As this is the 1st April it is customary to attempt to spin some false tale. However, this year I decided that as Les 5 du Vin frequently eschews established custom – thinking outside the box or sometimes at night even thinking dans la boîte – it would be more interesting to attempt to seek and name some April Fools.
Initially the 2013 Bordeaux en primeur tastings appeared to be a prime candidate. Why would any sensible fine wine merchant opt to waste their time and money travelling to Bordeaux and spend four/five days tasting wines their clients are unlikely to buy before they are bottled and available in two years time? Surely reports of merchants and wine critics descending on Bordeaux to taste a vintage decried by leading wine consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt as ‘horrible’ and having no stars etc. must be a early April hoax.
Apparently this is for real, so no hoax, as the wine world is indeed going through the usual ritual, although some of the big hitters like Robert Parker, the American critic, and Jancis Robinson MW will not be present. Parker will visit Bordeaux in June. I assume he is currently too busy helping The Wine Advocate to conquer China as well as instructing his lawyers to fire off letters to pesky fellow wine writers like Tyler Colman – doubtless offering ‘amicable conversations aka LVMH. While Jancis has presumably decided that she has better things to do with her time and is sending one of her lieutenants – Richard Hemmings – instead.
So not a hoax but are there any fools here?
‘It’s definitely not a great vintage,’ said consultant Michel Rolland. ‘These are drinking wines, they’re not for ageing. The game was to play with the ripeness of the grapes. We tried to make soft, fruity and elegant wines.’
Will the April Fools be those consumers kind enough to extend a two-year interest free loan through buying 2013 Bordeaux en primeur when the world has a huge choice of pleasant drinking reds? Or is it perhaps the merchants who try to persuade their clients to buy 2013 en primeur when it probably makes sense to buy previous and possibly cheaper vintages.
And what of the carbon footprint of all of these critics, journalists and merchants rushing from château to château when in a world threatened with climate change it would be far more rational and green to taste all the en primeurs in a central location in Bordeaux?
Also I’m awaiting with considerable interest to read what the many critics gathered in Bordeaux this week say about buying 2013 en primeur. Will they urge people to buy or to abstain?
Can we find some other April fools?
Last Friday afternoon in warm late March sunshine I had a very enjoyable bike ride on small tracks through the local vineyards. That was until I looked at the vines – almost all orange or yellow hued with a few with an unnatural vivid lime green colour. 100% weed killer treatment is very sadly and shamefully the norm here in the communes of Francueil and Saint-Georges-sur-Cher as well as around Oisly, where we were told last year during the Concours Mondial du Sauvignon that these vineyards were classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The controversial new Loire appellation map from Interloire also boasts – ‘Vignoble du Patrimoine Mondial’.
Blitzing weeds with 100% weed killer treatment is the cheap option. Controlling weeds by cultivation or mowing is a much more expensive choice, so it is small wonder that you tend to see more cultivation and grassing over in appellations whose wines command a higher price than, for example, than can a straight Touraine appellation.
But do we have any fools here?
At first sight producers who earn little from their grapes and who opt to blitz their vineyards have made a sensible decision. However, the long-term effects on both their vineyards, their soils and on animal and human health remain open to considerable dispute.
Furthermore bulk wine prices have risen over the past three years by 65%, so could the producers now afford to spend more on their vineyards? http://www.harpers.co.uk/news/french-bulk-wine-prices-jump-by-up-to-65/356056.article. This increase, however, may not compensate for sharply reduced crops in 2012 and 2013.
What is not in dispute the absence of biodiversity in blitzed vineyards as well as being more prone to erosion than grassed over vineyards, though not necessarily those that have been over cultivated.
Fools? The producers who blitz their vineyards? Professional buyers who pay as little as possible for their wines? Us the consumers who want cheap wine without considering that there may well be a price to pay?