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Fine wine news roundup: 17-23 July


Penfolds Grange smashes world record at auction

A single bottle of Penfolds Grange 1951 has become the most expensive bottle of Australian wine ever sold.

The Penfolds Grange Hermitage Bin 1 Shiraz 1951 – the first ever Penfolds Grange vintage and one of just a few in existence – sold for an astonishing $142,131 at the Langton’s Penfolds Rewards of Patience auction last weekend, shattering the previous record of $103,000.

The bottle is particularly rare thanks to the label’s inclusion of the signature of then-winemaker Max Schubert, who also hand re-corked the bottle in August 1988 at Penfolds’ Magill Estate Winery.

Langton’s head of auctions, Tamara Grischy, said: “This is extraordinary, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought a bottle of Australian wine would sell for this much. However, this is a unicorn of a wine, and one of the finest bottles we’ve ever seen come through at Langton’s.” 


New Roederer cuvee signifies ‘the end of an era’

Champagne house Louis Roederer has launched a new multi-vintage cuvee which cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon says marks ‘”the end of an era for Brut sans annee in Champagne”.

Speaking to the press at the cuvee’s launch, Lecaillon revealed that Roederer was discontinuing its best-selling Brut Premier NV Champagne, and will instead focus on a new range called ‘Collection’, which will debut in September this year.

Unlike the house’s brut non-vintage, which comprises a dominant base wine from its most recent harvest blended with a series of ‘reserve’ wines from older vintages to create a consistent house style, Collection will be a numbered cuvee with a slightly different expression each year depending on the blend of wines used in its creation.

The inaugural launch wine will be called ‘Collection 242’ based as it is on the 2017 vintage – the 242nd harvest since the creation of the Louis Roederer house in 1776.

Lecaillon said that this new approach to its non-vintage expression would not only provide “more freedom” for the winemaker, but bring the customer a Champagne that was “more expressive”.


Floods devastate Germany’s Ahr Valley

Prolonged torrential rainfall throughout western Europe has triggered a series of catastrophic floods in Germany, with the Ahr Valley – Germany’s renowned winemaking region – particularly badly affected.

More than a month’s rainfall fell in a span of 24 hours – an extreme weather event unseen in Germany for more than 500 years. Flash floods swept away homes, businesses, vehicles, bridges and roads, leaving some 200 people confirmed dead and more than 700 injured.

Damage to the region’s 563 hectares of vineyards will take some time to quantify, but all of the area’s wineries have been affected.

A statement from the German Wine Institute read: “The economic devastation that accompanied the floods was particularly hard felt by the region’s more than 38 wineries, many of whom lost their facilities, cellars, machinery, wine barrels, cellared inventory and more.”


UK appetite for Australian wine at its highest in a decade

Australian wine exports to the UK have soared over the past 12 months, despite ongoing pandemic disruption.

The value of imports rose by 21%, while the volume climbed by 16% to 29.9 million cases, according to Wine Australia, which says these figures represent the highest they’ve seen in a decade.

“There was a surge in wine sales in the off-premises because of the Covid-19-related shutdowns of restaurants and bars as well as some exporters sending wine to market ahead of Brexit because they were concerned about the red tape they might endure after Brexit,” said Wine Australia’s general manager for corporate affairs and regulation, Rachel Triggs.

She added that demand for Australian wine also saw growth in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, although Australia’s ongoing trade dispute with China means the total value of exports to China fell 33% over the past year.


Priceless wines unearthed at former Greek palace

A cache of more than 4,000 bottles of wines and spirits have been discovered at Tatoi Palace near Athens, the former summer home of the Greek royal family.

Among the find were extremely rare bottles of Chateau Margaux, Chateau de Vincennes and Chateau Mouton Rothschild, as well as a limited edition ceramic bottle of Chivas whisky made to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

Some 300 cases have yet to be opened, meaning more rare gems are expected to be uncovered during the palace’s restoration works.

The Greek Ministry of Culture has deemed the find ‘historically significant’, and says that a number of bottles will be put on display once the former palace completes its transition into a museum.

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