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Book Review: Wine Genesis

>> Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wine Genesis / Wein Genesis
By: Peter Oberleithner (design and photo), Karl Mayer (text)
Kulinarium Verlag e.U.

A massive and heavy book with lots of photos on vines and wine cellar equipment – that is, in short, what this book is. It is above all a picture book with illustrations from vineyards and wineries, e.g. a series of photos on how the vine develops from bud to ripe grapes, extending over 22 double page spreads, or another series that illustrates how fining mixes with the wine in a barrel over six double page spreads. This may be some of the most extreme examples, but clearly the book is for the one passionate about intricate details. The book is without a doubt the result of a very ambitious project to illustrate how a wine is made, in the vineyard and in the winery with ample photography and to some extent text. The text is in two languages, English and German. The descriptions are often detailed. They are also often focused on how things are made in Austria (and Germanic wine regions), and therefore not always representative for winemaking elsewhere, so the book has perhaps limited validity as a text book. It is above all a photo book, and most of the illustrations are excellent, albeit some interiors and technology photos take with flash are not quite up to par. The last third of the book is a catalogue, well illustrated and with explanatory text, of the major grape varieties, again with a focus on Austria and Central Europe.

Click here for more book reviews on my site. You will also find links to on-line book shops on that page.

(For more of a text - and photo - book on the subject you could also try our own book on vine growing and winemaking.)


What’s happening in Chile (part 3)? New grape varieties

>> Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Casablanca, Leyda, Limarí are just a few examples of new regions that are changing the way we look at wines from Chile. And this is just the beginning. “The best terroirs have not yet been planted!”, says Sergio Hormazabal at Viña Ventisquero. Fernando Almeda at Torres is getting ready to plant vineyards with a, for Chile, new type of vineyards soil, a Priorat-like slate (schist). The first vintage will be 2012, made from e.g. pinot noir. Both Fernando and Miguel Torres Maczassek agree that pinot noir have a great potential in Chile. And they are not alone.

Sergio Hormazabal at Ventisquero also has great plans for pinot noir. “It’s a challenge growing this grape”, says Sergio, “we’re still learning how to handle it. It is a complex grape that you will no doubt need a hundred years to understand! Honestly speaking, ten years ago, the pinot noirs that were made in Chile were not particularly good, but things change rapidly. The quality gets better every year. We have new and better clones, new regions where it gives better results etc.”

Syrah is another grape variety that is making great progress in Chile. Viña Maipo has several interesting syrah-projects in place. “Everyone makes carmenère… We wanted to find something a bit more original and syrah is my favourite grape variety”, says chief winemaker Max Weinlaub. And Ventisquiero has a collaboration with John Duval (who is a well known syrah specialist after having been responsible for Penfold’s Grange for many years) to make their prestige cuvée Pangea in Colchagua.

Not to forget the emblematic grape from Chile, carmenère. Winemakers are more and more learning to treat it in the best ways. “The last few years this grape variety has seen a lot of development”, says Matias Rios, winemaker at Viña Cono Sur. “Ten years ago the winemakers didn’t now much about carmenère and green aromas appeared frequently. Now, we have learned to harvest late and give the grapes more exposure to the sun.” And we are seeing more and more “icon wines” made from carmenère, which used to be a domain reserved fro cabernet sauvignon.

We will continue in the next Brief with more exciting news from the New World, both in Chile, Argentina and South Africa.


What’s happening in Chile (part 2)? The importance of terroir

>> Monday, June 14, 2010

“We have shown the market that we can make good varietal wines. The challenge today is to use the terroir, soil types, with have”, says Miguel Torres Maczassek, fifth generation winemaker at Torres and recently permanently settled in Chile. And terroir seems to be the catch word of the day. Santiago Margozzini, chief winemaker at Montgras in Colchagua, says that Chile is in the middle of a “terroir revolution”. “In the late 80s we started a technical revolution in Chile, with stainless steel tanks, cold fermentation, and aging in oak barrels. During the last five years what’s been important is instead to find the perfect location for each grape variety. We have still a long way to go but we’re getting better and better. We have shown that we can make cheap, reliable wines but now we also want to compete on higher levels.”

Everyone seems to agree that it’s not really important in which valley you happen to have a vineyard. What’s important is where in the valley you have your land. Sergio Homazabal at Viña Ventisquero points out that the climate varies more east-to-west than north-to-south. So, how close are you to the Andes or to the Pacific Ocean? That’s what is important.

New regions open doors to new grape varieties. “In the Central Valley we used to be very limited in the choice of grape varieties”, says Marcelo Papa. “Thanks to new, cooler regions the quality of the white wines has improved enormously the last five years.”


What’s happening in Chile? (part 1 - tales from a recent trip)

>> Friday, June 11, 2010

Chile is a wine country in transformation. For twenty years it has been delivering reliable but quite basic wines but now many wine producers think it is time to show that Chile also can produce top quality too. And there are many things going on in the vineyards. New wine regions are created. New grape varieties are planted. New ideas are born… The way we make wine is changing, says Marcelo Papa, chief winemaker at Concha Y Toro, the biggest wine producer in Chile. “Today, in Chile, we focus more on finesse and less on extraction and we start to understand that the soil is important”. Rafael Tirado, winemaker at VIA Wines, is also aiming for elegance in his wines and not too much power. “We now understand better what consumers want, they want wines that are easy to drink, not over-heavy”. More and more winemakers talk about the importance of not harvesting too over-ripe grapes. “Over-ripe grapes results in a loss of style and character, of style; it is the fruit that gives personality to the wine”, says Fernando Almeda, winemaker since 11 years at Miguel Torres. Roberto Carrancá Silva at Indomita in Casablanca is on the same path. He is trying to reduce the alcohol levels by keeping an abundant canopy (leaving a lot of leaves on the vines) that gives shade to the grapes and avoids excessive exposure to the sun.

“It’s easy to make wine in Chile”, says Patrick Valette (originally from Bordeaux) at VIK Millahue, “the climate is dry and there is plenty of water for irrigation. But if you want to make tip quality you have to think of all the little details and not leave anything to chance, not least the harvest date is important. You mustn’t pick so late that the grapes are over-ripe, but neither too early when tannins are too hard.”


BKWine Photography featured on Photoshelter’s blog

>> Thursday, June 10, 2010

One new wine picture every day (well, almost), that’s the theme of our Wine Picture Blog. Sometimes the photos are quite ‘serious’ (e.g. illustrating how pumping-over is done in the wine cellar), other days they are more light hearted. The photo blog is a way for us to market our wine stock photo library (that also includes travel and gastronomy), BKWine Photography, where we have many thousand photos, while at the same time sharing information with wine lovers. We sell (license) images to for example wine magazines and wine book publishers, but also to other publications (e.g. Wall Street Journal and National Geographic has used our pictures). We were happily surprised when we discovered that Photoshelter featured the BKWine Wine Picture Blog on their blog as a “Friday shout-out”: Wine for the weekend? Follow the link to read more about it. (We use Photoshelter as a web platform to directly license our stock photos on the internet.) We say thank you very much for the attention!


"Soon" you can bring bottles back home in your carry-on luggage

Thanks to advances in scanning technologies, making it possible to effectively also scan liquids, the restrictions on carrying liquid in the carry-on baggage on EU flights will be lifted, according to an agreement on April 29. So we will once again be allowed to carry on-board impossibly heavy hand-luggage (drag-on luggage?), filled with precious bottles that we may have found at the wineries. But it looks as if we will still have to wait for some time - until April 29, 2013 it seems. More info


Who drinks the most champagne?

>> Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A while back we wrote about the world’s biggest markets for champagne. At the time we did not have, as we noted, any numbers for who is actually the biggest champagne consuming nation. A helpful reader took out the calculator and looked up the population in Wikipedia and came up with the answer to “Who is the biggest champagne consuming nation?” (with reservations for some statistics that may not be super-accurate):

1. France, 2.7 bottle per person and year! Way ahead of everyone else.
2. Belgium: 1
3. Switzerland: 0.64
4. UK: 0.58
5. Singapore: 0.24
6. UAE (!): 0.23
7. Sweden (!): 0.22
8. The Netherlands: 0.21
9. Australia: 0.17
10. Italy: 0.15


Wine in bag-in-box and PET-bottles oxidise within 6 months, according to new study

>> Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Wine “bottled” (what do you say?) in bag-in-box, i.e. in a plastic bag, or in a lightweight plastic PET bottle is gaining in popularity, no doubt partially because of their lower weight and thus theoretically lesser impact on the environment. However, until today, no major scientific study has looked on how well the wine keeps in those containers, at least according to the press release announcing a new major scientific study on the subject. It turns out that wine in BiB or plastic bottle starts becoming oxidised well within six months from ‘bottling’. The study analysed the wines chemically and also had a tasting panel taste them and the conclusion was that after six months the wines were noticeably oxidised. A control group of wines kept in glass bottle did not show signs of oxidations. The study has been done by Institut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin (Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences of Bordeaux - ISVV) a research institute with links to the University of Bordeaux and to the French National Research Institute (INRA). Read more about it here (don’t miss the SlideShare presentation): and here


Swedish-Spanish wine wins Gold Medal in the Concours Mondial

>> Monday, June 07, 2010

Being Swedish we have to write about this of course. Rickard Enkvist is from Sweden but lives in the small village of Gaucin in the mountains above Malaga on the Spanish south coast. Some years back he bought a vineyard and became winemaker under the scorching Andalusian sun. This year two of his wines won Gold Medals in the Concours Mondial wine competition – one of the world’s leading competitions for wine. Almost 7000 wines competed for medals this year (as we wrote in the last Brief) and around one third wins medals: Great Gold, Gold or Silver. In the press release from Enkvist he proudly announces that two of his wines, Suenos (“dreams”) and Ultimo Suenos from his Cezar Vinedos y Bodega were awarded Gold Medals in the category red wines from Andalusia. That, however, is not quite correct, which gives us a reason to explain a bit more how the Concours works. (We should know, both Britt and Per were in the jury). All wines are tasted completely blind; there is no grouping of the wines presented to the judges. Similar wines are tasted together in groups but the judges do not know what the groups are. Thus, the judges taste the wines in a completely “neutral” context and have to judge the wines by their intrinsic qualities, not according to some pre-conceived idea of what a certain type of wine should be. Therefore, there is no such “category” as red Andalusian wines (which might be just as good, it could have been very easy to win a medal in that category…). In other words the Suenos wines won their medals in competition with other wines from all over the world, which in our opinion is a much greater achievement than being a Gold Medal winner in Andalusia (there were 12 Andalusian wines that were awarded medals, mostly sherries). So, congratulations to Mr Enquist! Overall Spain came second in terms of the number of medals awarded (and first if you count only Great Gold Medals): 17 Great Golds, 136 Golds, and 225 Silver, with 1394 wines (and spirits) from Spain. The biggest medal winner was France: 14 Great Golds, 191 Golds, 401 Silvers, with 2277 competing products. More info and


20 Gold Medals and one Great Gold Medal to Argentina in Concours Mondial

>> Sunday, June 06, 2010

Argentinean wines reaped a lot of rewards at the recently held Concours Mondial (“Brussels International Wine Competition”): 20 Gold Medals and one Great Gold Medal were given to wines from Argentina. In spite of its name the competition was this year held in Palermo (and both Britt and Per from BKWine was in the jury – the only Swedes in a very international jury). The Argentinean winner of the Great Gold Medal was a wine called Michel Torino Don David Tannat 2008, by Cafayate Michel Torino Estate made by Rodolfo Sadler. Congratulations! The full list of Argentinean medals: and on


Bordeaux prices continue up for 2009s?

>> Saturday, June 05, 2010

More and more “release prices” have been announced from the chateaux in Bordeaux, for the wines that were tasted a couple of months ago at the “primeurs”. The tendency seems to be upwards, sometimes a lot. However, it is a little bit early to judge the total picture. But from what has been seen so far, prices will generally be above both 2008 and 2005. 2009 is considered a magnificent vintage by virtually everyone. 2008 was on the contrary a very difficult year with wines that were not awarded top points. 2009 is much compared to 2005 which was also one of the “vintages of the century” (with good reason), which is the reason for the 2009-2005 price comparisons. Some chateaux have raised their prices compared to 2008 with 50% or even 75%, whereas others only raise the price with 5-15%. A few, very few, have actually lowered prices. The development is interesting in particular in light of 2009 export figures. In most markets sales of Bordeaux wines fell. Total exports fell with 23%! Many markets (e.g. the US) were much harder hit. China was almost the only market where sales increased (and with a lot), as we have written about previously in the Brief. So, a sharp drop in exports and prices go up. Where’s the logic? Of course, sales statistics only talk about total numbers and the primeurs market is only a tiny, tiny portion of that. Only some 150 chateau are on this market, out of some 10,000 in total. Perhaps one should say that the classified growths (and the likes – the primeurs market essentially) is a market all by itself, quite unrelated to the rest of Bordeaux, and a market that less and less sell to the average wine lover or wine consumer but mostly to well-off collectors or ‘buveurs d’etiquettes’ (to borrow a French expression). On the other hand, for the average wine lover that is in a way of no real importance. There are so many other excellent and affordable wines available on the market today! Read more e.g. on and on


France falling behind on traditional markets, but winning in Asia?

>> Friday, June 04, 2010

What do buyers, retailers and other trade people think about the evolution of the wine market? Wine Trade Monitor (WTM) by Sopexa tries to answer that question. Sopexa is a French marketing consultancy that has for the second year running made this ambitious survey of the wine trade. They focus on the 14 biggest markets (representing more than 85% of French wine exports). They have sent out questionnaires to people all over the world and received some 1500 answers to the 14 questions asked. So, what does the trade think about the wine market in 2010 and forward?:

- Sales will increase! Certainly in the long run. People are very optimistic: 72% of respondents think that sales will increase in 2011. A bit more caution for 2010: 58% believes in an increase. This is still much better than what people thought in last year’s survey about 2009, with 47% positive. So, clearly a growing optimism for the future.

- Asia, Russia, USA most positive: More than 90% of respondents in China and Hong Kong believe in increased sales in 2011. In Russia and the USA the number was just over 80%. But already in 2010 these countries are very positive. Most other markets are more cautious with no or only a slight increase in 2010, but all then expecting better in 2011.

- French wine sales expected to grow too, but less: 44% thought that sales of French wines would increase in 2010, and 56% in 2011. That compares less favourably with the numbers for the overall market that were 58% and 72%.

- Asia come to France’s rescue: the markets that look most positively on growing French sales are China (90% believe in growth both for 2010 and 2011), Hong Kong (70%+ and 80%+), and Russia (60% and 75%)

- New markets want appellation wines, established markets go for grape varietals: The markets that look most positively on appellation wines (AOP/IGP) are China and Hong Kong; those that are most positive for growing sales for varietals are the USA and the UK. Looking at the tendencies the biggest growths in demand for AOP/IGP wines are in China, Taiwan, and Russia. The biggest growth for varietals are in China, Taiwan, USA, Switzerland, and Japan.

- Demand for cheap wines fall, but grow for expensive wines: 57% think there will be big or quite big demand for entry level wines in 2010, which is down substantially from the 71% who thought so for 2009. The markets where cheap wines are most in demand are Belgium, the Netherlands, and the USA. Premium wines seem to be in vogue though: 43% think there will be strong or quite strong demand for premium wine in 2010, up from only 25% for 2009. The strongest demand for premium is in Asia.

- Image: France on top in Asia: French wines have a very good image in Asia and in Russia, where they are well ahead of other countries on an image scale. In Europe and in North America French wines have a less good reputation: e.g. they are in 3rd place in Denmark, 4th place in the USA and Canada, and 5th place in Switzerland…

The report is based on a survey made earlier this year. The full report with all details can be ordered from Sopexa:


Jazz and wine in the Languedoc

>> Thursday, June 03, 2010

Each year in August there is the Jazz à l’Hospitalet festival in the Languedoc. It is the dynamic winemaker Gerard Bertrand (and ex-rugby star) that since several years arranges the festival at his vineyard at Château l’Hospitalet. This year the jazz festival takes place on August 5 to 9. And it’s an impressive list of musicians that will play: Liz Mc Comb, Maceo Parker, Maurane Ô Nougaro, JFX, Nathalie Dessay & Michel Legrand, Garou… And the venue is not bad: on a hill in the La Clape region, not far from the sea, in one of France’s sunniest regions, with a very nice hotel available at the chateau itself.


Which wine sites do you like best?

>> Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Which wine sites do you like the best?

From the point of view of:

  • Design / site architecture
  • User interface
  • Usefulness
  • or anything else
It's nice if you give a reason, but you don't have to.

I'm really looking for WELL DESIGNED sites. It's not a question of which sites have the best contents.

A site can be a blog or a "real" site (=one that is not chronologically organised).

Thanks for your suggestions!

You can nominate more than one, of course.

(This is not a competition, and there's no winner. It's just an effort to collect well-made sites - for inspirational purposes. Your input is MUCH appreciated!)


Binge drinking leads to risky sex – perhaps

Does binge drinking lead to risky sex among college students? The answer seems to be, yes, perhaps. The American Association of Wine Economists usually publishes papers on less sexy subjects (as e.g. Measuring the Economic Effect of Global Warming on Viticulture Using Auction, Retail and Wholesale Prices), but Jeff DeSimone has just published a paper called Binge Drinking and Risky Sex Among College Students.The paper concludes that binge drinking is above all linked to having sex with multiple partners (no, not at the same time), and perhaps also to having unprotected sex. DeSimone adds that it is not easy to control for other factors (or to have a good control group) and thus the conclusions are not very certain. We may add that understanding what the author wants to say is not easy either (try for example this: “Promiscuity is unrelated with non-binge drinking but even more strongly related with binge drinking on multiple occasions. Results from a rudimentary instrumental variables strategy and accounting for whether sex is immediately preceded by alcohol use suggest that binge drinking directly leads to risky sex.”).

Are you surprised?


Bordeaux Facts

>> Tuesday, June 01, 2010

- There are 60 different appellations(AOC / AOP) in total in the Bordeaux region
- 118,000 hectares of vines in total (2009)
- 5.7 million hl wine produced, which is +20 compared to 2008 but identical to 2007
- The average size of a vineyard: 14.6 ha

- Main red grape varieties, account for 89% of the area (!):
-- Merlot: 63% (yes, merlot is the by far most planted variety)
-- Cabernet sauvignon 25%
-- Cabernet franc 11%
-- Others, malbec, petit verdot etc: 1% (even though e.g. both petit verdot and malbec have attracted a lot of attention in the press recently as trendy grapes they still represent less than one percent of plantings)

- White grape varieties, account for only 11% of plantations down from almost 50% some decades ago (such a pity, dry white Bordeaux can be so delicious, wouldn’t you agree?):
-- Sémillon: 53%
-- Sauvignon: 38%
-- Muscadelle: 6%
-- Others, colombard, ugni blanc, merlot blanc, folle blance etc: 3%

(source : CIVB)

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