Will new EU regulations kill the AOC system?

Winemakers fear that the relaxation of laws requiring authorisation for new vine plantings in France may cause a glut of low-quality French wine and jeopardise the long-standing Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée system. The simultaneous introduction of a new, non-geographically specific appellation, Vins Sans Indication Geographique (VSIG) has only intensified these worries.

The death of Jean-Louis Foucault, known as Charly, has saddened the wine community of the Loire and beyond. With his brother Nady, Charly was the owner of Clos Rougeard in Saumur, and the two were pioneers of organic viticulture; they are also the eighth generation to run the estate, one of the most respected wineries in the Loire Valley. read more


Champagne comes to Kent as Europe warms

As nearly 200 countries reach a landmark agreement in Paris on lowering the greenhouse gas emissions that are making our planet increasingly, and dangerously warm, one Champagne house is taking steps to deal with the climate change that has already happened. Taittinger, whose own vineyards are pictured above, has bought 69 acres in Chilham, Kent on which to plant traditional Champagne grapes and make an English sparkling wine under the name Domaine Evremond – after Charles de Saint-Evremond, the high-living 17th-century writer who is believed to have introduced Champagne to the UK.

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Never mind the weather: a sunny outlook for 2015

The Bordeaux harvest is entirely in, and while it’s still early to pronounce, the outlook is distinctly sunny: the red grapes have weathered the week of late September rain that made wine lovers fear for the vintage. It won’t be the vintage of the century – but it does follow the Rule of Five that has held, for the last 30 years, that every vintage ending in a 0 or a 5 is worthy of attention.

In northern Burgundy, the bad weather came earlier: hailstorms at the very start of September meant Chablis winemakers lost fruit, but even those worst hit are unfazed: the grapes that remain are good, they say, the acidity excellent, and this should be a first-rate Chablis vintage.

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Bordeaux in bloom: the best harvest for several years

Bordelais winemakers will be whistling while they work as they bring in what looks to be the best harvest since 2010. There is still a bit of uncertainty with the red grapes, which are still on the vines and will be for a few more weeks, but the whites are looking marvelous. Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier and president of the Union des Grands Cru says he hasn’t seen such an early, even véraison since 2009; “We are quietly confident” he writes exuberantly on Jancis Robinson’s website, that “this will be a great year!!!”

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Is Burgundy the brunette to Bordeaux’s blonde?

The vinous equivalent of the old saying about gentlemen preferring blondes but marrying brunettes may be everyone talking about Bordeaux but spending their fortunes on Burgundy. Not only has Jayer’s Richebourg grand cru overtaken Domaine de la Romanée-Conti to become the world’s most expensive wine on Wine-Searcher‘s annual “World’s Top 50 Most Expensive Wines” list but 39 of the other listed wines were also Burgundies, with only two Bordeaux included.

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Sunshine and glory in France’s famous vineyards

There’s a bright outlook to go with the sunshine in Bordeaux, as Gavin Quinney reports on Jancis Robinson’s website: after excellent conditions for early flowering in May and June, the region is well positioned for the incoming heatwave. If the Bordelais were in need of reminding that hard work and investment are as important as inheriting or buying exceptional terroir, the release of the Liv-Ex biannual reworking of the 1855 classification, an unofficial report aimed at identifying wine-market trends, may serve as an extra incentive not to rest on any laurels. All five First Growths remain at the top, but there are some interesting moves slightly further down that reflect the money and effort invested by certain wineries.

Not to be outdone, Burgundy and Champagne are celebrating a confidence-booster of their own: UNESCO has awarded vineyards in both regions World Heritage status. The Dijon area is, according to the awarding body, “an outstanding example of grape cultivation and wine production developed since the Middle Ages,” while the designated vineyards in Champagne are deemed particularly significant in the early development of méthode champenoise.

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Rarity Is Still Worth Paying For

The chatter swirling around this year’s Bordeaux en primeur releases was, if it’s possible, even more about price than usual: much of it focussed on the need for new releases to discount, possibly as much as 25%, on the current market price of vintages such as 2008 or 2006, if the wines are to sell. Some have done so; others, riding high on generous scores from the most influential critics, have chosen not to. Montrose, the last release, was one of the latter; the proof, as they say, will be in the pudding…

And price is a hot topic in Burgundy, too, as figures show that the amount a Grand Cru vineyard can command, on the rare occasion that an owner chooses to sell, is still rising: a single hectare now costs, on average, €4.35million. read more


Bordeaux 2014: Saved by the Sun

The châteaux doors have creaked open, the world’s wine buyers and press have tasted hundreds of young Bordeaux wines from the 2014 vintage, and the doors have duly clanged shut behind them again, as the Bordelais get back to the business at hand: making some of the world’s greatest wines. And the verdict? This was a good year, in Sauternes in particular. Whites are looking promising, reds are garnering adjectives such as ‘fresh’ and ‘delicate’. The cabernet sauvignon did well but it’s the cabernet franc that really shines, according to several winemakers, meaning lovely aromatics although the wines may not be long players. It was an unusual vintage, according to Gavin Quinney, with a wet, mild winter and largely damp summer rescued by a bright and sunny September that lasted into October, allowing the grapes to ripen, although mid-October rain came a little earlier than the Bordelais would ideally have liked. read more


The Price of Bubbles Just Keeps Rising

There is never a bad time to drink Champagne – particularly if you own vineyards within the appellation. At the recent auction for La Paulée de New York, a rare vertical of Krug Clos du Mesnil 1979-2003 sold for US$81,550, surely a figure worth celebrating with a bottle or two, while the upcoming Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale will feature over 1,000 bottles of Champagne including 341 bottles and 46 magnums of Krug ranging from 1979 to 1996, and just under 400 bottles of Dom Pérignon plus a few magnums. No matter how many competitors bubble up around the world – and the latest news is the UK’s push for a ‘Sussex’ appellation – the original sparkling wine has lost none of its fizz when it comes to investment potential. read more