AI, the industry’s ally

Even in a notoriously traditional sector like wine, artificial intelligence is gaining steam, as exemplified by the increasing number of solutions designed by innovative start-ups. There is no denying that when used wisely, the solutions can help members of the wine industry cope with multiple challenges, quickly and efficiently.

Contents:

  • Using AI
  • A keen eye in vineyards
  • From tasting wines through to buying them
  • The future for people

Using AI

The fundamental principle of Artificial Intelligence is based on simulating human cognitive skills. Created in the 1960s and popularised by ChatGPT, the technology has now become a part of our everyday lives, whilst prompting both concerns and delusions. “AI is just one of a whole host of resources”, says Charles Nespoulous, president of the start-up Chouette and a board member of the WineTech*, debunking some of the myths surrounding the discipline. It has a dual purpose, which is to “automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks” and to “process huge amounts of data and rapidly provide the right information, in the right place, at the right time and in the right format”. In fact, AI is only purposeful if it offers a “return on investment” in response to specific issues. At the production end of the industry,

climate change is leading winegrowers to review their practices. “Nowadays, a mistake in vineyard management can rapidly jeopardise the future of a winery, especially because escalating costs of basic materials and equipment is eroding profit margins”. This is where AI comes in.

A keen eye in the vineyards

Only 1 to 3% of vines are monitored on a weekly basis”, recounts Nespoulous, which is why since 2015, Chouette has supplied AI-based vineyard monitoring technology. Its principle revolves around a sensor placed on the tractor which generates images that are subsequently retrieved by servers then processed using algorithms. “AI has been trained to examine up to 70 different aspects based on a database containing 35 million images sourced from across every region”. Consequently, a report of plant status – possible diseases or vine vigour for instance – is generated, along with recommendations to avoid crop losses, improve quality and optimise choices such as spraying strategies.

From tasting wines through to buying them

Gradually, AI is filtering through to every link in the supply chain, particularly marketing, to create descriptions or labels, and even through to the wine in the glass. Bordeaux-based Winespace has developed Tastee, the recipient of the 2024 V d’Or Best New Business Solution award. “The algorithm has the ability to analyse any type of text-based tasting note and extract all of the aroma and flavour characteristics of a wine. It can also compare styles and segment them, rank them by vintage, model the flavour development of the wine, and even the influence of the closure”, explains Julien Laithier, president of Winespace. The Concours Mondial de Bruxelles uses it to summarise its thousands of tasting reports and generate a complete, weighted review for each wine, including strengths and weaknesses, aroma and flavour profile. As a pioneer of virtual reality in the wine industry, WineVision offers 360° immersive visits to vineyards, wineries and cellar door facilities for instance. The itinerary is incorporated into a winery’s website and can be accessed using a number of media (VR headsets, smartphones, tablets…). It uses a chatbot – an avatar of the winegrower – to answer questions by consumers and turns into an interactive virtual showroom using a QR code placed on wine bottles.

The future for people

One ‘virtual’ visitor in 5 subsequently wants to visit the winery”, claims Matthieu Varon, the co-founder of WineVision. He believes “this communication aid helps the winegrower stand out from the crowd and provide support during the shopping experience, whilst also increasing revenue”. From declining consumption through to carbon footprint and forgeries, the list of issues that can addressed by AI is long. Its potential is huge, but fortunately it also has its limitations. At this year’s ProWein exhibition, Moldova presented two wines made using AI as a decision-making aid throughout the entire process. Ultimately, after a comparative tasting, most people preferred the wine made by man…

Florence Jaroniak

 ©_shutterstock

*Established in 2016, the WineTech is a network that connects, promotes and trains innovative businesses in the wine industry. Over 130 start-ups are currently members.

The Rhone Valley – a 360° wine panorama

Over 250 km from North to South, the vineyards of the Rhone Valley line one of France’s major rivers which brings life to the region. Here, the vineyard sites birth myriad wines. But what are their defining features and varietals? We take a deep dive into one of the oldest wine regions in the world.

Contents:

  • From Antiquity to the present day
  • The Northern Rhone Valley and its legendary appellations
  • The 4 varietals that reign supreme in the northern reaches
  • The Southern Rhone Valley and the art of blending

From Antiquity to the present day

Vines have thrived along the banks of the Rhone since Antiquity, with the Romans introducing vine growing to the region. By the 14th century, the local wines – dubbed ‘wines of the Popes’ – had established an international reputation.

The present-day Rhone Valley wine region extends over more than 66,000 hectares or, as industry members like to say, “nearly 70,000 rugby pitches”. For appellation wines, it is France’s second largest region by volume after Bordeaux. In 2023, 5,000 farms produced 2.4 million hectolitres of wine.

The region offers a 360° vision of wine, spanning the stylistic spectrum, from  still white,  rosé and predominantly red wines (74%) to dessert and sparkling wines.

With its 31 AOCs (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) including 17 Crus, this major wine region is divided into two, very different areas: the Northern and the Southern Rhone Valley. From the soils and climate to the grape varieties, the differences between the two areas are significant. The region also covers other areas, from Vivarais to the Luberon and Die, which are farther away but nonetheless still part of the broader Rhone Valley wine region.

The Northern Rhone Valley and its legendary appellations

Vines flourish on the stunning narrow and breathtakingly steep hillsides, often terraced with dry stone walls for support. The soils are mostly granite and schist. The climate is temperate with a continental influence and the wind blows down the deep-cut valley. Lining the Rhone from North to South is a string of legendary appellations, from Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu to Saint-Joseph, Hermitage and Cornas to name a few.

The 4 varietals that reign supreme in the northern reaches

For reds, Syrah rules the roost. It delivers powerful, aromatic wines driven by red and black fruits, violet and delicious spicy notes of pepper and liquorice that are the variety’s trademark.

For whites, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne are the go-to grapes. Viognier offers up a mellow palate and a perfumed nose scented with yellow fruits that range from mango and pear to apricot, alongside white flowers. Condrieu and Château-Grillet appellation wines are single-varietal Viogniers. Occasionally, for Côte-Rôtie, a dash of Syrah is added.

Roussanne displays the ultimate in finesse, exuding floral scents of honeysuckle and iris. It is customary for the variety to be coupled with the powerful Marsanne grape with its dried fruit aromas – this is true of the Saint-Joseph and Hermitage appellations.

The Southern Rhone Valley and the art of blending

Vineyards in the South climb over plateaux and rolling hillsides. The soils are clay-gravel, sand and pebble-strewn. Here, the sun shines 2,800 hours a year and a dry, blustery wind – the Mistral – sweeps away both the clouds and the dampness.

The art of blending

In the southern part of the region, many grape varieties are fermented as blends. Grenache is the king of red varietals, yielding wines with aromas of black fruits like blackcurrant and blackberry. As the wines mature, they develop spice and garrigue aromas. Grenache is blended primarily with Syrah and Mourvèdre, though also Cinsault and Carignan.

In the high-end Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation, 13 different grape varieties  can be blended to produce red and white wines, though Grenache noir remains predominant for the reds. It thrives on the glorious and amazing pebble-strewn soils swept down by the Rhone aeons ago. The stones absorb the heat of the day and radiate it back over night.

In the southern part of the valley, rosés are often blended from the same grape varieties as the reds. One example is Tavel, France’s oldest rosé-only appellation.

The whites offer a fusion of Grenache blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Marsanne and Rolle, to name a few.

From North to South, and from light pours to fine age-worthy offerings, the wines of the Rhone Valley invite visitors to indulge in some wine-centric tourism to explore both the legendary appellations and the rising stars, including Rasteau, Cairanne and so many more.

Anne Schoendoerffer

Sources: www.vins-rhone.com , Anne Schoendoerffer

 ©AdobeStock_Africa Studio

The Bordeaux wine region: which is your bank?

Bordeaux has always been one of the most talked about wine regions in the world. Boasting 65 appellations, it is home to some incredible vineyard sites. But how does the Left Bank compare with the Right, and with Entre-Deux-Mers? (Re)discover this storied wine region.

Contents:

  • An overview of present-day Bordeaux
  • Left Bank, Right Bank or Entre-deux-Mers ?
  • The outstanding terroirs along the Right Bank
  • The famous Chateaux along the Left Bank
  • Entre-deux-Mers: where white is the colour

An overview of present-day Bordeaux

The Bordeaux wine region covers 108,000 hectares of vines. These are farmed by 5,300 winegrowers, 29 co-operative wineries and 3 co-operative groups along with 300 trading companies. Its vineyards generate 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly related to the industry, most of which cannot be relocated to other areas.

Production in 2022 totalled 4.1 million hectolitres, equivalent to 548 million bottles. As Bordeaux industry members like to say, “18 bottles of Bordeaux are sold around the world every second”. The vast majority of the wines – 85% – are red, with a balance of white (7%), rosé (4%) and Crémant (2%).

Left Bank, Right Bank or Entre-Deux-Mers?

The Bordeaux wine region is all about geography. To understand its 65 appellations, accounting for one quarter of all French AOCs, you have to discover its three main areas.

It all starts with the Gironde estuary and further up-river with the Garonne and the Dordogne which flow into it. The vineyards of the Right Bank are located north of the Dordogne, whilst the Left Bank vineyards are situated south of the Garonne. With Entre-Deux-Mers the clue is in the name – it literally means between two waters and is located between both rivers.

The outstanding terroirs along the Right Bank

North-East of Bordeaux lies the birthplace of the prestigious Saint-Emilion Crus Classés, a star-studded crown with jewels like Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc, along with the storied Petrus in the Pomerol appellation area. Basking in a temperate climate, the soils are mainly clay, but also feature limestone, sand or gravel. Here, Merlot is king. In Saint-Emilion and Pomerol it is mostly vinted as a single varietal or occasionally blended with Cabernet Franc or Cabernet-Sauvignon. Wines from the Right Bank are viewed as being supple and balanced. They are usually easier to drink when young than their counterparts from the Left Bank.

The famous Chateaux along the Left Bank

To the North, not far from Bordeaux, the chateaux become the stars – names like Château Margaux, Château Cos d’Estournel, Château Haut-Brion, Château Lafite-Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild, to name a few. The global reputation of these prestigious properties is also due to their prominent classification systems – the 1855 official Médoc classification, the 1953 Graves Crus Classés classification and the official 1855 Sauternes classification system.

On this bank, the Cabernet-Sauvignon grape variety is king. It is blended with Merlot – which in this area is a minority varietal – and delivers powerful wines which are enhanced with age.

For the white wines of Sauternes, home to Château d’Yquem farther South, the main grape varieties used for these fine noble-rot wines are Sémillon and Sauvignon blanc. The micro-climate in the vineyard sites here is conducive to the onset of a fungus, botrytis, which produces the golden nectar.

Entre-Deux-Mers: where white is the colour

Located between the Garonne and the Dordogne, Entre-Deux-Mers is considered to be Bordeaux’s largest wine region. Its wines are predominantly white, and the star grape variety is Sauvignon. In this appellation area, it is blended with Sémillon and Muscadelle. Since the 2023 vintage, red wines have also become eligible for the appellation.

So what should you choose between the Left Bank, the Right Bank and Entre-Deux-Mers? One thing’s for sure, Bordeaux is reinventing itself and is focusing more on its consumers as evidenced by wines that are more accessible, both in terms of flavour profile and packaging, and winegrowers who have made a pledge to protect the environment. All of this and more can be (re)discovered along the Bordeaux wine routes.

Anne Schoendoerffer

Sources: www.bordeaux.com/fr , Anne Schoendoerffer  ©AdobeStock_Igor Normann

How is the organic wine market trending in France?

As part of the European Observatory for Organic Wine Consumption, the organisers of trade exhibition Millésime Bio* commissioned the Circana agency to survey 1,054 organic wine buyers last September. The aim was to put together a profile of the typical French organic wine buyer. But what are the strengths of this market, and the positive trends? We take a closer look at the findings of the research.

Contents

  • What is the market for organic wine, and vineyard acreage?
  • What are the strengths of the organic wine market?
  • What are the positive trends for organic wine purchases?
  • What are price points for organic wine, and why choose organic?

What is the market for organic wine, and vineyard acreage?

Despite the challenging situation for the wine industry and organic foods, “the organic wine industry is proving to be in fine fettle. It is booming, with revenue up by 6.3% in 2022”, stresses Nicolas Richarme, chairman of trade organisation Sudvinbio. In 5 years, the market has surged by 50%, and increased from 444 million euros in 2012 to 1.463 billion in 2022.

Concurrently with this, French vineyard acreage is increasingly being farmed organically, with area under vine growing from 78,471 hectares in 2017 to 170,806 ha in 2022.

What are the strengths of the organic wine market?

Organic wines are successfully weathering the storm because of their unique distribution channels. Richarme believes that their primary strength is “direct-to-consumer sales”, which hold a 30% share and increased by 5% in 2022. Another of the category’s strong points is its export focus, with 38% of the wines shipped overseas (up 2% in 2022). As Christophe Ferreira, a consultant with Circana, points out, “In export markets there is plenty of room for growth”.

The on-trade is also in growth mode, at +12%, as are wine merchants (+8%), counterbalancing declining sales in super/hypermarkets (-7%) and specialist organic stores (-7%).

What are the positive trends for organic wine purchases?

The industry continues to recruit new customers. “Over the past 12 months, 39% of new organic wine buyers were registered and the age profiles are younger with 12% of them aged under 25. They also come from a more diverse range of social backgrounds”, adds Ferreira.

Increased purchases

37 % of buyers increased their organic wine purchases over the year, versus 11% who bought less. And looking ahead, whilst 32% plan to increase their organic wine purchases, only 12% intend to reduce them.

And the icing on the cake is that organic wine buyers help ramp up shares for the organic market. How? Because 92% of organic wine buyers are mixed – they buy both organic and conventional wines. They buy an average 42% organic wines and 58% non-organic, and those who intend to increase their organic wine purchases outnumber those who plan to buy more conventional wines.

What are the price points for organic wine, and why choose organic?

Price points

The more customers seek out quality wines, the more they feel the wine should be organic. In the 5 to 10 euro price bracket, 27% of organic wine buyers believe it is essential that a wine should be organic. The percentage rises to 36% for wines priced above 15 euros.

Why do they buy organic wine?                                   

71 % of organic wine buyers say they are driven  by environmental concerns. Trust and health are also significant drivers. However, 33% also explain that they buy organic in a ‘passive way’ – i.e. organic is not the main purchasing cue but they buy organic because the wines recommended to them or their personal preferences lean towards organic.

As Christophe Ferreira stresses, “The organic wine market is different to other products in the organic industry”. For wine, there is a definite positive upward trend that is conducive to organic purchases.

Anne Schoendoerffer

Sources: Agence Bio, Millésime Bio/Sudvinbio,©Canva_shotprime

*The 31st Millésime Bio exhibition, the largest organic wine exhibition in the world, is due to take place on 22 and 23 January 2024 in digital format, and from 29 to 31 January 2024 for the in-person event.

Discovering Rome’s Lazio wine region

When you think about Rome, the vibrancy of the Italian capital city, the Coliseum, the Vatican, the Pantheon and so many other landmarks spring to mind. But how about vineyards? Outside local residents, the Lazio wine region is very much under-the-radar. So what is its history? Which grape varieties are grown there? We take a closer look at this ancient wine region which is starting to broaden its international horizons thanks to a new generation of producers.

Contents

  • Lazio’s wines, a fusion of long-standing heritage and modernity
  • The Lazio wine region
  • Native grape varieties
  • Wine tourism in Lazio

Lazio’s wines, a fusion of long-standing heritage and modernity

The history of wine in Lazio dates back to the Etruscans, and its production to Antiquity. There were already vineyards in Ancient Rome, and across the entire Roman Empire, the local wines were renowned. This winegrowing tradition has come down the centuries, and now the younger generations, many of them women, are perpetuating this time-honoured history by rooting it firmly in the 21st century. A case in point is Merumalia, a winery run by two young women who combine viticultural tradition, organic farming and modern facilities and wines. Or Casale Vallechiesa which leverages innovation to improve both its customer experience and production, via blockchain technology.

The Lazio wine region

The 18,000 hectares under vine extend all around the city, mostly over rolling hills. The Mediterranean climate, notwithstanding climate change, remains conducive to growing vines. The soils are varied and range from volcanic to clay.

Since 2014, producers have begun to embrace organic farming. According to the Lazio regional agency for the development of innovation and agriculture (ARSIAL), 14% of the region’s vineyards are farmed organically, up 45% on 2014.

Lazio’s 400 wineries produce an average of 0.8 million hectolitres of wine a year, 75% of which is white and 25% red. Of the area’s 6 PGIs (Protected Geographical Indication) and 27 PDOs (Protected Designation of Origin or DOP in Italian), twenty or so are earmarked for white wine.

Lazio wines, which until now have been largely drunk by the people of Rome, are increasingly moving outside the local market. Exports of Lazio-made wines have surged by 20.4% compared with 2020, according to Istat-Qualivita.

Native grape varieties

The character of Lazio wines stem from native grapes, which have been grown for centuries. The region’s ampelography database lists 94 grape varieties, 45 white, 42 red, 2 pink and 1 blush.

For the white varietals, the star grapes are Trebbiano and Malvasia. For DOC Frascati, one of the region’s most iconic appellations, the wines are a blend of Malvasia, Trebbiano and Bellone. Their key calling cards are freshness and exuberance.

For the reds, the undisputed leader is the low-cropping, late-ripening Cesanese variety which delivers lovely aromas of cherry and spices. Other native red grape varieties include the vigorous Nero Buono.

Wine tourism in Lazio

In Lazio, wine tourism stands at the intersection between cultural diversity and a rich gourmet food heritage. From the culture of Antiquity to the hustle and bustle of life in Rome, the Vatican, gastronomy and wines, the region has everything it takes to offer a rewarding wine tourism experience. Family-run wineries, like Villa Simone, and larger co-operative wineries like Cincinnato are often open every day. As per local traditions, the people of Rome still regularly visit wineries to buy their wine directly. The most romantic will arrive with a demi-john, whereas more modern imbibers will come empty-handed and go away with a bag-in-box.

Broadening your wine horizons by taking a trip to the vineyards of Lazio is most definitely a great idea.

Anne Schoendoerffer ©AdobeStock_margot

Sources : https://www.arsial.it/ , Anne Schoendoerffer

Sable de Camargue blush wines awarded appellation status

Sable de Camargue blush wines have just been awarded a stand-alone appellation. But where are the wines grown and why are they referred to as blush or Gris/Gris de Gris? We take a closer look at this specific coastline appellation where sand is king.

Contents

  • The Vins Sable de Camargue wine region
  • Pre-phylloxera vines
  • Gris or Gris de Gris?

The Vins Sable de Camargue wine region

If you travel along the coastline between Sète and Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, via seaside locations such as Marseillan, Le Grau du Roi and Aigues-Mortes, you will see 3,000 hectares of vines planted in sand. The landscape, with its brackish lagoons, salt flats, shades of pink and flamingos – the appellation’s emblem – is unique. But it’s not just the scenery that stands out – on these poor, highly permeable soils subjected to a maritime influence and buffeted by the wind, the surrounding biodiversity is outstanding. Over 1,000 species of fauna and flora bask in 300 days of sunshine a year.

From the small grape growers who farm a few rows of vines to the family-run wineries and one of Europe’s largest operations, a total 89 people farm vines here, 90% of them either organic or converting to organic. As the Sable de Camargue producers’ organisation points out: “We are one of very few appellations that can claim to have virtually all of our vineyard acreage farmed organically”.

Pre-phylloxera vines

At the end of the 19th century, this parasitic aphid came from the United States and decimated millions of acres of vineyards, in Europe and across the globe. This tiny 0.5mm insect continues to abound, except in a handful of countries like Chile or in just a few vineyard blocks, which are usually protected by small walls, as at Clos Cristal in the Loire Valley. Another exception is the Sable de Camargue wine region where the naturally sandy texture of the soil prevents the formation of galleries where the aphid spreads. Vines are therefore own-rooted – or not grafted onto a resistant American rootstock – unlike most of the world’s vineyards.

Gris or Gris de Gris?

The difference between Gris and Gris de Gris lies in the grape variety and whether the wine is blended or not. If you taste a Gris de Gris AOP Vins Sable de Camargue, it will be a single varietal Grenache gris. If you choose a Gris, it will be a blended wine. In the vineyards of the Camargue, the main grape varieties are Grenache noir, Merlot and Grenache gris, though there is also Cinsault, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Grenache blanc and Carignan.

From a winemaking perspective, as the Guide Hachette points out: “Blush wine (or Gris) is produced by fermenting grapes with coloured skins (black or pink) as a white wine, using direct-to-press with no soaking. It is a rosé with a very pale colour”.

In terms of colour, Gris and Gris de Gris wines are different from conventional rosés in that their colour is very light, with a pale salmon-pink hue.

Benedictine monks certainly made no mistake when they planted vines in the 7th century in Saint Laurent d’Aigouze in the southern part of the Gard department in the Occitania region. The new AOP Vins Sable de Camargue is truly unique.

Anne Schoendoerffer ©AdobeStock_Rostislav Sedlacek

Sources: www.vin-sable-camargue.com, www.hachette.com

Exploring Burgundy’s ‘Climats’

Are you familiar with Burgundy’s ‘Climats’? As a clue, it has nothing to do with the weather, but rather a treasure trove of wines. But which wines are we talking about in particular? And what is their history? We take a closer look at a wine region which has just dedicated three different venues to its individual vineyard sites – the Cité des Climats et vins de Bourgogne.

Contents:

  • What are Burgundy’s ‘Climats’?
  • A history spanning centuries
  • The Burgundy wine region
  • 1 ‘Cité des Climats et vins de Bourgogne’ in 3 different locations

What are Burgundy’s ‘Climats’?

The word ‘Climat’, with a capital C is the Burgundy term referring to vineyard sites. It designates a block of vines which has been demarcated, named and farmed, often for centuries. Each ‘Climat’ has its own specific geological and hydrometric conditions and aspect. The winegrowers that farm them work with a single varietal. They harvest and make wine separately from one grape variety and the resultant wine can therefore be named after its original ‘Climat’. 

A history spanning centuries

The identity of the ‘Climats’ and their growths started to emerge in the 6th century along the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. Over the centuries, monks, dukes, MPs, notables, shippers and winegrowers built up the fabric of vineyards known as ‘Climats’. There are exactly 1,247 vineyard blocks delineated by walls of varying sizes, dry stone huts and paths,    like a finely detailed mosaic. The creation of appellations in 1935 officialised the Climats and their growths, and since July 4, 2015, Burgundy’s Climats have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage. This prestigious world first recognises the ‘outstanding universal value’ of the combined work of man and nature.

The Burgundy wine region

The wine region extends over 230 kilometres in length from North of Chablis to South of Mâcon, spanning 30,052 hectares of vines. It is managed by 3,577 wine estates, 16 co-operative wineries and 266 trading companies. Annual production totals 1.45 million hectolitres, divided between 60% white wines, 29% reds and rosés and 11% Crémant de Bourgogne. Over 200 million bottles of wine are marketed annually, half of them shipped overseas.

Of Burgundy’s 84 AOCs (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), a special mention goes to the Côte de Nuits and its iconic appellations, which include Gevrey-Chambertin,  Nuits-Saint-Georges, Vougeot and Vosne-Romanée where one of the world’s most prestigious wineries is located – Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

Or the Côte de Beaune, home to Pommard, Volnay and Montrachet, the superb Grand Cru which ranks among the world’s finest dry white wines. As an aside, its ‘Climat’ Montrachet expresses the lack of vegetation at the top of the hill.

1 Cité des Climats et vins de Bourgogne in 3 locations

The Cité, which officially opened in June 2023, has been designed in 3 locations – Chablis, Beaune and Mâcon. Its purpose is to introduce visitors to the region’s viticultural and cultural heritage through farming vines and producing wines, from North to South.

In Chablis, in the small cellar at Petit Pontigny, an historic building dating back to the Middle Ages, visitors discover the vineyards of northern Burgundy – Chablis, the Auxerrois and Châtillon regions.

In Mâcon, the vineyards of southern Burgundy are showcased at the Burgundy wine marketing board’s facilities.

Beaune, the largest of the three Cités, embodies the overall identity of Burgundy and its Climats. It highlights the specific features of each part of Burgundy – Chablis, Grand Auxerrois, Châtillonnais, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais.

With Pinot noir and Chardonnay reigning supreme, Burgundy now has three focal points to welcome visitors and showcase its Climats and its wines.

Anne Schoendoerffer, © AdobeStock_photographyfirm

Sources : https://www.citeclimatsvins-bourgogne.com/ https://www.vins-bourgogne.fr/

Contribute to the first international old vine registry

At the end of June 2023 on Zoom, The Old Vine Registry – the first registry of its kind worldwide – was launched by Jancis Robinson MW and her team. The launch came with a call to winegrowers around the world to contribute to this invaluable online database. But who is the registry aimed at and what purpose does it serve? Read on to find out more about this incredible collaborative, open-access project.

Contents

  • The driving forces behind The Old Vine Registry
  • How can you contribute to the website?
  • Which vines can be registered?
  • What are the aims?
  • Who is the registry aimed at and what is its purpose?

The driving forces behind The Old Vine Registry

The catalyst for the project is one of the world’s most renowned and fascinating Masters of Wine (MW), Jancis Robinson. In the 2000s, she and her team were writing articles about the heritage of old vines. Gradually, they began building up a registry on a simple spreadsheet. The aim was to monitor old vineyards and their resultant wines in a world where old vines were underrated, and under threat. It became patently clear that they are a part of our historic, cultural and scientific heritage. Concurrently with this, on the other side of the globe, in South Africa, Rosa Kruger – the founder and current chair of the Old Vine Project – was focusing on old vines in the Cape. And quite rightly so. As Kruger stressed during the conference, “Here, you cannot sell wines if the vines have not been registered and this has been the case since 1900”. A basic list gradually grew over time and help was recruited, with the launch of the Old Vine Conference by Sarah Abbott MW expediting the process.

Now, in just a few clicks on the website www.oldvineregistry.org, you can discover all the vineyards already listed. In France, for example, the oldest registered vineyard dates back to 1800. It is located in the Pessac-Léognan appellation area in Bordeaux.

How can you contribute to the website?

Everybody is encouraged to contribute, whether it’s your own old vineyard or one you are familiar with. If you cannot find it in the database, you simply have to fill out the online form to submit suggestions for adding entries to the registry. By providing as much information as possible, the database will remain dynamic and continue to grow.

Which vines can be registered?

To be registered, vines must be at least 35 years old. The minimum age criterion is one used by several organisations worldwide, including The Old Vine Conference, the South Africa Old Vine Project, the Barossa Valley’s Old Vine Charter, and many more.

What are the aims?

The primary aim is to become the most reliable and in-depth source of information about old-vine vineyards worldwide. But the objective is also to connect people with vineyards in order to ensure, both directly and indirectly, their preservation. As American blogger and contributor to jancisrobinson.com, Alder Yarrow pointed out, “If nobody’s actually buying, tasting and enjoying and helping us evangelise those vineyards, they will never be commercially viable and will be ripped out.

Who is the registry aimed at and what is its purpose?

It is aimed at vine and wine students, researchers and wine enthusiasts keen to improve their knowledge of the pours they drink and to encourage them to seek out more wines from old vines. But it is also about connecting the people who buy wine with those who maintain vineyards, ultimately enhancing the economic value of the vines and generating more profit for the winegrowers who farm them. As jancisrobinson.com editor-in-chief Tamlyn Currin pointed out, “We love stories of old vines because they are beautiful, but most importantly, they hold valuable heritage. They offer resilience. We can learn a lot of secrets about them”.

Anne Schoendoerffer

Sources : www.oldvineregistry.org,©lorenza62/AdobeStock

The wine region of Istria, in Croatia

The wine region of Istria in Croatia is a unique destination. Located in the North-West of Croatia, just a two-hour drive from Venice, this long-standing wine region is experiencing a resurgence. This offers a great opportunity to discover the area and indulge in some of its wines made from native vines.

Contents:

  • The Istrian peninsula
  • The vineyards of Istria
  • Istria’s varietal range
  • A magnet for wine tourists

The Istrian peninsula

The turquoise sea, rolling hills, terraced vineyards, olive groves, mediaeval hilltop villages and islands all welcome visitors to the countryside surrounding the Croatian wine region. This is not Tuscany or the French Riviera, but Istria, located in north-western Croatia. Bordered in the West by the Adriatic, the peninsula shares its borders with Slovenia and Italy. When Croatians present the region, they like to say that it is virtually in the heart of Europe, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. Over the last century alone, the region has been Austro-Hungarian, then Italian, Yugoslavian and now Croatian. According to one observer, this mixture of influences is “why the people who live there consider themselves primarily as Istrian rather than Croatian, Slovenian or Italian. The Istrian identity is very clear and strongly mirrored in the wines grown here”.

The vineyards of Istria

Croatia has 17,600 hectares under vine and 1,575 producers, including 336 grape growers/producers who own over 5 hectares. The country’s wine production in 2022 totalled 525,751 hectolitres, 76% white, 21% red and 3% rosé.

But what about Istria? English Master of Wine Caroline Gilby expounds further: “Istria is the smallest wine region in Croatia with 3,010 hectares under vine but it is also one of the most renowned”. One of the main reasons for this is the impetus and co-operation among winegrowers who founded the ‘Vinistra’ association in 1994. Its present-day membership groups together the majority of industry representatives, with over 120 members.

Their aims are to improve and develop grape growing and winemaking in Istria in a bid to become Croatia’s leading wine region by 2030.

Istria’s varietal range

The star here is a native grape variety known generically as Malvasia, and more specifically Malvasia Istriana. It is an integral part of the region’s identity and as a rule accounts for 70% of the varietal range at the region’s wineries.

A white variety, it delivers very different aromatics depending on the winemaking techniques used. ‘Fresh Malvasia’, with no oak ageing, are very energetic wines showing acidity, tension and salinity. Barrel-aged examples, known as ‘aged Malvasia’, deliver greater complexity with floral and yellow fruit notes. The variety is also used to make orange wines, sweet wines and even sparkling wines.

For the reds, the king of native grape varieties is Teran. It has been grown on the Istrian peninsula for over 600 years. In the 19th century, it was the most widely grown variety in Istria, covering over 80% of vineyard acreage. It now covers 250 hectares. Although it is a little austere in terms of accessibility, it can also deliver lovely red and black fruit aromas with peppery notes.

The other red grape varieties in the region are the native Refošk and international cultivars Merlot and Cabernet-Sauvignon.

A magnet for wine tourists

The vineyard-clad peninsula is a magnet for wine tourism. Firstly due to its beautiful varied scenery, ranging from the Adriatic coastline to its hilltop villages. Magnificent villages like Motovun, inland, and Porec and the Brijuni islands along the coast are wonderful places to live, offering a choice of cultural and nature tours, relaxing seaside venues and gourmet food and wine experiences. The cuisine across the peninsula is a mixture of Mediterranean and Central European influences. Both unique and delicious, it has the added bonus of featuring Istrian truffles. The range of tourist solutions is also very extensive, and wineries are opening up to wine tourism. One such example is Koslovic winery where you can taste some of the finest wines from the Istrian peninsula on a hilltop with sweeping views out over the vineyards and olive groves.

Anne Schoendoerffer,© PHANT/Adobestock

Sources :https://vinistra.hr/en, https://concoursmondial.com/, Anne Schoendoerffer

The challengers of the wine world

What do Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Switzerland, India and the United Kingdom have in common? They are all challengers identified by FranceAgriMer in its latest competitive intelligence report on the global wine market.  Why? What is their potential? We take a closer look at a group of very different producer countries.

Contents:

  • The key strengths of Bulgaria and Austria
  • The cool climate countries: Canada and Switzerland
  • India and the United Kingdom: potential consumer and producer countries?

The key strengths of Bulgaria and Austria

Vineyards have been a part of the culture of Bulgaria for aeons. The country boasts a wide variety of wine regions and grape varieties, 30% of them native. These are its strengths. On the flipside, the 26,000 hectares of wine grape vineyards are mostly grown by diminutive farms and small producers for their own personal consumption. The large farms account for just 6% of the total, but a whopping 64 % of Bulgaria’s vineyard acreage.  As FranceAgriMer points out: “In a bid to remedy the lack of competitiveness of Bulgarian wines, the Ministry of Agriculture launched a national growth strategy for the wine industry for 2022-2027”.

Austria with its 42,835 ha under vine is a challenger. Its key strengths are the 50% increase in exports of its wines between 2012 and 2021. Its main customers are Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavia, but also North America. The industry is also very successful at promoting its white wines and is increasingly focusing on production of organic wines. A case in point is attendance at the organic wine fair Millésime Bio in Montpellier last January by the young winegrower at Kremstal winery. She presented six white wines, including two sparkling, that showed a lot of verve and great drinkability.

The cool climate countries: Canada and Switzerland

Canada is not all about ice wine. Its 13,000 ha of vineyards are entirely geared to producing wine, shared equally between whites and reds. Two thirds of the vineyards are located in Ontario, a quarter in British Columbia and the balance in Quebec and Nova Scotia. For the past decade, its production has remained virtually unchanged at around 650,000 hl, but it only covers between 10 and 20% of domestic consumption.

In Switzerland, the figures are similar. Average production totals 600,000 hectolitres from approximately 15,000 ha under vine. The vineyards are mostly located in the French-speaking part of the country and here, Chasselas is the prime grape variety. In this land of mountains, farming vineyards is often described as ‘heroic’. As national production does not meet the volume requirements of domestic demand, over 75% of the wines drunk in Switzerland are imported.

India and the United Kingdom: potential consumer and producer countries?

Potential consumer?

India is the world’s largest consumer of …whisky!  Although it does boast 150,000 hectares of vines, only 1.6 % is used to make wine, 85 % of which is drunk locally. But what is its potential? Of its population of 1.4 billion 485 million are of legal drinking age. As FranceAgriMer explains: “Consumption is currently limited to 3 million consumers and less than 30 million bottles. But the new middle classes should drive alcohol consumption”. Unsurprisingly, 90 % of wines are drunk in the major cities and tourist areas (Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Goa, Pune).

Potential producer? Conversely, the United Kingdom is a major wine consumer country. It is the world’s third largest importer country by volume and value for wine, with France followed by Italy the leading supplier countries. Ultimately, 99.5 % of wines consumed in the United Kingdom are imported. The main reason for this is that the cool temperatures and dampness of the climate in the United Kingdom are not conducive to growing vines. Among its main strengths are ongoing climate change and the chalky soils in southern England. And that’s exactly where production of sparkling wines is currently expanding, though still on a relatively boutique scale. Total area under vine for wine grapes is just 3,800 ha producing 65,000 hl, 62% of which are sparkling wines. 90 % of the wines are marketed domestically, but they are gradually making inroads in Scandinavian markets.

Anne Schoendoerffer, © Dionisio Iemma/Adobe Stock

Sources :  France Agrimer.   OIV, EUROMONITOR