Crime pays off – in fine wine

by | Oct 30, 2021 | Golf Balls

Shady wines for sale, fights with the police, and devastating hail – it’s just another week of wine.

After a week of covering everything from Skulduggage in Bordeaux to Korean pop stars and the fad of “regenerative” agriculture, you’ll be amazed that there was a lot more news.

The wine world may be many, but it’s rarely boring, as our round-up of the week’s other wine stories shows.

Criminals Petrus and Romanée-Conti are auctioned

Two Lamborghinis, eight Rolex, Cartier earrings and a Thermomix are among the more than 300 objects that will be on sale next Friday (5th). The catalog is managed by the large French auction house Drouot Digital and also includes a Ferrari 348 TS, a Mercedes AMG GT Roadster and a 50 euro mountain bike.

For the storage conscious, there are a number of silver, gold and palladium bars to get hold of (albeit for “professionals” – although the discipline is not immediately clear and a pear-shaped three-carat diamond ring is valued at € 40,000 and € 60,000.

And if you’ve always wanted evidence that investing in wine can be a criminal pastime, find 44 plenty of evidence that wine collectors can be found in all walks of life. There are several classic 12-bottle Romanée-Conti mixed cases from the years 2006, 2000 and 1996 (with some partial cases and individual bottles from Burgundy’s top domaine as an encore) as well as some 1988 Petrus, a 12-bottle case with Cheval Blanc from 1998, two boxes of six bottles of Ausone from 2005, two boxes of six bottles of 2000 Margaux and one box of 12 bottles of 2000 La Mission Haut-Brion.

For those looking for more affordable lots, there is a single Château Climens 2003 with an estimate of € 400; a 12-bottle box of Léoville-Poyferré 2005 for € 750; a 12-bottle box of Smith-Haut-Laffitte 1999 a bargain for € 400 and six bottles of Château d’Yquem 1997 for a criminal € 700.

One cannot help but get the impression that the estimates could be higher if the original owners were known.

Vouvray is preparing to fight the police – again

Winemakers in the Vouvray appellation in the Loire Valley are preparing to battle the French gendarmerie to build a new barracks complex in the heart of the region’s vineyards. According to the local newspaper La Nouvelle République, the current gendarmerie (near the center of Vouvray, on the road to the west towards Tours) is at risk of flooding and too small to accommodate the local contingent of 14 gendarmes and their families.

In a move proposed a few years ago and given the go-ahead by the Mayor last year, a new police complex is slated for 0.67 hectares (1.6 hectares) of former vineyards north of the town of Vouvray in the heart of the region’s vineyards. Keyword warlike noises from the region’s winegrowers who are already fighting against increasing urbanization.

“In the last 50 years our appellation has already lost hundreds of hectares,” said Philippe Brisebarre, local winemaker, regional flagship and former head of the Vouvray winemakers’ union, on Monday to the La Nouvelle Republique news agency. “We have very little land in reserve. At some point you have to say.”

The distance has some history. It comes 40 years after winemakers successfully fought back proposals to run a high-speed rail (TGV) through their country. Things came to a head in May 1984 when 80 gendarmes were assigned to escort a group of railroad engineers and surveyors.

In the clashes that broke out (the police were pelted with stones and sprayed with copper sulphate vineyard spray), Brisebarre was arrested and detained in Vouvray. The media spasm was enough that the French State Railways (SNCF) decided to dig a 1.5 km long tunnel under the vineyards.

The winemakers are supposed to take the case to the Conseil d’Etat (Council of State) – the French version of the US Supreme Court.

“Souvabitch” label rejected

The Spanish Trademark and Patent Office (OEPM) has declined an offer from a La Mancha-based literary group to protect the name “Hideputa” (roughly translated as “sonuvabitch”) for a wine label, despite the word’s reported literary heritage. The application was rejected by the office as – unsurprisingly – too “vulgar”.

However, according to the Cervantes Society of Alcázar de San Juan, the term appears in the Spanish classic Don Quixote, albeit in a no less vulgar context. The word is pronounced by the buddy of the eponymous hero, Sancho Panza, when he is given a wine to be tasted.

“Oh, Sonuvabitch, beautiful and how Catholic it is,” says Panza in one of the world’s most controversial tasting notes. However, students of the Spanish language of the 17th century claim that, despite its vulgar roots, the word was used without malice and only for emphasis.

However, the literary and linguistic background of the term did not seem to convince officials at the Trademark Office, and the name was rejected.

For those interested, the wine was produced by Bodegas Alort (also based in Alcázar de San Juan) under the DO La Mancha. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc that has matured for 12 months in medium-roasted French oak barrels.

Hailstorms hit South Australia

The Adelaide region of South Australia was hit by a major low pressure storm on Thursday, with the Barossa and Adelaide Hills wine regions being hit by hail the size of golf balls. According to 7News, “more than 72,000 lightning strikes were also registered”.

Tenafeate Creek Winery – located in the One Tree Hill area on the outskirts of Adelaide, northwest of Adelaide Hills and previously at the center of a recent Covid-19 outbreak in the state – lost between 70 and 80 percent of its crops to hail. According to ABC News, “Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills bore the brunt of the storm.”

Barossa, northwest of Adelaide, was also doing badly. Wayne Farquhar of Dell’Uva Wines in Greenock, northwest of Barossa, told 7News: “We lost our harvest for this year”.

“Areas around Tanunda and Seppeltsfield have been hit particularly hard,” said Nick Waterman, president of the South Australian Wine Industry Association (SAWIA), to the national wine publication WineTitles, “and some of these vineyards could lose up to 70 percent of their product.”

There were reports that the offices of the famous Seppeltsfield winery were flooded in a storm. Waterman added that the southern areas around Angaston and Lyndoch had reported relatively minor damage and that the Adelaide Hills, although in the way of the storm, remained “relatively unscathed”.

A severe weather warning for winds remained in place for much of the state, including Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, after the storms, but no significant further damage to vineyards or wineries was reported.

Ancient winery unearthed in Iraq

After the highly regarded – and staggeringly massive – winery complex from Byzantine times was discovered a few weeks ago in Yavne south of Tel-Aviv, archaeologists have now discovered another winery complex in Iraq that dates from the time of the Assyrian kings – around 2700 years old.

The winery – several stone basins carved into the rock, often with a drainage channel leading to a side basin for collecting the must – was built near a well-known Assyrian canal system on a slope at a place called Faida, near Dohuk, north of . discovers Mosul in Northern Iraq. According to the AFP news agency, the crush pads come from the “rule of” [King] Sennacherib, in the late 8th or early 7th century B.C.

It is said to be the first such winery discovered in the country.

“It was kind of an industrial wine factory,” Daniele Morandi Bonacossi, professor of archeology at the University of Udine, Italy, told AFP. “We found 14 machines that were used to press the grapes and extract the juice that was then turned into wine.”

The broader archaeological sites have been exposed to numerous dangers since their discovery, both from the encroaching rural development and a few years ago that the Kurdish front line against the forces of Daesh / Islamic State was at times no more than 25 km away. A joint Italian-Kurdish salvage project was launched in 2019 to protect and preserve the site.

Oregon University raises $ 7.6 million to study smoke taste

As announced this week, Oregon State University (OSU) has received a $ 7.6 million federal grant to study the effects of smoke taste on grapes and winemaking. According to the Portland Business Journal, the OSU boffins will be partnering with Washington State University and California’s UC Davis on a four-year, Department of Agriculture-funded project.

“Industry believes that in the face of climate change, smoke is a problem that will not go away and that better tools are needed to assess and manage it,” the publication said.

OSU has a certain history in this area and already formed a so-called “Smoke Exposure Team” last year to deal with the problem when the state – along with its southern neighbor California – was hit by forest fires. They were given $ 1.5 million to investigate the problem at the time, and more funds came in earlier this year.

In the most recent round of scholarships, the university will be working in vineyards in California, Oregon, and Washington to study the volatile compounds on smoke-tainted grapes and how they are carried over to the resulting wine. Numerous types of smoke from different woods are tested.

The team will also look for possible protective coatings for the grapes

“Smoking incidents are likely to only increase, and last year made us realize we needed to be better prepared,” said Elizabeth Tomasino, associate professor of oenology at Oregon State and senior researcher.