REVISION: Burgundy producers request aid as over 3,000 hectares damaged, worth estimated 75m euros in lost revenues

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles / 2 July 2014

REVISION: “damaged” not “destroyed” – plus details on over 2,000 hectares struck in the Nord Mâconnais and the Côte Chalonnaise. 

An earlier version of this posting used the word “destroyed” for some 3,000 hectares mainly in the Cote de Beaune but some also in the Cote de Nuits. After talking with a representative of the Burgundy Wine Council, a more accurate word is “damaged” – it is at this early stage still difficult to ascertain to what extent vines that were hit were damaged: completely destroyed or just partially.

In any case, the smaller sized hail – about the size of a euro coin – proved more deadly than the bigger stones as the smaller stones swept in like machine gun fire and severely damaged leaves, grapes and vines according to various French news reports.

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Tired of expensive wine

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles

An original wooden case of six bottles of Clos des Lambrays 2012, purchased direct from the domain, cost me over €600. Clos des Lambrays is hardly the most expensive grand cru Burgundy. While more expensive than, say, most Corton grands crus, it is not nearly as onerous on the wallet as Grands Echezeaux or Musigny – to take but two examples. But prices will go up from this lovely estate, which in April was purchased by French luxury giant LVMH. That is what director Thierry Brouin told me when I visited in June 2014.

I do love high end wine. While in Florence this past May – for a once-in-every-four-years symposium for the Institute of Masters of Wine, which cost me almost €2000 to attend including lodging, travel and the event itself – I was able to taste expensive cult wines like Pingus and Henschke Mount Edelstone among others. Over dinner at Chateau Haut Bailly in 2013, I also drank Screaming Eagle and Harlan (I prefer Harlan as it seems more classical). As some readers know, I regularly taste Petrus from barrel at the en primeur barrel tastings in Bordeaux and hold fond memories of recent visits to Krug and Dom Perignon and Jacques Selosse in Champagne.

But before I start imitating James Suckling, are you not getting annoyed with (1) über expensive fermented grape juice too posh for its own good and (2) insufferable show offs claiming “I tasted this” and “I tasted that” (mea culpa)?

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Cote de Beaune ‘in shock’ after hailstorm devastates up to 90% of vines

By Panos Kakaviatos for / 30 June 2014

This is a longer version of my report that was just published today by

For the latest news: see THIS UPDATE.

A five-minute storm this past Saturday has destroyed at least 40% of the potential 2014 harvest in Meursault, Pommard and Volnay, according to Thiebault Huber of Domaine Huber-Verdereau and president of the Volnay Wine Council.

‘We have lost the equivalent of two harvests over the last three years’ Huber said, referring to previous storms – and in spite of the fact that just 15 days ago, special anti-hail machines were installed to prevent damage, he said.

Golf ball sized hail from the storm, which started at 4:37 p.m. on Saturday, damaged up to 90% of the famous Clos des Mouches vineyard in Beaune. Other premier cru climates including Volnay Fremiets and Pommard Rugiens lost between 60 to 80% of the potential harvest.

‘Throughout Meursault, Pommard and Volnay, the losses have been at least 40%,’ Huber said.

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The most posh wine and cheese party in Bordeaux – and an embarrassing gaffe

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

Everything began so beautifully on Tuesday 24 June 2003 when I had arrived for a black tie dinner to enjoy premier grand cru classé Saint Emilion ranging from 1998 to 1953: an all-star evening dubbed “Millésimes de Collection” held at Château La Gaffelière in Saint Emilion, which had been organised by the now inactive organisation Groupement des Premiers Grands Crus Classés

It all started out so nice, with 1988 Dom Perignon from magnum bottles. Château La Gaffelière owner Count Leo de Malet-Roquefort (center).

Readers take note that 2003 was a time when the top wines of Saint Emilion got along well enough to organize tastings and special dinners like this one in a spirit of mutually beneficial camaraderie. But the 10-year reassessment of the Saint Emilion classification makes Dallas seem like Sesame Street. Instead of working together, the region is chock full of lawsuits and recriminations. Less is said about wine and more is said about product placements in films or constructing edifices more suited to Las Vegas than to Saint Emilion. But I digress.

In the not so long ago “good old days” there was the most posh cheese and wine tasting I have ever been to: borne of a massive storm.

As guests enjoyed generous opening pours from magnums of Dom Perignon 1988, French wine writer Olivier Poels told me to look up at a sky that had suddenly turned menacingly black: “Ca ne m’a l’air pas bien” he remarked.

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A Consumer Reaction to Natural Wine

By Panos Kakaviatos for

The natural wine movement is growing although some are calling it a fad. I think a fad aspect exists, especially with the idea that sulfites are evil, that wine should have none.

Many of the vins naturels I have tasted in France for example contain little or no sulfites, and often require CO2 to preserve freshness. Made from organic viticulture (no pesticides or herbicides), with few artifices (avoiding non-indigenous yeasts, for example), the wines reflect a continued backlash against a widespread use of pesticides and herbicides in French vineyards not too long ago.

And that’s the plus side. As we become more conscious of what we eat, we should also become more conscious of what we drink, from water to wine. Certainly. The natural wine movement is international and growing. Take RAW in London for example. Or many other natural wine tastings around the world.

And some wines sans sulfites get very good reviews. Take for example Terre Inconnue Los Abuelos – a “Vin de Table” from France. Jamie Goode for example likes the wine in this review. I write this text after speaking with a friend, Julien Boulard, who works in Hong Kong in the wine industry, and he told me that the 2002 was amazing for a Grenache with no sulfites.

But there is (much) overkill. Read More