Sotheby’s sale smashes estimates
Monday 27 February
Wine sales at the latest Sotheby’s auction smashed pre-sale estimates, making more than US$2.2 million,
Initial estimates for the 25 February Finest and Rarest sale in New York were set between $1.3 and $1.9m. A 99% sell through rate was far more encouraging than its London sale three days earlier, where 77 lots - or 13% of items - remained unsold.
The sale was led by a case of Château Pétrus 1982 which fetched $58,188 nearing the high estimate.
There was also more evidence of Asian collectors going beyond Bordeaux and Burgundy with a rare nebuchadnezzar (15 litres - sounds like a good night in) of Italian wine, Masseto, which sold to a private Asian buyer for $49,000, several times the $12/18,000 estimate.
Duncan Sterling, head of Sotheby’s wine auctions, New York said: “We were pleased with the $2.2 million total achieved in our February sale. There was enthusiastic bidding from Asia and Latin America as well as a resurgence in the American market. A packed saleroom and spirited bidding from online buyers confirmed the market’s concentration on Burgundy including selections from DRC, Hubert Lignier and Jean-Marie Fourrier.
“Italian wines continued to be much in demand with stellar results for Masseto, Brunello from Gianfranco Soldera and Solaia,” he added
Sotheby’s claimed the sale was particularly notable for the renewed demand from American collectors alongside Latin America and Asia.
Peter Dry’s varietal egalitarianism
Sunday 12 February
Have you heard of Erbaluce? Or Manzoni Bianco? No? Nor me.
But Peter Dry, a viticulture expert at the AWRI, suggested that these two varieties should be considered by cool climate producers, instead of the usual suspects. Indeed international varieties have gained a rather superior status, and he is championing ‘varietal egalitarianism’. Let’s face it there are thousands of varieties out there and we are rather limiting consumers’ choices.
Dr Richard Smart added, “It’s rather insulting to consumers to limit varieties to half a dozen varieties.”
So, why should we be considering the likes of Erbaluce and other so-called alternative varieties?
“These varieties may be better suited to climatic conditions including drought tolerance,” said Dry. “There are cool climate areas with low growing season rainfall and high aridity.
“During times of drought our cool climate areas have sufered because they rely on water stored in dams and the dams are empty.”
As well as it being more suitable to increasing temperatures and lower rainfall, people might actually prefer to drink something other than Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. “They may provide a greater range of flavours suited to the Asian palate. According to a CSIRO study, alternative varieties including Lagrein and Fiano may be better suited and may offer a competitive advantage.” said Dry
So, what is Erbaluce? An Italian white variety, that reaches maturity relatively early, is tolerant of botrytis, has good acidity and elegance. Manzoni Bianco, another Italian grape provides “good wine quality with structure and floral characters,” he added.
Ladybirds in our wine
Wednesday 8 February
Is that rancid peanut butter in my wine?
No, it’s ladybird taint.
But ladybirds are so cute. How can they taste so bad?
These cheeky things love a damaged grape to feed upon and with cool climates getting warmer, these pests are moving into regions previously too cool for them. Kevin Ker of Brock University told the International Cool Climate Symposium, “It’s a hitch hiker that we really don’t like but it will find a way to spread.”
It has been found in the US, Argentina, the UK, Czech Republic, Italy and Denmark, and it is thought it is more widespread but no-one’s owning up.
When the ladybirds inadvertently get harvested along with the grapes they emit a methoxypyrazine that smells of rancid peanut butter or bell pepper. Not something you’d want in your glass.
What’s worse, it’s pretty potent – as little as 1200 beetles per tonne can taint the batch. The sensory threshold is just 1 part per trillion.
“One the wine has been made, cleaning up the wine is virtually impossible,” said Ker.
So what to do about these pesky ladybirds?
Brock University researchers have discovered that potassium metabisulphite, which is used as an antioxidant in the winery has been found to be relatively successful.
Ker added, “If used pre-harvest, the wines made from vines treated with potassium metabisulphite seemed to be fairly successful. It can be used pre harvest to reduce the number of lady beetles below the sensory threshhold levels.”
However, anything that’s added to the grapes so close to harvest could be an issue.
What carbon taxes mean for the wine industry
Monday 6 February
Carbon taxes will be imposed on the biggest Australian companies in July 2012. Large emittors will have to pay $23 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted. But what does this mean for the wine industry?
It’s unlikely to make a massive impact immediately, as the majority of companies that will have to pay the tax are energy and mining companies, for example. However, electricity prices are likely to rise as the new tax is passed on by those companies affected by the new legislation. Airfare travel will also increase, with Qantas announcing it would impose fare increases.
Karl Forsyth, senior engineer for the Australian Wine and Research Institute told delegates at the International Cool Climate Symposium, “The government has a carbon cap and they will continually lower that bar, and there may come a point when smaller companies are included.”
With increasing scrutiny on carbon emission coming from the top down, grape growers and wine producers are advised to start making changes if they have not already done so.
The first change for wineries is to improve the efficiency of cooling systems or move to electrodialysis, which can cold stabilise the wine without the need for refrigeration. Without cold stabilisation, tartrates will precipitate out and look like crystals in the wine, so it’s an aesthetic measure but necessary for consumer acceptance.
“”If you move toward electrodialysis or different cold stabilisation techniques, 10% of a wineries emissions could be saved potentially,” said Forsyth
In the vineyard, the addition of nitrogen fertiliser is the only direct source of greenhouse gas emissions. The ‘nitrification’ process turns nitrogen fertiliser into nitrous oxide.
Forsyth added: “It’s not clear how much nitrous oxide is produced in the vineyard so we are trying to work on that by trialling inhibitors of nitrification”
For more information, go to the www.awri.com.au website.
One vineyard, many expressions
Wednesday 1 February
Welcome to day one at the eighth International Cool Climate Symposium in Hobart, Tasmania.
My brain hurts after today’s seminars, which have focused on many technical issues relevant to vineyard managers and winemakers. I have to admit ‘applied geometrics’, and ‘spatial and temporal changes in fruit composition and juice in the vineyard’ had me pretty bamboozled.
Dr Richard Smart presented the results of a study into Pinot Noir at Tamar Valley winery, which was at times confusing, particularly when he started recommending a book about Antarctica that he’d just read, but we soon got back on track!
The main tenets of his seminar were that two bunches from the same vine can produce wines that are totally different in composition.
By vinifying each bunch separately the research found a wide range of different colours and tannin levels. It also revealed that exposure of bunches to UV light reduced botrytis infections and also increased colour and tannins.
Going as far as the berry level, shrivelled berries produced wine that was 40% higher in phenolics than its non-shrivelled equivalent and tannin increased 120% despite just a 10% increase in sugar levels. Weirdly, berry size had no impact on wine colour or phenolics, which goes against what I had always believed…
Smart concluded, “Bunch variability is the most important thing for Pinot Noir”.
So, it seems you can have one vineyard, one vine or even one bunch and the resulting wines are different beasts.
What does this mean for our notion of terroir and single vineyard wines when there is such enormous variability within those sites? I’m not sure my head hurts too much but it does raise some questions to contemplate.
In the meantime maybe I’ll go and read that Antarctica book. It might be a bit easier on the brain.