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28 February 2008

Languedoc: Laroche 'South of France' - Mas La Chevalière

Part of the Michel Laroche wine empire (Chablis, Chile, South Africa... next stop Corsica following in the footsteps of an earlier well-known emperor?!), Mas de la Chevalière is now part of the mighty - and quite impressive, it has to be said, looking at the different wineries they own - Languedoc-based JeanJean group (link goes to latest feature on them, summer 2010). The estate smartly combines tastefully refurbished Mediterranean manor house with striking metal and glass winery, and produces upmarket Vin de Pays d’Oc varietals and blends. Vineyard manager and winemaker Richard Lavanoux runs a tight ship (NB Richard is no longer with them: see update link at the bottom), whether on their own estate or working with a handful of contracted growers. Their best wines include the flagship Croix Chevalière red (Syrah, Cabernet, Mourvèdre and/or Merlot depending on the vintage), the Mas whiteChardonnay / Viognier blend and another single vineyard, red wine calledRoqua Blanca (see notes below, wines sampled at Vinisud Montpellier February 2008. Followed by latest notes added in July 2010 tasted at the winery).

The property/winery can be found on the outskirts of the attractive (in its own southern way) Languedoc town of 
Béziers, which still has a bit of a rough-diamond reputation – mostly unjustified although there are certain areas where you might not feel so comfortable walking at night – but is slowly undergoing urban redevelopment in its own, casual way. Scruffier and less lively than Montpellier, this historic city (one of Europe’s oldest) is becoming popular with young people, who can’t afford to live in the region’s capital. The nicest parts for sightseeing include the magnificent Gothic cathedral (Saint Nazaire) perched up above the old town; the ancient bridge down below across the River Orb; and the elegant, tree-lined Allées Paul Riquet, a sort of pedestrian ‘road’ adjacent to an inviting square, the inevitably named Place Jean Jaurès (who was an important 19th Century politician by the way). This area reveals a few shops, restaurants and evidence of a burgeoning wine bar scene, such as nearby Le Chameau Ivre (Drunken Camel) which is a recommended stop.


2007 Sauvignon Blanc de la Chevalière (12%) - lovely piercing grassy v ripe citrus aromas and flavours, crisp bite but not harsh with it. 85
2006 Mas la Chevalière Vignoble Peyroli (Chardy Viognier) - from a vineyard in the high Aude country. Very fresh and aromatic v very subtle toasted oak, rounded tropical fruit v attractive refreshing acidity as well. 87-89
2007 Rosé de la Chevalière (mostly Syrah) - very tasty, classic style showing creamy red fruits then crisp lively finish. 87
2007 Viognier - floral apricot notes move on to an attractive, quite lively palate and not too heavy (as Viognier can be). 87
2007 Chardonnay - appealing benchmark juicy fruity style. 87
2006 Syrah - a touch of chocolate oak on the nose with red pepper and black cherry overtones, firm mouth-feel yet nice and rounded too. 87
2006 Merlot - more attractive than previous vintages (I wasn't much of a fan of their straight Merlot until now) offering plenty of plummy fruit and full body v fresh and dry bite, well made. 87
2005 Mas la Chevalière Vignoble Roqua Blanca (Merlot Syrah Cabernet sauvignon) - from a 400-metre altitude vineyard. Smoky rustic tones v lightly herbal complexity, very concentrated berry fruit v chunky tannins and background oak. 90
2003 La Croix Chevalière (Mourvèdre Syrah Cab sauv) - pretty oaky to start but it's peppery and rich with black cherry, cassis and a twist of black olive; stonking tannins v concentration and well-handled oak undercoat; lovely textures and flavours, although closing up a little on its long finish, still youthful and a touch un-together with much more to come. 92+ 


UPDATE 2010click here for details of a new feature including the latest from MLC plus a profile of Jeanjean's other Languedoc estates. I've also included my tasting notes on new vintages below.
All "vin de pays d'Oc":
2009 La Chevalière Sauvignon Blanc - pretty typical soft citrus style with grassier edges; attractive zesty length and dry yet juicy fruity finish. 83-85
2009 La Chevalière Chardonnay (blend of Chardy from the hills north of Nimes and coastal sites) - lovely fruity nose with pear and peach notes; zingy mouth-feel and bite vs light leesy creamy flavours/texture, well-made with balanced mix of fruit, weight and crisp finish. 85+
2009 La Chevalière Viognier - enticing and exotic pineapple / apricot aromas; nice "fat" tropical palate with citrus peel twist, zestier "chalky" finish and lively length. 87
2007 Mas La Chevalière white "Vignoble Peyroli" (ChardonnayViognier) - toasty milky notes with developing oily creamy profile and exotic edges; still lively vs oily texture, good balance of fruit vs honeyed and nutty vs lightly steely touch. Again well made and attractive, still looking good and fresh yet rounded and creamy. 88+
2009 La Chevalière rosé (SyrahMerlotGrenache) - appealing juicy fruity style with lots of raspberry drops; very drinkable fruity mouthful with light, crisp and refreshing finish. 85
2008 Mas La Chevalière red "Roqua Blanca" (SyrahMerlot) - a bit closed up and toasty/grainy to start; turning more savoury on the palate with spicy coconut, attractive "sweet" fruit and textured tannins; again closes up on the finish (it had just been bottled when I tried it), could be quite fine though. 87+
2007 La Croix Chevalière red (SyrahMerlotGrenache) - sexy maturing savoury and tobacco tones, complex developing nose; spicy and chunky mouth-feel with subtle concentration, nice grip although rounded tannins; surprisingly elegant and not overdone, length and style. 90+
2009 Grenache (vat sample) - very white pepper vs liquorice and ripe berries, tobacco and herby edges too; meatier palate and quite powerful finish vs "sweet" fruit, attractive style. 87+
2009 Syrah (vat sample) - invitingly smoky dark cherry nose with minty edges; quite concentrated / extracted vs nice spicy juicy fruit, again grippy vs rounded tannins. 87


Route de Murviel, 34500 Béziers. Tel: 04 67 49 88 30, www.larochewines.com.

Roussillon: Domaine du Mas Rous, Montesquieu-des-Albères

Domaine du Mas Rous
Mas Rous stretches across 38 hectares (95 acres) in a beautiful spot snuggling up to the Albères hills along the border with Spain, roughly between Le Boulou and Collioure. Tender loving care of vines and winemaking is provided by José Pujol, aided by his wife, who took over this family-owned estate some thirty years ago. I tasted these three wines at this year's Vinisud wine show (Montpellier, Feb. 2008); more stuff to follow when I get round to visiting them.
2006
Tradition Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah Carignan Mourvèdre Grenache 13.5%) - lovely liquorice and black cherry fruit, peppery and lively mouth-feel set on a backdrop of chunky tannins. 87+
2003 Cuvée Côtes du Roussillon (Syrah Mourvèdre Carignan 13%) - nice mature leather-tinged fruit with 'sweet' v savoury edges; ripe and rounded palate v smoky meaty tones, well-balanced dry grip v fullness to finish. 89
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes (13.5%) - not bad actually (considering Cabernet isn't always very successful in this region): a bit stalky to start yet becomes more savoury and cassis in flavour, quite concentrated too. 87
Mas Rous, 66740 Montesquieu des Albères. Tel: 04 68 89 64 91.

27 February 2008

Roussillon: Clos Saint Georges, Trouillas

Dominique and Claude Ortal from www.clos-saint-georges.comClaude and Dominique Ortal's extensive 60 hectare (150 acre) estate lies tucked away in the open rolling countryside between the villages of Trouillas and Pollestres (south of Perpignan), not far from Château La Casenove. The initial, slightly alarming 'alterations' to the landscape, caused by nearby work on the new Perpignan to Barcelona TGV line, have now grown back and settled in while providing Saint Georges with a new road, signpost and large roundabout to conveniently slow people down so they notice it!
Saint Georges makes quite a big range of different local styles - including rosé, vins de pays varietals, traditional fortified Muscat and Rivesaltes - out of which their cru red Les Aspres cuvée is a real highlight (see below), which they don't make very much of. This Roussillon sub-appellation has its critics and supporters (
click here and scroll down to "Straining at the Leash...", or browse through other estates in this area on these Roussillon pages for more on that): the Ortals are vociferously in the latter camp and it shows in their wines. I talked to and tasted with Claude at this year's Vinisud wine show (Montpellier, Feb. 2008), this is what he said: "We talked about it (Les Aspres) and did research for ten years parcel by parcel. Renou (the former head of France's AOC regulatory watchdog who sadly died a couple of years ago) thought it was the only AOC that fitted his new ideas on appellations. Things might change as we'd felt left out of the whole cru thing. It's a shame some aren't supporting it."
2003 Cuvée de Pierre Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres (2/3 Syrah 1/3 Grenache) - attractive mix of rustic and inky fruit v lush and vibrant flavours; nice grip of textured tannins layered with maturing fruit richness. 89+
2005 Cuvée de Pierre Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres (2/3 Syrah 1/3 Grenache) - richer and riper fruit than the 03, less smoky and developed too with more minty spicy characters; very nice wine, shows promise. 90+

Clos Saint Georges, 66300 Trouillas. Tel: 04 68 21 61 46,
clortal@wanadoo.fr, www.clos-saint-georges.com.

26 February 2008

Languedoc: Les Caves de Sieur d'Arques, Limoux

Les Caves de Sieur d'Arques

One of the biggest and most enterprising co-op cellars in the Languedoc (for example, they supply the wine for Gallo's hit US brand called Red Bicyclette, although they did allegedly get their fingers burnt over a certain "Pinot Noir" cum Merlot wine!), who produce very nice examples despite the substantial volume of the whole variety of Limoux styles. Recommended sparkling wines include their Bulle de Blanquette Brut, aged in bottle on the yeast lees for 24 months, and stylish Crémant de Limoux rosé (see tasting notes below, sampled at Vinisud Montpellier February 2008). They also do guided tours around their enormous factory-like winery and show a touristy film, which is nevertheless interesting to see how the local fizz is produced on a large scale compared to the family-run estates featured in this guide. See below under Domaine Fourn for a bit of blurb on the production of the different Limoux sparklings. Caves Sieur's still Limoux wines come from four separate vineyard areas and are also worth a taste: the best ones are arguably from La Haute Vallée, higher altitude plantings that help express more finesse perhaps.

Bulle de Blanquette Brut (Mauzac Chenin Chardy 12.5% alc, 24 months lees ageing) - elegant toasty/yeasty aromas, quite rich honeyed mouth-feel with crisp backdrop and a bit of class too. 89-91
2005 Crémant de Limoux Brut (15 months ageing) - finer in a way and more floral, less textured though with light honeyed fruit then subtle refreshing finish. 87-89
Bulle de Crémant rosé (same plus a bit of Pinot Noir) - touches of red fruits with toasted-bready undercurrents, nice mouth-feel with crisp intense length. 89+
Méthode Ancestrale tradition (100% Mauzac 6.5%) - quite sweet yet refreshing with oily developing fruit, a bit odd although nice. 85+



UPDATE: latest Sd'A wines and vintages are here (Limoux report, April 2011).


Avenue de Carcassonne, 11303 Limoux. Tel: 04 68 74 63 00, www.sieurdarques.com.

Languedoc: Domaine Stella Nova, Pézenas

A winemaking consultancy team called Natolix headed up by Jean Natoli, who created the well-regarded www.oenoconseil.frhad a stand at this year's Vinisud wine show in Montpellier, where they lined up a wide selection of their clients' wines on tasting. They work with some of the leading estates in the Languedoc, and I've picked one of my favourites below with a bit of info about this equally well-known estate winery. It may or may not be worth adding that I found a few others, which didn't exactly set the world alight or were a bit heavy-handed on the winemaking front with some of the wines swamped in chocolatey new oak. And one particular white was corked but already sampled, rather inexcusable considering the stand was full of highly qualified winemakers who should have checked every bottled opened...
Anyway, enough of the cheeky telling-off, here's one of their seductive reds from Domaine Stella Nova plus a bit of blurb about them:

Philippe Richy is yet another refugee Paris businessman who packed his bags and headed south, learned about vines and wine and in 2002 purchased vineyards near Caux, in the new Pézenas subzone. He's also converting the estate over to biodynamic farming methods, man.



2004 Les Pléiades rouge Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah Grenache Mourvèdre) - very lush and extracted but it has lovely ripe resiny fruit on top of those BIG tannins and powerful finish. €13.50 90


546 Route d’Usclas, 34230 Paulhan. Tel: 04.67.00.10.76, www.stellanova.fr.

Languedoc: Le Prieuré Saint Sever

A winemaking consultancy team called Natolix headed up by Jean Natoli, who created the well-regarded www.oenoconseil.frhad a stand at this year's Vinisud wine show in Montpellier, where they lined up a wide selection of their clients' wines on tasting. They work with some of the leading estates in the Languedoc, and I've picked one of my favourites below with a bit of info about this equally well-known estate winery. It may or may not be worth adding that I found a few others, which didn't exactly set the world alight or were a bit heavy-handed on the winemaking front with some of the wines swamped in chocolatey new oak. And one particular white was corked but already sampled, rather inexcusable considering the stand was full of highly qualified winemakers who should have checked every bottled opened... Anyway, enough of the cheeky telling-off, here's one of their seductive reds:


Le Prieuré Saint Sever


Thierry Rodriguez is a winemaker and broker specialising in sourcing top end Languedoc wines for export and also owns Mas Gabinèle, a 10 hectare (25 acre) vineyard in the Faugères appellation, and a rather smart-looking holiday gite too.
2007 Basalte cuvée Stratagème Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah Grenache) - rich dark colour and fruit profile, perfumed herbal and mineral in style with bitter chocolate and fig undertones; subtle length and freshness too, again somewhat different and rather good although not for everyone this one. €9 90-92


Campagne de Veyran, 34490 Causses et Veyran. Tel: 04 67 89 71 72, www.prieuresaintsever.com.

25 February 2008

Languedoc: Domaine de Familongue, Terrasses du Larzac

Domaine de Familongue

Martine and Jean Luc Quinquarlet's recently created estate is located 30km west of Montpellier and grows vines and olive trees side by side, the former classified under the new Terrasses du Larzac Languedoc subzone.

2006 Le Carignan de Familongue Vin de pays Mont Baudile - almost reduced in character but in a complex way, showing tangy cassis and liquorice fruit; tight palate with a dry coating of attractive tannins and underlying fresh acidity too, it's different for sure. €6 87-89

3 Rue Familongue, 34725 Saint André de Sangonis. Tel: 04 67 57 59 71, www.domainedefamilongue.fr.

15 February 2008

"Climate Change and Wine" conference, Barcelona


"Climate Change and Wine," Barcelona 15 February 2008

Pancho Campo & Al Gore by video link
www.climatechangeandwine.com
Rain in Spain no longer on the plain
“The hotel manager just told me the pool outside the building will be confiscated,” a dramatic Pancho Campo announced - president of the Wine Academy of Spain and organiser of last week’s ‘Climate Change and Wine’ conference in Barcelona - as an example of the Spanish government’s new measures to reclaim water and reduce irrigation. At a time when “the maximum number of consecutive days without rain has now moved from 50 to 60,” ironically parts of Spain witnessed dramatic storms in August and October 2007 causing drastic flooding. “According to flood predictions, Bordeaux’s vineyards, for example, will be under water if the sea rises by 1.5 metres,” Campo added.
This increasing pattern of drought and flood was echoed by other speakers in Barcelona. Viticulture consultant Richard Smart said that “Australia will see shrinkage of possible grape growing regions towards the southern coasts and altitude,” yet 70% of them are currently along the Murray River centred on one of the hottest areas around Mildura. “If average temperatures increase by over 2°C, we’re not sure what will happen. But the inland irrigation areas already have an MJT (mean January/July [southern/northern hemisphere] temperature) of 25, much above this they’ll only be suitable for table and dried grape production.” Tony Sharley from Banrock Station based in Mildura said irrigation was “the biggest mistake we’ve made in Oz in the last 50 years.” The winery claims it will reduce water usage by 50% over the next two years using precise  irrigation technology, recycling schemes, vineyard mulching and preservation of the habitat around Banrock’s Wine & Wetland Centre.
Smart cited “the lucky regions” as Chile and Argentina, Tasmania, New Zealand, northern Europe and inland and northern China even. Vicente Sotés, a Madrid university professor, said “there’s no available land above 43° North in Spain, and in Rioja plantings already go up to 600m.” New high-altitude vineyard projects include the Canary Islands, Sierra Nevada in Granada and Pyrenees foothills, where Torres has already made a move.

February 2008: 
news piece above written for a business magazine. Read on, below and right, for my full report summarising the main speakers at the conference. More info from their website: II International Conference on Climate Change & Wine.

Stop Press June 2008
Rainfall in Catalonia was more than double the average in May 2008; and the story's similar in other parts of Spain although at least it's now hot in the south, whereas more heavy storms are predicted for Catalunya this week coming. What was that about unpredictable weather and drought?! Posted on Sunday 8/6/08, "quite hot and breezy with possible rain later!"

Summary of key ideas and data

Richard Smart - viticulture consultant
We could witness a growing number of new insect species appearing, directly related to global warming (GW) effects, that weren’t previously native to a particular area; such as the Asian yellow ladybird (?) which is “bad news for viticulture.”
We know temperature has a key effect on wine styles, so an increase in average temps. will result in higher alcohol and PH levels and lower acidity. Reds might also lose colour and whites their varietal characteristics in addition to a logical progression from white to red plantings.
Adaptability of popular varieties:
Chardonnay - can be grown successfully across a wide climate range.
According to tests in Australia, producing quality Pinot Noir will be limited to the coolest regions with optimum MJT of 18-19°.

Cabernet Sauvignon 22+°, Syrah up to 23, Riesling surprisingly up to 22.
1°C might not seem a lot of difference, but in terms of MJT (i.e. average over a long period) it equates to several hotter days in July in Europe. So at nearly 20° MJT in the perhaps near future, Burgundy will become more like Rioja (C.F. Pinot figures above); and Madrid will be way over 25. If the same happened in California, then e.g. the Modesto area would move beyond the growing range for wine grapes. Conversely, if predictions that the Gulf Stream will weaken are right, then western Europe will have much colder winters.
Solution = change regions or varieties, the latter is obviously easier.
Existing warm and cool areas should benefit with emergence of new cool climate growing regions such as England and Denmark (already are but could become larger scale).
RS also discussed how this could effect vineyard investment: 1 hectare (ha = 2.47 acres) in Marlborough, NZ currently costs around Aus$ 200,000; potential new cool climate areas suitable for planting could be as low as 6K at current prices…
Options - head north/south (n/s hemisphere)
-          higher altitude
-          nearer the coast.
Hence new areas of investment already opening up, such as in Spain towards the Pyrenees (see above and below for more info). There are promising undeveloped coastal areas in New World countries, which isn’t the case in much of Europe…
Expanding on RS’s “lucky regions” – Chile’s wine regions benefit from cold sea currents; plantings could also spread closer to the Andes or further south. Ditto Argentina, where some vineyard areas are already at very high altitude or have expanded into Patagonia.
China – quite a few areas fit the right temp. range in drier inland and northern regions well away from the wet humid coasts.
Responses - Harvest at night (already standard practice in hot regions)
- Breed new varieties by classical technology not GMO (RS thinks millions have been wasted developing e.g. GM drought-resistant Chardonnay that might be a commercial reality in 20 or 30 years time.)
- Increase plantings of e.g. Petit Verdot (considered by some as Bordeaux’s finest red variety but it only ripens properly there in the warmest years), red Greek varieties?


Tony Sharley – environmental scientist & manager, Banrock Station
Wine & Wetland Centre
from www.banrockstation.com
Following on pertinently from RS’s presentation and referring back to TS’s selected comments in the news piece at the top, Banrock located in Australia’s hot Mildura area has ploughed a lot of energy into climate change (CC) considerations and environmental conservation. A cynic might call this trendy marketing; but, bearing in mind the amount of money and time invested in their ‘Wine & Wetland Centre’, there certainly seems to be substance behind the ‘Good Earth, Fine Wine’ brand. Read on for a few details.
Early goals in the 90s – find the most suitable varieties, install the best irrigation technology, try for disease free vineyards, and develop the wetland conservation area (improving habitat and water quality) for eco- as well as wine tourism.
The pictures show there are now trees and green vegetation around the vineyards because:
- 90% of irrigation water is used by the vines: 6.5 mega-litres per ha from the start v 10 the norm, with a target of 3.5 after trials with PRD (Partial Root-zone Drying, efficient irrigation system that alternates vine feeding from one side to the other). Government water restrictions are now in force.
- Avoid putting salt back into the river.
- Native crop cover to reduce erosion and increase cooling.
- Mulching using grape marc.
Winery - Use effluent to grow new tree plantations.
- Water capture and reuse with a goal of ISO 14001 certification.
- Greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction strategy using the new NZ model just published.
- Recycling and alternative packaging e.g. tetrapak.
- Restore the balance between the region’s usual drought/flood cycle by drying out the wetland at certain times (no I didn’t really understand that either, best check out their website under photo above!).
- Reintroduction of extinct native species and vegetation.
- The Centre was designed to reduce CO2 emissions, use solar energy etc.; nature trails mapped out, local food sourcing.
They claim to have contributed Aus$5 million from Banrock sales to conservation projects in 12 countries. Apparently, what he calls ‘wetlands’ make up 6% of the planet’s surface area and they absorb 35% of atmospheric CO2 and deliver fresh water into our rivers; which really puts things in perspective. TS concluded by reiterating the importance of reducing water usage, with predictions of 20 to 30% less rainfall over the next 30 to 50 years in the Murray Darling region. Interestingly, there was no mention about vineyard chemical usage and organic viticulture?

Fernando Zamora – professor of oenology, Tarragona University
Alberto García Luján – director agriculture research & training centre, Jerez, and vice-president of OIV (International Organisation of Vines & Wines)
Vicente Sotés
 – Madrid Polytechnic University
José Ramón Lissarague
 – professor of viticulture Madrid Polytechnic University, winery consultant
Santiago Minguez
 – director oenology & viticulture INCAVI and Barcelona University prof.

The heavyweight Spanish contingent covered similar ground to other speakers based on ongoing research and personal observations mostly in Catalonia and Andalusia; showing broad agreement on potential major problems facing growers and winemakers, the main points are summarised below.
– Increases in sugar ripeness and % alcohol levels v tannin/acidity ripeness out of sync, higher pH v lower total acidity; yet earlier harvest dates already more common.
- Effect on photosynthesis and leaf growth due to higher temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels v less water available?
- Could result in reduction of canopy size, smaller berries and drop in yields.
- Grape skin oxidation from sunburn affecting flavour, colour, tannins and hence wine structure & ageing potential.

New regions, new varieties?
- 80% Spanish vineyards are not irrigated as water supply is already stretched.
- Difficulty with forming new EU wide policy for 27 countries.

- Comparisons with Mendoza, Argentina where new vineyard areas are emerging at higher altitude. How can we move vineyards in Spain? Average temp. decrease of about 0.6°C for each 100 metre rise in altitude or 1° latitude, but vineyards are already close to woodlands and mountains: see examples in the north and Granada (experimental plantings at +1000m) at the top.
Recent data from Jerez:
- Rainfall has dropped from an average of 600 litres / m² over the last 114 years to 514 litres over the past 20 years. Higher temps. yet drastic storms at the wrong time e.g. August 07. Winter varying between very cold bursts and spring like weather. Harvest dates have moved back to end of Aug. from first week Sept. Increase in pests such as the green mosquito.
Solutions could include:
- Choosing different rootstocks. “Tricky” to change local varieties because of long tradition, so could plant different clones with more suitable properties e.g. better acidity levels, later ripening etc. Adapt leaf canopy management to protect rather than expose bunches. Move closer to the Atlantic, which has a very important influence on Sherry production (humidity levels partly determine ‘flor’ growth, the yeast that grows inside the barrel across the maturing wine and largely responsible for the Fino style, although humidity is artificially controlled in the cellar using water sprays; so yet more water…) Plant vines on north facing slopes in hot areas: eminently logical and doable.
And in Catalonia:
- Adapt to CC with new technology, stop using the wrong ones e.g. gratuitous overhead irrigation. GMO food is already becoming a norm so why not viticulture? (much more contentious topic that one…) Farming is one of the biggest consumers of water so that has to change. CO2 emissions are high in Catalonia from industry and traffic (might have something to do with all those big 4x4 tanks clogging up Barcelona’s streets). Calculated that 1 million hectolitres (= 100m L) of wine puts 10,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere from fermentation alone! (More on that below in Pancho Campo’s presentation.)

Pascal Chatonnet – international consultant, PhD research in various boffin fields
CC and wine – adapting winemaking techniques
If we can expect variations of 2 to 4°C in ave. temps, the highest quality wines will only be possible in cool to moderately hot regions. Some areas will see drier winters and summers and new pests. Changes in photosynthesis, vine vigour/fertility, resistance to water stress…
- Flowering in France is now 2 to 3 weeks earlier than 20 years ago.
- Véraison (berry colour set) in Bordeaux about 3 weeks earlier than 40 years ago, in Chateauneuf-du-Pape 4 weeks earlier than 60 years ago; which means overall a shorter ripening period.
A few examples:
- Dijon, Burgundy might shift from cool to temperate climate (c.f. previous comments on Pinot Noir).
- In California and Oz, vineyards have migrated towards the coasts; next step is more specific mapping of best sites for certain varieties within these new zones.
- So for a broadly homogenous Mediterranean climate: e.g. Marselan (Cab Sauv/Grenache cross) showing promise in the Languedoc, maybe a comeback for Carignan? Cool/maritime regions: Merlot, white varieties. Hot Med: e.g. Touriga, Petit Verdot… PC questioned future adaptability of Tempranillo in Rioja. Tests on Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux reveal increased plant activity due to higher temps. and CO2 levels leads to higher yields but a rapid drop in quality.
- Altitude planting = even +200m would balance out CC effects? If so, it’s tough sxxx for Bordeaux then (highest altitude anywhere there is about 50m above sea level!).
Vineyard adaptation:
- Shorter pruning = less fertile buds; shoot-thinning before flowering; timely green-harvesting to prevent the vine from over-compensating (the biggest criticism of this technique); too hot & lack of water results in photosynthesis stopping (e.g. 2003 in Europe) or increased plant respiration which degrades mostly malic acid in the grapes (a harsher acid yet the one that bestows greater longevity in wines).
- Choose varieties with the right malic/tartaric acid ratio.
- Elevated potassium levels also effect malic production.
- Grape shading is one possible technique, although this decreases sugar accumulation and colour and increases the amount of malic and herbaceous characters.
 - Balanced nitrogen management (fertilising) can improve polyphenol (tannins, colour) levels in reds but it’s the reverse for whites.
 - Water stress can stop photosynthesis but increase polyphenol accumulation in reds while whites lose aromas, also shrink in berry size having a qualitative effect (concentration) although lowering quantity (less liquid).
 - Most European wine areas now have water stress problems so new terroirs have to be identified, where rootstock selection and soil preparation will be very important; any irrigation should be via precise technology.
 - Ripeness monitoring will become a fine art to prevent sugar levels from spiralling upwards to the detriment of acid/phenol balance.
In the winery:
- Yeast strains resistant to high alcohol yet produce less.
- Cold soak instead of high temperature extraction (to avoid hard tannins or other undesirable traits).
- Reduce alcohol content by distillation (‘spinning cone’) or reverse osmosis technology.
- Or better still reduce the amount of sugar in the must first.

Pancho Campo - president Wine Academy of Spain
Ethical, financial and marketing/consumer issues: a few poignant facts, examples and observations on CC taken from PC’s thesis research.
-          Refer back to first item for rainfall figures in Spain; on average down yet February-April have become drier, most important period for vine water uptake, while it’s increasingly falling at harvest time. Flooding 1960 v 2000 is definitely more common; there was also a tornado at Barcelona airport in August 2006!
-          Tracking 6 varieties in Catalonia, véraison has moved forwards especially for Parellada (important in Cava production).
-          Non-native pests appearing.
-          Less downy mildew and botrytis rot, a good thing unless you’re making sweet wines reliant on the latter.
-          Sunburnt grapes and UV effects.
-          Increased risks of microbial infection in vines such as volatile acidity and brettanomyces because of higher alcohol, potassium and pH and lower acidity (bacteria can’t function very well in a high acid environment i.e. low pH).
-          We need to look closer at other GHGs such as methane, which has 24 times the effect of CO2.
-          CO2 in winemaking process in 3 main categories: energy used to grow grapes, emissions from vinification, transport and packaging.
-          ‘Carbon footprints’ (CF) for different transport methods (I didn’t note what these measurements actually are but this gives a useful comparison anyway): by ship 52 or 62 in refrigerated containers (NB very recent data says this might in fact be 3x this figure but compared with the following…), train 200, truck 250 and air freight 570.
-          Important to consider barrel production and transport in the equation, as most oak is from France, the US and eastern Europe. Good forest management is vital as young trees absorb much more CO2 than old ones, but the transportation circle (truck/train or ship/truck) adds a lot of pollution. Torres has planted a load of trees in Penedés and Tenerife, which one cynical delegate called “marketing” given their enormous production!
-          A couple of fascinating CF brand examples:
-          Yellow Tail – 12 million case sales in USA, glass sourced locally, no barrel ageing, loaded into containers and trucked to port then shipped directly into e.g. LA or port & train to NYC. CO2 emissions = 2.2 kg per bottle production + distribution = 3.44 kg / bottle x 12m cases!
-          Napa ‘cult wine’ – heavy bottles and wooden cases, shipped directly to consumer by express delivery = 4.5 kg / bottle.
-          CC northern (more continental mass) v southern hemisphere (more water mass = cooler currents)…
-          Financial loss: climate catastrophes, increasing flooding although for the moment insurance costs have not risen that much (yet). Will cost more in the long term if do nothing, cost less if we act sooner…
-          Marketing & consumer
-          Change in existing wine styles.
-          Red production increasing in Germany, implications for fine sparkling wines (where pH/acidity is key); wines from Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium…; more opportunities for green and organic wines.
-          Although PC thinks recycling issues will be more important, lighter packaging etc.
-          GHG emissions in Spain are already +50% above levels promised in the Kyoto Agreement!
-          Renewable energy in Spain possible and suitable to climate: solar and wind power could become very significant.
-          We managed it with CFCs (remember them, from dodgy old fridges etc.) so why not GHGs? Global financial interests in oil industry are too great, has to be real political will…
-          PC concluded by saying the conference was supposedly sponsored by Rioja and other regions but there was no-one present from there (as well as Catalonia and Huelva who were)…

Michel Rolland and Jacques Lurton


Unfortunately, I had to leave before the end and missed a blind tasting of “climate change wines” commented by these two high-profile ‘international’ winemakers. You’ll see a list below of the ten wines they chose to illustrate their point. In general, they agree with other experts that the most obvious consequences of CC on grapes and styles will be more alcoholic wines, loss of acidity and changes in aroma. However, they emphasised that wine styles had changed anyway over the last 10-20 years due to improved vineyard management (better plant health and ripeness) and technical knowledge/equipment, which have blurred the reality of GW effects; although certainly the winemaker is getting used to more extreme, less predictable weather patterns.
Anyway, click on the following highlighted link to read a news report on Decanter.com, which gives you more views and info on this enlightening tasting.
1. Pierre Spar, Riesling 2007, Alsace
2. Humbrecht, Gewurztraminer 2005, Alsace
3. Domaine de la Perruche / Clos de Chaumont, Saumur-Champigny 2005, Loire Valley
4. Chateau La Louvière 2003, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
5. Chateau La Louvière 2004, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
6. Chateau Fontenil 2002, Fronsac, Bordeaux
7. Chateau Fontenil 2003, Fronsac, Bordeaux
8. Genoels Elderen 2003, Belgium
9. Remelluri 2003, Rioja Alavesa

10. Viña Santa Herminia 2003, Rioja Baja.