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Fine wine news roundup: 7-13 August


Penfolds expands luxury line up with ‘Superblends’

Australian wine estate Penfolds has added two new ‘Superblends’ to its luxury portfolio, designed to give its winegrowers whose grapes aren’t quite Grange-level a “new goal to strive for”.

The duo are composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, and have been given the working names of ‘802.A’ and ‘802.B’ respectively.

Speaking to the drinks business, Penfolds’ chief winemaker Peter Gago explained that “802.A was made in a ‘traditional’ manner, with the base wines vinified and matured separately before we composed the final blend prior to bottling. Yet 802.B is very much in keeping with the Penfolds’ ‘no guts, no glory’ philosophy. We blend first, then age later.”

Gago said that the project was partly designed to help Penfolds’ growers better manage the challenges of winegrowing in Australia today.

“We wanted to produce two exceptional Shiraz/Cabernet blends without compromising the quality of our existing flagship range,” he said. “So what we’ve done is to say to our growers: ‘look, your grapes might not be exceptional enough to be incorporated into the Grange, but it’s still A-grade fruit that we can use in the Superblends.’

“We wanted to support multi-generational families who haven’t made it into the Grange for 15 years – this gives them a new goal to strive for.”

The wine will launch in the UK in October, with a RRP of £520.


Burgundy steals the show at Madison autumn auction

Madison’s autumn auction made a total HK$32 million last week – a marked increase on its pre-sale estimate of HK$23 million.

More than 400 lots of fine wine and whiskies went under the hammer, with 138 selling above their high estimates.

Highlights of the sale included 2008 Domaine d’Auvenay Meursault, Les Narvaux, which sold for HK$673,750, followed by a 2000 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti assortment, which sold for HK$551,250. Elsewhere in Burgundy’s corner, a bottle of 2007 Domaine d’Auvenay Meursault, Pre de Manche sold for 250% of its estimate at HK$122,500.

Bordeaux also proved popular, with a bottle of 1982 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion Pessac-Léognan Grand Cru Classe going for HK$124,512, and an assortment of Chateau Latour selling for HK$73,500.


France on track for ‘historically low’ output

Devastating spring frosts and torrential summer rain means France’s wine output will drop to a “historically low level” this year, according to the agricultural ministry.

France’s production output is expected to fall by24% to 30% in 2021 – a level not seen for several decades.

 “For now, it looks like the yield will be comparable to that of 1977, a year when the vine harvest was reduced by both destructive frost and summer downpours,” the agriculture ministry said, as reported by France 24.

Earlier this year it was announced that damage from the spring frosts in France could cost the industry as much as €2 billion.

French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie described the frosts at the time as “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century”, adding that France had never before seen such a hard frost in early spring.


Chapel Down launches two new firsts for English wine

Kent-based wine producer Chapel Down has launched a collection of limited edition wines which includes what is believed to be England’s first orange wine and England’s first Albarino.

The collection, called the ‘Discovery Series’, also boasts a Pinot Noir Rose and a Pinot Blanc.

According to head winemaker Josh Donaghay-Spire, the collection has been designed to showcase the versatility of grape varieties and winemaking processes in England.

“With England still being a relatively young wine region, there is still so much to discover about the terroir and the potential of different varieties,” he said.

“Our mission with the Discovery Series is to push the boundaries of what can be achieved in this country – both in the vineyard and in the winery – to produce wines that excite our customers and that compete on the world stage of fine wines.”


Azerbaijan creates first official wine route

The former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan has announced plans to break into wine tourism with the country’s first official wine route.

The ‘Iter Vitis Caucasus route’ aims to highlight the nation’s historic winegrowing culture, and will start in the Krasnodar region of Russia, before passing through Azerbaijan and ending in Georgia.

Speaking to local media, head of Azerbaijan’s State Tourism Agency, Sharifa Hasanova, said: “Currently, there are more than 15 wineries in the country. In Azerbaijan, this route starts in Baku and covers Shamakhi, Ismayilli, Gabala, Shaki, Ganja and Tovuz cities.

“This is an innovation for the Caucasus, since there are no unified routes in the region yet. Common cultural routes are proposed covering Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia, but such a thematic route hasn’t been developed before,” she added.

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