Charlemagne Wine Club

Charlemagne Wine Club - News 2012

Calorie labelling on wine bottles
Apparently the UK government is in discussions with the drinks industry about putting calorie counts on drinks as part of a campaign discouraging drinking. A 175ml glass of wine has almost the same number of calories – 130 – as two digestive biscuits.

Wine Spectator's 2012 Top 100 selection
The authoritative American wine magazine has released its annual list of the top 100 wines from the 16 thousand tasted. Obviously, this is focussed on the US market, but it makes interesting reading. The list figured 32 US wines, 22 from France, 16 from Italy & 9 from Spain. The remainder came from Australia and Chile (4 each), New Zealand (3), Argentina, Germany, Portugal and South Africa (2 each) and single selections from Austria and Greece.
The top four wines (in order) were  Shafer Relentless Napa Valley 2008; Château de St.-Cosme Gigondas 2010; Two Hands Shiraz Barossa Valley Bella's Garden 2010; and Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010
Click here for the full listing

"Pilot" wine label banned in Sweden
A French wine labelled with a picture of a pilot in action in an open 1930s plane cockpit has been banned by Systembolaget, the Swedish state alcohol seller. The ban is triggered by regulations stating “Marketing cannot in its design conjure associations with situations where alcohol consumption is inadvisable, such as traffic, sports or work,” It is unclear if the name 'Flying Solo' or its slogan "a taste of freedom" acted against the wine in the Systembolaget verdict.

Wickham Vineyard closes
Wickham Vineyard in Hampshire, which produces about 80,000 bottles a year, ceased trading just before Christmas. Having established its first vineyards in 1984, the estate had since expanded plantings to around 20 acres of 10 different grape varieties. Three Wickham Vineyard wines were served at a lunch in London that was attended by the Queen and Prince Philip to mark her Diamond Jubilee. Whilst the 2012 weather had resulted in a failed harvest this year, it is believed that the closure has been caused by the liquidation of the associated Wine Shak retail chain in November.

South African farm workers to revive wine region strikes
Thousands of South African farm workers will strike in the Western Cape wine region from 9th January, reviving labour action in December for higher wages in which two workers were killed in clashes with police and vineyards were damaged. Their labour at this harvest time is vital for a succesful vendage.

Octavian Vaults wants to expand
Octavian Vaults been at keeping the vintage owned by the world’s super-rich in pristine condition in old stone mines beneath the countryside of Wiltshire. Now they are looking to expand. But the problem is that no new redundant stone mines are being chiselled out of the Bath stone near Corsham, so Octavian wants to go above ground instead. Now it wants to build a "substantial" warehouse storage facility right on top of the entrance to the mine which, like the conditions 100ft down, will be controlled to exact specifications. Local residents in the nearby village of Gastard have objected to the 6,000sq m building proposal.

Cellar Vandalism Makes Rare Brunello di Montalcino Even Rarer
62,600 liters of rare Brunello di Montalcino was emptied down the drain by vandals at Case Basse di Gianfranco Soldera winery, although nothing was stolen. “I rushed down into the cellar and all ten barrels of Brunello from the 2007 to 2012 vintages were open and the wine had gone off down the drains,” said Gianfranco Soldera. The winery produces between 10 and 15 thousand botles per year, routinely selling in Italy for €200. While the lost wine was insured, age requirements mean no new Brunello wine can be sold for at least six years.

Robert Parker steps down as Wine Advocate editor-in-chief
Robert Parker has announced he has taken on three new Asian investors and is opening up a new office in Singapore, from where the Wine Advocate magazine will be run. The magazine will also increase coverage of wines produced in Asia, and - according to some sources - will take advertising for the first time. This office will be run by veteran Parker contributor Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, who becomes editor-in-chief of the Wine Advocate. Parker insists his Maryland office remains the headquarters, but the fact that ‘all responsibilities for coordinating TWA content, editing and proof-reading’ will be done by Perotti-Brown in Singapore, means that the magazine will be effectively run from there.

Bordeaux's Haut-Brion Buys Neighboring Domaine Allary Haut-Brion
Domaine Clarence Dillon, which includes Bordeaux first-growth Haut-Brion, has purchased Domaine Allary Haut-Brion. The 3.3-acre parcel, which borders Haut-Brion, had been owned by the Allary family since 1919. For much of the 20th century, the Allary vines were controlled by Haut-Brion under lease, with the Allary family being paid their rent in wine. From 1954 until 1978, it was bottled under the name La Passion Haut-Brion, and from 1979 to 2007 Haut-Brion blended the wine into their second wine, Bahans Haut-Brion. In recent years the estate made their own wine, 400 cases of a Cabernet Franc-Cabernet Sauvignon blend.

British sommelier takes record for holding wine glasses
British sommelier Philip Osenton, a 43-year-old wine consultant based in Beijing, smashed the previous world record of 39 wine glasses held in one hand with a new record of 51 glasses. Osenton began handling dozens of glasses early in his career when working at the Ritz and Savoy hotels in London. He achieved a record 51 by stacking them on their side on top of each other in his left hand.

Finger Lakes vineyards worried about gas fracking
New York winery owners are worried about the prospect of shale gas drilling, or fracking, in this region of postcard-perfect hills and crystal-clear lakes. They are concerned that muddy well sites and rumbling trucks will not only endanger the environment but threaten the Finger Lakes’ reputation for pristine beauty. The Finger Lakes sit atop the Utica shale and the Marcellus Shale formations, which is being tapped just across the state line in Pennsylvania by hydro-fracking. The process involves the injection of massive amounts of chemically treated water into wells and is denounced by many environmentalists as a danger to drinking water supplies. Winery concerns are more about the impact on tourism than on wine production. Fred Frank of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars worries the region’s carefully tended reputation will be in danger if tourists who make the long trip up from the New York City area and elsewhere have to deal with traffic created by gas drilling. Winery operators also say an entire lake could be polluted with one spill of chemical-laden water, creating an environmental hazard and a public relations nightmare.

Beer made with wine grapes
The craft beer market is growing rapidly and now accounts for nearly 6% of the total beer sales in USA. MillerCoors confirmed that it would be taking Blue Moon’s Vintage Blonde Ale wine beer national. Vintage Blonde Ale is a beer brewed with malted wheat and concentrated Chardonnay grape juice and the hybrid brew contains 8.5% abv. Originally called Chardonnay Blonde, the name was changed to Vintage Blonde because the US government would not approve a beer label that included “Chardonnay.” And another new wine beer will also be coming soon, again made using wheat beer, but this time with Sauvignon Blanc grape concentrate.

Brazil lifts threat to wine importation
It was officially announced in São Paulo that representatives of Brazil’s largest wine producers have withdrawn their application for restrictions on imports of wine. In exchange, importers and retailers have agreed measures to boost the sales of Brazilian vinhos finos (vinifera-based wines) without resorting to threatened quotas and punitive tax increases. So far it is not clear how these measures are going to be implemented or monitored.

China's problem with fake wines - 'Chateau Lafite Rothschild' horde
Police in China have discovered 10,000 bottles labelled as Chateau Lafite Rothschild in a deserted house in Wenzhou, south of Shanghai. If authentic the haul would be worth £10m. Chateau Lafite is very popular in China and 50,000 bottles are imported from the estate each year. Police say it's unlikely that a fifth of that total would have been stored in one deserted suburban villa. Analysts say that 70% of bottles of Chateau Lafite sold in China are fakes. The estate has fought and won six lawsuits against Chinese companies over fine wines.

House of Commons wine tender
House of Commons caterers have launched a tender for supply of wine for the next two years. Nearly £18,000 worth per month of a “global selection” of the “best quality wines, sparkling wines and champagnes not widely available on the High Street” are sought.

Ban on supermarket wine multi-buy discounts
THe UK Government is apparently planning to ban supermarkets from discounting multiple bottles of wine. Most supermarkets offer significant discounts for customers buying bottles of wine by the dozen or half-dozen. Ministers believe such promotions give customers a financial incentive to purchase more alcohol than they intended to buy and should be banned. There is already a ban in place in Scotland. The measures will also include a new minimum price for alcohol. The government believes that irresponsible drinking is leading to growing problems of crime and illness.

Worst European vendage in half a century
France's grape harvest is expected to slump by almost 20 percent compared with last year. The cold and wet weather experienced in Northern European vineyards including England was not the only problem - drought affected the Mediterranean rim. Italy's grape crop had a 7 percent drop, following a decline in 2011. Champagne (40% decline) and Burgundy (30% decline) were hard hit by the weather conditions, though Bordeaux decline less.
Thierry Coste, an expert with the European Union farmers' union, claims "All the major producing nations have been hurt. Two big producing nations, France and Italy, have not known a harvest so weak in 40 to 50 years," There may be an upside to this bad harvest — the quality of the wine produced will be good as it is expected to be more concentrated.

Claims that Australia's wine oversupply is almost over
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released data that showed a continuing fall of national vineyards, a decrease of 166,000ha under vine in 2008 to 145,000ha now. The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) said the ABS statistics revealed the wine glut was coming to an end. But Winemakers' Federation of Australia president Tony D'Alosio described the figures as "significant" but stressed that oversupply issues were not solely based on a physical surplus : "The industry is still going through considerable structural adjustment, and while some progress has been made on reducing the area under vine the potential remains for ongoing oversupply issues if yields return to normal."

Vendage in Paris
This weekend (13th-14th October) is the harvest celebration at the Montmatre vineyard in the heart of Paris. But the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë is strongly anti-alcohol. He has even banned wine from the canteen of the Hôtel de Ville. The cellar of around 5,000 excellent bottles was all auctioned off.
Mayor Delanoë is expected to attend the grape picking festival, with all sorts of events taking place around the vineyard, both wine-related and alcohol-free. There’s a big chocolate buffet on Friday and a firework display on Saturday night. But the Mayor is not expected to be sampling the 2010 vintage (which wasn't very good anyway).

Terrible harvest for English wines
Britain's vineyards, prducing English wine, have been having a successful few years. A series of good summers have persuaded growers to plant more and more vineyards. There are now 3,500 acres of vineyards across the country. But this summer's cold, wet weather has resulted in poor yeilds and poor quality grapes. British vineyards expect their harvest to be smaller by up to two thirds. Nyetimber, Britain's biggest wine producer with 430 acres across West Sussex and Hampshire, has scrapped its entire harvest due to this year's bad weather as 'quantity and quality of grapes do not meet the required standard'.

Amazon Reportedly Setting Up Wine Marketplace in USA
Amazon is apparently planning to sell wine to its online customers in USA, its second attempt to move into the category in three years. The online retailer is creating a marketplace for wineries to sell their products directly to customers. Amazon intends to charge wineries a 15% commission on every sale as well as a $40 monthly fee. It is an interesting opportunity for Amazon - online wine sales account for less than 1% of wine sales in the US.

Thai wines marketing push in UK
Thailand’s Siam Winery exports to 20 countries under its flagship Monsooon Valley brand. It has been selling Thai wines in the UK for eight years and Britain is the largest export market for the winery. Currently Monsoon Valley sells a range of eight wines, including a Colombard and Shiraz varietals, as well as a lower alcohol (9.5%) Chenin Blanc white. The primary market for Monsoon Valley is the Thai restaurant sector, and a surge in the number of outlets has driven an increase in Siam’s sales. The sales manager, Neil McIlwee, believes that the whole Asian wine market is going expand very soon with the volumes arriving from India, China and Japan.

Swedish divers find 100-year-old wine in a wreck
Swedish treasure hunting group Ocean X have discovered 21 wine bottles in the wreck of the SS Astrid, a Swedish ship sunk by a German U-Boat in 1916 off Sweden’s east coast. The bottles from Swedish company Grönstedt being shipped from Sweden to Finland, originally hailed from the Champagne region in France. The bottles were sent to London for analysis where a wine expert confirmed that no salt water had seeped in. The bottles are planned to be auctioned off at Christie’s in London.

Death of Jean Tattinger
Jean Taittinger died on September 23rd at age 89. Taittinger was honorary chairman of his family's Champagne house. His father, already a Champagne distributor, bought Forest-Forneaux, a Champagne producer dating back to 1734, and renamed it Taittinger when Jean was only 8.

Capitalising on royal embarrassment
Sheldon’s Wine Cellars have rapidly taken advantage of royal embarrassment following Prince Harry's Las Vegas nude event. Its own label rose wine has been renamed “Royal Blush”. The shop already had the rosé wine in stock and as news of the scandal broke, manager Peter Creek and his staff went back to the drawing board and knocked out a new label, featuring a quirky cartoon take on the Vegas scene, in double-quick time.

Christie's starts online-only wine auctions
A case of 1982 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild has sold for US$42,350 at Christie’s first online-only fine wine auction. The auction took place over two weeks, with all browsing and bidding done entirely online. The top ten lots included Château Lafite, Mouton-Rothschild, Petrus, Latour and Margaux, most of them exceeding or meeting their estimates. Total auction value was €664 thousand, with 88% of lots sold. This "Signature Cellars" auction was the first in a series of online fine wine sales, and the next sale will open for bidding on 16 October.

FSA cracks down on fine wine funds
City watchdog Financial Services Authority is aiming at protecting investors from being wrongly targeted with high risk and illiquid assets and to stop three out of four retail customers being mis-sold the products. The products span from life policy investments, to alternative asset classes, such as fine wine, art, Indonesian timber, green energy funds and wind farms. A consultation is under way, deadline is November 4, with a policy statement expected at the beginning of 2013.

El Bulli cellar to be auctioned off
Spanish chef Ferran Adrià closed his most exclusive restaurants, El Bulli, this year. Now the wines that El Bulli partner and beverage director Juli Soler collected to pair with Adrià's cuisine will soon be auctioned. Sotheby's will be auctioning off the 10,000-bottle cellar (though the date has not yet been announced). It includes more than 1,600 different labels, including 1999 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti that was originally priced at $6,600.

California levy for rootstock research upheld
A Sacramento court has ruled affirming the legal status of the California Grape Rootstock Improvement Commission and its right to assess vine nurseries a fee to support research into vine rootstock improvement. Vine rootstocks have been a research topic since the latter half of the 19th century, when the vineyards of Europe were devastated by phylloxera. In order to save European grape varieties, growers grafted their vines on to American vine roots that had some resistance to the pest. Since that time, planting noble grape varieties on heartier roots has become standard practice.
Since 1947, researchers at the University of California viticulturist have been breeding rootstocks to combat pests threatening California's vines. The first focus was on breeding a rootstock that was resistant to Pierce’s disease. Since then, a series of rootstocks have been developed which are resistant to a range of nematodes (roundworms that can spread viruses) and to fanleaf virus. They have also developed the first genetic map of grape rootstocks.
This work, supported by the California Grape Rootstock Improvement Commission, is funded by a levy on California nurseries of $0.015 per unit for cuttings and rootstock sold to customers. John Duarte, president of one of the state’s largest vine nurseries, filed the lawsuit in 2000. He claimed that the program spent millions of research dollars without producing true results for nurseries or growers.

Is your treasured vintage a fake?
The arrest in March in New York of alleged wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan who has sold millions of dollars’ worth of rare wines at auction, has raised fears among collectors about what’s actually in their cellars.
According to specialist wine investigators, the most frequently faked labels are Chateau Petrus, 1961 Bordeaux first growths, 1982 Lafite, Chateau Lafleur, Sassicaia, large-format bottles of pre-1985 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and Henri Jayer Burgundies.
French authorities recently detained four executives of Burgundy negociant Laboure-Roi on suspicion of wine fraud.

Chinese competition for winemakers
The provincial government of Ningxia in China is inviting 10 foreign winemakers to visit and each make a red wine and a white wine. Each winemaker will select grapes from the same vineyard and produce wines using the same facility. The best wines are eligible for prizes that total about EUR25,000. The goals of the Ningxia Wine Challenge include increasing the region’s global profile and bringing its winemakers together with their foreign counterparts to exchange ideas and practices.
Ningxia is in northwestern China and includes the area east of the Helan Mountains, home to dozens of wineries that are increasingly attracting the attention of wine critics and performing well in competitions.

French cows enjoy two bottles of wine every day as farmers attempt to produce the best beef in Europe
Some of the best restaurants in Paris are already championing this development, which followed an experiment in southern Herault region which saw three cows fed local wine for four months. It soon became clear that they were 'happy cows' producing an exceptionally succulent meat. The cows were allowed wine from Saint-Genies des Mourgues, a Languedoc village near Montpelliers. The next phase of trials may include Muscat so as to give the meat a more musky taste. The luxury meat is being branded as 'Vinbovin'.

Fake Chateau Lafite in Shanghai
Shanghai police report that they have busted a ring of six people producing and selling fake fine wines. More than 4,000 bottles of fake Chateau Lafite were found in hideouts in the suburban Fengxian and Minhang districts of the city. They estimated the value of the bust at about US$1.6 million.

Waitrose trialling Chinese and Brazilian wines
Waitrose continue to offer interestingly different wines. They are trialling a wine from China (Changyu Cabernet Gernischt, described as "a spicy, aromatic and juicy red", made in central western China on the edge of the Gobi desert) and a Brazilian sparkling Miolo cuvée rose. On a recent trip to deepest Wiltshire, I was pleasantly surprised to find a display of eight locally produced English wines from that region. Maybe Waitrose in West Ealing will repeat this by stocking some classic vintages of David Carter's legendary Chateau Hanwell?

Wine reduces risk of arthritis
Swedish scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found that women who drank at least three medium-sized glasses of wine a week - or the equivalent in beer or spirits - were up to 52 percent less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
Academics believe alcohol counters this process because it lowers the immune response. Researchers quizzed 34,100 women aged 39 to 84 about their drinking habits. However, it is important to stress that the paper isn’t saying that excessive amounts of alcohol are good for you.

French merchants boycott Californian wine
Wine merchants in Gascony in southwest France are taking Californian wines off the shelves in retaliation to a ban on foie gras, outlawed across California since on 1 July. Now in the Gers in southern France, the centre of world foie gras production, local winemakers are doing their bit to show solidarity to the region’s many producers, following suggestions from local politician Philippe Martin. But as only tiny amounts of Californian wine are sold in this part of France, it is largely a symbolic move, seen as a way of protecting a delicacy that is a key part of French culture.
At the same time, French foie gras distributors in the US and American producers are taking the Californian government to court.

3,000-year-old wine unearthed in China
Wine dating back 3,000 years has been unearthed in a nobleman’s tomb in northwest China, and is said to be the earliest wine in China’s history. It was found inside an ancient bronze vessel from the West Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC-771 BC). The liquid was discovered at an archeological excavation when the vessel – one of six found in the tomb – was shaken. However, the cover of the vessel remains tightly shut, and with no appropriate tools to open it at the excavation site, the liquid inside has yet to be identified.
Residue of wine over 9,000 years old has been found in ancient Chinese vessels, and has been analysed as having been created from “rice, honey and fruit.”

Underwater wine maturing
Storing wine under the sea deliberately (such as the Chilean "Reserva Marina" wine, matured underwater for at least six months) or accidentally (remember the Baltic shipwreck with bottles of Champagne salvaged in 2010) has produced some good wines. Now Bordeaux winemaker Bruno Lemoine has tried a comparative test using barrels of 2009 vintage wine from Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion. One barrel was stored in the chateau cellars, the other at the low tide mark in oysterbeds in the Bay of Arcachon. After six months the wines were bottled, and the sea-matured wine was "was much better than it should have been, at once mellower and more complex than its on-land relative", Further experiments are planned.

Russians may find themselves forced to moderate their wine drinking habits
The country’s wine market is set to be held up for several months if authorities fail to clarify a new classification system. New rules are due to be introduced on 1st July – but Russia’s State Duma has failed so far to provide any guidance on how the new rules will be used. All wines must be classified in one of four categories – sparkling, fruity, liqueur and natural – with the rest being labeled as “wine-type” drinks. Each category will require a special license, hitting wine makers and dealers and as a result pushing up prices. Excise labels are also set to change.

Rerun of "Judgement of Paris" at American Association of Wine Economists annual conference
A wine tasting called "The Judgment of Princeton" was held at the AAWE in Princeton, modelled on the famous blind tasting organised in Paris by Steve Spurrier in 1976 where Californian wines caused considerable surprise in France and the USA, and helped to put Napa wines on the global wine map.
At the Princeton tasting 9 wine judges from France, Belgium and the U.S. tasted French wines (such as Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and Haut Brion) against New Jersey wines. The results were surprising. Although, the winner in each category was French (Beaune Clos des Mouches for the whites and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild for the reds) NJ wines barely differed in their average rank from those of France. Given the academic nature of the audience, a statistical evaluation of the tasting, conducted by Princeton Professor Richard Quandt, further showed that the rank order of the wines was mostly insignificant (i.e. if the tasting were repeated, the results would most likely be different). From a statistical viewpoint, most wines were therefore undistinguishable.

IWSC 2012 Results
Fourteen wines were awarded Gold Outstanding awards at the Internation Wine & Spirits Challenge. France took 4, followed by 3 for Canada and Italy. There was one Engl;ish winner. Full list of the wines :
Inniskillin Riesling Icewine 2008 (Canada)
Magnotta Sparkling Ice Limited Edition VQA 2008 (Canada)
Strewn Vidal Icewine 2008 (Canada)
Bolney Wine Estate Blanc De Blancs 2007 (England)
Champagne de Castelnau Brut Reserve NV (France)
Etienne Dumont NV (France)
Dentelles De Camille, Camille Cayran AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne Red 2010 (France)
Tesco Finest* Premier Cru Champagne NV (France)
Horst Sauer Escherndorfer Lump Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 2010 (Germany)
Fattoria la Vialla Vinsanto del Chianti Occhio di Pernice D.O.C. 2007 (Italy)
"Argentiera" DOC Bolgheri Superiore 2008 (Italy)
Liano Sangiovese Cabernet Sauvignon Rubicone IGT 2009 (Italy)
Sandeman 20 Year Old Tawny Port (Portugal)
Warre's Quinta da Cavadinha Vintage Port 1998 (Portugal)

Decanter 2012 World Wine Awards
The results are in for the 2012 Decanter World Wine Awards. There were no fewer than 256 Gold Medal awards. France (58 medals) won nearly a fifth of the awards. Australia (32), Italy (31) and Spain (29) were the also big winners. There were a few surprises - Canada (6) was well ahead of USA (2). And there were medals for Slovenia (4), Israel (2), Turkey (2), Lebanon (1), Croatia (1) and China (1). Great Britain took two gold medals, for Camel Valley Pinot Noir Brut 2010 and Hush Heath Estate Balfour Brut Rosé 2008.

Burgundy wine fraud
Following a long investigation, a 63-year-old Beaune négociant faces multiple charges of wine fraud, including falsely labelling several thousand bottles of wine with prestigious AOCs like Mercurey, Vougeot 1er Cru, and Givry, as well as spicing up his cru Burgundy with Beaujolais and wines from southern climes. The accused has not been named in the French press, but sources confirmed that the man who was arrested during the formal inquiry is Bernard Gras (who owns five stores and is also an oenologist). Gras had been charged, forbidden to contact employees and ordered not to buy or sell wine. The company continues to function without him, operating through its stores and via the Internet.

Surprise at Celebration of the Vine festival in Virginia
The red wine that took first place was Cooper Vineyards 2009 Petit Verdot. No huge surprises there. But the white winner was a Merlot. New Kent Winery’s White Merlot! To make a White Merlot, the juice from the merlot grapes has virtually zero contact with the skins just before and during fermentation. This wine has "a delicately dialed-in balance of acid and sweetness". And no colour.

Solar powered vineyard robot
Mâcon-based inventor Christophe Millot has been demonstrating his solar-powered vineyard robot, Wall-Ye. After three years of development and input from winegrowers in Alsace, Burgundy and Bordeaux, the 50cm high Wall-Ye can now prune 600 vines per day and can also tie canes to wires, de-bud and de-sucker vines. It uses GPS to keep from shuffling over to the neighbour's vineyard, and is priced at €25,000.

Big plans for a new English vineyard
Planting vines has commenced at Rathfinny, a new estate on the South Downs. The aim is to produce sparkling wine to match France’s finest, growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Riesling in chalky soil similar to that of the Champagne region. The plan is to expand to about 400 acres and become England's biggest vineyard, eventually producing a million bottles a year. Owner Mark Driver, who helped found a hedge fund, paid about £3.5 million pounds for the land at Rathfinny in 2010. The winemaker is Jonathan Medard from Epernay who trained at Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Champagne Louis Roederer, Moet & Chandon and Champagne Boizel. Cameron Roucher, the vineyard manager, is a New Zealander who previously managed the Two Gates Vineyard in Hawkes Bay.

Wine World records
Guinness (as in Book of Records, not stout), have an impressive range of records involving wine. A few examples:
The World’s Largest Wine Flute was filled with 75 bottles of bubbly in Balaklava, Ukraine, on 6 August 2011.
Most Wine Glasses Held in One Hand was 39 by Reymond Adina at the Quatre-Gats restaurant in Barcelona, Spain on 24 October 2007
Largest Wine Cellar (by Number of Bottles) is in the Republic of Moldova (located between Romania and the Ukraine) and is an underground wine cellar-sensation. This former lime mine contains over 2 million bottles of wine, and totals 34 miles in length.

EU decides against mandatory reporting of sulphites in wine
The European Commission has stopped a planned mandatory registration of sulphites used in wine making. The proposal dated from 2009 and was strongly contested by growers’ organisations across Europe which claimed the measure was disproportionate, inefficient and inapplicable. The Commission recognised the need to reduce administrative burdens and admits that, because sulphites are added at different stages of wine production, the final content does not tally with the amount of sulphites indicated.

2011 Bordeaux vintage en primeur preview
From the reports of experienced commentators, it appears that the conditions of 2011 worked against the winemakers. The weather combined to make this a very difficult year to make great wine:
early spring flowering but then severe drought, excessive heat and drought in June, July colder than normal, August and September wetter than normal
Yields were much lower than usual for many estates and very, very careful fruit selection was needed to make wines of quality. No clear left bank/right bank advantage has emerged so far, but there is a very broad consensus that white wines - dry and sweet - have fared better than red.
Pricing is going to be one of the most interesting aspects of the 2011 vintage - there is talk that the Bordelais will take a pragmatic view of this difficult vintage and introduce real cuts - some rumours are of 40%, even 50%.

Post your wines across the USA?
Since 1909, the US Post Office has been barred from shipping poisons, explosives, harmful items, and “all spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented, or other intoxicating liquors of any kind”. Now the U.S. Senate has passed legislation designed to help stabilize the post office’s finances. The most intriguing proposal in the Senate bill would allow the postal service to ship wine and beer around the country. However, this is not going to happen immediately. Only 14 states allow the importation of wine from out-of-state wine retailers, and 40 states allow an out-of-state winery imports. The Postmaster said he doesn’t believe that getting the post office involved in shipping alcohol across state lines is in any way disreputable. In fact, he already has some shipping ideas: 2-, 4- and 6-bottle wine boxes for one flat rate that would ship anywhere in the country.

Vineyard & Winery cats help sustainability efforts in California
Gophers, moles, and voles have long been a source of concern to vineyards and gardeners alike because they often eat the roots of plants, including new grapevines, and kill the plants. Trying to find a safe and humane method to deal with the issue has always been a challenge. The introduction of feral cats to be vineyard and winery cats to patrol the property and control pests has been found to be a useful solution. It also reduces the use on non-environmental poisons.
Winemaker Bill Frick of Sonoma County commented “I didn’t want to use poison or traps, so when I heard about the opportunity to adopt feral cats I jumped at the chance. Now there is very little evidence of rodent activity. The cats are a great natural organic rodent control! One of them has become less shy and sometimes follows winery visitors from the tasting room to the parking lot. The Forgotten Felines feral cat program is genius,” he says. “They trap, sterilize and release again to hunt and control rodents. They save cat lives, control overpopulation and allow folks to have useful barn cats."

Life Sentence for Chinese Smuggler of Bordeaux Wines
A wine smuggler named Sun Xitai has been jailed for life for illegally bringing 70,000 bottles worth 45 million yuan (£4.5 million) into China. He imported high-end red wines from France, Britain and Hong Kong on more than 80 occasions, and declared acquisition prices much lower than the actual prices paid to avoid reduce customs duty. He lied about the names of premier wines such as Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Latour and Chateau Margaux, giving them unfamiliar Chinese names to pass them off as cheap brands. As well as fake invoices, Sun is alleged to have asked suppliers to put a few cheap wines on top and hide more expensive ones below in the container to hide them. Sun Xitai was previously convicted in 2002 when he was sentenced to 1 year in prison.

Take your pick of Natural Wine Fairs in London
The Real Wine Fair takes place in Victoria House, Holborn, on May 20-22. The Real Wine Fair has emerged from last year’s Natural Wine Fair in Borough Market.
One of the instigators of the Natural Wine Fair event, Isabelle Legeron MW, is now the organising force behind RAW – The Artisan Wine Fair, being held at the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane on May 20-21.
And both clash with IWF on 22-24 May. London International Wine Fair is the single most important event in the international wine calendar)

Vandalism at Château Labat
An unknown gang of vandals demolished 1,900 Merlot vines (about a third of the plot) at Château Labat in the Haut-Médoc region on the night of March 16. Owner François Nony has filed an insurance claim for about £10,000, the value of the vines and a year of lost productivity. Nony plans to replant immediately. As for who's behind this and their motive, it remains a mystery. Nony himself is puzzled: "An ex-worker or just a bunch of hooligans would imply that they were motivated enough to do a six-hour job at night, which seems quite remarkable. If it's an ex-worker, I should have kept him, because his productivity is high!"

A new wave of Sicilian winemakers are making an offer you can't refuse.
New economic cooperatives making prize-winning wines from Italian vineyards are cultivating land once held by the Mafia. Wines from the Centopassi vineyards are the result of a €1.2 billion European Union-Italian project to integrate ex-Mafiosi property back into the legal economy. So far €61 million has been invested in relaunching ex-organized crime businesses under the EU-Italian Pon Sicurezza banner. The project involves 125 hectares (300 acres) of vineyards plus 800 hectares (nearly 2,000 acres) of olive and citrus trees, grains and vegetables. Most of the land converted into productive use by the Pon Sicurezza project has long been left fallow by former masters after they are jail, and then can stay unproductive during a long legal process - up to seven years - before authorities could formally seize the property. The obstacles, however, are still considerable. Some 40 percent of farmlands confiscated from the Mafia are legally in the hands of banks. Many Mafiosi, facing the loss of their property, took out loans on it and then deliberately defaulted in an effort to keep the property from being developed.

A McDonalds value meal with Malbec
McDonalds is serving wine as part of a value meal in the Argentine wine capital of Mendoza. The "Sabores Mendocinos" menu, the meal includes a double hamburger in a bun, two meat empanadas, and a 187ml bottle of Malbec from local producer Bodega Santa Julia. The meal costs 47 Argentinean pesos (£7) and the wine is reviewed as fruity but not much else - "drinkable".

Treasure trove for champagne producer Alexandre Bonnet
workers hired to renovate a former grape-drying facility at Champagne house Alexandre Bonnet in Les Riceys were showered with gold coins as they dismantled the ceiling. 497 coins minted by the U.S. Treasury between 1851 and 1928 are worth approximately a million dollars. The winery owner, Francois Lange, intends to split the loot with the workers, and is contemplating a special vintage honouring the treasure.

Mass wine uncorking record
308 chefs and sommeliers set a Guinness world record on 29th February at the Bellagio pool, Las Vegas by simultaneously uncorking their bottle of wine within 30 seconds. They shattered the previous Guinness record of 252 uncorkings set in New York last year. No information is available on who drank the wine!

Gloom and struggle continues for Australian wine producers
The latest economic snapshot of Australia's wine industry is warning there are more tough times ahead. The strength of the Australian dollar dampens interest in locally produced wine. The National Australia Bank's Agribusiness Rural Commodities Wrap reveals total wine sales in Australia dropped by 2.8 per cent last year. And to add to worries, an oversupply of grapes is also adding to the problem.

Moët-Hennessy investing in Chinese mountain vineyard to produce red wine
Champagne maker Moët-Hennessy has invested in 30 hectares of vineyards in the mountains of Yunnan (southwestern China) to produce red wine for the domestic Chinese market. This is not the first French venture into Chinese vineyards - Domaines Barons de Rothschild developed 25 hectares of vineyards in Shandong province in 2008, with the goal of producing 240,000 bottles yearly of premium wine.

Hitler wine sales deemed legal in Austria
Officials say they have stopped investigating a man (identified only as Roland M.) after finding no evidence that his sales of wine and schnapps with Adolf Hitler on the label were breaking a law against glorifying the Nazi era. Legal officials say he was motivated by profit, not ideology and he stopped sales when legal action against him started.

Do meteorites help wine age?
Ian Hutchinson, a British astronomer, has created a Cabernet Sauvignon wine called Meteorito treated with a 4.5 billion year old meteorite. The base wine from Hutchinson’s vineyard in the Cachapoal Valley of Chile was fermented for 25 days before placed in a barrel with a three-inch piece of the meteorite. Hutchinson said : “You are tasting space, in a way you physically taste elements of the solar system and of the history of the meteorite that spent millions of years orbiting the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter”. There is no information on how well the wine is expected to age.

Rude Chilean wine label makes a hit in China
Called Chilensis (from Via Wines in Chile’s Maule Valley), the name loosely translates as “f*cking nuts” in Chinese. Demand for the rude label wine has soared, pushing up prices by 25%. This highlights the need for caution when releasing labels in the Far East. For example, Château Latour may have failed to perform in the Chinese market because its name loosely translates as “to fall down”, and Pepsi slogan “Pepsi Brings you Back to Life” translated to “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave”. Coca-Cola’s Chinese name “Ko-kou-ko-le” translates as the more suitable “happiness in the mouth”.

Monkeys given hot red wine to ward off the cold
With winter temperatures fall below -33 Celsius in Kazakhstan, the monkey residents of Karaganda zoo are fed a warming concoction of hot red wine mixed with sugar, apples and lemons. The wine of choice is "Kagor" red wine, used in Orthodox churches. It is claimed to help protect them from respiratory infections, but the benefit was disputed by a spokesperson from the Zoological Society of London who stated "It's absolutely not the norm to give any animals alcohol, diluted or otherwise." The zoo does have a zero alcohol policy for pregant monkeys and babies, who are not allowed to imbibe.

Fraud claims over research into health benefits of red wine
Dr. Dipak Das was a prolific researcher with at least 117 articles on the effects of resveratrol, a bioactive compound found in red wine. After a three-year internal investigation following an anonymous tip-off, he has been sacked by the University of Connecticut, having been found to have falsified or fabricated data on at least 145 occasions over seven years.
This throws into doubt an entire body of knowledge on the multiple health benefits of moderate amounts of red wine, including cancer prevention, cardio-vascular health, a reduction in age-related diseases and reversal of diabetes and obesity.
However, some resveratrol researchers were not concerned by the fraud allegations and still believe the compound can improve longevity.

Strange branding for Californian wines
Californian wine producers are well accustomed to seeking eye-catching branding for their wines, often with rather peculiar links to the wine. Winemaker Mark Bearman has produced music oriented wines including a blend of syrah, zinfandel, grenache and petite sirah which "interprets" Grateful Dead album “Steal Your Face” and a cabernet sauvignon for Pink Floyd album "Dark Side of the Moon". Imagery Estate Winery went the other way, commissioning an orchestral piece "Imagine a Waltz" from Richard Derwingson for with the current release of "White Burgundy" (which is actually a chardonnay-pinot blanc-pinot meunier blend).
Other California brands like Dirty Laundry, Woop Woop, Happy Camper, Hey Mambo, and FlipFlop seem to stress mood rather than music, and certainly telegraph unpretentiousness.

Riedel redesign the Champagne flute
Glassware manufacturer Georg Riedel report “The Champenois are starting to serve their sparklers in white wine glasses as the larger surface areas give more aromas, complexity and a creamier texture”. Riedel has started making bespoke glasses for several Champagne houses more akin to a white wine glass. They are much bigger and rounder than a traditional flute.

Late harvest for American Ice Wine
Unseasonably warm weather over Northern USA and Eastern Canada has seriously delayed the harvesting of grapes for icewine. Picking usually takes place in early December, but lack of freezing weather meant that it was only when a short cold snap occurred at the end of December and on 3rd January that the crop could be harvested. The resulting volume is only half the typical harvest.

Fancy packaging for Croix de Beaucaillou
Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou has commissioned jewelry designer Jade Jagger (daughter of Mick) to package the estate’s second wine Croix de Beaucaillou. Luxuriant gold vegetation on deep black background may look like a perfume bottle, but Jade Jagger claims it represents “the elegance, finesse, and depth of Croix.”

Sonoma’s Iron Horse winery creates a new sparkling wine for the Chinese New Year
In celebration of the Year of the Dragon (beginning on January 23) Iron Horse winery will produce 1,000 cases as part of the limited run. 880 cases will be exported to China and the remaining 120 cases are being sold in the USA. It is vintage 2007, a blend of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay. The label is red and yellow – the colors of the Chinese national flag, and bilingual. Plans are to create a limited edition Chinese Cuvee each year (and 2014, the Year of the Horse, should be very marketable for this winery, previously notable as a supplier to the White House).

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