Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Premier cru? No, just a vintage curse


Doomsayers in the Bordeaux region of France seeking to drink themselves into a stupor before the world ends on Friday must now contend with another supposed curse. Chateau d'Yquem, a posh vineyard mostly owned by the LVMH group, has announced it will not produce a 2012 vintage because weather has limited the sugar levels in the grapes used to make its renowned Sauternes sweet wine.

Pierre Lurton, who runs the estate, said the decision would cost shareholders millions (£20m in sales, to be precise) but that it was essential to preserve quality. Vintages were also binned in 1952, 1972 and 1992, leading Lurton to say: "It is as if there was a curse on us every 20 years."

The secret of Sauternes, weirdly, is a fungus called noble rot, which is allowed to grow on vines to boost natural sugar levels. But rain that has affected cultivation across Europe made this year's harvest a washout.

There's a rich tradition of superstition among those concerned with plants. In 1848, German Professor Gustav Fechner said in his book about the "soul-life" of plants that talking to them was beneficial. Prince Charles will be 84 in 20 years. If he (and the world) is still around, Lurton might consider recruiting him.