BKWine Brief nr 232, December 2022

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Does umami exist?

Waiting for the umami moment.

Will you taste umami in your Christmas food? For sure, if it’s savoury. And it often is. I recently learned that umami means savoury. And at the risk of being accused of not accepting reality as it is (much like those who refused to accept that the earth is round), I must confess that I do not accept umami as one of the basic tastes.

How can something that no one understands be a basic taste? Salty, sweet, sour and bitter, everyone understands what it is. “Oh, this is so salty” is something everyone has experienced. But who has tasted something and burst out in an “Oh, this is so umami!”? On the other hand, recent taste research seems to have discovered that we have more than four (five?) basic tastes on the tongue. Even the spell checker in Word doesn’t believe in umami and marks it as misspelt.

How can something as vague as “savoury” be a basic taste? There is something fundamentally wrong with that. Savoury is what the whole dish turns out to be when you have mixed various ingredients. One person tried to explain it to me as “the umami taste sensation of these combined ingredients surpasses the taste of each individual ingredient”. But that is pretty obvious. That is what happens when someone knows how to cook. I don’t understand why you need to add the concept of umami to the mix.

In that case, the wine also has its umami moments. When the winemaker in Saint Emilion achieves the perfect blend that is so much better than his merlot or cabernet franc on its own. Or when the oak barrels are so delicately in the background that you don’t even notice it, but is there. When a bit of skin contact lightens up an otherwise somewhat flat chardonnay.

Winegrowers often draw parallels between winemaking and cooking. The winemaker’s kitchen is just a bit bigger. Wine is blended from different tanks, from oak barrels of different age, and from different grape varieties grown in different vineyards. Finally, a few per cent of petit verdot is added to season the wine and give it a little pepperiness. That’s when you get umami in the wine. Perhaps? Or do you get it just savoury?

Anyway, the ultimate umami moment must be when good wine is drunk together with good food (and preferably good company). Maybe this is it? Umami is not a taste but a state of mind. The wine and the food are better together than individually. No wonder, they are made for each other. Say the winemakers and we agree.

Travel in winter (but summer)

Some of our most exceptional wine tours are during the winter. They are filled with very special experiences. In summer weather in the southern hemisphere!

You have three fantastic long-distance tours to choose from:

  • Chile-Argentina in January – very few places left
  • South Africa in February – very few places left

These are tours with unique and magnificent experiences.

Travel in harvest time

And you can already start planning for wine tours next harvest season:

  • Champagne, September 27 – October 1
  • Champagne and Bordeaux, September 27 – October 5
  • Bordeaux, October 1-5

More info on our wine tours here. “World’s Top Wine Tours”. Tours with the people who know wine and who have an unrivalled experience of wine and tours.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Enjoy the Brief!

Britt & Per

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What’s on at BKWine Tours

BKWine is also one of the world’s leading wine tour operators. Here’s what we currently have on our scheduled wine tour program:

We also make custom designed wine tours.

We’re different than most other wine tour operators. We are people who know wine inside out, who travel constantly in wine regions, who write award winning books about wine. Who do this out of passion.

Our wine tours are different from others.

A typical year we organise more than 30 wine tours to destinations across the world. In Europe: France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and more. World-wide: South Africa, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand. Thanks to our Scandinavian background we have a separate offer for the Scandinavian market. These are sometimes offered in English and also available as custom made tours. For example, these destinations:

Read our books

We have written eleven wine books. They have won awards from the Gourmand Awards, The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) and others.

Unfortunately, only 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:

Here’s the full list of our books:

News from the World of Wine

Short briefs on what’s been happening in the world of wine recently and other interesting things.

Kullabergs Winery inaugurates its new winery in southern Sweden

Kullabergs Winey (Kullabergs Vingård) in Scania, the southernmost region of Sweden, inaugurated its new winery, probably the biggest in Sweden, at the end of October. The work has been going on for two years, resulting in a modern, functional, and beautiful winery. Kullaberg currently works with 14 hectares of vineyards, but there may be more in the future. The winemaker and owner, K Felix G Åhrberg, makes white, rosé, sparkling wines and an orange wine with skin contact for 20 days. The grapes are mainly, but not exclusively, fungus-resistant. He grows varieties such as donauriesling and souvignier gris and pinot nova, cabernet noir, rondo, regent and spätburgunder. He also has an experimental field with 21 different grape varieties, enabling him to evaluate grapes for the future. Read more about the Kullaberg Winery here http://kullabergs.se/english

The most popular grape varieties in France in 2022

France’s vine nurseries had their annual congress recently and announced that in 2022 they grafted and sold a total of 235 million vines, which is 15 million more than in 2021. (A quick calculation: say around 6,000 plants per hectare. Then the number of plants corresponds to what is needed for around 40,000 ha.) The ten most requested grape varieties accounted for 68% of sales. These are the grapes, in order of purchase:

  1. Ugni blanc
  2. Chardonnay
  3. Merlot
  4. Cabernet sauvignon
  5. Syrah
  6. Grenache
  7. Pinot noir
  8. Sauvignon blanc
  9. Cabernet franc
  10. Cinsault

That ugni blanc is in the top position is not surprising. Today, this grape is used almost exclusively in Cognac, and Cognac is right now the leading “wine region” for new plantings. A little more surprising, but a pleasant surprise, is that cinsault is on the list. Cinsault is grown throughout the south of France and produces elegant, light wines, often with relatively low alcohol content.

More export and more white wines for the Rhône valley

The Rhône Valley has presented a plan for how the region will develop over the next 10-12 years. Two things stand out: more investment must be made in producing white wines and expanding exports. During the last few years, the volume of red wines has decreased slightly, but the positive thing is that the Rhône wines have succeeded in positioning themselves a bit higher in the price ranges. Prices increased by an average of 4.1% per year.

The French drink less red wine, and demand is increasing for white wines. Southern Rhône has started planting white grapes, and the production of white wine in 2031 should be twice as high as it is today. And since the French market continues to decline, it is also necessary to invest more in exports. The plan is to reach 50% of exports in volume by 2035. Countries to be prioritized are the USA, Canada, and China, where Rhône wines already have a certain reputation, as well as South Korea and Singapore, which are considered to have great potential. Read more: vitisphere

Electric tractors and robots in the vineyard are now a reality

Today, many wineries want to show that they work sustainably. Maybe they measure their carbon footprint and are amazed at how much of this comes from driving the tractor back and forth in the vineyard. To avoid diesel emissions, you can drive an electric tractor. They already exist, but they are not yet common. New Holland, one of the major manufacturers of agricultural equipment, recently presented in the United States a small electric tractor that is also self-driving. So, in addition to zero emissions, there will be fewer hours at the wheel for the farmer. Sensors and cameras on the roof help the tractor drive where it needs to go, perform its tasks, and avoid obstacles. You can even activate it from your phone.

We will also see robots of various sizes more and more in the French vineyards. That this is the future was noticeable at Vinitech 2022, a technical wine fair recently held in Bordeaux. Read more: engadget

Champagne to becomes carbon neutral

There is a lot of talk about becoming carbon neutral these days. The EU has the ambition to become the first continent with zero emissions by 2050. But wine regions also have similar ambitions (I suppose if the EU is, we all have to be). The Comité Champagne (CIVC, which brings together the houses, cooperatives, and growers) decided at its annual meeting in December that by 2050, Champagne will have “zero emissions”. It is, of course, not possible in any business to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions. In Champagne, they plan to drastically reduce the emissions, increase carbon sequestration in and around the vineyards by planting hedges, trees, and shrubs, and then compensate for the rest. Also, already by 2030, they hope to have more or less eliminated the use of herbicides. Read more: terredevins

Travel: Come on a wine tour to Champagne with BKWine.

A cold December enables growers to make Eiswein in Germany

Europe had a few freezing weeks in December, including Germany. This chilly weather has enabled some growers to make Eiswein (ice wine) finally again. It has been a long time. On December 11, 12 and 13, the temperatures dropped to minus 8 degrees C and even lower in several of Germany’s wine regions. The growers with bunches of grapes still in their vineyards seized the moment. In Ahr, it was 20 years since they last made Eiswein. In Franconia (Franken), sugar levels were extremely high. Sylvaner and pinot noir were picked frozen. Hessische Bergstrasse, Mosel, Palatinate, Rheingau, Württemberg, Saxony and Saale-Unstrut also managed to make small amounts of Eiswein.

Eiswein is always about small quantities. This year it was not many producers that had left grapes in their vineyards. It’s a tricky business, deciding to leave a part of the crop for making ice wine (very uncertain) or pick them at the normal harvest. Read more: Germanwines

An environmentally friendly glass bottle may be closer than you think

Many wine lovers, us included, are fond of glass bottles. But at the same time, we know that the production of glass bottles is hugely energy intensive. But what if this energy was non-fossil? English glass manufacturer Encirc has partnered with the large spirits group Diageo to manufacture the world’s first glass bottles with zero carbon dioxide emissions. They recently unveiled plans for a new furnace that will reduce CO2 emissions by 90%. It will be powered by electricity from non-fossil sources and hydrogen gas. The remaining 10% will be compensated for with carbon dioxide capture and storage. The furnace will be built in Cheshire, England, be operational in 2027 and be able to produce 200 million bottles a year in 2030.

They are not alone. Absolut Vodka has signed an agreement with the Ardagh Group to produce its glass vodka bottles at a partially hydrogen-powered glass furnace, which it hopes will take the company one step closer to CO2 neutrality by 2030. Berlin Packaging in the US makes a 100% carbon-neutral bottle in an oven heated by renewable resources. I’m sure they are more examples out there. Read more: packagingeurope

Features of the Month

Articles and features published on BKWine Magazine and on our wine travel blog and (occasionally) photography blog in the last month.

Ancient vines, extraordinary wines from Santa Irene’s Vinea Ardua in Cyprus

Seven years ago, Daniel Anastasis, owner of Santa Irene Winery in Farmakas, and his viticulturist/winemaker, Evangelos Bakalexis, discovered that one of the high-altitude, abandoned vineyards they had taken over from a neighbour was replete with beautiful vines that were between 135 and 150 years old. Most were mavro ambelisimo vines, and the rest were xinisteri, the two most often planted grape varieties in Cyprus since wine was first produced here about 5000 years ago. The two men were thrilled with the discovery and vowed to bring the entire vineyard and its old vines back to productive fruition. They have named the vineyard Vinea Ardua.

With this article we introduce a new guest writer on BKWine Magazine, Matthew Stowell, a wine writer based in Cyprus.

Read more in Matthew Stowell’s article on BKWine Magazine: Ancient vines, extraordinary wines from Santa Irene’s Vinea Ardua in Cyprus.

Delicious wines from ”The Rainbow Nation” from Rainbow’s End Wine Estate

There’s not a pot of gold in the vineyard but there is a stunning view over the landscape, a lush valley and towering mountains. Rainbow’s End Wine Estate is in an exceptional location, in the Banghoek Valley, hidden behind a high mountain range on the edge of Stellenbosch. We have tasted some of their wines and we like them.

“The Rainbow Nation” was coined by the archbishop Desmond Tutu for South Africa after the end of apartheid.

Read more in Per’s article on BKWine Magazine: No pot of gold, but plenty of delicious bottles at Rainbow’s End Wine Estate, Stellenbosch.

Travel: Come on a wine tour to South Africa with BKWine.

The Labours of Aphrodite – Aphrodite Constanti, pioneering woman winemaker at the Vasilikon Winery

A few thousand years ago in Paphos, Cyprus, Dionysus taught his lover Aphrodite how to cultivate grapes and turn them into wine. Today her Paphian namesake, Aphrodite Constanti, has taken up the goddess’ mantle to become Cyprus’ first female oenologist, at Vasilikon Winery. BKWine Magazine guest writer Matthew Stowell recounts the unusual and extraordinary career path of the modern days’ Aphrodite.

Read more in Matthew Stowell’s article on BKWine Magazine: The Labours of Aphrodite – Aphrodite Constanti, pioneering woman winemaker at the Vasilikon Winery.

The myth of the maximum yield and quality, and the new VCI reserve

Virtually all appellations in Europe have rules that limit the yield, such as “the maximum yield is 45 hectolitres per hectare”. The theory behind this is often said to be that “a high yield gives lower quality” and thus “keeping the harvest yields low increases the quality”. There are several holes in this reasoning. For example: Some of the most highly regarded wine regions allow very high yields. Some years with a very large harvest also give very good quality, not mediocre. And finally, perhaps the least known, the rules of maximum yields are sometimes a chimera; they are more and more eroded. Which doesn’t necessarily have to be a disadvantage. Let’s take a closer look at the details.

Read more in Per’s article on BKWine Magazine: The myth of the maximum yield and quality, and the new VCI reserve.

Wine Tours

Details on our current and future wine tours. Book a wine tour with the “World’s Top Wine Tour Operator” today (or when you feel like travelling to wine country).

Treat yourself to an unforgettable experience in the beautiful wine-lands together with some of the most knowledgeable wine people around. Book now!

On both sides of the Andes| the wine tour to Chile and Argentina

Our popular and spectacular South America tour takes you to Buenos Aires and Mendoza in Argentina and Casablanca, Valparaiso and Colchagua in Chile. Our private bus will take us on a magnificent journey over the majestic Andes Mountains that separate the two countries. The wine and the many vineyards we visit are of course the center piece of the tour but we will also discover the two local cuisines, with the renowned meat, the empanadas and the vegetables. There will be both barbecue parties and ambitious meals that can compete with star restaurants.

If you want to join us on this South American discovery tour, it is very urgent to book. The tour starts in just over two weeks! (But will be back in 2024.)

Only a few places left. Book now!

Wine tour to Chile-Argentina, January 16-29, 2023

Enormous variety and fantastic quality among South Africa’s exciting wines | wine tour

South Africa’s wines cannot be described with a few simple words. There is an incredibly variety in styles, grapes and climate, despite the fact that the wine regions are relatively close to each other in the Western Cape. The sea and cool winds affect some vineyards; a scorching sun and a dry summer affect others. What is certain is that you can find incredibly good wines in South Africa today. We visit many of the famous wine regions and we meet exciting and innovative winemakers. And let’s not forget the food; South African gastronomy is starting to have a reputation. It can be a cheerful braai with different kinds of meat and sausages on the grill or the Cape Malay cuisine, strong and flavourful, where curry is one of the important ingredients. A pinotage, the country’s native grape (with an undeserved poor reputation!), goes well with it.

South Africa – a great wine experience.

Book now!

Wine tour to South Africa, February 8-18, 2023

Say “yes” to champagne several days in a row | wine tour Champagne

Can you really taste nothing but champagne for a whole wine tour? Somebody asked this question and the obvious answer is, of course. To drink champagne is always a pleasure and to drink high quality champagne in the region of Champagne is even better. You can easily do it several days in a row without any great pain. Champagne is a fairly big wine region with some distances between the northernmost part and the southernmost part which means that the climate and the weather is not the same. The soil changes too. Champagne is known for its white chalk but depending on where you are, you have more or less chalk, limestone and clay. This will influence the style of the wine as well. But the most important influencer of the wine style is the wine producer, his or hers ambitions and philosophy. You will meet several.

Learn more about this magnificent wine region on a wine tour with us to Champagne.

Come with us on the extraordinary wine tour to Champagne.

Book now!

Wine tour to Champagne, September 27 – October 1, 2023

PS: We have written a ground-breaking book about Champagne so we have a bit of a clue of what we’re talking about.

Why not combine two extraordinary wine regions, Champagne and Bordeaux?

It used to be that the only wine not from the region that was drunk in Champagne was Bordeaux. And vice versa. It has changed a bit now. But inspired by this connection we have created our grand tour of Champagne and Bordeaux. We will spend four nights in Champagne and four nights in Bordeaux. So, we start with the most famous bubbles in the world and end with some of the world’s most famous red wines. We’ll introduce you to our favourite producers, we’ll enjoy fabulous meals, some of them at Champagne houses and “at home” in Bordeaux chateaux, and, of course, we’ll taste a number of wines. You will learn a lot as well. If you want to. Otherwise, you can just enjoy the moment.

Book now!

Wine tour to Champagne and Bordeaux, September 27 – October 5, 2023

PS: We have written a ground-breaking book about Champagne, and also one on Bordeaux, so we have a bit of a clue of what we’re talking about.

Bordeaux, wines with a distinct taste and style –the wine tour to Bordeaux

You often recognize a Bordeaux when you do a wine tasting blind. The notes of cassis, cedarwood, sometimes tobacco. On the palate you have the tannins and the structure and the unmistakable character of the oak barrels in the background. Bordeaux makes distinguished wines destined for a long life but not only. Some Bordeaux wines are lighter in style and meant to be enjoyed earlier, with any meal. Always with a meal, the Bordeaux wines are food wines. We will spend time on the left bank – Médoc and Graves – as well as the right bank, which includes Saint Emilion and Pomerol. Some superb lunches will be served at the chateaux displaying France’s outstanding gastronomy.

Come with us on the fabulous wine tour to Bordeaux.

Book now!

Wine tour to Bordeaux, October 1–5, 2023

PS: We have written a book about Bordeaux, and have been travelling there since 1986, so we have a bit of a clue of what we’re talking about.

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