NewsRoundUp v4

Fine wine news roundup: 27 March – 2 April


Primum Familiae Vini wine collection sells for £81,250

Case number one of the limited edition Primum Familiae Vini 2020 collection was sold for £81,250 at Sothebys’ sale this week, far exceeding its opening price of £30,000.

The sale saw competitive bidding from would-be buyers in Europe, Asia and the US, but the coveted lot eventually went to a private European collector.

The dozen-bottle case – which includes the likes of Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 2008, Sassicaia 2017 and Vega Sicilia Unico 2010 – also comes with a Primum Familiae Vini ‘passport’ that entitles the buyer to visit and dine at each of the 12 estates within the group, with up to three guests. The winner will also be given a tour of the 12 estates, spanning Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany and the Douro Valley.

Jamie Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s wine, said ahead of the sale: “The opportunity to meet twelve legendary producers, on your own timetable, is a dream that can come true… The case we are offering is one of the only cases ever to be made available with this additional outstanding prize.”


Austrian winemaker latest to embrace underwater ageing

An Austrian winemaker who aged part of his 2018 vintage in the waters of Lake Constance has hailed the experiment a success after tastings revealed wines aged in this way developed more intensified aromas.

In 2019, Josef Moth of Austria’s moth winery submerged 1,000 litres of wine in stainless steel tanks around 60 metres below the surface of Lake Constance – a depth rarely seen in underwater ageing trials. After more than a year on the sandy lake bed, the wines – which included a red made from 80% Zweigelt and 20% Shiraz, and a 100% Chardonnay white wine – were bought back to land for tasting.

The tastings, as well as chemical analysis led by oenology expert professor Robert Steidl, showed the wines aged underwater were different from control samples that stayed on the shore. “The aromatics are more intense. There is more fruit, they are louder wines,” said Moth.

The winery has been selling its ‘Tiefenrausch’ red and white lake wines since they resurfaced last year at €139 (£118) per bottle. However, Moth says the experiment was not a marketing exercise: “It’s the adventure and the team experience…not the money”. He and his team now hope to replicate the experiment in a new location elsewhere in Austria.


Australian wine demand exceeds supply for third consecutive year

Sales of Australian wine between 2019 and 2020 exceeded supply for the third year in a row, according to a new report from Wine Australia.

The findings are largely attributable to drought conditions and bushfires in prominent winemaking regions of the country. The COVID-19 pandemic does not appear to have had a “substantial impact” on supply and demand figures in the period covered by the report.

The report period also preceded the imposition of interim tariffs on bottled wine exports to China that were introduced in November 2020. 

Total wine production in Australia between 2019 and 2020 was just under 1.1 billion litres, while the total volume of sales was just over 1.2 billion litres. This has led to the lowest stock-to-sales ratio in nine years and strengthening wine grape prices.

 “The results of the survey have highlighted a significant challenge for the sector going forward: to balance supply with the demand opportunities”, said Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark. 

“This is particularly important as wineries look to divert exports away from China, which predominantly bought our red wine, to other markets such as the USA and the UK, which have a higher demand for white wine.”


Chateau Montrose to undertake ‘first of its kind’ climate study

Saint-Estephe second growth Chateau Montrose is set to undertake a “first of its kind” agropedological and climatic study, designed to prepare the vineyard for the effects of climate change.

The study, conducted in partnership with climatologist Benjamin Bois and geologist Pierre Becheler, will investigate the spatial variability of climate at the estate and its relation to the functioning of the terroir. Temperature and humidity sensors have already been installed within the vines, and a comprehensive soil study is to follow.

The results will allow the estate to create a map which, when superimposed on other maps and previous studies of soil resistivity, will provide information on plant behaviour in the face of global warming and help to inform best practice to mitigate its consequences.

The chateau – which has focused on sustainable development for the last 15 years – says its work will mark the first time such a large-scale audit has been conducted at a wine estate anywhere in the world.


Six glasses of wine a week linked to lower risk of cataracts

Drinking six glasses of wine a week has been linked to a decreased risk of cataracts, according to a new study by Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and University College London’s Institute of Ophthalmology.

The study revealed that those that drank up to six glasses of wine a week – around 14 units of alcohol – were up to 23% less likely to need cataract surgery, which removes cloudy patches from the lens of the eye.

Those who predominantly drank beer, cider or spirits were not found to significantly improve their risk of needing the operation.

“Cataract development may be due to gradual damage from oxidative stress during ageing,” said the study’s lead author Sharon Chua. “The fact that our findings were particularly evident in wine drinkers may suggest a protective role of polyphenol antioxidants, which are abundant in red wine.”

The study took in data from nearly 500,000 people and is the largest of its kind.

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