Saturday, 30 June 2012

“Digital Darwinism” for wineries who shun Twitter

Wineries who put off using social media will experience “digital Darwinism”, a leading digital expert has warned. “Social media is one of the most powerful customer interaction channels in the world, more relevant than anything seen in human history,” Paul Mabray of winery social media index Vintank told the drinks business. “Those who choose to keep waiting will see their customers migrating to the use of these channels and will experience digital Darwinism,” he added, describing the wine industry as “the last to have not succeeded online.”

Ryan Opaz of wine marketing agency Vrazon believes it's fundamental for wineries to have a presence on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. “You can’t survive without it, there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. If you don’t embrace it, you’re back in the Stone Age,” he said.  A recent survey on social media in the French and US wine industries carried out by digital marketing agency ABLE found that 94% of the US wineries surveyed were on Facebook, compared to 53% of French wineries. It also found 73% of US wineries had a Twitter account, compared to just 41% of French wineries.

According to wine communicator Robert McIntosh, medium-sized wineries set to gain the most from social media. “For a medium-sized winey seeking a sales boost, social media can be a great way of getting noticed by an agent or distributor and securing a listing,” he said. But despite their popularity, McIntosh believes new sites will eventually replace Facebook and Twitter. “In the next year or two we’ll see a shift in the way people use social media – the obsession with the number of followers you have on Twitter and “likes” you accrue on Facebook will be replaced by sites focusing on small but meaningful networks of no more than 100 people,” he said.

Rather damningly, Robert Joseph, founder of international consumer research site DoILikeIt?.com, believes winery websites are “some of the worst on the internet”. The majority, he feels, show no understanding of what consumers want. “Most people want to buy a benefit and are asking themselves: ‘Is this wine going to make me look savvy in front of my friends?’ They want reassurance,” he said.

While wineries and merchants may not be getting the design of their websites right, online wine sales are set for considerable growth in the following year. Simon McMurtrie, ceo of Direct Wines, recently revealed that 50% of the company’s UK sales, and 75% of its Hong Kong sales are now online – figures predicted to rise in 2013. 

Friday, 29 June 2012

Trump fires socialite from her own winery

In true Apprentice style, US property mogul Donald Trump has fired socialite Patricia Kluge from her own former winery. As reported on, Kluge was forced to sell her 314-hectare Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard in Charlottesville, Virginia, at auction last April.
Trump, a friend of Kluge, bought the estate for US$6.2 million. He has since changed the name to Trump Vineyard Estates and brought in his son Eric as president. At the time of the takeover, Kluge was offered the role of vice president of operations, but the one-year transitional contract has officially expired.

"We gave her a transition contract for the first year, and that has ended. We are still working with her a little bit, and we still have a good relationship with Patricia,” Trump told the New York Post. “It’s never easy when you build something like that and you end up working for the people that are owning it,” Trump added.
His son Eric said: “It was always known she was going to help us transition from bank owned to Trump owned, she did so very effectively. This is an exciting transition. We’ve been winning awards right and left. Business is great. Our trajectory in terms of new business coming in is literally vertical,” he said.
Kluge’s husband, Bill Moses, oversees the property as general manager – a role that is set to continue. Kluge received a US$100 million divorce settlement in 1990 from broadcasting billionaire John Kluge, the richest man in America in the ‘80s. She declared bankruptcy last June.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Vinderpants: underwear for wine launches in US

Tired of going bare bottle? Fear not – Seattle-based novelty gift dealer Archie McPhee has launched the world’s first underwear for wine: Vinderpants. Made from 95% cotton and 5% spandex, the US$9 tighty-whities fit snugly over most 75cl wine and Champagne bottles.

As reported on, utility for the wine sleeve is minimal, but founder Mark Pahlow is plugging them as a novelty gift for wine enthusiasts with a sense of humour. “Vinderpants are great for dinner parties and blind tastings,” said Pahlow, who suggests they make “an ideal covering for a bottle of Two Buck Chuck.”

Vinderpants have gone on sale on the Archie McPhee website alongside a faux infomercial that runs with the tag line: “Tired of going bare bottle?” Founded in 1983 by Mark Pahlow, Archie McPhee sells an array of quirky products, from bacon-scented air freshener and cupcake toothpaste to absinthe soap. Move over Calvin Klein, it's all about Calvin Wine...

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Holly Valance made the face of Gallo Moscato

The world is going Moscato mad. Australian actress/singer Holly Valance has been made the face Gallo’s latest launch: Gallo Moscato. The 8.5% abv sweet and light bodied wine went on sale in the UK last week priced at £6.79. With the launch, Gallo is looking to build on the success of Moscato in the US, sales of which leapt by 73% last year thanks to name checks by the likes of Kanye West and Drake in their rap tracks, making it the country’s third biggest selling white variety. 

Asked by the brand what she eats to stay in shape, Valance, who is engageed to British-born billionaire property tycoon Nick Candy, said: "Gallo Moscato with a warm chicken salad or grilled turbot on a light truffle mash. It's the perfect drink for me; light, low calorie and refreshing." Channelling old Hollywood glamour, the campaign features Valance, 29, in a dressing room beside a “yellow” carpet wearing a yellow evening dress with a diamond strap.

Monday, 25 June 2012

La Coste commissions Shard architect Renzo Piano

It's not only Rioja that boasts wineries designed by world class "starchitects", Château La Coste in Aix-en-Provence has commissioned The Shard architect Renzo Piano to create an eco-friendly building integrated into the landscape of the 120-hectare estate. “The building will have a grass roof, so it will be hard to tell where the landscape ends and the structure begins,” La Coste winemaker Matthieu Cosse told the drinks business. Owned by Irish property tycoon Paddy McKillen, projects by world-renowned architects Frank Gehry, Richard Rogers and Sir Norman Foster are also in development at La Coste.
Gehry is working with painter Tony Berlant on a sculpture pavilion, while Rogers is developing an exhibition room. La Coste already features the deconstructed wood and glass pavilion (above) Gehry exhibited at the Serpentine Galley in 2008, which is used to host concerts during the summer. McKillen has also commissioned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to design a photography pavilion, and American light artist James Turrell, who has his own museum at Donald Hess-owned winery Colomé in Argentina, to create a tunnel of light.
Weiwei recently collaborated with internationally acclaimed architectural duo Herzog & de Meuron to create this year’s summer pavilion at the Serpentine Galley made predominantly of cork. McKillen put Japanese architect Tadao Ando in charge of pulling in the big name artists and architects at the estate, which also features work from the late Louise Bourgeois (above), Sean Scully, Richard Serra, and R.E.M frontman Michael Stipe. Work on the ambitious estate began in 2003, which opened to the public last summer, with Cosse reporting a huge amount of interest from UK, American and Japanese tourists.
A 29-room luxury hotel-spa designed by Tangram Architects is currently in development and scheduled to open in 2013. The winery itself is designed by Jean Nouvel, one of France’s most revered modern architects. The 120-hectare, 100% certified organic estate produces an extensive range of wines, along with its own organic olive oil. Unusually for Provence, red wine accounts for 40% of its production. McKillen part-owns luxury London hotels Claridge’s, the Connaught and the Berkeley, all of which are part of the Maybourne Hotel Group.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Pret a Diner

I’m in an empty hallway with soaring ceilings. In front of me, a staircase lined with flickering candles leads up to an illuminated red cross in a vision hauntingly similar to the tragic final scene in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. At the top of the stairs I’m greeted by a lithe, long-haired, mustachioed man who looks more musketeer than maître d’. He leads me into an expansive, expensive room in this, our setting – 50 St James’s Street. Designed by Benjamin and Philip Wyatt, the brothers behind the Drury Lane Theatre and Duke of York’s Column, the building began life as a gaming house in 1828, oft frequented by the Duke of Wellington. It later went on to become the Devonshire Club – a meeting place for young liberals and home to art historian, antiquarian and man of letters Sir Horace Walpole.

Continue reading at The Arbuturian.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Paper wine bottle launch imminent

The world’s first paper wine bottle is set to hit UK supermarket shelves imminently. Its maker, GreenBottle, has just signed a deal with independent wine supplier Kingsland Wines to bottle the wine at its Manchester base. GreenBottle founder Martin Myerscough (pictured) is in the final stages of negotiation with one of the UK’s leading supermarkets, which is set to debut the bottle this autumn.

“We’re looking at a six month ‘first to market’ agreement, and will premiere the bottle with one or two wines to begin with,” Myerscough told the drinks business“Kingsland is currently doing some shelf life testing, but we predict it to be the same is bag-in-box wine: 9-12 months,” Myerscough added. The entrepreneur has seen huge interest in the bottle from Australia, California and France, and plans to take his invention across the globe next year.

“The phone has been ringing from all corners of the world. I’ve just come back from Australia, where I’ve had serious interest in the bottle from a number of wineries. Even a few French producers have shown an interest,” Myerscough said, though warned of the dangers of getting too excited and ahead of the game. “The focus for now is getting the bottles on the shelf in the UK,” he said.

On the subject of pricing, he confirmed the bottle would be under £5, but warned that if priced too cheaply it would “devalue the brand.” The bottles, which weigh just 55g, will be made at Myerscough’s plant in St Helens and filled at Kingsland in Manchester. Myerscough intendeds to sell the technology, allowing companies to build bottling plants next to their manufacturing sites and cut down on transport. The compostable bottle’s carbon footprint is 10% of that of a glass bottle. 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Domaines Ott

In my second of two tasting videos from a recent trip to Provence, The Wine Bird, Helena Nicklin, and I taste Domaines Ott Clos Mireille Blanc de Blancs 2011 with Ott's export manager Christophe Renard on the beach near to the estate in Côtes de Provence. Renard talks through the history of the iconic Ott bottle, while Nicklin recommends some food matches for the wine. The Mistral wind cheekily tried to steal the show, so please bear with us...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

NZ rogue trader jailed for wine fraud

Hot on the heels of Rudy Kurniawan, New Zealand rogue trader Simon Mickleson has been jailed after scamming clients out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. As reported on, Mickleson was sentenced last Thursday in Auckland to two years and four months in prison after earlier pleading guilty to 16 counts of fraud. Judge Grant Fraser described the Mickleson as "sophisticated'' and said there was still over NZ$540,000 owed to his victims, a sum never to be paid back as Mickleson was declared bankrupt last week.
Among Mickleson’s vicitms were a top New Zealand auction house and senior figures in the legal industry, including the lawyer to the Todd Property Group, owned by New Zealand's richest family. "Over 20 years of experience and expertise is effectively down the drain,” the disgraced merchant’s lawyer, Grant Illingworth QC, told Auckland District Court. Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey said Mickleson deserved a term of imprisonment. 
Mickleson, 43, worked as a wine consultant at Auckland auction house Webb's while running his own business, Fine Wines International. In actions remeniscent of Indonesian wine collector Rudy Kurniawan, who is currently on trial in New York for four counts of fraud, the court heard that Mickleson faked vintages by doctoring wine labels. He also stole credit cards, took money for wine he didn't have, and sold cases of old and rare wines he didn't own for thousands of dollars.
"Some were clients of the auction house, some clients of yours and some were your friends. It doesn't get more serious in terms of a breach of trust than that,'' Judge Fraser said. Webb's managing director Neil Campbell described Mickleson to the New Zealand Herald as "the worst kind of try-hard. Simon had this idea that being perceived as rich and wealthy made you a better person. He was always seeking acknowledgement of prestige and wealth,” Campbell said. 
Mickleson's deceit began in 2007 after he promised Auckland surgeon Jim Shaw NZ$400,000 worth of high-end wines. The wines never arrived and over the next two years he compensated Shaw by taking money from other clients. In October 2007, Hong Kong-based Joong Sheng Giauw paid Mickleson NZ$66,313.08 for 36 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild 2000 (pictured), which also never turned up. 
In 2008 he asked school friend Julius Fox to help finance a NZ$99,000 order of French wines for Dr Darren Reed, who he claimed owned the private Ascot Hospital. Fox contributed NZ$29,000 but the deal never went through. Investigations revealed there was no such person as Dr Reed. On another occasion, Mickleson changed labels from a case of 2001 Château Lafite to pass the bottles off as the 1982 vintage. He tried to sell 24 fakes for NZ$98,000, but the buyers pulled out after spotting the doctored labels. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Chase swaps vodka for rosé

William Chase, founder of Herefordshire-based Chase Vodka, is to move into wine, having recently bought a vineyard in Aix en Provence. Speaking at the launch of the Chase Terrace at Harvey Nichols in London last week, Chase told the drinks business: “I’ve been keen to do a wine for a while and rosé is the perfect fit for us, plus Provence is a lovely part of the world.” 
“I’m really impressed with whay they’re doing at Château d’Esclans and Domaine Ott, and would like to do a similar thing in terms of launching a top end rosé,” Chase added, admitting he was drawn to making rosé for its easy drinking aspect. “Most rosé is made to be drunk within a couple of years, which appeals to me,” he said. 
Asked what he is to call his new estate, he said: “I’m toying with the idea of Domaine Chase, but I might call it something completely different.” Chase also revealed that he is experimenting with different bottle shapes at the moment, keen to do something distinctive to give the wine a signature. Bottling laws are relaxed in Provence, with a number of different shapes and sizes permitted, though Domaine Ott’s signature amphora shape is patented.

Monday, 18 June 2012

5m bottles of English fizz to be made in UK by 2015

Production of English sparkling wine in the UK is set to hit 5m bottles by 2015, according to Ridgeview winemaker Charlie Holland. “It’s a nervous and exciting time for English sparking winemakers – sparkling wine now accounts for 50% of plantings in the UK,” Holland told the drinks business at the London International Wine Fair last month.
There are almost 400 vineyards in the UK now, almost double that of ten years ago. But despite the recent boom, Holland stressed the importance of distinguishing English sparking wine from Champagne. “We have a unique terroir that makes English sparkling wine special. It’s more expensive to produce than Champagne, the cost of land is higher and yields are lower.
“It’s a fallacy to say you can’t ripen grapes in England. We’re a very cool climate region, but this allows for a long growing season, helping grapes develop full phenolic ripeness, a full flavour profile and natural sugars,” he said, adding, “English sparkling wines have a lovely leanness and freshness, with signature citrus flavours and naturally high acidity, which is crucial for sparkling wine.”
In terms of ageing potential, Holland admitted that because the winery was only founded in 1994, he doesn’t know how long the wines will last. “I tried the 2000s recently and they still taste so young and fresh,” he said, revealing he would consider offering late disgorged versions of some of the cuvées in the Ridgeview range as the wines age quickly under cork. He also revealed that vine age is incredibly important for English sparking wine, and that at 17 years old, the Ridgeview vines are in their prime.  
“English sparkling has had a lot of good press, and consumers want to find out what the buzz is all about. It also fits with the trend for buying homegrown products,” he said. The Ridgeview range is named after London boroughs, such as Knightsbridge and Fitzrovia, as a tribute to Christopher Merret, the 17th century English physician credited by many with inventing sparkling wine before French monk Dom Pérignon.  
Holland is keen for “Merret” is be used as catch-all term for English sparkling wine. “Merret has been put forward but the topic is still under discussion. I’m hoping we’ll come up with a word for English sparking wine soon, as it doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue,” he admitted. Despite the winery’s success in the UK, exports now account for 20% of Ridgeview’s sales. “Exports are a massive thing for us. We’re seeing great success in New York, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Hong Kong and Australia – there isn’t the same stigma there for English sparking as we’ve experience in France, Spain and Italy,” he said.
Asked whether he’d ever consider a non vintage, Holland admitted that he doesn’t have enough reserve wines to be able to make one. “We’re very much a vintage-based property. Every year has a story to tell and we’re keen to express that, but we work hard to try to make a similar tasting product each year and have to adapt our winemaking to the specifics of the vintage." 
Holland revealed that Chardonnay “grows brilliantly”, but that Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier were both “swines to grow” and very “sickly” grapes. Trying to get a decent crop from either is challenging – Pinot Noir is the most expensive grape to buy, and hardest to get hold of,” he said. 

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Largest rosé Champagne in the world released

Armand de Brignac has released the worlds largest rosé Champagne onto the market. As reported on the drinks business, the 15l Nebuchadnezzar of Armand de Brignac Rosé, equivalent to twenty regular 75cl bottles, is housed in the brand’s signature metallic bottle finished with a pewter ace of spades. Only a limited number of bottles will be produced each year for the global market.
The Nebuchadnezzar made its debut at private members club Nikki Beach in St Tropez on 1 June. “This was the perfect time for us to release the Nebuchadnezzar as rosé is synonymous with summer,” said Philippe Bienvenu, commercial director of Armand de Brignac, adding, “Armand de Brignac Rosé is fresh and full-bodied with a rich bouquet of red fruits and aromas of strawberries and blackcurrant – perfect for enjoying in the sunshine.” 
Last year the company released the world’s largest Champagne bottle format onto the market – the 30l Midas, named after the mythological god that turned everything he touched to gold. Equivalent to 40 regular 75cl bottles, the Midas weighs a hefty 45kg. Earlier this year young financier Alex Hope splashed out £125,000 on a Midas of Armand de Brignac Brut Gold at a nightclub in Liverpool, racking up the most expensive bar bill in the world in the process.
Yvonne Lardner, Armand de Brignac’s director of PR has reported a large interest in Nebuchadnezzar’s of Brut Gold NV in emerging market Nigeria, which are being used for weddings and large family celebrations. Lardner also reports an interest in Ace of Spades Rosé from men: “We’ve found our Rosé to be really popular with men, the stigma towards the style seems to have gone,” she said. 
Ace of Spades recently appeared in Nigerian singer D’banj’s music video for the song Oliver Twist. D’banj is signed to rapper Kanye West’s record label. Last month Wine and the City reported that Nigeria was developing a third for wine, and particularly high end Champagne, with its wine industry expected to reach US $370m by 2015.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Château Routas

During a recent trip to sunny Provence with Vins de Provence, I paid a visit to Château Routas in Côteaux Varois, inches away from Brat Pitt and Angelina Jolie's Château Miraval, where I was greeted by affable, baseball cap-wearing Scotsman and friend of Sean Connery, Grahame "Haggie" Haggart. Pairing up with Helena Nicklin, aka The Wine Bird, in the following video we taste the award-winning Wild Boar Rosé 2011 and an unusual Viognier/Chardonnay blend, Coquelicot 2008, the former of which is available from Salut!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Ponsot: “Rudy Kurniawan had an accomplice”

The plot thickens... Laurent Ponsot of Domaine Ponsot in Burgundy has spoken out about the Rudy Kurniawan wine fraud case, claiming he knows the identity of an accomplice in the the Indonesian collector’s alleged crimes – as reported earlier this week on “Rudy has been advised by someone with extensive knowledge of Burgundy. I know who it is, but in the current state of the investigation, I keep this information secret,” Ponsot told Vanity Fair. “Rudy himself should denounce his informants and his accomplices.” Ponsot added. 
One possible accomplice is Kurniawan’s Burgundy-born friend and former business associate Paul Wasserman, who met Kurniawan in 2002. Managing a wine shop Kurniawan bought in LA, Wasserman educated the young collector in the intricacies of Burgundy. “He would call me regularly for buying advice and insights into producers, vineyards and vintages. He was avid for information and I was an excellent source for him,” Wasserman told Vanity Fair
Defending himself on wine writer Mike Steinberger’s Wine Diarist website, Wasserman denied any knowledge of Kurniawan’s counterfeiting activities and apologised for “any unwitting role” that may have contributed to the scandal. Wasserman claims he and the now 35-year-old Kurniawan fell out at the end of 2008. Having been indicted by a federal jury in New York on 9 May, details emerged about Kurniawan’s counterfeiting methods. 
Known for asking for the empty bottles of the old and rare wines he drank at Cru restaurant in New York, Kurniawan had been refilling the bottles with blends he made from lesser wines, including large quantities of négociant Burgundy from the ‘50s and ‘60s, many of which were bought from Beaune-based merchant Patriache. “Rudy emptied the cellar of Patricache,” a French merchant told VF, adding, “He had a certain respect for the product; you might say he was a gentleman thief.” Ponsot believes 80% of pre-1980 Burgundy being sold at auction today is fake.
According to Mike Steinberger, author of the Vanity Fair article, Kurniawan’s arrest raises uncomfortable questions for John Kapon, head of auction house Acker Merral & Condit. “Kurniawan played a central role in Acker Merral’s rise, and much of the discussion among industry insiders has focused on Kapon’s part in the scandal,” Steinberger wrote. In April 2008, 97 bottles of Domaine Ponsot belonging to Kurniawan were withdrawn at the last minute by Kapon from an Acker auction at Cru in New York.
Among the lots was a bottle of 1929 Ponsot Clos de la Roche, a grand cru the domaine didn’t produce under its own label until 1934, and 38 bottles of Ponsot Clos Saint-Denis from 1945 to 1971, despite the estate not making the wine until 1982. Ponsot had flown in from France especially for the auction, believing he needed needed to be in the room in order to prevent their sale. 
The 58-year-old proprietor admitted to Steinberger that he felt “a bit of glory” at the fact that Kurniawan deemed his wines worthy of counterfeiting. “You don’t copy Swatch. You copy Breitling and Rolex,” he said, though conceded that the fraud felt like “an attack on the terroir and spirit of Burgundy.” Kurniawan faces up to 80 years in prison. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on 23 May. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

World’s first wine dress

First there was Lady Gaga's meat dress, and now contemporary artist Donna Franklin has gone a step further and created the world’s first dress made from red wine. As reported on, in a collaboration with Bioalloy, which carries out research for the University of Western Australia, Franklin developed the fibrous cellulose fabric by introducing acetobacter – the bacteria used in the fermentation process of turning wine into vinegar – into vats of wine. 
The bacteria produces cellulose, which is chemically similar to cotton, when grown in a solution containing glucose. Other alcohol, including beer, can be used in place of wine. Gary Cass, co-founder of Bioally, chanced upon the material while attempting to make a cyborg with self-developing skin. Cass went on to form fermented fashion label Micro’be’ with Franklin, which aims to “investigate the practical and cultural biosynthesis of clothing.” 
"The Micro'be' garments are made from microbial cotton which forms on the surface of the wine almost as if the bacteria are trying to form a raft to flow onto the wine," Cass told technology website "We have perfected a technique that will allow the bacteria to form a three-dimensional seamless garment that can be formed to fit the wearer like a second skin,” Cass added.
When dry, the cellulose becomes inflexible and easily torn – a large stumbling block if Micro’be’ is to go mainstream. This is not Franklin's first foray into fermented fashion – in 2007 she created a living fungus dress while working at UWA, feeding the dress special nutrients to promote its colour-changing properties. Franklin said she developed the dress to "challenge people's perceptions of body-garment relationships and our relationship to the natural world.”
Cass meanwhile, is carrying out research into how the Micro’-be’ material can be used in tissue engineering where microbial cellulose would be applied on the lower half of a wound and then seeded with stem cells. "Fermented fashion doesn't need to stay within the fashion world. It can inspire new thoughts in many other disciplines, such as medicine, engineering, dentistry or architecture,” he said. The pair plan to release a new dress later this year.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Joly: Natural wine is "meaningless"

Biodynamic pioneer Nicolas Joly has blasted natural wines as “meaningless”. Speaking at the RAW wine fair in London last month organised by Isabelle Legeron MW, Joly told the drinks business: “The term natural wine is nothing more than a drawer in which to put all the winemakers who didn’t make enough effort to convert to organics and biodynamics. Those naming themselves as ‘natural’ wines are going to have a huge problem in five years and are going to find it extremely difficult to sell their wines.” 
Joly feels that now organic and biodynamic wines have become trendy, everyone istrying to jump on the band wagon. “Natural wine is an empty concept devised for capturing a market. What is ‘natural’? All wines are natural. If you do nothing in the cellar you will have a natural wine but it won’t necessarily be a good wine to drink.”
Joly believes the subject of sulphur use – crucial to the natural wine movement – has been over discussed and incorrectly communicated. “It all depends which sulphur you use. A small amount of volcanic sulphur is actually a good thing for a wine. Wines destined to be shipped abroad that want any kind of life span need sulphur to protect against oxidation – they can’t survive without it. It’s pointless trying to fight the sulphur issue,” he said.
Explaining how biodynamics works, Joly, who runs biodynamic property La Coulee de Serrant in the Loire where he makes three wines from 100% Chenin Blanc, said: “At a physical level, biodynamics can’t work. It works in tiny quantities as a receiver on an energetic level like using a phone to connect to a friend. Being biodynamic connects a vine to that which it needs to express its full potential."
Joly revealed that he believes sound frequencies have a positive effect on stimulating yeast during fermentation. “I play a specific note to my wines in a specific spot of the cellar during fermentation. Sounds dominate matter and stimulate life but very little is understood about it,” he explained. He also believes shape is more important than material when it comes to fermenting and ageing wines, citing amphorae, which are still used in Georgia, as the best shape for maturing wine.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Saignée method rosé “not true rosé”

François Millo, president of the Provence Wine Council, has slammed saignée-method rosé as “not true rosé.” Speaking to the drinks business at the London International Wine Fair, Millo said: “People who make saignée rosé are opportunists. In their mind they are making red wine – the rosé just happens to be a by-product. The saignée method is a bad way of making rosé. The wine is more of an afterthought, very few people in Provence use it.
“85% of the wine we produce in Provence is rosé, so it’s at the top of our priority list – our grapes are grown for rosé,” Millo added. The saignée method (meaning “bleeding” in French), involves making rosé as a by-product of red wine fermentation, where a portion of the pink juice from the grape must is removed at an early stage, which is then fermented separately to produce rosé.
Millo favours the skin contact method, where black grapes are lightly crushed and the skins remain in contact with the juice for 1-3 days. The must is then pressed and the skins discarded. Millo said that rosé producers in Provence are aiming for the lightest colour possible without compromising the flavour profile, in response to consumer demand. 
“There’s a strong demand for the signature pale onion skin colour assocaited with Provence. Consumers see a lighter colour as a sign of quality,” he said, adding, “We’ve worked really hard recently on methods which allow us to extract the maximum flavour while keeping the wine as light in colour as possible. Techinques like night harvesting and macerating at lower temperatures have helped.”  
Millo has seen exports of Provence rosé surge in the US, up 20% on last year, with China and Brazil also proving lucrative markets. Despite its recent success, he feels the rosé category is still lacking both a recognised vocabulary and a world expert. “Rosé is the hardest wine to taste – there is no specific vocabulary for the flavours and aromas and no world expert specialising in rosé,” Millo admitted. 
Asked whether he is keen for rosé to be taken more seriously as a wine style, Millo warned of the dangers of naval gazing. “We want our wines to be taken seriously, but we don’t want to take ourselves too seriously. Bordeaux started taking itself seriously and it got boring,” he said. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Top 10 UK restaurants for California wine

From the weighty tome of the Vineyard at Stockcross to the Liquid Legends list at Goodman, the large format bottles at Bar Boulud and chef Wolfgang Puck's own Rutherford red at CUT, click on the link for my round up of the top 10 places in the UK to enjoy the finest wines of the Golden State. Article originally printed in The Drink Business magazine's 2012 California guide. 

Friday, 1 June 2012

Sex therapist launches low-alcohol wine to “arouse”

American sex therapist Dr Ruth Westheimer has launched a line of low-alcohol wines to help “relax” and “arouse” couples. Vin d'Amour Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon contain 6% alcohol, compared to the average 12.5%, along with Westheimer’s smiling face on the label. "My idea is that just the right amount of alcohol will awaken your senses and arouse you," the 83-year-old Holocaust survivor told the New York Post.
"I'm always saying couples should drink to relax, but not too much. If the woman drinks too much, she falls asleep and if the man drinks too much, he can't perform. It's the same problem for gay couples. With this low-alcohol wine, I am saying: ‘Relax, but don’t drink too much.’ If sex follows or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s about finding and communicating with a significant other,” she added. 
The wines, made from grapes grown in California, will go on sale in New York grocery stores and delis in early July priced at US$7.99-9.99 per bottle, with a portion of the profits going to the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Gilt, a high-end Manhattan restaurant in the New York Palace Hotel, will also stock her Cabernet Sauvignon. 
“A little bit of alcohol is welcome as it makes people not only relax, but communicate better,” Westheimer told the Post, adding, “They will talk about their feelings, their hopes and their dreams easier than without alcohol, because there is less censure. But when people get drunk there is no way they can be good lovers,” she added. 
The pint-sized octogenarian has also launched a lingerie line, a book – Sexually Speaking, and Dr Ruth popcorn. The German-born therapist, who has 56,500 followers on Twitter, caused a sensation in the ‘80s with her straight-talking phone-in radio shows offering sexual advice. She also had a TV show, Ask Dr. Ruth, which aired worldwide.