Wine Club Newsletter - September 2021
Sting Says He Was Duped into Buying Tuscan Wine Estate
'Our whole Tuscan adventure has really been a way of getting our own back,’ he says
Rock star winemaker Sting has spoken out about the sleight of hand which led him to purchase Tuscan wine estate Il Palagio.
The Police front man and his wife Trudie Styler purchased the run-down 16th-century Tuscan villa, located 45 minutes south of Florence, in 1997 from Duke Simone Vincenzo Velluti Zati di San Clemente. He was offered a glass of wine to try by the Duke and enjoyed it so much that he purchased the property, although Sting later discovered that the wine itself was not from Il Palagio, or even Tuscany. It was a Barolo.
‘He offered us a glass of red from a carafe during one of our early visits to Il Palagio,’ Sting told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera’s Sette magazine.
‘We were negotiating the purchase. We liked the property a lot, even though it was in ruins. The duke asked me if I wanted to taste the wine produced by the estate and I said yes. It was an excellent wine and that convinced me to buy the vineyards as well. It was only later that we found out that the duke had served us a Barolo and not his own wine.’
After getting over being duped and witnessing visiting guests emptying the estate’s own wine into a flower bed, Sting decided that he needed to improve Il Palagio’s wines and reputation.
‘It was then that we decided to avenge ourselves and to show that it was possible to produce excellent wine from the vineyards at Palagio. Our whole Tuscan adventure has really been a way of getting our own back,’ he said.
Today the couple produce about 150,000 bottles of wine a year – a sparkling, a white, a rosé and three reds – made using native and international grape varieties according to organic principles. In 2020, renowned oenologist and consultant Riccardo Cotarella came on board to help produce their wine.
Provence wine producers weigh up losses after deadly wildfires in France
Winemakers in southeastern France who lost vines and equipment in recent wildfires are devastated as prospects of harvesting grapes for the popular rosé wine go up in smoke. Wildfires that swept across the hilly region close to the French Riviera are now under control, firefighters said on Monday. The blaze claimed two lives and scorched more than 18,000 acres of land.
Some 12,500 acres were lost in the Var region, which produces the Côtes de Provence rosé wine that is particularly popular in the United States. Two hundred of the region’s 4,000 producers are believed to have been badly affected. “We estimate around 2,500 acres of vineyards have been affected in the Côte de Provence area,” Eric Pastorino, president of Provence's wine producers' association, the CIVP, told RFI.
Winemaker Pierre Audemar lost all his equipment and half of his grape harvest to the flames.
“It’s not possible,” he told France Info television three days after the fire, gazing at the charred remains of his Domaine de la Giscle winery and the stock of 2019 wine stacked up in metal crates now burned to a cinder. He hopes insurance will cover the economic blow of between “1.5 million and 2 million euros”.
Paul Giraud also lost all his farming equipment and property. His 25 hectares of vines produce red, white and rosé Côtes de Provence in the hills behind Saint-Tropez, "I no longer have a grape harvesting machine, a backhoe, a loader for the vineyard, a motor mower. Everything has been burnt," he told France Info. “I’m a wreck, completely confused,” the 70-year-old said, looking around aimlessly in his La Tourre estate in the hills of the Massif des Maures.
“We harvest at the beginning of September. How am I going to manage? I have nothing left."
Even winegrowers who were fortunate not to lose their estates are concerned that the proximity of the fires will have tainted their grapes with smoke. "We are only a few days away from the harvest, which is bound to be damaged,” said Guillaume de Chevron Villette, owner of the Reillanne winery. We produce a quality rosé wine, so the challenge will surely be to eliminate the risk of a burnt taste in the wine," he told AFP.
This part of southeastern France has regular droughts, strong winds and is densely populated, making it particularly at risk from wildfires. There is also a “lack of maintenance around the plots,” said Chevron Villette. “As we’re in a protected area, we can’t clear the bush”.
The National Federation of Agricultural Workers’ Unions (FNSEA) said in a statement that in view of climate change it was "urgent to reconsider the ways we preserve biodiversity in areas like this, which are particularly vulnerable to fire”.
Can French wine survive the climate change fiasco?
Some winegrowers are now asking for a change in regulations so that landowners near protected forest areas be allowed to clear bushes and create firebreaks. "We want at the very least to be able to plant vines in the bushes to stop the spread of ashes,” said Benoît Ab-der-Halden, director of Chevron Villet, which represents 14 vineyards in Le Var.
In the meantime, the worst-hit winegrowers will have to wait several years before their next crop of rosé grapes can be harvested. “When you lose a vineyard you have to leave the ground to rest, then replant,” says Pastorelli. With three years for the vine to start producing again, it will take "five years in all to produce Côtes de Provence wine".
Fire is only the latest disaster to strike French wine producers. In April, heavy frosts destroyed buds on vines in Burgundy, Bordeaux, Languedoc and the Rhône valley.
Deemed a natural disaster, the French government promised the affected farmers and winemakers one billion euros in aid.