Berry Brothers and Rudd are the oldest wine merchant in the UK. Based out of St James’s in London’s trendy Mayfair area, this is where they’ve been operating in one guise or another since 1698. When I was coming through in the banking world all those years ago, all the senior lads and lasses had Berry Brothers accounts. It’s almost a right of passage for fine wine buyers in London and the wider UK. Last week I made my first purchase from there, and it was pretty bloody impressive.
A couple of weeks back I had the amazing luck to be invited to the launch of Sir Ian “Beefy” Botham’s new range of wines. Made in conjunction with Paul Schaafsma and his team at Benchmark Drinks, Sir Ian is in this gig for the long haul. Known as a cricketing hero and all round charity fundraising juggernaut, wine’s been a passion of his for decades, and that smile on his face just tells you what it means to him.
The date of picking the first grapes of the season is one of the most important decisions to make in wine. Pick too early and you’ll have mouth stripping acidity and no flavour, too late and you’ll have a mouth full of syrup and be gasping for a glass of water. Generations of winemakers, through a bit of science and a lot of trial and error, have come up with regional guesstimates of when you should start, but this year is very different. Just ask the Germans.
The German Wine Institute have released their intention to start picking their early ripeners by this weekend. That’s right folks, the 3rdof August! That’s nearly a month before they’d usually start. And it’s all down to the heatwave that’s held Europe in its grip for the last few weeks.
Last year’s spring frosts hit Bordeaux pretty hard, with the post-flowering cold snap taking out an average of 40% of the grape crop in April. The knock on effect to drinker and investor feelings about Bordeaux could already be felt with a luke warm reaction to the 2017 Primeurs campaign that stopped before ever really getting going. What the region needed was a good run of weather in 2018 to bounce back. But reports coming out of Bordeaux speak of tough times ahead.
Thunderstorms in regions such as Graves and Entre Deux Mers brought hailstones the size of golf balls that stripped vines on scores of vineyards. But now it looks like those cold, damp times brought with them a sleeping assassin; Mildew fungus.
In March 2011 a massive earthquake hit off the coast of Fukushima province on Japan’s east coast. The massive concern in the subsequent aftermath was at the Daiichi nuclear power plant. The initial damage from the earthquake, and subsequent damage from the tsunami left 3 reactors in meltdown, and officials scrambling to contain the radioactive pollution.
I just got the press release through from the brilliant team at AXA Millésimes that they’ve gone all “West Coast” and bought themselves Outpost Wines from Napa Valley. Has MD Christian Seely been watching too much Baywatch? Or is there real method here behind this splash of the cash?
Well of course there’s method to it all. AXA’s wines are based firmly around terroir and the grapes. Everywhere they own, be it in Bordeaux (Pichon Baron, Suduiraut, Petit Village), Burgundy (Domaine L’Arlot), Hungary (Disznoko), or Portugal (Quinta Do Noval), it’s true.
One of the biggest threats to vines are fungal infections. The two most notorious are Powdery and Downy mildew, the former growing in warm and humid conditions, the later in the cool and damp. Either way at some point in the year if you’re in a marginal climate, like Bordeaux for example, you’re in danger of one or both. And current treatments are contentious.
The copper compound treatments used, known as Bouillie Bordelaise, have been around for nearly a couple of centuries. The hard metal solution acts as a buffer to stop fungal spores taking hold of the leaves. This is the famous blue powder you see across vineyards across the world.