Cellar News, GD News

GD Newsletter December 2020

Twenty-Twenty is likely to be remembered by many as a very unsettling year that we look forward to seeing the back of. However, in spite of all the challenges faced, it has given us an opportunity to reflect on the business we run and how we can improve our service offering to our customers. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support throughout the year.

1. Harvest Reports
2. Great Domaines’ Re-selling Philosophy 
3. New Additions to GD Portfolio 
4. New Staff 
5. New Truck

Harvest Reports

Northern Hemisphere Harvest 2020 

In the Northern Hemisphere, the 2020 harvest will be remembered as a very peculiar one and probably one of the most challenging in memory. In Burgundy, the harvest started mid–August – one of the earliest in history and another reminder of the very real impact that climate is having on our planet, causing exceptional drought and heatwaves. In every vineyard, masked workers spread themselves out as much as possible in the vineyards to pick grapes.

We have asked some of our producers to give some insights into the 2020 vintage.

In Champagne, Hervé Dantan, Lanson’s cellar master, describes the 2020 harvest as a “message of hope”. Champagne Pol Roger points out that 2020 marks the sixth year in which the harvest has begun in August. The vines grew very quickly due to sunny and hot conditions. Then all were taken by surprise by the sudden slowing of the ripeness due to the drought that set in the week before the beginning of the harvest. This resulted in very uneven ripening all across Champagne. “I have really loved this year’s harvest, first multicolour and then showing a perfect balance between sugar and acidity”, wrote Dantan. 2020 will be another famous trilogy following 2018 and 2019 which are also showing exceptional potential.

For Burgundy, “this was the third hot, dry vintage in a row” explains Master of Wine Jasper Morris, author of Inside Burgundy, who also described that July witnessed a “brutal heatwave”. Some winemakers in the Côte de Nuits finished picking before the end of August. One of our domaines, Marquis d’Angerville said that “believe it or not on the 25th of August at noon, the vintage 2020 is inside. The finishing date is the start date of the previous record (2003)”. For Domaine Lafarge also of Volnay, the 2020 harvest was the most drawn-out with Passetougrain harvested at the beginning of September and the Aligoté in mid-September. For Domaine Lafarge, 2020 is a “grand millesime”.

In the Rhône, our Great Domaines producers are also very happy about their 2020 harvest. Domaine du Pegau wrote: “Ideal flowering, good climatic conditions offering a generous harvest. A hot and dry summer optimising advanced maturity helped by heave rain over the last few weeks. Harvest started around September 15th contributing to a juicy, concentrated harvest with good acidity thanks to the cooler nights”.

Similarly, in Italy, there were varying degrees of early and late ripening across regions. In Piedmont for Luciano Sandrone, the harvest began in early September, one week earlier than the historical average. For Sandrone, the 2020 vintage is summed up as extremely good with points of excellence, especially for Barolo. Giacomo Conterno of Poderi Aldo Conterno has similar sentiments: “2020 is looking very promising and I think it will be a fantastic harvest”.

La Rioja Alta had its most demanding harvest in their 130 years of existence, due to logistical challenges linked to the extreme preventative measures required to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, it ended with very positive results overall: magnificent quality and substantial quantity. Mid-summer forecasts didn’t look very promising with predictions of high temperatures and water stress. Fortunately, late September rain allowed for better ripening and recovery from water stress caused by the drought. Later on, cold northerly winds helped the vines to ripen with great balance. Finally, a late harvest allowed them to make wines with great ageing potential.

Valenciso experienced a 22% drop in yield but the quality was very good.

A mild winter and early summer led to fast budding and early flowering in the Mosel. A very long dry phase meant irrigation by hand for Dr Loosen’s younger vines. Older vineyards with deep roots coped better. The harvest yields this year were 45% higher than in 2019. In 2020, the harvest will be remembered as the first in the newly acquired Bremmer Calmont vineyard, the steepest vineyard in Europe. They are attempting this year to produce Eiswein but, due to climate change, it is very touch and go.

Great Domaines’ Re-selling Philosophy

Many of you would have seen the strong marketing campaign developed to draw attention to the Strauss & Co auction which took place about a month ago. If you are a Burgundy buyer, you may have already seen our communication regarding this. We thought that this newsletter would be a good opportunity to remind you of our re-selling philosophy as we have received numerous queries recently. This applies not only to our Burgundy Domaines mainly but to all of our other iconic, blue-chip producers.

Our philosophy has been formed by our relationship with and the expectation from our Great Domaines producers themselves. Their expectation is and always has been crystal clear: Great Domaines should not re-export the wines and ‘flip’ these into other more demanding markets and they ask us to actively discourage trading their wines by our customers. These relationships, built over 20 years, are also our warranty for the provenance and authenticity of these wines, especially in light of the recent reports of counterfeited wines such as Sassicaia.

Our philosophy is to sell these great wines in South Africa at initial pricing that is markedly lower than the rest of the world where these wines are sold. In doing so, we ask that wherever possible, the wines are bought for cellaring to possible perfection and then opened for enjoyment. We are happy to discuss this with anyone who has queries as to the importance of this for the maintenance of South Africa as a market which receives significant allocations of the greatest wines in the world.

New Additions to GD Portfolio

In an effort to offer you some of the best wines, we are constantly broadening our search for the rising stars that will add value to your cellar and keep on working on the gems that are a must-have in any wine lovers’ collection. This is the case for two of Burgundy’s biggest superstars: Domaines Georges Mugneret–Gibourg and Vincent Dauvissat. It has taken us 6 years of communication and visits, and thanks to a lot of patience and persistence we are now able to offer you their wines as part of next year’s allocation.

From the Loire valley, we have added the most exciting young star, Thibaud Boudignon, who is producing some of the finest expressions of Chenin Blanc from his terroirs in Anjou and Savennières.

As South African wines grow in quality, so too does our South African portfolio. It remains limited, however, to ensure that we give each of our South African producers the attention they deserve. At the beginning of the year, we welcomed Colmant, one of the pioneering estates in the area of Method Cap Classique. With the addition of Paul Gerber as part of the team, you can expect more and more refined bubbles from Colmant in the coming years. A couple of months ago, we announced the addition of Damascene to our portfolio. These wines focus on the expression of regions more than individual vineyard sites. This year saw only their second release and the wines just about sold out on the first day. Lastly, after years of discussions, we are now representing the Danie Steytler’s premium range of Vision, Pentagon, Pinotage and 1947 Chenin Blanc which are all produced from the finest parcels on their family farm in Stellenbosch. Danie has also created, exclusively for Great Domaines, a Chenin Blanc and Red under the label “Danie Jnr” – two easy-drinking wines for immediate consumption that offer great value.

New Staff

Together with our family of domaines, our own family here at GD is also growing. In logistics, we welcome Duncan van Rensburg as Logistics Manager and Theo Dlamini as logistics assistant. In accounts, we have hired Michelle Naidu as our new account clerk. Everyone has added tremendous value since joining us.

New Truck

Our fleet is expanding! We now have two sets of wheels on the road with chilled compartments. We continue to ensure that the cold chain is never broken between your wine leaving our cellar and arriving at your door so we have purchased a new vehicle for all deliveries in Johannesburg.

We wish you all a wonderful and safe festive season with family and friends, hoping that 2021 will bring a bit of normality back. We are looking forward to hearing what special bottles you open during the holidays.

Wayne, Venetia, Derek and the Great Domaines team