We’re in the business of selling dreams; something that lifts you from the everyday and transports you into another realm… -Hugues Le Marie of Champagne house Perrier-Jouet and GH Mumm
So begins an entertaining article from The Drinks Business entitled Liquid Dreams: The Lafite’s of the Future? As MFW has discussed in two previous posts (June 19th w/Speculation v. Consumption; July 10 w/Art for Wine) words such as icon, prestige and luxury are becoming popular buzzwords synonymous with the world of high-end wine. Speaking directly to this, the article adds its voice to the discussion of these financially charged words in relation to a powerful Asian market whose emergence has stimulated a flood of foreign wine to eastern shores. “A mixture of money, a new-found enthusiasm for fine wine and a desire for luxury goods is proving intoxicating” to both the Asian market, clamoring for foreign imports, and those who would provide the imports. This “vinous gold rush” has inspired dynamic producers to create/elevate their luxury brand in order to showcase unique versions of “icon wine” and imbue each with the “craftsmanship, attention to detail, pedigree and paucity [that allows] the buyer to become the ‘owner’ of an exclusive experience.”
The interesting thing to watch is the divide between established producers that seek to elevate an already distinguished brand and those who seek to launch a new product that can compete at the highest level. While the prestige associated with a position at the highest level of wine is, by definition, not easily attained, the prevailing thought is that if you are going to launch a new wine “eyeing up the middle of the market at the moment is a mistake – winemakers should be seeking to target top earners with hand-crafted prestige blends, which, if made using artisan methods in tiny quantities from old vines, handpicked and aged in high quality oak, could give a serious return on the investment required to produce the wines.” Needless to say, in this environment of want rather than need, the path of profiteering producers to fulfilling the desires of the monied elite in their pursuit of pleasure is most arduous for those starting from square one.
With that in mind, I bring you the newly formed, would-be producers of the world’s future great wine:
1) The source of the most unlikely to succeed luxury wine brand, as well as one of the all-time great wine-related sound bites, is winemaker Bruno Paumard of Inner Mongolia-based Chateau Hansen. The recently launched Red Camel label is made from organically grown Cabernet Sauvignon from a single parcel of 15 year old vines in Ningxia. The 10,000 bottle production of the inaugural 2010 vintage was aged for two years in 100% new French oak and is available for $660.85 per bottle. I’m not sure which piece of this effort sounds the most contradictory to the end goal, but in a bid to assuage any hesitation from potential clients and inspire a certain amount of excitement, winemaker Bruno Paumard describes Red Camel as “the best we can do.”
2) “Aiming to reach the rarified heights of Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace in Australia is high-end newcomer Thousand Candles in the Yarra valley.” The 650 case production of the inaugural 2011 vintage is a rare composition of 92% Shiraz, 6% Pinot Noir and 2% barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc. At $92.37 per bottle, partner Paul Henry admits “Thousand Candles is something of a “marmite” wine consumers will either love or hate.”
3) “Seven years ago, Bordeaux-born Sacha Lichine changed the fate of rose forever when he bought Chateau d’Esclans in Cotes de Provence from a Swedish pension fund for 12 million euros and quickly set about making “the best rose in the world.” Garrus, for £70, is the top wine from Lichine’s four strong stable of roses. Made-up primarily of Grenache and created with non-traditional Provencal techniques borrowed from Burgundy (fermentation in new French oak and batonnage), half of the 10,000 bottle production goes to super yacht owners in Cannes and St. Tropez.
4) “Looking to capitalize on the white-hot popularity of Provencal rose is energetic entrepreneur Brett Berish, CEO of New York based Sovereign Brands and creator of rapper Jay-Z’s favorite fizz, Armand de Brignac.” Berish’s new venture seeks to tap into three current trends in the wine world by creating a new category, demi-sec sparkling rose from Provence. Already proudly counting Miami-based rapper Rick Ross among its supporters, the newly christened Luc Belaire is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah from a Provencal estate that dates back to 1989. At £30, this bottle is headed for a new category of luxury called “affordable luxury.”
5) “Ambitiously seeking to set a benchmark for quality, price and rarity in South Africa through the production of a “First Growth of the Cape” combining New World power and Old World finesse is 4G Wines.” The top wine, “G”, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, from ten different vineyard sites across the Cape, that is matured in 100% new French oak for 18 months. The debut vintage saw a production of 3,400 bottles followed by only 1,943 the next year in 2011. “G” sells for £250.
6) “Having long been in on the icon act with the likes of Sena and Almaviva, the latest luxury cuvee to emerge from Chile is the £180 Montes Taita.” Only produced in the most exceptional years, using only the most pristine fruit from a 6 hectare dry-farmed vineyard plot in Marchigue (Colchagua Valley), the vintage dependent blend will be adapted in order to achieve the finest finished product. The exceptional crop of fruit in 2007 allowed for the launch of Montes Taita with a Cabernet dominant blend.