| Between the Lines |
January 2021
Between the 30th and 50th parallels exist the ideal climates for producing Fine Wine.




The 2020 "COVID-19" Harvest Report

Despite all the chaos...the vines don't know!
by Nelson Abreu

One of my first realizations of the impact of the pandemic was the collapse in sales of premium wines and most noticeably how sales of the ultimate celebratory social drink Champagne, flopped!  
In the town of Oger in the Champagne region of France, Elodie Bilodeau co-owner of Champagne Chapuy describes 2020 as the 'weird' harvest. "As the sales of Champagne were collapsing worldwide in 2020, our trade-union presidents decided to adapt the level of harvest in order to avoid a phenomenon of «overproduction».  Although we had around 12,000 Kg/ha of grapes potentially available in the vineyards, the yield limit was set at 8000 kg/ha. This means that in 3 years when the 2020 bottling is released, if the market has recovered from the crisis, we risk a short supply!!"

Champagne Chapuy's entire harvest team and everyone working in the winery required negative Covid tests before reporting.  Harvesters work in pairs and maneuver heavy cases of grapes so they needed to eliminate the possibility of contamination even though everyone wore masks and kept as much distance as possible.  They stocked the winery with supplies in advance and a family lockdown ensued.  Elodie's mother cooked for everyone!  They worked and ate together daily until the harvest was complete. Visits and visitors were not permitted.    

As we recall Italy was one of the first and hardest hit by COVID-19.  A few kilometres outside Verona, our Valpolicella producer Musella Winery, whose estate is located on a nationally demarcated forestland, is quite isolated from mainstream traffic.  Owner Maddalena Pasqua recalls that the quality of the vintage was extraordinary until August 23rd when a hurricane caused severe damage in parts of the region and adjusted a potentially extraordinary harvest to simply a good one." Covid restrictions prevented the entry of seasonal harvest workers which was overcome by the surplus of locals looking for opportunities to remain employed.  The biggest impact on this artisanal producer was sales.  With craft product not destined for supermarkets, no tourism, no wine fairs and no vacations they relied on the export market, distributors with established customers and online sales.  Maddalena's biggest concern is that despite what they've experienced the situation persists, "Worst is the situation is not finished at all.  The world is in trouble and we don’t see any short solution. Maybe we should start to think differently, I mean differently than before and try to see some new vision."

In the Alto Adige region of Italy Peter Zemmer described a perfect vintage for whites!  Early in the season the regional wine regulating organization, The Consortium of Alto Adige Wines, decided mid-summer that growers would thin their crops "between 4% and 31% depending on the variety" given lower global consumption and supply chain constraints in order to prevent excessive stock situations that could negatively affect prices.  The result, a smaller yield of concentrated high quality fruit!  
At Finca La Emperatriz in Rioja, Alta protocol was very regimented given how quickly Covid-19 took hold and gridlocked the health system in Spain.  Harvest staff were organized into 4 teams distinguished by coloured ribbons.  Teams were required to report and check-out as units daily and were not allowed to interact with members of other groups.  Temperature testing and PPE kit checks were daily protocol for addmisson to the estate and anyone experiencing symptoms or identified in contact tracing could not return until cleared.  Harvest equipment such as baskets, crates and tools were marked with team colours, sanitized daily and remained team property until the end of harvest.  Overall the harvest looked different but was accomplished on time and without incident thanks in part the to the rigorous advance planning and safety protocols.

In southern Portugal, Joao Barbosa's organic wineries Porta da Teira and Vale de Junco experienced higher than normal rain in spring which negatively affected flowering and lead to a 50% reduction in yields.  What fruit was produced was of great quality.  Portugal, like Canada, faired better than its neighbouring countries through the first wave of Covid.  Joao's philosophy of "wine by friends for friends" means their harvests are completed entirely by family, friends and neighbours.  Social distancing in the vineyard meant only one worker was assigned to a row, a 2.4M distance.  Instead of carrying full baskets of grapes, the harvesters left them behind to be picked up by runners who were tasked with transporting them to the winery.  In this manner they discouraged interaction, crowding and the number of visitors to the main facility.  

  At Chateau Musar in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, "Our harvest this year will not be easily forgotten!"  A rainy and snowy winter made pruning difficult.  The rains 'awoke' the vines and allowed for perfect flowering conditions in late May/early June.  By late June 2020 was predicted to be a record production harvest!  Summer temperatures were moderate and everything looked great until a heatwave arrived in mid-September.  The harvest plan changed from being organized by grape variety to soil type in order to attend to the most susceptible vines first.  After a frantic harvest a 40% reduction in yields was the result!  Whites were harvested in advance of the heat and will be amazing; reds are concentrated and will likely require time to reveal their paths.  We all recall the tragedy in the Port of Beirut which amongst the chaotic harvest crippled the winery's ability to service their export markets.  Orders from around the world are now backed up.  COVID-19 was slower to reach Lebanon than most countries so measures were quite relaxed until the fall when it took hold.  As Canada is now well into its second wave, Lebanon is battling its first.  Says Jane Sowter, 
Export Director, "Despite all the chaos in Lebanon, the vines don’t know!"




Producer Spotlight

Castello di Verduno, Piedmont
by Eric Gennaro

      I always complained that driving a Fiat Punto through the Italian wine country was like driving toddler’s toy car.  Not that I am a speed demon, or adrenaline junkie, but there never seemed to be enough power, or even will, in that hunk of metal to get me to where I was going.  That all changed one very frightful night on the drive from the Castello di Verduno to my hotel at the bottom of La Morra!

     Castello di Verduno is a historic castle perched high in the mountaintops crowning the vineyards of the town of Verduno in Italy’s famed Piedmont region.  It represents the union of two great families, the Biancos from Barbaresco and the Burlottos from Verduno.  There is no other estate that is able to express the purity of these two famous appellations, Barolo and Barbaresco.  Both are made from Nebbiolo the fabled grape whose name comes from the Italian word ‘nebbia’, a reference to the fog that blankets the vineyards late into the harvest.       
     The Barolo from Castello di Verduno was the first Barolo I had ever tasted so with this  special meaning I knew my visit to the Langhe would not be complete without a “pilgrimage” to Verduno for dinner.  It was a fifteen minute drive from my pensione to the castle gates which could have taken less time but the spectacular views of multicoloured vineyards in Piedmont’s autumn demanded admiration.  The meal was two courses of pure Piedmontese decadence.  The first course was an egg yolk in melted Fontina cheese with shaved white truffle and the second course was Barolo braised beef.  The server graciously poured a sample of the current releases of the Barbaresco and the Barolo.  The two wines had a similar garnet colour with the Barbaresco showing more speckled ruby hues and the Barolo a warmer tone.  They were like drinking, as a friend put it, tar and roses and evoked a real sense of wonder, time and space.

     After the sun set, Verduno looked completely different.  The vibrant reds, yellows and oranges of the vine leaves were gone and what was left resembled an empty black and white movie set.  The street lamps provided little illumination and were only fleeting flashes of clarity for my vision.  The ten minute drive back felt like a lifetime.  My Fiat was happily travelling at 10km/hr as we spiralled down the mountain.  Not begging for all cylinders now, I was hoping and praying for slow and steady.  Just as we got into a rhythm, a car would appear out of nowhere.  Sometimes in front, other times behind, but wherever they came from they were passing fast. I could sense strong irritation with this nervous car driving at a snail’s pace.  Disoriented I had no idea how to get back and I searched for familiar landmarks among the misty eeriness.  Almost an hour later, having passed the same round-about a dozen times, I tried a different combination of turns and somehow was spat out onto the main road that leads right into downtown Barolo.  After managing to find my hotel I was left to reflect on the range of the day’s emotions.  In Nebbiolo, there is colour, hope, confusion and redemption.  You may struggle to arrive, or struggle to leave, but one thing is for sure you must navigate through the fog.  Hopefully you get to see a castle now and again.    

2017 Barbaresco

The grapes are sourced from the prestigious Rabaja, Rabaja-Bas and Faset vineyards.  Aged for 18 months in big Slovenian oak barrels, 3 months in stainless steel and a further 15 months in the bottle before its release.  Quintessential Nebbiolo showing characteristics of kirsch, ferns, violets and licorice.  Precise and focused wine built to last.   

$66.19/bottle plus tax and bottle deposit. Available in cases of 12.

2016 Barolo

The grapes come from vineyards in the town of Verduno.  The wine spends 32 months in large Slovenian oak barrels then six months in the bottle prior to release.  Dark cherries, leather and spice notes dominate.  With some air there is an herbal underlying earthiness and balsam qualities.  Fantastic as usual!  

$70.80/bottle plus tax and bottle deposit. Available in cases of 12.

Barolo & Barbaresco Mixed Case

Can't decide?
Choose 6 bottles of each 2016 Barolo and 2017 Barbaresco.

$825.00 plus tax and bottle deposit, case of 12.




Back In Stock

2018 Gavi di Gavi 'Tuffo'
Morgassi Superiore. Piedmont, Italy
$24.95/btl (case of 12)
2015 'Ninfa' Tinto
Porta da Teira. Tejo, Portugal
$23.95/btl (case of 12)
2019 'Ninfa' Maria Gomes
Porta da Teira. Tejo, Portugal
$23.95/btl (case of 12)




30.50 Imports Inc.
226 Christie Street  Toronto, ON  M6G3B7 
t: 416.915.9463  e: info@3050imports.com