Wine Legend: Château d’Yquem 1921

Decanter News - zo, 22/10/2017 - 13:33

What makes this a wine legend?

Château d'Yquem 1921Wine Legend: Château d’Yquem 1921, Sauternes, France

Number of bottles produced: No record

Composition of blend: No record

Yield (hl/ha): No record

Alcohol content: 12.5%

Residual sugar: 112g/l

Release price: No record

Current price (at auction, 2009): £2,376 (bottle)

A legend because…

There are many outstanding vintages of this supreme sweet white wine, but none in the 20th century is more celebrated than the 1921. Decanter’€s Michael Broadbent, in Vintage Wine, describes 1921 as ‘Unquestionably the greatest [Sauternes] vintage of the 20th century, Yquem in particular being legendary.’€ The great richness of the wine reflects the vintage conditions of the year (see below).

Looking back

Yquem had 100ha (hectares) planted in 1921, compared to 113ha today. Back then, only a small amount of wine was bottled at the château, but Marquis Bertrand de Lur-Saluces, owner at the time, was a leading proponent of château bottling as a guarantee of authenticity. From the 1924 vintage, all the wine would be bottled at the château.

The people

During the First World War, Marquis Bertrand de Lur-Saluces served as an officer, in keeping with family tradition, before taking the reins at Yquem, aged 30. He presided over the château for more than 50 years until his death in 1968, when he was succeeded by his nephew Alexandre de Lur Saluces. Today the château is owned by LVMH (Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton); main shareholders since 1999, the group appointed Pierre Lurton as managing director in 2004. Just after taking over, Lurton revealed in a Decanter masterclass that 1921 is his favourite Yquem vintage.

The vintage

1921 was the driest of 75 vintages on record, and the hottest since 1893. The unusual heat and early autumn made it difficult for red Bordeaux but perfect for Sauternes. For the first time since 1893, picking began as early as the first half of September, on the 13th. The harvest lasted six and a half weeks, with 39 days of picking. By the time it was over on 27 October, pickers had passed through the vineyard five times. Yields were not high, as sharp spring frosts had reduced the crop. The extreme dry conditions led to unparalleled richness and concentration of the grape juice. Its exceptional quality would certainly have been recognised from the outset.

The terroir

The topsoil at Yquem is warm and dry, accumulating heat thanks to the smooth, flat pebbles and coarse gravel. The clay subsoil contains good water reserves, and there are several springs on the estate. Drainage pipes were installed in the 19th century to prevent waterlogging. Plantings are split between Sémillon (80%) and Sauvignon Blanc (20%), though the proportions are more equal in the final wine due to the latter’s greater productivity.

The wine

As 1921 saw the hottest summer since the phenomenal vintage of 1893, which also produced outstanding sweet wines across Europe, the grapes reached unusually high sugar levels. This resulted in both high residual sugar and high alcohol, yet the wine remained balanced. Numerous bottlings of the 1921 vintage were made in different countries -€ many of the surviving bottles were bottled in Belgium by Van der Meulen -€ but these are inferior to the château-bottled examples.

The reaction

Michael Broadbent, in his Vintage Wine, recalls drinking the wine on more than 30 occasions. The colour is quite dark, he says, ‘at best a warm amber-gold’€, and the bouquet ‘very rich, honeyed of course, peachy, barley sugar (boiled and spun sugar), intense yet fragrant, custard cream, crème brûlée yet again, but very true’.

On the palate: ‘from sweet to very sweet, depending, I think, on context, unquestionably rich, powerful, even assertive, great length and intensity, and supported by life-preserving acidity. One of life’€s sublime experiences.’€

Bordeaux authority David Peppercorn MW concurs: ‘€It is more like an essence than a wine, a unique experience.’

Legendary wine writer Edmund Penning-Rowsell drank the wine in 1983, remarking that: ‘It had something of the richness of a fine old sweet Sherry without the alcoholic strength. Amazingly concentrated, perhaps the chief quality of this wine, it remained almost surprisingly drinkable.’€

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Debunking wine myths: What to look out for

Decanter News - vr, 20/10/2017 - 16:31

Why they may not be true after all....

Pouring WineDebunking wine myths Myth: Wine legs mean a better wine wine legs

Do legs or ‘tears’ mean better quality? Credit: Credit: PhotoAlto sas / Alamy Stock Photo

The reality is that ‘legs tell you relatively little about the wine’, says Matt Walls.

Myth: Putting a spoon in Champagne keeps it fizzy spoon in champagne

Credit: Gunter Kirsch / Alamy Stock Photo

Really, there’s no evidence that proves this. You’re better off using a Champagne stopper.

Myth: Sulphites cause hangovers

Sulfur dioxide

Although a few people are allergic to sulphites, in most cases, hangovers are caused by dehydration from alcohol, not the sulphites in the wine.

Myth: A wine punt means a better quality wine

wine bottles punt

This is not a universal rule, and some styles – like Riesling, for example – never have a punt.

Myth: White wine doesn’t go with red meat red meat with white wine, cordon bleu

Red meat with white wine? Do it, says Matthieu Longuère MS. Credit: Le Cordon Bleu London

Take other factors in to consideration – like acidity, age, oak – rather than just the colour of the wine.

Myth: Only white wine pairs with fish  james bond, wine quote, decanter

‘Red wine with fish. Well, that should have told me something.’ James Bond in ‘From Russia with Love’ in 1963. Credit: Pen.

Again, there are other factors to consider. The main rule is don’t go for anything too tannic with fish.

Myth: Pale rosé wine is better

pairing rosé wines with food

Pale, delicate coloured roses from Provence have grown in popularity, and it’s become a trend for winemakers to try and keep the colour very pale. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that deeper coloured roses are worse quality wines.

Myth: Red wine should only be served room temperature best reds to chill

Credit: Mike Prior/ Annabelle Sing/ Decanter

There are plenty of lighter style red wines that benefit from being lightly chilled – especially in the summer months.

Myths: All Champagne should be kept to age Champagne cellar

Credit: Cath Lowe / Decanter

Non-Vintage Champagne is generally made to be ready-to drink. Our experts say you can keep it a couple of years but not much longer. Vintage Champagnes are the ones that benefit from some cellaring.

Find more wine questions answered here. 


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Penfolds launches g3: A Grange ‘blend of blends’

Decanter News - vr, 20/10/2017 - 15:41

Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago has launched a wine that combines three Grange vintages and is expected to sell for A$3,000 per bottle. Anthony Rose spoke to him ahead of the unveiling and got a first taste of the 'super-blend'...

penfolds g3, grangeGrange super-blend: Penfolds g3

Fresh from the typically snazzy launch of this year’s Collection, Penfolds’ chief winemaker Peter Gago was in London preparing the world for the launch of his new baby. The grand unveiling took place in Hong Kong this week.

Penfolds g3 is a super-blend of Grange from casks of the 2014 and 2012 vintages and the 2008 from the bottle, matured together for over a year in current use Grange barrels. It carries a price tag of 3,000 Australian dollars per bottle (£1,784 at exchange rates on 20 October).

‘People will not want to like the wine for their own reasons, but that’s Grange, bring it on.’

Before g3 was even a twinkle in Gago’s eye, he had been thinking of ‘getting back into the sparkling Burgundy thing’.

But then he asked himself ‘why sparkle it up?’ and so the idea came to him of creating a blend of blends, ‘a distillation of the essence of Grange’ as he put it.

‘2008 is the solid anchor, 2012 brings a lovely elegance, a sheen, poise, a foil, and the 2014 brings a freshening up’ said Gago.

‘G3 doesn’t look like the 2008, 2012 or 2014. There’s an otherness to it.’

As Gago put it, the solera model represents the knowledge and wisdom of Penfolds past handed down and distilled, while the blend is based on the idea of the Champagne multi-vintage cuvée.  ‘It’s a blend made to a Grange template, with Grange DNA.’

Article continues below tasting note

First taste: Anthony Rose on Penfolds g3 penfolds g3 launch

Only 1,200 bottles of g3 have been made. Credit: Penfolds.

Tasting Note, London, October 2017: Densely saturated colour, sweet, rich liquorice spice aromas, a hint of toffee. Very primary in its scented sweetness, with an incipient undertone of leathery maturity, immensely rich and concentrated palate-coating density and richness of blueberry and blackberry fruit in primary flush of youth yet a hint of development on palate. The expansive flavours are enveloped in a lovely sheen and voluptuous texture, the sweet tannins dangerously resolved and almost drinkable.  Yet even at this stage, it has the backbone and flesh for long ageing; very Grange, very Penfolds, very Australian.

Drink: Now to 2060

Score: 98 / 100

Where to buy it: Express interest through Penfolds website ‘Not a gimmick’

Gago claimed that g3 is not a gimmick or the result of a mandate handed down from head office but completely winemaking driven.

‘I don’t look on it as innovation but taking a step back and something you might do if you didn’t know there were things you were supposed to conform to.’

Launched on 18 October at Liang Yi Museum Hong Kong, g3 comes in a limited edition of 1,200 individually numbered bottles.

penfolds g3 numbered bottle

Each bottle of g3 is numbered.

With g3 writ large on a smart, modern label and a tall, dark green heavy-duty, broad-shouldered bottle, the wax-sealed package has luxury written all over it.

As it should at its $3,000 price tag.

Gago concedes that g3 will be a wine to be collected, invested in and inherited, but laughs off the idea that it will be solely an investor’s plaything.

He hopes, and believes, that that there will be wine lovers and wine clubs who will buy it to drink and share.

While aware of the controversy it will undoubtedly provoke, he seems to relish the challenge.

‘I don’t feel too guilty about this wine. People will not want to like the wine for their own reasons, but that’s Grange, bring it on.’

Teasingly, he adds that it’s only the first and there’ll be a follow-on, but declines to specify further.

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Wine making quiz – Test your knowledge

Decanter News - vr, 20/10/2017 - 15:02

We all drink good wine, but how much do you know about where it comes from? To follow on from our vine & vineyard quiz, test your cellar skills in our wine making sequel...

Wine-technology---pumping-overScroll down and click into the box below to take the Decanter.com wine making quiz

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Chanel expands in Bordeaux with Château Berliquet deal

Decanter News - do, 19/10/2017 - 18:21

Luxury fashion house Chanel has bought a third Bordeaux wine estate, confirming that it has acquired Château Berliquet in St-Emilion after months of speculation.

chateau berliquet, chanelChâteau Berliquet is now owned by luxury fashion house Chanel.

Maison Chanel and its owners, the Wertheimer brothers, ended several weeks of rumours by confirming the acquisition of Château Berliquet, a St-Emilion Grand Cru Classé. A fee was not disclosed.

Decanter.com understands from sources close to the deal that it was agreed earlier this summer that Nicolas Audebert would take on management of Berliquet.

He already manages Chanel’s other two properties, nearby Château Canon and also Château Rauzan-Ségla in Margaux.

Berliquet extends over 10 hectares, is situated between Château Canon and Château Belair-Monange and is planted with 70 percent Merlot, 25 percent Cabernet Franc and 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.

It is the latest of several châteaux to change hands in Bordeaux this year.

Audebert described Berliquet as a ‘jewel’ in the heart of St-Emilion.

‘The structural imprint of the limestone plateau is evident here,’ he said, adding that the estate has the potential to produce wines that are ‘at once racy, tense and elegant’.

Château Berliquet will keep its autonomy and not integrate with Château Canon.

Previously, the estate was managed by Nicolas Thienpont, managing director of Château Pavie Macquin, with the assistance of Stéphane Derenoncourt.

‘We salute the work initiated by our predecessors, Stéphane Derenoncourt and Nicolas Thienpont, and we intend to continue these efforts to give this magnificent terroir the opportunity to express its full potential,’ said Audebert.

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Adelaide, South Australia Best of Wine Tourism winners announced

Decanter News - do, 19/10/2017 - 18:13

Promotional feature

Seven South Australian businesses are toasting success, after being named winners in the 2018 South Australian Best of Wine Tourism Awards.

Hon Minister Leon Bignell MP and Tamara Tiller, Penfolds Cellar Door

Promotional feature

Adelaide, South Australia Best of Wine Tourism 2018 winners announced

All winners will go on to represent South Australia at the Great Wine Capitals international awards program, in Chile this November.

The South Australian winners are:

Accommodation: The Louise (Barossa)

A vista of gently rolling hills, 5000 acres of shiraz vines and a wide, open sky, there isn’t a more picturesque location than this. It was, in fact, this very view which, for US natives Jim and Helen Carreker, ended a world-wide search and saw the creation of an icon – The Louise Barossa Valley. Nothing is overlooked in this boutique venue, from the moment reception staff appear to greet you in the sculptural courtyard, to the state-of-the-art facilities (including a helipad, infinity edge pool with sweeping vineyard views and conference facilities, to the emphasis on privacy in the 15 guest suites.

Here you can choose to partake in one of the many exclusive tours offered, dine in the acclaimed Appellation Restaurant or the new, more casual Bar Louise, or simply enjoy the view from your private terrace. This is the ultimate culinary getaway, from which you can, in the words of Jim Carreker, “absorb the mood, the tone of the sky and the land in this beautiful area.” The Louise is the perfect, understated luxury from which to explore all the Barossa Valley has to offer. If there is anything more you require, all you need do is ask – The Louise will make it a reality.  www.thelouise.com.au/

Architecture and Landscape: Chapel Hill Winery (McLaren Vale)

As you drive around the bend on a typical country road the grandeur of Chapel Hill Winery rises from the hills, a spectacle of hand-hewn ironstone, stained glass and Methodist architecture. Expansions now see the winery as more a precinct than stand-alone building, although each new addition has been so carefully executed as to blend seamlessly with the namesake Methodist Chapel built in 1865. Homage is paid to the architecture at every turn – the stained glass window which draws visitors of its own accord and lends a certain magic to the interior has been adopted as the winery’s logo.

The delicious irony of a winery making its home in the chapel of tee-totalling Methodists is not lost, yet the utmost respect is given to the inherent spirituality of the place. Tasting Chapel Hill’s top-tier ‘icon’ wines seated in the chapel, with its high ceilings and carved stonework, promotes a hushed reverence. The architecture elevating the experience to something almost other-worldly. The deliberate lack of the traditional tasting bench in Cellar Door promotes movement within the building. Here the space in which you stand is treated with the same importance as the wine – encouraging exploration with all your senses. It’s the perfect way to discover McLaren Vale’s wines, landscape and history in one, simply beautiful location. www.chapelhillwine.com.au

Art and Culture: Coriole Vineyards (McLaren Vale)

There’s an energy about some places which simply draws you in – a cheeky, lighthearted and genuine spirit which is, simply enchanting. With its spectacular views of McLaren Vale’s vineyards to the coast and the Lloyd family at the helm, Coriole Vineyards is one such place. This spirit is a direct reflection of the vibrant Lloyd family, their awe-inspiring spark and love for the arts and incredible humility. To CEO Mark Lloyd, his many contributions to the arts are par for the course, saying “life is about art. When you have the opportunity to make it part of your business then you’re so fortunate.” The lifestyle connotations of enjoying a region’s food and wine in a beautiful location – the key elements to most wine businesses – are here moulded into unique ways of delivering ‘lost’ forms of art (classical music, poetry and choir performances) more accessible to the general public. Proceeds from their regular events and special release wines go directly to supporting participating artists in developing new work. Paying artists a fair wage is paramount to all projects. Sponsorship via donation is also given to the Adelaide Youth Orchestra, the South Australian State Opera and other arts and culture establishments.

It may have all begun because “the Lloyd family were just always extremely good at throwing parties” but it is the absolute buy-in of the entire Coriole team which will see this winery and their region’s artistic community continue to grow for generations. www.coriole.com

Innovative Wine Tourism Experience: Henschke and Hutton Vale Farm (Barossa)

Truth be told, the biggest asset of any region is not its produce or its landscape, it is its people. Those with a connection to the land so deep it’s an essential part of their being. In the Eden Valley, part of the greater Barossa region, this is certainly true of founding families Henschke and Angas (of Hutton Vale Farm). Their heart-felt authenticity is contagious and with their new, family-hosted offering, the Ultimate Authentic Barossa Experience, are putting the region on the world stage.

This intimate experience is about providing guests the most authentic, personalised experience of the region in a short period of time. The essence of “the way we work together and sense of place. In essence this is about sharing the best of food, family, wine and the land.” (Jan Angas) The love for this region shines brightly within both families, from their focus on sustainability to the warmth with which they receive their guests. To experience this welcome, see Eden Valley’s hills from the air in your private PC-12 aircraft, walk the iconic Hill of Grace vineyard, taste distinguished wines and ethically grown produce of the farm, hear the stories of 145 years of friendship between the families, is to fall in love. Fall in love with Eden Valley, the Barossa, and the simple charm of a rural life well lived.

Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices: Whistling Kite Vineyard (Riverland)

Organic and biodynamic are certainly buzz-words in the wine industry today, but Riverland producers Whistling Kite Vineyard’s dedication to these principles dates back 30 years to something far more personal than a trend. To owners Pam and Tony Barich “we are only custodians of the land, and it’s our duty to maintain healthy soil for future generations.” Founded in 1976 Tony’s abstention from synthetic fertilisers and nitrates was recognised as certifiably organic in 1997, with biodynamic certification coming 10 years later.

Whistling Kite wines do not shy away from seasonal unpredictability, embracing vintage variation as an essential part of winemaking, not something to be blended out. For Tony, “biodynamic farming allows the vineyard to truly express the fruit and characteristics of the vineyard on a vintage to vintage scenario, allowing us to tell more of the story of the wine.” What they’re producing here at Whistling Kite Vineyard is purity; sensory story telling of the quality of their vineyard and the Riverland region as a whole, on another plane.  www.whistlingkitewines.com.au/

Wine Tourism Restaurants: Hentley Farm Restaurant (Barossa)

Nestled along the banks of Greenock Creek, a modern atrium style dining room extends into the landscape from elegantly rustic 1880s stables. The building is a beautiful, visual indicator of what to expect from your Hentley Farm dining experience – definitively of the Barossa Valley, connected to its place like no other, yet with a modern, progressive edge. True to Barossa style there is a complete lack of pretension in this undeniably impressive restaurant, exuding a calm sense of welcome, of joining the extended family. Diners can experience an honest an direct connection to the food with the kitchen team – led by local Lachlan Cowill – venturing beyond their normal confines to serve dishes to the customer. Wine pairings to Hentley Farm wines are predictably executed with perfection. The subtleties of vintage and growing portfolio from which to choose plays of nicely against an ever-changing scope of produce from their own kitchen gardens, friends and local farmers or foraged from the surrounding landscape.

From the moment you venture beyond the hedge into this world where heritage and evolution harmonise, until you walk out the door holding your personalised menu, Hentley Farm is about making memories. Lifelong memories of South Australia, the Barossa, its food and its people. www.hentleyfarm.com.au/food-philosophy

Wine Tourism Services: Penfolds Magill Estate (Adelaide Hills)

The Penfolds name has long been synonymous with South Australia and the wine industry. With properties in both Magill (near Adelaide) and the Barossa Valley tourists have travelled throughout the state to experience the world’s most iconic wine brands. A recent redevelopment at the brand’s spiritual home, Penfolds Magill Estate has significantly raised the bar on delivering wine tourism experiences. Situated in the Adelaide foothills, just 8km from the CBD, Penfolds Magill Estate is the site for the original home of founders Dr Christopher and Mary Penfold. This rare, urban, single-site vineyard features 12 acres of vines first planted in 1844, the 173-year-old “Grange Cottage” (named for Mary’s English home), underground tunnels, a working winery, cellar door, dining and the vintage cellar.

A long-term project to refresh this beacon for Australian wine was finalised in 2015, creating specifically designed spaces to allow visitors to engage, explore, discover, enjoy and experience the quality and meaning of the Penfolds brand. There are three key features to this plan, each now housing various experiences to suit a myriad of tourists, their tastes – and visiting timelines: Penfolds Magill Estate Cellar Door, the perfect fusion of history and contemporary styling, the ultimate luxurious dining experience, Penfolds Magill Estate Restaurant and its more casual sister restaurant, the new Penfolds Magill Estate Kitchen.

Penfolds Magill Estate has built an historical vineyard into a showpiece for South Australian tourism. The spaces and growing collection of walk-in and bespoke experiences on offer continue to grow awareness not only for the Penfolds brand, but for the region as a whole, a region they are very proud to be part of and will continue to work tirelessly for. www.penfolds.com/visit/magill-estate-cellar-door

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.

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Deadly fires hit wine regions in Spain and Portugal

Decanter News - do, 19/10/2017 - 16:22

Wildfires in winemaking areas of Portugal and northern Spain have claimed at least 45 lives and burnt through thousands of hectares of agricultural land, including vineyards and winery owners' homes in both Galicia and the Dão.

Rías Baixas, GaliciaThe aftermath of fires in As Neves in Rías Baixas, Galicia, on 16 October.
  • Anger as death toll rises above 40 from fires
  • Winery owners report vineyard damage and some buildings destroyed
  • Employees at Casa de Mouraz hospitalised after fighting blaze at estate

Six thousand firefighters have spent the past week fighting more than 65 fires across Galicia in Spain and central Portugal. The unfolding tragedy had claimed 45 lives by Wednesday this week (18 October) – 41 in central Portugal and four in Galicia, according to the BBC.

Portugal’s interior minister resigned this week and the country has declared three days of mourning.

Winds from Hurricane Ophelia fanned the flames, worsening the situation; just as high winds also proved a major problem for thousands of fire crews battling blazes in California wine country last week.

Several winemakers in Galicia and Dão found themselves on the frontline, like their counterparts in Napa and Sonoma.

‘From Sunday night to Monday there were terrible fires all over Portugal and particularly in the Dão region,’ local winemaker Luís Lourenço told Decanter.com.

‘It was frightening because the wind was blowing in all directions, and it was almost impossible to control the fire. At Quinta dos Roques we are surrounded by pine forests, [and] some vineyards were ignited by the heat alone. I have about 12 hectares [out of 35] affected by the fires.

‘Lots of producers in the Dão were affected.’

Sara Dionísio, owner of organic producer Casa de Mouraz in Tondela, Dão, said they lost vineyards, their home and a warehouse holding 100 pallets of wine.

‘It was all so fast,’ she said, who had been temporarily living elsewhere with her husband-winemaker Antonio, while their house was being refurbished.

‘During Sunday night we started to have winds faster than 100km/hour. We received a call that our vineyards were burning and Antonio went there with one of our employees to try to save part of the warehouse.

‘They stopped the fire in one part, but the other part completely fell down, landing on their heads. They went to hospital. It is a miracle that they are ok.’

It is understood that some family members of winery employees were among those who died in the area, although no further details were available at the present time.

The team at Casa de Mouraz managed to save the winery filled with the freshly picked 2017 harvest. They now hope that 2017 vintage sales will help fund rebuilding and replanting.

‘It is a complete tragedy and we have to talk about it, because we need to change our forest management in Portugal, especially considering climate change, so this doesn’t happen again,’ said Dionísio.

In June, 64 people were killed in forest fires in Portugal.


In northern Spain, ‘the fires were very strong in Galicia and Asturias’, said Luis Bultron, president of Galicia’s winemakers’ association.

Fire damaged vineyards in Rías Baixas.

Fire damaged vineyards in Rías Baixas. Credit: Jorge Hevella.

As Neves in Rías Baixas suffered the brunt of the fires. ‘Over 90% of the agricultural land in As Neves has been burnt, and somewhere between 15-20% of that is vineyards,’ consultant winemaker in the region, Jorge Hevella, told Decanter.com.

‘People have lost entire vineyards here, and their homes. It’s a barbarity; these fires were caused by arson. Some of the vines will never recover, and the land is still smouldering.’

It has not been proved that arson was the cause of the fires.

Bultron added, ‘Nobody can remember an October as hot as this year and the hot air, wind and dry land combined with the fires made it an apocalyptic scene. The nuclei of the fires was in urban areas in Galicia, and in the forests in Asturias. The fire was very close but fortunately relatively few vineyard regions were affected. The worst was Rías Baixas.’

Light rainfall since Monday evening has enabled fire crews to control the fires in northern Spain and Portugal, as producers and local wine associations begin to assess the damage.

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Anson: A shifting role for Bordeaux négociants? – Interview

Decanter News - do, 19/10/2017 - 08:00

Jane Anson interviews Ariane Khaida about becoming head of Duclot merchant house in Bordeaux and her views on what the city's wine trading houses still have to offer amid questions over the current system.

bordeaux negociantsThe Quai des Chartrons has sent Bordeaux wine overseas for centuries. Here it is in 1806. Credit: Pierre Lacour / Wiki Commons Media.

‘Good evening gentleman. Good evening Ariane,’ is how Ariane Khaida remembers Thierry Gardinier address a group of more than 100 directors and owners of négociant houses up at Chateau Phelan Ségur last year.

Being the only woman to head up a major Bordeaux négociant was the reason that I was first going to interview Khaida three years ago. And yes I wish that wasn’t worthy of a headline, but France is a country where only 2% of CEO roles go to women (although a new law says they must represent 40% of board members in CAC 40 companies), and yet the Place de Bordeaux somehow manages to slip underneath even that low bar.

At the time she was managing director of Descaves, the third woman in the role after the legendary Madame Jeanne Descaves and Madame France Chauvin. Descaves was founded in 1881 and specialises in the sale of mature Bordeaux, with cellars containing around 100 vintages dating back to 1875. Becoming the next woman at the helm was seen as such a coup that the expectation in Bordeaux was that Khaida would spend the rest of her career there.

But in March 2014, she changed the narrative and left to head up a far more powerful and dynamic name – Duclot. Not the biggest négociant house (that award goes to Castel Frères and Joanne in terms of 2016 export figures) but the most high profile, with the Moueix name standing tall above it. Duclot comprises, besides négociant and online distribution, shops such as Badie and L’Intendant in Bordeaux and La Cave at Galeries Lafayette in Paris as well as offices in New York and LA that are aimed squarely at courting relationships with sommeliers and high-end restaurants.

In retrospect, her move should not have been all that surprising. Khaida moved to Bordeaux from Paris in 2002. I met her soon after I arrived from London in late 2003, and we were in the same tasting group for a while. We talked plenty about our home towns (she’s from a non-winemaking family in the Champagne village of Rilly la Montagne) but I only really learnt about her professional background when we sat down in the stunning glass-walled rooms at the top of Duclot’s new offices for this interview.

It turns out that Khaida can fly Cessnas, is a graduate of one of France’s oldest and most selective engineering schools, and spent five years working at LVMH, including two flying around the world – although sadly not at the controls of her own plane – documenting quality control techniques for sourcing the highest of high end leathers and skins (sorry, but luxury handbags are not for the squeamish) for the Louis Vuitton collection. Her experience there makes her a credible voice in what are turbulent times for négociants.

‘For those who say that the Place de Bordeaux is old-fashioned, or even moribund; I would reply that moment has passed. The people who really understand Bordeaux know this. Today the best négociants are true partners for châteaux. There were many years when only critics’ scores counted and our role was seen as simply moving stock. Today personalisation and adding value is key to luxury wines, and we can bring vision, confidence, brand building. But we need to be working at a level that demonstrates our importance, and we need to be transparent with the châteaux in how we do that’.

On arriving in Bordeaux, she first spend three years with Bruno Borie at Ducru Beaucaillou, helping the château move further into the luxury space in terms of labelling, distribution, marketing. But it was always a role with a time limit (‘in Bordeaux châteaux, the owner is the owner, that’s simply the way it is’) that meant when the opportunity arose to move to Descaves she accepted, shadowing Chauvin for 18 months on the understanding of taking over following her retirement.

‘There were infinite things to learn,’ she says, ‘moving from château-side to a négociant. A typical négociant deals with 200 brands or more, and has to understand the history of each property, the different relationships within them, and what the ambitions are for their wine. All this will affect the dynamics of how to do business with them, and how to find the right outlets and activities for the wine. I was extremely lucky to learn this at Descaves, in a family-style environment with 15 staff. At Duclot we have 200’.

She says her first nine months at Duclot were also about, ‘observing, learning, asking questions. Only then did I begin to take decisions’.

The last time I visited the Duclot offices was in 2011 to interview Jean Moueix. The company was then housed across a warren of offices in the Jardin Public area of suburban Bordeaux. Today it overlooks one of the most beautiful and iconic public squares in the city, Place Rohan, directly next to the town hall and the city’s Saint André cathedral. The building itself has been restored and renovated by architect Marc Barani and looks more like a New York advertising agency than a traditional négociant house. It feels like it is readying itself for the challenge of increasingly disruptive châteaux.

‘As négociants we don’t want to be fighting with châteaux in terms of what stock is on the market, it doesn’t make sense for either side,’ says Khaida, quietly proving why she should not be underestimated. ‘There is an increasing desire to cut margins to third parties (from the traditional 15%), which may be why some châteaux are holding back wine to sell later. I can understand that but it may also lead to them missing out on brand building and visibility. That is our expertise, but to do it we need stocks’.

‘The way international wines work with the Place de Bordeaux has been hugely instructive I believe. Some châteaux and négociants resisted it at first, but the benefits are clear now, and it has been informative for all sides. Estates such as Masseto and Opus One bring reflections and experiences that help Bordeaux. They have extremely careful control of their distribution, and at first we were surprised by how exacting in terms of where we placed their bottles. But they were extremely open, very clear about where they were already being sold to avoid repetition. It is only with partnership that these things can be fully managed – coupling our knowledge of global markets with châteaux own individual strategies. It’s a powerful combination when used correctly’.

If I was a château owner, I’d be listening. But for anyone wondering about the management of Descaves today, Khaida was not succeeded by another woman. The power balance of Bordeaux continues.

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Brancott Estate unveils ‘matrix’ sculpture in vineyard

Decanter News - do, 19/10/2017 - 02:00

New Zealand producer Brancott Estate has revealed the result of its design collaboration with New York-based Studio Dror.

brancott estate sculpture, marlboroughBrancott Estate's 'Under/standing' sculpture in Marlborough created by Dror Studio.

New Zealand wine group Brancott Estate has unveiled a sculpture in its vineyards created by New York-based designer Dror Benshetrit.

dror, brancott

Dror’s matrix-like structure in the Brancott Vineyard. Credit: Brancott Estate.

Studio Dror’s eight-metre high sculpture lies in the middle of Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in Marlborough. The sculpture is called ‘Under/standing’.

It is made from 52 individual components that lock together once the matrix-like structure is erected into a standing position; intended to represent the complexity of winemaking and the ‘vineyard’s ongoing transformation’.

It is the latest of several collaborations between wineries and artists and designers.

dror sculpture, wine, new zealand

Dror’s sculpture in among the vines in Brancott Vineyard, Marlborough. Credit: Brancott Estate.

New York-based Studio Dror is led by Tel Aviv-born designer Dror Benshetrit, who has previously been named in the ‘power 200’ of Wallpaper magazine.

He is known for his innovative work with structures; in particular, a structural joint system named QuaDror. He visited Brancott in 2014 to get inspiration for the project.

brancott reflections

Limited edition wines have been created to coincide with the sculpture launch. Credit: Brancott Estate.

As part of the collaboration, Brancott’s chief winemaker, Patrick Materman, has created a limited edition wine range named Reflection and including a Sauvignon Blanc/Sauvignon Gris 2016 blend and a Pinot Noir 2015.

The wines will be available at the Brancott Estate Heritage Centre, via the Brancott Estate Wine Club (brancottestatewineclub.com) and in New Zealand Travel Retail for NZ$60 for the  Sauvignon $80 for the Pinot Noir.

Brancott is owned by French drinks group Pernod Ricard and was one of the first to produce Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand.

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

DWWA winners at Great Western Wines Tasting

Decanter News - wo, 18/10/2017 - 11:59

A selection of Decanter World Wine Awards 2017 winners will be on show at Great Western Wines' tasting on 2 November 2018

Award-winning wines from the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017 (DWWA) will be showcased at the UK retailer Great Western Wines‘ portfolio tasting on 2 November 2017. Winning wines include:

  • Umani Ronchi, Casal di Serra, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore, Le Marche, Italy, 2016
  • Ottella, Le Creete, Lugana, Lombardy, Italy, 2016
  • Cantine Antonio Caggiano, Béchar, Fiano di Avellino, Campania, Italy, 2016
  • Machherndl, Mitz & Mütz Riesling Federspiel, Wachau, Niederösterreich, Austria, 2012
  • Ascheri, Nirane, Dolcetto d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy, 2016
  • Chivite, Finca de Villetuerta Selección Especial, Navarra, Mainland Spain, Spain, 2014
  • Heartland, Shiraz, Langhorne Creek, South Australia, Australia, 2014

Event details:

2 November 2017, 5.30pm – 9pm
The Assembly Rooms, Bennett Street, Bath, BA1 2QH

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Codorníu parent firm agrees to move HQ out of Catalonia – report

Decanter News - di, 17/10/2017 - 18:22

Directors at the holding company of Cava producer Codorníu have reportedly agreed to move their head office address from Catalonia to Rioja as political tension mounts over the region's independence vote.

CodorníuCodorníu cellars in Catalonia.

Codorníu holding company Unideco released a statement on Monday (16 October) to announce that its board of directors has agreed to move the Cava maker’s registered office address to Haro in Rioja, according to widespread reports across Spanish media outlets.

The decision was due to ongoing ‘political and legal uncertainty’ in Catalonia following the region’s controversial independence referendum, reported Spanish newspaper El País, quoting directly from the company’s statement.

However, it was not certain that Codorníu would go ahead with the move.

It also clarified that it was not changing anything about its operational structure in Catalonia.

Rival Cava producer Freixenet has also suggested that it could move its headquarters if Catalonia’s government declares independence from Spain.

Protests erupted in Barcelona and across Catalonia on Tuesday 17 October after Spain’s high court ruled to detain two prominent independence proponents, Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart.

Wineries, like other business, have been caught up in the uncertainty that has accompanied the present stand-off between Madrid and Catalonia.

There are 10,000 wine grape growers in Catalonia and 853 wine companies, with combined annual sales of 1.6 billion euros, according to the region’s government.

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Hemel-en-Aarde wineries to visit

Decanter News - di, 17/10/2017 - 11:27

Explore wineries on the Hermanus wine route in South Africa's Western Cape with Angela Lloyd's top picks...

hemel-en-aarde wineriesNewton JohnsonHemel-en-Aarde wineries to visit

One of the joys of the valley is that the wineries lie within close proximity – little more than 20km separates them, and all are accessed from the road linking Hermanus and the wheatland town of Caledon.

The winery buildings themselves are attractive yet modest in conception, allowing the natural beauty of the area to shine and lending a laid-back feeling.

In as little as two days, you can comfortably and enjoyably glean a good idea of the wines produced and the differences between those from the three wards of Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde and Hemel-en- Aarde Ridge.

Website www.hermanuswineroute.com is a useful source of tourist information.

Hemel-en-aarde map

Credit: Maggie Nelson/ Decanter

Hamilton-Russell Vineyards Hemel-en-aarde wineries, Hamilton

Hamilton Russel vineyards

Hamilton-Russell Vineyards grew in reputation from its first vintage in 1981. Peter Finlayson, its first winemaker, also recognised the valley’s potential for the Burgundian duo, and this was confirmed when the 1986 Pinot Noir won a local competition at which Paul Bouchard (of Bouchard Aîné) was a judge.

From the centre of Hermanus to Hamilton Russell Vineyards is roughly 8km, and it‘s best to set off after rush hour. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that established Hemel-en-Aarde’s reputation are a good launching pad for the day. Also excellent are the estate’s peppery extra virgin olive oil and fynbos honey.

La Vierge

A few bends further up the valley finds La Vierge, where Gerhard Smith, with several years’ experience in New Zealand’s Wairarapa region, brings Pinot expertise to the four versions he produces. These can be enjoyed on the verandah with spectacular views of the nearby mountains and sea.

Bouchard Finlayson Hemel-en-aarde, Bouchard cellar

Bouchard Finlayson.

In 1989, Finlayson assembled a group of shareholders, later to include Bouchard himself, to start Bouchard Finlayson, on a site just above his former employer.

While pristine fynbos with indigenous vegetation covers most of the property (guided walks with a botanist are offered), Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the focus in the vineyards, though like others, Finlayson ventured beyond: his Hannibal blend, featuring Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Barbera, offers an intriguing diversion.

Ataraxia Wines

Before wending your way slowly down the valley, stop to taste Kevin Grant’s Ataraxia Wines in his eye-catching Wine Lounge: an art-filled chapel built in keeping with the vernacular Overberg style.

Hannes Storm

Alongside Bouchard and Grant, Hannes Storm is another Burgundy enthusiast to start his own winery after being schooled in Hemel-en-Aarde’s possibilities at Hamilton-Russell. Open by appointment only.

Newton Johnson hemel-en-aarde wineries, Newton Johnson

Newton Johnson

Others have arrived in the valley, setting up their own cellars: Newton Johnson was soon acknowledged, both locally and internationally, in particular for its Pinot Noir, but also for quality across its range.

Founder and Pinot devotee Dave Johnson, with wife Felicity (née Newton), bought their current property in Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in 2000, establishing the vineyards the following year.
Johnson chose a higher altitude site in the belief that it offers greater maritime influence and more complex soil profiles.

Sea-foragers, the Newton Johnsons found a perfect seafood partner in Albariño, producing a South African first in 2013.

Restless River

Craig and Anne Wessels have shown Cabernet Sauvignon can be a success at Restless River, as well as the excellent Chardonnay they’ve made for some years.

Creation Hemel-en-aarde wineries, Creation


Jean-Claude and Carolyn Martin, high up on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge at Creation, have ventured into Rhône territory with fresh, elegant Viognier, Syrah and Grenache.

Alheit Vineyards

Chris and Suzaan Alheit’s Alheit Vineyards (open by special arrangement only) new Hemelrand Vine Garden, a field blend of Roussanne, Chenin, Chardonnay, Verdelho and Muscat de Frontignan, is destined to become as acclaimed as their Chenins from other parts of the Cape.

When to go

Today it is a thriving tourist resort, hosting annual events such as Hermanus Fynarts Festival, 10 days of music, wine and art – many famous South African artists lived and worked here – and a whale festival held annually during spring when the much-loved southern right whales return to Walker Bay to give birth.

With so many diverse pursuits and wines located in such beautiful surroundings, visitors to Hermanus and Hemel-en-Aarde are spoiled for choice.

Read Angela Lloyd’s full travel guide to Hamel-en-Aarde in teh November 2017 issue of Decanter magazine, on sale now. Subscribe to Decanter here More travel guides:


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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Destroyed Signorello winery owner: ‘We need to get back in business’

Decanter News - ma, 16/10/2017 - 17:34

Ray Signorello Jr has vowed to rebuild after losing his entire winery building in the deadly fires that have swept across North California in the past week.

signorello winery fire, napaFlames engulf Signorello Winery in Napa Valley. No staff or family members were injured.

Signorello Estate’s winery, on Napa‘s Silverado Trail, was reduced to rubble by what the winemaking team described as a ‘tornado of fire’.

Wildfires in California wine country have so far left at least 40 people dead. Many homes have been destroyed and the state fire service said that 75,000 had been evacuated by Sunday 15 October.

Signorello was one of around 20 wineries and vineyards in the Napa Valley area that have been damaged to some extent.


signorello winery

The wreckage of the winery building at Signorello Estate. Credit: Charlotte Milan / Signorello.

‘I was away at the time,’ said Ray Signorello Jr. ‘My wife saw the fires on the hillside. There was a frantic phone call at  around 10:45pm and she grabbed some stuff and ran out of there. Fortunately, my two young daughters were with me.

‘My winemaker and team tried to fight [the fire], but the wind was so strong it was like a tornado of fire travelling at 50mph. The whole area was evacuated.’

No one was allowed back until Wednesday and Napa Valley Vintners struggled to contact some winery owners in the Silverado Trail.

‘I had already programmed myself to see it,’ said Signorello of the ruins that lay where his winery stood less than a week earlier.

signorello estate, fire, california

Signorello Estate saw its winery burned to the ground. Ray Signorello Jr said that all staff were safe, as was the 2017 and 2016 vintage, and has vowed to rebuild. Credit: Charlotte Milan / Signorello.

‘But it’s very sad. There’s over 30 years of history there. I lost my father and mother in the 1990s and they were both part of it. I remember when we were all there together.’

Also lost was Signorello’s personal wine cellar. ‘I had a fairly expensive cellar of top wines from Europe and around the world,’ he said.

However, Signorello said that he was hugely relieved to discover that all staff were safe and well.

His 2017 vintage also survived in the estate’s tank farm, with grapes already processed following an early vintage, and the 2016 vintage in barrel was also intact after a close shave. ‘The fire came right up to the barrel cellar and stopped.’

Now, he wants to get on with rebuilding.

‘We need to get back in business,’ he said, adding that he would seek office space to rent for staff. The winemaking team is likely to work a portacabin on-site.

‘I just need to get an architect and a builder. It might take me two years to rebuild.’

Full details of the damage to wineries was still emerging on Monday 16 October.

Fire also hit wineries in the Mt Veeder area. Mayacamas Vineyards reported one building had been destroyed, but its winery survived.

Nearby, Carole Meredith, of  Lagier Meredith, told Decanter.com that ‘some vines have been burned’. It was too soon to say more, mainly because the estate was still within the evacuation zone on Monday morning (16 October), but she said that her house was still standing.

‘We built it with fire in mind. All the exterior surfaces are ignition-resistant; there’s a concrete tile roof, stucco walls, concrete terrace [and] metal terrace railing.’

Meredith described the fires as the worst in the Napa and Sonoma areas since 1964.

Read the latest updates on the California wildfires

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Haut-Bailly owner makes ‘officer’ grade on French honours list

Decanter News - ma, 16/10/2017 - 15:00

Robert G Wilmers, owner of Château Haut-Bailly in Pessac Léognan since 1998 and chairman of M&T Bank Corporation in the US, has been awarded one of France’s highest civilian honours.

bob wilmers, haut-baillyBob Wilmers (right) receives his 'officer' medal from Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé.

Bob Wilmers was awarded ‘officer’ status in France’s Legion of Honour system.

France’s Légion d’Honneur merit system was originally devised by Napoleon Bonaparte as a way of rewarding civilians as well as soldiers.

Wilmers joins a cast that includes fellow Americans Miles Davis, Bob Dylan and Colin Powell. He was given the award by Bordeaux mayor and former French prime minister Alain Juppé at a ceremony at Haut-Bailly.

Besides his links to the French wine industry, Wilmers was recognised in particular for his charitable work that spans both France and the United States, including the non-profit Partner University Fund (PUF) that is a collaboration between the French government, American private donors and the French-American Cultural Exchange foundation.

PUF has allocated funds to over 97 universities and research institutes in both countries, allowing them to collaborate on more than 87 projects in science and the humanities. More than 100 students each year have benefited from this exchange programme since it was established in 2009.

Wilmers is also chairman of the Alliance Française in New York.

On collecting the award, Wilmers told the assembled crowd of politicians, négociants and local château owners of his early trips to Biarritz with his parents as a child, and his later visits to Paris and Bordeaux, ‘when I began to uncover the true beauty of your country; a beauty that I pay homage to today’.

‘French influence is present in some of America’s finest restaurants from Chez Panisse in California to Le Bernardin in New York,’ said Wilmers. ‘France and the United States are also linked not only by civilization, but by attacks on that civilization, from the Boston bombing to the Bataclan atrocities.’

Several wine world names have previously been added to France’s honours list.

The late Bordeaux professor Denis Dubourdieu, responsible for many advances in wine knowledge in the 20th and 21st centuries, was made a chevalier in the Légion d’Honneur system.

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Jefford on Monday: The Tuscan Original

Decanter News - ma, 16/10/2017 - 10:02

Andrew Jefford discovers a different way of doing things at Fattoria La Vialla.

vin santo, la viallaPressing grapes for Vin Santo at La Vialla.

How might you run a wine estate in a comprehensive biodynamic spririt, rather than just producing wine from BD-grown grapes?  How do you create success in a less-than-fashionable part of large wine region?  And how could you turn a modern wine farm into a source of intensive local employment, rather than just another lean and lonely wine enterprise?

I recently visited a wine farm which has managed to find answers to all three questions.  It may also be the most innovative and original wine estate I have ever visited.

It’s called Fattoria La Vialla, and you’ll find it close to Arezzo in the Chianti region of Colli Aretini.  The story began almost 40 years ago, when textile entrepreneur Piero Lo Franco and his wife Giuliana bought a run-down house in the countryside because they wanted their three sons to be close to nature in the holidays.  The end of the mezzadria (sharecropping) system in Tuscany in the 1960s, though unquestionably a social advance and long overdue, had also drained the land of the labour which rendered it so astonishingly productive during the many preceding centuries; two decades later the woods and hills were full of tiny, empty, broken-down farms.  What began as a hobby for the couple became a kind of vocation: they bought more land, which included more ruined farmhouses; they began to farm vines and olives, and restore the houses in a modest though sensitive spirit.  After a decade of this, Piero Lo Franco called his sons together and talked to them.  “He told us,” remembers second son Antonio, “that he wanted to change his job and go into the fields.  He asked us if we would be ready to participate in this project.  We were very serious and a little bit worried.”  No wonder: they were 20, 18 and 13 at the time.  But they said yes — and the family is still a working unit. Antonio, his elder brother Gianni and younger brother Bandino share their roles and “do everything together”.

la vialla, tuscany

The three brothers. Credit: La Vialla / Franco Firera.

Piero was convinced that he wanted to run his farm organically (indeed he now feels that any other form of agriculture should be outlawed), and he also cherished an ideal of self-sufficiency at a time when these were not yet fashionable concepts.  When the family learned about biodynamics, it was an instant fit; they worked with the French biodynamic pioneer François Bouchet until his death in 2005.  BD is practiced with great seriousness and sincerity here: the family buried 1,800 cow horns last year to make preparation 500, for example.  All of their vineyards (which in addition to the 120 ha at the home base in Tuscany also now includes 240 ha in other regions – San Gimignano, Maremma, Oltrepò Pavese, Marche, Puglia and Sicily) are biodynamic – as indeed are all their other farming activities.

One aspect of Rudolf Steiner’s teachings which is often ignored by winegrowers, albeit of necessity, is that each farm should be self-contained and self-sustaining.  “In reality,” Steiner said in his second Koberwitz lecture (10.6.1924), “every farm ought to aspire to this state of being a self-contained entity.”  He did go on to recognise that this “cannot be achieved completely, but it needs to be approached.”  The Lo Franco family had the land, and the will, to try to do this.

la vialla, biodynamic

Burying cow horns with Ruben Barbuzza (right) and Maurizio Giustini. Credit: La Vialla / Hetty Van Oijen.

They’re biodynamic farmers and producers not just of grape and wine, but of olives and olive oil (30,000 trees); of cereals, pasta and bread (baked in wooden ovens using wood from their own forests); of 1,300 sheep whose Pecorino cheese is rubbed in the residues from the olive press; of chickens and eggs and biscuits and cakes; of honey, from around 100 hives in the forest; and of fruits and vegetables which, once grown, they bottle and preserve or turn into sauces which are also bottled and preserved, all on the estate.  They also have their own phyto-purification plant and solar farm, and the whole enterprise is carbon neutral.  But I still haven’t got to the most extraordinary bit of all.

In the early years, Piero Lo Franco tried selling locally, in Tuscany, and then nationally, in Italy.  It was a flop: no one wanted organic wine in Italy back then, and this wasn’t a chic aristocratic domain in the posh part of Tuscany.  But he’d also opened the farms as an agriturismo, inviting guests to stay in the restored farmhouses in the woods.  They came – mostly from Northern Europe, from Germany, Holland, Belgium, the UK.

The Germans in particular already treasured the organic ideal, and said they’d like to buy these organic wines and cheeses and pasta and sauces back home in Germany.  So young Gianni (who’d only had his driving licence for a month) and Antonio Lo Franco hitched a trailer to the back of a battered Renault Espace and piled car and trailer full of La Vialla foods and wines, and set about delivering personally to customers in Munich and Stuttgart.  “The customers were so happy to have our visits,” remembers Gianni, “that we can home full of enthusiasm to do that for the future.”  Which, thirty years later, they still do: everything is still sold directly, often via beautiful hampers with all the different items impeccably wrapped and packed in biodynamic straw.  They have 10,000 direct-delivery clients in Germany alone.

La Vialla’s final originality lies in its unforgettable presentation and communications.  To start with, everything the farm did from wine labels down was written out in the rounded handwriting of an architect friend of the family, Felice Giancarlo.  They later came to develop their own typeface based on his handwriting, and issue ‘books’ twice a year in three languages (English, German and Dutch), full of pictures, stories and recipes as well as elaborate product descriptions, all of them still written by Giuliana and Piero Lo Franco.  They send out little notes, letters, cds, all beautifully wrapped, finished and printed.  It looks almost childlike at first glance.  What all of this succeeds in communicating and selling is, in a way, a dream of Italy for northerners – the simple, sensual Italy Goethe fell in love with and alluded to in the poem ‘Kennst du das Land?’ from Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre.  It also incarnates a timeless, polycultural, hand-crafted Italy that has often now been lost, but the Lo Franco family has somehow managed to … well, is it save it or recreate it?  I’m not quite sure, but it works.

The team includes four full-time graphic designers and three full-time translators, and provides employment for 160 people, of 25 nationalities, mostly near a city still hard hit by the collapse of its traditional goldsmithing trade.  In high summer, at the heart of the farm, the scene is like a real-life Smurf village, even down to the white hats which all the food preparers are wearing.  Another Lo Franco policy, by the way, was never to hire “a chef”, with all that that implies.  All the cooking and food preparation is done in a massaia (‘housewifely’ or ‘home-cooking’) spirit.

Cynics might speculate at this point that the wines a) aren’t very good, and b) cost a lot on money to pay for all of this.  Neither is true.  The range is huge, and there are some excellent wines among them (see my notes below).  You don’t have to take my word for it, though.  In the last two editions of the Decanter World Wine Awards, La Vialla has won two ‘Platinum Best in Category’ awards: Best Sweet Tuscan in 2017 (for its 2010 Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice) and White Tuscany IGT over £15 (for its 2014 Barricato Bianco).  It also won separate Vin Santo golds in both editions of the competition, too.

Prices?  In fact if you were to buy the Barricato Bianco in a six-pack in the UK by direct mail order from Italy, it would work out at no more than £9.85 per bottle (it’s €7.90 at the estate), while I truly wonder if there is a better authentically made biodynamic wine available anywhere for its price than the 2015 Casa Conforto Chianti Superiore DOCG, which is available as a six-pack in the UK for £7.70 per bottle by direct mail-order, and which can be bought from the farm itself for €5.90.

The wine world is full of rapacious pricing, colossal pretentions and marketing deceptions.  But not here.

A taste of La Vialla

Strong points of the La Vialla range include many innovative sparkling wines and many successful cloudy (unfiltered) wines made with low sulphur levels, though not yet zero-sulphur wines.  The Vin Santo wines are exemplary.  Discerning the ‘energy’, ‘limpidity’ and ‘purity’ often ascribed to successful biodynamic wines is a subjective matter, but you might well find this in the fresh, poised reds.  There are of course no artificial additives or ‘adjustments’, and the Lo Franco family are great believers in the health benefits of polyphenols, so the reds are left as long as might be appropriately possible with their skins.  Less prominent use of oak on some of the more ambitious wines would be welcome, but winemaking (under the thoughtful and resourceful winemaker Marco Cervellera) is already heading that way.

Sparkling wines

Lo Chiffón Spumante 2015

An unfiltered spumante still containing its yeast deposits which you can either drink in limpid form by standing it up for a while, or in cloudy form (favoured at La Vialla) by inverting the bottle first.  The blend combines 40 per cent each of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the balance from Trebbiano.  It has a soft mousse, scents of orchard fruits and sliced white mushroom.  The flavours are very dry and closer to grape than apple, balanced by a softly yeasty bite.   88

Cuvée No 2 2012

A true traditional-method sparkler made from Pinot Nero grapes grown in Otrepò Pavese, and aged for 41 months on its lees; I tasted both a cloudy, unfiltered version and a limpid, filtered version.  I preferred the latter: clean, fine-spun spring flower and apple scents, with a poised, fresh flavour in which softer pear and bright lemon joins the apple.  89

White wines

Torbolino, Vino Bianco da Tavola 2016

This attractive and attractively priced blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Traminer, made from fruit grown in various small parcels on the La Vialla estate, has lots of clean, pretty aromatic lift: lemon and orange, with musky spice.  On the palate, the wine is bright and perfumed, yet has the depth and structure to work at table.  Zesty bitter orange on the finish.  There is also an unfiltered version which is inevitably yeastier, with less pure fruit aromatics.   90

Barricato Bianco, Bianco da Toscana IGT 2015

The Barricato Bianco began as a blend of selected Chardonnay and Malvasia fermented in 500-l barrels, and given lees stirring for 10 months; since 2014, though, the Malvasia has been replaced by Viognier.  Cloudy and full gold in colour, with complex, creamy, lush, rich flower-blossom scents.  On the palate, it is mellow, broad-beamed, nutty and rich, though not sweet in any way: a satisfying food white with plenty of intricate aromatic appeal.   90

Red wines

Casa Conforto, Chianti Superiore DOCG 2015

This blend of Sangiovese with 10% Canaiolo is very successful in 2015 and perfect now: perfumed black and red fruits with both spicy and savoury notes, and a vivid, deep palate moving from juicy sweet fruits at it opens to something a little more grippy and austere at the end.  Brilliant refreshment with complexity: an amazing buy for the €5.90 it costs at the estate.  91

Riserva, Casa Conforto, Chianti Superiore DOCG 2013

This blend for the Riserva level is 80% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo (aged in large Slavonian oak) with 10% Cabernet (aged in barriques).  More complex aromatically, with bergamot perfumes joining the red and black fruits; complex and intense on the palate, too, with no visible oak but ample savoury, woodland complexities to joint and structure the fruit.  92

LeccioMoro, Montecucco DOC 2015

The blend this time is Sangiovese with 10% Merlot, grown on clay-rich soils in the small DOC of Montecucco, close to Brunello but running on into the Upper Maremma.  It’s a deeper, more generous wine with rich, sensual plum scents and a savoury, earthy, amply expressive palate with plenty of textured fullness.  Another sure-fire BD bargain for €6 at the estate or £8.50 in the UK by mail-order.  91

Podere La Casotta, Rosso di Toscano IGT 2013

An intriguing and unique red wine made from five indigenous Tuscan varieties: Pugnitello (30%), Malvasia Nera (30%), Aleatico (20%), Colorino (10%) and Sangiovese (10%).  The Pugnitello and Colorino are fermented normally, then mixed with the other varieties after up to three months’ passito drying.  Further fermentation follows, followed by 18 months in mostly old barriques, six months after blending in concrete, then a further year in bottle.  Saturated dark black-red in colour, with a fascinating scent of sweet plums and prunes mingled with tar, warm attic dust and vanilla tobacco leaf.  The palate is deep, rich, exotic, almost explosive, with ample wild black fruits and surprisingly vivid acidity; there’s something a little tarrier on the finish.  Characterful, if a hard wine to place in a blind tasting.  90

Vin Santo

Occhio di Pernice, Vin Santo DOC 2010

La Vialla produces a a normal, light-walnut-coloured Vin Santo made from 70% Malvasia and 30% Trebbiano, but this ‘partridge-eye’ Vin Santo is made from a blend of 80% Sangiovese with 20% Trebbiano, dried between harvest and Christmas during which the grapes are attacked by noble rot.  The fruit is then softly pressed and both fermented and aged (for three years) in tiny 97-litre caratelli barrels.  The wine is russet-hued, with scent of caramel, apple and smoky root spices.  On the palate, it is rich, deep, searching, vivid and tangy; the caramel now has an intriguing bitter-edged complexity.   92 

Occhio di Pernice Riserva, Vin Santo DOC 2009

The Reserva version is made from 90% Sangiovese blended this time with 10% Malvasia and not Trebbiano, and the ageing period is longer.  Lingering, refined, elegant aromas which evoke red cherry fruits and fine moist vanilla pods with just a little Christmas spice.  The palate is long, seamless and much less caramel-led than the normale, the red fruits now honeyed, finely detailed yet seamless, wealthy yet graceful and almost floating.  Perfect afternoon sipping.  93

More Andrew Jefford columns on Decanter.com:

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Wine Legend: Vega Sicilia, Unico 1964

Decanter News - zo, 15/10/2017 - 13:00

Why it makes the Decanter hall of fame?

Vega Sicilia, Unico 1964Vega Sicilia, Unico 1964, Ribera del Duero, Spain

Bottles produced 96,000

Composition of blend 65% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, Malbec & Albillo

Yield N/A

Alcohol 13.5%

Release price 2,700 pesetas (equivalent to €16)

Price today £473 (average price at auction)

A legend because

Vega Sicilia is Spain’€s most prestigious estate, and, until the 1950s, probably the only one with an international reputation. Most of its production goes into a wine called Valbuena – it is made from younger vines and contains more Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon, and is aged for five years before release – but the finest parcels are reserved for Unico. This wine is produced only in the top vintages, and 1964 was truly outstanding in Ribera del Duero. It also happened to be the centenary of the founding of Vega Sicilia.

Looking back

The estate was founded in 1864 and planted mostly with French varieties brought back as cuttings from Bordeaux by Eloy Lecanda, whose father owned the property. These flourished alongside the local Tinto del Pais, today known as Tempranillo. By the early 20th century, Vega Siclia was already recognised for its supreme quality. But distribution was restricted primarily to friends of the family. In 1964, the company was under the stewardship of Jesús Anadón, who used his prestige to help found the Ribera del Duero DO in 1982.

The vintage

The winter was cold and rainy, but the summer was exemplary for vines, with cool nights alternating with hot days. The harvest took place in early October, also in fine conditions.

The terroir

The vines, of which a high proportion are old, occupy more than 200 hectares at an elevation of around 700 metres. The soils are dominated by limestone and schist, and the fact that many vineyards are planted on north-facing slopes means good acidity levels are retained in the grapes and wines. Although French varieties still play a part in the Vega Sicilia blends, the lion’s share is Tempranillo, which is trained as bush vines; by contrast, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are trained along wires using the Guyot system, as in Bordeaux. Green-harvesting, as well as the naturally low production of the old vines, keep yields in check. Harvesting is highly selective, with picking dates varying according to the variety, parcel and age of the vines.

The wine

The winemaking at Vega Sicilia has always been extremely complicated, and the winemakers have often been reluctant to spell out their techniques in any detail. What characterises Unico, a Gran Reserva, is that it is aged for many years both in small American and French oak barrels (coopered on the premises), both new and older, as well as in larger casks and sometimes cement tanks, often going back and forth between these options. The winemakers were aware of the risks of oxidation and volatile acidity, to which Unico is prone, so the barrels were always kept topped up. The process is prolonged as well as complex, and in some vintages the wine was aged for 16 years before being bottled and released (though more recent vintages have only spent about six years in wood). Inevitably, the blend varies slightly from year to year. Bottling dates could also vary, depending on the demand for the wine. The 1964 vintage, made by Jesús Anadón, began its life in large casks for two years, then a further two years in 575-litre barrels, and completed its ageing in mostly older barrels for a further seven years. It first appeared on the market in 1976.

The reaction

Decanter’€s Michael Broadbent, tasting the wine over a span of 10 years, remarked: ‘Initially tannic but eventually beautifully evolved.’€ He observed that Unico is a wine that requires decanting and proper aeration for the bouquet to display itself fully.

In 2001 Serena Sutcliffe MW of Sotheby’s detected ‘earthy mushrooms on the nose, with violets and aniseed. Lovely, opulent, Burgundian taste. Sweet, melting violetty fruit’.

More wine legends:

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How to have the best wine tasting experience

Decanter News - vr, 13/10/2017 - 17:28

Just one month till the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter in London. Here are our insider tips on how to make the most of your wine tasting experience…

Decanter World Wine Awards 2017 tastingGuests had the chance to try new wines they had not tasted before.
  • Arrive early: Brilliant winemakers have travelled from around the globe to showcase their wine and you’ve got a better chance of grabbing some time with them if you arrive at the Landmark hotel early.
  • Front-row masterclass seats: Going to one of the masterclasses? A queue will begin to snake down the side of the Landmark lounge area from around 20 minutes before the start of the class. Tables fill up from the front first, so planning ahead will give you a better chance of a good seat.
  • Social media: If you tweet or Instagram your favourite moment @Decanter with the #DecanterFWE hashtag then you could appear on our live coverage screen and win tickets to the Spain & Portugal Fine Wine Encounter in February.
  • Talk: If the virtual world is not so much your thing, then try the old fashioned method of striking up conversation with those around you. There are a lot of wines to taste and, chances are, the person next to you at the table has tried something that you simply wouldn’t want to miss.
  • Notes: Retired Decanter columnist Michael Broadbent‘s mantra is that everyone should make a note on every wine you try. It doesn’t have to be Pulitzer prose, but why not jot down a few words on the wines you particularly like. Trust us; it makes it much easier when it comes to choosing dinner party wines further down the line.
Last few Sunday Grand Tasting tickets are available for purchase… Click here for more information


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Vine & Vineyard wine quiz – Test your knowledge

Decanter News - vr, 13/10/2017 - 14:28

We all drink good wine, but how much do you know about where it comes from? Find out how much you know in our vine and vineyard quiz...

life cycle vineUnderstand the vine growing cycleScroll down and click into the box below to take the Decanter.com Vine & Vineyard wine quiz

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Anson: Bordeaux’s ‘Enfant Terrible’

Decanter News - do, 12/10/2017 - 09:34

Jane Anson meets a 'rebel winemaker' of Bordeaux and finds out why local wine officials have filed court action against him.

Dominique Léandre ChevalierVinification at Dominique Léandre ChevalierDominique Léandre Chevalier: Bordeaux’s ‘Enfant Terrible’

The Monopole de Bord’eaux Inférieur. That’s what the label proudly proclaims, above a photograph of a vineyard on the Ile de Patiras.

Dominique Léandre Chevalier

The label. Credit: Jane Anson.

The vines in question are within the AOC Bordeaux/Bordeaux Supérieur appellation, on one of the small Garonne islands that lie pretty much halfway between the banks of Pauillac and Blaye. And their apparent ‘demotion’ on the label, as you might expect, has caused something of a stir in the region over the past few weeks.

Dominique Léandre Chevalier, the winemaker who is responsible, is smiling at me broadly. We are tasting through a selection of his 24 different wines that include a 100% ‘Blanc de Noir’ from Cabernet Sauvignon, in both sparkling (pet-nat or méthode ancestral) and still versions, made both with and without malolactic fermentation, and with or without oak ageing.

Next up is an oxidized sous-voile-style white made from 100% Merlot. In the garden just outside our tasting area is an oak vat where the first year of a solera system wine is beginning its journey. Others in the range include a 100% Malbec, an ungrafted Petit Verdot and Merlot reds from plantings at both 11,000 vines and 33,000 vines per hectare (the average in his area is somewhere close to 5,000).

I guess what I’m saying is this is not a man likely to be overly worried by the reaction to his Bord’eaux Inferieur joke.

‘It simply seemed impossible for me to label the wine AOC Bordeaux Supérieur when the vines are planted at between 3,000 and 4,000 vines per hectare, when I compare them to my vines in Blaye that are planted at 5,000, 10,000, 11,111 and 33,333 per hectare. I know the quality improvement of high density plantation, and I wanted to emphasise that my Ile de Patiras wines are fruity, fresh and meant for early consumption. It is not supposed to be taken too seriously’.

It was, however, taken seriously by the officials at the Bordeaux wine syndicate, as you might expect. The Merlot-dominant wine was being sold exclusively through French supermarket Monoprix at its September wine fair, as a Vin de France (he didn’t have quite the chutzpah to go for that name under the AOC Bordeaux certification).

It has now been removed from sale (or, as Léandre-Chevalier puts it, ‘the promotion has now ended and I have plenty of other wines to concentrate on’) pending a court case.

‘The wine comes from vines on the Ile de Patiras in the Gironde estuary,’ says Eric Morain, the lawyer representing Léandre-Chevalier and a little more on-message than his client. ‘They are on the lowest-lying part of the Estuary, right on the water, hence the use of the wordplay (in French, Superieur and Inferieur can mean higher and lower). It is meant to entertain not to mislead’.

‘Even if word play, clearly the use of the word Bordeaux on a Vin de France wine, that should be without specific geographic reference, is misleading,’ was the reply of Florian Reyne, director of the Bordeaux/Bordeaux Supérieur wine syndicate given to the local press.

Let’s back up just a little at this point. Dominique Léandre Chevalier is a winemaker who I have been reading about for years. Known as – let me surprise you – the rebel winemaker or ‘enfant terrible’ of Bordeaux, his estate is more usually written as DLC (luckily his actual initials, thereby neatly avoiding I expect another law suit).

I drove up to see him this week, through the snaking roads of Bourg and Blaye to the village of Anglade, where the DLC sign sits on a road just set back from the Estuary. The land is higher here than on the Médoc side, with some of the same gravelly soils, coupled with clay and limestone, and particularly this section is home to many fine terroirs that have fallen out of fashion but were once highly sought after.

I can’t help feeling that DLC should be in Bourg – the neighbouring appellation that is famous for going its own way and refusing to be part of the Côtes de Bordeaux grouping – but instead it is no doubt doing great work for the marketing of Blaye, even if over half of DLC wines are bottled under Vin de France.

‘I can make appellation wines,’ he says, welcoming me fresh from a morning spent (very amicably apparently) with the fraud office in connection to the Patiras wine, ‘although what is on the label is less important to me than the creativity of producing things that interest me’.

That hardly needs saying when you look at his range of bottles, but Léandre-Chevalier is more than clever marketing, and is a winemaker truly worth getting to know. The estate, originally known as Château le Queyroux, has been in his family for three generations and now broken up into smaller parts between him and his two sisters. He started his career as an ornamental plasterer with the Compagnons de Tour de France, an organisation of craftsman and artisans that dates back to the Middle Ages and producers some of the most highly-skilled specialists in the French building trade.

‘I only became interested in wine in my late 20s, when I began to see how it was part of my own heritage and history. But I always knew that I would have to do things my way’.

This has meant, among other things, concentrating initially on only 3.2 hectares of vines, that he works entirely with shire horses and a hand-drawn plough, with zero chemicals used (‘but I am not certified organic, because it feels dishonest when neighbouring estates use chemicals’). More recently he has taken over from his sister on the Ile de Patrias and has bought a separate estate in his village that he has renamed Jardin sur Anglade to make what he terms ‘creative wines’ (that include the Blanc de Noirs, among others).

This is a winemaker who is constantly questioning – he has bottled the exact same wine under both Vin de France and Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux to draw attention to the unfair price ceiling that the Côtes suffer from, and has bottled others in Bordeaux and Burgundy bottles to test consumer perceptions. I enjoyed tasting through the wines, and they left me wondering why more winemakers in Bordeaux are not more creative with the local grapes.

Will he win his court case? It seems unlikely. But he’ll add to the myth of the enfant terrible along the way, which perhaps amounts to the same thing.

Dominique Léandre Chevalier: Wines to Try DLC Perles de Gironde Vin de France 2015

Méthode ancestrale, meaning just one fermentation in bottle, capped to capture the CO2. No addition of sugar or liquer d’expedition and unoaked. This is from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and is ‘vinous’ in flavour, surprisingly well structured with gentle bubbles. Full of flavour, a good discovery and hugely refreshing to find someone making this style in Bordeaux.

12%abv. 88.

DLC Blanc Noir Vin de France 2016

A white wine made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, unoaked (this is also the base wine for the bubbles). Clean, crisp, a little thin though the mid palate but fresh with good florality.


DLC Blanc Noir Vin de France 2015

100% Cabernet Sauvignon separated from the skins to make a white wine, but here oaked and with lees stirring to add weight. He suggests that consumers shake the bottle before opening to get the lees back in suspension, emphasing the ‘natural wine’ feel. I would never identify this blind, I can tell you that right now. Almost Chardonnay like in terms of texture, although more rich pear than citrus, it has weight and creaminess with a touch of salinity, even bitterness, on the finish.


Le Joyeau de Chateau le Queyroux AOC Cotes de Blaye 2011

Here you see him flexing his winemaking muscles in a more serious wine. Planted at 10,000 vines per hectare, with integral vinification and ageing in new oak barrels, this is a blend of old vine Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, 100% free run juice so no press used. You find again a touch of salinity on the finish, fleshing out gently brambled fruits and soft woodsmoke. This is an excellent wine that also delivered in the 2013 vintage that we tried. A good calling card.


More from Jane Anson: 

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Tanker driver siphoned off thousands of litres of wine – report

Decanter News - do, 12/10/2017 - 09:00

A tanker driver was arrested last week after allegedly siphoning off several thousand litres of wine into a basement on his parents' property near Carcassonne, south west France.

tanker driver wineThe driver siphoned off wine from the tanker to a basement.

Following a call-out to an altercation two kilometres east of Carcassonne, police found two men fighting in front of a 28,000L (litre) wine tanker parked outside a house with a 30m flexible pipe running from the tanker’s valves into the basement of the house’s garage.

One of the men, from a tanker company based in Montredon-des-Corbières, near Narbonne, more than 60km further east, had confronted one of his drivers outside the house of the driver’s parents.

According to regional newspaper L’Independant,  he had suspected the driver of appropriating hundreds of litres of wine over the course of several months, or possibly years.

Further investigation reportedly found a series of 20L buckets full of wine stored in the basement, plus around 100 buckets hidden outside the garage and more arranged under a tarpaulin on the back of a truck.

The tanker itself was believed to have been topped up with water, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources.

The tanker driver, 52, and his parents, both in their 70s, were brought into police custody under suspicion of embezzlement and sale of the wine.

Both parents were released without charge after the driver pleaded guilty, admitting the embezzled wine was used to barter goods. He faces trial in February 2018, reported L’Independant.

More stories like this:

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws


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