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New issue: Welcome to the BKWine Brief nr 86, September 2010

>> Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This will probably be a record short Brief. Not that it’s a record we’re aiming for. We hope you don’t mind too much. This is a rather busy period. Britt just returned from the Douro Valley in Portugal and Per from southern Italy (how much good food can they stuff you with down there?!). Tomorrow we’re off to Bordeaux and to Tuscany/Umbria respectively. And at this very moment Martin is in Catalonia and Priorat (which will be a challenge tomorrow when there’s a general strike in Spain). That’s the way it’s been since the beginning of September and will continue for another few weeks.

So this month’s Brief will be short. Please don’t hold it against us!

On the other hand, this gives us a good view of how the harvest is shaping up in the various regions. Generally it looks good but perhaps more variable than last year. In some places, the harvest will be smaller than usual. In Châteauneuf for example, where some vineyards were badly affected by coulure (partially failed flowering/fruit setting). A drop in 30% is expected (no, not in prices).

Read more in our preliminary harvest report further down in the Brief.

This time of the year is of course a wonderful time to go travelling in wine country. There are lots of things to see in the vineyards and in the wineries. You see plenty of ripe fruit (unless they’ve already harvested). On the other hand, wine touring is the spring is really wonderful. (Actually, we’d like more people to discover the spring season for wine tours!) The vines have beautiful young shoots in bright green. Temperatures are rising. Winemakers have plenty of time to talk and to taste wines with visitors, time that they often don’t have in harvest time. So here’s to spring season wine touring!

That’s all for this time. Time to pack the bags!

Britt & Per

PS: Did you see in the last issue of the Brief that Travel & Leisure, the world’s biggest travel magazine, listed BKWine as “world’s best wine tours? In this issue of the Brief you can read about Frommer’s, a giant in travel publishing, who also talks about BKWine! Read more further down.

PS 2: Recommend to your friends to read the Brief or forward it to them !

Read the entire new issue of the BKWine Brief here!

More on wine:
Guest writers on
Wine videos: BKWine TV
Wine photography


Languedoc to introduce Grand Cru...

>> Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Some areas in the Languedoc, that fulfil certain criteria, will be classified as Grand Cru according to a new proposal from the producers association, the CIVL. They want to have two levels: Grands Vins du Languedoc and Grand Cru du Languedoc. Grands Vins will include Minervois, Corbières, Saint Chinian, sparkling Limoux, Malpère, Faugères, Cabardès, muscat (we assumes this means in general for the muscat wines) and some parts of Terroirs de Coteaux du Languedoc, according to The Drinks Business.

Grand Cru would include Minervois La Livinière, Corbières Boutenac, Saint Chinian Roquebrun, Terrasses du Larzac, Grès du Montpellier, Pic Saint Loup, Pézenas, La Clape and still wines from Limoux. The idea is to make it easier for the consumer (we’re not convinced it is obvious to the consumer what the difference is between Grand Vin and Grand Cru). “This will mould the future of the Languedoc region for the next 15 years” says Jerome Villaret of the CIVL, according to DB.

Perhaps. Or it will take the Languedoc down the path to where some “classified” regions are today, where a hierarchy imposes a straitjacket on the producers and stifles creativity and initiative. And it is undoubtedly so that in each of the districts there are some very good producers but also some mediocre ones. Just as there are outstanding producers who are outside of these regioins (or who do not follow the appellation rules to 100%). A classification is also often a way to protect those that “inside” from unpleasant competition from those that are “outside” of the category. It is not clear to us if the plans have been given the go-ahead by the INAO, the French control authority, or not.

We remember (as the diligent reader of the Brief perhaps does too) when Chaume Premier Cru was launched as an appellation, only to be annulled by a court a short time later since it could be misleading for consumers. In other words: we are not convinced. Read more:

What do you think? Good idea? Or folly?


A new wine auction house in Europe: Spectrum Wine

Well, at least almost. Spectrum Wine holds auctions primarily in California and in Hong Kong but since some time back they have a live representative in place in Europe. It is the (ex-?) wine writer Stuart George who is in charge of developing the European market for Spectrum. He is no doubt interested to get in touch with both potential buyers as well as potential suppliers to the auctions. Contact Stuart on in the UK on his phone: +44 773 8582 356 (Say hello from old colleagues at BKWine!)


The harvest has begun! In Rivesaltes! (old news...)

First to harvest in France this year was (according to what is claimed) a wine producer in Rivesaltes: Domaine Rombeau. They started already on August 12, which on the other hand is just about what they usually do, says the owner M de la Fabrègue. Rivesaltes is a wine district in southern France, close to the Spanish border and near Perpignan. They make primarily so called VDN wines (vins doux naturels) which means that they use a similar method to making port wine: after fermenting the must for a few days grape alcohol is added to stop the fermentation. You get a sweet, grapey wine similar to young ports. More info on:


New study shows the environmental impact of wine packaging: ”bag is best”

>> Monday, September 20, 2010

Systembolaget, the Swedish retail monopoly, has had a study made to analyse the environmental impact of different types of wine packaging. The conclusion was that wine in bag (bag-in-box without the box) has the least environmental impact. However, they do not quite say it that way. Instead this: “bag-in-box, bags and cartons have over-all a lesser environmental impact than glass bottles” and then “bigger volumes have lesser environmental impact” (not quite rocket science that one). In other words, the bag-without-box with a great volume should have the least impact.

As always with this kind of research it can be interesting to note who is behind the study. It is financed by Systembolaget, possibly the world’s biggest seller of bag-in-box wines, the Norwegian monopoly Vinmonopolet and one big Swedish importer, Oenoforos, in collaboration with Tetra Pak and Elopak, both leading carton packaging manufacturers, and Vitrop Smurfit Kappa, who makes bag-in-box packaging. One can only wonder why Systembolaget has teamed up with three packaging companies who obviously are partial in the issue. It can hardly be due to a lack of money.

Sara Norell, purchasing manager at Systembolaget, comments cryptically: “We will use the result of the study in our ongoing work on our product offer where we take into consideration such things as environmental impact and customer demand, quality aspects and of course the mission given to Systembolaget by the state/owner on alcohol effects on the public health”. It would have been interesting to know what they really think. The only (official) reason for Systembolaget to exist is that it is should minimise the effects of alcohol consumption on public health. Many observers believe that the the success of bag-in-box in Sweden is a strongly contribution factor to the increase in wine consumption in Sweden in recent years. More than 50% of all wine sold in Sweden is sold in BiB today.

So will the conclusion be to promote bag-in-box (or bag-without-box) more now, thanks to the lower environmental impact? How does that mix with the public health objectives?

You can find the whole report, in English, here. If you read it we would be very interested in your comments.


Sulphur or not in the bottle? Just like the oil, it disappears magically!

There is a (very small) trend today among certain wine makers not to use any sulphur at all during the winemaking. Sulphur is used by virtually all wine producers, for example to stabilise the wine at bottling. Sulphur is simply a conservation agent. However, some producers want to stop using it but this can be very difficult since it can lead to problems with the wine once in the bottle. The consumers, on their side, may think that sulphur in the wine sounds (or is) unpleasant. Since a few years back it is compulsory to have a warning text on the label if the wine contains sulphur. In practice this means that all wines carry this warning text, since sulphur can also be produced naturally during the vinification process.

Domaine Montirius (who is an organic and biodynamic producer) in the Rhone Valley wondered how much of the sulphur they added at bottling remained in the bottle? So they had bottles analysed at various intervals after bottling. It turned out that two years after bottling there was virtually no free sulphur left at all in the wine! In other word, when the bottle is opened and drunk, there is no sulphur left for the consumer to worry about. You can (could) read more about their discovery in their latest newsletter, but unfortunately they don’t have an archive online. But if you subscribe to their newsletter perhaps you will have the opportunity to read other interesting things in the future.


The Châteauneuf-du-Pape book now in e-version

A few months back we wrote a book review on the Châteauneuf book by Harry Karis, what must be the definitive magnum opus on the producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. However, it is a huge book (2 kg?) so not very easy to lug around on your travels in the Rhone Valley. Now the book has been launched in an electronic version, in pdf format. More info on it here

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New restaurant discovery in Avignon - Le Zinzolin

>> Thursday, September 16, 2010

Zinzolin is a dark purple shade of colour. What it has to do with the restaurant we don't really know.

Tonight, on the first evening on the BKWine wine tour in southern Rhone, a free evening, we were looking for a nice, relaxed restaurant away from the very busy toursit district. We stumbled on to the Le Zinzolin and were certainly not disappointed. A very, very nice burger, corsican style paired with an excellent Cotes du Rhone from Domaine Remejeanne, made by Remy Klein.

We'll be back!


Three visits in Chateauneuf, 08s, 07s, 01s and more - first day on our Southern Rhone Tour

Starting running today with three visits in Chateauneuf: domaine Fontavin, Ogier, and Pere Caboche. Two women winemakers and one big group winery. Interesting mix!

There are plenty of things going on in the vineyards, harvesting is in full speed, or at least almost. Quite a few harvest workers picking grapes. Can't be the most fun of jobs, considering that the grapes are barely above ankle height. Lots of grenache being picked. Tiny grapes in small bunches.

This year will be good, fingers crossed for the remainder of the harvest, but it will be small. Some growers were hit hard by colure (bunches where only some grapes develop), so quantity may be 30% below normal.

Tasted some good wines: lightish and fruity 2008s, more substantial 2007s, a nicely matured 2001.

Wish you were here!


First night in Avignon on Rhone wine tour - the best wine bar

>> Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First night in Avignon on our three day wine tour in the southern Rhone valley, with Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and much more.  We're not really starting until tomorrow morning. So tonight was quiet to charge up for tomorrow. Had a quick dinner at what is definitely one of the best wine bars around 'l'AOC', squeezed in on a narrow alley between two of the pedestrian shopping street. Very un-posh but very good wines and amazing food for the minuscule kitchen that they have. Very simple and very good.

This is the first of four nights in Avignon on our Southern Rhone wine tour.

Tomorrow we will start the wine tour with Chateauneuf-du-Pape!

Wish you were here!


Bordeaux gets new boss

Georges Haushalter has been named new President of CIVB, the producers’ marketing and promotion as well as co-ordination organisation in Bordeaux. CIVB is a very powerful and influential organisation in the wine world. They have a multi million budget for information and marketing world wide and have a great influence over what happens in Bordeaux. Haushalter is managing director of a négociant company in Bordeaux called Compagnie Médocaine des Grands Crus. He replaces Alain Vironneau, who was an independent grower. It is tradition that the post alternates between the négoce and producers. BKWine had a while back the opportunity to do an interview with Haushalter and Vironneau that you can watch on BKWine TV: CIVB in Bordeaux on BKWine TV Part 1 and CIVB in Bordeaux on BKWine TV Part 2.

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The Great Grenache Day: September 24

September 24 has been named as the First Annual International Grenache Day (FAIGD?). It has been created to celebrate “the great grenache grape”, indeed one of the great grapes of the south and not very well-known by the general public. There will be promotions, events, tastings etc on the day. Why not organise a grenache tasting on the day yourself? Read more about the Great Grenache Day here:


Protected origin

>> Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Many wine regions are very keen to protect their name. It is also becoming increasingly common for other things: cheese, ham, chicken and even a certain kind of lace (no not that kind) have protected names through ‘appellation controllée’ or similar. The most fanatic name protectors are the champenois who have fought a name battle for long. Five famous names have now banded together and created what they call “Discover the Origin”. It is primarily a site with information about the five products: burgundy wine, port, wine from the Douro Valley, Parma ham, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (parmesan cheese). They are running the campaign, and sharing information, recipes, and various sort of information on their new site:

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DRC wines on ice until fair monopoly trade is invented

Some of the world’s most expensive wines come from Domaine de la Romanée Conti in Burgundy. They can go for around 4000€. Per bottle. The Swedish monopoly Systembolaget received its allocation of the 2006 wines early 2009. They have still not been sold in the monopoly stores though. According to WOW News there is a possibility that they will be on sale later this autumn. Apparently, the monopoly explains the delay with a lack of “assured IT support”. What this means exactly is unclear but it to the launch of a new sales system that should make sure the 420 bottles that have reached Sweden can be sold “fairly and without discrimination” to the consumers.

Previous years there has been “public” uproar when it has been felt that the playing field has not been level: after long nightly queues some shops have opened the doors a few minutes before the official opening time giving those queuers an unfair advantage before those who waited in front of doors who opened on the dot. The demand for these bottles in Sweden is always greater than the supply. At the last launch all bottles were sold within 40 seconds. This is to a great extent due to that the monopoly applies a mechanic pricing formula, rather than selling wines at market prices. This results in that some of these wines are sold far under the international market price. This is likely to be even more the case this year since the 2006 DRC wines have been on the international market for quite some time. So it is an even greater risk (chance?) that this year the wines will be snapped up and rapidly exported and sold on the international market.

“At this moment we have not decided when and how the DRC wines will be sold. But given the new circumstances we will in the near future have an internal discussion on how to resolve this issue in the best way possible for our customers”, says Lennart Agén, a representative for Systembolaget to WOW News.

That’s a good question – how can you sell such wines “fairly”? (No, we assure you, all this is not a joke.)

Any advice for the Swedish monopoly?

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Vandals destroy a vine test plantation in Alsace

>> Monday, September 13, 2010

A group of around 60 vandals broke during the night of august 15 into an experimental plantation created by the French agricultural research institute (INRA) in Alsace. The tore up and destroyed 70 vines that had been planted to see if genetically modified vines (GMO vines) could survive the dreaded disease grapevine fanleaf virus (GFLV, or court-noué). There is today no cure for this disease that eventually kills a suffering plant. The trial plantation was minutely planned so that no vegetal material could spread from the test plantation. It was also well protected by fencing, since a previous trial had been destroyed a few years back. That apparently did not prevent the persons the get into the plantation and massacre the plants. The assailants thus put an end to work that has been running since 2005.

This time the vandalism has been criticised from several sides. The French ministers for agriculture, research and ecology have supported INRA and condemned the vandals, as has CFDT, France’s biggest trade union. “We have acted with non-violence […]. Public funds are used for GMO research, this plantation was on an open field and we did not want it here”, said Olivier Florent, one of the vandals, to AFP, all belonging to a French group called “les faucheurs”. I see, then it is of course quite OK to vandalise the plantation?

Les Faucheurs even make a wine that you can buy, Or do you just enter the shop and grab a bottle and leave if you like it?

Read more and and (use Google Translate if you don’t read French)

What do you think? Write us a line or comment in the blog!

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Mendoza Report, part 5: Grapes

Argentina’s most famous grape variety is Malbec and it is also the most planted of the red varieties.

”We are totally addicted to Malbec”, says Luis Cabral de Almeida at Finca Flichman, ”even though Cabernet Sauvignon is getting stronger and stronger. Malbec is an easy variety to work with and it has nice, soft tannins.” Today, many producers wish to stress the fact that Malbec can produce so much more than just basic entry level wines. More high quality Malbec wines are being made and even Single Vineyard wines which adds prestige to the grape.

“Malbec is a marvellous grape”, says legendary chief wine maker at Bodega Norton Jorge Riccitelli, and pours an extraordinary Malbec 1974 to prove that the grape can age well. “They didn’t have oak at that time so what you feel is the quality of the grapes.”

An up and coming variety is Cabernet Franc. Jorge Riccitelli uses is a lot and he thinks it will become an important grape for Mendoza. ”It thrives in our climate, it has good tannins and it ages well.”

With all Italians in Mendoza you are not surprised to find Italian varieties. Bonarda, for instance, is a much used grape for volume wines but Diego Levada, wine maker at Trapiche, thinks it will soon be important also for higher quality wines. “It has personality”, he says.

Less known but as Argentinean as Malbec is the white grape Torrontes. At Trapiche it grows at 1400 meter above sea level where it enjoys cool nights. It has such a strong character that you, according to Jorge Riccitelli at Norton, either love it or hate it. It is planted all over Argentina and although it doesn’t always taste the same it is always aromatic and floral. It reminds me of a discreet Gewurztraminer. An actually is goes even better with Asian food than Gewurztraminer. “The thing is to avoid the bitterness you often get in Torrontes”, says Jorge Riccitelli.

Stay on the look out also for Syrah as it is a grape that is starting to do very well in Mendoza. Trivento proves this with Trivento Golden Reserve Syrah, one of their best wines with grapes from Los Ponchos in the Uko Valley.

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Mendoza Report, part 4: Irrigation and the limits of a good thing

>> Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Andes are not just a beautiful background to the vineyards. Their melting water is also the thing that makes it possible to produce wine in this very dry region. ”Water, it’s the most important thing we have. If you control the water, you control the quality of the grapes”, says Luis Cabral de Almeida at Finca Flichman. But you have to control also the amount of water you give your grapes. You have to adapt the amount depending on grape variety, location and season. Luis gives very little, for instance, after véraison (that is, after the grapes have changed colour).

Trapiche uses some pretty sophisticated methods to decide the amount of water they need to give to their vines.

An automatic weather station gives daily “evapotranspiration” data and a pressure chamber allows them to test the leaf water status. Based on this information they can optimize their irrigation decisions. “Sometimes you need to stress the vines a little bit, you should definitely never spoil them”, says Guillermo Yaciofano, Trapiche’s vineyard manager.

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Mendoza Report, part 3: The importance of altitude

“Everything starts in the vineyard”, says Luis Cabral de Almeida at Finca Flichman, and many producers share this philosophy today. A big advantage here in Mendoza is the fact that it is easy to grow grapes more or less organically. “In Europe you would typically spray 9-10 times a year, here it’s a bad year if we need to spray four times.”

Producers talk a lot about the environment, but the real fashion word today is altitude. Vineyards at high altitudes have the advantage of being cooler which will give more freshness and elegance to the wines. New land is being planted closer to the mountains. Grapes from different altitudes are blended for complexity and often the altitude is mentioned on the label. In the Oku Valley, southwest of the city of Mendoza, vines are grown at an altitude of between 900 and 1400 meters. “On high altitudes we can get phenolic ripeness earlier and thus pick ripe grapes before the sugar level – and consequently the alcohol level - gets too high,” says
Luis Cabral de Almeida.

Trapiche has invested in the Uko Valley. Here, says vineyard manager Guillermo Yaciofano, with the cool climate, sauvignon blanc och pinot noir give very good results. Also Trivento buys land in Uko Valley. Wine maker Maximiliano Ortiz says that producers today are much more aware of the importance of where the grapes are grown.

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Mendoza Report, part 2: Investments

>> Tuesday, September 07, 2010

There have been a lot of investments made in Mendoza over the last few years, both by foreigners and by Argentineans. French and other Europeans are attracted by the climate and the (relatively) affordable prices for vineyard land. Finca Flichman is owned by Portuguese Sogrape and their chief winemaker Luis Cabral de Almeida is also from Portugal. He enjoys the ambience and, of course, the many barbecues. ”I appreciate the open-mindedness among the wine producers, the fact that people share and discuss things.”

The investments are visible in the grand wine cellars you see while travelling around in the country side. The spectacular cellar of Catena Zapata, inspired by the Maya pyramids, is just one example. Everywhere you’ll find the latest high-tech equipment and well trained wine makers. And, not least important, a will to experiment and to improve the complexity of the wines.

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Mendoza Report, part 1: What’s new in Mendoza?

With the snow capped Andes in the background and an extremely blue sky, Mendoza, the largest wine region in Argentina, is a magnificent sight. The climate is nice and warm. It is easy to get ripe grapes and powerful wines with a lot of alcohol. Wines that are appreciated all over the world. But making powerful wines is not enough anymore for the more ambitious of the Mendoza producers. José Alberto Zuccardi says what a lot of producers think today: “We also need to look for identity, especially for our top wines, it’s very important. We want to have powerful wines, but with the elegance from the old world.”

Argentina is a country with a long wine tradition. It’s a New World - country with a certain old world feeling to it. It has always been the New World country with the biggest wine consumption, maybe not surprising considering the Italian and Spanish influence.

The wine export has grown dramatically over the last few years and the quality of the wines has improved, also dramatically. “Consumers are changing”, says Guillermo Yaciofano, vineyard manager at Trapiche. “They are more knowledgeable today and they want interesting wines. So we need to change our wines. We need to find the right location for each grape. It is warm everywhere in Mendoza, but there are regions that are more or less hot.”

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The wine trade uninterested in social media and the internet

>> Monday, September 06, 2010

“The wine trade shuns the wine blogs” is the heading of an article in the trade newsletter WoW News. It seems that at least the Swedish wine trade does not see much value or interest in wine blogs or other “social media” or “social networks”, not only blogs but also Facebook, Twitter and other internet phenomena.

WoW talked to some 50 trade persons, importers, buyers, journalists etc. The picture was clear: they find no interest in wine blogs and rarely read one. Some said they read a blog occasionally, but in those cases it was more likely a non-Swedish blog.

Facebook and Twitter was not even a subject mentioned in the article.

The Swedish retail monopoly was several years late in launching an online ordering system (it’s not even a shop – just an ordering system. You have to go pay and collect the good in a physical shop), and their site is far from user friendly, missing much vital information. For example, for many of the wines the name of the producer is not mentioned.

Most Swedish wine magazines have only just recently discovered internet and created first attempts to have their own online editorial sites which are more than “hello we exist” type of sites.

All of this is very curious, in a country that prides itself of being a spearhead in information technology. At least outside of the wine trade.

How is it in your country? Let us know! Send us a line, write a comment.


Austrian Wines hosts this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference

The third European Wine Bloggers’ Conference (#ewbc on Twitter), will take place in Austria in October – the first time the event is held outside of the Iberian Peninsula. This is thanks to the main sponsor and co-organiser, the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB, and their forward looking strategy to work with ‘social media’. "With this conference, the dynamic of our wine country will be demonstrated yet again,” said Willi Klinger, general manager of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. The conference is organized by Catavino and Wine Conversation. BKWine will of course be present and look forward to meeting some of our readers there! More info


Canada and Sweden leads in demand for organic wines

>> Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Canada is seen as them most attractive growth market for organic wines in a new report from Letis. The demand for organic wines is expected to grow with 20% annually in Canada. The demand for organic wines in Europe is somewhat lower, but still healthy: between 5% and 15%. It comes as no surprise that it is the “green” northern countries that lead in demand: In Sweden Letis sees a growth rate of 18% per year, in the Netherlands 11% and after that follows Denmark, Switzerland, and … Italy. Read more on

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BKWine makes ”World’s Top Wine Tours” according to Travel and Leisure Magazine

BKWine has just been named one of the world’s best wine tour organisers by (T+L). In their latest web feature T+L lists the “World’s Top Wine Tours” and BKWine is one of a handful of travel operators selected by Travel and Leisure. T+L singles out BKWine as the tour operator who is best for the traveller who wants to meet the winemakers and who wants to have a personal and unique experience. Read it here: is the internet version of the American travel magazine Travel and Leisure Magazine with around 4.5 million readers. (Click on the photo for more images from our wine tours - as a matter of fact, most images in the Brief are from our wine tours!)

Britt Karlsson, founder of BKWine, comments: “We were very excited, happy and honoured when we heard that we had been selected by Travel and Leisure. What T+L says also underlines the things that we work hard to achieve: that our travellers should get a very personal and unique experience. I personally visit some 200 different wineries and winemakers every year so I know where the visits will be exceptional. And in a way, it makes me especially proud that an American travel magazine has selected us, a Swedish tour organiser, as one of the world leaders on wine tours!”

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