BKWine Brief nr 250, June 2024

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Wine – a question of style

“What is your favourite wine (or favourite region)?” I get asked this a lot, and it is an impossible question to answer. The last time someone asked, I realised a little later that I could have answered: “…but sometimes, I want a certain style of wine.” Somewhat vague, of course. I don’t have a favourite style, any more than a favourite wine or a favourite region. How could I? It feels single-minded in a wine world, which is anything but.

Even so, there are wine styles I like better than others right now, maybe because it’s summer. I am thinking of light red wines that are refreshingly fruity, juicy and easy-drinking. And it’s not just me. These wines are flying off the store shelves. Wines with great “drinkability” (buvabilité), as they say here in France. It may be a strange way of talking about wine, but it has become an accepted expression for wine that easily flows down the throat and that one is happy to drink more of. It’s not a style that suits everyone and not for every occasion, but I sometimes wish I had more of it in our cellar.

Grape varieties suitable for this lighter style of reds have thus also seen a surge in popularity, such as cinsault, grenache, the Chilean grape país and even the somewhat obscure Loire grape pineau d’aunis. But any grape will work. Even in Bordeaux, they make wines with great “drinkability”. We have tasted several easy-going cabernet sauvignons. Not to mention Cahors, which can produce wines far from the reputation of “the black wine”, refreshing and fruity. (This underlines the question whether “typicity” is a quality factor or even important. Is it a requirement to be typical to be of good quality? – more on this another time.)

A grape can thus have many styles. Aromatic white wines may appear to be summer wines. An intense nose can handle the competition from a fragrant garden. But there can be too much tropical fruit, as in some sumptuous sauvignon blanc, for example. Winemaker Niki Moser in Austria’s Kremstal dramatically said on our visit there last year, “I hate sauvignon blanc when it screams out its grape character” (read more in our article on Viticulture Moser). Seconds later, he served us a different version of sauvignon blanc, a wine with skin contact, a slight oxidation, and a few months in oak barrels (but not at all “orange”). You can do many things to change the style of a grape if you want.

Then there are grape varieties with an inherent mouthfeel, such as timorasso, roussanne, chenin blanc, sémillon and more. They produce wines with structure and (usually) without tropical fruit. Instead, they might have more of a “French fruit salad”, as Jacques Lurton in Bordeaux called it when we tasted his sémillon (article coming soon about my encounter with Jacques).

Wine styles have their fashion moments. Full-bodied, powerful, heavily oaked reds used to be fashionable, but not any longer. Now, fashion says elegant red wines with finesse, aged in stainless-steel tank or amphora. At least, that is what the experts say. But that does not prevent the oaky and powerful style from refusing to go away. Because there are many customers and producers who like the style and have not “understood” that it is out of fashion. Just because wine writers and sommeliers say something is trendy and modern, it is not necessarily what all consumers want.

So, what do you say? Do you have a favourite wine? A favourite district? Or perhaps a favourite style?

This is BKWine Brief number 250, a quarter of a thousand newsletters. Who would have thought it would arrive at that? Not us anyway. “The Brief” (some call it The Wine Brief) celebrated its twentieth anniversary last year. The first Brief was published in May 2003. Unfortunately, the anniversary passed a little too discreetly. Since then, we have published one newsletter every month, without missing a single month. We have also filled BKWine Magazine with articles and notices so that it is maybe one of the most well-filled and fact-packed wine site.

But we can even go back a bit further than 2003. Already in 1996, we started a site – home page, as it was called back then – about wine. Sweden’s first website about wine! BKWine Magazine a wine site with tradition.

Before that, we had a printed newsletter called VinNytt (WineNews).

Not only that. If you have an interest in wine tours, you can hardly find anyone who has more experience and can give you more knowledge and more fantastic experiences on a wine tour than BKWine. We organised our first wine tour back in 1986 and have since made many hundreds of wine tours.

Remember to visit BKWine Magazine online often this summer. We will be posting lots of extra reading in July.

Wine tours

If you want to join us on some really great and extraordinary adventures – once in a life-time wine tours – you can join us next winter on the extended Southern Hemisphere Tours: Chile-Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand.

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.

Wine editors to the national encyclopedia, Forbes.com contributors, award-winning wine book authors, wine tour advisors to the UN and national wine organisations, wine judges … and, above all, passionate wine travellers.

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.

Buying wine directly from the winery is finally becoming a reality in Sweden (probably)

We can hardly believe it, but sales of alcoholic beverages directly from the producer are several steps closer to being a reality in Sweden. This country has a die-hard alcohol monopoly, so this is big news. It is also a country with a budding wine industry and many microbreweries. But they cannot (yet) sell what they produce directly to their visitors. All sales have to go through the Systembolaget, the monopoly store.

The government has now put forward a proposal, and the prime minister hopes that the new law will enter into force in the first half of 2025. A few hurdles remain to be overcome. The Swedish Riksdag (the parliament) must approve the proposal, which will also be sent for approval to the EU Commission (one can assume that the government has already gauged the situation with the EU).

The government says the proposal protects Systembolaget’s monopoly. Restrictions apply to purchases directly from the farm. You can only buy in connection with a paid visit, and the amount you can buy is limited: 0.7 litres of spirits and 3 litres of wine, beer, and other fermented drinks.

Both spirits, beer, cider, and wine are included in the proposal, but as this is about helping small farmers only producers with a relatively small production ad included in the proposal. If you make spirits, a production of no more than 75,000 litres applies. You may produce 400,000 litres of fermented beverages up to 10% alcohol (such as beer and cider) and 200,000 litres of fermented beverages over 10%. Most wines are in this category, and with this amount, all wine producers in Sweden today should be able to meet the limit. For vineyards, the requirement is that the grapes are grown on-site. Some of the biggest makers of spirits and beer will probably be excluded due to these limits.

Exporting wine brings in a lot of money – to some countries, at least

French wine exports brought 11.9 billion euros to the country in 2023 (and over 18 billion if we add spirits), soaring above other agricultural products. Not surprisingly, France is the country in the world that earns the most from its wine exports, followed by Italy with 7.7 billion euros and Spain with 2.9 billion. These three EU countries accounted for 63% of total global export value in 2023, with Chile in fourth place and Australia in fifth.

Bottled wine accounted for 53% of exported volumes globally in 2023 and 67% of the world’s total wine export value. This category has decreased by 9% in volume and 6% in value compared to 2022. The average export price in 2023 was 4.7 euros per litre, a high average price; it is expensive wines that are exported, and this is without including sparkling wines (e.g. champagne). The sparkling wines have their own category in the statistics, and their average export price was 8.2 euros/litre, an increase of 4% from 2022. (Champagne is very far above other sparkling wines.) Bubbles represent 11% of the total exported volume and 25% of the export value.

Bulk wine exports are the second largest category by volume. Despite representing 33% of the world’s total wine volume exports in 2023, bulk wine accounted for only 7% of the total value. The average export price was 0.7 euro/l, a decrease of 7% from 2022. It is interesting to compare the three major wine countries: Of France’s exports, 9% are bulk wine, of Italy’s, 19%, and of Spain, 57%. Read more (pdf): OIV

Wine up to 8% is now sold in Finnish grocery stores

As of June 5, Finland, which has an alcohol state monopoly, allows the sale of wine up to 8% alcohol in grocery stores (previously 5.5% was the limit). A certain loosening up of the monopoly, but whether this is a step toward abolishing it is difficult to say. Probably not.

“No queues, no crowds”, wrote Hufvudstadsbladet, a Helsinki daily, on the first day of this new regime, which is understandable. What kind of wines do you get with 8 % of alcohol? You will get a German Kabinett, and although it can be of good quality, at that alcohol level it will be sweet. Or you can get a partly de-alcoholised wine, which will probably be drier but not totally dry. Some of the wines now filling the Finnish grocery stores are from the large Anora Group (formerly Altia), which has developed an extensive portfolio of low-alcohol wines. We spoke with Inka Vettenranta, head of communications at Anora, and she says that they have wines with different taste profiles, from sweeter to drier. However, she adds, “that in the majority of 8% wines there is slightly higher level of sugar compared to the same product with a higher alcohol content.” The majority of the wines in Finnish grocery stores are probably de-alcoholised wines, i.e. made with advanced technology, and with a lot of residual sweetness. Some analysts worry that this development will push Finnish wine consumption even more towards industrially mass-produced wines and away from quality wines from smaller producers. Anyhow, we will follow the development in Finland with interest hoping that it may be a first step not only towards de-alcoholisation but also to de-monopolisation.

The rosé wine season is here, but what determines the colour?

A lot of rosé wine is being drunk right now. Maybe you are sitting with one in your hand. Although Provence has influenced many rosé wines worldwide with its sometimes absurdly light colour, the colour variation of rosé wines is quite significant. Rosé wine is made with red grapes and the colour is controlled by letting the grape must have shorter or longer contact with the skins. It is not trivial to make rosé wine; on the contrary, many winemakers have pointed out to us that it is a complicated wine to make. It is essential to get the colour right because it is the colour (!!) that decides whether the customer buys the wine. Today’s rosé wines of good quality are usually made using one of these two methods:

Direct pressing: The grapes (de-stemmed or not) are put in the press and pressed carefully and slowly. The skins only give a light colour to the must during the pressing, which is then left to ferment without the skins. If you want to make a really light rosé (or simply a white wine made from red grapes), you use this method.

Skin contact: The grapes are lightly crushed so that the skin cracks. The skins (i.e. the grapes) are kept with the must for a few hours; how long depends on what colour you want. It could be between 2 and 20 hours at a temperature of around 10-12 degrees C. When you have the right colour, you collect the free-run juice, and the grapes are pressed. The free run must then ferments, possibly with the pressed juice and usually at a fairly low temperature, 15–20 degrees C. A special variant, today quite unusual, is the so-called saignée (French for bleeding or bloodletting) where, early during fermentation, some must that has only become slightly coloured is drained from a tank that is to become red wine. Thus, the amount of time the must spends with the skins is of great importance for the colour, and also which grape is used has an effect. Read more: How do you make rosé? Facts and fails.

The organic vineyards in France increased in 2023 despite challenging weather and diseases

The organic vineyard area in France is not increasing as much as it used to, but it is still growing. The important thing is that not many organic producers sacrifice their certification despite, in some places, great difficulties with diseases in the vineyard. The wine sector in France now has 22% of its surface organic, which is much higher than the national average for the entire agricultural sector, which is 10.4%. The largest organic wine region is Occitanie, which includes Languedoc-Roussillon, with 34% of the country’s organic vineyards. Interestingly, organic wines in France are not sold in supermarkets to the same extent as other wines. Only 19% of the sale of organic wines takes place there, compared to 24% in wine shops and 48% directly at the producers’. Read more: agencebio

Read: Read more on biodynamic wines in BKWine’s book Organic, Biodynamic and Natural winemaking.

Fungal disease attacks fungus-resistant grapes, a setback for environmentally friendly grapes?

Observations made in the departments of Gard and Vaucluse in southern France show a high level of symptoms of downy mildew, a severe fungal disease, on several supposedly fungus-resistant grape varieties, sometimes called piwi grapes. Is this a setback for the environmentally friendly fungus-resistant grapes? It doesn’t have to be. This year, many vineyards in France have experienced severe attacks of downy mildew, and virtually none of the fungus-resistant grapes available on the market are 100% resistant. Analysis is now being done to ensure that downy mildew has not found a way to bypass the resistance of these grapes, which would, of course, be more serious.

In the affected vineyards, the IFV, Institut Français de la Vigne et du Vin, recommends that the winegrowers protect the fungus-resistant vines by spraying in the same way as they protect their non-resistant grapes, as long as the risk of infection is this high (recommended even without these attacks). Fungus-resistant grapes (piwi) are crosses between European and American vines. The American ones are resistant to downy mildew and oidium, two fungal diseases that came from the US to Europe in the 1800s and have since caused problems for winegrowers here. The crossings, which are called “hybrids” because they are crossings between two different families, the European (Vitis vinifera) and the American vine (Vitis something-else) have enough European “blood” in them to give a pleasant flavour profile, but this means that they may lose a little bit of their resistance. Read more vitisphere

Blending vintages, yes, why not – they do it in California

There is nothing that says a wine must be a vintage wine. “Vintage wine” isn’t necessarily a quality label. But we have gotten used to it and might feel a little lost if we suddenly don’t find a year stated on the label of our Bordeaux for the evening. Apart from champagne, fortified wines, and some cheap wines, it is customary to put the year on the label. However, there can be advantages to blending several vintages. And there is more and more talk about this, not least in California. A grower in the Santa Cruz Mountains, for example, has a solera with ten vintages. With this, he says, he can offer a wine with a specific mature character. Difficult weather conditions – frost, fires, droughts, floods – can lead to smaller volumes better saved for the following year and blended into a larger volume. A cold year can be too acidic but suitable to blend with the following year’s ripe harvest. The wine will have better balance, and you can more easily blend it with the taste and character you want. By and large, that is precisely what they do in Champagne. We know some French producers who have long been making excellent red and white wines without a specific year, such as Domaine Le Soula in Roussillon, created by the star winemaker Gérard Gauby. Trigone Blanc is made from five different vintages; the older vintages are kept in tank and in new and old oak. They want a little oxidation in this superb wine. Read more: wineenthusiast

Full-bodied whites (!) for the summer barbecue

It doesn’t have to be red wine in the glass if you are having grilled meat on the barbecue for dinner. Especially not if you choose a white with a rich structure. Grape varieties such as gros manseng and petit manseng, roussanne, sémillon and timorasso are excellent. Some recommendations:

Evidencia, 2021, Clos Lapeyre, Jurançon Sec, ~ 25 euro

Grapes: Gros manseng, petit manseng, courbu

Les Terrasses 2022, André et Michel Quenard, Chignin Bergeron, Savoie, ~20 euro

Grape : Roussanne

Derthona La Colombera, 2022, Colli Tortonesi, Piemonte, 92706, ~25 euro

Grape : Timorasso

Semillon 2022, Mendel, Mendoza, Argentina. 95012, ~18 euro

Grape : Sémillon

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.

High-level wines at high altitude from Catena Zapata and Adrianna Vineyards in Mendoza

Adrianna Vineyards is a separate line of wines produced by Catena Zapata in Mendoza, Argentina. The Andes stretch up to the highest peak, Aconcagua, at almost 7,000 meters. The vineyard is located a good way up the mountain slope, at an altitude of almost 1,500 meters. BKWine Magazine’s reporter Anders Åhlén met Adrianna Zapata some time ago and tasted some of the wines from this prestigious collection and also some other wines from Catena Zapata’s range.

Read more in Anders Åhlén’s article on BKWine Magazine: High-level wines at high altitude from Catena Zapata and Adrianna Vineyards in Mendoza.

Travel: Come on a wine tour to Chile and Argentina with BKWine. 2025 tour soon to be launched.

See: See pictures and videos from Chile and Argentina in the wine tours Facebook group.

A crazy (?) good wine from Mallorca, Lo Foll

Lo Foll is the latest wine from the Mallorcan producer Terra de Falanis whose owners also make the AN and AN/2 wines at the Anima Negra winery. It is a lighter wine with less barrel character than AN/2. More easy-drinking, laid-back. And some ten euro cheaper than AN/2, but it doesn’t taste cheaper, just different.

Read more in Anders Åhlén’s article on BKWine Magazine: A crazy (?) good wine from Mallorca, Lo Foll

BKWine Tastes: Exciting natural wines from Edouard Adam, Domaine Mada, in the Languedoc

Sometimes we come across wines that are both unexpected and exciting. We have tried two wines from a small estate in the Languedoc called Domaine Mada. It is run by Edouard Adam (the property is thus named after himself – backwards) a young and talented winemaker who set up here, near Gignac, in 2017. His wines are undoubtedly natural wines; he works without additives and the wines have a strong personal character.

Read more in Britt’s article on BKWine Magazine: BKWine Tastes: Exciting natural wines from Edouard Adam, Domaine Mada, in the Languedoc.

Vitikultur Moser: Austrian wines with a personal touch from organic and biodynamic pioneer | Britt on Forbes

Vitikultur Moser’s wines are a brilliant illustration of that “gruner”, or just GV, can be both classic and surprising and different. BKWine Magazine’s Britt went to Austria to meet Niki and taste the wines. As a bonus she discovered that there is much more to Austrian wines than gruner veltliner, not least when they come from Vitikultur Moser.

Read more in Britt’s article on BKWine Magazine, originally published on Forbes: Vitikultur Moser: Austrian wines with a personal touch from organic and biodynamic pioneer | Britt on Forbes.

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!

Chile and Argentina, two unforgettable wine countries | wine tour

Our South America tour in January is an unforgettable tour to the two biggest wine producers in South America, Argentina and Chile. We visit a big number of producers, have fantastic lunches and have time for a bit of sightseeing. We will get to know the wines but also the gastronomy, the landscape, the big cities – Buenos Aires, Santiago, Mendoza, Valparaiso – and smaller towns like Santa Cruz in the beautiful Colchagua Valley in Chile and Viña del Mar on the coast. Our tour also includes a breathtaking bus trip across the Andes as we make our way from Argentina to Chile.

Every day offers new experiences and new wine styles. Maybe you will find a favourite (or maybe you will like everything). A carmenère from Chile or a malbec from Mendoza? Or perhaps a pinot noir or a sauvignon blanc from Chile’s coastal district where the Pacific Ocean influences with its cool winds. The ambition is palpable today in both Chile and Argentina. The quality potential is not yet fully explored. The wine industry is in an exciting phase. In between our wine visits, we enjoy magnificent nature, relax by the pool, drink pisco sour, taste the world-famous meat.

Join us for a great wine, nature, and culture experience on the wine tour in Argentina and Chile.

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.

South Africa: Discover the great transformation up close | wine tour

In South Africa, the vineyard landscape spans roughly 100,000 hectares (240,000 acres). This expanse has remained rather consistent, yet something of a revolution has happened in the vineyards the last 20 years. Where once the majority of grapes were destined for brandy through distillation, today’s focus is on vinification for making wine. Our tour across South Africa’s wine country will reveal this transformation firsthand.

The wine producers today are innovative and they are crafting wines that are not only delicious but also exciting. The diversity in grape varieties is astounding; under the South African sun many different varieties thrive. The result is a treasure trove of wine styles. It is easy to find a style that pair well with the local cuisine, for instance spicy Cape Malay dishes such as samosa and bobotie. We will meet in Cape Town and we will visit the wine regions of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Walker Bay, Elgin, Swartland and Tulbagh. Join us on this incredible tour.

Discover South Africa, the fantastic wine country, with us on this fabulous 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 South Africa 2024.

The wine tour that is a road trip and an adventure | wine tour to New Zealand

Two words describe perfectly our wine tour in New Zealand. Road trip and adventure. During 16 days we will get to know several of the New Zealand wine regions. Our comfortable coach will take us from Auckland on the North Island down to Queenstown on the South Island. We will do many stops, to visit wine producers (approx. 19 in total), taste their wines, have lovely lunches, learn about Māori culture, see the geysers and other geothermal wonders and, of course, enjoy the landscape in this magnificent country, far away from everything. And rest assure, New Zealand is not all about sauvignon blanc. On the contrary, we will taste so many other grape varieties and both white and red wines. And some sparkling.

Come with us to New Zealand for a wine adventure!

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 2024.

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