Charlemagne Wine Club

Charlemagne Wine Club - News 2010

News 2010

2010 Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines list
Wine Spectator, the US journal has released its Top 100 wines list. Starting with blind tastings during the year of 15 thousand wines, the list was narrowed down on based on four criteria: quality, value, availability and "excitement". The final selection covered 14 countries, and the top 20 wines (with USA in a dominant position, and only 1 French entry) were
1 Saxum James Berry Vineyard Paso Robles 2007
2 Two Hands Shiraz Barossa Valley Bella’s Garden 2008
3 Peter Michael Chardonnay Sonoma County Ma Belle-Fille 2008
4 Revana Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena 2007
5 Altamura Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2007
6 Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2008
7 Schild Shiraz Barossa 2008
8 Fontodi Colli della Toscana Centrale Flaccianello 2007
9 CARM Douro Reserva 2007
10 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape White 2009
11 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 2006
12 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2008
13 Alban Syrah Edna Valley Alban Estate Reva 2006
14 Dow Vintage Port 2007
15 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley CCS Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard 2007
16 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford 25th Anniversary Selection 2007
17 Tensley Syrah Santa Barbara County Colson Canyon Vineyard 2008
18 Hall Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006
19 Coho Headwaters Napa Valley 2007
20 Carlisle Zinfandel Russian River Valley Papera Ranch 2007
The full list is available at

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber will sell part of his wine collection at auction in Hong Kong
Sotheby's said the collection could fetch as much as $US4 million at the sale on January 22. 747 lots from Lloyd Webber will go under the hammer, including 21 cases of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2005 and four cases of Chateau Haut Brion 1989.

France retains top wine producer slot
It looks as though France will keep its position as world's leading wine producer. The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), an intergovernmental organisation with 44 member states, estimates France's 2010 output at 44.75 million hectolitres, a decrease of 2 per cent from last year. That puts it just ahead of Italy, which saw an 11 percent drop in production this year. Italy was the biggest global producer in 2007 and 2008. Compared to 2009, world viniculture production in 2010 has fallen by 4 per cent to approximately 260 million hectolitres.

Disgruntled Bordeaux winegrowers break away from Bordeaux wine council (CIVB) to set up a rival body
30 winegrowers broke away from the powerful Bordeaux wine council. Their rebel Bordeaux Winegrowers Action Committee (CAVB), to be officially launched on 9th December, is looking at legal action to stop paying annual dues to the CIVB. The success of Bordeaux's elite brands, fuelled by Asian demand, masks the dire situation of many small winegrowers. Prices plummeted last June, which meant 1,200 bottles of basic Bordeaux red wine cost the same as one bottle of Chateau Latour.
The rebels accuse CIVB of failing in its core missions - to promote Bordeaux wine, regulate the market and represent equally the interests of wine merchants and growers. Winegrowers further claim that they lack representation on the council, despite contributing 75 percent of its membership fees. Previous attempts by rebel winegrowers to break with the CIVB foundered on legal grounds.

2011 Platter Guide to South African wines now available
Anyone who was bowled over by some of the wines tasted at the November Charlemagne tasting may be interested to know that the latest edition is now available from SA Wines Online at Regrettably, none of the producers we tasted managed to get into the 5 star category this time.

Champagne for sale
Remy Cointreau, the cognac and spirits maker, has engaged a bank to find a buyer for its unprofitable Champagne businesses, which include Charles Heidsieck and Piper-Heidsieck. Their web site lays bare the financials of their divisions, including €96.7mln sales for Champagne with a €4.0mln loss. So the sale makes sense for them, if maybe not for the buyer!

Kluge Estate facing foreclosure
Kluge Estate's New American Red was well received at Charlemagne tastings this year and last. However, as a result of a failed attempt to expand into the national and international market in the midst of a recession. Kluge, owned by Patricia Kluge and her husband, William Moses, owes approximately $35 million to Virginia’s Farm Credit Bank. The bank demanded payment in September and attempts to refinance were not successful. Farm Credit took over over the winery's operations in October, has dismissed employees and slowly shut down the operation.
"Apparently they are going to dismantle the business and sell its pieces, its equipment and real estate separately," Moses said. "They are not interested in selling the business itself, just the equipment and property, and that's completely contrary to what we were trying to do." According to foreclosure documents, up for sale on December 8th are Kluge Estate's 164 acres of vineyard, the farm shop and tasting room, office and production buildings, an "enormous barrel storage cave," the 34,000-square-foot former carriage museum and "six very nice houses for employees".

Australian Mango wine seeks new markets
Johnny Crayford, who owns Red Centre Farm, about 200 kilometres north of Alice Springs, has been making mango wine for 16 years. He is now trying to crack the Singaporean and Mexican markets, after exporting to China for more than two years. He's just returned from a wine expo in Singapore and says his product seems to suit tastebuds in South-East Asia. We have no plans to include his products in any upcoming Charlemagne tastings.

Crush with elephant power
The Oregon Wildlife Safari teaming up with a local Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards for the first ever Elephant Grape Stomp. Two African elephants, George and Alice stomped white grapes for wine. The owner of the vineyard, Stephen Reustle, was a little hesitant at first because he didn't know how it might affect the wine, but after seeing the elephants in person, he was on board. "Of course, I inspected the elephant's foot, and low and behold, the elephant's foot is this wonderful, leathery kind of texture to it that almost makes it perfect for stomping wine grapes," said Reustle. There is a one-off elephant-themed bottling planned.

Christos Ioannou is arranging a 10 day wine tour in South Africa (starting 25 Feb 2011)
The tour includes 9 night’s accommodation at 3 and mostly 4 star hotels, visits to Table Mountain, the penguins at Boulders Beach, and Cape Point Nature Reserve, all wine tastings, a local tour bus, the beautiful Garden Route and a stay on a private Game Reserve, a tour guide and a wine guide (Christos).
The tour cost is £1350 per person sharing a room or £1650 for a single room excluding flights.
Details at
There are only 20 places available on this tour so if you want to join it, don’t delay. If you have any questions about the tour call Christos at Criterion Wine
020-8993-2006 or 07765-596850 or email

Faberge wine taster sold for £3,800
A wine taster thought to have been made by coveted designer Faberge fetched £3,800 when it went under the hammer at auction house J P Humbert Auctioneers in Towcester, Northamptonshire. The wine taster, made of silver and silver gilt and decorated with rubies and amethysts, was identified as valuable by the Faberge trademark mark.

Muscadet 'meltdown'
Up to one-third of Muscadet's wine growers are facing financial ruin thanks to a 'meltdown' in export markets amid unsustainable pricing levels. Apparently around 60 Muscadet vignerons have filed for bankruptcy since this year’s harvest, and a total of 150-200 vignerons are expected to go out of business in the next few months Growers were hit by tightening market returns (estimated at a halving of income per bottle) as well as the longer term inmpact of the after-effects of 2008’s devastating spring frost, which destroyed up to two-thirds of the crop.

New Zealand: Wine is cheaper than water
Researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand claim that wine in their country is cheaper than water. A standard glass of bulk wine costs in New Zealand often no more than 62 NZD-cents, compared with 64 cents for a glass of bottled wine, 67 cents for a glass of water of 250 ml and 43 cents for a glass of milk.

The Wine Show 2010 Friday 12th - Sunday 14th November
Touted as "The UK's Biggest Wine Show", The Wine Show will be at Olympia this year. Attractions include
• Tasting Theatre (Oz Clarke, Tim Atkin, Rob Buckhaven and Suzy Atkins)
• Boutique and independent wines at The Wine Markete
• Tapas and wines to match created every hour
• Opportunities to buy direct from producers.
• Entry to Masterchef Live Show with the same show ticket.

For more information, visit

30 years of wine making at Hambledon
Hambledon winery in the Chilterns is celebrating its 30th anniversary. It was founded in 1980 when David Ealand bought what was then a pig farm and arable land. The first harvest in 1984 yielded about than 7,000 bottles of wine. Now the winery produces more than 150,000 bottles a year and supplies the royal household. The winery has won more than 70 trophies, awards and commendations in national and international competitions.

Vintage: The Winemaker’s Year
Hard on the heels of the Charlemagne tasting in September comes more exposure for Virginia Wines. A 90 minute documentary film following the progress of grape growing and wine production from 2008 to summer 2009 has premiered. It will be shown on US television over the next eighteeen months and features, amongst others, Barboursville Vineyards, Veritas Vineyard & Winery and White Hall Vineyards.

WINES & FOOD of PIEDMONT Tour with John Ducker - Wed 13th – Mon 17th April 2011
Sample Italy’s most important wines, Barolo and Barbaresco, gastronomic treats and the elegant city of Turin in the company of John Ducker & Amelia Dalton.
John writes and teaches for The Wine Education Service, is a professional actor, a member of the Circle of Wine Writers, long-time Charlemagne member and is hugely knowledgeable on Italian wines. More details at

Japan tells embassies to reduce wine stockpiles
Japan's foreign ministry has told its embassies abroad to reduce huge wine stockpiles after finding excessive build-ups, including almost 7,900 bottles at one European mission alone. "I was very surprised to see the report by the audit board," Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, who took office a month ago, told a parliamentary committee after a recent audit of embassies' booze stocks. "I knew there was a considerable inventory of wine, but one mission had as much as 30 times their 2009 annual consumption". The consulate-general in New York and three other missions reported discarding a total of 1,044 bottles of wine and other alcoholic beverages, citing their degraded quality.

Unconvential wine and label from Crozes-Hermitage
Julie Campos, general manager of the Northern Rhône Valley’s Cave de Tain l’Hermitage cooperative has teamed up with famous graffiti artist Jonathan “Meres” Cohen to design an unconventional label for an unconventional wine. Campos and Meres embarked on a creative process of elimination and encouragement - the first few submissions were “timid,” but Meres was encouraged to go “free rein with his creativity,” which including a non-traditional label shape. Result: The Cave de Tain Crozes-Hermitage Meres label, a special cuvée and a “vibrant wine for vibrant art.”

No to Champagne shampoo
Comité Interprofessionel du Vin Champagne (CIVC), the regulatory body of the Champagne industry has scored another victory in the fight to make sure no one pours Dutch shampoo into a crystal flute and calls it Champagne. The presiding judge of the district court of the Hague ruled in summary proceedings against a shampoo called Andrélon manufacturing by Unilever. To celebrate the brand’s 70th birthday, a special edition of the product was labelled “Champagne shampoo” supported by an ad campaign whose slogans included “Champagne Shampoo voor een feestelijke glans” (“Champagne shampoo for a special occasion”), and “Elke dag Champagne” (“Each day Champagne”) in which the shampoo bottle was depicted in an ice bucket. Unilever had already changed its Andrélon advertising and now must recall all of the “Champagne shampoo” bottles available at retailers.

The oldest producing vine in the world?
A competitor has emerged to challenge Roanoke’s Mother Vine, a sprawling Scuppernong in North Carolina believed to be as much as 500 years old, in the category of oldest living vine. The "Old Vine" in downtown Maribor, Slovenia, is more than 400 years old, among the longest-living specimens to bear grapes. Each autumn, Modra Kavcina grapes are harvested during the Old Vine Festival. Among food, wine and music events, the mayor of Maribor begins plucking the grapes. At the last bunch, the youngest gatherer places one grape on a vine shoot so that the vine will drink its own juice and continue to produce fruit. The Roanoke Mother Vine continues to have troubles recover from a herbicide spraying accident earlier this year.

Increasing interest in glass stoppers
US trade reports indicate increased interest in glass stoppers for wine. Dozens of U.S. wineries have followed Napa’s Whitehall Lane Winery and Oregon’s Sineann Winery in adopting the closure. The largest user is Calera Wine Co., which has bottled more than 70,000 cases with the stopper. The current generation of the stopper is about 1.125 inches in diameter with a Dupont-made Elvax resin gasket seal which holds the stopper in place. Calera's Josh Jensen says that Calera hasn’t received a single complaint from consumers, but he notes there are no applicators that allow a glass stopper to be as standard or interchangeable a closure as, say, a cork or screwcap. Calera, instead, employs someone to place the stopper atop each of the bottles as they move through the bottling line.
They conclude that glass closures are stylish and popular with consumers and Wineries appreciate security of the seal. But, like screw caps, reduction after bottling still carries potential for concern.

French Activists Destroy Experimental Vineyard
On Aug. 15, around 70 members of a French environmentalist group known as Les Faucheurs Volontaires—"the Voluntary Reapers”—infiltrated an experimental vineyard in Colmar, digging up and hacking apart some 70 vines with genetically-modified rootstocks, destroying seven years of research
The attack on the vineyard was not entirely unanticipated. Activists who were arrested included winegrowers from various other French regions and a local Alsatian winemaker named Jean-Pierre Frick.

Spanish Icewine
It may seem unlikely, but Spain has a newly approved Vino Dulce de Hielo Denominación de Origen (D.O.) for ice wine for wines made from a variety of grapes in the Penedès wine region. Less surprisingly, it includes ice wine made from artificially frozen grapes. Elsewhere in Europe, ice wine can only be produced from grapes that are left on the vine until temperatures drop low enough to freeze the grapes. The new D.O. allows grapes of suitable sugar content (240 grams per liter) to be frozen, although the natural method is also acceptable.

The most expensive wine in Australia
Torbreck has unveiled a Barossa Valley shiraz claimed to be the most expensive new table wine in Australia. At AU$700 a bottle and $87.50 a glass, the Torbreck’s “2005 The Laird” wine is pricier than the current Penfolds Grange (only $600). The Laird is available only at Torbreck’s Nuriootpa cellar door, with a production of only 400 bottles. Three 27L bottles in the new collection, made from grapes grown at the Seppelts Barossa vineyard, cost a whopping $30,000 each. As of now they have managed to sell three-quarters of the new stock. Torbreck chief wine maker David Powell believes that The Laird will go for thousands of dollars a bottle within the next decade.

Wink Lorch raising funds for The Benevolent Society
Wink is a regular speaker at Charlemagne, and we hope to see her again next year. Wink will be hiking up Snowdon, along with around 25 other professionals from the UK wine, spirit and beer trade (whatever the weather) on 25th September to raise funds for The Benelovent Society (founded in 1886 to make a real difference to the daily lives of those who have worked in the drinks industry and now need help).
Visit her JustGiving page ( to read about it and make a contribution.

French authorities approved four new appellations in Burgundy and the Rhône Valley
Two new Burgundy appellations ( Côteaux Bourguignons and Bourgogne Côte d'Or) are being created in the hope of raising sales of lower-quality wines. And two new Rhone appellations are being created ( Grignon Lès Adhémar was previously Côteaux de Tricastin, whilst producers of dry red wines labeled Rasteau Côtes du Rhône Villages will be able to shorten this to Rasteau).

iPad wine list application
South Gate's SmartCellar wine list application for iPad has apparently been introduced into 40 restaurants in USA. Whilst it does dynamically recognise when a wine is out of stock and remove it from the wine list, and offers the opportunity to investigate details of a wine more thoroughly, it's not entirely sure if this do-it-yourself sommelier system will put the real thing out of business.

Clinton Vineyards support Clinton Wedding
Clinton Vineyards in Clinton Corners, N.Y., sited almost within cork-popping distance of New York’s wedding of the century, got in on the act. The fortuitously named local wine was an obvious choice to play a part in the festivities surrounding the wedding of Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky on 31st July. Wedding guests staying at inns and hotels in the region found a bottle of Clinton Vineyards Tribute, a Seyval Blanc, waiting for them.

The case of the extortionist of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti takes a grim turn
Prison officials in Dijon report that the man accused of threatening to poison vines at Romanée-Conti and Musigny was found dead in his cell, apparently a case of suicide. The man was arrested in February after sending threats to both Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé threatening to poison the vines if he was not paid a huge ransom. The police set up a fake ransom drop in a cemetery in Chambolle-Musigny, where the suspect was arrested, along with his son.

Wondering if the recession is over yet?
At 2 recent wine auctions in Hong Kong, any remaining signs of 2008's wine lull seemed nonexistent. Acker Merrall & Condit's auction rated as the second-largest wine auction of all time worldwide in terms of volume and value - over 19,000 bottles were available to bidders, and reported sales were $19.5M. The Christie's auction also produced some spectacular results, including the "Liquid Gold Collection," a super-lot of 128 750 ml bottles and 40 magnums of Château d'Yquem spanning three centuries. The lot sold for an unprecedented US$1,032,092. It seems, at least in Hong Kong, that the demand for blue-chip wine is unstoppable.
Still to come, Sotheby's will auction a 162-pound English silver wine cistern from the early 18th century (estimated value: $2.8 million) in London. The cistern is larger than a laundry bin, reaching more than four feet across at its widest. It was commissioned by Lord Thomas Wentworth. The basin was crafted by Philip Rollos, one of the most celebrated goldsmiths in London at the time, and engraved by his son, John, with Queen Anne’s crest.

Man U and Concha y Toro
Chilean wine producer Concha y Toro has announced a partnership with Manchester United. Beginning in August 2010, Concha y Tora will be featured prominently billboards at Old Trafford as well as in the stadium’s lounges and bars. Sir Alex Ferguson claimed: “This is a partnership that unites the two great passions of South America, football and wine. I’m looking forward to it".

EU withdraws plans for rules on organic wine production
The EU Commission has withdrawn draft proposals to introduce standards for the production of organic wine, citing an unwillingness to dilute organic rules. Wine has so far been excluded from the EU organic regulation, which only extends to the grapes used in wine production. Organic wine has therefore been marketed only as wine produced from organic grapes. Draft proposals had been under consideration within the Standing Committee on Organic Foodstuffsto develop specific standards for organic wine. Based on an independent study under the Orwine project, these proposals included a lower limit for sulphites and a smaller list of permitted additives and processing aids than in conventional wine. It had also been proposed that five oenological practices be disallowed and three others restricted. Despite several months of discussion, attempts to find a credible compromise with respect to organic standards failed.

High Tech Wine vending machines
USA has a lot of strange restrictions on the sale of wine and alcohol. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's high-tech toy planned to sneak wine into grocery stores while still reaping the profits, has finally arrived at two locations in the state. Two supermarkets are testing the pilot kiosks, which come with a computerized menu to help you select the right wine, a state-ID scanner to ensure that the buyer is over 21 (or has a card that says they are), and a Breathalyzer that will shut down the sale if the would-be buyer has more than a .02 blood-alcohol level. The state receives the profits from the sales of the 53 wines available in the machines, and if all goes well, they plan to install 100 more.

Golf celebrities into wine
First, it was golf legend Jack Nicklaus partnering with Terlato Wines in Illinois, to create Jack Nicklaus Wines, Bordeaux varietals and blends sourced from Napa Valley appellations. Now 10-time LPGA major championship winner Annika Sorenstam is introducing Annika Vineyards Chardonnay 2008, her first white wine, made in conjunction with Karl Wente of Wente Vineyards in California’s Livermore Valley.

Record auction prices for '61 Hermitage
A case of French wine fetched a record price this week as springtime auctions of fine jewellery, luxury watches and wines in Geneva marked a return to top price selling. An unnamed Asian private buyer snapped up the six bottles of iconic 1961 Hermitage La Chapelle for 109,250 Swiss francs (98,587 dollars, 77,469 euros) at Christie's, during sales in the Swiss city that outstripped estimates.

Lurid wrapping for Turning Lea
E&J Gallo has hired British fashion designers Basso & Brooke to design new labels for their bottles of Turning Leaf in the U.K. The designers, known for their bright psychedelic prints on fabric, will outfit 2,000 bottles of Chardonnay and Zinfandel with neon leaves, erupting volcanoes and ikat prints inspired by their spring/summer 2010 collection.”

Wine is good for your heartbeat
Two years ago, a study from Harvard Medical School found people with high blood pressure need not give up the moderate consumption of alcohol. Now Harvard Heart Letter claims that it is also OK to have a glass or two of wine a night for those with a slow heart rate. Bradycardia, or a heartbeat under 60 beats per minute, may actually be helped by a little wine, since alcohol in responsible amounts can speed up the heart rate.

Robots could help grape havesting
The era of wine by robots could be dawning. Professor Toyama of Japan’s Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology recently demonstrated a voice- and motion-sensitive Power Assist Suit, a robotic exoskeleton that enables workers to pluck and hoe all day with 62 percent less physical effort than puny flesh-people usually expend. Grape picking is a strain on the arms, neck and lower back. Although Japan isn't well known for its wine production, this could be important as in Japan, two-thirds of the agrarian workforce is over 65

Grapevine Moth spreading across California
Restrictions and quarentine areas in Napa Valley are rapidly expanding since the very destructive European Grapevine moth (EGVM) was detected in September last year. The EGVM has already demonstrated its ability to do serious damage to vineyards. Last autumn they totally destroyed a 10-acre Chardonnay crop at a Napa Valley site. The moth lays its eggs inside the grape berries and on flower clusters, eating fruit and opening the door for fungal infections such as botrytis.
It is suspected that this outbreak can be traced back to grapes imported to Californmia last year from Chile, where the moth is now widespread.

The inventor of the wine box dies
Australian winemaker Thomas Angove has died at the age of 92. He was managing director of Riverland winegrower Angove from 1947 until 1983, but will be most remembered for revolutionizing wine packaging by developing the wine cask in 1965. When Thomas first brought the cask prototype home, his teenage son, John, told him, “That’s ridiculous, nobody will buy wine in a plastic bag stuck inside a cardboard box!”

Police arrest wine fraud suspects
Police in the UK have arrested two more people in connection to a suspected GBP3m wine investment scam. A total of eight people have been arrested in the operation, codenamed Operation Iceman, since the beginning of March 2010.
"Police believe that victims of the alleged fraud were persuaded to invest large amounts of money in specialist wines from Australia that did not actually exist," said DCI Robin Cross, head of the Metropolitan Police Fraud Squad: "This kind of investment fraud is becoming far too common."

Bowl shaped champagne glasses
Simon Hoggart in "The Guardian" reports that the bowl-shaped glass (now most associated with Babycham) is making a comeback against the long thin champagne flute. Alledgedly it's easier to pour, gives a quicker hit of bubbles, and you don't get your nose stuck. The bowl shape that was supposed to be modelled on Marie Antoinette's breast.
Now Dom Pérignon and Karl Lagerfeld have got together and produced, for some ridiculous sum, a champagne glass that is allegedly modelled on Claudia Schiffer's breast. Hoggart comments "a quick trawl of the internet shows that Ms Schiffer's bosom, while delightful, is of a perfectly normal shape, so if moulded and turned through 90 degrees, would create a rather impractical, unbalanced glass".

Lighter weight champagne bottles
The Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) announced the launch of a new bottle to reduce the region's carbon emissions. The new design will be more than 2 ounces lighter, yet can still withstand the 6 atmospheres of pressure within the bottle, shipping and handling. Because growers and houses still prefer different bottle shapes to distinguish their vintage and prestige cuvées, those bottles will remain the same for now. The new design should not spoil the fun of champagne drinkers used to opening their bottles with a sabre, though.

Latest Australian research on Screwcaps
The last decade has seen tremendous progress in research into and understanding of wine closures. Ten years ago, if you’d scanned the supermarket wine aisles, screwcaps would have been non-existent. The only alternative closures was first-generation injection-moulded synthetic corks. The vast majority of bottles then were cork sealed, and cork wasn’t doing a particularly good job.
The global market today for bottled wine is some 18 billion bottles per annum. Screwcaps are now sealing just over two billion of these bottles, while synthetic corks seal four billion. There are countries where cork is in danger of extinction: screwcaps now seal 90% of New Zealand wine, and in Australia the situation is fast heading that way.
But perhaps even more significant has been the change in understanding of what wine bottle closures actually do. Ten years ago, the consensus was that the closure simply sealed the bottle. The results of a significant 10 year study conducted by the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) have blown this idea out of the water.
This study began in 1999. The trial took a single wine – a Clare Valley Semillon – and bottled it under 14 different closures, including synthetic corks, natural corks, technical corks and a screwcap with a metal layer in the liner. The researchers at the AWRI followed these 14 versions of the same wine for years, using both sensory and chemical analysis.
Findings were clear: from the moment of bottling, the wines developed differently. By 21 months post bottling, they were different wines. The synthetic-cork-sealed wines developed quickly and showed evidence of oxidation. Conversely, screwcap-sealed wine was freshest and was developing most slowly.
But, whilst screwcap-sealed wines were the freshest and fruitiest of all, they also showed a trace of a burnt rubber/struck match character. The study’s authors identified this as being due to some complex post-bottling wine chemistry involving sulfur-containing compounds, known more widely in the wine trade as reduction. At five years, the distinctions were even more marked. The synthetic-sealed wines were undrinkable by this stage, but the remaining closures showed distinct differences.
The conclusion from this study is that perhaps the most important property of its closure is its oxygen transmission properties. At one extreme, the first-generation synthetic corks allowed too much oxygen transmission, and the wines developed fast and then oxidised. The screwcaps allow very little oxygen transmission, the wines developed more slowly, and this slow development came at the cost of some reduction.
A new industry group made up of suppliers and service providers to the wine industry called Oxygen in Wines has been established. Their ultimate objective is trying to gain an understanding of how oxygen, in combination with the closure, influences winemaking, leading to better closure design.
The picture that is emerging is a complex one. Much more is now know about closures and their role in post-bottling wine chemistry than we did a decade ago, and for that we have the screwcap to thank.

Picky baboons develop a taste for pinot noir
Largely undeterred by electric fences, hundreds of wild baboons in South Africa's prized winelands are feasting on ripe, succulent grapes. Growers say the picky primates are partial to sweet pinot noir grapes, adding to the winemakers' woe, for pinot noir sells for more than the average merlot or cabernet sauvignon. Baboons have raided South Africa's vineyards in the past, but farmers say this year is worse than previous ones because the primates have lost their usual foraging areas due to wildfires and ongoing expansion of grape-growing areas. Crop loss due to baboons of about 5% have been reported.

What a waste!
On March 12, a KiwiRail train hauling tankers full of wine bound for a bottling facility in Auckland was derailed near the town of Tokomaru, resulting in significant spillage of the liquid cargo and causing cancellations and rerouting for passengers commuting from Palmerston North to Wellington. Most of the wine found its way to a drain. A spokesman commented “There were no drunken sheep and cows,” and that nearby farmers should not expect their grazing livestock to experience “a sudden flush of wine in their milk.”

World's oldest malt released at £10,000
Whisky specialist Gordon & MacPhail has unvieled the world's oldest single malt whisky. The 70-year-old Speyside single malt will be selling for a mere £10,000 per 70cl, and £2,500 for the 20cl minibottle. The Gordon & MacPhail's ‘Generations' brand, Mortlach 70 Years Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky was filled into a Spanish oak, ex-bodega sherry hogshead cask on October 15, 1938. It is the first in a series of extremely rare malt whiskies to be released by Gordon & MacPhail under its ‘Generations' brand.

Plans for mineral exploration in West Cape winelands dropped
African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation has decided to withdraw its application to prospect in the Western Cape. South African winemakers had been protesting long and hard about the proposal.
Gallo rationalises its UK brands to concentrate on core ranges
E& J Gallo is to stop distribution of a number of key lines in the UK including Sycamore Canyon and Winemaker's Seal and concentrate on its five core brands: Gallo Family Vineyards, Turning Leaf, Redwood Creek, Carlo Rossi, and Barefoot. Gallo also announced that 2010 would be "the year of the foot" and claimed that its Barefoot brand (currently the leading US brand) will be the biggest wine brand in the world "within the next three to five years".

Thresher franchisees win legal battle to re-open
Former Thresher franchisees have won the legal battle to be allowed to trade as independents. The administrators of First Quench Retail Ltd have offered to surrender leases to the majority of franchisees' stores, leaving it open for owners to now negotiate directly with their landlords. Franchisees taking their stores independent will need to rename as the brands Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up and The Local have been sold.

Colours affect how we taste wines
Research in Germany (in the Journal of Sensory Studies) contends that lighting can influence both how wine tastes and how much consumers are willing to pay for it. The lighting experiments involved “blind” tastings using controlled fluorescent lighting. People rated the wine's quality higher, in general, when they drank it when ambient lighting was red or blue vs. green or white. The test wine was found much sweeter and fruitier when sampled in a room illuminated by red-tinted fluorescent lamps, and were willing to spend more for it. When dry and semi-dry Rieslings were tasted, “Participants perceived a wine to be spicier when they tasted it under blue or green light rather than red or white. Interestingly, blue lighting made the wine taste bitter, but subjects nonetheless liked the wine more."
Charlemagne has no plans to change the lights in Broughton Road for our tastings.

UK Vineyard Guide 2010 by Stephen Skelton MW
A guide to the vineyards and wine producers in the UK, Ireland and the Channel Isles. The guide contains chapters on the history of viticulture in the UK, the current situation and vine varieties. There are details of 450 vineyards.including a more or less definitive list of vineyards in England, Wales, Ireland and the Channel Islands - extensively researched and featuring useful information on each. Additional lists identifying the organic and biodynamic vineyards, vineyards of four hectares and above and a breakdown of vineyards by country and size. The book is available exclusively from

Sparkling Rosé for Marks & Spencer seized by Italian police
More than a thousand cases of sparkling rosé intended for Marks & Spencer was impoundeded by the Conegliano (Veneto) office of the Ispettorato centrale per il controllo della qualità dei prodotti agroalimentari (Central Inspectorate for the Monitoring of Food and Farm Products). The wine, produced and bottled by Trevisiol Spumanti (based in Valdobbiadene, Prosecco’s heartland), is believed to be made with Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, and Prosecco grapes.
Agriculture minister Luca Zaia called the seizure a blow against “agropiracy.” The contentious wine was labelled as Rosecco, and according to Italian appellation regulations, Prosecco cannot be made using red grapes and cannot be produced as a rosé wine.

Wines That Rock
Wines That Rock is a partnership between the rock business managers of RZO (who work with The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Sting and U2) and Mendocino Wine Co. They are offering three varietals, each with a rock’n’roll-inspired label. Forty Licks Merlot features the classic Stones logo on the label. The Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon of course features Pink Floyd’s most famous album cover. Woodstock Chardonnay pays tribute to the three-day festival of peace and music. Wines That Rock embraces “green” practices, from use of solar and wind power at the winery to eco-friendly packaging.

€12million advertising campaign promoting cork
Decanter reports that the Portugese government is launching a €20million campaign promoting cork as a traditional but innovative and sustainable industry. 60% of the money will be spent promoting cork closures. Under pressure from the rapid growth in screwcap closures, the market share for cork closures has gone down from over 90% in the early 1990s to around 75% today.

A wine to celebrate Mark Twain
Glenora Wine Cellars, in New York’s Finger Lakes region, has recently released its Mark Twain Riesling, a wine bottled and labeled to mark the 175th anniversary of the writer’s birth and 100th anniversary of his death.
What Mark Twain would have thought is uncertain - his professed feeling about anniversaries is clear: “What ought to be done to the man who invented the celebrating of anniversaries? Mere killing would be too light.

Kiwi Cuvee banned in Australia
A Loire Valley Sauvignon named Kiwi Cuvée has been blocked from registering its name in Australia following an Australian tribunal hearing. New Zealand Wine Growers has successfully blocked the registration of the name, arguing that the name deceptively suggested the wine came from New Zealand.

Lacheteau, which produces the wine in the Loire, argued that the term "Kiwi" was not a colloquialism for the origin of the wine. However, New Zealand Winegrowers accused Lacheteau of deliberately emulating a New Zealand product, saying that Sauvignon Blanc is the “archetypal” New Zealand wine variety, adding that screw-cap bottles (which is the closure of choice for the Kiwi Cuvée) are anathema to traditional French winemakers.

Dangerous vine disease 'threatens to be as destructive as Phylloxera' in Bordeaux
A vine disease, Flavescence Dorée, is taking hold in Bordeaux, and threatening to become as big a problem as Phylloxera. The disease is carried by the cicadelle (a leaf hopper insect) and causes the slow destruction of vines. This leads initially to heavy loss of yields, and eventually to the loss of entire vineyards. The disease itself is not new, and is now apparent in almost every wine region of France, but has been resurgent in the vines of Bordeaux in recent years.
Chateau de Seuil in the Graves region is due to grub up plots of Sauvignon Blanc vines, and all the vines outside the Maison des Vins de Graves in Podensac have been entirely removed.

A new worry for wineries - bacteria that can eat stainless steel and possibly concrete
The owners of Tamanend Winery in Pennsylvania filled currently unused plastic wine tanks with water for ten months to help keep temperatures in the winery stable. When the tanks were needed for wine, they were drained and the tanks and stainless steel cooling coils were cleaned - and what appeared to be rust on the welds of the cooling coils was found.
The stainless steel manufacturer eventually identified the problem as microbiologically influenced corrosion - an oxidative/reductive species of bacteria can aggressively attack and live off the iron in metals such as stainless steel. In essence, these bacteria, Gallionella metallireducens can “eat” stainless steel at the rate of as much as 3mm per month.
Three months into the summer, one particular area of concrete in the winery started pitting and eroding. In another several months, this area looked much like floors in other wineries where the concrete has been eaten down to the aggregate. Many winemakers believe this pitting is due to the acids in the wine and the sulfites from either barrels or other sources - but Tamanend owners believe that this concrete corrosion may also be due to the bacteria.

Château Mouton-Rothschild's 2007 vintage and label
In the estate’s grand tradition, the label features the work of a master artist. Bernar Venet joins the ranks of Picasso, Warhol and Francis Bacon, whose creations have all graced the first-growth’s bottle. Venet has sketched an uncluttered, harmonious design described as curvatures that “evoke chalices rooted in the earth and open, like vinestocks, to the precious gifts from above.”
As is the custom, Venet will be paid not in money but in Mouton — 10 cases, including five from 2007.

St.-Emilion Vintners try to replace pesticides with natural predators
St.-Emilion winegrowers have launched an ambitious, community-based biodiversity project to create miles of interconnected "green" corridors throughout the 20,000-acre region of Bordeaux in a bid for sustainability. Given the patchwork layout of St.-Emilion, the initiative required the cooperation of virtually every property.
Spiders, ladybugs and other natural predators of vine pests are expected to move freely between the 1,100 wine estates, vanquishing mites, grape berry moths and green leafhoppers and reducing the vintners’ need for chemicals. Various flowers and plants that attract these predators will also be planted. But greenbelts won't solve the problem alone. Monoculture — row after row of immaculate vines, nary a blade of grass in sight — has filled Bordeaux's coffers, and created the perfect habitat for pests. For decades, chemicals provided the answer, albeit an imperfect one, to pest control. And so far, biodiversity doesn't offer any solutions for two of the biggest threats to Bordeaux's vineyards, mildew and oïdium. However, there may be another advantage to biodiversity. Growers claim that limiting chemical interventions will reinforce the identity of the terroir,”

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