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Burgundy and Beaujolais crop destroyed by July 10th storm with incredible hail and wind

Beaujolais hail storm july 10 2017

On July 10th, winemakers in parts of Burgundy and Beaujolais had a bad, bad day. A storm hit the area with torrential rain, hail and wind. Vineyards in Fleurie, Régnié, Moulin-à-Vent, Morgon, Chiroubles, Chénas had very substantial damage to the grapes for their 2017 vintage. There was even a tornado in in Moulin-à-Vent. The path of the storm was almost identical to that which hit the region in 2016.

Beaujolais had the worst of the storm but the famous Côte d'Or and Côte Chalonnaise also had some damage. From Chambolle-Musigny to the southern part of Gevrey-Chambertin as well as Fixin and Marsannay. The area around Beaune wasn't impacted but the southern part of the Marsannay appelation had around 50 percent crop damage.

As you can see in the video hailstones battered the vines together with high winds stripping leaves and destroying the fragile grapes. The still green young berries which were impacted by the hailstones will eventually fall from the wine and die. Some domaines lost 70 percent of their crop within minutes, particularly Moulin-à-Vent. Fortunately areas where Beaujolais Nouveau grapes come and the vast majority of the crus were not affected. 

The winemakers and domaines that have been affected by the storm are understandably upset and disappointed given the weather so far in 2017 and the potential for the vintage.

Domaine G. Roumier that has vineyards in Chambolle-Musigny and Morey-St.-Denis, said "It is not disaster, but the same grapes that were looking just perfect look different today. The northern part of Chambolle-Musigny, as well as a large area in Morey-St.-Denis seems to have received the worst damages." The Domaine estimates 10 to 20 percent loss of the crop and now there is the risk of mold if the end of August is humid.

A tough year for French winemakers. Low yields in Bordeaux and Burgundy mean more pricey wines for lovers of French wine unfortunately when the vintage is released.

Do you fancy drinking New Zealand wine for 50p ($0.65, 0.57 euros) a bottle?

Tesco Wairau cove offer

I spotted a newspaper advertisement by U.K. grocer Tesco this weekend for various barbecue related food and drink items. The item that caught my eye was a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc produced by Wairau Cove on offer for £5.50 ($7.2) a bottle.

Given excise duty is £2.08 and VAT (Value Added Tax) is applied at 20% (£1.1) this means that the price exluding taxes would be £2.32. This figure needs to cover transportation from Marlborough in New Zealand (the country's largest wine growing region), Tesco's margin, production cost for the wine, packaging and so on. Wairau Cove is bulk shipped and then bottled in Europe to save on these transport costs - bulk wine, at this price no artisanal touch. Unless this is a loss leader for Tesco, the wine makers must be getting pennies (30-50p) I would reckon). Crazy!

At this price, they still seem to be keeping quality at a reasonable level . I see that drinkers on Vivino.com are rating the 2016 vintage at 3.9 stars out of 5 though. but I remain sceptical as many of these wines have little character, almost boring NZ wines compared with much better comparators from the likes of France and Italy. Many of these wines are sold by pubs and restaurants at ridiculous mark-ups and the punters just keep buying them for the safe Sauvignon Blanc experience.

Vivino Wairau cove sauvignon blanc 2016

Wairau Cove is not a recognised winery and you wouldn't find it on a map in New Zealand. Wairau Valley is a subregion of Marlborough, but Wairau Cove doesn't exist. Not officially anyway!

Bulk wine like this bottle is produced from grapes sold off by wineries and co-operatives who for whatever reason don't want to produce it themselves including lack of quality, excessive quantities produced by a larger than expected harvest or too much stock before an impending new harvest.

The Sauvignon Blanc in Wairau Cove most likely comes from producers like Pernod-Ricard's Brancott Estate winery, Sacred Hill and Babich. New Zealand Wine said of the 2016 vintage, "“This year’s vintage of 436,000 tonnes of grapes will be a welcome boost for markets, growers and wineries”. The 2016 harvest is up 34% on the small 2015 crop, but is still below the record breaking 2014 vintage.". So a bumper crop for New Zealand wine and especially Marlborough in 2016 which means plenty of supply in 2017. 

Ask yourself the question, do you want to drink bulk wine, with no character produced for as little as 50p a bottle and presumably packed with sulfites and other nasties? A bargain it may be, but certainly not for the discerning drinker. Not for me thanks!

Regular wine drinking and parenting - controversial antidotes to civilisation

parents drinking wine

I came across an article on the Vinepair website called "Why wine is essential to being a good mother". A very good article which sums up the dilemma facing mothers, and fathers for that matter, whether to hit the bottle of wine or abstain with that glass of sparkling water. The latter being particularly dull after a day with a screaming toddler, difficult teenager or hell commute and office politics.

"Wine o'clock" is a much used phrase when it comes to many families these days. After an exhausting day either looking after kids or battling corporate life in the office, there is nothing more relaxing than a glass or two of wine (even better a bottle shared between two parents). 

As a father with a 6 and 8 year old, the stresses and strains of dealing with work and family life is obvious and frankly parenting is exhausting.  Its even worse for my wife as a work away and am largely absent during the week. You move from nappies and no sleep to more sophisticated stresses, rewarding it may be, but not easy. I have the teenage years to still look forward to, particularly with my daughter. 

In decades past alcohol and tobacco were the mainstay of the so called "antidotes to civilisation". Before smoking was considered dangerous, parents would relax smoking a few Malboro's to chill out and reflect on their days. Now with smoking a no go, many resort to alcohol to unwind. As smoking rates have fallen in Western Europe and the U.S. , drinking of alcohol has shot up. No coincidence I think and why not....

Some in the health community are obsessed with the notion that there is no level of safe alcohol drinking. For example the United Kingdom chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, famously said that women should “do as I do” and think about the risks of breast cancer every time they reach for a glass of wine.

However, I reassure myself that in France and the Mediterranean  countries, where smoking rates are still sky high (and supposed bad habits like eating processed meats such as Salami),  life expectancy is still at very high levels. The consistent things in countries like France, Spain and the Greek islands is Olive oil, fresh fruit and vegetables and of course regular consumption of alcohol, particularly red wine. This means people living in these countries have low rates of stroke and heart disease. This so called "French Paradox" seems to be rather reassuring and lets face it several aspects of French life aren't seen as healthy (particularly smoking, ingestion of fatty foods such as duck, pates and cheese). 

prescription wine


Then look at the significant and positive clinical data involving tens of thousands of drinkers and the advice to abstain or drink only occasionally seems off the mark.

The Vinepair article says "in fact, the promise of wine at the end of a particularly challenging day of motherhood is like a beacon in the darkest of nights. It is the reward for a job well done. It is the spoils of war, if you will. I genuinely look forward to it and how consuming a single glass slows me down and transports me to a state of calm, after a day that is chock full of crazy. I don’t look at my nightly glass of cheer as a form of stress management or self medication and I certainly don’t need it (well, “need” is probably debatable). I, like a lot of mothers I know, consume that glass of wine at the end of the day because we truly enjoy relishing the time it takes to enjoy it, time that isn’t being interrupted to get someone a juice box or explain why painting the family dog isn’t a good idea.

After seven years of being in the parenting trenches, this is what I know for sure: Parenting is hard and mothering is exhausting. At the end of each full and moderately productive day, a glass of perfectly chilled Riesling can restore your sanity and leave you prepared to suit up and do battle the next day."

Risk of death is higher for tee totalers than those drinking 2-3 3 glasses per day

Back to the "Antidotes of civilisation" which now can safely include coffee, tea and alcohol. The establishment may advise lettuce leaves, meat once a week, no cheese or salami, not living in a city, regular exercise, 1-2 drinks of alcohol a week at most but life would be awfully boring. More boredom equals more stress equals faster mortality!

Perhaps it would suit someone like Teresa May but for the rest of us, balance is key. I drink red wine, but I exercise regularly, eat healthily and I have my Milk Thistle and think positively about all the resveratrol (from the grape skins) coursing through my body and protecting me against all those nasties like heart diease and furred arteries.

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Upset by indiscriminate pesticide spraying in beautiful Swiss vineyard

I happened to be driving to Vevey this week on Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) and was passing through the village of Chexbres. I was a little surprised when a helicoptor flew right over me spraying pesticides near the village onto the famous Lavaux vineyard terraces.

This sort of indiscriminate spraying of chemicals near populated areas really gets my goat! I know it is tougher for winemakers but lets see organic, biodynamic or even natural winemaking in action. Just look at what has happened to the water table in Champagne with extreme contamination caused by vineyard chemicals and the effects of low rainfall this year.

helicoptor sprating vineyard with chemicals

I am surprised the Swiss authorities allow this given the high environmental standards in the country. Rant over!

New $100 million study will aim to finally answer question - "Can drinking alcohol daily help lower your risk for heart attacks, strokes and death?”

lady drinking red wine

There has been so much debate in the health community about whether regular and moderate alcohol drinking is good or bad for your health. It is a hugely controversial subject with some national health bodies like the UK advocating that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption whilst others cite strong clinical evidence from large meta-analysis studies as well as the "French Paradox" that 2-3 glasses of alcohol (and more so wine) is healthy for you and reduces your risk of premature death as well as heart attacks and strokes.

Many media reports and studies from the medical community are contradictory. One minute the press says that alcohol causes cancer, the next day there's another story saying regular drinking prevent Alzheimer's disease and so on.

National institutes of health logo

But new research costing $100 million is hoping to get to the bottom of the moderate drinking debate once and for all. The U.S. based National Institutes of Health will aim to finally answer the question whether daily alcohol drinking can help lower your risk for heart attacks, strokes and death.

8,000 volunteers will be recruited that fit very specific criteria from 16 areas around the world. Half will randomly be selected to have one drink per day, while the other half will have to abstain from drinking during the course of the study. These two groups will be followed for six years (poor abstainers!). The clinical trial will be run by notable researchers from around the world in Boston, Baltimore, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Barcelona to cover all regions of the world.

But the study has already been mired in controversy as it has emerged that Heineken, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Carlsberg have all contributed to the costs with a total investment of $68 million, given to a foundation raising money for the National Institutes of Health. In addition some have questioned the credentials of some of  the researchers behind the study given they have been involved previously in alcohol manufacturer related studies. But without industry funding, the study will be unlikely to get off the ground given the significant cost.

George F. Koop from the National Institutes of Health said “The study could completely backfire on the alcoholic beverage industry, and they’re going to have to live with it,” ,“The money from the Foundation for the N.I.H. has no string attached. Whoever donates to that fund has no leverage whatsoever – no contribution to the study, no input to the study, no say whatsoever.”

Pernod Ricard, one of the alcohol companies funding the study, said the company funded the the research because of its scale, “We’ve never seen a study of such scope or calibre,” a spokesperson told the NYT and confirmed that the companies will “have no say” in the research.“We’re hoping the results nevertheless are going to be good. And we’re optimistic they will be.”

All this controversy seems unwarranted given the NIH is a reputable body and any subsequent publications will be peer reviewed by independent scientists. But industry involvement in any health trials are always questioned, most times, unnecessarily after the questionable practices of the tobacco industry in the last century.

A very interesting piece of research indeed. Shame we need to wait 6-7 years for the results and it only looks at drinking at 1 glass per day.