BKWine Brief nr 243, November 2023

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All the strange things that you can find on a wine label

The other month, we wrote in the Brief about rules and regulations in the wine industry. The other day, I had reason to ponder this subject again when discussing how to interpret a wine label at a tasting I led. Sometimes, according to the group, a wine label is difficult to understand.

At times, there are indeed a lot of words sprinkled on the label. What do they all mean? Some mentions are mandatory. Some are voluntary. But you cannot lie. If, in France, it is written that the wine is unfiltered or without added sulphur, it must be so. If it is mentioned that the wine is aged in oak (“élevé en fût de chêne/barrique”), at least 50% of the wine must have been aged in oak barrels of any size for at least six months.

Some people still believe you cannot put the grape variety on French wine labels; we even heard it on a wine podcast the other day. We tell you now, once and for all: you can put the grape name on a French wine label. This applies to all French wines in all categories, even “vin de france” (what used to be called “vin de table”), wine without origin. That some regions or producers choose not to do it, preferring to emphasise the origin, is another story.

It is up to the wine producer to judge the truth value of some things. You can write “old vines”, “vieilles vignes” etc. on the label. It is not regulated by law when a vine is considered old. We can understand why because how old vines get varies between regions and countries. What is considered an old vine in one place is regarded as a youthful one in another. How old a vine gets depends on climate, weather, yield, diseases, etc. But still, it provides information, and for many wines, one can assume that pretty old vines have been used (at least more than 35 years). Whether it matters for the quality of the wine is another matter. That is not necessarily the case, although there has been a lot of campaigning recently for just that.

Then there are the words that mean something in some countries but not others. Now and then, we come across a Champagne Cuvée Réserve. What does “réserve” mean? Maybe this particular cuvée is specially selected, or the word is just used as a marketing ploy. The word réserve has no legal meaning in France and many other countries. But in most Italian and Spanish regions, “riserva” and “reserva” are strictly regulated terms and mean that the wine has been aged for a certain period before sale. It is the same with words such as “cuvée prestige”, “icon”, “family reserve”, and so on; it sounds nice, but it does not have to mean much more than that it is a little better than usual.

It is trendy today to talk about high-altitude viticulture. Sometimes, it is combined with the expression “heroic viticulture”. Ouch. There is no clear and unambiguous rule here either (thank goodness?). When you see it used for cultivations at 150-600 meters (Chianti) or 400 meters (Stellenbosch), you can wonder if the starting point is Møllehøj, Denmark’s highest mountain at 170 m. No doubt, it sounds more reasonable with the 1000 meters you have in Mendoza or 1200 m in Aosta. Imagine how nice it would be with a height rule. Or not? Maybe it is up to us consumers to be a bit critical!

Not to mention the super trendy term “volcanic wines”. Today, almost every wine district is fighting to put it on the label. But the fact is that many types of soil are volcanic. Both granite and basalt are of volcanic origin. Do the wines taste different? Certainly. Is it because the soil is volcanic? Doubtful.

In such discussions, “natural wine” always comes up, a word that has been controversial since its introduction. It is admittedly rarely seen on the labels. In France, it is forbidden to call the wine “natural wine” (all wine is considered natural). But these wines are being talked about all the more. Some believe we need official legislation for the word to be meaningful.

Do we really need official regulations for natural wine? The EU has adopted rules on organic but will probably never legislate on natural wine. Having an official organic certification is different. As the EU sees it, organic farming provides environmental benefits and fits into the EU’s larger environmental plans. Furthermore, the difference between conventional and organic is easy to understand and impossible to misunderstand, thus ideal for a legislator. Natural wine is, first and foremost, about a specific type of vinification, often linked to a certain kind of philosophy and even political attitude in many cases. It’s not as clear-cut and guaranteed to give legislators grey hairs.

(Some private associations have set up their own private rules for what they mean by “natural wine”, just like the private associations that have rules for biodynamic, also not “official”. But that is another matter. If you want to understand natural wine, you can read our rather detailed article here, which also kills quite a few myths, inaccuracies and mistakes that are spread in the media about it.)

So, no, we can manage well without laws and regulations about natural wine and many other things that are used to attract customers to the wine.


It has been an autumn filled with many wine tours. I haven’t counted exactly how many, but it would be interesting to make a list. But it’s not quite over yet.

Britt is off to Catalonia soon, to attend a major cava conference, a very underrated sparkling wine. They need to work on their reputation. Maybe we’ll organise another wine tour to Catalonia in the fall. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Per, on the other hand, has just been exploring another potentially new destination. Last week he was in Andalusia and visited both Jerez de la Frontera and Sanlùcar de Barrameda, the two “sherry towns”. In weather that was like a really good summer further north. Wouldn’t you also fancy a trip to the sherry district?

But before that we have the winter and autumn trips.

The best Christmas present

With all our travels, it’s hard to believe that it’s soon Christmas, but it is. If you’re looking for a Christmas present that is absolutely fantastic and will be a memory for life, take a look at our two winter tours:

  • South Africa in February
  • New Zealand in March

You can still book a seat or two on these very special trips. Just imagine what effect a small envelope under the Christmas tree with a gift card for one of these would have!

So treat yourself to something truly special this winter, join us on the wine tour to South Africa in February or the wine tour to New Zealand in March!

Autumn tours

The autumn tours to Bordeaux and Champagne in 2024 are underway. And maybe some others. (Rhone and Burgundy? What would you like?) More info coming soon.

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.

Travel in wine regions with someone you trust.

Enjoy the Brief!

Britt & Per

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Our Wine 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.

The world’s smallest wine harvest in 60 years

OIV (International Organization of Vine and Wine) announces that the 2023 wine harvest is the lowest in more than 60 years due to severe weather conditions such as early frost, heavy rain, and drought in several countries. The OIV estimates the 2023 production of wine in the world (excluding juice and must) at approximately 244 million hectolitres. That is a 7% decrease compared to 2022, which was already below-average volume. Volume in Italy and Spain decreased significantly compared to 2022 due to fungal diseases and drought. France will be the largest wine producer in the world in 2023, with a volume slightly above its five-year average. Initial US crop forecasts indicate that production volume will be higher than in 2022 and above the average of recent years.

Adverse weather conditions hit Australia, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, and Brazil hard, resulting in reduced harvests. On the other hand, New Zealand’s harvest was bigger than average. There are still some uncertainties in the statistics. Figures from China, e.g., are not yet available. Even if 2023 means financial difficulties for some individual growers, there is no danger for the world. There is a surplus of wine in more or less all wine-producing countries. Read more: oiv

DO Penedès to be 100% organic by 2025

Catalan DO Penedès is just south of Barcelona. The region was a pioneer of organic viticulture in Spain 40 years ago. It was decided some time ago that the entire appellation would be organically grown by 2025. This has now been confirmed. In 2025, it will be mandatory to be organically certified to be allowed to sell wines as Penedès DO. Penedès will thus become the first geographical designation of origin to enter this into the regulations. Currently, roughly 60% of Penedès wines are certified. If a producer does not want to go organic, selling the wines as DO Catalunya is always possible. Or, for sparkling wines, the option could be cava as well.

Etna, a future DOCG?

The red wines from Etna DOC have taken the wine world by storm in recent years. The elegant and flavourful nerello mascalese grape from the mighty and very active volcano is an exciting new acquaintance. Etna is now so famous that vineyard prices have risen radically compared to other Sicilian wine regions. For many wine drinkers, Etna is synonymous with Sicily. Thanks to all this, the producers at Etna now think they deserve a DOCG, Italy’s highest classification. They have applied, and it is believed that processing will take around two years. Etna received its DOC in 1968, the first on the island. Sicily currently has only one DOCG. The relatively unknown Cerasuaolo di Vittoria wine is made from frappato and nero d’avola grapes.

Today, there are around 75 different DOCGs in Italy. G stands for guaranteed (garantita). Sometimes, the DOCGs have somewhat stricter rules than the DOCs. It is not always easy to understand why specific wine regions are upgraded to DOCG. It is often about having a long tradition in the area. Many DOCGs are extensive, such as Chianti DOCG, with prices ranging from a few euros to several 100 euros. DOCG should be seen as a designation of origin, just like DOC, rather than a quality designation. But it is the highest designation, so, of course, Etna wants it. Read more: decanter

Try these three rare grape varieties from Chile, Spain, and Savoie

We have tasted some rare grape varieties recently when we were on a wine tasting tour around the country. We want to share this experience with you and recommend a few wines. Maybe you will not find precisely these wines in your store, but look for the grapes.

Spain: Joaquin Rebolledo, Godello, 2021, Galicia, ~12 euro. Godello is an important white grape in Galicia. The family was among the first to rediscover this old local grape over 40 years ago. After a short skin contact and a cool fermentation the wine is kept on the lees before bottling. The wine gives intense aromas of fruits such as apricot and peach, a slightly oily structure in the mouth, and good freshness. Smoothness and ripe fruit emerge in the finish.

Chile: País Viejo 2022, Viña Bouchon, Maule, ~12 euro. País, a red grape, is the original grape in Chile, brought there by the Spanish in the 16th century. We also find it today in the Canary Islands. The grape is well adapted to the hot region of Maule, and the vineyards are managed without irrigation. The wine spontaneously ferments for two weeks in a concrete tank and rests for a while in stainless steel tanks. Light in colour with lots of fruit, raspberries, and strawberries with dried herbs at the end that give a bit of a structure. Juicy and delicious. A typical país.

Savoie, France: Arbin Mondeuse Avalanche 2020, Fabien Trosset, Savoie, ~16 euro. Since 2011, Fabien and his partner Chloé Gobet have been running this 25-hectare estate focusing on the local and rare mondeuse grape, which grows in red and fertile clay. The vines are 50 years old. 50% of the bunches of grapes are de-stemmed, and 50% are placed whole-bunch in the fermentation tank. This way, the fruit is accentuated, and the grape’s tannins are softened. The wine rests in stainless steel tanks before bottling. Lovely aromas of violets, warm spices, black pepper, red berries, and black currants, quite full-bodied with the tannins rounded off.

A big and rather late harvest in Napa Valley and elsewhere in California

The grapes are still fermenting in some cellars in Napa Valley. The harvest this year was unusually late. The growing season started late, and flowering was 2-3 weeks later than usual, which meant the harvest started late and continued well into November. It has rained a lot this year, approximately 1200 mm, a relief for the growers, considering the drought of recent years. It has even been possible to reduce irrigation and rely on the rain.

The harvest volume is estimated to be 15–20% greater than average. The grapes were extraordinary and healthy, with excellent acidity thanks to slightly cooler temperatures and an even and long ripening. Probably 2023 is an exceptional vintage in the making. Read more: winebusiness

France revives its cork oak forests

The fact that France has extensive oak forests is widely known, oak used for all the barrels. But France also has cork oaks. Once upon a time, there was a thriving industry around products from the cork oak. Today, Portugal is the dominant cork producer in the world. In France, cork production fell almost into oblivion, and the knowledge of caring for the trees and harvesting the bark disappeared. But now the forests are beginning to be used professionally again, partly with the help of the French company Diam Bouchage, known for its agglomerated corks, which are guaranteed to be free from TCA that causes cork damage. Since 2012, Diam has sold 40 million corks made with French cork. And there will be more. In total, Diam sells 2.3 billion corks a year.

The French cork oak forests are mainly found in Roussillon, western Provence (Var department) and in Corsica but also in Gascony, just south-east of Bordeaux. Here, we find the conditions needed for the discerning tree that cannot tolerate limestone and wants plenty of light, heat, and humidity. Reviving the cork industry is, among other things, an ecological investment for France. Cork is a natural and recyclable material and is interesting in the fight against forest fires. Cork forests act as firebreaks and prevent fires from spreading. The trees do burn but are protected by their bark and do not die. Read more: institutduliege

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.

Beaujolais Nouveau 2023 from Jean Foillard, a good choice

The release of beaujolais nouveau used to be a big event, the third Thursday in November. The very first chance to try this year’s wine. Today, it has lost some of its lustre, which is perhaps a good thing. That leaves more room for more ambitiously made Beaujolais. We found Beaujolais Nouveau 2023 from Jean Foillard in our cheese shop in Paris (and it happens to be one of the “bojo” nouveaux launched at Systembolaget in Sweden but probably widely available in other countries too). We bought a bottle, and sure enough, this famous wine producer makes a very “serious” nouveau, quite different from many others and definitely worth drinking.

Read more in Per’s article on BKWine Magazine: Beaujolais Nouveau 2023 from Jean Foillard, a good choice.

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!

Experience harvest time in February in South Africa | wine tour

Booking deadline extended! Book now!

Urgent, if you want to book on this fantastic wine tour experience!

South Africa has a delightful climate, not least in February when it is time for our wine tour. The weather is pleasantly warm but never too warm. The vines thrive, and the grapes can be picked at a full ripeness but still with a good freshness. The harvest starts in February, so the activities in the vineyards and wine cellars are at full speed. It’s a fun time to visit a wine region. The growers are full of confidence for the 2024 harvest. After the drought a few years ago, it has now appropriately rained, and the dams are full of water. During our ten days in South Africa, we will have time to see a part of the approximately 90,000 hectares of vineyards. We visit some of the most important regions, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Walker Bay, Elgin, and Swartland. All have their special character and specialty. They increasingly take advantage of what different terroirs give to the wine.

We start the journey in Cape Town. Of course, we can add, because you don’t want to miss this beautiful city. In South Africa, you will discover a wine country with great variety. White wines from chenin blanc, chardonnay, and others have distinct characters. Red wines include refreshing cinsault, structured cabernet sauvignon, spicy pinotage, and more. A new generation of ambitious winegrowers is transforming the South African wine industry.

There are still a few places left on the wine tour to South Africa in February.

Discover South Africa, the fantastic wine country, with us.

Book now!

More inspiration: You can get an even better feeling for what you will experience on this tour if you visit the latest tour’s own Facebook group. Lots of pictures and videos from the tour (join the group and you’ll get an update when we post new contents): The wine tour to South Africa 2023.

New Zealand, mountains, and sea in this spectacular and different wine country | wine tour

Booking deadline extended! Book now!

Urgent, if you want to book on this fantastic wine tour experience!

Mountains and sea are two things that sum up New Zealand well. And when it comes to viticulture, it is above all the sea. Most wine regions are located by the sea, on the country’s eastern side. It doesn’t rain as much here as on the west coast. The wine regions can be found on both the North Island and the South Island, and we visit both islands, a must to get a good idea of New Zealand as a wine country. It will be an enjoyable boat trip between the islands.

We try a lot of wine, eat good food, mussels, crayfish, lamb of course, and other delicious specialities, and there will be time for sightseeing too, picturesque villages, a boat trip on glacial lake, geysers and other geothermal phenomena, introduction to Maori culture, visit to the beautiful capital Wellington and more. Among the wine regions we visit are Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough, Wairarapa, and Central Otago, spectacularly situated and surrounded by mountains.

There are still a few places left on this exceptional wine tour to New Zealand in March.

Join us for a great wine, nature and culture experience on the New Zealand wine tour.

Book now!

More inspiration: You can get an even better feeling for what you will experience on this tour if you visit the latest tour’s own Facebook group. Lots of pictures and videos from the tour (join the group and you’ll get an update when we post new contents): The wine tour to New Zealand 2020.

Learn all about champagne on site, in Champagne | the wine tour to Champagne

Of course, champagne feels the competition from other sparkling wines around the world, but the strong brand that champagne has is worth its weight in gold. But that doesn’t mean you rest on your laurels. There is always something new going on in Champagne. The climate has become a little warmer, the grapes ripen better, which means some changes in taste, so far for the better, most people think. We will hear more about this on site, in Champagne, and much more.

The dates for the fall tour in 2024 will be finalised soon. Contact us now to be the first to know.

Until then, here’s the program of this year.

And also: We have written an internationally award-winning book on Champagne, so you can hardly get a better guide to the region.

Champagne and Bordeaux, a luxurious combination of France’s most famous wine regions | wine tour

Champagne and Bordeaux, prestige, and glamour, but also hard-working producers aiming to make the best possible wines. This is a chance to see both of these highly regarded wine regions on a 9-day wine tour, where you will meet growers and chateau owners eager to share their passion for wines with you. We start in Reims for three days of champagne immersion. We will show you big champagne houses and smaller growers, and we will taste, compare, and enjoy fabulous lunches. We continue to Bordeaux on the high-speed train. Bordeaux is one of the most beautiful cities in France, and you will enjoy staying here for four nights. Our visits to the chateaux will include the regions of Médoc, Graves, Saint Emilion and Entre-deux-Mers. Our lunches at the chateaux are unforgettable.

The dates for the fall tour in 2024 will be finalised soon. Contact us now to be the first to know.

Until then, here’s the program of this year.

PS: We have written an internationally award-winning book about Champagne, and also one on Bordeaux. And nine other wine books. Can you think of any other wine tour operator with that in the baggage?

A reference in the world of wine that never goes out of style | the wine tour to Bordeaux

Bordeaux is a reference in the world of wine, loved and copied. But consumer tastes are changing and while a classic Bordeaux never goes out of style, things are happening in this most famous wine region of France. Many Bordeaux wines today are made to be drunk earlier. You don’t have to have a wine cellar to be able to enjoy good bordeaux. We will taste many different styles of bordeaux, easy-drinking as well as top quality prestige. We visit the big and famous châteaux but also the small family-owned estates where we meet the people making the wines. Bordeaux is big, powerful and exciting. Come and get to know Médoc, Graves, Saint Emilion and Entre-deux-Mers. Enjoy fantastic chateau lunches and high-class wines.

Join us on a fantastic wine tour to Bordeaux.

The dates for the fall tour in 2024 will be finalised soon. Contact us now to be the first to know.

Until then, here’s the program of this year.

PS: We have written a book about Bordeaux, and have been travelling there since 1986. Can you find a better guide and tour operator?

Chile and Argentina, a thriving wine culture | the South America wine tour

Argentina and Chile are two exciting wine countries. On this tour, we explore the wine culture that exists in these countries. It has a longer history than you might think. They make wine here since before vineyards spread across the Medoc in Bordeaux. Today, the create wines with a lot of personality, while continuing to refine which grape variety is best suited to grow where. They push the limits of viticulture and venture to high altitudes (in Argentina) and far south (in Chile) in search of slightly cooler climates. We visit some of our favourites in Mendoza, Argentina, the district that accounts for 70 percent of the country’s wine production. In Chile, we will go to Maipo and Colchagua and we will also reach the Pacific coast and visit the wine districts of Casablanca and San Antonio and the amazing city of Valparaiso. Another highlight of the trip is the bus trip over the Andes. Unforgettable. We also manage to visit the big cities of Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile.

Come with us and discover the wine countries of Chile and Argentina.

More inspiration: You can get an even better feeling for what you will experience on this tour if you visit the latest tour’s own Facebook group. Lots of pictures and videos from the tour (join the group and you’ll get an update when we post new contents): The wine tour to Chile and Argentina 2023.

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