NewsRoundUp v3

Fine wine news roundup: 5-11 December


Charles Heidsieck brings back unique Mis En Cave

Champagne house Charles Heidsieck is reintroducing Champagne vintages that have long-skewed traditional norms. This month, some 300 bottles of Charles Heidsieck MEC (Mis En Cave) will be made available for the first time in decades. It’s a long-aged Champagne, which of course isn’t unusual, but what does make MEC unique, however, is the fact that it’s non-vintage.

Speaking to Wine-Searcher, Charles Heidsieck chef de cave Cyril Brun said: "It was a kind of exotic concept, dating back to the '80s. It's a way to promote the aging capacity of non-vintage. It was an idea that was driven more by winemaking than by marketing.”

According to W. Blake Gray, who tasted the Champagnes for Wine-Searcher, these non-vintage wines have stood the test of time. “The mouthfeel of Charles Heidsieck non-vintage Champagnes is exceptional. They have some grip when you sip; you pucker and smack your lips a couple of times. That grip is firm, even athletic, but not rough. These are non-vintage wines that could pass for vintage from a different producer.”

Three ‘vintages’ of the MEC will be made available – those made in 1990, 1995 and 2000. "The idea of putting some back non-vintage on the market is to offer an experience that very few people tend to get," Brun said.


China adds further duties to Australian wine

Following its decision last month to impose tariffs of up to 212.1% on Australian wine, the Chinese ministry of Commerce now plans on levying additional duties of between 6.3-6.4% from 11th December.

In the announcement, China said that the temporary anti-subsidy duties come as a result of the “substantial damage” its domestic wine industry has suffered as a result of alleged subsidies given to imported Australian wine. China claims there is a “causal relationship between subsidies and substantive damages”.

The duties were announced as part of preliminary ruling on China’s countervailing investigation. A preliminary ruling on the concurrent anti-dumping investigation was given last month and resulted in the imposition of tariffs of between 107.1% and 212.1% on Australian wine.

The additional duties are expected to remain in place throughout China’s investigation. According to Australian Grape & Wine, the results of the investigation are expected to be reported no earlier than October 2021.

Speaking ABC, Australian Grape & Wine CEO Tony Battaglene said the further levies are “unlikely” to have any practical implications given the extent of the current tariffs.


Wine auctioneers celebrate virtual success

As the pandemic continues to disrupt in-person events, auction houses around the globe have turned to online platforms to continue their sales seasons. Now, Wine Spectator reports that many are seeing positive outcomes from their virtual strategies.

Sotheby’s has seen a “vibrant market with strong prices – and some records – during COVID”, according to Sotheby’s wine head Jamie Ritchie, who noted that the pandemic has encouraged older buyers to embrace digital tools in a way that would have taken “years” otherwise.

Meanwhile, Christie’s has seen an increase in international participation, while Acker is on track to have its best year ever. Zachys says that the situation has been responsible for some new buyers, too. However, as Charles Antin, head of auction sales and auctioneer at Zachy, said, “Some of this increase would have happened anyway.”

Despite the success of these virtual platforms, though, many believe that in-person events will make a vociferous comeback once the pandemic eases. According to Antin, online auctions will never completely replace live auctions. "There’s nothing like everyone getting together in person. But it’s an arrow in our quiver now," he said.


Mumm trials neuroscience-backed sensory tasting experience

Champagne Mumm is trialling a new sensory tasting experience involving specially-designed glasses that play with the drinker’s perception of sight and touch. According to Mumm, this creates a “finer, more discerning reading of each wine and its more delicate aromas”.

Cellar master Laurent Fresnet worked with neuroscientist Gabriel Lepousez and designer Octave de Gaulle to create two new glasses that include weighted and textural elements. The first is smooth and glossy but heavier than the standard glass with a weighted stem and base. The second is frosted, giving it an icy appearance and a ‘grainy’ sensation in the hand.

The house said in a statement: “During a tasting, the brain receives a multitude of signals triggered by the senses, the most important of which are sight and touch. These signals have an impact on our sense of taste and consequently, our appreciation of a wine.

“When one or more traditional sensory cues are altered, our automatic habits are challenged, leading to a more spontaneous tasting experience. More aromas and flavours come to the fore, opening up new perspectives that go beyond the wine’s intrinsic qualities.”

Fresnet and a group of tasters have tried three of Mumm’s main Pinot Noir-focused cuvees in both of the glasses, and have reported marked differences in their perceptions of each wine, depending on which vessel it was sampled from. Mumm’s Grand Cordon Rosé from the heavier glass, for example, was noted as having much deeper notes of red fruit and cherries and pastry than in the standard glass, where the wine appeared lighter and fresher.

Fresnet said: “This innovative experiment helps reveal the wealth of nuances that are hidden in Mumm’s wines, as well as the remarkable, kaleidoscopic nature of our own, marvellously human responses to Champagne.”

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