Discovering the Rhône Valley

At the end of a challenging year across France’s wine regions, it’s great to hear that the Rhône valley has had a larger harvest than 2013, and early signs are that the 2014 wines will be ones to watch. One of the Rhône’s most renowned producers, Michel Chapoutier, has remarked that lower temperatures have contributed to the creation of wines that will demonstrate the individual character of the wines within each appellation.

Household names

Rhône valley 2014 vintage will be a good year?
Rhône valley 2014 vintage will be a good year? (source: Wikipedia)

Historically the Rhône has lagged behind Bordeaux and Burgundy in terms of the global popularity of its top wines but as prices have soared in both rival regions, many savvy investors as well as drinkers have turned their attention to the Rhône. Some of the appellations have become household names, widely associated with quality – wines like Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be found in any British wine merchant or even supermarket. Quality is generally high but there is great variation between wines and vintages, with 13 permitted grape varieties within the appellation. Grenache is often the dominant grape in the top wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Continue reading

The Future of Wine Futures

Much has been written this year about Bordeaux’s en primeur campaign, and it is unclear whether buying ‘wine futures’ will become a thing of the past. Bordeaux négociants have suffered in the last few years as Chateaux have steadfastly refused to reduce their prices in response to demand. Is it possible that next year’s en primeur campaign could be the last of its kind?

A good deal for negociants

Future of en primeur hangs in the balance (source: Wikipedia)
Future of en primeur hangs in the balance (source: Wikipedia)

The way the system works at the moment, wine is offered for sale based on samples from the barrel offered in the April after the vintage. Historically this has been a good option for negociants to get a good deal on wines that have not been bottled yet. It’s not without risks of course, but in the past it was an exciting way of procuring the top wines before they had been released at a significantly lower price than what was commanded once they were bottled. And of course the price that the negociants pay is significant in terms of how this filters through to the end consumer.

For the last 5-6 years, negociants have shied away from en primeur – it hasn’t offered them a particularly good deal with the Chateaux retaining much of the profits. One weak campaign after another has ensured that the future of en primeur hangs in the balance now. Continue reading