Clarendelle & Domaine Clarence Dillon named exclusive wine partners of the 96th Oscars®

For the second consecutive year, Clarendelle and Domaine Clarence Dillon, will be the official 2024 wine partners of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, as well as the Governors Ball.

Clarendelle was created by Prince Robert of Luxembourg, representing the fourth generation in a family story that began with his great-grandfather’s purchase of the historic Château Haut-Brion in 1935. While primarily renowned for its excellence in the worlds of oenology and gastronomy, Domaine Clarence Dillon has long been a supporter of the arts, with Prince Robert’s early professional life even including screenwriting. Today, under Prince Robert’s leadership as Chairman & CEO, Domaine Clarence Dillon has grown to include three prestigious wine estates (Château Haut-Brion, Château La Mission Haut-Brion and Château Quintus). In 2015, the company opened a Paris restaurant, Le Clarence, proclaimed one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World. The elegant and original restaurant has enjoyed its two-star Michelin status since its opening. In the same year, “La Cave du Château” was launched, a unique fine wine merchant with an exceptional collection of wines and vintages that today enjoys four locations in Bordeaux and Paris, including its online presence at www.lcdc.wine.

Like the Academy Awards®, also steeped in a nearly century-long tradition, Clarendelle offers a contemporary expression of our times and the celebrated French “Art de Vivre.” The highly experienced Château Haut-Brion winemakers oversee the blending process for Clarendelle, vintage after vintage, as they do for the notorious Château La Mission Haut-Brion and Château Quintus estates. The Clarendelle bottles are then cellared before being released to the market when they are judged to have reached their ideal drinking age, offering the finest expression of their Bordeaux terroirs to wine lovers globally.

“Since its earliest days, our family company Domaine Clarence Dillon has been a fervent supporter and promoter of the arts both in France and on the international stage,” says Prince Robert of Luxembourg. “With Clarendelle, we are thrilled and honored to be part of the biggest night in Hollywood. We join the millions of viewers from all around the world to celebrate the outstanding achievements of the 96th Oscars nominees.”

“We are really looking forward to enjoying the exquisite menu from Chef Wolfgang Puck and his catering team, expertly paired with our wines,” continues Prince Robert. The list of Clarendelle & Domaine Clarence Dillon wines poured at all the Oscars events, catered by Wolfgang Puck Catering, includes:

La Clarté de Haut-Brion 2017
La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion 2010
Clarendelle Bordeaux Red 2016
Clarendelle Bordeaux White 2022

This year, there will be a special focus on the wines of Château La Mission Haut-Brion by highlighting the exceptionally rare La Clarté de Haut-Brion 2017 and pouring one of the best second wines ever produced at this famous estate: La Chapelle de La Mission 2010.

“The finest La Chapelle de la Mission ever made.” – Robert Parker, 93 points.

Global Exports of Scotch Whisky Reached £5.6 billion in 2023

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has released its annual report showing global export figures for the value and volume of Scotch whisky. The 2023 figures reveal that the value of Scotch exports reached £5.6 billion in 2023, while the equivalent volume of 1.35 billion 70cl bottles of Scotch were exported.

2022 has been described as a “bumper year” for Scotch whisky global exports. Last year’s report showed global Scotch exports topping £6 billion for the first time, attributed to the post-pandemic re-opening, and restocking of markets and full return of global travel retail in 2022. In comparison, the SWA says the 2023 numbers are a “more normalised depiction” of the current market.

The largest region by value in 2023 remained Asia-Pacific, which climbed above the EU in 2022. The figure was supported by record exports to China, where the market is up 165 per cent on 2019. Despite a fall of 7 per cent on its 2022 global export value, and a fall of 9 per cent on the figure from 2019, the United States remained the most valuable individual market for Scotch exports.

The biggest market by volume was France, which overtook India despite falling behind the other country in 2022. India is a “priority growth market” according to the SWA, which has called for a trade agreement to lower the tariff on Scotch imports into India.

Mark Kent, chief executive of the SWA, said: “Scotch whisky has once again shown its export strength despite significant challenges across a volatile global trading environment. The figures demonstrate that Scotch whisky brands and distilleries are investing in their teams, their tourism offering, their long-term sustainability, and their global presence to ensure that Scotch continues to be the world’s favourite whisky.

“We know that the Scotch whisky industry is remarkably resilient as we look at these numbers against the backdrop of rising costs for consumers and businesses, but the figures are a reminder once again that the Scotch Whisky success story cannot be taken for granted. We need to see more tangible support from government both at home and in our priority markets in order to continue to grow our export numbers, and the resultant investment, employment and economic benefits that come with that.

“A cut to spirits duty in the Spring Budget would be a step in the right direction, giving the industry platform at home to push forward with international growth. Government must also do away with any notion of restricting the marketing of Scotch whisky in Scotland, which would have a significant and lasting impact on the industry’s ability to generate future growth.”

UK government minister for exports Lord Offord added: “Scotch whisky is a major UK exporting success story contributing billions of pounds to the economy and supporting thousands of jobs.

“We want the UK to be an export-led economy and reach a trillion pounds of exports a year by 2030. It’s fantastic to see whisky exports in 2023 continuing to outperform pre-pandemic levels as businesses take advantage of our free trade deals and expand into new markets around the world.”

Florence Airport Will Soon Have a Rooftop Vineyard

Tuscany, one of the premier wine regions in the world, is known for its prestigious wines like Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, and Super Tuscans. Tuscany is also a perennially popular destination for the region’s culinary excellence.

Amerigo Vespucci Airport in Florence has recently announced an overhaul of its international terminal, complete with a new design, a re-oriented runway and, best of all, a rooftop vineyard.

US design studio Rafael Viñoly Architects unveiled the plans last week.

“A leading vintner from the region will cultivate the vineyard and the wine will be crafted and aged in specialised cellars beneath the terminal’s roof,” a spokesperson for Rafael Viñoly Architects explains.

The 19-acre vineyard will gently slope upwards, evoking the rolling Tuscan hills in the distance. There will be 38 vines in total, each measuring 2.8 metres wide and ranging from 455 to 570 metres lengthways. Between each vine, a 1.2 metre-wide skylight will allow shafts of light to flood the terminal below.

Grapes will be harvested by leading vintners in the region, produced and aged in cellars on-site. the airport will be able to hold more than 5.9 million international passengers. The airport is expected to open its first phase in 2026, and the second in 2035.

5 reasons why Champagne remains optimistic for 2024

This week at a press conference held at Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris, David Chatillon and Maxime Toubart, co-Presidents of the Comité Champagne, expressed their optimism for the future. Collectively, Champagne winegrowers and houses have taken strategic decisions and have launched numerous projects to ensure balance within an appellation that continues to sparkle across the globe. Initiatives include the commitment to regulation and social responsibility, the introduction of a new framework for contractual relations between winegrowers and houses, an increase in the reserve level, as well as the construction of Qanopée and a new research and development centre in Epernay; all of which bear witness to the industry’s ongoing commitment in ensuring Champagne remains desirable, available and exemplary.

1) A committed and responsible industry

To address the challenges linked to the employment of grape-pickers, Comité Champagne has asked public authorities to severely condemn the unacceptable behaviors that occurred during last year’s harvest.

It has also launched a strategic plan for the following four pillars:

Accommodation;
Working conditions, health and safety of harvesters;
Securing the supply of service providers; and
Facilitating recruitment.
Initial progress will be shared before the 2024 harvest.

“We are committed to providing a better framework during this crucial period, and to dealing with the fundamental issues. The aim is to ensure the smooth running of the harvest, which mobilizes 100,000 grape-pickers every year,” says Maxime Toubart, President of the Syndicat Général des Vignerons and co-President of the Comité Champagne.

In addition, the contractualization agreement governing the Champagne grape market has been renewed for a 5-year period. It secures market supply and consolidates the sharing of value.

2) An innovative industry

Champagne has a long-standing tradition of innovation, adapting to new challenges and evolving climates.

As part of the national plan to combat vine decline, the Comité Champagne is continuously involved in fighting against new diseases, including the flavescence dorée, and has equipped itself with tools to ensure the long-term survival of the vineyard, and preserve the distinctiveness and excellence of Champagne wine:

Construction of an “insect-proof” greenhouse: This new-generation greenhouse, built as part of the QANOPÉE project including Champagne, Beaujolais, and Burgundy wine-growing regions, is designed to secure the production of vine plants in north-eastern France. Inauguration is scheduled for summer 2024.

An expanded research, development and innovation centre at the future Maison de la Champagne in Epernay. Announced last year, construction is just about to begin. This centre will reinforce the industry’s initiatives for quality and sustainable development, with state-of-the-art equipment.
Raising the reserve level: a crucial tool for regulating Champagne production, the reserve enables a portion of the wines produced during good harvests, to be kept for future use in any deficit years. To guarantee a stable marketable yield each year and further improve the resilience of the
sector, the reserve level has been raised from 8,000 kg/ha to 10,000 kg/ha.

3) A strong appellation

For over 120 years, winegrowers and Champagne houses have been working together to protect the appellation and ensure its worldwide influence.

In line with ambitions to expand its network of embassies around the world, a new Champagne Office will open in Stockholm next April, representing the industry in the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark). It will be the local point of contact for media, wine professionals, importers and government authorities in Scandinavia. This expansion is justified by the growing importance of these markets, with demand steadily rising over the last ten years (+67%).

Wine professionals around the world express a strong enthusiasm for Champagne. A recent qualitative study revealed their deep emotional connection with the product, highlighting its unique character. To further cement their connection to the appellation, training is crucial. That’s why the Comité Champagne is launching “Champagne Education”, a comprehensive, certified programme designed to train wine professionals and reinforce their role as ambassadors. This programme is already being rolled out, in partnership with renowned schools around the world (including the Ecole du Vin in Paris, the Napa Valley Wine Academy in the USA, the Cordon Bleu in UK and the Deutsche Wein und Sommelierschule in Germany).

Finally, the battle for recognition and protection of the Champagne appellation continues. In 2023, after several significant wins against misuses of its name – notably in Canada and Italy – Champagne was granted “notorious name” status in China, a first for a foreign appellation in China. This proves to be a huge step forward, providing further protection against any fraudulent use of the name Champagne, for any product, including any writing in Chinese characters.

“The continued investments and commitments we are making for the industry’s resilience are an absolute priority to give us the means to ensure long-term market balance, as well as ensure that Champagne remains an exceptional wine,” comments David Chatillon, President of the Union des Maisons de Champagne and co-President of the Comité Champagne.

4) Champagne remains THE benchmark

Champagne remains an undisputed benchmark for consumers. According to an IPSOS study in 2023, Champagne still embodies luxury, prestige and elegance. Consumers associate this wine with unique memories and emotional connections, making it the ideal choice to mark important moments and special occasions.

5) Renewed consumption and markets

The final reason for Champagne’s optimism lies in the renewal of consumption and markets.

Confined to “non vintage brut” for a long time, consumers are now looking for greater diversity in blends and dosage.

Demand for rosé Champagne abroad has increased 5-fold in 20 years. By the end of 2022, it represented over 10% of export sales, with 20 million bottles.

Low dosage wines (extra brut and zero dosage) are also on the rise, with volumes increasing almost 70-fold in the space of 20 years (6.4 million bottles exported in 2022).

Exports now account for almost 60% of total sales (171.7 million bottles), compared to 45% ten years ago, but many markets remain to be conquered. While 80% of Champagne is still sold in 8 countries, new markets such as Canada, South Africa and South Korea are showing growing interest in Champagne and have recorded remarkable growth in recent years.
Sustainability Update

With the Champagne region located at the northernmost portion of prime grape-growing latitudes, growers have spent more than a century thinking about climate and its impact on weather. As the world grapples with climate change, it’s no surprise Champagne is at the leading edge of sustainability practices.

Champagne in 2003 became the first wine-growing region in the world to conduct a carbon footprint assessment, identify the main sources of emissions, and enact a plan to curb those emissions. Since then, Champagne producers have cut CO2 emissions generated by each bottle of Champagne by 20 percent. The region aims to achieve Net Zero Carbon by 2050.

While honoring our traditions, Champagne also embraces the science of viticulture. Over the years, that has meant adopting new techniques to protect our vines from disease, create optimal yields, and husband our resources. The region is experimenting with soil management, growing practices, vine spacing, grape ripening, harvesting techniques and fermenting practices to prepare for the effects of climate change.

In 2014, the Champagne region planted new varietals to determine how they would fare in an era of extreme weather. Comité Champagne is continuing to evaluate these varietals to ensure the quality and yield meets the high standards for which Champagne is known, a process that takes at least 15 years. If new varietals are chosen, they will need to be registered in the French catalogue of vine varietals and added to the Champagne protection denomination of origin specifications.

Wines of South Africa Export Report 2023: Positive Value Growth, Despite Challenging Global Economy

The year 2023 will undoubtedly be remembered by the world’s wine fraternity as one of the most challenging.

This rings true in the context of South African wine exports as well, with volume declines of 17%, resulting in total export volumes of 306 million litres. The silver lining for South African producers can be seen in positive value growth of total exports to a respectable US$540 million (R10 billion), despite the volume decline.

Harvest 2023 saw production volumes decline by 14%, a scenario echoed by the OIV report which highlights smaller harvests globally for the year, however, the realities of excessive stocks in both northern and southern hemisphere producing countries, has had an adverse effect on pricing on the whole. This can especially be seen at the lower- and entry level segment of the wine markets where trading is particularly competitive and pricing within this commodity sector leading to a ripple effect throughout the value chain.

Despite these challenges, South African wines are still making waves internationally with continuous positive recognition from critics such as Tim Atkin, MW in his latest South African report and Anthony Mueller’s latest report on the Wine Advocate platform. It is this reputation for top quality wines that seem to be setting South African wines apart from many of our counterparts and fueling the positive premium growth trajectory.

“The consistent positive ratings and accolades achieved by South African wines has most certainly solidified our positioning in international markets. Quality remains our focus and the consistency that we have seen, along with viticultural improvements, embracing new technologies both in the vineyards and cellars, will allow for the continued upward trajectory in this regard. This is why buyers remain confident in their support of our wines,” comments Wines of South Africa CEO, Siobhan Thompson.
She adds, “Thanks to our unique terroir, our producers are known for making wines that are unique and representative of our rainbow nation.”

In addition to this, wine tourism in South Africa is projected to have further bolstered growth, adding to the overall sustainability of particularly the small and medium sized entities.
In an upcoming report following a wine tourism impact study (due for release on 1 February 2024), preliminary figures have shown exponential growth in numbers and turnover at cellar doors, with full recovery following the Covid pandemic. This growth can be accounted for by both local and international visitors to the Cape winelands.

South African white wine continues to win the popularity contest with Sauvignon Blanc leading the charge, followed by Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. All three cultivars also showing solid value growth. On the red wine side of things, Shiraz takes the lead, closely followed by Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Producers continue to face several localised challenges. One of the main issues is the ongoing infrastructure and equipment challenges at the Port of Cape Town, which has had a major impact on all products and commodities that are heavily reliant on this harbour.

Newly formed wine industry body, South Africa Wine, together with exporters, are continuously engaging with port authorities and have taken a proactive approach in finding ways to support producers in this regard. However, a long-term strategy needs to be implemented to truly negate and ultimately correct these challenges.

“Order fulfilment is key in the international wine business and we cannot allow delays due to a below-standard logistical performance to tarnish our reputation as a reliable supplier of quality wine,” says Christo Conradie, stakeholder engagement, market access and policy manager at South Africa Wine.

“Transnet (Port of Cape Town) is a crucial enabler to ensure we deliver on our global promise and we have the undertaking that Transnet will step up to the mark, focusing on the controllables via a collaborative effort. Notwithstanding some real logistical challenges, we are confident for the future and are committed to honouring all agreements.”

There is no doubt that 2024 will continue to see challenges for the South African, and indeed, the global wine industries as geopolitical pressures will continue to play a major role in the world economy. Despite this, South Africa and the South African wine industry remains open for business and the export of South African wine remains a major focus.

For more information, visit www.wosa.co.za