Restos shut in San Fran while NY introduces 10pm curfew

12th November, 2020

From tomorrow, restaurants in San Francisco will be shuttered again due to rising Covid cases, while a 10pm curfew is being introduced in New York.

Restaurants and bars in San Francisco have to shut again due to rising Covid cases

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the city’s mayor, London Breed, announced the news on Tuesday.

“The virus is spreading and we have to make the hard decisions. Making a decision to support opening a business and then asking that business to close, it’s heartbreaking. It’s very unfortunate, but it is necessary,” Breed said.

A 10pm curfew is being introduced in New York

The move was deemed necessary in order to stem the rising tide in coronavirus cases. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that in the past two weeks, the Covid-19 case rate in San Francisco went from 3.7 to 9 per 100,000 residents. There are an average of 80 new cases per day, up from 32 at the end of October.

The indoor dining rules were already strict in San Francisco, with venues only allowed to operate at 25% capacity since reopening at the end of September.

On Tuesday, 10 California counties were placed in more restrictive tiers in the state’s reopening timeline due to increasing Covid cases.

Meanwhile, in New York, bars and restaurants with liquor licenses will have to adhere to a 10pm curfew from tomorrow in a bid to control the rising tide of coronavirus cases there.

As reported by Eater New York, the city’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced the news yesterday, with the curfew affecting both outdoor and indoor dining.

Venues will still be allowed to run a takeaway and delivery service after 10pm, but only for food. Takeaway alcohol orders will have to adhere to the curfew.

According to Eater, Cuomo called on the NYPD to lead the enforcement effort in the city, saying the sheriff’s office alone would not be able to carry out the work.

67 Pall Mall releases its own Cognac with Delamain

12th November, 2020

Private members’ club 67 Pall Mall in London’s St James’s has launched its own house Cognac in collaboration with Delamain.

Called Delamain Cognac – The 67 Edition, the Grande Champagne Cognac was blended by Delamain’s cellar master Dominique Touteau and selected by 67 Pall Mall’s CEO, Grant Ashton.

The “rich, round and complex” blend includes vintage Cognac from 1967 along with exceptional old Grande Champagne Cognacs, and offers, according to Touteau, “a combination of delicate sophistication and depth”.

On the nose you’ll find aromas of “pear and fresh fig, layered with buttery brioche and raisins”, while on the palate are “rich, mellow flavours of fig jam”.

“I immensely enjoyed the journey of marrying the 1967 with the elegance and finesse of selected old Grande Champagne Cognacs; these were chosen to both showcase the jewel and because they could be enriched by the remarkable maturity of the 1967’,” Touteau said.

Delamain Cognac – The 67 Edition is available in 70cl bottles, 150cl magnums and 300cl double magnums housed in a 67 Pall Mall gift box. The 70cl bottle costs £195.

The private members’ club boasts a wine list of over 5,000 bins from 42 countries, 800 of which are on pour by the glass. A sister site is due to open in Singapore next spring.

The Americans are coming: US fine wine trade booms

11th November, 2020

Amid the talk of Bordeaux’s shrinking trade share, Burgundy’s slower growth and the boom for Champagne and Italy, another set of wines have been making big strides this year – American ones.

A broadening market outside of the US, helped by better distribution and critical recognition have been driving the market for US (predominantly Californian) labels since 2015 but 2020 has seen a positively stratospheric spike in demand.

Liv-ex reported in its latest monthly report on the enormous gear change that has taken place, driving US wine into a much more prominent position in the secondary market.

It’s important to note here what is being referred to by American/US wines. Wine is made across the US but California produces around 85% of the country’s total output and 98% of secondary market activity is for Californian labels.

Here too though it’s worth noting that while Napa Valley wines still account for 79.6% of Californian wines traded, that figure has fallen from 87% in 2019, with wines from Oakville, Rutherford, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast, Santa Cruz, Russian River Valley and Paso Robles all starting to see increased activity.

US wines in this context, therefore, are still predominantly Californian and from Napa Valley but things are changing.

In terms of the impact US wines have had on the secondary market up to this point, although Napa Valley has earned itself a reputation as one of the world’s leading wine regions, with many sought after (and expensive) wines in the shape of its ‘cult Cabs’ such as Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate, Scarecrow or Bond, their effect beyond the US itself has been negligible.

Made in small quantities, with a high opening price and with limited, usually domestic, distribution, 10 years ago only four labels were being traded on the Liv-ex Exchange and their share of trade by value was a mere 0.1%.

Things began to change after 2014 though. From January 2014 to January 2019, the California 50 index rose 86%, which was actually better than the Fine Wine 100 and 1000 indices over the same period.

The share of trade was still small however, hitting a record high of just over 3% in 2018 and this dropped back in 2019 as the increased activity attracted more labels to the scene.

This put pressure on the prices of top wines leading to a drop in trade by value, even as the number of unique labels being offered continued to rise.

Last year US wines’ share of trade fell back to 2.3% after the high of 2018, while so far in 2020 it is at a new record high of 6.8%, and the number of unique wines traded is more than double that of 2019.

This October saw US wines hit their highest share of trade to date, 10.8% for the month which is also the highest level in Liv-ex’s 20 year history, with Screaming Eagle, Harlan and Spotteswoode being the labels most in demand.

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that this big increase in demand is not at all just a result of US buyers looking to domestic wines because of the 25% tariffs on so many European imports; far from it. The value of live bids on US wines in 2020 is up 240% on 2019 and demand is being recorded across the UK, US, Europe and Asia.

In fact, the real driver of demand for US wines being recorded by Liv-ex is from the UK, which has accounted for 63% of sales by value this year. The US, meanwhile, is just the second biggest buying presence on the platform (likely due having more direct access to the wines), followed by Asia and then Europe.

Buying “follows a seasonal rhythm”, said Liv-ex, with activity peaking around September and October which is when the latest New World releases from La Place de Bordeaux are offered and then dies away in the spring when the latest European wines are out.

With Opus One, Dominus, Vérité, Joseph Phelps and Inglenook now available through La Place, however, the global market for top US wines is really starting to open up.

Liv-ex concluded: “The position of American wines in the global marketplace is still in development. It is too early to know where its natural market share will settle but having played virtually no role only 10 years ago, its rise of late is notable. While the focus will doubtless remain on the leading estates, it might well be the emerging estates – the second and third tier producers – that deliver the better returns for collectors going forward.”


READ MORE: How will US election affect fine wine?

Château Lafite 2016 forges ahead

11th November, 2020

The 2016 vintage of Château Lafite Rothschild returned to its highest trade price of the last two years last week as it bucked the prevailing winds blowing against Bordeaux in the secondary market.

As reported by Liv-ex, Lafite’s 2016 was the leading wine traded by value in the week ending 5 November, hitting £6,240 per dozen, the second highest price the wine has achieved since release and its highest trade of the past two years.

In total, it has also been the second-most traded wine by value in 2020 and is up 13.5% since the start of the year.

Overall, Bordeaux has had something of an up and down year. Although individual labels such as Lafite 2016 have forged ahead, the general picture for Bordeaux has been of falling trade share by value as other regions attract buyers’ broadening interest.

Bordeaux’s share of trade fell from 38% in September to 36.2% in October and drifted down to 35% in the first week of November – though the year’s high fliers, Italy and Champagne, also saw small declines last week as well.

READ MORE: Lafite marks 2016 with hour glass etching

Burgundy 2020: Historically early and ‘unforgettable’ vintage

11th November, 2020

The global pandemic and high temperatures provided new challenges for Burgundy’s growers in the 2020 harvest which ended up being the earliest on record.

The eastern French region, having already experienced a mild autumn and winter in 2019, with only seven days in six months registering below 0°C, then enjoyed beautiful weather from March to September, which led to bud break three weeks earlier than average and one of the fastest starts in 25 years.

Ludivine Griveau, director and winemaker at the Hospices de Beaune, noted in her report that April alone saw an additional 42 hours of sunshine and with temperatures up over 23°C on certain days the vines were soon “bursting with vegetation” and growers were forced to both de-bud and ‘dédoublage’ (remove shoots to reduce foliage and yield) at the same time.

This up-tempo pace in the vineyards throughout the year was further complicated, it must be remembered, by the Covid-related restrictions put in place in France, with those winemakers with young children also having to deal with home-schooling at the same time.

It would be interesting to see which aspect of the year vinegrowers ultimately found more challenging.

By 21 April the 2020 cycle was already 24 days ahead of where it had been in 2019, again only the sixth time in 80 years that one vintage had been so far ahead of its predecessor.

Flowering began towards the end of April and was extremely successful. As the summer went on high temperatures and steady winds kept the crop in a largely pristine state but the lack of rainfall posed its own issues.

Luckily, despite being so mild, the end of 2019 had been wetter than normal which would prove helpful as, from March onwards, rain showers were infrequent and tended to be localised. There were instances of water deficits and resulting vine stress as well as some sunburn on bunches.

Interestingly, Griveau said that: “Wind is now an important climatic component, not only of this vintage, but also of previous vintages. In recent years, it has been quite ‘new’ to Burgundy to have this wind every day and almost all day long. If it is our ally in maintaining the perfect sanitary state of 2020, it nevertheless gives us less respite, and fewer weather ‘windows’ for the application of our treatments.

“The wind also has the consequence of drying out the land, at least on the surface, making it sometimes difficult to work because it hardens [the topsoil].”

Different appellations, sometimes areas within appellations, saw staggered rates of maturity, which then meant vigneron had to be on their toes to harvest what was needed at the right time as the time approached.

Griveau said that: “We saw a noticeable variation of stages within a plot, and sometimes in Chardonnay, the phenomenon of coulure was marked, the structures of the bunches were long and airy, and the millerandage was at times not negligible. The pre-flowering conditions having been more favourable to Pinot Noir, meant it had better passed the bud burst and its berries were more regular in size. The Pinot was slightly ahead of the Chardonnay at precisely this point in the vegetative cycle.”

With the vines so far advanced (and the wasps beginning to notice) the first crop began to be gathered in on 12 August in the southern region of the Mâconnais – one of the earliest harvest starts on record and one echoed elsewhere in France as well.

Griveau authorised the harvesting of white grapes for the Hospices on 18 August and the estate’s entire crop was gathered in by 29 August – the first time in its history harvesting was finished inside  of August.

The Bourgogne Interprofession (BIVB) said in a statement that the overarching tendency among the white wines was “beautiful aromatic complexity”, intense fruit but also “very good acidity” in spite of the high summer temperatures.

The reds meanwhile have very deep colour and concentration but, like the whites, “they have kept their freshness” and have a distinctly black fruit profile.

Griveau concluded: “The vinification process went perfectly for both white and red wines, and the balances that have emerged in our wines are extraordinary, and, let’s admit it, quite unexpected. The sunny side of the vintage is there, but the wines reveal an impressive aromatic freshness. Acidities are very present and the densities are already felt. The whites have substance, without too high an alcohol content. The tannins of the reds are supple but powerful.

“The ingredients of a great vintage, which, for many reasons, is unforgettable, are all present.”

Vinexpo NY to host creative market entry webinar

11th November, 2020

Trade show Vinexpo New York is to host a webinar in partnership with the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University to shine a light on effectively launching products in the US.

Statue of Liberty – New York City

The panel will brings together experts from wine law, marketing, direct to consumer strategy and international brand development to discuss the different strategies needed for different geographic markets in the US.

Panelists include John Trinidad, partner at Dickenson, Peatman & Fogerty, Stephanie Peachey, who was recently employed as vice president of the luxury portfolio at Fetzer Vineyards which is owned by Concha y Toro in Chile, Michael Traverso, international brand manager of Jackson Family Wines International, and Geralyn Brostrom, wine business instructor at Sonoma State University.

They will go over topics such as how to assess a brand’s viability “from afar”, which states would are the best to target depending on the product, how and where to find an importer, and the fine details small businesses would need to know before they embark on a US expansion.

It will take place on 12 November at 5pm GMT.

Barcelona gives 11 historic bodegas protected status

11th November, 2020

The city council of Barcelona has given 11 of its historic wine bars protected status to prevent them disappearing from the cultural landscape.

Celler Miquel, one of the bodegas that has been granted protected status

The traditional bars dotted around the city are known for selling wine, Sherry, vermouth and other drinks straight from the barrel, and often started out as retail operations selling wine produced by their owners.

In July last year, the council drew up a list of 31 such bodegas, and recently announced that 11 had made the cut. These 11 sites will be part of a 220-strong list of establishments, that already includes eight other bodegas, which have heritage status.

The city council described the move as “a first step to protect the unique bodegas and preserve their essence, their identity and their links with the neighbourhood”.

The heritage status works to protect the building and its fixtures and fittings, but not the business itself. However, the 11 chosen sites will be able to apply for grants, tax credits and business advice, La Vanguardia reports.

Two bodegas were chosen because of their “unique heritage elements”, while the other nine contain “elements of environmental interest…with important social roots in their surroundings”.

The 11 newly-protected bodegas are: Bodega Vendrell, Celler Miquel in the Eixample district; Bodega Sopena, Bodega Lluís and Bodega J. Cala in the Sant Martí district; Bodega Marín, Bodega Quimet and Bodega Manolo in the Gràcia district, as well as Bar del Toro (Ciutat Vella), Bodega Salvat (Sants-Montjuïc) and Bodega Massana (Horta-Guinardó).

David Montero, co-owner of Bodega Quimet which opened in 1954, told The Observer: “I think it’s great that the city council is giving us this recognition because we’re part of the fabric of the barrio. If not, it will end up as just another Starbucks. It means that people can come here and eat traditional food such as anchovies, boquerones en vinagre or a plate of jamón.

“We’ve never tried to be fashionable or to attract tourists. We’ve never wanted to lose the essence of being a bodega in and for the barrio.”

Under current restrictions in Catalonia, the bodegas are only allowed to open for takeaway operations.

It follows news that Spanish terrier breed the Ratonero Bodeguero Andaluz, which were used to keep the bodegas of Jerez rat-free, have been granted protected status in the city.

Cold comfort: blind tasting the world’s best icewines

11th November, 2020

While the heartlands of Icewine are Canada, Germany and Austria, there is a Chinese expression, from Changyu Pioneer Wine Co, that can hold its own against the established players, as Patrick Schmitt MW discovers

THERE’S A niche in the world of wine that represents many pinnacles, but few column inches. It’s a category of wines that is miniscule in scale but massive in terms of production costs. They represent the lowest-yielding output from any single vine, and, often, the highest possible sugar concentration in wine.

Not only are there only very few places in the world with the right natural conditions to produce them, but even in these areas, only certain years have the correct weather to create them. They are Icewines. So specialist are these drinks, they can only be made in a narrow range of latitude, needing winter temperatures low enough to freeze the grapes on the vine, but not so low that the extreme conditions will kill the plant. As a result, there are just a few places in the world that can produce these natural, intense, deliciously sweet wines – although there’s a new player in this rarefied market.

Longstanding areas for Icewine production include Germany and Austria – although only in certain years when the conditions are right – along with Canada, where Icewine production is more reliable, with much of it based on the Vidal grape. As for the newcomer, that’s China, specifically Liaoning province in the far northeastern corner of the country.

This area is so important for the production of these deeply coloured and intensely sweet, pure wines, it’s called ‘the golden Icewine valley’. It was a sample from this part of China made by the Changyu Pioneer Wine Co that we decided to sample in London. Such an event was a first: a blind tasting of nothing but Icewines, and only from the very best producers in this niche business – including one of the most expensive wines in the world, an Icewine from Egon Müller’s Scharzhofberger estate, costing over £1,000 for a half bottle.

So how did the Chinese contender perform. Well, despite being more than 25 times cheaper than the sweet Riesling from Muller, it garnered a higher average score from our Master of Wine and Master Sommelier tasters. And, while it may not have achieved the highest total of the tasting, it was not far behind Icewine producers with decades of experience crafting this specialist wine.

And scores aside, this Icewine was loved by the tasters for its beautiful appearance, pure, exotic fruit expression, mouth-filling sweetness and balancing freshness. It was also the least expensive of the tasting. And this meant something important. Next time you venture into the wonderful, indulgent, unique category of Icewine, don’t forget that’s there’s a new player to consider – China. And if it hails from the Golden Ice Wine Valley, and it’s been made by Changyu, then it’s going to be good, and, importantly, good value.

The results of the blind wine tasting in order tasted (with ABV, residual sugar and approximate price per half bottle)

Wine Score
Golden Diamond Icewine Vidal, Huan Ren, Liao Ning, China, 2017 (11.4%, 150g/l, £27) 93
Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brucke Riesling Eiswein, Nahe, Germany, 2008 (7%, 300g/l, £100) 96
Alois Kracher Cuvée Eiswein, Burgenland, Austria, 2008 (11.5%, 163g/l, £100) 91
Inniskillin Vidal Icewine, Niagara, Canada, 2017 (9.5%, 250g/l, £50) 95
Andrew Peller, Signature Series, Riesling, Icewine, Niagara, Canada, 2017 (10.5%, 228g/l, £40) 96
Egon Müller Scharzhofberger, Riesling, Eiswein, Mosel, Germany, 2016 (7%, NA, £1,000) 91
Weingut Markus Huber Berg Riesling Eiswein, 2016, Traisental, Austria (6%, 225g/l, £50) 91
Dr Loosen Riesling Eiswein, Mosel, Germany, 2016 (7%, 143g/l, £40) 92
Whistler Riesling Icewine, Okanagan Valley, Canada, 2015 (11.9%, 145g/l, £50) 94
Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Eiswein, Kampala, Austria, 2016 (11%, 226g/l, £50) 97
Schneider Riesling Eiswein, Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle, Nahe, Germany, 2012 (7%, 321g/l, £60) 98
Becker Pinot Noir Eiswein, Pfalz, Germany, 2018 (7%, 176g/l, £20) 91

Comments from the judges on Golden Diamond Icewine

Eric Zwiebel MS
“It was pleasant, with tropical fruit flavours from mango to papaya; it was exotic and sweet without too much alcohol.”Svetoslav Manolev MS
“It was a really enticing style. It was pure, and had a beautiful balance while being really complex. And for the price point, I thought it was good value and a really enjoyable wine.”

Simon Field MW
“It is a forward style, with notes of tarte tatin. The key to Icewine is to harness that amazing level of sugar with the acidity, when seldom is there any botrytis in sight, and we had wines that fared differently but I thought that this was one of the more successful. Everything about it is pure Icewine, and it tasted excellent.”

Anne McHale MW
“I was very impressed by the Chinese Icewine. I have tried ones before, but this one showed really well today, it was really complex.”

The tasters

Patrick Schmitt MW
Patricia Stefanowicz MW
Simon Field MW
Eric Zwiebel MS
David Round MW
Svetoslav Manolev MS
Anne McHale MW

Global alcohol consumption to fall 8% this year

11th November, 2020

The alcohol industry has shown “greater resilience” this year than originally forecast, although total sales are still expected to be 8% down on last year, according to new figures.

Research group IWSR has revised predictions it made on the impact of coronavirus on the global alcohol market earlier this year. In May, it said there would be a  double-digit decline in consumption due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, and that it would take until at least 2024 for the industry to recover to pre-crisis levels.

However, the fall has been reduced to 8% globally due to economic rebounds seen in markets such as China, and has also partly been aided by many businesses pivoting away from on-trade sales and towards e-commerce and retail distribution.

IWSR reviewed beverage alcohol consumption in 19 key global markets including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, UK, US, and the global travel retail channel.

Mark Meek, CEO of IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, said the projected figures are “encouraging” for the sector, and suggested that sales could return to pre-Covid levels earlier than 2024.

“Excluding national spirits such as baijiu and shochu, total beverage alcohol in the 19 focus countries will recover to 2019 levels by 2024. We may see that recover even faster now, given the recent news on encouraging vaccine trials,” he said.

Out of all markets reviewed, only the US and Canada are expected to show volume growth this year, both at over 2%. Meanwhile, alcohol sales in China, where economic recovery has outperformed the rest of the world in the wake of the pandemic, are expected to return to normal levels by next year, IWSR said.

Several markets, including Russia, Australia, Japan and Germany, are expected to see volume sales decline, but this will be less than 5%.

Nevertheless India and South Africa, which saw substantial bans on alcohol sales during the pandemic, will experience some of the greatest volume losses this year.

30% of licensed venues in Britain closed last month, study finds

11th November, 2020

A survey found that 69.9% of licensed venues in Great Britain were trading by the end of October, as a combination of a Welsh firebreak, localised restrictions and financial pressure led to closures.

Data from analyst CGA and AlixPartners found that almost a third of licensed venues were shut in Britain ahead of the English national lockdown, which began on 5 November.

The authors said it remains unclear how many of these sites will reopen even when restrictions are lifted.

The number of outlets trading in October fell by over 10% compared to September’s figures and equates to almost 12,000 sites closing.

The authors of the report stated that the findings are a sign the sector could be “substantially reduced” after the end of England’s lockdown on 2 December. A survey conducted by CGA in the middle of last month found that members of three trade groups believed 43% of the closed sites were unlikely to reopen.

This month, restaurants, bars and pubs across England have been ordered to close, but are permitted to remain open as takeaways.

In Wales, the 16-day ‘firebreak’ lifted on 9 November. Hospitality outlets have been allowed to reopen, but tables are limited to groups of four unless from the same household. Licensed outlets are required to close by 10:20pm.

Scotland, which continues to operate under a localised five-tier system, has also placed restrictions on restaurants and pubs. The majority of the country falls in either tier two or tier three.

Restaurants, cafés, pubs and bars in tier two areas, which include Aberdeen and Dumfries and Galloway, are allowed to open. Alcohol can only be consumed indoors with a main meal and indoor venues must close at 8pm. Alcohol can be served more freely outdoors, but with outlets required to close by 10:30pm. However, in tier three areas, which include Edinburgh and Glasgow, venues can open until 6pm, but alcohol cannot be served both indoors and outdoors.

Data from CGA showed that only 52.8% of venues operating under tier three restrictions in England last month were open. This compares to 83.6% in medium or tier one, and 82.8% in high or tier two.

An analysis of independent versus managed pubs and restaurants in Britain found that the former were more likely to be adversely affected by the pandemic. At the end of October, only 63.1% of independent sites were open compared to 81.8% of managed sites.

Karl Chessell, business unit director for food and retail at CGA said October saw an “abrupt end to recovery” after 20,000 sites reopened in August and September.

“With England now entering a second lockdown, we are unlikely to see Britain’s licensed premises return to the levels seen in the summer – let alone pre-pandemic – for a long time,” he said. “Much more support is going to be needed to prevent a wave of permanent closures over the winter.”