Are the good old days gone forever?
Perhaps the wines were better before, in the good old days? If you want to go really far back in time, back to the 19th century you can long for the ungrafted vines that existed before the phylloxera came. Since then, almost all of the world’s vineyards have been planted with grafted vines. Or long for the past when they made really long-lived wines in Bordeaux and you still could afford to buy “classified” growths in Bordeaux. And for the time when they made more solid Burgundies.
Or is that not how it is? Is it perhaps better now?
We were recently in Chile and Argentina and there you can find – not seldom side by side – grafted and ungrafted vines. Did we notice any clear and distinctive difference between a wine made from grafted vines and the other wine made from ungrafted ones? No. In addition, the grafting can “adapt” the vine to specific soil and climate conditions. So has the wine world lost something big because of phylloxera? I do not think so.
The long-lived Bordeaux wines may have come about because at the time they did not have very good control over when the grapes were ripe and therefore harvested when the tannins were not quite ripe and the wines thus had to be aged longer. Today, growers know more about optimal harvest and maturity and make more well-balanced wines.
The classified growths have certainly become awfully expensive, but what does it matter? If you drink wine for the sake of its taste and not for the text on the label, there are many other, lesser known wines, which are just as good (yes, indeed) and cost a fraction. Marketing requires budget and celebrity has its price.
The full-bodied Burgundians of olden times might have had their might thanks to a little “reinforcement” with southerner wine, at a time when controls were not so strict.
No, wine lovers live today in a much better world than just a few decades ago.
The quality of wines today is on average a lot better.
We were recently in Chile and Argentina (one of our wine tours) and will soon be off to South Africa (another of the wine tours). Today in all these countries you can find wines of top quality. A few decades ago it was mostly bulk. The same goes for almost all other wine countries! Languedoc-Roussillon in France, or why not “simpler” Bordeaux, where you can find lots of good and not expensive wines today. Spain, Portugal, Italy and so on.
And above all, there are so many good wines to choose from at very good prices, as long as the contents is more important than the text on the label.
Wine enthusiasts today have much better times than before.
This Brief is a bit shorter than usual. It is hard to find time between South America, the Vinisud wine fair, a new book manuscript, South Africa, and more… But we give you a few things to read at least.
It is, of course, also time to mention something about our wine tours. There are a few places left on some of the spring wine tours. Spring is a lovely time to travel in wine districts. Book now!
Everything is also ready and set for the fall. Book your autumn wine tour now to be sure to get a place.
For the long-term planner, we will soon have the programs ready for Chile-Argentina and New Zealand (!)for winter 2019. See more below.
Britt & Per
PS: Recommend to your friends to read the Brief!
What’s on at BKWine Tours
- Bordeaux, April 25-29
- Champagne, September 26-30
- Bordeaux, October 10-14
- Douro Valley in Portugal, October 17-21
- South Africa, November 9-19
- Chile-Argentina, Jan-Feb
- 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 short, news and stuff from the world of wine.
Sweden gets its first 3-star restaurant
A Swedish restaurant has for the first time been awarded three Michelin stars, or three macarons as one also says in France. The one who has manged this achievement is Björn Frantzén at his Restaurant Frantzén in Stockholm. Björn previously had a 2-star restaurant in Gamla Stan, the Old Town, but in 2017 he moved to new premises at Klara Norra Kyrkogata in the city centre. The menu costs 3000 kronor (~300 euro) but an extraordinary gastronomic experience is promised. One would hope so. More on the restaurant: restaurantfrantzen.com
Les Outsiders, creative wine producers in the Languedoc-Roussillon
Les Outsiders is a group of winegrowers in the Languedoc-Roussillon in southern France, and in a few other places across France. They make some excellent wines, often with a lot of character. They are often focused on a terroir style of wine; they are often organic, sometimes biodynamic. And they all come from other places than the Languedoc-Roussillon, hence “Outsiders”.
One is John Bojanowski from Kentucky, US, at Le Clos du Gravillas in Minervois. He loves old and forgotten grape varieties and started Carignan Renaissance in 2004 to promote this little known variety. Another one is Robin Williamson at Domaine de Saumarez. Robin is English, married to Liz from New Zealand. Since 2004 they have 13 hectares close to Montpellier. Domaine des Enfants in beautiful Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet is run by Marcel Bühler from Switzerland. He was a banker in Zürich but didn’t particularly like it and now makes some intense and concentrated but very fresh wines in Roussillon instead. Read more about the different Outsiders and their excellent wines at languedoc-outsiders.com.
Riesling and Asian food in Gothenburg | restaurant review
Made in China, on Tredje Långgatan street nr 9 in Gothenburg, is more oriented towards Asian fusion food than pure Chinese. The food is delicious, modestly priced and the wine list is very interesting, not least the collection of riesling wines. From 425 kronor (40+ euro) and up to 950 kronor; you can choose between goodies from Fernand Engel in Alsace, Wittmann in Rheinhessen, Reichsrat von Buhl in Palatinate, Hans Lang in Rheingau, Jurtschitsch Langenlois in Kamptal and many others.
More about the restaurant: madeinchina.nu
Next year in Paris: Vinisud, a wine fair to discover southern wines
Vinisud, the big wine fair in Montpellier, took place recently, 18-20 February. Vinisud is about wines from southern France and other countries around the Mediterranean. If you want to meet good producers from Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence, the Rhone Valley, and more, Vinisud is an excellent wine fair, not least because many of the really small and exciting growers are also there. Without a doubt one of the most interesting wine fairs. The big news, and something some growers are not unequivocally positive about, is that the 2019 edition of Vinisud will take place in Paris. The idea now is for the fair to be every other year in Montpellier and every other year in Paris.
The dates for the next Vinisud are 10-12 February 2019 in Paris Porte de Versailles and this will be at the same time as Vinovision, the newly launched wine fair for northern wines (Champagne, Loire, Burgundy, etc.). Paris has as yet no big professional wine fair, so maybe this is a good start. Read more vinisud.com.
Wine trends 2018, accroding to Concours Mondial de Bruxelles: China and organic
Le Concours Mondial de Bruxelles (CMB) is one of the largest of the many wine competitions organized around the world. CMB constantly look at trends in the wine world in order to best organize the competition. China has increased both its consumption and its production of wine in 2017, and CMB believes that this increase will continue in 2018. China has, says CMB, 38 million wine consumers and 40% of them are between 18 and 29 years old. As if to emphasize China’s new importance in the wine world, this year’s Concours Mondial de Bruxelles will be held in Beijing on May 10-13. (BKWine is part of the international jury.)
The organic wines will continue to grow, CMB believes. Consumers today are enlightened and want to know what is in the bottle they drink. CMB has noted that more and more organic and biodynamic producers submit their wines to the competition. Therefore, CMB introduced a new category for these wines in 2017.
Another new category, unique in wine competitions, is for “outstanding wines from the last century”, i.e. vintages before the year 2000. In 2017, CMB awarded 30 medals to mature wines, many of them to Portugal. Read more about interesting trends and Concours Mondial de Bruxelles: concoursmondial.com.
Features that we have published during the past month, with lots of reading for you.
Which wines should you cellar, and why
“Having an ideal wine cellar with a temperature of around 10-14 degrees year-round is not common. And the wine “fridges” that are available on the market are so expensive that hesitates to buy one when one figures out how much wine one could get for the money instead. Ageing wine under some “worse” conditions, for example at room temperature, is not a big problem if you only plan to keep the wines for a “shorter” period, maybe up to five years. However, it is best to do it in a dark space and with not too excessive temperature variations between summer and winter.”
More on ageing wines and what to keep in Britt’s article on BKWine Magazine: Wines to put down in the cellar & how wine changes with age.
On Burgundy’s appellations and grapes
“Some of the most unique wines in the world – reds and white – come from Burgundy. A well-made red Bourgogne (or Burgundy wine if you prefer), made from the elusive pinot noir grape variety, is a wine of elegance, hardly found anywhere else. The fruity aromas are mixed with a hint of autumn leaves and spices and almost always a moderate use of oak barrels. Despite the pale colour, these can be very impressive wines.”
Read more in Britt’s short introduction to the grape varieties and appellations of Burgundy on BKWine’s Travel Blog: Burgundy: a short introduction to grapes and appellations.
An introduction to Burgundy, the wine region
“Burgundy… Say it. Feel it. Taste it. The word evokes a very special wine country and a very special wine. It makes me think of gently rolling hills. Vineyards all the way to the horizon. Winding roads. Small villages. Unique wines and superb French gastronomy. When I started tasting and drinking wine Burgundy was one of the regions that were a must. At that time “The New World” wines were hardly even on the map. It still is a must, although times have changed a lot since then. Burgundy is a region that has its own very special character that you will only discover when you go there.”
Read more in Britt’s region guide, a short introduction to Burgundy, on BKWine’s Travel Blog: Burgundy, the Quintessence of a Wine Region.
Some information about current and future wine tours with BKWine.
Bordeaux: 7000 “castles” and lots of vineyards | wine tour
Bordeaux is one of France’s largest wine regions with 112 000 hectares of vineyards. There are about 7000 chateau (“castles”). Everyone does not make their own wine. Some sell their grapes to a negociant or belong to a cooperative. The chateaux exist in all sizes and looks. Some are no more than a regular little villa; others are beautiful Cinderella castle. The oldest are from the 16th century and classified as historical monuments.
The most important thing is after all to have a well-equipped cellar. Some have invested in the latest equipment and have expensive grape sorting machines. Some have brand new concrete vats for the fermentation, beautiful as if in an art gallery. Some prefer stainless steel tanks, while others have not seen any need to replace the old concrete tanks from the 1960s. Everyone has a different philosophy. We will see much of all this on our wine tour to Bordeaux in April. And then in the autumn there is a Bordeaux wine tour in October too.
Harvest time in Champagne | wine tour
In Champagne in late September the harvest is probably in full swing (but it depends on the weather). There will be a lot of activity in the vineyards and in the cellars. This is an interesting time to visit the wine region and we will get to know some of the secrets of champagne on our wine tour. For example, how to decide that the grapes are ripe enough to be picked. We go out in the vineyard, we look at the soil, we talk about the terroir and also about organic and sustainable wine viticulture.
We will also discuss the current trend with extra brut and brut nature, that is the very dry Champagnes, and other interesting topics. And taste lots of great wine and food of course. In other words, after the tour, you will know a lot about champagne. And maybe even more important: You will have tried a lot of Champagne! Some of these Champagnes will be drunk during our amazing lunches. Join us on the wine tour to Champagne in September.
(By the way, our latest book, that was on Champagne, has just won prize as the best book on French wines in the Gourmand Awards Sweden.)
Douro Valley: spectacular landscape, local grape varieties | wine tour
Portugal has its own local grape varieties, few known outside the country. During our tour to the amazing Douro Valley in the northern part of the country we will encounter many of them: touriga national, touriga franca, sousa, tinta roriz and many more. You do find French grape varieties too in Portugal, but they are rare. And we are quite happy with that. The local varieties make Portugal a very interesting wine country. The Portuguese are very keen to preserve the vineyards distinctive character.
The Douro Valley is one of the most spectacular wine regions that we know of, with incredibly steep slopes. We will taste both port wines and red and white dry Douro wines. The Douro valley, formerly known as the Valley of Port, has changed. For the better, we think. The dry Douro wines are amazing. But so is a 20 year old tawny. The wine tour to the Dour Valley in Portugal will take place in October.
Perfect wine tour time in November: Spring in South Africa
Whales, mountains and wines with personality will feature on the November wine tour when it is is spring in South Africa, so it is a colourful, flourishing landscape that greets us. We meet in Cape Town and continue on to Hermanus on the south coast where we will taste Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from some high-quality producers. It is the whale season so we are looking forward to going out on a boat for a close encounter with these giants of the sea.
Then we will continue to Franschhoek, Paarl and Stellenbosch. We enjoy the landscape, the mountains, the food and, the most important thing, the wines. Some sightseeing is included, of course, such as the Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope. South Africa is magnificent. And you will discover wines with a real personality.
Come and enjoy this wine tour to South Africa with us in November 2018.
For the long term planners: more southern hemisphere | wine tours
We already know that winter 2019 will be cold and dark, so we have planned two fantastic destinations for you to brighten up your winter. The full planning is not yet finishes but here are the destinations and the times. If you are interested, contact us already now and you will be the first to hear about it when it is available:
Chile and Argentina in Jan-Feb 2019, the two leading South American wine countries.
New Zealand, March 2019, a stunningly beautiful country mostly famous for sauvignon blanc and a bit of pinot (for wine) but that has so much more outstanding wine to offer!
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