Times of wine

From seabed rescues to pricey auctions.
A single bottle of Masseto fetched over $60,000 at a Sotheby’s auction.

I thankfully don’t need to wait for harvest time to enjoy browsing through the grapevine and hand-picking plump bits of news which I hope will be as intriguing to you as they are to me. VINDIVINO benefits from my vast hands-on experience and passionate appreciation of wine to offer independent services related to wine communication, bridging the gap between wine makers and wine lovers.

My strength stems from the fervent conviction that wine is a wonderful element of culture that is not exclusive to experts but offers unique levels of delight to one and all.

The impact of time on wine and its development is regularly misinterpreted particularly due to the oft-recited myth that the older it is, the better it gets. We will deal with this misconception on another occasion, since the main focus of the piece referred to below by Martin Green for Decanter Magazine deals more with the influence of ageing wine in particular environmental conditions, more specifically at a depth of 34 metres at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.

Rathfinny unveils English sparkling wine aged on the Arctic Ocean seabed

Rathfinny Wine Estate has teamed up with cruise operator Hurtigruten Norway to age 1,700 bottles of sparkling wine on the Arctic Ocean seabed. The bottles spent six months maturing in the frigid waters at a depth of 34 metres, and they were salvaged intact.

Nikolai Haram Svorte, who recently won the Norwegian Sommelier Championship, was among the first to taste the wine at a special ceremony in Sandnessjøen. “This marks the beginning of something truly exhilarating, and I must say I am thoroughly impressed,” he told the assembled reporters. Read more here.

The local restaurant scene has grown remarkably over the past decade, with new cuisine styles, exploring novel ingredients, validating the home-grown all while seeking to make dining out more of an experience whose pleasures not exclusive to those gastronomic. When it comes to designing a wine list however, there is still work to be done, particularly in the case of more casual diners. Our restaurants need to dedicate more attention to the list they curate: it carries a considerable part of the eatery’s identity as well as value. Harper’s journalist Jo Gilbert asks some pertinent questions to Beatrice Bessi, head sommelier at Chiltern Firehouse whose response serves to stimulate further pondering and discussion rather than to provide definitive answers.

What makes a wine list? Beatrice Bessi, Chiltern Firehouse

In a new online series, Harpers is going back to basics with members of hospitality to find out exactly what is the secret sauce that makes a modern wine list successful. We continue our series with Beatrice Bessi, head sommelier, Chiltern Firehouse. In your opinion, what are the three main things which make a good wine list in 2023?

A price for everyone! Affordable wine at top quality, small less-known producers. Classic regions side-by-side with new upcoming ones. Your guests should be able to find their comfort zone wines and if they trust you, you should also have options for them to explore new wines and regions! Read more here.

I am (alas) old enough to remember a time when wines from Sicily did not really leave any impression worthy of note among wine lovers worldwide, or at home for that matter. To be fair, I’m not quite referring to a century ago, but still going back three or four decades or so. A very concerted effort to extract the full potential of the island and its wines by the leaders of the industry reaped very healthy pickings and today, Sicily is one of the wine stars of the world. Davide Bortone shares his insight on more recent development next door.

Sicily’s grape renaissance

Sicily’s viticultural revival adds just another reason to visit this magnificent island. With the 2022 harvest, Sicily confirmed itself as the island of wine for all seasons.

The wines presented as a preview last month at Sicilia en Primeur 2023, the annual event organized by Assovini Sicilia designed to showcase the best of the region’s wine production, demonstrated the qualitative growth of all the main appellations.

Producers were able to overcome the agronomic pitfalls of a drought–stricken year in which overall production was 8.9 percent lower than the average of the last 13 years, according to data provided by the consulting firm Uva Sapiens. The lower production is partly linked to the decrease in the number of hectares under vine, which fell to 110,000 – between 2008 and 2018, roughly 40,000ha of vineyard were uprooted.

In 2022, Sicily was confirmed as one of the most productive wine-growing regions in Italy, with an average yield of 6.7 tons of grapes per hectare. However, the southeast zone remains an exception as production has dropped 29.2 percent, compared to the average. Read more here.

Wine and its price are often the subject of debate. The intrinsic value of the beverage has a strong influence of the amount of money you need to part with if you want experience the joys it can deliver. Fine wines cost money to make. Low vineyard yields, cellar ageing, land prices, production protocols and volume limits, oak and so many other factors come at a high cost yet if expertly handled should help make a wine worthy of note, and hopefully of its price. Then, there’s the magic which some brands succeed in weaving over time, by telling a story, by creating a narrative, by offering sensations which at times may even defy the value of price. Here’s a story by Kenny Martin for the Wine Spectator which may confuse you even further.

A super sale for a super Tuscan: Masseto Cellar auction at Sotheby’s brings in $400,000

A 15-liter bottle of the 2010 vintage was the top lot in a sale straight from the winery. The sale offered 132 bottles of past vintages of Masseto, straight from the winery cellar and authenticated and brought in impressive numbers at Sotheby’s.

The grand sum of just over $400,000 was almost double the pre-auction estimate of $220,000. Topping the 46 lots was a 15-litre bottle of the 2010 vintage (one of only 20 nebuchadnezzars the winery produced that year), which fetched over $60,000, the highest auction price ever paid for a single bottle of Masseto. Other top lots included imperials (six litre bottles) of the 2001 and 2016 vintages, which sold for over $16,000 each. Read more here.

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