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If You Read Anything This Week: Wine News 4.28.2017

Frost updates from Europe: Wine Spectator reported yesterday on the damage in Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne, where many say the frost is the worst since 1991. On Tuesday, Decanter offered an overview of the effects of the cold spell in Languedoc, the Loire, Alsace, and the Valais region of Switzerland. Last week’s frost was also devastating in Northern Italy. [Wine Spectator, Decanter]

Examining modern wine service: In PUNCH, Jon Bonné suggests that wine service has moved into a new realm, one where casualness meets precision, but the rules for the new order remain unclear. He looks at the programs run by Amanda Smeltz (Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud), Natalie Johnson (Loring Place), and  (Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels). [PUNCH]

Better barley: This week, a higher-resolution genome sequence for barley was published, following the first-ever physical map of the barley genome in 2012. The information will facilitate improvements in breeding strategies and opens the door for genome editing—all in the interest of better beer. [Wired]

2016 Left bank Bordeaux: Left bank Bordeaux producers have been reacting both to the new circumstances brought on by climate change and consumers’ changing palates, resulting in fresher and more precise wines in the 2016 vintage. Yet the wines are still variable, as producers work to adjust to the new landscape. [JancisRobinson.com]

Baja California wine country: The NYT travel section explores Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley, finding not just exceptional restaurants and a beautiful, still-rustic desert getaway but also notably good wines. [NYT]

What do you think?

Have you read any other thorough reports about the frost in Europe? Share them here. Also chime in with any other details you're hearing that aren't appearing in these articles.

What do you think of Jon Bonné's evaluation of wine service today? Are we really moving away from traditional service, or just coming up with more options for style? How do your own choices align with or diverge from what he describes? What are the trends in your market?

What else have you heard about 2016 Bordeaux?

Have you spent time in Guadalupe Valley or tasted wines from the region? Share your experiences and favorites!

What else have you been reading this week?

  • really dug the article in PUNCH. I'd love to keep hearing about the evolution in service. Not standards, but service.
  • Currently writing from the Frankfurt Airport after a two week trip in Burgundy and Germany. I arrived in Burgundy before the onset of when the frost occurred, and actually was there visiting producers when it hit.

    Almost every producer I visited told me they were hit to some extent by frost, but some were affected far more dramatically than others. In Burgundy these included Ramonet, Francois Carillon, Matrot, Gouges, Dujac, Lafarge, Anne Gros, Denis Bachelet, and Simon Bize. In Germany it included Dr. Loosen, Heymann-Lowenstein, von Schubert, Vereinigte Hospitien, Fritz Haag, Immich Batterieberg, Dr. Crusius, Diel, Georg Breuer, and Robert Weil.

    Its important to note that there was considerable frost in ’16 in Burgundy too. The later part of the ’16 season turned out better and in both Burgundy and Germany, most of the top domaines still made great wine (though not in great quantity). More importantly, having experience with the ’16 frosts, some producers took precautionary measures that lessened the effects damage even if they couldn’t to anything to entirely prevent it. For instance many producers sprayed water on certain vines so the buds would freeze. The ice is actually far warmer than the frost and acted as an insulating layer. Other producers (Chisa Bize in particular) ventured into her Savigny vineyards with other vigneron in the village with to set up heat lamps in the middle of the night.

    In some areas, frost came as a complete surprise. Chablis was hit first, and suffered the worst it seems. Similarly, while we were with Anne Gros, she took a call during and found out that there was over 70% damage at her Minervois property, the worst frost there since 1964). Her Grenache was wiped out completely and also most of her Syrah. This was on top of the fact that she lost all of her Chambolle Combe d’Orveau. Producers in areas that were hit in the days that followed had more opportunity to lessen damage since it occurred over a three-day period or so in many places.

    In the Cote d'Or, the villages that are more exposed to combes (Northern Gevrey, Southern Chambolle, Savigny-Les-Beaune, St. Aubin as examples) suffered the worst frost. Morey-Saint-Denis and Vougeot suffered less by comparison than the southern end of Chambolle. In Gevrey, areas closer to the Combe de Lavaux (Clos St. Jaques, Mazis-Chambertin etc) were more affected than lower lying and protected vineyards like Aux Combottes.

    In Germany, many more factors played into why certain places were hit harder than others. Aspect, altitude, proximity to water, and incline all factored in. For that reason within one village, one vineyard or even one part of one vineyard might be affected when the vines just above or next to it may not have been. The cooler flatter areas suffered the most, and pinot seemed to be affected even more than Riesling. The Rheinhessen and the Nahe suffered the worst. Keller lost the majority of his Pinot, and Donnhoff suffered a huge loss as well on his riesling vines. Meanwhile, Caroline Diel to the north said she was left mostly unscathed.

    In the Mosel, Ernst Loosen showed us vineyards that were especially affected like Wehlener Sonnenuhr and also ones that were entirely unaffected (Erdener Pralat-- Mostly due to its amphitheater like protection). Being warmer, the Terrassenmosel suffered far less than the Saar and the Ruwer, even though producers like Knebel had considerable issues.

  • I'd be interested in what people thought of Robert Draper's (of the NYT) other wine articles as he's now written a few, including one on Beaune. A great deal of what he writes is questionable in its "truthiness" and he pissed off every winemaker he visited in Istria, Croatia when he was there.