News and Notes from the Wonderful World of Wine

It’s too late for a spring cleaning and too early for a summer cleaning, so we’ll just call this a mid-August cleaning of wine-related news and notes that have been gathering more dust than the bottles in our wine closet…

  • The wine grape harvest is well underway in the Champagne appellation of France. Although officially slated to kick off on August 17, it actually began on August 13. It’s a small harvest this year, but has been declared one of “very high quality.” Read more here (
  • I came across an article in which the author noted, “Champagne is the Kleenex of sparkling wine.” May we note that Champagne also is the Xerox of sparkling wine? In other words, not all sparkling wines are from Champagne. There is excellent sparkling wine called Prosecco made in Italy, as well as excellent sparkling wine in Spain called Cava. By tradition, only sparkling wine grown and made in the Champagne region of France may be called Champagne. The term “Champagne” is specific, not generic.
  • It happened in June: A bottle of Penfolds Bin 1 Grange — long considered Australia’s benchmark wine — from the 1951 vintage sold for $71,000 at auction. That’s the most ever paid for an Aussie wine. FYI, it was crafted from Syrah grapes (known as Shiraz Down Under) and aged in American oak barrels.
  • The main advantage of a large-format bottle, such as a magnum (which is the equivalent of two 750-ml. bottles), is that the air-to-wine ratio is lower than in those standard-sized bottles. That means there is less opportunity for flaws to develop.
  • Very sorry to hear about the passing of Royce Lewellen at the age of 89. Lewellen was the co-founder of Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards (with Louis Lucas) in Santa Barbara County, and over the years, the wine clubs of Vinesse featured many Lucas & Lewellen wines. Lewellen, in addition to his involvement in the wine industry, is remembered as a model judge and a generous philanthropist. You can read more about him here (
  • There’s a lot of wine education taking place in American households these days, in large part because 52% of young adults are now residing with one or both of their parents. In most cases, the parents are teaching their kids about the “classics” such as Bordeaux and Napa Valley wines, while the young adults are educating their folks about “natural wines.”
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