The weather is so nice where I am I thought I could risk it and take it a peg down with a couple of concerning news from the impact of climate change, to fraudsters trying to dupe us and why wine soon will cost (even) more. No worries though, there is also some positive stuff, so don’t let yourself drag down by the latest edition of the JollyCellarMaster Weekly:
Worse than Phylloxera, Dodgy Dealings and Higher Costs
Crime and Punishment
A few weeks ago, we were talking about the accusations against the owners of Château Angélus and Château Trotte Vieille in respect of alleged rigging entrance to the St Emilion classification system and their rankings within it. The objective there was not only to improve their reputation but most probably to unfairly inflate the price of their wines as a direct result. Well, the former, Hubert de Boüard of Angelus, has now been found guilty of “unlawful bias” in his role in the 2012 Saint-Emilion classification on Monday. I promised you that the story was to be continued and this ruling put the lid on the case; I also said that he was facing up to 5 years in prison, it turned out though that eventually it was only fined €60,000 – substantial money for most of us, but rather insignificant compared to the jail time he was looking at, I suppose. Especially, if you consider that the fine is worth 20 cases of Angelus and de Boüardreportedly making somewhere between €500k and €3 million a year. News were even better for Philippe Castéja, the other owner that stood trial, who was acquitted.
While we are on the subject of criminal proceedings, there was also an interesting case on the other side of the Pyrenees.
Last week the three Denominations of Origin of Priorat, Montsant, and Terra Alta released a statementregarding an investigation for wine fraud and their subsequent filing of a law suit. The aim is to protect wine quality, monitor compliance of both growers and producers, and to protect their individual, legally-registered brands, the statement said.
It comes on the back of police action in the region of Catalunya a fortnight before: Catalan police entered the premises of a wine company, Reserva de la Tierra SL in les Borges del Camp following a notification by the three Dos regarding irregularities that had been found in specific lines of wines by stating they were certified by these DOs. It appears that each of the DOs had spotted that something was not quite right with wines going back to 2019, but only together they discovered the scope of the operation with some of the company’s improperly certified wines found as far away as the United States and China. In total, fourteen wines from different vintages were listed as being labeled falsely with more under investigation.
Talking about checks, but on a more regular level, I thought it would be interesting to share a piece on controls in the Mosel region that gives an idea how things normally work: an annual report from the regional administration showed that its inspectors found 321 samples to be not complying with the rules last year. In most cases, violations of labeling regulations were found, while in 63 cases the rejection was based on values that exceeded the permissible limits. For example, 17 cases related to too little or too much alcohol or three cases were too much sulfur was used. On the whole, it is pretty much in line though with the results of previous years.
It also gives an insight into the work of the department as due to the Covid pandemic only 4,431 control visits were carried out, which is 14% down from the previous year
The Impact of Inflation
Moving away from the dark side of the wine sector, so to speak, but sticking with the slightly negative mood, it is time to break the news we were already all expecting: inflation is going to hit wine, too, if it hasn’t already! Well, I reckon this comes as less of a surprise to most of us, but sometimes it helps to connect a headline to an example to drive home the message. For instance, the UK’s basket of Christmas alcohol is set to cost an all-time high this year, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA). With the UK’s next budget to be presented tomorrow, calls for the government to freeze alcohol duty have been voiced, though it is questionable how much success they will have. At the moment, for an average priced bottle of still wine 55% or £3.20 goes on duty and VAT. With UK consumers already bracing themselves for shortages and price hikes this Christmas, a tax increase would further add to the bill.
Even if you live in a jurisdictions without tax increase, wine is going get more costly as most food and beverage products will. Merchants in my part of the world warned that the overall increase in cost for energy, material and resources together with staff shortages will constrain them to pass these increases on to consumers. As an example, the article shows that certain packaging materials now cost 30-40% more than last year. At the same time many agricultural commodities like wheat have reached record highs..
In other news
Just so you don’t miss anything, here are a couple of titbits worth reading as well: With harvest in the Northern Hemisphere drawing to a close, everyone’s taking stock of won the year has given us in the vineyards.
We already spoke about the devastating conditions in France for example a couple of times; Germany and in particular the Ahr valley has had its own share of natural disaster; and elsewhere in Germany, the region of Frankonia has reported a better year than the poor harvest of 2020, though downy mildew has resulted in smaller quantities than on average. Prices are due to increase slightly here, too, due to the effects of inflation we already discussed above, mostly for more expensive cartonnage and labels. In total, the region’s producers recorded 48 million litres of must as opposed to the all-time low last year of only 27 million litres. On the other side of the Alps, following a year that had some hail, frost and more rain than usual, it eventually turned out to be a good year for the vintners in my adopted home Alto Adige with high levels in both sugar and acidity. Sounds promising!
If you still haven’t got to grips with the impact of climate change on the wine sector despite a year full of cases of extreme weather and subsequent damages to the crop, a comparison from Miguel Torres of Familia Torres might. He likened climate change to phylloxera, the pest that devastated European vineyards in the late 19th and early 20th centuries at the International Wineries Climate Action (IWCA) conference last week. Talking of a climate emergency rather than only climate change, Torres said that its impact for viticulture was going to be worse than phylloxera.
And lastly, Dijon has been confirmed by the Member States of the OIV as the location of its new headquarters. A press release of the OIV said that the installation of the organisation’s secretariat in the Burgundy capital is planned for September 2022. At the same time, the city of diesel will start work on the renovation of the Hotel Bouchu d’Esterno, which will house the new headquarters. Dijon was chosenover Bordeaux and Reims who also were interested to house the OIV headquarters, and the General Assembly now confirmed the proposal made by France.
To conclude on a truly positive note and to restore your spirits, I’m happy to share the latest episode of the JollyCellarMaster podcast that had me talking to Jeanene Kennedy of Winederlust. We talked about the wines of Australia, how to make sure you get to visit wineries even when you’re travelling with kids, and she gave me some good advice, too. Find out more here.
Well, that’s it 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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