Holiday wine camp?

What about spending a week or two at a winery or with a grape grower? Wouldn’t that be heaven for a wine geek? To live and learn wine in practice. An ultimate solution to enhance the knowledge of wine. And probably a very good one when it comes to remember the learnings.

The interest in food and wine seems to increase for each year. Thus not surprising that so many are attracted to wine tastings, wine classes and other events with knowledge replenishment as the common denominator. Wine can be so much more than just an enjoyable beverage. There are so much to learn. The history of wine, geography, grapes, chemistry, and so on. When the knowledge grows, presumably will also the ability to appreciate the wine even more do so too. And, not least, my experience is that knowledge nourishes friendship and pleasant social events around wine, and vice verse.

If I want to increase my knowledge, what are then my options? I want sustainable knowledge. I want to remember when I need it. For example when in a store and spontaneously want to buy a bottle. That name on the label in front of me, is it a wine from a renowned einzellage or is it from a large grosslage and thus probably a much more simple alternative? Or when at a tasting I want to through myself into the discussion about the wines and the effects of different winemaking techniques.

20%, so much (or little!) is considered to be remembered when we see and hear something, i.e. the usual situation when we listen to someone holding a lecture illustrated by some power points. Also a common situation when theoretical knowledge is imparted in wine class. At home, when distractedly reading a wine book, the risk is high that even less will be remembered.

What about multiplying the chance to remember with four? To achieve 80%, we need to make practical use of what we have learnt. Thus, in a wine class about winemaking, we ought to make some wine. Perhaps not that easy, but there could be other ways for the genuinely interested. (Now you can guess where I am heading, don’t you? Yes, yes – the wine camp. It is coming, soon. Just let me develop my thinking.)

Myself, I prefer learning in a context of enjoyable experiences together with friends and wine enthusiasts. What are then the alternatives? My simplified learning/social experience matrix proposes four levels; grey, blue, green and golden yellow. What do we find on each level?

Both learning and the enjoyable experience tends to be low when sitting home, alone with the wine book. Grey, grey… inevitably down in the grey swamp in the bottom of the matrix. Just lifted up a tiny bit by a glass of good wine, poured to illustrate what I am trying to learn.

If I attend a wine class, or some other ordinary tasting held together with a lecture, I hopefully climb up into the blue field. Nice to be among other wine friends and a little bit more stays in my brain. Especially if the presenter speaks vividly and pedagogically and really ties the theoretical theme to the practical tasting. Can she/he season with personal experiences and anecdotes, the event will be even more informative. If the presentation is made by the winemaker her/himself, and there are opportunities for questions and discussion, then it can be really awarding.

To reach the green cloud, then I have to get out in the world of wine. To travel and visit producers. To see with my own eyes, talk, absorb the atmosphere. If I travel with an expert guide, especially if it is my first visit to the area, then the experience becomes even better. Informed visits and discussions with winemakers and growers increase learning even more. And the enjoyable experience will usually be great when spending time with like-minded.

How can I then reach the golden yellow sun in the upper right-hand corner? Where learning and enjoyable experience will be at the highest by making things. Out in the wide world of wine not just to see, meet and discuss. But also to try in practice. And at the same time get a wonderful experience for life.

Well, imagine if you could be an intern a week or two at a winery where the people love to share their knowledge. To be able to live and learn wine in practice. A kind of wine camp for grown ups. I would love it.

When will I see the first agency for “holiday wine internships” to wine geeks on the internet? A new business idea? Or is there already someone working with such a concept out there?

What wine do we enjoy in 2050?

2050 seems very far away. What are your plans for then? Myself, I hope to continue enjoying good wines all the time up till then. And be healthy enough to keep exploring all corners of the world of wine. But which wine do I have in my glass in 2050 and where do I travel?

In the perspective of my wine cellar, I’m about 20 years ahead of today. But now we are talking about an even more remote future. 37 years will pass by before we have 2050. Normally, it is only advertisements about various pension schemes that remind us of a future as distant as that. However, not this time. Now it is about wine. A team of scientists from the US, China and Chile have looked into the future to see how climate change can affect viticulture (1).

The results are remarkable. In their worst scenario, RCP 8.5 (note below), the area suitable for growing wine grapes might decrease with 25% to 73% by 2050 depending on location. At a lesser impact (RCP 4.5) the figures state a decrease between 19% to 62%. The highest number 73% relates to mediterranean climate parts of Australia. In Mediterranean Europe the net decrease in area suitable for viticulture is 68% and in California the decrease is 60%.

Bordeaux, Rhône, Tuscany and Piedmont are classical wine regions, all facing the future risk of getting a too hot to be suitable for wine grape production. Likewise Stellenbosch in South Africa, Colchagua and Maipo in Chile and the inner, warmer parts of California and Australia. You only have to take a look at the red spots on the map below. Many old wine favourites are threatened.

There are more interesting facts on the map. Green colour, as well as red, represents the present areas of viticulture. However, in the green parts, we can still hope for continued grape production. The dark green areas are the ones we can be most certain about. Here there is a very high degree of consistency from the results of the 17 different climate models used by the researchers, more than 90%. For the lighter green areas, more than half of the models give the result that the area will be suitable for wine grape growing also in the future. Thus, all lovers of wine from the Loire valley can calm down. The lighter green colour also covers parts of California, Chile, South Africa and Australia.

But maybe, in our twilight years, the stem will be filled with wine from a completely new viticultural area. The blue areas indicate where grape growing could be established successfully. Northern Europe is high on the list with a 99% increase of the suitable net area. In New Zealand and western North America, the growth is even higher with 168% and 231% respectively.

However, we can note that viticulture already today is successful in many of the blue areas . The used models and assumptions have not considered that many areas in the blue Germany have produced excellent wines for many centuries.

Myself, I find the pale blue border around the coasts of southern Sweden interesting. Maybe I could have a really nice, fine Bohuslän west coast wine in my glass in the year of 2050.


RCP stands for Representative Concentration Pathways. The RCP:s describe four different scenarios of  greenhouse gas concentration development over time. They are used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and of other scientist making research about climate change. RCP 8.5 implies the highest impact, while RCP 4.5 represents the second lowest impact.

(1) Lee Hannah, Patrick R. Roehrdanz, Makihiko Ikegami, Anderson V. Shepard, M. Rebecca Shaw, Gary Tabor, Lu Zhi, Pablo A. Marquet, and Robert J. Hijmans (2013), Climate change, wine, and conservation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America; PNAS 2013: 1210127110v1-201210127.

Ho Bryan – a great wine brand for 350 years

On April 10 1663 Samuel Pepys made an entry in his diary: “… and there drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryan, that hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with.”

The wine? Well, of course it is Château Haut-Brion. One of the five red premier cru wines of Bordeaux. A wine and a brand still on top after 350 years.

Samuel Pepys’ mention of Haut-Brion is the first known where someone actually describes a Bordeaux wine along with its name. Pepys was an English naval adminstrator, renowned for his diaries written in code. And as he also was a man who liked wine, it was not surprising that the note about “Ho Bryan” was made. When he died in 1703 his large collection of books, manuscripts and diaries was bequeathed to Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge where he once graduated. Anyone interested in learning more about Pepys, can visit Pepys library in Cambridge.

I’m interested in brand building and like the story about how Arnaud de Pontac once built the brand Haut-Brion. The following is from an entry I made on this blog about a year ago; Amazing stories of great wine brands.

“One of the stories fascinating me on this theme is the one about “Ho Bryan”. A history stretching centuries back in time. And a story about a brand still on top after 350 years. It must be the first example of conscious brand building in the world of wine.

Hugh Johnson has described the remarkable rise of this luxury brand in the book I love most when it comes to wine history; “The Story of Wine”.

We start around the year 1200. London had then reached the position as the prime export market of Bordeaux wine. The position was realised after a chain of events, which began when the incredible Eleanor of Aquitaine became Queen of England in 1154. It continued when King Richard, known as Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor’s son, wanted wine from Bordeaux to be served on the tables of the royal English court. And was accomplished in 1203 when John Lackland, the next king of England, and the youngest son of Eleanor, removed the heavy taxes on wine exported from the harbour of Bordeaux. His decision opened the gates to London. The claret flowed north, but it was still of ordinary, everyday quality.

We move forward to the 1660s and give the stage for Arnaud de Pontac. Head of the Parliament of Bordeaux and a man determined to take the family wine business to new heights. His plan involved ingredients well known to many modern brand builders.

Arnaud started to differentiate his product from the competitors’ by raising the quality. “Ho Bryan” was a dark coloured wine with a power that outperformed the previously known standard. There were no lack of resources to put into the production, so the quality was presumably achieved by selecting the best grapes and perfecting the winemaking methods.

Additionally, Arnaud took a completely new approach in wine business, when he as the first producer put a trade mark on his wine. It was carefully chosen to show the origin of the wine. The name was that of his family estate south of the town of Bordeaux.

The strategy was to create high demand in England, so marketing was needed. Arnaud selected the channel carefully and put it in total control of the family. In 1666 he opened an exclusive inn, the first real restaurant in London. At “Pontack’s Head” the food and wine were exquisite. So was the price tag. “Ho Bryan” was sold at a price more than three times of an ordinary wine. Arnaud positioned his wine as top-of-the-line, aiming for the market of affluent citizens.

The success came quickly. A luxury brand was born. London cried for Arnaud’s prime brand “Ho Bryan”, as well as the “Pontac” produced at his other estates. The demand drove prices to ever higher levels.

The wine, yes, it is the Haut-Brion. One of the five premier crus of Bordeaux. Still on top after hundreds of years. And an amazing history of the creation of a great brand.”

The 350 year anniversary of Samuel Pepys’ diary entry was celebrated yesterday at a gala dinner hosted by the Cambridge University Wine Society at Magdalene College in Cambridge. At Decanter’s website the event is described together with a picture of the famous diary. Take a look at it, it is really a very special book!

Vilmart champagne for a spring celebration

At last, a warm day! Well, at least warmer than previous days, week, months….  All facts, the sun, the longer days and the thermometer’s persistent attempts to reach over 10° C, they all try to convince me. Perhaps it is true, it is spring? OK, let’s say so. Of course that is a recognition requiring some celebration. Time for a glass of champagne. My choice fell on a bottle of Vilmart Grand Cellier, purchased on site some years ago.  

Vilmart is a unique producer. One of the few who ferments and matures their wines on oak. The outcome is elegant, expressive and complex champagnes of very high quality.
The location is the small village Rilly-la-Montagne in the heart of Montagne de Reims. Thus, a bit south of Reims. This is known as Pinot Noir country, but Vilmar has in fact a rather large share of Chardonnay in their wines. The grapes come from 11 ha premier cru vineyards in Rilly and Villers-Allerand.
Wilmart_Fat_2010Vilmart uses large 50 hl oak foudres to ferment and mature the base wine for the Grand Reserve and Grand Cellier champagne. The top wines, Cellier d’Or and Coeur de Cuvée, get the pleasure of spending their first time on 225 litres new Burgundy barrels.
The assemblage is a two step process. First all Chardonnay wine from the different parcels are blended in January. And the Pinot Noirs too. In the next step, during May, the final assemblage of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are made for each cuvée. Bottling, together with “pris de mousse”, i.e. the yeast needed for the second fermentation, is made in the end of June. By then we can count to about nine months on oak since the harvest in the end of September.
Then it is time for a peaceful rest deep down in the chalky cellars. Two years for Grande Reserve, three for Grand Cellier and the rosé Rubis, five years for Grand Cellier D’Or and for the fantastic Coeur de Cuvée, six years.
Vilmart_GrandCellierBrut_130405The family owned Champagne Vilmar & Cie was founded already back in 1872, but it was not until the present and fifth generation that maturation on small oak barrells for the top cuvées was introduced. Laurent Vilmart took over the responsibility in 1991 and has established Vilmart as an internationally reputable producer.
Our Grand Cellier Brut Premier Cru, made from 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir, had to wait three years in our cellar for the right occasion, i.e. the “warm” and lovely spring evening. I would say that it was three well invested years. 
Beautiful light golden colour. Pronounced, developed nose with bread and notes of white flowers, mineral and butterscotch. The mousse fills every corner of the mouth and the palate is wrapped in complex tasty sensations. A lovely, round freshness. Orange, lime, bread, butterscotch and chocolate, complemented with grapefruit and bitter orange in an aftertaste that seems to last forever. This is really the epitome of a beautiful wine.
I noticed that the prestige cuvée  Coeur de Cuvée 2004, made of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, is available at the Swedish monopoly right now. And the Grand Cellier can be e-purchased to Sweden from the Franska Vinlistan.
For all of you planning a trip to France, I recommend a visit to Rilly-la-Montagne. And why not pay Swedish Jessica Perrion in the neighbouring village Verzenay a visit at the same time? When Chardonnay is the predominating grape at Vilmart, Thierry Perrion Champagne offers Pinot Noir. It would be an enjoyable exercise to try the two different styles at the same time.