Clos de Tart sold to Latour owner Pinault

Château Latour owner Francois Pinault has acquired renowned Burgundy winery Clos de Tart via his family-held investment company for an undisclosed fee.

François Pinault and his family announced on Friday (27 October) that they have bought Clos de Tart, the renowned domaine of Morey St-Denis in Burgundy’s Côtes de Nuits, via their holding company Artémis.

No fee was disclosed, although Burgundy grand cru vineyards are the most expensive in the world, costing several million euros per hectare. Clos de Tart has 7.53 hectares. Some reports in France suggested that the purchased price was possibly as high as 250 million euros, but this could not be verified. It marks the latest in a string of high profile winery sales this year.

There has been speculation over Clos de Tart’s future for several weeks. At least one other high profile bidder showed significant interest, but decided not to pursue a deal.

Clos de Tart was created in 1141 by a group of nuns, les Bernardines de Tart, a branch of the nearby Cistercian congregation. It was requisitioned after the French Revolution and sold at auction in 1791 to Charles Dumand and the Marey-Monge family.

More recently it was owned by Maison Champy and Chauvenet in Nuits-Saint-Georges, until the Mommessin family bought Clos de Tart in 1932 and has owned the estate until now.

From 1996, under the impetus of estate director Sylvain Pitiot, Clos de Tart is widely acknowledged to have seen a strong return to form and is again among the most prized wines of Burgundy.

Clos de Tart is the largest monopole vineyard classified as Burgundy grand cru and has never been broken up. The vineyard is largely defined by very stony soils, resting on calcareous subsoils and with clay near the surface.

Through Artémis, Pinault also owns first growth Château Latour in Bordeaux, Eisele Vineyard Estate in Napa Valley – previously named Araujo – plus Domaine Eugénie in Burgundy and Château Grillet in Northern Rhône. With this purchase, François Pinault becomes the neighbour of his rival, Bernard Arnault, owner of LVMH, which bought Clos des Lambrays in Burgundy in 2014.

Zero emissions winery possible in 15 years, says Torres

Spanish winemaker Miguel Torres Snr has said that wineries must aim to be carbon neutral and that he is looking at ways to re-use carbon dioxide from fermentation as part of a project that involves investing more than 10% of company profits annually. John Stimpfig reports from Penedes.

Miguel Torres Snr, president of Bodegas Torres and with operations across Spain, US and Chile, was speaking at a Torres & Earth presentation in Penedes, Catalonia, this month to showcase new and emerging technologies that could help wineries mitigate the effects of climate change.

‘In 10-15 years, I think it is perfectly possible we will see wineries which are carbon neutral with zero carbon emissions,’ he said.

Torres has become known as a passionate advocate of environmental protection after he saw Al Gore’s film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ in 2007.

‘I came out of the film and said to my wife, “we have to do something about global warming for the sake of our vineyards”,’ he said.

Several studies suggest that climate change poses stark risks for vineyards, which may be exposed to more extreme weather and see traditional grape varieties struggle to achieve balance in altered conditions.

Many scientists believe that it is close to inevitable that global temperatures will rise by two degrees this century, without rapid intervention from the world’s biggest polluters.

Bodegas Torres has said it is focused on developing technologies to capture and reuse carbon dioxide.

‘Climate change has not gone away, but nobody is really talking about it,’ Torres Snr told the media. ‘Moreover, it remains the biggest challenge facing the wine industry in general and vine-growing in particular. Increasing temperatures mean that the grape harvest is earlier every year, which could come to affect the quality of wines and even alter the vine growing map.’

Torres has committed to reducing carbon emissions, from vine to final destination, by 30% versus 2008 levels by 2020; one of several sustainability initiatives now up-and-running across the wine world.

To achieve that, Torres said that its family business has consistently set aside 11% of its annual profits for environmental projects. This year, the total investment in the programme will exceed 12m euros.

It now has a biomass boiler in Penedes, cutting 1,300 tonnes of CO2 per annum. Solar and photovoltaic installations have also enabled the Penedes winery to generate 25% of its own electricity needs.

Other eco efficiency measures include optimising water resources, reducing average bottle weight, insulating vats and transportation. This year it created the Torres & Earth Supplier Awards to encourage its suppliers in the same direction.

How has it done? In 2016, Bodegas Torres had reduced its own CO2 emissions by 40% compared to 2008. When suppliers and partners are included, the figure was 18.9% at the end of June 2017; meaning there is more to be done to hit the 30% overall reduction target.

Torres Snr said the company was already looking at the possibility of becoming carbon neutral. He is interested in the complex area of carbon capture, storage and potential reuse – turning CO2 back into energy.

Each year, Torres produces 3,000 tonnes of CO2 by fermenting grapes.

‘The idea is to capture CO2 from fermentation and then transform it into a source of energy which could be used to reduce cost or sold to generate income,’ Torres Snr said. His said his team has been working in Penedes with universities and commercial companies on ways to achieve this. He added that Torres will make its research results available to other wineries.

‘All they need to do is register an interest. Already, 25 Spanish wineries have done so.’ But, he said that he would also like to see more environmental support from the Spanish government. ‘I have been frustrated by the overall progress in sustainability in our industry to date. When we set up Wineries for Climate Change in Spain, three years ago, the response was disappointing.

‘But now I think people are prepared and ready to invest. It is helped by the fact that the cost of renewables has come down, which is a positive trend. But also attitudes and the technology are changing fast.

‘In 10-15 years you will see a big difference. We will have carbon neutral wineries with no emissions. I promise you this is not a pipe dream. We will make it happen.’

Loire 2017 harvest shows mixed fortunes after frost

There has been a stark contrast in fortunes across the Loire in 2017, with spring frost hitting some areas much harder than others, but an early crop means that quality is looking good overall, reports Jim Budd.

Loire 2017 is an early vintage of promising to very promising quality but volumes are very variable due to the uneven damage caused by the late April frosts.

According to estimates published in July by the French Ministry of Agriculture the Loire is predicted to up by 7% at 2,3 millions hl on 2016. However, but this is still a small vintage as the frost and mildew affected 2016 vintage was 25% below average.

Picking started picking at the end of August, especially for Crémant. 30th August was the official start for the Muscadet harvest, the eighth earliest start in recent years. However, heat wave 2003 was 11 days earlier – 19th August.

Much of the Loire harvest was over by mid-October.

Tasting the 2017 grape juice from Muscadet through to Pouilly-sur-Loire all of them appeared to be very clean, precise with ripe fruit and well balanced. Although it is difficult to know clearly at this stage how the finished wines will turn out, the quality of the 2017 looks to be good. Certainly many of the grapes were very clean with little rot.

While quality appears to be good through out the Loire volumes made are very variable.

Following an early bud-break there were a series of frosts in the last two weeks of April. The effects on the harvest have been very variable.

Parts of Muscadet were very badly affected – Fred Niger in Le Landreau made only three hectolitres per hectare. Nearby Domaine Pierre Luneau Papin, Bonnet-Huteau (La Chapelle-Heulin) and Vincent Caillé (Monnières) were also severely hit. In contrast Jérémie Hutchet (Château-Thebaud) was barely affected.

In the Fiefs Vendéens Thierry Michot’s white varieties were greatly reduced by frost, while his reds are very good.

Much of Savennières made very little wine, except for the eastern part. In contrast much of Bourgueil and Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil had a plentiful harvest – a relief after being severely frosted in 2016.

In the Central Vineayrds Mentou-Salon had a generous harvest after making virtually nothing 2016. Parts of Pouilly-Fumé are well down, while the Coteaux de Giennois has made more than initially feared. Volume in Sancerre may be a little down but here again the quality should be high.


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Amazon Wine to close by end of year – reports

Amazon Wine has been running for about five years, allowing wineries and suppliers to sell wines through

But, in an email to Amazon Wine sellers, which has been widely reported by media outlets, the company stated that ‘as Amazon continues to offer customers additional retail options for buying wine, we will no longer offer a marketplace for wine at this time, and Amazon Wine will close on December 31st, 2017′.

According to TechCrunch, the statement added, ‘Wine will continue to be offered through Amazon Fresh, Prime Now and Whole Foods Markets.’

A spokesperson for Amazon could not be immediately reached for further comment.

Earlier this year, Amazon bough organic food retailer Whole Foods, which also sells wine. Amazon Fresh and Prime Now are both grocery delivery services from Amazon, which include wine and beer. The market for on-demand food and drink delivery has become increasingly competitive in the past couple of years, with Deliveroo and Uber also expanding to wine, beer and spirits.

Earlier this year, an Oregon wine estate developed a wine ‘from conception to release’ with Amazon Wine – although Amazon cautioned that it had not been directly involved with developing the brand. Its job was to provide wines with a platform to sell from, it said.

Online marketplace eBay launched into wine retail in 2016 in 45 US states, and earlier this year that it would add another 1,000 wines to its lists in the UK via a deal with WineDirect.


World wine production plummets to 1960s levels

Wine lovers may have to pay more for some of their favourite bottles as new figures show world production has sunk to 'historic lows', after severe frosts and heatwaves curtailed 2017 yields in France, Spain and Italy.

Small harvests in Europe’s main producing countries mean that world wine production has sunk back to levels barely seen since the 1950s and early 1960s, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) said. It estimated that global production would hit 246.7 million hectolitres in 2017, equivalent to 24.67 billion litres, down by 8% versus 2016.

Severe spring frosts and a spike of hot weather dubbed the ‘lucifer heatwave’ mean that Italy is facing its smallest harvest for 60 years and France is expected to produce one of its lowest grape hauls in the post-Second World War era.

Spain and Germany are also expected to see harvests shrink, although the US is expected to produce the same as last year – despite the recent fires in California wine country.

Italy, France and Spain are the world’s biggest three wine producing nations and these three expected to register declines of 23%, 19% and 15% respectively on last year, to 39.3, 36.7 and 33.5 million hectolitres.

The OIV’s warning follows on from global wine production hitting a 20-year low in 2016, with Argentina and Chile suffering from the effects of El Niño that year. Historically low harvests have raised the question of price rises for wine lovers.

Analysts at Rabobank said that they expected global wine stocks to ‘dramatically tighten’, which would exacerbate rising prices for wine shipped in bulk – generally sold at the lower end of the price ladder. However, effects on price are difficult to predict and the weather has not distributed its wrath in uniform fashion across Europe’s vineyards.

Premium wines from the 2017 harvest will not be released for several months, and even years, in some cases. And a lot will depend on stock levels in different regions and appellations.

There is concern about the financial stability of producers in some regions, such as the Loire in France, which was hit hard by frost in both 2016 and 2017. Quantity is not everything and there has been early optimism around quality in several European regions.


Deadly wildfire ravages Spain and Portugal

Wildfires in winemaking areas of Portugal and northern Spain have claimed at least 45 lives and burnt through thousands of hectares of agricultural land, including vineyards and winery owners' homes in both Galicia and the Dão.

Six thousand firefighters have spent the past week fighting more than 65 fires across Galicia in Spain and central Portugal. The unfolding tragedy had claimed 45 lives by Wednesday this week (18 October) – 41 in central Portugal and four in Galicia, according to the BBC.

Portugal’s interior minister resigned this week and the country has declared three days of mourning.

Winds from Hurricane Ophelia fanned the flames, worsening the situation; just as high winds also proved a major problem for thousands of fire crews battling blazes in California wine country last week.

Several winemakers in Galicia and Dão found themselves on the frontline, like their counterparts in Napa and Sonoma.

‘From Sunday night to Monday there were terrible fires all over Portugal and particularly in the Dão region,’ local winemaker Luís Lourenço told reporters.

‘It was frightening because the wind was blowing in all directions, and it was almost impossible to control the fire. At Quinta dos Roques we are surrounded by pine forests, [and] some vineyards were ignited by the heat alone. I have about 12 hectares [out of 35] affected by the fires.

Sara Dionísio, owner of organic producer Casa de Mouraz in Tondela, Dão, said they lost vineyards, their home and a warehouse holding 100 pallets of wine. ‘It was all so fast,’ she said, who had been temporarily living elsewhere with her husband-winemaker Antonio, while their house was being refurbished.

‘During Sunday night we started to have winds faster than 100km/hour. We received a call that our vineyards were burning and Antonio went there with one of our employees to try to save part of the warehouse.

‘They stopped the fire in one part, but the other part completely fell down, landing on their heads. They went to hospital. It is a miracle that they are ok.’ It is understood that some family members of winery employees were among those who died in the area, although no further details were available at the present time.

The team at Casa de Mouraz managed to save the winery filled with the freshly picked 2017 harvest. They now hope that 2017 vintage sales will help fund rebuilding and replanting.

‘It is a complete tragedy and we have to talk about it, because we need to change our forest management in Portugal, especially considering climate change, so this doesn’t happen again,’ said Dionísio. In June, 64 people were killed in forest fires in Portugal.

In northern Spain, ‘the fires were very strong in Galicia and Asturias’, said Luis Bultron, president of Galicia’s winemakers’ association.

As Neves in Rías Baixas suffered the brunt of the fires. ‘Over 90% of the agricultural land in As Neves has been burnt, and somewhere between 15-20% of that is vineyards,’ consultant winemaker in the region, Jorge Hevella, told

‘People have lost entire vineyards here, and their homes. It’s a barbarity; these fires were caused by arson. Some of the vines will never recover, and the land is still smouldering.’ It has not been proved that arson was the cause of the fires.

Bultron added, ‘Nobody can remember an October as hot as this year and the hot air, wind and dry land combined with the fires made it an apocalyptic scene. The nuclei of the fires was in urban areas in Galicia, and in the forests in Asturias. The fire was very close but fortunately relatively few vineyard regions were affected. The worst was Rías Baixas.’

Light rainfall since Monday evening has enabled fire crews to control the fires in northern Spain and Portugal, as producers and local wine associations begin to assess the damage.



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Esk Valley Riesling 2015
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Delta Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc 2015
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Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Of a lovely pale yellow colour, with greenish reflections, the Aconcagua Costa single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is elegant and austere. Citric aromas of grapefruit and lime laced with notes of passion fruit and subtle hints of herbs and a leafiness are predominant on the nose. This very big wine feels dry and edgy on the palate, with great acidity and a light mineral flavour that gives it nerve and freshness.

Seifried Estates Gruner Veltliner 2015
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US re-kindles Canada wine dispute at WTO

US officials have re-started a dispute with Canada over what they see as unfair treatment of foreign wines in the country. They have lodged a second complaint at the WTO against Canada and its wine selling laws on 2 October.

They targeted British Columbia, a key winemaking region, and attacked a rule that says only wines from within the province can sit on ‘regular shelves’ in grocery stores. Imported wines must be sold in a ‘store within a store’.

Canada is the top export market for US wines, with shipments valued at US$431 million in 2016, according to wine industry figures. The US initially raised the issue with the WTO shortly before president Trump took office.

Its fresh complaint effectively re-starts the clock. It has requested a consultation period, and if granted would allow 60 days for both sides to discuss their differences at the WTO. If no solution is found, the issue may then go before a WTO panel.

The timing will raise questions about whether US officials are trying to ratchet up pressure amid ongoing talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement. US, Canadian and Mexican officials held talks in Ottawa, Canada, last week.

Nafta, and the 1987 free trade deal between US and Canada, has helped US wine exports significantly. Shipments to Canada were only worth $22.9 million 30 years ago.

Now, the US wine industry, led by Wine America and the California Wine Institute, argues that Canada’s wine industry has reached a point at which it no longer needs the trade protection that it has historically enjoyed.

However, the Canadian Vintners Association produced a poster recently to emphasise that Nafta ‘has been a gift’ for US wine and that jobs must be protected in Canada’s smaller wine industry.


Large Beaujolais estate sold after three centuries in same family

Château de la Chaize, one of the largest wine estates in Beaujolais, is changing hands after three-and-a-half centuries of being owned by the same family.

Château de la Chaize has been sold to Maïa Group, an independent French company specialising in infrastructure and real estate. A fee was not disclosed, but local newspaper Le Progrès said it was understood to be a record sum for a Beaujolais producer.

Situated in Odénas, in the Rhône department, La Chaize extends over 250 hectares, with 99 hectares in the Brouilly appellation. Those 99 hectares produce 8% of the total production of Brouilly, one of the 10 crus of Beaujolais. The Brouilly appellation is valued at €70,000 per hectare, but it was estimated that the whole deal could have reached tens of millions of euros.

‘We took a family decision to sell,’ Caroline de Roussy de Sales, estate manager and a member of the previous owning family, was quoted as saying in Le Progrès. She said that it was important to sell to somebody who wanted to develop the vineyards and invest.

Founded in 1670 by the seneschal of Lyon François de la Chaize d’Aix, the main Château de la Chaize building and gardens were completed by Jules-Hardouin Mansart and André le Nôtre, respectively architect and gardener of the Château de Versailles.

Christophe Gruy, Maïa group president, described the purchase as a ‘beautiful challenge’. He said that he wanted to convert the estate to organic viticulture.


Popping cork sound ‘makes wine taste better’ – experiment

People who drink wine after hearing the sound of a cork popping are likely to think it tastes better, suggests a small study conducted by an Oxford University professor. An experiment with 140 people in London found that the same wine can taste better if it follows the sound of a cork popping versus the noise made by someone releasing a screwcap.

Overall, the same wine was rated as around 15% better quality with a natural cork, according to the study.

The experiment was designed by professor Charles Spence, of Oxford University’s crossmodal research laboratory. Synthetic corks were not tested. It was held at an event also co-hosted by the Portuguese Cork Association, which is a strong advocate for natural corks.

‘The sound and sight of a cork being popped sets our expectations before the wine has even touched our lips, and these expectations then anchor our subsequent tasting experience,’ said professor Spence.

He has previously conducted research on the effects of music genres on wine taste and has also recently written ‘Gastrophysics: The new science of eating’. Several closure companies have invested in researching consumer psychology.

For example, synthetic cork producer Nomacorc demonstrated to journalists several years ago that it was researching how the length of time it takes to pull a cork impacted on a wine lover’s satisfaction with the product. There is fierce debate over closures in the wine world, with different markets preferring types.

Many Australia and New Zealand wine producers, for instance, are staunch supporters of screwap, which they have claimed is more consistent. Natural cork makers, meanwhile, claim that they have made significant progress to reduce the proportion of wines suffering from cork taint in recent years.