Wine news for March 2015

Chile Feeling the Heat

Elqui Some of the most exciting wines in Chile come from the very northerly regions of Limari and Elqui. But UK trade magazine The Drinks Business has reported that the vineyards, which are in the Atacama desert, are suffering hugely through drought, with some already dead or dying. Speaking to the magazine, Max Weinlaub, winemaker at Viña Maipo said: “Chile is more restricted by water than space to plant at the moment. Both Elqui and Limarí are suffering terrible droughts and water supply problems. It’s been going on for three years as there is no melt water from the mountains. He says the result is that “Winemakers are letting their vineyards die as they are unable to look after them. This is the worst cycle in 14 years.”The Northern Agricultural Society reports that 41% of Elqui’s 27,000 hectares of vineyard and fruit production are no longer irrigated, while only 20,000 of Limarí’s 71,000 hectares are currently watered. The report claims fruit production in Elqui is down by 45%, whilst Limarí is down by as much as 80%. Weinlaub finishes on a pessimistic note for the north: “The future for Chilean winemaking lies in the south of the country – climate change is pushing things in a new direction.”

… and so is South Africa

firesMeanwhile, wild fires have been raging through the area around Cape Town, with firefighters trying to contain fierce blazes at Chapman’s Peak, Noordhoek, the Tokai forest and in Constantia, home to some of South Africa’s oldest wine estates. Temperatures of up to 48 degrees Celsius and bone dry conditions have led to spontaeous fires flaring up across the region, also threatening the famous Kirstenbosch botanical gardens. In Constantia, Buitenverwachting and Groot Constantia are amongst the estates that have been battling fires at their vineyards, with a spokesman for Buitenverwachting telling reporters “From 4pm we had to battle the fires and were on top of things at around 2am.” After five days of raging fires, Cape Town authorities say the situation is now under control.

Water, water everywhere…

MartinIronically given the events above, German-born Martin Riese is the USA’s only full-time, certified water sommelier – certified as a ‘Mineral Water Sommelier’ by the German Mineral Water Trade Association. Today he works for the Patina Restaurant Group in Los Angeles, describing his role as water sommelier as a distinctive job that allowed him to share with guests his passion for multiple varieties of water from around the world. In 2009 he also co-authored the book Die Welt des Wasser (World of Water), and he has created his own ‘water program’ at Patina restaurant, with 20 different mineral waters priced from $8 to $20 per bottle. He has recently introduced water tasting classes at $50 per person, wher topics covered include “The fundamentals of water,” “Finding out fact from fiction,” and “Discovering five dramatically different waters.” Registration is open at patinarestaurant.com.

New Kid on the Block

D.R.CThe new partnership of physical auction house Dreweatts and online auctioneers Bid for Wine (the latter are minor sponsors of wine-pages), are stealing some of the thunder from the established sales at Christies and Sotheby’s it seems. Their February Fine Wine sale “far surpassed,” any previous wine sale. totalling £279,000 over 402 lots. Top lot of the day was a mixed case of Domaine de la Romanée Conti 2004 which sold for £16,856, with other highlights including a case of Château Margaux 2000 for £6,020 and La Mission Haut Brion 1990 for £3,732. A single bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild 1949 realised £1,444. Chris Hambleton, Head of the Wine Department at Dreweatts, said: “We have a small but dedicated team and have beenworking hard to achieve a balance of varied and interesting lots for buyers and good prices for vendors. This sale shows that Dreweatts is now somewhere that both vendors and buyers can come towith confidence and cements our position as a market leader in the discipline.”

Britannia with English Fizz

ShipOne of wine-pages’ favourite English sparkling wine producers, Wiston Estate from Sussex (see our feature), celebrated yesterday in the Spring sunshine of Southampton, as her Majesty the Queen ceremonially smashed a Nebuchadnezzar of the estate’s wine against the bow of P&O’s new flagship cruiseliner at its launch. Wiston will also continue its association with the ship, as thousands of bottles of their Brut NV and Rosé Vintage 2011 will be enjoyed during various inaugural events. Pip, Harry and Richard Goring of Wiston Estate said: “Our family has been the custodian of the Wiston Estate in West Sussex for hundreds of years. However, it is only recently that we have realised our long-held dream to make sparkling wine here in the South Downs. We are delighted that Wiston Estate Brut has been chosen to name Britannia on the historic occasion of her launch.”

Spring into Alsace

alsaceWine tours specialist Arblaster & Clarke (a minor sponsor of wine-pages) is going large on Alsace this year with the announcement of two new tours. ‘Classic Alsace & Baden’ will run 11-15 May 2015 with a roll call of superb wineries including Hugel, Josmeyer, Schlumberger, Domaine Paul Blanck and Domaine Weinbach. The tour cost £1,595pp including four nights in a hotel, five meals with wines, the winery visits and return BA flights from London Heathrow. In the Autumn, the ‘Alsace Vineyard Walk’ between 5 – 10 October 2015 covers the centre of the beautiful Haut-Rhin vineyards and villages as you “Walk through beautiful mountain scenery – forests, pasture, lakes and glorious autumnal vineyards.” There’s plenty of tasting too of course with visits to Hugel, Rolly Gassman and Paul Blanck amongst others. The cost is £1,275pp to include five nights in a hotel, four meals with wines, visits and tastings. See winetours.co.uk.