Praise for the 2010 vintage in Bordeaux continues to grow and now you have a chance to win 120 bottles of 2010 Bordeaux -- 1 bottle from each of the Grands Crus.
The contest is sponsored by Bordeaux negotiant Millesima USA, who will be at the Weekend des Grands Crus next weekend as well!
To enter the contest, visit the Millesima Contest Page, answer a couple of questions about Bordeaux and you will be entered.
This is a unique opportunity to own an amazing vintage, and the beauty of it is that even if it takes you forty years to drink all that wine it will still be good.
Virginia Rosé (#varosé) is coming up on the 29th of May, so I wanted to take a minute and talk about the importance of rosé wine in Virginia. First, out of 228 wineries in Virginia 82 of them produce a rosé. That means 36% of Virginia Wineries are making a rosé. That is the same number of wineries that produce a Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Secondly, American wineries tend to make bad rosé. Alder Yarrow wrote about the problems with American rosé back in 2010:
Of course, this isn't the first time I've cursed in frustration at the sorry state of rosé in this country, but what I don't understand is why it doesn't really seem to be getting any better. It's not like there aren't plenty of examples of how to do it well. It's not like American winemakers haven't managed to figure out how to make decent Pinot Noir. It could hardly be as difficult as growing The Heartbreak Grape.
The only reason I can think of for the pitiful state of rosé in this country is that most consumers don't know the difference between good rosé and bad. Otherwise why in the world would they keep drinking Merlot that is only one or two shades of red lighter than the wine it was pulled out of a few days earlier? Or maybe it's just that most American winemakers are too lazy to be bothered with learning how to make rosé properly and can't be bothered to pick their grapes before they hit 26 Brix?
Americans’ awareness of and demand for dry rosé is increasing. The reasons for its popularity likely include the rise of younger, more adventurous wine consumers, an appealing color, an attractive price point, and an accessible flavor profile.
Projections show this growth trend continuing. According to a Vinexpo study, U.S. consumption of rosé wine is forecast to rise by nearly 10%, from 565 million bottles in 2008 to 620 million bottles in 2012.
I love budbreak. It is the time of the year when the vintage holds the most potential and excitement. We started seeing budbreak in Virginia a couple of weeks ago and now the vines are growing like gangbusters.
These images were taken today at Breaux Vineyards, Fabbioli Cellars, Lost Creek Winery and Casanel Vineyards. Bonus points for any commenters who can pair the vines with the vineyards.
Virginia has a great wine industry which routinely produces wines that win awards in judgements around the world. But, it is more than that, not only are Virginia wineries winning awards around the world they are being sold across the country and around the world in Great Britain, France, China and more.
But more than that, Virginia wine benefits from the enthusiasm and excitement that wine lovers across the State show for the wine. Whether they are bloggers, wine aficionados or the Governor and the First Lady the biggest advocates for the Virginia wine industry are the people of Virginia.
Then there is the Virginia ABC. The purpose of the Virginia ABC is to collect revenue from the sale of alcohol and ensure that companies who are selling alcohol remain within the law by not selling to people who are underage or drunk. We can all agree that this is a necessary function and we are glad they are doing it.
The problem is with the way the Virginia ABC carries out his mission. As most of you know we had to cancel the our Wine & Cheese Tasting Fundraiser to Fight MS. The reason for the cancellation is that we ran afoul of the ABC, even though we thought we were doing everything correctly.
We ran into a problem last year with getting ABC approval, but working with an agent we were able to resolve any issues. This year we were set to do the same thing when I received a call from an ABC agent last Friday. The agent started off the conversation by telling me I was committing a Class 1 Misdemeanor. There was no interest in her part in finding out what we were doing or how we did it last year. There was also no interest on her part in working with us. This is an event where a dozen people have donated their time and money to bring it together and we had seven wineries who were willing to donate wine and time to raise money for a good cause and the only concern of the agent was how the ABC was going to collect taxes. The agent also implied that if we did figure out a way to host the event, it would be under heavy ABC scrutiny.
I am not advocating, and would not advocate, violating ABC rules. However, there is no reason for a confrontational attitude in a case like this. We were hosting the event in a hotel that maintains an ABC license and the wine was being poured by wineries who hold ABC licenses. No one would do anything to jeopardize those licenses. I consider most of the wineries who would be pouring friends and would not want to do anything that would get them in trouble -- but starting the conversation off by assuming I am a criminal doesn't inspire confidence that the ABC is willing to work with us to figure out a solution.
if this were an isolated incident that would be one thing. But, the ABC in Virginia seems to have gone nuts lately trying to beat down the Virginia Wine industry. An industry, that pours more than a billion dollars into the state economy.
Last year, the ABC came down hard on Virginia Wineries who engage in barrel tastings. Barrel tastings are a wine tradition the world over. En Primeur in Bordeaux is built around tasting wine from the barrel and the highlight of any premier wine tour in Napa is the ability to try the vintage in the barrel. Barrel sampling also affords consumers the opportunity to purchase futures, based on the way the wine is developing in the barrel.
ABC has made performing barrel tastings so onerous that most wineries won't do them any more. For a young wine region with a lot of potential -- not being able to conduct barrel tastings can do a lot of damage to the reputation of the region.
Finally, the ABC has made it a habit to target certain wineries. For whatever reason some wineries get on the radar of the ABC and the agents become tenacious in looking for violations. I won't mention the wineries, because I don't want to bring further reprisals on them, but there are wineries that have been repeatedly targeted with sting attempts, have had agents pouring over every transaction and are punished for things that are routinely overlooked when other wineries do them. These are not wineries that flaunt the rules either, these are wineries that do their best to live within the ABC rules and still they are targeted.
Frankly, I am afraid that this out of control ABC is going to hurt the Virginia Wine industry, not to mention the fast growing Virginia craft beer industry and burgeoning spirits industry. I call on Governor McDonnell and the Virginia Assembly to look into complaints against the Virginia ABC and do what you can to keep them in check.
I would also like to ask for your help. With the loss of the event, Jacki's Determined Soles has lost thousands of dollars off their fundraising goal for the year. If you have a few dollars to spare and can make a donation they would appreciate it. All money goes directly to the Washington Chapter of the National MS Society and is tax deductible. We are going to try to host the event later this year, after we re-group, but in case we can't I know they would appreciate the donation. Thank you!
The Weekend des Grands Crus de Bordeaux is, by far, my favorite annual wine tasting event (aside from En Primeur). It is a chance for everyday wine drinkers to try wine from some of the best Châteaux in Bordeaux and do it in the city of Bordeaux!
The UGCB is offering a discount on tickets for the Grand Tasting to their Facebook fans. Follow this link and like the UGCB Facebook page. You will then be able to purchase tickets to the Grand Tasting for 51 € instead of 60 €.
If you are going send me an email and we can meet up!
I was really excited about the En Primeur campaign in Bordeaux this year. After the excitement of 2009 & 2010 and the challenges with the 2011 campaign it would be nice to see a normal campaign. Unfortunately, I was not able to make it - I will be going out in May for the Weekend des Grands Crus des Bordeaux -- but I watched the action closely and wanted to share my thoughts.
Before you read further stop and read Gavin Quinney's weather report on the Liv|EX blog.
A couple of weather highlights that are important to note. While the summer was nice and hot, after October 6th much of Bordeaux was wet, which means that grapes which ripened early such as the whites of Pessac-Léognan and the Merlot-centric Saint-Émilion tended to do better (there are never any absolutes in Bordeaux). For the second year in a row, Château who invested in optical sorting machines and other technologies to improve sorting during harvest benefitted greatly from that investment.
It is also clear that the age-old game of finding previous vintages to compare this year's harvest to is becoming more difficult. Wine writers still talk about the weather from one year to the next. But vineyard care, harvesting techniques, sorting and care in the tanks have improved so dramatically over the last few years that going forward it will be hard to find a truly bad vintage in Bordeaux.
it was also important to understand each vineyard plot, from Chateau Kirwan:
After a mild month of March, cold rain in April delayed budding. A warm and dry May, and then a cold and wet June complicated blooming. Heat and drought from July 14 to September 23 lengthened the ripening process and generated significant stress. We even experienced the hottest August on record since 2003!
With all of these contrasts, the vines truly illustrated their ability to adapt to any condition. Our job was to help as much as possible by understanding and proceeding calmly. We worked on the plants or with the soil, vine by vine, as needed, according to the situation. This allowed the grapes to ripen, but slowly and behind schedule. In certain situations, we thinned the vines late in the ripening process, eliminating underdeveloped bunches for uniform ripeness. We also managed to keep our composure at the end of September, when the rains set in. The wet weather was far from a burden; it was a welcome booster for the physiology of the vine. While rainfall arrived a bit late for the almost-ripened Merlot, it greatly contributed to bringing the Cabernet to full maturity.
The harvest took place between September 28 and October 17 under mild skies with little rain. Perhaps even more than other years, the various plots required painstaking individual monitoring. We took our time tasting and analyzing the grapes, as phenolic maturity was reached long after the sugars and acids had developed. Inside the plots, substantial differences in heartiness and/or the nature of the soil led us to pick the grapes in two or three rounds and to sort the fruit according to strict criteria. Furthermore, as the grapes matured, the skins rapidly developed, leaving no leeway for timing the harvest. That is why we bided our time, waiting for each plot to mature and often suspending the harvest. However, each plot had to be picked quickly once it ripened. Thanks and congratulations go out to our team of grape-pickers, made up for the most part of regulars, who spent three weeks accommodating our diverse demands.
Every day, foot by foot, cluster by cluster, the vineyard workers magnified what nature had given us. Even if the rain at the end of September gave us some doubts, the experience of the technical team allowed us to come out on top.
We started picking Merlot October 1st, and we finished the Cabernet Sauvignon on October 17th.
The botrytis that ambushed us never bothered our harvest. The deleafing and crop thinning done in the vineyards allowed for greater aeration and better exposition to the sun. This proved to be very beneficial.
All the grapes were sorted with care: first pass manually, at the entrance of the winery. Then a second time, in between the destemming and crushing, by hand or by optical sorting machine.
Only the best grapes reached the tanks. The first pump overs alleviated our concerns, the juice was beautifully colored, and the tannins were soft.
I wrote about the amazing pictures taken by Eric Boissenot that were on display at Château Brane-Cantenac during En Primeurs, now you have a chance to own one!
On June 17, during Vinexpo, Brane will be holding an auction of some of the best photos, with all proceeds going to benefit Solidair. The photos up for auction are originals, genuine silver prints on Barita quality paper. They measure 30X30 cm or 30X40 cm depending, they are all beautifully framed and signed.
You can see the different prints up for auction and get more details on their flip book, there is also a form if you would like to bid on an item but will not be present at Vinexpo (information is available in French and English). The auction is being conducted by Jamie Ritchie, CEO of Sotheby's Wine USA & Asia.
Here is a great video in which Dr. Chastan describes his work with Solidair.
Why Doctor Philippe Chastan, MD and Solidair ?
The idea of selling Eric Boissenot’s exceptional photographs came to us one day when discussing the success of his exhibit and the next steps to follow up on it. Many were the guests who had expressed their desire to purchase those pictures…When we met Doctor Philippe Chastan, it became clear that his values were equal to ours and his charity organization, discreet yet indispensable, was well worth being supported. Rather shy, never bragging about his achievements, his perilous flights or his generous gifts, Doctor Chastan livens up when he talks about his African MD friends, their enormous needs and their absolute destitution in most improbable, God forsaken places such as the Bijagos Islands in Guinea Bissau (check on the map!). At Brane, we favor quality and efficiency, just as Solidair. That’s why we get along so well!
A specialist in digestive surgery and abdominal lining, the world renowned Doctor Chastan is also an experienced pilot in his spare time, even though he does not have much of it. A passionate amateur of small planes, he has dedicated himself to the needy for almost 20 years. In 1995, when still a young pilot, after participating in a humanitarian raid to Africa, he decided to create Solidair to raise funds in order to finance charitable organizations and actions in Mali, Burkina Faso or Ethiopia. Regions whose names are synonymous with famine and misery. But the deceit caused by unscrupulous customs officers or administrative corruption led him to get involved personally and orchestrate his own actions. This is when Doctor Chastan made the decision to deliver surgical tools, hi-tech machinery and medicines himself (100 000 euros worth!).
For the last 8 years, he has been flying to Africa on a regular basis, along with three other pilot friends, distributing video cameras, and surgical supplies for operating and resuscitation rooms. For instance, he contributed to the creation of the first laparo-surgical center in West Africa, with Professor Sangaré in Bamako (Mali) thus giving him not only sophisticated tools but also spending precious time training 60 surgeons for 3 days. Numerous are the doctors who from Mopti in Northern Mali, to Dakar, via Ouagadougou, have benefited from the generous donations of Doctor Chastan. Many are the Africans who could be operated on by laparoscopy or resuscitated from a heart attack thanks to a defribrillator which came from France by air! Micro-computers, automatic prongs, ultrasonic echographs, respirators, monitors, cardioscopes…beds,clothing, without forgetting technical training; you name it, they received it. Basically all that is needed by those African doctors who lack the bare essentials but certainly not courage and tireless dedication. ‘Why send these goods by air?’ one may ask. “First for the fun, of course” says Philippe Chastan “because each flight requires months of preparation and a total involvement. But also to get to the heart of the matter directly and without middlemen. We reach the poorest, the neediest in the depths of the continent”. Where we know the equipment will not be stolen or re-routed, where we know there are precious lives to be saved and where those who are in charge of human souls think about eradicating diseases before thinking of their own fame.
Each year, Doctor Chastan gathers material and medicines from pharmaceutical companies and hospitals who generously donate them to his cause, but the financing of these expeditions is entirely up to him. This is why we have chosen to give him all the money from this auction in order to help him increase his well-targeted actions and reach new destinations, such as Romania or Albania.
“I am honoured to be part of this wonderful evening, which will combine the arts of winemaking and photography with raising much needed funds for such a worthwhile charity: Solidair”
Jamie Ritchie will be conducting this auction, donating his services to benefit Solidair. We are extremely grateful to him for his precious time and energy, especially when so many events are taking place during Vinexpo.
Mr. Ritchie has just celebrated his 21st Anniversary with Sotheby’s. He joined Sotheby’s London in 1990 and was responsible for launching Sotheby’s first wine sales in New York in 1994, moving to the United States in 1995, when he was appointed Head of Sotheby’s North American Wine Department.
More recently, he expanded Sotheby’s wine auction business with the company’s launch of wine auctions in Asia, with sales in Hong Kong reaching US$98 million in 2011. Mr. Ritchie is one of the world’s leading wine auctioneers and was one of the auctioneers at each of the 16 consecutive Hong Kong “white glove” auctions, selling 10,202 consecutive lots (without an unsold lot).
After 17 years of hibernation the Cicada swarm, known as Brood II, is set to return. Which means in a few weeks, perhaps as long as a month, millions of Cicadas will be filling the air and making a constant racket while their one-every-seventeen-years mating ritual commences. It also means:
Females place eggs on thin tree limbs, and six to eight weeks later, nymphs hatch and pour to the ground. They burrow their way to tree and plant roots, where they suck their juice.
My how time flies. Yes, I remember the last 17 year cicada rising. The night time noise was impressive, but the damage to the vines depends on the age and status of your vineyards.
In answer to your first question, one must remember that the cicadas are not up out of the ground to eat, but to mate. They eat underground. So we saw no damage to grape foliage. The only damage is when the female gets ready to lay her eggs and uses her ovipositor to slit the bark on the vine for that purpose. If you have just planted a new vineyard or a second leaf vineyard, and are bringing up trunks to the wire, this can be damaging because this ovipositor slit can injure the new shoots and trunks and cause you to need to start over again and replace them. Later, damaged cordons could develop from this injury and impair productivity. A vineyard that is cane pruned could also see some damage in the canes. We had a young vineyard the last time the cicadas came and wrestled with replacing some of the trunks and cordons for a couple of years.
For older established vineyards, we saw minimum damage in our spur pruned vines. The insect lays eggs in the new wood, so existing old cordons are not threatened. If you have older spur pruned vines, you are in a better position to avoid damage.
In answer to your second question, I don’t know what can be done to avoid damage. It’s a question for the viticulturists. For Willowcroft, we will take no steps on our older vineyards. In our younger vineyards, we will probably also wait and try to correct any issues by later pruning. During the last outbreak, one of our neighbors had a young vineyard and used some sort of clay to cover the vines. I don’t know how it worked for them.
Last Friday, coinciding with the release of the Jane Anson book Bordeaux Legends in the United States, we had contest on CellarBlog to give away a copy of her book. We asked readers to email us with the answer to the following question:
The question is: There are 6 red varietals that can be used in Bordeaux wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and _______?
May 29th is officially #varosé day! A celebration of the wonderful rosé wines that wineries across Virginia make and a day to appreciate this often maligned wine.
Rosé has an image problem in America. It is too often associated with White Zinfandel and other sweet blushes that have no character, substance or depth. But true rosé is not like that, even a sweet rosé can have a complexity to it if it is made correctly. And there are a lot of well-made rosé ones in Virginia, we will be highlighting one of them here over the next few weeks.
The great news is that he Virginia Wine Board is going to work with us and Drink What You Like, Virginia Wine Time, Wine About Virginia and (hopefully, now that they are blogging again) the awesome Swirl, Sip, Snark to make this day a huge success and put Virginia Rosé on the map. Several wineries have also expressed interest in participating.
If you tweet or blog and want to be involved let me know and use the hashtag #varosé to tell everyone how much you love Virginia Rosé.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Wine and Cheese Pairing class at The Piedmont Epicurean Arts Center (PEAC) in Leesburg, VA. The center is a fairly new venture organized by Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars, Lucinda Smith of A Perfect Pour and James F. Koennicke of Fabbioli Cellars. The PEAC offers classes for both industry professionals as well as enthusiasts of the epicurean arts including wine, food, agriculture and the businesses associated with them.
Our class was taught by James Koennicke, who is a member of the Society of Wine Educators and certified by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) holding their Advanced Certificate with Distinction (AC).
We started off the class by talking about the 5 different things that humans can taste:
Of course most of us were able to guess the first 4 on the list....but didn't know much about Umami. We were told that it was discovered in 1906 in Japan, and that the word Umami translates roughly to 'pleasant savory taste'. Umami balances and enhances flavor.
The wines we had in front of us for tasting this evening were:
Smoking Moon unoaked Chardonnay
Toasted Head oaked Chardonnay
2011 Fabbioli unoaked Chambourcin
2010 Fabbioli Cabernet Franc Reserve (17 months in Oak)
Fabbioli Pear Wine
The cheeses on our plate were:
Brie - sweet dominant
Goats milk Chevre - Acidic, more sour dominant
Cheddar (young) - Balanced, salt/sweet, Umami - Easiest to pair
Roquefort - Salty/Umami
While bud break may be a few weeks out, vineyards in Virginia are starting to see weeping vines. Weeping vines occur when it starts to warm up and the sap flows from the roots through the pruned canes. It only occurs for a few days a year and is easy to miss if you aren't watching out for it.
Fortunately, it was on full display today at Breaux Vineyards.
|March Max Temp||78° F||80° F||82° F||64° F|
|March Mean Temp||62° F||64° F||66° F||50° F|
|April Max Temp||95° F||89° F||87° F||64° F|
|April Mean Temp||78° F||78° F||70° F||50° F|
If it has seemed colder than usual to you in Virginia this year, you are correct. According to Weather Underground March of 2013 had a mean temperature 16° cooler than last year, and so far in April we are 20° cooler than last year (more details in chart above).
This time last year we were in full bud break, best estimate is that bud break is at least two weeks away last year. The question is what impact will this late start have on the growing season.
According to Ben Renshaw at 8 Chains North it is too early to know:
Yes, it is too early to know the impact on the vintage as a whole, so far I am just fine with a later bud-break. The last 3 vintages have all shown early bud break and that makes for early frost damage problems...which it did all three years. Moreover, while we had very early budbreak last year (first was march 19!) it did not mean an early harvest, we still carried the big reds into the end of October...and the vines were TIRED!
Incidently, after being in all my vineyards this week, I dont see budbreak coming in the next 2 weeks, maybe even month! Although the warm air arrives within a few days, so you never know.
I am actually comfortable with this cold weather. The buds of our vines are still dormant and waiting for the warmer weather. The later arrival of spring is actually good for the crop. Damage occurs to grapevines when the buds have opened and we get a hard frost.
Last year we ran our frost protection system 6 times to protect our vineyard during these exposed frost incidents. We had a very early spring but some late frost arrived to cause problems Many vineyards had low yields in their Cabernet Franc crop. I am convinced that these frost incidents caused undetected damage to these vineyards. We did quite well with our yields as we had frost protection.
Next year I hope you touch base to ask me if I am bored because the
spring seems so uneventful and that it looks like everything is going
I am now at the point of being concerned with the cold spring. We are
still several weeks out on the start of bud-break is my guess which
could take the first buds until close to the start of May. That does
not bode well for the later budding and especially those that are later
ripening. We still have to assume that we will have a frost event
sometime around October 15-20 since it is the norm. By having this late
of a start it could create some difficulty ripening Cabernet Sauvignon,
Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. I think for it to be possible we will
need to have a combinations of low yields and a hot summer to excelerate
everything. That said, the hot short growing season will help with
ripening sugars, acid and to an extent flavor, but the tannins could
still be very rough because of having a short growing season.
No on the reverse side it could heavily benefit varieties like Merlot,
Chardonnay, Tannat, and especially Viognier. It could also help Syrah
if we have a warmer than usual summer. All of these varieties are more
mid season ripeners that we shouldn't have a problem getting fully
mature assuming no horrible rainy harvest :). The cool thing here is
that they could finish ripening a little later so they will benefit from
some cooler nights and therefore preserve a little more acidity as the
flavors, tannins and sugars ripen. We could end up with very balanced
but ripe mid season ripeners. Given a lot of people questioning
Viognier as a State grape right now it would do us some good to have a
vintage that it shines far more then anything else.
So, yes, while it is still too early to tell what the vintage will be
like, we always have to use all the information we have. With this cold
spring and extremely late bud-break I think it would be wise to thin the
yield pretty heavily to have a better chance of ripening across the
I am guessing you will post the blog on Sunday when it is 75 and sunny
so everyone will forget how cold it has been :). I know last year I
found it funny when someone interviewed me about the drought conditions
and then it was on TV during a complete rain out day. Next year we
should talk about all the potential struggles early so that they don't
Once we start warming up, lets hope we stay there. Frost is never welcomed once the vines come out of their dormant state. Think of the vines as a baby that is taking an extra long nap. The vines are sleeping too. While the babies sleep, we're getting as much done in the background to prepare for their awakening as possible.
We could indeed have a later harvest in '13 since we're about 5-10 days later than normal but it's anybody's guess and really too early to tell. Last year we were at least 3 week early so this year is no comparison.
There's several months of weather ahead to consider and in the spirit of VA winemaking, we take what Mother Nature gives us and roll with the punches. All in all, there will be green and grape on the horizons! Have no fear!