Fine wine news roundup: 28 November – 4 December
Chinese artist Xu Bing designs Mouton’s 2018 label
Xu Bing – one of China’s most important contemporary artists – has been commissioned by Chateau Mouton Rothschild to design the label for its 2018 vintage.
Using his craft of traditional calligraphy, Bing created a unique trompe l’oeil for the label (pictured above) – what looks to be two distinct Chinese characters is in fact the words ‘Mouton’ and ‘Rothschild’ in Latin characters.
“The characters in the artwork are designed by Xu Bing to reveal themselves to the attentive reader one after the other, in the same way that the aromas and flavours of a very fine wine, with patience, are also gradually discovered,” the Pauillac first growth said in an announcement.
Meanwhile, Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild commented: “When I discovered Xu Bing, I was captivated by him as an inventor of signs endowed with incredible poetic power.
“And then I said to myself that our labels were also signs, each work of art referring to a year: the 1973 vintage can also be called the ‘Picasso Mouton’, just as the 2018 vintage will be called the ‘Xu Bing Mouton’.”
Christie’s ‘superb’ rare wine sale to feature 1900 Latour
Christie’s next fine wine sale in London will feature three “superb” private collections which include a range of rare offerings, including Chateau Latour and Lafite dating back to 1900.
Taking place on 10-11 December, the sale will also feature consignments of rare Burgundy and spirits.
The first collection features first growths including 1989 Haut-Brion, as well as 1900, 1945 and 1989 Chateau Latour, including magnums of the 1961 vintage (estimated at £30,000-40,000). The second consignment will include several bottles of 1900 Chateau Lafite as well as grand and premier cru wines from Domaine Bouchard and “venerable” vintages of Penfolds Grange. Finally, the third consignment will include rare vintages of Domaine Ravenau, as well as vintage Champagne from Krug and Bollinger.
First Saint Emilion Chardonnay released
Saint Emilion is typically known for its full-bodied red wines made of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, but now the Bordeaux region has added another string to its bow. The region has produced its first official Chardonnay vintage.
Made by Chateau La Grace Dieu des Prieurs, the ‘Elena’ cuvee comes from one hectare of Chardonnay vines that were planted in 2016. It’s then aged for 12 months in new oak barrels from the Radoux cooperage.
The wine was first produced in 2018, with only a small amount of it made available to professionals for tasting. Now it will be offered publicly, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of being made available in retail, this and every future vintage of Elena will be auctioned for charity, with proceeds supporting children with serious illnesses.
Laurent Prosperi, the chateau’s director, describes the cuvee as “a refined, exquisite, gourmet white wine with intense aromatic notes and a rich structure on the palate”. It will only be bottled in magnum format, with each bottle hand-crafted from frosted glass and hand-painted with floral designs.
Terre Alfieri is Piedmont’s newest DOCG region
Piedmont has a new Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita (DOCG). Situated predominantly in the province of Asti, Terre Alfieri has achieved the designation – the highest in Italy’s classification system – after a 10-year campaign by winegrowers in the region.
The region – named after Asti-born poet Count Vittorio Alfieri – was granted DOC status in 2009. It focuses on two grape varieties: Arneis for white wines and Nebbiolo for reds. Production in the area is small, but is regarded as “an oenological niche of great importance”.
“This is a result that not only enriches the range of our DOCGs, but also our entire wine scene,” said Filippo Mobrici, president of the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato, which will regulate the area. “We hope that Terre Alfieri can have the same success of the other denominations of controlled and guaranteed origin such as Barbera d’Asti, Nizza and Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato.”
To maintain its new DOCG status, winemakers in the region will have to adhere to a number of rules around production. For both ‘Terre Alfieri Nebbiolo’ and ‘Terre Alfieri Arneis’, the stated grape must constitute at least 85% of the wine.
For ‘Superiore’ wine, Arneis must be aged for six months, while Nebbiolo must be aged for 12 months with at least six of those in wooden barrels. There is also a Nebbiolo Riserva level, which requires 24 months of ageing, including at least 12 months in wooden barrels.
Scientists discover the secret of Champagne and oysters pairing
The classic pairing of Champagne and oysters has long been revered as a gastronomical delight, and now scientists think they know why. According to a study from the University of Copenhagen, the secret lies in the ‘umami’ flavour that otherwise lies dormant in both.
“The answer is to be found in the so-called umami taste, which along with sweet and salty, is one of the five basic flavours detectable to human taste buds,’ said Professor Ole G. Mouritsen, from the university’s Department of Food Science. “Many people associate umami with the flavour of meat. But now, we have discovered that it is also found in both oysters and Champagne.”
The researchers say that dead yeast cells, or lees, give Champagne its umami flavour, while in oysters it can be found in the creature’s muscles. The levels may not be noticeable on their own, but when paired together an ‘umami synergy’ is created which is particularly pleasing to the palate. Humans are designed to crave umami, according to the researchers, as it’s a sign of protein-rich food.
However, the study showed that some Champagnes contain more umami flavour than others, and those that have had longer lees ageing are better suited to pairing with oysters.