Thursday, 20 December 2012

Desire for prestige damaging “brand Bordeaux”?

Has Bordeaux become a region where not only keeping up with, but having a higher-priced wine than your neighbours is the ultimate goal? Bruno Eynard, winemaker at St Julien third growth Château Lagrange, seems to think so. Speaking to Wine and the City last week during a lunch at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (worth a visit for the mash alone), Eynard said that the desire for prestige on the part of some of the top châteaux is damaging the region’s image.

“Big companies like Chanel and LVMH are buying up Bordeaux châteaux for the prestige that comes with such an acquisition and are selling the wines at incredibly high prices even if the quality isn’t there. These châteaux are happy to sit on a lot of stock in order to sell what they have at a high price. It’s all about image nowadays and having a higher price than your neighbours,” he said, voicing concerns that this approach will put consumers off buying Bordeaux.

“It’s a dangerous game they’re playing: Italy, Spain and other regions in France will quickly jump in and take our place if our prices become too high for consumers and the wines become pure instruments of speculation,” he added, revealing that the divide between family-owned châteaux and company-owned châteaux in Bordeaux is becoming increasingly evident. “Family companies have to sell their wine to survive, whereas company-owned estates can afford to sit on their wines. It’s not a case of greed but rather prestige,” he said.

Château Canon is owned by fashion house Chanel
Owned by Japanese distillers Suntory, Eynard has faced pressure at Lagrange to push the price of its top wine up. “If I followed what the owners wanted, the price of Lagrange would be much higher and there would be a lot less of it, but the best way to build a successful brand is to offer value for money,” he told W&TCIn this vein, Eynard recently purchased 16 hectares in Haut-Médoc for the production of a third wine for Château Lagrange, which he plans to call Haut-Médoc de Lagrange in the model of Le Haut-Médoc de Giscours.

“There’s a place in the market for this kind of wine that offers the expertise of a top châteaux but the value of a Crus Bourgeois. It’s a great way to get new consumers interested in and enthusiastic about the brand, and hopefully in time they’ll move up a tier to our second wine,” he said. The wine, set for release in 2014, will be priced at around €12 a bottle with 100,000 bottles expected for the first release.  

Monday, 17 December 2012

Jeff Koons for Mouton 2010 label

He may be best known for his balloon dog sculptures made of reflective coloured stainless steel, but no such pooches appeared on the 2010 label of Pauillac first growth Château Mouton Rothschild, which American neo-pop artist Jeff Koons recently designed.
As reported on, Koons is the latest in a long line of artists to create an original work for the château, which, since 1945, has commissioned artists to design its labels. The roll call of alumni reads like a who’s who of modern art: Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud all have their own vintages.
Owner and long time art lover Baroness Philippine de Rothschild commissioned Koons to create the label. In his design, he works over a Pompeii fresco of The Birth of Venus with a silver line drawing of a ship sailing under a bright sun. Influenced by both Duchamp and Warhol, Koons combines Pop Art with the kitsch aesthetic, transforming familiar objects with a wide variety of techniques.
The lauded 2010 vintage in Bordeaux was a dry and relatively cool year, with an ideal amount of sunshine. According to the château, the favourable conditions led to small, rich, naturally concentrated grapes both high in colour and natural acidity, with length, elegance and harmony being the hallmarks of the vintage.
A former commodities broker, for a time Koons was the world's most expensive living artist. In 1997, his Puppy, a giant dog covered in bright flowers, was installed at the entrance to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao where it still stands to this day. In 2008, an exhibition of 17 of his works appeared at the Château de Versailles. 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Apocalypse wine created by Turk

If the world does indeed end next Friday on 21 December as the Mayans have predicted, then we should at least go up in smoke drinking fine wine. That was the thinking of Turkish businessman Erkan Onoglu, who has bottled a limited edition line of Apocalypse wine to be drunk on 21 December. Onoglu created the wine, which has gone on sale in Turkey, especially for superstitious survivalists, according to Turkish daily newspaper Radikal.

Believers of the “doomsday” Mayan prediction have flooded into a small village in western Turkey, near the ancient Greek city of Ephesus, AFP reports. Sirince, a village of around 600 inhabitants, has a positive energy according to doomsday cultists, who believe it is close to an area where the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven. An ancient Greek village in the province of Izmir, Sirince is well known for its fruit wines made from apples, raspberries, mulberries and blackberries among others.

The tiny village produces several million bottles of fruit wine a year, with German-owned Artemis producing over 3 million bottles alone. Artemis also produces grape-based wines from local varieties like Bogazkere, Öküzgözü, Emir and Narince. The Mayan doomsday prophecy has sparked a tourism boom in Sirince, which is expected to host more than 60,000 visitors next week, according to local media. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Would you admit to liking demi-sec Champagne?

Have you ever tried demi-sec Champagne? If so, would you ever admit to liking the semi-sweet style? Champagne Jacquart’s chief winemaker Floriane Eznack doesn’t think so. Speaking to the drinks business at a tasting lunch at Chrysan in London last week, she told the magazine demi-sec has become the elephant in the room in Champagne.

“Our demi-sec sales are growing, but it’s the wine we don’t talk about. There’s still a prejudice surrounding the style. In the past people would add sugar to their Champagne to hide faults so it has a negative connotation. No one likes to talk about demi-sec in the region, but a lot of people like to drink it. The style isn’t going out of fashion, if anything it’s getting more popular,” she said.

Us Brits are notorious for having a sweet tooth and happily sing the praises of sweeter Sherry styles such as Oloroso, so why the hang up about demi-sec? There’s an implication that sweetness levels correspond to intellect, and the drier you like your wine the higher your intellect and more rapier-like your wit. Nonsense! Demi-sec has its place in both the Champagne arena and on the dinner table. It makes for a sensational food match with desserts like tarte tartan.

My taste tends to veer towards the drier end of the Champagne spectrum, but I’m staunchly against the idea of snobbery towards demi-sec for snobbery’s sake – it suffers the same prejudice as still rosé. Having spent a few glorious days in Provence this summer and witnessed first hand the time, care and attention top-end producers like Château d’Esclans and Domaines Ott put into their rosés, I find the narrow-mindedness of those who fail to take it seriously as a style hard to swallow.

All wine styles should be given a chance to prove themselves on their individual merits. As an aside, the aforementioned Eznack also revealed to db that sales of Jacquart rosé are booming in Japan due to the positive associations with the colour pink in the county. “Pink is a very important colour in Japan – it signals the coming of spring and cherry blossom, so our rosé sales have always been high there. I also think it pairs really well with Japanese cuisine, particularly sushi.”

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Robert Parker steps down as editor of The Wine Advocate – the end of an era?

In news that has rocked the usually sedate wine world this week, US wine critic Robert Parker has stepped down as editor-in-chief of The Wine Advocate after selling “a substantial interest” of the company to a trio of Singapore-based investors. As reported on, Parker has appointed Singapore-based correspondent Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW as the new editor-in-chief of the bi-monthly publication, with the investors taking over the financial operations.
Parker told the Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague he had taken on the investors after being presented with “a plan he couldn’t refuse”, though refused to name them. On his bulletin board he refers to them as: “Three highly qualified business and technology people and enthusiastic wine lovers.” In an announcement to his subscribers earlier this week, Parker revealed significant structural changes were to take place at TWA following the move.
He intends to turn the print version of his bi-monthly newsletter, which has grown to be one of the world’s most influential wine publications, into a printable pdf version for his 50,000 subscribers, with a Kindle version in the offing. Another surprising step for the fiercely independent publication is that it is to start accepting advertising, though spaces will be limited to luxury lifestyle rather than wine-related companies.
The new investors plan to release a condensed Southeast Asian edition aimed at corporate clients such as luxury hotels and airlines, while a new Singapore office is to be opened for Perroti-Brown MW to operate out of as editor. Guildford-based Wine Advocate correspondent Neal Martin welcomed the news. “I’m very happy about the move, it’s exciting both for myself and The Wine Advocate,” Martin told Wine and the City. “It means we can upgrade the website, conduct more tasting events and expand the readership in the Far East,” he added.
Perrotti-Brown will soon appoint a Singapore-based Asian correspondent to cover wines produced in China, Thailand and other Asian countries. Wine tasting events are also planned in China and Thailand, signaling a shift away from TWA’s previously staunchly independent stance. In his address to subscribers, Parker was keen to dispel rumours of his retirement. “Nothing could be further from the truth. I am still in this profession for the long-term as I remain the CEO and chairman of the TWA board, and an owner,” he said.
While Parker will continue to review the wines of Bordeaux and the Rhône, his stepping down as editor is a fascinating move with far-reaching implications, as is the decision to accept advertising and the introduction of Wine Advocate tasting events. For a publication that prides itself on its independence, this week’s news raises questions as to whether TWA will be able to continue in this vein. And with the emperor of wine relinquishing a large chunk of his power, does this signal a chance for the industry to become a democracy again after years of dictatorship?