In the early hours of Jan. 17, several dozen young vignerons and their supporters descended upon Prodis, a wine subsidiary of Carrefour, at their site in Nîmes, France, hoping to catch tanker trucks carrying Spanish wine. They had spied on the site for weeks, and knew the big buyer of bulk wine purchased cheap Spanish wine. But that morning, the activists came up dry. “There weren’t any trucks carrying Spanish wine—maybe they were forewarned, maybe it was a coincidence,” Anais Amalric, co-president of Jeunes Agriculteurs of the Gard region, told Unfiltered.
The activists then drove 30 minutes south to the toll booth at Gallargues-le-Montueux on the A9 autoroute, circling tanker trucks, demanding to see the bills of lading. “We made sure they understood we would not hurt them or their truck,” said Amalric. One French truck driver, employed by a French négociant and who Amalric described as "polite," was found to have picked up Spanish wine in the port town of Sète, with orders to deliver it to Saone et Loire to be used for the production of flavored wine. The activists emptied the tanker on the spot.
In a separate action a few hours earlier, the shadowy militant vintners group now known as Comité d’Action Viticole (CAV) emptied the contents of a tank truck carrying Spanish wine while it was parked in the lot of a shopping center in Narbonne. The malefactors spray-painted the initials "CAV" on the truck.
Last year, irate French vintners, claiming that inferior Spanish bulk wines are diluting the market in France, emptied five tankers of Spanish wine. While French prosecutors have gone after CAV in the past—the organization's actions have included kidnapping, vandalism and bombing—it’s unclear whether the Jeunes Agriculteurs activists will be prosecuted. “We’re waiting for the phone to ring,” admitted Amalric. On Wednesday, French Minister of Agriculture Stéphane Le Foll “firmly condemned the abuses against tanker trucks carrying Spanish wine in the Aude and the Gard,” calling for “appeasement and dialogue."
"Memories won't go, memories won't go …" the song goes, which is probably why we haven't been able to get UB40's 1983 British reggae hit "Red Red Wine" out of our head ever since we learned the band has come out with its own … you guessed it: Red Red Wine. Frontman Ali Campbell, keyboardist Mickey Virtue and horn player Astro have partnered with Eminent Life (the same U.K. brand that brought us Roger Daltrey of The Who's Champagne) to create a Bordeaux Supérieur blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. "We have always wanted to release our own Red Red Wine," Campbell said in a statement, "and we're very excited to finally be doing this!" Will UB40's Red Red Wine, in fact, make you feel so fine? It'll cost wine-loving fans $35 to find out.
Have you been outside this month? You may have noticed it's getting to be ice-wine harvesttime. For Canadian vintners, that means the grapes have to be harvested when the temperature outside is a maximum of 17° F, and the grapes have reached a minimum sugar content of 35 degrees Brix, which can also frequently take several freeze-thaw cycles to achieve. And while that's all well and good for winemakers in Ontario's Niagara Peninsula, it poses a serious problem for anyone hoping to make Canada's second-most famous sugary treat in Québec.
Traditionally, ice-wine grapes must be left to freeze on the vine until harvest, but in Québec, where vines have to be buried after the first hard freeze to survive the harsh winters, and where the annual snowfall is about 10 feet, vintners would be digging for grapes by the time they were ready for ice-wine production. But the necessity for ice wine is the mother of vineyard innovation, and for Charles-Henri de Coussergues of l’Orpailleur Vineyards, the solution was literally in his own backyard: a hammock. The moderately-controversial "hammock method," which de Coussergues has been using since 1997 but wasn't certified by the Canadian Vintners Association until 2015, calls for the grapes to be clipped after the vines have shut down for the winter and the first freeze has occurred, but before the grapes have achieved the required sugar levels. “The grapes are actually taken from vines once the leaves are frozen and the vines are already asleep for the winter, so there is no impact [on physiological development],” de Coussergues told Unfiltered through a translator. While the vines are buried for the winter, the clipped grapes are placed into long hammocks suspended above the vines—and the snowline—where they remain until they reach the desired Brix level. Unfiltered will save our hammock for the warmer months, but now we know what to pair with our next lazy afternoon swing.
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