Frost hits European vineyards hard
Reports are emerging from across northern Europe of major damage to vineyards from a severe cold front that swept through many areas at the end of April/start of May. This is one of the most dangerous times for frost to strike, because the vines have already budded, with small flowers exposed that will become the bunches of grapes of tomorrow. Frost can destroy these buds, and appears to have done so in large swathes of northern Europe. England’s nascent wine industry took a big blow, with some producers stating that they have lost 80% of their fruit this year, whilst in areas from Champagne to Chablis to Franciacorta in northern Italy, similar levels of 60% to 80% crop loss are being reported. Scenes like this one at Ridgeview in Sussex were repeated across Europe as winemakers burned ‘candles’ to try to stave off the worst damage (picture © Julia Claxton/Barcroft Images)
Taittinger invades Kent
The frost may or may not have spooked Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, President of Champagne Taittinge, who just a day or two later made English Sparkling Wine history by planting his first vines in Taittinger’s new Domaine Evremond vineyard in Chilham, Kent – the first Grande Marque Champagne House to plant vines in the UK. Taittinger acquired the Kent farmland in autumn 2015, announcing the launch of Domaine Evremond that December. The initial planting to bring the Domaine Evremond vineyard to life, will take place during May 2017, with plans to plant a total of 40 hectares of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier over the next two to three years. Above: Pierre-Emmanuel (left of picture) alongside Patrick McGrath MW, MD of Hatch Mansfield, Taittinger’s UK distributor.
Spring is the time when the world gets to taste and assess the latest vintage from Bordeaux’s top vineyards for the first time, and in a system almost unique to the region, wine lovers have the chance to buy the baby wines ‘en primeur’, essentially buying ‘futures’ as these wines will not be bottled for another year to 18 months. News of their quality is therefore eagerly awaited and it looks like three in a row for Bordeaux as 2016 is being hailed as possibly even better than the highly regarded 2014 and 2015. Several established UK merchants specialise in Bordeaux ‘EP’. One offering not only wines for sale, but very good coverage of breaking news, is Fine+Rare Wines for example. If you are tempted to dip into the 2016s it is essential that you place your order – and your money – with a reputable merchant with a track record in this area.
Extraordinaires wines by the glass
Maison Assouline at 196A Piccadilly bills itself as “London’s cultural concept store,” and “an oasis of culture and style.” You can buy anything from furniture to books, but for six weeks from May 11th 2017 you can also choose from an array of fine wines by the glass being provided via a pop-up store run by Vins Extraordinaires. Wines will include Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance, Meursault from Domaine des Comtes Lafon and super-Tuscan Sassicaia. There is also a selection of anniversary vintages, with great wines from the pertinent years of 2007, 1997 and 1987.
Michelin starred free corkage deal
One of my favourite treats when in London of a Thursday is to take advantage of the BYO deal at the Michelin-starred restaurant of chef Nathan Outlaw within the Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge – zero corkage on one bottle of wine per two people every Thursday, lunch or dinner. Now another Michelin-starred restaurant, Bonhams, within the Mayfair auction house of the same name, is getting in on the free BYO act: again, corkage is completely free, this time on Wednesday evenings, though to launch the offer there’s free corkage every evening during the month of May 2017. Tom Kemble, chef, pictured.
Just how much involvement celebrities have with wines carrying their name runs the gamut, from serious interest where they own the vineyard and assist in the winemaking, to commercial endorsements where they do little but take a royalty on sales. Sting owns an Italian estate in Tuscany called Il Palagio, that produces a range of fairly serious wines, the only nod to his ‘Sleb’ status being some of the naming: he has recently announced that ‘Message in a Bottle’ is being rebranded as ‘Roxanne’ because of a US trademark dispute. Meanwhile Graham Norton’s ‘GN’ brand Sauvignon Blanc has just been given a listing in Tesco in the UK. Made in Marlborough by Invivo wines, Norton is said to be “personally involved in selecting the blend from tank samples,” though the fact that Invivo say “we personally transported Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Marlborough to London to be stomped by the man himself on the set of his show,” does rather dent the ‘serious’ credentials in my eyes 🙂