WHAT MAKES VINTAGE CHAMPAGNE SO SPECIAL?

Liz Palmer, and Delphine Veissiere PhD

imagesThe Champagne region, which is an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlée) is based on two key characteristics: assuring place of origin of each product and its method of production. It’s not the largest wine-growing region, but it is the most famous. The region is divided into four main growing areas; Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte de Blancs together with Côte de Sézanne, and Côte des Bar (referred to as the Aube). It is important to note that – it is illegal to officially label any product Champagne unless it comes from the Champagne region of France and is produced under the rules of the appellation.

Champagne has been brilliantly marketed the past few decades, and has succeeded in retaining a cache although there are many serious sparkling wine alternatives on the market.

But, why is it so expensive?

A good answer, could be partly because the process is very long and complex and requires many steps along the way, so these drive up the price.

And what about vintage champagne?

Theoretically, vintage Champagnes are made only in particularly good years . This scarcity and quality are the key determinants for investment opportunity.

Vintage champagne is a matter of rarity and style

Vintage Champagne, also known as millésimé, is the unique expression of a single year. There is no regional announcement or vintage decree – the winemaker or Chef de Cave will only produce vintage Champagne in years when the quality is exceptional. These wines are made with the best grapes from superior vineyards.

Also in Champagne the word “vintage” takes on a new meaning – about 90% of the sparkling wine produced in the region is blended into non-vintage Champagnes. These wines are blends of wines from a number of years, or vintages. Non-vintage Champagne often a representation of the house style, while vintage Champagne is a reflection of the year. What gives a vintage Champagne that “special character”? The weather.

“A vintage Champagne is a joint venture between the winemaker and the climate,” says Olivier Krug.

The Champagne region is located in a key climatic area influenced by oceanic and continental weather. Harsh weather conditions makes the winegrower’s métier quite difficult.

Champagne aficionados are ecstatic these days due to a recent shift of good to great vintages commencing with the 2002s.  The character of a vintage Champagne is a reflection of that year’s weather. Here is a précis of 14 vintages from 2000-2014 and where you will find some vintages more exceptional than others.

2015 — Too early.
2014 —  Too early.
*2013 —  Difficult flowering period; Chardonnay badly affected by millerandage; a smaller crop with high quality.
*2012 —  Deemed one of the best vintages the Champagne region has experienced. “The quality and the intensity are definitely there to make an outstanding vintage” states Dom Perignon chef de cave Richard Geoffroy. The base wines show beautiful richness with perfect acid levels; yields were very low.
2011 — An erratic year with problematic harvest.
2010 -This will be a variable year depending on the producer, not many vintages declared; some producers produced excellent fruit driven Champagne.
2009 —    A very difficult vintage; high sugar levels with moderate acidity.  I believe they will be more fresher than the 2003s; better suited for early drinking and not long-term cellaring.  I suspect that most of 2009 wine will be destined for non-vintage bottlings; a few vintage Champagnes were produced.
2008 — Some good vintages produced, watch out for some classically styled, acidic Champagnes.
2007 —  witnessed a cold, rainy summer, with a huge crop (especially Chardonnay) that was brought in earlier than predicted, near the end of August; mostly diluted fruit and high acidity, a large proportion will be reserved for non-vintage Champagnes
2006 — Supple and expressive wines; immediate drinking.
2005 — Not many great vintages produced – acidity was on the low end; 2005 Cristal is a good reflection.
2004 — Structured and well balanced wines, 2004 DP is an excellent reflection.
2003 — Very high heat across Europe produced wines with excellent fruit, good for immediate drinking not much potential for long-term cellaring.
*2002 — This vintage was dry and warm– an exceptional vintage; potentially a classic.
2001 — The worst vintage on record.
2000 — Good quality for blending; not many vintages produced.
*considered exceptional years

Vintage champagne is an investment opportunity

Champagne is relatively affordable when compared to similarly evaluated Bordeaux or Burgundy. Champagne offers first time investors a lower entry point and seasoned investors value for money when diversifying their portfolios. When Champagne is released it is ready for drinking, and rarely stored for long periods, vintages then become scarce and prices rise.

Sebastian Woolf of Woolf Sung reports that vintage Champagne currently presents the most value for money in the fine wine investment market, with a further 10% growth expected over the next 12 months. He states: “I set up Woolf Sung in 2012 to bring fine wine investment to the younger generations by focusing on under-the-radar brands and vintages. Champagne epitomizes this ambition and as investors across the board are seeking alternatives to Bordeaux, these brands and vintages are gaining traction in the market as investors and drinkers are looking for value.”

Woolf Sung is currently focusing on sourcing and procuring these old, scarce vintages which present a 3-5 year investment; these bottles are being drunk now therefore scarcity and, in turn, prices are ever increasing.

“The world’s top Champagne vintages, 1988, 1996, and 2002 have consistently shown great appreciation and continued steady growth over the years. Over a two year period to August 2014, these vintages have collectively risen 10.2%. With the investment market looking for alternatives to Bordeaux, vintage Champagne offers volume production, worldwide distribution and prestige that Burgundy and Italy struggle to compete with. According to Liv-Ex, between 2011 and 2013 the Champagne index increased 11.9% and its share of trade increase from 1% to 2.3%.” says Sebastian Woolf.

– Our Five Top Vintage Champagne Picks – Continue reading “WHAT MAKES VINTAGE CHAMPAGNE SO SPECIAL?”

The 13th Edition of Anteprima Amarone – Verona

IMG_5933 The 13th Edition of Anteprima Amarone was held in Verona on January 30 and 31st when 74 producers revealed their wines from the 2012 harvest to international press, industry insiders and general public.

This preview was promoted by the Consortium of Valpolicella and was held at the beautiful historical Palazzo della Gran Guardia, Verona.

In addition to tasting, the program included a conference on opening day, moderated by journalist Andrea Scanzi who, together with Christian Marchesini, President of the Consorzio Valpolicella, discussed the Consortium. There was also a technical presentation of the vintage curated by Dr. Diego Tommasi of Cra di Conegliano, along with the performance of the denomination on foreign markets was presented by Denis Pantini of Nomisma Observatory.

Christian Marchesini confirms “the role of the brand Ambassador of the territory in the world of the Great Red Veronese, but mainly is the driving force for the local economy and its tourist exploitation.” He goes onto say: “Unique – Amarone is a wine-icon, a seductive wine”, “fruit of the earth, where 97% of the vines were indigenous. The discovery in recent years of the Oseleta variety and the return to Guyot, is raising more the gap between modernity and tradition, between different styles and corporate philosophies”

Denis Pantini also points out that “According to 35% of the producers, the denomination of origin is the main factor of Amarone success abroad, even before the reputation of the corporate brand (I think 21%) and Italian origin (15% ), In fact, nearly 1 out of 2 producers believe this.”

He goes on to say –

“The leading export markets for Amarone include: USA, China, Russia and Canada. These countries, together with the Northern Europe export 60% of Amarone della Valpolicella.”

“Going into detail of the placement and the Amarone market share abroad, Germany (18%), Switzerland (14%) and Canada (13%) constitute the main countries of destination, followed by the United States (10%), Scandinavia (mostly with Denmark and Sweden) and the United Kingdom.”

In light of the importance that these markets hold, a study on the Canadian consumer was conducted. From this survey by the Wine Monitor Nomisma on 1,200 purchasing managers of households, showed a rate of penetration of Italian red wines of 44%, with a 25% share of red Valpolicella with Amarone 19%.

This study has also shown the the demographics of the Amarone Canadian consumer has a household income of more than $75,000 CDN/YR, has a high level of education and has traveled to Italy. An element that confirms the strategic importance of the enhancement of the Valpolicella area.

“It’s been a difficult year for 2012” said Tomasi

He goes on to say: “It’s the first vintage that marked the real climate change, followed by 2013, 2014, 2015 with an unpredictable climate change and a seasonal change characterized by water stress, so these conditions there will always bring more to the September stage – he concluded – to create the true quality. The Amarone 2012 vintage, with softer wines, fruity, gave great results especially for the last stage of maturation.”

In 2015 Amarone has reached 310 million Euros (a 6% increase over the previous year), calculating that a bottle in six was ​​exported to foreign markets, and will pay a close attention to the Canada market.

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Amarone 2012 Preview
74 wineries represented, with 78 labels, 32 of which were bottled and 46 from the barrel

Some that stood out:

Accordini Stefano Acinatico Amarone Classico 2012 (B) – very promising

Albino Armani Cuslanus Amarone Classico 2012 (C) – beautiful transparency, acidity and elegance – lots of potential

Bertani Amarone Valpantena 2012 (B) – elegance, some high acidity

Cantina Negrar Domini Veneti Amarone Classico 2012 (B) – elegant, classic

Massimago Amarone 2012 (B) – elegant, long finish

Novaya Amarone Classico 2012 (C) – a classic

Peter Zanoni Zovo Amarone 2012 (B) – very dry, great balance with fruit, acidity and taste

Rubinelli Vajol Amarone Classico 2012 (C) – balanced

Zymè Amarone Classico 2012 (C) – some sweetness, yet elegant

 

B = bottle, C = barrel sample

http://anteprimaamarone.it.

liz-palmer.com

My Interview with Wine Meridian Magazine — Marketing Italian Wines in Canada

Wine Meridian Magazine
What is the main suggestion you can give to Italian wine producers to convey and sell their products in Canada?

Liz Palmer
First you need to know that Provincial Liquor Boards control the import, sale and distribution of wine and spirits in Canada. Here is a list of these monopolies: 

¥ Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ)
¥ Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO)
¥ British Columbia Liquor Distribution (BCLD)
¥ Alberta Gaming Liquor Commission (AGLC)

Quebec, Ontario, British Colombia and Alberta concentrate on most of the Canadian demand.

Secondly, you must choose an importer who is familiar with Italy, and your specific region.

Thirdly, find an agent who has had experience working with the various Canadian monopolies, especially the Ontario market.

Lastly, also look at choosing someone who is very interested in your products your business and family history.


Wine Meridian Magazine

What is the image of Italian wines in your country (Canada)?

Liz Palmer
Canadian consumers are then keen to taste new grapes varieties and styles, therefore the diversity of Italian wine becomes an advantage.

“Italy ranks #1 in wine sales in Canada followed by the US and then France. In 2014, Canada imported $425-million (CAD) worth of Italian wines. Québec is the largest consumer of Italian wines at 36 percent, followed closely by Ontario at 31 percent and Alberta and British Columbia account for 15 percent and 10 percent, respectively.”*

These figures speak for themselves – Italian wine has never been more relevant.

*Source: Statistics Canada

Wine Meridian Magazine
What do you think about the importance of media and press in the promotion of wine? Especially Italian wine.

Liz Palmer
It’s Important to continually receive regular ongoing coverage in targeted magazines, newspapers, online media and wine journalists.

There should also be a continued focus on educating media and journalists on the 20 wine-producing regions and 350+ varieties of domestic grapes. I think we will all learn a great deal more bout the regions and varieties when we are given more information to process.

In order to engage more in a global audience, the producers should make a special emphasis to include social media in their marketing strategy.

Wine Meridian Magazine
Most Italian wines are unknown because of their difficult designations. What do you think a clear message could be to raise awareness about Italian wines?

Liz Palmer
The best wines in the world (more specifically, Italy) come from specific varieties and places.

Wine Meridian Magazine
Positive points about Italian wines in Canada

Liz Palmer
Canadians have been loyal consumers of Italian wine products for decades. Canada currently ranks 5th in global market sales of Italian wines – these wines accommodate every taste and price range.

The Italian Trade Commission (ITC) does an excellent job in the promotion of Italian wines throughout Canada, as well as raising awareness through education with local wine writers, journalists, sommeliers, and trade.

Wine Meridian Magazine
What do you think about organic wine trend?

Liz Palmer
Not only do organic wines have the potential to be healthier for you, the environment, but they also have the added benefit of tasting just as good.

Here are three reasons why I believe this trend will continue:

Organic wines are produced with almost obsessive attention to detail and the often taste better;

The contain less or no chemicals; and

They are often more socially responsible.

#TBT FIVE TOP CHAMPAGNE BRANDS BY GLOBAL SALES FOR 2014

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2014 Champagne sales hit second highest total on record with
over 308m bottles of Champagne being sold. This represent a 1% rise in global Champagne sales from 2013.

The Comite Champagne, formerly the CIVC, also estimated that worldwide Champagne sales reached 4.5bn euros in value terms, up from 4.3bn euros in 2013 and the second highest annual total on record, behind 2007.

This suggests consumers have traded up to higher priced Champagne, despite fierce discounting. Exports drove the increases in volume and value in 2014.

Most champagne houses, growers and co-operatives lowered their dosages since the start of the century, with an average reduction of 2.8 g/l over the last 15 years, a measurable reflection of an increase in BNV quality resulting from harvesting riper, cleaner grapes, and producing richer, more complex blends.

Compiled here is a list of the top Five Champagne brands, by global sales, for 2014. Where are your favourite Champagnes ranked?

1. Moët & Chandon 

Size (approx. annual sales, 2014): 2.45m cases

Cellar master: Benoît Gouez

It’s widely acknowledged that the quality of the world’s biggest Champagne brand – and flagship wine in the LVMH stable – has improved since Benoit Gouez became cellar master in 2005.

Within the last decade the category leader has benefitted from updated winemaking facilities, an increased proportion of reserve wine, better viticultural management and, as a result, riper fruit and richer, cleaner wines, which, in turn, have allowed for a lower dosage – Moët dropped to 9g/l in 2012, having previously hovered around 12 g/l.

During this period, they shifted its celebrity allegiance from actress Scarlett Johansson to tennis star Roger Federer – who remains the global Moët brand ambassador today.

In recent years the brand has not been tempted to release a drier variant of Moët and the house has no extra brut (6 g/l or below) or brut nature (0 g/l) Champagne, but, in the same year it discontinued its White Star, Moët introduced the Ice Impérial, which, with a 45 g/l dosage, is a much sweeter version designed for serving over ice.

Brand owner: Moët Hennessy

Head office: 20 Avenue de Champagne, 51200, Epernay, France

Website: www.moet.com

Product range: Moët & Chandon, Impérial NV, Rosé NV, Ice Impérial, Grand Vintage Blanc, Grand Vintage Rosé

2. Veuve Clicquot

Size (approx. annual sales, 2014): 1.55m cases

Cellar master: Dominique Demarville

Similar to Moët, Veuve Clicquot has seen its dosage fall by a few grams per litre over the last decade, but has retained its relatively opulent style, a function of the high Pinot Noir content in the blend, as well as high proportion of reserve wine, and more than 30 months spent ageing on its lees in the cellars.

It is the first brand to use biodegradable gift boxes made from its own grapes.

Brand owner: Moët Hennessy

Head office: 13 Rue Albert Thomas, 51100, Reims, France

Website: www.veuve-clicquot.com

Product range: Brut Yellow Label, Rosé, Demi-Sec, Vintage, Rosé Vintage, Cave Privée, La Grande Dame

3. Nicolas Feuillatte

Size (approx. annual sales, 2014): 875,000 cases

Cellar master: David Hénault

Director of winemaking: Guillaume Roffiaen

Made at, and owned by, the cooperative The Centre Vinicole Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte (CV-CNF), the brand has access to 2,250 hectares of grapes from 5,000 growers at a winery which can ferment as much as 300,000 hectolitres each year.

Founded in 1976 – the label has a strong following for its contemporary packaging, good value blends, and partnerships with the arts.

Nicolas Feuillatte’s best selling blend is its Brut NV, accounting for 80% of sales.

Brand owner: Centre Vinicole–Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Head office: Chouilly, BP 210, 51206, Epernay Cedex, France

Website: www.nicolas-feuillatte.com


Product range: Brut NV, Brut Réserve, Brut Grande Réserve, Demi Sec, Rosé NV, D’Luscious Rosé NV, Brut Vintage, Brut Extrem’, Cuvée Spéciale Vintage, Brut Chardonnay Vintage, One Four Brut, One Four Rosé, Cuvée 225 Brut Vintage, Cuvée 225 Rosé Vintage, Grand Cru Chadonnay Vintage, Grand Cru Pinot Noir Vintage, Palmes d’Or Brut Vintage, Palmes d’Or Rosé Vintage

4. G.H Mumm Cordon

Size (approx. annual sales, 2014): 638,000 cases

Cellar master: Didier Mariotti

Famous for its red stripe and regular appearances on Formula 1 podiums, GH Mumm sits alongside Perrier-Jouët in the Pernod Ricard Champagne portfolio.

Niche, but excellent Champagnes in the range include the Mumm de Cramant blanc de blancs and Mumm de Verzenay blanc de noirs – the latter launched in 2012, initially just for the French market

Brand owner: Pernod Ricard

Head office: 29 rue de Champ des Mars, 51053 Reims, France

Website: www.ghmumm.com

Product range: Brut Cordon Rouge, Brut Rosé, Demi-Sec, Brut Millésimé, Mumm de Cramant Blanc de Blancs, Mumm de Verzenay Blanc de Noirs, Brut Séléction, Cuvée R. Lalou


5. Laurent-Perrier

Size (approx. annual sales, 2014): 545,000 cases

Cellar master: Michel Fauconnet

It is the largest family-owned house in France and currently headed by Alexandra and Stephanie, daughters of the legendary Bernard de Nonancourt

Brand owner: Group Laurent-Perrier

Head office: Domaine Laurent-Perrier, 51150, Tours-sur-Marne, France

Website: www.laurent-perrier.com

Product range: Brut NV, Rosé NV, Ultra-Brut, Demi-Sec, Brut Millésimé, Grand Siècle, Les Réserves Grand Siècle, Alexandra Rosé

Source: Drinks Business and Decanter

BULGARIAN – PART 3 – ROSSIDI WINERY

IMG_1128++Edward Kourian, owner of Rossidi Winery has been travelling with us throughout this journey and I was really looking forward to visiting his facility and tasting his wines. We drove into a gated industrial facility and parked. We have arrived at Rossidi Winery. So unique – just like the owner and his wines!

Rossidi Winery is located in the City of Sliven, 300 km east of Sofia and 130 km from both Greece and Turkey – its name is derived from the combination of the owner (Edward) and his lovely wife (Rossitsa) – hence ROSSIDI.

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We spent the afternoon learning about Rossidi, it’s history, philosophies and indulged in some tasting. The tastings were lead by both Edward and Winemaker Peter Georgiev.

We learn that not only is Edward an oenologist, he has also studied music, engineering and graphic design, and is also one of the founding members of The Bulgarian Association of Independent Wine Growers.

Rossidi has 40 hectares of vines with 7 currently yielding – located near the village of Nikolaevo in the Thracian Lowlands; with plantings of: chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The unique labels are designed by Edward himself; each are vivid and bold reflecting the true character of the wine.

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On the line up:

Rossidi Unison 2014

Rossidi Rose 2014

Rossidi Gewurztraminer 2013

Rossidi Pinot Noir 2013

*Ross-idi Winery Egg Fermented Nikolaevo 2013

Rossidi Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Rossidi Syrah 2013

Rossidi Merlot 2013

Rossidi Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

*Signature by Rossidi 2012

*Ross-idi Winery Egg Fermented Nikolaevo 2012

Rossidi Syrah 2012

Rossidi Pinot Noir 2011

Rossidi Pinot Noir 2009

*ones to watch for

 

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Rossidi philosophy is: “The wine has to reflect the terroir it comes from and the main features of the variety it is made from and it should not be a commercial product deliberately shaped by the technologist to match the current fashionable tastes” he goes on to say “I believe we can be interesting not because we have copied someone but because we are ourselves and our wine reflects its terroir.”

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A distinct product is their Gewürztraminer – this grape variety is non-typical for Bulgaria

Another distinct product – they use the Egg-Shaped Concrete Fermenter for their chardonnay. With great success – for his first test run Rossidi won the only silver medal for Bulgaria at the International Wine Challenge London 2013, as well as a Decanter 2013 bronze medal.

Liz Palmer