Fine wine news roundup: 16-20 November
Rare Fourrier barrel sells for £136,400
An ultra-rare barrel of Domaine Fourrier’s 2019 Chambolle Musigny ‘Les Sentiers’ has sold for £136,400 – part of a wider Zachys wine auction sale that realised a total £2.3 million.
The 228-litre barrel of ‘Les Sentiers’ is the only one made each year by the Burgundy producer, and never before has it been available to the public. The wine comes from a tiny 0.046 hectare plot in Chambolle Musigny, situated next to the grand cru vineyard of Bonnes Mares. Typically bottled in magnums, the new owner will be able to choose their own bottling format for their wine.
The barrel was part of Zachys’ second UK-based sale. Other highlights from the auction included six bottles of 2009 La Romanee from Comte Liger-Belair, which sold for £27,280, and another six of 2014 Corton Charlemagne from Coche-Dury, which made £22,320.
Christy Erickson, Head of Europe at Zachys noted: “With an increasingly diverse buyer demographic, Zachys’ second European sale illustrated that the global fine wine auction industry is in great health, despite global uncertainty around COVID-19.”
Joseph Phelps’ private cellar to be auctioned in December
The 5,000-bottle strong private cellar of the late Joseph Phelps will be auctioned by Hart Davis Hart this December.
The renowned collector and founder of the eponymous Napa estate had a reputation for valuing provenance, condition and storage – he even kept the original receipts and note cards of purchases made over the course of 50 years.
Particular highlights will include a bottle of 1865 Chateau Lafite, 1934 Haut-Brion, 1966 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, 1961 Salon and 1980 Richebourg from Henri Jayer.
The collection also includes parcels of Phelps’ own wine including an 18-bottle vertical of his ‘Insignia’ and a 12-bottle case of the 1976.
Michael Davis, vice chairman of HDH, commented: “We’re very excited to represent this special collection. Joe was a legend in the wine world, and he will always have a place in the history of Napa Valley wines. His very personal collection underscores his formidable level of expertise and it’s such an honour to offer these treasures to collectors around the world.”
James Suckling names Argentine Pinot his ‘wine of the year’
US fine wine critic James Suckling has revealed his top 10 wines of the year – a list which includes no French offerings at all and is topped by an Argentine Pinot.
While Suckling’s previous wines of the year have generally focused on Bordeaux, this year’s winner – Chacra’s Pinot Noir ‘Patagonia Treinta y Dos 2018 – bucks the trend, not only because of its provenance, but also because of its ‘natural’ status. Chacra’s vineyards are farmed biodynamically, with the wine aged predominantly in concrete and second, third, fourth and fifth-filled oak barrels, spontaneously fermented with natural yeasts and unfiltered prior to bottling.
Suckling said that the “wonderful wine” was more than deserving of its 100-point rating, not least because of the qualities it encapsulates which are becoming increasingly important in winemaking today, including “amazing value, environmentally responsible and sustainable production, clear and transparent character reflecting its ecosystem, and incredible drinkability”.
Just 600 cases of the wine have been produced, although Suckling suggest the 2016 and 2017 as good vintage alternatives should the 2018 prove hard to find.
Other wines in his top 10 include three from Germany, two from Italy, one Australian, one Austrian, one Chilean and a further from Argentina.
Roederer completes organic conversion
Champagne Louis Roederer is the latest major producer to make the shift to complete organic production.
The house first embarked on the certification process in 2018, when it gained accreditation for half of its estate. Now, the entirety of its 115-hectare vineyards are certified. However, sustainability has been on Roederer’s radar for much longer, with the company transitioning to ‘renaissance viticulture’ some 20 years ago.
"It is the belief, deeply grounded in my family for generations, that we owe everything to nature and that when we listen to her and provide her with the attention and care she needs, she will give us the gift of a terroir at its finest expression, the source of great fine wines,” said Frederic Rouzaud, CEO of Louis Roederer.
“Achieving organic certification for the historic Louis Roederer vineyards is a source of great pride and joy to us. It is also a formidable encouragement to us all to continue this demanding yet rewarding artisanal winemaking approach."
California predicts high quality 2020 vintage
Growers in California are optimistic for the 2020 harvest, despite a tumultuous year marked by COVID-19 and record wildfires.
According to the Wine Institute’s annual harvest report, the crop is expected to be smaller than average this year, but some winemakers believe its quality is set to surpass that of far-less turbulent years. “I would say 2020 is better than 2019 in respect to richness and depth of character,” said Jon McPherson, master winemaker at South Coast and Carter Estate Wineries.
Meanwhile, Justin Boeger, winemaker at Boeger Winery, said: “Not to stray into hyperbole, but I think 2020 will be one of our best vintages of the last decade.”
Growing conditions this year – COVID and wildfire challenges aside – was largely marked by a cool, mild growing season, followed by a heat spell in August which accelerated ripening. This resulted in small berries, with concentrate flavours.
Describing small-batch fermentation trials, head of winemaking and CEO of Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Corey Beck, said: “It was like, ‘Oh my god, these wines are terrific.’ The bones and the quality of the vintage are there. What we picked and what the consumer is going to see is going to be absolutely incredible.”