Two American investors have taken on the running of Clos de la Commaraine, the premier cru vineyard and property in Burgundy’s Pommard appellation.The estate building at Clos de la Commaraine.
Harvard professor Denise Dupré and Mark Nunnelly, ex-managing director of the Boston-based Bain Capital investment fund, have acquired rights to the tenancy of Clos de la Commaraine, according to French wine media reports.
The owner remains Jaboulet-Vercherre but French laws allow for long-term leasing of agricultural land with what essentially amounts to ownership rights over the produce.
This premier cru de Pommard is a monopoly of almost four hectares, facing due east and south-east and adjacent to the village.
Wines from Clos de la Commaraine are currently made and sold by Maison Louis Jadot, based in Beaune.
Manuela Mouroux, marketing director for Jadot, told Decanter.com that it will still vinify the 2017 vintage of Clos de la Commaraine as normal. However, Jadot and the new American investors had not yet discussed what should happen in 2018 and beyond.
French media reported that there is a plan to create a restaurant and hotel at the property to encourage wine tourism.
Thomas Jefferson is reported to have visited Clos de la Commaraine and bought its wine while US minister to France in the late 18th Century. Jefferson went on to become the third president of the United States.
Dupré and Nunnelly also own Domaine Belleville (22 ha) and the Manoir Murisaltien, in Meursault.More stories like this:
The post American couple take on Burgundy’s Clos de la Commaraine appeared first on Decanter.
How well do you know California's most renowned wine region, the Napa Valley? Are you a collector of the highly crafted Cabernets, or have you sampled other delights from the Valley floor? Take Decanter's Napa Valley quiz and find out.Harvest in Napa ValleyTake the Napa Valley quiz:
Updated November 2017
John Stimpfig gives a brief history of one of the world's most sought-after Champagnes, and recommends a few vintages to buy.What Cristal Champagne to buy?
Cristal Champagne has a fascinating and remarkable history.
The luxury ‘prestige cuvée’ dates back to 1876, 100 years after the foundation of its owner, the house of Louis Roederer. It was specially created for Russian Tsar Alexander II.
Alexander requested that the wine should be bottled in a clear, flat bottomed, lead crystal bottle to prevent any attempts to hide explosives in the punt; a design that contributes to Cristal’s distinguished appearance. A legend was born and the rest is vinous history.The Cristal blend
Generally, the Cristal brut blend is 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay. Cristal vintages are left to mature on their lees for an average of six years, before spending a minimum period of eight months in the cellar after disgorgement.
Cristal Champagne ratings: Exclusively for Decanter Premium members
Including vintages tasted by John Stimpfig in October 2017 and two vintages tasted previously by Michael Edwards. US and UK stockists given where available.More about Louis Roederer and Cristal
Louis Roederer remains a prestigious and highly dynamic Champagne house based in Reims. Today, the family-owned house is run by Frédéric Rouzaud, who is the seventh consecutive generation of the family to take charge.
The house is also reputed to be one of the most profitable in Champagne, partly due to the fact that around two-thirds of its fruit comes from its own exceptional vineyards. In total, the estate encompasses 240ha in the Côte des Blancs, Vallée de la Marne and the Montagne de Reims.‘The future will be organic and biodynamic’
Cristal, Roederer’s flagship cuvée, is only produced in the best years and only comes from Roederer’s finest grand cru vineyards.
These are to be found in the villages of Verzy, Verzenay, Beaumont-sur-Vesle, Ay, Mareuil-sur-Ay, Avize, Cramant and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger.
The chef de cave is the highly talented and experienced Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, who has occupied the position since 1989. In recent years, Roederer has moved towards organic and biodynamic farming practices:
‘The future will be organic and biodynamic,’ Lécaillon told Decanter.com at a recent dinner to celebrate Louis Roederer’s 241st birthday.
‘The vines are stronger and it gives more fruit, more freshness, more depth. Today, 85% of the vines whose grapes produce Cristal are biodynamic. Our target is that all of Cristal’s vineyards will be farmed biodynamically by 2020.’
Under Lécaillon, Roederer has also established a complex system of micro-plot vinifications to create greater blending options.
Small-scale vinification is indeed a method increasingly employed by top wineries around the world as winemakers use financial resources at their disposal to seek ever greater precision.Cristal Rosé
Cristal Rosé – first made from the 1974 vintage, almost 100 years after the original Cristal – is usually a blend of 55-60% Pinot Noir and 40-45% Chardonnay. The delicate colour comes from the carefully controlled saignée method which takes place after a cold maceration.Cristal Vinothèque
Roederer announced the launch of a further aged expression of its flagship Champagne, named Cristal Vinothèque, in October 2017, with both brut and rosé Champagnes from the 1995 vintage.
Only 400 bottles of Cristal Vinothèque 1995 are set for launch around the world, plus around 200 bottles of Cristal Vinothèque 1995 rosé.
More vintages are set to follow, according to Roederer. Read more about Cristal Vinothèque here.
Finding the value wines from California...
This article first appeared in Decanter magazine’s California supplement 2017. It is currently featured on Decanter.com as part of a sponsored campaign with the California Wine Institute.Great value California white wines
‘The value is definitely there in California, if you know where to look,’ says Oz Clarke.
He and Ronan Sayburn MS have picked out top value Californian white wines, all available under £40.
These wines prove that things are changing with Californian wines, and that no longer are only options those with high price tags.
- Top California wines under £20
- Top California red wines under £40
- Where to buy California wines in the UK
What happens at the Hospices de Beaune auction....?Hospices de Beaune is a key event in the Burgundy calendar. What is the Hospices de Beaune? – ask Decanter
The Hospices de Beaune is perhaps the most famous of all charity wine auctions. Its story starts in 1443, when the iconic polychromatic-tiled Hôtel-Dieu in central Beaune was built to tend the sick.
Over the years, the charitable cause was given vineyards among other donations.
The annual auction ritual as we know it today began in 1859 and forms the centrepiece of boisterous celebrations in Burgundy over the third weekend of November.
The proceeds benefit the hospital (now a modern facility on the outskirts of Beaune) and other good causes. There is a famous saying that ‘Beaune is the best place in the world to be ill’.The new vintage
The Hospices is an important marker in the evolution of the new vintage.
The auction features multiple barrels of 45 cuvées, blended from sites spanning 60ha, principally in the Côte de Beaune, the majority premier and grand cru.
Anyone can buy – today’s market is truly global – and the wines are matured by local merchants, who help with their knowledge of the vintage.
In 2016, the 156th auction raised €8.4m overall, including 596 barrels of wine, which achieved an average of €13,833 per 228-litre barrel.
Though still the second highest total ever, this was 25% down on the ‘exceptional’ 2015 sale – an anomaly, as the Paris attacks happened the day before, spurring charity-minded buyers to spend at unprecedented levels.
Nevertheless, there were suggestions that this softening of prices at the November 2016 sale also reflected ‘caution’ over the 2016 vintage and the uncertain political climate.
Peter Richards MW is a widely published wine writer, broadcaster, author and consultant.
- Eating in Beaune: Le Relais de de Saulx restaurant
- Beaune: Where to visit
- My Beaune: Anthony Hanson MW
Looking for a wine to go with truffle risotto or another truffle-based dish this winter? We bring you the expert advice on what to look for and what to avoid, from master sommelier Piotr Pietras, head sommelier at London's Launceston Place and recently named Amorim Taster of the Year at the Court of Master Sommelier Awards.Truffle risotto.At a glance: Wine with truffle recipes
- Try wines with some bottle age. Tertiary aromas such as earthy and mushroom notes will work well with the savoury character of truffles
- Red meat: Try aged Barolo or Bordeaux | Fish: Think about aged red Burgundy or dry Riesling from Alsace or Rheingau/Pfalz
- Truffle risotto needs bolder, creamier wines. Try lightly oaked Chardonnay from Burgundy or California, or Marsanne
- Avoid light, fruity whites and reds
Piotr Pietras MS: Truffle flavors can dominate delicate, neutral white wines and, the other way round, they can be overpowered by very floral, perfumed whites or bolder, concentrated and youthful reds. So, I would stay away from excessive fruitiness.
One of the main things I would keep in mind is the development of wine.
I’d try to find the one with some [bottle] age, so it can express earthy, mushroomy aromas – to reflect the savoury character of truffles – while still being able to complement/stand up to the main element of the dish (fish, meat, vegetable or even chocolate).What sort of wines would you recommend with specific truffle dishes?
PP: It all depends on the main element of the dish.
If it’s red meat, for instance, I would recommend 20+ year-old Barolo or Bordeaux because of the earthy, mushroomy character of the wines – that can stand up well to the intensity of truffles – as well as their tannins and acidity that would cut through the texture of the meat.
If it’s fish-based dish, I would either go for some softer, yet balanced and well-aged red from Cote d’Or or nicely-evolved, textured dry Riesling from Alsace or Rheingau/Pfalz. This variety is so versatile, especially after 10-15 years of ageing, when it starts to reveal its aromatics and complexity in a beautiful way.
Many people ask what to serve with truffle risotto. Here I would go for something slightly bolder and creamier and, at the same time, fragrant enough to balance this savoury dish. I had a great experience with mature Marsanne-based Hermitage Blanc, for example. Elegant, not-too-oaky, aged Chardonnay from Burgundy or California should do the job, too.What wines definitely do not match well with truffles and can you explain why?
PP: When pairing with truffles, I would definitely exclude light, neutral white wines such as Italian Pinot Grigio and Cortese or Muscadet from Loire. That’s because these are too delicate and don’t have that aromatic, savoury element to stand up to truffles.
As for the reds, I would be careful with youthful, fruit-driven, powerful reds – for example – Barossa Shiraz, California Zinfandel or Mendoza Malbec. These wines will work very well with many other dishes, but truffle-based ones need something more subtle and more savoury.A few wine suggestions from our database More food and wine pairing advice on Decanter.com:
See the highlights of the weekend...The social media feed from the weekend. Decanter Fine Wine Encounter 2017 highlights
The 20th edition of the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter was held at the Landmark Hotel on the weekend of the 11th and 12th of November 2017. See photo highlights of the day below, or our live social media feed here.
Thanks to all of the producers and partners who helped to make it a great day, including Riedel, American Express, WaterAid, Arblaster & Clarke, Tray Gourmet, Spiral Cellars, The Cocoa Runners, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and Oz Clarke.Find out more about our upcoming events here.
The post Photo highlights: Decanter Fine Wine Encounter 2017 appeared first on Decanter.
Château Lafite Rothschild, the Pauillac first growth, and its parent company DBR (Lafite) have announced a major generational shift in management.The DBR (Lafite) team. From left to right: Jean-Guillaume Prats, Saskia de Rothschild, Christophe Salin and Baron Eric de Rothschild.
Owner Baron Eric de Rothschild, 77, will be stepping down as chairman after 35 years at the helm of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite).
His daughter, Saskia de Rothschild, is set to take over the role from April 2018, Decanter.com can confirm. She has been co-chairman alongside her father for the past two years and has been involved with the group’s estates since 2008. Château Lafite has been in the family since 1868.
In a second change at DBR (Lafite), the group’s president and CEO, Christophe Salin, 62, will also step down on 31 March 2018 after 33 years in the position.
Salin will hand over to Jean-Guillaume Prats, who will join in the first few months of 2018 and formally take up the new role in April.
Both Baron Eric and Salin will remain at the group, as managing partner and senior advisor respectively for the new team.
Last year saw DBR Lafite’s long-time winemaker and estate director, Charles Chevallier, hand his day-to-day duties over to Eric Kohler for the Bordeaux properties, so these new appointments complete a handover from one generation to the next.
‘The Lafite that we built together over the years has grown,’ Salin told Decanter.com. ‘We feel it is the right time to hand over the reins. Saskia has been working alongside her father since 2015, and knows the business intimately.
‘We are looking forward to seeing the new generation in place.’
Under their stewardship, DBR Lafite has grown from a legendary estate with a small collection of prestigious châteaux in the Bordeaux region to a multinational business with properties in Bordeaux, the Languedoc, Chile, Argentina and China and a successful collection of branded wines including Légende and Saga.
Prats, who spent most of his working life in Bordeaux at his family’s Château Cos d’Estournel, just inside the St-Estèphe boundary, has headed up Estates & Wines, the international wine arm of LVMH, since 2013.
Estates & Wines has 15 estates in eight countries, including Ao Yun in Yunnan province in China, Cloudy Bay in New Zealand and Newton Vineyard in Napa.More stories like this:
- Anson: Inside Lafite’s Chinese wine project – Exclusive
- Our view of Lafite Rothschild 2016 – Tasting during en primeur week
The post Lafite chairman and CEO announce generational handover appeared first on Decanter.
Decanter's Portugal Specialist of the Year 2017 has recently been pushing the English cause with a 'royal' sparkling wine made from grapes grown in Windsor Great Park.
Laithwaite’s wines are predominantly sold online and via wine clubs, but the retailer also has a smattering of stores around the south of the UK, including in London, near to London Bridge, and Beaconsfield, Gloucester, Reading and Banbury in Oxfordshire.
In 2011, the company planted three hectares of vines in Windsor Great Park, overseen by Royal Farms, the company run by the Duke of Edinburgh.
These vines have since come to fruition and you can see our tasting note for the in-demand English sparkling wine below, along with some other top recommendations.
Laithwaite’s was named Decanter’s Portugal Specialist of the Year 2017.Laithwaite’s wine to try: Related content: The best Majestic wines this festive season
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Elke Hoellein and Thomas Schaetzel from Mainz and Rheinhessen receiving the award on behalf of Weingut Neus Promotional feature
Promotional featureOn November 9th, Casona Veramonte in Chile’s Casablanca Valley was the scene of the 2018 international ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ awards ceremony sponsored by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network. The ceremony took place during the gala dinner that marked the end of the Network’s annual general meeting.
Promotional featureInternational Best of Wine Tourism 2018 winners
The international award winners are chosen from among the ‘Best Of’ winners from each Great Wine Capital. This year, there were 377 entrants and 59 local award winners worldwide.
The ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ Awards have gone from strength to strength since their inception. To date, 4 222 companies have entered the contest, and 633 properties have received an award.
The 2018 International Best Of Wine Tourism award winners are:Adelaide | South Australia – Penfolds Magill Estate
A recent upgrade of the Penfolds Magill Estate Cellar Door, Restaurant and Kitchen, included specifically designed spaces to allow visitors to engage, explore and discover the quality and history of the Penfolds brand.
Penfolds Chief Winemaker and Great Wine Capitals Global Ambassador Peter Gago was thrilled to win the International Best of Wine Tourism Award for Best Wine Tourism Services.
“Our aim is to engage and educate wine enthusiasts about our wine in a meaningful way, through our exclusive cellar door and dining experiences, as well as tours, tastings and experientials,” he said.
“Any visitor to Penfolds Magill Estate – whether local, interstate or international – absorbs the most from our quality wine experiences. They’re real. They’re memorable. They are unique.
In Ollauri’s winery quarter, three centuries-old buildings and a spectacular network of underground cellars make up Bodegas Ollauri-Conde de los Andes.
The cellars were excavated at two different times: the oldest, from the 15th and 16th centuries show Hispano-Arabic architectural influences. The remaining cellars were built by stonemasons from Galicia in northwestern Spain in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, following extensive reconstruction, there is a two kilometer-long underground network, a legacy open to the public in the oldest cellar still in use in Spain.Bordeaux – Château de Reignac
In the Entre-Deux-Mers region, the Château de Reignac offers a magical setting where a host of surprises awaits visitors. A Garden of Scents and a greenhouse designed by Eiffel stand alongside a beautiful 16th century building. In just a few years, Reignyx, the little character sketched on a notebook or photos, has become the mascot of the Chateau. Born directly from the imagination of Nicolas Lesaint, the technical manager of the estate, he follows the chateau’s daily adventures in the most enjoyable and entertaining manner but also as an acute observer of everyday life.
A star on social media and a communication icon, Reignyx is a new personality in the chateau. Along with the guide, he provides a cute and quirky perspective to visitors.
The winery including the appropriate building and park ensemble was renovated after it became property of the Mainz business family Schmitz in March 2013. The villa from the Gründerzeit was built between 1881 and 1883 according to the neoclassical style and was classified as a highly modern farm building in those days.
Along the protected farm villa and the winery there is a large protected park with an old tree population that invites you to stroll along. The carefully renovated rooms radiate a special ambiance. With intentionally used style elements it was possible to modernise the grand winery building appropriately and to create a tasteful atmosphere for wine presentations.
The newly designed wine house in which you can taste the winery’s own spätburgunder wines also radiates timeless elegance. In 2016 it was awarded the architecture prize for wine by the Rhineland-Palatinate Chamber of Architects.
Week of the Wine Rock is the fusion of two companies, Park Hyatt Mendoza and Bodega Monteviejo. It is an experience that joins gastronomy, wines and art led by the conductive thread that is music, more specifically, rock. Activities related to the art of plastic artists begin at the hotel. One of the activities within the week is the Master of Food and Wine, where the chefs cook dishes inspired by rock songs or that have the name of the song itself. Later, the musicians present their own wines that were designed by Marcelo Peleritti, the renowned winemaker of Bodega Monteviejo.
The following day, an art event in the winery, Plus + Arte is held, showing works of art of local artists. Finally, there is a rock concert on the last day, where people can taste the best wines and food.Porto – Casa do Rio – Quinta do Vallado
Featuring the perfect combination of modern architecture in nature, with only 8 suites facing Douro River, it is an unique hotel, strategically located between the vineyards and the river and with an outstanding view.
Suspended between two supporting pillars, the wooden building – which hovers above the land smartly avoiding a line of seasonal running water, presents itself as a premium Hotel in the middle of nature.
Guests can relax in the “Infinity Pool” with a privileged view of the Douro river and with several relaxing areas, Casa do Rio is the ideal choice for those looking for a unique experience, where it is possible to explore the Douro Superior region and enjoy an activity program exclusively designed for each guest.
Etude serves as a model for sustainable viticulture and wine production. The vision for Grace Benoist Ranch encompassed a long-term concept of sustainability that included sensitivity to the environment, minimal impact on neighbors and the community and economic feasibility to implement and maintain the program. Through careful planning and thoughtful design, the Etude team has continually worked to protect our land, operate in a sustainable, forward-thinking fashion and craft world-class wines with minimal intervention by the winemaker, revealing only the essence of the vineyard. Etude strictly adheres to sustainable agricultural practices that enable them to farm in concert with the surrounding environment.
Etude is certified Napa Green, implements Fish Friendly Farming and adheres to the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing. Always looking towards the future, the Etude winemaking team strives for the best and most responsible practices in their vineyard and is constantly seeking new approaches toward excellence and sustainability.Valparaiso | Casablanca Valley – Estancia El Cuadro
Estancia El Cuadro offers the wine tourist a wide range of activities on its winery and ranch in the Casablanca Valley. Among these experiences are horse-drawn carriage rides through the vineyards, a tour of the grapevine garden where a viticulturist explains 26 grape varieties and the characteristics of the soil, a range of wine tastings and tours of the property and a Chilean rodeo, where cowboys (huasos) show the visitor their horsemanship skills as well as the tack worn by the horse and the outfit worn by the cowboy.Verona – Zeni 1870
The Zeni family represents a united family dedicated to the production of the best wines from the region around Verona. Passion, sacrifice, ambition and strategies have been painting the way for more than 140 years between the hills of Bardolino and those of the Valpolicella as a gift of love towards this land, so rich in history and traditions.
The wine museum explains the whole process of winemaking through the succession of thematic areas: from the cultivation of vines to the transformation of the grapes and up to the bottling. Visitors can also book guided tasting tours and let themselves submerge into a guided sensorial journey through the world of wine and our ancient territory.
In April 2017 the Zeni winery has opened an Olfactory Gallery offering a new experience to whoever wants to explore the harmony of our wines through the olfactory sense.About the Great Wine Capitals Global Network
Founded in 1999, the Great Wine Capitals Global Network is an alliance of nine internationally renowned wine regions – Adelaide|South Australia; Bordeaux, France; Mainz|Rheinhessen, Germany; Mendoza, Argentina; Porto, Portugal; Bilbao|Rioja, Spain; San Francisco|Napa Valley, USA, Valparaiso|Casablanca Valley, Chile and Verona, Italy.
The Best Of Wine Tourism awards serve as an industry benchmark for excellence and recognize leading wineries and wine-tourism related businesses within each Great Wine Capital that have distinguished themselves in areas such as innovation, service and sustainable practices. For more information visit www.greatwinecapitals.com.
In association with Cava DO.
In association with Cava DO.With its distinct sense of terroir, Cava made from Catalonia’s indigenous grape varieties is something we should all be drinking now, says Andrew Jefford...
In association with Cava DO.What’s changing in Cava
When I think of Cava, I think of two paradoxes. The first is that this is the principal wine expression of the Catalan hills, yet drinkers very seldom think about Catalonia and its grape varieties, or its terroir, as they drink Cava. The paradox is intensified with every step the drinker takes up the Cava wine hierarchy.
Few wines express their identity and origins so forcefully as fine Cava, especially when vinified chiefly from Macabeo and Xarel.lo: the scent is intimately that of these wild, sunlit, pine-strewn, sea-fronted terraces, punctuated incessantly by forest and Mediterranean scrub, with all of its legendary aromatic force. The wines’ flavours, too – that salty-stony breadth, that structured southern fruit, the haunting of its foam by the memory of wild flowers and fennel seeds, the way that the bubbles lift and relieve an almost chewy white wine, while the grain of its yeast trace seems to suggest a white earth and the clay it might form when the winter rains come, and its always gentle acidity has a tangy, exotic quality – this, for me, is the taste of Catalonia itself, a perfect expression of its physical identity as a land, the most evocative of sketches.
One sip, and I can always see the jagged outline of Montserrat in the distance. Agreed, I’ve been lucky enough to visit several times and most Cava drinkers will not have had the same chance – but that sensorial difference is always there, and if you are ready to spend £20 or £30 on a Cava, you will find it there most intensely. Yet this vital facet of its character is rarely recognised or celebrated.
The second paradox is even more striking. The sparkling wine world is, at present, a rather dull and homogenous place. Why? Because so much of it lies in Champagne’s shadow. Champagne’s striking quality, and the imaginative hold it has succeeded in exerting on the market, is almost a dictature – so that whenever winemakers outside Europe (and often inside, too) want to make a sparkling wine, they reach for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and they set off with Champagne’s fine-honed balance and nuance buried like a gimlet in their brains, no matter how inappropriate this might be in terms of respect for the climate and soils in which such sparkling wines are going to be created. Since technology is an intimate part of all sparkling wine creation, they can often create passably good Champagne-like sparkling wines – though they are sparkling wines that are doomed to be second best, since they are trying to be what they can never be.A changing world
Cava made with Catalonia’s indigenous varieties is the great exception to this rule. It proves, at the highest levels with triumphant success, that there is another way to make sparkling wine, a southern way, a warm-climate way, a terroir-respecting alternative – and that sparkling wines made in this idiom and in this style can work resoundingly well as gastronomic objects.
Great Cava rearranges all the sparkling wine rules. It is a force for liberation in the sparkling wine world, and in truth a much more useful source of inspiration than Champagne for many of those struggling to make great sparkling wine in climates that are vastly warmer than those of Reims and Epernay. Though, of course, sparkling winemakers would need to fall in love with Cava first in order to want to do what their landscapes and their seasons are, in fact, whispering to them to do.
Things are now changing; the sparkling wine world is finally shaking off Champagne’s dictature and beginning to expand. Alternatives are now permissible; drinkers are prepared to allow that there might be ways in which sparkling wines can seduce, entice, satisfy, inspire and transport that do not involve Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the kind of acid balance that comes when a full season in the vineyard delivers only 9.5% potential alcohol by summer’s close. Cava’s moment has come.
And Cava, too, is changing. There is a recognition in Catalonia that the big business model of huge volume and low margins is not the only way to build a future. The kind of Cava I have described above has long been familiar to the Catalans themselves – but to almost no one else. Partly that was because the world wasn’t ready for it, but it also comes from the fact that the Cava rules have been drafted with such latitude (in terms of fruit origin and approved grape varieties) that ‘the Catalan character’ is often opaque or residual in less expensive examples.
Cava de Paraje Calificado is a change of direction – a category that allows those who wish to maximise rather than minimise the Catalan character in their wines the chance to do so. I know from having visited many smaller Cava producers that fine sparkling wines of this sort are already produced in profusion in the region, and often with the highest terroir ideals. Merchants around the world need to make at least small ranges of such wines available to their customers in what (I hope) are expanding offers of indigenous sparkling wines.
And then it will be down to you – the drinker. Open your mind; open your palate. Much wine beauty is an acquired taste – but, once acquired, complexity and intrigue ensures that it is never lost. This is what you will find when you discover, and come to appreciate, the fine foaming white wine of the Catalan hills.
Andrew Jefford is a writer, broadcaster and Decanter contributing editor.
In association with Cava DO.
In association with Cava DO.Cava is very versatile with food. Fiona Beckett picks some of her favourite pairings...
In association with Cava DO.Cava and food pairing Artichokes and asparagus
Notoriously tricky vegetables to pair with wine, but no problem for Cava (though I’d go for white rather than green asparagus).
‘In winter in Catalunya we grow a small seasonal artichoke, and Cal Xim, one of my favourite restaurants in Sant Pau d’Ordal near Vilafranca del Penedès, cooks them on charcoal and they are dressed with olive oil. This is a heavenly match with a fresh Cava, preferably one that is aged on its lees,’ says Christophe Brunet.
Especially sheep milk cheeses. Older gran reserva Cavas are good with aged cheeses like Manchego, but also with crumbly cheeses, such as aged Parmesan or Asiago.Creamy sauces
Cava is perfect as it cuts through the richness (it’s particularly delicious with a fish pie). Richer, aged Cavas are a good counterpoint to creamy foie gras, too.Fried foods
Anything that is crisp and crunchy is great with bubbles – even a simple cheese straw.Rice
Paella and risotto, obviously, but also think of Iranian dishes, in particular, jewelled rice.
Because of its relative dryness, Cava doesn’t jar with vinaigrette. It’s particularly good with salads that contain fruit, such as grapes, apples and oranges.Seafood
From anchovies to zarzuela (seafood stew), taking in hake and turbot along the way. José Pizarro reckons the perfect match is gambas al ajillo – prawns with hot peppers and lashings of garlic, while Ferran Centelles recalls the ‘oysters with solid Cava’ dish at El Celler de Can Roca in Girona – an oyster topped with Cava to which xanthan gum was added during the winemaking process. ‘The Cava was semi-solid and sparkled, and was served over a delicate oyster. What a memory!’Tapas
Nuts, cheese and olives being the most obvious ones. And, of course, with jamón. Sparkling wine also works particularly well with eggs, which makes it a good match for tortilla.
Xarel.lo In association with Cava DO.
In association with Cava DO.Lenka Sedlackova MW takes a look at the main grape varieties used in Cava production....
In association with Cava DO.Cava grape varieties
White (% of plantings)
Subirat Parent (0.2%)
Red (% of plantings)
Pinot Noir (2.5%)
For many leading quality Cava producers, Xarel.lo is the most important grape variety. At Recaredo it represents 60% of plantings and Ton Mata, third generation enologist, defines himself as a staunch Xarel-list, or as he explains, ‘someone who is looking to interpret and explore the properties and virtues of the Xarel.lo grape variety’.
Research conducted by the University of Barcelona and UC Davis has highlighted that among white grapes, Xarel.lo is the variety with the highest concentration of resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that can be found in grape skins. This, along with Xarel.lo’s low pH and fresh acidity, is beneficial for long ageing.
Xavier Gramona from the familyowned estate Gramona describes Xarel.lo’s acidity as ‘Mediterranean’ and its high antioxidant capacity is therefore necessary to allow long ageing. He adds that ‘the high concentration of resveratrol allows Cava to age without the need for dosage’ – in fact, the leading producers of premium Cava largely concentrate on producing Brut Nature styles.
And while these Cavas are bone dry, they have plenty of fruit and lees complexity to carry it.
For most of the longest-aged Cavas, Xarel.lo represents the main component of the blend, if not the whole blend. It is a variety that is difficult to grow and performs best when it’s at lower altitudes (below 400m). Early budding and late ripening equal a long growing season and the development of thick skins. Both Mata and Gramona highlight Xarel.lo’s ability to withstand drought as hugely important and this benefit was demonstrated during the very dry 2016 season, when other varieties did not perform so well.
Xarel.lo’s flavour profile is best described as intense and reminiscent of dried camomile and fennel, adding a pleasant bitter tone to the finish. With long ageing on lees, these flavours can develop into honeyed acacia tones and notes of warm patisserie.Macabeo
Macabeo is the most common variety found in the Cava blend and represents 35% of plantings within the DO Cava.
Known as Viura in Rioja, it is a relatively neutral variety that shows delicate orchard fruit flavours. Because of this neutrality it is very useful in traditional-method sparkling wine production as it is easily able to take on secondary flavours from lees ageing.
Mata believes that Macabeo gives long-aged Cavas their delicate floral aromas. Macabeo also displays elevated levels of resveratrol, although not in the same concentration as Xarel.lo, making it useful for long ageing.Parellada
Parellada often plays a supporting role in the Cava blend, but there are some producers, including Llopart and Mascaró, who put emphasis on this oft-maligned grape. Elegance, delicacy and finesse are the strings to Parellada’s bow.
Higher-altitude plantings are crucial to get the best out of Parellada, according to Jesi Llopart of Cava Llopart, one of the longest established producers of traditional-method sparkling wines in Penedès: ‘Altitudes of 300m and above allow us to unlock its potential, a balance of acidity and adequate fruit ripening.
‘As Parellada ages on lees, it develops an orange zest aroma,’ she adds. Older vines and lower yields can further add to flavour concentration.
Not all producers are prepared to use Parellada. The importance of site is further emphasised by Gramona, who purposefully avoids its use: ‘We are reluctant to use it in our area, where it reaches low acidity and its large and thick grapes retain a lot of water.’ Gramona goes on to explain that these big berries and Parellada’s low alcohol of 9–10% result in oxidative characters, rendering it undesirable for long ageing.
Gramona is one of the producers to be included. In association with DO Cava
In association with DO CavaThe region's dozen best single-vineyard Cavas are now officially recognised as Cava de Paraje Calificado. Pedro Ballesteros Torress MW explains more...
In association with DO CavaCava de Paraje Calificado: Cava’s top classification
Recently Cava producers have taken the final step up the quality ladder by legalising single-vineyard Cava, now recognised as Cava de Paraje Calificado (CPC). The selection process for CPC wines is understandably strict, with stringent eligibility conditions.
Vines must be at least 10 years old, with lower yields, and all wines must be brut, extra brut or brut nature, and bottle-aged on the lees for at least 36 months.
There is also a requisite for full traceability, meaning all CPC vineyards must be owned or contracted on a long-term basis by the wineries.
If all of these criteria are met, the wines are then tasted blind by a panel made up of a majority of ‘outsiders’ – wine judges and experts who aren’t Cava producers themselves. Winemakers also have to explain to the judging panel what makes their vineyard a unique terroir.‘Cava must be aspirational’
The initial group of CPC wines (see below) form the vanguard of the category. It is hoped that these single-vineyard Cavas will become known for providing a genuine expression of terroir. For Pere Bonet, president of the DO Cava, the path is clear.
‘We need to concentrate our efforts in developing distinguished premium categories in Cava,’ he says. ‘Cava must be aspirational, and Cava de Paraje Calificado is one of the summits.’
Indeed, the new regulation recognises a small number of wines that already comply with the requirements and are already recognised by wine experts for their higher quality. Because of the ageing requirement, all of the initial CPC candidates were prestige wines nearing the end of their maturation period. Not all were selected, but the ones that became CPC are, unsurprisingly, among the top Spanish sparkling wines.
Thanks to different approaches to vineyard management and grape varieties, in a typically Spanish way, there isn’t one standard definition of the tasting profile of a CPC. This is partly because producers have different philosophies, but also because CPC wines showcase the diversity of the Catalonian landscape.
Cava de Paraje Calificado wines come from a varied range of soils: saulò (sandy granite), llicorella (slate), calcareous, clay or loam. Microclimates are also diverse, because of the mountainous topography and uneven influence of the Mediterranean sea.
When it comes to grape varieties, the native Xarel.lo is probably the most preferred, either used on its own or blended with Macabeo and/or Parellada. However, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are used in two single-varietal CPC wines and present in a few blends.
Finally, in the winery, only a few producers stick to the 36-month minimum period of ageing; most age their wines for much longer.
The only factor uniting all of these wines is their excellent quality. They captivate, thanks to their balance and complexity. Some add power and length to the picture, while others show delicacy or intensity of expression, and others are simply one of a kind. So it seems that Cava de Paraje Calificado can best be defined by their uniqueness and personality.
Jane Anson reports on an extraordinary tasting of aged Lynch-Bages wines in Bordeaux and includes plenty of tales from the Cazes family that has owned this estate since the late 1930s.Old vintages of Château Lynch-Bages lined up for tasting at Cafe Lavinal in Pauillac. Scroll to bottom to see tasting notes and ratings
An evening where Château Lynch-Bages 1961 was the youngest wine in the room was always going to be special.
The tasting was held at Café Lavinal in the village of Bages, Pauillac, with most of the bottles coming from owner Jean-Michel Cazes’ cellar, coupled with two vintages (the 1945 and 1947) generously donated by collector Professor Bipin Desai.
These had been stored in Copenhagen since bottling at the Château and then making their way back to Pauillac to be shared with us.
‘Of the 18 classified châteaux in Pauillac, a full 15 of them were declared bankrupt in the 1930s’
We started with the 1924 – the first year that Château bottling took centre stage in Bordeaux after being championed by Baron Philippe de Rothschild at Mouton Rothschild.
Over at neighbouring Lynch-Bages, General Félix de Vial was owner, grappling with a financial situation that was to become ever more fragile and would finally tip over into bankruptcy during the economic mess of the 1930s.
Lynch-Bages was not alone in this. The Economic Crash was exacerbated by a run of difficult harvests in 1930, 1931, 1932 and 1934 and of the 18 classified châteaux in Pauillac, a full 15 of them were declared bankrupt in this decade.
But in proof that one man’s famine is another man’s feast, it was this that gave Jean-Michel Cazes’ grandfather, Jean-Charles Cazes, the opportunity to take over.‘Cazes offered what General de Vial thought was a derisory sum.’
He had been working as the local baker but in 1933 was given the job of running the Lynch-Bages vineyard for General de Vial – meaning that 14 of the 15 vintages we tasted were made by either Jean-Michel’s grandfather or father. He himself took over in the 1970s.
As we tasted through the wines, we were plied with family stories. For much of the 1930s, Cazes paid no rent for the land but promised to keep the wine production going without it costing its owner a penny – and for the General at the time, offloading the running costs of a large Pauillac Château was extremely pressing.
Eventually in 1937 Lynch-Bages was put up for sale but when no outside buyers were forthcoming, Cazes offered what General de Vial thought was a derisory sum for it.
Two years later his finances meant that he had no choice but to agree.
Jean-Michel tells us that he has letters between the two men that suggests these two very different characters never did find any middle ground and parted company as something less than friends.‘The 1950s was the decade that put Lynch-Bages on the map.’
From 1939 Lynch-Bages became officially owned by the Cazes family, and slowly but surely Jean-Charles and then his son André were able to not just invest in the wine but contribute to its growing renown.
‘The 1950s was the decade that put Lynch-Bages on the map,’ is how Jean-Michel Cazes remembers it – with particular credit going not only to the winemaking but to American writer and fellow Château owner Alexis Lichine, who championed the excellent wines being made by André Cazes.
Lichine organised a series of blind tastings of 1855 Châteaux for the general public, and Lynch-Bages regularly showed extremely strongly.
From our tasting here, there is little doubt that Lynch-Bages deserves its reputation as one of the true great wines of Bordeaux.
Around half the wines had been recorked in 2007, being topped up with the same vintage as in the bottle, but those with their original corks were also extremely impressive.How the wines tasted in general
A few things in particular stood out. We had three wines out of half bottles, and even at this illustrious age they were among the most enjoyable bottles on display.
All 15 vintages were opened just before tasting, as the delicate aromatics of old wines can so quickly evolve once poured.
Most in fact held their own and even opened further in the glass, and proved a masterclass in how older Bordeaux, with its tannins tamed and melted but its fruit still intact, is just a brilliant choice for food matching.
The chef at Café Lavinal did an incredible job of choosing dishes that were subtle enough to keep the focus on the delicate flavours of the old wines – a room-temperature mushroom velouté, a veal carpaccio, a stunning Bayonne ham and poached egg dish followed by Pauillac lamb once the wines got younger and a little more structured.
We only had one corked wine. Although very sadly it was the brilliant 1955 vintage, that was really not a bad result at all in a flight of such old wines.
To drink these alongside Jean-Michel Cazes’ memories was amazing, but the wines would have spoken even if tasted alone.Some advice on buying old bottles ‘Never go for the cheapest that you can find.’
A few years ago I translated the book Lynch-Bages & Co from French to English, and these wines reminded me of a quotation Jean-Michel used from the writer Georges Duhamel.
It talked about how old bottles of wine are like Aladdin’s lamp: ‘Pulling the cork frees the genie from its bottle, and calls forth actors from a forgotten world’.
And the beauty of Bordeaux is that you can still buy many of these.
My advice with older wines is to never go for the cheapest that you can find.
Storage and provenance are just so vitally important. But don’t think they are going to be prohibitively expensive, especially when you compare them to the prices of some of the more recent years.
I found some 1945 Lynch-Bages from reputable sources at around £400 per bottle (most seem to be in France or Belgium).
Compare this to prices for 1945 Mouton – upwards of £6,000 in almost every case I could find – and it seems worth a try.
Of course there will be bottle variation, but if you fall on a good one, you’ll be smiling for the rest of the year.The wines: Tasting Lynch-Bages history
One of the people responsible for up-and-coming American wines beating the best of France at the 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting has been inducted into California's all-time hall of fame.A painting re-creating the Judgement of Paris tasting in 1976, at the Vineyard at Stockcross in Berkshire.
Warren Winiarski, founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, has been inducted into California’s hall of fame alongside director and film maker Steven Spielberg and American football quarterback Jim Plunkett, plus others.
It is the latest of several tributes paid to Winiarski, who celebrated the 40th anniversary of the now-fabled Judgement of Paris last year.
At a tasting organised by Steven Spurrier in the French capital, Winiarski’s wine – the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – triumphed against fine Bordeaux in a blind tasting.
The result, which also saw Napa’s Chateau Montelena Chardonnay out-score some of the best white wines Burgundy had to offer, went viral in the pre-digital age following a small write-up in Time magazine.SEE ALSO: Take Decanter’s Judgement of Paris quiz – Test your knowledge of wine history
‘I am deeply honored to be inducted into the California Hall of fame and accept this award on behalf of the entire California wine community,’ said Winiarski, who moved to Napa Valley in 1964 and became Robert Mondavi’s winemaker in 1966 before going on to plant his own vines.
‘Especially following the terrible fires, which affected our Northern California region, it’s an honour for all of us.’
Inductees in the 11th class of the California hall of fame will join 104 existing members who ’embody the state’s spirit of innovation’, according to the officer of California governor Edmund G. Brown Jr and first lady Anne Gust Brown.
They will receive ‘spirit of California’ medals at a ceremony to be held on 5 December at the California Museum, where objects related to their achievements will also be on display from 6 December.
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