The World’s Most Expensive Champagnes

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1. Boërl & Kroff Brut Barging to the top of the list with an average price tag of $2809 per bottle, this wine comes from a collaboration between a cork maker, a web marketer and Michel Drappier of the eponymous Champagne house. Made with grapes from three small vineyards comprising less than a hectare of land, it’s the kind of Champagne you expect to be expensive and it doesn’t disappoint. The average price is the bottle equivalent, as it is only available in large formats.
2. Krug Clos d’Ambonnay A reliably expensive wine from a legendary house, this was top of the list last year. This blanc de noirs comes from a tiny (.67ha) Pinot Noir vineyard and so far only four vintages have been released. The critics love it, obviously, and the average price ($2383) has actually fallen in the past five years. Bargain!
3. Boërl & Kroff Rosé A blend of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir and made in the saignée style, this also is available only in large-format bottles, so be prepared to pay roughly twice the average bottle price of $2067. That said, if you want to try the range without breaking the bank, there’s a Boërl & Kroff B de Boërl & Kroff Brut available for a tasty $296.
4. Dom Pérignon Plénitude 3 Brut This is down from #2 last year, but it still heads up a quintet of Dom wines on this list. The Plénitude series involves releasing a vintage in tranches and the Plénitude 3 is released some 20-30 years after vintage, so you can understand the $1632 price tag.
5. Dom Pérignon Plénitude 3 Rosé It’s nip and tuck on the list between this wine and its Brut stablemate, even though the Rosé didn’t feature on last year’s list, due to insufficient available vintages. This year it has rectified the omission and lands squarely in the middle of the list with an average price of $1550.
6. Dom Pérignon Œnothèque Rosé This was Dom’s aged vintage release before the Plénitudes turned up and there’s still quite a bit of it available. The critics love it and the $1097 average price tag reflects that. That price is unlikely to go down, either, as they aren’t making this label anymore.
7. Krug Clos du Mesnil This blanc de blancs style wine is made from Chardonnay grown in a single, walled vineyard that has been planted since 1698, so you’d expect this to carry a hefty price tag. It’s down two places on the list from year, but the price has crept up to four figures, resting at $1052.
8. Dom Pérignon Reserve de L’Abbaye Another mark on the board for Dom, with a rare wine that has become somewhat more visible in recent years. It has fallen from fourth place in last year’s list, but has also – surprisingly – fallen in price, from an average of $989 to $981. Not much, we know, but every little helps.
9. Dom Pérignon Plénitude 2 Rosé Younger than it’s P3 stablemate, but this still gets a decade longer on lees than the standard vintage Dom, so price is always going to be a factor. However, at $799 per bottle on average, this wine has only jumped by $40 or so in the past year.
10. Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Française Blanc de Noirs It would hardly be a Champagne article without the family-owned house of Bollinger and this, the top offering, is made from two blocks of pre-phylloxera vines. With a production run of around 3500 bottles, the $775 average price tag is actually pretty reasonable.

An article from Wine Searcher by Don Kavanagh
https://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2017/08/the-world-s-most-expensive-champagnes

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Vintage Champagne: a Dying Breed?

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As Champagne houses concentrate on prestige cuvées, what is the future for the vintage stuff?
In December 2014, sparkling wine expert Tom Stevenson pronounced prestige cuvées “dirt cheap when compared to the crème de la crème of Bordeaux and Burgundy”.
Indeed, while $350-plus dollars for a bottle of 2002 Krug may hardly seem “cheap”, a similar search for the 2002 vintage of Petrus (a difficult year in Bordeaux, unlike Champagne) puts things nicely into perspective.
But if prestige Champagne continues to represent good value when compared to top-end Bordeaux, then Pol Roger’s 2008 vintage must surely be the bargain of the century. For less than $85 you’re getting a hell of a lot wine for your money. “It offers an intoxicating combination of purity, richness and complexity,” gushed one excited critic.
Moreover, unlike some cru classé Bordeaux, Pol’s latest vintage offers both immediate pleasure and the capacity to improve with age, so depending on your patience and inclination, it’s the epitome of a win-win situation.
The inimitable writer Hugh Johnson has been making this point for decades. “Vintage Champagne offers some of the best value in the region,” noted Johnson in his Pocket Wine Book. “The quality is often only slightly below the deluxe cuvées, but the price is nowhere near.”
This was confirmed by a recent visit to Reims, where the best of LVMH’s enviable portfolio was laid bare for a prolonged session of sipping, sluicing, slurping and spitting. Naturally, our group loved the 1990 Krug – who wouldn’t? – while 1985 Dom Pérignon was utterly exquisite; toasty, rich and decadently concentrated.
However, what continues to resonate in my mind is the incredible pleasure-to-price ratio of the Moët vintages. Often disregarded and maligned by hipster sommeliers in equal measure, the four vintages we sampled were uniformly excellent, and represented excellent value for money.
Yet according to the UK wine trade consumers are increasingly turning their backs on the vintage category, while sales of prestige cuvées are booming. “Sales of vintage Champagne at Hakkasan could hardly be described as great,” says London-based wine buyer Christine Parkinson.
“I don’t think vintage Champagne even sits in the middle any more: most consumers are happy with NV, and many could make the leap from NV to prestige if they had a really special occasion. If someone wants to spend a little more, it’s much easier to offer them a blanc de blancs, or something similar.”
Meanwhile, leading retailers are no less pessimistic. “At The Vineyard Cellars, we have not ordered vintage Champagne in the past 12 months,” says owner James Hocking.
“We have ordered plenty of rosé, non-vintage and prestige Champagnes, but the market is really flat for vintage; we used to carry Ruinart and sold masses of blanc de blancs NV for example, but hardly any vintage.”
Which, in turn, raises the pertinent question: why are consumers so indifferent to the vintage category and what can be done to lure them back?
Wine buyer Alex Hunt MW suggests that despite the clear value vintages represent, price is still the main issue. “A lot of care goes into vintage Champagnes, they age well, and they arguably offer the best value in the category – but a bottle still represents a big outlay, and among this consumer group they will be competing with still fine wines,” argues Hunt MW.
“How many will spend £60 [$78] on Champagne rather than Burgundy, say? That’s the nub of it, I suspect.”
Lack of consumer understanding is another reason frequently touted.
“The market for vintage is mainly consumers who know something about Champagne, and understand what a vintage Champagne is – that’s why it’s easier to sell the well-known prestige Champagnes than to sell vintage,” says Parkinson.
Cedric Nicaise, wine director at Eleven Madison Park in New York, advances the discussion.
“Vintage Champagne is sort of a middle ground that I think a lot of people don’t fully understand. Dom Pérignon is clearly a hugely marketed prestige brand, but the regular Moët vintage is something that is not as well marketed and could be misunderstood,” says Nicaise.
“Further, as houses introduce more varied wines, it becomes harder to market those. Also, defining what is a prestige, and what is not, can be tricky. The definition of prestige and ‘vintage’ is more blurry than it is clear.”
Nicaise also underlines the point that many Champagne houses treat vintages as their difficult “middle child” – instead of trying to find a marketing solution, they hope buyers/sommeliers will do all the work for them.
“Houses could do massively better with the marketing of vintages,” agrees Parkinson.
“It’s a pity, because there was a time when ‘vintage’ Champagne was a glamorous concept, yet I can’t remember the last time I heard vintage portrayed as special. The problem, of course, is that it’s tricky to make vintage sound good, without making NV seem less appealing. In the past, vintage Champagne was effectively the prestige offering for many houses, but that’s no longer true.”
So are we about to witness the slow demise of vintage Champagnes in favor of bling?
“I doubt the vintage category will completely disappear, but I wonder whether more houses might reposition vintage closer to prestige, and possibly even move up the price point of their current prestige offering,” suggests Parkinson.
At least one house, Perrier-Jouët, has already made that commercially lucrative decision.
“The last Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Millésime was created in 1998. The decision to rationalize the portfolio and to produce only Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque vintages was taken from a quality perspective, ensuring that Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut, the heir to the house style, has access to the best quality fruit,” says chef de caves Herve Deschamps.
“The three vintage cuvées – Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque, Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé and Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs – are rare and exceptional Champagnes, created only when the harvest conditions are near perfect. So even if we had enough fruit of the right quality in a specific year to produce a new limited edition vintage expression, I would prefer to reserve this fruit for the classic collection to ensure outstanding quality and consistency.”
However, several key houses, including Veuve Clicquot, Moët et Chandon and Louis Roederer have stated their intention to continue releasing their excellent vintages alongside the prestige cuvée, which raises the question of what brands can do to reinvigorate consumer interest.
“For me it is all about teaching what the difference is. There is an obvious attraction to prestige cuvées. But, the difference between vintage and non-vintage should not necessarily be price. Teaching people about lees aging and the idea of reserve wine is more important than the price difference,” says Nicaise.
“I think brand dilution is the problem and the solution is to eliminate some bottlings. In the last 10 years, large houses have expanded their offerings in an attempt to capture more of the market. You see traditional non-oak fermentation houses creating oak fermentation cuvées, and the opposite. Producers are trying to capture as much of the market as possible, and that is what businesses do.”
But regardless of what approach the marketeers adopt, the silver lining (for Champagne buffs at least) remains access to superlative Champagnes at prices often marginally higher than NV level.
Of course, these wines come with less bragging rights than say Armand de Brignac, but then Champagne connoisseurs have never been interested in making a scene in a nightclub.

An article from Wine Searcher by James Lawrence
https://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2017/09/vintage-champagne-a-dying-breed

New Zealand wine exports reaches record value

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The export value of New Zealand wine has reached a record high according to the 2017 annual report of New Zealand Winegrowers.
It has now been valued at $1.66bn, up +6% in June year end 2017, and is New Zealand’s fifth largest goods export.
Over the past two decades the wine industry has achieved average annual export growth of +17% a year according to the Report.
“With diversified markets and a strong upward trajectory, the industry is in good shape to achieve $2bn of exports by 2020,” said Steve Green, chair of New Zealand Winegrowers.
According to the report, exports to the US have lead the strong growth, passing $500m for the first time (up +12%). New Zealand wine became the third most valuable wine import into the US, behind France and Italy.
Green highlighted that in order to achieve continuing value growth, it is critical for the industry to maintain focus on protecting and enhancing its reputation as a distinctive, quality product.
“Our premium reputation remains the greatest collective asset for New Zealand wine, and underlies the high average price our wine commands in global trade,” added Green.
“Improved protection of New Zealand’s regional identities through its Geographical Indications Registration Act, and initiatives such as the launch of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand Continuous Improvement extension programme will help enhance the world-class reputation of New Zealand wine as a premium and sustainable product.”

An article from Drinks International by Shay Waterworth
http://drinksint.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/7332/New_Zealand_wine_exports_reaches_record_value.html

Early harvest in Champagne (in french)

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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
http://avis-vin.lefigaro.fr/economie-du-vin/o133307-champagne-coup-d-envoi-pour-les-vendanges-precoces-de-2017

France faces worst wine grape harvest since 1945

 

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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
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/25/france-faces-worst-wine-grape-harvest-since-1945

INVESTOR SUES NAPA WINE MERCHANT FOR $1M

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A US bond investor is suing a Napa wine merchant for US$1 million, accusing it of selling him dozens of fake Bordeaux wines.
Jeffrey Gundlach, the founder and CEO of US-based investment company DoubleLine Capital, filed a lawsuit against Napa wine merchant Soutirage last month at the Los Angeles Superior Court.
In it, he claims the merchant sold him 67 bottles of fake wine, which he has said will cost more than $1 million to replace.
As reported by CNBC, Gundlach says Soutirage, based out of Yountville, had assured him of the wines’ provenance when he expressed concern. However a wine expert he hired privately to assess the credibility of the bottles concluded otherwise.
Among the wines in question are a 1928 Latour, a 1947 Cheval Blanc, and a magnum of 1961 Petrus.
A separate lawsuit, filed by Gundlach, accuses the company’s founders, Aimee and Chadwick Meyer and Matthew and Ashley Wilson, of fraud and negligent misrepresentation.
According to Forbes, Gundlach is worth $1.66 billion, with DoubleLine having $100 billion under its management.
The outspoken investor studied math and philosophy at Dartmouth and then Yale, but passed on pursuing a doctorate in 1985 to be the drummer in a rock band called Radical Flat. He later turned his hand to financial investment after answering a classified ad.
Speaking to Wine Spectator, Aimee Meyer, COO of Soutirage, said: “We stand by our products and services at all times, and know how important it is to maintain our clients’ trust. Though pending litigation limits what we can say, I can tell you we are working hard both to understand and satisfy our client.”
A hearing is scheduled for November 27.

An article from The Drinks Business by Lauren Eads
https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2017/08/bond-investor-sues-napa-wine-merchant-for-1m/

Anson: Are these rare grapes the future of Roussillon?

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Jane Anson uncovers some long-lost gems in this tiny corner of southern France, near the Spanish border.

There must be some kind of sweet poeticism in holding a rare grapes festival in a village that is, to say the least, something of a challenge to find.
Off the beaten track hardly does justice to the location of Trilla. It’s at one of the highest points of the Agly Valley in the Fenouillédes region of Roussillon, at close to 450 metres above sea level.
It’s quite the climb up here, through wild landscape of craggy hillsides along hair-raisingly windy roads. This is not unknown winemaking territory by any means – the wider area is home to some of southern France’s most exciting names in the shape of Domaine Matassa, Clos de L’Oum, Domaine Gauby, Domaine de l’Agly and La Soula – but it’s little surprise that there are only 65 villagers (of seven different nationalities) who make Trilla their permanent home, and that over half of the houses are holiday homes rather than main family properties.
The nearest boulangerie is a good 20 minutes drive away and the only commerce is one very small bar with uneven opening times. This is not a place for the faint-hearted or overly sociable, even if the sunset over the surrounding hills takes your breath away every single time.
Trilla does, however, play a supporting role in protecting the treasures of the Roussillon – largely because one of these 65 permanent residents is André Dominé, journalist and writer who was born in Hamburg but who has lived in the village with his Mosel-born wife since 1981. Dominé was a novelist early in his career and has published dozens of books on French wine and gastronomy, including the magnificent Wine that runs to 900 pages and has been translated into 17 languages (it started, as you might expect, as Wein). He now also runs one of France’s most unusual – and for my money worthwhile – wine festivals.
‘The Roussillon region has one of the most important collection of old vines in the whole of France,’ he tells me over supper in the village’s former wine cooperative, long since closed down and now converted into a private house. ‘And yet as demand for the local sweet wines fell away, many of the vineyards that produced them were abandoned or grafted to more fashionable grapes such as Syrah’.

An article from Decanter by Jane Anson
http://www.decanter.com/wine-news/opinion/news-blogs-anson/rare-roussillon-grapes-374608/