Alsace to help on dryness to sweetness
After years of a voluntary arrangement to which few producers subscribed, Alsace will require all labels for its still wines from the 2021 vintage to say how relatively dry to sweet they are. Clarity is overdue. The move follows European Union guidelines already in place such as for the sparkling wine of the region (Cremant d'Alsace).
One of two alternatives will be on labels. One is for a description: sec (dry), demi-sec (off-dry), moelleux (medium-sweet) or doux (sweet). The alternative is a visual scale with an arrow indicating the relative sweetness.
English fizz fit for a Queen
A new sparkling wine is being launched by HM The Queen to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee. It is a blend of the three main grapes grown in Champagne (50% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Meunier and 40% Pinot Noir) but the vines originate in Kent and West Sussex.
The sparkler is Traditionally made (ie the same way as Champagne) and will be available at £39 both online and from the shops at the royal estates.
New Rhone appellation
Laudun is the latest village in the Southern Rhone valley likely to be awarded its own appellation from the 2023 vintage. Since 1953, its wine has been sold under the umbrella name of Cotes du Rhone Villages. The village lies on the western bank of the river Rhone, north-west of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and not far from the Ceze river.
Robert Parker gives a warning: "Laudun remains one of the least-promising villages in which to find high-quality wine" (in his authoritative Wines of the Rhone Valley). Caesar had a military encampment in the area and articles from that era are discovered periodically among the vines. Most production is through the co-operative but the star maker is Domaine Pelaquie.
Most red Laudun is made from Grenache and Syrah with small parcels of Cinsault, Counoise and Mourvedre. The fresh, floral whites are created from Bourboulenc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier.
The distinguished Port House of Taylor is celebrating the Queen's 70 year reign with a special release labelled Very, Very Old Tawny. It comes from wines aged from the year of coronation using Taylor's reserves of fine wood-aged Ports. Each bottle has a classic frosted appearance and is packed in a beechwood box. Just 2,000 bottles of this limited edition have been released and merchants are likely to offer them at £350. The accompanying tasting note says: "Rich mahogany with a pale ochre rim; an opulent, heady nose overlaid with cigar box, roasted coffee, pressed rose petals and a hint of ginger; an intense, heather honey bouquet with some singed leather, scents of fine oak, five spice and figs."
Red Herring Napa choice comes top
The Club's tasting of Diamond Creek wines, tutored by the owner and her son, proved prophetic. Members may recall the event in a lovely art gallery opposite St Bartholomew the Great. Now Decanter Magazine has given the highest scores of all wines in its major tasting of Californian Cabernet Sauvignon. Praise indeed! It is hardly surprising that the Napa Valley estate near Calistoga was acquired by the Rouzaud family (of Louis Roederer Champagne fame) in 2020.
Tiny Crop for Champagne
Champagne vines have suffered massively from spring frosts last year which were followed by widespread mildew and hail damage. The result is a harvest 60% less than usual - the smallest crop in four decades. Producers will dip into their reserves, much of which is held as wine in stainless steel vats.
New Auction Record
The 1974 vintage of Perrier-Jouet has been sold for £42,875 at Christie's, making it the highest price ever recorded for a bottle of Champagne. The same vintage was actually the most expensive when sold at auction in 1888. The Epernay-based house has always enjoyed a fashionable reputation, which largely started in the pre-First World War era of the Belle Epoque. The house was founded in 1811 and is known for its stunning Emile Galle art nouveau bottles which are adorned with a garland of enamel anemones.
Island Wine in Bay of Biscay
Owing to global warming, plans have been made to create an 11.7ha (28.9 acres) vineyard on an island in Brittany. 'Belle-Ile-en-Mer' is a small island known for its natural beauty, lying west of St Nazaire and south of Vannes. It is the brainchild of Christian Latouche who already has vineyards in Provence. Although the region is known for cider production, Britanny and Normandy had vineyards from the Roman era until the aphid phylloxera struck in the 19th century. Yet now the region has attracted attention with 28 vineyards planted in the last five years. However, some of the 5,500 population oppose the initiative for the island, claiming a vineyard would disfigure the landscape, stop coastal walking and be destructive for biodiversity.
Cheaper vineyards in England than France
Land for vines is considerably less expensive in England than France, says sparkling producer Ian Kellett who makes Hambledon, the Hampshire birthplace of English cricket. He says land in the UK costs £12,000-15,000/acre but in Champagne £276,348-£1.06m/acre.
Already the Champagne houses of Pommery and Taittinger - both based in Reims - have acquired land in southern England and planted vines.
The Club continues to welcome payment by cheque but personal, not business, cheques only please. Cheques must be made payable to "The Red Herring Wine Club".
The Club asks that members and guests dress smartly when attending tastings as many of our venues are prestigious and have dress codes. Gentlemen are asked to wear a jacket and tie. Please remember to inform your guests in advance of the event.