BKWine Brief nr 170, October 2017

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Per Karlsson portrait Britt Karlsson portraitWill there be a shortage of wine?

The harvest this year will be the smallest one in a long time. It is the smallest production, counting the entire world’s volume, in around fifty years. Read more on that in the Brief.

This is due mainly to bad weather: frost in the spring, hail, rot, and then a very hot and dry summer, especially in the three major wine countries, accounting for the main portion of the world’s wine production.

But the misery did not end there for the wine producers this year. In Spain, Portugal and California, they have had catastrophic forest fires just at harvest time, or just after having picked. Fires that have caused huge damage and many deaths.

A year of great misery in the wine industry.

But no, there will not be a shortage of wine, so you do not have to worry. There are, for example, large stocks of wine. In France there is what amounts to one year’s production in stock that can be tapped. So it is very doubtful whether the small harvest will have any significant effect on prices.

This is when you look at it on a macro level. Looking at details, there are some regions that certainly will have less wine to put on the market. And maybe will raise prices. But the risk is that some other region then will step in and take its place.

Looking at an even more detailed scale, the effects of this year’s difficulties can be more dramatic. Some wine producers will have less than half of normal production, sometimes as little as 10% or 20% of what’s normal. There is a very definite risk that some may end up in financial difficulties and that they may, in the worst case scenario, be forced to close the business or to sell. The wine industry is not a good business if you want to earn big money.

One example: In the 80s, there were 10,000 wine producers (“châteaux”) in Bordeaux. Today, the number is just under 7000. In a couple of decades, 30% have disappeared. But this does not mean that production has decreased. Over the same period, the planted area has increased from around 100,000 hectares to 112,000 hectares. Bordeaux is not the only district this has happened. Champagne is another example (read more about this in our book about Champagne, if you read Swedish).

In other words, the wine industry is consolidating (albeit on a small scale).

One conclusion may be that if you want to enjoy a wide variety of exciting wines, then you should buy from the small producers, those who really need you as a customer in order to continue making good wines.

Over the last two months, we have not done much writing, unfortunately. We have been travelling around for our wine tours. We’ve done some 20 tours over September-October and met many wine lovers and wine makers. Autumn is our most hectic season. To compensate, this BKWine Brief is filled with plenty of extra reading on wine.

I especially want to promote travelling in wine regions in the spring. Of course, there is no harvest going on, but it is beautiful, warm, and the days are long and bright. And wine producers have plenty of time to talk with us. A wonderful time to travel in wine districts.

Take a look at the spring tour to Bordeaux!

I also want to mention the tour to South Africa in November 2018 (exact dates mentioned in the Brief) since we do it this time on different dates than usual. A wonderful wine country and an exciting wine destination!

Enjoy the Brief!
Britt & Per

PS: Recommend to your friends to read the Brief!

– – – – –

What’s on at BKWine Tours

Winter 2018

  • South Africa, February 23 – March 5, 2018 (with possible safari and golf add-on)

Spring 2018

Autumn 2018

More to come:

  • Bordeaux, September 26-30
  •  South Africa, November 9-19

Winter 2019

  • New Zealand, March

For more information please contact us on email or on phone (we’re on French time), or go to our wine travel site on www.bkwinetours.com!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. More info on the custom designed and bespoke BKWine wine tours and travel here!

Read our book(s)

We have written several wine books, nine at the last count. One of them has been translated to English; the others are (so far) only available in Swedish. This is the one that is available in English: Biodynamic, Organic and Natural Winemaking, Sustainable Viticulture and Viniculture

All our books are on wine, but on different subjects: wines of the Languedoc, wine growing and wine making, the wines of France, Tuscany, Bordeaux, Piedmont, Burgundy, Champagne. Several have won prestigeous prizes and awards. Read more on our wine books.

From the World of Wine

In Brief

In short, news and stuff from the world of wine.

World wine production 2017 drastically reduced

jean marie aurandOIV, International Organisation Of Vine And Wine, presented recently preliminary figures for the world’s wine production in 2017. “As expected,” said general director Jean-Marie Aurand, “the production has been affected by the extreme heat and the drought in France, Spain and Italy”. Italy has produced the biggest volume with 39.3 million hectolitres. A normal harvest in Italy would be around 50 million hectolitres. France is second with 36.7 million hl, 19% lower than 2016. Spain is in third place with 33.5 million hl, 15% down from 2016. (Earlier estimates pointed to third place for France.)

Portugal, the wine countries of Eastern Europe and South Africa, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand are all showing normal volumes. But with small volumes in the world’s three largest wine countries, the world production is, of course, affected. Preliminary figure for the world wine production 2017 is 246.7 million hectolitres, down from 268.8 million hl in 2016. There should be no lack of wine in the world though. For one thing, the big wine countries have stocks. In France alone there are 54 million hectolitres (equating to about one year’s production).

Conference on wine business, including wine tourism, with BKWine: Wine2wine

a wine conferenceWine2wine is a big conference that attracts several hundred visitors. It deals with many different aspects of wine and wine business. The target audience is primarily wine producers but also many other people from the wine business participate. This year one of the themes is wine tourism with the focus on “generating revenues through wine tourism”. We at BKWine, as one of the world leading wine tour organisers, have been invited as one of the speakers at the conference.

Wine2wine takes place on December 4 and 5 in Verona and if you book your place very soon (before the end of October), there is an early-bird discount. More info: www.wine2wine.net. Buy your ticket here: tickets.linkry.events.

(BKWine was also an invited speaker at another big Italian wine tourism conference earlier this year, Città del Vino. Here’s the presentation: The 4 Different Kinds of Wine Tourism.)

Violent wildfires in California’s wine regions

forest fire damage in south africaAround 40 people died in very extensive fires north of San Francisco in mid-October. Wine regions like Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino were affected and the fires caused damage to a large number of wine estates. It was mainly buildings that were either completely destroyed or damaged. Estimates say that around 85% of the grapes had already been harvested but the fermentation was affected as the wineries were without electricity for several days.

Although some vineyards were also destroyed, vines have the advantage that they don’t burn easily. How big the damage was remains to be seen. Read more about the fires in California thedrinksbusiness.com.

Horrible forest fires in Portugal and Spain

forest fire damage in south africaPortugal and Spain have also been hit hard by forest fires. A dry and hot October made it easy for fires to start. When the hurricane Ophelia came, the result became catastrophic. 45 people are believed to have died and the material damage is high. It was mainly northern Portugal that suffered, mostly in the wine district of Dão but also in many other parts of northern Portugal. When we were in the Douro Valley on one of our wine tours shortly after the fires we could see no traces of it in that region. In Spain, the fires spread in Rías Baixas and Galicia. Fortunately, there was a long-awaited rain that dampened or extinguished the fires, but many vineyards and wineries (and much else!) had already suffered considerable damage. Read more: nytimes.com and winespectator.com

Wine myths: hybrids make poor wines

a mildew infected vineIn the previous issue of the brief we wrote about myths in the wine world. Some of our readers have contacted us with comments. Among others, William H. Shoemaker, retired horticulturist from the University of Illinois. He wants to add the myth “wines from hybrids are inferior”. He adds: “While they may not reach the echelons of quality reached by the best burgundies or bordeauxs, wines from hybrid grapes can be very good. I predict they will continue to improve, bringing with them traits for sustainability that vinifera varieties do not have. ”

Hybrids are crossings between Vitis vinifera, the European vine, and various American Vitis. The aim is to produce varieties that are e.g. resistant to cold or resistant to certain diseases, especially fungal diseases. For example, in Sweden, England and Canada, rondo, vidal, seyval blanc and regent, all hybrids, are used. It is easy to see the benefit of grape varieties that are resistant to fungal diseases, by far the biggest reason for spraying in the vineyard. It is very possible that these grapes will be important in the future. Several hybrids have recently been allowed to be used in France. Now wine consumers – and wine producers – must overcome their scepticism.

Do you have any other suggestions for wine myths? Do tell! Send us an email.

Fungus resistant grape varieties tested in Cognac

glass of brandyCognac has as a long-term plan to reduce the spraying in the vineyards. Currently, four different hybrids are being tested in the vineyards. All four grape varieties have good resistance to both downy mildew and powdery mildew. They also have the qualities required for cognac production, namely high acidity and low sugar content. And, not least, they give yields as high as the grape currently used in Cognac, ugni blanc. However, the four hybrids need to be studied for a number of years to make sure they are right for the job. After the phylloxera, Cognac largely switched from folle blanche to ugni blanc as the latter was easier to graft on American roots. Read more: vitisphere.com

World record in vineyard prices: billionaire buys Clos de Tart Grand Cru in Côte d’Or

clos de tartClos de Tart is a 7.5 hectare grand cru vineyard in Morey-Saint-Denis in the Côte de Nuits. The vineyard has been known for many hundreds of years and is owned by the Mommesin family since the 1930s. Now, however, that is about to change. François Pinault, one of France’s richest men, will be the new owner of this prestigious vineyard. Pinault already owns other wine properties, including Château Latour in Bordeaux. At Clos de Tart his neighbour will be another billionaire businessman with an interest (mainly financial) in the wine industry, namely LVMH’s Bernard Arnault (Château d’Yquem, Château Cheval Blanc et al.), who bought the grand cru Clos des Lambrays a few years ago. Unconfirmed rumours says that the price may have been as high (or close to) 250 million euros which would equate to 34 million euros per hectare. Or 3400 euro per square metre.

Morey-Saint-Denis is a small commune of 93 hectares. However, it is well-endowed with grand cru vineyards. In addition to already mentioned Clos de Tart and Clos des Lambrays, also Clos Saint-Denis, Clos de la Roche and part of Bonnes Mares (the other part belongs to the neighbouring village of Chambolle-Musigny). Read more decanter.com.

(If you want to know more on this region – and know a bit of Swedish – you can read our book on the wines of Burgundy.)

The future of the herbicide glyphosate is still uncertain

The future in Europe for glyphosate, a substance used in the well-known Round-Up and other herbicides, is uncertain. The EU was supposed to have taken a decision on this issue at the end of October but once again postponed the vote on it as the member states seem unable to agree. The permission to use glyphosate in the EU expires in December. A new voting date has  not yet been decided.

The EU Commission’s proposal is now to renew the permit to use glyphosate for 5-7 years instead of 10 years as was originally planned. But some countries, including France and Sweden, want to get rid of glyphosate altogether. The European Parliament has also voted for a ban. The experts do not agree whether glyphosate should be considered as cancerogenic or not; the scientific studies are inconclusive and point in both directions.

Protectionist Burgundy fears invasion of Vin de France wines

chardonnay vin de franceWe have heard it before. The established wine regions want to protect their brands. And therefore they are afraid of new players. This time it is the Burgundy producers that are afraid that wines without geographical origin, ie Vin de France (what used to be Vin de Table / table wines) will invade their territory. This year, there have apparently been many applications for planting rights in Burgundy for “wines without geographical origin”.

Burgundy and all the other appellations in the Burgundy region are of course protected and no Vin de France can put these names on the label. However, says the Bureau interprofessionnel des vins de Bourgogne (BIVB), nothing is stopping the producers from putting geographical names on the backside label, which can, says the bureau, confuse the consumers. But if you look at the rules, it is not easy for a Vin de France to piggyback on a famous appellation. The rules prohibit any geographical mention other than “France”. It is mandatory to put the name and address of the producer. But if the address is the same as an appellation (eg Gevrey-Chambertin or Meursault), you are only allowed to put the postal code, not the name. And given that the vine surface in France can only grow by no more than 1% each year, an invasion of Vin de France wines in Burgundy does not feel imminent. Yet another example of backward protectionism and fear of market forces. Read more: larvf.com

(If you want to know more on this region – and know a bit of Swedish – you can read our book on the wines of Burgundy.)

Foreign harvest workers dominate in Champagne

champagne vineyardWhere do all the harvest workers come from? This is a question we are often asked on our wine tours. Even though harvesting machines are being used more and more, still perhaps 40% of all grapes are still harvested by hand (the exact number is hard to know). And in Champagne it’s 100%. It is compulsory. So many hands are needed. In Champagne alone 110,000 harvest workers are employed for a period of two to three weeks. This year, for the first time, the number of foreign harvest workers was higher than the number of French workers in Champagne.

Producers are complaining about the increasingly heavy paper work that is required of them for short-term employment of harvest workers. However, if they ignore the red tape for the foreign workers is not clear. In fact, it is hardly likely since fines can be harsh. It is rather due to the difficulty of finding local willing workers. It is true however that it is becoming more and more common for the producers to hire their harvest workers through staffing / temp agencies. A little more expensive probably, but less bureaucratic hassle. Read more: vitisphere.com

Read more on harvesting: Hand harvest is not necessarily better than machine harvest.

(If you want to know more on this region – and know a bit of Swedish – you can read our book on the wines of Champagne.)


Features that we have published during the past month, with lots of reading for you.

Sweden wins international wine tasting competition

swedish winning team blind tastingWith 115 points the Swedish team won the “Blind Tasting World Championship” with an 8 points margin to the silver medallist United Kingdom with 107 points and the number three, Luxembourg with 100. The competition is a team competition with teams of four, organized by the French magazine La Revue du Vin de France. 24 teams participated from all corners of the world. The Swedish four-headed team consisted of representatives from the wine tasting club Munskänkarna from Piteå and Trollhättan. “It was incredibly difficult”, said one of the Swedish contestants.

Read more on the competition, and on the wines that were tasted, in Per’s article on BKWine Magazine: Swedish team wins Blind Tasting World Championship.

Ferdinando Principiano in three versions from Piedmont

barolo landscapeFerdinando Principiano is a small producer of high quality wines from Piedmont. Principiano is based in Monforte d’Alba, in the Barolo region but Ferdinando also makes wines in other denominations. We recently had the occasion to taste three of his wines when they were launched on the Swedish market, but they are also distributed internationally.

Read more about these exciting Piedmont wines in Tobias Karlsson’s article on BKWine Magazine: Three Piedmont wines from Ferdinando Principiano.

(If you want to know more on this region – and know a bit of Swedish – you can read our book on the wines of Piedmont.)

In some markets, knowing the wine importer is primordial

wine shop in parisYou may have noticed that we are trying to keep track of all the wine importers in Sweden. We probably have the most updated and extensive list of wine importers there is. For people outside Sweden this is perhaps mainly interesting if you are a wine producer. Then you have a long list of people you can contact if you want to sell your wines in Sweden.

Read more on our latest batch of new wine importers in Per’s article on BKWine Magazine: New wine importers in Sweden again, Pompette, Kaffak et al.

“A fantastic tour. I would never travel with anyone else on a wine tour”

champagne vineyards cote des blancsOn our Champagne wine tours we show both the grandiose and famous “houses” and the smaller growers’ champagnes (and much more) of this wine region. The cellars with millions of bottles in stock and kilometres of tunnels, and also the family wineries where we are received by both the wine maker and the owner, because it is the same person.

On BKWine Tour’s Travel Blog we have collected some comments from people who have travelled with us in Champagne: What do travellers think about the Champagne tour? “Fantastic. Would never go with anyone else on a wine tour.”

(If you want to know more on this region – and know a bit of Swedish – you can read our book on the wines of Champagne.)

Wine tours

Some information about current and future wine tours with BKWine.

Experience the 7000 châteaux in Bordeaux | wine tour

chateau latour cellarThe châteaux in Bordeaux are amazing, sometimes even spectacular. At least some of them. Others are more discreet. But all 7000 wine estates in Bordeaux are allowed to call themselves “château”. On this tour you will not see all 7000, but quite a few. Now, you don’t go to Bordeaux just to look at the château. For you (and for us), the wines are probably more important. And on this tour there will be wines you probably don’t drink so often. Some of them are difficult to get hold of and some of them have rather expensive price tags. But as a wine lover you will want to taste them and the best place to do it is in Bordeaux, for instance accompanying our luxurious lunches, often “at home” at some of these beautiful châteaux.

We will see different aspects of Bordeaux on the tour. The big and prestigious châteaux and also the smaller ones, less famous but equally quality conscious. In the evenings, you will enjoy Bordeaux, France’s most elegant city. The tour takes place in late April when the weather can be like a nice summer day and the vine buds are bursting. Read more on this fantastic spring wine tour to Bordeaux.

(And if you happen to read Swedish you can get a taste of it in our book on Bordeaux and its wines.)

South Africa’s wonderful wines, food, and nature, an experience of a life-time

walker bay coastal landscapeOn the wine tour to South Africa the wine is only one part of the experience (but an important one). The food, the nature and just being there is also a big part of the experience. South Africa is a country with a long wine history (longer than Médoc in Bordeaux!), although it is considered a New World country. Here you will find old vines of grapes like cinsault and chenin blanc, and from these vines they make some amazing wines, far away from the mainstream and streamlined wines that you often see on the export market. South African wine is entering a new phase. Today they make world class wines here! Just waiting to be discovered.

Stellenbosch is still the centre of the wine industry. However, for some grape varieties, such as sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, the producers are now searching for cooler climates. We will visit Walker Bay (also known for its whales) on the cost where we will stay in Hermanus, a beautiful little town. From there we will have an extraordinary trip across the mountains to Franschhoek, one of the oldest wine regions of South Africa, beautifully located surrounded by mountains. We will of course visit Stellenbosch and Cape Town, and we tour the Cape Peninsula and visit the Cape of Good Hope. This is a wine country that you will give you memories for life. Read more on this wine tour to the South Africa wine lands that will take place in November 2018. (The definitive program will soon be published.) And if you have time, extend your trip with our amazing Eastern Cape safari.

Don’t be an egoist! Share with your friends and other wine enthusiasts! Forward the Brief to your friends! Suggest that they sign up for a free subscription !

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