BKWine Brief nr 89, December 2010

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BKWine Brief

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2010 is rapidly approaching its end. It is often the occasion to summarize what’s happened over the year, and in our case it is the wine year. What will we remember of 2010? 

1. One of the first things we remember is the record breaking prices on the Bordeaux en primeur wines, in spite of a financial crisis elsewhere in the world. And the price roller coaster (so far only going upwards) has not stopped since for the most exclusive Bordeaux wines.

2. The vineyards had a lot of coulure (poor flowering and fruit setting) in the spring which was very evident on the vines in September. The harvest was small, very small in some places. 30% less than normal was not unusual.

3. EU chose a new symbol for organic products – through democratic voting on the internet! The design may be peculiar but it will be used on all organic products in the EU.

4. We also remember all the wines from Châteauneuf that we have tasted during 2010. Châteauneuf was “wine village of the year” in Sweden with several tastings and we had two fully-booked wine tours to the region.

5. We will not forget the earth quake in Chile and the remarkable recovery by the wine industry. Britt had the opportunity to travel in Chile shortly after the catastrophe and experienced a few of the after-shocks.

6. The Swedish debate on if wine sales should be allowed at wine producers’ or not (yes, there are a few) – bizarrely the only point of real debate around a proposal for a new alcohol law. No discussion about the monopoly itself, nor about how to make the alcohol policies more effective (alcohol consumption is on the rise, in spite of the supposedly effective monopoly).

7. South African wines were in focus during the football world cup – and they will be in focus in 2011 too in Sweden since Stellenbosch has been named Wine Village of the Year.

It’s also interesting to take a look at what trends we predicted at the beginning of the year. Were we right? Well, at least to some extent.

8. Environmental concerns, for example, continue to be on the agenda, and in 2010 even more so. 2010 is the year when the organic wine trend or fad has almost turned mainstream. Not a day goes by without a new article or book on organic wine farming, solar or wind power, CO2 emissions etc. Be it trend, fad or not, it must be a good way forward to think about the environment. What does it matter if it is done with due to a conviction or due to it being trendy? Biodynamics would not agree of course, if it is not done with heart and soul it is not enough. The future will show where this leads.

9. What is most environmentally friendly, the screw cap or the natural cork? 2010 was a year when the cork industry hit back (albeit not always cleverly) and stopped the downwards trend for cork-cork in public opinion. It is important to keep the cork forests in Portugal in good health – habitat for many rare plants and animals. And if someone can, it’s the wine industry. At least that’s what the cork industry says.

The environment is a complex issue and there are many parameters in the equation. In some countries it is not only the treatments in the vineyards that are important but also how you treat vineyard staff. All countries (or wine producers) should take good care of the staff of course but what’s called “fair trade” wines come mainly from South America and South Africa. Consumers are have nothing against a low price tag on the wines, but sometimes it would be good if they gave it a thought how come some wines can be so cheap. Perhaps underpaid staff?

10. Talking about fairness, we also remember the sale of Domaine de la Romanée Conti wines in Sweden. The monopoly retailer Systembolaget had pondered for a long time how to launch those wines “fairly” – with only a few hundred bottles and 9 million people, what can you do? Naturally, the Systembolaget launch failed miserably in being “fair”. “Fairness” and Romanée Conti does not function well together of course. (Nor does “fairness” and monopoly, by the way, unless you think a lottery is a reflection of fairness.)

And then we have our activity here at BKWine. We can’t forget that. In particular not this year.

11. 2010 was actually for our little niche in tourism (wine travel) a reasonably good year. We will remember it as a year of quite a happy recovery after a 2009 marked very much by the financial crisis. The “crisis” is still there in the background (with currency uncertainties and national debts) but not so much so.

12. 2010 was also the year when BKWine was given the label “world’s best wine tours” by the American publication Travel & Leisure Magazine, something that made us very proud and that we’re not likely to forget any time soon. We just have to make sure we earn it in the future too!

13. Last but not least another memorable event for us was receiving the letter that, as a great surprise to us, announced that we had won the prize for Best Wine Book of the Year i Sweden for our book A Wine is Born. An unusual book about wine growing and wine making that apparently pleased the jury.

Talking about books, this Brief will be full of book reviews. You will have plenty of suggestions for other good things to read.

Britt & Per

PS: Recommend to your friends to read the Brief or forward it to them !

More on wine:

bullet Guest writers on BKWine.com
bullet Wine videos: BKWine TV
bullet Wine photography

 

News from BKWine
World’s Best Wine Tours” – Travel + Leisure Magazine, on TravelAndLeisure.com 

Wine Tour to Bordeaux with BKWine
For a wine lover a trip to Bordeaux is a must!

In Bordeaux you find world famous châteaux and world famous wines but also a lot of new exciting initiatives (less famous but maybe more important for the future of Bordeaux!) and young enthusiastic wine makers. On this trip we will visit both some big, famous Grand Cru Classé-châteaux and smaller ones that are less known, but very quality conscious. We will visit the well-known regions like Médoc and Saint-Emilion, but also rising-stars among the regions, like Entre-deux-Mers. We will learn about viticulture and vinification and after this trip you will know quite a lot about what’s going on in Bordeaux at the moment.

In all the chateaux we will get private tastings together with the people who are involved in the wine making and who are delighted to share with us their passion for fine wine. We avoid the usual big ‘tourist trap’ addresses and instead focus on the real people and the real wines. We will stay four nights in the city of Bordeaux, an elegant and very beautiful city of just over half a million people.

BKWine offers you two possibilities to go to Bordeaux this year

 

bullet April 13-17, 2011
bullet October 5-9, 2011

For more information please contact us on email or on phone (we’re on French time). Visit our video channel http://www.youtube.com/bkwine to meet some of the producers we visit.

What do people think about a wine tour with BKWine?

That is of course a question that we think is very important. We want it to be a wonderful and memorable experience for everyone. Here are some of the comments we’ve had from customers this season:

 

bullet “Many thanks for a fantastic trip. You are so keen to make everything the best for your guests and you are so knowledgeable about wine. A pleasure to travel with you.”, W-A
bullet ”Thank you for a wonderful trip to Umbria and southern Tuscany. Wonderful in many ways – our initial ideas for the trip on food and wine in Umbria and Tuscany – and discovering sagrantino and sangiovese – were more than fulfilled”, I & P in Umbria and Tuscany
bullet “After last year’s fantastic trip to Champagne, Chablis and Burgundy our expectations were set very high. But this trip to Bordeaux was even better than we had hoped for. What lunches! What dinners we had! And what wonderful and personal wineries and chateaux we visited. We hope to come back on a new tour with BKWine!” A-M & S in Bordeaux
bullet ”You surpassed all the expectations that we had on the tour before we came. The organisation was without a glitch and the tastings was far beyond any similar things we’ve been to previously. It whet our appetite and we already look forward to our next tour!”, B & T in the Rhône Valley

Custom wine tours

We also make custom designed wine tours – on-demand tours for you and a group of friends, for your company (maybe to scout new winegrowers?), for a special event… We can combine winery visits and wine touring with other activities: gastronomic workshops, visit to an oyster farm, truffles hunting, cheese making, and more. We’ve done tours for wine clubs, for sommelier educations, for corporate events, for wine importers, for wine course study groups… just to mention a few.

You’ll get a tour designed exactly according to your requirements and tastes, made by one of the most experienced wine people in the business. We personally visit some 200 wineries and taste thousands of wines every year; we write on wine for various wine magazines (we had more than 30 articles published last year); in 2007 we published a ground breaking book on the wine of the Languedoc and in 2009 we published a book on vine growing and wine making – unique in its kind. And we have organised hundreds of wine tours over the years.

More info on the BKWine wine tours here!

Wine tours in Finnish

More info on the Finnish wine tours here: Viinimatkoja

You can find the pictures on  www.bkwine.com/wine_pictures/photo_galleries.htm

Recommendations
A selection of what we have tried, tasted or visited recently. □  Producers 

Mas Zenitude, Terrasses du Larzac, Languedoc

Being Swedish ourselves we always find it interesting to meet Swedish winemakers. Like Erik Gabrielsson, whom we met in September at his domaine Mas Zenitude, in Languedoc. Erik is from southern Sweden and works as a lawyer in Malmö. He bought Mas Zenitude, a domaine of 5 hectares, situated outside the small village of Saint Jean de Fos in the Terrasses du Larzac area, four years ago. The old and beautiful mas is originally from the 12th century and has been transformed over the years.

Erik has a passion for terroir wines; wines with a personality. He thinks there should be a story behind each wine. He has chosen biodynamic viticulture because he thinks it is the best way to obtain this terroir taste in the wines. And also because it helps the vines to develop their own defence system against diseases. “It is relatively easy to be organic in this area”, he says; because we have the tramontane (a northern wind) more or less constantly and it keeps the vineyard dry.” He uses only low levels of copper and sulphur.

Eric recently launched his very first vintage, 2009, and the wines are very promising. The have a personal style, they are quite lively and with a very good fruit. The white Solstice 2009, with Clairette och Grenache blanc has a nice aromatic nose with a hint of peaches and it is round and full bodied with a certain freshness. Zizanie 2009 is an exciting wine made with only Clairette och with three whole days of skin contact. This was actually an experiment that turned out very well! The wine is full bodied and structured and I quite like the touch of petroleum on the nose. The red Equinox is a blend of Merlot and Carignan and you find all kinds of wild berries on the nose. It has a good tannin structure and is a very pleasant to drink with any kind of meat. Vent d’Anges (a play with words! – means wind of the angels but when you pronounce is it means also harvest) is made from very old Carignan and they give the wine complexity and a solid fruitiness, it is a powerful wine, yet elegant.

Click here for address and more recommendations.

Domaine Senat, Minervois

Fifteen years ago Jean-Baptiste Senat moved from Paris to Minervois in the Languedoc. He started with just a few hectares, now he has 15 hectares and is one of the most interesting producers in the region. He makes drinkable wines with a lot of character, wines that are very pleasant to drink young, although some of them can keep for ten years and more. His vineyards are beautifully situated close to the Montagne Noir. Old grenache and carignan grow here in a rather poor soil and surrounded by wild herbs like rosemary and thyme. The vines are worked organically and the esprit bio continues in the cellar where the wines are made as naturally as possible.

A new cuvée is Arbalète des Coquelicots 2010. A very attractive wine with structure and a certain minerality and a very generous fruit, un vin gourmand, as they say in French. But still a serious wine, although extremely drinkable. The grapes are 70 % Carignan och the rest is Grenache och Mourvèdre. Jean-Baptiste is very fond of carignan. He says it is not so aromatic but gives the wine a nice freshness. His most well known wine is La Nine and the vintage 2009 is a pure and elegant wine with a nice taste of black berries. Le Bois de Merveilles 2009 is well structured with some tannin and spices, a complex wine with a very nice balance. One suggestion is to drink it with your favourite cheese.

Click here for address and more recommendations.

Read about more recommended producers on the site: Favourite Producers

□  Wine Bars and Restaurants

Epernay, Champagne:

La Banque, Epernay

La Banque is a new restaurant in Epernay in Champagne and as the name indicates, it is an old bank that has been transformed into a restaurant. The proportions are impressive; it is a huge restaurant with very high ceiling. But it still manages to have a certain cosy character. As you can imagine, the bar is also of an impressive length and here you can taste a number of champagnes by the glass. The choice is vast; you have the big houses and also small, less well known producers. The food is typical French brasserie food of good quality: duck breast (17.50 euro), entrecôte (23.50 euro), calf liver (19), veal cutlet (19.50), sweetbread (29) and more. Starters to recommend are for instance the truffle risotto (16) and the lobster ravioli (24). A 2-course menu is 17, 50 euro och a 3-course is 26.50. Weekends you can have a Menu Weekend starting from 38 euro. Open every day.

Click here for address and more recommendations.

Read more recommendations on restaurants and wine bars on my Restaurant and Wine Bar page.

News from the Wine World
BKWine as Nils Holgersson on WineToursimInFrance 

WineToursimInFrance.com is a site dedicated to, yes, wine tourism in France. It seems mainly oriented to professionals and is read by many wine producers. We were interviewed recently by the editor, André Deyrieu, who published the article under the heading “The Nils Holgerssons of Wine Tourism”… (click on the link; use Google Translate if you don’t read French). The article even generated some debate.  The director of tourism at Château Giscours, Marc Verpaalen, did not quite agree with what we said, but we think that he might not quite have understood our discourse. Sylvain Bouhélier, a wine producer in Burgundy, seemed on the other hand to see our arguments as a sign of that  you do not necessarily have to have a lot of money to be successful in wine tourism. What’s your opinion?New papers from the Wine Economists? Do we seek solace in alcohol or is it the other way around?

The Association of American Wine Economists has published two new intriguing papers. The first is about the development of economic thinking and viticulture. The second is on a more unexpected subject: it is a study on the correlation between monogamy and alcohol consumption. It turns out that in societies that move from polygamy to monogamy alcohol consumption apparently goes up. Is there a link between the two? The papers can be found here:

 

bullet The Role of Viticulture and Enology in the Development of Economic Thought
bullet Women or Wine? Monogamy and Alcohol

There’s also a post on the monogamy and drinks issue on Freakonomics: “Do We Drink Because We’re Monogamous, or Are We Monogamous Because We Drink?

New Fine Wine ezine out

The electronic wine magazine Fine Wine is out with a new issue. In it you can read about, for example, wines from the Rhône Valley (written by BKWine!), wines from Australia, and port wines. The magazine is published both in English and in Swedish. Download it for free here: www.finewine.nu

Be careful when you buy wines en primeur – especially from 1855.com

Jim Budd is a wine journalist with a penchant for writing about wine fraud. He runs a site on hazy wine investment schemes called www.investdrinks.org (and a normal wine blog on http://jimsloire.blogspot.com). He has recently taken to write about 1855.com, a French-based online wine shop. 1855.com is well known in the French wine press for having frequent delivery problems and a lot of customer complaints (see e.g. La RVF). Jim has uncovered that there are a lot of customers of 1855 that have not have their wines (in particular primeur wines) delivered. He is collecting and collating information about never-delivered purchases from 1855.com and has currently (with not much effort it seems) identified €100,000 worth of wines that have still not been delivered, some purchases going back several years. Jim speculates that 1855.com sells wine “short”, i.e. sells the wines without actually having anything to sell and then tries to source the wines on the open market when delivery time comes. This is obviously a dangerous strategy if prises are on the rise, which is the case for many top Bordeaux primeur wines today… But the company denies that this is the case. Read more here:www.les5duvin.com and www.les5duvin.com and http://jimsloire.blogspot.com.  Contact Jim through his blogs if you have experiences with 1855 that you’d like to share or if you have un-delivered orders.

World’s biggest wine producers

Once upon a time it was said that Gallo was the world’s biggest wine producer and that they made as much wine as the whole of Bordeaux. This is no longer quite true (but not far from the truth, and see the following item!). Here are the world’s biggest wine producers (2008):

1 Constellation (USA), 58 million cases with 9 litre, i.e. 5.2 million hectolitres
2 Foster (Australia), 37 M cases, 3.3 M hl
3 E&J Gallo (USA), 34 M cases, 3.1 M hl
4 Pernod-Ricard (France), 22 M cases, 2.2 M hl
5 Concha y Toro (Chile), 16 M cases, 1.4 M hl
6 Diageo (Great Britain), 12 M cases, 1.1 M hl
(Source: International Wine & Spirits Record / l’Expansion)

In comparison Bordeaux produces around 5 million hl (approximately the same as Constellation). One should perhaps point out that even if Pernod-Ricard is French almost none of the wine they produce is French (it is mainly New World wines). Just like Diageo does not make its wines in the home country. You will never see most of these names on the label of a bottle of wine. These big wine companies usually use a range of brand names / wine estate names on the wines. It does indeed more look like family run wine estates that way…

Constellation sells wine business, loses top slot

Constellation is the world’s biggest wine producer, as mentioned elsewhere in the Brief. However, they are now set to lose the top spot to Fosters or E&J Gallo. Constellation is in the process of selling its British, Australian and South African wine business. The buyer is a Champ Private Equity. The price tag is said to be A$230 million, substantially less than the A$1.9 billion that Constellation paid for BRL Hardy, an Australian wine company, in 2003. The reason for the sale is apparently that they have difficulties getting a sufficient profitability in those parts of their wine activity. They will keep the American wine business. Read more www.decanter.com and www.jancisrobinson.com

A cork campaign with a distinct off taste

The “natural” cork industry has made great strides this year to regain credibility with consumers. Consumer attitudes to natural cork and screw caps vary vastly from one country to another. For example, in Scandinavia (and also in the UK it seems) many people are convinced that the only intelligent, not to say perfect, bottle closure is screw cap. This is of course not quite true. In other countries consumers are convinced that natural cork is the only serious closure. Which is equally wrong. In any case, cork producers have had a hard time and have spent quite a lot of money on campaigns to regain consumer confidence. But their latest campaign (launched in the US) gives a very sour taste in the mouth. There are two videos. One makes it clear that if one (men) wants success with women then they should buy bottles with natural cork – it is a sure way to make them want to have sex with you. The other shows the dangers of bringing a screw cap bottle to the office party – it virtually guarantees a failed career. Yes, it is no doubt intended as light hearted humour. And yes, it is a completely failed attempt that only gives the impression that the cork industry is insensitive and silly. See the videos here www.vinography.com. And for an alternative view on cork, screw (!) cap and sex: www.drvino.com

The Outsiders – a wine gang in the Languedoc

A new group of wine growers were recently established in the Languedoc-Roussillon. It is an exciting mix of interesting growers, from western Limoux to eastern Costières de Nîmes, And what do they have in common? Maybe you have guessed already – they are all outsiders, meaning they do not originally come from this area. Most of them are actually foreigners but a few come from Bordeaux (maybe as foreign as another country for the Languedoc people…). All of them see the potential of making good, and even great, wine in Languedoc-Roussillon. Some of them worked in the wine business before but for most of them it’s a change of career. Before they worked in teaching, taxation, finance, investment banking, TV production, sales and marketing…We are sure a lot of this knowledge will come in handy also as a wine producer!

So what does being an outsider mean? According to the members themselves, it means having an alternative perspective and maybe seeing things and doing things a little differently. We wish the group a lot of success.

The Outsiders:

 

bullet Château Rives-Blanques, Limoux (Jan Panman from Holland och Caryl Panman from England)
bullet Château d’Anglès, La Clape (the Fabre family from Bordeaux)
bullet Mas Gabriel, Languedoc (Debora and Peter Core from UK)
bullet Mas des Dames, Languedoc (Lidewij van Wilgen from Holland)
bullet La Grange de Quatre Sous, Vin de Pays d’Oc (Hildegard Horat from Switzerland)
bullet Domaine Jones, Roussillon (Katie Jones from UK)
bullet Domaine Hegarty Chamans, Minervois (Sir John Hegarty and Philippa Crane)
bullet Domaine de Calet, Costières de Nîmes (Anna-Lena – from Sweden – and Yvon Gentes)
bullet Domaine Treloar, Roussillon (Jon and Rachel Hesford from UK)
bullet Château de Combelle, Saint Chinian (Catherine Wallace from UK)
bullet Domaine Cébène, Faugères (Brigitte Chevalier from Bordeaux)
bullet O’Vineyards, Cabardès (Ryan O’Connell from USA)

In November The Outsiders invited to a tasting of their wines in London. We could not be there in person but our friend and wine writer Brett Jones was there and has kindly shared his impressions. You can read a full account of the tasting, Inside with the Outsiders of Languedoc on Brett’s blog The Wine Maestro brettthewinemaestro.wordpress.com. Here are Brett’s comments for the Brief:

“The Outsiders are an informal group of good wine producers, none of whom is a native of Languedoc-Roussillon – they are all ‘immigrants’. All keen people, they are from far and wide: UK, USA, Holland, New Zealand, Switzerland and even Bordeaux!

It was a sunny November morning when I arrived at the La Maison de Languedoc-Roussillon in Cavendish Square, in the heart of London, to be greeted by the twelve Outsiders who were behind their tables ready to show their wines. All of them from outside the region, all of them keen, enthusiastic and proud of what they have achieved and what they are doing.

As I tasted their wines and spoke to each of them, I appreciated each producer’s individuality as well as the quality. When I tried wine made from vielles vignes I thought of the graceful old age the vines are enjoying, producing a tiny amount annually compared to the huge yields required in their youth, for table wine…

The Outsiders show a care and attention as well as an inordinate pride in what they are doing and I enjoyed the tasting very much.”

BKWine’s book “A wine is born” wins one more prize: “best wine book for professionals”

In the last Brief we were proud to announce that we had won the prize for The Best Wine Book of the Year in Sweden for our book on vine growing and winemaking (original title in Swedish: Ett vin blir till, om arbetet i vingarden och i vinkallaren”). The book has now won one more prize: it has been selected as “best wine book for professional” in Sweden by Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. This means that we will participate in the world wide competition with wine and food books that takes place in Paris in March: the Gourmand Cookbook Awards. Wish us luck!

Read Vino! on the internet

The Belgian wine magazine Vino!, published by Vinopres who also organises the Concours Mondial du Vin wine competition, has published its latest issue in-extenso on the internet. Read all of Wino Magazine here vino.vinopres.com

Wine Festival in Zagreb on February 25-26

On 25-26 February 2011 the Zagreb Wine Gourmet Festival will be held in the capital of Croatia. It will feature both Croatian wines and food products as well as wines from producers from other countries. More info here: www.zagrebwinegourmet.com/

Have a news item you’d like to see here or have a news tip? Send me an email: winebrief@bkwine.com

Book Reviews
The Finest Wines of Tuscany and Central Italy
By: Nicolas Belfrage
Photo: Jon Wyand
Fine Wine Editions 

This is the personal selection of the best producers in primarily Tuscany (and a bit more) by a great Italian wine expert, Nicolas Belfrage. He has previously written several books on Italian wines. The book is nicely put together by the same people who make The World of Fine Wine Magazine. An excellent book for the Italian wine enthusiast. The bulk of the book is dedicated to Belfrage’s selection of what he considers the best producers in the region. A selection of the “best” can always be debated but Belfrage is certainly better placed than most to find the most interesting producers. There are almost a hundred producer profiles. Each producer profile goes into quite some detail and is illustrated with very nice photos by Jon Wyand. The districts that are covered are mainly Chianti and the Tuscan coast, Montalcino, Montepulciano, San Gimignano, and in lesser detail Umbria, Romagna and the Marche. It is certainly very commendable to have extended the book to include some of the lesser-known (but not necessarily less interesting) wine regions. Each area gets a few pages of introduction and a (not very detailed) map. Detailed tasting notes are happily absent and the focus is on the persons and the estates. The introductory chapters cover things like grape varieties (an interesting thing in Italy!), winemaking techniques and traditions, history etc. It is a biggish soft-cover book (320 pages) but small enough to bring with you when going there. A very valuable addition to the Italian wine library!

Click here for more book reviews on my site. You will also find links to on-line book shops on that page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Burgundy – The vineyards, the wine & the people
By: Jasper Morris
Berry Bro:s & Rudd Press 

I wonder what it is with Burgundy that makes so many of the books on the region come shaped like bricks. This one weighs in at 1957 grams and 656 pages, just about 100 g more than Clive Coates’ massive tome on Burgundy. Perhaps it is that there are so many details to keep track of. The book by Jasper Morris is probably the most detailed and extensive account on Burgundy and its wines available today, if not ever. The starting point is the vineyards, rather than the producers. This could be a drawback of sorts, since knowing exactly who the producer is is perhaps more important in Burgundy than anywhere else. But the ambition of the book is to cover “everything” in Burgundy, and then it makes total sense to start with the geography. The book is the result of the author’s 30 years history of buying and selling wines. He currently works with Berry Brothers, the wine seller in London, who’s first venture into publishing this is (we wonder what can follow on this!). Starting in one end and going through the whole region Morris goes into detail on each commune, each premier cru, and each grand cru, talking about soil, location, history, tradition etc. He even includes the areas that are often left out in works like this: the Hautes-Côtes, Chablis, Auxerrois, Côte Chalonnaise, and the Mâconnais (but excludes Beaujolais unfortunately). Having done this ground work Morris then talks in some details about the most important growers (as he sees it) in each village. A special mention must be made of the maps – probably the most detailed maps available on the Burgundian vineyards, based on the work of Sylvain Pitiot (med Pierre Poupon). A very valuable addition. The initial chapters goes over the “basics”: history, weather, grape varieties, vinification etc. But also this is quite detailed, including for example discussions on root stocks and pruning techniques. The book includes a single photograph… A massive work. Probably the most thorough account of Burgundy in print with a wealth of information!

Click here for more book reviews on my site. You will also find links to on-line book shops on that page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tokaji Wine – Fame, Fate, Tradition
By: Miles Lambert-Gócs
Ambeli Press

Miles Lambert-Gócs book is best classified as a reference book or encyclopaedia on the wines of Tokay (or Tokaji, or Tokaj). L-G is American but of Hungarian descent. The book is the result of many years of research into the wines, the region and its history. The tome is split up into four sections: People (called Populace and Actors), Gazetteer (the geography), Wine-Growing Hills, and Wine Production (called Ways & Means, covering grape varieties, wine types, vinification etc). Each section has a very short introduction followed by by the encyclopaedic alphabetic listing of terms and names with detailed explanations – including some never before recorded facts and information. It is difficult to see who is the intended reader of this book – it must be someone with a limitless interest or curiosity for Tokaj wines, or someone just curious about the area of course. Like all encyclopaedia it is amusing and interesting to dip in here and there and discover new things. We hope that the author’s next work on Tokaj will be one that can entice more people to discover and enjoy the wines of this remote European wine region – wines that can be truly excellent.

Click here for more book reviews on my site. You will also find links to on-line book shops on that page

What Price Bordeaux?
By: Benjamin Lewin
Vendange Press

What Price Bordeaux? is an unusual and an interesting book. But let me start with two things that I find annoying, to get them out of the way. First, the title. The book is about so much more than “the price of Bordeaux” and the title makes a disservice to the contents. Second, the footnotes. The author has a science publication background and that shows There are probably more than 400 footnotes in the book. If you are a person with curiosity (which you will be if you read this book) then you will find yourself turning furiously between the main text and the footnotes at the end, continuously disrupting your reading. If only they had been located at the bottom of each page. Many do contain quite relevant information and it is sometimes not clear why things have been relegated to a foot note. This said, the book is a treasure trove of information and odd facts and figures on Bordeaux, often giving very relevant information to understand the market for Bordeaux wines. Most of it is focused around the classification (primarily of 1855), the ratings and the evaluations of the top wines. Much of it has a rather American perspective but most of it is very interesting for anyone with a keen interest of what goes on behind the scene in Bordeaux. For example, what the relation is between the classification and terroir/geography/vineyards (none), or how the 1855 classification has been changed (twice), or what was the basis of the classification (purely price), and how should it look today if it was done again according to the same principles (very different). It is a book with a refreshingly critical point of view, if sometimes idiosyncratic. Anyone who believes that wine prices in Bordeaux has a relation to wine quality should read it, or that classifications are a help to consumers, or who doubts that Bordeaux is a land of brands, marketing and luxury goods. If it was written today (and not a few years ago) there would no doubt be a chapter on Lafite and China. In spite of some idiosyncrasies it is a book eminently worth reading if you are interested in the intricacies of Bordeaux wine politics.

Click here for more book reviews on my site. You will also find links to on-line book shops on that page

Wines of Carcassonne – The Cabardès AOC
By: Ryan O’Connell
Self-published

This is a book/ebook/Kindle book written by a wine producer about the wines of his region. Ryan (that we know personally) is a young and very dynamic winemaker in Languedoc. He is also a talented Web 2.0 marketeer, which helps when you make wine in one of France’s lesser known appellations. The ebook is an overview of the appellation of Cabardès, located around the historic walled city of Carcassonne (UNESCO World Heritage) on the western edge of the Languedoc. Ryan is passionate about his own wines but also about the whole region and this is his first attempt to present his appellation in a more packaged form. “I think people want to hear winemakers talk about our land, our neighbors, our trials and tribulations. There are a lot of great reference books on the market. They’re objective and that’s what makes them useful. This book has a lot of soul. It’s not objective at all” says Ryan. The book is an excellent introduction, quite more than an introduction, to this AOC. Ryan explains the complicated history, and the equally complicated geological situation. Cabardès is often considered as the link between east and west in southern France, taking some of its inspiration from the Languedoc (and even from the Rhône Valley) and some from Bordeaux, bridging the two. Ryan also lists and describes most of the major producers in the region. One can tell that it is a passionate wine lover and wine maker who writes the text (and not a career journalist). The book is only 24 pages long, which is perhaps reasonable for an appellation that is only 500 hectares. Ryan promises new editions of the book and if one can make a wish it would be for some more comments on the wines themselves and a section on tourism information, villages to visit, restaurants etc, to make it even easier for people to come and visit this beautiful region. (And a new edition might also iron out some design problems). I can think of no one better suited to sing the praise of this appellation than Ryan. An enjoyable read! Ryan also writes a blog called, unsurprisingly, Love That Languedoc. More info: ovineyards.com. Get the book: www.amazon.co.uk. We can only agree with Ryan: we hope that more winemakers will write about their regions!

Click here for more book reviews on my site. You will also find links to on-line book shops on that page

Viticulture – An introduction to commercial grape growing for wine production
By: Stephen Skelton MW
Self-published

This is very detailed book on viticulture, written by Master of Wine Stephen Skelton, who lectures on viticulture to Diploma students at WSET. The book is recommended for these students as well as for Master of Wine candidates. It covers everything that has to do with viticulture: the grapevine, rootstocks, site selection, different soils, grape growing in different countries, pruning, irrigation, diseases and viruses and so on. It’s a textbook and as such crammed with facts and with hardly any pictures. The reader has to be a motivated student or a very interested wine lover. Stephen Skelton has worked for many years in the wine business and has a deep knowledge of the subject. He tends to be too categorical in some statements and in his opinions of certain things and he is really walking on thin ice when he talks about organic wines. He bundles together organic and biodynamic culture and talks about them as though they were identical. And as he obviously doesn’t have a very high opinion of the biodynamic movement (to say the least) the organic culture suffers by his descriptions. On the other hand, he seems to think that also the organic growers are somewhat unnecessary as in his opinion most conventional growers take as good care of the land as the organic ones. A more objective description of organic culture would have fitted more into the style of the book.

Click here for more book reviews on my site. You will also find links to on-line book shops on that page

RED – Guide des vins naturels dans le monde – A guide to the World’s Natural Wines
By: Michel Tuz
Jean-Paul Rocher éditeur

This small book is about natural wines. And what are natural wines? According to the author of the book it is organic and biodynamic wines and wines made in “a natural way”. To explain the latter he mentions the rules that apply to members of the Association des Vins Naturels (AVN), an association in France for organic growers, certified or not, that follow certain rules for the vinification: no added yeast and no other additives than low levels of sulphur. After a very brief introduction where Michel Tuz explains the meaning of Demeter, Ecocert, AB and other organic/biodynamic labels he moves on to the main part of the book which is a list of growers working in this manner. The growers are mostly in France, but also in Spain, Italy, Suisse and America. He also mentions quite a few restaurants who are supposed to serve organic wines. It would, however, have been helpful to have a short description of each restaurant (only a few have it – and I know it’s a lot of work to do it!). All in all it’s a handy little book for the wine lover who is into organic wines. The book is bilingual, French/English.

Biodynamic in Wine
Av: Beverley Blanning MW
A Monograph published by the International Wine & Food Society (IWFS)

This little book tries on 60 pages to explain what biodynamic wine production means. It is not an easy task. Beverley Blanning manages to do it in a fairly objective way. She describes the different biodynamic methods in a straightforward way, even the more difficult parts, like the “dynamisation” of the preparations and the cow horns and the deer bladders. Although she ought to have mentioned that the growers often buy some of these preparations ready-to-use (deer bladders are not always that easy to find). The many quotations from Steiner himself (the founder of biodynamics) and different growers that work biodynamically give life to the text. The growers don’t always understand how certain things can work but they see the result in the vineyard and in the wine. That is proof enough for them. An interesting chapter is about the arguments for and against biodynamics. Beverly says herself that she is open to the possibility that some biodynamic methods work. Everyone who reads this booklet should also try to have an open mind. You can buy the booklet here: www.iwfs.org.

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