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Ch Lafite first 1GCC to launch prices for primeur 2005: +275%!

>> Tuesday, July 25, 2006

040329-1-k2-0010Château Lafite was the first of the Premier Grand Cru Classé chateaux in Bordeaux to present the price for its 2005 primeur – a vintage that has been highly acclaimed critically (and with high expectations on the prices too). The “release price” for Lafite is 300€ (per bottle of course). That is the price that a négociant (wholesaler) can buy it for on the “place” in Bordeaux (in practice, from the chateau). On top of that comes margins for himself and downstream as well as taxes before the bottle arrives at the consumer… Decanter notes that it is a price increase with +275% since last year. Mouton-Rothschild has also released its wine – at 320€ per bottle. Decanter predicts Ausone to be the most expensive, according to trade sources, at around 500€ (still per bottle). However, this is just the first “tranche” that is released from the chateaux. Subsequent tranches are often higher priced. One can only assume that the chateau owners have a happy smile on the face all the way to the bank. (But as we have said before, if customers are ready to pay the prices, you can not expect the chateau to set the prices any lower, can you? But for those of us who think it is expensive … there are fortunately other wines.)

→ Don't miss this autumn's wine tour to Bordeaux. ??
More info here. Book now!


EU wine policy to be reformed

On June 22 the EU agricultural commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel presented a proposal to reform the cash-consuming wine support policies in the EU. The purpose is to improve the competitiveness of European wines and create more balance between demand and supply. The proposal contained e.g. changes in the system of planting rights, measurements to encourage grubbing up vines in areas with overproduction, an end to “market support” measures such as distillation (at subsidised prices) of excess production, modernisation of the technical rules governing the production, an end to chaptalisation (adding sugar to the fermenting must to increase the alcohol content) changes in labelling rules (allowing for example the mention of grape varieties on table wines) and much more. The proposal will now be discussed and a decision is expected towards the end of 2006 or beginning of 2007. Read more, Jancis Robinson, Decanter


Parker writes for Business Week

Robert Parker, the world’s best known and influential wine critic, often referred to as ”guru”, will write a weekly column for Business Week magazine, starting on June 16. (BTW a famous economist, often referred to as “guru” commented that journalists had a habit of calling him “guru” because they could not spell to charlatan.) Other weekly magazines can perhaps be expected to follow suit and start a wine column. Here on BKWine we are anxiously waiting by the phone for the call from Time Magazine. Read more on


The Australian government will not foot the $35 million requested by grape growers

The Australian government has rejected the call from the Australian Grape Growers’ Association (AGGA) to create a guarantee fund of $35 million to support producers in financial difficulties. “The government is in now way responsible for the wine crisis in Australia” said agricultural minister Peter McGuaran. “The Australian wine industry is not on its knees. [...] A government intervention in a sector that is continuing to expand is difficult to motivate”. Read more Vitisphere


French Castel plants vineyards in Azerbaijan

>> Monday, July 24, 2006

The French wine group Castel is planting new vineyards in Azerbaijan in collaboration with the local government. The plan is to plant 500 hectares, half of which is already planted. The wine is primarily for local consumption and will not be exported. Castel is a big French wine company that is both a négociant and retailer, controlling e.g. the chains Nicolas in France and Oddbins in the UK. We tasted an Azeri wine some time back and our impression is that Caste may have great potential to improve the quality. Read more on Vitisphere

→ Don't miss this autumn's wine tour to Azerbadjan. ??
No -But France and Portugal instead. Book now!


René Renou, president of INAO, passed away

René Renou, president of the INAO, died in his sleep during the night of June 19 while on a business trip to South Korea. He was only 54 years old but suffered from cancer. Renou came from the Loire Valley where he was wine producer in the sweet wine district Bonnezeaux. During his time as president of the INAO (the semi-governmental French control organisation for wine) Renou launched a number of initiatives to renew and reinvigorate French wine regulations. Decanter


Norwegian wins European Championship for sommeliers

The Trophée Ruinart, popularly known as the European Championship for Sommeliers, was won this year by a Norwegian: Robert Lie. Lie works at the luxury restaurant Bagatelle in Oslo. Second place went to Paolo Basso from Switzerland and third place to Eric Zwiebel from France.
(Photo: Ruinart/


Wine and Business - International Wine Business Research Conference

The Third - International Wine Business Research Conference will take place in Montpellier on July 6-8. Around one hundred researchers will congregate to discuss marketing, business development, packaging, communications, etc – all with a business focus. The previous editions of the conference has taken place in California and Australia. This year a new publication will be launched: “Academic Wine Business Research” (AWBR). More info:


Black Dead Arm – now in France

040306-2-k475-0028 It sounds scary and it is not the nicest thing to catch. Black Dead Arm (BDA) is a new kind of disease first discovered in 1999. It is a fungus disease that attacks the vine when it is pruned – vines are pruned all year round, not just in winter. During the whole growing season the vigneron has to cut back the branches, if not the vine would grow uncontrolled into long lianas. One of these prunings are technically (in French) called “épemprage” – when unwanted young shoots are removed; - and is sometimes done mechanically (with a tractor). It is this type of vineyard work that new research findings from the University of Nîmes (Bernard Mollot) has identified as the probable cause of Black Dead Arm.


BKWine Pick: Clos Marie, Coteaux du Languedoc-Pic Saint Loup

>> Thursday, July 20, 2006

Clos Marie, Coteaux du Languedoc-Pic Saint Loup

Christophe Peyrus loves the concept of “terroir” and the wild almost barren landscape around Pic St Loup in Languedoc. His property, Clos Marie, that he runs together with Françoise Julien, has almost from the very first vintage in 1994 been among the best wineries in Pic Saint Loup and the whole of the Languedoc. Christophe runs the vineyards according to bio-dynamic principles and has an unusually high planting density to get more concentrated wines, better balance, freshness and elegance. An example is the white 2005 Roussanne/Carignan Blanc/Macabeu blend giving a very good and flowery wine; the Metaire du Clos 2001 with lots of fruit, tobacco, and mint; or the softer 2000 Olivette with hints of violet and black and red currants. “They Musigny” of the Languedoc… according to Christophe.

Click here for address and more recommendations.


Welcome to the BKWine Brief nr 36, June 2006

Finally, it seems, summer is here. Maybe that will be a good time to make some new and enjoyable wine discoveries.

Summer wines

Why not take a few leisurely afternoons or evenings and discover a few new and exciting wines. Instead of just buying the same old rosé (or, horror!, the plastic bag in the carton) for summer drinking (nothing wrong with rosé though!), buy a couple of different bottles and compare. They don’t have to be expensive, just different, and you can enjoy and experience the differences.

Travelling in wine districts this summer?

If you plan to go visit some wine districts this summer here are some suggestions to help you plan the trip:
- Restaurants worth visiting
- Producers worth visiting
- And even more producers in our picture gallery
- Some suggestions for books to help you prepare the trip
- Wine shops

Still feel like travelling after the summer?

If you don’t have the time to go visiting vineyards this summer (or want to do it again!) take a look at my wine tour program and let yourself be tempted. Full details a bit further down in the Brief.


PS: Recommend to your friends to read the Brief or forward it to them !


Link Tips

Some wine sites that you might enjoy visiting:

  • New findings on how soil (or terroir if you wish) influences wine: “A new, improved level of soil mapping” in Wine Business Monthly
  • Pacific Ridge Winery, not least because the owner is Bob Kelly, thus with the initials BK..., but also because of the beautiful location:
  • On Crozes-Hermitage in International Herald Tribune
  • Food, Wine and Travel – that’s the heading on the site of the Australian wine writer Christine Salins. Sounds interesting:
  • Volatile acidity – What is it? How to prevent it? Read and learn on Wine Maker
  • All about Rhône. Well, maybe not quite, but a lot of interesting commentaries on tasted Rhône wines by John Livingstone-Learmonth, the author of the best books on Rhône wines: (we will review his new brick-size tome on northern Rhône in a future issue)
  • 100 Top Wine Blogs. (Cannot help being a bit proud of BKWine having three blogs on the list: 15 for Wine Pictures, 22 for The Monopoly Blog (about the Swedish monopoly), and 83 for the BKWine Brief Blog. What do we do wrong with the BKWine Brief Blog??)


Coup de Coeur des femmes journalistes

The cooperative wine producers in the French departement l’Hérault organise a yearly wine competition followed by a “final” called “Coup de Coeur des femmes journalistes” (best-of selected by women journalists). 15 female writers are invited to taste the gold medal winners in the preceding competition and to choose their preferred red, white and rosé. These three wines will for the following year represent the Hérault cooperatives at all official occasions. This year BKWine was part group – the only non-French journalist on the jury. Quality was overall high on the wines tasted. The red winner – coup de coeur – was called ”Etnik” from the cooperative in Montpeyroux. It even has a modern design label that should appeal to a younger market and on export. These are the wines the jury selected:

  • Rosé: Cuvée Sabel Rosé 2005, Vin de Pays d’Oc, Clocher et Terroirs.
  • Red: Cuvée Etnik 2005, Vin de Pays de Mont Baudille
  • White: Cuvée « Fleurs de Montblanc »: Vin de Pays des Côtes de Thongue

More info: (be sure to click the big picture on the welcome page, otherwise you'll get last year's result...)


Le Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2006

You might expect the Concour Mondial de Bruxelles to take place in Belgium, and it usually does, but this year it was off-shored to Lisbon. 220 international wine experts (including BKWine) tasted 5447 wines and spirits from 43 countries. 1613 were awarded medals. There were 49 Grande Médailles d’Or (Great Gold Medals), 583 Médailles d’Or (Gold Medals), 974 Médailles d’Argent (Silver Medals) and 7 Médailles de Bronze. On addition to all medals there were four awards for “Best Wine”: the red went to Bernard Magrez’s micro cuvée Tivoli 2003 from a small 2.5 ha vineyard in northern Médoc. Spain got the Best Wine for whites with Conces de Albarei Carballo Galego 2004 from Rias Baixas, and Luxemburg (!) for sparkling wines: the Cuvée du Domaind Kohll-Reuland Crémant de Luxembourg. Canada had the sweet Best Wine award for Magnotta Riesling Icewine Limited Edition 2003 from Niagara Peninsula. Here are some of my own favourites:

  • Château Ollieux Romanis - Cuvée Prestige ph: +33 4 68 43 35 20, Corbières Rouge
  • Château Valrose - Cuvée Alienor, Saint Estèphe Edonia (ph: +33 5 57 55 60 60)
  • Château Preuillac, Médoc Yvon Mau SA (ph: +33 5 56 61 54 54)
  • Ventisquero Reserva Carmenère Viña Ventisquero, Chile (ph: +56 72 20 12 40)
  • Viu Manent - Carmenère - Reserve Viu Manent y Cia. Ltda, Chile (ph: +56 2 37 90 020)
  • Esporão - Private Selection Finagra S.A.- Herdade do Esporão, Alentejo, Portugal (ph: +351 213 03 15 40)

For more medal winners:


California lowers the requirements for vintage wines

It will now be allowed to add 15% of a different vintage to the one indicated on the label in California, so no more than 85% has to come from the given year, according to a new rule on the proposal of the Wine Institute. A pity, especially since the Napa story of the producer who wanted to put Napa on the lable even though the wine did not come from that district has finally been decided by the courts. A step in the wrong direction it seems. But the old rule of 95%/5% is still valid for “regional appellations” though, like Napa Valley or Sonoma Valley.


Bordeaux primeur prices sky-rocket

050526-203-0329_nnAs expected (or feared) the prices of the highly acclaimed 2005 vintage in Bordeaux are up, and not by little. According to the Danish, but Bordeaux based wine merchant Iakob Schjerbeck, the prices are up with between 10% and … 85%, and that is before probably the “sorties” of the heavy hitters. This has even generated quite a lot of criticism from the down-stream trade. Decanter quotes for example John Avery (Averys Wine Merchants): ”We are a little disillusioned with some in Bordeaux, who seem to be profiteering” (a British understatement?) and described some producers as “just plain greedy”. Well, as we said in the last Brief: Don’t complain of the prices. Buy something else if you think it is too expensive. There are plenty of good value good wine on the market today.


Australians learn from the French – even their bad habits

The Australian Wine Grape Growers Association (WGGA) wants that the government should support producers in difficulty due to over-production and falling prices. They have requested that a guarantee fund be created with $35 million to reduce production. They estimate that 40% of the producers will go bankrupt if the oversupply is not corrected (and support measures put in place) within two years. Sounds scaringly similar to the EU Agricultural Policy and militant French wine producers… Read more on


France’s most planted grape varieties

Since 1979 a lot has changed in the vineyards so it is time to review old truths about what is taught in wine classes. The statistics is from Drinks International and based on SCEES RGA79 and CVI (area in ‘000 of hectares): The grape statistics are here.


France’s most planted grape varieties

>> Thursday, July 06, 2006

Since 1979 a lot has changed in the vineyards so it is time to review old truths about what is taught in wine classes. The statistics is from Drinks International and based on SCEES RGA79 and CVI (area in ‘000 of hectares):

Grape Variety ha 1979 ha 2004 % change

Red Grapes 687 627 -9%

1 Merlot 38 115 200%
2 Grenache 78 99 27%
3 Carignan 207 74 -64%
4 Syrah 12 68 451%
5 Cabernet Sauvignon 23 61 164%

6 Cabernet Franc 23 39 72%
7 Gamay 34 35 4%
8 Cinsault 52 25 -52%
9 Pinot 17 28 61%
10 Aramon 63 4.2 -93%

White Grapes 311 255 -18%

1 Ugni 128 84 -34%
2 Chardonnay 13 42 221%
3 Sauvignon 7 23 231%
4 Semillon 23 13 -46%
5 Melon 10 13 36%

6 Chenin 10 10 2%
7 Grenache Blanc 16 5 -69%
8 Macabeu 7 4 -50%
9 Terret 9 2 -80%
10 Baco 7 1 -90%


The world’s most powerful brands

Drinks International, an English trade publication, has made a ranking of the world’s most powerful wine and spirits brands. Different factors have been combined to arrive at the ranking: brand perception, market share, price position etc. Here’s the ranking:

1. Smirnoff
2. Bacardi
3. Johnnie Walker
4. Martini
5. Stolichnaya
6. Hennessy
7. Jack Daniel’s
8. Absolut
9. Ballantine’s
10. Baileys


This month’s must-have wine gadget: Private Preserve

This heading is usually reserved for items that we talk about with a certain irony. But this time it’s serious. Private Preserve is definitely worth trying! Private Preserve is a pressurised bottle of neutral gas that makes it possible to keep an opened bottle for a long time without the wine going bad. Perfect if you drink just half a bottle, or if you have a big wine tasting and want to save what remains in the bottle until later. It actually works fine just putting the bottle in the fridge for a week or two (many people think it will turn to vinegar in a few days but that’s not the case), but Private Preserve is much better. Just spray a few puffs of gas in the half empty bottle and the wine keeps excellently. We have trialled PP for a month and it seems to work very well. A month ago we opened a lot of bottles and served just a little from each bottle. Then we used Private Preserve on all bottles and put them (standing) in the cellar. And still, more than a month later, the wines keep well. Every bottle we bring up is well preserved. We almost start wondering for how long it will keep… So, well worth trying if you worry that your half empty bottles will go bad. Just $9 per canister. Unfortunately it is difficult to get hold of in Europe but you can get it directly from the producer or (and do tell us if you know of a European distributor…)


Wine for women

Do you remember a few months ago when we talked about the wine specially designed for men? Now it is the turn of women. The English supermarket chain have spent years of research and development to discover that many women find today’s average wine with 12.5-14.5% alcohol too heavy. Therefore they will launch a lower alcohol wine called Early Harvest Semillon / Sauvignon Blanc with only 9.5% alcohol (and 19% fewer calories!). Wouldn’t it have been easier to just buy some German wines instead? Read more in The Times


INAO proposes two tier appellations

INAO, the semi-governmental body that control French wine production rules, has proposed that the system of Appellation Contrôlée should be split into two tiers: one that follows traditional, strict rules on production, terroir etc, and one that allows for more flexibility and for more new technology (should we read “oak chips” between the lines?). As always in French procedures this is so far just a proposal and will have to be debated with various organisations. Read more on


Norwegian wine

A while back we wrote about an April’s Fool joke by the London wine merchant Berry Brothers and Rudd where they (jokingly) talked about Norwegian wine. At the moment we noted that there actually are vines in Norway but that we did not know exactly where. A reader has supplied us with more details: There is a vineyard in Norway planted with 2000 vines. The winemaker is called Sveier Hansen and the vineyard is called Hallingstad Vineyards, located near the Oslo Fjord. The wine, called L’Esprit d’Edward Munch, is made from Pinot Noir. We hope that there is not too much Munch esprit in the taste though… Read more on WineOnTheWeb


Monks start a vineyard in California

Historically the Church has been very involved in winemaking and many vineyards have historic links to Christianity. But today very few wineries have any direct connection with religion. But now 25 monks of the order of St Benedictine have started a winery near the town of Chico. It is supposedly the first Roman Catholic winery in North America. “We don't want or expect to get rich” said Father Harold Meyer. Probably quite reasonable expectations. Read more on


Wine course at Sotheby’s

Interesting for Londoners: The auction house Sotheby’s, one of the world leaders in wine auctions, also arranges wine tasting courses. The coming autumn there will be two courses: one varietal course (starting 18 September) and one focused on wine districts (6 November). Each course has six sessions with highly competent lecturers. More info: (for some strange reason the course info is not on their site so you will have to contact the course responsible in their staff list).


New articles by our Guest Writers

>> Tuesday, July 04, 2006

We have several new articles by our guest writers this month. Here are the new texts:

Many thanks to the contributors!


Taittinger back in French hands

The champagne house Taittinger was sold last year to the American company Starwood. Now, Taittinger has returned to French hands. But that was probably more or less part of the scheme originally. Starwood is primarily a hotel operator and the Taittinger Group owned some very prestigious hotel properties. The champagne house just happened to be part of the total package. It is Crédit Agricole du Nord-Est, a co-operative agricultural bank in the Champagne district, that has bought the champagne business for some 660 million euro. But it could have landed in Indian hands: United Breweries Group, a leading Indian brewery group, was in the bidding for the champagne house. Several other parties were in the running for having a new “house champagne”. Read more in Vitisphere and


Israeli wine? Swedish retailer tries (and fails) to be politically correct

The Swedish state-owned monopoly retailer of alcohol, Systembolaget, was criticised for selling Golan Heights wine under the country label “Israel”. They consulted with the Foreign Ministry which resulted in Systembolaget changing the country of origin in their catalogue to “Israeli occupied Syrian territory”. A representative for the opposition party Christian Democrats, Annelie Enochson, said the decision was unfair, treating Israel different from other countries, and represented a politicising of the state owned monopolist. Not too surprising though: The monopoly have a habit of running political campaigns since several years, although it usually has to do with alcohol politics (the recent campaign to influence EU policies on alcohol for example, infamously called “Dear Mr Barroso”). Read more in Jerusalem Post and in Decanter

Last minute update: in a very careful and politically correct press release the monopoly Systembolaget announces that they will henceforth use as country of origin for these wines … nothing!


Replay of ”The Paris Tasting” of 1976: Californians win again

30 years after the original Paris Tasting when Steven Spurrier (an eminent British wine critic) organised the original version of the event to compare French and Californian top wines he repeated the experience. In the 1976 tasting Californian wines came top both for red wine and white wine which created quite a stir. One comment often voiced about the original tasting was that Californian wines are easier to appreciate when young but that they don’t age well. So in the re-run wines of similar vintages as in the original tasting was included – now 30 years older. Top of the reds emerged Napa wine 1973 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon and the top rated white wine was 1973 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay. Read more in San Francisco Chronicle and and plenty of details on


Château Guiraud in Sauternes sold

Château Guiraud is a Sauternes property of 128 hectares. It has been acquired by a group of investors including the Peugeot family (FPP), Domaine de Chevalier and Neipperg Invest. FFP (Société Foncière, Financière et de Participations) is managed by Robert Peugeot and is the biggest shareholder in the car manufacturer. Domaine de Chevalier is one of the best properties in Graves (Pessac-Léognan) owned by the Bernard family (Olivier Bernard). Neipperg Invest is led by Stephan Neipperg and also controls Château Canon La Gaffelière, La Mondotte, Clos de l’Oratoire, Peyrau, d’Aiguilhe and Clos Marsalette. The price tag? – 20 million euro (actually almost a steal). Petrolium in Riesling wines or burnt rubber in Syrah wines – so why not in Sauternes? But according to what is reported Peugeot will remain a passive financial partner. and Decanter


Global warming threatens Spanish wine production? Wines reach new heights?...

Will climate change and hotter weather make wine production disappear in Spain? That is what some people fear, estimating that temperatures will rise by 7 degrees centigrades to the end of the century. Some wine producers have started to look for land in hig-altitude areas in the mountains. Torres is one of them. Read more on Bloomberg

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