Fine wine news roundup: 21-27 November
HDH’s Burgundy-driven sale makes $3.1m
Hart Davis Hart’s latest Hong Kong fine wine auction made a total US$3.1 million, with bidders clamouring for red Burgundy.
The top lot was a 12-bottle case of 1962 La Romanee from Maison Leroy, which exceeded its high estimate to sell for $45,410.
Other highlights included a magnum of 1978 Richebourg from Henri Jayer, Sylvain Cathiard’s 2005 Romanee-St-Vivant and 2015 Chambertin from Armand Rousseau. Meanwhile, offerings from Domaine Auvernay led the way for Burgundy’s whites.
The sale also saw enthusiastic bidding for 1982 Lafite Rothschild, 1989 Le Pin and 1999 Cristal.
Pommery launches new Blanc de Noirs, announces organic conversion
Champagne Pommery has added a Blanc de Noirs to its Apanage line-up – a “fresh, delicate and ethereal” blend of Pinot Noir and Meunier.
According to the house, Apanage Blanc de Noir boasts “subtle floral notes of acacia and peony enveloped by sugary sensations of mirabelle, crushed strawberry and frangipani”, as well as “nuances of vanilla and soft spices”.
The Blanc des Noirs has been designed to “continue in the footsteps of our Pommery Apanage Blanc de Blancs, which was released in 2019”, said Vranken-Pommery’s UK CEO Julien Lonneux. “In contrast to the structure of the Blanc de Blancs, the Blanc de Noirs is fresh, delicate and ethereal, rounding off the Pommery Apanage range perfectly.”
Meanwhile, the house has revealed that it will begin converting its vineyards in Champagne to organic viticulture. As part of the conversion, Pommery will use no synthetic fertilisers, herbicides, insecticides or fungicides on its vines – a decision that follows years of organic trials and experiments.
“All our vineyards in Camargue and in Provence will be certified as organic at the 2023 harvest,” said Vranken-Pommery’s president, Paul-Franccois Vranken.
Bordeaux winegrowers quietly start planting new varieties
Officials in Bordeaux last year gave the green light to previously ‘forbidden’ grape varieties within the region, with the heavily-regulated introduction of Petit Manseng, Marselan and Touriga Nacional designed to mitigate the challenges of an increasingly-warm climate. Now, reports suggest some growers are ready to get stuck in.
According to Wine-Searcher, senior member of the Bordeaux AOC Florian Reyne has confirmed that “some winegrowers are ready to start planting”. However, it appears that authorities would prefer growers to undertake the work as discreetly as possible. "Some growers have probably already started the process. But it is very confidential," he said.
Reyne was keen to point out, however, that the initiative has been designed to allow winemakers to “choose the options of the future rather than having to face them without preparation”. He added that the Bordeaux AOC has carefully studied the varieties’ adaptation to its geographical areas, and that “these grape varieties will be introduced gradually”.
Some winemakers remain unconvinced, however. The Wine-Searcher article explains that Touriga Nacional, signature grape of Portugal, needs more than heat and sunshine, and requires schist and granite soils to thrive – characteristics that are lacking in Bordeaux.
One anonymous winemaker even went as far as to say: “Growing Touriga Nacional in Bordeaux is a stupid idea. There is no evidence at all that the grape will work.”
Auction Napa Valley organisers plan revamp
Napa Valley’s most prestigious charity auction was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it won’t be taking place in 2021 either, as organisers plan to use the June spot to “dream up and create a completely new platform for giving”.
The annual event, which involves a mix of lots including fine wine and travel experiences in partnership with the region’s biggest wineries, has been running since 1981 when it was founded by a group of winemakers including Robert Mondavi. More than $200 million of auction proceeds have been given to community services over its four-decade history.
"We have talked about changing the format of Auction Napa Valley for several years now. The cancellation due to COVID provided the opportunity to act on this," said Teresa Wall, press spokesperson for the Napa Valley Vintners trade association. "We'll begin brainstorming with our vintner community in December and are asking for everyone to bring new, innovative, shoot-for-the-stars ideas to the table. We're excited about what's next even if we don't know what that is yet."
The trade body said ‘reserve funds’ will be released to continue supporting community initiatives in 2021. Beyond that, the group said it remained dedicated to the auction’s mission, ‘to leverage Napa Valley’s world-class wines to care for the community’.
UK appetite for Georgian wine skyrockets
Exports of Georgian wine to the UK have more than trebled in volume over the last year, while value sales have increased by 60%.
According to figures from the National Wine Agency of Georgia, exports of Georgian wine to the UK have increased by 243% in the year to October 2020. Over that period, 366,486 bottles of Georgian wine were imported into the UK, up from 106,855 bottles in the same period last year.
Meanwhile, value sales of Georgian wine to the UK over the same period totalled £802,640, up from £500,401 last year, representing a 60% rise.
“The National Wine Agency of Georgia has been investing in a UK promotional programme for three years and, despite a very challenging year, are reaping rewards,” Sarah Abbott MW, head of Wines of Georgia in the UK, said.
“Our activity has focused on raising awareness of Georgia’s wine quality, heritage and appeal, and helping the trade to feel confident in adding Georgian wine to their portfolios and promoting it to their customers. There is still a lot of unsigned talent in Georgia, and we look forward to establishing the category even more strongly in the UK,” Abbott added.