WineNewsOrnellaia v2

Fine wine news roundup: 13-19 February


Penfolds releases California wine collection

It’s been years in the making, but Australian wine brand Penfolds has finally launched a range of Californian wines.

The quartet – made from fruit grown in Paso Robles, Napa and Sonoma – comprises the Bin 600 Cabernet-Shiraz (US$50), the Bin 704 Cabernet Sauvignon ($70), the Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon ($149) and the Quantum Bin 98 Cabernet Sauvignon ($700). Each wine is based on the 2018 vintage.

The label has access to prime vineyard sites in California as part of the Treasury Wine Estates group, but as Penfold’s chief winemaker Peter Gago tells The Drinks Business, there was never any “master plan to conquer California”.

“It simply happened through a series of mergers and acquisitions. After 177 years of history, making wine in a new continent was a natural progression for Penfolds,” he said.

Gago says that the volume of the more premium offerings – the Bin 149 and Quantum Bin 98 – are “around 9,000 cases”.

“We use a Burgundian approach in California – we went in quietly and started making wines from small blocks in premium sites, whether it be Rutherford or Oakville. Our goal is to communicate Penfold’s signature style from premium raw materials,” he added.


Louis Roederer announces new still wines from Champagne

Champagne house and Cristal producer Louis-Roederer has revealed its plans to launch two new single-vineyard still wines from the Coteaux Champenois appellation.

Named ‘Hommage a Camille’, the house said the collection of still wines constitutes “a different expression of Champagne terroirs”.

Camille Charmont 2018 is a 100% Pinot Noir from the Charmont lieu-dit in Mareuil-sur-Ay, while the Camille Volibarts 2018 is a 100% Chardonnay from historic vines in the Volibarts lieu-dit in Le mesnil-Sur-Oger.

The ‘Camille’ name is said to be a tribute to Camille Olry-Roederer, who took charge of the house following the death of her husband Leon in 1932. She is credited with modernising the Roederer brand during a tumultuous period during the 20th century, and was in charge until 1975.

In a statement, the house said that the “collection of single-vineyard wines is the result of a long process of observation and experimentation”. Details on pricing and availability have yet to be released.


Premium South African labels see increased popularity

Exports of premium and super-premium wine styles from the Western Cape grew significantly in 2020, according to a recent report by Wines of South Africa.

While South Africa’s wine industry is facing an ongoing period of turbulence, the findings show that total exports in 2020 were down just 0.2% on 2019’s figures. Meanwhile, the super-premium segment demonstrated growth of 37% in volume.

“This is a remarkable result and reinforces the massive growth at the top end of the South African wine industry,” said Mike Ratcliffe, managing partner at Vilafonte winery in Stellenbosch.

The report also found that the popularity of the Cape’s signature grape varieties, Chenin Blanc and Pinotage, is on the up, with export values growing 13% and 12% respectively.


Atkins awards perfect 100-point score to a Rioja for the first time

Critic Tim Atkin MW has awarded a perfect score for a Rioja for the first time ever – and it’s a white.

In his annual Rioja Report – which this year featured 793 wines and was completed over Zoom – Atkin bestowed his first ever top score to Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco 2001, which he described as “truly historic; illustrating the brilliance of the vintage”.

In the report, Atkin noted that the “legendary” wine was up against strong competition. “This is the most exciting and diverse line-up of wines that I’ve ever tasted from Rioja, featuring a record number of top whites and everything from varietal Garnachas, Maturana Tintas and Mazuelos to wonderfully traditional Gran Reservas,” he said.

While Atkin usually visits the region to compile his report, ongoing pandemic restrictions meant that this year the critic sampled some 1,200 wines over a period of three weeks at his home in London, alongside 184 Zoom calls with producers.


Ornellaia selects Belgian artist Jan Fabre for 2018 bottle design

Super Tuscan estate Ornellaia has chosen Belgian artist Jan Fabre to create a series of bespoke bottle designs for the 2018 vintage release of its Vendemmia d’Artista series.

The commission saw Fabre create a number of variations on this year’s theme, La Grazia (grace). Three different coral sculptures – ‘A Candle of Mercy’, ‘The Crown of Kindness’ and ‘The Heart of Virtue’ – sit atop the three Vendemmia d’Artista Salmanazars containing nine litres of wine. Variations of the sculptures are graphically recreated on the estate’s other 2018 vintage large formats, as well as on the standard 75cl bottle label. 

“I believe that art should conciliate ethical values and esthetic principals,” Fabre explained. “For this reason, I decided to use forms such as the heart, the crown, candle and wings in the sculptures,” noting that they “are symbols of passion, virtue and purity.”

According to Ornellaia’s estate director Axel Heinz, the 2018 vintage resulted in wines of a “particular harmony”.

“Synergy and interaction among the varied terroirs of the estate created proportion and complexity. The outcome is a rounded and silky wine that is an expression of grace and beauty – hence the vintage theme of ‘La Grazia’, he said.

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