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Pontet-Canet's early high price could make it 'un-saleable'

Published:  26 March, 2014

In an unprecedented move Bordeaux wine producer Château Pontet-Canet broke ranks on Wednesday by releasing its trade price, of €60 per bottle for the 2013 vintage, ahead of  next week's official tastings.

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Les Grand Chais de France backs independents by signing up to Best Practice Guidelines

Published:  21 March, 2014

French wine producer, Les Grand Chais de France, is the biggest wine name to show its commitment to the independent merchant sector by signing up to the Harpers Best Practice Guidelines that oversee how producers and suppliers are working in the independent sector.

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French wine prices skyrocket following second small harvest

Published:  19 March, 2014

Two years of small harvests are taking their toll on French wine prices, with appellation wines up 18% on average on 2012.

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Q&A with Origin Wine founder Bernard Fontannaz, who talks quality control and looking outside South Africa

Published:  13 March, 2014

Bernard Fontannaz, founder of Origin Wine on quality control, expanding its portfolio to include Old World wines and Fairtrade.

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Alliance Wine aims to create 'iconic' rosé brand

Published:  11 March, 2014

Alliance Wine has high hopes that its new French rosé wine La Vie en Rose will become an iconic brand.

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?Liv-ex Fine Wine indices continue to decline

Published:  10 March, 2014

The Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 index continued its slide reporting that February closed down for the eleventh consecutive month, closing at 252.50, down 0.9%, while the Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 fell another 1.2% to 287.10.

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Average 2013 harvest "very necessary", says head of Bordeaux body

Published:  10 March, 2014
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Q&A: Isabelle Kanaan and Sébastien du Boullay, Sud de France

Published:  07 March, 2014

The pair from Sud de France talk to Richard Siddle about how it hopes to use its Top 100 programme to highlight the very best wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon

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Big interview: Vinexpo's new ceo,Guillaume Deglise, and his plans to modernise the show

Published:  07 March, 2014

Guillaume Deglise has big shoes to fill in replacing Robert Beynat as chief executive of Vinexpo. Here he tells Richard Siddle how he intends to create a very different type of show - based largely on the customer and branding lessons learnt from his career in Champagne

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Sud de France to invest more funds to drive distribution in independents and the on-trade

Published:  07 March, 2014

The Sud de France promotional body in the UK hopes to capitalise on the good 2013 vintage in the region to help build up distribution in independents and the on-trade during the rest of 2014.

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New Vinexpo chief open to idea of starting new shows around the world

Published:  07 March, 2014

Guillaume Deglise, the new chief executive of Vinexpo, said he remains open to running events in new markets around the world but only in the context of the bi-annual Bordeaux show remaining "the number-one priority".

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France's LGI Wines promotes winemaker Xavier Roger to MD

Published:  06 March, 2014

Southern French specialists LGI Wines' chief winemaker Xavier Roger has stepped up to the role of managing director in the wake of founder Alain Grignon's retirement.

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Ruinart: 2013 was good year in Champagne

Published:  05 March, 2014

Ruinart's cellar master says despite bad news elsewhere in France, 2013 was a good year in Champagne, and the house will make a 2013 vintage.

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Mike Paul: is the new EU planting wine regime a missed opportunity or pragmatic compromise?

Published:  04 March, 2014

Given the space devoted recently to predictions relating to the future of the wine business I've been surprised at the lack of attention focused on the new EU vine planting regime which is due to come into effect at the end of 2015. From that date each member state with over 50,000 hectares under vine will be able to add 1% per year to its vineyard area.

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UK buyers help pick ambassador wines to promote Vin de France

Published:  28 February, 2014

Up to nearly 90 wines thought to represent the very best of what Vin de France can offer have been picked by a trade panel to help promote Vin de France in key export markets like the UK.

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Gerard Basset leads line up for Discover the Origin masterclasses around the UK

Published:  28 February, 2014

The UK on-trade is for the last time going to have the chance to literally Discover the Origin of some of the most iconic drink and food products produced in the European Union with a series of masterclasses featuring some of the trade's most well known figures including Gerard Basset MW, MS.

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Douglas Blyde hears history, gains insight and tastes wines at Fells first summit

Published:  26 February, 2014

Combine one part history lesson with another part insight into the runnings of five family businesses, with a final part of tutored wine tastings, and the first Fells wine forum would result.

Held at Embankment's five-star Corinthia, a hotel realised by the Libyan Investment Authority (vehicle for Colonel Gaddafi's state funds) proceedings began with a speech by Fells MD, Steve Moody. His message was: this time it's personal.

"Today we take a step in a slightly different direction," he said. "Over the last 10 years our portfolio changed dramatically. Now we're one of the most premium wine importers. Rather than a larger, generic tasting, this is more personal. We're in the business of selling stories - and I think we've some of the best in the trade."

The function room of about 40 attendees included "hand-picked" sommeliers João Pires (Dinner by Heston Blumenthal), Vanessa Cinti (Cut, 45 Park Lane), Jan Konetzki (Restaurant Gordon Ramsay) and Charles Pashby-Taylor (Dabbous). The latter (previously of Gaucho) very obviously connected with the event's message. Pashby-Taylor told host Gerard Basset OBE (who donated his fee to a Southampton-based charity for disabled children): "As a sommelier I can talk the hind legs off a donkey on closures and barrels, but nine out of ten guests will sit with blank expressions looking petrified. It doesn't matter if a wine costs £10 or £10,000 a bottle - what guests want to know is, has love and attention gone into it?"

Esoteric only?

Basset paraphrased Jancis Robinson in his address, who recently described how Robert Parker Junior was "annoyed" by sommeliers who "only list esoteric wines" and "forget beautiful wines from a classic region." "In London we're lucky to have very different restaurants. For example at the River Café, I know sommelier, Emily O'Hare will want to surprise me and give me a wine I probably never heard of. But if I were to go twice a month, I'd also want something classic."

Moody showcased five family-owned agencies, including Torres (who owns 10% of Fells) and Symington Family Estates (who own the remaining 90%). Paul Symington said: "I am chairman, but they don't even pay me. I don't even get lunch but some awful sandwich from down the road!" He justified his position: "I didn't buy in to make a profit centre; the only things I ask Fells is not to lose money."

Wearing a bright orange v-neck, Thomas Henriot of Champagne Henriot (1808), whose family also bought Bouchard Père et Fils and Domaine William Fèvre in 1995 and 1998 respectively was first to speak. "Any tradition is an innovation which has succeeded," he said.

Alongside his PowerPoint presentation which featured the amusingly-misspelled heading, 'Are we Dinausaures?' Henriot revealed his modus operandi: "The world is wild: I don't rely on the bank, and I don't imagine fashion will protect my legacy." He clarified the latter. "Putting Syrah in Montrachet wouldn't be re-inventing the wheel; it would be nonsense."

Next, Miguel Torres Maczassek, fifth generation of Torres (1870) showed slides of Torres' Spanish "Chablis" from 1940. "It was hard to sell Spanish wines until after world war two, when people became familiar with the Torres brand."

Unfazed by Pinochet

Torres Maczassek showed an elemental, juicy, fair-trade Chilean sparkling rosé made from the 'Pais' grape, the country's most planted and resistant grape, here found in earthquake-hit sites. I learned that as well as being pioneers (from 1966) in introducing international varieties and stainless steel tanks to Spain, Torres were significant in being among the first foreigners to invest in vineyards in Chile from 1979. "Others were scared by dictator Pinochet," said Torres Maczassek. The locals thought our stainless tanks looked like UFOs."

He also revealed the secret to success, which doesn't depend on automatic dynastical lineage. "We believe not everyone in the family should work in the company - only the people who can add value."

Barone Francesco Ricasoli was the most vigorous producer to speak. Representing the 32nd generation of his family, Ricasoli tends sites in Chianti Classico, a region defined by ancestor, Barone di Ferro (the Iron Baron) in the 19th century and "roughly the size of St. Emilion.'

Ricasoli described the period from 1993 when he and his father, Bettino bought back the estate's name and re-launched the estate. "While everyone was hiding the name Chianti Classico I did the opposite, starting to work on Sangiovese and finding out why it was such a tough variety - almost as much as Pinot Noir. There are 70 different clones listed by the ministry of agriculture catalogue.

While Ricasoli takes a serious, reasoned approach to agriculture, he appeared interested foremost in "historical sustainability" (the estate was founded in 1141) than environmental "sustainability". Indeed, those terms appeared in that order in his presentation. He even denounced the nebulous definition of "natural" wines as "bullshit".

Wines shown, including 2010 Castello di Brolio, which Ricasoli defined as the "Lafite of Italy" were my favourites of the day.

Les Misérables

Penultimate speaker, Philippe Guigal of E. Guigal (1946) was sprightly despite a 3am start. "What is the Rhône valley today?" he asked. "It is France's second largest region after ...I forget the name... Bordeaux," he answered playfully. Guigal showed a rare picture of his grandfather, Etienne in the cellar of then boss, Monsieur Vidal-Fleury, which led to an ultimately uplifting narrative. "Etienne's father passed away when he was just two weeks old. At eight, he was told he was told 'you're the most dynamic of the three kids and must take care of yourself.'" Etienne subsequently toiled in vineyards from 14 to 18. "A Les Misérables start for the Guigal family!" he said. "At 19 the hard worker learned about vinification and a few years later became general manager. When he returned from the war he founded his own winery and vinified 67 vintages."

Following a special request from Moody to "please tell our guests some personal and private about the family that nobody knows" Guigal showed a picture of his mother, Bernadette and father, Marcel dressed for carnival (dad as Doge), then let slip that he and his wife, Eve are semi-pro ballroom dancers.

Guigal summed up his professional advantages. "We are in a world which goes so fast. The average stock of wine in the Rhône is 2.3 months, while we have the valley's largest stock - for 36 months in our three hectares of cellars."

Guigal also revealed while white wines only account for only 3.4% of the Rhône's output, they account for "precisely 25%" of their output. He showed Condrieu La Doriane 2012. "It's too easy with climate change to make ripe, rich, fat, explosive styles - we're moving to straight minerality."

Keeping it in The Family

Finally, Paul Symington confusingly defined himself by his accent. "I'm the only person who sounds British, but I only came to UK for the first time when I was 12 in 1965." He described his situation as privileged. "We don't have châteaux, but the most extraordinary valleys and the largest area of mountain vineyard one earth.

Symington talked of the Cockburn's project. "We rescued it from the hands of a multinational in 2006 and brought it back to its roots. Livery companies now buy it for first time in half a century."

Another positive piece of news involved Dow's 2011, which Symington described as the first port this century to get 100 points from Wine Spectator. "I must have got the right Swiss bank account for the man at Wine Spectator," he joked.

Apparently the last port company with coopers, Symington showed a single year Tawny. "Old Tawny is a complete mystery to the British. This Colheita was as much made by the team of coopers as the winemaker. Almost Cognac in colour, it's Port which adapts to the modern way of living." He told the sommeliers that there is no need to decant this style. "Don't need to disappear into the kitchen." Apparently six barrels or "pipes" of the 1982 were offered to mark for Prince William and Princess Kate "because that's when they were born."

Symington brought the summit to a close. "I had the misfortune of turning 60 in December, which was like falling into a big abyss. I believe in two distinct areas in wine: swathes as a commodity, being well-made but industrial, not speaking of anything other than being red or white. But the chances of having a survivable family business in that area are virtually invisible. Instead, broadly family businesses I think will have an incredible future because something protects us."

After the event Moody told me the event had not been rehearsed. "I don't mind admitting I was a little anxious about doing something so different for Fells. I do believe though that the day was a great success and it seemed to be enjoyed by our producers and the trade alike..."

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New Cru level for Les Dauphins wine brand

Published:  25 February, 2014

Rhône producer Cellier des Dauphins is launching a new premium red wine under its Les Dauphins brand.

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Bibendum to distribute Provence's Château Léoube

Published:  24 February, 2014

Bibendum is to distribute Provence vineyard Château Léoube, the sister estate of the Daylesford organic farm business in the UK.  

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Vinisud attracts buyers from around the world to highlight its Mediterranean wine and spirits

Published:  21 February, 2014

Over 1,600 exhibitors from across the Mediterranean's world of wine and spirits are set to descend on Montpellier in Southern France next week for this year's Vinisud trade show which hopes to attract buyers from all over the world.

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