Wine news1408 v2

Fine wine news roundup: 8-14 August


Chateau La Grace Dieu des Prieurs unveils 2018 artist labels

Saint-Emilion grand cru estate Chateau La Grace Dieu des Prieurs has revealed the Art Russe Foundation paintings that will be used to adorn the bottles of its 2018 vintage.

Every year the chateau chooses a dozen works from the Art Russe collection to be used on its labels, as part of its partnership with the foundation. This year’s vintage will include works from prominent Russian and Soviet artists, including Arkady Plastov, Aristarkh Lentulov, Tatiana Yablonskaya, Tair Salakhov, Pyotr Ossovsky, Viktor Ivanov, Nikolai Baskakov, Alexander Gerasimov, Nikolai Fechin and the Tkachev brothers.

In addition to the 12 paintings that feature on the standard 75cl bottles, the estate also releases a limited edition magnum with its own artist label.

The 2018 magnum will feature an image of the bronze sculpture Uzbek Woman with a Jug by celebrated Soviet sculptor Vera Mukhina.


French prime minister promises €250m to alleviate surplus wine crisis

French Prime Minister Jean Castex has promised €250 million in emergency funding to help alleviate the surplus wine crises sweeping the country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The figure is an increase on the original promise of €170 million, announced in May.

Around 5,000 winemakers applied to distil around 330 million litres of French wine into industrial alcohol, said the FranceAgriMer agency in July.

Public funds at that point only covered around 58% of the demand, it said in a press conference reported on by French newspaper Les Echos. Winemakers were being offered 78 euros per hectolitre for appellation wines and Vin de pays (IGP).

At a press conference announcing the €80 million increase, Castex said the French government “stood in solidarity” with the nation’s winemakers, and that the top-up in aid will be “distributed as quickly as possible”.

Surplus wine has been a key issue at European Union-level discussions so far in 2020, amid reports of excess supplies in other countries, including Italy and Spain. In July, the European Commission said it would provide more support to the wine sector, loosening its rules on state aid and allowing countries to pay crisis distillation funds in advance.


Artificial intelligence robot project to support UK wine industry

A consortium created to develop robotics for the UK’s viticulture sector has unveiled its first project. On trial now, the initiative involves a free flying drone powered by an artificial intelligence (AI) engine that can recognise and autonomously map vines and vineyards using a high definition camera.

The project aims to programme flight paths of the drones to map the chronology of the vines and to identify early signs of disease, or nutrient deficiencies, and report these directly to the vineyard manager.

“The UK has seen a significant increase in vineyard development including large investment from established French brands in recent years. The sector has pioneered the use of robotics in certain areas of the world, for vine monitoring and maintenance, but many of these systems are purely academic projects,” said Dr Julien LeCourt, who is head of viticulture and wine R&D at Viticulture Research Group at NIAB EMR, one of the members of the consortium.

“The consortium we have gathered is aimed at delivering practical ‘value engineered’ robotics solution to support the sector to increase wine quality and lower both the application of chemical pesticides and clearly costs,” he said.


Italy revives ancient ‘wine windows’

In a bid to encourage social distancing, restaurants and bars in Florence are reviving the ancient Italian tradition of wine windows, which were originally used during the plague.

The windows, known as ‘buchette del vino’, rose to prominence during the 17th century. Patrons would knock on the window’s wooden shutter to obtain a refill, leaving coins on a metal pallet which would then be disinfected with vinegar.

While many of the windows were lost during the floods of 1966, some 150 have reopened in recent times, with everything from wine to ice cream being served through the hatches.

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