The wine was bright and translucent, despite its walnut hue. Vapoury and perfumed, as we all hoped, though the notes varied by taster: crystallised violets, dried fruits, citrus. Rue, for me (that shrubby herb Ruta graveolens, so powerfully scented as to asphyxiate its garden neighbours; here, happily, just a hint).
My home département of Hérault has had a short crop this year. Normally it produces twice as much wine as the entire nation of New Zealand, but this year it’s a mere 4.5 million hl (or 1.8 times New Zealand’s large 2013 crop).
Every wine culture needs an avant-garde, a revolutionary fringe or a dissident rump. Even a self-questioning, 'divinely dissatisfied' establishment will do the trick: the important thing is to keep chafing at boundaries, interrogating fundamental precepts, and dreaming of the beauty which lies just out of reach.
The Hess Group's recent sale of Barossa-based Peter Lehmann Wines to Casella was shocking: over half of the value of the company, it would seem, had been axed away in little more than a decade. And not just that. Lehmann is a respected leader from the nation's best-known wine-producing region. To see a company like that discounted from high-end international ownership to a domestic giant whose growth has been built on 'value' wine does not look like a happy regional omen.
In 1970s South Africa, the thirst for Chardonnay among the country's young generation of winemakers could only be assuaged by smuggling. The 'suitcase clones' which arrived illicitly back then made Chardonnay the avant-garde variety of choice (though not without collateral damage: some of the Chardonnay later proved to be Alsace's Auxerrois).
You may have heard of a new wine gadget selling for just under US$300 called 'Coravin' which claims to allow wine to be tasted multiple times from the same bottle without ever removing the cork. Are you...
Intrigued. It sounds like a great idea and I would be interested in buying one (1263 vote, 29%)
Cautious, I would have to see it in action before I made my mind up (1239 vote, 28%)
Sceptical, I wouldn't risk it with my old and rare vintages (687 vote, 16%)
Not interested - if I want a glass of wine I'll just open the bottle (1179 vote, 27%)