Not to be one always looking back, whenever I start a new year I try and think about all the great times of last year and it helps me get really up for all the challenges and possibilites for 2020.
So whilst most of you are doing Dry January or something equally as healthy to overcome the post-Christmas and New Year booze/chocolate/meat comas, I thought I’d start the year with a quick recap of the wines that meant a lot to me in 2019…
Just over ten years ago, in 2007, the Cru Bourgeois ranking system was in tatters. The system brought in to give consumers a better view of the great and the good of the red wines of the Médoc (outside the 1855 classifications) was at breaking point. Legal battles, rumours of nepotism by ruling councils, and even bribery had some Châteaux crying foul and walking away. How did it get to that?
So we made it Friday again, eh? As everyone’s thoughts turn to the weekend and what we’ll be getting up to, no doubt some of you will be off on a couple of trips with wine high in the agenda, as it bloody should be. So what the not-to-be-missed wine-o destinations?
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.
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.
2017 was not a happy time for a huge swathe of Bordeaux grape growers. An early flowering of the vines due to warmer temperatures at the start of the year was followed by a devastating frost in April, wiping out an entire year’s crop for the unlucky ones.
Would fate be cruel enough to have another go in 2018?
Photos coming out of Bordeaux following recent storms are gut wrenching. Hailstones the size of golf balls wrecked merry havoc on vines in areas like Blaye and Bourg in the north, Entre Deux Mers to the east of the city, and the famous Médoc region to the west.
One of the jobs I have is to sell wine to private punters, and Bordeaux makes up a large proportion of that. It’s a region I love, from the food, the wine, and producers…everything really, so it’s not really a toughy to be an enthusiastic salesman. But every year, around April/May the primeurs campaign has me struggling. But a recent article in Decanter made me realise I was missing some obvious tricks…