Take a stroll through a Tupungato vineyard at sunrise and you may just catch a glimpse of a silvery moon descending as a dazzling golden sun rises to strike the snowcapped volcano’s peak. Accompanying the crunching of gravelly vineyard soil underfoot, the only sounds are birdsong, the occasional bark of a dog or neighing of a horse and the whispering of vine leaves in the breeze. This is the gentle, beating heart of the Uco Valley.
‘A strong end to the year for South Kensington Wine sales’, announced Caroline Holmes after Christie’s 1 December South Kensington sale was 66% sold by lot and 68% by value. When sales were at 90% sold in October, this latest result would have been considered poor, but post credit crunch, the previously unthinkable had become respectable. Whether or not there was a wistful hint in Ms Holmes’ post sale note of a more permanent ending is unclear but the new economic order has taken its toll.
‘There is a new chapter in the life that is Oddbins’, wrote Simon Baile in a letter sent out following the takeover from Nicolas’ French parent company, Castel Frères. ‘Henry Young [his brother-in-law] and I recently bought the company and plan to breathe new life into what should be the best wine company in the country’. True, Oddbins in its heyday used to be synonymous with all that was good about wine: irreverence, a sense of adventure, enthusiastic service, a willingness to take risks, a showcase for wines with personality – and the sound of Miles Davis.
Some new wine ventures spring from a business perspective, others from a wine-orientated viewpoint. When the new business combines legal, commercial and marketing expertise with a shared love of a good bottle, then even in the current economic cold climate, you get the feeling that this one stands a good chance of making a go of it. Bidforwine.com is such a business, a new site aimed at allowing the man and woman in the street to exchange wine, eBay style, over the internet. It’s is the brainchild of three high-achieving parents, Spenser Hilliard, Lionel Nierop and Keith Prothero.
On the same mad Monday in September that Lehman Bros imploded and Damian Hirst pocketed £61 million at Sotheby’s New Bond Street, a less-well publicised sale was taking place a Master of Wine’s spit across Mayfair. Christie’s two combined sales of 40,000 bottles of Bordeaux 2000 amassed by an anonymous European collector achieved a total of £1,654,775 with 95 per cent sold by lot and 98 per cent by value.
Imagine you know next to nothing about wine and you’re told you’re going to taste 280 wines with the country’s experts. You might have an inkling of how weak my knees went as I was I thrown in at the deep end to taste 280 different sakes alongside 15 Japanese master sake brewers at the first International Sake Challenge in Tokyo. Ostensibly I was there as a judge in a Japanese wine competition, but along with the other international wine judges, I was roped in for the sake bungee jump as well.
No-one should have to kiss any more frogs than could reasonably be expected and until a decade ago, a French kiss with a vins de pays frog was not an exercise to be carried out without substantial quantities of mouthwash to hand. Not to put too fine a point on it, the quality of appellation controlées’s distant country cousins varied from indifferent to mediocre. France’s vins de pays were and still are essentially table wines with a regional designation.
One of the key words that inevitably crops up in a quick tour d’horizon of the Argentinian wine lexicon is diversity: diversity of grape variety, of terrain and of producers of varying size and philosophy. All of which can easily obscure the fact that behind many of Argentina’s best red wines is a blend: a blend of grape varieties and a blends of vineyards.