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BKWine Brief nr 66, January 2009

BKWine bigger than Wine Spectator? Well, it depends how you count. We were surprised recently when we saw that BKWine TV had more viewers than WineSpectatorVideo on YouTube: 4796 against 4290. Fun! We actually have more than 70 video clips today, the most recent being a mini-series with a biodynamic grower in the Rhône valley, and we have some 250 video views per day (our site, bkwine.com, has around a thousand visitors per day). Read more on this below.

What kind of year will 2009 be? It’s started in a bit of a gloomy mood, with the credit crunch and North Pole weather in Paris. It can be a good idea to cheer up with a nice bottle of wine. And our ambition is to help you find them (without having to break your credit limit).

We, Britt, Per and Jack, our correspondent reporter in Stockholm, sat down (virtually) and tried to pin down what we think will be some wine trends the coming year. Here’s our list:

France will slowly edge towards a more market orientated wine production – in view of coming winery bankruptcies, classification debacles, export market share losses etc some winemakers will catch on and make an effort to think about what the market and the customers want. (“we make our wine and then the courtier deals with the contact with the negociants and we deliver the wine. We never deal with the market ourselves”, today a common thing to hear at top Bordeaux chateau, less so in the future)

The rule of oak will fall, fruit will make inroads – producers will focus more on emphasising the fruit in the wine and will avoid flavouring them too much with oak (barrels, planks, or chips). Both for red and white, and in particular chardonnay.

Residual sugar levels will go up – primarily in “simple” wines where producers will keep more sugar in the finished wine to make it easier to drink (more populist if you wish).

Luxury wines face difficult times – top Bordeaux, luxury champagne cuvees, the rarest burgundies and Californians (et al.) will not sell their wines so easily. Will prices plummet?

Environmental concerns – firstly, organic wines will win market shares, and no doubt also biodynamic, since the difference between the two is not well understood neither by consumers, nor by journalists and other wine people. Secondly, wine producers will focus on reducing the environmental impact of wine growing and wine making.

More local grape varieties – big interest in other grape varieties than “the international” ones. If you’re not yet familiar with alvarinho, vermentino, alforcheiro, xinomavro, antao vaz, petit manseng, negrette, fer servadou etc you will soon be.

What about low-alcohol wines? – We’re doubtful. It is difficult (impossible) to make wine with less than a certain level of alcohol (“the only way to make a decent Bordeaux with less than 12% is to mix the wine with water” as one producer said). You do actually need to have ripe grapes. But there is the possibility that there will be a slight shift in demand – less Priorat, less Amarone, less body-building Californians (no, this is not a political opinion) and Aussies – and more northern wines perhaps. A boom for German wines? Hardly. (And, by the way, unfortunately.)

If you have any comments, do send us an email or post in the blog.

Britt & Per

PS: Recommend to your friends to read the Brief or forward it to them !

This post is also available in: Swedish

One Response to BKWine Brief nr 66, January 2009

  1. Per and Britt February 4, 2009 at 18:34 #

    Here’s a comment that a reader sent us by email:

    —-

    As you request reactions to be forwarded to you, here I go.

    First of all, the Wine Spectator rivalry! Good job to be ahead of them Yankees, but what a joke. Here’s a saying I like: “The majority of people are idiots. The minority as well, but they are less numerous!”. This is meant as wit.

    Second issue: I hope my short notes or letters will demonstrate that not all winemakers in France are unable to read, speak or write in decent English! True, I’m Flemish and no bloody Frenchman; true again, I’ve spent 3 years of my life with a lovely Scottish lady. Incidently, she makes organic goat cheese in the vicinity of Montauban now!

    Third issue, your list of trends in wine for the years to come, my main topic.

    Why did you sit down to pin down things? Is standing up no good?

    Market oriented wine production: the yin side is of course the ability to listen to the customers, and hence try to please them. Wine is meant to deliver pleasure, not to impose a stiff and rigid style. But the yang side: should one abandon one’s personality, one’s taste and preferences in order to sell goods, to “flog a product”? I think not. Where is the notion of typicity, appellation, terroir?

    Oak will fall, fruit will reign: you couldn’t make me happier if you were to be right! When still a journalist, I attended a few tastings held by Bobby Parker and I remember one in particular at Chateau Gazin (Pomerol) in the ’80 ies. We had over 80 samples (nonsense) and I was impressed by this man’s capacity to actually taste and analyze that many bottles. But, at the same time, all the wines he loved had consistently more oak than juice to offer. But here, as the French have it, “Je prie pour ma chapelle” because my humble personal production is packed with fruit and … I do not possess one single barrel.

    Residual sugar: you are right about this trend. The first reason herefore is the increased ripeness of our harvests (a good thing if you ask me). The second reason is the tendency in the whole food industry to edulcorate nutrients under the motto: crispness (syra in Swedish, as you pointed out to me) is no good, tenderness is super. I do NOT share this view: give me a German Riesling, please! Wonderful acidity, superb body, and sugar to match, not to cover up. You know large structures like, say, les Vignerons Catalans, systematically and openly edulcorate even their red wines to 6-8 gram per liter “because people like that”. I promise these wines taste OK during a panel, but will do poorly afterwards, with a meal.

    Luxury wines: no comment. If consumers are stupid enough to pay 50 € or more for a wine whose yield was at least 60 hl/ha and whose juice went through the process of reverse osmosis, I pity them. How much overheads do you pay in, say, a bottle of Château Latour (to just name one, without particular ill feelings), and how much actual wine?

    Environment: you are absolutely right, and so are the consumers. But bio “tout court” (organic) and biodynamic are not he same thing. I have written quite a few articles about Steiner and his folks in the past (in French and Flemish, unfortunately), and am still at war with some of his adepts in Belgium, who threatened to hassle me and break my windows. But, however dishonest some “organic people” are and however poor some of their wines, a more ecologic approach of vine-growing and of winemaking is needed. And some organic, or even biodynamic wines, are DELICIOUS.

    Local varieties: this trend is ongoing, and steady and … three cheers! Don’t forget old carignan (my little sweetheart) and macabeu (I have only very little of the latter myself, hence no prejudice).

    Low alcohol wine: it is very easy to make it (unripe grapes), but it does not taste good. It is also very easy to de-alcoholize wine, but it does not taste good.Here is a small calculation (I’m a MD by education, and took postgraduate courses in chemistry, so I qualify to address this topic):Half a bottle (40 cl to make things easy) is the amount a “solid” drinker will enjoy with his meal. If the wine be at 12 vol % alcohol, he will ingest 120 x 0,4 = 48 ml of pure ethanol, i.e. 38 gram of ethanol. If the wine be at 14 vol % alcohol, he will ingest 140 x 0,4 = 56 ml of pure ethanol, i.e. 44 gram of ethanol. If the wine be at 16 vol % alcohol, he will ingest 160 x 0,4 = 64 ml of pure ethanol, i.e. 51 gram of ethanol. One glass (33 cl) of normal European beer (I mean Belgian, German, Czech, Austrian, i.e. real ale) contains 13 gram of ethanol. So, half a bottle of “strong” red wine (Recciotto de la Valpolicella, Châteauneuf du Pape in a good year, Domaine de la Coume Majou, heehee! …) contains only the alcohol content of ONE glass of beer in excess of a very weak red wine (51 g – 38 g = 13 g). The difference between the 3 levels taken separately (12-14-16) is only half a glass of beer. Is this a big deal, both with respect to public health, and to driving ability? I say strongly: NO. This being said, I’m not an advocate of inebriation, think there should be ZERO-tolerance for drivers (not even the 0.5 gram/liter blood observed in some European countries), and never drive when I have drunk.

    Hope this will interest you, Luc Charlier, Domaine de la Coume Majou

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