August is here and while here in Northern Italy the grapes have just started changing colour, elsewhere harvest has already begun. Can you believe it? That’s of course not all that happened in the world of wine in the past week and here is our selection of news in the latest JollyCellarMaster weekly:
Early Chardonnay, Amphorae and Smoke Taint
Waves of Solidarity
Germany is still counting the cost of the worst floods in a long time. Especially in the Ahr Valley, many wineries face financial disaster. Some are left with only the walls as the water took everything – bottles, casks and machinery – with it when it devastated the region.
However, the catastrophic events have also been answered by expressions of solidarity in many forms and we already spoke recently about some of the aid projects like the initiative of the Institute of German Wine.
Now, DW reports on a special initiative that is selling a collection of six mud-covered bottles of wine for €120 ($140), which bear the seal “authentically muddied”. All funds raised by these “flood wines” will go directly to the 50 winegrowers in the Ahr Valley whose wine cellars were flooded by rising waters and it at least is a silver lining for people who have lost almost everything because of the disaster.
Up In Smoke
While unseasonal rain continues to dominate the weather on both sides of the Alps, southern Europe is experiencing heavy wildfires. The fires are not only a direct threat to the vines but the smoke can leave lasting damage to the grapes as seen in Australia and California that had to deal with even worse disasters of this kind in recent years. To understand the impact of wildfires, how they taint grapes and threaten the future of the wine industry, you can read this article on The Conversation that goes so far to explain the chemistry of smoke taint.
Smoke Taint is also one of the many wine faults and flaws I discussed with Keith Grainger last week. You can listen to the full conversation in the latest podcast episode that will come out tomorrow.
An Early Harvest
Staying in Italy and despite the bad weather, harvest has already kicked-off in a few villages in Sicily. I’ve just noticed the first signs of veraison the other day, so that seems incredibly early even for our times, but Italia a Tavola announced the news together with some numbers on the export of Italian wines. Cutting a long story short, the numbers seem to be on the rebound with a healthy 4% increase on exports abroad. What’s surprising though is a 12.5% growth across the border as France seems to take a liking to its neighbour’s wines, something that has not always been the case. On the other side of the medal, Italian exports have seen a 12% decrease in sales in the UK, largely due to Brexit.
And to conclude this week’s edition, let’s talk about old wine. Not the fine wine and rare vintages we usually love indulging in though. No, this is about the ancient Roman ship laden with wine jars discovered off Sicily. The Guardian last week wrote about a Roman vessel dating back to the second century BC has been found in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Palermo at the depth of 92 meters (302ft). It’s the second discovery of this kind in recent weeks after Sicilian archeologists discovered another wreck of an ancient Roman ship about 70 metres deep near the island of Ustica. According to the Guardian, this ship also carried a huge load of amphorae, containing wine dating back to the second century BC.
While old wine in my personal opinion is often more interesting than new one (with the caveat of correct storage and only in respect of wines worth ageing, of course), I’m not sure the stuff found in these amphore is worth trying, but, hey! who knows, right?
And that’s all for this week, folks! However, 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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