In The News

The Price of French Wines Skyrockets

By, published March 17, 2014, updated March 18th, 2014

Translated from the original French by SlaveToTheGrape

The price of French wines skyrockets as a result of the small harvests of 2012 and 2013, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Les prix des vins français flambent
The price of wines, most notably those of Burgundy and Bordeaux, skyrocket in 2014.REUTERS

Wine is subject to the laws of supply and demand. Prices for top French wines surged as a result of “weak supply”, according to Agreste, the statistics division of the Agricultural Ministry. In fact, the harvest of 2013 was only slightly more abundant than that of 2012.

From August to January, appellation-driven wine prices jumped 18% in one year and 25% compared to the average over the last five harvests (2008-2012). The jump is particularly significant for Burgundy (+32% year-over-year) and Bordeaux  (+20% year-over-year).

Late and challenging

Rates of other wines – those with Protected Geographical Designation (IGP) and without Geographical Designation (IG) – are climbing as well although proportionately less, from 6 to 11%. Whites without Geographical Designation lead this category with the biggest increases (+14%).

The 2013 harvests were two to three weeks late, given the rain and cold weather in  June. The horrible spring, followed by summer hail storms and wet conditions during harvest, significantly impacted yields.

In sum, according to the November assessment from Agreste , the 2013 wine harvest remains historically low at 42,3 millions hectoliters, or slightly higher (+2%) than that of 2012 but still lower than the average of the last five years (-7%).

Sauternes : Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey sold!

The Swiss businessman, Silvio Denz, just purchased château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, one of the classified first-growth wines of Sauternes. This acquisition is one in a recent series that is stirring up the reputation of the staid Sauternes district.

Published : 02/04/2014 by the RVF

Sauternes : Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey vendu !


 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey and its new owner, Silvio Denz.

At first glance, with wines that are often difficult to sell and whose profitability is always uncertain,  the image of Sauternes hardly encourages investment. Yet, Sauternes is currently buzzing, driven by the arrival of buyers who are betting on its châteaux.The first of these was the insurance giant AXA in 1992 with its purchase of Château Suduiraut. No one can forget the arrival of Bernard Arnaud and the Groupe LVMH at the iconic  Château d’Yquem in 1996. This was followed in 2006 with the purchase of Château Guiraud by Robert Peugeot and partners Stephan von Neipperg (Canon-la-Gaffelière), Olivier Bernard (domaine de Chevalier) and Xavier Planty, the director of this classified growth château. In turn Bernard Magrez acquired château Clos Haut-Peyraguey in 2012. And just this past December, Doisy-Dubroca was purchased by the Dubourdieu family from Lucien Lurton.Now comes the hour of 57 year-old, Swiss businessman, Silvio Denz who just purchased the classified, first growth Sauternes château,  Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey. The deal was managed by banker Alexis Weill of Transaction R (Groupe Rothschild) and estimated to be to the tune of 10 million Euros.”I purchased the  château at a very attractive price after a year of negotiations” intimated Silvio Denz last Tuesday from his Parisian offices , in the presence of Éric Larramona, the château’s current director who will remain at his post.WHAT INTEREST DID SILVIO DENZ HAVE IN THE ACQUISITION OF CHÂTEAU LAFAURIE-PEYRAGUEY ?Located in the town of Bommes, the château comprises 80, planted acres. The property, which had been in the hands of the Cordier family for many years, was purchased by the Suez group in 1984. The group renovated its installations as well as the château in early 2000.This transaction does however, raise two important questions : Why exactly did Silvio Denz buy Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey and what does he hope to gain from this purchase? The president of Art &Fragrance (cristallerie Lalique), a company specializing in perfumes and cosmetics, has underscored its desire to promote œnotourism in the Sauternes region, where capacity to do so is fairly limited  (le Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey comprises 13 rooms).More than that, the low price per acre of vines in the Sauternes district allows for the acquisition of first growth domain classified in 1855 at a cost inferior to that of the Médoc or of a  classified growth property in Saint-Émilion.

Another important consideration is that Silvio Denz has observed the success of dry, white wines produced in the region with some interest – modeled after Olivier Bernard’s Clos des Lunes which was launched in 2013 . “I intend to commit 50% of the area under vine to the production of dry, white wines like those with which Olivier Bernard has had so much success“, declares Silvio Denz.


It is perfectly plausible that Silvio Denz secretly hopes that the rules of the Sauternes appellation will soon be changed and that he will be allowed to produce red wines (under the Graves appellation) from this terroir – which is what a lot of Sauterns producers have been secretly hoping for for some time so that they can move away from only producing vins liquoreux (the sticky, dessert wines for which the region is famous)!

Silvio Denz began investing in wine in 1999 by founding Suisse Ermitage Holding – a  Zurich-based company which owns Grands Vins Wermuth and Casa del Vino as well as the vineyards  Clos d’Agon in Catalonia and Montepeloso in Tuscany. In 2005, he acquired the prestigious, Saint-Emilion domains, Château Péby Faugères (18 acres) and Château Faugères (90 acres),  both having achieved top classifed growth status in 2012  in addition to Château Cap de Faugères (Castillon- Côtes de Bordeaux). In 2007, he purchased Château de Chambrun (6.80 ha) in the Lalande de Pomerol appellation. Finally, in 2010, with his friend Peter Sisseck (owner of the renowned Spanish estate, Pingus), he acquired Château Rocheyron (18 acres) in AOC Saint-Emilion Grand Cru.

Philippe Maurange and Baptiste Charbonnel

A record-setting 6.3-million euros raised at the 153rd Hospices de Beaune auction

By  (with the AFP), published Nov. 18, 2013

Translated from the original French by SlaveToTheGrape

A record 6.3 million euros were raised this Sunday at the 153rd  Hospices de Beaune. Under the gavel of Clotilde Coureau an  estimated 131,000 euros were raised for charity.

Record à 6,3 millions d'euros pour la 153e vente des Hospices de Beaune

In the course of the Hospices de Beaune event, 443 barrels comprising 43 wines were judged.


Each year, the sale of the wines of the Hospices de Beaune is one of the most important events of November. This past Sunday was no exception at the 153rd rendition. Indeed, a new record of 6.3 million euros was set at this year’s event. As for the sale of the “charity lot”, actress Clotilde Courau served as head-auctioneer, presiding over the sale of a 456-liter barrel of Meursault Genevrières 1er Cru  in the amount of 131,000 euros. The funds will be distributed to the Petits Princes and Papillons blancs  associations.

Sale of the 443 lots ( 228-liter barrels) of 43 wines (Corton, Bâtard-Montrachet, Mazis-Chambertin, Pommard, Pouilly-Fuissé, Echezeaux, Meursault, Beaune 1er Cru…) rose to 6,168,122 euros (fees included), versus 5.9 million the previous year. “We are extremely happy with these exceptional results that have established a new record for charity sales of the wines of the Hospices de Beaune. In spite of the smallest harvest in 30 years, bidders from Christie’s from more than 21 countries squared off with determination over 43 wines leading to this historical success”, according to  Michael Ganne, director of the wine division of Christie’s of Paris. The average lot price increased by 26.6%, or 13,013 euros versus 10,278 euros in 2012, added Christie’s.

The charity lot purchased by a Chinese, female bidder

In contrast, the “charity lot” of Meursault-Genevrières 1er Cru was sold for 131,0000 euros, far from the 270, 000 euros taken in by the 2012 lot that was purchased by the French ex-first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Yet, for the first time, a Chinese, female buyer – owner of a chain of stores, jade mines and tea plantations – outbid the others. “It is not as good as last year but it is a very nice amount all the same, according to Louis-Fabrice Latour, the president of the Burgundy producers’ association. Had the charity lot been a Grand Cru red, the bidding would have gone higher.”

Money raised in the sale of these wines will go to the Hospital Foundation of the Hospices de Beaune founded by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor of the duke of Burgundy in the 15th century who created the first charity hospice that eventually became a hospital.

With the 

Man of the year

Chapoutier the explorer

by Thierry Desseauve, published 09/2013

Translated from the original French by SlaveToTheGrape

For more than thirty years, the audacious winemaker/CEO of l’Ermitage has introduced the family brand to every continent while maintaining his fundamental principles : primacy of terroir, biodynamic farming, outstanding quality across the range… A flawless journey, applauded by Bettane & Desseauve.

Chapoutier l'explorateur

DEMANDING. According to Michel Chapoutier, each wine, be it grand cru or one of a more humble nature, must reflect the personality of its terroir.

One of the favorite arguments of theorists regarding the decline of France is that, in contrast to its German neighbor, our country woefully lacks a base of dynamic, small and medium-size businesses well established both nationally and internationally capable of efficiently organizing their professional sector. This is undoubtedly an informed assessment except in one sector : wine. Here this is in fact the primary characteristic sometimes to the point of caricature. Thousands of oftentimes miniscule, family-run businesses, make up a fabric that is often more flexible, reacting more nimbly to the the changes in the marketplace than in those countries where wine production is controlled by large groups as is the case in Australia. Rarer still, yet even more critical for the future of the sector are well-capitalized, medium-size operations capable of capturing market share in a universe that was, until recently,  characterized by a conservatism bordering on paralysis. In this category, Michel Chapoutier is truly a remarkable player.

In the mid-1980s, at just 26 years old, M.Chapoutier becomes head of a family business that is underperforming relative to its northern, Rhône valley neighbors Guigal and Jaboulet. As the owners of famous vineyard sites – anchored by 30 hectares (60 acres) on the celebrated hill of Hermitage – the house of Chapoutier, under the direction of his father, practiced a unique winemaking management style of this legacy, going as far as to systematically employ chestnut barrels – versus the traditional oak – so as to elevate the wines. In no time, young Michel outlines parameters that are both demanding and uncompromising. The primacy of terroir, the principal tenet of the winemaker’s craft, takes center stage. Whether Chapoutier wears the hat of broker or winemaker, whether speaking of grands crus or of more approachable wines : each one must reflect, through modesty and integrity, the identity of the place from which it orginates.

One of his first decisions is to renounce the “broker cuvées” so as to rediscover the essence of each parcel. He progressively isolates each soil type in his Hermitage holdings : the pure granite of l’Ermite, the crest of the hill, the rounded-stone and clay terraces of the famed Méal block, the sedimentary topsoils over a granite base of le Pavillon that give the Syrah for the reds and to Marsanne for the whites personalities displaying the same nuanced distinctions as the grands crus burgundies crafted from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

This primacy of terroir naturally drove Michel Chapoutier to modify the agricultural approach to his vineyards. As early as the 1990s, he initiates biodynamic farming, both in the Rhône, where the lion’s share of his holdings exist, but also in the Roussillon region, where he acquires the domain, Bila-Haut, as well as in Australia, yet another Eldorado for this repressible explorer. Parcel selections, biodynamics, new vineyard horizons : Chapoutier chose a radically different approach  in direct contrast to that which has characterized brokers from previous generations – one producing insipid wines devoid of soul or roots as well as a stagnant commercial nature. Like the child with the mischievous twinkle in his eye who cannot resist the alluring jar of jam  (apricot, the other agricultural pillar of this region) sitting loftily atop the buffet, he committed himself at once to the exploration of the infintessimally small as to the vast horizons of wine.

As is often the case with the extraverted and highly colorful Chapoutier, this feast of experiences is in fact much more regimented than its sometimes bulimic appearance would suggest. In the end, the brand demands consistency as much for the impeccable and value-driven côtes-du-rhône, as for the somptuous bottles of côte-rôtie or l’ermitage (for his best wines, Michel Chapoutier removed the “H”). It is precisely this coherence and presence across the range of his wines that led us to highlight this flawless journey. The vineyards of France must put forward weighty offerings, capable of adorning both the most elegant tables and the budget wine cellar, taking as much care to produce a grand cru as a wine from a regional appellation. Chapoutier, like Guigal in France and Antinori in Italy, is one of a rare breed.

As the rain finally gives way to sunshine, growers are optimistic

French vineyards experienced spectacular hail and rainstorms this spring delaying the harvest by at least two weeks yet as of this moment, nothing is etched in stone: the 2013 vintage hinges on the summer and the talent of France’s winemakers.

Published July 15, 2013 by RVF (Revue de Vins de France)

Translated from the original French by SlaveToTheGrape

climatvignoblessixFrom Champagne to Bordeaux, from Beaujolais to Bourgogne, producers are “serene”, insisting that a wet spring is not a definitive indicator of the quality of the vintage. “The current weather patterns are favorable, flowering has taken place raising the prospect for generous grape bunches, but clearly the summer months will be decisive in terms of quality for both grapes and wines produced”, according to Pascal Férat, president of the Syndicat général des vignerons de Champagne (Champagne Producers’ Union) – a viewpoint shared by Benoît Purbet, vineyard manager of the grands crus classés (classified growths) château of the Bordeaux district of Saint-Emilion – Côte de Baleau, Clos Saint-Martin and Grande Muraille. It is still “way too soon to anyalze the specific consequences” of the bad weather, we need to “wait for berry ripening” around mid-August, he said.


“If the harvests take place under the right conditions in October, it could be a good vintage”, according to Dominique Gruhier, president of the Syndicat des exploitants viticoles d’Epineuil (viticulturists union). Nathalie Bergès-Boisset, of the producer Boisset (Côte d’Or) who oversees the domain of the Vougeraie covering 27 Burgundian appellations from Gevrey-Chambertin to Meursault is more cautious, esteems that it is too soon to call given that the berries are still “too green”. However, in general, grape health is considered essentially good. Like Mr. Purbet, Jérôme Bauer, president of the Alsace growers’ association (Alsace grape growers’ association) was very satisfied that “even though the rains engendered some instances of downy and powdery mildew, both plant fungal diseases, these diseases were managed efficiently”. The only thing that is certain for the growers is that harvesting operations will definitely start late. “Clearly the harvest will not take place as early as last year”, according to Jean Bourjade, délégué général d’Interbeaujolais (head delegate of the Beaujolais producers’ association).


In Bordeaux, assessments are of the same order. “Here, we’re two to three weeks late relative to a “normal” year. With the ideal summer conditions that are in the forecast we should recuperate a week but the harvest will almost certainly be late”, said Benoit Purbet. Jean-Martin Dutour, member of the Inter-Loire executive council Loire, is optimistic. “If, relative to the last several vintages, we’re behind by ten to twenty days and if the months of July, August and September are nice there won’t be any noticeable issues”, he believes.
“This will be a late harvest relative to the last ten years but nothing out of the ordinary when one looks at harvest records over the last century”, adds the Champagne region’s Pascal Férat. However, professionals in certain growing areas are expecting significantly reduced yields in terms of volume. “We will undoubtedly harvest fewer grapes than usual”, adds Bordeaux’s Benoît Purbet.


In the Loire valley, severe hailstorms hit some vineyards very hard in June, most notably in Vouvray (Indre-et-Loire). “By all estimates there will a 30 to 50% reduction in the quantities of grapes harvested”, according to Jean-Martin Dutour. Inversely, Jean Bourjade, has “more peace of mind than last year where we had very significant reductions in tonnage”. Meanwhile growers, who will be watching the skies very closely in the coming weeks, are guardedly optimistic hoping that the worst is behind them.
 Dominique Gruhier, president of the Yonne growers association notes happily that, “the bad spring weather was very unsettling but it will hopefully be just a bad memory given that the great weather that we’re currently experiencing which is like manna from heaven!” “Our forebears are comparing this year’s weather conditions – a wet spring followed by a dry summer – to those of the 1983 vintage  which produced some very good wines”, adds Jérôme Bauer.

(with the AFP)

The first stone of the Cité du Vin (City of Wine) of Bordeaux has been laid

Published 06/20/2013 by L’,

Translated from the original French by SlaveToTheGrape

Although the opening of the Cité des Civilisations du Vin (Wine Civilizations Center) is not scheduled until 2016, last Wednesday, during the international trade show Vinexpo, the building’s first stone was laid.

A new home for the vine.

A new home for the vine – the futuristic Cité du Vin, Bordeaux, France.

The first stone of the future Cité des Civilisations du Vin (Wine Civilizations Center) of Bordeaux, slated to open in three years, was laid on June, 19th, 2013. “Bordeaux was lacking an emblematic site in the city proper to celebrate wine”, said the city’s mayor, Alain Juppé at the time of the building’s inauguration.

23 rooms and a two-hour visit

The architecture of this audacious, 14.000 square meter project with its rounded, ribbed curves is inspired by the vine as well as the motion of wine when swirled in one’s glass. The site, which anticipates 400,000 visitors per year, is the brainchild of the British agency Casson Mann, run by Dinah Casson and Roger Mann, known among other things for the recent extension of the Science Museum of London.  The visit will take approximately two hours. Comprised of 23 rooms, the museum will offer a “journey through the world’s vineyards” as well as “a terroir table” encompassing Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Moselle valley, the vineyards of Mendoza (Argentina), California (United States), Rioja (Spain), Marlborough (New Zealand) and Chianti (Italy).

Wine: a history

The “portraits of wine” exhibit will also present the main categories (red, white, dry, dessert and sparkling) and “a wing of civilizations” will track the history of wine from Egypt to today.  “Wine is a business to which the professional wine fair, Vinexpo is completely committed. At the same time it is also history, landscapes, people, trades, a way of life and a culture. This is what we hope to convey to all of our visitors”, added Alain Juppé.

Rendez-vous in 2016.

With AFP (Agence France Presse)

Thierry Germain : “wine consumption in the United States is changing.”

Just back from a recent visit to the US, (from Roches Neuves winery) the well-respected Loire winemaker observed that American tastes in wine are changing. According to him, the Loire has a hand to play.

published May 14th, 2013

Translated from the original French by SlaveToTheGrape

Thierry Germain : "la consommation de vin aux Etats-Unis est en train d'évoluer"

Thierry Germain came back enthusiastic about his most recent trip to the US.

Thierry Germain, the respected biodynamic producer from Saumur-Champigny (Domaine Les Roches Neuves),  came back enthusiastic about his most recent trip to the United States. “Mentalities are changing,” he said. “There is a current infatuation with wines that are not as sweet, fruity, floral – wines that show more finesse. The concept of biodynamics is starting to gain traction. In addition, the Loire is identified with this trend.”

REVUES DE VINS DE FRANCE : You just returned from the US. What kind of historical presence do you have in this market ?

Thierry Germain : I went there to work the market as I regularly do with my importer, Elite Wines, in the states of Washington, Maryland and Virginia. This importer is specialized in French and Californian wines. The French wines are high-end with a preference for those expressing minerality and freshness. This company has never followed the trend towards jammy, over-extracted or over-oaked wines. They work with top restaurants and retailers in these three states. We have been with them for just about fifteen years and were very well distributed in the US. Over the last seven years we began to pull back from this market because we began to have the sense that our wines corresponded to what they were looking for. But today there is once again a strong demand over the last year or two.

RVF : What type of wine is the American market looking for?

Thierry Germain : Consumption in the US is evolving. In retail wine cellars and in wine bars, wines that were appealing in the last decade were sweet, jammy, very ripe, dense and oak-laden. Today, they are stepping back from these completely and gravitating towards wines that are fruit and mineral-driven and that exhibit an iodine character that is very pronounced in our wines here in the Loire as well. I was very surprised to sell my entire allocation of wines to my importer in one week! I’m talking about an allocation of 2500 bottles of different high-end cuvées. The price to the consumer for our Saumur-Champigny La Marginale, for example, is $60 dollars. The cost to the consumer of our new Saumur blanc, Clos Romans is $70 dollars. These do not represent entry-level prices and yet I didn’t sense any problem with them selling through. Customers are looking for quality, price is secondary which is surprising in times of economic uncertainty.


RVF : You were accompanied by other producers on this trip. Did they experience the same demand ?

Thierry Germain : I was with my friend Julien Zernott du domaine du Pas de l’Escalette (Languedoc) who makes delicate, refreshing reds for the south. The most mineral-driven of his cuvées, Le Grand Pas, was the first to sell through. There is no question that the American palate and tastes are changing.

RVF : Did you get a sense that there is an infatuation with organic and biodynamic wines ?

Thierry Germain : References to biodynamic and natural wines are not yet very prevalent. We don’t have the same standards and labels as them so things are a bit blurred. However, this message and philosophy are beginning to penetrate their minds. More and more American wine connoisseurs are sensitive to what it means to “eat well” and inversely to not eat well. Many in the trade tell us that they need a better understanding of what it means to be biodynamic. With over ten years of applying these farming methods we have a certain level of expertise in this area.

RVF : Do biodynamic and natural wines correlate to an image of quality ?
Thierry Germain : Organic wine, yes. For example, a cellar owner in the Maryland countryside, asked me for the first time if my wines contain sulfites while in the city the question never arose. This kind of exchange is something that is beginning to come up in the markets.


RVF : Are Americans very familiar with Cabernet franc?

Thierry Germain : The don’t have a favorable image of this variety. They identify it with vegetal and rough tannins in a wine. Our wines are much more refined and finessed so when they taste and we work hard to eliminate the aggressive tannins which allows us to highlight the wines’ purity instead which comes as a big surprise to them. I would say that this for me was what was most positive on this trip – the difference between what they were expecting from a cabernet and what they discovered with our wines.

RVF : Do the wines from Saumur Champigny have opportunities?

Thierry Germain : Yes, if we don’t make cabernets like we did twenty years ago with yields of 5 tons per acre! I think that there is a real market here. Even in Asia the market is beginning to open up to the wines of the Loire. These wines do really well with spicy foods. In fact in Washington (D.C.), cuisine is multicultural. There is a strong Indian community that appreciates our wines. The image that America has of our cabernets francs is not that of the wines made by the thirty top producers made in the Loire region today. We need to help them rediscover our offer.

RVF : Do they really make a distinction between Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon ?

Thierry Germain : Yes, now they do, particularly in Washington (D.C.) and in Maryland where cabernet franc is becoming fashionable. In Virginia as well because they produce cabernet franc


RVF :  Is Chenin Blanc trendy as well?

Thierry Germain : Riesling is still the most fashionable today amongst American oenophiles. It surpassed Chardonnay ten years ago. German Riesling represents a style of wine that is appreciated for its lively character and vibrant acidity. These  attributes are not historically  fundamental components of the American palate but US consumers have learned to embrace this style. Now they are beginning to discover the wines of the Loire. There are clear opportunities for Loire producers in these countries. They respect what we are doing more and more. For the moment Chenin Blanc is just beginning to develop because there are lovely examples coming from South Africa that are well established in the American market.

RVF : So you are saying that Chenin Blanc wines are more dominant than those from the Loire ?

Thierry Germain : They are shipped both from  South Africa as well as the Loire. From what I’ve seen on wine lists and in retail cellars the region of Vouvray is very well represented,  Saumur is not. I must be one of the rare exceptions. There are some examples from important Anjou producers like Nicolas Joly (Coulée de Serrant) and the Pithon family.

RVF : What kind of presence of  Loire wines have you seen on restaurant wine lists?

Thierry Germain : There are very few Loire wines on restaurant lists. The majority of wine lists focus on wines that are fruity and show minerality or structure or are driven by price or variety. It is still the grape variety that is always dominant rather than the region. Americans are less region-focused than us. After many conversations with importers I have discovered that they more often buy based on the personality and story of the winemaker rather than the region or a specific appellation. Having a good relationship with the wholesaler  helps tremendously with the sale of our wines. Importers and their customers will speak about your wines much more readily and be more inclined to promote your wine rather than that of another producer.

Interview by Antoine Gerbelle

Beaujolais harvest reduced by half

Le | • Par Laurence Girard

Translated from the original French by SlaveToTheGrape

Des bouteilles de beaujolais nouveau dans les rayons d'un magasin du Michigan, aux Etats-Unis.

Since September 7th, harvesters have been very active in the vineyards of Beaujolais. They still have roughly two weeks worth of handling clippers. Yet, at the same time that “heaven” as the locals refer to the first juice extracted from the presses, flows abundantly, the mood here is not really one of elation. Simply stated, the producers of Beaujolais are set to harvest only half as many grapes as in 2011.

“We’re looking at 400 000 to 450 000 hectoliters, versus 852 000 hectoliters compared to last year”, says Jean Bourjade, lead delegate with the professional association Inter-Beaujolais. According to him,  “this is an unprecedented event for which no producer can recall a historical comparision.”

There is no doubt that the weather did not cooperated. A succession of violent, weather events caused output to plummet. Lengthy winter frosts – the Saône even saw some remarkable, limited ice formations – destabilized the vines, particularly in Beaujolais since old vines that are much more sensitive to cold are numerous here.

Hail fell repeatedly right up to the beginning of  August sparing virtually no vineyard block. The only  consolation: mildiou (mildew) and oïdium (fungal disease) that attacked the vine during a wet spring did not spread and the affected vines shriveled and fell. The remaining grapes are fewer but healthy.


“We remain very optimistic about grape quality”, affirmed Mr. Bourjade. As professional spokesperson he hopes that this punishment will a beneficial effect on prices postulating that the natural balance between supply and demand should be actualized.

“Today, he said, the wines of  Beaujolais offer the best cost-to-value ratio on the market. However, certains Beaujolais villages (a quality tier between everyday Beaujolais and the cru – (sic)) are so cheap that consumers believe the wines are not of good quality. Even if there is a price hike between  80 cents to a dollar per bottle, these wines will remain very affordable.”

In spite of the likely price increases, this year’s harvest may prove very difficult for growers faced with a 50% in their production. “The situation over the next twelve months could be very challenging for those who are already facing economic difficulties”, specualtes M. Bourjade.

Beaujolais, which represents 18 000 hectares (approx. 40,000 acres) between Lyon and Mâcon, has already witnessed the loss of 3 000 hectares of vines between 2007 and 2009 as well as 1 000 hectares from 2010 to 2011.

Laurence Girard

Will American wines be allowed to use the term chateau on their labels?

Translated from the original French by SlaveToTheGrape

From Le | September, 14 2012

In a commuique published Friday, September 12th, the Federation of the great wine domains of Bordeaux (FGVB) has warned the European commission against trying to allow the mention “chateau” by wines produced in the United States and exported to Europe. “The European commission wants to cut a deal with American exporters allowing them to use the mention “chateau”, insists the Federation in its text.

The mention “chateau”, “refers to a wine of controlled quality and origin as defined by the appellation laws adhered to in France and mandates that 100% of the grapes be harvested from and vinified on the property,” affirms the FGVB adding that in the US, “grapes can come from different and numerous suppliers.” The communique warns against, “a distortion of the competitive guidelines with respect to the rules adhered to by French producers as well as a the duping of consumers.”

This type of authorzation would create a precedent for all types of abuses of the entire range of synonyms involving wine production (domain, hospices, clos, cru),” laments Bernard Farges, president of the National Confederation of AOCs and vice-president of the FGVB, cited in the commuique.
The question will be taken up on the 25th of September by the Agricultural Markets Organizational Management Committee.

What constitutes a good vintage?

Translated from the original French by SlaveToTheGrape

Le | 09.2012 •  September, 2012

Les vendanges 2012 en France risquent d'être les plus mauvaises en volume depuis plus de vingt ans, mais le millésime s'annonce "prometteur".

With 42,5 million hectoliters (1 hectoliter = 26.4172052 US gallons) expected this year, versus 51 million last year, the 2012 harvest in France is one of the worst in volume since 1991″, a situation “essentially witnessed on a worldwide scale”, declared French minister of agriculture Stéphane Le Foll, on August 30th of this year. Industry professionals attribute this drop in volume to “the last several month’s climatic conditions  [that] did not spare the vines, some of which were destroyed by frost and hail”Conversely, “the vintage itself seems promising”, by their estimates.

Benjamin Bois, agronomist by training, is lead viticulture and climatology lecturer at the Institute of wine and viticulture at the University of Burgundy.

What constitutes a top vintage?

A top vintage is defined by its complexity, its aromatic depth and intensity and for some, by wines that are powerful, tannic and that exhibit color density. But of course there is always an element of subjectivity in any analysis. The reputation and the price of a wine are very dependent upon what the traders, brokers and the press such as Revue des vins de France and Wine Spectator have to say. In key regions like Bordeaux or Burgundy, these opinion makers come to taste these regions young wines — in November for Burgundy and in March for the futures market in Bordeaux — in an attempt to evaluate the vintage. A speculative effect can ensue based on a rumor that “this vintage is something exemplary”. A producer is not going to have the same vision as the buyer or the critic : for him, a top vintage is one where both quality and quantity are remarkable.

What factors are involved in the making of a great vintage? 

The color, structure and backbone of a wine depend to a great degree on the polyphenols found in a grape – the production of which is directly tied to hydrolic stress. The more the vine is stressed – up to a certain point beyond which grapes no longer ripen —, the more it produces.The term vintage also has a very specific regional relationship where, from one year to the next, production conditions and more specifically phenolic ripeness, vary. Climate variability defines the uniqueness of the vintage for each region and is determinant to its quality.

The most important phase is that of maturation – roughly thirty days before the harvest. In Burgundy and in Bordeaux, neither of which have dry climates, heavy rains during maturation lead to undesirable wine grapes that being waterlogged yielding diluted wines.

Are climate conditions the only thing that impacts a vintage?

Wineries often have other strengths beginning with adept technicians. In difficult vintages, skilled oenologists know how to adapt and take risks, with the date of the harvest for example. Furthermore, the soil and exposure of certain types of terroir mitigate the effects of a challenging harvest. For example, thick clay soils have a tendency to retain significant water making it difficult for the vine to extract it from the soil. Thus the soil will subject the vine to hydrolic stress as if there had been little precipitation.

People are predicting a strong vintage this year. What is your assessment?

I am on the fence given that it was a wet year and bud break did not go well. We will have a better idea of the quality of the vintage twenty days after harvest.

Interview by Hélène Sallon


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