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Fine wine news roundup: 3-9 July


Cheval-Blanc and Ausone leave Saint-Emilion classification

Saint Emilion’s two original Grand Cru Classé A estates – Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc – announced they will not seek to renew their classifications in 2022. This comes as a shock for one of the Bordeaux’s most prestigious appellations ahead of the renewal of the rankings next year. Ausone and Cheval Blanc were the first members of the top echelon of Saint Emilion since its introduction in 1955 and have retained this position in every reclassification. Chateau Angelus and Chateau Pavie joined them at the last re-classification in 2012. Representatives from both chateaux have been quoted in the French press as saying the classification criteria deviated from what they consider the fundamental characteristics of their estates.


Rare Penfolds to smash world record price

An exceptionally rare bottle of Penfolds 1951 – the first vintage of Grange – is expected to smash the world record price for a bottle of Australian wine when it goes on sale this month.

The current record was set at auction last year, when a buyer paid AUS$103,000 for a bottle of Penfolds Grange Hermitage Bin 1 Shiraz 1951. This lot, however, is expected to sell for around AUS$120,000 at the Langton’s Rewards of Patience auction, which is open now and closes on 18 July.

Adding to the bottle’s rarity is the presence of the signature of chief winemaker Max Schubert.

“This bottle is one of a kind in the world, and I’ve never seen anything like it in my more than 20 years in fine wine,” said Langton’s Head of Auctions Tamara Grischy.

“It is difficult to establish the exact number of Penfolds Grange 1951 bottles in existence. There could be some unknown bottles lurking around in wine cellars, but because they are so incredibly valuable, we believe most of them have come to light,” she added.


Decanter World Wine Awards announces winners

Results from the world’s largest wine competition, the Decanter World Wine Awards, have been announced, with organisers and judges celebrating a record year for entries with more than 18,000 wines tasted.

In total, 50 wines were awarded Best in Show, 179 were given a Platinum medal, 635 were given Gold, 5,607 Silver and 8,332 Bronze.

The year proved to be one of firsts, with Spain doubling its Best in Show medal count from the 2020 competition, and Savoie and Jura winning their first-ever Best in Show medals. In Italy, Friuli and Prosecco also saw the award of their first Best in Show medals, while Germany took home a record number of awards. Elsewhere, Wales saw its first ever Gold win, while Ukraine scooped two.

Speaking to Decanter, co-chair Sarah Jane Evans MW said: “We’re not playing at judging here. This is blind tasting. We have absolutely no idea what the wines are and we’re tasting them not only in panels together where we have to each discuss and think about them deeply, but then they go up to regional chairs who are experts in those countries.

“It’s a very, very rigorous process, but it highlights fabulous wines at the end of it.”


Australia celebrates ‘near perfect’ vintage

Winemakers in Australia are celebrating a near perfect ‘unicorn’ season and bumper grape crush, which is reportedly the largest on record.

According to the latest figures from Wine Australia, growers have harvested 2.03 million tonnes of wine grapes this year – 31% higher than last year and exceeding the previous record 2017 vintage.

The organisation’s annual National Vintage Report also said that the season saw ‘near-perfect’ growing and ripening conditions across most regions.

Describing 2021 as a ‘unicorn’ because of the rare combination of ideal weather conditions leading to exceptional quality and crop size, Wine Australia general manager Rachel Triggs said: “Good fruit set, plenty of water at the right time, lack of heatwaves, low disease pressure, and favourable harvest conditions have resulted in a high-yielding, high quality vintage.

“This vintage provides an opportunity for depleted inventory levels to be restored, ensuring we have the supply we need to take up new export opportunities.”


Chateau Haut-Brion launches new visitor centre

Domaine Clarence Dillon, the parent company of much-revered Left Bank estate Chateau Haut Brion, has officially opened its new Pavillion Catelan visitor centre in Bordeaux. The venue will include La Cave du Chateau Bordeaux – sister of the renowned shop located in Paris.

The centre – which has been in the works for four years and is situated in a repurposed 19th century building overlooking the Chateau Haut Brion estate – also includes bespoke reception rooms, a tasting room and cellar.

Situated between Domaine Clarence Dillon’s two left bank properties, Chateaux Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut Brion, the venue will welcome visitors with the latest vintages as well as a rarities which come directly via the chateaux or wines of the group.

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