Noteworthy news in the world of wine with an emphasis on France!
Compiled & edited by Roger C. Bohmrich MW
La revue du vin de France (RVF) relays the report of the FEVS* that wine and spirits placed second by value after aeronautics in exports of French products in 2012. The value of exports exceeded 11 billion euros, led by strong growth in Cognac (+34%), Bordeaux (+30%) and Champagne (+10%). The article points out that the volume has grown by only 1.6% while the value has increased by 10% as compared to 2011. There is awareness that there is a great deal to do to counter “ferocious competition” from Spanish and Australian wines.
*Fédération des Exportateurs de Vins & Spiritueux de France
Decanter has published an article entitled “Scandal of the century” focusing on alleged counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan. They report he is charged with “faking rare Burgundy and Bordeaux” and is being held pending trial. An auction house representative, Decanter claims, “believes the Kurniawan saga has had an effect on buyers.” On the other hand, Maureen Downey, a fine-wine appraiser, is quoted as saying that “so very many are still in blissful denial.” Whereas previous episodes concerned old Bordeaux, this particular case revolves around “old wines from producers such as Roumier, Rousseau and Ponsot.” In a related interview in Bourgogne Aujourd’hui, Laurent Ponsot states that he has devoted 10% of his time in the past four years to tracking counterfeit wines. He states that “auction houses are not sufficiently careful in authenticating wines.” Ponsot admits, however, that there is at first “a certain glory” in having one’s wines copied. But then he asked himself how the person who opens a fake bottle would feel. He worries that legal action will stop one or two counterfeiters, but that “the system will continue,” noting that counterfeit money still exists. Ponsot says he has taken costly steps to insure that his bottles cannot be falsified, believing a buyer is willing to pay “a little more” to acquire an authentic wine.
Bourgogne Aujourd’hui recounts that conversations in Burgundy have revolved around wine prices ever since the remaining grapes were picked last autumn. Price increases have so far been confined to transactions between growers and négociants, with bulk wine trading at levels 8% to 27% higher depending upon appellation. Only Chablis, they report, shows a more modest increase of 5%. The publication explains that prices of the top level of Burgundy – premiers and grands crus as well as some AOC villages – have increased in a “spectacular manner” in recent years; the same is not true of regional appellations. The 2012 vintage, however, may be an historic juncture. They quote Louis-Fabrice Latour as saying it is important to break through the “psychological barrier of 10 euros, 10 pounds or 10 dollars for the consumer.” Latour also indicates that the response from the trade so far is “we’ll see what the market will decide.” He suggests the ultimate increase may be around 15% for red wines and will affect stocks of 2011 as well. Michel Barraud, president of a Mâconnais cave, believes the price hikes of white wines will be more moderate.
An advocate of removing alcohol from wines using reverse osmosis, Vincent Pugibet of Domaine La Colombette (IGP Hérault), is profiled by La revue du vin de France (RVF). The review states that the practice was authorized in August 2009 up to a limit of 2% alcohol, and they say that “millions of bottles” are produced in France by this method. RVF indicates that promoters of dealcoholization contend it renders a wine easier to drink and reveals desirable constituents overwhelmed by excessive alcohol. Further, proponents maintain that the grower can obtain improved phenolic maturity without fearing high alcohol content. The detractors, RVF says, denounce wines undergoing this treatment as being “without flavor, indeed diluted.” Vincent Pugibet challenges anyone to detect that a wine has been carefully and lightly dealcoholized. Only when the process is pushed to the extreme, he claims, could a taster find a diluted result.
Asking whether a “mineral” wine truly exists, La revue du vin de France (RVF) presents conflicting views from tasters, vignerons, and researchers, saying that the question opens Pandora’s box. They point out that no trace of “minerality” can be found in the Larousse or Robert dictionaries. The word appeared about twenty years ago, RVF writes, and is now very fashionable. Researcher Yves Le Fur of the INRA* believes that those who employ the term “judge it to be more chic than ‘salinity’ or ‘acidity’.” Some, according to RVF, see it as an olfactory descriptor while others believe it refers to sensations or tastes. Tasters, RVF suggests, think of notes of flint, gunflint, rock, earth after a rain, graphite and other references. Jordi Ballester of the University of Burgundy is quoted as saying that “minerality is frequently correlated with acidity or bitterness.” Denis Dubourdieu, well-known Bordeaux oenologist, makes a connection with reduced sulfur compounds, among them benzene methanethiol, which corresponds to the aroma of flint or gunflint. “Minerality is an abstract sensory descriptor and cannot be taken literally,” Dubourdieu affirms. A contrary opinion is expressed by Lydia Bourguignon, who says that better “minerality” in wine can be obtained by favoring a living soil and forcing the roots to plunge deeper. Jacques Saumaize, a Mâconnais grower, opines that the description refers to a wine which is “tense, firm, clean, direct, and without make-up.” RVF mentions other possible sources of “minerality” such as volatile or acetic acid, natural chemical elements including sodium and potassium, and mineral salts. The article concludes that “minerality” retains its mystery for the time being.
*Institut national de la recherche agronomique
La revue du vin de France (RVF) reveals that a portion of the future Cité des civilisations du vin in Bordeaux, projected to open by early 2016, will be unveiled during Vinexpo (June 2013). RVF says the project costs more than 60 million euros underwritten largely by public sources, notably the city of Bordeaux, the Aquitaine region, and the European Union, with about one-fourth coming from private financing from châteaux and négociants. Features of the museum are to include a “multisensory” exhibit, a panoramic restaurant, tasting workshops, an auditorium and space for temporary exhibitions. The arresting shape of the “city” is based on wine flowing into a glass and utilizes materials associated with wine including wood and glass. There will be “a tour of the world’s vineyards,” RVF reports, and profiles of Mendoza, California, Rioja, Georgia, Chianti and Marlborough. Themes related to wine such as art, love, eroticism, excess and the divine will also be presented. [A video and further detail can be found on centreculturelduvin.com and citedescivilisationsduvin.com.]
Wines & Vines presents an article relaying a study of the eucalyptus aroma conducted by the Australian Wine Research Institute. Eucalyptus trees are native to Australia but are common in California and present on other continents, the article notes. Researchers focused on the oil in the leaves whose volatile compound is 1,8 cineole or eucalyptol. Their work evaluated the proximity of grapevines to eucalyptus trees and included an analysis of grapes, stems and vine leaves. The impacts of eucalyptus leaves and bark which had drifted into the vineyard canopy were also examined. The results are that “the closeness of grapevines to eucalyptus trees has a conclusive effect on 1,8 cineole concentrations in wine, and the presence of MOG [Material Other than Grapes] can significantly influence” the level of the compound. The findings may be relevant to French regions where wild plants containing essential oils are said to impart aromas described as garrigue.