hu yue bottle v2

Fine wine news roundup: 15-21 August


Sotheby’s opens bidding on ‘exceptional’ online sale

Auction house Sotheby’s has opened online bidding for the ‘Vine I A Gourmet’s Classic Collection’ sale, which is full to the brim with blue chip Bordeaux and Burgundy spanning multiple vintages and formats.

With a particular emphasis on Mouton Rothschild and magnums and Jeroboams of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, the collection comprises a total of 362 lots with a pre-sale low estimate of £1.2 million.

Particular highlights include: magnums of DRC Romanee-Conti in the 1990, 1992 and 1993 vintages; Mouton Rothschild in various sizes across the 1947, 1982 and 1998 vintages; Margaux 1989; Lafite 2000; and an imperial of Petrus 1996, which is estimated to go for up to £18,000.

Frédéric Guyot du Repaire, director of Sotheby’s Wine, said: “It is always a great pleasure to present for sale a private wine collection that will bring much happiness to wine lovers around the world. In superb condition, these wines were purchased on first release and have never been moved. The range of vintages across Bordeaux and Burgundy, and the quantity of super-sized bottles, are a dream combination for collectors with classical tastes.”

Bidding runs until 25th August.


Domaine Barons de Rothschild unveils second wine ‘Hu Yue’

Domaine Barons de Rothschild has added a second wine to its Chinese line-up with the launch of ‘Hu Yue’ (pictured), from its Domaine de Long Dai winery.

The wine is a blend of Bordeaux varieties with Marselan and Syrah, and has been aged for 12 months in French oak. The first vintage – the 2018 – will be released this month, and will act as a second label to the estate’s Grand Vin, which was launched last summer.

According to the estate, its objective was to “reveal a deeply aromatic character, full of black fruits with a spicy signature that would differentiate this wine from our Grand Vin”.

Commenting on the choice of name, DBR Lafite chairwoman Saskia Rothschild explained that it represents a “sacred alliance between Chinese culture, respect for the elements and nature’s uncontrollable cycle”.

‘Hu’ is a reference to the jade tablets Chinese farmers would use in ancient times when they prayed to the gods for a good harvest. It is also the symbol for tiger, the second sacred animal in China. ‘Yue’, meanwhile, represents the five sacred mountains of China, which itself links back to one of these, Mount Dai, already referenced in the name of the estate.


France prepares for historically early harvest

A number of regions in France are preparing for a historically early harvest this year, following one of the warmest springs on record.

Alsace has announced its harvest is likely to begin by the end of the month, while some regions have already started. Bordeaux is currently on track to be harvesting 15 days earlier than the five year average with picking for the whites starting this week and early September for the reds. The Loire is also harvesting earlier than last year.

In the Northern Rhone, meanwhile, matters are not quite as pressing, with Nicolas Jaboulet predicting the harvesting of white varieties will kick off during the week of 24-29 August, with reds following later.

According to the French ministry of Agriculture, the 2020 harvest could see an increase of 6% to 8% on volumes brought in last year.


Champagne settles on dramatic yield reduction

Champagne has finally agreed on yields for the 2020 harvest, settling on a figure that will see the amount of wine produced drop by almost 100 million bottles compared to the region’s usual output.

After protracted negotiations, growers and makers in the area have agreed on a yield of 8,000 kilos per hectare – the equivalent of 230 million bottles and a significant reduction on the average 10,800 kg/ha, which is enough to produce around 315 million bottles.

The decision comes after disagreements between growers and Champagne houses following the impact of COVID-19 on Champagne sales around the world. Growers argued for yields to remain similar to previous recent levels in order to provide them with enough money to cover the high costs of managing vines in Champagne, plus an income. The Champagne houses – which pay for the grapes, make the wine and market it around the world – wanted to keep yields low (around 6,000 – 7,000 kg/ha) in order to avoid an oversupply and subsequent price depreciation.

While it appears that a compromise has been reached, it will likely cost growers in the short term. As the drinks business notes, should grapes prices remain the same on average for this year’s harvest as they were in 2019, which was €6.55 per kilo, then growers stand to lose €14,410 per hectare, with a yield last year of 10,200kg/ha bringing in €66,810 per hectare, and 8,000kg/ha accruing €14,410 / ha in 2020. Considering the average vineyard size for a grower is three hectares, the new yield drop will see their annual income fall by more than €43,000.


Argentina names Trevelin as its newest GI

Argentina has added Patagonia’s Trevelin to its collection of Geographical Indications. Located in the northwest of Chubut Province, Patagonia, the region boasts a unique southern location with 300m-400m elevation, 17 hours of summertime daylight and a diurnal temperature variation of more than 30°C during the day to 0°C at night.

With regular snowfall between April and August, and harvest taking place in April and May, the region is dominated by cool-climate-loving varieties, such as Chardonnay, Semillon and Gewuztraminer, with Trevelin whites known for their intense natural acidity and relatively low alcohol of 11%-12% abv.

The region only adopted its winemaking identity in 2012, with just three bodegas managing just 12 hectares of vineyard. There is, however, enormous potential in the area’s additional 35,988 hectares yet to be cultivated.

The regions GI campaign was spearheaded by Marcelo Yagüe and Patricia Ferrari of Bodega Casa Yagüe Vinos Australes, which planted the first vines in 2014, giving Trevelin its first successful vintage three years later.


Wine GB reveals first British producers to receive sustainable certification

Industry body Wine GB has announced the first British vineyards and wineries to formally achieve recognition for their sustainable credentials.

Twelve producers – ranging from boutique vineyards to major operations – have now received Sustainable Wines of Great Britain (SWGB) certification: Albury Vineyard, Surrey, Camel Valley Vineyard & Winery, Cornwall, Chilworth Manor Vineyard, Surrey, Defined Wine, Kent, Easing Hill Vineyard, Worcestershire, Grange Estate Vineyard, Hampshire, High Clandon Estate Vineyard, Surrey, Hush Heath Estate Vineyard, Sussex, Nyetimber Vineyard, Sussex, Three Choirs Vineyard & Winery, Gloucestershire, Venn Valley Vineyard, Devon and Yotes Court Vineyard, Kent.

Chris Foss, who chairs the industry working group behind SWGB, said: “We are delighted to welcome the first fully accredited producers, and there are many others not far behind. Sustainability credentials bring real value not only to individual producers but underpin the overall industry values.”

The first wines to bear the full status will come from the 2020 harvest, when accredited producers will be permitted include the certification mark on their labels. Other producers are undergoing the auditing process and will receive their certification in the near future, said Wine GB.

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