Notes & queries

Each month our ex­perts an­swer read­ers’ wine queries and share their knowl­edge

Decanter - - CONTENT - Email: edi­tor@de­can­ter.com. Post: The Edi­tor, De­can­ter, 1st Floor, 161 Marsh Wall, Lon­don E14 9AP, UK

Pro­tect­ing against hail

There’s been more bad news about se­vere hail dam­age in French vine­yards. Is it fea­si­ble for pro­duc­ers to erect phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers against it? If so, what would be the cost im­pli­ca­tions? Thomas Boor­man, Brus­sels Christophe Coupez re­sponds: In­deed, statis­tics show that weather dam­age is be­com­ing more fre­quent, and the con­se­quences worse. Yes, phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers such as nets have proved their ef­fi­ciency against hail, and yet un­til very re­cently it was not per­mit­ted to use nets to pro­tect a vine­yard pro­duc­ing AP wines. How­ever, a sur­prise INAO an­nounce­ment in mid-July means that, fol­low­ing three years of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion in Bur­gundy, hail nets can now be used – al­though there are still some who ob­ject. De­pend­ing on the den­sity of plant­ing, the cost may vary be­tween €10,000 and €20,000 per hectare. It might add about 15 cents to the cost of pro­duc­ing a bot­tle, so per­haps an ad­di­tional 30p-50p on the re­tail price in the UK, de­pend­ing on the dis­trib­u­tor.

Wines for a wed­ding

Our fam­ily has a wed­ding day tra­di­tion of serv­ing wine from the child’s birth year. My daugh­ter was born in 2017, but it ap­pears this was a pretty patchy year, with de­cent reds such as Château Mou­ton Roth­schild al­ready quite highly priced. Any ad­vice? KP, Brom­ley An­thony Rose replies: Vin­tage Port or cru classé Bordeaux from the year of a child’s birth is a tra­di­tional 18th birth­day gift, but nei­ther of these wine styles are typ­i­cal wed­ding fare. If you can’t be sure when (or if) your daugh­ter will get mar­ried, buy a wine that serves dou­ble duty as cel­e­bra­tion or con­so­la­tion. I sug­gest a mix of Charles Hei­d­sieck Mis en Cave 2017 (based on the 2016 vin­tage); dry Ger­man Grosses Gewächs Ries­ling from Dönnhoff, Dr Loosen, Küh­ling-Guil­lot or Schäfer-Fröh­lich; a good, mid­dle-rank­ing Bordeaux stayer such as Cap­bern, Clos du Mar­quis, Meyney, Ormes de Pez or Poten­sac or, bud­get per­mit­ting, Les Carmes Haut-Brion. Keep the wines in tip-top con­di­tion, and I also sug­gest try­ing at least one of each at in­ter­vals to give time, should any be peak­ing early or ex­ceed­ing ex­pec­ta­tions, to make sat­is­fac­tory al­ter­na­tive ar­range­ments.

Waste not, want not

What do pro­duc­ers do with old bar­rels once they’ve come to the end of their use­ful life? Mal­colm El­liott, by email Sally Eas­ton MW replies: What’s ‘use­ful’ dif­fers by pro­ducer. New bar­rels do two key things: im­part flavour and oxy­genate. Flavour is used up af­ter about three years, so for a pro­ducer who wants 100% new oak ev­ery year, the ‘old’ bar­rels will still have a cou­ple of years’ flavour in them. Buy­ing these could be good value for another pro­ducer. Do­maine de l’Ostal-Cazes in Min­er­vois, for ex­am­ple, uses bar­rels from Bordeaux classed growth Château Lynch-Bages (also owned by the Cazes fam­ily).

If the oxy­gena­tion ef­fect of bar­rels is the key pa­ram­e­ter, age be­comes less im­por­tant – ‘use­ful’ might then be mea­sured in tens of years. Oak also ab­sorbs some of the liq­uid it con­tains, so sec­ond-uses can also in­clude cross­over ben­e­fits in other drinks, for ex­am­ple whiskies fin­ished (spend­ing their last months of mat­u­ra­tion) in bar­rels that have pre­vi­ously been used to store Port, Sherry or Madeira, so that the whisky ab­sorbs nu­ances of the for­ti­fied wine that pre­vi­ously filled the bar­rel. More re­cently we’ve seen a USA wine aged for a cou­ple of months in old Bour­bon bar­rels.

For a fi­nal imag­i­na­tive re-use, or up-cy­cling in cur­rent jar­gon, small pieces of fur­ni­ture can be made, such as chairs and side ta­bles. Long gone are the pub gar­den flower pots.

Be­low: staves from an old bar­rel can make a pleas­ing gar­den chair

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