Jonathan Sears is a restaurant and bar owner with a premium wine shop in South Carolina. A life-long fine wine enthusiast, Jon Sears of SC relates some of the major news happening in the industry below.
As long-standing classifications fall to the wayside, new collective programs spring up in Napa. Meanwhile, champagne lovers mourn the loss of an industry legend. Here Jon Sears presents the latest wine industry news for January 2022.
Collective Napa Valley Blends Philanthropy and Worldwide Love of Wine
Jonathan Sears of SC reports that in a bid to replace the Auction Napa Valley yearly event, a collective of California winemakers, backed by the Napa Valley Vintners, have come together to form the Collective Napa Valley. Their main goal—blend philanthropy with easy access to digital wine tasting events.
Starting in Spring 2022, the collective will set out to unite wine lovers around the world from the comfort of their homes. Membership to the Collective is free explains Jonathan Sears, giving average wine enthusiasts access to the digital inaugural ceremony in March, as well as opportunities to buy top-of-the-line wines from Napa Valley. For a small donation, though, members can unlock greater benefits.
Jon Sears says that at the $1,000 and $5,000 donation levels, members gain unique access to private events, as well as the chance to bid in a futures barrel auction later in the year. All proceeds will go to supporting local community projects in southern California.
Stay tuned in the next few months as more news about these events comes out. For now, it appears that the main events will take place on:
- March 24, 2022 – Spring inaugural event with a virtual wine tasting
- June 2 – 4, 2022 – Private winery events, including a futures barrel auction, hosted by Raymond Vineyards in Napa Valley
- November 3-4, 2022 – Final auction and celebratory dinner
The Collective has announced that it plans to continue the events over the next five years.
Future St.-Emilion Classifications Unknown After Château Angélus Pulls Out
Meanwhile, in France, Jonathan Sears reports that the longstanding St.-Emilon Classification has declared that it will continue with its 2022 classifications after the Château Angélus becomes the third Classé A Bordeaux winemaker to pull out of the ranking system. This follows after Cheval-Blanc and Ausone both declared that they would not stand for classification in late 2021.
Since 1955, the St.-Emilion Classification has ranked Bordeaux vineyards according to strict quality guidelines, with the highest awards going to Classé A vineyards. Since its inception, though, the St.-Emilion Classification has been wrought with scandal and lawsuits, with many vineyards decrying corruption and the misuse of power and influence. This year’s classification seems to be no different.
Jonathan Sears notes that after the last classification in 2012, former Château Angélus head Hubert de Boüard was found guilty of misusing his influence to help the vineyard score a Classé A ranking. Citing the animosity surrounding the award, his daughter and current Château Angélus vineyard head Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal announced that the winemaker will not enter into the classification this year.
Jonathan Sears of SC explains that this leaves Château Pavie as the only Classé A vineyard in the 2022 ranking. While other vineyards could rise to fill the ranks, the future of the St.-Emilion Classifications remains uncertain. What can be said, though, is that the St.-Emilion Classification continues to stand as the pinnacle rating system for Bordeaux wines and many local vineyards rely on the benchmark it sets.
The Champagne Industry Mourns the Loss of a Legend
Champagne pioneer Claude Taittinger passed away this month, leaving behind a legacy of savvy business deals, international distribution, and a grand swath of profitable vineyards according to Jon Sears of SC. The wine maker was born into the champagne industry and quickly transformed the 288-year-old winery into a world-class producer, increasing their production by roughly 500%.
Taittinger helped spread the idea in the public mind’s eye that champagne is a luxury product, renowned for its flavor, color, and distinctive fizz. By partnering with American holdings group Kobrand Wine & Spirits, Taittinger was able to market his brand of champagne throughout the United Kingdom and United States. Yet, what set him apart from his competitors was his dedication to quality.
After a lifetime career dedicated to transforming the Taittinger brand, Taittinger had accomplished having a line of luxury hotels, international vineyards, and even established an official culinary award. This all came to an end in 2005, though, when the patriarch retired and sided with his board of trustees. The Taittinger Groupe was sold, taking the company out of Taittinger family hands.
Of course, this wasn’t to last long. Jonathan Sears explains that just one year later, Claude Taittinger’s nephew, Pierre-Emmanuel, secured funding to repurchase the Taittinger Groupe, placing the champagne winery back into the family’s control.
Claude is survived by his three daughters, Christine, Brigitte, and Virginie, his wife, Catherine, 12 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.