© Vins d’Alsace | The Kaefferkopf Grand Cru was the scene of one of the thefts.
In this week’s news roundup we meet a light-fingered grapegrower and try a red wine-flavored ice cream.
The biggest news this week was, of course, the loss of California winemaker Jim Clendenen and tributes to the 68 year-old Au Bon Climat winemaker continue to pour in throughout the international wine media since his death last weekend. All the usual suspects were there in our World’s Most Wanted Bordeaux wines list and, on a not entirely unrelated topic, we looked at non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the part they could play in fighting wine fraud.
But here are some of the headlines you might have missed this week:
Alsace vine thief hands himself into police
Following the shock disappearance of around 1000 newly planted vines in Alsace last week, a local grower handed himself into the police at the Kaysersberg Gendarmerie ealier this week, confessing to the theft. Five separate vineyards in Kaysersberg, Siegolsheim, Bennwihr and Ammerschwihr (including the Kaefferkopf vineyard), northwest of Colmar were targeted, only three weeks after being planted.
Investigations are still under way, attempting to establish just how many cuttings were stolen and how many growers are affected. According to French news outlet France3, the thief subsequently planted the stolen vines – which had only just begun budburst – in his own vineyards.
“It would have taken him several nights,” local viticulturist Anne-Cécile Hattermann, who lost 499 vines in the theft, told the news channel. “That’s 800 to 1000 bottles of Riesling that we won’t have next year,” she said. “Out of 38 ares [0.9 acres] of new plantings, 10 ares [0.24 acres] were stolen.”
While Hattermann, of Domaine Schmitt & Carrer in Kientzheim, lodged an official complaint, she is only pursuing compensation for material damage and potential revenue losses. “He [the thief] has lost everything; his reputation is destroyed […], there’s no need to add to that,” she said.
Such thefts are not unusual (Hattermann said she lost over 30 cuttings last year), but this haul had many scratching their heads. “It’s a regular occurrence, but on this scale its unbelieveable,” said Jérôme Bauer of the Alsace Winegrowers Association (the AVA).
So far the thief has given no explanation of the theft. If the weather holds, Hattermann will attempt to replant the vineyards affected this spring.
Neymar celebrates French cup win with Vega-Sicilia
Not everyone celebrates by emptying a bottle of Champagne on the podium, it appears. Following his side’s victory in the Coupe de France on Wednesday, Brazilian football (soccer) star Neymar decided to mark the occasion in style, posting a picture of his cup medal propped up against a bottle of 2016 Vega-Sicilia Valbuena 5.
The star had reportedly had a turbulent week following the death of close friend MC Kevin in Brazil last weekend. Nymar’s side beat Porto 2-0 to take the French cup on Wednesday.
This isn’t the first time the international star has posted his love of Spain’s top winery. Nor is he alone in choosing Spain’s top drop for his celebratory tipple. He, LeBron James and Lionel Messi have a history of sharing their love of Vega-Sicilia.
In 2017, a topless Neymar posted a picture of himself with sister Rafaella Santos, then girlfriend Bruna Marquezine, and a bottle of 1976 Vega-Sicilia Unico. At around the same time, then teammate, Messi (in more formal attire – he was having dinner with his mum) posed with a bottle of 1960 and 1987 Unico.
LeBron James (a well known wine lover) celebrated LA Lakers’ first victory of the season last year with a bottle of 2006 Unico, alongside nine fire emojis and the “IYKYK” acronym (“If You Know, You Know”). Quite.
Wildfires decimate Napa 2020 harvest – official
Official confirmation – if it was needed – that the 2020 wildfires in Napa and Sonoma devasted production there last year. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s 2020 Agricultural Crop Report released on Tuesday, production volumes were down, year-on-year, by over 37 percent. In terms of value, Napa’s production in 2020 was halved.
With practically all of Napa’s agricultural output in grapes, last year’s horrific – and fatal – wildfires ripped through hundreds of thousands of acres in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties at a time when many wineries were picking grapes. If wineries and vineyards were not threatened by the fires, the prospect of smoke taint in the ensuing wines further threatened production.
“This [report] really puts into black-and-white the trauma that has been suffered by the grape industry here […] it really was a traumatic year,” county Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht told the Napa Valley Register.
French wineries reminded piquette production illegal in Europe
While piquette production and consumption takes off in the rest of the world, French winemakers were reminded by officials that they are forbidden by EU law from producing the beverage. France’s official anti-fraud bureau (the DGCCRF) told wine news site vitisphere.com this week that they weren’t targeting individual producers.
“The inspections are made in the context of wider inquiries in the wine sector,” they told the French language wine news website.
No charges have been laid with inspectors happy to remind producers of the (EU) law. Currently, piquette production (where grape marc either from pressed white grapes or almost-fermented red grapes is rehydrated/soaked in water for a period and allowed to ferment, producing a lightly alcoholic, sparkling drink) is only permitted for family consumption.
This puts many French producers, who recognise the demand the category is having in other markets, in something of a bind.
“The regulation’s opaque,” Nicolas Fernandez, of Domaine de la Calmette in Cahors, told vitisphere.com. “Piquette was banned in 1907 to protect the industry, but this was repealed in 2003. We didn’t know about the European directive.”
Fernandez said there was currently a Piquette craze in the US and that the interdiction was regrettable. However, another producer said the problem could be resolved administratively.
“The big mistake most piquette producers make is to officially enter their stock at the same time as their wine.” The anonymous winemaker said that wineries should be able to create a separate production account, with a license to produce fermented beverages other than wine and beer.
“Don’t ask Customs if you can do something,” the producer added. “The answer will always be no. Ask them how you can do it.”
Rioja pairs wine with golf to promote tourism
Wine and golf are to be paired together in a bid to promote tourism around Logroño and the Rioja region of northeast Spain. Initially set up by the Logroño City Council in February the project – which cross-promotes and links (geddit?) two pillars of regional leisure activities – was lent further support with La Rioja Regional Government officially coming on board with the plan this week.
Vinsobres launches Cru Glacé ice cream
Dubbed a “Cru Glacé”, the Vinsobres appellation of the Côtes du Rhône has launched France’s first AOC-sponsored red wine ice cream. Weighing in at 5.8 percent alcohol by volume, the sorbet is no Tutti-frutti à la Châteauneuf-du-Pape, being instead a blend of two classics: Syrah and Grenache. The sorbet was created by a local artisan who tested several vintage combinations. It also features no added coloring agents, aromas or preservatives.
“The fruit comes through on the palate; the alcohol doesn’t overwhelm;” Anaïs Vallot of Vinsobres’ Domaine Vallot told local news outlet France Bleu. “People who do not usually drink wine will enjoy this sorbet.”