With Europe on the brink of war, it feels strange to write about news from the wine. Still, the show must go on and it keeps the mind off darker thoughts, so let’s dive right into the latest edition of the JollyCellarMaster Weekly:
Dangerous Sparkling, Chianti and Quality Plus Is This Really About Cancer?
Wine and Cancer
Let us begin with another crisis, though on a distinctively smaller scale. We are, of course, talking about the report from BECA, the European Parliament’s special committee on beating cancer, and the vote of the MEPs on its findings. Despite flying a bit under the radar, there was a lot at stake for the wine industry including a number of restrictions such as how wine is promoted, how it is priced, and the funding producers could receive from the European Union.
In last week’s weekly, we even discussed the possibility that a vote in favour of the committee’s findings could lead to a European style prohibition, something that seemed unperceivable until very recently. However, in the end and to the relief of winemakers across Europe, the lawmakers stepped back from classifying wine as causing cancer. As a result, in the first place warning labels such as the familiar images on cigarette packs will not be applied to wine bottles as was initially feared. The potential consequences were far more extensive as mentioned, but we’re not out of the woods yet. The final count revealed that important amendments to the initial draft were passed by 381 votes in favour as opposed to 276 against it, which means that a large number of MEPs does not agree and would have rather seen more restrictive measures. Secondly, the Parliament’s resolution is non-binding, though it is unlikely that the European Commission will not abide by it when it is going to review its rules on alcohol labeling and taxation next year. While the Parliament’s position may be very important, there is still plenty to talk about.
Italians at the Gate
The Drinks Business among other reports that a wine from one of the most prestigious vineyards in Piedmont will become the first Barolo cru to be sold by la place de Bordeaux.
It is an interesting piece of information, though you will be excused if it leaves you a little bit puzzled. This may be either because you are wondering why someone would sell Italian wines in France (which traditionally does not seem to be overly interested in its neighbour’s produce and viceversa); it could be that you ask yourself what Barolo has got to do with Bordeaux; and it could also be that you are not quite sure what la place de Bordeaux is. Well, do not despair!
La place de Bordeaux is in a way the perfect representation of a system that is rather unique to the wine region of the Bordelais. Unlike many others were you simply walk into a cellar or tasting room and in exchange for a varying amount of money carry a bottle or more out with you, things in the southwest of France always worked differently. Here, you have the chateaux that make the wine. Then you have the negociants (or wine merchants) that sell it to you, me and the rest of the bunch like importers, distributors, hotels, restaurants, airlines, supermarkets and so on. Between the two sit the courtiers (or wine brokers) that liaise between chateaux and negociants and receive a commission (usually two percent) for their services. Centuries old, it is even in this digital day and age very relevant as the latest news show: while it traditionally was a distribution network through which wines from the region were sold, it has reinvented itself somewhat. Now, more than 50 international wines are released through La Place de Bordeaux each year in September and there are some big names among it like Masseto from Tuscany or Napa’s Dalla Valle Vineyards.
In that sense, the addition of the first Barolo to the portfolio is just the logical continuation of an ongoing process, but given the region’s strong inclination towards the old ways things are done (despite the Barolo boys), it is quite something.
316 and counting
According to Wikipedia there are currently 315 wine AOP’s in France but soon another name will be added to the list: Laudun. Following years of discussion, the majority of the winegrowers in what was part of the Cotes du Rhone Villages appellation that allowed for the mention of the name of a place or lieu-dit voted in favour of the new AOP. At the end of last year, the members of the Cru commission of the Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Laudun syndicate were presented with the conclusions of the experts from the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité and the commission establishing the framework. Now that the green light has been given, the new Laudun AOP is likely to become effective for the 2023 harvest.
The more interesting question – and more time will probably go by until we have an answer on it – is the one regarding the effects on quality, reputation and price this decision will have – or not.
Only last week, we discussed the effect of classifications on wine quality as part of the establishment of a new subzone in the Chianti DOCG. Regardless of whether designations of origin are assigned through the EU system or private organisations through quality assurance programs, do they actually contribute to the quality of wine and in what way? An interesting question, at least in my humble opinion, so I’ll keep digging. In the meantime, if you want to know more about Laudun, have a look here and try the crossword.
And that’s all for the week but if you have an interesting story to tell or simply want to chat about wine as a guest on the Podcast, connect on Twitter or drop me a line. And if you want to stay in the loop about things happening at the JollyCellarMaster and the world of wine, make sure you sign up to our newsletter.
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