While exports of Japanese saké set a new record in 2017, boosted by a growing interest in the country’s cuisine overseas, Japan itself has reported a decline in domestic consumption.
Japan’s saké exports increased by 19% last year to 23,481 kilolitres last year, mainly via Kobe Port, which accounted for nearly half of the total volume (49.7%), according to a report by Japan News.
Kobe Port is located near a number of prestigious saké breweries such as Nadagogo in Hyogo Prefecture and Fushimi in Kyoto Prefecture.
The country’s saké exports have been growing since 2006, and in 2016, for the first time, the export volume surpassed the 20,000 kilolitre mark, according to the report.
The growth is inevitably linked to the growing number of Japanese restaurants serving the rice wine overseas.
According to Japan’s Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, the number of restaurants serving Japanese cuisine outside Japan grew from 89,000 in 2015 to 118,000 as of October 2017.
The country’s top export market is the US, which accounted for 25% of the total, followed by South Korea, China and Taiwan.
Meanwhile, domestic sake consumption is slowly declining. Current domestic consumption is as low as about one-third of the peak it reached in fiscal year of 1975, driving breweries to explore more opportunities overseas.

An article from The Drinks Business by Natalie Wang


Burgundy, two new AOCs

Approval was granted by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) in June 2017 for the two new AOCs of Vézelay and Bourgogne Côte d’Or.

• Vézelay becomes a Village appellation
Vines were first grown in Vézelay during the Roman era, but unfortunately, they were almost completely destroyed by phylloxera in 1884. In 1875, they began a gradual comeback, and were granted the Bourgogne appellation in 1985. Then in 1998, the quality and uniqueness of this terroir were recognized and given a welcome boost when they were awarded the Bourgogne Vézelay Régionale appellation.
The creation of the Vézelay appellation confirms the region’s potential for producing quality wines.

• Bourgogne Côte d’Or: A new Régional appellation
The granting of this new Régional appellation is the result of two decades of hard work by professionals in the winegrowing industry. By validating this new AOC, the INAO has confirmed that the terroir in this part of the Bourgogne winegrowing region truly has its own unique characteristics.
But you’ll need to wait a few months before you’ll have the chance to sample these two new appellations, as the first wines from the 2017 vintage won’t come to market until the fall of 2018.

From the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB)

The Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction – a weekend not to be missed!


From 17-19 November, come join the party in Beaune for the 157th Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction. Although the actual sale is reserved for potential buyers, the general public can watch the proceedings in the street on a giant screen. And plenty of tastings are organized in the surrounding streets. Over the weekend, the city of Beaune is filled with shows and concerts. Local restaurants often offer special menus for the event, making for a truly magical occasion, and one definitely not to be missed!

From the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB)




Wine production in New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay has suffered losses due to incessant rains in March, bringing down its total production from 2016’s 42,000 tonnes to 33,000 tonnes in 2017.
The news was revealed recently by Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Association chairman, Michael Henley, when speaking to New Zealand Herald.
According to the newspaper, the heavy rainfall during the harvest in March created some lower than normal volumes for growers.
Despite being a challenge, the 2017 vintage is still “much stronger” than 2011 and 2012, said Henley, adding that it has the potential to produce some “outstanding” wines that could rival great vintages of 2013 and 2016.
Chardonnay is said to be unaffected because it had been picked before the rains hit. Cabernet Sauvignon is another grape that was spared from the heavy rain thanks to its thick skins, and the region’s overall good drainage.
“It is still a wait and see thing because they are still youthful and in the barrels, but there will be some fine wines come out of this vintage,” he added.
This year, globally wine production has suffered due to a string of natural disasters including frosts and hails in Europe, which is faced with its lowest wine production since WWII.

An article from The Drinks Business by Natalie Wang

Family Frey bought Château Corton-André (in French)


Caroline Frey, qui préside déjà à la destiné du Château La Lagune dans le bordelais et de la maison Paul Jaboulet Ainé dans la vallé du Rhône, va désormais diriger aussi une grande maison de Bourgogne, le mythique Château Corton-André que sa famille vient de racheter.
La présence de la famille Frey dans le domaine viticole remonte à ses origines champenoises. Elle détient un important vignoble dans les plus beaux crus de la Champagne ainsi qu’une participation au sein de la prestigieuse maison Billecart-Salmon. Deux autres joyaux complètent le patrimoine familial constitué au fil des années par Jean-Jacques Frey : à Bordeaux, le Château La Lagune, 3e grand cru classé 1855 et, dans la vallée du Rhône, les Domaines Paul Jaboulet Ainé, dont le fameux hermitage La Chapelle s’inscrit au panthéon des plus grands vins du monde.
Caroline, la fille ainée de Jean-Jacques Frey signe à Bordeaux comme dans la vallée du Rhône des vins de haut niveau, dans un souci permanent de qualité et de respect des terroirs.
En rachetant au groupe Béjot le Château de Corton-André (fraîchement acquis auprès du groupe Ballande et Meneret), la famille Frey arrive en Bourgogne en restant fidèle à ses valeurs d’excellence. Le Château de Corton André est emblèmatique du vignoble bourguignon. Son architecture et ses magnifiques tuiles vernissées surplombent les vignes d’Aloxe-Corton et il dispose d’un clos ainsi que d’un vignoble de sept hectares dans les prestigieuses appellations de Corton, Corton-Charlemagne, Meursault, Volnay, Pommard…
Entre un château particulièrement représentatif et des terroirs d’exception, Caroline dispose d’un joli potentiel pour vinifier de grands vins.

An article from Le Dauphine

Epigenetics, A voyage of vine’s genetic discovery


There is currently a lot of excitement regarding the field of epigenetics and the production of Australian wine.
It’s a relatively new research area in molecular biology and as such it’s often misunderstood. There’s even still some controversy about just how significant it is, but it is a field that is full of promise and looks to be highly relevant to viticulture.
Put simply, many scientists think that epigenetics could be a way that vines ‘remember’ environmental stresses and that by applying insights from epigenetics it might be possible to adapt vines to difficult conditions they might later be exposed to. Experiments are ongoing and early results are positive.

What exactly is epigenetics?
It sounds like science fiction and it’s fiendishly complex to explain in a straightforward way, so it’s probably best to begin with some basic genetics. In each of our cells we have a full set of genes – around 19 000 of them in the human genome and 30 000 in the grapevine’s – in two interlocking strands of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). There are equal contributions from our mother and our father. This is the DNA library that makes us ‘us’, and the key factor is how these genes are then read by each cell. Each gene codes for a protein, but in each cell only a subset of these genes is ‘expressed’ (the term for a gene being switched on, so that it then produces a protein). The pattern of gene expression determines the identity and also the ongoing functioning of each cell. This is how cells differentiate into the many different types we have in our bodies: skin, nerve, blood, bone and so on.
Most of us are familiar with the notion of evolution: that mutations occur in our cells whereby there are changes in the DNA sequence and when these changes occur in sex cells (producing sperm and eggs), they can be passed on. Most of the time these mutations are bad, but sometimes they can be good. Over many generations there is selection for organisms who have the most reproductive success and genes that contribute to this success will be selected and increase in frequency. But it turns out that there are some heritable changes that can be passed on without any changes to the genetic code itself, a notion that seems slightly heretical for those schooled on Darwinian evolution. This is epigenetics.
Epigenetics refers to heritable change in the way that DNA is read, even though the DNA stays the same. Epigenetics transmits information separately from DNA changes by mechanisms such as DNA methylation (the most well-studied), histone modifications, chromatin remodelling and non-coding ribonucleic acid (RNA) changes. These chemical alterations change the way that the DNA is packed, or act as barriers to stop certain bits being read. Think of them as molecular dimmer switches: they are mechanisms for turning genes on or off, or turning them up or down. The exciting thing is that these changes can be passed on to daughter cells when cells divide and can even be passed transgenerationally, from parents to their offspring. This is what makes epigenetics so interesting, because it is dealing with heritable changes without changing the DNA sequence itself.
Epigenetics is particularly exciting for wine production. When new plants are generated from cuttings, genetically identical clones of the same plant are produced. But it was noticed a long time ago that even though propagated plants have the same DNA sequence – they are clones – they often grow differently, a phenomenon described as somaclonal variation. One of the causes of this variation turns out to be epigenetics, caused by exposure to different environments. Plant scientists were interested in seeing whether exposing the plant tissue to various stresses could result in epigenetic changes that caused the plant to adapt to these stresses, and then remember this adaptation when the clone was propagated for planting in the field.
This is really interesting for viticulture because vines are often exposed to hostile environments and stay put for 20 or more years. Could vines be adapting to their environment? Can these adaptations be captured in cuttings?
A research project currently underway at The University of Adelaide that has built on research in other plants that propagate via seeds. This research showed that it is possible to prime plants for stresses such as low relative humidity, heat, high salt levels or disease, and that this epigenetic priming can be passed on to the next generation, making the new plants more tolerant to these stresses.

Old vine characteristics from young vines?
Vines do have sex, but each time they do a new variety is produced and very few of these new varieties are as good as their parents from a winemaking point of view. It’s for this reason that vines are reproduced from cuttings, keeping the variety’s characteristics. Sometimes, certain vines in a vineyard seem to perform better than others and so cuttings might be taken and specifically propagated to maintain this beneficial trait. This is how clones are produced.
So, are epigenetic changes also relevant here? University of Adelaide researchers Dr. Carlos Rodriguez Lopez and Dr. Roberta De Bei in collaboration with Dr. Everard Edwards from CSIRO looked at whether vines can ‘remember’ being exposed to heat and drought through epigenetics and specifically, they examined DNA methylation patterns. Their pilot study showed proof of concept: some of the epigenetic markers of stress persisted for a month after the stress was removed.
Initially, these epigenetic changes could be used to produce cuttings that are more tolerant to water and heat stress. This would reduce the cost of establishing a new vineyard and also lower the environmental impact of this process. Beyond this though, there are more implications of epigenetic changes in vines. Might it be possible to study vines in an old vineyard and select cuttings that have epigenetic changes that have helped adapt the vine to the place? If those changes would persist in the next generation of vines, then this could help produce vines that are better adapted to certain environments. It may then be possible to get some of the benefits of old vines with younger vineyards. One of the other advantages of epigenetic research is that it doesn’t involve genetic modification.
As is usual, more research is required and this is underway. After the success of the pilot trial, a new two-year study will analyse to what extent the epigenetic memory of drought and heat stress is maintained four years after discontinuation of the initially experienced stress. The cuttings of Cabernet Sauvignon that were exposed to stress in the first project will be exposed again to the same stresses and researchers will track the epigenetic modifications and also the way the vines respond to these stresses. These plants will be propagated vegetatively using both dormant and green cuttings and the old-fashioned technique of layering, to see how durable the epigenetic changes are.
This is just the beginning of understanding the role of epigenetics in viticulture and it’s going to be a field that’s worth following over the next few years.

An article from SCIENCE by JAMIE GOODE


Pernod to invest in Chivas Regal to rebuild brand in China


Pernod Ricard plans to invest more money in Chivas Regal to rebuild the blended Scotch whisky brand in China after admitting the company “made mistakes”
Speaking at a roundtable meeting in London (5 September), Laurent Lacassagne, Chivas Brothers CEO, opened up about “mistakes” made by the French drinks group when it came to Scotch whisky in China – particularly with the Chivas Regal brand.
In its latest full-year results, Pernod announced a 3% organic sales decline for Chivas Regal globally, with volume sales down 2%.
“We made some mistakes. But the whisky market in China is starting to rebuild itself,” said Lacassagne. “We believe we have the foundations to bring back brand growth in the China market.
“We will focus on China with [Chivas Regal] Extra, which currently launched on 1 September in China. We have started to significantly invest in the brand from this year. We are working in the right way.
“We are adding a new platform with sport. We believe sport is relevant for our target audience. Our target sport in China is the NBA, which is starting this autumn.”

An article from The Spirits Business by Melita Kiely