Fine wine news roundup: 31 August – 6 September


Sotheby’s announces huge Hong Kong sale

Auction house Sotheby’s will hold one of its biggest sales ever in October, with more than 2,000 lots on offer in Hong Kong.

Taking place over two days from 4th October, the 2,200 lots of blue chip fine wine are expected to bring in up to HK$149 million.

The sale is based on three single owner collections and features Bordeaux and Burgundy from all the great estates, plus a strong selection of US wines, including Harlan Estate, Screaming Eagle and Sine Qua Non.

According to Adam Bilbey, head of Sotheby’s Wine, Asia, the sale puts the auction house on track to achieve its largest ever year of sales in Asia.


English wine harvest returns to ‘normal’

Ahead of this year’s harvest, English wine producers have anticipated lower volumes than 2018’s record levels – although it’s still estimated to be above average.

The mood at this year’s WineGB trade show was one of quiet confidence, with many estates predicting good quality levels. Speaking to the drinks business, Simon Bladon of Hamshire’s Jenkyn Place said: “For me it is quite a relief. I was virtually having baths in the stuff last year – our harvest was twice the size of what we took in the previous year. I’d say this year that we’re looking at around 60% of that volume, so we’re still above what we harvest on average.”

Meanwhile, Sam Lindo from Cornwall’s Camel Valley said: “It’s a normal harvest – we won’t be anywhere near as big as last year. The grapes are healthy and nothing is getting eaten.”

Despite last year’s enormous bounty, there has been some confusion regarding 2018’s true production numbers. While WineGB released speculative figures in February that suggested some 15.6 million bottles were produced in Britain, official figures from DEFRA have recently put it instead at 13.2 million.

Nonetheless, 2018 still beat the previous record year of 6.3 million bottles in 2014 by 6.9 million bottles, rather than the 9.3 million originally stated.


French harvest set to be hit by effects of climate change

As harvesting begins in Bordeaux and beyond, winemakers throughout France are predicting significantly lower yields as a result of extreme weather driven by climate change.

Top Champagne producers say that natural yields in the region have shrunk by almost 20% due to extreme temperatures, while a new report indicates that Burgundy’s vineyards are the hottest they’ve been for 700 years.

According to the country’s agriculture ministry, output across France is likely to fall by an average of 12%, while Burgundy and Beaujolais could see drops of up to 26%. These figures put this year’s estimated harvest at 4% below the average production of the past five years.

Speaking to Decanter.com, Inter Beaujolais vice president David Ratignier said: “There is no middle ground anymore. Never just one storm or only rain. We had three major hailstorms on 18 August plus one or two smaller ones and plenty of rain. The heat is extreme. We had temperatures of over 40 degrees this summer. And drought this year and last year. That’s not what you would call normal weather.”


Sauternes is a planet and terroir is a breed of dog: survey reveals Brits’ lack of wine knowledge

When it comes to wine, Brits have a lot to learn. That’s the damning conclusion of a survey carried out by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust ahead of its Wine Education Week, which kicks off on 9th September.

Of 2,000 people surveyed, more than one in four though the term ‘terroir’ referred to a small breed of dog, while 30% believed it to be a type of French horror film.

When questioned about Sauternes, 7% said it was a planet, one in five thought it was a beach resort, and 29% claimed it was a type of orange.

Meanwhile, 37% thought the term ‘corked wine’ meant broken pieces of cork in the bottle, while 7% believed it to be a term for drunkenness.

However, more than half (51%) said they wanted to learn more about wine. Perhaps the remaining half were put off by snooty wine waiters – some 17% said they’d had an unpleasant experience here.

Ian Harris, CEO of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, said. “With a whole world of wine out there to discover, it’s hardly surprising that there are gaps in the nation’s knowledge, or that the prospect of learning more might feel intimidating.

“It’s encouraging, though, to see that so many Britons are keen to gain more knowledge about one of their favourite drinks.”

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