This week’s news roundup finds dodgy dealings in Spain, a new celebrity wine and a very expensive rosé
While the attention of the wine world focuses on spring frosts in Europe (with France in particular being hit exceptionally hard (see last Sunday’s weekly round-up), other stories this week have included the news of Australian giant McWilliams’ sale to Calabria Family wines, and reports of a small but high-quality harvest in New Zealand. Here are some more of the week’s headlines you might have missed.
Smack talk intensifies as fraud investigators descend on Valdepeñas
Spanish wine giants Félix Solís and J Garcia Carrión are caught in a war of words over fraud investigations launched by the authorities in the Valdepeñas wine region of Castilla-La Mancha. Investigations by the state began this month over allegations that four major players in the area (Félix Solís, García Carrión, Bodegas Navarro López and Bodegas Fernando Castro) had, despite labels indicating them as such, not met the production requirements for the likes of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva wines. Cue accusations from García Carrión himself that Félix Solís – through the DO (Denominacion d’Origen)’s vice-president, Carlos Nieto – has been running the Valdepeñas DO without oversight.
“The situation is unsustainable [in the DO]: no president, no secretary, no winemaking sector, without a board of directors, and governed by Félix Solís.”
Carrión had previously raised the issue late last year, further pointing out that the nominated DO president, Antonio Torres, lives over 250km (150 miles) from the region, and calling for more transparency – a call renewed this week. For its part, Félix Solís released a statement on Wednesday saying the call for transparency was a surprise given Carrión “was the only actor [in the region] who has opposed the external audit […] Our winery has been requesting an external and complete audit of all the wines of the [DO] since 2019 “. The investigation continues.
OIV revives ampelography course
The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) has announced dates for the revival of its ampelography courses previously held 30 years ago. Initially planned for July 2021, the French course will be pushed back to July 2022 (due to “force majeure”), while the course in Madrid is slated for September 2021. The five-day syllabus is currently restricted to 15 people within the fields of “viticulture, genetic resources, plant material of the vine or in the field of research”. They are tri-lingual, being held in English, French and Spanish. Over the next few years, the organisation hopes to roll out the classes to a wider group of participants and branch out into other European countries and the southern hemisphere. The current courses are being held in conjunction with the IFV (the French Institute of the Vine and Wine), INRAE (France’s National Agricultural, Food and Environmental Research Institute) and Montpellier’s SupAgro agricultural university, as well as Madrid’s IMIDRA (the Institute for Rural, Agrarian and Food Research and Development). The last such OIV course was held at Geilweilerhof Institute for Grapevine Breeding, Germany, in 1992.
Fined €400 for drinking rosé on the beach
As southern France held on to the last of last weekend’s warmer weather, a couple and some friends who decided to make the best of the sun and the beach under new lockdown rules (where people are allowed no more than 10km from their homes) found themselves facing fines totalling just over €400 after they decided to add to the ambience by popping the cork on a bottle of rosé. The couple, their children, and two friends were, in the words of one (only identified as Guillaume) “having a last moment to meet up together before returning to confinement” when the police descended. According to reports in Midi Libre, 17 gendarmes and police were patrolling the beach of Grand-Travers in La Grande Motte, 20km (12 miles) southeast of Montpelier, in the Hérault department, when they came upon the group. “It’s been a year since the consumption of alcohol is outlawed on public roads – as well as on the beach,” the local area commander told the publication. “The order is national and we received orders from ministers to be inflexible on this.” The police presence was part of a push to ensure face masks were being worn. A large number of beachgoers had reportedly removed them. As for the rosé drinkers, “the moment was ruined”, lamented Guillaume.
California gets sustainable winery website
The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) has launched its own website, californiasustainablewine.com, allowing consumers to search its roster of 171 certified sustainable wineries. The site allows users to search for certified wines, wineries and/or vineyards, and sort by varietal, region or appellation. Cellar doors or tasting rooms can also be searched for. The website aims to cater for all, helping “consumers, wine trade and other visitors find sustainable wines, wineries and vineyards in California that are certified with a rigorous third-party audit”, it said in a statment. “The new certification website is a tool to convey key sustainability messages and to connect certified wines, wineries and vineyards with interested trade and consumers,” underlined Allison Jordan, CSWA’s executive director.
French crooner joins list of celeb rosés
The 61-year-old French singer Patrick Bruel, whose southern Rhône estate, Domaine Leos, has already established something of a name for its olive oils, is set to launch his first wine next month; a rosé named Augusta, after his mother. The domaine, near l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, just east of Avignon, was purchased by Bruel in 2008. According to reports, the singer planted vines on the 37-hectare (91 acre) property in 2019, and red wines from the estate are expected to follow, as is a winery building. Leos – a contraction of the names of his two sons, Léon and Oscar – already boasts 2600 olive trees across 22 hectares (54 acres). Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, however, falls just outside of the appellations of Ventoux and Luberon although it is within the departmental IGP Vaucluse zone – specifically the subzone of IGP Vaucluse Aigues. There is, however, no indication of the final geographical indentifier. Bruel is no stranger to wine, having already performed at Géarard Bertrand’s Château l’Hospitalet in La Clape.
Wine and cheese paired for biofuel in Mexico
Despite a sometimes contentious pairing on the dinner table, wine and cheese is finding favor in Mexico as researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City have managed to synthesise biofuel from the two. The team, led by Dr. Germán Buitrón Méndez, collected marc from wine production in the Queretaro area, north of the capital, as well as whey from industrial cheese production. Using bacteria and microorganisms, the by-products are broken down into hydrogen and methane. “Viti-vinicultural byproducts come with an acidic pH, which is ideal to start the two-stage process,” the scientist said in a press release. The team hopes the biogases produced will, in turn, be used by the original wineries.
French off-licences to offer breathalyzers
Following on from legislation passed two years ago, as of 1 July 2021, all French shops which allow customers to buy alcohol to take away must now offer breathalyzers to their clients. The law primarily concerns supermarkets, wine shops, grocery stores and websites, who must now carry a minimum of 10-25 breathalyzers (depending on the size of their alcohol stock) and must advertise the breathalyzers alongside bottle shelves or at the checkout. They must also put up displays on the importance of self-testing, mentioning the sale and location of alcohol tests in the establishment. Any wine merchants not doing so will be fined a minimum €675 for non-compliance.
According to the Journal International de Médecine, a similar law has been in effect since 2011, obliging bars, nightclubs and hotel bars to have breathalyzers available for customers, although the publication admits this is not widely known in France. The new law, however, does not concern cellar doors and direct sales from producers, but will affect wineries operating as négociants (effectively, wineries that buy-in some – or all – of their fruit). “We regret […] the eagerness of the state to further sabotage the image of our activities, especially now when it should instead mobilize its officials to extricate the country from this unhappy crisis,” Patrick Jourdain, the head of the National Union of Wine Merchants, told vitisphere.com.