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BKWine Brief nr 88, November 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 Links will in many cases be outdated!

We were, to say the very least, very surprised when we opened the envelope and read the letter: We had won the prize for the best wine book in Sweden in 2010! We were the winners of the category “drinks literature” which includes wine, beer and spirits. So we quickly had to reschedule for a trip to the rural village of Grythyttan, where the Swedish Restaurant University is located – where the prize ceremony was to take place. 

So it has been an eventful year indeed. Best one book of the year in Sweden. On the list of “world’s best wine tours” from Travel & Leisure, the world’s biggest travel magazine, as we told you about in the last issue of the Brief. Fantastic, we think!

Apart from that, this has been a very busy season for us. We have been to all over France (it feels like), to Italy five times from the heel to the knee (?), to Austria (for the wine bloggers conference), to Spain, to Portugal, to Greece… and of course to Sweden (to pick up the prize).

Someone asked us “what’s your favourite travel destination?” It’s a question that is as difficult to answer as “what’s your favourite wine?” And the answer will probably be the same: It is the next tour / the next wine to taste. It’s always exciting to discover something new, and even if you go to a place where you have been before you’ll discover something new.

As with many other things it is the “big and famous” that are most popular – with wines and wine travel destinations too. Sometimes we actually think it is a bit of a pity that wine tour travellers are not a bit more adventurous. Our tours to, say, Tuscany, Bordeaux or Champagne are often well filled. but some other, lesser known districts are harder to attract travellers to.

At this time of the year we are planning and discussing ideas for next autumn’s program and we have plenty of more or less far flung projects on the table. What would you say about a wine tour to Croatia? Greece? Southern Italy with Campania and Apulia – or perhaps Sicily? What about Jura up by the Alps? Or some of the other wine districts that we occasionally put on our program but are not among the best known: the Douro Valley, Languedoc, Austria etc…

One unusual “destination” that we have already decided on for next year is an “organic” wine tour! It is a wine tour to the southern Rhône Valley where all the producers we visit are working organically in one way or another: “standard” organic, biodynamic and perhaps culture raisonnée. At the moment this tour is in Swedish only but if there is demand for an English version we’d love to do that too.

So, what kind of wine tour would tempt you? Let us know. Write us an email!

According to all food and wine magazines we have now changed our wine drinking to “winter wines”. God forbid if you bring out a crisp and refreshing riesling at the end of November! No, it must be a heavy and powerful red, since that’s what goes well with hearty stews and game. (Actually, just as a protest against convention – last night we had a grenache-based Rhone wine with our Rascasse fish with fresh green beans. Excellent match!) In reality we do eat quite a lot of other things than stews and game in the autumn. We’re not big fans of compartmentalising food and drink in that way. Actually, autumn and winter is the perfect season for fish and seafood. Now is the best time to have it. And, in spite of our Rascasse-grenache suggestion, we rarely take out a heavy red with the shellfish. It is more likely to be that riesling. And it will probably also be a nice contrast to all that port you will be drinking over Christmas.

So why all this talk about riesling? Well, Britt just came back from Germany and she returned from a weekend in Munich without having tasted a single German wine! OK, Munich is not the centre of a wine district, but still. German wines were most conspicuous by their absence on the wine lists in the restaurants! The waiters suggested port or Austrian beerenauslese for dessert. Certainly not a German wine! What’s happening in Germany? Are they not proud of their wines?

 

 

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

 

News from 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.

What do people think about a wine tour with BKWine?

That is of course a question that we think is very important. We want it to be a wonderful and memorable experience for everyone. Here are some of the comments we’ve had from customers this season:

 

bullet “Many thanks for a fantastic trip. You are so keen to make everything the best for your guests and you are so knowledgeable about wine. A pleasure to travel with you.”, W-A
bullet ”Thank you for a wonderful trip to Umbria and southern Tuscany. Wonderful in many ways – our initial ideas for the trip on food and wine in Umbria and Tuscany – and discovering sagrantino and sangiovese – were more than fulfilled”, I & P in Umbria and Tuscany
bullet “After last year’s fantastic trip to Champagne, Chablis and Burgundy our expectations were set very high. But this trip to Bordeaux was even better than we had hoped for. What lunches! What dinners we had! And what wonderful and personal wineries and chateaux we visited. We hope to come back on a new tour with BKWine!” A-M & S in Bordeaux
bullet ”You surpassed all the expectations that we had on the tour before we came. The organisation was without a glitch and the tastings was far beyond any similar things we’ve been to previously. It whet our appetite and we already look forward to our next tour!”, B & T in the Rhône Valley

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 

Stellekaya, Stellenbosch, Sydafrika

Stellekaya is one of the wine producers that impressed us most during our trip to South Africa earlier this year. It’s a small producer – they call themselves boutique wine producer – and the wines are not only of high quality but also interesting and with a lot a character. Their winemaker Ntsiki Biyela started to work for Stellekaya in 2004 after finishing her studies in oenology at the University of Stellenbosch and her wines have won several prestigious awards. Ntsiki is originally from Kwazulu-Natal, a region where wine is not made nor drunk. She got a scholarship to study at the university in Stellenbosch and when she started she hadn’t tasted one single glass of wine. But it didn’t take long to develop a passion for red wine! We recommend all her wines. Two favourites of ours are Boschetto, the entry level wine made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, shiraz and sangiovese with fresh fruits and a touch of minerality, and Hercules, an elegant and complex wine and yet easy-to-drink with a lot of freshness.

Also!: Watch our interview with the winemaker at Stellekaya, Ntsiki Biyela, on BKWine TV!

Click here for address and more recommendations.

Read about more recommended producers on the site: Favourite Producers

□  Wine Bars and Restaurants

Champagne:

Bistrot le 7, Epernay

Epernay is a small town in the middle of the Champagne district. Here you’ll find big houses like Moët & Chandon and Mercier och many others along the beautiful, recently renovated Avenue du Champagne. And, as always in France, you also find good restaurants. One of our favourites is Bistro le 7 in the town centre, not far from Moët & Chandon. The bistro belongs to the Hotel Les Berceaux. They also have a more elegant restaurant, but personally we prefer the bistro. You get a starter for between 12 and 18 euro, for instance a lobster salad, a terrine de foie gras or snails with polenta with garlic cream. Main courses are between 18 and 26 euro and a delicious one is the grilled scallops (Noix de Saint-Jacques), with a creamy curry sauce and basmati rice. We advice you to book your table in advance.

Click here for address and more recommendations.

□  Wine of the Month

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

Åsa’s wine of the month: Taso, Valpolicella Superiore, Villa Bellini

Quiet please! Cecilia at Villa Bellini has gone from making a wide range of wines to now only making two different cuvees. One which is her Valpolicella Superiore and one Recioto di Valpolicella. Taso, which is the Valpolicella Sup (Taso means “I am quiet” in the local dialect) is made partially from dried grapes (appassimento) and the rest of the grapes are vinified directly after the harvest. It is aged for around two years in big oak casks. It is quite powerful with a good structure but without the jammy tones that an amarone often has. It has a good fruit without giving a sweet impression in the mouth. Many nuances to be found both on the palate and on the nose. An interesting wine that gives you pleasant surprises. Goes well with meat and dishes with a lot of flavour. Price: around 24 euro. www.villabellini.com

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

News from the Wine World
Best Wine Book of 2010 – and the winner is BKWine! 

This is what we wrote in our press release about this prestigious award:

“A Wine is Born: the work in the vineyard and in the wine cellar” won the category “best drinks book”, a category that includes books on wine, spirits and beer (and thus also “best wine book of the year”) awarded by the “Måltidsakademien”, whose aim it is to promote knowledge and education on food and drink. The book is written by Britt Karlsson and photography is by Per Karlsson, both active members of FIJEV and the Circle of Wine Writers. The book explains how vines are grown in the vineyard and how wine is made in the cellar. The target audience is both the dedicated wine lover as well as wine trade professionals and students. More information on the book can be found here: http://ettvinblirtill.wordpress.com/english/

“A Wine Is Born” is published in Swedish under the title “Ett vin blir till”. It does not yet have an English publisher, but Britt and Per would certainly be very interested in discussing a potential English language edition.
The title of the book is an allusion to a ground breaking photography book, “A Child is Born”, by the Swedish scientific medical photographer Lennart Nilsson first published in 1965 (www.lennartnilsson.com).

Each year ”Måltidsakademien” (http://akademierna.se/) awards prizes to the best Swedish literature in the areas of food, wine and drinks. The drink literature prize (including wine) is one of the most contested categories with a large number of entrants. In total there are around thirty categories, two of which touch wine: the Drinks Literature prize and the Combining Food and Wine category. The former included this year around 20 competing books and the latter two books.

The jury motivated its selection of ”A Wine is born” with the following: “A detailed, in depth and very illustrative voyage through vineyards and wine cellars, where each explanation of facts and working methods invites the reader to go on his own discovery amongst growers, harvesters and oenologists”.

Britt and Per comment on the award: “We are very happy and proud. The book is the condensed result of all the vineyard and winery visits we do on our wine tours with BKWine and of the innumerable discussions we have had with winemakers. We wanted to do a book based on what’s done in real life and not just on theories; a book that is entertaining for the wine enthusiast but also educational. ‘A Wine is Born’ can even be used as a text book for wine students. In addition to the basics (and not so basics) of wine growing and winemaking we also wanted to explain things that are usually not talked about in other wine books, tools, technologies and methods, and also illustrate everything with a lot of photos, sometimes quite unique illustrations.”

Britt and Per Karlsson write about wine and produces photography on wine in their company BKWine AB. They are also a wine tour operator, organising some 30 wine tours each year, as well as consultants and wine educators.

Facts on the book:
• “A Wine is Born, the work in the vineyard and in the wine cellar”, original title “Ett vin blir till, arbetet i vingården och i vinkällaren”;
• Text: Britt Karlsson with contributions by Per Karlsson;
• Photography: Per Karlsson;
• Published by Carlsson Bokförlag, Stockholm 2009.
• Hardback, 297 pages, lavishly illustrated in colour. ISBN: 978 91 7331 270 7

BKWine: https://www.bkwine.com
Carlsson Bokförlag: http://www.carlssonbokforlag.se/
On the award: http://www.hellefors.se/kommun/booktown/start.asp
Photos on the book: http://ettvinblirtill.wordpress.com/press/pressbilder/

 

World champion wine videos 

Andreas Larsson, sommelier world champion, has become involved in many different projects since he won his title a few years ago. The latest we’ve seen is video wine tasting notes. Andreas tastes a wine and tells you what he thinks about it – on video. The people behind the project are the same who make Tasted Magazine, where Andreas also is a collaborator. There are more than 600 wine videos with Andreas they say (not sure about that though – if you search for “Bordeaux” there are only 20 results). But still, one has to have a fair bit of luck if the wine you are interested in should be on their list. The videos will also be used at the wine department of the two French supermarket chains Carrefour and Leclerc on interactive screens. Watch Andreas’ videos here: http://www.video-sommeliers.com

 

 

BKWine TV wine videos viewed 200,000 times

BKWine TV recently passed 200,000 “total upload views” on YouTube. BKWine TV is our ‘channel’ on YouTube with interviews, reportage and other videos that we’ve done during our various wine tours and travel. In other words 203,366 is the number of times someone has watched a BKWine TV video. Fantastic, we’re very happy!  You can find all our wine videos here on BKWine TV. (And we cannot help being a little bit extra proud that we actually have more views than Decanter Magazine – 189,737 views – but we are of course trailing far behind Wine Library TV with 1,135,197 views.)

Christmas gift tip (?): Auction records in profusion: Cheval Blanc 1947 for $300,000 or three Lafite 1869 for £437,000

It’s almost as if there is inflation in auction price records. The press releases come in almost every day on new, stunning auction prices. Much of it seems to be driven by the incredible demand for extremely exclusive wines in Asia. Two new records were broken within just a few weeks. First out was Sotheby’s in Hong Kong with the highest price for a single lot and the (then) highest price per bottle: three bottles of Château Lafite-Rothschild 1869 sold for £437,900 (HK$5,445,000 or €534,941). Several other lots of Lafite were sold far above what was expected. Read more on decanter.com

The per-bottle record did not last long though. In came a report from Christie’s in Geneva where they had sold a single bottle of Château Cheval Blanc 1947 for $304,375 (€ 219,994) which then was the new highest price paid for a bottle. To be fair, the bottle was big, an imperial containing 6 litres, so the old Lafite was still more expensive per litre… Here is also the top-ten lots at the Geneva auction:

– Château Cheval-Blanc — Vintage 1947, 1 imperial € 219,994
– Château Cheval-Blanc — Vintage 1947, 1 jeroboam € 169,510
– A vertical of Château Mouton-Rothschild from vintages 1945 to 2007, 64 bottles € 97,468
– Château Cheval-Blanc — Vintage 1947, 1 marie-jeanne € 80,517
– Hermitage, La Chapelle — Vintage 1961, 2 magnums € 80,517
– Château Lafite Rothschild — Vintage 1982, 12 bottles € 63,566
– Château Lafite Rothschild — Vintage 1982, 12 bottles € 63,566
– Château Lafite Rothschild — Vintage 1982, 12 bottles € 63,566
– Romanée-Conti — Vintage 2005, 6 bottles € 63,566
– Château Cheval-Blanc — Vintage 1947, 1 magnum € 44,072

It is jaw-dropping prices but perhaps not too unexpected. Certainly nothing to get upset about (unless you had a bottle and dropped it). apparently there are buyers who think it worth these prices and it is after all much less than what is paid for some pieces of jewellery or cars.

Lafite and (much) more at auction in Denmark

Not only Chateau Lafite-Rothschild but also many other fine and exclusive wine will be on sale at the Bruun Rasmussen auction (# 817) on December 9. Very timely they have quite a collection of Lafite on the cover of the catalogue (as well as at the auction) and there is a Lafite 1900 on sale (est. 2000-2700 euro). But there is also a wide range of other luxury wines: all 1er GCC, Guigal’s top cuvees, grands crus from Burgundy, “various” DRCs, Gaja, Krug etc etc. However, there are probably not many “bargains” to be found, but perhaps it’s not the season. For more info www.bruun-rasmussen.dk

Christmas Gift (done?): Château Chenu-Lafitte bought by Chinese interests

An Chinese billionaire has bought the Chateau Chenu-Lafitte in Bordeaux in order to give it as a gift to his 20 year old son (Le Journal du Vin says it is a shipping magnate called Goulong Yin but other sources says the buyer is anonymous). Chenu-Lafite is a little known name, not to say totally unknown. According to Decanter, the name has not been in use in recent years, until the new Chinese owners started bottling wine under it. The name, together with vineyards, and a chateau building was sold by Philippe Darricarrère. He kept 42 ha for himself and will still be making wine under the name Chateau Mille Secousses (“a thousand bumps”, which is probably a good description of the financial situation leading to the sale). It is maybe not entirely a coincidence that the name has in it “Lafitte” (albeit with two ‘t’). Château Lafite Rothschild happens to be the wine that has broken price records on the Chinese market recently. It is amusing to note that the first chateau bough by a Chinese (as far as we know) was called Latour Laguens. There is also a third Chinese chateau (in Fronsac) called Chateau Richelieu. Château Chenu-Lafitte is in the AOC Côtes de Bourg region on the right bank but the Chinese owners have chosen to “declassify” the wine to AOC Bordeaux, presumably thinking that Bordeaux will be easier to sell. Perhaps worth noting in the context of the strong trend in France for more and more (and smaller and smaller) appellations and sub-appellations? Read more on decanter.com and terredevins.com

The Drinks Business publishes China Report

The Drinks Business is a UK trade magazine on wines and spirits. they have just published a special issue on the Chinese market for wines and spirits: The China Report. And it is the first issue they publish that is freely available on the internet. If you are interested in the Chinese market you can find their report here: The China Report

University wine tasting championship: ”20 sur vin”

“20 sur vin” was originally a wine tasting competition for the French Grandes Ecoles (the most prestigious university level schools). Since a few years back it has also been open to Cambridge and Oxford. For 2011 it will be broadened to also invite international competition. There will be contestants from USA (e.g. MIT Sloan, Harvard, and Columbia), Hong Kong, Singapore, and of course Great Britain. The competition will take place during the first half of 2011. Maybe there are more candidates at university wine tasting clubs around the world? More info www.commanderiedubontemps.com

The world’s best gamay

Gamay is the latest grape variety to get its own ”world’s best” competition. The ”Concours International du Gamay” (the gamay world championship) will take place on January 15, 2011 in Lyons. Unsurprisingly it is organised by Inter Beaujolais, the Beaujolais growers’ association. We hope that it can be a tool to spread the word that gamay is not only a grape for uninspired fruit-juice wines but can also make exciting quality wines! More info: www.concoursgamay.com

Discover the Rhône Valley wines

”Les découverts en Vallée du Rhône” is a giant movable wine tasting along the river Rhône. The purpose is to give you an opportunity to discover Rhône wines. It is organised by Inter Rhône, the growers association, and the next edition takes place on 1-6 March 2011. an excellent opportunity to taste a lot of wines and meet many of the winemakers. Only for professionals though. More info: www.decouvertes-vins-rhone.com

Win a trip to the wine districts in California

If you live in the US you have the chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip to San Francisco and the wine regions, with two nights at Mendocino. It is the American wine magazine The Wine Enthusiast, in collaboration with Mendocino Wine Company who organises the competition. It is not overly complicated – you just have to fill in your email. And if you don’t win the trip you can win a guitar autographed by Sting (I know some who would certainly prefer that prize!). And if you don’t live in the US you can perhaps find some other fun thing to do. www.vibeincentives.com/messageinabottle/

Is there something wrong with the wine, sir?

It is not only the cork that can cause problems or “faults” with the wine. There is a whole range of things that can be a wine bad, or at least worse than it should be. It can be due to errors in the vineyard, for example too early (or too late) harvest, mistakes in the wine cellar or other external factors. Jane Anson, who writes the eminently readable blog The New Bordeaux, has written a summary of the faults that you can get in a wine and that will destroy your experience. A very interesting read that you can find here: “Identifying wine faults

Le Grand Tasting in Paris on December 10 and 11

Le Grand Tasting is the strange name of a consumer wine show in Paris that will take place on December 10 and 11. It is one of the more ‘serious’ wine shows in Paris with many interesting producers showing up and many good wines to taste. It will take place at the Carrousel du Louvre (by the underground shopping area at the Louvre), starting 10.30 in the morning on both the Friday and the Saturday. Well worth visiting if you have a few hours to spare in Paris. http://www.grandtasting.com

Norwegian aquavit to become a protected denomination

The Norwegian government is in the process of introducing rules that will make the name “Norwegian aquavit” (norsk akevitt) a protected denomination, according to Kraftbyraa.no. The rules will e.g. require that the aquavit must be made in Norway (seems reasonable), must be made from potatoes (which apparently is not the usual raw material in other Nordic countries or in Germany), and must be aged for at least six months in barrel. Norsk akevitt is, also according to Kraft Byrå, normally aged in sherry cask that is rarely used in other countries. This gives the Norwegian Aquavit a special character. (Aquavit is a typical Nordic distilled spirit. It is made from a white, neutral spirit to which spices and herbs are added to give it character.) Read more Kraftbyraa.no

Russian wine producer buys vineyard in Languedoc

The Russian wine company Gerrus Group has bought a vineyard in the Languedoc region in France. Chateau des Deux Rocs is a 20 ha property in Cabrières, not far from Montpellier. Gerrus is active in Russia both as a négociant and as a wine producer, owning some 1400 hectares of vines. Read more: www.vitisphere.com

Bordeaux Crus Artisans is back?

Last month we talked about the revived (and strange) Cru Bourgeois classification-but-not-classification in Bordeaux. This month it’s time for the no-one-knows-it-exists classification Cru Artisans. Cru Artisans exists since some 150 years back but during the latter half of the 20th century it fell out of use (or perhaps even earlier) and became virtually unknown. In theory it was chateaux that were perhaps not noble enough or big enough to claim Cru Bourgeois status. After having disappeared last century it was actually recreated in 2006 thanks to a government ruling. But its existence seems to be a well guarded secret – there are not many people who know about it (it’s not even in the Wikipedia!). Only 44 chateaux were classified in 2006. In principle it should be revised every ten years so a new version is due in 2016 or 2017.

However, the Chambre d’Agriculture has decided to open it for new applications this year and by next summer the new additions to Crus Artisans will be announced. (If we understand it correctly it is not a revision, so no one needs to fear exclusion. At this time.) Those that are included in the the classification (version 2011) will have the right to use the label Cru Artisan for vintages back to 2001… All we can say is “oh well”, we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.

So now we have in Médoc / Bordeaux a classification that is virtually unknown, created in 2006, or perhaps 2011 (Cru Artisans), or in the 19th century; a classification that is not a classification at all and that some observers think will not last long in its current form (Cru Bourgeois de Medoc – see last month’s Brief); and a classification that is 150 years old where today’s vineyard plots have no resemblance to the plots that existed when the classification was done, which on the other hand has no relevance since it is the chateau buildings and not the vineyards that are classified (Grand Crus Classé de Bordeaux). Read more on www.lejournalduvin.com and www.bordeaux.com

Children’s book about wine published in France

Is it the path towards total deprivation and alcoholism? Or is it quite the opposite? The book editor Emmanuele Garci at Editions Mama Josefa thought that there was a need for a book that explained wine to children in France: the cultural heritage, the agricultural product, the history and to place at table. She found Sandrine Duclos, Cécile Gallineaux and Pierre Touron to create that book. It is called Vignes et Vins: Un Monde a Decouvrir (Vines and wines: a world to discover). It has been printed in 200,000 copies and is now available in book shops in France and soon perhaps in Canada too. And perhaps there will be an English translation… More info decanter.com

Generational Farming at Fox Creek Wines, McLaren Vale

Paul Rogers from Fox Creek in McLaren Vale in Australia visited Sweden recently and as we don’t often have the opportunity to meet Australian wine producers we were happy to be able to have a chat with Paul. McLaren Vale is a leading wine region in Australia when it comes to sustainability and we asked Paul what this means to Fox Creek.

“We are a small family grower with 40 hectares of vines and we have always been keen on sustainability”, says Paul. “We use very little spraying – we have reduced the number of sprayings a year from 8 to 4 – we plant trees as wind breakers and we only use natural fertilizers. A big concern here in Australia has always been the water. And the different projects in McLaren Vale to come to terms with this serious issue have been quite successful.”

McLaren Vale is situated 45 kilometres south of Adelaide, on the little Fleurieu Peninsula. The ocean is close by and the refreshing wind is more or less constant. McLaren Vale is a fairly new wine region that has been growing a lot the last 15-20 years. When Fox Creek made its first wine in 1994 there were only 16 wine producers, now there are around 70. McLaren Vale has developed a sustainability program called Generational Farming Project. The idea is to pass the vineyard on to the next generation in better condition by using methods and products that will not harm the natural balance in the vineyard. Through the McLaren Water Plan the growers are more and more switching from potable water to recycled water for their irrigation. The goal is to make McLaren Vale 100% sustainable for irrigation purposes. “In only five years the use of recycled water for irrigation has reached 70 %”, says Paul.

Paul left the telecom industry ten years ago and joined his wife and in-laws at Fox Creek, a decision he does not regret. The star grape at Fox Creek in Shiraz, one of them called Red Baron and available in Sweden for 109 SEK. It’s a wine for pleasure, with a lot of fruit and with a good tannin structure. And the see breeze probably helps to give the wine a nice freshness. New and exciting grape varieties are being planted at Fox Creek: Verdelho, Sangiovese, Albariño and Barbera.

New (old) site about Austrian wines

Most “generic” wine sites, i.e. sites done by various regions marketing organisations, are generally not much to write home about (or on a blog). Often they are very short on concrete information and heavy on glossy flash illustrations that are hopeless to navigate. The Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB) has just released a new version of their “generic” site on Austrian wines: www.austrianwine.com. It is full of useful information, is clean and well designed, and easy to navigate, according to my first quick visit. Probably at the level of the amazingly detailed information material that I was given when I was recently in Austria for the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC), hosted by the AWMB. Congratulations to a well done site.

And on BKWine TV you can watch  a series of videos on Austrian wines!

Christmas gift tip: champagne for sale

Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck are two champagne houses both belonging to Remy Cointreau SA. According to Bloomberg, Remy is now looking to sell the two houses. The champagne business made an operating loss of 4 m euro for the 12 months to March this year. Remy Cointreau wants to focus on its core spirits activity (more profitable), and above all cognac. The company is of course the owners of Cognac Remy Martin. the prospective buyer should contact Credit Agricole, the bank that has been tasked with finding a purchaser. Read more bloomberg.com

Christmas gift tip for the champagne fanatic: The Champagne Warrior

Slightly more affordable than Pieper-Heidsieck (see other item in this Brief) is The Champagne Warrior. Brad Baker is the self-appointed champagne warrior. One has to conclude that he is a champagne fanatic, and he publishes a newsletter on champagne, called The Champagne Warrior. It contains articles, both short and long, on champagne related subjects as well as extensive tasting notes. In issue #7 (extending over more than 70 pages) you can read about e.g. champagnes with little or no dosage, about the legendary Clos des Goisses from Philipponnat (and how Baker by chance became the happy owner of a whole assortment of such bottles), and an interview with Anselme Selosse. If you don’t mind wading through the quite lengthy tasting notes there is quite a lot of interesting and useful information. A subscription will set you back $90; you can get a sample issue for $1. More info here http://www.champagnewarrior.com/

Learn more about wine in Denver

The International wine guild is a wine school for those who are interested in studying wine to become a professional – sommelier, wine trade professional or other. They are based in Denver, Colorado, and have been named one of the five top professional wine schools in the US by Food & Wine Magazine. More info here: http://www.internationalwineguild.com/

Dramatic cuts in production in Beaujolais

Many wine producers have hard times. For many in Beaujolais it is not only hard but very tough. There is too much Beaujolais wine made and too little of it bought and drunk. According to The Drinks Business the growers’ organisation has decided on draconian measures to try and get a balance between supply and demand. Last year 360,000 hl of primeur wine was made. Only 275,000 hl found a buyer. The price fell from 157 euro per hl the previous year to 139 euro/hl, in other words not even 1.40 €/l. This year it was decided to reduce the permitted yield to between 25 and 32 hl/ha compared to the normal 52 hl/ha. Dramatic cut indeed. Will it have any effect? Perhaps, if they also focus on improving the quality of the wines. Read more: thedrinksbusiness.com

How much does it cost to buy a vineyard? Well, between 14,000 and 1 M euro per hectare

Vineyard land prices vary enormously. Recently these difference have been accentuated rather than diminished. César Compadre writes in Terre des Vins on the situation in Bordeaux: Cheapest is of course ‘plain’ Bordeaux, i.e. vineyards with ‘just’ the Bordeaux appellation, in e.g. Entre-deux-Mers. There you can find land below 15,000 euro/ha. Most expensive are, no surprise, the most famous (and small) AOCs: Margaux, Saint Julien, Pomerol, where prices can reach a million euros per hectare. Times are good in Bordeaux for the most famous chateau, but you can almost count them on the fingers of your hand. There are probably less than a hundred in that situation. For the big bulk (no pun intended) of producers life is harder. Many are close to (or have done) bankruptcy. Here are some other price examples:

– Saint Emilion: 200,000 euro/ha
– St Emilions satellites (Lussac, Puisseguin, Montagne…): 100,000 euro/ha
– Pessac-Leognan, Lalande de Pomerol: 150,000 euro/ha
– Blaye, Bourg: just above 20,000 euro/ha
– Haut-Medoc: 35,000 to 45,000 euro/ha

Read more here: terredevins.com

And watch our  interview with César Compadre BKWine TV: What future Bordeaux part 1 and  What future Bordeaux part 2

Diluted wine of fruity wine? Must concentration – what should or should you not do? Boil the must in a vacuum?

If it rains just before the harvest you risk getting a diluted must. The grapes suck up the water and becomes inflated with water. there are several techniques for what is called must concentration. The most commonly used (but not overly common) in France is probably  reverse osmosis (click for photos). You can also use cryo-extraction (freezing the grapes).

A third method is to boil the must in a vacuum, vacuum extraction (but it certainly is not a cheap way of doing it). The process implies that you pump the must through a vacuum chamber, at rather low temperature. At low pressure a liquid boils at a much lower temperature. You can even do it at below room temperature if pressure is low enough. Since the evaporation is done at a low temperature only the water is lost, is the thinking. What remains is a more concentrated must. The unwanted water is gone. (Usually only a part of the must is treated and then blended back into the rest of the must in appropriate proportion.) As a result you get a more concentrated, less diluted wine.

This is originally an Italian invention and we have seen such vacuum concentration machines in Italy and in Austria. We recently asked a producer in northern Italy if it really was allowed to use it in his (illustrious) appellation: “Um, well, no in principle it is not allowed. But we are allowed to chaptalise (add sugar to the must to increase the alcohol). So if instead of chaptalisation I use vacuum concentration, and thus raise the sugar contents with the grapes’ own natural sugar instead of extraneous sugar, is that not better?” was his answer. Italian logic? As for France we don’t know if it is allowed or not, but we’ve never seen such a machine here. (On the other hand you don’t often see a reverse osmosis machine either even though it is relatively frequently used at major chateau in e.g. Bordeaux.)

Another person who uses the vacuum machine, and talks warmly about it, is Ken Wright at Ken Wright Cellars in the Williamette Valley in Oregon. It rains a lot in Oregon and Wright is happy with the improvement he gets from the machine according to this interview in Gizmodo: We Must Boil This Wine To Save It. But many people who argue for “natural” wines or “organic” wines will get goose bumps if they see it in a wine cellar. They would consider it “unnatural” to treat a wine (must) like that. (One could of course argue that ‘appassimento’ – partially drying the grapes for an extended time period of time – that is used e.g. to make amarone is just another type of must concentration technique.) It is a difficult question of course: Is it better to use vacuum (or cryo-extraction, or reverse osmosis) to “save” a wine, or is it an unnatural way to treat it that will rob the wine of its soul and character? What do you think?

European Wine Bloggers Conference #EWBC

Earlier this autumn we participated in the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC in hash tag twitter-speak). Two hundred participants from 30 countries – wine bloggers, wine producers, wine marketers and others who were interested in wine, the internet and “social media” – had the opportunity to meet, discuss and taste a lot of good wines over a few intense days in Vienna in Austria. Definitely to be recommended if that’s the kind of things that interests you. Now there is an “official” video on the event. Not a boring conference summary, but rather snippets and glimpses from all the things that were going on. Watch it here: EWBC 2010 on www.youtube.com. Thanks to Austrian Wine Marketing Board for sponsoring it and thanks to Alexander Schukoff Film for the clip. And thanks to Gabriella & Ryan from Catavino, and Robert from Wine Conversations for organising it.

And if you were not there, you can still watch some of the most interesting parts of the EWBC conference on the  EWBC channel on Vimeo. for example: Elin McCoy’s keynote on “wine journalism in the ivory tower”. She is Bloomberg’s wine reporter and has written the book the Emperoro of Wine about Robert Parker. Or Evan Schnittman’s keynote on the future of publishing in a digital world. And much more! But it’s not quite the same thing as being there. It’s really meeting the people that is the best part.

The next European wine Bloggers Conference takes place in Franciacorta, Brescia, in northern Italy, starting on October 14, 2011. You can already register here: http://winebloggersconference.org/europe/register/

Rural sales of locally produced wines and spirits to be allowed in Sweden?

There is currently a debate raging in Sweden on an issue that seen from the outside seems peripheral to say the least. Nevertheless it has escalated to become the most important item in the Swedish government’s review of its alcohol policy. Sweden has a monopoly on alcohol sales in the retail sector. The only shop where you can buy alcohol (stronger than 2.5% ABV) is the government owned Systembolaget shops. Since last 10 to 15 years several small, often rural, producers of wine and spirits have popped up. But since there is a monopoly on alcohol sales they cannot sell their wines (or spirits) at the door, where it is produced. And if the monopoly chooses not to list their product, the only option they have is to export.

At the end of the year a government task force will release a report with a proposal for new alcohol regulations. It is not expected to lead to much change. One of the items expected is that it will be possible for sushi restaurants to serve alcohol (currently you have to serve hot food). And it is this thing with rural sales of wines and spirits. It is a hotly debated item since a) the four parties in the government alliance don’t agree. Some of think it is one way of making rural Sweden more dynamic and to create job opportunities. Others think not and are afraid it will loosen Sweden’s strict drinking laws. And b) some say that it will lead to the demise of the whole monopoly (one can only hope, we say!). In particular, some say that since EU regulations forbid favouring your own country’s products compared to similar products made in other EU countries (e.g. with tariffs or with rules that favour national products), if rural producers are allowed to sell their own products then they must also be allowed to sell products from wine producers in other EU countries.

Read about it in The Local: “Swedish government split on rural booze sales”  where for example the liberal party’s spokesperson Carl B Hamilton is quoted as arguing that it may lead to that the EU challenges the Systembolaget exemption from EU competition rules and thus threaten the Systembolaget’s existence. (It is not mentioned in the article though that Hamilton is also a board member of the potentially threatened Systembolaget.)

Born Digital Wine Awards – a new prize for online wine communications

The Born Digital Wine Awards was launched at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC) and is organised by the same people who are behind the conference. It is a prize for wine communication in all its forms 0- provided it is “born digital”, so first published online or in other digital format. There are five competition categories:

– Best Investigative Wine Story
– Best Editorial Wine Writing
– Best Wine Tourism Feature
– Best Wine Themed Video
– Best Winery Self Produced Content

The winners will get, in addition to pride and glory, 1000 euros. An important thing to point out is that entries can be made in any language! The competition will itself organise translations if needed, unless an English translation is provided. (How that will work in practice is not quite clear…) So it is not “a blog” or “a site” that can enter the competition. It is specific article or item (etc). Nominations are open from December 1 until January 31, 2011. The jury has some grand names in it: Jancis Robinson, Robert Joseph, Evan Schnittman, Elin McCoy and Patrick Schmitt. Nominate yourself or nominate someone you think worthy! More info http://borndigitalwineawards.com

This post is also available in: Swedish

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