28 February, 2001

News February 2006

16.02.2006: The opposition against the war in Iraq has cost French wine - but not champagne - export to the USA for as much as 112 million dollars. Two Stanford-economists describes it in Decanter.com as a rare example of consumer boycot that actually has worked. The export of champagne however has not been affected at all - on the contrary - where the Americans bought 18,9 million bottles of bubbly in 2003, the amount in 2004 actually increased to as much as 20,3 million bottles. Maybe the Americans cannot see the difference between the French and the American bottles? The USA is the only country, where producers of sparkling wines continue to sell their fizz as champagne.

17.02.2006: Tennischampion Kim Clijsters kept a most generous promise, as she gave away a bottle of champagne to each of 10.000 spectators of her match in the second round of the WTA-tournament in Antwerpen. The Belgian already last autumn said she would buy champagne for everyone, if she managed to regain her topplacement in the WTA-tour. The generosity has cost Clijsters around 130.000 euros, says Belgian press.

22.02.2006: Topchampagne Dom Perignons new vintage rosé 1996 was presented at the supposedly best restaurant in the world, Fat Duck in Berskshire, England. The topchief Heston Blumenthal in association with the Dom Perignon vintner, Richard Geoffroy, put together the five hour long dinner. The new vintage was served as the aperitif whereas vintages 1990 and 1978 were served with the food.

The menu of the day was served for British top winewriters and consisted of dishes such as snailporridge, bacon and eggs-icecream, salmon in liquorice, oysters and passionfruitjelly.

Richard Geoffroy describes his 1996-vintage as "dramatic and black", says Decanter.

På dansk

Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

27 February, 2001

Unesco-comment from German wineland

Look how nice it is in Mittelrhein. Photo: Villa Riesling.

A collegue from the heart of the German wineland objects that Mittelrhein already are mentioned on the popular list of Unesco. Thus Champagne should not expect to join in as number five.

Alors,... not much to do about it, I suppose. I cannot quite see whether the Elb-valley and Dresden also can be expected to claim a position on the list, since the word wine after all is mentioned in their entry in the Unesco-site. The Loire-valley in France is mentioned too, but not for its wine, as far as I can see, even it happens to be rather well known. I suppose that leaves Champagne at least as number seven... that is, if they boys in Unesco agree, that it is a great idea.

More about the wine from Mittelrhein in Danish or in German.

På dansk

Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

24 February, 2001

Champagne to be world heritage

Montagne de Reims covered with white frost.

Our great bubbles and the soils, that create them, should enter the list of world heritage, suggests the offical body for the champagne industry and the winegrowers, the CIVC (Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de la Champagne).

The Paris-based Unesco-organisation classifies monuments, cultural landscapes and natural phenomenons throughout the world. And it has a list of cultural landscapes of vineyards as well. So far four have been listed here, Saint-Emilion in Bordeaux, Tokaj in Hungary, Haut-Douro in Portugal and the vulcano island of Pico, part of the Portuguese Azores group of islands. Champagne wants to join in as the fifth element.

The region and business of champagne is already not entirely estranged with classifications. Five champagnehouses in Reims have through years and years used 2000 years old chalk mines as storage for their ageing champagnes. The mines have originally been dug out in Roman times, and the most well preserved one at the house Ruinart is classified on the national French liste of historical landmarks.

Pavilion at Cramant in the Côte des Blancs.

På dansk

Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

22 February, 2001

Fourth round in the schoolvine

A major part of the vines near Verzy have been pruned now. It seems rather common to wait cutting the rachet and the courson completely down to the permitted two and three buds till later. No doubt to minimize the risk of frost damages.

The fourth Thursday of ten on the stony road towards a diploma in pruning the vine is a lot about differences in how you teach.

For most of the 20 pupils on this course for grown-ups this will hopefully be their way to get a job. For me - apart from the pruning itself - this is also a firstclass introduction to the differences between how you teach in Denmark and à la Francaise. And honestly, I cannot help identifying myself with an old stubborn turk in Brøndby Strand, Copenhagen, and - mind you - neither ethnicity nor geography are in any way decisive.

Choose your fights carefully
Now, nobody demands that I love the French method of teaching. I just have to know it to be able to use it on the day, I may do the pruning exam.

Asked directly, I tell the teacher, that I am no longer convinced that I want to do the test. She is absolutely asthonished.

  • "But you have payed." (Too bad, that is life.)

  • "But you know how to prune." (Yeah, I know. I can feel it too, even without a diploma.)

  • "But that would be such a shame." (Well, sometimes you just have to choose which fights are really worth it for you. And I am no longer very sure that this is one of them for me.)

    What really makes me want to get off is all the contradictions, I must learn to work with. I must understand how to explain the theory when in class, which in some instances may be the opposite of the way I must prune in the vineyards. And then on top of that, there may be a third way to use in real life. Outside school.

    According to Alain it is mainly the work with such contradictions, that gives French pupils in the higher levels heaps of homework. It is their responsibility to learn, what answers to use in which contexts, and thus not necessarily the teachers objective to present the subjects in a coherent way.

    Everybody must learn to live with this. My limited French language makes it rather difficult for me to distinguish between the nuances though. It is also rather difficult for me to accept the method at all... which is where and when I start to identify with this old and stubborn donkey...

    But of course I will continue the course. I want to learn the Cordon de Royat-pruning, that we have not yet been taught. This will still make it possible for me to attend the test, should I feel like it. Mentally it seems fine for me to put some distance to the test. I am who I am.

    Learn to prune or to pass the test
    Being a Dane, I originate from a country that through decades has chosen a very cautious handling of exams and marks. Unlike France, that adores numbering everything and demands signatures of the parents on all papers as a sign that they are informed. In Denmark the diploma from your final exams may have a significanse for your first job - in France, for most, it will mean everything for all jobs you will ever get in the rest of your life.

    Which is why it is not that strange after all that the our teacher focuses so extremely on the test and nothing else. But you may wonder - and I do - whether people will actually learn to prune or the objective is only to pass the test. Not necessarily the same thing. And this is a true surprise for me.

    Just have a look a the root of the vine. It may be so old and maybe even infertile, that it does no longer shoot at the bottom. This makes it necessary to move your root some centimeters further up. Instead you will prune your rachet and your lancement on this position a number of centimeters on top of the real root. If you do not use this trick you are not able to prune the rachet that is necessary for the rejuvenation of the plant. But not in the schoolvine. Here the correct answer is to leave a vine without the rachet.

    This is where it gets rather difficult for me to understand the wise idea in learning something by heart just for the benefit of the exam. I just do not get the point. But I can prune a chablis now, which I was not able to one month ago.

    Did I mention by the way that I made eight out of 10 and nine out of 10 in the two written tests of Thursday morning? Without dictionary, ladies and gentlemen. A little touch of French style may have left its stamp on me after all.

    These Cordon de Royat-pruned vines follow theory so nicely, that I can understand and explain most of it.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

  • 15 February, 2001

    Generations change in Roederer

    Roederer-vineyards in the Montagne de Reims.

    In one of the last familyowned big champagnehouses, Jean-Claude Rouzaud has handed over the reins to his son, Frederic Rouzaud.

    Jean-Claude Rouzaud joined Louis Roederer in 1967. Under his management ths house has developed to become one of most well regarded Grandes Marques. On top of that the house has developed its activities in wine (Bordeaux , Rhône and Provence), port and sparkling wine from Roederer Estate in California . Also the Aÿ-based Champagne Deutz now belongs to Roederer.

    Frederic Rouzaud, 38 years, joined Louis Roederer in 1996 and has been in charge of the purchase of Domaines Ott (Provence) in 2004.

    Jean-Claude Rouzaud continues as chairman of the group.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    12 February, 2001

    Third round in the vine done

    Left pruning on my own, I am now doing quite fine.

    Third round out ofe ten towards achieving the diploma in pruning the vine is done. On one hand I can only be satisfied that I :

    1) Thursday managed to pass the two written tests. Without use of my dictionary.
    2) Sunday managed to work myself under the objective: Four minutes per plant.

    On the other hand, I must also admit that I:

    1) Thursday hardly managed to prune at all, as I tried to follow the guidance of my teacher. She says several things that are mutually conflicting. What do you do then?

    2) Sunday I have my problems when asking Alain as well. What he says is not always in line with what is said in the course, and who is right then?

    In short: I do have my difficulties to find out what to do, if much more than one cook spoils the broth. A great deal of it probably caused by the fact that my current level in French simply is not sufficient to employ the finest details, that may very well be necessary in some borderline cases

    To prune is a job where you must stay focused all the time. If that is the case, you can do it rather fast. I do not feel left all alone in the middle of an ocean of vine any longer. Guess I am getting there. Parttime anyway.

    Work nicely on my own
    If I sit on my own and work, I am doing just fine. Often I have no problems to select the branches, I want to work with. The secateur fits my hand nicely now, and I seem to cut off the branches more or less as close to la charpente as I should.

    I seem to avoid destruction of buds on the branches that will carry the fruits: The
    Prolongements and the lancement, I remember to remove little and useless branches and deead ends, that were not cut closely as they should before. All is done reasonably fast, while I roll upwards on my little wagon, the camionette. Even the cold of the winter - and the snow - I can resist in almost three hours now. Then I am cold.

    All in all, through my work in these past weekends I must have exercised some certainty in what I am doing. The quality of my work is as good as what these Chardonnay-vines is laid open to normally. I spot little mistakes, that at least I do not do myself. But acknowledge in the same spirit, that I do others... I just try to avoid the ones that will kick me out of the contest straight away. Should I decide to do it after all.

    Since I am no longer so convinced any longer that I actually want to focus myself so much on the necessity of passing this exam. But there is still time to think and decide.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    10 February, 2001

    2005: New succes for champagnesales

    Veuve Clicquot has always been big in exports.

    Forget about the crisis in the rest of the French winebusiness. In Champagne the sales of the local lux product is still great. In 2005 it even managed to rise another two percent compared with the year before.

    The English, who traditionally always have bought a lot of champagne, seem almost unstoppable with a growth of 13 percent (Who would want to stop them anyway?) The spokesperson of the official body of the business, CIVC, is almost bubbly in his own enthusiasm.

    "The English adore us, it's fabulous, with them champagne is almost a social phenomenon," says Daniel Lorson.

    All in all the region - 150 km east of Paris - sold 307,5 million bottles of champagne in 2005.

    Faraway markets
    Most of it - 58 percent - was gulped down in France, but the overseas market are developping too, says the CIVC. Daniel Lorson mentions especially Australia - maybe they have the feeling for champagne from the partially British roots? - and Japan. But China and India both show very interesting two-digit rates of growth as well.

    And then there is Russia coming up. Good old Russia that used to be a great exportmarkedet for Champagne. It was through trade with the czar's court that the famous Veuve Clicquot - full name Nicole-Barbe Clicquot-Ponsardin - founded her reputation, not only as a great champagnemaker but also a skilled and far-seeing businesswoman.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    07 February, 2001

    Bubbles balance on the edge

    The price for a kilo of grapes is reaching the limit.

    As the price of a kilo of grapes is reaching five euros, the risk of economical crisis is also on the rise. Wellknown knowledge if you know how the business works.

    "The Champagne region is ill without even being aware of it," according to Cedric Louboutin, an analyst at stock brokerage Fideuram Wargny, to the British newsagency Reuters in December last year.

    He has written a major report about the development of the champagneindustry since the beginning of the nineties and the deep crisis that the business has only just recovered from. With the rising prices of grapes - at the moment average four percent per year according to Louboutin - the risk of new economical shocks rises similarly.

    In the region you still find people with a memory that stretches 15 years back to the hard times caused excactly by rising prices of grapes. And you find others that have never seen anything but prosperous times. For some thus the quota of grapes at the harvest 2005 was rather low and conservative, which was further proved to them by the recent decision to release further still wines for the production of champagne. Others think that a cautious increase is more wise in a market where the balance between profit and crisis is very fine. This is also the understanding of Patrick Le Brun, chairman of the Syndicat Générale des Vignerons, who has said so many times in different professional publications.

    Psychological prices
    As long as you grow your own grapes, you can continue rather indifferent of the current situation. The problems - and a more tight economy - start for the houses, that must buy a major part of the grapes they need on the market. Most of them only grow about one tenth of their need.

    Some of the most wellknown brands can forward at least some of the rising grapeprice to their customers, but for the less known more firm limits are valid. There are some psychological startprices - French supermarketprices that is - of ten euros for special offers, 15 euros for the cheepest of known brands and 20-30 euros for special cuvées.

    A house with no land
    Lanson International is a good example of the economical mess that high prices of grapes can cause. Lanson owns - contrary to most other houses - hardly any vineyards. Therefore they are 100 per cent dependant on growers. And also 100 percent dependant on the marketprice of grapes.

    One and a half year ago - in 2004 - this gave Lanson so serious problems, that the house did not have available funds to pay its suppliers. In this case fifty million bottles of champagne in the caves does not get you far.

    For a start Lanson was saved by the bank Caisse d'Épargne, who brought the necessary capital. But as the bank last year wanted to leave, Lanson ended up on sale anyway. The old house was bought by Boizel Chanoine Champagne. The giant eaten by the dwarf.

    For the rest of us, who make a living from selling our grapes, the higher the prices the better for us, of course. But since the balance is so delicate, prices that are too high will destroy the market for everybody. And for us as well. So greediness does not pay that well after all.

    Do not get yourself fooled by the local folklore (here Givry les Loisy in the Côte des Blancs). Champagne today is a thoroughly regulated and professionnal business.

    Thoroughly regulated economy
    As a Dane it is surprising to realize excactly how thoroughly regulated the French winebusiness is. In Champagne as well there are rules for everything. For example:

  • The distance between the plants.
  • The degree of mechanisation - when can you use your tractor?
  • Who must buy grapes? At what price? How many?

    Some of the rules are constant, and a part of the entire AOC-system (Appellation d'Origine Controlée). With other words: If you want to write champagne on your bottles, you must carefully observe the rules of the wine. Other rules are made each year in cooperation between the CIVC (Comité Interprofessionnel de la Champagne) and the INAO (the office under the French Ministry of Agriculture that deals with the AOC-rules: Institut National des Appellations d’Origine). This regards for instance the quotas of grapes and the wages you pay wineworkers.

    This system makes words such as monopoly, lack of competition and state control Sovjet style flash in red through must Danish minds, with whom I have discussed these matters. Mind you, my own too, at least in the beginning. After reading more local history, I can see the idea of a system, that leaves both grower and producer rather calm. The system secures that there are grapes to buy for those who need it and buyers for the grapes of those who need to sell.

    The grapes from Champagne are currently the most expensive worldwide, amongst other things because the degree of mechanization is rather low. When you buy a bottle of champagne, you pay for a lot of manual work, and that is one of the secrets - not really a secret though - behind the generally rather high quality of any champagne. It also means that the vignerons can only get their work paid, if they sell their grapes for champagne. Nothing else pays that well.

    You cannot enter from the street to sell your pallet of grapes.

    Eating grapes for sale
    The lofty price of grapes may inspire inventive persons. A couple of years ago one of these types got a bright idea. So he went to the big en gros market in Paris where he bought a load of grapes and then he drove out to our cooperative to make his bargain of the year.

    What he apparently did not know was, that eating grapes and champagne grapes have nothing in common. It is not the same varieties and of course not the same price either. On top of that you cannot really enter from the street to sell a ton of grapes just like that. There are massive amounts of paperwork to do before, under and after the harvest. After all, French bureaucracy must be fed.

    Whether the smart guy ate his way though his coup or not, I have no idea.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

  • 06 February, 2001

    Homework in fresh air

    Chablis-pruning with two charpentes in February sun

    I have spend another Sunday morning in the Chablis-pruned Chardonnay-grapes of my mother-in-law. I still progress slowly... but I can feel, that the more plants, I prune, the more methodically I am able to work. And this more square way of working actually makes it a lot more easy not just to prune according to theory but also to make up my mind regarding all the exceptions. That is not counting the speed though.

    I repeat the correct designations of the different parts of the plant, that I am working with. This helps me to learn the French names, hopefully so well that I soon will not have to bother too much about them. I will know.

    Rachet, lancement
    First the rachet, the little bit with its two yeux francs - buds that is - the rejuvenations of the plant, as the shoots, that in spring hopefully will develop from the two buds, in the next pruning season will be promoted to become the new lancement.

    This means that this years lancement must be pruned on the best of the two shoots from last years rachet. From the buds on the lancement shoots will develop in the coming season and they will carry fruits. The lancement will be kept in a height of five buds . However you may have to make it six buds in order to be able to attach it to the first row of thread.

    If none of the buds from last years rachet have developped nicely, I will not prune a lancement at all. Since a lancement cut directly from the foot itself will give no grapes anyway - a shoot direct from the foot of the plant is called a gourmand and is infertile - there is no reason why the plant should use energy in vain. Last weekend I have made several of this kind of mistakes, but since we now have realized excactly what it means, I spend quite some energy in order to avoid this. You may however use the gourmand to cut either a rachet with two eyes or - within the Chablis- or the Vallée de la Marne-system a rentrure. It is kept in the heigth of two buds too. The purpose with it is to create a new charpente if you need one

    Ready to cut on the bias one centimetre superior to the second bud.

    The last thing I do is to work with the three charpentes. This is the old wood on the plant, this is where the force dwells. This is what gives the grapes just the good qualities you want them to have.

    Good energy in the charpentes
    For each of the three old branches, the idea is an old part and an extension of a one year old shoot - the prolongement - this is the part that carries the fruits - the bois fructifére. You are allowed maximum five of these branches on each plant - the lancement included. The excact number depends on the distance between the plants. The longer the distance, the more charpentes.

    Which is why I check the neighbouring plant before I decide to cut off a branch. If the neighbour is dead, my plant will be allowed much more room. Otherwise it is strictly forbidden to meet the branches of the neighbour. Each shoot must have enough space, and its buds must not be situated over or under each other.

    My job thus is to clean up the branches, so that the necessary amount of them is always met. Though less if they bother each other. These phenomena are called superposition in case buds from the same plant will eventually bother each other and chevauchement in case buds from the plant will eventually bother buds on the neighbour.

    One charpente is sacrificed but not without careful thinking.

    Now I brutally am able to remove charpentes, when I find it necessary. I even dare do it without asking Alain first. Which means that my ability in the field of being able to make independent decisions is on the rise. A good sign. I am also getting better at spotting mistakes and bad decisions just as the branch falls. Too late but still better than not discovering it. I still feel bad about it though. For example when I cut a lancement or a prolongement too short, because I measure it against the lower thread instead of the upper.

    Rough news on the speed
    I comfort myself with the fact that with my slow pace I am not able to cause that many problems after all. There will still be plenty of grapes even we try to control the amount rather throroughly through the pruning.

    The weekend brings rough news regarding the importance of the speed. Already before the course began, I sort of suspected that speed could get some kind of importance. After all the diploma is the ticket to a piecework. A cousin confirmed on saturday that le grand jury quite so do care. Three tough men failed her years back because she worked too slowly. I chew on this one the rest of the day. I cannot make my self ask too many questions about how hard-working she was in her sparetime after all.

    Sunday I can see that no matter what, I cannot prune faster than my mind can tell me what to do. But then it may be possible that these thoughts - as the weeks will pass by - could learn to hurry up a bit in order to make the fingers move faster as well.

    My mother-in-law - I actually think she feels a bit sorry for her daughter-in-law - proposes to talk with one of her acquaintances, who participates in one of these apparently tough grands jurys. We decline... so far I still believe that it is possible to meet my objectives through hard work.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

    03 February, 2001

    Second round before le concours

    The trees of the forest are covered with white frost, a dense, eerie fog hangs a few metres on top of our heads the major part of the day, and the temperature never crosses a couple of degrees Celsius, below zero that is. It is too cold to visit the schoolvineyards with our sharpened secateurs, so we spend second round of the pruning course entirely in the classroom.

    All thursday we are taught the theoretical part of the cordon de royat, which is the name of the one method, approved in all classifications of vines (the other one - chablis-method - we learned last time).

    It is not a system, we personallly use any more. Alain has repruned his autres crus Pinot Meunier from the cordon to the more simple and therefore faster vallée de la Marne.

    The Chablis-method.

    The Cordon de Royat-method.

    The Vallée de la Marne-method.

    We spend quite some time to answer written questions individually though in a less restrictive way, than the final exam, I presume. The questions are like this:

  • According to which method of pruning are you allowed to do a rentrure?

  • What do you find at the bottom of a plant that is pruned according to the Cordon de Royat-system? How many buds?

  • What is the maximum amount of buds, that you are allowed on a prolongement on a Pinot Noir-plant that is pruned the Chablis-way?

    In reality this reminds me quite a bit of passing the theoretical part of a driver's license. You get a bunch of questions which you must answer in a certain way, that you have to learn by heart, if you want to pass.

    I got almost relieved as I saw these written questions. Not that they are easy. But it should be possible to learn. The whole perspective worsened a bit as Stéphanie, our teacher, afterwards handed out the form, that the grand jury will use to give points and eliminate participants at the final, big test.

    The practical part
    Item after item, the form lists the skills that are in demand and the mistakes that will eliminate you straight away.

    We will be tested in our understanding of the pruning itself, our carefullness during the pruning, our manouevering of the secateur, our speed and finally our attachment of the vine. The following points mean instant goodbye:

  • If you do not prune a rachet even you have the possibility.
  • If you do your rachet on a branch superior of your lancement. This is in the case that you have to prune this bunch - the rejuvenation of the plant - on last years rachet.
  • If you have more than four charpentes.
  • If you commit superposition.
  • If you commit chevauchement.
  • If you use the secateur completely wrong.
  • If you are too slow.
  • If you have not reached at least half of the maximum number of points.

    Wordblind or non-skilled scissorhands
    An elderly guy in the group apparently can neither read nor write. But he may easily be a great vineyard worker. Since he obviously needs the paper, he will have to fight his way through anyway.

    It is nice to see our teacher help him without making too much fuss about it. Nice to hear, that she straight away offered to record the necessary theory for him on tapes.

    I think, I will send a thought or two to this bloke, when I get even more difficult times during these next and almost entirely practical Thursdays. He may get the same idea as he will see me (mis)handle the secateur. Well, he is welcome to it then.

    På dansk

    Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.