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)




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




Modern Australian winemakers are breaking away from the old tradition of blending plots and vineyards to focus on terroir-driven, single vineyard wines, says Michael Hill-Smith MW, co-founder of Shaw + Smith Winery in Adelaide Hills.
Speaking about Shaw + Smith Winery’s single vineyard Chardonnay ‘Lenswood’ at a lunch event organised by its Hong Kong importer, Links Concept, Hill-Smith MW explained: “There’s a movement moving away from blend of regions. If you look at bigger companies like Penfolds, they’ve got a tradition of blending one region with another. There’s a history of blending for the best wine, and nowhere else in the world would that happen for premium wine.
“Despite the history, the modern wine movement is about single origin, single site and single block.”
The ‘Lenswood’ 2014 is only the second vintage released from the winery after it purchased the vineyard in 2012, and it has already been lauded by Australian wine critic James Halliday. Not that Hill-Smith seems very interested.
“Who cares what James Halliday gives,” he declared. “Until you get a 98, then it really does matter,” causing a room full of guests to burst into laughter.
Compared with Australia’s famous Shiraz output, Smith believes that Chardonnay is “one of the most exciting grapes, if not the most exciting” grape in Australia. “Because where would you go to buy these lively, fresh, vibrant wines at a price that doesn’t make your eyes bleed?” he asked.
“What is fascinating about Australian Chardonnay is that it has evolved and continues to evolve in an exciting way. The wines are no longer oaky, golden, old fashioned or heavy. As we learned to plant the grape in cooler vineyard sites with some vineyard age, we are making some of the most exciting Chardonnays in the world, even more than Burgundy or California,” he continued.
In 2016, the country’s total white wine production amounted to 808,000 tonnes and Chardonnay is responsible for half of that figure, with a total of 406,000 tonnes crushed, according to Wine Australia.
In addition to its Chardonnay range, which includes ‘M3’ and the single vineyard ‘Lenswood’, the winery also makes Pinot Noir and a cool-climate Shiraz including a single vineyard called ‘Balhannah’.
Its latest offerings including Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2016, M3 Chardonnay 2015, Lenswood 2014, 2015 Pinot Noir, 2014 Shiraz and Balhannah Vineyard Shiraz 2013 which are all available in Hong Kong now.

An article from The Drinks Business by Natalie Wang

Early harvest in Champagne (in french)


Les vendanges en Champagne ont démarré dans une partie de l’appellation, laissant entrevoir une récolte “prometteuse”.
Les premiers coups de sécateurs ont été donnés samedi dernier dans le vignoble de Montgueux (Aube), selon le calendrier des dates de vendanges publié par le Comité Champagne, l’organe institutionnel de l’interprofession.La plupart des 319 communes viticoles de l’appellation emboîteront le pas de la Côte de Bar début septembre.
Ces dates ont été déterminées grâce à des prélèvements “réalisés deux fois par semaine à l’échelle de l’appellation dans environ 600 parcelles : le raisin est pressuré et le moût est analysé. Ces remontées permettent de mesurer la dynamique de maturation des raisins et d’anticiper le moment où ils devraient atteindre leur maturité optimale, donc quand il faut les cueillir”, a indiqué le Comité Champagne.
Au regard de ces relevés quelques rares secteurs avaient été autorisés à commencer dès vendredi en raison de la maturité très avancée du vignoble.
La précocité des raisins place cette vendange dans le top 5 des vendanges les plus précoces dans l’appellation, en avance d’une dizaine de jours sur la moyenne décennale.
Elle se caractérise par une très belle dynamique de maturation, des grappes présentant une bonne charge en sucre mais une acidité encore élevée, ce qui laisse entrevoir une récolte prometteuse et un bon potentiel pour élaborer les futurs vins.
Toutefois, la récolte s’annonce inégale, marquée par une très grande hétérogénéité agronomique notamment à cause du gel au printemps qui a sévèrement affecté la Côte des Bar.
Selon les chiffres de l’interprofession, environ 120.000 travailleurs saisonniers sont employés en Champagne durant les vendanges.

An article from Le Figaro with AFP

France faces worst wine grape harvest since 1945


Wine production to fall by 18% on 2016 after spring frosts ravage vines, but hot summer could deliver top vintages

France is expecting its poorest wine grape harvest since 1945 after an unusually mild March and a frosty April, experts have said, although the hot summer promises to deliver excellent quality.
“At harvests everywhere, in places where we thought there would be a little less, there’s a lot less,” Jérôme Despey, head of a governmental wine advisory board, said on Friday. This year’s harvest will be the smallest since 1945, he told a news conference.
The French agriculture ministry said output was expected to total 37.2m hectolitres – 18% less than 2016 and 17% below the average over the past five years. The 2016 harvest was one of the poorest in 30 years.
Despey said the ministry figures were based on assessments made in early August, before the start of the harvests, which have now begun in the south-east about two weeks earlier than usual.
Despey, who is also secretary general of France’s biggest farmers’ union, the FNSEA, said last week he expected a 40% drop in output in the prime wine-growing region of Bordeaux, the country’s largest. Vineyards in north-eastern Alsace, which produces mainly white wines, were also hit hard.
This year’s drop in production is “mainly attributable to the severe spring frost that affected all the wine-growing regions to varying degrees at a sensitive time for the vine”, the agriculture ministry said.
The bitter cold struck twice within a week in April, ravaging the fragile shoots and buds that had emerged prematurely after mild temperatures in March. To combat the frost, winemakers in Bordeaux set fires in oil drums, then positioned them carefully between the rows of grapevines. Giant fans were also deployed to battle the cold, damp air settling on the plants.
Some losses are also anticipated in the Burgundy region, where vines have been repeatedly hit by hail in recent years.
Vineyards in the south, Beaujolais and the Rhône valley suffered during an exceptionally dry summer that will further depress yields, the agriculture ministry said. But one advantage of drought is that it reduces the impact of diseases on the vines.
The maturity and good health of the grapes pointed to a year that “will stand out for quality, happily”, Despey said.
In the five years to 2016, hail knocked out half of Burgundy’s harvest, according to the Global Wine Risk Index. The index covers 110,000 wineries in 131 countries producing about 26bn litres every year.
Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Hungary also experienced frost this year that could diminish harvests by 30% and even up to 60% in some areas.
Wine, one of France’s biggest exports, is “a highly vulnerable industry”, said researcher James Daniell, of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. About 10% of wine production was lost to natural hazards every year at an estimated cost of $10bn, he said.
At the Vinexpo wine fair in Bordeaux in June, winemakers brainstormed over how to mitigate challenges to their livelihood posed by climate change. Producers have found that global warming can cause grapes to ripen earlier, which changes their sugar and acid levels, leading to lower-quality wines with higher alcohol content.
Some are using low-tech approaches to delay harvesting times and increase soil moisture, and are experimenting with pruning later or using grape varieties that take longer to ripen, thrive in warmer climes or are resistant to drought. But these grapes are not yet ready to be turned into great wines, experts say.

An article from The Guardian