Monday, July 14, 2008

Branding is everything in China's expanding wine market

Those of us who read articles about wine probably believe that wine sells on the basis of its quality. A few wine lovers believe that price is at least as important. (I strongly reject any direct correlation between price and quality myself, believing there is an army of overpriced expensive wines and a noble cohort of underpriced gems.)

But my trip to China in March reminded me just how significant branding can be, even in the hugely fragmented wine market, which is blissfully unlike, say, that for beer, spirits or sodas, dominated as they are by a handful of big names and huge marketing budgets.

In China, the name Lafite has the most extraordinary and unexpected resonance. Such resonance that Carruades de Lafite, the Bordeaux first growth's second wine and often a thin little thing, can command a higher price than super-second Chateau Cos d'Estournel. And the owners of Lafite's range of basic Bordeaux generic wines called Legende sell for quite extraordinary prices in China simply because they have the magic word Lafite on the label. I saw the basic 2005 Bordeaux, with the name Lafite tucked snugly under the Lafite Rothschilds' famous five arrows symbol, listed at 950 RMB (about $135) a bottle on the wine list at the super-trendy Made in China restaurant in the Grand Hyatt, Beijing. It's worth pointing out that on exactly the same wine list the counterpart from the other Rothschild clan, the Mouton lot, was just 350 RMB. What explains the disparity between these wines that were put together from near-identical ingredients bought on Bordeaux's bulk wine market?

While in China I resolved to get to the bottom of this conundrum. Why should one first growth tower over the others - Mouton Rothschild, Margaux, the highly performing Latour and Haut-Brion - in this particular market?

I suppose we have to begin by acknowledging that China is an intensely image-conscious market. For the Chinese, wine purchases, in restaurants or for gifts, are all about status and "face" on the part of the purchaser. So China is presumably perfectly placed as a target for any sophisticated branding operation. If you go in to China and tell the Chinese that your product is the best effectively enough, those 1.3 billion potential consumers are presumably yours.

Except that my inquiries did not manage to elicit anything so cold-blooded. I went to China via Hong Kong so began by inquiring there why Lafite enjoyed this reclame. Those I asked were all a bit vague. The best explanation I could get was from the first Asian to pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine exams, Jeannie Cho Lee, herself Korean born and American educated. Her best explanation was that Lafite is somehow easier to pronounce in Mandarin than the names of the other first growths. But since she is not a native Mandarin speaker, I felt her testimony was not rock solid.

Once I got to China I asked everyone I could think of. Marcus Ford, the inventive manager of Shanghai's pioneering M on the Bund restaurant, also thought it might have something to do with pronunciation but wasn't sure - even though he has been buying, serving and selling fine wine in China for many years. He did point out to me that Lafite had been awfully clever at capitalizing on its fame in China and that the Legende range of overpriced (my word, not his) appellations-series wines is known colloquially as "Little Lafite." Genius! They should have called it that in the first place.

In China the market is dominated by three main distributors, who are at one another's throats. The biggest and best established is ASC, run by a father-son team, both of whom are called Don St. Pierre. I sat next to Don Sr. at a charity dinner and pursued him relentlessly for his explanation as to why his great rival Summergate's Lafite was so much more popular than his own Bordeaux first growths - Chateaus Latour, Margaux and Haut-Brion - which was rather impolite, I now realize. He raised his shoulders and eyebrows, clasped his hands and admitted he hadn't a clue. Though as a Westerner selling wine to the Chinese for possibly longer than anyone else, he did point out how helpful the 1855 classification was to the Chinese. Not generally being fluent English speakers, few of them have yet come to grips with the tyranny of scores and ratings, but there is great respect (an important quality in China) for the longevity of the 1855 classification of Bordeaux. With its mere five divisions it is easy to understand, and since Chateau Lafite was historically the very first of the first growths to appear on the list, much of that glamour, he admitted somewhat reluctantly, seems to have stuck.

I then tracked down Ian Ford, the American head of Summergate of Shanghai, the blessed importers of a few hundred cases of Chateau Lafite, an impressive lake of Carruades and an ocean of Little Lafite every year. So how come, I asked, does Lafite stand head and shoulders above its peers in the biggest potential wine market in the world?

"I don't know," he said disarmingly. "It's a branding exercise but I certainly don't take the credit for it. It's not because of the taste."

I would certainly agree. I almost certainly love the taste of Lafite more than the average Chinese. Its very dry, almost austere, racy, elegant style must be particularly difficult for newcomers to wine, and torture to drink with most of the food served in China - whether it be the sweet, sour, spicy foods of the various Chinese provinces, or the rich, truffle and foie gras-laden cuisine of the fancy hotels and restaurants at which most bottles of Lafite must be opened by China's mushrooming millionaire class.

"But," he continued, "they were in at the beginning. Lafite president Christophe Salin's first trip here was in 1992. The word Lafite translates phonetically especially well," - so there's one thing that he agrees with archrivals ASC on - "and the Lafite Rothschilds have been very attentive to the Chinese market. Baron Eric de Rothschild's son is studying Mandarin. They also have a very good Chinese Web site."

So there you have it folks. To develop a new market, get there first, have an easy name - and don't forget the Web site.

Jancis Robinson is a London wine journalist. Visit her Web site at and e-mail comments to

This article appeared on page F - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Study: France set to cede top spot in world wine production to Spain by 2015

PARIS: France is set to cede its spot as the world's largest wine producer to Spain unless it unshackles from centuries-old traditions, according to the country's independent wine producers.

Under the current trend France will fall behind Spain in 2015 as wine production drops to 43.9 million hectoliters (1.16 billion gallons) from the 2000-2004 annual average of 52.8 million hectoliters (1.39 billion), according to a study by Credoc, a research group, for the Vignerons Independants winemakers association.

The expected drop follows decades of decline due to falling consumption at home and France's failure to adapt to new consumption habits and to new competitors.

Innovative wines from places such as the United States, South America, Australia and New Zealand, are bidding to dominate emerging markets, and the Credoc study shows France's traditional competitor, Spain, is adapting where it has failed.

But Eric Rosaz, director of France's independent wine producers association, vowed to prevent France losing its crown.

"I am convinced that France has the arms to fight and keep her place as leader, but for this we need to get away from weight of history, the weight of our culture, and enter a new dynamic," he told The Associated Press.

Rosaz says French producers have been making progress to make their wine more accessible and hold off New World winemakers — although more needs to be done. Screw tops, boxed wines, colorful easy-to-understand labels and sophisticated marketing — innovations pioneered by countries like Australia and South Africa — have been making inroads.

"We have the best 'terroir,' we have the best wine, and we have the best image of wine in the world, but we have problems at the company level and in terms of dynamism."

Independent producers should band together to promote their wines abroad and gain better access to supermarkets and other outlets, and also reduce costs, the survey said.

Wine makers also need to adapt to the tastes of new types of consumer — women, young people and people overseas — paying attention to flavors, packaging, and marketing, it said.

In 2015, the U.S. will be the world's largest wine consumer with 33 million (871 million gallons) hectoliters, ahead of France's 26 million (686 million gallons) and Italy's 23 million (607 million gallons), according to the study. Britain is moving up the chart with an expected consumption of 13.5 million hectoliters (356 million gallons) in 2015.

But France is failing to adapt to American and British taste-buds, the study also showed.

Last year, France's wine and spirit industry exported nearly $15 billion (€9.4 billion) worth abroad, a record and an increase of nearly 7 percent year-on-year, according to the French Federation of Wine and Spirits Exporters.

But the good overall export performance masks a broader crisis. While Champagne and fine Bordeaux find overseas markets, lower-quality wines and lesser-known wine regions have struggled against competitors from New World countries, such as Australia and Chile.

Chronic overproduction has also hurt, forcing European producers who can't sell their wine at decent prices to distill billions of bottles of perfectly drinkable wine into pure alcohol for use in disinfectants, cleaning products or gasoline additives.

The European Union agreed in December on a massive overhaul of the industry, including tearing up swaths of vineyards, doing away with overly intricate labeling and reaching out to consumers around the world instead of relying on age-old reputations.

The Associated Press

Resveratrol Fights Fat

Resveratrol, the chemical compound found in red wine and an increasing target of medical research, can limit obesity by preventing the development of fat cells, according to a study presented Monday at the Endocrine Society's 90th-annual meeting in San Francisco. A team of scientists from the University of Ulm, located in southwest Germany, report that resveratrol shows potential as a fat-fighting supplement, by both preventing weight gain and stopping some of the health problems caused by obesity.

The findings echo previous research where resveratrol supplements helped keep obese mice healthy.

"Resveratrol has anti-obesity properties by exerting its effects directly on the fat cells," said Pamela Fischer-Posovszky, a pediatric endocrinology research fellow at the university's diabetes and obesity unit. "Resveratrol might help to prevent development of obesity or might be suited to treating obesity."

During their research, Fischer-Posovszky and her team isolated human stem-cell lines, called preadipocytes. These fibrous tissues eventually mature into adipocytes, which store energy and insulate the body in the form of fat.

The scientists exposed the preadipocytes to various doses of resveratrol and observed that the chemical hindered the maturation of the cells into adipocytes. The resveratrol also reduced the cells' production of certain proteins linked to the development of obesity-related disorders, such as type 2 diabetes and clogged arteries. Furthermore, the resveratrol stimulated the production of a metabolism-regulating protein, called adiponectin, which decreases the risk of heart attack. People who are obese are typically adiponectin deficient.

The dosage of resveratrol used in the study is equivalent to consuming several bottles of wine, suggesting that supplements would be more effective than wine consumption in fighting fat. And the effects of the resveratol were dose-dependent, meaning the more resveratrol used, the better the results.

Fischer-Posovszky is pleased with the results but warns that "you have to keep in mind that there might be adverse effects," she said. "So far, there are no reliable studies on resveratrol in humans."

Jacob Gaffney

Winesecrets Acquires Vinovation Operations

Firm will expand reverse osmosis/alcohol adjustment services

Napa, Calif. American Winesecrets of Napa acquired the reverse osmosis-based technologies and alcohol-adjustment services of Sebastopol, Calif-based Vinovation Inc.

Winesecrets, which acquired the mobile filtration division of Vinovation in January, will acquire the assets and assume and expand operation at the Sebastopol facility and throughout California and most of North America, says Eric Dahlberg, founder and president of Winesecrets. The transition began this week, and some of Vinovation's employees will join Winesecrets.

American Winesecrets initially provided STARS, a mobile filtration operations service that removes tartrates electronically rather than by cold stabilization, which requires high levels of energy.

Acquiring Vinovation's mobile service allowed Winesecrets to offer taint removal as well. Winesecrets has since developed a fleet of trucks, trailers and trained wine technicians to deliver the tartrate and taint removal services to wineries across the United States and Canada.

With the acquisition of Vinovation's reverse osmosis-based technologies and alcohol adjustment services, Winesecrets will offer more filtration services, including reduction of volatile acidity, alcohol adjustment, Brettanomyces taint removal via reverse osmosis, tartaric stabilization and pH reduction using STARS, cross-flow filtration and ultra-filtration.

During the last few years, Winesecrets has added the technology to remove smoky flavors from wines affected by forest fires. "They can make your wine smell like an ashtray," Dahlberg says. The company first offered the service in Ontario, where extensive fires affected vineyards in 2003.

Unlike the other filtration services, alcohol adjustment involves distillation, so it can only be done at a facility with a distilled spirits permit (DSP), including the plant in Sebastopol. Winesecrets also offers alcohol adjustment as a mobile service in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Canada. It has sites in Sebastopol and Napa, Calif., Dundee, Ore., Penticton, British Columbia, and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Though not often discussed by winemakers, the filtration technologies are widely used. "Almost everyone who is anyone in the wine business has used Vinovation's services," Dahlberg says. He says that between his existing business and the new services, 300 to 400 companies now use Winesecrets' capabilities.

Dahlberg says he plans to bring the technology to Napa next year, augmenting the facility in Sonoma County's Sebastopol.

Clark and Brian Smith, owners of Vinovation, will continue to hold the U.S. and international patents on their reverse-osmosis method for reduction of volatile acidity and alcohol adjustment. They plan to continue their research and development, as well as legal efforts to protect the technologies.

Clark Smith told Wines & Vines, "We like to develop the technology, then turn it over to someone who can focus on it. This is another baby we've kicked out."

Smith expects to expand his varied Winesmith consulting operations and continue to make a small amount of wine. Among his activities are matching wine with music, effluent-free wine production and neutraceuticals made from wine.
Winesecrets Acquires Vinovation Operations
Firm will expand reverse osmosis/alcohol adjustment services

by Paul Franson

Hart Davis Hart to Auction Monumental Single-Owner Wine Collection Valued at $6.9-$10.2 Million

Hart Davis Hart to Auction Monumental Single-Owner Wine Collection Valued at $6.9-$10.2 Million Featuring Over 700 Cases First Growth Bordeaux and 1000 Bottles From Domaine de la Romanee-Conti on September 19th & 20th in Chicago

Hart Davis Hart Wine Co., one of the world's leading fine wine retailers and auction houses, will hold a monumental single-owner sale on September 19th and 20th at Tru restaurant in Chicago. The Fox Cellar is comprised of over 1700 lots and is poised to electrify the wine collecting world with its encyclopedic offering of full-case lots, most purchased by the current owner as futures or on release and still nestled in their original wooden cases. The firm anticipates that wine collectors around the world will clamor to own a piece of this historic cellar.

Foremost among the group are 166 lots of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild worth an estimated $1,067,400 - $1,589,900 including 7 cases of the 1982 and 21 cases of the 1996 vintages (all in their original wooden cases). Also staggering is a 100 lot offering of Chateau Petrus worth an estimated $980,000 - $1.5 million; more than 1,000 bottles from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, and well over a thousand bottles each of Chateaux Latour, Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion. Other featured offerings include large selections of Italian wines from Angelo Gaja along with Super Tuscans, Guigal's Single-Vineyard Cote Roties, and top California producers.

Collectors and restaurateurs will descend on Chicago to raise their paddles in the auction room and compete with bidders on the phone, online bidders utilizing Hart Davis Hart's proprietary online real-time bidding portal,, and others who submit their bids before the sale using HDH's intuitive online absentee bidding system. The live auction will take place at Chicago's award-winning restaurant Tru, beginning promptly at 9:00 a.m. (CDT) on Friday, September 19th, 2008 and Saturday, September 20th, 2008. Tru is located at 676 N. St. Clair Street in Chicago. Attendance is open to the public and free of charge. Reservations for lunch at Tru during the auction ($75) should be made by calling Hart Davis Hart at 312.482.9996 or by emailing Maria Elgass,

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild Dinner at Charlie Trotter's

On Thursday, September 18th Hart Davis Hart Wine Co. will host a 20 vintage Chateau Lafite-Rothschild wine dinner at Chicago's famous Charlie Trotter's. For centuries, the mention of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild has conjured evocative images of grandeur and decadence, having been so favored in the Court of Versailles that it was widely hailed as "the King's Wine." To launch the remarkable auction weekend, we have chosen 20 celebrated vintages reflective of the Fox Cellar, spanning the past four decades of the estate, including such luminary vintages as 1982, 1986, 1996, 2000, and 2003. Chef Trotter will create an exciting five-course dinner to complement the wines. Seating is very limited. For more information please contact Marc Smoler at 312-482-9766 or

About Hart Davis Hart Wine Co.

Hart Davis Hart Wine Co. is both a dynamic retailer and an internationally prominent wine auction house, occupying a unique position in the rare wine market. We offer collectors and restaurateurs a broad range of options for buying and selling wines, providing unrivaled expertise and personalized service.

For more information on Hart Davis Hart Wine Co., please contact Hart Davis Hart at visit

Canada Sparkles

If you think Canada = Icewine, you'd be right.
If you think of Canada for world-class sparkling wines, you'd be right again. Really.

ot since New Zealand hijacked the Sauvignon Blanc grape has one country so successfully dominated the international market with a wine style. That’s what Canada has managed to accomplish in a mere decade or so with Icewine.

Eiswein is a German invention that dates back to the late eighteen century when a freak drop in temperature froze the Late Harvest grapes in Franconia before they could be picked. Today true vine-frozen Icewine (Eiswein) is made in Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Romania, Slovenia and Switzerland; but it is Canada that has co-opted Icewine and made it its own.

Icewine comprises a good 80 per cent of Canadian wine exports. It was originally made from Vidal or Riesling, but today you can get it in virtually every variety that’s planted. You want Semillon Icewine? Pillitteri has it. Chenin Blanc? Inniskillin Okanagan. Shiraz? Konzelmann. Meritage? Royal de Maria.

But you cannot sustain an industry in the long term on a single wine, especially one that has its major market in the Far East. China will soon be making Icewine in its own vineyards. And when that happens, they’ll be undercutting the price mightily for the rest of the world.

A Sparkling Alternative to Ice

I have always believed that Canada should be a major producer of sparkling wines.
In many vintages growers cannot get optimum ripeness to produce balanced table wines; but the grapes for sparkling wines are picked with lower sugars and higher acids than table wines.

Even in poor years Canadian growers can achieve the requisite sugar and acid levels for sparkling wines. So why don’t we play to our strengths? The sparkling wine category is growing internationally - the Champenois can't keep up with demand and are not only planting new vineyards but are looking north to Sussex and Kent in England to buy vineyard land.

Peter GambleThe move to sparkling is already beginning to happen in Nova Scotia. A key player is French winemaker Rafael Brisbois, whose resumé includes making Champagne for Piper Hiedsieck, starting up the Omar Khayyam sparkling house in India, consulting to Iron Horse and Piper Sonoma in California and Blue Mountain in BC. Brisebois is now working with Benjamin Bridge Vineyards, a new winery in Nova Scotia's Gaspereau Valley. Ontario’s Peter Gamble, who is also consulting on the project, believes that Nova Scotia could soon be making sparkling wine in the classic Champenois style. “You’re getting minerality as opposed to fruit here. It has tremendous potential. We’re planning to leave (our) wine six or seven years on the lees. The objective is to make something on the level of Grande Marque champagne. We haven’t even disgorged the 2002 Brut Reserve. We’re still tasting off the lees.”

Planted in Benjamin Bridge’s 27-acre vineyard are the grapes the Champenois use - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, each on three or four different root stocks and three or four different clones. Brisbois and Gamble have also done sparkling wine experiments using Vidal and L'Acadie Blanc (a variety unique to Nova Scotia). The wines I tasted from 2002 and 2004 are stunning and could stand up proudly in a blind tasting of Champagnes.

Bruce EwartBruce Ewart, former winemaker at BC’s Hawthorne Mountain and Summerhill, now has his own totally organic winery, L’Acadie Vineyards, located five minutes outside of Wolfville, Nova Scotia. True to the name, Bruce makes bottle-fermented sparkling wine from this winter-hardy varietal.

Perhaps Nova Scotia will ultimately rival and surpass Ontario and British Columbia whose winemakers are doing a great job with sparklers made by the Champagne method. If you haven’t tried Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine (both white and rosé), Château des Charmes Brut, 13th Street Blanc de Noir or Hillebrand Trius Brut from Ontario, you’re in for a treat.

The Speck brothers at Henry of Pelham made their first bubbly in 1992. “We spent some years perfecting the art and the vineyards,” recalls Paul Speck, “and produced Cuvée Catharine Brut and Brut Rosé in 1999. It was released in 2002 after 30 plus months in the bottle.”

Paul SpeckHenry of Pelham currently produces around 50,000 bottles of both sparklers. “Our belief in sparkling grew from the viticulture fact that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are two strengths for Niagara. Both are very consistent from year to year for table wines. They winter well and can be relied on to produce great wines every year. Despite what many people think, I believe Chardonnay is our best white.

“Since we pick sparkling wines slightly immature, they not only make sense for the region but most importantly make sense for the wines. Great acidity with lots of ripeness. We also can thin vineyards that then make our Reserve Chardonnay and Reserve Pinot Noir and Speck Family Reserve wines.”

Out in western Canada, the best sparklers you’ll find are Sumac Ridge Steller’s Jay Brut, Hawthorne Mountain See Ya Later Ranch Brut, Cipes Brut from Summerhill, Venturi-Schulze Brut Naturelle and Blue Mountain Brut, Rosé and Blanc de Blancs Brut.

Steller’s Jay, named for BC’s official bird, was originally made from Riesling as an experiment in 1984. What was released five years later was the current blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. Today, Sumac Ridge has 250,000 bottles ageing in its cellars at any one time.

Ian MavetyWhen Ian Mavety started Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars in 1991, he began by making sparkling wine as well as table wine. “The basic rationale was the climate and its ability to maintain good levels of natural acid, fundamental to sparkling wine production,” says Mavety. “The fall back position was if we weren’t successful, be it quality or marketability, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir could be used to produce table wine. Our sales have doubled in the last five years and production has increased in step. We think the interest in BC sparkling wine is a result of consumer awareness, promoted by wine-by-the-glass programs and price versus other still white wines. It’s a bargain.”

There’s no question that given the variability of Canada’s wine growing regions, sparkling wine is the way to go. And given the rising price of Champagne, a $30 price tag certainly looks like a bargain.

Tony Aspler

Rosé passes white wine as France's favourite

Pink wine is in vogue among French youth as a festive drink
Rosé, long dismissed by purists as uncultured plonk, has overtaken white wine in volume of sales in France, buoyed by a fashion for pink.

While much of France's wine growers battle lower consumption and persistent overproduction, pink wine - which comes into its own in the summer heat - is enjoying la vie en rose as never before.

It is estimated that more than one in five bottles of wine sold in France is a rosé, with the gains coming from falling red sales. A hot summer could push the amount of rosé drunk to more than half of all bottles consumed this year.

Pink wine is in vogue among French youth as a light-hearted, festive drink to be enjoyed with scant regard for labels, vintages, grape varietals and origin.

A study conducted this year found that red wine is favoured by richer, older French men, while rosé is drunk by both sexes, young and old from different social groups. Red is drunk mainly during meals, while rosé is also popular as an aperitif or in soirees.

Last month, angry growers of red wines in the southwestern Languedoc Roussillon region rioted against rival low-cost wine. But in the searing July heat of Provence - France's main rosé-producing region and which began making it 2,600 years ago – growers like Alain Combard are in the pink.

Surveying the vineyards surrounding his domain of Saint André de Figuière, Mr Combard, 64, raised a glass of chilled, dry home-grown rosé. In the dazzling light, the salmon-coloured liquid synonymous with Provence exuded a subtle perfume of grapefruit and lychee.

Sales from his domain, which produces 700,000 bottles annually, have increased by 10 per cent this year.

"We are extraordinary lucky as the world has truly discovered rosé. We have the wind in our sails," he said, to the sound of screeching cicadas.

"Before, rosé was just a summer wine to be drunk at barbecues. Today, it has acquired its letters of nobility, and can hold its own with red and white," said Mr Combard.

"A good rosé, for me, is above all very floral, with a hint of orange or grapefruit and must be as light as lace."

Producers in the Anjou in the Loire – France's other main rosé area - are enjoying a similar boom, amid signs that the pink craze is spilling over into Britain and the US. Given its success, the two top traditional red and white wine-growing regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy no longer blush at the prospect of rosé.

Bordeaux is reviving its production of clairet, a darker pink wine, while Burgundy now produces 2 million bottles of rose (NB acute accent on e) per year. In a sign of the times, Burgundy last month sent a delegation to a conference in Provence at the world's only rosé research centre, which Mr Combard runs.

The centre looks into every aspect of the rosé, from how to produce the right shade of pale pink to ways to cut rising alcohol levels in wine believed to be caused by global warming. Although it has white-wine qualities, rosé is made from red grapes.

It long suffered from being seen as little more than a by-product of red wine, being made from juice siphoned or 'bled' from the top of a vat of fermenting red grapes as a way of improving the red's intensity.

But Mr Combard, like many in Provence, uses a technique focusing solely on rosé called direct pressing. Red grape-skin, pips and pulp are lightly pressed and left to macerate for up to eight hours before extracting the rose-tinted liquid.

"I apply just the same techniques for making white wine to rosé, except that I use red grapes," said Mr Cambord, who spent 22 years making Chablis before coming to Provence.

Rosé, however, cannot be kept for long periods due to the lack of tannins, as the grape juice is only briefly in contact with skins and seeds. As he prepares to leave the daily running of his domain to his children, Mr Cambord insists the current rosé boom is here to stay.

Quality had improved considerably in the past decade. Doses of headache-inducing sulphur have been cut fourfold, while fermenting vats are now cooled to prevent grapes overheating, which used to produce heavy, coarse wine.

Exports to the US are booming, but UK sales of French rosé are still low compared to sweet New World "blush".

Mr Cambord believes that Britain is now ready to branch out from what he calls cheaper "drink" to pricier "real wine". Although still low, sales of Provence rosé in Britain were up 40 per cent in the first three months of this year.

"It goes perfectly with spicy food," he said. "Try it with curry."

French winemakers abandon the cork

'We are convinced that screw tops are perfect for fine wines that need to age, as they protect them better than cork from oxidation'

The familiar sound of corks popping may soon be consigned to history as French wines start dropping the traditional cork for the New World screw top, whose use is rocketing worldwide.

While New World wines have adopted the screw top for years - with up to 90 per cent of New Zealand wines and 60 per cent of Australian bottles using them – giving up the time-honoured cork has met with much stiffer resistance in France beyond the cheaper end of the market.

But according to one wine expert, two of the world's top names - Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in Burgundy, whose bottles can sell for tens of thousands of pounds, and Bordeaux's legendary Chateau Margaux – are now looking into screw tops.

Romanée-Conti would not comment on the sensitive issue, with tops still viewed as heresy by many purists. But the director general of Chateau Margaux, Paul Pontallier, confirmed that the Bordeaux domaine was trying them out.

Henry Samuel
Paris, France


Click Wine Group is launching High Note, an Argentinean Malbec from the Uco Valley in Mendoza. The wine was created by Peter Click, CEO of Click Wine Group, with the idea that Malbec will be the next "sought-after varietal," according to the company. High Note is available nationwide for the suggested retail price of $12.99.

Dollar sales of Argentinean wine in the U.S. grew 28% in 2007, while Malbec dollar sales were up 87% in the 52 weeks ending May 3, 2008, according to Nielsen.

Recall that Winebow, a New Jersey-based importer, recently bought Click Wine Group for an undisclosed price earlier this summer. Founder Peter Click will remain as president of Click Wine Group and will also become executive vice president of Winebow.

Wine & Spirits Daily


Laboratory tests have shown that a chemical found in the skin of grapes could halt the development of most cases of the disease.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women, and almost 45,000 cases are diagnosed in the UK every year.

Now scientists have found that a chemical called resveratrol, which is also found in blueberries, bilberries, cranberries and peanuts, can suppress the creation of tumour cells.

The chemical works by blocking the way that oestrogen combines with DNA in a woman's bodies to create the cancer.

Researchers found that even low levels of resveratrol, the equivalent to that found in a typical glass of red wine, was enough to create the effect.

"We believe that this could stop the whole progression that leads to breast cancer down the road," said Eleanor Rogan, from the University of Nebraska Medical Centre, who led the study.

The scientists now plan to test the findings, published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, in larger human trials.

Resveratrol has previously been linked to anti-aging properties.

The chemical is just one of a number of so called "healthy chemicals" found in red wine, called polyphenols.

Kate Devlin


Several of France's top winemakers are considering screw caps for their wines, according to an article in The Telegraph. The article cites a wine expert that claims two of the world's top names, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in Burgundy and Bordeaux's Chateau Margaux, are looking into screw caps.

Romanée-Conti would not comment on the issue, but the director general of Chateau Margaux confirmed the domaine was trying out screw caps although it was too early to say if they would use them.

Burgundy's Jean-Claude Boisset is already using screw caps on top wines, including a Chambertin grand cru 2005 that sells for almost £100 a bottle.

"We're not staying that corks are bad, it's just that screw tops are better," said Gregory Patriat, in charge of bottling at Boisset, to The Telegraph.

Plastic corks are also a possibility, but growers say they can only be used on bottles not meant to age past three years.

The number of wines using screw tops has grown from 300 million in 2003 to 2.5 billion in 2008. Famed wine critic Robert Parker also predicts that wines with corks will be in the minority by 2015.

Wine & Spirits Daily


The Italian government has created a certification process for Brunello producers exporting to the United States, which has effectively ended the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau's (TTB) embargo to ban all Brunello. The threats were made after the Italian government was unable to guarantee that exported Brunello was made with 100% Sangiovese grapes.

Since November 2007, the Italian police have been investigating whether Montalcino producers are using grapes other than Sangiovese in their Brunellos, in violation of DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) rules. Although investigations continue in Italy, Brunello producers that pass an inspection are clear to export to the United States, reports Wine Spectator.

The Florence office of the ICQ (Central Inspectorate for the Control of Quality of Agri-food) is now responsible for authenticating Brunello wines with lab tests. Successful producers should receive a certificate within 15 days allowing them to export to the U.S. The TTB confirmed the certification process satisfies the agency's requirement.

Wine & Spirits Daily

Economy Hurts On-Premise Drinking

Research from the Nielsen company and Bevinco indicates that fewer consumers are drinking at bars, restaurants and nightclubs and that on-premise sales of alcoholic beverages have been "considerably impacted" by the declining economy.

LESS CONSUMER TRAFFIC. More than 40% of bar managers, bar owners, and bartenders surveyed say they have seen a decrease in consumer traffic, while 25% note a decrease in the number of drinks ordered and 22% say that customers are ordering less expensive drinks. The casual dining sector appears to be the hardest hit, with 46% of respondents in this area reporting a decline.

Consumers say they are cutting back too. About 66% of fine dining patrons admit they are going out less often compared to a year ago, while 65% of nightclub patrons, 55% of bar patrons, 59% of casino and resort patrons and 52% of casual dining visitors said the same thing.

On-premise venues on the East and West coasts report the greatest declines, with owners and operators in California and Florida citing significant decreases in consumer traffic: 55% and 52% respectively. Slightly more than half of Texas operators report a decrease in consumer traffic, while nearly one-third see patrons ordering less expensive drinks. In addition, 43% of Florida operators say they've experienced a decrease in the number of drinks ordered. Just one-third of establishments in Florida and California claim no impact overall.

Wine & Spirits Daily

A Turtle With Great Taste!

"Lucky" the Turtle is lucky in more ways than one! He was found last week crossing a street close to a main road during rush hour! He was taken to a wine drinking home as a temporary escape from the rat race. When he was taken out of his provisional turtle pen, he immediately headed for the wine as you can see! This turtle is "lucky" to be blessed with good taste and maybe he was a Wino in another place and time! Don't worry, he has only been looking and not tasting. Lucky?