Fine wine news roundup: 17-23 October
Angelus to engrave 2018 bottles with red phoenix
St Emilion estate Angelus has announced that the bottles for its 2018 vintage will be engraved with a red phoenix.
In a statement, the estate said: “Just like the Phoenix, the vine is in perpetual renewal. However, in each cycle, what it gives us is different. And on occasions this gift is of great value.”
The 2018 vintage was a challenging one for Bordeaux, marked as it was by a wet winter and spring before a pleasant summer and early autumn gave cause for cautious optimism. “In that year, the climatic conditions were such that our minds were filled with doubt and worry right up till the middle of July,” Angelus continued. “Vigilance, determination and rigour on a daily basis enabled us to overcome these difficulties. And then the situation completely turned round.
“Suddenly the obstacles had disappeared and glorious conditions set in that enabled the grapes to ripen without ever being burned by the sun; and just as the Phoenix that rose from its ashes, 2018 produced a vintage as improbable as it was generous and magnificent.”
The 2018 was also the first year that the estate worked entirely organically and also introduced amphorae for ageing its wines alongside barrels. Both James Suckling and Lisa Perrotti-Brown awarded the wine a provisional 100 points, with Neal Martin declaring it “a fine Angelus that will age with style”.
Sonoma wine producers show cautious optimism for turbulent 2020 vintage
California’s Sonoma County has wrapped up its 2020 harvest after one of the most challenging growing seasons in its history. It’s estimated that Sonoma grape growers will lose around $150 million due to fires and smoke this year, as up to 30% of grapes in the county have gone unharvested.
However, as Sonoma County Winegrowers has announced, many producers are hopeful that the grapes they were able to harvest will result in top quality wines, particularly as 90% of the grapes that were harvested were picked before the Glass Fire broke out in September, meaning the impact of smoke taint will be minimal.
Steve Sangiacomo of Sangiacomo Family Vineyards said: “Some of it is in tank and it's tasting great, and we're optimistic.” Meanwhile, Glenn Proctor of Puccioni Ranch vineyard commented: “I think it's going to be one of the better vintages we've seen in a long time.” Mari Jones, president of Emeritus Vineyards, even said that 202 was the “vintage of the decade”.
"These are some of the best wines I've ever tasted from our winery. The vintage for us, it's kind of the vintage of the decade. They are just truly stunning, intense, absolutely gorgeous wines," she said.
Corey Beck, CEO and chief of winemaking for Francis Ford Coppola Winery, said this vintage is not the first time that wineries have had to deal with compounds in the wine that they may not want.
"We've been battling with a lot of things in the wine industry, like TCA and VA and brettanomyces when it's not good. Can a little bit of smoke be as bad as that?" Beck said. "As an industry we've learned to work with these things."
English winery unveils Pinot Noir with record-breaking alcohol levels
Devon-based winery Lyme Bay has reportedly created a batch of Pinot Noir with potential alcohol levels of 14.7%, marking a record for the UK.
According to the winery, the grapes – picked from vineyards in the Crouch Valley of Essex – show “exceptional levels of ripeness”. Managing director James Lambert said for UK-grown grapes to achieve this degree of ripeness was “unheard of”.
“It makes us even more excited about the Pinot Noir that we can create from this year’s harvest. The natural ripeness and physiological development of these Pinot Noir grapes means that we can really go to town on the extraction of flavours and colour to make truly singular wines,” he said.
Lyme Bay – which has previously announced plans to become one of the largest red wine producers in the country – said that its first Pinot Noir will likely be released at the end of 2021. The winery intends to create two ‘tiers’ for its wines, with the second tier encompassing a more premium offering, available as a limited release in 2022.
Slovenian producer creates sparkling wine made in complete darkness
Slovenian producer Radgonske Gorice has unveiled a 100% Chardonnay, traditional method sparkling wine from grapes harvested and matured in complete darkness. The wine, named ‘Untouched by Light’, is said to be the first of its kind.
Radgonske Gorice – which has been making sparkling wines for nearly 170 years – said the wine was inspired by research carried out in 1989 on the effect of fluorescent light on wine. Several subsequent studies have suggested that light from UV rays or artificial lamps can dull fruit flavours and even add unpleasant notes. Radgonske Gorice’s method aims to “preserve the original aromatic components in the wine as much as possible”.
The grapes are picked at night by harvesters wearing night-vision goggles, and are covered under tarp during transportation. Cellar work is also undertaken in darkness, with workers often having to rely on their sense of touch. The base wine is poured into bottles made of 99.8% black glass and matured in darkness for three years in the estate’s 166-year-old cellar located in natural caves. Before release, the bottles are vacuum-sealed in black foil.
The result is a sparkling wine of abundant freshness and rather distinct, complex aromatic characteristics. Just 2,000 bottles of Untouched by Light have been made for the inaugural 2016 vintage, although the producer hopes to expand to 3,000 next year. Each bottle sells for €100.