If You Read Anything This Week: Wine News 7/5/2019

Wine Spectator awards: Wine Spectator has released its full list of 2019 award winners for the Award of Excellence (2,447 restaurants), the Best of Award of Excellence (1,244 restaurants), and the Grand Award (granted to 8 new restaurants for a full list numbering 100). Congrats to all of those whose workplaces are recognized here! [Wine Spectator]

New Bordeaux grapes: The Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur producers' syndicate approved the use of seven new grapes: the red Arinarnoa, Touriga Nacional, Marselan, and Castets, and the white Alvarinho, Petit Manseng, and Liliorila. They were chosen for their suitability to warming weather and more frequent early frosts, as well as their low disease susceptibility and later harvesting potential. They must still be approved by the INAO. [Meininger’s]

White grapes in Châteauneuf: Similarly, more Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers are considering adding white grapes to red blends. Authorized since at least the 1930s appellation rules, the practice is gaining traction as warmer conditions lead to higher alcohols. White grapes bring acidity and balance. [Decanter]

To Kalon trademark case amended: Last week, the San Francisco US District Court granted Constellation’s motion to dismiss the To Kalon case, noting that an amended complaint should elaborate on how Constellation’s trademark was fraudulently obtained and how it is misrepresenting the source of the product. On Monday, the plaintiff, Vineyard House Winery, filed its amended complaint. [North Bay Business Journal]

Secondhand drinking: The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs published a new study stating that 52 million people in the US were harmed by other people’s drinking in 2015. The study analyzed responses from 8,750 adults; the 10 “types of harm” included traffic accidents, physical abuse, harassment and financial issues. [CNN]

Rosé considerations: Eric Asimov moves on from a conventional look at rosé to discuss its emotional appeal, considering three rosés from beyond Provence, from producers Ameztoi, Edmunds St. John, and Lucien Crochet, in his "Wine School" column. [NYT]

Our favorite SevenFifty Daily article this week

Organics & biodynamics in Bordeaux: Bordeaux has a dual reputation of being innovative with research and technology while also being resistant to change. Today, only 9% of its planted hectares are certified organic. Weather is a top challenge, and corporate investment has limited risk-taking. But increasingly, producers are moving toward biodynamic and organic methods despite those obstacles. [SevenFifty Daily]

What do you think?

What do you think of the new grapes approved in Bordeaux?

Have you observed more Châteneuf-de-Pape producers using white grapes? Have you heard other reports of this change?

What might emerge in the wake of the new study on and concept of “secondhand drinking”?

What else have you heard of or seen in Bordeaux about organic and biodynamic production?

What are your favorite rosés consumed or served this year?

What else have you been reading this week?

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  • As far as new grapes in Bordeaux; I haven't seen the statistics showing why they need them so keep that in mind. Historically, the whole reason Bordeaux is already a blend is to balance against consistency of quantity in challenging years. One of the reasons I like Burgundy so much. (Isn't Pinot Noir far more sensitive to weather?) My question - "has the quality or consistency of Bordeaux gone down dramatically in recent (10-15 years) years 'because' of global warming?" Not that I have tasted. Personally I feel 5 grapes to get it right should be adequate. Yes, it depends how much of this or that you have planted. I have to question who started the movement? I can't see it being the classified First Growths. With the money they have, if you can't make a stellar wine, I don't think Global warming is to blame. Yes, I agree in the concept of global warming too. Washington makes amazing wines with fewer grapes. Measure those climates side by side. If there is proof its needed, I'd like to see those numbers. As long as global warming is that actual reason and not other factors hidden behind it (managing disease, error in replants etc) they I'd love to be in the room to hear the story. All in I have to also say, if this helps the classified  Growths to make (far) more wine  just so that the prices can come down to somewhere 'close' to a normal economic scale so the next generation can taste them on a far more regular basis, I'm in. (In 1993 I was buying Mouton 1986 for $68/btl - Current vintage now over $1500 (thats British Columbia though)

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  • These changes are being investigated not because of the past 10-15 years, but because of the coming 50.  Just look at this year and last year for a sneak peek.  Already we've had massive heat spikes in France that could spell difficulties for the coming season.  And last year's punishing rot issues were supremely difficult for the organic/sustainable growers and it was difficult to manage because vignerons have to much more judicious about their use of copper as the EU changes their regulations to lower the amount of copper in the vineyards.  Though not a first growth, Chateau Palmer is a stellar example of this problem with a harvest of only .8 tons/acre last year.  Sure what they harvested was pretty spectacular in quality, but quality is not the only measure of how well a region fares year to year.  You also have to stay in business by producing an adequate amount of wine.  A chateau can't survive on .8 tons/acre.

    Additionally, comparison for Bordeaux to Washington from a weather perspective is apples to oranges.  While global climate change is affecting them both, it affects them in very different ways.  Washington is a continental climate that experiences very little rainfall ... their biggest viticultural concerns are frost and (increasingly) smoke taint.  Bordeaux is a maritime climate and those increasing warming temperatures mean that you have more hot air powering evaporation which means more moisture in the air which means that the intensity of weather events like rain and hail is going to get worse.

    TBH I find many French vignerons to be very cognizant of these issues and you see regions around France that are investigating how they can adapt to the coming climate change (experiments with trainings systems and hybrid varietals in Champagne are a prominent example).  And while it's jarring for us to think about the rules for what's allowed to be planted in certain regions to be changed, remember they have only been codified for, at most, about 80 years.  Before that, the big debate in many regions of France was whether they should rip out direct producers (aka hybrids) instead of planting vinifera on American rootstock.  Many vignerons were protesting that they would be forced to throw away the traditions of their parents and grandparents (who were upset about having to plant these hybrids because of phylloxera).  Cultural memory about what is a proper Bordeaux blend will adjust with the times as somms like us go to the retirement home and a new generation that's never tasted a Cabernet-based Bordeaux wonders why they ever grew Cabernet in Bordeaux.

    And finally, I wouldn't expect the wine to come down in price any time soon.  As long as there is a massive amount of wealth in the market that is chasing a limited amount of wine, then the prices are going to remain as they are or go even higher.  1st Growths and Grand Cru Burgundy are increasingly becoming the wines of the elite, not the wines of the people, and as they've positioned themselves as luxury brands, there's no chance of them going downmarket as long as people are willing to pay for it.