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Shocking news

3 Jun 2009 by Jancis Robinson

News of recent developments that I strongly commend to you.

See for news of what Constellation are up to in their efforts to cut their losses. Not only are they laying off some of the most talented individuals in the Australian wine business, they are also planning to sell off South Australia’s oldest vineyard, the 161 year-old Stony Hill vineyard in McLaren Vale (pictured). It was classified as a heritage site until, mysteriously, it was somehow declassified a couple of years ago...See this very informative news item about the issues involved.

If you’re interested in one of the strangest wine laws in the world, see for a new slant on the scandal that is ‘Cellared in Canada’, whereby wines that contain only 10% of Canadian wine and up to 20% water are sold as though they were 100% produce of Ontario.  I have already highlighted this anomaly, most recently here, and had been hoping that when Constellation took over Canada’s biggest wine company Vincor they might inject some probity and international standards into Canadian wine law, but I was obviously being naive.  What’s new is that a prominent Canadian, film and tv producer Seaton McLean and now owner of the exceptional Closson Chase wine operation in Prince Edward County, is highlighting this blot on the Canadian vinescape.

And finally, a news roundup that does not, yet, seem to have any close connection with Constellation, though heaven knows they are powerful enough in the country from which it comes, South Africa.  See for news of a whirlwind of change swirling around the much-admired Marc Kent and Boekenhoutskloof. It's illustrated by a terrible picture of me looking extremely ill when I was suffering that flu virus that robbed me of my sense of smell for a month a couple of years ago.

Feel free to leave comments below.


And Gary Strachan of British Columbia wrote earlier: 'I've been in the BC wine industry for over 30 years, first as an Agriculture Canada research scientist in charge of wine research and assessment of new grapes from the breeding programme, and for the past 20 years I've been a winery and vineyard consultant helping start new wineries and (when possible) keeping them out of trouble when they start making wine. The issue of "Cellared in Canada" has been a huge controversy in the Canadian wine industry for generations. The small wineries of British Columbia are forbidden to have import content in their wines, as a condition of their licence. This situation has given them steady growth over the past 20years, and price stability almost independent of international price fluctuations. They have developed a reputation for high quality. Even though the small wineries may only have a 10% market share compared with giants such as Constellation, they are the more stable part of the industry.'

6 Jun 2009 14:50 by Jancis Robinson

Just in from Canada: 'My name is Michael Pinkus (Grape Guy), I'm a wine writer located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and run a website called Over the past few days I have received your write up with regards to Seaton McLean and Cellared in Canada wine (June 3 - Shocking News) about a dozen times from readers, fans and industry insiders/fellow writers to show that that message is finally getting some international attention with regard to our "funny" (for lack of a better term) wine laws. I have been railing against such injustices for a couple of years now, getting quite the attention from my Vincor articles about their producing Canada's "official Olympic wine" (Esprit) from foreign grapes. See links to newsletter articles below: Thankfully, after a year Vincor finally announced (magnanimously) that the Official Olympic wine of the Vancouver 2010 Games would be made form 100% VQA (all Canadian) grapes. Cellared in Canada is another pet project/peeve and I thank you for shedding some light on the topic internationally. My next newsletter [] deals with the labeling practices of this wine - maybe, if you have the time, you'd like to check in and read it (feel free to sign up for the Newsletter or I could send you a copy at your request). '

6 Jun 2009 14:45 by Jancis Robinson

Charlee Glinka of Davenport Winery reports: 'Thank you for the Financial Post article regarding the Canadian wine industry on Twitter. We are fighting a similar battle here in Kansas, wine from Kansas fruit vs shipped-in juice/wine, and the confusion it causes consumers. Not to mention quality...' I think this is an issue in many American states, no?

6 Jun 2009 08:59 by Jancis Robinson

I was sent this comment from California: 'I attended a tasting with my regular group of wine making friends last week at Carol Shelton's winery in Santa Rosa. We've been tasting together for a long time and most of us are in our late 50's and early 60's. Looking around the table, about 1/3 of us were fired, laid off, or "managed" away from our corporate jobs within the last 5-7 years. Mary Sullivan was the most recently unemployed, from Fosters (Beringer - Napa). Yes, we're all over 55 and have a lot of experience but just cost too much! The important thing is the bottom line and cost of goods. I never thought that this would happen in the wine industry, where vineyard knowledge and wine making experience (this will be my 30th harvest in 2009) are so vital to the making of wines that really express a vintage and a place.'

5 Jun 2009 07:06 by Jancis Robinson

There is considerable outrage amongst wine lovers in Australia about the Constellation Development. It even made mainstream, tabloid style television last night. Have a read of ex Adelaide Advertiser writer Phillip White's account here:

4 Jun 2009 00:53 by Andrew Graham

Thanks, Julia, very useful. If that is the case then Constellation need to communicate that very clearly as a damage limitation exercise. Not to say anything suggests they really don't care what the wine establishment thinks.

3 Jun 2009 17:05 by Jancis Robinson

Here at the Landmark Tutorial in the Barossa, I spoke to Robert Mann, winemaker at Cape Mentelle. He said he wasn't 100% sure which part of the vineyard was being sold but if it was the part he thought it was, it was planted (or maybe replanted) only 30 years ago and didn't produce very good fruit. Mann worked for Hardys at Tintara before he started at Cape Mentelle and even four years ago he said the fruit was not up to much. He did add that he could see that it might have historical even if not viticultural value.

3 Jun 2009 14:25 by Julia Harding

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