NewsRoundUp 1 v2

Fine wine news roundup: 10-16 April


Wine-Searcher reveals world’s most wanted Champagnes

Wine-centric search engine and comparison site Wine-Searcher has unveiled the biggest hitters in the world of Champagne, publishing a list of the 10 most sought-after labels on its platform.

According to the site, all categories of fine wine have fared well throughout the COVID-19 crisis, but “few had as good a pandemic as Champagne”, with trade in fizz up 60% in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period last year.

Dom Perignon Brut topped the charts, followed by: Louis Roederer; Cristal Millesme Brut; Krug Vintage Brut; Salon Cuvee S Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut; Taittinger; Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut; Bollinger R.D.; Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill Brut; Dom Perignon Rosé; Bollinger La Grande Annee Brut; and Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut.

As Wine-Searcher says, “the list is basically a rundown of the most desirable luxury Champagne on the market”, boasting between them an aggregated critic score of 93.5 points.

The site also notes that prices remain reasonable, with only two wines showing a substantial increase since the list was last published in 2019: the Salon has risen 38%, while the La Grande Annee has risen 25%.


Forgotten 1961 Romanee-Conti up for sale

A bottle of 1961 Romanee-Conti which lay forgotten in a cellar for 50 years is to go on sale at Dreweatts’ fine and rare wine auction on 29 April.

The bottle was originally sold by Andre Noblet, then-head winemaker at Domaine Romanee Conti, to a French client in Lozere in Languedoc-Roussillon in 1963. It was gifted to its current owners shortly afterwards and has remained in their Wiltshire cellar ever since.

The bottle is one of only 600 made at the prestigious Burgundy estate and is set to fetch upwards of £8,000, with many expecting it to go for even more.

Mark Robertson, head of Dreweatts' wine department, said: "The fact that its history can be traced directly all along its journey from the Romanee Conti estate and it has been so perfectly preserved, makes this even more exciting."


French vineyards hit by ‘worst frost in decades’

Vineyards in France have been left devastated after the arrival of some of the most severe spring frosts the country has seen in decades. The French government has declared the incident an “agricultural disaster”.

Several thousand hectares of farmland in regions including Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and the Rhone were blanketed in damaging frosts last week after several nights of sub-zero temperatures. The sudden drop followed a period of unseasonably warm weather the previous week.

Speaking to The Guardian, Bordeaux-based winemaker Dominique Guignard described his vine shoots in the wake of the frost: “It breaks like glass because there’s no water inside. It’s completely dried out, there’s no life inside.”

The newspaper reports that some 50% of the 2021 harvest in Burgundy has been lost to frost, while some producers in Chablis have reported potential losses of up to 95%.

The French government is said to be preparing an emergency rescue package to assist those affected.


Rioja to get visibility boost

The Consejo Regulador DOCa of Rioja has unveiled an ambitious five-year strategic plan aimed at boosting the region's sustainability credentials, driving wine tourism and increasing exports.

The regional body wants to boost total sales from 230 million litres in 2020 to 312 million litres by 2025, with export to account for 44% at 137 million litres, in addition to increasing turnover of the Rioja brand by 23%.

Central to the DOCa’s plans will be a focus on establishing Rioja as a leader in sustainability to help safeguard the future of the region, with key metrics developed to measure progress in this area, including the reduction of pesticide use by 50% and carbon footprint by 10%. The strategy will also focus on increasing wine tourism, with a target of welcoming 1.3 million visitors by 2025, compared to the 343,000 visitors counted in 2020.

“The new strategic plan exemplifies Rioja’s pioneering character and aims to increase the value of the region and raise awareness of our wines, particularly in key export markets,” said DOCa President Fernando Salamero. “With wine at the heart of everything, we want to ensure the survival and continued improvement of the rich natural resource at our disposal.” 


Harlan Estate MD hands over reins to son

After 40 years at the helm of prominent Napa Valley vintners Harlan Estate, Bill Harlan is stepping down as managing director. The position will be filled by his son, Will, with the former MD staying on as chairman.

In a letter to Wine Spectator, Harlan wrote: “I have often said that, when I reach the age of 80, the time will have come to turn over the leadership of our family winegrowing domain to the next generation. I am gratified to announce the transfer of the domain’s leadership to my son, Will.”

Will Harlan will oversee Harlan Estate and Bond, as well as Promontory, at which he has held a leadership role since 2017.

Founded in 1984, Harlan Estate, located in Oakville's western foothills, has helped redefine an elite class of cult Napa Cabernet—the 2016 vintage, for example, is priced at $1,600 per bottle – and the 33 acres of estate vines are often regarded as first-growth quality.

Bond, which specialises in single-vineyard bottlings from sites throughout Napa Valley, currently priced at $775 per bottle, also ranks among the most coveted wines in Napa, along with the $800 per bottle Promontory label, which is made from a vineyard adjacent to the Harlan property.

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