A Bordeaux producer sentenced for labeling
It’s been another busy week for wine news, covering everything from mold to papal insults.
© Domaine Rolland de By
| Less prestigious wines from Domaine Rolland de By were considered too close to the producer’s major labels.
One of the big headlines this week was that Château La Gafffelière left the Saint-Emilion classification.
However, the timing of the move left many wondering if it was just about wanting to be the dumper and not the dumpee (to borrow from teenage lexicon, which somehow seems apt). According to some reports, all castles in the ranking had received notification of their performance in the 2022 iteration earlier this month.
But here we bring you the stories you may not have seen this week, from the “Mildew Awards” in Rioja, to another Vino de Pago, to acquisitions in Tuscany, fines in Bordeaux and papal blunders.
Rollan de By owner fined for misleading label
The owner of the Médoc Cru Bourgeois Rollan de By estate, Jean Guyon, has been fined by a Bordeaux court for misleading consumers in the branding and marketing of a negociant wine (produced via the bulk wine market) relying heavily on associations with the property in question.
According to wine news site Vitisphere.com, Guyon, his company (SAS La Haute Couture du Vin), their distributors SAS Les Chais d’Haussmann, and his boss Pierre-Jean Larraqué, have been fined s amounting to more than €200,000 (US$214,000) on Friday for “deceptive marketing practices”.
The fines relate to the 2017 release of “Bordeaux de By”, a standard Bordeaux-level red wine produced from wines from across the region. The label took over the font from By’s Rollan label, used the phrase “mis enbotlle à la property” (bottled on the property/estate) and the word “récoltant” (similar to the use of the title “producer”) – beyond the pallor of the legislator who considered the culprits could have misled consumers by associating the wine with that of the Rollan de By estate.
Even the back label made the link between Bordeaux de By and Rollan de By via Guyon.
According to Vitisphere.com, Guyon had attempted to downplay his role in the trial, pointing out how he withdrew the brand’s commercial license before the trial began. The court, however, was not so benevolent.
“Jean Guyon cannot pretend to be unaware of the methods of marketing wines under the “Bordeaux de By” brand, even if […] he was clearly associated – at a minimum – with the elaboration of these wines”, indicates the judgment.
This is not the first time that such a decision has been made. Indeed, it is part of a long tradition of trading wines sanctioned for using their links with larger estates for commercial purposes (often directly via commercial relations with the said estate):
- Bordeaux de Gloria fined €200,000;
- Bordeaux from Maucaillou, also €200,000;
- Citran Bordeaux, €140,000; and
- Bordeaux de Larrivet Haut-Brion the modest sum of €30,000).
EPI acquires Isole e Olena
The highly regarded Chianti Classico wine estate, Isole e Olena, has been acquired by French understated luxury investment group EPI, it was announced this week, for an undisclosed sum. The 56-hectare (140-acre) estate, best known for its 100% Sangiovese Super Tuscan Cepparello wine, will join Biondi Santi in the Italian stable of EPI’s portfolio.
Other estates held by EPI’s Wines & Champagne division include Charles Heidsieck, Piper-Heidsieck, Château La Verrerie (Luberon) and the Rhone negociant Tardieu Laurent. EPI also has a minority stake in Liberty Wines – an Italian wine specialist and the UK agents of Isole e Olena.
“The acquisition of the iconic Isole e Olena estate celebrates an important moment for us,” said Damien Lafaurie, Head of PPE Wine & Champagne, “as we continue to grow our presence in Italy following the acquisition of Biondi-Santi. We firmly believe in the growth potential of the best Italian wines in major international markets and are determined to continue investing in the quality of our wines, our brands and our distribution networks.”
Isole e Olena was founded by Francesco De Marchi, a lawyer from Piedmont, in 1956. His son Paolo started winemaking at the estate in the late 1970s, just before the release of the first Cepparello, a Toscana IGT, from 1980.
“We deeply respect Paolo De Marchi’s unique vision, operational excellence and consistent perseverance in producing the estate’s highly refined and authentic wines,” said EPI President Christofer Descours.
According to the group, Giampiero Bertolini, CEO of Biondi Santi, will also take over the management of Isole e Olena. Paolo De Marchi will retain his role as winemaker at the estate.
“After devoting a large part of my life to Isole e Olena, I am happy to see my estate now in the hands of a group that shares the values to which I am personally very attached”, declared Paolo De Marchi. “I look forward to actively contributing to this exciting new chapter for Isole e Olena and ensuring a smooth and seamless transition.”
“This transaction does not concern my former family property in Lessona (Alto Piemonte) managed by my son Luca who will benefit from my superior support and experience”, he added.
Abadía Retuerta obtains the status of Vino de Pago
Hot on the heels of nearby Dehesa Peñalba being named Ribera del Duero’s first Vino de Pago, the well-regarded Abadía Retuerta has now been added to the sometimes controversial list of top Spanish estates.
The first Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Lewheren winery to receive the Vino de Pago distinction, Abadía Retuerta, in Sardon de Duero, is also a critically acclaimed producer – a situation that is not always the case in the controversial ranking that sits nominally above (or at the same level as) the DOCa title currently held only by Rioja and Priorat.
The Vino de Pago title itself was created in 2003.
“DO Pago was doomed from the start, because everything that becomes official and bureaucratic in Spain then becomes political,” renowned Spanish writer and winery owner Victor de la Serna told Wine-Searcher.com in 2014.
The Abadía Retuerta estate covers approximately 700 hectares (1700 acres) of which 180 (440 acres) are planted with vines. Tempranillo represents about 70% of the plantations, the rest being attributed to Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) and Syrah (10%). The rest is made up of Merlot, Petit Verdot and white grape varieties including Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo.
The estate was founded in 1996 and counts on the property the 12th century fortified monastery of Santa María de Retuerta (now a hotel). The establishment of the hotel and the construction of the state-of-the-art winery were overseen by Abadía Retuerta’s parent company, the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis.
“We are extremely proud of this distinction,” said Abadía Retuerta CEO Enrique Valero, “because it highlights our work philosophy, our dedication and our unwavering commitment to the way we do things: avoiding trends and ensure the renewal of a historic vineyard. [vines were grown by the monks on the original monastery site].”
The estate has, for many years, used the services of Pascal Delbeck, a leading oenological consultant in Bordeaux.
Irish Slam Pope on Whiskey Jibe
Pope Francis found himself in hot water this week after comments made May 25 at the Vatican came to light in which His Holiness allegedly told attendees that Irish immigrants to the United States were responsible for bringing whiskey on the North American coasts. The pope also added that Italian immigrants were responsible for bringing in the mafia.
According to media outlet Irish Central, the pope was speaking to an American visitor to Vatican City State.
“You are a people of migrants, Irish migrants and Italian migrants,” he reportedly said. “The Irish brought you the whiskey and the Italians brought you the mafia. Always look at the roots.”
Although perhaps quoted out of context (Pope Francis is notoriously off-the-cuff with his remarks), the comments were condemned by multiple quarters. The editor of the Catholic newspaper La Croix International, Robert Mickens, said the statement was “an ethnic slur”.
“He certainly chose a very unfortunate set of words when he said, ‘The Irish brought the whiskey to America and the Italians brought the Mafia’, because that makes the Irish look like drunks and the Italians look like they don’t. to have done nothing but bring the mafia to the United States,” said the pope’s biographer, Father Michael Collins.
First spots of mildew in Rioja
From the Pope’s gaffe to the priest’s egg and the announcement last weekend that winemaker César Larios was the winner of Rioja’s “Mildew Awards” in 2022. Larios, whose vineyard is located in the La Conejera district of Fuenmayor (just west of Logroño) is set to take home €500 ($535) and a trophy in awards that highlight the importance of early detection of late blight in the vineyard.
Other mildew sightings this year include spots in Carlos Hernando’s vineyard in San Asensio, southeast of Haro and, according to reports, in the towns of Huércanos, Fuenmayor and Arenzana de Abajo. Hernando is expected to be one of 14 to receive a certificate and €150 (US$160) given to the first sighting of mold in 14 designated municipalities (according to the Europa Press news agency, these are: Alfaro, Aldeanueva, Quel, Calahorra, Ausejo, Agoncillo, Murillo, Logroño, Albelda de Iregua, Uruñuela, Arenzana de Abajo, Cañas, Casalarreina and San Vicente de la Sonsierra).
Hernando’s observation wins the regional prize of San Vicente de la Sonsierra.
The Mildew Awards, which are supported by the regional banks Caja Rioja and Caixa, were created in 1974 and “are a recognition of the work of winegrowers in the care they give to their vineyards”. All submissions are officially substantiated prior to the award ceremony.
Perhaps not the most positive aspect of viticulture in the province, the awards also form an early warning system for grape growers in the region and encourage vigilance in the vineyards at a potentially damaging time.
Despite the observations, the Ministry of Agriculture says the mildew outbreaks are “isolated” and that the general health of the Rioja vineyards is very good.
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