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Is the market for Bordeaux wine a market economy or should it be a plan economy?

>> Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jancis Robinson, the heavy-weight British wine critic, wrote an article last week about the imminent Bordeaux Primeurs circus called “Bordeaux 2010 – when to publish?” It has sparked an intense debate both on her site and on the internet in general. Read it all here:

In her article Jancis advocates that wine journalists and critics should hold off on publishing the tasting notes, or at least the ratings (scores), until after the primeur wine prices have been set. She went on to contact several of her most prestigious colleagues (Robert Parker of the wine Advocate, Thomas Matthews, executive editor of the Wine Spectator, Guy Woodward, editor of Decanter and probably several more) to get their reaction to her suggestion. Predictably, most of the journalists whom she has contacted seem to decline her proposal, whereas many others, both journalists, bloggers and other commentators on the internet seem to think it is a great idea.

So, what would the point be in holding off on publishing? Well, Jancis says that she is starting to feel as if she is manipulated by the Bordeaux trade: “I do increasingly feel like a pawn in a game designed to part you with as much money as possible”. So her idea is that if there is a co-ordinated effort among journalists not to publish notes until after the prices have been set, maybe the price increases will be less dramatic and less unreasonable.

I see several weaknesses in this reasoning and I don’t really think it’s a good idea.

Firstly, if a journalist is reluctant to have an impact on consumers and producers, then it is better not to publish at all. It is inherent in the role as a journalist or critic to have an influence. That, to a large extent, is the whole point of it! As a journalist you cannot choose to write only for one type of audience (e.g. only for the benefit of “consumers”). You have to accept that what you write can be read, and used, by anyone.

And perhaps it is even to some extent based on an exaggeration of the influence that journalists have. Is it really due to journalists’ and critics’ writing that some exclusive Bordeaux wines have become outrageously expensive? (“Outrageously” from some people’s point of view. Others think they are good value.) I suspect that the journalists, and in particular the primeur ratings, only have a very limited impact on Bordeaux pricing and that in reality it is other factors that have much more influence. (You can of course find the odd counter example, like the Parker effect on the Lafite prices last year.)

Then one has to take into account how the trade functions. The wines are released only in ‘tranches’, so the producers are drip-feeding the market. So should the let’s-keep-a-secret agreement be valid until just the first tranche has been released or until all has been sold? If the former, what will be the point? The prices can easily be changed for the subsequent trances.

Then you have the fact that the “release prices” are just the initial price that the chateau sets to the first level of the trade. If the market is ready to pay the very high prices it is currently doing then limiting the price rises at the producer level will just move the wind-fall profits to later stages in the selling chain, to e.g. wholesalers, importers or retailers. Perhaps that is one of the reasons whey some trade voices have seen this as a good idea?

But the most basic reason not do such a thing is that it seems to be an unreasonable type of collusion between journalists (as Parker says) – refraining from communicating with the readers. And that prices are set by the market – what the customers are willing to pay.

The highly respected French journalist Michel Bettane has also chimed in with a similar issue. he has written an open letter to the UGC (Union des Grands Crus – one of the organisers of the primeur event). His argument is that it is unfair that some journalists are given the possibility to taste the primeurs before others, and that this gives them the possibility to publish their comments earlier tham others. But this too is a curious argument: First, who has said that journalism and in particular the primeur event is supposed to be “fair”. The organisers can do as they please and the journalist can participate or not, as they please. Secondly, the letter more seems to be a case “why is he given access when I am not allowed to come?”.

Or to quote from his open letter:
"il est insupportable de voir James Suckling délivrer ses commentaires deux ou trois semaines avant tous les autres et d’imaginer mes collègues de la RVF avoir des conditions spéciales de dégustation"
Envy of not having been given the front row in this event? One can only wonder how many times M Bettane has been given privileged access to events and tastings that many other journalists have not had equal access to? Was Bettane threatening to boycott those events too, when he was on the other side? There is of course nothing that says that all journalists are supposed to be given equal access or equal opportunity to report, nor that they should have the opportunity to publish at the same time. An online journalist will always be able to publish faster than a print journalist, per definition (just as an example).

Read the open letter from Michel Bettane here: and more on his views on the issue here

One other voice who seems to support the case (but perhaps I am mistaken) is Tyler Colman at the Dr Vino blog There are many interesting comments on that post.

So, in conclusion:

  • No, journalists should not keep secret the tasting notes on Primeurs until a later, mutually agreed date
  • If one does not like how it is organised, then the only real solution is not to participate. If you don’t like the Primeur Cricus and the skyrocketing Bordeaux prices: don’t review the wines, don’t write about it.
  • It is doubtful that the tasting notes have any significant long term effects on the price of the wines. (Many journalists rate other wines just as high as Bordeaux wines but those wines don’t reach the same astronomic price levels.)
  • The market is open: the wines will cost whatever the consumers are prepared to pay. And today it seems that there is almost no limit to how much (some) consumers, i.e. the market, is willing to pay for the most expensive Bordeaux wines (dare I say claret?)
What do you think? Is there a right or wrong?

(And then there is of course the question of how relevant it is to taste the Bordeaux wines en primeur. Can you really give a fair and accurate judgment of how the final wine, which may be a quite different blend, will be? But that’s a different question!)



Dîner des Chefs at Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme

I went to a very interesting dinner the other day, the Dîner des Chefs at Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme. The dinner was organised for the 6th time (and always during the Paris Book Fair), by the publishing house Glénat. One of the specialities of Glénat is cook books and books written by famous chefs, so for this dinner they had gathered 5 different French chefs for an extremely creative dinner.

The chefs were

  • Jean-François Rouquette from Pur’ Restaurant at the Park Hyatt where we had the dinner (1 Michelin star)
  • Patrick Jeffroy from l’Hôtel de Carantec in Bretagne (2 Michelin stars)
  • Sébastien Bontour from Palace Es Saadi in Marrakech
  • Davide Bisetto from Casas del Mar in Corsica (2 Michelin stars)
  • Nicolas Masse from Les Sources de Caudalie in Bordeaux. (1 Michelin star)

And I should also mention Pier-Marie Le Moigno, chef-patissier at Pur’, responsible for one of the desserts, called simply Le Cube, although it was probably not that simple to make.

A creative dinner, yes. What we were served was French cuisine haute couture. Fascinating, delicious but, as often is the case with haute couture, sometimes a bit too complicated and even strange.

I give you here the menu in French; I will not even try to translate it into English:
  • Langoustine froide avec gelée de soja et pamplemousse (Jean-François Rouquette)

    Served with Chablis 1er cru Vaillons 2008 from Joseph Drouhin. A full bodied wine the a minerality and freshness that matched the grape fruit.
  • Saint-Jacques fumée et queue de bœuf frite, émulsion de raifort (Patrick Jeffroy)

    Here the Chablis did very well with the horse radish and the smoked scallop.
  • M’hamsa safrané à la tchekchouka parfumé aux fleurs de coriandre, écrevisse snackée à la fleur de sel, Caviar de l’Ambassadeur (Sébastien Bontour)

    Served with Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Chalumaux 2007. A very clean and complex wine that did well with all these different flavours. Caviar de l’Ambassadeur is a new and delicious Iranian caviar
  • Tortellini d’ossobuco, fondue d’ubriaco, balsamique 25 ans d’âge (Davide Bisetto)

    Served with Château Batailley 1998, Pauillac. Ready to drink now, a very classy and classic Bordeaux. Very nice with these very tasty tortellini. I wanted more of them!
  • Bar épais Rossini, pomme de terre onctueuse et compotée d’oignons doux (Nicolas Masse)

    Again, the Paullac was superb.
  • Le Cube (Jean-François Rouquette et Pier-Marie Le Moigno)
  • Fine gelée à l’infusion de Naâna & granité à la menthe poivrée

    Beautifully combined with exceptional Sauternes wine Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2006

So indeed a star studded dinner!



Growing Gruner - part 3: I'm getting worried.

>> Monday, March 28, 2011

Continuing the story of growing a gruner veltliner vine from cuttings that I received at the European Wine Bloggers Conference in Vienna.

I am starting to get a bit worried. Weather has been nice. We have not had any hail on the kitchen window sill (where the vine is standing).

But is it growing?

Will my new vine fail?

It seems noting is happening. It is now two and a half week since I put the cuttings in water. Not a sign of a root, not a sign of life. I hope I am just a bit too impatient. I will wait for some time more. Here's how it looks currently.

In contrast, here's how a cutting looks that I took from one of the old vines we have on the balcony, admittedly a little longer ago, when we were doing winter pruning:
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How to dig a deeper and deeper hole. Or: "A Prima Donna shouts too loud"? - A Portuguese challenge

>> Wednesday, March 23, 2011

First of all I want to apologise to all my Portuguese friends, winemakers and others. And to all other who love Portugal and its wines.

I had wanted to leave this debacle with the 1º Encontro e Prova Internacional de Vinho / 1st International Wine Meeting and Tasting in Portugal (Celorico, Beira Interior) organised by Maria Joao de Almeida (and behind me and focus on constructive work.

(Update: read my first post on this subject here: An experience in how not to market Portuguese wines: the 1st International Wine Meeting and Tasting (in Portugal))

However, I cannot do that when again and again the organiser Maria Joao de Almeida comes back with untruths and insults.

There has been criticism from several people, some public and some only private, of the organisation of the First International Wine Meeting and Tasting in Portugal.

The reaction from Maria Joao de Almeida has been limited, but surprising.

The first reaction (not counting when I talked to her at the conference) can be read in the comments on the blog post by Luiz Alberto on the Wine Hub blog: What were you thinking Maria João de Almeida? What she says there is already quite astonishing.

Subsequently she has posted on Facebook and on her own site, specifically addressing us who have discussed the event online.

On Facebook she says this (unofficial translation from Portuguese):

The Prima Donna Tantrums

Dear friends, it seems that a group of international journalists is very bothered by not having participated in the tasting of fortified wines and decided to write their dissatisfaction on their respective blogs. So that it’s real clear: Nobody invited them to participate in the tasting, they have been invited only to attend the press conference about it. The tasting was done for sommeliers and the international orators, nothing more. Some people consider themselves more important than they really are.

(Click on the image for a larger size.)

In a “statement” that has been sent out but that I have not received but that is available on her site she says this:


The organization of the 1st International Meeting and Tasting ( Turismo da Serra da Estrela, Câmara Municipal de Celorico da Beira e a APM – Associação Portuguesa de Management DRS) regrets everything that has been written in recent days on the issue of fortified wines Tasting, and regrets even more that many people who doesn’t know us or did not participate at the event giving opinions about facts they do not know.

In order to restore the truth and to make it clear, national and international journalists never were invited to participate at the fortified wine tasting. Two press releases were sent earlier this year (on January and February): the first to explain that there would be a fortified wine tasting on March 19th with international sommeliers, and the second completed with the names of the participants. Not enough, the book of the congress had the same information repeated at the end. The only participants who were not sommeliers were international speakers Sarah Ahmed, Tim Atkin and Jamie Goode who were invited to participate in the wine tasting.

The national and international journalists were invited to participate at a press conference where information would be revealed about the wines in the competition, because naively I thought it was interesting to them to be present. Instead, I found a true manifestation of discontent on the part of several journalists who wanted to stay inside the tasting room where they were never told to participate.

I regret that journalists / bloggers use their «power» to attack someone just because they wanted to participate in a historical tasting to which they were not been invited! I wonder how important are these journalists to give such nasty opinions just because they feel themselves offended by not participating in a wine tasting? Which "disaster” is this that makes the whole event into question? What credibility do we have to give to such people who do not know us, did not attend the event, and speak in the name of others without their consent?

Finally, what importance should the producers give to this kind of communicators? I must also say that I also received very positive reviews about the Congress, not only from national and international speakers, but also from sommeliers, winemakers and producers, not to mention the international journalists who also sent me e-mails thanking for having been invited.

I do not recall seeing an event in Portugal that has assembled such important personalities in the sector to discuss key topics. Do we need to improve? Yes we do, certainly, but you can never please everyone, especially those who are prepared to throw the first stone. Finally, I want to thank everyone who believed and participated at the event, thank those who supported me in this moment of tension and inform that we will continue to organize events within the wine sector, and we are now preparing the 2nd International Meeting and Tasting.

Maria João de Almeida

I have to respond more in detail.

I have a small issue with this debate on the “historical tasting” since it detracts from the real issue: that the whole three day conference was lacking in organisation, in professionalism and in contents.

I may not have the experience in organising big international events that Maria Joao de Almeida has. But I do have some little experience – in addition to being a wine writer I also run a wine tour and travel business (named as “World’s Top Wine Tours” by Travel and Leisure Magazine) so organising travel and events is part of my profession, and I have organised three international wine fairs.

To come back to the issue, the “historical” tasting was just the tip of the iceberg, or the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The Historical Tasting

But let’s start with that. If one reads between the lines in the conference invitation, yes, then one can with good will interpret it as Maria Joao de Almeida does. However, I for one was told by the organisation that the tasting was a very good reason to stay also the Saturday, since it was such a special event. So, on their recommendation I stayed. Secondly, if one reads the conference program and invitation documents in a way that any normal person would then it is clear that the tasting is indeed part of the program. And finally, if it is as Maria Joao de Almeida says, why is it then the case that we were a whole group of people who were standing there, stunned that we had been invited to a press conference about a tasting rather than a real tasting? Apparently we were all incapable of reading a simple conference program.

Maria Joao de Almeida tells me that on many occasions she, in her work as a journalist, has attended press conferences about tastings, where she has not participated in the tasting – and that she has found it useful. I wonder what kind of wine journalism that results in? Writing about other people tasting wines that you know nothing about how they taste? Unfortunately, that is not a type of journalism I am capable of doing.

But, as mentioned, the ‘historic’ tasting was only one of many details. So, for the record, I am not in any way "attacking" anyone only because I felt spurned, as you say, in a tasting. No, you are wrong on this too, Maria Joao de Almeida.

What is more important is that the organisation, the management and the contents of the conference was not good, simply not acceptable.

To me.

Others may have different opinions. Others may have had different expectations.

I invested a lot of time in this event, others invested a lot of money in it. I feel that we did not get what could be expected from it.

I feel I have an obligation to let you know Maria Joao de Almeida (as the person ultimately responsible), as well as the people who gave you money to organise it (providing funding for this and possibly future events), even if you do not want to listen. So there is no reason to say "they are just jealous because they were not in the tasting". That is not true at all.

Let me take a few examples:

Conference Goals

It is very unclear to me what the goal of the conference was.

Was it to promote Portuguese wines to an international audience? Very little of the presentations seemed to be aimed at that. Was it to help Portuguese winemakers market themselves more effectively on an international market? As a foreign visitor it appeared to me that that was target. Several presentations were geared towards such themes. But if that was the case, why bring in 20 or 30 international delegates for whom such presentations had little value?

It seems to me that the conference wanted to be all things to all people. This was not possible so instead it became a disappointment for everyone. Or at least for some. I cannot speak for others of course but my impression was that many journalists found little of interest in many of the presentations. (Why else did so many walk away during the presentations?) My impression was also that the attending wine producers and other delegates did not quite get what they expected from it. But again, that is just my impression.

Conference contents

This brings us to the core of the conference, the contents: There was a long list of very illustrious names. The speaker names were surely one of the main magnets for those who came there. And yes, some of the speakers did have interesting things to say, but frankly, in total, not much I can write about as a journalist.

Let me take a few examples:

Jancis Robinson, the star speaker, spoke about what could be called “tips and tricks on how to market your wines internationally”. Interesting in a way but not really much that I can write about. Perhaps more relevant tips for wine producers.

Jamie Goode gave what was basically a quick introduction to the internet and to social media – what it is and how to use it. Again, any journalist worth his salt knows very well what social media and online communications is about, wouldn’t you think? (We (BKWine) have been writing about wine on the internet since 1996.)

Salvador Guedes talked about the history of Sogrape and the story of Mateus Rosé and recent corporate developments. Interesting in a way but to do something about such a theme one really has to sit down with him and do a proper interview, as well as taste the Sogrape wines.

Dirk Niepoort talked about how he sells wine with original labels, different in different countries. Curious example of branding and marketing, but again, without sitting down with Mr Niepoort and doing a proper interview, and perhaps visit the vineyard and, importantly, taste the wines, not much I can write about. And also perhaps more geared towards giving tips and inspiration to wine producers.

Etc etc. It was indeed a very impressive list of speakers, but they did not really get the possibility to put their cases forward and to create something solid that I can write about.

Wines – where were they? Only cheese!

You had a captive audience in the conference facilities (there was nowhere to go!) so there could have been plenty of opportunities to have people taste wines (when they choose not to listen to presentation). But during two full conference days there were virtually no wines to taste! Two days of wine conferencing and no wines to taste!?

Yes, there were a few wines to taste with the dinners. But as a professional wine journalist you must be aware of that if you want to taste wines seriously and comment on them, doing it over dinner is not ideal.

A great missed opportunity to have a lot of people, hungry for information and knowledge, taste your wines.

The tasting show and exhibition

This was probably the most valuable part of the event, as it turned out: a wine show / tasting with some 50 wine producers presenting their wines. But again, the organisation was botched.

First, it was very unclear in the communications before the conference what this was all about. Secondly there was no information given to us before we came to the conference on what producers would be there. You must know, Maria Joao de Almeida, that if you have 50 producers in a room, each with 10-15 wines you cannot meet all wine producers and taste all wines. You have to do your homework before and make a shortlist of who to go and meet. Walking around from one table to another without a plan is a waste of time. But how could we plan, without any information at all?

And why plan it so that it coincided with the ‘historic’ tasting? That meant that many of the sommeliers and wine journalists who participated in that tasting did not come to the wine show at all. Did they? It would be interesting to know if the exhibitors thought that they had a good crowd of visitors, both general public and professional journalists and sommeliers.

The location, the venue, the hotels

The location of the conference was 2 hours (or more) from Porto and 3 hours from Lisbon (I’m told). In the mountains of Portugal. Very difficult to reach. Sparsely populated.

An “International” conference needs to be in an “international” location, relatively easy to reach. And a “national” conference / wine show needs to be in a place where there are many people who can come and visit. The actual conference facility was a sports arena – freezing cold, poor sound, sanitation facilities that were a joke, video screen hard to see etc. And no internet and wifi connection; in a conference that talks about internet and social media and wants to show the way to the future!? Do you really think that was appropriate international conference facilities?

The three (or four?) hotels where people were staying were far from the conference and far from each other – half an hour bus drive or more. Terrible planning, terrible for networking and making contacts, terrible for getting to and from the conference. Yes they were nice but with all the bussing needed we were hardly in the hotels at all. (And I was told that one did not have wifi – for a journalist meeting!? Correct or not I don't know.)

Not to mention the Friday evening when we were told at 9PM over dinner: “you have to check out by 8.15 tomorrow morning because you will be moving hotel”. Why were we moving hotel? No one could answer. To which hotel were we moving? No one could answer. (Yes, we did ask several times.) Not that that we left at 8.15. Rather 8.50...

Logistics and planning

This may be seen as a question of personal comfort that there is no reason to bring up, but it is typical for the whole organisation: lack of organisation, information, coordination. Examples:

Many had to wait for hours at the airport to be picked up, some waited three hours, before leaving for the hotel, a two-two and a half hour drive away, which meant arriving at 1.30 at night. Were there no better way?

Going back: we were a small group of people going to the airport on the Sunday morning – a two and a half hour drive. I had been told that my transport left at 6.45. Another person was told 7.00 – and we were taking the same flight. By chance we bumped into one of the staff very late the evening before and asked. None of us had the correct time. Now it was supposed to be 6.50… At 7 AM we still sit waiting for the bus but there is no bus. A few more people arrive who were supposed to take the same bus, it turns out, but had been given a different (later) time. 20 minutes after we were supposed to leave there was still no bus. And nor was there someone from the organisation there who could find out what was happening. When I called the contact phone number I had for the organisation there was just voice mail… (I left a message but no one ever called back.) 25 minutes after the time we were supposed to leave the bus arrived. I arrived at the airport five minutes after check-in closing time.

This was just two examples, but typical of the whole - a continuum of lack of information, contradictory information, and misinformation.

Each time I asked the staff what the planning was (When will we be leaving? Which hotel are we going to? What’s the schedule? etc) no one knew. “I will have to check and come back later to you.”

Showcasing Beira Interior

I have understood that this too was one of the objectives. (I have been told that it was the region who financed or co-financed the event. I do not know if that is true.)

What I saw and learned about Beira Interior told me that it was beautiful region. But I really saw very little of it and learned very little about it – not enough to give me any substance to write about it or see much of it. A great shame. Most of the time we were sitting in the gymnasium, where we did watch a video, yes. Or we were driven between hotels when it was dark outside. So unfortunately I did not learn much about it. Perhaps I will have the chance to come back and visit some day, to learn more about it! Oh yes, we were given a book about Beira (well, Celorico) in our visitors’ pack. A nice book with the town’s history. Unfortunately it’s only in Portuguese so I can’t read it.

Another great missed opportunity for Beira.

A lot of money must have gone into this effort of which am am very uncertain of its value, especially for the Beira Interior region.

It goes on and on and on.

Maria Joao de Almeida, you may think I am a Prima Donna or an amateur or someone who does not know what I am talking about, or that I write inelegantly. But you might at least respect my opinion and listen to what I have to say.

Again, I am deeply embarrassed by having to say all this. But having been challenged publicly I feel I have no choice.

I love the wines of Portugal and the wine regions that I have visited. I wish I had seen more of the country and Beira Interior is certainly on my wish list of regions to learn more about for the future. The winemakers and the people that I have met are all very welcoming and they have plenty of interesting and exciting wines to taste.And are often longing to tell the world about them.

I will be more than happy to come back to Portugal again and again.

But perhaps not to the 2nd International Wine Meeting and Tasting in Portugal organised by Maria Joao de Almeida. 

I imagine I won’t be invited....

-Per Karlsson

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An experience in how not to market Portuguese wines: the 1st International Wine Meeting and Tasting (in Portugal)

>> Tuesday, March 22, 2011

This post is really a comment on a blog post by Luiz Albert over at The Wine Hub, but for some mysterious reason the full commentary refuses to publish on that blog.

Last week there was the 1st International Wine Meeting and Tasting (1o Encontro e Prova Internacional de Vinho) in Portugal.

It was a three day thing: two days of conferences and one day with tasting.

You can't really find much information online about it (although one of its objectives seems to have been to talk about social media and the internet) but here is its page:

It was organised by Maria Joao de Almeida, who has a site here: and who also, if I understand it right, runs

There were a number of "international" (i.e. non-Portuguese) wine journalists present, probably between 20 and 30, from all around the world: Europe, North America, South America... All expenses paid for. I was one of the invited.

Unfortunately it was an event that more showed how not to market a country and its wines rather than the opposite.

I have been debating with myself whether to talk about this debacle in public or not. Will discussing it publicly only put Portugal and Portuguese wines in a bad light and be unproductive? Or will it be constructive?

In any case, Luiz Albert at The Wine Hub as brought it out in public in his post What were you thinking Maria João de Almeida?

Luiz mainly talks about one of the remarkable things at the conference: when we were brought to a tasting room for a 'historical' tasting of fortified wines, but where the only thing that we were allowed to do was to listen to a press conference presenting the tasting that would be done by other people; where we were not allowed to participate.

However, that tasting was just the tip of an iceberg. The other parts of the conference were no better (albeit perhaps less insulting).

I have tried to post my comment on it on Luiz' blog but it won't stick... (Google Blogger magic?)

So here is my comment in full to Luiz' post:

It pains me very much to say this, because i love the wines of Portugal and the Portuguese wine regions that I have visited. I could wish for nothing better than an opportunity to write something positive that would entice more people to taste Portuguese wines and to come to Portugal.

But I will say it here anyway.

It has to be said.

The total failure of the "historic" wine tasting that Luiz talks about was just the tip of the iceberg. (It will certainly go down in history as the biggest insult to wine writers.) A reflection of the whole.

The rest of the event was not much better: the organisation was virtually non existent. The contents were of not much real interest to visiting journalists.

It failed to give me much good new material to publish.

(No, I don't come home empty-handed; I do have some good info. But that was thanks to individual initiatives (of me and others) that were possible to do in spite of the organisation.)

It failed show Portuguese wines in a favourable light.

It failed to show case the region, the wine and the food of Beira Interior, which apparently was one of the objectives.

When I talked to Maria Joao de Almeida about this she tells me:

- “Perhaps you should check your spam folder. We have sent out information about this tasting and the organisation to you by mail”

So, I am so incompetent that I don't read my email? And so is every other visiting journalist?

- “Oh, you know, it is very difficult to organise this kind of event, have you ever done any such thing?”

As a matter of fact I have – my business (apart from journalism) is to organise wine travel and events. I have also organised three international wine fairs, so yes, I do know what it takes to do it. And if anyone who worked for me was in charge of a project and it failed so dismally as this they would be fired on the spot.

- "It must be my staff that has not done their job to inform you properly...”

What kind of manager reacts in that way? In front of a "customer" and a journalist?

- “Were you not glad to listen to Jancis Robinson and Jamie Goode?”

Well, it was my first meeting with both of them, so yes, it was good to meet them. But Jancis talked about some basic ideas of how Portuguese winemakers can market their wines more effectively internationally. Not of use to me as a journalist, no. Jamie's talk was a basic introduction to the internet and social media. Perhaps also useful for wine producers unfamiliar with the internet? I have been writing about wine on the internet since 1996 so, no, not really useful for me or anyone else who knows a bit about blogs, facebook etc.

- “You know, I’m a journalist too so I know what it is you need to work”

Well, I very much doubt that, on both counts. And what does it help me (and her) to tell me that I apparently do not know what I need to do my work, and apparently do not know either how to do my work as a journalist?

Maria Joao de Almeida also told me that I was insulting the organisation with my critical comments. Really?!

Unfortunately, my conclusion is that the whole of the event, the full three days, plus two travelling days, was of not much use. Not for me. It was not “just” the historical tasting that went wrong; far from it.

I have not, ever, experienced a similar thing. I can only guess what the other visiting journalists thought.

I would love to write more about the lovely wines and regions of Portugal but this event did not help. There was very little there to give me any new information that I could use. And at every step of the way the organisation of it was inept, inadequate and in..., well, not quite what could have been expected or hoped for.

You may think that my writing is clumsy or inelegant, just like what you think of Luiz’, but that is beside the point. The point is the quality of the organisation and the contents of the three day conference.

If anything it has made it more difficult to write about Portugal and Portuguese wines. But I will not give up!

I will stop here with my comments.

Anyone who wants to know what I thought about it in more detail is welcome to contact me, e.g. here: or directly on email: firstname dot lastname at bkwine com.

-Per Karlsson

Portugal is one of the really interesting up and coming new/old wine countries. There are many exciting wines and winemakers. But this was not the way to showcase them.

I can make a long list of what did not work at the conference, from letting us wait three hours on arrival at the airport before driving us two hours into nowhere in the middle of the night to arrive at 1.30 in the morning at the conference hotel. To the very last thing when we were supposed to go back to Porto (another two hour+ drive) and the bus never arrived (it did, but 30 minutes too late) and I arrived at the airport 5 minutes after check-in closing time - with no one from the organisation there see to that things worked as planned, nor answering the designated contact phone.

But more important than these "practicalities" was the lack of substantial and useful contents at the conference. Yes there was some, but very little.

So, in conclusion, a conference that did not have form (organisation) nor contents of a quality or professionalism to show Portugal and Portuguese wines in the positive light that it/they deserves. We, the visiting journalists, suffered from it. From what I hear, the wine producers who participated suffered just as much (and undeservedly felt embarrassed about it).

We, BKWine, will nevertheless continue to be very enthusiastic about Portuguese wines and Portuguese winemakers. We will continue to write about them, publish text, photo and video. We will continue to organise wine tours to Portugal's wine regions. We will not give up.

The Portuguese wine regions are spectacular and there are many, many exciting and excellent wines!

We will be back! It's a promise or a threat, depending on how you look at it.


Growing Gruner - part 2: tiny, tiny roots?

>> Wednesday, March 16, 2011

After about 5 days in water there is maybe, maybe the beginning of tiny roots on the gruner veltliner cuttings. I've had to change the water several times, to keep it fresh. Here's how it looks right now:

Tiny roots starting on the gruner veltliner cutting?

If you look closely you can see a little white spot on what looks like a bud. You see it best on the right hand cutting.

"The original gruner veltliner from the Danube region"!

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The name of the vineyard and the soil is more important than the grape variety in Burgundy, according to BIVB

>> Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Representatives from BIVB - Bureau Interprofessionel des Vins de Bourgogne – were in Stockholm recently and BKWine took the opportunity to talk to Raphaël Dubois, wine grower with his sister in Premeaux-Prissey, and also responsible for communication at the BIVB. The theme for the Stockholm event was terroir och climats. The objective was to put forward the unique notion of terroir in Burgundy and especially in Côte d’Or. Thanks to the great variation in soil and micro climate in the Bourgogne we have hundreds of different climats och lieu-dits, that is separate vineyards or part of vineyards, often mentioned on the label. It can be a grand cru, a premier cru or just a parcel of land that deserves being vinified separately.

It was the monks during the middle ages that started it all. They noticed the differences and they divided the land in the Côte d’Or into all these different climates. It is easy to see Burgundy as a very traditional wine region but Raphaël Dubois says that the young generation of wine growers is very open minded and modern. ”The last ten years we have seen a lot of young people taking over from the parents but also growers coming from outside, from other parts of France and from other countries. They are all fascinated by the possibilities that our unique terroir gives them but they also want Burgundy to be seen as a dynamic wine region”, he says.

”It is important that we can explain to the consumers the big differences we have in terroir. But this word, terroir, is difficult for certain consumers to understand. Sometimes they ask, why can’t you just put the grape and the signature of the producer on the label?!” But of course Raphaël, or any other producer in the Côte d’Or, would never simplify things like that. It would make life easier, he says, instead of making, say 20-25 different wines from 15 hectares, but much more boring.

”Burgundy is not a beginner’s wine”, says Raphaël, ”our target group is consumers that already know something about wine. If people already know our wines and our grape varieties, then you can start talking about terroir and climats.”

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Premium wines from Trivento in Mendoza

>> Monday, March 14, 2011

We recently had the occasion to taste a range of premium wines from Trivento in Mendoza, Argentina. The wines have just been launched in the “on special order only” range at the Swedish monopoly but our comments may be of interest also to other than our Swedish readers.

Trivento was created in 1996 and is today one of the five biggest exporters of wine from the Mendoza. They have 1289 hectares spread over several different vineyards. The vines are around 15 years old. The name Trivento means “three winds” and refers to the three winds that are frequent in Mendoza: the cold polar wind, the warm zonda, and the wind from the south-east called sudestada, that often brings with it storms and sometimes hail. “The winds are a challenge for us, but also a part of Mendoza”, says Maximiliano Ortiz, the winemaker.

Like many other in the Mendoza today Trivento are keen on finding new and better locations for their grapes. They are buying land in the Uko Valley and they will plant new vines to make new wines. 2005 was the first vintage of their premium cuvee Trivento Eolo, made from almost 100% malbec (there is also between 2 and 10% of syrah). The grapes grow in stony soil but in a well protected area close to the Mendoza river. The vines were planted in 1912! Therefore the yield is low and they give a concentrated wine. The 2007 is very good, with good yet elegant structure; a touch of oak; ripe, dark berries, and a fresh acidity. It a wine to drink with food. It has been aged in French oak barrels in their brand new winery cellar, inaugurated in 2008. They have 4200 oak barrels, 60% of which are French, the rest being American. “The American oak gives more sweetness and softness to the wine”, says Maximiliano. “The French oak gives more elegance, but the wine needs to stay longer in the barrel.” They are doing test with aging the same wine in both types of barrels to see what works best.

They have also been successful at Trivento with torrontes, chardonnay and syrah. A favourite of ours is Trivento Golden Reserve Syrah 2007 made from grapes coming from the Uko Valley. The wine has a good syrah style with quite a lot of black pepper in the finish and a very good an generous fruit, and just the right amount of tannins. Also delicious is the Trivento Amado Sur Torrontes made from 75% torrontes, 15% viognier, and 10% chardonnay. Maximiliano Ortiz, the winemaker, likes the combination of viognier and torrontes: “Viognier adds aromas of apricot and peaches to the flowery style of torrontes.”

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Growing Gruner - part 1: in water

>> Saturday, March 12, 2011

This is not at all about 'green' vine growing. It's about gruner veltliner, the star white grape variety of Austria.

Last November I visited Austria for the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC). At one of the tastings we were given cuttings of gruner veltliner to take home (easier to carry than wine bottles!) with simple in structions: "Put in water for two weeks. Plant in earth. Let us know what happens!"

Gruner veltliner planting instructions

Winter was coming so it was not really the best time to plant new vines. Especially this winter. But we already have some chasselas, cabernet franc and merlot on the balcony so adding a gruner veltliner would be nice.

Now temperatures start to warm up so I though now would be a good time to do it.

I don't know if the cuttings will have survived a dry and warm apartment winter climate, but we will see.

This is the first post to see what happens, if it goes well.

So I have put the cuttings in water, as the (very quick) viticultural training told me to do (view from above):

My two gruner veltliner cuttings from Austria
This is where (I hope) the roots will start developing:
Gruner veltliner, where the roots will sprout
And this is where the bud will sprout, and grapes will come - in time the source for a lovely peppery gruner veltliner wine (one can always dream):
A gruner veltliner bud?
I will be back with progress reports!
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Tasting 20 years of Vacqueyras: 1989-2009

>> Friday, March 11, 2011

-- Vacqueyras 1989 Signature
Domaine des Amouriers
Mature, long taste with aromas of the garrique and some dried fruit. Very well preserved och very tasty.

-- Vacqueyras 1990 Traditionelle
Domaine la Garrigue
Intense nose of tobacco and cedar wood. Good concentration, length and balance.

-- Vacqueyras 1991 Cuvée Prestige
Le Clos des Cazaux
Quite light in style but a nice wine with some elegance. A difficult year with rain in August and September.

-- Vacqueyras 1993 Vincilia
Domaine de Montvac
Good, intense aromas of ripe fruit, autumn leaves and mushrooms. Still very fresh.

-- Vacqueyras 1993 Classique
Domaine des Amouriers
An elegant and well balanced wine with soft tannins. Very good.

-- Vacqueyras 1994 Traditionelle
Domaine la Garrigue
Light, elegant and tasty. Spicy aromas of the garrique, some tannins. Good.

-- Vacqueyras 1994 Vieilles Vignes
Domaine la Monardière
Good and well balanced with aromas of dried plums. The end is a little bit short.

-- Vacqueyras 1995 Lopy
Domaine le Sang des Cailloux
Very concentrated, powerful but still with a good balance. Tobacco and autumn leaves in the nose. Very good wine from a powerful and warm vintage.

-- Vacqueyras 1996 Lopy
Domaine le Sang des Cailloux
Refined and elegant with mature aromas and a freshness that is typical of the vintage.

-- Vacqueyras 1997 Traditionelle
Domaine la Garrigue
Powerful wine with a good acidity and some tannins. A well preserved wine, still young in style.

-- Vacqueyras 1998 Lopy
Domaine le Sang des Cailloux
Young in style, a lot of fruit and vitality. Soft tannins. Very good.

-- Vacqueyras 1998 Les Genestes
Domaine des Amouriers
Quite light in style and soft to begin with but a bit hard at the end. With food this shouldn’t be a problem.

-- Vacqueyras 1999 Cuvée des Templiers
Le Clos des Cazaux
A pleasant wine, a bit on the light side but still with a good concentration and length.

-- Vacqueyras 2000 Vieilles Vignes
Domaine la Monardière
Young aromas of black berries, very intense and powerful without being too much. The balance is there. A great wine.

-- Vacqueyras 2001 Vieilles Vignes
Domaine la Monardière
Some oak, roasted coffee and tobacoo on the nose. Good fruit but a bit too oaky.

-- Vacqueyras 2001 Vincilia
Domaine de Montvac
Complex aromas of ripe fruit. Quite young in style. Red berries on the palace and well balanced. Very good.

-- Vacqueyras 2002 Grenat Noble
Le Clos des Cazaux
Light, elegant and rich in taste. Red berries on the palate, almost a bit like a Pinot Noir. A very pleasant wine.

-- Vacqueyras 2003 Cuvée Prestige
Le Clos des Cazaux
Full bodied and very warm in style (alcohol) but with a dry finish. Lots of ripe and dark berries. A well made wine with some balance from a very hot year.

-- Vacqueyras 2004 Cuvée des Templiers
Le Clos des Cazaux
Round, soft with a pleasant nose. Good fruit and some oak aromas. Tannins are present. The finish is a bit too thin.

-- Vacqueyras 2005 Ceps d’or
Domaine la Fourmone
The nose is a little bit closed. But I like the style which is quite light with good tannins and freshness.

-- Vacqueyras 2005 Le Clos
Domaine Montirius
An easy to drink wine with elegance and structure.

-- Vacqueyras 2006 Sélection Maître de Chais
Domaine la Fourmone
Round, soft and fruity, quite unpretentious. .

-- Vacqueyras 2007 La Ballade des Anglès
Domaine du Bois de Saint Jean
A young wine, complex, very powerful with aromas of medicinal herbs. Almost like a port wine in style, maybe a bit over extracted?

-- Vacqueyras 2008 Cuvée Templier
Le Clos des Cazaux
A nice, young and full bodied wine already with a good balance between oak and fruit.

-- Vacqueyras 2009 la Tour aux Cailles
Domaine de la Brunely
Intense, fruity aromas, a good concentration and balance. Already a very good wine.


Happy 20 Year Anniversary, Vacqueyras!

The AOC Vacqueyras is celebrating its 20th birthday. It was in 1990 that Vacqueyras was upgraded to an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. Before that it was “only” a Côtes du Rhône. A wine tasting in Paris recently of the 20 vintages made during these first twenty years as an appellation show that Vacqueyras indeed is a worthy AOC. The quality throughout was very good and the oldest wines well preserved. Most of the time it is wines that go very well with food. They are well structured with tannins and a fresh acidity.

Vacqueyras is in the region of southern Rhône, 30 kilometres northeast of Avignon and quite close to the beautiful mountains of the Dentelles de Montmirail. Some of its illustrious neighbours are Gigondas, Séguret, Sablet, Beaumes-de-Venise, Cairanne and Rasteau. The vineyards of AOC Vacqueyras cover an area of 1390 hectares and they are the most part situated around the small towns of Vacqueyras and Sarrians. The climate is Mediterranean with the northern Mistral wind blowing frequently and sometimes furiously. It is well liked though, because it keeps the vineyards dry and healthy. The garrigue is omnipresent in Vacqueyras. The perfume of wild herbes de provence is in the air and gives the wines a distinct spicy character. The soil is often extremely stony. A Vacqueyras must be made of at least 50 % Grenache and between 20 and 50 % of Syrah and/or Mourvèdre. Cinsault is also used, but sparingly.

We asked some of the producers who were present at the tasting in Paris about their impressions about the first 20 years as an appellation.

”It was a bit difficult in the beginning, the first 5-6 years”, says Frédéric Vache at Clos des Cazaux. ”We went from being one of the best Côtes-du-Rhône-wine to become an unknown AOC. But in the end of the 1990s there was the big boom for Châteauneuf-du-Pape which resulted in high prices which meant that we got our chance. Consumers that didn’t want to pay over prices for a Châteauneuf turned to Vacqueyras instead.”

And soon Vacqueyras was a well known name. Today Vacqueyras has its share of famous wine producers you can read about in all wine magazines, like Sang de Cailloux, Montirius och Monardière.

An important development during these 20 years is the increase in the number of private wine producers. In 1990 there were only 20, now there are 60-65. “There were a lot of young people who left the cooperatives in the 90s and started to make their own wine”, says Christian Vache at Domaine la Monardière.

Serge Ferigoule at Domaine Sang de Cailloux points out another important development:”We are better now at taking care of our land”, he says.” Organic and sustainable culture is growing.” His own Domaine Sang de Cailloux (which means the blood of the stones…) will be biodynamically certified next year. “My wines have gained in finesse since I started in biodynamics and the terroir and the vintage is more obvious.”


Towards a European definition of organic wine: CEVinBio?

>> Thursday, March 10, 2011

Last year the EU project to agree on a definition of what “organic wine” would be was discarded. There was too much disagreement on what substances and what technologies should be allowed in the wine cellar. So the wine world is left with “wine made from organically grown grapes” because it is well defined and agreed what is allowed and what is not allowed in the vineyards.

Some of the organic organisations in Europe have now launched an independent project to agree amongst themselves what ”organic wine” should mean, i.e. what should be considered organic in the cellar. The charter is called CEVinBio. It defines a (positive) list of accepted substances and additives in the vinification that are of agricultural origin and that are certified organic. It gives a (negative) list of a number of techniques that are not allowed, e.g. heating the must above 65 degrees C, very fine filtration (“ultra and nano” filtration), dealcoholisation, to mention some.

Remains to be seen how this will be accepted in practice. (Source: La Vigne)

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Wine in Istria in Croatia. And food.

>> Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A short updated on what we saw, drank and ate on our recent wine and food trip to Istria in northern Croatia on our Travelog.

Lots of interesting wine and food!


Britt's Wine of the Month Mas Louise 2009, Cotes du Rhône

Britt's Wine of the Month
Mas Louise 2009, Cotes du Rhône

This is a new wine from an established producer. For around 9 euro you get a very good wine with spices and herbs and a southernly warm feeling. Quite round but with a good structure which makes it a perfect fit with food cooked in southern French style, say, a lamb or some kind of bird cooked with herbs like thyme and rosemary served with a ratatouille and soft roast garlic. The wine comes from the western side of the Rhone Valley, near the Lirac appellation. It is made from 65% grenache and 35% syrah.

The name of the producer is Duseigneur. For this wine, Mas Louise, they use both their own grapes and grapes bought in from other growers. All grapes are organically farmed. “We help the growers we work with”, says Frédéric Duseigneur, the winemaker, “therefore we can be certain to get healthy grapes”. They also make a range of other wines made solely from their own vineyards, which are even biodynamic; slightly more expensive, e.g. Mayran Odyssée, Laudun and Antarès.

Watch our video interview with Frederic here.


Åsa's Wine of the Month: Rosso San Leopardo, Colli Maceratesi Rosso, DOC Riserva 2005. Producent: Cantine Belisario

Åsa's Wine of the Month
Rosso San Leopardo, Colli Maceratesi Rosso, DOC Riserva 2005. Producer: Cantine Belisario.

Rosso San Leopardo is a red wine from Le Marche in Italy. It is made from sangiovese (50%), cilegiolo, merlo and cabernet (Italians often don’t bother to make a distinction between c franc and c sauvignon it seems!). It has been aged in 5000 l oak vats for 12 months. The character is very inviting, perhaps a bit too much so initially, with warmth and vanilla flavours. But what was left in the bottle after dinner had developed very nicely, both I and my husband thought, after a night’s aeration. This is certainly a good buy at a modest price, only seven euros.

It also underlines that if you venture outside the most famous wine regions you can easily find good wines at modest prices. Price 7€, web: Web:


We won the prize World's Best Wine Book for Professionals!

Omslag: Ett vin blir tillWe have just been awarded the prize "World's Best Wine Book for Professionals" by the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris. The competition showcases leading cookbooks and wine books from all over the world.

Our book A Wine is Born (original title: Ett vin blir till, in Swedish) was selected as the winner in the category Wine Books for Professionals (but it is also meant to be read by dedicated non-professionals!).

You can read more on our book, A Wine is Borne, here. It is unfortunately not yet available in English.

More info on this soon.

Do we need to say that we are very happy and proud!


BKWine Pick: La Régalade Saint Honoré, Paris 1

>> Thursday, March 03, 2011

La Régalade Saint Honoré, Paris 1

You are treated to the chef’s home made paté with cornichons as soon as you sit down at your table. It tastes very good but don’t eat too much! There’s a three course meal coming up. Bruno Doucet, owner of success story La Régalade in the 14th since 2004, opened La Régalade Saint Honoré in spring last year. And Saint Honoré is getting as popular as the one in the 14th. Book your table well in advance.

The set three course menu at 33 euro is the same for lunch and dinner and very good value for money. The food is creative although in the French bistro tradition. We started with a perfectly cooked tuna fish and continued with grilled filet de dorade with lentilles verts as main course. The soufflé au grand marnier for dessert is a dream. But fish is not the only thing on the menu; there is chicken, entrecote, scallops and several vegetarian starters. The menu changes according to the seasons. The wine list is interesting and the prices very decent. You get some good bottles for between 20 and 30 euro.

Booking necessary. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Click here for address and more recommendations.

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BKWine Pick: Louis Sipp, Ribeauvillé, Alsace

>> Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Louis Sipp, Ribeauvillé, Alsace

Louis Sipp makes dry and elegant Alsace wines from grapes grown organically since a few years back. He got his organic certification in 2008. The balance in the most important thing in the wine, he says, and he gets it easier now, with organic grapes. “The grapes are riper and they have a higher degree of acidity at harvest time. The wines are fruitier and longer on the palate.”

Like all producers in Alsace Louis Sipp makes a huge number of wines. One of our favourites is Riesling Grand Cru Osterberg 2008. It’s dry with beautiful citrus aromas on the nose and very fresh in the mouth. The grapes are grown in a rather cool terroir which gives the wine a certain fatness. Riesling Grand Cru Kirchberg 2008 is from a warmer soil with a sunny exposition and the wine is rounder but still totally dry with a good minerality, even sharpness. This is two brilliant Rieslings. Also keep a look out for the Pinot Gris from Louis Sipp, especially the one from Grand Cu Kirchberg. The 2008 has 20 grams of residual sugar but nobody would guess!

Click here for address and more recommendations.


Wine tours on the schedule for autumn 2011

>> Tuesday, March 01, 2011

"World's Best Wine Tours" - Travel + Leisure Magazine, on

BKWine offers you two possibilities to go wine travelling this autumn:

For a wine lover a trip to Bordeaux is a must! In Bordeaux you find world famous châteaux and world famous wines but also a lot of new exciting initiatives (less famous but maybe more important for the future of Bordeaux!) and young enthusiastic wine makers.

On this trip we will visit both some big, famous Grand Cru Classé-châteaux and smaller ones that are less known, but very quality conscious. More info on our wine tour to Bordeaux here!

Some of the most unique wines in the world – reds and white – come from Burgundy. A well made red Burgundy, made from the elusive pinot noir, is a wine of elegance, hardly found anywhere else. You find them in the Côte d’Or, the golden slope, the heart of Burgundy. More info on our Burgundy wine tour here!

For more information please contact us on email or on phone (we're on French time).
Visit our video channel to meet some of the producers we visit.

What do people think about a wine tour with BKWine?

That is of course a question that we think is very important. We want it to be a wonderful and memorable experience for everyone. Here are some of the comments we’ve had from customers this season:

“Many thanks for a fantastic trip. You are so keen to make everything the best for your guests and you are so knowledgeable about wine. A pleasure to travel with you.”, W-A

”Thank you for a wonderful trip to Umbria and southern Tuscany. Wonderful in many ways – our initial ideas for the trip on food and wine in Umbria and Tuscany – and discovering sagrantino and sangiovese – were more than fulfilled”, I & P in Umbria and Tuscany

“After last year’s fantastic trip to Champagne, Chablis and Burgundy our expectations were set very high. But this trip to Bordeaux was even better than we had hoped for. What lunches! What dinners we had! And what wonderful and personal wineries and chateaux we visited. We hope to come back on a new tour with BKWine!” A-M & S in Bordeaux

”You surpassed all the expectations that we had on the tour before we came. The organisation was without a glitch and the tastings was far beyond any similar things we’ve been to previously. It whet our appetite and we already look forward to our next tour!”, B & T in the Rhône Valley

Custom wine tours

We also make custom designed wine tours – on-demand tours for you and a group of friends, for your company (maybe to scout new winegrowers?), for a special event… We can combine winery visits and wine touring with other activities: gastronomic workshops, visit to an oyster farm, truffles hunting, cheese making, and more. We’ve done tours for wine clubs, for sommelier educations, for corporate events, for wine importers, for wine course study groups… just to mention a few.

You'll get a tour designed exactly according to your requirements and tastes, made by one of the most experienced wine people in the business. We personally visit some 200 wineries and taste thousands of wines every year; we write on wine for various wine magazines (we had more than 30 articles published last year); in 2007 we published a ground breaking book on the wine of the Languedoc and in 2009 we published a book on vine growing and wine making - unique in its kind. And we have organised hundreds of wine tours over the years.

More info on the custom designed and bespoke BKWine wine tours and travel here!

Wine tours in FinnishMore info on the Finnish wine tours here: Viinimatkoja

The blog has moved. Here is the new location: BKWine Magazine Blog.

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