Weather Hazards Threaten Northern Italy’s 2018 Harvest

Italy is in the grip weather hazards including hail, floods, tornados

Italy is in the grip weather hazards including hail, floods, tornados and strong winds, casting fears on the 2018 vintage in regions like Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia-Romangna and Veneto.

Italy’s farmers’ association, Confederazione Nazionale Coltivatori Diretti (Coldiretti), has already warned that damages could cost the country’s agriculture industry €500 million.

According to Coldiretti, rainfall in June is 124% more compared with the historic average, and the country is experiencing its hottest summer since 1800.

This is the latest damage reported from a major wine country, following reports of fungal disease in Bordeaux threatening a 70% drop in crop, the ongoing wildfires in California and Germany’s earliest harvest on record due to unusual heatwave enveloping Europe.

“Climatic changes seem to have also impacted the Italian vineyards. It seems to be an abnormal Summer here in Italy, the most threatening weather conditions being floods due to excessive rain, hail and crazy wind called “tromba d’aria” in Italian,” Stevie Kim, managing director of Vinitaly International.

The adverse impact on the 2018 harvest in Northern Italy is early to assess but according to Kim, most producers remain cautiously optimistic and affected areas are mainly in parts of Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, Tuscany, Marche and Veneto.

“I know the affected areas include some parts of Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, Tuscany, Marche and Veneto. I’ve personally heard about damage to the corn fields, so far most producers that I’ve spoken to seem to be cautiously optimistic, however, in general most have concluded that their yield projection is lower. More importantly the Summer has not come to a close just as of yet,” she explained.

Last year, Italy’s grape yields dropped by 30% in some regions due to bizarre weather patterns, due to late spring frosts and drought.

Source Drinks Business

Capturing the Spirit of Cognac

Six members of the Circle of Wine Writers (CWW) traveled to Cognac, France

Six members of the Circle of Wine Writers (CWW) traveled to Cognac, France from April 9th to 12th, 2018 to visit cognac producers from the designated growing areas of Charente-Maritime, Deux-Sèvres and Dordogne.

A special thank you to our member Liz Palmer and the BNIC for organizing this amazing trip. Reports were written (and will be published shortly) by David Copp (UK), David Kermode (UK), Angela Reddin (UK), Jurgen Schmucking (Austria), Charlotte H.M. van Zummeren (Netherlands), and Liz Palmer (Canada), along with photography by Jurgen Schmucking and radio show program by David Kermode.

Along with meeting some wonderful people, we all had some amazing cultural and gastronomic experiences.

BNIC

On our first day, David Boileau, Ambassadeur du Cognac au BNIC gave us a presentation which included an overview of cognac production process, grapes, grades, producing regions, and 2017 export and economic figures.  This all took place at BNIC’s offices which was followed by a detailed tasting.

Six interesting takeaways are:

  1. 8% of cognac produced is exported;
  2. 4 million bottles of Cognac were exported in 2017, resulting in a turnover of €3.15 billion.
  3. Cognac is marketed to over 156 countries;
  4. Cognac’s 10 main markets include: USA, China, Singapore, UK, Germany, France, Latvia, Hong Kong, Holland and South Africa;
  5. Cognac exports have continued to grow in 2017 (three consecutive years);
  6. In terms of style, VS Cognac accounted for half of the Cognac shipments, with volume growth of 8.6%.

BNIC:  http://www.bnic.fr/cognac/_en/intro.aspx    

The Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa Opens

“Follow the road of the golden bubbles”
MAITRE DE MAISON – NICOLAS BÉLIARD –

 Champagne’s first contemporary luxury hotel, The Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa officially opened this week.

Embracing the lush bounty of the champagne houses and the surrounding UNESCO World Heritage sites, guests will have exclusive access to private Champagne houses, harvesting sessions with local wine producers and tastings personally curated by the in-house concierge team.

The Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa boasts an enviable location right in the middle of the vineyards that stripe the hills of Epernay, the capital of Champagne, and the historic villages of Champillon and Hautvillers of Dom Perignon fame. Reimagining a wine-country retreat for all seasons, local Reims-based architect Giovanni Pace has designed the property in the style of a contemporary amphitheatre, incorporating the original 19th Century Post House where it is said that King Charles X of France stopped over before heading to Reims for his coronation.

‘Champagne’ rooms start at £489.92 per night feature a king-size bed and private terrace.

The top tier ‘Josephine’ suite meanwhile, will set you back £1,068.71 a night and boasts a sitting room and balcony overlooking vineyards.

Each of the 49 rooms in the 16,000 square foot space features Hermès bath products.

The original property has been closed since 2014 after it was acquired by Boston-based Champagne Hospitality collection, a group of boutique luxury hotels and spas that includes the award-winning Le Barthelemy Hotel & Spa in St. Barths. The hotel is led by Nicolas Béliard, formerly General Manager of the Peninsula Paris.

Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa is home to the region’s first world-class destination spa spanning 16,000 ft. In partnership with acclaimed French brand Biologique Recherche, the wellness centre comprises nine treatment rooms; state of the art fitness facilities; a wood-lined yoga studio; eucalyptus-infused sauna; manicure and pedicure stations, and a mosaic-tiled Hammam. Completing the experience are two temperature-controlled, chaise longue-lined swimming pools – one indoor, one outdoor – along with dedicated staff who deliver invigorating juice blends and guide guests to multiple relaxation lounges. Biologique Recherche offers a highly personalised approach, with signature treatments including the ‘Soin seconde peau / Second skin treatment’, a regenerating and lifting facial treatment. All products are formulated using pure natural or biotechnological compounds and are fragrance free. Spa packages and retreats will also be available throughout the year.

Two-star Michelin chef Jean-Denis Rieubland is the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa’s Executive Chef, where he leads the two gastronomic dining experiences – a gourmet dining room, Le Royal, and a more casual, all-day restaurant, Bellevue. Formerly Executive Chef of Le Chantecler at the Negresco Hotel in Nice, Chef Rieubland brings the highest level of gastronomy to Royal Champagne, where he will preserve French ‘know-how’ while injecting a contemporary touch. Rieubland’s cuisine is influenced by the local surroundings, working closely with farm producers of the region. He will also be developing a Chef’s garden on a large terrace overlooking the hills of Épernay.

www.royalchampagne.com

Direct Train London to Bordeaux Planned for 2020

A direct high speed railway that would take passengers from London to Bordeaux in under five hours could be in operation by 2020, according to the chief executive of the HS1 rail network.

 

Currently travellers from London to Bordeaux have to change trains in Paris. The Paris route takes 5h 25m, including a 1 hour 5 minutes connection in Paris, travelling from London to Bordeaux.

The current return connection in Paris takes 6h 26m, with a longer 1h 55m connection in Paris, owing to the need to pass through border and security controls.

The new direct service would cut travel times to less than five hours in both directions, through a direct route and security controls located in Bordeaux, with trains reaching speeds of up to 200 mph between the two cities.

The proposed route bypasses Paris and takes advantage of a newly completed 302km French high-speed rail line linking the French town of Tours with Bordeaux.

“As we’ve seen with the recent introduction of the Eurostar London-Amsterdam service, there’s a real demand for international train services to provide a comfortable and better-connected service, especially for leisure journeys,” said Dyan Crowther, chief executive of HS1 Ltd.

“This is the first time that railway operators have collaborated in this way and saves the train operator having to do a lot of legwork. The route is almost ready for a train operator to turn up and turn the key as soon as the UK and French Governments agree on border controls.

“With the right commitment, we could be looking at new services in the next couple of years. The service will take passengers direct from city centre to city centre, taking the hassle out of travel to South West France.”

HS1 Ltd, the owner and operator of High Speed 1, is in advanced planning with three other international railway operators along the proposed route, and is working on pre-planned timetable slots and train routes, meaning that a new international train operator will be able to get the route up and running in “a couple of years”.

The four railway operators along the proposed route (HS1 Ltd, Lisea, Eurotunnel and SNCF Réseau) are meeting at the end of April, beginning of May, 2018 to discuss developing a Gare de Bordeaux-Saint-Jean station, to facilitate international departures.

Source Drinks Business, UK

Harrods sets new standards for drinks retailing

Harrods new wine and spirits shop is part of a multi-million pound investment in food and drinks retailing at the London department store

The shop can be found within the basement of Harrods that forms part of a wider overhaul of the department store’s food and drink offering dubbed ‘The Taste Revolution’.

Designer Martin Brudnizki has created the space to be inspired by the Art Deco opulence captured in The Great Gatsby to be elegant and glamorous.

Brudnizki – who was responsible for the look of famous restaurants such as The Ivy and Sexy Fish.

With marble flooring and limed oak shelving, the look and feel of the new area was carefully done to create something “quite homely and accessible”, as well as a space that “talked of the history of Harrods; talked of an iconic British brand”, said Gerard, noting that wine and spirits was the second department ever created in the life of the store, following its origins as a tea house.

While the materials give an impression of opulence, the scale of the new shop, which covers around 8,000 sq ft, is accentuated by its layout over a long, low-ceilinged space, featuring a series of interconnected rooms, allowing one to look through the store from one end to the other, with features that lead the eye into the distance.

Putting aside the overall impact, it’s the detailing of the drinks shop that really impresses. Chilled, glass-fronted cabinets called ‘Hero Shelves’ contain the finest wines in the range, while all the lighting is screened in such as way to prevent the emission of damaging heat or ultraviolet rays.

Within these cabinets are constantly circulating flows of air to keep the wines at the perfect temperature and humidity, and there’s even a whole room of these transparent containers for magnums and even bigger bottle sizes.

“We have always had a really good range of large formats, but before, they weren’t displayed with authority,” said Gerard.

Bespoke cradles are also used to hold display bottles at an angle of 27 degrees, which, Gerard told db, is the optimum slant for visual effect that still allows the wine to remain in contact with the cork – which is of course necessary to keep the stopper wet.

Then there’s the overall temperature of the space, which is kept at a constant 18.5 degrees Celsius, in contrast to the old drinks shop, which was at 20 degrees C like the rest of the department store (although this former area did contain at ‘fine wine vault’ chilled to 17 degrees C).

Considering the new shop, like its predecessor, is housed in the lower ground floor of Harrods, why was the decision taken to move it to a different part of the same level?

Gerard explains. “With our old location we were effectively landlocked, whereas now there are 12 different ways of approaching the shop, so we are much more accessible, and there are five separate openings leading into the area.”

But the other main reason to move and create a completely new drinks shop within the department store is “to revolutionise the concept of fine wine retailing,” according to Gerard.

Aroma tables guide shoppers through the flavours of each grape

Continuing, he said, “Often the experience of buying fine wine is too high-brow and intimidating, so you don’t attract the aspiring amateurs…. We wanted to create an environment that would deliver the exclusive service of Harrods to everyone.”

Helping Harrods in this endeavour is the educational element within the new store.

Throughout the space are ‘aroma tables’ featuring trumpet-like devices that, with the squeeze of a rubber bulb, like an old-fashioned perfume sprayer, delivers the trademark smells of key noble grape varieties, from Chardonnay to Syrah and Pinot Noir.

The shop also includes two private tasting areas, one devoted to delivering wine education in partnership with the WSET, and the other acting as a consulting area for clients looking for specialist advice.

There is also a spirits room where, unusually, the labels are arranged by style, and this leads into a special area devoted entirely to the retailing of Louis XIII Cognac by Rémy Martin.

Beyond this is one of the most notable new developments for London as a whole, and that is the creation of a walk-in humidor and ‘cigar sampling’ room.

While the former allows customers to store cigars in special lockers that can be rented for £3000 per year, the latter is the first space in the UK to use a special smoke-filtering system to ensure you don’t step out of this basement space smelling of tobacco.

Developed in Switzerland, the Airkel air-filtration system ensures the sampling area is subject to a constant flow of air that strips the room from any smoke, but also your clothes – effectively washing everything free from the aroma-giving particles.

Also, one can consume any drink bought in the wine and spirits to complement your cigar, and there’s no extra ‘corkage’ charge.

Furthermore, all wines bought in the shop can be drunk in any of Harrods restaurants for £30.

So, what about the wine range in the new space? Gerard told db that it runs to 1,400 different lines, augmented by a further 600 spirits. While the wine range isn’t significantly larger than it was in the old shop, he has made a lot of changes, and says there are as many as 400 new lines, and, in terms of price, the current range goes from £9 to £28,000 a bottle.

“We are now direct to source, because we want to always offer perfect provenance… the prevalence of forgery and fakes out there is scary, and Harrods has to have the stamp of authenticity,” he remarked, adding, “But it’s not just about forgery, but getting the wines to the customers in the right condition.”

“There is a lot happening at Harrods, and we are going through our biggest development in the 180-year history of Harrods, which we are calling ‘the taste revolution’. And we are doing this because the food and wine business is at the heart of this business.”

The most expensive single bottle of wine in the new shop is a Riesling! Hailing directly from the cellars of Egon Muller – a Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) from the producer’s famous Scharzofberger vineyard in Germany’s Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region.

Source: Drinks Business UK