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BKWine Brief nr 87, October 2010

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BKWine Brief

Please note: this newsletter has been imported to the archive from our old site. Formatting and images will not display correctly! Links will in many cases be outdated!

Harvest is soon over, but not quite yet. Some wine regions are still picking grapes and will continue into November. And even later for some sweet wines and of course for eiswein in Germany and Austria. In the South West of France the producers Les Vignerons de Plaimont tries every year to pick a few hectares of their Pacherenc de Vic-Bihl on December 31. Using various ruses they manage to save a few grapes from starving birds (that seems to be the biggest danger). The New Year’s Eve harvest gives grapes with a potential alcohol level of 19%. Not bad! They only get 5 hectolitres per hectare but the wine is silky smooth and honeyed. 

Yes, it is a bit of a show, this New Year harvest, but so what? Let’s not take wine too seriously. A producer we met last week said “wine is a serious beverage that you should not take too seriously”. Quite right. Keep that in mind when you meet dreary wine snobs.

2010 is an interesting year in France. they seem to have had virtually every conceivable unpleasant thing in the vineyards: cold weather, frost, heavy rain (and perhaps even cats and dogs), grey rot, coulure, oidium and mildew. Sorting tables have made good service and is an investment that will have paid off this year. Yields are often below average. But in most cases the quality is excellent, at least when the wine maker is competent. They will have to work a bit harder in the wine cellar perhaps. It is not every year that “the wine is only made in the vineyard”.

We have also had a new chapter in the French classification chaos. (In French they have an expression that is “C’est un bordel”, which does not mean what you think but rather that something is completely confused, or confusing, and disorganised.) The old Cru Bourgeois classification has resurfaced. Only this time it is not a classification but a “selection”. Unfortunately many people in France, and sometimes elsewhere, seem to think that if they create a new classification (or appellation) their wines will magically sell better. All too often it results in something that is incomprehensible for the consumers and that more seems to be designed to reinforce the positions of the established producers, or is a war of words with the neighbours. Other examples: the classification in Saint Emilion, the proposed Grand Cru (or was it Grand Vin? No, both!) in Languedoc, various obscure micro-appellations that no-one has heard about and never will, Chaume Premier Cru in the Loire Valley (do you remember? No, I didn’t think so) etc. We wish that the wine producers spent more effort making better wines and communicating with consumers, and less on hoping to sell more by creating smokescreens or word magic.

And finally, do take a look at next seasons wine tours. We will soon launch the program, but already in this Brief we give you a sneak peek on the “public” tour to Bordeaux trip that we have planned for the spring. (Do keep in mind that we also do private and custom made tours. This year we will have organised around 30 wine tours in total.) More info below.

And as a very last thing we cannot help mentioning that we will have something very exciting to tell you in the next Brief. Don’t miss it!

 

 

Britt & Per

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

More on wine:

bullet Guest writers on BKWine.com
bullet Wine videos: BKWine TV
bullet Wine photography

 

Wine Tours with BKWine
World’s Best Wine Tours” – Travel + Leisure Magazine, on TravelAndLeisure.com 

Wine Tour to Bordeaux with BKWine
For a wine lover a trip to Bordeaux is a must!

In Bordeaux you find world famous châteaux and world famous wines but also a lot of new exciting initiatives (less famous but maybe more important for the future of Bordeaux!) and young enthusiastic wine makers. On this trip we will visit both some big, famous Grand Cru Classé-châteaux and smaller ones that are less known, but very quality conscious. We will visit the well-known regions like Médoc and Saint-Emilion, but also rising-stars among the regions, like Entre-deux-Mers. We will learn about viticulture and vinification and after this trip you will know quite a lot about what’s going on in Bordeaux at the moment.

In all the chateaux we will get private tastings together with the people who are involved in the wine making and who are delighted to share with us their passion for fine wine. We avoid the usual big ‘tourist trap’ addresses and instead focus on the real people and the real wines. We will stay four nights in the city of Bordeaux, an elegant and very beautiful city of just over half a million people.

BKWine offers you two possibilities to go to Bordeaux this year

 

 

 

bullet April 13-17, 2011
bullet October 5-9, 2011

For more information please contact us on email or on phone (we’re on French time). Visit our video channel http://www.youtube.com/bkwine to meet some of the producers we visit.

Custom wine tours

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. We’ve done tours for wine clubs, for sommelier educations, for corporate events, for wine importers, for wine course study groups… just to mention a few.

You’ll get a tour designed exactly according to your requirements and tastes, made by one of the most experienced wine people in the business. We personally visit some 200 wineries and taste thousands of wines every year; we write on wine for various wine magazines (we had more than 30 articles published last year); in 2007 we published a ground breaking book on the wine of the Languedoc and in 2009 we published a book on vine growing and wine making – unique in its kind. And we have organised hundreds of wine tours over the years.

More info on the BKWine wine tours here!

Wine tours in Finnish

More info on the Finnish wine tours here: Viinimatkoja

Recommendations
A selection of what we have tried, tasted or visited recently. □  Producers 

Coffele, Soave, Italy

Soave is probably the most well-known white wine in Italy. The small and very pretty medieval town of Soave in situated in the region of Veneto, not far from Verona. In the town centre you will find a very interesting Soave-producer, Azienda Agricola Coffele, an estate that is run by Guiseppe Coffele, hans fru Giovanna Visco and their children Chiara and Alberto. In total the family has around 30 hectares of vineyards, mostly in Soave Classico but also in Valpolicella.

”Our aim is to make Soave more known for its quality wines”, says Chiara. “Too long the export market has considered Soave wines as simple, low quality wines.” If you want to know how a good quality Soave tastes, try the wines from Coffele. “Soave, in our opinion, should be a fresh and fruity wine with a lot of finesse, light in style instead of full-bodied. Their entry level Soave Classico 2009 is a very pleasant wine with floral aromas and some grapefruit in an easy-to-drink style. Ca’ Visco” Soave 2009 has a bit more body and Soave Alzari, with 100 % of garganega and 10 months of oak ageing, has a creamy structure, ripe fruit and a hint of vanilla. You’ll find finesse and elegance in all three wines.
Click here for address and more recommendations.

Read about more recommended producers on the site: Favourite Producers

□  Wine of the Month – Åsa’s Pick

Criteria: an interesting wine (not too cheap) and one that you can enjoy with dinner or friends (not too expensive). And very good!

Dolcetto d’Alba, Bric Trifula 2009, Cascina Luisin

This is an elegant food wine at a very reasonable budget: Dolcetto d’Alba from the excellent winery Cascina Luisin in Barbaresco in Piemonte. Roberto, the son and also the current winemaker, talks about his wines as if they were persons. We’ll do as he does.

If Bric Trifula had been a person he/she would be calm but elegant, someone who did not really feel any need to brag and talk loudly; instead someone who’s individual and surprising in a quite positive way, especially if you give him a little time to get to know her better. With just a touch of perfume. Qualities that make you want to meet again. Goes excellent with a meal of pasta, even or quite fat food. Costing around 7 euro. They don’t have a web site but here’s the email and contact details: Cascina Luisin. Strada Rabajà, 34 – 12050 Barbaresco, (CN) ph. 0039 (0)173 635154, fax 0039 (0) 173 635154. Email: cascinaluisin (at) tiscali.it

Read more recommendations on restaurants and wine bars on my Restaurant and Wine Bar page.

News from the Wine World
New Cru Bourgeois ”stamp” launched (1): new rules 

In the olden times there was something called the Cru Bourgeois classification in Médoc (Bordeaux). But then, in 2003, they decided to review and modernise the classification. But unfortunately they hit on some road bumps. Some, who were left out of the classification were unhappy and thought that the procedure had not been fair. Eventually, the courts seem to have agreed and the new Cru Bourgeois classification was annulled. Rest in peace Cru Bourgeois. But now Cru Bourgeois has come to life again. But this time it is not a classification – classification is a very official term in French wine regions – but a “selection”. There are many difference compared to the old classification system. The biggest change is no doubt that the label does not apply to a chateau, but for a single vintage from a specific chateau and will be awarded, as appropriate, each year. It is only producers in the eight Médoc appellations that will be eligible for the Cru Bourgeois label. The awarding process is in three steps: 1) The property and the vinification facilities will be inspected at regular intervals (spanning several years). 2) Each vintage will be assessed by a tasting committee that will evaluate the quality and style of each vintage. 3) The wine producers can then for each vintage (two years after the harvest) apply to receive the label Cru Bourgeois (CB). Those who apply will be tasted blind and if certain set minimum requirements are attained they will be give CB – for that particular wine/vintage.

In other words: A chateaux can one year make a Cru Bourgeois wine and the next fail to attain CB status. It is indeed an unusual procedure for a wine region. It more resembles a traditional wine competition like the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles or then International Wine Challenge than a classification. They award medals for a particular wine of a specific vintage. If we understand it right the chateau can only use CB on the label for a particular vintage.

 

New Cru Bourgeois ”stamp” launched (2): How will it work? Will it work? 

Will this be useful for the consumers? Very doubtful. On the other hand there are several questions: How will a wine consumer know if a wine (not a chateau) is CB or not? Will the producers be allowed to use “Cru Bourgeois” in their marketing communications, in spite of that they may not achieve CB every year? In practice it would mean that the chateaux can not write in e.g. their brochures that they are “Cru Bourgeois” since it varies from year to year… Or will the standards be set so low that everyone (who pays the fee to the Cru Bourgeois organisation) will be virtually guaranteed to pass? Let’s say that the Chateau Xyz during a few years fail to get the CB label (perhaps because they make a wine in a style that is not liked by the tasting panel) will they then simply stop paying the fees to the CB organisation? Quite likely. Or, as a consequence, will the tasting committee have a tendency to be ‘co-operative’ since if they are not they will loose members?…

There are many questions around the new Cru Bourgeois label (not classification!) and we will probably not have the answers until it has existed for quite a few years. But the initial impression is that it will hardly make it easier for the consumer. And that one is rather trying to profit (with or without reason) from a classification that was created in 1932 and that has been annulled by the courts.

Read more on www.crus-bourgeois.com

 

 

New Cru Bourgeois ”stamp” launched (3): and the winners in 2008 are…

The very first promotion of Cru Bourgeois labels have just been awarded – for the 2008 vintage. 290 chateaux were candidates but only 243 chateaux (84%) were passed the tests and the tasting. The whole list can be found on www.crus-bourgeois.com (but it is difficult to find and quite impossible to read – the site has a very slick design but is hopeless to navigate and information is difficult to find). 247 chateaux were in the 2003 Cru Bourgeois classification. Of those only 166 have the new CB stamp. The 243 chateaux who have been given the right to use the Cru Bourgeois denomination for the vintage 2008 (that label didn’t flow easily, did it?) represent all in all 44% of the 7200 hectares in the Médoc. In other words, CB is just under half of all the Medoc. According to their site they had 270 members in the “Alliance” (that’s what the organisation is called: l’Alliance Cru Bourgeois) in 2009. How that fits with the 290 candidates for the CB label we do not know. Have twenty already left the Alliance? What is your view on all this? Good or bad? If you’re a wine consumer or a wine producer, we’re interested in your view! More info www.crus-bourgeois.com

New Cru Bourgeois ”stamp” launched (4): Chateau la Tour de By renounces the Cru Bourgeois label

The first reaction among the producers to the new Cru Bourgeois label has come quickly. According to a press release from Chateau la Tour de By (www.la-tour-de-by.com) they have been give the Cru Bourgeois stamp for their 2008 vintage (and they were classified as Cru Bourgeois Supérieur in 2002) but they have decided to renounce from using it and have chosen to (at least temporarily) leave l’Alliance.

Frédéric Le Clerc, who runs the chateau since 2005, says that the Cru Bourgeois label “no longer corresponds to a real quality”. In his view, the new system pushes the wine producers to produce wines that do not reflect a traditional respect for terroir. Instead it benefits producers of exceptionally concentrated and oaked wines that are not typical for the Médoc region. He sees it as something that will push the wine towards a uniform international style. Chateau la Tour de By is indeed a property with a good reputation and that they renounce the new system is interesting. What will the reaction be from the other producers? Already earlier this year some other producers pulled out (www.decanter.com)

Cognac Renault acquired by Altia from Pernod Ricard for € 10 M

Cognac Renault is a brand that is mainly known on the Scandinavian market. Best known is the premium brand Renault Carte Noire, popularly called Black Renault. Altia Corporation, controlled by the Finnish state, has acquired the brand and some stock from Pernod Ricard for 10 million euro. (The acquisition is pending approval from authorities.) We are guessing that it is one of the brands that landed in the Pernod Ricard portfolio when they bought V&S Vin & Sprit from the Swedish government some years back. The main purpose of that acquisition was to get the control of Absolut Vodka. And that this sale is another step in cleaning up the portfolio from various brands and products that came with the acquisition. Altia has already previously taken of some such brands from Pernod Ricard. Read more www.decanter.com

French wine TV relocates to Luxemburg

Edonys is the cryptic name of a new television channel that will be entirely dedicated to programs about wine. The channel was created about a year ago by an entrepreneur who has specialised in creating very niche focused TV channels. But Edonys has now received a definitive “no” from the CSA (the French authority who supervises media and television. Trivia: the head of the CSA is also a vineyard owner): Edonys will not be allowed to carry advertising for wine. And without advertising the business will of course not be sustainable. Result: The channel will relocate to Luxemburg (currently they have their offices a stone’s throw from BKWine!), and will start transmitting from there. According to the Edonys management it poses no regulatory problem to locate the channel in Luxemburg and transmit to other EU countries (the CSA is of a different opinion). Vive l’UE! They expect to start transmitting programs early 2011. More info www.vitisphere.com

Food photography festival in Paris 29 Oct – 14 Nov

The International Festival of Culinary Photography (Festival International de la Photographie Culinaire) will take place for the second year in a row in Paris between Oct 29 and Nov 14. This year’s theme is “I went down in my garden”. Definitely and interesting destination if you happen to be in Paris in the coming weeks! More info http://www.festivalphotoculinaire.com/

The Chinese wine market: a specialists’ blog

Many wine producers are betting the future on the Chinese wine market these days. The export sales to most countries are weak, but China seems to have caught an appetite for wine. According to the latest figures, if they are correct, China is now the biggest export market for Bordeaux wine, ahead of the UK. For those who want to know more about China and about how wine is sold and understood in China there is now a very specialised blog in that very subject. It is written by a Chinese journalist living in France, Jia Peng, so it is in French, but with Google Translate most people will be able to understand the essentials: Le Marché du Vin en Chine.

Organic products grow with 50% at the Swedish alcohol monopoly

Systembolaget, Sweden’s retail monopoly for alcohol, reports an increase in sales of 50% for organic products, including wine, for the third quarter 2010 compared to Q3-09. What the increase is for wine only is not reported. The total market share of organic products at the retail monopoly is 3%. Systembolaget carries 117 organic products in their product range (“the fixed range”). They do not specify how many (or few) of those are wines. “To respond to (customer’s) demand we will continue to develop and broaden the range (of organic products) in the future”, says Marie Nygren, purchasing director at Systembolaget according to their press release. But perhaps the conclusion should be the opposite? that they should suspend all organic products? The monopoly has as one objective to minimise alcohol sales (or at least not increase sales). It’s not easy to be a monopoly… Sales of wine grew with 2.6% compared to Q3-09 to reach 49 million litres. (NB: Organic wine is short for wine made from organically grown grapes. The EU recently failed to reach an agreement on regulations for organic winemaking. Today there are only rules for organic farming 9vine growing.)

World’s biggest cooper: Seguin Moreau (1): The Oeneo Group

If you want to be exact, the world’s biggest cooper brand, for barrels from French oak, is Seguin Moreau. There are bigger barrel makers, e.g. making barrels for bourbon. We recently had the opportunity to visit Seguin Moreau at their headquarters just outside the small town of Cognac and will have the occasion to come back on this subject later. (We are hearing rumours about a “revolutionary” new innovation in oak barrel quality control to be launched early next year…) But we wanted to give you a few short facts about the cooper and cooperage already now. Seguin Moreau is part of the group Oeneo, quoted on the French stock exchange. Oeneo also owns another barrel maker, Radoux, and a cork producer called Diams (perhaps better known under its previous name Sabaté, which they have changed perhaps due to an innovative process they originated that eliminates TCA in cork). The two coopers, Seguin Moreau and Radoux, operate quite independently, even if they are part of the same group. They even seem to compete quite ferociously against each other sometimes. More info: www.lejournalduvin.com and  www.seguin-moreau.fr and on their blog ”Winemakers for Good Wood”!

World’s biggest cooper: Seguin Moreau (2): technology and quality

Seguin Moreau considers itself to be a pioneer in terms of technical innovation and quality control for barrel making. they were one of the first to stop specifying the origin of the oak of the barrels. Traditionally it is often specified from which forest the oak comes in a barrel. For example: the Vosges, the Alliers, or Limousin. Seguin Moreau says that what’s important is not the origin but the quality of the oak (mainly the porosity, or the ‘grain’). And the quality varies very much for the same forest. Therefore they have stopped naming the origin and instead they give a quality indication of the wood. This is, by the way, also something that Radoux started doing some time back. Around 550,000 barrels – normally measuring 225 or 228 litres – are made each year in France, out of 800,000 in the world (wine barrels). Seguin Moreau makes around 75,000 barrels (barriques, pièces) per year. A barrel costs around 600 euro. In other words, if a winemaker uses 100% new barrels every year it represents a cost of around 2 euro per bottle. The cost of the wood for one barrel is around 300 euro. Only one quarter of the wood from a trunk of an oak tree, cut down and cleaned, can be used to make a barrel. More info: www.lejournalduvin.com and  www.seguin-moreau.fr and on their blog ”Winemakers for Good Wood”!

World’s biggest cooper: Seguin Moreau (3): the taste

We had the occasion recently to taste a selection of wines that had “seen” wood in different ways. The most remarkable comparison was between two glasses of white wine: the original wine, or rather the original must was the same. One had been fermented in big wooden oak vats and the other had been fermented in stainless steel. After the (relatively short) fermentation they hade been aged in an identical way. The only difference was the material in the fermentation vat. The difference was remarkable. We will be coming back to this issue at a later time. More info: www.lejournalduvin.com and  www.seguin-moreau.fr and on their blog ”Winemakers for Good Wood”!

This post is also available in: Swedish

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