Champagne: harvest news

Confident in its export markets, Champagne growers and houses agree to set the available yield at 10,800 kg/ha

Report from Comité Champagne 

25 July 2018

Expecting stable sales in 2018 and a slight growth over the next few years (especially in the export markets, which now account for more than 50% of the total shipments), Champagne growers and houses agreed today to set the available yield at 10,800 kg/ha, the same level as in 2017. This volume fills the needs of the Champagne producers and maintains a balanced overall stock level.

This harvest is expected to be generous in volume and, to date, of good quality. It should also make it possible to reconstitute the Champagne reserve, widely used in the last two years.

An exceptional wine-growing year, with the harvest beginning in August. Read More

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Bordeaux 2017 futures campaign: “underwhelming” and “spoiled”

With the permission of Liv-Ex

8 July 2018

Dear readers, I am enjoying some fresh summer mountain air in the Swiss Alps as I post this text, coming from the informed people at Liv-Ex. But before you read their rather dour assessment of the #Bdx17 futures campaign, just a few words I have heard from Bordeaux. One negociant who has been in the business for many years has judged the campaign as “pourri” or spoiled. “Nearly 75% of the offerings have not been sold,” the negociant added. Basically, prices should have been lower – closer to 2014 opening prices. Indeed, that makes loads of sense, and Liv-Ex says much the same in their summary, so read on…

Sales underwhelm

After a relatively successful 2016 campaign, the UK’s leading merchants’ En Primeur sales halved to £45 million this year, while the average sterling release price of the 2017s dropped 11.8% from 2016. Volumes sold fell by 60%. The sales balance was focused heavily toward ‘winners’ such as First Growths and popularbrands, while the majority struggled and will weigh heavily on the market for years. On the whole there was a reluctance to pay close to 2015 prices for wines considered to be around or below 2014 in quality. Read More

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Alsace: Put dryness levels on the front label

And the grape names, too

By Panos Kakaviatos for

30 June 2018

This may seem a bit like a rant, but I have been living the better part of the last 20 years in Alsace. And I like Alsatian wine very much. The theme of this post? Info! And with Alsace, customers want (more of) it.

The setting was the biennial Millésimes d’Alsace earlier this month.

Wine writers from all over the world trekked to Colmar to taste wines from the famous Alsace wine-growing region. Over lunch a few of us got to enjoy a lovely 2014 Riesling. We knew it was going to be dry, or at least we guessed as much. And it was: wonderfully so. The producer? Domaine Allimant-Laugner. The appellation? Alsace Grand Cru. And location? Praelatenberg. Sound German? Of course it does. The bottle looks that way, too. But more on that later, because most readers here are familiar with Alsace bottle shapes and (often) German sounding place names.

You may notice a new Alsace Wine logo in the hyperlink to the Praelatenberg Alsace Grand Cru that I included in the above paragraph. Indeed, this year’s event marked the unveiling of a new logo for the wines of Alsace in a promotional film worthy of a glitzy Champagne marketing campaign. Interspersed with high definition visuals of gorgeous vineyard slopes – accentuating Alsace’s multiple terroirs – the film featured some really nifty drone-based images. I took a short clip from that unveiling in the video below.

The new logo is appealing and simple: that is to say, an effective marketing tool. And the website sums up very nicely information about the wines, including pithy summaries for the grand cru sites. Sure, you may have not yet heard of Praelatenberg but just a visit to the website and you get a fine quote: “The panoramic viewpoints from the majestic Haut-Koenigsbourg castle overlook the sharp slopes of Praelatenberg. This rich terroir produces generous and structured wines founded on a base of intense minerality.”

And yet some confusion stubbornly hampers the image of Alsace wine. Read More

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Through the years with Château Figeac

Going back to 1949, but looking forward to new cellars

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

17 June 2018

Some of the best wine experiences I can recall involve older vintages of Château Figeac. Take for example a dinner in Saint Emilion that did not happen: hail destroyed table settings just as participants were enjoying magnums of Dom Perignon 1988. We were then guided quickly into the cellar and away from the storm, where cheese and bread were served with magnums of older Saint Emilion. Among the wines, Château Figeac 1961: easily one of the best wines I have ever enjoyed. Two other greats are 1959 and the 1950, both of which I drank with utmost pleasure in Saint Emilion on previous visits.

The origins of Château Figeac date back to the 2nd century AD, when the Figeacus family gave the estate its name. Fast forward to the 19thcentury, and it encompassed some 200 hectares (490 acres) having once included the vines of today’s Château Cheval Blanc. This history explains several other “Figeac” wines in Saint Emilion: they once were a part of the original estate.

Special evening at Château Figeac

The golden era of great 20thcentury vintages began with the Manoncourt family, which acquired the estate in 1892 and is still running it today. Thierry Manoncourt in particular invested in the potential of Figeac’s unique terroir just after the Second World War and had urged his mother to hold on to the estate. In 1947, after graduating as an agricultural engineer, he improved wine-growing techniques at the château. His scientific approach won him the reputation of a respected innovator. In 1955, the estate became a “First Great Classified Growth”. Indeed, Manoncourt gave birth to the “traditional” Figeac blend of 30% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. Read More

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Divine Alsace

Competitive wine prices and friendly faces

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

14 June 2018

It was an enjoyable wine evening earlier this month, Sunday 10 June, at Domaine Josmeyer in Wintzenheim. Lady winemakers who form the group DiVINes d’Alsace poured their wines.

Alsace is so rich in soil types and terroirs that the sheer number of grand cru designations is not enough. Some day, there may well be a premier cru category as well. Will that create clarity or confusion for customers? Atypical bottle shapes, complex names and (still unpredictable) residual sugar levels have not been the strongest selling points for Alsace, but Les DiVINes d’Alsace puts a feminine touch to #Alsace wine. With women winemakers, oenologists, competition organizers, wine merchants and sommeliers, Les DiVINes are committed to its success.

The 70 or so members regularly organize thematic tastings at their estates, visits to Alsace’s Vineyard Museum, pre-harvest technical meetings, and meetings just to get to know each other better. Their association joins a national circle of “Women of Wine” groupings alongside Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Rhone, Provence and the Languedoc among other regions.

Upcoming DiVINes events next month can be found on this page.

I do hope that they translate their page into English and organize DiVINes tasting events outside of Europe. Of course good wine can be made by women or men, but in this era of #MeToo, DiVINes tours could be an added selling point. Indeed, a few years back, I managed to combine my media relations work at the Council of Europe with my passion for wine, having invited DiVINes winemakers to the Council of Europe to pour wine and talk about discrimination they had faced as women in the wine world. Friend and journalist Javier Aguilar of the Spanish news agency EFE penned an article about the experience that was picked up by Spanish language outlets in both South America and in Spain. So we got news coverage, and drank some delicious wines. ?

In any case, it was nice to catch up with Laure Adam, the 15th generation of the Adam family for the eponymous domain in Ammerschwihr, which gives you a sense of the festive ambiance at the DiVINes tasting. In the video below, I asked Laure about the marvelous nature of the 2014 vintage for Alsatian whites, as well as her thoughts about the DiVINes group.

About the tasting 

Another great thing about this tasting was catching up with fellow wine writers and pals I see at other events in other parts of the world. For example, it was so nice to see, among other friends in the wine writing world, Stefanie Köhler, Raoul Salama, Bernard Burtschy, Gavin Chen (who traveled all the way from Hong Kong), Yves Beck, Christer Byklum as well as Neil Beckett of The World of Fine Wine. In Vino Veritas? Indeed, we end up at nice places like Domaine Josmeyer. An added plus – a very important plus – about the fine wines of Alsace? Top wines here are not as ridiculously expensive as big names from Bordeaux or Burgundy or Champagne. For true #winelovers? Alsace is paradise.  Read More

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