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


Germany: Brief Introduction and Focus On … Red Wine!


By Panos Kakaviatos for Wine Chronicles

Do not expect an encyclopaedic entry here. You can find plenty of great books on German wines, written by people who have far more expertise than I do. Nevertheless, I will be adding experiences from Germany as this website/blog develops, because I recognize and appreciate the excellent quality one can find in wines from Germany – even from reds. I recall working for the Associated Press in Frankfurt back in 2004, and every Wednesday an outdoor food market near the train station proved perfect for lunch, which sometimes included a bit of quaffing Dornfelder. Dornfelder is the second most grown red wine grape variety in Germany, and it can be adequate enough but too often monolithic. Germany however does have some excellent Pinot Noir as well as its more famous white wines.

In any case, few people seem to know that over 100 years ago, German wine was sought by connoisseurs just as much as high end Bordeaux. Prices for some of the top whites from Germany matched and even surpassed first growth Bordeaux for example.

What (still) sticks (for lack of a better word) in peoples’ memories, however, is a Liebfraumilch image of sweetish white.

As friend and wine author Stephen Brook has written: “In the minds of the general public, German wine became associated not with its glorious Rieslings, its stern Sylvaners, its robust Pinot Blancs and its exquisite sweet wines but with sugar water.”

Even today some people focus more on Germany’s late harvest Beeren- and Trockenbeerenauslese or Eiswein styles, and they can be indeed fantastic.

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Revisiting 2004 Bordeaux, 10 Years On

By Panos Kakaviatos for Wine Chronicles

As Wine Chronicles gets underway, this is a fitting tasting because Bordeaux 2004 was the first Bordeaux vintage I had tasted fully from barrel. So it was great to assess many of these wines again 10 years later.

So much the better to base one’s judgment on an excellent tasting organized by Bordeaux Index in London.

Many thanks go to Michael Schuster for organizing the event and to his wife Monika for splendid quiche and other delectable foods and 2004 Dom Perignon for a post-tasting lunch.

All wines tasted were red.


Adam Lechmere


Well-known tasters, including Wine Advocate Neal Martin, attended this event, which was held under impeccable conditions. I was surprised that more people did not attend, as there was plenty of room to stand up and ponder the wines if one so desired. Seating areas were spacious with much room for the spitting bucket, a laptop and more than one glass if one wanted to compare – as I did. Even the weather outside was sunny and pleasant: conducive atmospherically for tasting wine.

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