Greybeard’s Corner – July 2011

With few standout events my regular review of the wine world’s recent happenings is a mixed bag of topics including broken Shiraz, green wineries and melting bloggers.

Wine News: Let’s start with the curious tale of the broken Mollydooker, as a shipping container holding 462 cases of the Velvet Glove Shiraz heading for the US was dropped during transport. Initial media reports suggested all of the bottles were lost – a third of the entire production of this cult wine and worth over £625,000 – but a revised press release suggests that the number of broken bottles is much less, with the winery uploading a video onto YouTube with more information and showing some of the damage.

Another strange story to appear was that of Péter Uj, a Hungarian wine critic who was successfully sued by the state owned producer Tokaj Kereskedőház for decrying the quality of its wine, only to have the conviction overturned by the European Court of Human Rights, as described in Decanter’s “Hungarian Vin de Merde conviction quashed” (and also in Alder Yarrow’s Vinography a day later). I even felt the need to write about it on this blog and suspect many would like to see a few other critics taken to court for their actions, but the story is a reminder that words often have unforeseen effects and also that Justice sometimes needs a second chance!

The next 2 stories have a name theme, first with Italy getting a new DOC approved; DOC Sicilia replaces the old IGT Sicilia (with the IGT category now being used for a generic Terre Siciliane instead). Gabriel Savage in the Drinks Business included some “cautiously optimistic” comments from Francesca Planeta, one of the island’s largest producers.

Here in the U.K. it’s not so calm as there’s a heated debate ongoing on proposals for a generic brand for English Sparkling Wine, with Merret and Britagne (pronounced Britannia) leading the naming suggestions. Controversy reigns, however, with a large group disliking either name or even the whole concept. Decanter reviewed the story so far while Guillaume Jourdan, and Jamie Goode added their personal touches – the comments on Jamie Goode’s post sum up the debate perfectly!

I mentioned last month the advanced state of vine growth in much of Europe and July saw the Loire Valley adding to the list, with Harpers Wine & Spirit reporting on forecasts of a record breaking vintage. As with many regions, harvesting is expected to begin in mid-late August and I suspect many winemakers have already rearranged their holidays!


I also read with interest the news in The Independent on the “2011 International Award of Excellence in Sustainable Winegrowing” being awarded to Parducci Wine Cellars, America’s first Carbon Neutral winery and a Reign of Terroir favourite. The award, hosted by the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, is only in its second year with last year’s winner also from California – Hall Wines of St. Helena (I only hope this “International” award doesn’t end up only being won by North American wineries, as New Zealand is renowned for its environmentally friendly wine industry).

Parducci has a detailed section on their website including references to Climate change and Global warming, but this topic caused its own controversy last month on the release of data from Stanford University which alarmingly predicted that Northern California could lose 50% of premium wine growing land by 2040. Of course news like this was bound to be well publicised, with a host of media and twitter posts kick-starting the usual “Climate change is real vs Global Warming is a hoax” debate. A CBS video report and The Napa Valley register gave more restrained summaries with winemaker views.

Finally to the Blogosphere, which gathered in Virginia for the 4th annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference, held in Charlottesville with wine guru Jancis Robinson in attendance. I followed much of the conference through twitter and the many blog posts which appeared quickly afterwards, with the sweltering heat being a consistent theme! Cyril Penn of Wine posted a good report on Robinson’s keynote speech but it seems it wasn’t always a happy time amongst the blogging family, as shown in Dave McIntyre’s WineLine post “Whine Blogging..” and Swirl, Sip, Snark’sVirtual Slapfight..”. Whingeing aside, Virginia Wine Time presented one local blogs view of the proceedings as a whole in their series of posts on the conference. The 5th NAWBC will be held in Portland, Oregon over 17th -19th August, 2012.

North East Wine: July was a busy month in the soggy North as well, with The Wine Society coming to Newcastle for a Loire and Beaujolais tasting hosted by Joanna Locke MW and Marcel Orford Williams (TWS buyers for the respective regions) and including several of the producers of the wines on show. I was most impressed by the Domaine Seguin 2010 Pouilly-Fumé, a subtle, multi-layered Sauvignon Blanc (which, if you know my tastes, is a variety I tend to be harshly critical off, especially when from New Zealand).

A week later was our regular NEWTS tasting, with wines from 3 local retailers (Majestic, Carruthers and Kent and Richard Granger) focussing on 4 styles; German Riseling, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (!), Toscana Sangiovese and Argentinian Malbec. The Selvapiana 2004 Chianti Rufina Riserva and Michael Schäfer 1991 Dorsheimer Pittermänchen impressed me the most and overall this was a superb tasting in a format we haven’t tried much at NEWTS (both in the sourcing and tasting of the wines), one I hope will be repeated.

It was trying to decide on how much of my notes from these tastings to include in this month’s diary post that led me to finally put together my own blog site concentrating on my wine experiences with a focus on the northeast England. Initially I called it Greybeard’s Corner (for obvious reasons!) but then quickly decided on a rebrand using one of my twitter handles, and North East Wino was born. The Wine Society tasting and NEWTS meeting reviews quickly went up and I’ve also started to backfill some of my earlier writings plus some personal and local posts which have too much of U.K. slant to be appropriate for Reign of Terroir.

And so to my own wine dabblings for the month, with the purchases a typically modest range from around the world including a 2001 Sauternes from Château Filhot (Costco, £12.00), the Ara Composite 2008 Pinot Noir from New Zealand (co-op, £9) and Dr. Loosen’s 2009 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett (Sainsburys, £11.99).


Of those opened and drunk the best included the perfectly balanced Glen Carlou 2003 Grand Classique, a savoury Bordeaux blend from South Africa, the light and fruity Cave du Château de Chénas 2009 Fleurie and two Rieslings; Rebenhof’s textured, off-dry 2009 Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese feinherb Von alten Reben and the lime & kerosene Cono Sur 2008 Riesling Reserva. (See previous “Tonight’s Tipples” posts Smiling Gods and A 2009 Beaujolias).

Cellar Trivia: One Riesling in, two out last month and a look at the database sees that this is easily my favourite grape variety with 18 bottles still to hand; 11 from Germany (all but one of those from the Mosel), 4 Australian, 2 French and a lone New Zealander. As befits this most versatile of grapes these cover the gamut of styles from bone dry to immensely sweet.Looking forward: August will see Northern Hemisphere winemakers preparing for harvest at the end of the month and into September, but for consumers it’s a bit quieter;

  • August 13th & 14th for the 3rd annual Finger Lakes Riesling Festival at Canandaigua, N.Y. with over 20 Finger Lakes wineries taking part.
  • September 1st is the first International Tempranillo Day, a new initiative hosted by The Tapas Society with the hope that everyone, everywhere will “open a bottle of Tempranillo, enjoy the fun, and share their experiences online” (I already have a something from Ribera del Duero lined up!)
  • September 1st to 5th sees the Bernkastel-Kues Middle Mosel Wine Festival, the largest of the many Mosel wine fests throughout the summer from this picturesque town.

Time marches inexorably onwards, summer moves closer to autumn and I’ve reached the end of this post.



Also published on August 8th 2011 on Reign of Terroir

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