California's rapid rise on the fine wine investment scene has continued in 2018, backed by a run of good vintages, according to fresh figures from Liv-ex and BI Wines & Spirits.French oak barrels at the Opus One winery in Napa Valley, California.
- BI merchant says sales of US wines doubled in H1
- Liv-ex launches California 50 index to better track price rises
BI reported this month that sales of US wines rose by 96% in the first half of its financial year, versus the same period of 2017.
That wasn’t enough to dislodge mature Bordeaux and vintage Champagne among the merchant’s best sellers, but it is more evidence of California’s emergence on the fine wine investment scene. US and ‘rest of the world’ wines accounted for 10% of BI sales by value in the six-month reporting period.
‘This buying trend is predominantly due to collectors having better knowledge of the ultra-high end, boutique producers across California and becoming more open to trying out new world wines,’ said BI.
A run of good vintages from 2012 to 2015 has also propelled sales, notably the particularly ageworthy cache of California 2013 wines.Coming soon to Decanter Premium: A full vintage report and tasting notes on California 2015 wines California 50 index launched
Price inflation for California’s top names has accelerated in recent years and has bridged a gap with several top names in Burgundy and Bordeaux, according to Liv-ex analysis.
Its newly launched California 50 index tracks the last 10 physical vintages of the five most traded Californian wines on the Liv-ex platform, currently including:
- Screaming Eagle
- Opus One
- Harlan Estate
- Ridge Monte Bello
If this index had been running since 2003, historical data shows that its value would have tripled in the last 15 years, Liv-ex said. It added that the California 50 wass the best performing Liv-ex indices in the past 12 months, up by 15.8% since July 2017.How the top California wines have caught up with European greats
Where the comparison dissipates is in the market share.
California as a whole accounts for just 3.7% of Liv-ex trades by value, albeit up from 2.8% last year, according to the platform.Is there a California price bubble?
‘There doesn’t seem to be a bubble in Californian wines specifically,’ said Liv-ex research analyst Edward Jackson. ‘The California 50 index has risen steadily over the past decade, which suggests that this is not the case.
‘If there were to be any price instability for California wines, it would most likely be in the context of a general shift that affects the whole fine wine market. However, we are not in the business of predicting this.’Top performers
Liv-ex recently highlighted Dominus 2014 as a strong performer on its index, while the release of Opus One 2014 last year was also well received by the market, according to several merchants contacted at the time.
A 43-bottle lot of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon was last year the biggest seller at a Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction, fetching 1.16 million HK dollars (US$149,007).
Wine-Lister also highlighted Vérité’s ‘Le Désir’ as one of 10 ‘buzz brands’ in analysis published in June 2018.Just published on Decanter Premium: New names to know in Napa
With so many great bars in London, where should Champagne aficionados visit? Expert reviewer Julie Sheppard shares her recommendations... In partnership with The Platinum Card® from American Express®.
In partnership with The Platinum Card® from American Express®.
There’s a sprinkling of celebrity stardust at this bar, where previous regulars include Elizabeth Taylor and Mick Jagger. It’s also the room where Oscar Wilde fell in love with Lord Alfred Douglas. A glittering celebration of elaborate Louis XVI decoration with mirrored walls, this is the place to come for a decadent Champagne afternoon tea. The house pour is Laurent-Perrier – £15 for a glass of Brut NV, £25 for Rosé – alongside vintage cuvées like Dom Pérignon 2006 (£215 a bottle).Beaufort Bar at the Savoy
The internationally acclaimed American Bar steals the limelight at the Savoy, but savvy Champagne-lovers should visit the seductive Beaufort Bar. Once the hotel’s cabaret stage, where George Gershwin played, today it’s an Art Deco vision in black and gold, with sleek service. The Champagne list is arranged by style from crisp and fresh (Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV, £26 a glass, £115 a bottle) to rich and characterful (Pol Roger’s Cuvée Winston Churchill 2002, £90/£385). There’s also an eye-catching selection of Louis Roederer cuvées in large formats, up to the nine-litre Salamanazar.Champagne Room at The Connaught
This bijou bar is a hidden gem, concealed behind a velvet curtain, and with space for just 25 people (note that reservations aren’t taken). Blue leather banquettes, bronze mirrored tables and Baccarat crystal create a sumptuous setting for Champagne and caviar. Pair Imperial Oscietra with a glass of Krug Grand Cuvée NV (£65) or Billecart-Salmon’s Cuvée Nicholas Francois 2002 (£295 a bottle). Cocktails include the Dickens Noir, a twist on a French 75 made with Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée. Finally, don’t forget to look up: the large skylight frames a striking sculpture of a diver by artist Sophie Dickens.Claridges Bar
One of the classiest places in the capital to toast special occasions, Claridge’s Bar embodies the unique style of the iconic hotel. Designed by David Collins, it’s both small enough to be intimate but large enough to be deliciously buzzy. The Champagne list is a who’s who of producers, ranging from grand marques such as Veuve Clicquot to smaller names like Bruno Paillard. Big spenders can splash out on coveted older vintages, including Cristal 2002 at £690 and Salon 1971 for a cool £5,800. Cocktails include The Flapper, a signature mix of Champagne, fresh strawberries and crème de cassis.J Sheekey Atlantic Bar
Putting the ‘chic’ in Sheekey, this popular Theatreland bar boasts a brightly coloured terrace that’s ideal for alfresco bubbles on summer days. Inside, the marble-topped horseshoe bar is surrounded by black-and-white prints of screen and stage stars hung on glossy wood-panelled walls. Top Le Mesnil producer Delamotte is the house pour (£15 per glass/£75 for a bottle) but other notable labels include Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs NV (£160 a bottle) and Perrier- Joüet’s elegant Belle Époque (£310). To eat? Sample native oysters, a decadent fruits de mer platter or the classic Sheekey’s fish pie.Kettner’s Townhouse Champagne Bar
Soho institution Kettner’s was opened in 1867 by chef Auguste Kettner and was one of the first restaurants in London to serve French food. Today it’s part of the Soho House Group which has added its signature luxe. The Champagne Bar channels early Art Deco, with a gorgeous walnut bar topped with marble. A generous ice bucket is stacked with bottles for by-the-glass pours (your choice of flute or coupe) including Drappier Zero Dosage (£15 for a flute) and Bollinger Grande Année Rosé (£28 for a coupe).Texture Champagne Bar
This smart and airy little bar has an award-winning Champagne list that offers a huge selection. With over 140 different cuvées by the bottle and five more by the glass – including Charles Heidsieck Rosé 2006 (£20) – fizz fans are spoiled for choice. As well as outstanding older vintages, like Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2000 (£185 per bottle), there’s also a wonderful range of grower Champagnes from lesser-known names like Ambonnay producer Eric Rodez. As you’d expect from the bar at a one-star Michelin restaurant, creative snacks such as crisp cod skin wafers are a cut above.
Julie Sheppard writes about bars, drinks and food for Waitrose Drinks. Time Out Square Meal and Decanter.
This article was created by Decanter as part of a wine and dine guide produced in partnership with The Platinum Card by American Express.Promotion
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Warm, sunny weather throughout June and July has prompted early harvests in northern Europe with Champagne and Alsace the latest to get underway this week.
Grape pickers were preparing to get started in a handful of Champagne communes on 21 August, according to the region’s Comité Champagne.
Further east, Alsace winemakers were also preparing to begin picking grapes for Crémant sparkling wines from 22 August.
The news follows a record early harvest across the border in Germany, brought on largely by consecutive weeks of warm and sunny weather in June and July.
In Alsace, some producers expressed concern to Le Monde newspaper that it might be difficult to find enough grape pickers in August.
However, the Alsace Winemakers’ Association (AVA) has set the later date of 3 September as the start of harvesting for still, appellation wines in the region.
In Champagne, it’s been a year of extremes to some extent. Growers and houses saw record winter rainfall, with 345mm falling from November 2017 to January 2018. That beats the previous high of 338mm set in 1965, according to the Comité.
A prolonged, cold winter then gave way to good weather through flowering in early June and temperature and sunshine hours well above long-term averages.
Optimism around the vintage was high, said the Comité, which has set yields as 10,800kg per hectare.
Yields are set with one eye on the market and there is an assumption that global Champagne sales in 2018 will not grow significantly versus 2017 in volume terms, albeit exports were expected to lead any increase.
In Germany, the first grapes for 2018 wines were picked for partially fermented ‘Federweisser’ in Rheinhessen on 6 August, following the country’s warmest April since statisticians began compiling figures.
Germany’s wine institute said that there was optimism around the potential harvest quality, although some growers had faced intense water stress and needed to irrigate on younger vines and vineyards on shallow soils, in particular.
Rain in August has offered welcome respite to some.
‘After the rain of the past days, the the berry size is increasing and maturation is clearly noticeable and very advanced for this time of the year,’ Dr Ernst Loosen, the celebrated producer in the Mosel area, told Decanter.com.
‘Before the rain the ripening process was somewhat “blocked” by the dryness.’
Loosen said that he expected to begin harvesting on 10 September, around one week earlier than normal, and added that grapes were looking ‘very, very good’ following initial analysis.
But uneven and rapid ripening could create an intensive harvest period.
‘The harvesting window will probably be rather small and we expect to do a lot of selection work, to separate the different ripeness levels of the bunches on the vines,’ Loosen said.
Anne Krebiehl MW, an expert on German wine, said that the heatwaves of recent weeks were seen as a boon in the most northerly areas. ‘Just look at the smiling faces of growers in Saale-Unstrut – or England,’ she said.
See also:French wine harvest to rebound in 2018, say officials
The post Champagne and Alsace follow Germany with early 2018 harvest appeared first on Decanter.
Andrew Jefford throws a proverbial bone to horizontal wine tasting, which he feels is underrated in today's world of writing and criticism.Horizontal wine tasting is the 'underdog', says Andrew Jefford.
Wine lovers are used to thinking about horizontal and vertical, especially when it comes to tasting. A horizontal tasting enables a range of wines from the same year to be compared: the emphasis is on the difference between wines. A vertical tasting looks at just one wine through a range of different years, emphasizing the difference in vintages. That’s a useful distinction.
I’d suggest, though, that horizontal and vertical thinking in wine goes far beyond that, permeating our approach to wine more generally – and to disastrous effect. We’d enjoy wine much more if we could abandon thinking about it in a vertical sense, and throw all our energy into thinking about it in a horizontal sense. Here’s what I mean.
Few wine lovers drink one type of wine alone, to the exclusion of all others. Almost all of those who love wine love its diversity. No other alcoholic drink matches wine’s multitudes. It’s a kind of sensual barometer for difference itself, reflecting the ever-changing places and climates in which vines are grown, and the variety of cultures and talents of the craftswomen and craftsmen who vinify it. If I taste wine, I taste difference.
How, though, do we go about sorting those differences?
The best way is horizontally, which means prizing the differences as sacrosanct, and giving them our full attention: enjoying difference for itself.
Some differences in wine are well-understood, and comparisons have long been easy and enjoyable to make: a left-bank, Cabernet-dominated Bordeaux, for example, compared to a right-bank, Merlot-dominated counterpart; a Barbaresco compared to a Barolo; or a Rioja compared to a Ribera del Duero. In the latter two cases, the principle comparison is between places – close and nuanced in the Piedmontese example, more distant and dramatic in the Spanish. The subtle contrast in place in the Bordeaux example is gently amplified by varietal difference.
The fact that the southern hemisphere is principally planted at present with a small number of ‘international’ varieties makes the act of contrasting differences in place and wine-making culture and technique straightforward. Chardonnay, Cabernet or Syrah act as reagents for those differences; Pinot, too, for cooler climate locations. Tasting each wine as an individual, in which those differences are inerasably inscribed, is a fascinating and rewarding experience: a Tumbarumba Chardonnay against a Margaret River or Adelaide Hills counterpart, for example, or Pinot Noir from different parts of New Zealand and of Oregon. This is how you can travel the world and meet winemakers without ever getting up from your kitchen table by the waterside in Tromsø, on a farm in rural Minnesota or in a tower block in Singapore.
Sadly, though, the horizontal approach is the underdog, at least at present. The near-universal habit of scoring wines has had a catastrophic effect: the vertical approach to appreciating differences between wines is top dog.
Take five well-made wines of interest: all are different. All provide pleasure, of different sorts.
Now give those five wines a score each: suddenly you have a vertical suite of difference. There is a ‘best’. There is a ‘worst’. There’s a ‘second from bottom’, a ‘middling wine’ and a ‘second best’. There are, in other words, four losers and one winner, as Hugh Johnson pointed out many years ago.
What happens to the losers? Their differences are now downplayed and disparaged. We focus, if we focus on anything, on their ‘failings’: the things which meant that they weren’t ‘the winner’.
Never mind that those might be the very things that, on another day and with an unencumbered mind, we might have appreciated most about those wines; never mind that on another day our scores for the wines might have been reversed. Not only have we ruined our experience of the differences between the wines, but we have also erased the opportunities we might have had for deriving pleasure from each.
The negative effects of a vertical approach to wine don’t stop there. Too much focus on scores, on winners and on losers fuels price inflation, as the winners (or their sales intermediaries) ramp up their prices to grotesque extent (the subject of my essay last week).
It leads to an unhealthy emphasis on brands, which are inimical to the highest forms of wine culture.
It leads to price gouging: look at the flagrant examples of this associated with the white wines of assorted, often modest origin now vinified and marketed at eye-watering prices by Médoc classed growths.
It leads to a burgeoning population of label drinkers: wealthy, status-conscious folk who crave only ‘the best’, unaware of how fallible, empty and unsatisfactory that concept can be when applied to wine.
It creates perfect victims for the kind of deceitfulness practiced not simply by the Kurnawians of the wine world, but by the army of commonplace counterfeiters who have flourished over the last decade in China.
You might argue that there are some benefits to the vertical approach to wine. This is true. I wrote “five well-made wines of interest” in the example above. A vertical approach will help you set aside wines which are not well-made (though there are few of those nowadays outside the ‘natural’ circuit) and set aside uninteresting wines (of which examples abound). Verticality has its place.
It also, though, needs to be kept in its place: locked up in a kennel. Only the loping, smiling, slurping, affectionate and limitlessly gentle hound of horizontality can ensure you derive maximum pleasure from the wine world and all of its beautiful differences. Forget ‘the best’. Keep high scores at bay, as simply one attribute of a wine amongst many. Embrace difference.
Read the first two of Andrew Jefford’s ‘August essays’:Wine and money The search for purity in wine
Exclusively for Premium subscribers:A re-tasting of wines from the 2014 vintage from St-Estèphe
Seen ‘Frizzante’ on a bottle of sparkling wine but not sure what that means?What does frizzante mean on a wine?What does ‘frizzante’ mean? Ask Decanter
Frizzante means it is only lightly sparkling, whereas ‘spumante’ has more fizz to it.
‘Frizzante is made using the charmat method; a low CO2 level, offering between 1 and 2.5 bars of pressure at 20˚C, so only very lightly sparkling,’ said Andrea Briccarello, in his guide to Lambrusco in Decanter’s Italy supplement 2016.
‘Spumate is mostly made by the charmat method, though some use the traditional method. Pressure is a minimum 3 bars at 20˚C, so more sparkle than in the frizzante wines.’
Fully sparkling wines must be at minimum three bars pressure according to EU regulation.
Frizzante styles are defined as semi-sparkling by regulation. Other styles like this include French pétillant.
‘The bubbles can come from partial fermentation or rifermentation, in vat or bottle,’ said Richard Baudains, Decanter World Wine Awards regional chair for Veneto.Prosecco Rive: Wines pushing the boundaries – exclusive to Decanter Premium members When would you drink a frizzante wine?
‘Generalising a bit, you could say frizzanti are a good choice when you want a joyful, quintessentially Italian, democratically priced wine that you can cheerfully polish off a bottle of,’ said Baudains.
‘But some frizzanti are food wines – such as Lambrusco; others are aperitifs – like Prosecco and others are dessert wines, such as Asti.’Does it change the flavour?
In technical terms, no, a wine being frizzante does not affect the flavour.
‘But all frizzanti are made from grapes with distinctive varietal characters, by processes that aim to keep in the fruit and aroma, so they are [often] tasty wines,’ said Baudains.See also Champagne bubble size: Does it matter? See more wine questions here