inèdit says packaging accounts for more than 40% of total CO2 emissions in wine production.


“Wine producers can reduce their carbon footprint by 30% by reusing wine bottles instead of recycling them,” says Marta Beltran, coordinator of Rezero, a partner in reWINE. Rezero says only about half of all wine bottles are recycled in Catalonia: there is clearly a market for reuse.

Styria has shown reuse can work at a regional level. It could reduce costs for users and producers, but requires reform to legislation, which currently favours recycling and glass manufacturing companies, to ensure sufficient volumes are generated to overcome economic and logistical hurdles.


Responses to pathogen threats are higher in biodynamic vines

Wednesday February 27 2019 by Vitisphere

Biodynamic vines have more yellow foliage (left) than conventional vines (right), according to Alsace researchers. Biodynamic vines have more yellow foliage (left) than conventional vines (right), according to Alsace researchers. – Photo credit : INRA Colmar

“Natural defences are higher in vines farmed biodynamically, whatever the climate and pathogen pressure”, claims Jean Masson, research director at the Colmar national agronomic research institute (INRA). He draws his conclusion from results thrown up by monitoring the levels of secondary metabolites and immunity gene expression from 2014 to 2017 in fourteen plots of Pinot Noir vines totalling 30 hectares managed by 8 conventional and 3 biodynamic winegrowers.

Published in Scientific Reports, the study ascertained that the downy mildew and powdery mildew load of the vines monitored was higher for those farmed biodynamically than those using conventional vineyard management (respectively 51% and 22% of infected plants on average from 2014 to 2017). But “whatever the case, none of the collected leaves showed any visible symptoms, such as a powdery surface or oil stains. Both systems were able to stop the infection”, said the study, which is based on early molecular detection of downy and powdery mildew.

Although the leaves are unharmed, they do not look the same depending on vineyard management methods. Conventional winegrowers often like to make fun of the yellowish and diseased appearance of biodynamic foliage. After analysing the composition of the leaves from 2015 to 2017, the scientists observed that chlorophyll levels were higher on conventional vines (reflecting better photosynthetic activity), while anthocyanins and flavonols were higher for biodynamic vines (indicating a response to stress, either climatic or fungal).


CSU Research: Measuring bunch rot impact on wine quality

Wine Australia- 13 MAR 2019

NWGIC research funded by Wine Australia aims to determine thresholds for bunch rot contamination

Bunch rot causes economic losses to the wine industry worldwide

The research will provide important information for growers and winemakers

While the winegrape harvest accelerates across Australia, research at the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC) is arming grapegrowers and winemakers with increased knowledge about how bunch rot can impact a final wine – and how much is too much.

Led by Charles Sturt University (CSU) Professor Chris Steel, the research – funded by Wine Australia – aims to determine thresholds for bunch rot contamination, building on an earlier project that examined Botrytis or grey mould contamination of Chardonnay grapes in 2016.

“Bunch rot, or fungal rot of wine grapes, is a worldwide problem, particularly when rain falls close to harvest,” said Professor Steel.

“Bunch rots reduce yield and can impact on wine quality by producing off flavours and taints. Growers have to decide when and if they harvest impacted fruit, and at the winery it can lead to the downgrading or possible rejection of fruit.

“This project will determine the thresholds for bunch rot contamination that can be tasted in wine, and provide grapegrowers and winemakers with tools to handle fruit when these thresholds are exceeded.”

For this vintage, the new research will be extended to include Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

“Aside from continuing to evaluate ergosterol as a measure of fungal contamination, we will also look at other techniques including measuring gluconic acid and loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP), a molecular biology based technique for detecting Botrytis in grapes,” Professor Steel said.

Wine Australia General Manager of Research, Development and Extension Dr Liz Waters said, “Bunch rots can be a significant cost impact on grapegrowers and winemakers. This project is exciting because it will help us determine how much bunch rot is too much, so that an objective measure can be set to assist growers and winemakers in their decisions at harvest.”

The NWGIC is an alliance between CSU, the NSW Department of Primary Industries and the NSW Wine Industry Association.


Liberating winemakers at the press

Wine Australia RD&E News | March 2019

Winemakers spend a lot of time tasting juice as it is being pressed to pinpoint the right time to stop the pressing process. This is important to produce sparkling wine that has desirable flavour qualities – and prevent excessive extraction of undesirable phenolic compounds.

However, repetitive tasting is time consuming and impractical on a larger scale. And sometimes, the winemaker’s senses might become overloaded.

Dr Rocco Longo – a former winemaker turned wine researcher – knows first-hand the need for a rapid, objective and reproducible tool to ensure the quality and consistency of sparkling wine. The project he currently works on aims to develop one.

Now, Dr Longo’s efforts have been recognised with a Wine Australia-supported Science and Innovation Award.

The device – which he hopes to start manufacturing in May this year – uses spectroscopy to determine the concentration of phenolic compounds in the juice. This information is then fed back to the winemaker in real time.

‘The more you press, the more phenolics you are able to extract. But when you’re making sparkling wine you don’t want too many phenolic compounds because they give you that gritty mouthfeel when you drink the wine.’

Currently, the most common way to determine the level of phenolics is for the winemaker to physically taste the juice – and therein lies the problem, says Dr Longo.

‘There are so many factors that can influence the winemaker’s tasting’, he said. ‘For example, the winemaker might have a cold, which could dull their senses. Or the weather might be extremely hot, or cold, which can have a negative sensory impact.’

Dr Longo says his instrument will not only relieve the winemaker from tasting juice at the press, but will also automate the pre-fermentation process that currently relies on a high labour input.

‘The instrument fitting can be attached to any press outlet, and will feature a spectral sensor that can automate valves being turned on and off for automatic tank switching.’

Dr Longo said the ultimate aim of his project was to make the process of sparkling wine production more efficient and objective.

‘It is about making sparkling wine that is consistent quality by objectively measuring the compounds that give wine its flavour, colour, aroma and mouthfeel as they are extracted during the pressing process.’

Dr Longo grew up in Italy and completed his BSc and MSc in Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Turin.

However, he found it was the Australian wine sector that held his interest.

After working vintages in Piedmont, Italy, Dr Longo decided to take the plunge and move to Australia in 2009 to pursue his dream.

After a stint as an oenologist with Gapsted Wines in the Victoria’s Alpine Valleys, Dr Longo, in 2014, undertook a PhD on lower alcohol production with Charles Sturt University at the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (supported by a Wine Australia scholarship) . He is currently pursuing postdoctoral research in Pinot Noir provenance and sparkling wine at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture in Launceston*.

He said the Science and Innovation Award was a good opportunity for him to gain a deeper understanding of the gaps in R&D in the sparkling and still white wine sector and the impact on the Australian wine sector, in particular on larger scale wineries.

‘From a research standpoint, the award will allow me to build a prototype for testing in commercial wineries, which is very exciting.’


Will France reintroduce previously banned grape varieties?

Wednesday March 06 2019 by Vitisphere

“Using modern winemaking techniques, these disease-resistant grape varieties produce distinctive wines showing typicity and unique character. They are also interesting in blends”, said Christian Vigne, chairman of the PGI Cevennes producers’ organisation. “Using modern winemaking techniques, these disease-resistant grape varieties produce distinctive wines showing typicity and unique character. They are also interesting in blends”, said Christian Vigne, chairman of the PGI Cevennes producers’ organisation.

Six grape varieties were banned in France in 1934: Clinton, Noah, Isabelle, Othello, Herbemont and Jacquez. It was believed that they were “almost” permanently banned but that was before the European Commission suggested they be re-introduced as part of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.


In France, the proposal was received by industry representatives with a measure of indifference until the topic appeared in a letter dated 19 February sent to the Minister of Agriculture by the Gard PGI wine federation. In the letter, the federation clearly came down in favour of their reintroduction. “New generations of winegrowers, who are open-minded about differing tastes, ecology and the demands of society, show a keen interest in these heirloom, disease-resistant grape varieties”, explained the federation.

The Gard department is ready to go, but what about national and European representative bodies? “These are not very high quality grape varieties. It is difficult to think of them other than as high-volume varietals”, said Thomas Montagne, chairman of the independent winegrowers’ federation and CEVI. Bernard Farges, chairman of EFOW, said that the European organisation of AOC wine producers had not taken a stance in the issue. “We are surprised to see them return but there is no standoff because each appellation can decide whether or not to include them in its specifications”. Thierry Coste, chairman of the COPA/COGECA wine committee in Brussels, reported a common position on the matter, adding that that he did not “feel any great hostility”.


5% of grape varieties show little sensitivity to mildew

Friday March 22 2019 by Vitisphere

On March 12, Thierry Lacombe presented preliminary results on the characterisation of grape variety tolerance to mildew.

Not all grape varieties are equal when it comes to mildew. The majority are very sensitive to the disease, but a tiny proportion can withstand its onset. Yes, but which ones? This is one of the questions that French researchers are currently addressing. In 2018, they carried out the first mildew ratings at a time when disease pressure was at its highest. For Vinifera, these preliminary results show that 5% of grape varieties are not very susceptible to the disease. “Corsican, Hungarian and Portuguese varieties”, listed research engineer Thierry Lacombe. The varieties include Carcajolo, Dabouki, Grechetto, Otfürtü, Pagadebiti, Septimer, Szagos bajnar, Verdelho feijão and Vinhao.

8% of wild vines were also found to show very little sensitivity to the disease, mainly varieties from the Basque Country and Tunisia.


Differences in sensitivity depending on the part of the plant

Three-quarters of specific hybrids resisted the disease. But the researcher issued a word of warning: some have proven to be highly sensitive, including Carubis, Perdin, Suffolk Red and Volney. “Hybrid does not equate to systematic resistance”, stressed Thierry Lacombe.

The researchers also observed that some varieties are very sensitive to mildew in spring but not in summer (Alval, Chichaud, Plant Droit). For others, it is the opposite (Couston, Fiano, Peloursin, Roditis). Similarly, some varieties tolerate the disease on the foliage but not on the clusters (Moschofilero, Sultana), and vice versa (Red Globe, Victoria, Cualtacciu, Uva Biancano).

On March 12, Thierry Lacombe presented preliminary results on the characterisation of grape variety tolerance to mildew


Women now the top wine consumers in Germany

Meiningers , 29. March 2019

More women than men now buy wine in Germany, according to research presented at the Meininger’s International Wine Conference, held the day before ProWein.

“Every year since 2006 we have different surveys in Germany,” said Professor Dr Gergely Szolnoki from Geisenheim University, who presented a snapshot of wine consumer behaviour in Germany. “We do not use the vast online surveys, but use the most expensive and effortful survey, which is face-to-face, every two years.”


There are four major factors that influence wine consumption behaviour, according to Professor Szolnoki. “Age, gender, social class and frequency.”


When it comes to gender, women have now overtaken men in wine consumption, being responsible for 56% of overall wine drinking and 55% of the value. While men still pay a fraction more for wine—an average of €5.14 per litre of wine versus €4.88 for women—women are paying more overall, at an average of €185.00 per year versus €175.00 for men.


“Ten years ago the difference between men and women was much more marked than here,” said Professor Szolnoki. “It is not just that women overtook men in pure volume, but also the types of wine they prefer have changed considerably.”


Men still drink more red wine than women, and are less likely to drink rosé; however, taste preferences are slowly converging.


Social class also has an impact on the wine market, with Germany’s upper crust drinking “significantly more wine” than everybody else.


Income bracket also determines where people buy wines, with people on a lesser income choosing their wines from a discounter or supermarket, and wealthier people buying from specialist retailers. Overall, the “more you drink wine, the more you will buy in the specialist retail trade,” said Dr Szolnoki.


The biggest wine buyers of all, who not only buy more wine but are also prepared to pay more for it, are the over-65s. “These are the consumers who used to go to the wineries and buy ex-cellar,” said Dr Szolnoki. “Unfortunately, these are quite old. Will a new generation follow them or not?”


The news is not all bad for exporters to Germany. While the big spending older wine lovers prefer German wines, the youngest cohort (up to age 29) are equally happy with both German and imported wines.


The theme of this year’s Meininger’s International Wine Conference was “Wine as a Brand: How to Create Big Brands” and was held at the InterContinental Hotel, Düsseldorf, the day before ProWein.


“Likes” to Replace Wine Scores by 2020
Wine Business- April 01, 2019

Leading publications announce 100-point system to be replaced by crowd-sourced “likes” by next year

New York, NY – During a well-attended press conference, held at the New York Marriott Marquis, the nation’s top wine publications announced in tandem that numbered wine scores, also known as the 100-point system, will be replaced by crowd-sourced “likes” by the summer of 2020. “Millennials have rendered wine scores all but obsolete. Crowd-sourced, peer reviews are au courant,” said Wine Aficionado publisher, Bill Paide. Standing beside a Power Point presentation, Paide then lead the mostly media and trade audience through a multitude of slides illustrating the refreshed approach to wine reviews. “On our website, we’ll be asking subscribers to click the “like” emoji from white to red, to demonstrate their fondness for a wine.” Modeled on Instagram’s white-to-red heart approach, a clear emoji, shaped like a wine bottle, may be clicked upon to turn red, indicating the consumer’s approval.


“We will then publish reviews reflecting the wines that received the most likes within a certain window of time,” added Paide. Marsha Sedi-Mentt, of Brethren Wine & Spirits, one of the nation’s leading wine, spirits and beer distributors, added that “digital shelf-talkers” are being developed in tandem with major distribution houses, in order to better translate the crowd-sourced review system into effective sales and marketing tools. “We’re already working with our regional teams, as well as major retailers, to develop digital shelf talkers, which will be showing a wine’s “likes” in real-time. Consumers will literally be able to stand in front of a bottle of wine as they shop, and watch numbered “likes” flash before their eyes,” Sedi-Mentt continued. Restaurants already utilizing iPads for their wine lists will also be able to utilize “real time likes”.


Not everyone in attendance was pleased with the announcement. Sommelier-turned-winemaker, Rudolph Side commented from the crowd, “I used to think scores were stupid until my own wines got really good ones. That changed things. Now, these same publications are trying to level the playing field. How can a collector know a wine is good if it doesn’t get 98 points from a seasoned and respected critic?” Appearing to turn visibly red in the face as he spoke passionately, Side added “How about if my wines only get 100 likes, because, let’s face it, a lot of collectors aren’t on social media, and Rombauer gets 500,000 likes? Does that mean their wine is better???! This is ridiculous!”


Walter Werld, of Werld’s World Wine Magazine, one of the oldest and most respected wine publications, appeared to address Side in particular when speaking about the new reviewing system. “Winemakers who make modern-style wines, that is to say, wines demonstrating transparency rather than pleasure, should not concern themselves with the new system. Their wines will still find a place among the sommelier culture, which is tremendously loyal, until it isn’t, of course. But, still, you will be able to move your wines primarily through the on-premise sector, which traditionally hasn’t paid much attention to scores anyway. Restaurant owners will probably continue to allow somms to include a handful of cerebral wines on their lists. If you can move one six-pack a year each, through several fine dining restaurants, in all major and secondary markets, you’ll be able to deplete your inventory every couple of years without incident.” Side responded that he’d have to be on the road a lot more to hand-sell his bottles, which would cut into his profits.


Also among the disenchanted were a handful of critics employed by the major publishers in attendance. “Look, I’m lucky to have a job in publishing, period,” said one critic who requested anonymity. “But, I’m not crazy about the idea of having to collect crowd-sourced comments and count “likes” instead of writing up my own notes and applying my own numbers to a wine. I imagine the new accompanying tasting notes on “likes” will be pedantic and riddled with words like “huzzuh”, “good stuff” and “YAAASS.”

The same critic revealed that, during a 9-month long focus-group trial, via a test site, the wine that received the most “likes” was Abrau Durso, a method-classique brut, by Russian producer, Victor Dravigny.

Curiously, the only Millennials in attendance were the catering staff employed by the venue. When asked his opinion, Banyon Mann, 24, of Brooklyn, said, “I’m barely making rent and I have four roommates. Why is everyone always trying to sell us shit? We don’t have any money. Call me when someone’s giving away free wine or beer. Then I’ll be there.”


The Climate Change Leadership Conference, Porto: wine industry solutions

Algarve Daily News

Last week Porto, Portugal, was the place to be for wine industry leaders engaged in combatting climate change. The second edition of the Climate Change Leadership Conference attracted 850 people from 30 countries. The Conference focused on solutions to climate change for the wine industry, and its keynote speaker, Nobel Laureate for Peace and former US Vice-President, Al Gore, declared, “the leadership role taken on by Portugal is an example for the entire world.”


On the eve of the Conference I talked to Adrian Bridge, CEO of Taylor`s Port, the Conference`s main organizer. Bridge is convinced that wine consumers care about sustainability. “We need to listen to consumers. There are lots of solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change, we just have to know which are the most effective.” Gregory Jones, Director of the Evenstad Center for Wine Education and the world`s foremost wine climatologist, believes the wine industry, as one of the only branded agricultural industries in the world, is well-placed to lead the agricultural sector in combatting climate change.

The Climate Change Leadership Conference focussed on `Solutions for the Wine Industry.´ The Conference supports the Porto Protocol, a platform created in 2018 by Adrian Bridge to share wine industry solutions that push the envelope and offer new, often radical ideas that actively address climate change.

This initiative ambitions, however, to reach out beyond the wine industry, and provide inspiration and benchmarking for other sectors. My Douro Valley wine tourism company, Grape Discoveries, is a Founding Member of the Porto Protocol, and today the initiative is doing well with 130 businesses signed up.

Several speakers at the Conference cited increasingly frequent examples of erratic weather in vineyards throughout the world, from the Napa Valley to Champagne. 2018 was one of the hottest years ever recorded, resulting in later grape harvesting, faster ripening and increased sugar levels and loss of acidity, and freak rains and hail destroying vineyards. There are few climate change deniers in the wine industry, in this sector the evidence of climate change is irrefutable.


It does not minimize the undeniable threat to sustainable wine production to recall that the grapevine is not only a resilient plant but equally an adaptive one.

Vines are often grown in remote and arid regions which have difficulty in supporting other forms of agriculture. There are a staggering 10,000 known grape varieties in the world, although as few as twelve of these account for 80% of the world`s total wine production, and probably about the same number benefit from consumer recognition.

This indicates that there is room for experimentation, and one of the Conference`s speakers, Miguel Torres the President of Bodegas Torres, has been doing this in Penedes in Spain, working with variables such as variety, vineyard altitude and sun exposure. Torres has also teamed up with the Jackson Family Winery, in California, for an initiative, International Wineries for Climate Action, which aims to dramatically reduce climate impact in vineyard and winery operations.

As the climate changes, some traditional wine producing regions are experiencing shifts in the suitability for vineyard planting. New regions are emerging, often not previously considered wine producing, such as the south of England, while countries such as Chile, are suddenly finding that they now have the ideal climatic conditions to produce fine wines. A European project, ADVICLIM, is conducting research which focuses on clonal adaptation rather than changing variety, often a key component of terroir and a wine region`s identity.


Many wine industry leaders are seeing climate change as an opportunity to adapt. Pau Roca, the Director General of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, also believes the wine industry has an important leadership role to play. Roca told me, “climate change is an opportunity to review our conservative thinking, and the wine industry is the canary in the cage.” In his opinion we are on the threshold of major changes in the economy, with sustainability as the next paradigm, in the way the Gold Standard once was.

`Leaving no one behind´ is the theme for this year`s edition of World Water Day, on 22 March. Water scarcity is indeed going to be one of the most critical issues in the next decades, with agriculture using 70% of all fresh water. Vineyards in the Cape, South Africa, have now experienced three years of severe drought.

The vine is a hardy plant, however, and many varieties possess roots that dig deep into the soil to reach water. Irrigation is often not a necessity, and the practice of dry farming is on the increase. UC Davis, in the US, has been awarded a LEED Platinum for its teaching and research sustainable winery which practices the multiple use of water. Krug Champagne, in France, has achieved a 50% reduction in its water use, through using only what is strictly necessary. Just as we think about wine`s carbon footprint, we will now also need to consider wine`s water footprint.


Many vineyards are owned by families, who take a multi-generational view of their businesses. They often consider they are long-term caretakers rather than owners. In the opinion of Cristina Mariani-May, CEO of the US wine importer Banfi Vintners, and the owners of extensive sustainably-farmed vineyards at Castello Banfi in Tuscany, it is essential “as the climate changes to share our research.” So that the new generation of winemakers are educated to adapt, Banfi has endowed the Cornell University Wine Professorship.


It is interesting to reflect that our English words `economics` and `ecology` both have the same Greek root `oikos`. This Greek word in fact has three meanings: household, house and family. The 2018 Nobel Laureate for Economics, William Nordhaus, has worked on the interdependence of economics and ecology and how they are affected by climate change. Antonio Amorim, CEO of Corticeira Amorim, the world`s leading cork producer, commented at the Conference, “sustainability is not the end of profitability.” Incidentally, a cork forest retains CO2 for two hundred years!


The Wine Anorak blogger and Sunday Express columnist, Jamie Goode, remarked to me, “the wine industry can achieve a carbon negative footprint,” observing, however, that the wider combat to mitigate the effects of climate change will only be won if the financial interest versus truth battle is won first.

The Porto Protocol Summit followed the Climate Change Leadership Conference. Afroz Shah, an Indian lawyer and United Nations Champion of the Earth for the world´s largest beach clean-up project in Mumbai was one of the most moving speakers. Shah believes we need to “move from confusion to hope.”


One cause for hope is undoubtedly a 16-year-old Swede, Greta, whose name seemed to be on many participants´ lips. Greta has challenged the European Union to double its objective for 2030 to reduce carbon emissions by 40%. She has also set in motion a global movement of school children who are taking a day out of school each week to pressure their governments to engage more vigorously in measures to combat climate change.


The Summit keynote speaker, Al Gore, has been a climate change activist since 1976, before many of the people attending the Conference were born. An immense force for generating international awareness about climate change, Gore has lost none of his passion for this fight and thundered up and down the stage with the energy of a hurricane. He compared the exponential rise of renewable energies in many countries to that of the mobile phone a generation ago: more cause for hope!


With the world`s population today approaching eight billion individuals of differing socio-economic conditions, we share this planet and its resources with a dwindling number of other species. One of the key messages of the Climate Change Leadership Conference was that we need to manage change that we cannot avoid. The mood was one of restrained optimism, with several participants saying that we are currently experiencing an accelerating cultural shift, embodied by greater awareness of climate change and a growing desire to enact mitigation strategies. Younger generations, such as Millenials, are increasingly concerned by the provenance of the products they consume.


Mike Veseth, editor of The Wine Economist, said, “you buy products that reflect your values.” The production of organic wines is increasing by 15% annually, compared with a 0.5% increase for wine production overall.


We will need to be practical in the way we implement solutions to climate change, and wine can be granted no special status. As Linda Johnson-Bell, CEO of the Wine & Climate Change Institute in Oxford, England, put it, “wine has to take off its mink coat, it`s an agricultural product.”


The Porto Protocol and its annual Climate Change Leadership Conferences are powerful vehicles for disseminating these practical solutions as we engage in our existential combat to mitigate climate change. Closing this stimulating Conference, Adrian Bridge declared, “we have pushed the snowball off the top of the mountain… and it is now rolling.”


Drinks Business- 1st April, 2019 by Rupert Millar

One “leading” négociant in La Place de Bordeaux has already warned that the en primeur system is like a Ferrari in danger of spinning out of control but where does the value in Bordeaux futures currently lie?

Both Liv-ex and Wine Lister have recently released hefty reports on the Bordeaux market as the en primeur campaign begins to rev its engines.

But the start of the Wine Lister booklet began with this quote from a leading Bordeaux négociant: “The context of this year’s en primeur campaign is like a Ferrari with worn tyres and fatigued suspension. The Ferrari here is the quality of the 2018 vintage, the road is the market and the wheels that connect the car to the road are the négociants, who bear the burden of 2016s that aren’t showing any return and 2017s that won’t find their place in the market for years. The faster the driver (the château) goes, the worse the accident will be.”

Last week, using the Liv-ex report, the drinks business reported that the effects of recent campaigns and factors such as Brexit and a depressed Chinese market made the 2018s anything but a sure sell – despite their apparent quality as wines.

The en primeur market is currently far from its peak. Farr Vintners has stated previously that there has been a, “marked fall in demand and appetite for buying Bordeaux vintages en primeur” and buying levels are “not likely” to return to the heights witnessed with the 2009 and 2010 vintages.

As can been seen in the graph provided by Liv-ex, en primeur sales have dropped off a cliff since the 2010s were offered.

The period 2011-2014 was extremely bad with 2013 proving the nadir. The situation improved with the 2015 and 2016 vintages but after making around £82 million with the 2016 campaign, UK merchants saw sales crash to £45m in 2017 – less than the 2011s.

Returns have been another thorny issue for the dedicated claret hound too. Since 2005 around half of the campaigns have seen wines that were cheaper on release than they were en primeur, with the 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages being the worst offenders – with the first two arguably being the most at fault.


There have been some successes. The 2012 to 2015 vintages all saw their wines rise in price between campaign and physical release and even the 2009-2011 wines have seen their negative returns shortened – especially the 2011s.


As Liv-ex noted though: “Looking at returns to date also suggests that most campaigns have been underwhelming for buyers. Five of 13 have produced negative returns. Even where returns are positive, buyers would have made more money investing in physical stock in some instances: the Bordeaux 500 Index has outperformed En Primeur purchases from 2005, 2006, 2013.”


Yet despite the repeated warnings that en primeur is dead and the négoce system is about to implode and all manner of other alarming portents, there remains thrill, glamour and indeed sound financial sense in buying Bordeaux futures – the trick is which ones you choose.


Which châteaux are getting it right, therefore, and how to measure it?


Wine Lister picked out Beychevelle, Calon Ségur, Canon, Les Carmes de Haut-Brion, Cos d’Estournel, Figeac, Léoville Barton, Lynch-Bages, Pichon Comtesse and Rauzan-Ségla as estates that had pitched their releases correctly last year with their 2017 offers – and indeed several of those have ticked the boxes for many in several of the post-09/10 primeur era campaigns.


A case in point was Les Carmes de Haut-Brion’s release, which Wine Lister called a “masterclass”. As the report said: “One of the only red wines whose 2017 matched its 2016 in quality terms, it was the property’s joint best-ever.


“The 2017 release price put it into the market at a 40% discount to the market value of the 2016, and, crucially, below the 2014 too, making it a very attractive proposition en primeur.”


Combine that with the label’s rising popularity helped ensure it sold out and gave it a boost on the secondary market.


Les Carmes de Haut-Brion and Lafleur were flagged by Wine Lister as offering the best returns for their 2016 vintages between offer and release (up 109%); followed by Petrus (64%), Canon (59%), Carruades de Lafite (58%), Calon-Ségur, Le Pin, Petit Mouton (34%) and Tertre-Roteboeuf among others.


Many of those names crop up in Liv-ex’s own analysis too (sometimes with marginally different figures – Canon’s 2016 is up 71% by its metrics for instance). The first growth’s second labels are a particularly successful area to have risen in recent times, its sub-index in the Bordeaux 500 showing a 226% gain in the last decade, 73% in the last five years, 69% in the last three and 6% in the past year.


Lafite meanwhile remains the strongest of the first growths for now but Mouton has been catching up to it for a while. The worst-performing first growth chart at the moment is that of Margaux.


Other châteaux with strong price performances away from more obvious brands are: Gruaud Larose, Clos Fourtet and Clerc Milon


If there are still winners to pick from though so too are there losers. Unfortunately, despite having produced some exquisite wines in recent vintages it is Sauternes labels that are struggling to keep up, with Suduiraut and Rieussec showing some of the worst returns among labels, red or white.


It’s hard to see a future for Sauternes within the primeur system as it currently stands. Perhaps a new approach is required?


For the reds, on the other hand, it is Pontet-Canet that is listed as one of the more over-valued brands en primeur and its 2016 release is currently down 12.5% on its release. Other brands that Liv-ex notes as being often over-valued are: Troplong Mondot, Evangile, Pavie, Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Haut-Brion, Vieux Château Certan, Pichon Baron and Angélus among others.


Again that is not to say the wines are bad nor even that they don’t deserve to command high prices, it’s just that when measured against the performance of previous vintages and taking scores into account, they consistently look like poor choices to buy en primeur because they will either lose the buyer money and/or allow another buyer to pick them up later for less.


Liv-ex, Wine Lister, all the major merchants and critics involved in primeurs and industry publications such as db now generate a wealth of material every year on this subject from wine quality to price analysis.


There is ‘fair value’ still to be found in en primeur – at all price points and not all of it comes down to accounting, arithmetic and algorithms.


That said, as primeur contracts in its scope and importance to many on all sides of the futures industry, the Bordeaux buyer is better equipped than ever when it comes to making informed buying decisions and will undoubtedly reward market-sensitive châteaux by choosing their wines over those of more tone-deaf neighbours.


The campaign to make alcohol ‘the new tobacco’

Health Spectator

by Christopher Snowdon

28th March 2019

If you’ve been watching closely, you’ll have seen the signs. The campaign to turn alcohol into The New Tobacco happened gradually at first but is now approaching full speed. It accelerated last year when two widely reported studies in The Lancet claimed that there is no safe level of drinking. The evidence in these studies, such as it was, didn’t actually support that claim but along with the equally dubious assertion that alcohol is a major cause of cancer, it forms the bedrock of the drive to treat drinkers like smokers.


If there was a turning point, it was in January 2016 when the Chief Medical Officer, Sally Davies, pushed the “no safe level” line to the public whilst announcing the new drinking guidelines. The guidelines didn’t actually say that there was no safe level, but the small band of anti-alcohol activists who created them managed to downplay the health benefits of moderate drinking to such an extent that it only required a little more statistical chicanery to make the benefits disappear altogether.

The Lancet studies made the final push. By August 2018, decades of evidence showing that moderate drinkers live longer than teetotallershad been debunked, at least as far as the BBC was concerned. If alcoholic drinks, like cigarettes, are carcinogens that cannot be consumed safely, then the anti-tobacco blueprint of cancer warnings, advertising bans and the endgame of total eradication can be rolled out.

The most shameless example yet of the deliberate conflation of smoking and drinking was published today. A study in BMC Public Health claims that drinking one bottle of wine a week increases the risk of cancer by the same amount as smoking ten cigarettes a week (if you’re a woman) or by five cigarettes (if you’re a man). Its authors say that their intention is to provide ‘a useful measure for communicating possible cancer risks that exploits successful historical messaging on smoking’. They insist that they are ‘not saying that drinking alcohol in moderation is in any way equivalent to smoking’.

Yeah, right. The only reason this study was conducted was to generate headlines to the effect of ‘drinking is as bad as smoking’ – and it has worked. The ‘study’ might boost the impact factor of the journal that published it, but it has no academic merit. There is no reason for it to exist other than as propaganda.


Do you know what the cancer risk of smoking ten cigarettes a week is? No. Nor do the authors of the study. They say that ‘the risk of smoking approximately five cigarettes per day (35 cigarettes per week), [is] generally the lowest level of risk detailed in [epidemiological] studies’. This is true, and although there is a study that estimates the cancer risk of smoking very few cigarettes, albeit in a low quality journal, the authors ignore it and choose instead to extrapolate from other data. To put it in plain English, they had a guess.

So much for it being a ‘useful measure for communicating possible cancer risks’. They are comparing the risk of drinking one bottle of wine to a risk that most people have never thought about and which even experts cannot reliably quantify. It throws shade, not light. If this is an attempt to ‘make advice simpler’, as The Times says, then it has failed. Unless, of course, the advice is to not drink at all.

The authors’ real aim is laid bare in the study’s introduction when they assert, with breathtaking chutzpah, that: ‘There is now robust evidence that low levels of alcohol intake do not provide any protective health benefits.’ They cite one of the ridiculous Lancet studies as evidence for this, but it could not be further from the truth. Decades of epidemiological studies have shown a strong and consistent association between moderate alcohol consumption and lower mortalitymostly thanks to lower rates of cardiovascular disease. This finding has been tested and retested dozens, if not hundreds, of times by researchers all over the world and has always come up smiling. To claim that there are no health benefits from moderate consumption would make you odd, but to claim that there is ‘robust evidence’ disproving those benefits puts you in Flat Earth territory.


By contrast, the claim that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption rests on a much smaller, thinner and shakier body of evidence, mostly concerned with the effect of light drinking on breast cancer (which is why the authors’ cigarette equivalents for men are half those of women’s).

So, on the one hand, we have decades of epidemiological evidence backed up by biological experiments which show that moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of death from heart disease by 15-30 per cent, and, on the other hand, we have a slimmer body of epidemiological evidence which suggests that moderate alcohol consumption might have a small effect on breast cancer risk. It speaks volumes about the ‘public health’ lobby that they have spent years denying, doubting and ultimately dismissing the former finding while treating the latter as gospel.


Let us take a moment to look at the evidence. A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies (which track people’s drinking habits and health status over a number of years and are the most reliable studies in observational epidemiology) found that drinkers were 25 per cent less likely to die from coronary heart disease than teetotallers. The 31 studies reviewed are shown below. Note that most of them show a statistically significant reduction in risk.

By contrast, here are the results from a similar meta-analysis of cohort studies looking at moderate/light drinking and breast cancer risk. Of the 25 studies, only six produced statistically significant results and the overall estimate was an increased risk of just nine per cent.

That’s breast cancer incidence. If we look at breast cancer mortality, the evidence is even less scary. For ‘very light drinking’ – defined as consuming up to five units a week – the risk of dying from breast cancer actually decreases, as does the risk of dying from lung cancer, as the authors of the meta-analysis note:

Very light drinking reduced the mortality of both female and male lung cancer (RR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.69 to 0.94; I2=0.0%; n=2), female lung cancer (RR, 0.70; 95% CI, 0.56 to 0.89; n=1) and female breast cancer (RR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.64 to 0.97; I2=0.0%; n=2). There was no significant association between very light drinking and the mortality of colorectal cancer, gallbladder cancer, prostate cancer, and hematologic malignancy.

‘Light drinking’ – defined as drinking up to eleven units a week, ie. a bottle of wine – is also associated with lower cancer rates in some sites and is not associated with breast cancer mortality…

.. light drinking reduced the mortality of female stomach cancer (RR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.44 to 0.98; n=1) and male lung cancer (RR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.70 to 0.87; I2=0.0%; n=5). There was no significant association between light drinking and the mortality of oropharyngeal cancer, esophageal cancer, larynx cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, female gallbladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, and hematologic malignancy.


Only when we get to ‘moderate drinking’ – consuming between 11 and 22 units a week – is there any increased risk of dying from any form of cancer, although it was associated with a lower risk of dying from kidney cancer.

…overall moderate drinking was not associated with the mortality of most cancers. However, it increased the mortality of female colorectal cancer (RR, 2.51; 95% CI, 1.31 to 4.82; n=1) and female breast cancer (RR, 1.04; 95% CI, 1.01 to 1.07; I2=0.0%; n=2), while it reduced the mortality of male kidney cancer (RR, 0.46; 95% CI, 0.23 to 0.93; n=1).

The claim that there is no safe level of drinking makes no sense unless there are risks from very light drinking. We know that very light drinking confers significant health benefits to the heart, and the strongest epidemiological evidence suggests that very light drinking makes breast cancer slightly more likely to occur (+4 per cent) while making fatal breast cancer considerably less likely to occur (-21 per cent).

In the face of seemingly contradictory findings like this, you might be inclined to dismiss observational epidemiology as quackery with mathematics. You might say that meta-analyses are a way of spinning gold out of garbage. If so, I can’t wholeheartedly disagree, especially when dealing with ultra-low relative risks of this order, but whatever your view of the science, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t cling to a handful of studies which show a tiny relationship between light/moderate drinking and a few (mostly rare) cancers while dismissing a much larger body of evidence showing a strong, large and clinically relevant protective association between light/moderate drinking and coronary heart disease, nor can you ignore the protective effect of alcohol on the most important health metric of them all: mortality.

The fact remains that the positive effects of moderate drinking on heart disease and other conditions exceed and outweigh the negative effects on cancer risk. To focus on the risks while ignoring the benefits is to lie by omission.


Given that coronary heart disease is the most common cause of death in the UK, and that the risks of not drinking are more serious than the risks of drinking a little, perhaps we should put a cigarette equivalent on the heart disease risk of teetotallism. Five minutes with PubMed and a pocket calculator tell me that abstaining from alcohol is as risky as smoking five cigarettes a week. Stay safe. Cheers!


Champagne Takes Stock as Sales Stutter


Wine-Searcher, 07-Feb-2019


Herbicide use, vineyard certification and slowing sales are all causing concern for growers, Caroline Henry reports. While Champagne’s front men talk up the 2018 vintage, uncertainty over the future of herbicides and falling sales are causing unease in the famous region.


As 2018 drew to a close and 2019 got off to a snowy start, the men at the top of the CIVC tentatively looked back on the last season. Jean-Marie Barillère and Maxime Toubart, the co-presidents of the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC), were all smiles when they gave an overview of the 2018 harvest. Both the Champagne houses and the growers thanked Mother Nature for an abundant and very clean harvest. In December, Barillère was quick to point out, that abundance allowed the region to swap out the “lesser quality 2017 wines”, while Toubart mentioned how the bountiful harvest allowed growers to refill their Individual Reserves (RI), and thus build up a buffer for the coming years.


Vincent Perrin, director-general at the CIVC, added in January how last year’s abundant harvest would allow Champagne to accelerate the “much-needed replacing of regions vineyards, starting with 280 hectares in 2019”. Over the past few decades, the average age of the Champagne vineyards has crept up more than half, from 20 to more than 30 years old, and the increased vine age is believed to have an impact on the yields and grape quality.


Perrin further echoed Barillère when he mentioned that the excellent 2018 harvest should not erase the memory of 2017, which was a lot less glamorous, and stressed the need to uphold quality in more difficult years. Barillère had gone one step further when he explained that, with the reserves filled up again, Champagne houses could afford to be more stringent on quality criteria, with the right to refuse press loads if they do not pass muster. The practicalities around this statement are not exactly clear, as very few extra quality-control mechanisms have so far been introduced. The only extra quality check tested in 2018 has been the new delivery slip, requiring the grower to rate the quality of his grapes. The suggestion that grapes refused by one buyer should be banned from being bought by another one, was killed almost as soon as it was raised.


Nevertheless, two controversial ecological decisions were negotiated in 2018 with the region committing to eliminating chemical herbicides by 2025 and to 100-percent vineyard certification by 2030. These decisions were first announced by Barillère to the winemaking community at the AGM of the Association Viticole Champenoise in December and repeated publicly by Perrin at the Saint Vincent de l’Archiconfrerie in January. Both decisions are very courageous in the light of the current situation. Arnaud Descotes, the CIVC technical director, told Wine-Searcher that, currently, both the region’s certifications and herbicide-free areas only encompass around 20 percent of the total vineyard area.


Still, certification has increased significantly with the introduction of the Viticulture Durable en Champagne (VDC). Since its introduction in 2015, more than 15 percent of the regions surfaces have signed up for the certification. Compared to the mere 2.5 percent area of organic vineyards and vineyards in organic conversion, and about the same amount for other sustainable certifications, this points at the success of the VDC certification. Yet, if the figures look promising in terms of area, they are a lot less rosy when we look at the actual number of domains certified, which hovers presently around 600 from a total of 15,000 growers (of which 365 are certified VDC).


From certification to herbicides, Champagne is at a number of crossroads.© Champagne Campus | From certification to herbicides, Champagne is at a number of crossroads.

The biggest hurdle to expand the certification is the large amount of very small domains exploited by people who have another day job. According to Descotes, more than half of the region’s producers only farm 10 percent of the vineyard area with roughly 8000 growers for 3000 hectares. These people are not really set up to deal with the extra administration linked to certification. To help them, the CIVC has encouraged service providers to apply to be certification qualified. This means they will be able to work the vineyards according to the VDC certification criteria and simplify the certification process. A more detailed certification deployment plan is also being worked out by the CIVC’s technical team, and will be disclosed later this year. Descotes suggested that this plan could also help with the ditching of herbicides.


This will be needed, for if certification grew rapidly since 2015, the same cannot be said about Champagne’s battle against herbicides. In fact, the surfaces farmed without herbicides only increased by four percent since the last figures were released in 2015. At that time, Descotes confirmed that 90 percent of the surfaces still used herbicides under the rows, while roughly two-thirds of the region’s vines were still blanket sprayed. Presently, Descotes refrained from specifying the exact numbers, saying more detailed figures were currently not available.


After being pressed at a local winegrowing meeting on why the region is lagging four years behind the French state, which has tentatively committed to erase herbicides by 2021, Toubart admitted that this decision so far had not unanimously been embraced by the region’s winegrowing community. Olivier Lopez, a winegrower in Hautvillers reaffirmed this, when he dismissed the decision, saying he would use herbicides for as long as he could, because there was no commercial initiative in making changes. He further hinted that it would be very unlikely that effective sanctions would be imposed by the CIVC in case of default. Lopez is far from being the only grower reasoning this way and Evelyne Roques-Boizel, from Champagne Boizel, believes the change will have to be financed by the houses to be generally adopted. Roques-Boizel implied that a reduction in grape prices for grapes from vineyards with herbicides really was the only financially viable way for most houses, but admitted that currently a bonus is often paid to growers working without herbicides. Dominique Demarville, chef de caves at Veuve Clicquot confirmed the latter statement but refrained from commenting on the former.


While many growers rebuke the decision to eliminate herbicides, some domains who have worked without herbicides for a while, regret the extensive timeframe the region adopted to push this change through. Raphael Bérêche, from Domaine Bérêche, gave up herbicides in 2002, and feels it’s the only way forward. “Our clients today are more ecologically aware and do not want to ingest glyphosate. They therefore actively look for products without glyphosate. This means that giving them up should be our highest priority.” Still Bérêche applauds the decision, knowing that the only way to eliminate herbicides is to prohibit their use. Philippe Lancelot, the biodynamic grower at Champagne Philippe Lancelot, is more radical in his views claiming the only reason Champagne cannot completely overhaul its practices in the short term is yield related. “In a wealthy area like ours, the only reason to hang onto herbicides is greed and laziness.”


Pascal Doquet, president of the Association des Champagnes Biologiques (ACB) is also in two minds about the decision. On the one hand, he firmly supports the region’s commitment towards a more ecological way of grape growing. However, on the other hand he fears that once everyone has given up herbicides, more non-organic growers will surf the organic Champagne wave, something which already regularly occurs today. He is not convinced that the 100 percent certification requirement will end up benefiting the organic Champagne community. “It’s unlikely that people still using herbicides at present will convert to organic growing once herbicides are banned. The biggest hurdle to organic growing in Champagne today is not working without herbicides, but the very tight copper restrictions in a mildew prone region.”


The difficult decision to move away from herbicides may have been partly stirred by the slow-down of the Champagne sales. While the exact figures will not be available till March, Perrin asserted sales dropped compared to last year, though he was quick to add that the “mental cap of 300 million bottles had been attained”. This means sales could be down as much as 7 million bottles. French sales continue to erode and, for the first time since the 1930s, export sales have overtaken local sales. The UK sales also look to continue their downward trend, with Barillère warning for further losses in the case of a hard Brexit. However the US, Japan and Australia continue their growth curve, assuring an estimated turnover close to last year’s record of €4.9 billion ($5.6bn).


While Perrin, Barillère and Toubart are happy with the financial result, they warn that the region will need to increase its efforts in all areas to maintain its leading market position. “Today our main challenge is to maintain our customer relationships, we need to add value by the quality of our wines, a more expansive digital communication and the further development of wine tourism at home,” Perrin said.




The Drinks Business- 7th February, 2019 by Lucy Shaw


American wine critic Matt Kramer kicked off the Sauvignon 2019 Celebration in Marlborough last week with a characteristically controversial speech in which he claimed there is no culture of Sauvignon Blanc anywhere in the world.


The first keynote speaker to take to the podium during the three-day event, Kramer stated that the biggest challenge facing Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc was the fact that there was no culture around the grape in any of the world’s leading wine regions.


“New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is the most preposterous, unpredictable success story in the history of wine. You took the world by storm with lightening in a bottle. No one has achieved the same thing in the last 40 years, not even Napa. There’s a sense of impatience, but in wine time you only started last week.


“The future of New Zealand Sauvignon lies in getting a premium, as a commodity wine is a race to the bottom, which you don’t want and can’t afford to do. There is no culture of Sauvignon Blanc anywhere in the world, which is your biggest challenge in terms of being able to command a premium for your wines.


“There’s a culture of Pinot Noir, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, but no culture of Sauvignon Blanc. You have the scale and capital, a distinction of place, 23,000 hectares of vines, and an ability to market the product, but you don’t have the advantage of a culture of Sauvignon Blanc, and without it you can’t command a premium as you can’t go beyond your culture,” Kramer said.


While many may argue that the Loire Valley has successfully built a Sauvignon Blanc culture, particularly in Sancerre, Kramer was quick to dismiss the idea.


“There is no culture of Sauvignon in Sancerre, nor in Bordeaux or Friuli. They didn’t grow Sauvignon Blanc in Sancerre until after phylloxera – before that it was Pinot Noir, Gamay and Chasselas in the ground.


“Pinot became too expensive, so producers in Sancerre turned to Sauvignon Blanc and made it as a commodity wine. They never created a culture there.


“They have a Burgundian vision in Sancerre of small vineyards but there are no stories of monks and kings,” Kramer said. “Now, for the first time, Marlborough is creating a culture of Sauvignon Blanc. When this culture emerges, producers will then be able to command a premium for their wines,” he added.


At the inaugural Sauvignon Blanc Celebration in 2016, Kramer said that Marlborough Sauvignon producers were suffering from a “midlife crisis”.




Taittinger chief says English ‘invented’ Champagne by mistake

Decanter, January 31, 2019


It is the English who deserve credit for inventing Champagne, even if they did it by accident, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger has said in a media interview.


Taittinger, a self-confessed anglophile and CEO of the eponymous Champagne house, waded into the long-running debate over the origins of France’s premier sparkling wine during a video interview with Le Figaro newspaper.


Prompted by the interviewer, Taittinger agreed that the English had invented Champagne, albeit unwittingly. ‘They created Champagne…because of a mistake,’ he said.


He explained that still red and white wines made by Benedictine monks had been shipped across the Channel, but the English left the wines in the London docks, where conditions caused a second fermentation to begin.


‘Like so many big mistakes, it led to a great invention,’ said Taittinger, who has joined with partners to plant a vineyard in southern England. He also crediting a ‘crazy’ side to the English psyche that meant people began to see the fizzy wines as desirable.


Champagne’s true origins have been debated many times over the years.


Some have credited the monk Dom Pérignon with the development of the so-called ‘Méthode Champenoise’ in the late 17th Century.


However, Royal Society records in the UK show that, in December 1662, English scientist Christopher Merret presented a paper on winemaking and described how English merchants would add sugar and molasses to wines to ‘make them drink brisk [frothy] and sparkling’.


It has been reported that Dom Pérignon’s early work in French cellars was actually to prevent a second fermentation in the bottle; a feature initially considered a fault by producers. That stance later changed, of course.


Dom Pérignon is credited with doing much to improve the quality of winemaking and of viticulture during his time as cellarmaster at the Abbey of HautVillers near to Épernay.


It has been argued, therefore, that Dom Pérignon played a crucial role in perfecting the ‘Méthode Champenoise’ that we associate with Champagne and several other sparkling wines today.


The UK is the biggest export market for Champagne in terms of volume, with 27.8 million bottles shipped in 2017.


The perfect temperature for secondary fermentation in the bottle is between 9 and 12 degrees celsius, according to the union of Champagne houses (UMC).



US wineries are selling record amounts direct to consumers

Decanter, Chris Mercer- February 1, 2019


A record $3bn of wine was shipped directly from US wineries to consumers in 2018, but the pace of growth has slowed, according to a new report.


New figures show the value of direct-to-consumer (DTC) shipments for the year rose by 11.6% to a record $3bn, said a report by Sovos and Wines Vines Analytics. That means the market has doubled in value since 2012.


In volume terms, DTC shipments rose by almost 9% versus 2017, to 6.3 million nine-litre cases.


That means 10% of the off-premise wine retail market, outside of bars and restaurants, is now direct-to-consumer sales, said the report’s authors.


However, the pace of growth slowed in 2018 versus the seven-year average.


Growth highlights     


Wineries in Oregon and Sonoma County led the growth, with Oregon rosé helping overall rosé shipments to rise by 24% in volume and 29% in value for the year.


This suggests the rosé trend is alive and well in the US, even though the category was still only 3.6% of all DTC shipments in 2018.


‘Rosé is now the eighth most commonly shipped wine by American wineries, which is remarkable given that in 2011, it was the least popular wine tracked in this report,’ said the authors.


‘On the other side of the ledger, Moscato shipments have plummeted [in 2018],’ they said.


There was more evidence of consumers willing to pay higher prices.


Wines priced at $100 and above increased DTC shipments by 18% in volume. These wines accounted for 6% of the DTC market in volume terms in 2018, up from 4.3% in 2011.


The market share for wines under $30 has fallen in that time, but was still just over 50% in 2018 following 6% growth in shipments in this category for the year.


More key figures


Several important states, including New York and Illinois, underperformed against the overall growth rate in volume terms.


Oklahoma was the only state to begin allowing DTC shipments in 2018, from 1 October. It saw $4.3m-worth of wine shipped by the end of the year.


Oregon grew strongly as a destination for DTC shipments, up by 24.5% in volume versus the previous year.


California accounted for 30% of all DTC shipments by volume in 2018, following a 10% rise, and for 32% of shipments by value, up 11%.


Competition on the rise?


As noted by the report’s authors, a current case before the US Supreme Court has the potential to open up interstate shipping for wine retailers, which may compete with wineries’ DTC sales.


The authors also noted that the ‘subscription economy’ was bringing more players into the direct shipping market, from independent wine clubs to on-demand delivery.


The authors predicted that the DTC market would continue to grow in the next few years, but at a slower pace.





Nine Spanish producers to leave the Cava DO

Decanter, February 1, 2019


Nine sparkling wine producers in Spain’s Penedés region are to quit the Cava denomination and bottle under a new, quality-focused label called Corpinnat.

The move from Gramona, Recaredo, Torelló, Llopart, Nadal, Sabaté i Coca, Mas Candí, Huget-Can Feixes and Júlia Vernet follows months of negotiations between the producers and the Cava Regulatory Board.


The nine producers account for only 1% of Cava production, but 30% of Gran Reserva Cava production and six out of the 13 Parajes Calificados – Cava’s new premium classification.


Members of Corpinnat must adhere to a strict set of production rules, including 100% organic grapes, manual harvest, at least 18 months’ ageing (but with some wines aged for more than 30 and more than 60 months), the inclusion of the wine grower in the value chain and carrying out all vinification in their own winery.


The first sparkling wines labelled as Corpinnat – but not Cava – will be released this spring, along with the words ‘Vino Espumoso de Calidad, Método Tradicional’ (Quality Sparkling Wine, Traditional Method).


A spokesperson for Gramona told Decanter.com, ‘It is going to take about three months for us to finish our Cava stocks before we release the new bottles using Corpinnat labels.’


Corpinnat – roughly translated as ‘Born in the Heart of Penedés’ – was first discussed in 2015 by descendants of the founder members the ‘Agrupación de Elaboradores de Cava’ (Association of Cava Producers) in the 1970s, who were concerned about the future of quality Cava production.


The Asociación de Viticultores y Elaboradores Corpinnat was created in 2017, with the aim of promoting specific areas in the Cava DO, and highlighting quality moves made over the past 50 years by producers who aspire ‘to have Cava considered among the finest sparkling wines of the world’.


Gramona, currently co-president of Corpinnat with Recaredo, said the new venture had been greeted with ‘scepticism’ by the Cava Regulatory Board and, despite some ‘constructive’ discussions, the producers had been left with ‘no other choice’ but to leave the DO.


In 2012, producer Raventos i Blanc quit the Cava DO, adopting an uncertified appellation designation, Conca Del Riu Anoia .




Brexit: UK and US sign wine and spirits trade deals

Decanter, February 5, 2019


Two agreements to maintain the flow of wines and whiskies between the US and UK after Brexit have been signed by both countries.


US officials said that the two ‘continuity’ deals would ensure no disruption to trade in wine and spirits after the UK leaves the European Union, which remains set for 29 March amid ongoing political wrangling in London and Brussels.


Both deals were signed in Washington DC by the US chief agricultural negotiator, Gregg Doud, and the UK’s ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch.


The news follows a similar interim deal between the UK and Chile, and is another example of planning for a possible no-deal Brexit.


The UK is the fourth largest market for US wine exports by value, worth $227m in 2017, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), which announced the trade continuity deals this week.


American whiskies have also grown in popularity in the UK, which was the top export market for US spirits in general in 2017, with shipments worth $187m.


‘The U.S.-UK agreement on trade in wine, which includes commitments regarding wine-making practices and labeling requirements, will ensure market continuity for bilateral wine trade,’ said the USTR’s office.


In spirits, names such as Scotch whisky and Bourbon will continue to enjoy protected status, it said.


The news came as the UK’s Wine & Spirit Trade Association highlighted the growth of American whiskies in the UK, despite a 25% tariff on imports imposed by the European Commission in 2018 in response to US steel tariffs.


‘In 2018, the equivalent of 27.6 million bottles of US whiskey were exported to the UK, which is more than double the amount sent here 10 years ago,’ said the WSTA.


It called on the UK government to suspend the 25% tariff after Brexit.




Wine ‘Apparently Safe’ for Type 2 Diabetics: New Report

Wine Spectator, January 23, 2019


Though numerous studies have shown the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, most researchers are hesitant to recommend that someone who doesn’t drink should start for their health. Many scientific reports do just the opposite, cautioning readers that, just because wine was shown to have a certain health benefit in a particular study, doesn’t mean nondrinkers should suddenly begin enjoying a daily glass.


But now a recent report from a study on wine and type 2 diabetes suggests that those with the disease might experience benefits if they switch from abstention to moderate drinking, with evidence to back up the claim.


The paper, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is a summary of findings from the CASCADE (CArdiovaSCulAr Diabetes and Ethanol) trial, in which 224 participants with type 2 diabetes who previously abstained from alcohol were instructed to drink a glass of either red wine, white wine, or water each day, and follow a Mediterranean diet. The researchers, a team from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, have previously published papers on specific aspects of the trial, but the new report rounds up the major findings.


“Although several … studies demonstrated protective associations between moderate drinking and cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, hypertension, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, neurological disorders and metabolic syndrome, no conclusive recommendations exist regarding moderate wine consumption,” state the authors. “Here, we … suggest that initiating moderate alcohol consumption among well controlled persons with type 2 diabetes is apparently safe.”


They point to two key substudies of the trial that illustrate this conclusion. One substudy, as previously reported, reveals that wine was shown to slow the progression of atherosclerosis in diabetics.


The second substudy focused on heart rate variability (HRV), or the variation in the time interval between heartbeats. (Poor HRV is common in type 2 diabetics, and is a predictor of cardiovascular disease and overall mortality.)


To determine whether moderate, regular wine consumption had an effect on HRV in type 2 diabetics, the researchers selected 45 of the trial’s participants—22 of whom were assigned to drink red wine and 23 of whom were assigned to drink water—to participate in 24-hour electrocardiogram tests, both at the beginning of the trial and after two years. They found no significant changes, meaning that while there wasn’t necessarily a positive long-term impact on HRV for abstainers who began drinking, there wasn’t any apparent danger, either. Coupled with the atherosclerosis findings, this suggests wine is a healthy option.


The study also found differences between men and women: Women who drank red wine had significantly increased HDL (known as “the good cholesterol”) levels compared to those who drank white wine or water; the men’s groups saw no such differences in these levels. This finding, along with other differential effects of alcohol between men and women, should be taken into consideration when thinking about drinking and your health, the researchers say.


It’s worth noting that the study used funding from the Mediterranean Diet Foundation, a Barcelona-based nonprofit that promotes research on the Mediterranean diet, of which moderate wine consumption is a traditional part; the researchers declare that they have no conflict of interest in regard to this study.


Of course, any study on wine and health—whether it’s good news or bad—does not replace medical advice from a professional. Individuals, regardless of whether they have diabetes, or any other disease for that matter, should check with their doctor before making decisions about drinking for their health.


As the study’s text notes: “Although both the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association discuss moderate alcohol consumption in their guidelines, a conclusive recommendation is not given, [nor is] a recommendation to initiate moderate intake.” This research might help change that.



Portugal’s Largest Wine Company Bets Big on White Wine Grape Arinto

Wine Spectator, February 4, 2019


The Portuguese wine group Sogrape Vinhos is making a big bet on a white grape you may not have heard of: Arinto. Last month, the company acquired Quinta da Romeira, owners of Portugal’s largest Arinto vineyard, from the Ferreira family. The sale price was not disclosed.


Quinta da Romeira’s labels include Prova Régia and Morgado de Sta. Catherina. The winery, located in Bucelas, about 15 miles outside Lisbon, owns 445 acres, of which nearly 185 acres are planted to Arinto. The winery produces more than 50,000 cases per year. The sale allows Sogrape to grow its regional diversity, and confirms the belief among the company’s principals that there is quality winemaking potential beyond the Douro Valley.


“The move for the Lisbon region was mandatory for Sogrape,” Fernando da Cunha Guedes, Sogrape’s CEO, told Wine Spectator. “And to make it in the Bucelas subregion is a source of great joy and pride, but also of great responsibility.” António Braga, head winemaker of Sogrape in charge of Mateus, Vinhos Verdes and Dão, will be responsible for the Romeira wines.


Sogrape is the biggest wine company in Portugal, with annual revenue around US$250 million, more than the seven next biggest producers combined. The firm exports 70 percent of its total production, and the United States comprises around 15 percent of its export sales. Historically built on the success of Portuguese rosé Mateus, the family-run company was founded in 1942. The company performs well with both big-volume wines and high-end, terroir-driven cuvées like Casa Ferreirinha’s Barca-Velha.


The company’s expansion has been steady, encompassing investments both in Portugal and abroad. Today, Sogrape owns vineyards and brands in New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, and Spain. In Portugal, Sogrape has been working to diversify its regional offerings, with wineries and brands in the Douro and Porto, Bairrada, Vinhos Verdes, Dão, Alentejo and even Madeira.


Arinto, a very aromatic, high-acidity grape that makes expressive and balanced wines, is arguably one of Portugal’s best white wine grapes. It’s native to the Bucelas appellation, which was established in 1908, but whose wines have earned praise for centuries: During the Napoleonic Wars, the Duke of Wellington, commander of the Portuguese-English allied army and a food and wine lover, carried Arinto de Bucelas wines home to London as an offering to King George III.

Paris has its own geographical indication

January 11 2019 by Vitisphere

After seven years of administrative procedures, the Ile-de-France PGI had its birth certificate signed on December 5 during a meeting of the INAO National PGI Committee. However, the lengthy procedure is not over yet because the National Opposition Procedure (PNO) is due to be opened, and can still slow down the introduction of the Ile-de-France geographical indication, designed to boost wine production in Ile-de-France. “We are keeping a low profile because we have to go all the way through with the procedure. We will be delighted when we have the first bottles labelled PGI”, comments Patrice Bersac, who led the project as chairman of the Ile de France wine growers’ association Syvif.

Still wines

The PGI covers the historic Ile-de-France region, i.e. around 380 localities. A buffer zone between the PGI and Champagne production areas, where the PGI cannot be produced, is planned. The zone will protect Champagne from any misuse of notoriety. Additionally, the PGI’s specifications only provide for still red, white and rosé wines.


Planting disease-resistant vines

Forty-six producers are in the starting blocks, ready to produce their first wines in 2019 (if the opposition procedure does not suspend the PGI). Most of them, around three-quarters, are farmers interested in diversifying their production to include wine growing. They will be able to choose their vines from a list of 83 grape varieties, some of them long-standing disease-resistant varieties such as Maréchal Foch.  Plans also include incorporating the twelve new disease-resistant varieties recently added to the official catalogue, perhaps as early as 2019. The aim for the PGI Ile-de-France is to focus on these disease-tolerant grape varieties in a bid to protect the environment.


Champagne aims to be herbicide-free by 2025

December 21 2018 by Vitisphere

“The die is cast: the political debate on glyphosate, which is certainly not the most dangerous molecule, is a good example of what to expect”, said Jean-Marie Barillère, chairman of the association of Champagne houses, at the AGM of the Champagne winegrowers’ association on December 6 in Epernay. “There is a strong chance that the molecules we know and use today will no longer be approved from 2022, i.e. tomorrow”. For the chairman of the negociants, there are only two possible outcomes: “Either we move forward or we should expect to be forced to move forward with all the risks that this entails from an ecological perspective, in terms of image and therefore economy for our industry and our companies. I would rather map out a virtuous future for Champagne, than live in the past”. Barillère has set two objectives for the Champagne industry: the end to herbicides in 2025 and 100% certified vineyards (Ed: sustainable viticulture) by 2030.


An end to herbicides does not mean zero carbon


Maxime Toubart, chairman of the Champagne winegrowers’ association, is on the same wavelength: “Yes, the objective is to be able to talk about a 100% sustainable, committed and exemplary Champagne region in a few years’ time, and to be able to state that no weedkillers are used”.


In 2025, the ban on the use of herbicides could be included in production specifications for the appellation, although no official decision has been made so far.


The other moot point is: will the zero weedkiller objective be compatible with Champagne’s scheme to reduce its carbon footprint (down 14% since 2003) ?


XXO Cognacs join the appellation

January 08 2019 by Vitisphere

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Created in 1870, the XXO statement was used by Hennessy until 1932, judging by bottles found. The eponymous brand was re-launched at the end of 2017.Created in 1870, the XXO statement was used by Hennessy until 1932, judging by bottles found. The eponymous brand was re-launched at the end of 2017. –

The statement XXO, for ‘Extra Extra Old’, can now be used for Cognac with a proven age of 14 years or more, in accordance with new specifications for the appellation, following a November 8, 2018 decree. “Stemming from XO, XXO is designed for collective use and cannot be appropriated by a brand”, explains Éric Billhouet, chairman of the Cognac producers’ organisation, a section of the National Cognac Marketing Board BNIC, who admits that so far use of the statement has only been requested by one Charente house, though it is a prominent one.

Claiming authorship of the XO and XXO designations – in 1870 by Maurice Hennessy – Hennessy Cognacs can now confidently re-release their XXO label, sale of which was suspended from the end of 2017 to mid-2018 by French trading standards. The authorities viewed XXO as a misuse of the ageing statement. Their viewpoint was shared by some Charente firms, at a time when innovation within the category remains very much a sensitive issue, as revealed by Martell’s Blue Swift, whose maturation is finished in Bourbon barrels.


Common agreement

“The decision was taken by mutual agreement between the trade, producers, the marketing board and producers’ organisation”, says Florent Morillon, production director for Hennessy, who is also chairman of the Regional INAO Committee (CRINAO). Although any company that complies with the specifications is eligible for the statement, Cognac’s leading firm is positioning its XXO as “an exceptional bottling, with a price tag twice that of the XO”, points out Florent Morillon. Released in Asian duty-free channels, the limited edition Cognac could also be distributed in other markets.


US wine drinkers defined in six segments

Harpers, 26 November, 2018

US drinkers are changing their behaviour towards the wine category, the US Portraits 2018 from Wine Intelligence has revealed.

The report said the US is the most “populous wine market” in the world with 84 million regular wine drinkers.

With such a large wine market it was “only natural” that consumers displayed different behaviours and attitudes in the wine category, it said.

It identified six distinct consumer segments in the US market and highlighted that since its last report in 2016 there had been a shift in their behaviours, which has prompted updated segmentation as per below.

The report said that ‘Engaged Explorers’, which refers to the younger population, were also the most frequent wine drinkers and the highest spenders. These consumers buy from a broad repertoire of wine styles, countries and regions. The report describes them as being the most “experimental group”, actively seeking opportunities to build wine experiences.

The ‘Premium Brand Suburbans’ are also frequent wine drinkers but are the mid to older age. They are amongst the lowest spenders per bottle, sticking to the wines and brands they know. Their category experience leads them to have the highest wine knowledge of all six consumers segments, it said.

The ‘Contented Treaters’ are also mid and older aged. These are affluent drinkers who are described as ‘high spenders’, yet they enjoy wine relatively infrequently. The report describes them as “knowledgeable and involved”. They enjoy a broad range of wine types and styles and are often influenced by the origin of the wine.

The youngest wine-drinking segment is described as ‘Social Newbies’. They drink wine on average twice a week, are mid spenders, but wine is not yet fully integrated into their lifestyle. According to the report they have limited wine category knowledge and rely heavily on recommendations.

The ‘Senior Bargain Hunters’ are the least frequent and one of the oldest wine drinking segments. According to the report their time drinking within the category has led to “relatively strong” wine knowledge. However, they still purchase from a narrow repertoire of wine styles and brands, being strongly value driven.

Finally, ‘Kitchen Casuals’ who are also one of the oldest segments are infrequent wine drinkers, with very few consuming wine in the on-premise. They show a limited interest in the wine category, sticking to the narrow range of wines they know.


New downturn for Beaujolais Nouveau

Monday November 19 2018 by Vitisphere

Beaujolais nouveau, a wine whose success with consumers is gradually diminishing.

The 2018 bulk campaign for Beaujolais and Beaujolais-villages primeur wines was again marked by a decline in volumes traded. A total of 133,000 hectolitres of wine were traded on 7 November 2018, compared with 145,000 hl last year. The bulk market therefore continues to slowly deteriorate despite the efforts of the marketing board. “We would like to see it stabilise, but we haven’t yet found the key”, said vice-chairman David Ratignier.

Reasons for this include the downturn in exports, once again, to Japan, a long-standing customer of Beaujolais Nouveau. “We are competing on store shelves with regional primeur wines, which are confusing Japanese consumers”, he explained. The recent storms that have hit the country also have a direct impact on wine consumption. Another explanation is that last year, buyers made “hedge” purchases for around 3,000 hl, which they did not renew this year.

2 appellations but 1 price

The loss of volume only involves the Beaujolais appellation, which dropped by 11,500 hl, while the Beaujolais-villages appellation remains stable at 51,500 hl. It seems that over time, the average prices of the two AOCs are tending to fall and meet each other in the middle, with the first AOC falling less quickly than the second. Prices currently stand at €197 /hl for the Beaujolais appellation and €200 /hl for Beaujolais-villages.


New technology to track grape development for better harvest

Winetitles, November 22nd, 2018

Measuring and tracking the development of grapes in the vineyard is now easier – thanks to a mobile phone app developed by the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC) and funded by Wine Australia.

The WineOz Smart Grape Android app was developed by Charles Sturt University (CSU) researchers and is available for growers and vineyard managers to use this coming harvest.

Lead researcher and NWGIC Director, Professor Leigh Schmidtke, said, “This smartphone app allows growers to quickly measure and then chart the colour and size of the berries.

“A probe around the size of a single grape is inserted into the cluster to act as a reference point for size in the app.

“You then take a picture of the grape cluster. The algorithms in the computer program calibrate the distance from the camera to the berries. The software will also take the probe measurement in pixels then relate it to the size of the surrounding grapes.

“As grapes mature they change colour, for instance, white varieties go from pea green to yellow gold as they develop. Each particular shade in that colour change relates to changes in the sensory style of wine.

“Being able to measure and chart colour change is very valuable and allows winemakers to predict when they should be harvesting the grapes to end up with the style of wine they want to produce.

“What’s more, the colour and berry size data can be used to monitor negative developments in the crop. For example, if you start to see a reduction in the size of the berries that you wouldn’t expect as they normally mature, you know that they are losing water and can take remedial action.”

Wine Australia General Manager Research, Development and Extension, Dr Liz Waters, said the app has translated Australian-based research on sequential harvesting into a simple tool that growers can use in the coming vintage.

“The app will make it easier for grapegrowers and winemakers to use objective measures – proven for Australian conditions – to determine the optimum fruit picking ‘window’ to suit desired wine styles by tracking the evolution of fruit colour (white varieties) or volume (for red and white varieties)”, Dr Waters said.

“By measuring berry volume, the app will also allow grapegrowers to make improvements to irrigation scheduling to control vine water status, which will assist in avoiding berry water loss and shrivel, enhance fruit quality, and improve bunch consistency.”

The Android app is available through Google Play and is supported by other resources on the NWGIC website.

The research was carried out by a multidisciplinary team including Professor Schmidtke from the CSU School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences, Dr Ken Ang and Dr Jasmine Seng from the CSU School of Computing and Mathematics, and Mr Alex Oczkowski from the NWGIC.

At 709 million bottles/year, Paris is a beacon for global wine consumption

November 12 2018, by Vitisphere

Paris drinks its way through 709 million bottles annually, making it the world’s leading wine consumer city, according to an OpinionWay study commissioned by Wine Paris. With 33 million tourists each year, Paris forms the hub of the consumer base in France and worldwide. “The experience of drinking wine is in itself a form of tourism”, said journalist Philippe Lefebvre, who moderated the conference where the results were unveiled. “Wine Paris will be held on neutral ground and it is the perfect place for all stakeholders to meet”, said Pascale Ferranti, the show’s director.

A large majority of French people drink wine: one in two people drink it at least once a week. 94% of wine consumers buy French wine and 59% of them do so at least once a month. Particular favourites are Bordeaux (48%), Burgundy (41%) and the Rhone Valley (31%). There is a local flavour to drinking patterns with consumers mainly buying wines from their home region. Top of the list are the Corsicans:  88% of them buy wine from their ‘island of Beauty’. In New Aquitaine, 65% of residents buy Bordeaux and 71% of those who live in Burgundy Franche-Comté buy Burgundy.

Ironically in this digital age, only 22% of French people buy their wines online. “Wine is not a routine product, it involves contact with people”, explained Philippe Lefebvre. The study also highlights the fact that for 91% of the French, the country’s vineyards and wine are recognised as being part of their national heritage.


2.0 communications: Champagne wine growers successfully charm Millennials by surprising them

13 November 2018,  by Vitisphere

Maxime Toubart, chairman of the Champagne Winegrowers’ Association (SGV) and Maxime Blin, rapporteur of the region’s development committee, were ostensibly delighted as they presented the results of the Ipsos survey on marketing and PR activities launched in June 2018. Their gambit was daring and took the form of four simple visuals, showing a glass of Champagne alongside a hard-boiled egg, a sardine, an artichoke and a camembert cheese. The results of the Ipsos survey of 300 people aged 18 to 60 show that it has clearly paid off.

The survey shows that 85% of 25-49 year olds find the campaign offbeat, with an average of 66%. Men aged 25-49 were the biggest fans of the campaign. “The visuals are surprising but not displeasing”, said Maxime Blin. “The campaign does not follow classic conventions but people like it”. 7,000 posters were displayed in June 2018 on bus shelters and newsstands, followed by a further 5,000 in September. The SGV has also been very active on Facebook and Instagram, with visuals and videos featuring other suggestions for Champagne pairings.

“The initial brief was clear: surprise people”, said Maxime Toubart. “Some viewed it as an attack on classic Champagne conventions. The target was not 50-year-old winegrowers, but Millennials (25-45 years old). We are satisfied with the results, but we must continue and ramp up our efforts. And there must be purchase conversion”.  The budget for the thrust totalled €4 million and will be renewed in 2019 and 2020. Four new visuals will be chosen for the next wave of posters that will be released in June 2019. The SGV is considering extending digital communications to neighbouring Belgium and Luxembourg and French-speaking countries, as well as to major foreign cities where Champagne is drunk.

How the roll of the sea can benefit wine maturation

October 31 2018 by Vitisphere

At least on one return trip. Harvested in 2017, the PGI Côtes Catalanes label by Domaine du Paradis was bottled in March 2018, then left Le Havre the following month to cross the Suez Canal, travel around Asia and return in August to rest for two months in Roussillon. These novel bottles, to say the least, are now commercially available for subscribers to Le Petit Ballon in the form of a “message in a bottle” box, comprising the control bottle, which stayed on dry land, and the test that went to sea. The retail price on the website is 23.89 euros.

“We must test innovation in wines”, claims William Jonquères d’Oriola, who owns 77 hectares of vines in Roussillon divided between Château de Corneilla del Vercol, Domaine du Paradis and Jonquères d’Oriola. Inspired by 19th century tasting notes reporting that wines shipped to England or India tasted better when they arrived than those left at the docks, the winemaker had the idea of shipping bottles of wine around the world in containers to compare them to those left on dry land.

Accelerated ageing

“Fortunately… The test was conclusive!” he rejoiced, reporting clear differences between the two versions of the same wine.  “When stored at the winery, the wine still has purple highlights, more tightly-wound tannins and a more forthright nose. Conversely, those that travelled around the world experienced accelerated ageing, they have evolved more in terms of aroma and structure,” explained Jonquères d’Oriol, satisfied to see that a project that has been on his mind for years has finally been realised.

Europe produces 27% more wine in 2018

Monday October 29 2018 by Vitisphere

In 2018, the 28 Member States of the European Union are expected to produce 168.4 million hl of wine according to initial estimates by the Directorate-General for Agriculture. This translates to a 27% increase in EU production potential compared with the 2017 vintage, which was marked by frost. If confirmed, European wine production will therefore return to its five-year average, yet still remain far short of its peak in 2004. Maintaining its position as the leading European and global producer, Italy is expected to produce 48.5 million hl of wine (+34% compared to 2017), but will not reach the all-time high some expected – Italian oenologists at one point released an estimate of 56 million hl.

France now ranks second, producing 46.1 million hl (+28%) according to the European Commission. After only just scraping through into second place in 2017 – with 35.9 million hl, compared with 35.5 million hl for Spain – France’s wine regions have strengthened their position despite yields undermined this year by drought and mildew. Initially forecast to be higher (44 million hl), the Spanish harvest is ultimately set to weigh in at 41 million hl (+27%). Despite the downward revision, prices are unlikely to remain stable and the country’s winegrowers have been denouncing cartel-type pricing agreements.

A quarter of European wines are French

The top three countries, Italy, France and Spain alone, account for 81% of European wine production. French wines represent 27% of the European crop. Their share of appellation wines (PDO) stands at 28%, rising to 36% for wines with a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).


Initial feedback from winegrowers on the Naïo weeding robot

Thursday October 25 2018 by Vitisphere

From the historic Percheron horse to the more common tractors, a high-tech plough has become an alternative solution for tilling and weeding Bordeaux’s right bank: TED, the electric robot by Toulouse start-up Naïo Technologies. Equipped alternately with inter-vine hoes and Kress finger weeders, the robot is as striking as it is surprising (see video below).

“We are surprised by its effectiveness”, summed up Emmanuel Massé, vineyard manager at Château Fombrauge (60 hectares in Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé) who has been hosting weed control trials since June. “At a speed of 4 km/h, the device works the soil to a depth of 4 to 5 centimetres to break up the weeds. With a battery charge of 8 hours, TED is able to work continuously on 30 to 40 hectares for 5 days a week,” said Benoît Chaillan, head of vineyard monitoring at Naïo.

In practical terms, TED needs to record the map of the relevant vineyard (previously mapped by drone or by marking the entry and exit of the rows). In theory, the robot can then drive directly on the tracks in the vineyard and manoeuvre around the end of the row to move on to the next. In practice, the test carried out on October 12 in Saint-Émilion showed that rain the day before made the ground too sticky for the cylinders currently installed to successfully accomplish the manoeuvre automatically and more powerful cylinders will soon be mounted on the pre-series.


Slippery slope or one-off opportunity?

Wineland, 1 Dec, 2017

Heroic viticulture is being increasingly recognised in countries such as Spain, Portugal and Argentina and effectively used to sell good wines from extreme vineyards at higher price points.

Planting and managing vineyards on extreme sites is nothing new, but the concept might seem foreign to some. Heroic viticulture, a phrase that evokes romantic images of rugged vineyard workers harvesting grapes on impossibly steep mountain slopes, refers to the conditions of terrains that make cultivating vineyards so difficult.

The Centre for Research, Environmental Sustainability and Advancement of Mountain Viticulture (Cervim), an OIV initiative, is an international organisation that specifically promotes and protects heroic viticulture. Its criteria that define this type of viticulture are specific: Vineyards must be sited at altitudes of at least 500 m and vines must be planted on terraces or embankments at gradients greater than 30% or small islands in difficult growing conditions.

Based on these criteria about seven percent of Europe’s vineyards qualify for heroic viticulture, with more than half of these extreme vineyards found in Switzerland and Portugal. Numerous European countries and their neighbours to the east practise heroic viticulture, including Italy, Portugal, Spain, the Principality of Andorra, France, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Armenia, Georgia and Kazakhstan.

While the exact definition of extreme or even high-altitude viticulture might be disputed, countries that deserve a mention for high-altitude vineyards include Argentina, Chile and China with vineyards as high as 3 100 m, 2 500 m and 2 600 m respectively above sea level respectively. For more information on high-altitude viticulture go to winewisdom.com/articles/facts-and-figures/high-altitude-viticulture/ and decanter.com/learn/south-americas-extreme-vineyards-377906/.

What’s the angle?

The increased risk of frost, hail and wind, and higher production costs are realities of heroic viticulture, but European consumer and producer surveys show the wine from these extreme vineyards are sold at higher price points, making this type of viticulture attractive to the producer.

Making a good wine and attaching its origin and regionality to the marketing tale is an ingenious move, especially if the origin happens to be extreme sites. Super Single Vineyards owner and winemaker Daniel de Waal says they, like many Argentine producers, are trying to foster consumers’ relationship with the terroir instead of the varietal – and it’s paying off.

“These producers benefit by using the extreme region itself as a marketing tool and not just the generic varietals the wines are produced from; as the extreme regions carry more USPs. At SSV, we focus on sourcing from single vineyards selected for their terroir and regionality.

“Our vineyards in the Sutherland-Karoo region are planted at an altitude of 1 500 m above sea level, 350 km inland from the coast, with a cool continental climate. The high altitude ensures cool temperatures in summer during day time, not exceeding 32°C and as low as 5°C during the night; high enough to escape the fiercest of hot Karoo days and ensure the vines are covered with snow in winter. The low average temperatures are greatly beneficial. The high light intensity contributes to the ripe, supple tannin structures we achieve. The fruit itself is unique; with berries and bunches half the size of the average fruit from other regions, resulting in great concentration, colour and low yields.

“Fed by fresh water from the melting snow in winter, together with the occasional ‘elusive’ rainfall, the vineyards are blessed with ancient, deep scali and clay soils. The incredible depth allow for very deep root penetration, assisting the vines during the dry summer season. Remoteness and the cold winters result in an area completely free of disease. Black frost is our main challenge during spring when the young shoots are at their most vulnerable.”

Living dangerously

Groot Constantia viticulturist Floricius Beukes also has first-hand experience of heroic viticulture with extreme vineyard sites on the estate. “Some of our Sauvignon Blanc vines are planted up to 236 m above sea level at a slope of 43.7%. With our lowest vineyard just 40 m above sea level, the increase to 236 m is significant. We also have Pinotage and Merlot on pretty nasty slopes. The higher-altitude slopes are about 10°C cooler than the vineyards at lower altitudes. The lower temperatures allow a longer ripening period, which yields more concentrated, complex grapes compared with the vines lower down on the farm. Even though the crop is small and farming not necessarily easy, these vineyards produce magical wines.”

Floricius says that planting on extreme sites on the estate was primarily done out of necessity. “Groot Constantia is a relatively small estate, which means we have limited land. We don’t have the luxury of only farming the easy sites. That’s why we planted some Pinotage and Merlot on Glenrosa soils on the very steep north-facing slopes, which are a rare commodity in Constantia.”

Managing these extreme vineyards is no walk in the park. “Soil erosion and wind damage lead to a lower yield,” Floricius says. “And with an average rainfall of more than 1 000 mm a year, you have to be well prepared to minimise damage when it pours in July and August. The vineyards at these altitudes are also more exposed to the southeaster, especially during flowering. This can have a serious effect on our crop. The occasional black southeaster in late spring has done a fair bit of damage to young growth.

“It’s also really difficult and very dangerous to farm on these slopes – we’ve written off a few tractors in the mountain. The cost is a lot higher to farm these vineyards. All vehicles must have 4×4 traction, fuel consumption is not great and the wear and tear on vehicles, tractors and farming implements is high.”

Telling a story

Further inland to the north, the Cederberg is home to vines that are 1 036 metres above sea level. The Cederberg is one of two places in the country where the cold climate is not due to coastal influence, Cederberg Wines owner and winemaker David Nieuwoudt says. The other is the Swartberg.

“A cooler climate means slower grape development. Add to this a virus-free area and you’re talking perfect circumstances. With high altitudes a big difference between day and night temperatures is a given. This leads to an extended ripening period and optimal physiological ripeness, especially with varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz where we see very solid tannin structure and soft wines.”

If you have a special or even extreme site, you need to be careful with the use of specific terminology. “If you have or work with ‘the highest’, ‘the steepest’ or ‘the coolest’ know your facts and competition in the category. Don’t lie about your sites or products – if you do, someone is bound to catch you out and your carefully planned presentation will collapse spectacularly. At Cederberg Wines we focus on the facts and can add isolation, incredible water, being surrounded by a conservation area and the absence of disease to our marketing story.”

European consumer and producer surveys have shown the value and sustainability of heroic viticulture – in other words, consumers perceive good wines from extreme vineyards as being of a higher quality than wines from traditional vineyards and are consequently prepared to fork out more for them.

David says while local producers can benefit from this type of marketing (which is not new in South Africa), there are challenges. “When you look at what is being written about heroic viticulture (see http://www.wineandtravelitaly.com/83-blog-do-you-know-what-heroic-viticulture-is-.html) you could say Wosa, when it was first launched in 1999 and steered by Sue Birch, was ahead of its time. It did not have funding and only a small percentage of the wine industry backed it.

“It will be difficult to create a similar body to Cervim in South Africa, this despite Wosa’s high-quality initial groundwork. We have enough information, but now somebody has to adapt and run with it. Wosa has identified some pretty extreme vineyards, but the information has to be used to promote our vineyards.”

André Morgenthal of the Old Vines Project and formerly Wosa agrees with David. “About 10 to 15 years ago Wosa had the vision to start looking for extreme vineyards in South Africa. The purpose was specifically to promote South African wines that had their origins in extreme and marginal vineyards. By differentiating the wines that came from these marginalised sites and focusing on their quality a higher price point could be achieved.”

As heroic viticulture suggests, the people that manage and tend to extreme vineyards are heroes. But perhaps the SA wine industry also needs more heroes in the form of marketers, producers, viticulturists and researchers who can promote the regionality and ultimately boost the price of wine from extreme sites. Just think what Daniel, Floricius, David and the producers from Cape Point Vineyards, Bonfire Hill Extreme Vineyards and Anthonij Rupert Wines, to name just a few, have achieved by marketing their extreme sites.

New pest and disease identification technology set to revolutionize agri-industry

Wineland, 14 Oct, 2018

On 11 October 2018, global precision agriculture company, Aerobotics, launched five new innovations that have never been seen before in the agriculture industry. These innovations were designed with the farmer in mind to build on top of Aerobotics’ world leading solutions that have been helping farmers with early pest and disease detection for years. Aerobotics’ new leaf-by-leaf Drone Scouting Application will give farmers access to artificial intelligence (AI) that detects the exact problems impacting their trees, quickly, accurately and without having to step foot onto the crop themselves.

The announcements were made during Aerobotics’ Future of Farming 2018 events, which were not held in city centers, but in 11 locations in mostly farming communities around South Africa with more than 700 people in attendance. The events, like Aerobotics’ technology and solutions, were designed from the ground up for the farmer.

“We have been working extremely hard over the past few years with growers and industry partners to create technology that will completely change how farmers manage their crops, identify stressed trees and spot individual pests and diseases without stepping foot on the farm,” said Aerobotics Co-Founder and CEO James Paterson. “This kind of technology has been the stuff of agri-tech legend, but today we are making the Future of Farming a reality.”

Once the drones capture high resolution images of stressed trees, these images will be run through Aerobotics’ first-ever tree crop and vineyard pest and disease detection database. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, pests and disease will be identified, and the results then communicated via push notifications to the farmer. Additionally, the Aeroview system will now automatically generate scout routes for farmers using Aerobotics’ AI.

“Until now, the farmer has had to take time to visit each individual tree and rely on past experience and knowledge in the field to identify pests and disease,” said Aerobotics Data Science Manager Michael Malahe. “Now, Aeroview has the technology to do all of this for the farmer. The amount of time, energy and money that farmers can save with Aerobotics’ new technology is impressive.”

Once the system has automatically detected problem trees that need further investigation and a scout route has been planned using AI, Aerobotics’ Drone Scouting Application will send the route to a drone.

The drone will take off and fly a custom-designed mission, locating trees which have been identified as experiencing stress. The drone will come down to approximately one metre above the tree to take a high-resolution image. This image will capture data at leaf-specific detail and be uploaded to Aerobotics’ pest and disease database.

“Aerobotics has been looking at how we can combine our technology and farming knowledge to help farmers streamline their operations and save time and money,” said Aerobotics Co-Founder and CTO Benji Meltzer. “This has massive implications for the farming sector as early detection of these risks will enable early intervention, saving farmers costs, protecting crops and saving yields exposed to harmful pests and disease.”

“Our clients look to us to bring innovative solutions to market which save them time and grow their yield. This is definitely going to do that on a large scale,” said Aerobotics COO Andrew Burdock. “The more data we collect over time, the quicker and more accurate the system will become in identifying the pest and disease risk in the future.”

“Farmers once roamed their crops, inspecting their plants manually. Our initial solution enabled drones to survey the route and guide farmers to the location of trees under stress, but still required manual scouting,” said Aerobotics Head of Product Nasreen Patel. “Now, the drone will do the scouting, enabling the farmer to review their orchards from their web browser.”

“Aerobotics has built an application that enables drones to do the work in minutes that used to take farmers hours,” said Aerobotics CFO and Head of Growth Timothy Willis. “We can now use Aeroview to find stressed trees and vines by creating a scouting route for farmers without them having to lift a finger.”

How to Denmark

Meiningers, 7. October 2018

Wine can be bought everywhere in Denmark: at the gas station, the florist, the supermarket, the specialist store, your newspaper’s wine club and from numerous websites. This is because in Denmark, unlike other Scandinavian countries, there is no government monopoly to regulate alcohol sales.

Wine is a Danish favourite and at 36 litres per head a year, Denmark is the biggest wine consumer of the non-wine producing countries. The wine-thirsty Danes drink so much, in fact, that they have enough supermarket square metres to supply a country of 17m inhabitants rather than the 5.6m who populate Denmark.

Not only is the supply of wine endless but so is the variety, from vin nature to English sparkling, thanks to more than one thousand small importers; for many of them, wine is more con amore than for profit. By contrast, 83% of wine is distributed by the big multiples through their supermarket chains. The on-trade represents about 7% of the market, with specialist stores, tank stations and online sales accounting for the other 10%. Of the 36 litres drunk annually by Danes, 18% is bought across the German border because Germany has no wine tax and only 19% VAT compared to Denmark’s 25%. Several Danish wine companies have therefore established companies over the border to supply this trade, competing with their national outlets.

The retailers

Coop is Denmark’s largest retailer, operating the chains of Kvickly, SuperBrugsen, Dagli’Brugsen, Irma and Fakta and with a market share of close to 50%, followed by The Salling Group (until 1 June 2018 known as Dansk Supermarked) and its chains Netto, Føtex and Bilka. Dagrofa is third with Meny, Spar, Min Købmand and Let Køb. Fourth is Reitangruppen, with its chain of supermarkets called Rema 1000.

These multiples operate as in the UK, with a few people in the head office of each national chain doing the buying. The competition between them is fierce and they all use wine as bait, to the benefit of Danish consumers, who get very good prices. As Karsten Søndergaard, one of their suppliers, explains: “Five years ago a wine at DKK 35 ($5.48) tasted awful. That’s not the case anymore. Why buy a wine for DKK 100 ($15.68) when you can get one for half the price, just as good?”

Karsten Søndergaard is a remarkable Dane. Forty years ago his wife Anna-Marie Søndergaard began importing wine as a hobby. As it grew, Søndergaard gave up his job to join her and they established a wine company called AMKA. The first to supply Danish customers with big quantities of New World wines from Chile and South Africa, AMKA grew fast. Today, the AMKA Group has 20 companies in Denmark and nine other countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Iceland and Portugal. It has 2,800 wines in its portfolio and does business with all the Danish multiples, wine shops, B2B, HoReCas, duty free and travel retail outlets, and re-exports to its Scandinavian and Baltic companies. Søndergaard’s employees in Finland, Norway and Sweden travel around the world just to source wine demanded by the monopolies in these countries.

When asked what it’s like to sell wine in Denmark, Søndergaard laughs. “Very easy. You can sell almost everything and there are no restrictions,” he says. “For instance, in Germany many customers demand both the importer and the producer to have an IFS [International Featured Standard] Certification.” This is not necessary in Denmark.

The big retailers are constantly adapting their operations to trends such as the demand for low alcohol wines. “The consumer is looking for lighter, less alcoholic wines – but where do you find that? You start looking everywhere. You get the Chileans to make Pinot Noir, or buy Spätburgunder from Germany.” Instead of the recently trendy Amarone, Søndergaard says his company is now looking for lighter red wines from northern Italy and Veneto. As a consequence of climate change and generally warmer weather in Denmark, the Danes are drinking less red wine and turning to whites like German Grauburgunder and Austrian Grüner Veltliner. “The Portuguese Vinho Verde is the newest pop-up, together with rosé from Porto, that a few years ago would get the no-go-nod. There is also a trend of France being back with their high-end Bordeaux.” Søndergaard adds that new trends are often first seen in Sweden, then move to Copenhagen, and then fan out to the rest of the country after a year’s delay.

Although the Danish economy is strong and the Danes affluent, the retail market is exquisitely price sensitive – six bottles on offer for DKK 200 is what dominates sales, according to Søndergaard. In the segment from DKK 30 to DKK 50 there is no consumer loyalty as there is for more expensive wines like Port or a Santa Rita Medalla Real. Packaging is very important, he continues, saying that many of the wines his company sells are tailored to the Danish market, from the taste to the packaging. “When we talk about volume, we are the decision makers and in control of packaging for about 75% of all the wine we sell.”

Søndergaard predicts that the concentration in trade will continue to increase, at the expense of choice, as powerful retailers become ever more dominant.

The consultant

Lars Venborg worked in Copenhagen for Maersk, Denmark’s big shipping company, until he left in 1990 to head to Bordeaux and make his hobby – wine – his full-time occupation.  After working at Château Prieuré-Lichine, where he learnt all the basics, he came to the conclusion that sales was his expertise. Now, 28 years later, his one-man consultancy mediates sales for producers in Europe and the New World.

“Wine is a people business, even more today than it used to be,” he says. “It’s easy to find information about the company you want to approach, but who is the right person to contact? That’s the challenge.” He continues: “If you want to sell your wine in Denmark, you have to consider who, and what you are, in terms of volume and profile, to be able to choose the right partner. And you have to look for openings in the importer’s portfolio. Are they ready for something new – like rosé was 30 years ago – or do they have an opening for a boutique wine, or a New World wine, at a bargain price?” Venborg says the market is much tougher and more competitive today because there are so many new players. He says that “more daily care is needed”.

Madeira’s communal winery

Meiningers, 14. October 2018

The name Madeira, when used in the wine context, refers to the fortified wines of the island of the same name. However, unfortified wine is also made on the island, which falls under the protected designation of origin appellation Madeirense. Justino’s, Blandy’s (Madeira Wine Company) and, since 2017, Barbeito, are the only fortified Madeira wine producers that also make DOP Madeirense. There are currently 12 table wine producers on the island making certified table wines.

But while Madeira’s producers are well equipped with the casks and space needed for the fortified ageing process, many do not have the equipment needed to produce still wine. To help them out, the Madeira Wine Institute (IVBAM) has come up with a novel scheme. In 1999, IVBAM set up its own winery at São Vicente, a small town situated on the north coast of Madeira. The winery is equipped with presses, tanks and other equipment.

Communal facilities

One producer who benefits is Tito Brazão, owner of Quinta do Barbusano, named after the laurel tree endemic to the island of Madeira, which has a grand total of 6ha of terraced vineyards near São Vicente. Barbusano grows the white varieties Verdelho and Arnsburger, a Riesling cross created in 1939 by Heinrich Birk at the Geisenheim Institute in Germany and named for the Arnsburg Cistercian Abbey in Wetter in recognition of the role of Cistercians in the German wine scene. It arrived on Madeira thanks to a German consultant.  The red varieties Aragonês, Tinta Negra and Touriga Nacional are also grown at Barbusano.

In exchange for a small fee, Brazão gets access to a winery with a total capacity of 300,000L, plus an assortment of steel tanks for fermentation and storage, ranging from 200L to 15,000L. Tanks have to be booked well in advance, as demand is high, and the barrels are paid for and owned by the producers.

Wine can be made at the winery in one of two ways. The producer can use their own winemaker and take control of the process, or the winery takes responsibility for the complete production process; grapes are received from the producer on an agreed date and after consultation, the resident winemaker makes the wines. A bottling line and a laboratory are also provided.

For now, Brazão is sharing the tasting room with a number of other producers. The IVBAM winery is giving him the breathing space he needs in between developing his wine range and investing in a winery. His ultimate goal is to buy more land and expand his vineyard, and then build a proper tasting room.

The entire island is home to less than 450ha of vines, which cling to unreasonably steep hillsides in tiny, terraced vineyards. Overall, still wine production counts for a mere 4% to 5% of the island’s total production, meaning there aren’t a lot of bottles to go around: the majority of the wines stay on the island.

The future of still wine

The roots of the still wine movement on Madeira date back to the late 1970s, when IVBAM began experimenting with more than 50 different varieties to see which would be best suited for the production of unfortified wine. Verdelho shows real promise as a still wine on Madeira and several producers have bottled crisp, dry, bright examples of this grape, while others have blended it with an interesting mix of grapes (like Arnsburger) not used for the production of Madeira.

Today, there are more than 12 different table wine brands totalling 65,000L to 90,000L  depending on vintage, 99% of which stays in Madeira; however, while the production of still white and red DOP Madeirense wines has grown, there doesn’t seem to be much long-term prospect for significant growth in this area. To fully invest in making still wines on the island, growers and producers would have to make a sharp turn away from their deeply held tradition of producing one of  the world’s best fortified wines. And there’s simply no impetus for making such a dramatic shift. But a large fortified wine industry and a small still wine industry can both exist in the same place and time.

The market is already there – most wine drinkers on the island would happily drink Madeira table whites with their excellent seafood instead of the fortified wines. The total production is small, but the passion is evident.

What’s a wine worth?

Meiningers, 14. October 2018

Since the 1970s, writers have given fine wines point scores to determine which are ‘best’. Now some members of the media and the wine trade are trying to advance their influence a step further. They are devising seemingly objective schemes to determine whether a wine’s rating justifies its price and crying foul when producers disagree and charge something else. This year, for example, the British wine trade and press were in an uproar when quotas they set for how much Bordeaux châteaux should reduce their prices to wine traders to négociants – distributors – for the 2017 vintage were largely ignored, even though the price reductions were significant.

It’s the latest, and perhaps most autocratic, measure in trying to determine what factors should constitute a wine’s fair price – whether it be supermarket plonk or collectible grand cru – and to wave a finger at naughty price offenders rather than wait for the market to make its judgement.

To illustrate with a true story: a well-respected American wine writer steps up to a booth bar during a not-too-distant Vinexpo to taste a Whalebone Cabernet Shiraz blend from Brian Croser’s Tapanappa group in South Australia. The writer and a colleague spend some time sipping and discussing the merits of the wine’s depth of flavours, complexity and ageability.

“I really like this,” the writer says. “What’s the price on this?”

“It will retail in the US at about $74.00,” he is told is told by a voice from behind the bar.

“What! $74.00?”

“Yeah, but it’s a great wine regardless of price,” the colleague says.

“Not for me,” the writer replies. “I don’t like it very much at $74.00.”

Not that wine writers ever actually buy wine, but the story is somewhat instructive about pricing and how people in the trade and the media often respond to it. Taking matters a step further, the same writer, after the market crash in 2008, speculated that once newly price-conscious consumers discovered enjoyable bottles for less than $20.00, the days of routinely buying wines priced many times that amount were at an end.

Of course, the writer failed to account for such basic human emotions as lust, envy and greed, which routinely factor into both the price and purchase of a bottle. “Luxury goods cater to a consumer’s desires, rather than her needs,” says Dr Z. John Zhang, professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “Therefore, exclusivity is always a key to pricing luxury goods,” wines included.

Competition on price

Anyone trying to make a living selling anything understands success depends either on high volumes sold on thin margins or scarcer volumes sold at high margins.

In supermarkets, where wines are sold as cheaply as $3.00 a bottle, it’s all about high volumes. A producer here begins price building by adding up the cost of goods, cost of production (including overheads) and a percentage of profit. Exceptions include offering loss leaders to gain market position for other products, selling multi-product bundles (where legal), or for producers with deep pockets, buying into the market and raising prices once competition has folded.

The biggest segment of wine sales, in terms of number of players and number of brands, begins above $10.00 a bottle and ranges well beyond $50.00. Here, producers depend on a variety of factors to establish and justify prices, including quality differentiation, great stories to tell, customer loyalty, and dedicated and competent importers and domestic distributors.

In this broad market, finding the right price point is key. Brian Larky of Dalla Terra, a direct importer of Italian wines, says: “The first thing for pricing any wine is what the competitive set looks like in the market. Additionally, for my producers, a key [factor] often is did they inherit the vineyard or are they having to pay for land or to buy grapes?”

Martin Sinkoff, VP and director of marketing for American importer Frederick Wildman, says the American three-tier system needs to be explained to the producer: a percentage profit for the importer, the distributor or wholesaler and the retailer has to be figured into the price of a bottle. “Sometimes they have to give a little to meet an acceptable price,” Sinkoff says, “and sometimes we have to give a little.”

Where does this broad category end and luxury wines begin? As Zhang says, exclusivity is a good starting point. Ordering a bottle of California Cabernet in a restaurant for less than $100.00 to go with a rare steak still falls into the category of needs, but springing for a 2007 Shafer Hillside Select for $2,140.00 falls into the category of desires.

“If you are a bargain hunter,” Zhang says, “you are not really a luxury customer. This sounds snobby, but luxury goods are a snobby business in some ways.” Value is still a consideration – to a point. “A good value does enter into the calculation by the luxury goods consumers as it does by the normal goods consumer. However, for the luxury goods, value is in the eyes of a beholder … and it varies across aspiring customers,” he says. “Hence, you could have [the concept of] affordable luxury that has taken off in the recent decade.”

Perceived value at the luxury and almost-luxury levels is determined by well-established measures such as ratings, historical rankings of brands such as grand crus or first growths and by the resale or auction market. Producers may also send quality signals to consumers to justify price, such as fancy trade dress, seriously heavy bottles and claims to being located “just down the road from” Latour or having the same terroir as Cheval Blanc.

Of course, price is also used as a signal: to be good, a wine must be expensive. Conversely, during the recent recession, many well-rated wineries were forced to sell their wines cheaply to maintain cash flow – but only through middlemen who pledged not to reveal the wine’s origins. “Price promotions can kill a luxury brand quickly,” Zhang says.

Competition on perception

Robert T. Hodgson’s study of wine-judging panels in California over a three-year period illustrates the difficulty in trying to objectively define quality. Among Hodgson’s findings: “Each panel of four expert judges received a flight of 30 wines imbedded with triplicate samples poured from the same bottle. Between 65 and 70 judges were tested each year. About 10% of the judges were able to replicate their score within a single medal group. Another 10%, on occasion, scored the same wine bronze to gold. Judges tend to be more consistent in what they don’t like than what they do.”

Determining quality and establishing prices in Bordeaux is uniquely complicated, with its annual en primeur spring ritual, where media and trade taste very young barrel samples from the previous harvest and give feedback by word or score to individual producers. What follows next is called the “campaign”, where each château randomly announces its price to the négociants, usually by mid-June. Based on various considerations, they may raise, lower or hold steady on their price from the previous vintage.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Pessac-Léognan is well-known for its quality and reasonable pricing, and is owned by Florence and Daniel Cathiard, who at one time ran a supermarket chain. “In the supermarkets, the motto could be, ‘Pile it high, sell it cheap’. Now, it is just the reverse,” says Florence Cathiard, who adds that key factors in determining price include the quality and volume of the vintage, along with press ratings, tasting comparisons, the market prices of available wines and exchange rates.

Outside input is important, Cathiard says. “We are watching Liv-ex, Wine Lister reports, Wine-Searcher, most recent prices of our wines and those of our peers on La Place de Bordeaux or on the English market, auctions prices,” she says. “All year long we are listening to our wine merchants, brokers, final customers, market vibes through importers, wholesalers and on trade. We are watching other French winegrowers as well as international vineyards.” She pauses. “Nevertheless, at the end we are the only ones who take the final decision.”

As Cathiard mentions, the hub of fine wine trading and pricing information is London-based Liv-ex, founded in 2000 by two stockbrokers. Today, more than 400 merchants from 36 countries are members. Live-ex recently decided to expand its purview by attempting to link wine prices to wine quality based on collective scores given by select wine writers. It calls the process “fair value”. “Our role is to make the market more transparent,” says Liv-ex’s Sarah Phillips. “It’s up to the châteaux whether they decide to price it this way or not.”

Vintage 2017 proved an interesting test. As is typical, the English media and trade started beating a drum for lower prices before the barrel tastings began. This year, their argument was there was too much unsold wine from previous vintages still on the market and that, regardless of quality, prices would have to be drastically reduced to set the market right. In other words, price shouldn’t just reflect quality, it should also be reflective of market economics. They mandated a “rational” pricing response, château by château.

As it turned out, almost every château did significantly reduce prices. For example, Margaux dropped its price by 17%, Figeac by 20% and Pavie by 6%. The critics remained unconvinced. One headline implored: “En Primeur 2017: Have We Learned Nothing?” The naysayers didn’t seem to care that they were themselves signalling wine retailers and wine drinkers not to buy, a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom.

And as far as Liv-ex’s fair value? “In short, too few [châteaux] are following it,” Phillips reported late in the campaign, “assuming they actually want to sell to the end consumers, and not just to the negociants.” Even if the critics are right, and the collective wisdom of the châteaux is wrong, the châteaux and negociants are still the ones who must bear the consequences of their decisions – good or bad.

Perhaps Zhang puts pricing back into its correct, less-controversial context, whether for wines destined for supermarkets, gourmet weekend dinners or collectors’ vaults. “The key to pricing is always, ‘Know thy customer’ – what they are looking for, what they buy, why they buy,” he says. “Targeted pricing to a segment or tailored pricing to a segment is always the way to go.”.

Roger Morris




Cru Bourgeois body confirms return to three-tier system

Decanter, John Stimpfig October 12, 2018

The director of the Cru Bourgeois classification body has said she is confident that reviving the three-tier hierarchy will prove successful, as new details emerge of how the system will work from the release of the 2018 vintage onwards.

Cru Bourgeois is returning to the old hierarchical system. Credit: Malcolm Park food and drink / Alamy Stock Photo

Alongside its ‘official selection’ from the Bordeaux 2016 vintage, the Crus Bourgeois du Médoc has also announced its specification and verification procedures for the new Crus Bourgeois Classification system that will come into effect from 2020.

Crucially, the new classification represents a return to the original traditional hierarchical system comprising three tiers of quality; Cru Bourgeois, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur and Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel.

It will also be reviewed every five years, which means that châteaux can move up and down the hierarchy.

Last week’s statement marks a major step forward for the Alliance.

Speaking at a press conference in London to announce the new 2016 vintage and the new classification, Frédérique de Lamothe, director of the Alliance said, ‘We are very happy about the new process.

‘We have learnt a lot from the past and we are confident that this will benefit the châteaux, trade and consumers.

‘Most importantly, the new classification maintains the quality and origin of the Crus Bourgeois du Médoc. It is the result of five years of work in consultation with all the members of the Crus Bourgeois and the Government.’

Back in 2003, the system was remodeled to recognise 247 châteaux comprising nine Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels, 87 Crus Bourgeois Superieurs and 151 Crus Bourgeois. However, the classification was then subsequently scrapped in 2007 after a series of appeals by châteaux, which had not been included.

Three years later, in 2010, the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois responded to the debacle by creating a new government backed quality assurance procedure in which all approved Cru Bourgeois wines were selected in blind tastings by a panel of experts. It published its first Official Selection based on the 2008 vintage, and has done so every year since.

How it will work

The new classification will be based on a quality based verification process carried out by an independent body of expert tasters. This body will assess each application by blind tasting several vintages from each applicant château.

It will also take into consideration other factors including agricultural, environmental and technical factors, and site visits will also be carried out.

For the 2020 classification, candidate châteaux can submit a choice of five vintages from 2008 to 2016. The 2025 classification will then comprise vintages from 2017 to 2021. According to Lamothe for the top tiers, the independent judges will be looking ‘for quality, consistency and the capacity of the wine to age.’

The first labels to carry the traditional terms will feature on the 2018 labels of the successful châteaux.

It remains to be seen how many châteaux will apply to the various quality levels. Candidates for the classification had until September 30 to submit their applications – specifying the tier to which they were applying.

The procedure is open to all Médoc vineyards in the following AOCs; Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis en Médoc, Margaux, St Julien, Pauillac and St Estephe.

Since 2008, the number of approved Cru Bourgeois châteaux have varied from 243 to a maximum of 278 in 2014. In 2018, there were 270 châteaux, which produced a total of 33 million bottles, representing a total of 31% of the Médoc’s total production.



Bordeaux 2018 red wines: Balance key amid high alcohol levels

Decanter, Panos Kakaviatos October 16, 2018

As final grapes were being brought in at Château Léoville Las Cases in St-Julien earlier this week, director Pierre Graffeuille said that he had never seen such high levels of natural alcohol for Cabernet Sauvignon, which reached 14.5%.

However, he also stressed that fresh fruit and acidity meant that 2018 will be ‘concentrated in alcohol and tannins, but with enough acidity to achieve Bordeaux balance’.

Further south, Château Margaux director Philippe Bascaules said that the 2018 grand vin may have a 14% abv indication on its label for the first time that he can recall, because Cabernet Sauvignons on both gravel and clay sometimes reached 14.5 per cent alcohol.

‘In 2015 we were at 13.5% and in 2018, we may be at 14 (for the label),’ he told Decanter.com. On the white wine side, Margaux harvested earlier than usual to maintain acidity.

Château Mouton Rothschild director Philippe Dhalluin said the vintage may be a ‘2009+’ but stressed that cool nights helped to maintain enough freshness. More water in the summer would have helped with yields and lowered potential alcohol, he said.

‘I have never seen such richness in sugar and polyphenol and no tanks measured lower than 80 IPT this year,’ he said.

See also: Bordeaux 2018: How things are shaping up as harvest begins

Château Léoville Poyferré director Didier Cuvelier said that one important issue in winemaking this year will be to avoid volatile acidity, because fermentations will be longer than usual.

On the Right Bank, 2018 looks set to be a year for limestone, clay, deep gravels and vines with deep roots, said wine consultant Thomas Duclos.

‘Younger vines on more shallow soils suffered and were not able to withstand the heat stress,’ he said.

With alcohol in some Merlots reaching 15.5% and more, Duclos said that some estates may end up having very high alcohol second wines.

Laurent Brun, of Château Dassault in St-Emilion, said that the estate will finish its Cabernets by Wednesday next week, and that the final blend likely will have more Cabernet than usual to offset higher alcohol Merlots.

However, Château Canon cellar master Stéphane Bonnasse said that clever canopy management – such as less leaf clearing – and not picking grapes directly exposed to the sun would make alcohol levels irrelevant.

‘It is a shame to talk so much about alcohol in 2018, because not everyone has the same terroir or works the same way,’ he said. ‘We had more alcohol overall in 2015 than we will have in 2018.’

Christian Moueix, of Petrus fame and head of merchant house Jean-Pierre Moueix, said,’We had so much time to pick and choose, that I would say that the only danger would have been to have picked too late’.

He added, ‘Alcohol is higher than in 2016, but the balance is so great, that it compares to 1990, and for certain wines it counts among my top three vintages ever in 49 years of winemaking.’

Health Benefits
Wine Spectator-17 October 2018

Q: Is it true that the Mediterranean diet may have mental health benefits in addition to physical benefits? Does drinking wine have an impact on any of those potential benefits?—Trevor, Cherry Hill, N.J.

A: It’s true! According to a new meta-analysis published in Molecular Psychiatry, a team of U.K.-based researchers looked at 41 previous studies and found that adults who adhered to the Mediterranean diet—emphasizing fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, legumes, seafood, olive oil and moderate wine consumption, and avoiding meat and dairy products—were 33 percent less likely to develop depressive symptoms or clinical depression. While other factors may be at play when it comes to diet and mental health (loss of appetite and other eating disorders are frequently associated with depression), the researchers’ findings open the door to new paths of investigation.

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to have other neuroprotective properties as well, potentially reducing cognitive decline associated with aging. As for how wine might impact our mental health, multiple studies have shown an inverse relationship between moderate wine consumption and depression. A 2015 study found that the red-wine compound resveratrol may mitigate depression-related behaviors, and in 2013, researchers found that moderate wine drinkers were nearly one-third less likely to suffer from depression. In 2012, a Spanish study on depression found that women in particular may benefit from a daily glass of wine.

More important than these potential benefits, however, is to note that alcohol is a depressant, and wine is not a cure for depression. In fact, over-consumption of alcohol is often a symptom of depression. Talk to your physician about whether or not wine should be a part of your mentally healthy diet.—Douglas De Jesus

Understanding tension in wine


Deacnter, Andrew Jefford, September 17, 2018


The hills roll in from every direction, like waves in a mid-Atlantic swell, breaking greenly down into little valleys where momentary streams come and go with the seasons.

Some of the hilltops sport forest, but vines seem more often to cap the summits, even where the bare limestone breaks out in a stony white froth. The little town of Chablis squats in the middle of all, its citizens quietly going about their winemaking business, dabbling trout out of the river, watering geraniums. The big roads are miles away; the cities further. This may be France’s most peaceful vineyard landscape.

Then… you take a sip of the latest vintage’s Petit Chablis. It seems to leap like a trout in the mouth, scattering silvered acidity in a fish-scale cascade. For all that, it is not an ‘articulate’ wine. It’s taut, pungent and vinous, but even the most logorrhoea-prone wine writer would struggle to lavish it with an allusion-laden paragraph.

I was in Chablis recently, and I came home with the memory of that delicious tension in the mouth, that terseness, that bareness: the perfect summary of high-latitude, cloud-covered wine creation. Sappy wine from a green place.

As it happened, the first bottle that I pulled from the fridge on my return was a jobbing South African Chenin Blanc. It was well made, and had just as much acidity – but where had the tension gone? What the Chenin had in its place was a hardness: everything bolted in place, but with no dissolved energy in the wine to create that pulling or restoring force which mines saliva, and which sends wine hurtling towards the stomach before you even realise you are swallowing.

‘Tension’ and ‘energy’ are modish words to use about wine, as are ‘precision’ and ‘focus’. After a purple patch in which opulence and ripeness have been the cock qualities, we’re now chasing a different bird. Well-crafted Petit Chablis from the latest vintage certainly has these qualities, but what else could hope to qualify, and where do such wines come from?


Can wine really have ‘bottle shock’ after travel?

Decanter Staff, September 29, 2018

Is it true that a wine can suffer from ‘bottle shock’ after travel?

Ged Cleugh, London, asks:

In a delectable wine shop in Le Marche, Italy recently, I was advised by an enthusiastic elderly gent to give a wine at least one month to rest on return to the UK before attempting to drink it.

Is there any science behind the notion that wine needs to settle once stirred in transit? And how much could such transit affect the taste if consumed sooner?

Jane Hunt MW replies:

This is one of those issues where opinions differ, because there is no specific science to support the need to allow a wine to ‘recover’ after travel. A short period of ‘rest’ might be desirable for a red wine which has some maturity and/or is of high quality, in case there is sediment or the wine was bottled unfiltered.

I wonder what the wine you bought was? As an organiser of many tasting events over the years, where wine has travelled beforehand, I have not noticed negative effects of travel.

Taste and aroma, however, frequently show ‘dumb’ characteristics in the immediate period after bottling which we call ‘bottle shock’, and a period of rest in this instance is desirable.

$5.6 million to target pests, fungus

THE DAILY EVERGREEN, October 1, 2018

Work will benefit grape, onion, garlic crops, combat disease-resistant strains.

Dr. Hanu Pappu, department of plant pathology professor, discusses insects and diseases that can damage certain crops and his work in finding ways to prevent them Thursday at Johnson Hall.

Two national research teams led by WSU scientists have received over $5.6 million in Specialty Crop Research Initiative grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The researchers are working to protect valuable U.S. grape, onion and garlic crops from devastating and adaptive pests and diseases.

Hanu Pappu, a professor in the department of plant pathology, received $3.29 million to understand and stop pests and diseases harming onions and garlic through sustainable defenses.

Michelle Moyer, viticulture and enology associate professor, received an initial $2.4 million to study and tackle fungicide resistance threatening wine, table grape and raisin crops.

Pest and diseases:

Pappu’s research team includes USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, New Mexico State University, Oregon State University, Cornell University, College of Idaho and University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The team includes multidisciplinary research with plant pathologists, entomologists, breeders, economists, sociologists and food scientists. Pappu is joined at WSU by extension entomologist Tim Waters.

Washington state is ranked the third-highest grower of onions in the U.S., he said.

Pappu said the team is working to reduce the use of pesticides to control thrips, a tiny insect pest, which infest alliums, the genus which includes garlic and onions. They are also developing crop varieties that are resistant to the pest and the virus they carry, Iris yellow spot virus.

“In onions, this virus can cause lesions and death of tissues, which makes the plants weak and severely affects the crop yield,” Pappu said. “This can cause 100 percent loss of yield.”

Controlling thrips is a challenge because insect populations are in the millions and hard to stop, Pappu said.

“Thrips are like a free Uber ride for the virus that acts as a hitchhiker,” Pappu said.

Another challenge Pappu is working on is white rot, a disease of alliums that can survive in soil for up to 20 years and can cause large crop loss.

Pappu and his team are trying to find environmentally-friendly solutions that will limit the need for chemicals or sprays.

“Our growers need solutions from research to get answers to create control options,” Pappu said.

Fungicide resistance:

Moyer’s team just launched a four-year, multiple institution project titled “Fungicide Resistance Assessment, Mitigation and Extension Network for Wine, Table and Raisin Grapes (FRAME).”

The team is looking at the fungal disease, powdery mildew and how the fast-adapting fungus is developing resistance to common control chemicals.

“When something that has worked in the past doesn’t work, we start to get nervous,” Moyer said.

The project is a partnership with Michigan State University, USDA-ARS, Ohio State University, University of Utah, University of California, Davis, University of Georgia and University of California Cooperative Extension.

Moyer said fungicide resistance is similar to antibiotic resistance in humans.

“Over the years, people have either overused products or misused it in the sense that the spray technique was not appropriate,” Moyer said.

Because of that misuse, growers are forced to use older chemicals that have a broader reach, meaning they must spray more frequently and could affect other organisms, she said.

Molecular biologists on the team will help create better, faster tests for monitoring resistance. Extension specialists will help with grower outreach by increasing awareness and help them make informed decisions.

Ana Espinola-Arredondo, economic sciences associate professor, is also part of the team. Her role on the project involves working with growers and chemical companies to use products correctly to avoid resistance.

Moyer said the goals of the project include improving how people monitor and detect fungicide resistance and using current control chemicals more effectively.

What to do when visiting a vineyard


So, you’re planning a cellar door tour? Or a day trip to a wine region? Hooray! What can you expect when you arrive at the cellar door? And what are the dos and dont’s associated with wine tourism?

You arrive in your bus/car. What’s the first thing you should do?: Head into the cellar door and chat to the staff about what you’d like to do during your visit. All cellar doors offer wine tastings (some free, some for a small fee) and many also offer food, picnic supplies, tours, games for the kids and more.

Can I walk down the vine rows to take a photo?: No. The vineyard is a pristine farm environment. You can track pests, diseases and weeds into the vineyard on your shoes and clothing. The vineyard is also a workplace. Dangerous machinery and equipment is often used. Please do not enter the vine rows. Ask the cellar door staff about the best place to take photo of the vineyard. An elevated position will give you the best view.

Can I walk down the vine rows if the cellar door staff say it’s ok?: Cellar door staff will always first encourage you to consider alternative activities they have on offer, away from vine rows. Please follow all instructions that cellar door staff give you.

Before considering access to vine rows, staff first need to make an assessment of the risks associated with you walking down their vine rows.  This will involve them asking you a few short questions about your visits to other cellar doors before coming to theirs, and whether the shoes and clothing you are currently wearing are the same as you’ve worn walking down vine rows in other vineyards in the past three weeks.

Your answers to these questions and the location of their vineyard will determine whether walking down their vine rows is a possibility under certain controlled conditions. For you this could involve needing to wear provided protective shoes (e.g. rubber boots) and clothing, or immersing your footwear for 60 seconds in chlorine.

What areas at the cellar door can I walk or drive on?: Stick to gravel or bitumen roads and paths. Avoid walking or driving on soil. Please do not enter the vine rows. Pests such as the grapevine killer phylloxera can live in soil and be picked up on your tyres or shoes and transferred to another vineyard you visit days or weeks later.

Can I take my picnic into the vine rows if I have a picnic blanket to sit on?: No. As mentioned above, you can track pests, diseases and weeks into the vineyard on your shoes and clothing. Please stay away from the vines. Cellar doors offer many lovely grassy areas for picnics.

Can I take vines or grapes from the vineyard?: No. Grapevine material can also be a vector for pests and diseases. Please leave the environment as you find it.



One of France’s top wine chateaus embroiled in inquiry into ‘rigged’ St Emilion rankings

2 OCTOBER 2018, The Telegraph

The co-owner of one of the world’s most prestigious wine chateaus in Bordeaux has been charged with seeking to unfairly influence the outcome of the coveted Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé rankings in his favour.

A promotion in the 82-chateau wine league can double the price of vintages, some of which reach stratospheric levels, and can boost property prices.

In what amounts to an earthquake in the discreet cobbled streets of St Emilion, Hubert de Boüard, 62, co-owner of the famed Chateau Angélus, has been placed under “official investigation” – a French legal term akin to being charged – for “taking illegal interest”.

Another top Bordeaux merchant and owner, Philippe Castéja, 69, has also been charged.

Both deny any wrongdoing.

Legal proceedings against the pair followed a criminal complaint by three disgruntled chateau owners who lost out in the last 2012 rankings and argued that the men had acted as both judge and jury in drawing up the coveted list.

As influential members of the INAO wine governing body, investigating magistrates say there is reason to believe that they were unfairly able to ensure that their own domains, as well as others that they are paid to advise, maintained their ranking or joined the select club.

Both men are “suspected of being judge and interested party in this decision, which has considerable economic consequences (on the price of wines),” a source close to the investigation told AFP.

The charges carry a maximum five-year prison term and €75,000 (£67,000) fine. French law forbids private business owners and employees who have taken on public roles from taking any financial, political or moral gain from their public work.

In the 2012 classification, Château Angélus was promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classé A at the top of the wine league table, while the seven estates he is paid to advise were either promoted or kept their ranking. The chateau Trottevieille, which Mr Castéja owns, retained its Premier Grand Cru Classé B status despite having merged with a lesser-graded chateau.

Founded in 1954, the ranking, which applies only to the St Emilion region and is reassessed every 10 years, consists of three classifications – Premier Grand Cru classé A, Premier Grand cru classé B and Grand Cru Classé.

The system was first thrown into crisis in 2009, when a court cancelled the 2006 classification after five demoted chateaus said the grading process was unfairly weighted towards those already in the top category.

To avoid any more such feuding, seven wine experts from outside Bordeaux were added to the classification commission and independent bodies employed to grade the wines based on taste, fame, “terroir” – local soil – and a visit to the domains.

But the 2012 ranking was also contested. In 2015, an administrative court threw out claims the vote was rigged but the ruling is subject to appeal. This time, the charges are criminal.

“Until now, it has been a bitter and unfair fight, but the case is at last moving forward,” said Éric Morain, lawyer for the three disgruntled chateaus, Croque-Michotte, Corbin Michotte and La Tour-du-Pin Figeac.

Mr Castéja said he was “relaxed about the case”.

“I have never been involved in the St Emilion ranking,” he said.

Jean-François Dacharry, lawyer for Mr Boüard, told Sud Ouest newspaper that his client “played no part in drawing up (the ranking) and didn’t take part in the vote. During the session, as we have proved, he wasn’t in the room but in a plane.”

He has filed for the charges to be annulled.

But Pierre Carle, who manages Chateau Croque-Michotte, said: “We’re going all the way. The laws of the French Republic must apply so that the big and the small stand the same chances. This ranking must go back to being serious and impartial.”





Champagne sales plateaued in the first half of the year

Thursday September 06 2018 by Vitisphere

Over the first half of the year to the end of June 2018, Champagne sales plateaud, showing a marginal decline of 0.9% with shipments of 112.9 million bottles. Moving annual totals (again to June) revealed a 1.1% drop in sales. Every cloud has a silver lining though and sales in June rose by 2.1%, perhaps heralding a return to more dynamic sales for the second half of 2018 and a possible World Cup effect.

France still lags behind

Unsurprisingly, the French market continues to erode slowly. The first half was marked by a 3.3% drop in sales to 52.9 million bottles. The Champagne wine growers are the ones suffering the full brunt of the sluggish French market, posting a 4.6% drop in sales. The drop is far from negligible for wine growers: France is their primary and almost sole outlet, accounting for 87% of sales in moving annual totals to June.

Co-operatives benefit from exports

Exports to Third Countries are on a roll with a 3.3% increase in sales over the first half. The Champagne Houses are securing most of this growth with sales up by 3.8% (30.8 million bottles). Exports to the European market remained stable with a 0.9% decline. One noteworthy fact was the dynamic sales momentum of the co-operatives. Within the European Union, they witnessed a 7.7% growth in sales to 2.7 million bottles whereas the Champagne Houses and wine growers under-performed. Co-operatives also held their own in Third Countries with an increase of 0.5% to 1.4 million bottles.

Wine Australia 07 SEP 2018

Effective canopy management – coupled with an effective spray program – is the best weapon against downy and powdery mildew, delegates at the recent Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO) seminar heard.

‘Effective canopy management has a number of benefits. It allows light penetration, improves air movement to allow leaves to dry, and reduces humidity. Most importantly, it also allows spray to penetrate’, Barbara Hall, a Senior Research Scientist with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) told delegates.

Mrs Hall said both downy mildew and powdery mildew could be managed by an effective protectant spray program.

‘This is particularly critical with powdery mildew as there are no effective eradicants to manage the disease if it “takes off”.’

She said applications for powdery mildew should start early – 2 weeks after bud burst in warmer areas and when shoots were 10–20cm long in cooler areas.

‘The critical time for protection for both diseases is around flowering.’

Mrs Hall said there were several effective fungicides that could be applied post infection for downy mildew, but it was critical that they were applied before any symptoms appeared. She said even metalaxyl was not completely effective in managing established infections and using any fungicide on established infections would increase the likelihood of resistance developing.

‘Weather is a key driver for downy mildew. It requires quite specific weather conditions for a primary infection. The 10:10:24 guide (10 mm rain at 10oC over 24 hours) still holds for many areas, however a primary infection can occur at lower temperatures especially in cooler regions. Secondary infection needs high humidity/rain overnight with about 13oC. The temperature is a key factor in the time between infection and symptom expression. At 10oC it may take about 3 weeks for symptoms to appear. At 20–24oC it will be 5 days’, Mrs Hall explained .

Mrs Hall said powdery mildew, on the other hand, didn’t require such specific weather conditions.

‘It can grow happily anywhere from 8–32oC, likes humidity over 40 per cent and likes low light. However, like downy mildew, the temperature will affect how quickly the disease cycles. Between 16–30oC it will only take 5–7 days for the fungus to sporulate and cause new infections. The disease starts before or around flowering, earlier in warmer areas, and can rapidly “take-off” if not managed.’

Mrs Hall said the key message was that while weather conditions could contribute to increased disease risk, the main drivers of epidemics were humans – and how they reacted to those changes in conditions.

‘The key for growers is to improve canopy management. Couple this with an effective spray program where applications are timed correctly and you have the best chance of managing risk.’

Mrs Hall has worked in management of powdery mildew for more than 35 years, and currently leads a national collaborative research project investigating fungicide resistance in powdery mildew, downy mildew and botrytis. The project is funded by Wine Australia, in collaboration with SARDI, Curtin University, and The Australian Wine Research Institute.

2018 wine supplies at their lowest level in 6 years

Friday September 07 2018 by Vitisphere

According to estimates by the Languedoc-Roussillon co-operative wineries, the region’s wine supplies are at their lowest level in six years. According to estimates by the Languedoc-Roussillon co-operative wineries, the region’s wine supplies are at their lowest level in six years.

17.8 million hectolitres is the estimated supply of wine in Languedoc-Roussillon according to Coop de France Occitanie. This is the lowest volume supply in six years and roughly equivalent to what Languedoc-Roussillon was able to market during the previous campaign, when volumes were drastically undermined by frost.

The decrease in supplies can be partly ascribed to the significant fall in inventories which dropped to 5.9 million hl – equivalent to the amount of wine leaving Pays d’Oc wineries last year – compared with 7.7 million hl in 2017. On top of this, the estimated crop this year is 11.8 million hl, the second smallest in six years.

Asked about the likely consequences of low supplies on the market, Ludovic Roux, chairman of the Talairan co-operative winery (Les Terroirs du Vertige , Cucugnan, Aude) is unfazed by the situation. “All the indicators are positive and inventories are down, which is a good thing. Also, the global crop appears to be at a normal level and relations established with the trade are clearly improving. So I don’t see why there would be any tension”.

How much rosé will be produced?

Finally, rosé production volumes will play an important part in regulating the wine market in a region that stands as France’s leading producer of pink wines by volume. “Merchants have informed us that there are no more inventories of rosé wines. They are asking for approvals to be pushed through quickly so as to avoid any interruptions in supply”, said Roux. Faced with this incentive, will producers ramp up output of rosés or heed Roux’s call for a measured approach? “With rosé, you should only produce the volumes that have been contracted”, he stressed. Overproduction in 2014 is a recent reminder of the risks – it took three marketing campaigns to wipe the slate clean…

 Why the Tasting Room is Dead

Wine Enthusiast- 6 Sep 2018

California’s traditional tasting rooms are pivoting to more “maker” spaces, nature immersions and places for all-day casual hangs.

The Prisoner Wine Company is scheduled to open its doors this October along Highway 29 in Napa Valley. When it does, it will make a statement.

A popular brand for nearly 20 years, The Prisoner is known for its namesake big, bold blend and iconic label art, as well as wines like The Snitch, Cuttings and Dérangé under the general California appellation.

But The Prisoner has never had a home open to the public. Owned by Constellation Brands since 2016, The Prisoner Tasting Lounge and The Makery will plant its roots in the heart of Napa Valley, where it will occupy the St. Helena tasting space formerly home to Franciscan Estate.

The Prisoner’s Makers’ Hall will have four studios, each occupied by a “maker in residence” whose expertise will include art, music, design and cuisine, an environment “specifically designed to…challenge the wine-country status quo,” according to the company. The first set of makers will be Soap Cauldron, Wine Lover’s Jelly, Bayview Pasta and Amanda Wright Pottery.

The brand claims on its website, “We’ve reimagined the traditional tasting room by creating a comfortable lounge experience free from pomp and circumstance…a lounge is where we can be ourselves.”

Many of Napa Valley’s 3.5 million yearly visitors appear to want different things out of a winery experience than in days of old: More sit-down tastings, food pairings and places to hang out and Instagram their day. That’s not to mention more of a sense of belonging.

Scribe Winery, just over the Sonoma county line, created a more immersive experience for visitors years ago, and it has legions of devoted fans to show for it.

“What attracts people to Scribe and other wineries and farms is that they get to connect to the natural world and to the landscape,” says co-owner Andrew Mariani.

Scribe offers a relaxed, natural setting that overlooks its vineyards, where visitors often picnic under the trees.

“We’re stripping away what a tasting room was to have a simple, transparent experience that connects people to a place,” says Mariani. “They’re tasting wines from vines growing out front, having snacks from the gardens here. [Through that], the story of a place is being expressed and shared. It’s a really simple idea.”

Digital yield estimation results show that there’s still a way to go

Wine Australia 07 SEP 2018

Is there a reliable and inexpensive way to use image-sensing technology to forecast block-level crop yields?

While digital imaging technology can be used to predict grapevine yield, new research suggests that the methods used need further development to provide a substantial improvement to current manual estimation techniques.

A recently completed three-year project funded by Wine Australia, led by the NSW Department of Primary Industries and investigated by Dr Mark Whitty and his team at the University of NSW, aimed to find a reliable and inexpensive technological replacement for manual estimation.

The current ‘best practice’ manual estimation method is time consuming and error-prone, with an accepted estimation error rate of ±15 per cent at best, even at harvest. This leads to problems in planning harvesting and intake at wineries and has flow-on effects for both growers and wineries.

Dr Whitty’s project showed that it is often more accurate to use long-term averages, and growers’ knowledge about their vineyards, than the manual method.

The researchers assessed a range of digital options, with the best results reported from GoPro cameras mounted to farm vehicles to video an entire block at the shoot stage (E-L 9) in combination with smartphone photos of marked bunches at flowering, pea-sized and harvest stages.

Result of the flower detection algorithm applied to a single image – fine red spots show detected florettes.

At the flowering stage, an impressive average error of just 5.5 per cent against tonnage delivered to the winery was achieved across four trial blocks – one each of Chardonnay and Shiraz in Orange and Clare.

‘Image processing can count flowers and berries on a single inflorescence or bunch and measure berry diameters, hence fruit-set ratios can be quickly determined non-destructively’, said Dr Whitty.

‘Simple cameras such as GoPros can give relative potential yield maps very early in the season, providing farmers with the tools to deal with variability within a block in the current season.’

However, when the measurements were repeated later in the season, the error margin increased to 14 per cent at pea-sized and 12 per cent at harvest.

The sensing method investigated by the project is reliant on visual imaging and, in a typical sprawl canopy, bunches hidden within the canopy cannot be readily seen. Later season estimates depend on historical occlusion factors or manual calibration. However, the researchers say there is potential for this technology to have increased accuracy in cane-pruned vines due to greater visibility of shoots and fruit.

The image processing components of the method provided an unexpected bonus, with it leading to the development of an improved, automated flower counting system. Using images captured with a smartphone camera, the accuracy of counting was found to be 84 per cent per image across 12 Australian datasets. This underpinned the yield estimation and reduced the need for arduous manual counting of flowers.


Wine Australia is currently assessing what the next steps might be. Providing access to this new image processing technology would allow growers to estimate yield accurately early in the season, but not being able to ground truth these values during the season with the same level of accuracy limits its usefulness.

Ideally, producers need a sensor technology that is able to see through a canopy and is capable of discerning fruit from shoots, wires, posts, etc. LiDAR has already been shown to not be particularly useful for this purpose, as it relies on being able to ‘see’ the target (i.e. the fruit). A current project with CSIRO (CSA 1602) is trialling ultrawideband radar which can see through the canopy. It is too early to know how feasible this technology might be in accurately detecting fruit, but initial results are promising. Microwave based  technology is being trialled in New Zealand to estimate yields of Sauvignon Blanc. An alternative approach taken in another Wine Australia project (MQ 1401) is to use machine learning and historical data sets. This project is further advanced and the results look promising.

Vintner’s Dream: Oil Additive Could Aid in Wine Production

By Lucas Laursen | Scientific American September 2018 Issue

Every great bottle of wine begins with a humble fungal infection. Historically, winemakers relied on naturally occurring yeasts to convert grape sugars into alcohol; modern vintners typically buy one of just a few laboratory-grown strains. Now, to set their products apart, some of the best winemakers are revisiting nature’s lesser-used microbial engineers. Not all these strains can withstand industrial production processes and retain their efficacy—but a natural additive offers a possible solution, new research suggests.

Industrial growers produce yeast in the presence of oxygen, which can damage cell walls and other important proteins during a process called oxidation. This can make it harder for yeasts—which are dehydrated for shipping—to perform when winemakers revive them. Biochemist Emilia Matallana of the University of Valencia in Spain and her colleagues have been exploring practical ways to fend off such oxidation for years. After showing that pure antioxidants worked, they began searching for a more affordable natural source. They found it in argan, an olivelike fruit used for food and cosmetics. The trees it grows on are famously frequented by domesticated goats.

Matallana and her team treated three varieties of wine yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) with argan oil, dehydrated them and later rehydrated them. The oil protected important proteins in the yeasts from oxidation and boosted wine fermentation, the researchers reported in a study published online in June in Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies.

Microbiologists are now interested in studying how and why each yeast strain responded to the argan oil as it did, says enologist Ramón González of the Institute of Grapevine and Wine Sciences in Logroño, Spain, who was not involved in the work. The oil may one day enable vintners to use a wider range of specialized yeasts, putting more varied wines on the menu. As for how the oil affected the wine’s taste, Matallana says it was “nothing weird.”

Treasury Wine Estates fights Barokes inventors over patent for wine in a can

Financial Review, Aug 15 2018 – 3:22:12 PM, by Misa Han

Twenty years ago, no one would think of drinking wine out of a can.

Now canned wine is gaining traction among consumers, and the Australian inventors of wine-in-a-can technology are fighting a David and Goliath battle with Treasury Wine Estates over the right to use the technology.

ASX-listed Treasury Wine argues the technology is not particularly inventive and should not be protected by intellectual property laws.

In a Federal Court case, Treasury Wine says when it launched “A’Tivo” wine in aluminium cans, Barokes threatened to sue for patent infringement.Treasury says Barokes’ threats are unjustified because the technology – known as “Vinsafe” – is not inventive or new.

Treasury Wine wants court orders to restrain Barokes from making threats about the patent infringement, plus damages and legal costs.

The court fight comes as canned wine is increasingly becoming a socially acceptable way to enjoy wine.

According to a survey by market research company Mintel, 13 per cent of British wine buyers said they are interested in wine in a can – a result that is likely to reflect Australian consumers’ appetite for canned wine.

“Under-35s are most likely to be interested in wine in cans, suggesting opportunities for edgy, contemporary and premium wine brands to explore the format,” Mintel says.

Confident in its position

The court dispute comes after five years of negotiations between Treasury and Barokes for the licensing deal broke down, Barokes says.

Barokes licences the wine-in-a-can technology to a number of major wine producers including Jacob’s Creek and Brown Brothers.

In a statement, a Treasury Wine spokeswoman confirmed the company is seaking to invalidate Barokes’ Australian patents in the wine-in-a-can technology.

“Treasury Wine Estates asserts that its A’Tivo ‘wine-in-a-can’ products do not infringe any valid third-party intellectual property rights and rejects any assertions made in this regard,” she said.

“[Treasury Wine Estates] is confident in its position with respect to these proceedings and, as the matter is now before the courts, has no further comment at this stage.”

Years of R&D

Irene Stokes, sales and marketing director of Barokes, said the technology was developed after years of research and development and Treasury is challenging the validity of the intellectual property for commercial reasons.

“They don’t want to pay a royalty fee,” she said.

“Others are happy to work with the state-of-the-art technology rather than producing unstable products which have the potential to destroy the category.”

Ms Stokes said canned wine made using Barokes’ technology had a shelf life of more than 12 months, compared with two to three months without Barokes’ technology.

Barokes’ technology was first patented in 2001 and the company has since patented later versions.

In 2005, global packaging company AMCOR tried to invalidate the Australian patent for Barokes’ canned wine technology and failed.

However, this time the future of Barokes is not so clear.

In a separate case earlier this month, the Victorian Supreme Court said Barokes would be wound up, after its founding Australian shareholders failed in a multimillion-dollar legal claim against the company’s majority shareholder, Japanese company Daiwa Can Company.

Supreme Court justice Michael Sifris said it was “beyond doubt” the relationship between the Australian founders and the Japanese company had “broken down irretrievably”.

Big boost for wine tourism biosecurity

August 14, 2018 VineHealth

The Responsible Visitation Campaign (RVC), which educates tourism operators and visitors about their role in keeping South Australian vines healthy, has been funded for another series of activities.

Financially supported by Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) and created and managed by Vinehealth Australia, the RVC is a vital campaign to protect South Australian vines from pests and diseases, in this era of rising biosecurity pressure due to increased tourism and trade.

In RVC 2, the focus will be on educating bus companies and tour operators in both the CBD and wine regions. “We’re adapting our popular Wine Tourism Biosecurity Program for maximum impact amongst this important group of allied industry professionals,” said Inca Pearce, CEO of Vinehealth Australia.

“We know from feedback during first rollout of the RVC that many cellar door staff consider bus and other travel operators to be a key risk group. Our aim is to arm transport professionals with information, so that visitors know biosecurity expectations before they get to the cellar door.”

The key message of the RVC is: ‘please don’t walk amongst our vines.’ The RVC consists of the Wine Tourism Biosecurity Training Program, to educate cellar door and tourism staff about keeping vines healthy, and the ‘Who’s Hitchhiking With You?’ publicity campaign.

In RVC 1, a total of 229 participants from the Barossa, Adelaide Hills, Clare, McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Coonawarra, Limestone Coast and Yorke Peninsula attended a free training session. Participants included cellar door staff/managers, visitor centre staff/managers, regional association staff/executive officers and staff from other relevant wine and tourism organisations.

The publicity campaign included Wine Tourism Biosecurity signage for cellar doors and the ‘Who’s Hitchhiking With You?’ campaign, featuring Phil the Phylloxera Guy, promoted via videos, photos, articles, advertising, flyers, social media and the Vinehealth Australia website.

In Changing Market Landscape, Spain’s Navarra Region Seeks Global Wine Sales Opportunities

Forbes, 13 Aug 2018, Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen

With sales of its wine on the rise in China, Spain’s Denominacion de Origen Navarra seeks to continue that momentum while increasing its global wine sales. The region just released final tallies for 2017, which show that it was the best year Navarra had in the last decade. Much of the increase is thanks to the rise of the Chinese market. Within the last five years China has reached Navarra’s top export position and represents 26% of total international sales. Individual brands and the region as a whole continue looking for and opening new markets around the world.

According to David Palacios, a 40-year old viticulturist from the town of Olite, who is the current elected head of the D.O.:

The wine market is almost saturated worldwide, and sometimes you can perform better in small, lesser-known countries than in other markets [such as] the U.K., where trade is really a tough matter. For instance, this year we are exploring new places such as the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Ireland and Russia.

This region in northwest Spain is known primarily for five main grape varieties. The key red grapes here are Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache) and Merlot, while the most populous white varieties are Chardonnay and Viura. Syrah, Graciano and Sauvignon Blanc are grown here as well. Known for its high quality yet relatively low-priced wines, Navarra sits at the top of the value/price ratio in Spain. Almost 60% of the wine produced here is red, and about 13% is white.

While 86% of the grapes of Navarra are red, almost 28% of the region’s total output consists of deeply-colored rosé wine made from red varieties. Both the global demand for rosé and Navarra’s strong reputation for excellent versions of it—especially made from Garnacha—caused a rise in rosé sales of 50% in 2017 over the previous year. Last year the D.O. amended its regulations to allow wine to be packaged in cans. Artadi Winery launched the very first Navarra D.O. Rosé in cans, sold in a 4-pack of 250 ml cans. This packaging brings the unit sale to 1 liter rather than the traditional 750 ml bottle.

The top five export markets for wines from Navarra are, in order, China, Germany, United Kingdom, Holland and the United States. In 2017, China purchased almost 3 million liters of bottled wine from Navarra, a significant rise over the 900,000 liters exported there in 2012. There is much room for the export market to grow, as 67% of Navarra’s wine is sold within Spain.

Although sales to the U.S. have been stable for the last several years, averaging around one million bottles per year, overall sales are slow considering the general performance of Spanish wines in the market. Difficulties include the fact that the U.S. market is not just one market; in reality it is 50 markets, one in each state. Selling wine into the U.S. is highly complicated, especially considering restrictive regulations regarding wine and alcohol in many states. While individual producers, in particular small ones, do not have the money to invest in sales and marketing, the D.O. is continuing a marketing push in the U.S. in order to maintain and increase awareness. Since 2016, successful trade tastings and marketing events have been held in New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and Austin.

Consumers who are interested in organic or natural wines or those produced sustainably should note that 11% of the wines of Navarra are certified organic and that more than 10% of the vineyard surface is in the process of being converted to organic growing, which is a three-year process. There are approximately 11 wineries producing biodynamic wines, representing 15% of the D.O. and many more are in the works. In addition, more than 50% of Navarra’s vineyard area is considered “integrated farming,” a European Union sustainability designation that offers farmers flexibility in viticulture practices rather than a rigid set of parameters offered by an organic certification.

Porto Protocol calls on wine industry to take lead on climate change

Harpers, By Andrew Catchpole 09 July, 2018

Fladgate Partnership’s CEO Adrian Bridge used the Climate Change Leadership Summit in Oporto on 6 July to announce the launch of the Porto Protocol, a far reaching initiative designed to encourage and enable the wine trade to step up to the pressing challenge of global warming.

Joining speakers including leading climate change campaigner and former US president Barack Obama and noted climate expert Professor Mohan Munasinghe, Bridge reminded the audience that “evidence of climate change is clear and incontrovertible”, while outlining the “sensitivity and vulnerability” of vineyards and grape growing.

The Taylor’s Port sponsored Porto Protocol focuses on two major objectives, being designed to encourage all to do more to tackle and help mitigate climate change, while also offering a platform where signatories can share information on initiatives and achievements pertaining to combating the causes of climate change.

Today, at this Summit, we are launching the Porto Protocol. This will be followed by a conference in March 2019 called Climate Change Leadership – Solutions for the Wine Industry, where we will focus on real examples of what companies are doing to mitigate climate change,” said Bridge.

He made clear that the Climate Change Leadership Summit and Porto Protocol were not about restating the need for action, but “to discuss concrete ideas, share real experiences and provide effective solutions which have been shown to work, on whatever scale.”

Justifying the placing of wine at the centre of a sustainable global future, Bridge spoke of the enrichment vine growing delivers to economies and environments of many remote but interconnected corners of the world.

He continued to develop the theme, stating that the intergenerational longevity of tending vineyards and the fact that, as the world’s only branded agricultural product, wine is in a unique position to draw on its heritage and stories, mean that the wine world is well-placed to “talk directly to the consumer and [that the] consumers listen”.

Referencing the concept of terroir, Bridge said that consumers understand that vine growers and winemakers are custodians of the environment and that they also care.

Describing the nature of the approach now taken by businesses in the face of climate change as “critical”, Obama later added that both adaptation and mitigation were among several strategies needed.

No matter what we do at this point the climate will be getting warmer for some time,” said Obama.

And what that means is that adaptation is going to be required. And that means, for winemakers for example, to share best practices in terms of how they can sustain their industry in the face of rising temperatures. And the product that you make is sensitive, so that makes perfect sense.”

It is also important for industries being affected to publicise the impact that climate change is already having. Because one of the challenges in the climate debate is always that it kind of creeps up on you. It’s not an immediate catastrophe,” said Obama.

While the wine industry is invited to be a central driver of the Porto Protocol, the initiative is open to all areas of economic activity, seeking to encourage signatories to spread the call to action through sharing of information, experiences and transparency.

For the Porto Protocol to make a real difference, we need participation from individuals, companies and organisations from all areas, in Portugal and around the globe. The wine industry may be the starting point and is well placed to initiate and mentor the process. However, the Porto Protocol is an open platform, a dynamic database of ideas, a shared resource from which we can all benefit, whatever our area of activity,” said Bridge.

He was joined by other speakers in urging that the while there is still time to mitigate and adapt with regard to some of the worst effects that climate change is already delivering, there is no longer any time for inaction.

The message – reasoned, persuasive and loud and clear – from Obama, Munasinghe and others, was that there is now an overwhelming economic, cultural and humanitarian imperative to deliver much greater positive change and that the world needs to fully embrace the urgency with which this is necessary.

As Munasinghe said: “The planet will survive climate change – the question is whether humans will survive.”

France: Fraud probe finds Spanish wine being passed off as French

Decanter, Chris Mercer July 10, 2018

An investigation by France’s anti-fraud watchdog has found millions of bottles-worth of Spanish wine either being falsely passed off as French or poorly labelled to make French consumers think it is homegrown, say officials.

Fraud police found evidence that some pichets – or pitchers – sold in France’s restaurants did not always contain the wine listed on the menu, as well as bag-in-box wines and bottles sold via retailers that appeared to have obscured the origin of their contents.

Most retailers and restaurants audited across 2016 and 2017 complied fully with labelling rules, said France’s anti-fraud body, DGCCRF, keen to put some perspective on the problem.

But, it said there were several instances of Spanish wines being sold as French, with the amount of wine involved in individual cases ranging from 2,000 hectolitres to 34,500hl – up to 4.6 million bottles-worth.

It is the latest in a series of fraud investigations targeting the wine industry and supply chain in France, suggesting that French officials have taken a more proactive stance towards the sector.

The DGCCRF said that it examined imported wine as a whole, although Spanish wine imports became a particular focus.

It said that it audited 179 outlets in 2016 and 564 in 2017, finding that 22% and 15% of those surveyed in 2016 and 2017 respectively had wines falling foul of labelling rules.

Common issues included Spanish wine ‘sold in bulk as French wine or even usurping a French IGP name’, the watchdog said.

If found guilty of such deception, those involved faced fines of up to 10% of annual turnover, or 300,000 euros – whichever is greater – and up to two years in prison.

No specific companies or retailers were named.

In other cases, fraud officers found examples of imported wines sold as bag-in-box that only mentioned the true origin of the wine on the underside of the box. Others used terms such as ‘bottled in France’ or images of châteaux on labels.

One shop was forced to remove 16,700 bottles of Spanish wine from shelves, the DGCCRF said.

It added that there was also evidence of problems in some French restaurants and cafes.

‘One restaurant owner sold a pichet – or pitcher – of IGP OC wine when the wine was actually Spanish,’ the watchdog said, following several inspections.

French media, which has widely reported the DGCCRF findings, has said that officers found a particular problem with rosé wine.

Results of the latest investigation could provoke a sense of vindication among wine unions in Languedoc-Roussillon, which have complained in recent years about the flow of cheap Spanish wine into France; also claiming that some of it was not being labelled properly.

There has been violence, too, such as the hijacking of tankers crossing the Spanish border, although wine unions themselves have condemned such actions.

Meeting a female pioneer of the Médoc

Decantern Jane Anson July 5, 2018

Jane Anson meets Jenny Dobson, the New Zealander considered to have been one of the first female cellar masters in the Médoc and who was subsequently nicknamed the ‘queen of red wine blending’ for her consultant winemaking work in her home country.

The woman reputed to have been the first female cellar master in the Médoc, you may not be entirely surprised to learn, was not French, and neither was the owner of the château that hired her.

Instead Jenny Dobson, who joined Château Sénéjac in the early 1980s fresh from working with Steven Spurrier at the Académie du Vin in Paris, was originally from New Zealand’s South Island.

And Sénéjac at the time was owned by the American de Guigne family (okay, the family itself is French but its owner from 1976 until 1999 was Charles de Guigne, who was born in San Francisco in 1939 and died in 2017 in California). De Guigne had moved to France in 1976 to take over the family estate in Le Pian Médoc, and hired Dobson first as a cellar hand, and then when the former cellar master became ill, encouraged her to take over.

‘There was no one else at the estate,’ Dobson told me a few weeks ago, as we chatted next to one of the fishing huts – this one owned by Léoville Barton – that line the Garonne river. ‘Charles was back in the States and the choice was to step up or simply find another job. So I stepped up’.

Women cellar masters remain rare in Bordeaux, but they are there if you look.

Sophie Horstmann was cellar master at Château Corbin in St-Emilion for the past few years although she has now left, while Margaux Reeder fulfils the role at Château Bastor-Lamontagne in Sauternes (as does most famously Sandrine Garbay at Yquem).

Fanny Landreau is at Château Laujac in the Médoc, Manon Deville at Château de la Rivière in Fronsac and Sophie Burguet at Château de Rouillac in Pessac-Léognan.

Most began as cellar hands and worked their way up, and most work as vineyard manager or winemaker at the same time.

‘Being a cellar master is a hugely physical job, but you just get on with it,’ says Dobson.

‘As a woman you use your body differently perhaps – sort of roll the barrels up your legs, bending your knees to support them rather than simply hoisting them up directly.

‘It’s just a different way of approaching things but get you the job done just the same, and I still work in the same way now, 30 years on. I couldn’t really tell you what other cellar masters thought of me when I started in Bordeaux,’ she adds. ‘I was working so hard that I didn’t really socialise with them. I just wanted to make good wine’.

Dobson had just spent the afternoon at Sénéjac for the first time since leaving in 1995 after 13 years in the role. She returns as a much-lauded winemaker who has been described as the ‘queen of red wine blending’ by the New Zealand Herald.

She has worked as chief winemaker at TeAwa Estate in Hawkes Bay, as well as consultant for Sacred Hill, Unison Vineyard, William Murdoch Wines and others in Hawke’s Bay, most usually in Gimblett Gravels.

Right now she is also launching her own new range of wines, and one of her first is from the white Italian wine grape Fiano, something that should be of interest to the many Bordelais who told me they remember her excellent 100% Sémillon wine at Sénéjac.

Dobson got her start studying chemistry at Otago University, but found the laboratory work uninspiring and so swapped into food science.

‘There were no university courses for wine in New Zealand in the early 1970s,’ she says. ‘There was just very little wine being made in the country at that point’.

There were no vineyards around her childhood home, but her parents drank wine, which was relatively unusual at the time and which caught her attention (‘not the alcohol but the aromas’ she is quick to point out).

Heading over to England and then France, her first job in wine was with Jacques Seysses at Domaine Dujac in Burgundy and then with Spurrier in Paris, helping to run the Académie du Vin wine school, which by that point was holding classes daily and teaching hundreds of students per week.

‘Jacques Seysses’ father was Parisian,’ says Dobson, ‘and had started a cellar for his son when he was born. We used to drink some amazing bottles while I was working there, and when I got to Paris the diversity of wines and my exposure to them continued at the Acadeémie du Vin.

‘I learnt so much from Steven’s knowledge for wine, but also his passion for sharing good bottles with those around him. But after two years at the Académie du Vin, I wanted to get back into the vineyards. I’d been in Burgundy, so when the opportunity came up to go to Bordeaux, I took it.’

Her first Bordeaux vintage, as luck would have it, was the 1982, first at Château Raoul in the Graves and then from 1983 at Sénéjac.

‘I oversaw a new cellar, and a move into more modern winemaking. The years 1988, 1989 and 1990 were just brilliant – the weather and the wines were great, and I was loving my job. There was no separation between cellar master and winemaker at Sénéjac, and I got to do everything. It was a brilliant opportunity.’

She left Bordeaux after having three children with her British négociant husband Charles, heading first to Australia before moving back to New Zealand.

‘At first we kept our things in storage in Bordeaux, just in case we wanted to move back. But in the end I felt I had reached about as far as I could go as in Bordeaux.

‘Not as a woman. The more difficult thing to overcome for me in terms of acceptance was probably being a foreigner. I would always have been on the outside to a certain extent. But what I learnt there has helped me for the rest of my career.’

The Champagne & Sparkling World Wine Championships 2018

July 6th, 2018

The world’s most prestigious sparkling wine competition, The Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships 2018 (CSWWC) have announced a total of 116 Gold and 128 Silver medals were awarded in this year’s competition to 18 different countries.

All the Gold & Silver medal winners can be found at the link below https://www.champagnesparklingwwc.co.uk/results/results-2018/

France gained the largest haul of Gold medals with 47 Golds and 36 Silver, closely followed by Italy who romped home with a collective total of 71 Gold and Silver medals with Franciacorta and Trentodoc the two regions coming out on top.

The judges were also particularly impressed by the quality of Australian, USA and English entries this year who brought home consecutively, ten, five and nine Golds.

The judges all commented that this has been the toughest judging yet as the quality and diversity of sparkling wine improves year on year.

Tom Stevenson, founder and chairman of the judges, said with increasing technology and expertise, world class sparkling can now be found in countries where It was undrinkable or non-existent a decade ago.

“While France and Italy remain the two most important countries in terms of their number of entries, the increase in entries from the USA, UK, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Hungary and South Africa has averaged in excess of 75%.

“In the USA we saw first time entries from Virginia and Illinois,” he added.

The judges were also thrilled to award Gold medals to Argentina, Canada, Hungary, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain AND for the first time a Gold medal to Romania.

The Best in Class, National Champions and World Champions by Style will be revealed at this year’s CSWWC Awards Dinner at Merchant Taylor’s Hall in London on October 24.

“We have been really impressed by the standard of sparkling wines that have entered this year, the bar was set high from day one and the medal count reflects this,” Stevenson continued.

“[…] We judge wines conventionally as Gold, Silver, Bronze, Commended, No Award, Possibly Faulty and Definitely Faulty, but we award unconventionally only Gold and Silver medals because these are the truly outstanding wines; and we only judge in flights of different style for National trophies and different origin for World Champion trophies.

“With a Bronze from a classic sparkling wine appellation, it is easy for producers to submit a magnum the next year and almost guarantee a Silver or even a Gold because the difference in quality between a regular 75cl bottle and a magnum of effectively the same wine is truly that great,” Stevenson explained

“However, when a Bronze is from a relatively obscure, unknown or untested region, they have virtually no local expertise to assist them, so it is important for those producers to understand that they could be on the verge of achieving a world class sparkling wine.

“We make the judges’ notes for such wines exclusively available to their producers on a confidential basis and recommend they use this feedback to fine-tune their improvements.

“The competition becomes a record of their progress and, hopefully, it will eventually lead to a Silver or Gold medal — there were 219 theoretical Bronze medal wines this year that can and should give them hope for the future.”

Police seize Bordeaux châteaux owned by Chinese firm

Decanter, Sophie Kevany June 29, 2018

French fraud police have frozen ownership of 10 Bordeaux châteaux believed to be connected to the same Chinese investor as part of an ongoing investigation.

France’s Central Office for the Repression of Major Financial Crime (OCRGDF) has frozen ownership of 10 vineyards and châteaux in Bordeaux, confirmed a spokesperson for Bordeaux’s organised crime department (the DIJP, or Direction interrégionale de la police judiciaire).

It was understood that all estates belonged to China’s Haichang Group, although the DIJP spokesperson would not confirm the names of the estates seized. The DIJP managed the investigation and seizure with the OCRGDF.

Day-to-day business at the properties has continued as normal and the wines themselves were not part of the investigation, the DIJP spokesperson said.

The seizures, which took place over the last six months, follow a four-year investigation in France into possible financial irregularities related to the funds used to buy the properties. The investigation into the source of the funds focused particularly on the misuse of public funds and money laundering.

The French police investigation was set to be examined by a judge and a decision on the future of the confiscated estates is expected to be made in the coming months.

Asked how the investigation began, the spokesperson said it followed reports of financial issues with Haichang Group in China. A report released in 2014 by China’s National Audit Office (NAO) accused Haichang Holdings Ltd. (based in Dalian) of misspending $43 million in public funds. However, no formal charges were known to have been brought against the firm.

Haichang, founded in Dalian in China’s Liaoning province, owns around 20 Bordeaux wine estates.

In 2015, Decanter’s Jane Anson reported that Haichang Group-owned properties in Bordeaux were producing an estimated two million bottles per year across 60 labels, much of which is sold in China.

Christophe Chateau, a spokesperson for Bordeaux’s wine bureau (CIVB), told Decanter.com, ‘The subject of the investigation is not wine, it is finance. Therefore the CIVB is not involved. We are monitoring the situation, though.

‘We are always very happy when Chinese buyers come to Bordeaux and when they buy châteaux. It raises the image of Bordeaux in China. But, if the money is not clean, then the two governments, Chinese and French, need to investigate. I have never, in my time in Bordeaux, heard of anything like this happening before.’

A spokesperson for Haichang Group could not be immediately reached.

First EU cross-border appellation approval

Harpers, 28 November, 2017

Wines of England may be known for their sparkling production, but their still wines now have a new cool climate reference point to compare with.

The European Commission has approved Maasvallei Limburg, the first ever cross-border PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) appellation, a 60 square-mile area, which straddles the Flemish lands, either side of the River Meuse between Belgium and the Netherlands.

In similar fashion to English producers, winemakers in the new protected wine production area use Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois, Riesling and Chardonnay to make their wines.

Like producers in Britain, winemakers in Maasvallei Limburg, have benefitted from climate change.

“We have less rainfall here than in Piedmont, Italy and this allows us to achieve optimal ripeness of grapes,” Karel Henckens, producer and owner of Aldeneyk vineyard in Belgium told Harpers.

Producers in Maasvallei Limburg will now be able to label their wines with the red and yellow stamp of the new PDO.

Henckens, who worked on the PDO dossier said yesterday’s approval of the protected status was a recognition of the unique characteristics of terroir and climate in the region.

“Our stony, gravel soils (of limestone, quartz and flint) do not stop at the border; the official approval of our PDO is a recognition of our identity,” he said.

“We are very happy with this recognition, which puts us on the world wine map and will give us greater international exposure.”

Henckens, who has been making wine for more than 15 years and is known for his production of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, said the appellation would boost the incentive for growers to improve production in line with the five key producers in the new appellation.

As well as still wine production, about 20% of production in the area is sparkling wine.

“In Belgium we drink so much sparkling wine that we have to produce fizz,” Henckens said.

The approval of the PDO comes 150 years after Napoleon, in an act of protectionism, uprooted vines planted in the area, forcing local farmers to focus on beer production.

Greek whites vie for Assyrtiko’s crown

Harpers, Darren Smith 26 June, 2018

Malagousia, Vidiano, Kidonitsa, Savatiano and Moscofilero may be unfamiliar names to everyone but Greek wine adventurists.

But excitement from buyers indicates these white varieties could be ready to take centre stage with Assyrtiko off the back of funding into technology and improved producer confidence in native grapes.

“They’re world-class,” confirms Steve Daniel, head buyer Hallgarten & Novum and veteran philhellene. “They have real intensity, minerality and, in a world which is full of ‘me too’ wines, they’re very distinct and individual. There are many different varieties, they’re incredibly well made using modern winemaking techniques, they’re wines that are full of minerality, generally unoaked and really exciting. Assyrtiko is king, but it’s not the only one.”

Daniel is particularly hopeful of the southern Peloponnese variety Kidonitsa, which he says, is beginning to be more widely planted, and is a “really interesting semi-aromatic variety with good acidity and good grip”.

Malagousia meanwhile, is a “great grape and is spreading widely across Greece. It’s user-friendly – a combination between Viognier and something a little bit more mineral, maybe a Riesling, in terms of style.

Moscofilero is one of the old-timers, originally only in Mantinea and still pretty much only in the Peloponnese, but on its own or in blends making really fresh, citrusy, quite exotic wines.”

Then there is Vidiano. A once vanishingly rare Cretan variety, Vidiano is still only used by around 10 producers in Crete according to Vassilis Tsaktsarlis of Ktima Biblia Chora in Kokkinochori, near Kavala in the north Peloponnese. However it now has a firm footing, thanks to the effort of producers such as Douloufakis, and is attracting interest on the mainland. “Vidiano for me is a very, very interesting variety,” says Tsaktsarlis. “It’s aromatic – but it also seems like Chardonnay. With Vidiano we can make two things: one – very good wines with structure and low yields and, two, wines with good quality and a good price at a higher yield. If I had a winery in Crete, I would make all Vidiano.”

The rise in confidence comes against a backdrop of increasing quality for white wines in mainland Greece and the islands over the past decade, and slightly more recently in Crete.

Assyrtiko is now grown not just throughout Greece, but also in Australia (Jim Barry) and California (Tenbrink, Fairfield), with vines due to be planted in South Africa (Jordan Wines) this year too.

But while Assyrtiko from Santorini has led the field, there is a host of high quality native white varieties capable of making a big impact on the world stage.

It has taken some time, however, for Greek producers to have the confidence to champion their own varieties above international ones; even to this day certain designated growing areas, such as PGI Pangeon in northern Greece, are dominated by international varieties.

“I think they’ve got more confidence now so there is more willingness to champion native varieties,” explains Daniels. “In the north it was actually something that was inflicted by the government, which decided that in certain areas, like Drama and Kavala, they had to plant international varieties. They were also thinking about the tourist market, thinking that a tourist would be more likely to pick a Sauvignon off a list than an Assyrtiko. But there’s certainly now a balance and a lot of the producers are pushing the government to change the laws so they can plant more and more of their indigenous varieties.”

Last bottles’ from Henri Jayer cellar sold for $35 million – auction house

Decanter, Chris Mercer June 26, 2018

Strong competition from bidders around the world saw the Geneva auction achieve more than double its pre-sale estimate, according to organiser Baghera Wines. A final sales total of CHF34.5 million (US$34.7 million) was more than double the top-end estimate prior to the auction.

Baghera, which pitched the event as the last ex-cellar auction from the late Henri Jayer’s personal collection, had set a pre-sale high estimate of CHF13 million.

Jayer died in 2006, aged 84, and had long been considered a master of Pinot Noir in Burgundy.

More than 1,000 wines were up for auction, including 855 75cl bottles and 209 magnums, divided into 215 lots. Vintages ranged from 1970 to 2001. All had remained in Jayer cellars until February 2018, Baghera said.

Top lot was a 15-magnum cache of Cros-Parantoux 1er Cru vintages stretching from 1978 to 2001, which fetched CHF1.16 million,including the buyer’s premium.

Other top lots in the sale included:

One magnum of Cros-Parantoux 1er Cru 1978, sold for CHF144,000

Six magnums of Cros-Parantoux 1999, sold for CHF528,000

One bottle of Richebourg 1986, sold for CHF50,400

Michael Ganne, executive director of Baghera Wines, said, ‘No doubt, this auction will remain a historic event for all Pinot Noir enthusiasts.’ Baghera said that the wines became available for auction after Jayer’s two daughters decided to sell the collection. All the wines were given new capsules and new labels in February 2018, before being shipped direct from the cellar ‘under a sworn bailiff’s supervision’, the auction house said.

Regarding fill levels for wines in the auction, Baghera said that it had assessed the wines and found the levels to be perfectly acceptable for their age.

‘Henri Jayer was known to be obsessively cautious and meticulous with the corks he used, choosing his cork manufacturers with great rigour,’ Baghera said. ‘But like in any domaine’s cellar, after 30 years, some corks may be more fragile than others.’

Around three percent of the wines in 75cl bottles in the auction had a level that more than five centimetres below the capsule, and most of these were more than 40 years old, Baghera said.

It added, ‘If levels are important for an old bottle of wine, the colour of the wine is the key. We agreed to sell these wines because the colour was fantastic and, in our opinion, still great for consumption.’

Italian diversity paving the way for premium Prosecco?

Harpers , By Jo Gilbert 20 June, 2018

A greater appreciation of Italy’s regions and varietal diversity could be laying the groundwork for the longevity of Prosecco, according to experts.

One of the closing panel discussions at Bellavita yesterday pulled no punches about the strength of the Italian wine category, which distributors agreed has become one of the main go-to categories for quality wine buyers in recent years.

Not only does it over deliver on price, often overtaking the New World in terms of great value, it has benefitted from low production and high cost in places like France, with Gavi and Soave offering good mid-range wines for the on-trade that used to be dominated by Chablis and Sancerre.

This heightened interest in what Italy has to offer and the boom in European sparkling is creating a window of opportunity for Prosecco in the UK, which accounts for 75% of exports when combined with the US and Germany.

However, distributors agreed much needs to be done before the sparkler sits in the same quality bracket as other Italian wines.

I think 15% of what’s available now is quality and the rest is rubbish,” said John Graves, on-trade channel director at Bibendum. “That’s the truth. The key will be to protect quality and not chase volume. Everyone in the trade has a duty to protect it as it is a good product.”

The extent to which Prosecco continues to dominate ranges can be seen in Bibendum’s portfolio, where over 50 SKUs are dedicated to Prosecco – over half of its entire Italian range.

Others agreed that premium Prosecco will sustain the category for the future, with Christopher Carson of Carson & Carnevale Wines and Luigi Buonanno, regional sales manager for London at Berkmann, both pointing to the need for greater education around the different DOC and DOCGs.

A greater appreciation of Italy’s regions is likely to help with this, as restaurateurs increasingly request new sub-regions and grapes.

Before, Sicily was seen as a category. It was ‘Sicilian wines’,” said Graves.

Now, restaurateurs are asking for wines from the slopes of Mount Etna or new varietals. In the north, customers are asking for entry level Nebbiolo which they haven’t asked for before, and Barbera is one of our biggest varietals now whereas five years ago we barely sold anything. Italy is the most exciting it’s been in the on-trade for a while. Pecorino on a wine list for £25, that’s fantastic value.”

In parallel, Producers are now aiming to highlight their credentials as quality Prosecco connoisseurs.

This is the case with Villa Sandi, one of the oldest Prosecco producers and one of five “historic premium wine houses” which make up the Italian Signature Wines Academy.

Although it has been making Prosecco since in the 1960s, things have moved fast in the past ten years.

A decade ago, the producer’s biggest seller was Pinot Grigio in the UK.

Now, Prosecco has the lion’s share of sales with 90%, while Pinot Grigio represents just 5%.

Villa Sandi is now in 93 countries – more according to Flavio Geretto, export area manager UK, USA, Americas, Asia Pacific, than any other producer.

Geretto is also keen to convey the house’s other main claim to fame, that it is the only producer to own estates in all areas of the Prosecco producing regions – including the original Prosecco heartland DOC Treviso as well as DOCGs Asolo and Cartizze.

Because of Prosecco’s popularity, in 2009 there was large change in the law to widen the geographic production area. Our challenge now is to communicate our heritage and our geography. For example in Cartizze, there is just 100 ha of Prosecco production, compared to 26,000 ha of total Prosecco. This is what we must communicate to the consumer.”

Villa Sandi is serious about education.

In the last two years, it has hosted over 50 masterclasses in the UK for both trade and consumers.

There is a long road ahead however.

Consumer understanding of Prosecco’s provenance in the Veneto region is limited, and confusion abounds over the grape itself.

Throughout much of the 20th century, Prosecco followed the Northeast Italian tradition of naming the wine after the grape.

Only in 2009 was the Prosecco grape officially changed back to its earlier name of Glera to avoid other sparkling wines being labelled as ‘Prosecco’ by using the grape variety’s name.

Although sales are widely tipped to begin flat-lining over the next couple of years, no one is ready to dismiss the influence of Prosecco, which poses its own threat to Italy’s reputation as a “treasure trove” of wine varietals.

This was highlighted by Emanuele Altieri at family estate Fontefico in Abruzzo, who refuses to follow other Abruzzo producers into chasing the sparkling steam train.

Instead, he is focusing on his family’s flagship Montepulciano D’Abbruzo – the signature rustic, juicy red wine from this part of central eastern Italy.

Lombardy and Veneto are sparkling regions and we should leave them to it. Each region has its speciality. You don’t have to follow the market, you invite the market to find and discover you,” he said.

Pinot Noir Masters 2018

The Drinks Business, 20 June 2018

Continuing a theme seen over past Pinot Noir Masters, this year’s competition highlighted the quality on offer from the US and New Zealand in particular, although, in keeping with previous judging sessions, the results, whatever the source nation, were hugely variable – more so than in any other competition we run.

Indeed, the judges this year were to some extent flummoxed as to how a particular place can produce a star wine in one flight, and a disappointment in another.

Nevertheless, such an outcome did lend weight to the notion that Pinot is a difficult grape to get right, even when the climate is perfect.

While we had some wonderful examples with ripe fruit, fine tannin, floral overtones and a touch of sweet oak, we also had some wines that swung towards two extremes – either too light and green, or too rich and alcoholic, although the latter was rarer, suggesting that producers are trying to capture the delicate side of this variety.

The greatest wines were from a fairly wide sweep of sites, proving the commercial significance of this grape: everyone wants to crack Pinot, both because it’s a sign of winemaking and viticultural prowess, but also because there is such a strong market for the variety.

Highlights this year, like 2017, included blanc de noirs from Champagne, in particular those from De Venoge and Gosset, confirming Pinot’s suitability for the creation of truly great sparkling wines.

Among the still wines, it was notable that only Pinots over £10 achieved really high scores, with the best-value Golds coming from Chile’s Limarí Valley, California, the Yarra and Marlborough (Marques de Casa, Three Thieves and De Bortoli).

Moving into the £15-20 price band, a notable top performer was the Montes ‘Outer Limits’ Pinot Noir from Santa Cruz in Chile, showing that this producer is adept at finding new terroirs for crafting great wines.

But we were also impressed by the quality to price ratio from Copain in California, and there were lots of very good wines achieving Silver medals in this price band from a range of sources, from southern France to the Adelaide Hills, Central Otago and Baden.

Once the wines surpassed the £20 mark, as one would expect, the number of Gold medal-scoring wines increased significantly, with great Pinots from Napa, Yarra, Marlborough, Oregon and Aukland, as well as perennial high performer, Tapanappa, the only Pinot from Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula.

Above £30 and the judges tasted their first Master-winning wine – an award only handed out for the truly outstanding – and this went to a Penner-Ash in Willamette Valley wine, proving that Oregon really is a great place for perfumed New World Pinot.

In fact, two further Golds in this price category were awarded to Oregon (Domaine Serene), along with delicious Pinots from Wairarapa (Matahiwi) and California (Hahn).

The day’s tasting then finished with the very top end in terms of price, and also the greatest wines of the competition. Again, Oregon featured, with a further wine from Domaine Serene wowing the judges with a Master-winning wine – this really is a producer with a great talent for crafting fine Pinot – while Oregon’s new Gran Moraine brand, founded by Jackson Family Wines in 2013, gained a Gold, proving that this is already a wonderful addition to the world of great Pinot.

However, along with Domaine Serene, this year’s other Master in the over £50 flight turned out to be somewhat surprising. Hailing from France, but not Burgundy, it was made by Languedoc star producer Gérard Bertrand, and come from a particular site in the northernmost part of the Haute Vallée de l’Aude winemaking region, where a vineyard 500 metres above sea level combines cool nights from high altitude conditions with Pinot’s favoured soil type: clay and limestone.

Finally, seriously impressing the judges too were the wines of New Zealand’s Marisco Vineyards. Founded by famous Marlborough winemaker Brent Maris (formerly of Wither Hills), these great, layered, medium-weight and pricy Pinots from the land of Sauvignon Blanc were a real find for the judges, and proved that the deeper clay soils of inland Marlborough – the Southern Valleys sub-regoin – can now claim to be a source of New Zealand’s best Pinots, along with Otago and Martinborough.

So, once again, our tasting format that sees wines assessed without knowledge of the source region drew attention to the hot spots for Pinot in the world. Some of these we knew, some of these required confirmation, and some of these were complete surprises. But, every result was significant.

Hotel California Road, a cellar door with a difference

Financial Review- 20 June 2018

When Dr Irina Santiago-Brown and her husband, Dudley Brown, started thinking about building a tasting room and boutique hotel at their Inkwell vineyard in South Australia’s McLaren Vale, they knew it would have to set a new standard in sustainability.

Irina is one of Australia’s leading experts in sustainability in viticulture. She was instrumental in developing McLaren Vale’s Sustainable Australia Winegrowing program, and the Inkwell vineyard is certified organic. Any hotel and cellar door on the property, then, was always going to be as green as possible.

A couple of years ago, laid up after knee surgery and chomping painkillers, Dudley started thinking about using old shipping containers as building blocks for the project – the ultimate in upcycling. He realised that containers were the same proportion as Lego blocks, so he began stacking the colourful bricks on top of each other, giving his vision form.

“Dudley and Endone pills designed it,” says Irina. “He sent his Lego model to a bunch of engineers and asked them: is this doable? He kept hassling them until they agreed to do it to get rid of him.”

Last month, the Browns opened their tasting room and exclusive three-room accommodation. Not only is it made from 21 shipping containers, but it also basks in sustainability cred: much of the interior is crafted from recycled and repurposed materials (the tasting area is furnished with mid-20th century German school chairs; the tables are fashioned from old Japanese kimono-cutting tables), and the whole place is, in effect, off-grid for both power and water.

Coming up with a name for the new development was easy. Since establishing the Inkwell label more than a decade ago, Dudley has splashed his love of music all over the business, naming his wines after songs, albums or genres: the Inkwell viognier is called “Blonde on Blonde”, the primitivo “Infidels” (Dudley’s a Dylan fan, obviously); Inkwell’s experimental label is called “Dub Style”. And the vineyard is located on California Road.

There was only ever one option, really: welcome to the Hotel California Road. Such a lovely place.

There’s more than just a consideration for environmental sustainability at work here: for Irina and Dudley, developing the tasting room particularly is also about the long-term viability of the business.

“It was not sustainable for us not to do this,” says Irina. “We are a small wine business. We need cash flow. We need to sell wine. Building this means we are able to do that in the way that we want to do it.”

A key to the experience at Hotel California Road is timed tastings: every 20 minutes during the day, Dudley or Irina will take visitors through the line-up of Inkwell wines, telling the stories of each one, giving people a good understanding of the background, growing and winemaking.

“It’s something we saw at Rippon winery in Central Otago,” says Dudley. “We got to visit loads of cellar doors on Irina’s research trips through California, South Africa, New Zealand. We really liked how it focused attention on the wines, rather than just being a free-for-all at the tasting bench. It’s about providing a greater experience for fewer people.”

This approach fits, too, with the couple’s business philosophy.

“We don’t make much wine,” says Dudley, smiling. “We worked out four or five years ago that all we have to do is find the 5000 people in the world who love our wines, and everything will be fine. Now, with the Hotel California Road, we have three rooms. That’s 1100 nights a year we’ve got people here who we hope will love our wines. We’re set.”

Österreichische Traditionsweingüter nearly doubles number of estate members

Harpers, 19 June, 2018

The Österreichische Traditionsweingüter (Traditional Austrian Winemakers) association has welcomed two new regions – Wien and Carnuntum, nearly doubling its number of wine estates.

Up until now, the group included a total of 36 wine estates in the Donauraum/Danube River region (Traisental, Kamptal, Kremstal and Wagram), with the addition of Wien and Carnuntum nearly doubling this number to 62.

Founded in 1992 with the aim of classifying the classic vineyards objectively and making the significance and potential of exceptional vineyard sites more easily understandable, the group has also introduced a new structure on the back of the growing number of regions involved.

The new structure – an umbrella organisation with three regional associations, was introduced last week at the biennial wine festival VieVinum in Vienna.

The re-structured organisation is headed up by Michael Moosbrugger (Schloss Gobelsburg), who will also serve as chairman of the regional association Donauraum.

The goal was that the classification of vineyards sites – in Austrian German the word is “Ried”, plural “Rieden” – would acquire legal status over the intermediate term,” said Moosbrugger.

With this, the classifications would not just be the private statutory affair of the winegrowers’ associations but become legally defined cadastral categories, which would apply to all wine-producing estates in Austria. Thus the Traditionsweingüter regard themselves not as an elite club, but far more as the pioneering band of researchers, investigating and collecting data that will offer fundamental benefits for the entire community of Austrian winegrowers,” he said.

There is a group of six wine estates in Wien/Vienna, chaired by Fritz Wieninger, who have already in recent years laid the groundwork for their vineyard classification, and now begin the actual process with a total of twelve ÖTW.Erste Lage vineyard sites among the membership.

The ÖTW regional association for Carnuntum is led by grower Gerhard Markowitsch, with twenty estates having joined the process.

A scientific & geologic research programme has been underway in Carnuntum for some 10 years, which will be incorporated into the process of classification.

The growers of Carnuntum, though, wished to “take their time” with vineyard classification, said Moosbrugger, adding this could possibly lead to simultaneous establishment of a DAC Carnuntum, which he said was now in the planning stage as well.

There are currently seventy-two vineyards (sixty in the Danube Region and twelve in Vienna) classified as ÖTW.Erste Lage.

The work in determining which sites should be recognised as Grosse Lage would require a “bit of time yet”, imagining results in this regard to manifest themselves during the next ten years, said Moosbrugger.

Brexit and GIs: Erode protected names at your peril

Decanter, Andrew Jefford, June 18, 2018

Most mornings, before dawn or after, I tune into Farming Today on BBC Radio 4.

A recent interview with Shawna Morris, vice president of trade policy for the US Dairy Export Council, made me choke on my tea (Twinings Vintage Darjeeling, 92 points, note on application).

She brightly suggested that one of the advantages Britons might like to seize, on leaving the EU, was the chance to abandon European name-protection legislation. ‘Our issue is, frankly, overreach,’ she complained of the existing system.

Champagne and Cognac (as well as Parma ham and what she called ‘Parmegian’) were, Morris suggested, examples of ‘common-name products’ whose names should be free for all to use, claiming that protection of such names by the EU was akin to someone ‘trademarking the name “sausage” or “oyster’”.

Post-Brexit, English sparkling wine producers, in other words, could call their wines Champagne. Julian Temperley might consider renaming his Somerset Cider Brandy as Somerset Cider Cognac.

Almost as dismaying as her argument was the fact that the interviewer dozily failed to challenge these suggestions, or to ask whether she accepted that there was a difference between a common noun and a place name.

During a year in which Britain’s proposed disengagement from Europe kicks other political challenges into the outfield, and in which the US President vaunts tariffs and protectionism as a means of righting trade imbalances, it’s worth considering the value of European-inspired geographical name protection (PDO or Protected Designation of Origin, and PGI or Protected Geographical Indication).

This notion came into being in the wine world first of all – after decades of abuse and the destruction of livelihoods caused by passing off one product as another with an intrinsic, quality-based reputation. If you’d bought a bottle of ‘Champagne’ in the first decade of the 20th century, you might have been consuming fermented juice pressed from Languedoc, German or Spanish grapes – even, if rumour is to be believed, from English rhubarb. The riots that ensued from this fraud, in what was still a miserably poor area of France, saw Aÿ burnt in 1911. Finding a legal framework for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) was subject to many false starts and revisions; the first (A for Arbois) was awarded in May 1936.

The system has been so successful that, in terms of the basic tenets of geographical indication (rather than production legislation), it’s now almost universal in the wine world, and a creator of value for producers everywhere. It’s revolutionised food production, too, helping quality producers maintain the margins for survival and protecting vulnerable local specialities.

I’m (just) old enough to remember a little of what the British wine trade was like prior to Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community in 1973. I still have a wine label from one of the bottles I trustingly bought in Norwich in 1972. It says ‘Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Grand Vin de Bourgogne’ – and was probably neither. Today’s Chinese consumers suffer in much the same way, though in this case it’s fraudulent brands rather than fraudulent GIs that tend to be the cause.

At root, the issue is about truth-telling in commerce. The only route to value (for the producer, for the consumer; value both pecuniary and moral, objective and affective) lies in truth, legally supported and policed. Once you start to tell lies about a bottle of wine or piece of cheese, value begins to erode and will, sooner or later, be entirely lost.

That’s why the cheese casually called ‘Cheddar’ around the world is often a ghastly purchase: we failed long ago to protect this geographical name, and it surrendered all meaning and value. (Not so for West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, whose PDO has helped it retain savour.) Rather than disengaging, as suggested by Morris, in 2018 Britain should reinforce its engagement to this precious European achievement. Will it?

Wine Sales Grow as Consumers Trading Up

Wines & Vines, 14 June 2018

San Rafael, Calif.—Data from market research firm bw166 reported that $3.2 billion worth of U.S. wine sold in May, driven by a 2% increase in table wines. Sparkling wine and bulk imports increased 3% and 13%, respectively, but represent a minor portion of the market. The activity kept U.S. wine sales in the latest 12 months steady at $41 billion, unchanged from a year ago. But drilling down into sales of Sauvignon Blanc, which has a reputation as a refreshing tipple during the warmer days of late spring and summer, the ongoing shift to premium wines is evident. Consumers are trading up, even for varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, which saw the most growth over the past year in the top price tiers.

Sauvignon Blanc logged sales of $623 million at multiple-outlet and convenience stores in the 52 weeks ended May 20, according to market research firm IRI. This was 7% higher than a year ago. Growth was more than twice as great for bottles priced $20 and up, however, increasing 16% to exceed $23 million. Similarly, the most expensive box brands of Sauvignon Blanc — those priced $4.50-plus per 750 ml. — enjoyed a 41% lift in sales to more than $19 million. The shift is even more dramatic considering that boxed Sauvignon Blanc priced less than $4.50 saw sales drop 29%, while bottles retailing for $7.99 and less saw sales drop 4%. “The trend we’re noticing is that consumers are becoming more informed in their wine purchasing,” says Tamara Stanfill, public relations manager with Treasury Wine Estates and its Provenance Vineyards property in Rutherford, Calif. Moving from $20 to $25 per bottle Provenance Sauvignon Blanc retails for $25 and up and has seen particularly strong growth in the latest 13 weeks, Stanfill said, with consumers willing to pay for wines of greater quality. “It appears that people who normally spend $20 are willing to go up to $25-plus,” she said. Belinda Weber, marketing director with Duckhorn Wine Co. in St. Helena, Calif., makes similar observations, noting that a warm spring helped boost Sauvignon Blanc sales, fuelling the ongoing trend. Both its $20 Decoy Sauvignon Blanc and its $30 Duckhorn Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc saw double-digit growth in the latest 52 weeks at 21% and 19%, respectively, with greater growth in the latest 13 weeks. The shift in Sauvignon Blanc reflects a broader trend in off-premise data for the four weeks ended May 20. Sales through multiple-outlet and convenience stores in the period totaled $656 million, market research firm IRI reported. This was up 2% versus a year earlier even as case volumes were flat at 8.3 million, pointing to a higher average spend per bottle. Stronger pricing was also seen in the direct-to-consumer channel, which once again saw growth outpace the rest of the industry at 7%. A total of $229 million worth of wine shipped DtC in May, while case volumes increased 9% to 544,724. While the price of the average bottle shipped fell 2% versus May 2017 to $34.96, wines from Napa— which dominates the channel, representing 47% of its total value –increased 3% in the latest 12 months to an average of $63.71 a bottle.

Wines Vines Analytics/ShipCompliant by Sovos data indicated that the primary destination for Napa’s wines over the past year was California itself, at 30%, down two percentage points from last year as deliveries to other states increased. The greater reach didn’t necessarily deliver greater value, however; the average value of wines shipped to consumers in destination states other than the top seven increased by just 1%. DtC shipments to Texas on the rise Stronger gains were seen in larger, established markets such as Texas, the most significant destination for Napa wines after California, receiving $143 million worth of shipments in the latest 12 months. These wines averaged $70.18 a bottle, up 7% from last year. Florida, the third largest destination for Napa wines, received wines averaging $74.94 a bottle, up 5% from last year. Despite the growth at home, data for May indicates that packaged imports remain a force to watch. The category remains the fastest-growing in bw166 data, with sales rising 8% to nearly $22 billion in the latest 12 months. Jon Moramarco, managing partner of bw166, noted that consumers continue to gravitate to French table wines, primarily rosé, as well as sparkling wines from France and Italy. The result was an additional $1.7 billion in sales for packaged imports, making the category the single-biggest contributor to the $1.9 billion increase in sales of domestic and imported wines in the U.S. in the past 12 months. The sum of all wine sales for the period was $63 billion, up 3% from a year ago. Wineries also keep hiring, with Winejobs.com’s Winery Jobs Index rising 4% in May versus a year ago to 471. The increase was driven by greater demand for DtC positions, including tasting room and retail staff, as well as administrative and vineyard positions. Demand for the three subcategories increased 25%, 16% and 6%, respectively. While the supply of vineyard labor continues to face constraints, preparations for Memorial Day and the arrival of summer visitors drove demand for DtC positions. The strength of activity more than offset a 30% drop in demand for sales and marketing positions and an 11% drop in finance requirements. Winemaking positions saw demand fall 4% versus a year earlier.

Copyright © Wines & Vines

Dom Pérignon cellarmaster Geoffroy to hand over reins in 2019

Decanter, June 18, 2018

After 28 years as chef de cave at Dom Pérignon Champagne, Richard Geoffroy will pass the baton to his assistant winemaker, Vincent Chaperon, from 1 January 2019, the house announced today (18 June).

It means that, from next year, Chaperon will take charge of shaping the style and quality of Dom Pérignon’s future vintages.

Chaperon joined Dom Pérignon’s parent Champagne house, Moët & Chandon, in 1999 and became an assistant winemaker a year later.

He has been working alongside Geoffroy for the past 13 harvests and they have declared four vintages together.

Richard Geoffroy, a former doctor of medicine, took up his role as Dom Pérignon’s chef de cave in 1990, crafting and declaring 15 vintages between 1990 and 2009.

His job description may say “chef de cave”, but really he’s the brand’s incarnation. He is ultra-visible, ultra-knowledgeable, ultra-approachable,’ said Margaret Rand in her 2013 interview with Geoffroy for Decanter.

Geoffroy created Dom Pérignon’s ‘Plénitude’ Champagne concept, which involves disgorging and releasing the wine during different stages of its development on the lees.

During his long reign as cellar master Geoffroy has collaborated with artist Jeff Koons, filmmaker David Lynch and, most recently, Grammy Award-winning musician Lenny Kravtiz. He has also worked with world-famous chefs Ferran Adrià and Alain Ducasse.

New Tools to Limit Wine Spoilage
Practical Winery & Vineyard, 12 June 2018

Pullman, Wash.—Once Brettanomyces bruxellensis takes hold in a winery, eradication is formidable, often requiring more than one approach to keep the wine-spoilage yeast at bay. Recent findings by Washington State University show that the interaction between storage temperature and alcohol concentration may be a useful tool to manage Brettanomyces. Brett is a wild yeast associated with the spoilage of red wine. Unlike other yeasts such as Saccharomyces, which converts sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide, Brett is very difficult to control. Though some wineries prefer the earthy and gamey aromas imparted by small amounts of Brett in red wine and believe it adds complexity and aging ability to young wines, a little can quickly turn into too much. When concentrations exceed sensory thresholds, Brett can result in wine with “barnyard” aromas that smell like a wet dog, horse stables, sweaty horse blankets, wet wool or sweaty shoes. Dr. Charles Edwards, a professor at Washington State University in Pullman, focuses his research on problem alcoholic fermentations and spoilage organisms of concern to winemakers. His most recent study, supported by the Washington state wine industry and the Washington State Wine Commission, investigates factors that impact Brett’s growth and ability to survive under various conditions. Edwards’ research includes taking oak barrels apart to learn the depth of penetration and survivability of Brett in oak staves under various conditions and sanitation treatments such as steam, and examining Brett survivability in the winery waste/pomace. The overall goal of his research is to develop effective Brett control measures for wineries. Edwards’ work with graduate student Taylor Oswald was recently published in the American Journal of Enology & Viticulture (68:2 2017). His report, “Interactions between Storage Temperature and Ethanol that Affect Growth of Brettanomyces bruxellensis in Merlot Wine,” is summarized below. Temperature and ethanol (alcohol) concentration are two factors known to affect the growth of B. bruxellensis in synthetic media and wine. Previous research found that the optimum temperature for growth of B. bruxellensis was from 77°F to 83°F in synthetic media. Growth was found to stop above 95°F. Growth in wine and synthetic media have been observed at temperatures as low as 50°F. Researchers also have found that B. bruxellensis can tolerate ethanol concentrations as high as 15%, but few studies have looked at the interactions among control methods as a way to limit or manage spoilage by B. bruxellensis. For example, the interactions between sulfur dioxide and dimethyl dicarbonate and sulfur dioxide and temperature can affect yeast viability. Additionally, interactive impacts have been studied at pH of 3.4, 3.7 or 4.0; alcohol at 10%, 12.5% or 15%, and free sulfur dioxide of 0, 30 or 50 mg/L on B. bruxellensis. “Our study looked for a relationship between alcohol concentrations and storage temperatures,” Edwards says. “We wanted to see if winemakers could use ethanol (alcohol) present in the wine and the temperature of storage together as another barrier to manage Brett.” The WSU researchers found that the interaction between storage temperature and alcohol concentration is important and can help wineries limit and lower the risk of Brett infections. The combination of storage temperatures below 54°F and alcohol concentrations of 14% or more resulted in a decline of Brett populations below the detection limit for up to 100 days. Washington state winemaker Brian Carter of Brian Carter Cellars believes the research findings are useful Brett-management tools. Although he uses temperature to help control Brett in his winery in Woodinville, Wash., this information reinforces his practices. “Alcohol levels, temperature and sulfur dioxide are the three most important defenses to use against Brett,” he says. Although many small wineries do not have multiple barrel and storage rooms, Carter says the synergistic interactions between alcohol level and storage temperature can still be applied. “Armed with this information, winemakers should avoid situations where lower alcohol wines are kept at higher temperatures for extended periods of time. This would be particularly true during malolactic fermentation, when free sulfur dioxide levels are low or non-existent.” Carter suggests that winemakers could use the information to make decisions on the basis of wine style. If Brett is an issue in a winery, winemakers could opt to have higher alcohol (15% or more) in their wines as a means to prevent Brett. Bottom line: Cold storage temperatures can help lower the risk of Brett. Wines with low alcohol have a higher risk of Brett than high-alcohol wines and should be kept in the coldest rooms of the cellar, when possible. Knowledge that high-alcohol wines have lower risk of Brett could potentially be part of a winemaker’s decision-making process if Brett is a problem in the winery. Study methods The study used two strains of B. bruxellensis, F3 and I1a, in Merlot wines obtained from a commercial winery. Total sulfur dioxide was measured and removed. The wines of five alcohol concentrations (12%, 13%, 14%, 15% and 16%) were held at four temperatures (54°, 59°, 64° and 70° F). Volumes of wine were fixed. Variable proportions of ethanol:water mixtures were added to yield wines with different alcohol percentages. After supplementing the wines with glucose, fructose and a yeast extract, pH was adjusted to 3.75. The wines were sterile-filtered and incubated for 24 hours under the four temperature treatments before inoculation with the same amount of the two Brett strains (104 cfu/mL, the number of colony forming units per milliliter). The wines were monitored for 100 days by sampling twice per week for the first four weeks and then once per week thereafter. After 100 days, concentrations of volatile acidity (primarily acetic acid), 4-ethylphenol (4-EP) and 4-ethylguaiacol (4-EG) were quantified. 4-EP is the compound responsible for contributing earthy and rustic sensory characteristics, also described as animal, smoky or medicinal aromas. 4-EG is the compound associated with bacon, spice and clove aromas. Both compounds are associated with the earthy and barnyard odors resulting from Brett-tainted wines. Temperature and alcohol interaction A synergistic response from the interaction of storage temperature and alcohol concentration impacted the growth and production of acetic acid, 4-EP and 4-EG in both strains of Brett. The combination of low storage temperatures (54°F or less) and higher alcohol concentrations of 14% or more resulted in populations at levels below the detection limit of 30 cfu/mL for up to 100 days. At the lowest temperature of 54° F or less, neither strain of Brett grew well, regardless of the alcohol level. However, when temperatures were 64° F or higher, both strains grew well in the wines containing 12%, 13% and 14% alcohol and reached peak populations of 106 cfu/mL in those wines in 40 days or less. Growth of Brett was inhibited in the 15% and 16% alcohol wines, and the high alcohol wines also showed longer lag phases at the lower temperatures. Strain I1a reached a population of 106cfu/ml within 20 days of inoculation in the 12% v/v alcohol wine maintained at 64°F, but it required 40 to 70 days to reach the same population in the 13% and 14% alcohol wines maintained at the same temperature. In the low-alcohol wines of 12%, stored at the coldest temperature of 54°F, both strains showed a decrease in culturability, and recovery was slowed or nonexistent. Additionally, growth of the two strains was retarded in wines above 14% alcohol. Both strains could not be recovered from the 16% alcohol wines regardless of temperature.

Strain differences

The two strains generally displayed similar growth patterns under the various temperature and alcohol treatments, except for the 15% alcohol wines, where strain differences were observed. Here, F3 appeared to be more inhibited and showed less growth and reduced concentrations of acetic acid, 4-EP and 4-EG at the higher temperatures than strain I1a. The F3 strain never reached populations above 104cfu/mL in the experiment, even when wines were held at 70°F. The different responses of the two strains in the 15% alcohol wines reinforces the concept of genetic diversity within the Brettanomyces genus. “What that suggests is that you have to be very careful about what strain you have in your winery, because there are situations where they behave differently,” Edwards says. “The diversity of Brettanomyces bruxellensis, a single species, seems to be quite large. We do not know much about Brett strains from a genetic standpoint or how they behave in different matrices.”

What about cellar humidity?

Humidity was not part of Edwards’ study. Humidity of a cellar does affect the loss of water and alcohol through the wood. Humidity is often added to barrel rooms to control topping losses, and there is some cooling effect from humidity, but humidification is done in addition to using a refrigeration system for temperature control. From a temperature point of view, temperature affects humidity but not vice versa, Edwards explains. “Humidity is crucial to maintain during storage because you are trying to balance the ethanol and amount of water passing through the wood,” he says. “But this study looked for whether or not there was a relationship that winemakers could use between the amount of ethanol present in the wine and storage temperature.” Wines in the study were not

stored in wood, and Edwards did not try to learn if exterior humidity has an effect on the growth of microorganisms inside a wood barrel. If there is any effect from humidity, he believes it would be indirect.

Defenses and barriers

Defense technology is a risk-management concept used in food manufacturing. It is based on the theory that you should not rely on just one approach to limit the growth of spoilage microorganisms but should use a series of barriers or defenses that the organism must overcome to still remain active or in large enough concentrations to be an issue. If enough defenses are used, the organism is eliminated or eradicated. In the case of Brett, the goal is to control levels below sensory thresholds. Several methods to control B. bruxellensis previously evaluated by the Edwards laboratory include the use of sulfur dioxide, dimethyl dicarbonate, chitosan and filtration. These are all helpful barriers that have been shown to be useful to manage Brett. With today’s trend of higher alcohol wines ranging from 14% to 15%, winemakers may be able to take advantage of cellar temperature to head off potential issues with this particular yeast, Edwards notes. “Each winemaker has to consider all the parameters of a given wine that pertain to Brett, such as history, pH, sulfur dioxide and filtration,” he adds. “In short, what is the risk to that particular lot? Then the winemaker has to find a balance that uses enough risk management barriers without breaking the bank.”

Keep it cold
For wineries that have multiple cellar rooms, keeping the lowest alcohol wine in the coldest room may be a viable option. For those with one cellar room, Edwards suggests wine be kept at the lowest temperature that is economically feasible. He recognizes that energy costs for refrigeration can be expensive in some wine regions, but where feasible, cold temperatures can be used as another barrier against Brett.

Copyright © Wines & Vines

Argentina 2018 vintage: Good news for producers with a return to ‘normality’

Decanter, June 11, 2018

This harvest has been very traditional,’ said Walter Bressia, President of Bodegas de Argentina. ‘

There weren’t rains, the day temperatures were warm and the nights were cool. In all my years as a winemaker I don’t remember a harvest with such excellent characteristics, both for reds and whites.’

Production is up 30% compared to last year, according to early statistics from the National Viticulture Institute (INV), with the total crush so far standing at 2.5 billion kilograms of grapes this year compared to 1.9b last year, and 1.7b in 2016.

The greatest gains in production have been in the Cuyo region (Mendoza and San Juan) which were adversely affected in recent years.

Uco Valley: ‘We came from very atypical (rainy) years for Mendoza, and the 2017 vintage also had a very low yield because of frosts and zonda (foehn wind),’ explained Matias Michelini, consultant winemaker in the Uco Valley with his own venture, Passionate Wine.

2018 was a much more normal year in terms of production and climate. This typical year means that the wines returned to a character of full maturation, with healthy grapes, intense colours; very expressive and muscular. The Malbec particularly stands out for wines of great intensity and character.’

Even though an intense hailstorm in the higher altitudes of the Uco Valley caused Michelini and several other producers to lose fruit, he said that in general the yields this year have normalised – up to 40% higher than last year’s limited harvest.

Mendoza:Rainfall across Mendoza’s wine regions was 30% lower compared to the annual average, according to the weather stations at Catena Institute, and harvest came on average two weeks early.

The red wines this year are really balanced in terms of acidity, they have an elevated malic acidity and a spectacular tartaric balance with respect to the alcohol,’ says Catena Zapata winemaker Alejandro Vigil.

The white wines are fine and lean with a medium concentration.’

Patagonia: Further south in Patagonia, a spate of frosts in Spring and Autumn saw a dip in production but the quality was high:

2018 saw a smaller volume but an excellent quality of grapes for all styles,’ says winemaker Marcelo Miras, who produces his own label and consults in Neuquén and Río Negro.

The reds achieved excellent ripeness, offering fruity wines with intense colour and structure. The white grapes, picked at the right time, had great natural acidity for fresh, vibrant wines – typical of Patagonia.’

In the north, yields and conditions were consistent with the annual average especially in Cafayate and

Chilecito: The quality and quantity of the 2018 harvest in Argentina offers some much needed relief for Argentine producers, who have weathered challenging vintages in recent years due to erratic climatic conditions and turbulent politics.

Bringing a bumper vintage to market, following Europe’s small 2017 vintage, and revitalising stocks will be favourable to Argentina. Fortunately this vintage has the quality to back it up.

Château Tour Castillon wine to be aged in English Channel

Decanter, June 7, 2018

Médoc estate Château Tour Castillon are going to immerse some of their 2015 wines in the English Channel. The château is owned by the Peyruse family, who spent many holidays in Brittany, on the edge of the Channel.

The idea came from my childhood friend, Johann Boché, a diving instructor,’ Laure Peyruse told Decanter.com.

And as we have friends who are fishermen and divers in common, it was easy to organise the immersion.

After some research, we saw that no wine grower of the Médoc had done this, so it was a beautiful opportunity for us to try it exclusively.’

According to a statement from the château, submerging the wines in the Channel will allow for a gradual ageing process.

The Channel is a real energy source with temperature and pressure conditions, which can be really interesting thanks to the Gulf Stream flow.

The wine under the sea is in obscurity and in perfect humidity conditions. Moreover, the sea’s pressure is superior to a classic cellar.’

The bottles were submerged on 2 June and will stay there for a year, with regular surveillance from Boché and his team of divers.

There will be 600 bottles altogether, according to Peyruse.

Ageing in water

Other wineries have experimented with ageing wines in water:

Veuve Cliquot aged some Champagne in the Baltic Sea in 2014.

Larrivet Haut-Brion, in Pessac-Leognan, aged one barrel partially submerged in the sea.

Mira Winery in Napa also experimented with it, in the South Carolina harbour, and claimed ocean aged wine is ‘more complex’.

Funniest moments on the job – Sommelier mistakes

Decanter, Dec 2017

I was once flown to Sardinia for a 50th birthday. One of the host’s presents was a custom-made decanter. I was asked to use it, so took it away and seconds later it was on the floor in a million pieces.

No one laughed, but looking back now, I can raise a smile,’ Gal Zohar, speaking to Decanter when wine buyer for the Ottolenghi restaurants.

Before I became a sommelier I worked in a bar in Munich. I was trying to open a bottle that had a plastic cork, finally putting it between my knees to get a better grip. But I lost control and most of the wine ended up on my customer’s face,’ said Ali Rasouli Nia, speaking when he was head sommelier at Michael Wignall at The Latymer, Pennyhill Park Hotel.

On Valentine’s Day, a couple bought the most expensive bottles on our wine list. We naturally assumed they were in love. In reality they were celebrating their separation… Each to their own!’ said Stéphane Morand, sommelier at Le Cercle à Bourges.

We once had a table of financial crooks seated next to a table of investigative policemen. It got very exciting, very rapidly,’ said Christian Thorsholt Jacobsen, speaking when head sommelier at MASH in London. He is now sommelier at Restaurant Anarki in Copenhagen.

Marinela Ivanova, beverage manager on-board The World, Residences at Sea, said, ‘A guest read my name tag and saw the word ‘sommelier’. He thought I came from Somalia!’

I had a very confident customer wanted to impress,’ said Stefano Petta, who was working at Hotel Schweizerhof Bern in Switzerland. ‘He ordered Roero Arneis from Piedmont. I brought the bottle and he started laughing at me: ‘…and why are you serving the red wine in an ice bucket?’ ‘He was very embarrassed to discover it was a white wine that he had ordered.’

People often forget what their alcohol tolerance is,’ said Wayve Kolevsohn, talking to Decanter while sommelier at The Test Kitchen. ‘Once I served a man who couldn’t remember eating the last half of his tasting menu and demanded the last four courses again.’ She is now head sommelier at Cheval Blanc in the Maldives.

Disease-resistant cultivars pass their latest exam

11 MAY 2018

Another important step has been taken along the path to creating a range of new grapevine cultivars with high resistance to fungal pathogens.

Four years of trials in the Riverina have built on initial work in the Barossa with encouraging signs, and Wine Australia has now funded further studies in Mildura and Orange.

The quest began more than 9 years ago when Dr Mark Thomas and colleagues at the CSIRO bred around 8000 new grape varieties – all of them hybrids of European (Vitis vinifera) and American species – to identify those that were resistant to Powdery Mildew and Downy Mildew.

Using DNA technology, these were whittled back to a more workable 1200 varieties for testing in the field, and eventually to what was considered the 20 reds and 20 whites with the greatest potential. These vines represent the first generation of mildew resistant vines produced using marker-assisted selection in Australia.

Vine growth, berry parameters and water use efficiency were closely monitored in the Barossa, then in 2014 a new evaluation and demonstration site was established by CSIRO and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) at the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC) in Wagga Wagga.

The aim was both to test how well and how differently the 40 performed in a different environment, and to get the sector involved in evaluating both the vines and the resulting wines. A first batch of wine from the white varieties was made last year and the feedback from the first few informal tastings has been positive.

This project was all about establishing the new site and seeing how the vines grew in the region’, Dr Thomas said. ‘We need to know if they would show resistance to Powdery and Downy in a new region – and they did.’

There were some differences in performance between the Barossa and the Riverina – in some cases greater than might have been expected – and this will be factored in to the next phase of work in all four trial sites.

Dr Thomas notes in his final report, for example, that ‘the range of yields and pruning weights observed for the white selections indicated that different management requirements for water and nutrient applications would be more appropriate’.

Mildura and Orange were chosen as the new sites to provide an even greater range of environments and because the CSIRO and NSW DPI respectively have facilities there that will support controlled research trials.

Thomas is already thinking ahead, however. The trial sites will also serve as source blocks to provide cuttings for future use by the sector.

The next step would be that if a company likes a particular wine then CSIRO could negotiate an agreement with them to allow them to test that variety on their own land, so we need the source material to be able to do that’.

I’m trying to achieve a number of objectives with this project; I want to do some good research at the different sites but also have these sites as a source of cuttings – a pathway to adoption.’

Titanium may hold the key to filtration woes

11 MAY 2018

Titanium is more commonly associated with the defence and aerospace sectors than the wine sector, but the super strong metal is starting to attract interest in winery circles.

Adelaide company AMS Filtration has developed a new filter membrane that outlasts and outperforms conventional polymeric (plastic) or ceramic membranes by a considerable margin.

Three of Australia’s largest wine producers placed an order for Viti-flow following on-site trials and other orders have come from the USA (sight unseen).

Wine is quite difficult to filter. With polymerics and even ceramics the lumen or tube size is very small; that means you can’t take the solids of the wine very high’, said AMS Managing Director Gilbert Erskine.

I was told that even ultra-high solids filters are lucky to get solids to 30 per cent. Normally you are near 3–4 per cent. AMS is taking solids up to 80 per cent. Just that extra wine recovery means that the payback is only a matter of months.’

Erskine says the titanium filters can run 24-hours a day for a week then be cleaned in a couple of hours, compared with 6–8 hours of operation followed by nearly as many cleaning for conventional filters.

A new membrane and housing can be tailor-made to replace conventional ones in existing systems (AMS is doing just that at a winery this month), but the greatest advantage comes from investing in a new system.

Because titanium is so strong you can be pretty robust with your cleaning. You can take it up to 85oC and use steam as well as chemicals. If all of the equipment can also stand up to rough treatment then you are going to save an awful lot of time.’

While wine first got Erskine interested in finding a better filter, his breakthrough didn’t come with wine in mind.

Thirty years ago, while his company was building and installing chillers in the wine sector, he noticed and was frequently told how big a problem filtration was. He imported some polymeric and ceramics to make filters, but both materials were in their infancy and the results weren’t great.

So he turned to stainless steel and after lots of trial and error developed a good product and a successful business, but not with wine and not in Australia. The steel membranes were perfect for palm oil, and the company was set up in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Titanium was bubbling away in the background, however. AMS collaborated with the University of Queensland and later the University of Victoria, providing the infrastructure to support their research and Erskine developed ‘a fair body of knowledge’.

The potential of titanium was obvious and after returning to Australia he developed a filter membrane, the first of its kind in the world, and trialled it in the field with the support of a wine company. Three years later he bit the bullet and replaced his stainless steel production line with a specialised titanium line.

The key to success was keeping the membranes small and their walls thin: a little thicker than a sheet of paper. That overcame the two major problems with titanium; it is expensive and it is incredibly hard to work with.

AMS showcased Viti-flow at last year’s Wine Symposium in California and such was the response that it has been invited back next year.

It has also sold membranes to the dairy industry and a Victorian abattoir, but to Erskine the real potential is in wastewater, especially salt water. Titanium is not affected by chlorine, so can be used for pre-filtration for desalination.

Canopy management is a question of time and place

11 MAY 2018

A team from the University of Adelaide and University of Melbourne, led by Drs Roberta De Bei and Cassandra Collins, developed and released the app in 2015 in the early stages of a four-year project funded by Wine Australia.

The free app provides a fast, reliable, portable and non-destructive way for grapegrowers to measure canopy architecture at any time in the season. It also allowed the researchers to capture the canopy architecture of the different management techniques that they wanted to analyse and compare as part of the project.

Interestingly, when VitiCanopy was unable to show a significant change in canopy architecture after the application of a practice, the practice inevitably did not affect vine performance or fruit and wine quality, suggesting that the practice was not applied at a high enough level.

For example, with shoot thinning, which is a very common practice in many vineyards, if you don’t remove a significant proportion of the shoots (at least 40–50 per cent) then often you don’t have any significant impact on the canopy and final fruit and wine composition’, Dr Collins said.

One of the main aims of the project was to determine canopy parameters that indicate optimal vine performance and wine quality, and evaluate how effectively these can be manipulated using management techniques.

In collaboration with Treasury Wine Estates, the team evaluated a range of canopy management treatments over three seasons on Shiraz and Semillon vines across five South Australian regions, with a focus on how these change vine vigour and yield. Vine performance was assessed using measures of yield and yield components, canopy architecture, and berry and wine quality.

They found that how we choose to manipulate our canopies also has a significant impact on performance.

The canopy can be manipulated directly by physically removing leaves, bunches or shoots. However, indirect approaches (such as a cover crop or leaving more nodes at pruning) that induce some form of competition can regulate canopy growth and reduce vigour at a fraction of the cost of direct methods.

In some of the experimental trials the greatest impact on fruit and wine composition was found when indirect methods were applied, suggesting that we think carefully about how we manipulate our canopies’

The performance and analysis of different canopy management practices can be found in the final project report here.

A significant overall finding was that canopy architecture measures, such as leaf area index and porosity, correlated better than yield with grape and wine quality. It was also observed that the early season canopy architecture measures are better indicators of quality than the veraison measures.

In addition, a greater growth rate early in the season correlated positively with grape and wine chemistry measures. Conversely, a greater late-season growth rate, from veraison to harvest, was detrimental to quality.

A follow-up project to build on this work has already begun, including further development of VitiCanopy to allow it to be used with a greater range of canopies and to develop a platform to easily visualise the results.

A second app, Vitisense, has been developed to make berry sensory assessments more accessible and able to be carried out in-field. It is now being prepared for release.

The urgent need to embrace new varieties

Mainingers, 21. April 2018

Joël Rochard points to a map of France, at Champagne. Could Syrah grow here one day? “It is not unimaginable,” he says.

Rochard is the national expert in sustainable development at the French Institute of Vine and Wine, based in Epernay. In addition to looking at sustainable production methods, an important part of his work focuses on climate change. “It is certain that the climate is changing, the temperature is rising,” he says, “but how fast cannot be predicted very precisely.”

Under normal conditions, the climate zones in France make it possible to grow a wide variety of grapes, the temperature differs 0.6 to 0.8 degrees on average per hundred kilometres between north and south. Over time, these small differences together with terroirs have allowed a diversity to flourish in different regions. “All varieties have a climatic optimum,” explains Rochard. “If it is too cold, the grapes will have some vegetative taste, lack aromas and sugars. If it is too hot, overripe tastes will prevail and the necessary acids will be lacking.”

Changing the map

The borders of wine production are already shifting to the north of Europe as a result of temperature rises. “In Germany and Switzerland the farmers benefit from higher temperatures; they experiment a lot and are able to make better red wines than before”, says Rochard. ”In the south, winemakers face more drought than before. In some regions the high alcohol content already proves to be problematic for a pleasant balance of the wine.”

Overall, the changes may happen gradually, but they will add up to a dramatic overturning of the wine map. French wine farmers are already experimenting with varieties that previously have not been cultivated in particular areas. According to a recent study this could be the best way to adapt to climate change. “In some experimental fields in AOC regions, farmers study how new varieties will do, such as Syrah in Bordeaux,” says Rochard. Although new varieties may do well, farmers may not plant them legally for commercial purposes within an existing AOC area. Until that changes, it is possible to experiment on a larger scale with grapes within the IGP.

But while French President Macron is making a strong effort to pursue the Paris climate agreement, the attention of wine producers is not yet focused on climate change. “The French farmer is not losing sleep at night over global warming yet,” says Rochard. “The majority of companies are concerned with ensuring their day-to-day operations. Only when climate touches them directly they will launch into immediate action like in the year 2003, when vineyards had to cope with extreme drought. Since then, many have become more sensitive to the climate.” Last year was another wake-up year, due to extreme frosts and later water stress. “Many farmers therefore focus on methods that allow them already to achieve better yields under extreme conditions – or they contribute to counter global warming in their operational management.”

Diversity needed

A study published this year in Nature Climate Change (link is external) focuses on the need to invest in diversity within the existing vineyards, in order to maintain crop yields, wine landscapes) and wine quality. In most countries, 70 percent to 90 percent of the surface is planted with only 12 of the well-known varieties – or 1 percent of the total diversity. There are an estimated 1,100 varieties of Vitis vinifera in use for commercial wine growing purpose across the globe, offering a tremendous diversity of traits. Researchers, however, have mostly focused on key varieties such as Syrah and Chardonnay, which means there is little data about more obscure varieties.

It’s in the more obscure varieties, however, where the helpful traits are likely to be found, that will be necessary for the long term future of the industry.

Yet this adaptation will require growers and researchers to work together in gathering data and in building better projections of which varieties will be best for which regions in the future,” the authors conclude in their study.

It will also be important the vignerons have the legal ability to plant new varieties, as using existing vineyards will allow local landscape to be preserved. And last, but not least, consumers will also have to accept new varieties from their beloved regions.

Chinese investment in California’s Temecula wine region stalls, but tariffs aren’t to blame

CNBC 13 April 2018

It’s not as famous as Napa Valley, but Temecula is still a hotspot for wine-related tourism in Southern California. Several Temecula-area developments were funded by Chinese investors through the U.S. EB-5 investor visa program. But there’s been a recent pullback of Chinese investor activity in the “golden visa” program and some projects have “stalled.” And now the escalating U.S.-China trade dispute is adding further risk given Beijing could resort to anti-U.S. backlash and dampen further investment.

All the rhetoric over trade wars and tariffs could take a toll on a California wine region that’s already seeing a slowdown in investor activity.

California’s Temecula Valley wine region has been a popular place for Chinese investors, but lately there’s been a pullback in those dollars and some projects have “stalled.”

The Temecula area, located about 85 miles southeast of Los Angeles, has about 40 wineries and attracts nearly 3 million visitors annually. The Riverside County area is not as famous as California’s Napa wine region but is still a hotspot for tourism and boasts award-winning wines.

It has also attracted wealthy Chinese investors over the past decade through the U.S. government’s EB-5 program, or the so-called golden visa.

The EB-5 program allows Chinese individuals to invest as little as $500,000 in a business to get a green card. However, an escalating trade dispute between the U.S. and China could make it tougher to attract such investment.

“All that turmoil doesn’t help,” said Dan Stephenson, founder and chairman of the Rancon Group, a Murrieta, California-based real estate development firm.

Indeed, the Chinese earlier this month slapped a new tariff on U.S. wine exports. And Beijing could spur an anti-U.S. backlash that discourages Chinese citizens from investing in American businesses.

Regardless, there has already been a pullback of Chinese investors that’s not tied to the current trade spat. Beijing imposed policies a few years ago that curbed money outflows.

“It’s become much more difficult to get money out of China than it was two years ago,” said Stephenson.

Still, several large real estate developments backed by Chinese money are already underway in the area. One of Rancon’s current projects in the Temecula area is expansion of Europa Village, a European wine-themed resort development with vineyards, lodging and a retail component.

A second project is the 290-acre Europa Vineyard Estates, a high-end residential community with vineyards.

According to Stephenson, roughly one-third of the capital for the Europa development is from EB-5 investors and the remainder from equity investors and a bank loan. He said Chinese-born participants represented the lion’s share of the EB-5 money.

Another major project in the area funded with Chinese money is Twelve Oaks, a 135-acre winery resort going through the planning phase with county officials. Similarly, there are hotel-related projects in the area with EB-5 financing from the Chinese.

“We’ve become a major tourist destination,” said Danny Martin, president of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association and owner of Pauba Ridge Vineyard. “One of the biggest drivers for us is the proximity to 21 million people within an hour and a half.”

There have been “a couple of bumps in the road” in recent years for the Temecula region, according to Martin. He said that includes a few projects that have “stalled” due to a tightening up of Chinese money and EB-5 visa issues where the investors couldn’t take their money out.

Another challenge is Chinese-born investors have become frustrated by lengthy wait times to get their EB-5 U.S. visas. There’s also uncertainty about the future of the EB-5 program beyond its current six-month extension.

“If you’re putting in a half-million bucks put in a green card, and you have to wait four or five years, you’re not going to be too excited about it are you,” said Bernard Sidman, an immigration lawyer in Los Angeles. “And it could be longer.”

There’s an annual worldwide quota of about 10,000 annual EB-5 U.S. immigrant visas per year The Chinese are oversubscribed on the list and can expect to wait four years or longer to get the initial green card.

“It’s not due to any political thing or not due to any trade issue,” said Brian Ostar, senior vice president of global operations for EB5 Capital, a Maryland-based firm that raised money from investors to develop the Home2 Suites by Hilton Hotel in Temecula. “The desire is still there, the money is still there, the demand is still there. It’s purely a function of their backlog and wait time.”

What might our future vineyards look like?:

14 April 2018, Northforker, by Lenn Thompson

Most of the time, when I write about the local wine industry, it’s about things that are happening today — things like the current growing season, how certain wines are tasting today or how the industry is changing or has changed since I started. I’m not a reporter, per se, but I am an observer and a critic. Sometimes I’m more observer. Sometimes I’m more a critic.

As I continue to talk to winemakers, I find myself wanting to look ahead a bit more. I’m always curious what they think is coming next and where Long Island wine will be five, 10 or even 20 years from now.

In that vein, I’ve taken to asking the winemakers I talk to what grapes they’d plant if they were planting a brand-new 10-acre vineyard. The results of this extremely informal poll have been really interesting.

I haven’t asked every local winemaker the question, so this isn’t at all definitive. And before I share some of what I’ve learned, I should mention that I when I ask the question, I do so in a bit of a bubble. I didn’t mandate that the winemaker use only his or her own grapes for winemaking. So just because someone doesn’t mention something like merlot doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t still make merlot grown by someone else.

That said, not a single person mentioned planting merlot, though it did come up.

Rich Olsen-Harbich, winemaker at Bedell Cellars, told me in an email: “Going forward I see cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot making our interesting and unique reds, with merlot taking a more supporting role. Whites will continue to be defined by being crisp and refreshing with low alcohol.”

What has been extremely interesting is that over the past six months, few winemakers have even mentioned planting red grapes.

Kelly Urbanik Koch, who makes the wines at Macari Vineyards, told me she’d plant four-plus acres each of cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc, with smaller plantings of syrah, chenin blanc, pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay — some of which would clearly be dedicated to sparkling wine production.

Kareem Massoud at Paumanok Vineyards said, “Over the next two years we have plans to add four varieties to the eight we already have planted: pinot noir (for bubbly), malbec, albariño and melon de Bourgogne.”

Albariño and melon de Bourgogne — best known through its use in the white wine muscadet in France — were mentioned a few times, and I personally look forward to tasting the potential results.

Saltbird Cellars’ Robin Epperson-McCarthy would plant half of her hypothetical new vineyard with sauvignon blanc because it is “creating its own distinctive character here on Long Island of rich, luscious citrus and tropical flavors that happen to pair beautifully with our local bay scallops.”

The other half? Albariño. “Alice Wise at Cornell Cooperative Extension has been singing this grape’s praises for years and thanks to Miguel Martin at Palmer we can see what this high-yielding, highly acidic, durable grape can do. And, oh man, does it pair well with seafood!” Ms. Epperson-McCarthy told me in an email.

Melon de Bourgogne!” exclaimed Jamesport Vineyards’ Dean Babiar when I asked him what he’d plant. “It comes from a coastal area of France that reminds me of here a little bit. Muscadet wines can be light and fresh with a little saltiness, not the fanciest but definitely fun. They’d be a perfect complement to the local aquaculture. Oysters with muscadet is one of my favorite breakfasts.”

Again, this isn’t a formal poll and, except at Paumanok, there aren’t any imminent plans to follow through on any of these ideas. Not that I’m aware of, anyway. But in a region so dependent on merlot and chardonnay, it is at least an interesting wrinkle to see winemakers — especially those who could be considered the next generation of winemakers on Long Island — so interested in other things.

South Australia’s famed wine regions preparing for the squeeze of climate change

ABC News, 15 April 2018, by Simon Royal

Wayne Farquhar bought his first Barossa Valley vineyard in the 1970s. He had a very practical reason for doing so.

“I don’t like drinking beer at all,” Mr Farquhar said. “I grew up drinking wine and I wanted to make my own.”

In his time he’s seen growing conditions become more unpredictable.

It’s reinforced his concern climate change may threaten some Barossa wine drinkers’ favourite drops.

“We still have pockets of Chardonnay, we’ve got pockets of Riesling, we have Roussanne and Marsanne,” Mr Farquhar said.

“I think that they are going to fade away, and there’s even potential for Shiraz. It’s one of our earliest ripening varieties.

“We just don’t know what climate change is going to do to Shiraz.

“It would be a shame to lose our icon wine, but who knows what’s around the corner.”

However wine buffs and barbeque quaffers alike need not panic or worse, in Mr Farquhar’s view, contemplate beer.

He believes there’s a future — not with traditional cool climate grape varieties, but hotter ones.

Region’s recalibration inspired by Portugal and Spain

“Despite what many Australians might think, the Barossa is by no means the hottest place where grapes are grown,” Mr Farquhar said.

“The Iberian peninsula, Portugal and Spain, across Tunisia, the southern parts of Italy.

“They are much hotter, and with less annual rainfall than us, and they’ve been growing grapes there for thousands of years. That’s where we need to be looking.”

The Barossa would lose its German accent and gain a Latin one.

At his cellar door in Greenock, Mr Farquhar cracks open a bottle of Arinto, a Portuguese white variety he pioneered in Australia.

“Smell this, isn’t it just gorgeous?” he enthused.

“Now that’s much more interesting than any old Sauvignon Blanc, don’t you think?”

He expects to have six new Portuguese reds gracing Australian tables within three years.

But it’s not so much Mr Farquhar’s advocacy of new varieties that raises eyebrows — it’s the way he raises vines.

They look nothing like a traditional vineyard, with its widely spaced trunks, two lateral branches, masses of fruit, and lots of leaves.

Mr Farquhar’s vines have just one lateral branch, and even that’s chopped in half.

The individual vines are barely a quarter the usual size and produce much less fruit.

But they are so densely planted Mr Farquhar said he ends up with more fruit, and quality, per hectare.

It also dramatically slashes water use.

All up, the winemaker grows 65 different grape varieties on 15 hectares. Traditionalists can’t resist a bit of fun at his expense.

“They call me the crazy man with the fruit salad block,” Mr Farquhar chuckled.

‘We have to plan for climate change’

But the Barossa zone winemaker is not the only one planning for an unpredictable future.

Jeff Grosset has been making wine in South Australia’s Clare Valley for 37 years, in a region famed for its Riesling.

“The harvest is now on average a month earlier than it used to be, when I first came here,” Mr Grosset said.

“That trend of almost one day per year is pretty much universal across premium regions in the world.

“I have no doubt we have to plan for climate change.”

It’s a lot more complex though than hopping on a plane, going somewhere hot, grabbing some new varieties, bringing them home, shoving them in the ground and thinking that fixes the future.

Because of the dangers of introduced disease, vines are deemed a high-risk import.

It can take two years for them just to clear quarantine, and they don’t come with a guarantee to grow.

“We planted two varieties, Fiano — a white variety — and Aglianico, both from the south of Italy. One has worked really well and the other one didn’t,” Mr Grosset said, gesturing to a bare patch of land where the doomed vines once stood.

“Let’s just call it ‘research and development’, though it’s better when it ends in success rather than failure.”

Along with a good palate, what a winemaker needs most is patience.

“It’s a really, really long process,” Mr Farquhar said.

“Realistically, it takes anywhere from six to seven years before you finally get the product into the bottle.”

The future is unpredictable, but one thing is clear — when it comes to wine, it’s already starting to taste different.

Yeast research discovers some sensitivities

09 FEB 2018

The Australian Wine Research Institute’s (AWRI) commitment to better understanding the nature and behaviour of the wide range of yeasts available to winemakers is bearing fruit both scientifically and practically.

A project led by Dr Simon Schmidt has provided a comprehensive picture of the genomic makeup of 200 common strains and their relationship to each other, while also screening nearly half those yeasts for their tolerance or otherwise to a wide range of fermentation-relevant variables such as sulfite and nitrogen concentration in grape juice.

It is intended that this information will be added to the AWRI’s Ferment Simulator before the 2019 vintage. Growers will be able to include sulfite or nitrogen concentration information in the data they enter, and be warned if they are inadvertently choosing a sensitive yeast strain.

One of the outcomes of this work is that we now have a good handle on the molecular markers for tolerance or sensitivity to sulfite or copper’, Dr Schmidt said. ‘We can relatively easily test strains for those markers.’

The project was built on the complex sequencing of the strains. The research team was interested in both the genetic diversity of the yeasts commonly used to make wine and the diversity of their behaviour.

While wine yeasts are quite different from those used in sake or bread making, for example, they form a fairly homogenous group. But within that group are some distinct sub-groups, a third of which relate to what are commonly called champagne yeasts.

What is surprising is that these genetic sub-groups don’t relate directly to what people use the yeasts for. There is no obvious relationship between an application such as red winemaking and the genetics of the yeast, although that doesn’t mean there aren’t some underlying traits that cluster together, such as in the group of ‘flavour enhancing yeasts’.

Having built this foundation, the researchers selected 94 strains for more intensive examination, picking representatives from across what they considered to be the entire diversity of wine yeasts.

By using molecular barcoding – inserting a DNA barcode into each yeast – they were then able to measure the performance of all 94 in a single ferment, comparing them in an identical environment and between environments.

The beauty of doing it the way we did was that because we didn’t have to deal with 94 individual yeast strains. We didn’t then have to test those 94 strains in each environmental condition that we wanted to test’, Dr Schmidt said. ‘We put them in the same flask and were able to untangle their individual performance characteristics afterwards.’

The researchers studied each yeast in relation to common things such as high sugar concentration and different temperature profiles, but what really stood out was copper and sulfite tolerance.

For many stresses the impact is similar for all yeasts, but copper and sulfite tolerance really heavily distinguish different yeast strains. Some are exquisitely sensitive to copper, which can be present in grapes from the soil or from vineyard sprays.’

Likewise, sulfite is used a lot in bins and crushers to control microbial growth and some strains are much more sensitive to that. Sulfite delays their growth. With copper, if the concentration is high enough they just won’t take off.’- – Dr Simon Schmidt

What is interesting is that if a strain is copper tolerant it can’t really be sulfite tolerant and vice versa; it seems that the tools a yeast employs to become sulfite tolerant, for reasons that we don’t fully understand, make it copper sensitive. There’s a trade-off.’

Rosé, port and boozy gifts drive Virgin Wines’ 15% festive growth

Harpers, By Rob Brown, 02 February, 2018

British drinkers knocked back significantly more rosé, port and Eastern European wine last Christmas as the nation’s drinking habits continue to change.

That’s according to figures released by online retailer Virgin Wines, which saw a 15% year-on-year sales spike in the four weeks to 22 December last year.

Sales of rosé, a drink usually associated with the summer, were up 40%, while fortified wine grew 50%, driven chiefly by Virgin Wine’s new exclusive label port, the company said.

With supplies of western European wines squeezed by last year’s poor harvest, sales of Hungarian, Bulgarian and Romanian wines more than tripled after the company expanded its range of Eastern European wines.

Gifting business Sendagift.co.uk contributed £1.6m to revenues in the eight weeks before Christmas. The business sold more than 13,000 wine advent calendars and said Christmas crackers filled with bottles of wine, prosecco and gin & tonic proved popular.

The company shifted 150,000 cases of wine and achieved sales of £8.7m, with profit hitting £828k during the period. Virgin Wines CEO Jay Wright said the performance “smashed targets across the board.”

The launch of our new website has given a significant lift in conversion rates for both new and existing customers whilst the continued focus on product innovation, category expansion and new marketing initiatives has seen both the core business and the gift business grow at an unprecedented rate,” he said.

It is a huge accolade to every member of the Virgin Wines team who work so hard all year round to be able to grow sales at 15% year on year at a time of great volatility and cost pressure in the UK wine market.”

He added that the company’s expansion into larger formats such as magnums and 187.5ml bottles had delivered “unprecedented” sales. Meanwhile the expansion of Virgin Wines’ premium range resulted in 45% boost to the company’s fine wine sales.

Bordeaux counts cost of frost for 2017 vintage

Decanter, Jane Anson, February 1, 2018

Devastating frost has caused a 40% drop in the Bordeaux 2017 wine harvest and new estimates show the financial toll could reach 1.6 billion euros – even though weather during the flowering period and summer months was relatively kind to vines that survived. Jane Anson looks at the impact on several estates in the worst-hit areas, and how specialist pruners are hoping to get the vines back on-track for 2018.

The specialist pruners are busy this year. In a vintage following severe frost, it’s often the case that the usual team finds it difficult to cope with the abundance of shoots and canes that a vine starts throwing out, a reminder that these are at heart climbing plants that have been trained into submission by man over years.

Not only do the right canes need to be selected for training (as the one previously chosen will have been frosted away), but the pruned vine will be left afterwards with more scars than in a normal year, which need to be carefully treated to minimise the risk of ESCA and other trunk disease.

What this means is more time – most estimate up to twice as long – and more money for the affected Châteaux to spend.

They may even resort to calling in a team of external pruners who will charge a premium of around 20 to 30%, but are essential if the quality of the Bordeaux 2018 vintage is to be fully realised. The local Chamber of Agriculture is also getting involved, offering its own training courses on how to best prune affected vines.

The last few weeks have crystallised the fallout of the frost for those of us who are merely observers. We had the initial assessments from the châteaux last year, who with the pruning are now moving in to the cycle of this year’s harvest.

We’ve had the general stats that white Bordeaux production has almost halved between 2016 and 2017, with the red around 40% down from last year.

And that the overall financial hit, for both red and white combined, is likely to be around €1.6 billion according to the CIVB.

But with the Bordeaux en primeur system of early tastings just around the corner, we are beginning to see the results in terms of some châteaux announcing that they are simply not putting any wine in bottle.

The first names started appearing at the end of last year, with Château Fieuzal in Pessac Léognan reporting that it would be making neither red nor white wine, Fieuzal or the second Abeille de Fieuzal label, in 2017.

Last week we saw Château Climens in Barsac joining it, with owner Bérénice Lurton announcing that the estate conducted a ‘grape hunt’ during harvest, but still only managed to produce 2.5 hectolitres per hectare – roughly one barrel per hectare and a record low.

This doesn’t give us enough ‘materia prima’ to make a honourable Climens, so we have naturally decided not to make any first wine in 2017,’ said Lurton, adding that this was the first non-production for them since 1993.

Just a few miles further north in Graves, Château Chantegrive will be making no red wine at all.

There will be just a few thousands bottles of their top bottling of white wine, Cuvée Caroline, ‘because the Semillon shone this year, and were not affected by either the frost or the early September hail storm that took out so much of the remaining vineyard’, said Hélène Levêque, Chantegrive’s general manager.

It must be said at this point that frost damage was by no means uniform and, even in the worst-hit zones, not everybody suffered to the same extent. Château Suduiraut, in Sauternes, has said that frost only affected its ‘secondary plots’ of vines, for example.

Large parts of the Médoc were spared, and weather conditions across Bordeaux were good during flowering, with vineyards further boosted by a dry summer – helping the vines that survived the frost. See the map below this article for more detail.

However, it’s clearly been a difficult time for some on the Right Bank, in particular.

Château Grand Mouëys in Capian (AOC Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux) has announced that it is making no white wine at all, while the Ducourt family will bottle no Château Jacques Noir (AOC St-Emilion), no Château Plaisance (AOC Montagne St-Emilion) and a tiny quantity of Demoiselles (AOC Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux).

We will no doubt hear of more over the next month – I believe 15 February is the deadline for winegrowers to inform their local syndicates exactly what will be going into bottle.

For the rest of the estimated 70% of affected producers, there are a number of different ways to deal with drastically reduced production, and it’s interesting to see what’s emerging.

For Château Fleur Cardinale in St-Emilion, only the highest part of the estate managed to escape the frost.

This was the ‘limestone heart’ as Caroline Decoster put it, where the vines are largely Cabernet, so giving an unusual blend for an estate that is planted to 70% Merlot. The blend in 2017 will be 35% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% merlot, from eight barrels instead of the usual 350.

This equals around 2,000 bottles,’ Decoster told me this week, ‘but we have decided to put them all into magnum, to make something special out of what has been a difficult year.

So 1,000 magnums of an unusual blend, and we are extremely happy with the quality. We wouldn’t have done this if we didn’t believe that what has been produced wasn’t exceptional.’

This means that Fleur Cardinale 2017 will still be sold en primeur (although good luck getting hold of any) but will not be tasted through the usual routes during the tasting week, as there will be so few samples available.

Another big name missing from the usual tasting rounds of en primeur will be Château Corbin, another casualty of the St-Emilion frosts. The only plot to survive the frost here was 25ares (one are is 100m2) of four year old vines.

I couldn’t give those young vines the responsibility of carrying Château Corbin all by themselves,’ Annabelle Bardinet rather beautifully explained to me.

So we will only be making a small amount of second wine, maybe 5,000 bottles. It was not a difficult decision to make, but it was very sad.’

And if there is a silver lining, it took Caroline Perromat at Château Cerons to point it out. Cerons produced 50% of its normal amount of wine, because the vines next to the river survived untouched, but the ones on the plateau next to Chantegrive were entirely wiped out.

It’s difficult time of course,’ she said. ‘We only re-launched under the Château Cerons name in 2012, and already made no wine at all in 2013, so it is difficult to take the loss again.

But it is also a time to reflect on your strategy and to make a team decision about what to do. These tough years really make you think about what you want and what is important to you.’

Where the frost struck worst in Bordeaux in April 2017

The worst-hit areas are highlighted in red.

Carbon capture man

Mainingers, 1. February 2018

When Miguel Torres, head of Bodegas Torres, one of Spain’s most notable wineries, saw An Inconvenient Truth, the 2006 climate change documentary by former US vice president Al Gore, it changed his life.

He’d already seen for himself the way the climate in the Penedès region had become drier and hotter over his lifetime, but until he saw the film, he hadn’t realised how dire the situation was. A few weeks later, he gathered his family together and told them that the company had to “do something”. Today, 11% of Bodegas Torres’ profits are devoted to climate change projects.

Paying to fight climate change

Founded in 1870, Bodegas Torres is situated about four km from Vilafranca del Penedes and has the distinction of being both Spain’s biggest winery and its largest vineyard owner; it also has estates in California and Chile. When CEO Miguel Torres stepped down in favour his son, fifth-generation Miguel Torres Maczassek, the two men agreed that Torres senior could continue his projects. The company has now “invested more than twelve million euros,” says Torres. “Every year I know I can count on one million, one million and a half euros, for our program.”

Today, Miguel Torres “and a team of three or four” remains in charge of three departments: legal services, internal audit and his true love, the environmental department. He has read more than 40 books and hundreds of scientific papers, and spoken to universities, scientists, writers and politicians. And he’s overturned the way his family’s business is conducted. In October, he held a small conference, Torres & Earth, to showcase the trials, successes and disappointments.

Addressing a small, round lecture theatre, Torres picked up a piece of chalk and drew two circles, representing the earth and the sun. The sun, he said, beamed low wave radiation to earth, which is then normally bounced back to space. But as human activity releases carbon and other gases into the atmosphere, the radiation is reflected back to earth, where it’s trapped, causing temperatures to rise. The heat generated each year by this ‘greenhouse effect’ is “equivalent to 300,000 atomic bombs,” said Torres.

Torres is a quiet, besuited man with startling blue eyes, who sounds calm and optimistic, even when describing the apocalypse. He becomes more passionate as he describes the way that reducing emissions dictates almost everything at Bodegas Torres. Synthetic fungicides may, for example, be used in preference to organic ones, to reduce the number of times a petrol-fuelled vehicle has to pass through a vineyard. “In England, a company is designing an electric tractor and we said, ‘as soon as you are finished, send it here and we will try it’.” All 1,000 farmers who work with the company have been advised on recycling.

Torres explained the company also wants to improve wine quality, while adapting to climate change. “We are changing our viticulture practices to delay maturation,” he says. “We went from guyot training to gobelet.” Gobelet is the ancient method of growing vines with no wires, so the plant grows into a ‘goblet’ shape, with a canopy that protects the grape from the sun, like an umbrella. Another project has been the creation of a climate change vineyard, for viticultural experiments like lifting the vine’s arm to delay maturation. Or putting aside 100 ha of land in an area that’s currently too cold to plant, but which one day soon may become viable. Or planting 2,000 ha of forest.

Carbon capture is another important goal. Torres produces 3,000 tonnes of CO2 from the fermentation process and has a three-pronged approach to deal with it. The first is simply to lower the amount of energy used. “We produce 25% of our own electricity with biomass [from burning wood, vine and other plant matter],” he explains. The second is collaboration, with the company offering to invest in any European company that is willing to send a prototype for Torres to test. Finally, Torres has a research department that seeks solutions in tandem with universities and chemical companies.

The company has also conducted an audit to find out where the carbon is coming from and where it’s going and discovered there are three sources. The first are the emissions produced by the cars driven by employees or suppliers. Then there is the electricity used in production and administration and so on. “These you can control,” he says. There’s also the third part of the equation, “all the products you buy: cartons, bottles, everything. And then the logistics – what are the emissions when we send a case of wine to Japan? These two things together represent 80% to 90% of emissions.”

To get suppliers and logistics companies on board with the goal of lowering emissions, Torres created an award, the Torres & Earth Award, which began in 2016. The first awards went to glass manufacturer Vidrala, the logistics company JF Hillebrand, and winegrowers of Canela, who between them reduced emissions by 26%. “And in the future, what about transportation with wind?” Torres is enthusiastic about what can be done, but his time is up. Now the floor is ceded to the company’s researchers.

Innovative ideas

Renewable energy systems are being trialled and there are PVSs (photovoltaic solar panels) galore – in Spain, Chile and Sonoma – as well as other technologies under study, such as Spinetic power generators, with individual windmills turning inside a frame. “You could have one in your garden!” Torres calls out from the front row. Other projects being considered include replacing office windows with ones made from new energy-generating plastic ‘glass’.

Miquel Rosell, an oceanographer who has been working with the company for nine months, described trials to capture CO2. “One litre of grape juice will produce 50 litres of CO2,” he said. But, he says, this CO2 is “high quality”, meaning it’s not adulterated with other gases. “We need to think in terms of the circular economy. How do we transform something of no value to something that you can sell or use in the winery?”

One possibility is to use CO2 as fertilizer, because it stimulates plant growth. “We have two greenhouses with lettuces. We see faster growth in the lettuce [fed with CO2].”

There have been disappointments, such as the experiments with algae, a photosynthesizing organism that is excellent at capturing carbon – on a small scale. “When you try and scale up, it’s really expensive and complicated,” says Rosell. “So now we’re experimenting with using them to clean water.” He admits that none of these technologies will capture vast amounts of carbon by themselves. “The important thing is not that we are actually capturing CO2 – we are studying the methods, to see which are the better combinations. This is a presentation to let the world know that we need friends and protectors, and what’s available.”

Thanks to all these activities, Torres says that the company’s own CO2 emissions have fallen by 40% since 2008, while supplier emissions have fallen by nearly 20%. Invitations to other producers have led to 25 wineries in Spain taken up the offer to draw on Torres’s research.

The politics of climate change

For all the talk of small, artisanal, sustainable wineries, it’s the big companies that are doing most large-scale sustainable work. It costs money to plant a forest, or capture carbon, or get researchers involved in water conservation. Family ownership helps. “The main concern for the manager is to produce profit. In a family, long term thinking is critical. Payback from solar panels, for example, takes 16 years,” says Torres. Over that period, the cost of purchase and installation can be amortised “It’s money that stays in the company. Otherwise you have to pay the bill to the electricity company and this is money that goes away, leaving the company.”

Yet no company, no matter how big or well meaning, can solve climate change by itself. For that, political action is required. Torres shakes his head. “Many countries are making an effort to reduce emissions,” he says. “China is putting PVS all over the country. Morocco will produce 50% of its own electricity with PVS,” he adds. “In Spain, the Minister of Energy says we will continues to use the nukes for ten more years. Because of drought, we have less hydraulic energy, so we’re going to use coal. No mention of solar.”

He told Meininger’s that the company has been working with the Spanish government for over a year, to reduce the unnecessary bureaucracy surrounding solar panels. “It’s so time consuming so most people don’t do it.” As the recently elected president of the Spanish Federation of Wine, he has asked 1,000 wineries across Spain if they might be interested in using solar panels, and is taking their answers to show the Minister that they want to do it. “Spain was number two in the world ten years ago – and now we are down to number ten!”

He’s also petitioning the minister on other issues. “The next twenty, thirty, forty years will be very difficult for southern Europe because of climate change.” Torres lists the requirements. “More reservoirs in our vineyard to collect the water from the winter. Irrigation – that’s compulsory. Most people still don’t have it.” The vines need to be protected with plastic nets. More ventilators are needed to protect against frost.

The big question, of course, is – is there still time? Has the world gone past the point that something can be done? Torres sighs. “I wish I could answer you. I wish,” he says. “That’s a question I keep asking my people all the time.” There is evidence, he adds, that carbon emissions are slowing, while action to combat change is rising. “There is a change taking place, but we still need to mobilise people, the average consumer, the person who still says, ‘well, so what?’”

Torres seems to have endless energy to talk about climate change, which is clearly his life’s work. As for Al Gore, the man who sparked this passion, Miguel Torres says he finally got to meet him. But they only shook hands and didn’t speak. “He was paid a lot of money to give an address, as usual, and then I remember I was introduced and we shook hands, and that was it.”

It was enough.

Felicity Carter

Sichel’s sales to China surge by 15%

Hapers, 02 February, 2018

Bordeaux winemaker Sichel’s exports to China surged 15% in 2017 as Chinese demand for French wine continues to explode.

Strong sales of Sichel’s Grand Cru wines were a key driver of the growth, with mature vintages performing particularly well, said the company.

The company’s contract winemaking business, which accounts for 20% of overall sales, performed particularly well in China following investment in Sichel’s Bel Air winery.

Our capability at Bel Air and the fact we work with long-standing partners year-round means we can produce wines to certain styles and price points,” said export director Charles Sichel.

In spite of sterling’s plummeting value and ongoing uncertainty around Brexit, Sichel also noted a strong performance in exports to Britain.

We can smooth out vintage variations,” he added. “I think some of the UK buyers who have been down recently have been pleasantly surprised at the quality of the 2017.”

The boom in Sichel’s exports to China reflects growing demand for French wines in the Far East. According to figures from wine competition Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, Chinese wine imports passed $2 billion last year, up 37% since 2014.

China is the largest export market for Bordeaux wines by a good margin,” said a spokesman. “Wine consumers in China number 38 million, offering real opportunities for winegrowers – 40% of Chinese enthusiasts are aged between 18 and 29.”

Sichel’s growth in the UK defies current trends, with supermarkets increasingly turning to New World producers. According to sales figures from IRI, value sales of French wine fell by 5% last year, while sales of Argentinian and New Zealand wine were up in double digits.

How looming wine shortages could shape the market

Mainingers, 28. January 2018

As an avid collector of odd newspaper headlines, I was delighted to come across “One in three Londoners live in fear of Prosecco shortage” in the London Evening Standard last October. To be fair, the news story that followed was all about a study of millennials’ trivial ’first world problems’ such as leaving one’s phone at home, forgetting a login password and having to stand on public transport. Apparently, a surprising number of the young people questioned by University of London Goldsmiths College researchers particularly ’feared a repeat’ of the previous year’s shortage of Italy’s most successful sparkling wine.

A brief internet search for ‘Prosecco shortage’ prompted by the Evening Standard piece revealed that newspapers had not only run headlines about this worrying event in the spring of 2016, but also in April 2015. This was despite the fact that in neither year had anyone who really wanted a bottle been unable to obtain one.

I don’t know what it was about Prosecco that so caught the imagination of the media, but many of those same journalists seem to have ignored the fact that, when it comes to wine shortages, the world is bang in the middle of a perfect storm that is likely to have significant impact on the wine industry and on the the bottles on many people’s tables across the globe.

A combination of frost and drought led to Europe producing 14% less wine in 2017 than the previous year, with Italy suffering the worst shortfall with a cut of over 20%. On the other side of the Atlantic, California’s vineyards were hit by forest fires, while El Niño was responsible for cutting production in Chile and Argentina.

Last year’s problems have not gone away. Italy’s soils are still dry and Cape Town is set to become the first major city on the planet to run out of water. South Africa’s 2018 crop is expected to be the smallest since 2005.

Despite the rains that were brought by El Niño, Chile declared a state of emergency in December in drought-hit Coquimbo and parts of Valparaíso. Forest fires, of the kind that have hit California and Australia are also increasingly common in South America – and for the same reasons. Australia seems set for a normal-size 2018 harvest, but that too could change if the wine regions are hit by a predicted hot spell in the next few weeks.

Taken collectively, climatically-driven shortages have made for the smallest 2017 harvest in 36 years and the dearth will be most keenly felt this year. As a professional I met this week said “It’s the first time I’ve seen big UK buyers with fear in their eyes at the prospect of not being able to fill their shelves.”

Of course, it’s a very ill wind that does not bring gifts for somebody, and wine producers in Eastern European countries like Romania, Macedonia, and Moldova where I was working last week, all have plenty of 2017 wine to sell – and sales staff who are busily fending off urgent enquiries about the availability of Pinot Grigio and Merlot.

Unfortunately, even where they are able to supply some of this demand, countries like these know that, like an acquaintance who accepts a last-minute dinner invitation, they are simply filling a gap until wine begins to flow again through the traditional pipelines. Worse still for them, of course, is the lack of commercial (as opposed to intellectual) interest in the local grape varieties of which they have far larger volumes.

Two solutions are clear. On the one hand, 2018 offers a unique opportunity for any hitherto lesser-known wine region or country with wine in its tanks to devote every dollar it has – and maybe some that it hasn’t – to market itself to the international wine trade. Relationships developed this year will certainly pay huge dividends when the next perfect storm comes along, which could be sooner than most people expect. And maybe even before that.

On the other hand, it is time for wine brand-owners to begin to wean consumers off their simplistic diet of varietal wine. The US giants are ahead of this game with their proprietary red blends such as Apothic and the Prisoner; I expect others to follow in their footsteps.

Stand by too, for the arrival of a crowd-pleasing, multi-regional sparkling wine brand. If the producers get the blend and marketing right, there are apparently millions of Londoners who’ll be desperate to buy a bottle when the the next Prosecco Shortage headlines appear.

Evaluating Cabernet Wines at Different Price Points

29 Jan 2018

Chris Munsell, director of winemaking for E. & J. Gallo Winery, introduces panelists for the joint winemaking and grapegrowing session about Cabernet Sauvignon during the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento.

Sacramento, Calif.—Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular red wine varietal with consumers and critics, and the grape is expected to soon surpass Chardonnay as California’s leading wine grape variety by tonnage and acreage. In light of the varietal’s dominance, four different Cabernet wines at four different price points were dissected in a tasting and panel discussion at this year’s Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. Moderating the session was Chris Munsell, director of winemaking for E. & J. Gallo Winery’s premium wine program. Munsell said when he “was a wee lad in the winemaking world,” a marketing executive told him for any wine to be successful, it needed to be of good quality, known by consumers and profitable for everyone involved. He said no other varietal or red blend has received as many 100-point scores as Cabernet Sauvignon, and its popularity and profitability are obvious judging by the grape’s place in the wine industry. “We fully expect when we see the state’s grape crush report come out in a few weeks, Cabernet will have surpassed Chardonnay as the most acreage in the state for wine grapes, Munsell said. “Cabernet Sauvignon is also in a unique position where you see wines from premium domestic from $7 to $8 per bottle all the way up to $700 or $800 a bottle and everything in between; very few other varietals have that scope.”

The session included presentations by the vineyard manager and winemaker of four wines. At $13, consistency is key Evan Schiff oversees winemaking for Francis Ford Coppola Presents’ Diamond line of wines that counts 13 different varietals and includes two Cabernets. He presented the 2014 Ivory Cabernet with a retail price of $12.99 that is sourced from a vineyard in the Lodi AVA managed by Vino Farms. Craig Ledbetter, vice president and partner at Vino Farms, said a portion of the grapes for the Ivory label Cab are from a vineyard on the easternmost edge of the Lodi AVA in a sub-appellation known as Borden Ranch. The vineyard was planted in 1990 and cultivated with bi-lateral spur until 2009, when it was transitioned for mechanization. Ledbetter said that change stemmed not from an attempt to save money or increase production but to get it pruned in time. He said the company manages about 1,000 acres of mechanically pruned vines, and if they had to be pruned by hand, it wouldn’t be completed until the end of March. He said mechanically pruned vines do result in more speckled light exposure and much smaller bunches and berries, but two to four times as many bunches provide for a good juice-to-skin ratio. Schiff said all of the grapes used for the Diamond line are contracted and come from approximately 250 growers in all of California’s appellations. On average, the Cabernet is picked at 26° Brix for mature fruit flavors and no greenness. He eschews cold soaks and instead inoculates and adds enzymes to help ensure all potential color can be extracted in a fairly quick fermentation. “For the average machine harvested fruit coming from 2 to 3 hours away we want to get it in the fermentor, we want to get it going,” he said. At 2° Brix he generally presses but may press early if there is sufficient tannin. After a gentle fining with Isinglass, the wine then goes to tank, where it ages on barrel alternatives and micro-oxygenation at a rate of about 3 mg/L per month. Schiff stressed checking the wine’s basic chemistry and tasting every week while using micro-ox. He also will use multiple oak suppliers to help create some complexity and will spread the oak among several tanks rather than concentrate it in just a few. Final blends are built with sensory and tannin analysis with a goal for consistency and to fill as many tanks to support as many as five bottling runs per year. “It’s really all about consistency at this price point,” he said.

Night harvesting and square tanks

As Rodney Strong Wine Estate’s wine grower, Ryan Decker manages the company’s estate vineyards and works closely with supplying growers. He and winemaker Justin Seidenfeld discussed the winery’s 2014 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which has a retail price of around $35 and total production of around 11,000 cases. Decker said most of the vines in the vineyard are cane pruned with two canes, although high-vigor areas are set to four. He said everything is managed by hand with minimal leaf pulling, as the soil helps keep the vines in check and excessive pulling could lead to sunburn in the warm afternoons of Knights Valley. Most of the grapes are machine harvested at night, which Decker said ensures fruit arrives at the winery as cold as possible. Seidenfeld said in 2014, Rodney Strong completed a new production winery that was outfitted with square, stainless-steel fermentation tanks by LaGarde, because they offered a good juice-to-skin ratio that resulted in wines with a balance of structure and soft tannins. It also allowed him to work small-lot fermentations. “We were able to keep all the blocks separate and found something quite special,” he said. After a cold soak of about five days, Seidenfeld said he initiates a spontaneous fermentation by warming the tanks. The caps are managed with an automated pumpover system that alters the number and duration of pumpovers by Brix. Once dry, the wine then goes through an extended thermal maceration, during which the must is kept at 86° F until it is ready to be drained and pressed. Following pressing, Seidenfeld lets the wine settle for 24 hours, then racks it into barrels. He said the oak program is 100% French with about half new wood, and most of those are the new Vicard Generation 7 barrels built with staves analyzed for tannin content and which Seidenfeld said do seem to offer a more consistent oak impact. “We really like what those barrels do; so I took a gamble, and so far, we’re pretty happy,” he said. Adding a little perspective from the Northwest was Casey McClellan, winemaker and founder of Seven Hills Winery in Walla Walla, Wash. McClellan produces around 21,000 cases per year, and his 2014 single-vineyard estate Cabernet retails for around $50. While Eastern Washington enjoys abundant sunshine and 16-hour days during the growing season, McClellan noted the winters can be severe, and it’s not uncommon for ravaging frosts to strike in November. “We’re not talking about mild frosts,” he said, adding he’s seen 76° F on days in November only to be followed by 15° F the next. “Your season is over when it happens.” Part of Cabernet’s success in Washington can be attributed to it being one of the more winter-hardy vinifera varieties. Growers in the state also don’t have to contend with phylloxera, and McClellan said the vineyard is own-rooted like most others in the state. Yields are in the range of 3.25 tons per acre, and pricing is around $10,000 on a per-acre basis, although he expects prices to keep rising. “I’m seeing more California faces up there, and you’ll probably bring your pricing with you,” he said. McClellan said because the wine is a high-revenue lot, he has to carefully manage his tanks to ensure he has the capacity to get it in before any frosts. McClellan picks at around 25° to 26° Brix, looking for aromatics and flavors while remaining a meal-friendly wine with the potential to age for 10 years. Higher prices, less intervention in the cellar The grapes are destemmed then pass through open rollers before getting transferred to open-top tanks via a progressive cavity pump. A brief cold soak is followed by fire hose pumpovers in which McClellan likes to turn the tank volume three times. After 10 to 14 days, the wine is typically close to dry, and he will press and settle the wine before racking it into 36-month Seguin Moreau barrels. McClellan said he’s tried extended maceration but has always been happier with just the skin contact of fermentation.

Likely no one in the audience was surprised the highest priced Cabernet came from Napa Valley, but at $78 per bottle, the 2014 Lede Family Wines Cabernet is almost a bargain when compared to other Napa Cabs. Discussing the wine were vice president and general manager Remi Cohen and viticulturist Allison Cellini, who said the wine came from two estate vineyards that comprise 56 small lots that total to nearly 60 acres. Designed by David Abreu, the vines are trained to low head height vertical shoot positioning at 3-foot vine spacing with 5- to 6-foot row spacing. Cellini said the vineyards demand precision, and she’s very lucky to work with an in-house crew that has been tending to the vineyards for nearly five years. She said she’ll conduct several passes based on quality to achieve about 12 to 14 clusters per vine for 2 to 3 tons per acre. The grapes are harvested into the much-loved little yellow lugs and brought to the winery. Cohen described the winemaking as “minimalist” and said it begins with a hand sort on a Bucher Vaslin conveyor followed by an optical sorting from a Pellenc machine. She said the winery made the smart move to lease a Pellenc sorter in 2011, so it was easy to recently upgrade to the company’s latest machine. Sorted berries are dropped into tanks with a unique hoisting system that Cohen said can move about 1.5 tons of whole berries. A long cold soak of up to a week is followed by fermentation managed with a few pumpovers per day. The winery uses truncated, stainless steel tanks to help keep the cap submerged. Once a lot is in the tank, it will stay there for up to 40 days of maceration and is tasted daily to evaluate mouthfeel and tannin development. All of the lots stay separate all the way to barrel, helping to provide the winery with lots of options when it’s time to assemble the final blends. The wine stays in barrel for 21 months before it’s bottled, unfined and unfiltered.

Copyright © Wines & Vines

US wineries to sell $3 billion of wine direct in 2018 – study

Decanter, Chris Mercer, January 29, 2018

Wineries in the US have continued to see growth in direct sales to wine lovers in the past year, and the total market will top $3 billion in 2018, says a new industry report.

Wines shipped directly from the winery to consumer made up 10% of retail sales for domestically produced wines in the US in 2017 – that’s excluding bars, restaurants and hotels – show figures released by Sovos ShipCompliant and trade publication Wines & Vines.

Their latest annual report into the direct-to-consumer wine market underlines strong momentum for the sector.

Total DTC shipments in 2017 rose by 15.3% in volume and 15.5% in value versus 2016, to the equivalent of 5.78 million 12-bottle cases and $2.69 billion.

And the report’s analysts believe the $3 billion mark is very much in reach in 2018.

California makes up around 30% of the so-called DTC market, but figures show that demand across the rest of the US is broad.

Texas was the second most important destination for DTC sales in 2017, accounting for 8% of the market, with New York next on 6% and Florida fourth on 5%.

Pennsylvania, which opened up to DTC wine shipments in 2016, jumped into the top 10 states by destination, in volume terms, in 2017 – suggesting significant pent-up demand among wine lovers.

Oklahoma is set to become one of the few remaining US states to open its doors this year, expected to do so in October – potentially just in time for Thanksgiving.

In terms of the wineries shipping the wine, the report authors highlighted 25% volume growth for Sonoma County wines in 2017, plus a 58% jump in rosé wine shipments.

Wineries of all sizes appeared to be finding a corner of the DTC market to operate in, but smaller wineries – often commanding higher prices per bottle – remained the mainstay of the sector.

As in past years, the small winery (5,000 to 49,999 cases) and very small winery (1,000 to 4,999 cases) categories drove the DTC shipping channel, accounting for 70% of the value of winery shipping,’ said the report authors.

Thieves steal 1,000 Brunello wines from Col D’Orcia

Decanter, Chris Mercer January 26, 2018

Thieves operating in the dead of night have stolen 1,000 bottles of Brunello di Montalcino from high profile estate Col d’Orcia, including ‘irreplaceable’ library vintages.

Around 100,000 euros-worth of Brunello di Montalcino wines were stolen from the Col d’Orcia wine shop, situated on the winery estate, last weekend, according to the winery.

Thieves broke into the shop overnight and took around 1,000 Brunello wines, including library vintages dating back to 1964 and also highly rated wines such as Poggio al Vento Riserva 1997 and 1999.

Some of the bottles are irreplaceable,’ said Francesco Marone Cinzano, owner of Col d’Orcia, who was sleeping in the next-door building at the time of the burglary.

They only took the Brunello and everything in the shop was very tidy and clean. They had strict instructions,’ he told Decanter.com.

A van stolen from Col d’Orcia and used as a getaway vehicle was found last night (Thursday 25 January) in Perugia, but no wines were inside.

Police have called in forensics experts to look for clues and a network of merchants, retailers and importers globally have been notified to look for suspect bottles.

A lot of merchants have sent messages of sympathy and promised to be on the lookout,’ Cinzano said.

There have been several other burglaries of private apartments in the Montalcino area in recent weeks, according to Cinzano, but it is not known whether they are connected.

There is a plan to set up 110 CCTV cameras this year in the municipality, in order to deter and detect thieves. ‘They will cover entrances and exits to main roads, and they will be able to read car number plates,’ said Cinzano who is one of those who has worked on the initiative with authorities.

There is a sense that fine wine thefts have become a growing problem for high profile wineries and restaurants worldwide in recent years, from California to Bordeaux.

Some have linked this to rapid price inflation for the world’s top wines in the last two decades.

Old grapes, new barriers

Meiningers, 28. January 2018

I’m not an outlaw,” says Thierry Navarre, with a slight note of irony in his voice. “This is just an experiment – but then life is an experiment, isn’t it?”

Navarre is talking about his steadfast devotion to resuscitating and vinifying ancient grape varieties at Domaine Thierry Navarre in Roquebrun, St. Chinian – a passion that has frequently placed him in a grey zone when it comes to law. Yes, law. France doesn’t just have complex, restrictive appellation rules, but even stricter stipulations about what can and cannot be planted in a vineyard.

In the Languedoc-Roussillon, the safe choice is to stick with Syrah, Grenache or even the now fashionable Carignan – all of which are from Spain, albeit dating back centuries. But replanting some of the region’s historic indigenous varieties such as Ribeyrenc Noir or Œillade Norie can theoretically land the vigneron in court.

More about the legal part later – but why are producers, including Navarre, so fascinated by these obscure cultivars? Only a few decades ago, Languedoc-Roussillon’s winemakers were encouraged to grub up Carignan and anything else that might be cohabiting (field blends were once the norm) in favour of “improving varieties” such as the now ubiquitous Syrah and Grenache.

An acute need

It seemed like a good idea to rid the south of an excess of basic, rustic wines. But with an ever warmer and dryer climate, it’s since become clear that Syrah or Grenache are not the silver bullet that was once assumed. André Dominé, a strong advocate of historic varieties, is a Roussillon-based journalist who formed Les Vieux Cépages, a loose collective of producers who meet twice a year to compare notes on old vines and rare varieties.

Today people realise that Syrah is not really an ideal variety here,” he said. “In fact Carignan is the most well adapted red grape for a hot, dry Mediterranean region such as the Roussillon.”

Carignan, it turns out, is far better able to retain acidity to give wines freshness than its theoretically more auspicious vineyard brethren. Now, after 30 years, it has had a welcome resurgence, along with far better understanding of its ideal sites (hillsides, to cut a long story short) and vinification methods (not too much extraction, keep the yields low).

But the story doesn’t end with Carignan. When Navarre took over his family’s estate in 1988, he was curious about the grape varieties that had proliferated in the region pre-phylloxera. Ribeyrenc Noir – also known as Rivairenc or Aspiran Noir – was almost wiped out in the 1880s, but Navarre managed to find some plants in 1994.

Visiting the Chamber of Agriculture to declare his intentions resulted in a rather delicate situation: “They said, ‘This is going to be very complicated because the variety doesn’t even exist in the catalogue’ ”. Navarre went ahead and planted, even without the official blessing. He escaped the wrath of the powers that be, and more recently Ribeyrenc Noir and its two mutations Ribeyrenc Blanc and Gris have all been added to the catalogue of permitted cultivars.

He has similarly pioneered the re-introduction of other historic varieties such as Œillade, a red variety with a close relationship to Cinsault and all three colour mutations of Terret – Blanc, Noir and Gris.

Navarre is fortunate in having one of the world’s largest ampelographic collections on his doorstep. Domaine de Vassal, located just outside Montpelier, boasts some 7,800 accessions and well over 3,000 distinct cultivars. He was able to source otherwise extinct varieties, such as Terret Noir, from the facility. Vassal’s invaluable resource is shortly due to commence a forced relocation, but this is another story.

A resolutely down-to-earth character, Navarre is one of those people who appears to have a permanent smile on his face. He doesn’t come across as an academic or a geek – so why the fascination with some of the planet’s most obscure Vitis vinifera sub-species?

I live in a desert and I’m looking for camels,” comes the disarming reply. Ribeyrenc Noir is one such camel – able to tolerate drought, very resistant to diseases and able to ripen at around 11% alcohol.

About Œillade, his most recent fascination, he said, “This wine is exactly what my customers are looking for – it’s light, fruity and fresh. I don’t have a single bottle left to sell right now!” His Vin d’Œillades 2016, from an extremely poor schist soil, has a rustic twang but lip-smacking earthy red fruit. It is the kind of wine suited to joyful consumption by the litre rather than with prim little sips.

Navarre has endured, perhaps due to a combination of doggedness with an incredibly sunny temperament. “I get no money from the EU for planting these varieties,” he said. “It’s cost me a lot of time and energy, and it’s really buggered me up on a few occasions – but it gives me a lot of satisfaction.” Even when he started, “I didn’t have any allies here, not even one.”

That at least has changed – there’s a small but ever-increasing band of similar quasi-outlaws who are prepared like Navarre to forsake appellation classification (none of the varieties mentioned above are yet permitted in AOP wines) and even occasionally work outside the law to reintroduce and research varieties that could be key in a more globally warmed Languedoc-Roussillon.

Fraud squad

Not everyone has Navarre’s devil-may-care attitude to officialdom, though. Vineyard plantings and varieties are controlled by the snappily titled “Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes”, a strict institution that functions like a vineyard police force.

More and more of Navarre’s colleagues have experimental plots with forbidden varieties, but no-one wants ‘La répression des fraudes’ on their backs, and none of those interviewed would give their names for fear of legal reprisals. The vast majority are small, artisan growers. If, like Navarre, they bottle their more obscure varieties, the quantities are usually tiny. Some are experimenting with Morrastel-Bouschet, better known in Rioja as Graciano. The variety was once very popular in the Languedoc, and appears to be much more drought-resistant than more modern imports to the region.

More recently, micro-negociant Calmel and Joseph entered the Vieux Cepages arena with its first bottling of Terret Blanc, the white variety originally championed by Navarre.

There is nothing especially unusual about larger producers – Calmel & Joseph produces almost a million bottles a year – conducting experiments like this. Except that in this case, the concept was initiated by UK supermarket buyer Daphne Teremetz from Waitrose.

I first tasted this grape variety in 2016 and felt it had strong potential with our customers thanks to the flavour profile (crisp, lean, mineral) and good intensity combined with low-moderate alcohol level,” she said. “My brief to Laurent Calmel was to look for grapes with good intensity due to older vines or deliberately restricted yields and to select based not just a fruity flavour profile but also good steeliness/stony minerality, akin to great, top flight Muscadets.”

The Villa Blanche Terret Blanc 2016 has achieved Teremetz’s aim admirably, and for a low retail price to boot. £8.49 ($11.21). The Waitrose write-up compares it to Chablis, which is ambitious – but at the same time the mouthwatering freshness and attractive chalkiness do head in a certain kimmeridgian direction.

Teremetz is very pleased with the customer response so far: “It is selling well and interest is building. This is very positive for a little-known grape variety.” She also said that UK wine and TV personality Olly Smith not only recently made the wine one of his top picks, but also – more surprisingly – commented, “Terret is the grape that got me into wine and I haven’t tasted one this good in 20 years”.

Meininger’s asked Olly Smith if anyone was really making a varietal Terret Blanc in 1997, and he confirmed that the wine came from Francois Lurton’s range, then sold by Oddbins in the UK. It’s a potent reminder of how fast fashions can change – and that the collective memory of the wine trade is sometimes rather short.

Calmel is clear why Terret fell out of fashion those few decades ago: “There was a lot planted in the 1960s, mainly for Noilly Prat,” he said. “But then it became a ‘has been’ and nobody wanted it anymore”. The negative view of Terret wasn’t helped by the fact that these vineyards were designed solely for mass production, not for quality.

There are those in the region who seem jealous of Calmel and Joseph’s success, or regard their decision to create a more mass-market Terret Blanc as mere marketing or bandwagoning. But André Dominé is all for it: “It can only be a good thing when a major producer gets behind something like this.”

Calmel and Joseph have more surprises up their sleeves. Their first Picpoul Noir (2016) is about to be bottled, and may also be destined for supermarket shelves. It’s expressive and charming, absolutely befitting its ‘Pinot Noir of the Languedoc’ nickname.

Advocacy of forgotten grape varieties needs to come from all levels if it is to make further inroads. If the Languedoc-Roussillon’s venerable camels are to thrive once again, the help of Calmel & Joseph – and others like them – will not only be invaluable, but also signposts quite clearly that their time may have finally come.

Simon Woolf


The Drinks Business- 19th January, 2018 by Rupert Millar

The longstanding winemaker at famed Burgundian estate Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Bernard Noblet, is stepping down it has been announced.

As reported by local news outlet Bourgogne Aujourd’hui, 37-year-old Alexandre Bernier who has worked at the estate for eight years and who previously worked at Domaine Chanson will replace Noblet at the end of this month.

The domaine’s UK importer, Corney & Barrow, confirmed the news adding: “This has been planned these last three or four years with Alexandre Bernier working closely alongside Bernard Noblet as part of a seamless evolution.”

Noblet has been making wine at the property since 1986 (though has worked there since 1978), taking over from his father André who was head winemaker from 1946-1985.

In that time the domaine has risen to become one of the most sought-after labels in the fine wine world and one of the most expensive too.

Alcohol labelling – taste first, then look

Andrew Jefford December 4, 2017

Andrew Jefford suggests we’re getting it wrong about alcohol – with disastrous consequences.

Former Polish president Lech Wałęsa is the source of one of my favourite political quotations. No one seems quite sure when he first said it, but it later became one of his stock answers to difficult political questions: “I am for, and even against” (“Jestem za, a nawet przeciw”). When I look at the alcohol level displayed on wine labels, I know exactly what he means.

Consumers should be informed about what’s in the bottle of wine they are about to drink. The alcohol level is obviously a useful piece of information, and vital for assessing personal intake accurately. It’s time that the USA, Australia and New Zealand conformed to the +/- 0.5% maximum alcohol variance permitted in the EU and China; the existing +/- 1.5% in those countries is unnecessarily vague. From a health point of view, alcohol levels belong on labels: no question.

From the aesthetic perspective, though, I deeply regret the free availability of this information, the prominence with which it appears on front labels, and its growing ubiquity alongside all tasting notes (those appearing in Decanter magazine included). Why? Because it unduly and often inaccurately influences tasting judgments. On occasion, indeed, it can actually damage or destroy tasting ability by kicking away sensual objectivity.

Worse still, the idea that a wine with an alcohol level of 14.5% or 15% might be intrinsically ‘unbalanced’ is now unthinkingly accepted by many wine tasters. It has, too, become a corrosive element of wine fashion, and is negatively affecting the ways in which wines are produced. Producer neuroses about alcohol levels lead to a fetish for early harvesting. In many cases, this means that wines are robbed of the aromatic resonance and articulacy, the flesh and the texture which they would otherwise possess had they been harvested at perfect maturity. That in turn steals the potential pleasure drinkers might otherwise have taken in a well-vinified wine.

How is all this possible? Simply thus: knowing the alcohol level of a wine leads to cognitive bias.

A cognitive bias is a deviation from rationality in judgement. These biases are manifold, as a quick look at the ‘cognitive bias codex’ on Wikipedia will reveal; it’s actually hard to exclude all cognitive biases from any judgement, but that’s not a reason to abandon the effort. I would suggest that the moment you know that a particular wine contains, say, 14.5% or 15% alcohol, that fact may exert a disproportionate effect on the way in which you taste that wine. The figure itself prompts you to find that wine ‘over-alcoholic’. Given the option, I always ask not to be given this information as I taste. Where it is supplied (as it is in the Decanter World Wine Awards competition, for example), I do my best to ignore it until I have reached a verdict on the wine.

Tasters, remember, are surrogate drinkers; they are looking to find and to assess drinking pleasure. All that matters is what is tasted, not what is known. If knowing a particular fact will vitiate your tasting pleasure (and we are now getting to the stage where sight of “15%” on a label will do just that for many), then it is better not to know. If you don’t know, you will taste the wine more justly.

I realise that this will seem incendiary to some readers, so let me quickly list some of the things I am not suggesting.

I am not suggesting that all information about wines has a negative effect on tasting ability. On the contrary, knowledge about origin is vital, since there is no single aesthetic ideal for wine. Beauty in wine is predicated on origin. (It is not predicated on alcohol.)

I am not suggesting that balance in wine is an irrelevant or over-rated virtue. It is both desirable in its own right, and the basis of drinkability, which I consider a defining quality of both good wine and fine wine. I am simply suggesting that alcohol in itself is a much less prominent element in balance than it is at present modishly made out to be.

I am not suggesting that ‘unbalanced’ wines do not exist. They do indeed exist, for a multitude of reasons. Early picked, under-ripened wines can also be unbalanced; so, too, can over-oaked or over-ripened wines. But you cannot tell that a wine is over-ripened by looking at its alcohol level, since ripening is intimately related to site, variety and season. Craft, too – and, it would seem, climate change. These are ceaselessly variable factors. You can only tell if a wine is over-ripened by tasting it and drinking it, and that is best done by first removing the potential for cognitive bias.

It is, in conclusion, wholly erroneous to assume or assert that wines cannot be balanced at 15%, 15.5% or 16% — or whatever strength at which the yeasts finally throw in the towel. Balance is a function of the sum of constituents of a wine and the manner in which they are disposed within that wine. This is a question of enormous complexity, as we all know: think, if you will, of the dozens of different nuances in different wines’ acid spectra, for example, or in wines’ textural presences. To focus on alcohol level is absurdly reductive. Wines deserve better of their drinkers.


Vinepair, Nov 2017

Like anyone with an Instagram account, scrolling through my morning feed is equal parts mindless diversion and masochism. No matter how much I’m enjoying my week, someone else is living harder — sabering a Champagne magnum with a beer glass, say, or attending a wine dinner featuring bottles of eternally sold-out Clos Rougeard.

These are actual images recently tagged with the hashtag #sommlife, which has nearly 120,000 posts as of this writing. Generally speaking, social media can induce envy (not to mention anxiety) by making everyone else’s lives seem both beautiful and out of reach. Sommeliers and wine professionals work in an industry that already has a certain amount of snobbery attached to it. The parade of expensive, rare bottles positioned with a no-big-deal attitude adds to ongoing misperceptions about income and spending.

Due to the labor-intensive, erratically scheduled nature of the job, sommelier positions are increasingly held by millennials. Increased social media use among the profession is somewhat inevitable. Unfortunately, unlike the ways social media is democratizing craft cocktail trends, the rise of the “Insta-somm” seems to make somm culture even snobbier.

People on social media have a tendency to make their reality a bit more impressive than it really is,” Ferdinando Mucerino, sommelier at Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica, California, says. “A little bit of bragging here and there, pictures of wines or places they have never had or been to have been posted as their own.”

Mucerino, who admits that he posts Instagram photos of both wines that he drinks and wines that he wants to promote at Rustic Canyon, is a fairly prolific Insta-somm, sometimes posting multiple bottle photos per day. Sometimes he captions the bottle shots with tasting notes or information about daily specials, a practice that many somms encourage. Other times, baller bottles — entirely empty and consumed, of course — fill the screen, accompanied only by names and vintages.

On average, U.S. sommeliers made about $60,000 annually in 2016, and many of those somms live in major markets with higher-than-average rents. It’s safe to assume most Insta-somms are not dropping the sort of cash necessary to purchase the bottles featured on their accounts.

Instead, insta-somms might post photos of bottles they may have sold from the wine cellar, opened as a guest’s corkage, or experienced at a trade tasting. Though the sommelier may wax on about the wine’s glory, in all likelihood, he or she has only tasted a tiny sip.

For example, Mucerino’s recent Instagram posts include Ridge “Monte Bello” 2014 (average retail price: $190), Vieux Château Certain Pomerol 1970 ($250), and Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($700+). He ‘grammed all not because he drank them, but because he wanted to highlight and ideally help sell them at the restaurant.

The previously pictured bottles of Unico and Le Pin? Mucerino only had a small taste of each, one of which he didn’t even open himself. It was sold and decanted by his colleague.

While many somms understand that their peers are often not buying or drinking the high-end bottles that saturate Instagram, the presence of so many coveted wines is still envy-inducing.

I can only see someone drinking Jamet or Gonon so many times before I starting wondering whether people are drinking better wine than me,” says Dan Veit, wine director of Norah in West Hollywood, California.

There are plenty of folks who just post trophy wines and expensive dinners: I don’t follow them, and I wouldn’t suggest anyone else do, either,” says Keith Wallace, president and founder of Wine School of Philadelphia.

Instead, Wallace urges sommeliers to use Instagram to connect with winemakers and importers, staying abreast of what is actually happening in the wine world. When sharing a photo of an amazing or exciting bottle, he says, include tasting notes so that followers can virtually experience the wine as well. Wallace encourages Insta-somms to forge connections with guests and educate them about wines from lesser-known regions like the Loire Valley and Beaujolais, which will both support under-the-radar producers and drive a restaurant’s business.

Does this mean that bottle shots of unicorn wines and Boomerangs of grower Champagne waterfalls are going to disappear from Instagram? Probably not. Given millennials’ need to overshare, wine’s luxury status, and the breathless excitement with which wine professionals greet top bottles, we can’t help but Insta-somm, at least a little.

I think we have a responsibility to promote more of the unknown than just the extremely rare wines that have been placed on a pedestal,” notes Anthony Cailan, beverage director of Hayden in Los Angeles. “But, given the opportunity to taste those wines, you bet they’ll end up on my Instagram.”

Jefford on Monday: Talent under the cosh

Decanter, November 6, 2017

Two tough hail years are testing Beaujolais’ new stars, as Andrew Jefford reports below.

I recently visited four of my favourite younger Beaujolais producers. Great wines, but bad news: all are facing career-threatening challenges thanks to two successive years of hail-induced losses.

Richard Rottiers, for example, has lost 80 per cent of his Moulin-à-Vent harvest in both 2016 and 2017. He’s trying to supplement the meagre harvest with some micro-négoce wines, but finding Moulin-à-Vent (his own appellation) is impossible, and sourcing organically grown fruit in the Beaujolais crus (where many vineyards are on steep slopes — acutely challenging for organic practices) is always difficult. The result? He’s decided to net his own vineyards against hail for 2018, even though he thinks that INAO will consequently force him to sell his Moulin-à-Vent as Vin de France. “Things have to change,” he says, “or we’ll die.”

The brilliant Mee Godard is in a similar fix. Her Morgon vineyards were hailed three times this summer. She’d normally hope for at least 35 hl/ha, but she’s harvested only 7 hl/ha. This, too, follows challenging losses last year as well – half the crop lost on her Morgon Corcellet (her largest holdings), for example. “I’m trying to get a little négociant card as I won’t be able to keep going if there is another year like this.”

Mathieu Mélinand and his partner Pauline Passot at Domaine des Marrans in Fleurie have lost 40 per cent of the harvest in 2017 after losing 50 per cent in 2016. Brother-and-sister team Louis-Benoît and Claude-Emmanuelle Desvignes have harvested just 23 hl/ha from their Morgon vineyards this year “though lots of our friends have nothing,” according to Louis-Benoît. “The Côte de Py was the worst hit on July 30th, but we didn’t have a single parcel that wasn’t hit and some were completely wiped out.”

Ever-stormier summers are now a fact of life, particularly for vineyards sited in continental climate zones like Beaujolais and Burgundy. INAO has been running tests on netted vineyards (already commonplace in hail-prone Mendoza) for three years, and growers hope that eventually they will be permitted, perhaps from the 2019 vintage. Will it be too late for the vulnerable?

The irony in all of this is that Beaujolais cru quality in 2017 looks exceptionally good, after very fair results in 2016 and a generous, fine-quality 2015 vintage, making this the perfect moment to assess the attainment of these young stars. Nature’s violence, though, means that they cannot profit from their achievements as they deserve.

One of the perennial interests of ambitious Beaujolais is fermentation practices, which vary more in terms of fine detail from cellar to cellar than in any other region I know. (Even the name for a fermentation cellar in Beaujolais is different to elsewhere – here it’s called not a cave, a caveau or a chai but a cuvage.)

A trait shared by Rottiers, Godard, Domaine de Marrans and Desvignes is that they all work with whole-bunch fruit as far as possible, though the exact percentage depends on the vintage and the quality of the raw materials (the hail damage of the last two years has meant that some destemming has been obligatory).

Godard is the only one of the four to crush the harvest, while the rest work with uncrushed bunches. All favour long, unhurried fermentations of 12 to 20 days with varying levels of intervention: one pumpover a day for Mathieu Mélinand; submerged cap with some pumpover and occasional rack-and-return for Richard Rottiers; pumpover to begin with followed by rack-and-return for the Desvignes family; both punch-downs and pumpover for Mee Godard, whose fermentations are the longest of all, though with just gentle trickling of the wine through the cap at the end of fermentation.

After fermentation, the cellaring stages vary, too: the Desvignes family use no oak at all, but only concrete and steel, while the others use a combination of large wooden foudres, demi-muids and smaller wood, almost all of it older. The results, as I hope the tasting notes below will indicate, are some superb wines, wines of structure, depth and penetration as well as beguiling fruit: truly wines which could be served on all of the same occasions as any great young Burgundy or Northern Rhône red.

I’ve got one last question for you, though: are you ready for Beaujolais like that? There is a school of aesthetics which declares Beaujolais of this sort to be ‘over-extracted’ and lacking in the delicacy, freshness, smooth succulence and perfumed immediacy which has lain at the core of Beaujolais’ historic appeal, even in the crus. Should, in other words, all Beaujolais look exclusively north for its aesthetic identity, or should it be permitted to look south, too?

Denaturing or falsifying the character of the crus is not at stake; the character of Gamay in these distinguished sites comes out with the clarity of a solo horn call in either case. But do you point the expressive range of fine Fleurie, Morgon or Moulin-à-Vent towards what was historically sanctioned alone — or do you allow these wines a full range of expressive possibilities, even if that might seem confronting at first?

Barbaresco – myth and reality

Andrew Jefford, October 23, 2017

Andrew Jefford discovers the unexpected after taking a closer look at the divide between Barbaresco and Barolo.

What exactly is the relationship between Barolo and Barbaresco? The Bordeaux model of Left and Right Bank isn’t echoed here, since there is no varietal difference between the two DOCGs: it’s nothing but Nebbiolo. Perhaps the contrasting red wines of the Côtes de Nuits and the Côtes de Beaune are a better comparison: they offer a subtle difference in style based on a modulation of topography and soils. When you peer more deeply into this question, though, there are surprises in store.

Langhe fans are sometimes startled to discover that Barolo and Barbaresco are not adjacent zones. They are separated by the town of Alba and by much of the Dolcetto-growing zone of Diano d’Alba (which also pokes into Barolo). Barbera d’Alba, too, can be grown in these transitional vineyards – but this enormous DOC also covers Barolo and Barbaresco in their entirety and much else beyond.

There are useful lessons here. Both Barolo and Barbaresco are, in fact, comprehensively planted with varieties other than Nebbiolo; the villages of Neive and Treiso within Barbaresco constitute a key Moscato d’Asti-growing zone, for example, into which Nebbiolo has only begun to make inroads in recent years. One look at the chaotic topography of the region and you will realise that this has to be so. It’s a comprehensive contrast to the Côte d’Or.

In fact what the Barolo and Barbaresco zones signal is that the greatest sites for Nebbiolo in the Langhe are found somewhere or other within their boundaries: they encircle Nebbiolo hot-spots, if you like. Barolo is the hot-spot southwest of Alba, and Barbaresco is the hot-spot northeast of Alba.

How hot? My assumption had always been that Barolo was the warmer of the two, and probably the lower lying, based on the fact that its tannins were grippier, its fruit more forceful, and its ageing requirements more imperative.

Wrong again. Barbaresco is in fact lower, warmer, and usually harvests earlier. The highest vineyard sites in La Morra and Monforte lie just above and just below 550 m, while Serralunga peaks at 450 m. Barbaresco, by contrast, has no site higher than 500 m, and most great sites peak at 300 m or so. It’s perfectly common in Barolo for Nebbiolo to be growing at 400 m.

There are other physical differences, too. Barolo, lying further west, is hit by weather systems prior to Barbaresco, which enjoys a more sheltered position. This factor made a dramatic difference in the 2014 vintage, when Barolo wrestled with a total of 1,400 mm of rain while Barbaresco strolled by with just 750 mm.

That still doesn’t explain the style difference, though, between Barbaresco’s gentleness, elegance and approachability and Barolo’s force and power. Maybe it’s all in the soil? Once again, our theorising seems frustrated: the limey blue-grey Sant’ Agata fossil marls and the slightly sandier or siltier Lequio formation marls dominate both zones.

Let’s head back to the map again. Remember that the best and most Nebbiolo-friendly vineyards in Barbaresco are in the village of Barbaresco itself. Take a look where that is: on a series of rising and falling bluffs, up above the river Tànaro. Australian Dave Fletcher, who lives and makes wine in Barbaresco, says that its ‘golden mile’ is the proportion of the zone which runs along the river. Barolo, by contrast, lies in its own little bowl of hills, south of the Tànaro. There is only one Barolo village close to the Tànaro, and that is Verduno – often said to be the most ‘Barbaresco-like’ of all Barolo villages. Could this be a clue?

Now we might be getting somewhere. Barbaresco growers often talk about an ‘air-conditioning’ effect brought by the river – it’s breezier and less prone to storms, even though the summations show it to be warmer on aggregate. Look, too, at the shape of the main ridge lines in both Barolo and Barbaresco (not easy for the untrained eye, I admit), and you’ll see that Barbaresco’s key sites tend to be west- or east-facing, whereas Barolo has a much higher percentage of south-facing sites. Both of these are surely significant factors.

When you talk to the locals, too, it would seem that soil differences do indeed play a role, in that Barbaresco soils tend to be somewhat sandier, softer and warmer than Barolo soils, even though the formations are the same. The Lequio formation in Serralunga, for example, contains less than 20 per cent sand, whereas the same formation in Treiso and Neive contains about 30 per cent sand. And in general the Langhe soils tend to get sandier as they approach the Tànaro; Roero, on the north side of the river opposite the village of Barbaresco, is almost pure sand. More sand means less clay in the mix, and less clay will tend to mean less retained water – which in turn is critically important for polyphenolic development.

So that’s my provisional answer to the question as to why Barbaresco differs from Barolo: proximity of the river, aspect of the main slopes and percentages of sand in the soil.

What drinkers rather than wine students should remember, though, is that we are not talking about ‘better’ and ‘worse’ here; we are talking about ‘different’. The virtues of the finest Langhe Nebbiolo – its detail, its refinement, its grace, the brightness of its balances, and its tannic generosity (with all that implies for health, digestibility and gastronomic aptitude) — are shared by both wines. Even if Barolo didn’t exist, Barbaresco would still be up there with the world’s greatest red wines.

Texas Vineyards Survive Harvey’s Visit

09.08.2017, Wines é Vines

Houston, Texas—The Gulf Coast of Texas took a direct hit from Hurricane Harvey, but the good news is vineyards there were almost entirely undamaged. The region has been described as having “warm breezes and micro-climate,” and as a result, grapegrowers had finished harvest by the end of July. By late August, the grapes had mostly finished fermentation and were safely ensconced in their tanks or barrels.   Fran Pontasch, the Gulf Coast extension program specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, told Wines & Vines that for vineyards, the Gulf Coast did better than expected. “All the vineyards are small, mostly just a few acres,” she said. “The losses are small, maybe six vines at most in a vineyard. You can count the number on one hand.” The region has 36 vineyards and 23 wineries, according to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association. It is not an easy climate in which to grow grapes: The warm temperatures and high humidity, combined with frequent rain, create an environment that favors the growth of many fungal diseases. Most of the grapes grown there are Blanc du Bois, a white hybrid grape crossed by Dr. John A. Mortensen at the University of Florida’s Central Florida Research and Education Center in 1968 and released officially in 1987. The variety is tolerant of the humid climate and, even more important, is resistant to Pierce’s disease. Haak Vineyards and Winery in Santa Fe, Texas, 20 miles from Galveston and 25 miles from Houston, is one of the largest wineries in the Gulf Coast region. Winemaker and president Raymond Haak told Wines & Vines that the winery produces about 9,000 cases of wine and has a 3-acre vineyard planted solely with Blanc du Bois. Haak noted that he got some of the first-released Blanc du Bois vines from Mortensen 35 years ago and makes seven different styles of wines from those grapes. When asked about the hurricane, Haak reported that Santa Fe had the highest rainfall amount of anywhere in the Houston-Galveston area—about 59 inches or more. “We may not have had quite that much at the winery,” he said. “We had a little bit of water in the cellar, and lost power for about 16 hours. But now we’re doing great; we’re back on our feet. The crop was all off the vines, and that takes a load off the vine. They can have wet feet for several weeks if the crop is off.” Haak thinks they may have had some minor tornadoes as three cast aluminum light poles in their parking lot were broken during the storm. Haak buys all of his red grapes from the High Plains region of Texas. On the day we spoke, he had just received 38 tons of Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional from near Lubbock. “The storm didn’t go there, so the grapes were in great shape.” A week after Hurricane Harvey finally departed, Jerry Bernhardt, owner and winemaker at Bernhardt Winery in Plantersville, Texas, (about 60 miles northwest of Houston) was out in the vineyard, checking the vines and considering what sprays to apply. He reported that the vineyard got “more than 30 inches of rain over five days. It wasn’t a wind event, not like Hurricane Ike (in 2008), when things in the vineyard blew over. We’ve got pretty good drainage, and we survived.” The grapes from Bernhardt’s 2-acre Blanc du Bois vineyard were picked in early July. He will probably apply a protective spray and expects that the vines will “go dormant by (the leaves) getting old. They’ll lose their leaves in mid-October.” “We’re fortunate,” Bernhardt said. “We can stagger our fermentations here. The first week in July we harvest the whites; the first week in August we bring in the reds. Then in September we get grapes from West Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico and California.” He finishes in October, when the old-vine Zinfandel arrives from Lodi, Calif. The winery produces about 2,600 cases each year.

Copyright © Wines & Vines

Meet the man making wine on the edge of Europe’s largest active volcano

CNBC.com 5 Sep 2017

At around 900 meters high, Frank Cornelissen’s wine estate sits at the limit of where viticulture was done historically, and also today.

Wine has been growing on the slopes of Mount Etna for over 2,000 years and only now is it catching the eye of investors, with several large Italian wine producers recently investing in the region. But for Cornelissen, it’s more than an investment opportunity. “Every morning you wake up the first thing you do is looking at this mountain,” he told CNBC. “It (Mount Etna) is a sign of life. It’s pretty fearsome when it explodes; it is, for me, very attractive also.”

The Sicily-based winemaker employs 20 young workers and along with himself and his wife, they run the 24-hectare wine estate.

Cornelissen’s natural approach to wine and the resources he has in the foothills of Mount Etna have defined his product.

“My approach to wine is very much combining the ancient with what today is available in quality. I think this is a great period for people who can make choices,” he said.

“Now the soil is black, it’s very unusual because it can go from literally rocks, and then compact rock, to a powder. It is full of minerals, it has a great quality of drainage and so vines can last centuries,” added Cornelissen.

Cornelissen’s top vintage wines now sell for more than $250, but starting the estate wasn’t an easy ride.

“Running a wine business, not only in Sicily but in Italy, is bureaucratically quite a challenge.”

Italian vineyard managers can spend over 25 percent of their time on paperwork; a frustrating reality for Cornelissen.

“If I would have known all the difficulty and let’s say the bureaucratic, and administrative problems, and the investments, and all the risks, and the challenges, I would never have done this.”

Despite the difficulties, Cornelissen is carving a reputation for himself as an all-natural winemaker, with one of his top wine’s, Magma, made virtually by hand and without additives, filtering or sulfur dioxide, the main preservative used in conventional wines.

He won’t compare his product to others, as he believes his wines “should represent a territory.”

“You have this multi-layeredness and it doesn’t leave you alone, you’re not going to forget it,” he said.


Vinepair, Laura Burgess- 13 Aug 2017

It might seem rude or snobbish to say, but not all grapes are created equal. It’s that simple.

When it comes to wine, it’s been that black and white for the past hundred years. In short, native American grapes and hybrid American-Euro vines — varieties like Concord, Frontenac, and Vidal Blanc — are just not good enough for wine. Or at least not fine wine. But that could be changing.

Now, a few wineries — mostly in regions hoping to take on the California wine machine — are trying to change that widely held opinion, by focusing on the values of nontraditional grape varieties instead of crafting yet another tropically scented Sauvignon Blanc or full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.

The familiar grape names on bottles such as Cabernet, Merlot, and Chardonnay are all European varieties, brought to the U.S. generations ago to allow an American wine market to thrive. This is because indigenous American varieties didn’t make great wine in colonial times, and early Americans were thirsty.

The aforementioned sub-par grapes, called hybrids as a group, originated as a backlash to sensitive vinifera vines that required specific weather and soil conditions to flourish. These grapes cross vinifera species with other native American grapevines like vitis labrusca and vitis riparia. Originally, these crosses developed first as a response to diseases like phylloxera that ravaged vinifera vines in the 1800s. As technology and science continued to advance, breeds were developed more and more specifically to combat other weaknesses of traditional wine vines, like resistance to rot, mildew, or cold temperatures. In humid locations like the Southeast and frigid climates like that of Minnesota, hybrids are the only way to grow grapes.

Overall, hybrids represent hundreds of grape varieties, with more being developed every year. Universities like UC Davis and Cornell have entire departments dedicated to producing new grapes that produce desirable qualities. This isn’t GMO-type science; it’s simple cross-breeding which also happens in nature. For example, the dark and cold-hardy Frontenac grape was developed at the University of Minnesota by crossing vitis riparia with Landot Noir, another hybrid. Then, Frontenac mutated on its own, creating Frontenac Gris, a cold-hardy, easy ripening white grape. Like vinifera grapes, hybrids as a whole encompass an incredible amount of variety and no two species react to elements like temperature and soil in the same way, but they do present opportunity for both diversity in the fields and in finished wines.

Traditionally, the case against hybrids in winegrowing and vinification has been a lack of complex flavors or inherent off-flavors (like stale potpourri, or a strange earthiness). Often, these high-yielding hybrids were used in bulk swill or for brandy production, another factor leading to their less-than-stellar reputation.

Today, with growth in wine-related tourism exploding and wine sales in general climbing, regions once better known for mountains or gambling are dabbling in winemaking more than ever. Many hope to change the reputation of hybrids with consumers and industry pros.

At Burntshirt Vineyards and winery, a sprawling estate in BBQ-heavy North Carolina just outside Asheville, consumer opinions generally aren’t the problem, according to associate winemaker Preston Thomas. “Our customers are very interested in hybrid varietals and why we use them,” he says. “My favorite thing to do is pour them Vidal Blanc without telling them what it is and then observe their reaction when I tell them it’s a hybrid!”

In most locales like Burntshirt, hybrids offer the opportunity to grow wines in an otherwise unfavorable climate. “Even though vinifera grapes can grow well, we use hybrids because they withstand the humidity of western North Carolina a bit better, and are thus more reliable year to year,” explains Thomas, who adds that the hybrids they cultivate — like Vidal Blanc and Chambourcin — often offer intense aromatics or a deeper color than many vinifera species.

Hybrids don’t simply equate to poor quality in the vineyard or the winery,” he says. Thomas is a rare West Coast winemaker who now uses vinifera and hybrids side by side at Burntshirt, where hybrids are used as blending agents and in varietally-labelled bottles.

Across the country, in Nevada, the University of Nevada at Reno is developing an oenology program that will run alongside its well-established agriculture school and feature a wealth of hybrid vines in its nursery. In the Silver State, resistance to frigid winter temperatures rather than humidity is what makes hybrids appealing.

Wade Johnston of Basin and Range winery, believes that hybrids can produce wines just as good as those from vinifera varieties if they’re treated with the same care. “We’re really excited to be vinifying the hybrids from our vineyard,” he says. “Yes, they have their own challenges, but they’re good wine grapes if you grow them right.”

But how do they taste? My hybrid grape experience has been limited to a handful of sub-$15 samples — hardly a well-balanced example of their potential. Often incredibly aromatic and off-dry, they’ve all been intriguing, if not worthy of a five-star review.

While most Napa and European vintners won’t be giving up their prized vinifera plantings, hybrids could offer options to vintners as climate change intensifies and vines need to be more resistant to intense weather. The rapid end to California’s drought and flooding in early 2017 showcased just how sensitive many vineyards are.

These vintners are unlocking the possibility of new grapes and new wine regions every vintage, and their explorations provide more insight than any university-led laboratory study. Will grapes like Briana and Traminette start taking up more shelf space that Pinot Noir? Only time and a lot more tasting will tell. One thing is for sure — they’re worth a sip.

Vineyard tech in focus

Daily Wine News, 4 Aug 2017

Robots, drones and Artificial Intelligence (AI) were on the agenda at this year’s Australian Society for Viticulture and Oenology conference in Mildura. The two-day conference offered insights in to streamlining a number of vineyard processes through data crunching and drones, and highlighted a few key points where industry can improve: bringing a practical application to research, and having clean data.

The research and insights presented will undoubtedly be at the forefront of innovation in viticulture in the near future. Two topics, in particular, offered immediately obtainable solutions. The first was an app, named Yield (you can download it right now and have a look), presented by Ros Harvey, which compiles problem solving data based on the needs of the grower.

So far, the app takes data gathered from the vineyard site such as soil moisture, weather conditions and historical averages and compiles them using AI to make more accurate predictions for spray plans and irrigation scheduling. It delivers this through a clean and comprehensive mobile app that can even push notifications to the grower, reminding them to spray or advising them against it.

The key to the success of The Yield is that the app works on data gathered specific to the site, and overlays it with history, as well as nearby information (like readings from weather stations overlayed with those of the vineyards own weather station) to create a tailored prediction.

The second topic with immediate application was presented by Dr Luis Sanchez who came in via video link. Sanchez has been working on a project through EJ Gallo Vineyards, managing vineyard variability with controlled variable drip irrigation.

Sanchez’s team has produced a successful prototype of the irrigation system. First they select a plot, then take multispectral imaging of the vineyard to identify areas which are lacking in growth.

For his study, he targeted portions of the block that were producing under seven tonnes, and adjusted irrigation (this can also be done alongside other techniques like composting and fertilisers) to bring up the yield on those low-performing areas. This increased the overall yield by 30%.

The computerised system was buried below the surface within the vineyard and controlled remotely by computer. According to Sanchez, current drip irrigation systems cost around $2000–2500 per acre. His team are currently working on producing the proposed system for around $3000–3750 per acre before it’s ready for the market.

The conference ended on the discussion topic “Where will our vineyards be in 20 years?” which conjured up an amusing scene of AI controlled drones flying around, and viticulturists working from the bar with a pina colada in hand. But it also looked more seriously at what’s just around the corner. While most of the technology being discussed was ‘first generation’ and still in the R&D phase there are some solutions much closer to delivering practical outcomes. The panel offered a great understanding of the tech landscape, the need for good data and how things are evolving. There is a lot of valuable background work currently being done which will help the grape and wine community make considered decisions when choosing to invest in emerging technologies.

Valais 2017 vintages can be mixed with other regional Swiss wines

swissinfo@ch- 11Aug 2017

Valais winemakers can mix their 2017 regional vintages with wines from other cantons. This exceptional economic measure, granted by the cantonal government for one year, follows serious frost damage to the grape harvest. But not everyone is happy.

The Valais cantonal government said in a statement issued on Thursday that it had “responded favourably to a request by the l’Interprofession de la Vigne et du Vin (the winemakers’ association) to allow AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) Valais wines to be mixed with 10% of other Swiss AOC wines”.

This exceptional measure, which will last for one year only, concerns 2017 vintages such as fendant (chasselas) AOC Valais white wines, and red and rosé AOC Valais wines – mainly pinot noir and gamay grape varieties.

The decision to allow these Valais wines to contain a little bit of wine from other cantons was taken following damage to these grape varieties after an unusual end-of-April frost. Switzerland experienced sudden cold weather and mountain snow in late April following an unseasonably warm spell, which damaged many plants just beginning to bloom. The frost devastated 40% of vineyards in canton Valais, causing losses estimated at CHF100 million ($104 million).

An exceptional measure for an exceptional situation,” declared Valais Economics Minister Christophe Darbellay, describing Thursday’s decision.


Under national rules, Swiss wines from different regions can be mixed together if the wines have not been produced using oak chips or sweetened with grape must or similar products. However, there is no transparency surrounding such a practice or obligation to label mixed wines. Cantons do not detail the exact composition of their wines.

The winemakers’ association had urged the Valais government to apply federal rules permitting the mixing of wines between cantons up to a 10% limit. Valais legislation forbids the practice for quality reasons.

The association claims the measure will reduce the negative impact of the frost and limit the financial damage for the sector, especially for distributors and supermarket chains selling wine.

While some winemakers said Thursday’s decision was positive, others described it as a scandal.

An own-goal

It’s an own-goal for the wine sector,” Chamoson winemaker Didier Joris told Le Temps newspaper. “This measure will endanger Valais’ notoriety.”

Paul Vetter, a wine expert and blogger, thought that winemakers seeking to produce quality wines would not implement the measure.

Nonetheless, the decision by the Valais government introduces an element of suspicion for all wines. Valais’ image risks being seriously damaged.”

Switzerland’s wine-growing surface covers approximately 15,000 hectares (the size of Alsace). Vineyards are found in practically all the 26 cantons, in highly variable quantities. The country is subdivided into six official winegrowing regions: Valais (5,113 hectares), Vaud (3,838), German-speaking Switzerland (2,593), Geneva (1,297), Ticino (1,065) and the Three-Lakes region (940). Approximately 70% of wine drunk in Switzerland is imported.

Texas Vineyards Survive Harvey’s Visit

09.08.2017, Wines & Vines

Houston, Texas—The Gulf Coast of Texas took a direct hit from Hurricane Harvey, but the good news is vineyards there were almost entirely undamaged. The region has been described as having “warm breezes and micro-climate,” and as a result, grapegrowers had finished harvest by the end of July. By late August, the grapes had mostly finished fermentation and were safely ensconced in their tanks or barrels.   Fran Pontasch, the Gulf Coast extension program specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, told Wines & Vines that for vineyards, the Gulf Coast did better than expected. “All the vineyards are small, mostly just a few acres,” she said. “The losses are small, maybe six vines at most in a vineyard. You can count the number on one hand.” The region has 36 vineyards and 23 wineries, according to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association. It is not an easy climate in which to grow grapes: The warm temperatures and high humidity, combined with frequent rain, create an environment that favors the growth of many fungal diseases. Most of the grapes grown there are Blanc du Bois, a white hybrid grape crossed by Dr. John A. Mortensen at the University of Florida’s Central Florida Research and Education Center in 1968 and released officially in 1987. The variety is tolerant of the humid climate and, even more important, is resistant to Pierce’s disease. Haak Vineyards and Winery in Santa Fe, Texas, 20 miles from Galveston and 25 miles from Houston, is one of the largest wineries in the Gulf Coast region. Winemaker and president Raymond Haak told Wines & Vines that the winery produces about 9,000 cases of wine and has a 3-acre vineyard planted solely with Blanc du Bois. Haak noted that he got some of the first-released Blanc du Bois vines from Mortensen 35 years ago and makes seven different styles of wines from those grapes. When asked about the hurricane, Haak reported that Santa Fe had the highest rainfall amount of anywhere in the Houston-Galveston area—about 59 inches or more. “We may not have had quite that much at the winery,” he said. “We had a little bit of water in the cellar, and lost power for about 16 hours. But now we’re doing great; we’re back on our feet. The crop was all off the vines, and that takes a load off the vine. They can have wet feet for several weeks if the crop is off.” Haak thinks they may have had some minor tornadoes as three cast aluminum light poles in their parking lot were broken during the storm. Haak buys all of his red grapes from the High Plains region of Texas. On the day we spoke, he had just received 38 tons of Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional from near Lubbock. “The storm didn’t go there, so the grapes were in great shape.” A week after Hurricane Harvey finally departed, Jerry Bernhardt, owner and winemaker at Bernhardt Winery in Plantersville, Texas, (about 60 miles northwest of Houston) was out in the vineyard, checking the vines and considering what sprays to apply. He reported that the vineyard got “more than 30 inches of rain over five days. It wasn’t a wind event, not like Hurricane Ike (in 2008), when things in the vineyard blew over. We’ve got pretty good drainage, and we survived.” The grapes from Bernhardt’s 2-acre Blanc du Bois vineyard were picked in early July. He will probably apply a protective spray and expects that the vines will “go dormant by (the leaves) getting old. They’ll lose their leaves in mid-October.” “We’re fortunate,” Bernhardt said. “We can stagger our fermentations here. The first week in July we harvest the whites; the first week in August we bring in the reds. Then in September we get grapes from West Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico and California.” He finishes in October, when the old-vine Zinfandel arrives from Lodi, Calif. The winery produces about 2,600 cases each year.

Copyright © Wines & Vines

Meet the man making wine on the edge of Europe’s largest active volcano

CNBC.com 5 Sep 2017

At around 900 meters high, Frank Cornelissen’s wine estate sits at the limit of where viticulture was done historically, and also today.

Wine has been growing on the slopes of Mount Etna for over 2,000 years and only now is it catching the eye of investors, with several large Italian wine producers recently investing in the region. But for Cornelissen, it’s more than an investment opportunity. “Every morning you wake up the first thing you do is looking at this mountain,” he told CNBC. “It (Mount Etna) is a sign of life. It’s pretty fearsome when it explodes; it is, for me, very attractive also.”

The Sicily-based winemaker employs 20 young workers and along with himself and his wife, they run the 24-hectare wine estate.

Cornelissen’s natural approach to wine and the resources he has in the foothills of Mount Etna have defined his product.

“My approach to wine is very much combining the ancient with what today is available in quality. I think this is a great period for people who can make choices,” he said.

“Now the soil is black, it’s very unusual because it can go from literally rocks, and then compact rock, to a powder. It is full of minerals, it has a great quality of drainage and so vines can last centuries,” added Cornelissen.

Cornelissen’s top vintage wines now sell for more than $250, but starting the estate wasn’t an easy ride.

“Running a wine business, not only in Sicily but in Italy, is bureaucratically quite a challenge.”

Italian vineyard managers can spend over 25 percent of their time on paperwork; a frustrating reality for Cornelissen.

“If I would have known all the difficulty and let’s say the bureaucratic, and administrative problems, and the investments, and all the risks, and the challenges, I would never have done this.”

Despite the difficulties, Cornelissen is carving a reputation for himself as an all-natural winemaker, with one of his top wine’s, Magma, made virtually by hand and without additives, filtering or sulfur dioxide, the main preservative used in conventional wines.

He won’t compare his product to others, as he believes his wines “should represent a territory.”

“You have this multi-layeredness and it doesn’t leave you alone, you’re not going to forget it,” he said.

Marco Pierre-White says only a numpty would buy English wine

Telegraph, 10 SEPTEMBER 2017

Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White has taken a pop at the English wine industry – saying only a “numpty” would buy it.

Pierre White, 55 – the youngest chef to be given three Michelin stars – also said English wine makers were “playing at it” and could never compete with the French in producing top fizz.

His remarks come as it was revealed that British politicians bought more home-grown plonk that any other variety to entertain VIPs and heads of state.

Speaking at the opening of his new restaurant, Marco Pierre White Steakhoue, Bar and Grill, in Plymouth, on Friday he said: “English wine is nonsense.

“They are over-priced and not very good.

“The French make the best wine. The English just play at it.

“We keeping hearing this about English sparkling wine. I am very happy for them.

Just because something is English does not necessarily mean it is good.

“Better than Krug? Than Bolinger? No! Then why buy it, unless you are a total numpty?

“I am being honest. Just because something is English does not necessarily mean it is good. We make the best Cheddar, we make great pasties.

“But we can’t make very good brie or baguettes – and the French can’t make pork pies.”

Despite opening his new restaurant in the West Country, the 55-year-old chef said London was still the best place to eat.

He said: “London is the No 1 food destination, full stop. It has the talent and [the people who can pay] the prices.

“How many three-Michelin-star restaurants does Cornwall have? None.

“I have not eaten his [Cornish Michelin star chef Nathan Outlaw’s] food but I have read his books and seen his recipes and I can see he cooks very well.

“Whether he is the best in Britain is another question.”

White also admitted he didn’t always try and buy locally produced food.

He went on: “We get our fish, crabs and lobsters from Cornwall because they are excellent.

“Buy locally where possible, but if you can’t get the very best locally, don’t buy locally.

“Buy it from where it is best. We get our beef from Scotland and our grouse from Yorkshire.”

Chablis, a wine that speaks for itself
Source: Shanghai Daily | 00:09 UTC+8 September 10, 2017

EVERYTHING is more casual these days. What we eat, drink, wear and even how we communicate. Some call this progress, and in many ways, it is, but at what cost? The feature in today’s Sunday section is on Chinese state banquet chefs, a topic that harkens back to a more formal and opulent age.

As a writer, I particularly laminate the slow decline of the written word. Actually, this loss of language skills began many years ago with the advent of the telephone. Instead of carefully composed notes, letters and documents that had to get the point across accurately the first time around, with the phone people had second or third chances to achieve comprehension, i.e. “sorry I didn’t get that, come again.” The note or letter had no such luxury. Now in the social media age our most intimate feelings and expressions are being replaced by acronyms and even worse emocons. OMG!

Progress is progress and there’s no escaping it, even in the wine world. Wines today are friendlier, more approachable and easier to understand. I was even at a wine party recently where the wines were served out of large plastic cups, the kind you’d see at a college frat party. I must admit that the democratization of wine drinking has allowed more people to drink and appreciate wine and this is a good thing. Despite my somewhat reluctant acceptance of the inevitability of what we call progress, I still love old fashion things including traditionally styled wines. One of the best rests in the northern most enclave of Burgundy.


There’s something uniquely old-school and deliciously formal about Chablis wines. These bone-dry wines with pronounced minerality aren’t for everyone. What they do bring to the table is one of the world’s most stylish, refined and urbane dry white wines. Several factors contribute.

Except for Champagne and Alsace, the region of Chablis is the most northerly wine region in France. Located 100 kilometers north of the Cote d’Or, Chablis experiences cold temperatures and weather extremes. Spring frosts are a particular threat to immature buds before they become grapes, while severe weather at harvest time is another common risk.

Despite climatic challenges, the history of winemaking in Chablis is long and rich. The third century Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus was said to have favored Chardonnay that was first planted in the region by the Cistercian monks in the 12th century. The earliest documented mention of Chablis dates back to AD 510. Chablis’ proximity to Paris meant wines could be easily transported to the capital via the Yonne River and therefore the wine became a favorite of French kings and nobility. Throughout its long and rich history, the wines of Chablis have been recognized for their unique style.

Modern wine aficionados are fond of saying that Chablis is the perfect wine for those who don’t like Chardonnay. Of course, Chablis is 100 percent Chardonnay but due to the climate, soils and winemaking, Chablis wines are more fresh, delicate and decidedly racier than the fruity, oaky and rounder Chardonnays of the more southern regions of Burgundy. Chablis wines also exhibit distinctive steely or mineral characteristics. Even the vivid greenish-yellow color of most young Chablis wines distinguishes them from the more golden yellow wines of the Cote d’Or.

In addition to style, another factor that makes Chablis less friendly and accessible to many consumers is the need for knowledge. All Chablis wines are not the same. At the base of the quality are Petit Chablis wines, that come from vineyards farthest from Chablis town. These are the lightest and most simple wines of Chablis ranging from drinkable to pleasant.

Chablis AC wines are the largest category and vary in quality from good to very good. Both Petit Chablis and Chablis AC wines have no or very little oak used in the winemaking process and their light and fresh qualities make them suitable for light and fresh foods, especially raw seafood.

The next step up, Premier Cru Chablis wines are consistently good to excellent in quality and offer a price-quality ratio that’s hard to beat in Burgundy or elsewhere. There are approximately 40 Premier Cru vineyards in Chablis and three of my favorites are Montee de Tonnerre, Mont de Milieu and Montmains.

Grand Cru Chablis wines are among the greatest white wines in the world offering refinement, intensity and complexity. While not cheap, they routinely outperform much more expensive Burgundy whites from the south. The seven Grand Cru vineyards are Les Clos, Vaudesir, Valmur, Grenouilles, Blanchot, Les Preuses and Bougros. Both Premier and Grand Cru Chablis wines are superb companions to elegant seafood or white meat dishes as well as high-quality soft French cheeses. I’m also fond of serving them with richly flavored Shanghai style fish in red sauce dishes.


Can wine be damaged when submerged in stormwaters?

Dale Robertson- September 4, 2017

The last time we had a wine-collection-threatening tempest engulf us, I vowed I wouldn’t get caught flat-footed again. Right after Hurricane Ike moved on in 2008, I bought a generator to have ready for my Vinotemp wine cooler to be plugged into if necessary.

But generators need to be maintained, and that’s not one of my strong suits. So when Buffalo Bayou established a tributary in my garage just off Allen Parkway, the generator disappeared under the nasty brown water as the Vinotemp began to float sideways, still doing its part to protect my 20 best bottles that I’d brilliantly left on the top two shelves. No way the water would ever rise that high, right?

And, because the house’s breaker boxes were being threatened, it seemed a poor idea to wade in and attempt a heroic rescue.

But I got really lucky. The surge stopped exactly at the bottom of the electronic stuff, and I never lost power. The mess that remained suddenly seemed very trivial. Still, the question I have subsequently asked myself – and others have asked me – is whether wine can be damaged when bottles get submerged in any kind of water, never mind some seriously brown, smelly, almost gooey stuff.

The short, good-news answer: nope. As Spec’s fine-wine buyer Bear Dalton noted, “You’re always reading about old wines recovered from shipwrecks that are surprisingly drinkable. It’s really no big deal.”

However, Dalton said the bottles needed to be tended to as quickly as is prudent with a good sanitizing, mold-killing wipe-down, then laid back down horizontally to prevent the corks from drying out. But don’t use bleach or any other harsh cleaning product, particularly if you’ve chosen to cut off the foil cap to reassure yourself the cork didn’t get wet. Dalton suggests doing the cleanup with “cheap, plastic-bottle vodka.”

Unfortunately, for those who have been stuck without electricity, it’s more complicated – although, as happened with Ike, the weather in the immediate wake proved reasonably temperate and bought us a little time. Nonetheless, any wines you hope to age need to be returned to sub-60-degree temperatures as soon as is safe and expedient.

The consequences of not doing so “all depend on how hot your house got,” Dalton said. “Keeping your fine wines at room temperature for a few weeks isn’t ideal, but it’s not going to be a huge hit in terms of long-term drinkability as long as the temperature stayed below 80 degrees and was fairly stable. Folks who didn’t have their wines stored properly need to understand two things: The wines probably aren’t going to age as well as they ideally would have, but they are probably going to age better than you think they are.”

Wines exposed to temperatures above 85 degrees for any length of time, Dalton conceded, “most likely got heat damage,” manifested by “a lack of expressiveness and a pronounced lack of fruit.” There’s no saving the juice at that point. Yep, dump it down the sink, have a good cry and be done with it.

A hidden blessing in these destructive and scary storms is that they remind us it’s always smarter to err on the side of drinking a wine too soon rather than too late. So, I’m going to repeat what I wrote following Ike. It’s no less applicable today than it was then:

The overwhelming majority of modern wines are accessible young and rarely benefit from being laid down for more than five years, if that long. Save for a handful of legendary super-tannic bottlings from Bordeaux and Italy’s Piedmont, plus a smattering of exceptions from other regions, old wine equates to tired, dull-witted wine. Though tannins allow a wine to age and acidity keeps freshness in the bottle as it ages, ultimately the key to the taste is the fruit component. Geriatric wines – and young ones cooked by excessive heat – lose their fruit. And once they do, they are sure to disappoint you.

Those notes of pencil shavings, shoe leather, mushrooms and tar are only cool as a supporting cast. Take away the flavors of cherries, raspberries and black currants, et al, and what you’ve got is expensive vinegar.

So, if you haven’t yet screwed up the courage to pop the corks on a couple of bottles from your collection to see what kind of carnage rising temperatures may have inflicted upon them, swallow hard and get on with the taste-testing today. The time for being an obsessive-compulsive about your stash is over.

Bumper year for English wine as figures show it is now £130m industry

Telegraph,10 JULY 2017

English wine enjoyed a bumper year in 2016, and it is now £130m industry, a new study shows.

Independent English wine producers saw their turnover rise to a record £132 million last year, a 16 per cent increase on 2015, showing that the industry has enjoyed major growth in recent years, according to Funding Options.

Research by the online business finance firm revealed that wine producers are benefiting from the growing popularity of boutique British alcohol production, including gin and craft beer as well as wine.

“The English wine industry is not only gaining traction amongst domestic consumers, but is now being ranked with wines from traditional white wine-producing countries such as France and Germany.”

In May, a wine from Norfolk was named as the best white wine in the world at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Winbirri Vineyards’ Bacchus 2015, which sells for £13.95 a bottle, beat off 17,200 other entries to win the Platinum Best in Show, and was given a score of 95 out of 100 by a panel of 200 international experts.

It was only a matter of time before an English still wine showed the world it can also compete with the best.

At the time, Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “It comes as no surprise to us that an English Bacchus wine has won a major international award. Up until now English Sparkling Wine has been grabbing most of the headlines for its outstanding quality.

“It was only a matter of time before an English still wine showed the world it can also compete with the best.

“The UK climate is ideal for growing the Bacchus grape which is why it has become the favoured grape grown in the majority of UK vineyards making still white wine.

“We believe Bacchus has the potential to do for English wine production what Sauvignon Blanc did for New Zealand.”


Vinepair, Laura Burgess- 13 Aug 2017

It might seem rude or snobbish to say, but not all grapes are created equal. It’s that simple.

When it comes to wine, it’s been that black and white for the past hundred years. In short, native American grapes and hybrid American-Euro vines — varieties like Concord, Frontenac, and Vidal Blanc — are just not good enough for wine. Or at least not fine wine. But that could be changing.

Now, a few wineries — mostly in regions hoping to take on the California wine machine — are trying to change that widely held opinion, by focusing on the values of nontraditional grape varieties instead of crafting yet another tropically scented Sauvignon Blanc or full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.

The familiar grape names on bottles such as Cabernet, Merlot, and Chardonnay are all European varieties, brought to the U.S. generations ago to allow an American wine market to thrive. This is because indigenous American varieties didn’t make great wine in colonial times, and early Americans were thirsty.

The aforementioned sub-par grapes, called hybrids as a group, originated as a backlash to sensitive vinifera vines that required specific weather and soil conditions to flourish. These grapes cross vinifera species with other native American grapevines like vitis labrusca and vitis riparia. Originally, these crosses developed first as a response to diseases like phylloxera that ravaged vinifera vines in the 1800s. As technology and science continued to advance, breeds were developed more and more specifically to combat other weaknesses of traditional wine vines, like resistance to rot, mildew, or cold temperatures. In humid locations like the Southeast and frigid climates like that of Minnesota, hybrids are the only way to grow grapes.

Overall, hybrids represent hundreds of grape varieties, with more being developed every year. Universities like UC Davis and Cornell have entire departments dedicated to producing new grapes that produce desirable qualities. This isn’t GMO-type science; it’s simple cross-breeding which also happens in nature. For example, the dark and cold-hardy Frontenac grape was developed at the University of Minnesota by crossing vitis riparia with Landot Noir, another hybrid. Then, Frontenac mutated on its own, creating Frontenac Gris, a cold-hardy, easy ripening white grape. Like vinifera grapes, hybrids as a whole encompass an incredible amount of variety and no two species react to elements like temperature and soil in the same way, but they do present opportunity for both diversity in the fields and in finished wines.

Traditionally, the case against hybrids in winegrowing and vinification has been a lack of complex flavors or inherent off-flavors (like stale potpourri, or a strange earthiness). Often, these high-yielding hybrids were used in bulk swill or for brandy production, another factor leading to their less-than-stellar reputation.

Today, with growth in wine-related tourism exploding and wine sales in general climbing, regions once better known for mountains or gambling are dabbling in winemaking more than ever. Many hope to change the reputation of hybrids with consumers and industry pros.

At Burntshirt Vineyards and winery, a sprawling estate in BBQ-heavy North Carolina just outside Asheville, consumer opinions generally aren’t the problem, according to associate winemaker Preston Thomas. “Our customers are very interested in hybrid varietals and why we use them,” he says. “My favorite thing to do is pour them Vidal Blanc without telling them what it is and then observe their reaction when I tell them it’s a hybrid!”

In most locales like Burntshirt, hybrids offer the opportunity to grow wines in an otherwise unfavorable climate. “Even though vinifera grapes can grow well, we use hybrids because they withstand the humidity of western North Carolina a bit better, and are thus more reliable year to year,” explains Thomas, who adds that the hybrids they cultivate — like Vidal Blanc and Chambourcin — often offer intense aromatics or a deeper color than many vinifera species.

“Hybrids don’t simply equate to poor quality in the vineyard or the winery,” he says. Thomas is a rare West Coast winemaker who now uses vinifera and hybrids side by side at Burntshirt, where hybrids are used as blending agents and in varietally-labelled bottles.

Across the country, in Nevada, the University of Nevada at Reno is developing an oenology program that will run alongside its well-established agriculture school and feature a wealth of hybrid vines in its nursery. In the Silver State, resistance to frigid winter temperatures rather than humidity is what makes hybrids appealing.

Wade Johnston of Basin and Range winery, believes that hybrids can produce wines just as good as those from vinifera varieties if they’re treated with the same care. “We’re really excited to be vinifying the hybrids from our vineyard,” he says. “Yes, they have their own challenges, but they’re good wine grapes if you grow them right.”

But how do they taste? My hybrid grape experience has been limited to a handful of sub-$15 samples — hardly a well-balanced example of their potential. Often incredibly aromatic and off-dry, they’ve all been intriguing, if not worthy of a five-star review.

While most Napa and European vintners won’t be giving up their prized vinifera plantings, hybrids could offer options to vintners as climate change intensifies and vines need to be more resistant to intense weather. The rapid end to California’s drought and flooding in early 2017 showcased just how sensitive many vineyards are.

These vintners are unlocking the possibility of new grapes and new wine regions every vintage, and their explorations provide more insight than any university-led laboratory study. Will grapes like Briana and Traminette start taking up more shelf space that Pinot Noir? Only time and a lot more tasting will tell. One thing is for sure — they’re worth a sip.

Vineyard tech in focus

Daily Wine News, 4 Aug 2017

Robots, drones and Artificial Intelligence (AI) were on the agenda at this year’s Australian Society for Viticulture and Oenology conference in Mildura. The two-day conference offered insights in to streamlining a number of vineyard processes through data crunching and drones, and highlighted a few key points where industry can improve: bringing a practical application to research, and having clean data.

The research and insights presented will undoubtedly be at the forefront of innovation in viticulture in the near future. Two topics, in particular, offered immediately obtainable solutions. The first was an app, named Yield (you can download it right now and have a look), presented by Ros Harvey, which compiles problem solving data based on the needs of the grower.

So far, the app takes data gathered from the vineyard site such as soil moisture, weather conditions and historical averages and compiles them using AI to make more accurate predictions for spray plans and irrigation scheduling. It delivers this through a clean and comprehensive mobile app that can even push notifications to the grower, reminding them to spray or advising them against it.

The key to the success of The Yield is that the app works on data gathered specific to the site, and overlays it with history, as well as nearby information (like readings from weather stations overlayed with those of the vineyards own weather station) to create a tailored prediction.

The second topic with immediate application was presented by Dr Luis Sanchez who came in via video link. Sanchez has been working on a project through EJ Gallo Vineyards, managing vineyard variability with controlled variable drip irrigation.

Sanchez’s team has produced a successful prototype of the irrigation system. First they select a plot, then take multispectral imaging of the vineyard to identify areas which are lacking in growth.

For his study, he targeted portions of the block that were producing under seven tonnes, and adjusted irrigation (this can also be done alongside other techniques like composting and fertilisers) to bring up the yield on those low-performing areas. This increased the overall yield by 30%.

The computerised system was buried below the surface within the vineyard and controlled remotely by computer. According to Sanchez, current drip irrigation systems cost around $2000–2500 per acre. His team are currently working on producing the proposed system for around $3000–3750 per acre before it’s ready for the market.

The conference ended on the discussion topic “Where will our vineyards be in 20 years?” which conjured up an amusing scene of AI controlled drones flying around, and viticulturists working from the bar with a pina colada in hand. But it also looked more seriously at what’s just around the corner. While most of the technology being discussed was ‘first generation’ and still in the R&D phase there are some solutions much closer to delivering practical outcomes. The panel offered a great understanding of the tech landscape, the need for good data and how things are evolving. There is a lot of valuable background work currently being done which will help the grape and wine community make considered decisions when choosing to invest in emerging technologies.

Valais 2017 vintages can be mixed with other regional Swiss wines

swissinfo@ch- 11Aug 2017

Valais winemakers can mix their 2017 regional vintages with wines from other cantons. This exceptional economic measure, granted by the cantonal government for one year, follows serious frost damage to the grape harvest. But not everyone is happy.

The Valais cantonal government said in a statement issued on Thursday that it had “responded favourably to a request by the l’Interprofession de la Vigne et du Vin (the winemakers’ association) to allow AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) Valais wines to be mixed with 10% of other Swiss AOC wines”.

This exceptional measure, which will last for one year only, concerns 2017 vintages such as fendant (chasselas) AOC Valais white wines, and red and rosé AOC Valais wines – mainly pinot noir and gamay grape varieties.

The decision to allow these Valais wines to contain a little bit of wine from other cantons was taken following damage to these grape varieties after an unusual end-of-April frost. Switzerland experienced sudden cold weather and mountain snow in late April following an unseasonably warm spell, which damaged many plants just beginning to bloom. The frost devastated 40% of vineyards in canton Valais, causing losses estimated at CHF100 million ($104 million).

“An exceptional measure for an exceptional situation,” declared Valais Economics Minister Christophe Darbellay, describing Thursday’s decision.


Under national rules, Swiss wines from different regions can be mixed together if the wines have not been produced using oak chips or sweetened with grape must or similar products. However, there is no transparency surrounding such a practice or obligation to label mixed wines. Cantons do not detail the exact composition of their wines.

The winemakers’ association had urged the Valais government to apply federal rules permitting the mixing of wines between cantons up to a 10% limit. Valais legislation forbids the practice for quality reasons.

The association claims the measure will reduce the negative impact of the frost and limit the financial damage for the sector, especially for distributors and supermarket chains selling wine.

While some winemakers said Thursday’s decision was positive, others described it as a scandal.

An own-goal

“It’s an own-goal for the wine sector,” Chamoson winemaker Didier Joris told Le Temps newspaper. “This measure will endanger Valais’ notoriety.”

Paul Vetter, a wine expert and blogger, thought that winemakers seeking to produce quality wines would not implement the measure.

“Nonetheless, the decision by the Valais government introduces an element of suspicion for all wines. Valais’ image risks being seriously damaged.”

Switzerland’s wine-growing surface covers approximately 15,000 hectares (the size of Alsace). Vineyards are found in practically all the 26 cantons, in highly variable quantities. The country is subdivided into six official winegrowing regions: Valais (5,113 hectares), Vaud (3,838), German-speaking Switzerland (2,593), Geneva (1,297), Ticino (1,065) and the Three-Lakes region (940). Approximately 70% of wine drunk in Switzerland is imported.

How women are changing champagne


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.



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.