With so many great bars in London, where should Champagne aficionados visit? Expert reviewer Julie Sheppard shares her recommendations... In partnership with The Platinum Card® from American Express®.
In partnership with The Platinum Card® from American Express®.
There’s a sprinkling of celebrity stardust at this bar, where previous regulars include Elizabeth Taylor and Mick Jagger. It’s also the room where Oscar Wilde fell in love with Lord Alfred Douglas. A glittering celebration of elaborate Louis XVI decoration with mirrored walls, this is the place to come for a decadent Champagne afternoon tea. The house pour is Laurent-Perrier – £15 for a glass of Brut NV, £25 for Rosé – alongside vintage cuvées like Dom Pérignon 2006 (£215 a bottle).Beaufort Bar at the Savoy
The internationally acclaimed American Bar steals the limelight at the Savoy, but savvy Champagne-lovers should visit the seductive Beaufort Bar. Once the hotel’s cabaret stage, where George Gershwin played, today it’s an Art Deco vision in black and gold, with sleek service. The Champagne list is arranged by style from crisp and fresh (Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV, £26 a glass, £115 a bottle) to rich and characterful (Pol Roger’s Cuvée Winston Churchill 2002, £90/£385). There’s also an eye-catching selection of Louis Roederer cuvées in large formats, up to the nine-litre Salamanazar.Champagne Room at The Connaught
This bijou bar is a hidden gem, concealed behind a velvet curtain, and with space for just 25 people (note that reservations aren’t taken). Blue leather banquettes, bronze mirrored tables and Baccarat crystal create a sumptuous setting for Champagne and caviar. Pair Imperial Oscietra with a glass of Krug Grand Cuvée NV (£65) or Billecart-Salmon’s Cuvée Nicholas Francois 2002 (£295 a bottle). Cocktails include the Dickens Noir, a twist on a French 75 made with Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée. Finally, don’t forget to look up: the large skylight frames a striking sculpture of a diver by artist Sophie Dickens.Claridges Bar
One of the classiest places in the capital to toast special occasions, Claridge’s Bar embodies the unique style of the iconic hotel. Designed by David Collins, it’s both small enough to be intimate but large enough to be deliciously buzzy. The Champagne list is a who’s who of producers, ranging from grand marques such as Veuve Clicquot to smaller names like Bruno Paillard. Big spenders can splash out on coveted older vintages, including Cristal 2002 at £690 and Salon 1971 for a cool £5,800. Cocktails include The Flapper, a signature mix of Champagne, fresh strawberries and crème de cassis.J Sheekey Atlantic Bar
Putting the ‘chic’ in Sheekey, this popular Theatreland bar boasts a brightly coloured terrace that’s ideal for alfresco bubbles on summer days. Inside, the marble-topped horseshoe bar is surrounded by black-and-white prints of screen and stage stars hung on glossy wood-panelled walls. Top Le Mesnil producer Delamotte is the house pour (£15 per glass/£75 for a bottle) but other notable labels include Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs NV (£160 a bottle) and Perrier- Joüet’s elegant Belle Époque (£310). To eat? Sample native oysters, a decadent fruits de mer platter or the classic Sheekey’s fish pie.Kettner’s Townhouse Champagne Bar
Soho institution Kettner’s was opened in 1867 by chef Auguste Kettner and was one of the first restaurants in London to serve French food. Today it’s part of the Soho House Group which has added its signature luxe. The Champagne Bar channels early Art Deco, with a gorgeous walnut bar topped with marble. A generous ice bucket is stacked with bottles for by-the-glass pours (your choice of flute or coupe) including Drappier Zero Dosage (£15 for a flute) and Bollinger Grande Année Rosé (£28 for a coupe).Texture Champagne Bar
This smart and airy little bar has an award-winning Champagne list that offers a huge selection. With over 140 different cuvées by the bottle and five more by the glass – including Charles Heidsieck Rosé 2006 (£20) – fizz fans are spoiled for choice. As well as outstanding older vintages, like Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2000 (£185 per bottle), there’s also a wonderful range of grower Champagnes from lesser-known names like Ambonnay producer Eric Rodez. As you’d expect from the bar at a one-star Michelin restaurant, creative snacks such as crisp cod skin wafers are a cut above.
Julie Sheppard writes about bars, drinks and food for Waitrose Drinks. Time Out Square Meal and Decanter.
This article was created by Decanter as part of a wine and dine guide produced in partnership with The Platinum Card by American Express.Promotion
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Warm, sunny weather throughout June and July has prompted early harvests in northern Europe with Champagne and Alsace the latest to get underway this week.
Grape pickers were preparing to get started in a handful of Champagne communes on 21 August, according to the region’s Comité Champagne.
Further east, Alsace winemakers were also preparing to begin picking grapes for Crémant sparkling wines from 22 August.
The news follows a record early harvest across the border in Germany, brought on largely by consecutive weeks of warm and sunny weather in June and July.
In Alsace, some producers expressed concern to Le Monde newspaper that it might be difficult to find enough grape pickers in August.
However, the Alsace Winemakers’ Association (AVA) has set the later date of 3 September as the start of harvesting for still, appellation wines in the region.
In Champagne, it’s been a year of extremes to some extent. Growers and houses saw record winter rainfall, with 345mm falling from November 2017 to January 2018. That beats the previous high of 338mm set in 1965, according to the Comité.
A prolonged, cold winter then gave way to good weather through flowering in early June and temperature and sunshine hours well above long-term averages.
Optimism around the vintage was high, said the Comité, which has set yields as 10,800kg per hectare.
Yields are set with one eye on the market and there is an assumption that global Champagne sales in 2018 will not grow significantly versus 2017 in volume terms, albeit exports were expected to lead any increase.
In Germany, the first grapes for 2018 wines were picked for partially fermented ‘Federweisser’ in Rheinhessen on 6 August, following the country’s warmest April since statisticians began compiling figures.
Germany’s wine institute said that there was optimism around the potential harvest quality, although some growers had faced intense water stress and needed to irrigate on younger vines and vineyards on shallow soils, in particular.
Rain in August has offered welcome respite to some.
‘After the rain of the past days, the the berry size is increasing and maturation is clearly noticeable and very advanced for this time of the year,’ Dr Ernst Loosen, the celebrated producer in the Mosel area, told Decanter.com.
‘Before the rain the ripening process was somewhat “blocked” by the dryness.’
Loosen said that he expected to begin harvesting on 10 September, around one week earlier than normal, and added that grapes were looking ‘very, very good’ following initial analysis.
But uneven and rapid ripening could create an intensive harvest period.
‘The harvesting window will probably be rather small and we expect to do a lot of selection work, to separate the different ripeness levels of the bunches on the vines,’ Loosen said.
Anne Krebiehl MW, an expert on German wine, said that the heatwaves of recent weeks were seen as a boon in the most northerly areas. ‘Just look at the smiling faces of growers in Saale-Unstrut – or England,’ she said.
See also:French wine harvest to rebound in 2018, say officials
The post Champagne and Alsace follow Germany with early 2018 harvest appeared first on Decanter.
Andrew Jefford throws a proverbial bone to horizontal wine tasting, which he feels is underrated in today's world of writing and criticism.Horizontal wine tasting is the 'underdog', says Andrew Jefford.
Wine lovers are used to thinking about horizontal and vertical, especially when it comes to tasting. A horizontal tasting enables a range of wines from the same year to be compared: the emphasis is on the difference between wines. A vertical tasting looks at just one wine through a range of different years, emphasizing the difference in vintages. That’s a useful distinction.
I’d suggest, though, that horizontal and vertical thinking in wine goes far beyond that, permeating our approach to wine more generally – and to disastrous effect. We’d enjoy wine much more if we could abandon thinking about it in a vertical sense, and throw all our energy into thinking about it in a horizontal sense. Here’s what I mean.
Few wine lovers drink one type of wine alone, to the exclusion of all others. Almost all of those who love wine love its diversity. No other alcoholic drink matches wine’s multitudes. It’s a kind of sensual barometer for difference itself, reflecting the ever-changing places and climates in which vines are grown, and the variety of cultures and talents of the craftswomen and craftsmen who vinify it. If I taste wine, I taste difference.
How, though, do we go about sorting those differences?
The best way is horizontally, which means prizing the differences as sacrosanct, and giving them our full attention: enjoying difference for itself.
Some differences in wine are well-understood, and comparisons have long been easy and enjoyable to make: a left-bank, Cabernet-dominated Bordeaux, for example, compared to a right-bank, Merlot-dominated counterpart; a Barbaresco compared to a Barolo; or a Rioja compared to a Ribera del Duero. In the latter two cases, the principle comparison is between places – close and nuanced in the Piedmontese example, more distant and dramatic in the Spanish. The subtle contrast in place in the Bordeaux example is gently amplified by varietal difference.
The fact that the southern hemisphere is principally planted at present with a small number of ‘international’ varieties makes the act of contrasting differences in place and wine-making culture and technique straightforward. Chardonnay, Cabernet or Syrah act as reagents for those differences; Pinot, too, for cooler climate locations. Tasting each wine as an individual, in which those differences are inerasably inscribed, is a fascinating and rewarding experience: a Tumbarumba Chardonnay against a Margaret River or Adelaide Hills counterpart, for example, or Pinot Noir from different parts of New Zealand and of Oregon. This is how you can travel the world and meet winemakers without ever getting up from your kitchen table by the waterside in Tromsø, on a farm in rural Minnesota or in a tower block in Singapore.
Sadly, though, the horizontal approach is the underdog, at least at present. The near-universal habit of scoring wines has had a catastrophic effect: the vertical approach to appreciating differences between wines is top dog.
Take five well-made wines of interest: all are different. All provide pleasure, of different sorts.
Now give those five wines a score each: suddenly you have a vertical suite of difference. There is a ‘best’. There is a ‘worst’. There’s a ‘second from bottom’, a ‘middling wine’ and a ‘second best’. There are, in other words, four losers and one winner, as Hugh Johnson pointed out many years ago.
What happens to the losers? Their differences are now downplayed and disparaged. We focus, if we focus on anything, on their ‘failings’: the things which meant that they weren’t ‘the winner’.
Never mind that those might be the very things that, on another day and with an unencumbered mind, we might have appreciated most about those wines; never mind that on another day our scores for the wines might have been reversed. Not only have we ruined our experience of the differences between the wines, but we have also erased the opportunities we might have had for deriving pleasure from each.
The negative effects of a vertical approach to wine don’t stop there. Too much focus on scores, on winners and on losers fuels price inflation, as the winners (or their sales intermediaries) ramp up their prices to grotesque extent (the subject of my essay last week).
It leads to an unhealthy emphasis on brands, which are inimical to the highest forms of wine culture.
It leads to price gouging: look at the flagrant examples of this associated with the white wines of assorted, often modest origin now vinified and marketed at eye-watering prices by Médoc classed growths.
It leads to a burgeoning population of label drinkers: wealthy, status-conscious folk who crave only ‘the best’, unaware of how fallible, empty and unsatisfactory that concept can be when applied to wine.
It creates perfect victims for the kind of deceitfulness practiced not simply by the Kurnawians of the wine world, but by the army of commonplace counterfeiters who have flourished over the last decade in China.
You might argue that there are some benefits to the vertical approach to wine. This is true. I wrote “five well-made wines of interest” in the example above. A vertical approach will help you set aside wines which are not well-made (though there are few of those nowadays outside the ‘natural’ circuit) and set aside uninteresting wines (of which examples abound). Verticality has its place.
It also, though, needs to be kept in its place: locked up in a kennel. Only the loping, smiling, slurping, affectionate and limitlessly gentle hound of horizontality can ensure you derive maximum pleasure from the wine world and all of its beautiful differences. Forget ‘the best’. Keep high scores at bay, as simply one attribute of a wine amongst many. Embrace difference.
Read the first two of Andrew Jefford’s ‘August essays’:Wine and money The search for purity in wine
Exclusively for Premium subscribers:A re-tasting of wines from the 2014 vintage from St-Estèphe
Seen ‘Frizzante’ on a bottle of sparkling wine but not sure what that means?What does frizzante mean on a wine?What does ‘frizzante’ mean? Ask Decanter
Frizzante means it is only lightly sparkling, whereas ‘spumante’ has more fizz to it.
‘Frizzante is made using the charmat method; a low CO2 level, offering between 1 and 2.5 bars of pressure at 20˚C, so only very lightly sparkling,’ said Andrea Briccarello, in his guide to Lambrusco in Decanter’s Italy supplement 2016.
‘Spumate is mostly made by the charmat method, though some use the traditional method. Pressure is a minimum 3 bars at 20˚C, so more sparkle than in the frizzante wines.’
Fully sparkling wines must be at minimum three bars pressure according to EU regulation.
Frizzante styles are defined as semi-sparkling by regulation. Other styles like this include French pétillant.
‘The bubbles can come from partial fermentation or rifermentation, in vat or bottle,’ said Richard Baudains, Decanter World Wine Awards regional chair for Veneto.Prosecco Rive: Wines pushing the boundaries – exclusive to Decanter Premium members When would you drink a frizzante wine?
‘Generalising a bit, you could say frizzanti are a good choice when you want a joyful, quintessentially Italian, democratically priced wine that you can cheerfully polish off a bottle of,’ said Baudains.
‘But some frizzanti are food wines – such as Lambrusco; others are aperitifs – like Prosecco and others are dessert wines, such as Asti.’Does it change the flavour?
In technical terms, no, a wine being frizzante does not affect the flavour.
‘But all frizzanti are made from grapes with distinctive varietal characters, by processes that aim to keep in the fruit and aroma, so they are [often] tasty wines,’ said Baudains.See also Champagne bubble size: Does it matter? See more wine questions here
A new wave of young winemakers, scientists, négociants and château owners is helping to shape the future of Bordeaux. Elin McCoy introduces four of the region’s leading lights...
Originally published in the Decanter magazine Bordeaux supplement 2018 and now available for the first time online, only for Premium subscribers...
The city of Bordeaux is basking in its transformation from dark, staid wine capital to vibrant tourism destination, with buzzing wine bars, scrubbed-white buildings, a revived riverfront and, of course, the curvy La Cité du Vin museum. Mirroring these changes, an emerging generation of 30-something scientists, château owners, négociants, winemakers and consultants is bringing new excitement and direction to the region’s wine industry.Elin McCoy is an award-winning journalist and author who writes for Bloomberg News
Ian D’Agata selects his star vineyard sites across Italy, and we include wine recommendations from Decanter's expert tasters.
Originally published in the May 2016 issue of Decanter magazine and now available for the first time online, only for Premium subscribers...
For the most part Italy is nirvana for wine terroiristes; the country has always been associated with myriad specific terroirs linked to unique wines.
In ancient Roman times, many wines were distinguished by their place of growth on a slope or hill: hence, Gauranum (top), Faustianum (middle) and Falernum (foot).Scroll down to see the top Italian vineyards and wine recommendations You might also like: Best Italian wines: A selection of the greatest Off the beaten track: 10 hidden gems in Southern Italy Piedmont new releases: Full report
Have you read the latest issue of Decanter magazine? Test your knowledge with our latest quiz...Test your knowledgeDecanter magazine quiz – September 2018 issue
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The Barolo 2010 vintage is a keeper, and there's still time for the canny buyer to stock up. See our in-depth report below...
Originally published in Decanter magazine's April 2015 issue and now available online in full, exclusively for Premium members
- 134 Barolo 2010 wines submitted and tasted, with three rated Outstanding
- ‘Quality in the region is better than ever before, particularly at the lower levels,’ said our panel of Ian D’Agata, Michael Garner and Emily O’Hare
The post From the archive: Barolo 2010 panel tasting results appeared first on Decanter.
Find out which retailers have made the shortlist at this year's Decanter Retailer of the Year Awards...
Entries to the Decanter Retailer Awards 2018 have been judged on the individual retailers’ quality, value, range, service, innovation and performance over the previous year.
Our panel of expert judges convened at 67 Pall Mall to debate entrants during a day of judging earlier this month. Their aim was to reward, encourage and highlight the UK’s best wine retailers, to help wine lovers in the country find great bottles to enjoy.
Final results will be announced on 20 September at a ceremony at the OXO2 in central London.Who were this year’s judges?
- Peter Richards MW, Awards Chairman –Wine Writer and Presenter on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen
- Peter Ranscombe – Wine columnist and drinks blogger for the Scottish Field
- Matt Walls – Freelance wine writer
- Andy Howard MW – Decanter contributor and wine writer
- Fiona Beckett – Food and wine writer, matchingfoodandwine.com
Marks & Spencer
Woodwinters Wines & Whiskies
Borough Wines & Beers
Lea & Sandeman
Berry Bros & Rudd
Lea & Sandeman
The Good Wine Shop
Connaught Wine Cellars
Noble Green Wines
Bon Coeur Fine Wines
D. Byrne & Co
House of Townend
Nickolls and Perks
Slurp Wine Company
The Pip Stop
Z&B Vintners/ The Vinorium
Cru World Wine
Lay & Wheeler
Slurp Wine Company
The Natural Wine Co/ Buon Vino
The Wine Society
Berry Bros & Rudd
BI Wines & Spirits
Goedhuis & Co
Justerini & Brooks
Lea & Sandeman
Nickolls and Perks
Berry Bros & Rudd
Goedhuis & Co
Justerini & Brooks
Lay & Wheeler
Lea & Sandeman
Nickolls and Perks
The Finest Bubble
The Good Wine Shop
Justerini & Brooks
Lea & Sandeman
Lay & Wheeler
The Wine Society
Lay & Wheeler
Berry Bros & Rudd
Lay & Wheeler
Bl Wines & Spirits
The Wine Society
Berry Bros & Rudd
Connaught Wine Cellars
BI Wines & Spirits
Corney & Barrow
Goedhuis & Co
Lay & Wheeler
Lay & Wheeler – Fine Wine Discovery Club
The Daily Drinker
There are no shortlists for these categories. Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on 20 September 2018.Winners of this year’s awards will be announced at the Retailer of the Year Awards Presentation Ceremony at The OXO2, London on 20 September 2018. See the winners from the 2017 Retailer Awards Back to the Decanter Retailer Awards homepage
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Ever wondered where the Decanter team go on holiday? Our in-house team recommend where to eat and drink, from their own trips. Decanter Digital Content Manager Ellie Douglas shares her insider guide below...Fishing boats and ships in the harbor of Ponta Delgada Where to go in Ponta Delgada: A wine lover’s guide
São Miguel is the main island of the Azores, and Ponta Delgada is the main Port town – but it’s easy explore the rest of this beautiful island from here.
You’ll find plenty of great local produce which is reflected in the menus when you eat out; plenty of of local seafood and beef. It’s also easy to eat out well for a great price here.
Whilst only a small bit of wine is made on this island, we mostly stuck to drinking wines from the other islands – for example, Pico produces a fair amount.
Ponta Delgada is also the international airport for all of the islands. It’s four hours to Ponta Delgada from London, and also from the East Coast of the USA.
The flight paths to the islands are only going to increase over the next few years, so visit soon before everyone else does…Tasquinha Vieira
When you walk in to Tasquinha Vieira, you could be going into a trendy wine bar in Dalston, with a stylish, minimalist interior.
The open kitchen means you can watch the chefs at work.
The menu is small and often changing; we enjoyed slow cooked beef, with a sharp salsa verde, and fresh tuna steak with risotto.
We went fairly early in the evening, so could walk in, but it is small, so booking could be a good idea.See also: Azores islands travel guide À Terra, Azor hotel
Steak is the real speciality here, the restaurant in a stylish, 5* hotel. There are glass cases of cuts of meat through the restaurant, as well as an extensive collection of wines on display.
If you can, go for one of the sharing steaks; but be warned, they are huge.
There is also a pizza oven, for freshly made delicate, thin crust pizzas, so there is plenty of choice aside from the meat.
After dinner, head to the ‘whale watching’ rooftop bar, for an exotic cocktail, or the downstairs bar where the enomatic machines are.
This is also a lovely hotel to stay in, with excellent breakfast and friendly staff.Big 21
Don’t let the slightly bizarre name put you off this restaurant.
Another spot for lovely local seafood, and a great burger, as well as excellent desserts, with huge thought behind flavours and textures.
This is also where we had our favourite wine of the trip – Curral Atlantis, Colheita Selcionada 2017, from Pico, which is sadly not available in the UK to enjoy again.Restaurant Ramires
This was an accidental find, walking along the marina in the sunshine and looking for some lunch.
Go here for a taste of authentic Portuguese piri piri chicken – a long way away from Nandos.
Sit back with chicken, chips, tomato salad and the local island beer ‘Especial’, made on the island, looking over the ocean. Even better, our meal for two came in at just under 20 euros.Things to do
Make time in your trip to head over to Furnas, North East of Ponta Delgada. Hike around the lakes, and visit the hot springs.
Visit the town of Furnas itself, where restaurants specialise in the local delicacy – stews made up of chicken, local sausage and beans, which are slow-cooked directly in the hot springs.
Travel East from Ponta Delgada along the coast, where you can pick up a small 10-minute boat to the islet of Vila Franco do Campo. Take a picnic and spend the day at this natural pool.
On the north of the island, you’ll find black beaches, or take a trip west for the views of Sete Cidades lakes.
The post Where to go in Ponta Delgada: A wine lover’s guide appeared first on Decanter.
Our experts praised the diversity and value of these ageable Loire Chenin Blancs, many from the 2015 and 2014 vintages. Read the full report below.
Published in the February 2017 issue of Decanter magazine and now available online and in full, exclusuvely for Premium subscribers.
- 169 wines tasted, with one rated Outstanding
- ‘A positive tasting that showed off the terroir-driven nature of dry Loire Chenin Blanc and its differing styles,’ said our panel of Jim Budd, Chris Kissack and Ben Llewelyn
With 169 wines entered, we had the opportunity to assess Chenin Blanc from across the Loire, writes Jim Budd in Decanter’s February 2017 issue. It was also very positive that there was such a good entry despite the recent short vintages and the effects of 2016’s late April frost on stock.You might also like: Domaine Huet: Profile and tasting report on latest releases Getting better with age: Old-vine Chenin Blanc in South Africa Top Loire Cabernet Franc: Panel tasting results
The post From the archive: Dry Loire Chenin Blanc – panel tasting results appeared first on Decanter.
Andrew Jefford reflects on this year's Decanter World Wine Awards judging and highlights Chile as one nation that he would love to show greater diversity, notwithstanding its winemakers' success to date.Chile won several Platinums and Golds at DWWA 2018, but Andrew Jefford would like its winemakers to go further.
One of the pleasures of co-chairing the Decanter World Wine Awards is that my colleagues and I take a peep at wines from everywhere – and with 17,000 wines in contention, that’s quite a privilege.
The two weeks of judging, moreover, lead us on a kind of trek from base camp through the uplands of Silver, Gold and Platinum towards the summit of the 50 ‘Best in Show’. There’s grand scenery to admire along the way. The journey this year set me thinking about the question of national character in wine.
Should it exist? Of course: every wine-producing nation sits in a certain position on the face of the earth, and is subject to a particular set of climate parameters. It may possess preponderant soil types; then there are national palates to please, with their own set of likes and dislikes.
What the greatest wine-producing nations can offer, though, are a set of soundly conceived, gastronomically informed, expressive values, which are offset by ample differences both regional and stylistic.
Italy and France both manage this kind of vinous ‘theme and variations’ exceptionally successfully. Perhaps both nations are lucky with their variety of key latitudes, sites and soils; both countries, of course, have had many hundreds of years to refine regional differences. Since humans only get to make wine once a year, it’s hard to shortcut this process. The key for newer wine-producing nations may be to increase varietal diversity, not so much for the print of the varieties themselves but because this liberates and encourages growers to embrace new styles and forms of expression.
Australia, this year’s DWWA showed, can boast more regional differences than many drinkers give it credit for, and its wine creators, too, are clearly interested in stylistic experiment. Spain grows in confidence and attainment every year. Among smaller producing nations, I was hugely impressed by what Canada is managing to achieve: tiny production, but a wide range of styles with often limpid and unfussy vineyard expression.
If I had to pick one nation, by contrast, which I would love to see show greater expressive diversity, it would be Chile. Let me explain, because there’s a puzzle here.
We’ve long known that Chile’s wine-growing zones have an unmatched aptitude for viticulture; it’s beyond question that Chile offers some of the world’s finest value wines. Chile’s remarkable export successes would not have been possible without skilled and sensitive winemakers. Its winemaking community, moreover, understands the imperatives of fine winemaking and site expression as well as it does the delivery of value and consistency in branded wines.See Chilean Platinum medal winners at DWWA 2018
For me, the challenge seems to be viticultural. There is a ‘Chilean cast’ to too many of the country’s wines, at every level, even those from newer regions or those made with the highest quality ambitions. The frank herbaceousness that was so familiar in the past – particularly with Merlot and Carmenère – is on the wane; nonetheless even the most ambitious wines seem to find it hard not to convey a sense of the green plant lurking behind the fruit, casting a faint shadow across the fruit. This is true of the white wines as well as reds. The puzzle is that it often accompanies ample ripeness; it’s not necessarily a trait of mixed ripeness or under-ripeness, as so often elsewhere.
It’s not, let me be clear, a blemish; indeed it may be that faithful fans of Chilean wines around the world lock on to this trait as being something they particularly like. I like it on occasion; it can come across as freshness. The problem is its ubiquity, over-shadowing the regional and stylistic differences which might otherwise sing out.
Forget oak, of course. If Chile could succeed in bonding its remarkable purity and charm of fruit to whites of taut vinous structure, and to reds in which texture and ripe tannic structures combine to efface the memory of plant and leaf and tendril, it would have the world at its feet.
Andrew Jefford is a Decanter contributing editor and the Louis Roederer International Columnist of 2016 for this and his ‘Jefford on Monday‘ column. He is currently writing series of ‘August essays’ on Decanter.com, of which the latest concerns the influence of money on the world’s top wines.See more Decanter magazine articles from the September 2018 issue
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Travel guide experts Lonely Planet have listed the world’s top food experiences, with sampling Pintxos in San Sebastián the number one choice. See which others made the list...
The Lonely Planet Ultimate Eatlist has ranked what its contributors and editors believe are the top 500 food experiences on the planet.
The guide asked its food writers, bloggers and staff members to list their best favourite gastronomic moments.
With this list, the panel of Lonely Planet food editors along with chef and TV presenter Adam Liaw and food blogger Leyla Kazim evaluated choices. They took into consideration factors such as the taste of the dish, its cultural importance, and the special atmosphere of the location, the guide said.
San Sebastián is a gastronomic hotspot, but it was the local delicacy of Pintxos took gave it the top spot.
The guide argues there is no ‘better way to explore a culture’s cuisine than pintxos in San Sebastián’ and that ‘almost every local ingredient is represented.’
For more food and wine choices, tapas and Sherry in Seville came in at number 62.
‘Years of experience and refinement have gone into the delectable titbits that the Spanish serve with a small glass of something. And when that drink is an austere, aged manzanilla, a bone-dry fino, or deep amontillado, the food and wine pairing becomes next-level sublime,’ said the guide.
It recommends visiting the ‘classic Seville hang-out El Rinconcillo at C/ Gerona 40. Or try the traditional Las Teresas.’
This was followed by traditional boeuf bourguignon in Burgundy, to be enjoyed with a local wine, at number 63.
‘You’ll find boeuf bourguignon on the menu wherever you go in Burgundy… but numerous restaurants in the region’s capital, Beaune, do their own version of the ‘true’ dish.’
They recommend 21 Boulevard, 21 blvd Saint-Jacques, Beaune, where the dining room is in a 15th-century stone wine cellar.
Other top food experiences in wine regions include:
- Spaghetti alla vongole in Positano, Campania (58);
- Truffles – and Barolo – in Piedmont (90);
- Gluwein (mulled wine) in Germany (115);
- Scallop pie in Tasmania (185).
- Pintxos in San Sebastián, Spain
- Curry laksa in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Sushi in Tokyo, Japan
- Beef brisket in Texas, USA
- Som tum in Bangkok, Thailand
- Smørrebrød in Copenhagen, Denmark
- Crayfish in Kaikoura, New Zealand
- Bibimbap in Seoul, South Korea
- Pizza margherita in Naples, Italy
- Dim sum in Hong Kong
If you’re heading to San Sebastián:Txakoli wines to discover: Everything you need to know about this style
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Michaela Morris gets a fascinating insight into the future plans of this historic winery and reports on a tasting of vintages going back to the 1930s...
‘We changed everything to change nothing,’ says winemaker Andrea Farinetti, revelling in the paradox.
Beneath the sleepy streets of the Barolo township, we are in Borgogno’s modest tasting room deep within the original cellars. To demonstrate his vision for the future, Farinetti takes me back into the past by opening up a vertical of Borgogno’s Barolo Riserva back to 1937.Scroll down to see Michaela’s tasting notes & scores You might also like: Le Pergole Torte: One of Italy’s most consistent wines ‘Every collector needs one’: Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello Riserva Piedmont new releases: Full report
Rated as one of the top all-time vintages in Montalcino, many unheralded producers did very well in this tasting and some of the wines are now coming into their drinking windows. See the in-depth report below...
Originally published in Decanter magazine's December 2015 issue and now available online in full, exclusively for Premium members.
- This tasting: 99 Brunello di Montalcino 2010 wines submitted and tasted, with five rated outstanding
- ‘Many estates broke through this time around, producing some of the best wines they have ever been associated with,’ said our panel of Andrea Briccarello, Ian D’Agata and Michael Garner
Ian D’Agata, writing in the December 2015 issue of Decanter magazine, said that the uniform success of the Brunello di Montalcino 2010 vintage across this Tuscan DOCG presents an ideal opportunity to discover some impressive wines from less well-known names.
This tasting provided a very interesting set of results. On the one hand, the scores of 88 points or more for almost all the wines show that the vintage was a great one.
However, some estates did less well than expected. Wines that are notoriously difficult to taste young, such as Biondi Santi’s high-acid efforts, have previously clocked in at number one, so that estate’s poor result this time around is really puzzling.Scroll down to see the top wines from the panel tasting You might also like: Le Pergole Torte: One of Italy’s most consistent wines Brunello di Montalcino 2013: Report and top wines Brunello di Montalcino 2012 panel tasting results
The post From the archive: Brunello di Montalcino 2010 panel tasting results appeared first on Decanter.
An exclusive report on Domaine Huet's latest releases, plus tasting notes on several older vintages from this legendary Vouvray estate...
Gaston Huet, son of the founders, was mayor of Vouvray from when the AC was granted in 1947 to 1989, and supervised more than 60 vintages until his death in 2002.Scroll down to see the full profile and tasting notes You might also like: Wine Legend: Domaine Huet, Le Haut Lieu 1947 Old-vine Chenin Blanc in South Africa Muscadet wines: Time to think again – panel tasting results
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In the second of his 'August essays' series, Andrew Jefford considers the 'contamination of wine' by money.Off limits? Andrew Jefford considers the implications of soaring prices for top wines in recent decades.
The biggest wine contaminant (far worse than sulphur) is money. I don’t know how to put it any other way. The contamination is growing worse all the time. The better the wine, tragically, the more money it contains. Fine wines are now brimful of money.
Yes, they contain a lot of hard work — and luck. Yes, the quest for excellence they imply is sincere, sometimes even altruistic. Yes, they contain a very beautiful alcoholic beverage of unique sensorial profile.
More prominently than that, though, fine wines are stuffed with fifty-pound notes, fifty-euro notes and fifty-dollar bills. It’s the money that makes ‘top wine’ an object of popular fascination. A swelling percentage of those buying them do so principally in order to grow money, without any intention of drinking them, as an investment prospect. And a substantial minority of those who do finally pull the corks chiefly enjoy the taste of money inside them. Thanks to the social-media revolution, their peers can now instantly watch them sip money in this deliciously coded manner: a uniquely stylish opportunity to enhance status.
Wine critics and wine writers make matters worse. In two ways: first of all by lavishing their most fervent praise and extravagant point scores on the world’s most expensive wines, and secondly by writing about wine as if its price was an incidental or trivial attribute, rather than a matter of life, death and everyday survival.
I am guilty of this myself, and wholly complicit. Of course: professional ethics pushes me to focus on the work of the wine grower, the attributes of the soil or the hillside, the constitution of the vintage, the intricacies of scent and flavour. These are the lovely and noble truths we are duty-bound to pursue; this is the information we are bidden by readers and employers to supply. It would be presumptuous and patronising to speculate about the wealth or otherwise of readers; while discriminating against expensive wine simply because it was expensive would be the grossest philistinism.
There are, though, limits to innocence. The weekly median income in the USA, the world’s richest large nation, was $865 weekly for full-time workers in 2017. When you’ve paid for housing, transportation, childcare, food and clothing, health insurance and the essential incidentals that each week throws up, there isn’t going to be much left over for wine at $250, $100 or even $50 a bottle. Those living elsewhere have less disposable income still. Tax regimes in newer consuming cultures (like India or Brazil) are especially prohibitive, intensifying the economic gulf between ‘normal’ drinkers and the price of fine wine.
Wine writers (a wealthy minority aside) know all of this from personal experience. They are modestly remunerated specialist journalists, and therefore have long ceased to enjoy (supposing they ever did) the familiar use of the most interesting and complex wines they find themselves writing about. They may briefly encounter great wines at a tasting, but they don’t own them, drink them, or develop a relationship of understanding with them in the way that wealthy wine-lovers are able to do. This makes those writers, at best, outside observers of a world to which they will never belong (there’s honour, if little insight, in that). At worst, they become a set of adjective-juggling courtiers, fools and jesters, there to lubricate the relationship between wine-making kings and queens and their luxuriously wealthy global public.
Yes, I know that the average price of a bottle of wine was $8.98 in the USA in 2015 and £5.56 in 2017 in the UK – not the cheapest form of alcohol available, thus rarely the choice of street drinkers, but hardly prohibitive either. Such wines, though, tend to come from colossal industrial wineries or valiant co-operatives struggling to keep their enterprise going in the teeth of social changes and rural decline. Politically interesting, perhaps, but not the source of great copy; there isn’t much mileage in Corbynist wine writing. You’ll get better material, and more wine insight, after an hour with Christian Moueix or Angelo Gaja.
There is also, of course, a vast market of fairly priced wines crafted to the highest ambitions their sales potential allows: the £20 or $25 bottles which middle-class readers, at least, can afford to buy once in a while, and about which wine-writers wax in unapologetic enthusiasm.
Even here, though, money is a contaminant. Once such wines are ‘discovered’ and win market acclaim (like François Cotat’s Sancerre, for example), they set off briskly for £50/$565, making them an expensive treat and putting them beyond familiar use. I don’t begrudge the extraordinarily modest M.Cotat the difference – but I also suspect he doesn’t see much of it; it’s those in the middle who swallow most.
An alternative scenario is that producers channel great efforts and resources into making outstanding wine – but do so in an area about which the wine trade holds unshakeable prejudices, or where (since terroir itself is elitist) there are no distinguished sites. Those efforts go unrewarded, and in the end come to nothing; their energy becomes entropy. Winners take all in the wine world.
To those who say ‘it was always like this’: it wasn’t. My first serious wine purchase was Pichon Lalande 1982, delivered in 1984 at a final price of £9 a bottle, the equivalent of £30.19 in 2017 prices. I bought Angélus `89 in May 1995 for £26.16 delivered (£47.79 in 2017 prices) and Chave’s Hermitage Blanc 1990 in the same year at £24.24 (£44.29). The 2015 vintages of those wines are priced at £120, £290 and £190 respectively per bottle. What was always a special purchase has now become an inconceivable purchase; these great wines are now lodged in the stratosphere. The contamination is clear.
Is this all that matters about wine? Of course not. Wine is an emotional way to apprehend the beauty of the earth, and a source of great solace on a daily basis: that’s what matters most to thoughtful drinkers. Under the right circumstances, you can find that in a £10 bottle.
Those who care for wine’s broader culture, though – a dappled landscape of intricacy, depth and subtlety – have to concede that great tracts of it are now being burned off by money, and rendered forever inaccessible save for those for whom money is a wine’s primary marker.
As I’ve pointed out previously, the contamination of fine wine by money has another lamentable consequence. Money means that fine wines are tasted ritually, reverentially and unspontaneously, as an act of worship: the wine has become (as it is indeed sometimes described) ‘unreal’. These are no longer open encounters in good faith; their capacity for surprise, for insight and for education have been subverted or curtailed. In this sense, the contamination of wine by money is even impoverishing the understanding and appreciation of the world’s finest wines.
There is no solution. This should be a concern for all.
Read Andrew’s first ‘August essay’:The search for purity in wine
This small, northerly corner of Tuscany has a long, noble history. But can its complex terroirs and the passion of its producers ever lift Carmignano’s DOCG wines above the clamour for Chianti? Stephen Brook visits the region…Getting your bearings in Carmignano...
Enrico Pierazzuoli, one of the brothers who own the Le Farnete estate in Tuscany, is standing among his vines shortly before harvest. ‘I’m not sitting at a computer or staring at analyses before harvest,’ he tells me.
‘I’m here in the vineyard. I’m not against technology. You can use GPS and drones and soil probes, but then you have to make a decision, and this you can only do if you are in the vines every day. Knowing about one element is not enough. You need to taste the berries, you need to observe the vines. Only then will you arrive at the correct decision.’Scroll down for Stephen Brook’s top 10 Carmignano reds
I dare say any good grape farmer would agree with him. But Pierazzuoli has another concern: he has to assemble a wine that, by definition, must blend different varieties.
This article was originally published in Decanter magazine’s May 2017 issue and is now available online exclusively for Premium subscribers.You might also like: Tuscany vintage guide Super Tuscan evolution: Comparing Tignanello and Solaia Chianti Classico 2017: A first look Great Brunello producers to know about
Take a 10-day road trip through five of New Zealand's best wine regions on the country's South Island, including Marlborough, Nelson and Central Otago – with travel tips on wineries to visit, places to stay and restaurants not to miss.An unforgettable journey through South Island's dramatic landscape and beautiful wine regions... New Zealand road trip: South Island wine trail
New Zealand’s mountainous South Island is dramatic, wonderfully underpopulated and home to the country’s most famous region, Marlborough, as well as Nelson, Waipara Valley, Central Otago and the lesser known Waitaki Valley.
The intrepid traveller can soak up its flavours on a 10-day trip around the island, see below for the full travel guide, with extracts from Rebecca Gibb MW’s new book The Wines of New Zealand.Nelson
Home to three national parks, two of New Zealand’s great walks and a wine region, Nelson is the perfect place to relax and enjoy what nature has to offer.
You are never far from water in Nelson and locals spend their weekends on the beach, sailing, kayaking, diving or fishing. Artists and artisans thrive here and gallery goers will be spoilt for choice.
Hops are as prolific as vines in Nelson meaning craft brewing sits alongside winemaking, while local produce including berries, kiwi fruit, nuts and cheese make the Wednesday farmers market a gourmet extravaganza.
In the village of Upper Moutere, you will find wineries including Neudorf Vineyards making superlative Chardonnay.
Plus this is home to New Zealand’s oldest pub, the Moutere Inn established 1850, a sheep’s cheese maker, olive grove, cider farm and a handful of galleries.
On the Waimea Plains, organic producer Greenhough Vineyards shows that Neudorf isn’t the only Nelson producer capable of Chardonnay greatness while Nelson’s oldest winery Seifried gets a big tick for its child-friendly cellar door.
Spend the rest of your day on nearby Rabbit Island. The sandy beach and shallow water make this perfect for little ones; there is also a network of mountain bike trails.
Beyond the wineries of the Waimea Plains and Moutere Hills lies the Abel Tasman National Park. Kayak and walk the coastal track, mixing hiking with sunbathing on the golden beaches and swimming in the warm waters.Marlborough
Drive eastward from Nelson across the Richmond Range to Blenheim, the capital of Marlborough.
Get your bearings by taking a hike — or bike — in the Wither Hills, giving you views out to Cloudy Bay and across the Wairau Valley.
Soak up the history of wine in Marlborough at the Marlborough Museum before paying a visit to Auntsfield Estate, where Scottish immigrant David Herd planted the first vines in Marlborough back in 1873.
It would be another century before locals took wine seriously but his original winery still stands and can be visited before tasting at the somewhat more modern cellar door.
A steam locomotive runs from Picton to Blenheim, and Blenheim railway station’s 1913 heritage building is now home to The Wine Station, a tasting centre and shop offering up to 80 different Marlborough wines by the glass via enomatic wine machines.
There are more than 30 cellar doors in Marlborough with favourites including Cloudy Bay, Fromm, Nautilus and Framingham.
Brancott Estate’s cellar door and restaurant is an impressive glass construction perched above the first block of Sauvignon Blanc vines planted in the region. It affords expansive views over the Brancott Valley and beyond.
In addition to the cellar door and restaurant, the winery has an ongoing partnership with Marlborough Heritage Falcon Trust and visitors can watch daily displays of native birds of prey in full flight.
Want to stay on a vineyard? The country casual Hans Herzog cottage is highly recommended.
The Bell Tower offers luxury bed and breakfast accommodation at the Dog Point vineyard and St. Leonards offers a number of restored cottages with little extras including a swimming pool, grass tennis court, bicycles, and chickens laying fresh eggs for breakfast.Waipara Valley
Drive south from Marlborough on State Highway 1 towards Christchurch. Marine lovers should extend their trip and stop in Kaikoura for a spot of whale and dolphin watching, followed by fish and chips, before continuing.
Less than an hour’s drive north of Christchurch lies the Waipara Valley, which forms the heart – and soul – of the North Canterbury wine region. It is a compact region that time-poor visitors can cover in a day.
wWaipara Valley offers two of the finest winery restaurants in the land: Black Estate and Pegasus Bay – both winners of the annual winery restaurant of the year award.
Note that they’re open for lunch only, you’ll have to travel to the small town of Amberley if you want to eat after dark.
A vineyard cycle trail, which can also be undertaken on foot, connects a number the region’s cellar doors. The trail is unsealed and mountain bikes are recommended.
Stay the night at Greystone PurePod a glass eco-cabin set above the vineyard.
Black Estate also offers a modern apartment at the top of its home block while The Old Glenmark Vicarage offers self-contained accommodation as well as bed and breakfast in their historic home, a former vicarage built in 1907.Waitaki Valley
If you’d like a break from driving at this point, drop the car at Christchurch airport and jump on a domestic flight to Queenstown, Central Otago.
If you’re happy to drive it takes six hours to reach Queenstown, then head towards North Otago and seek out the lesser known wines of the Waitaki Valley, aka North Otago.
On the main street of the tiny rural town of Kurow lies the 1930s post office building, now home to Ostler Wine’s cellar door – The Vintners Drop.
Central Otago is the adventure capital of New Zealand and between winery visits, you can throw yourself off a bridge, preferably with a bungee rope attached, or jet boat down an impossibly narrow gorge.
Cellar doors pepper the region’s landscapes. There are more than 30 to choose from offering a variety of experiences.
Amisfield and Gibbston Valley Winery are two of the closest cellars doors to Queenstown and both offer fine dining.
Gibbston Valley also offers tours of its wine cellar hewn from the mountainside, bike hire and a cheesery.
The 4 Barrels Walking Trail is an 8 kilometre circular stroll connecting Misha’s Vineyard, Aurum Wines, Scott Base and Wooing Tree Vineyard in Cromwell.
The route takes you through orchards, around Lake Dunstan and to cellar doors. Maps can be collected form the Cromwell I-site and participating wineries.
Vines cascade to the water’s edge at Rippon making it the most photographed vineyard in the country, if not the world.
But there’s more to Rippon than meets the eye – its mature vine Pinot Noirs are as impressive as the view.
Wineries in Alexandra welcome riders on the Otago Rail Trail cycle: after a day in the saddle, a glass of Pinot Noir is just the ticket. Hawkdun Rise Vineyard and Judge Rock also offer vineyard accommodation.
Former sea urchin diver, Quintin Quider is the man behind Wild Earth. Located at the Goldfields Mining Centre close to Cromwell, it serves wild food sourced locally, cooked in ‘retired’ wine barrels, and served on former barrel staves.
As well as being a who’s who of Central Otago wineries, Felton Road is also the site of the Bannockburn Sluicings, a strange moonscape that has been carved by miners hunting for gold.
A loop track can be accessed from a car park on Felton Road and provides a slice of history between glasses of Pinot Noir.Enjoy these extracts? Author Rebecca Gibb is a Master of Wine and Decanter World Wine Awards judge who specialises in New Zealand wine. Her latest book The Wines of New Zealand is on sale now. Where to buy the book UK Amazon £30 US Amazon $39.94 UK-based Decanter readers can buy a signed copy for £27.50, including free shipping. Visit rebeccagibb.com/buy-my-book for more information. More like this:
- Beyond Sauvignon: Top New Zealand white wines – Panel tasting results
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What are the things to do - or avoid - before a day of tasting wine? We ask the experts…Wine tasting at a Decanter Fine Wine Encounter. How to prepare your palate for wine tasting – ask Decanter
- Avoid strong flavaours like coffee and tobacco
- Taste before meals if possible
- Drink plenty of water
- Think about the order of wines
A full day of wine tasting can be quite a challenge on your palate, and it can get fatigued.
You also don’t want other flavours influencing how you taste the wine.
‘Don’t drink coffee just before a tasting or anything that would affect your palate, such as toothpaste or tobacco,’ John Stimpfig, Decanter’s content director.
‘I try to drink coffee early and have then one hour before tasting to clear the palate,’ said Paz Levinson, executive head sommelier at Maison Pic and DWWA regional chair for Argentina and South America.
‘Before tasting exams, I try to avoid any coffee at all and I taste white wine, which is high in acidity, to calibrate my palate before the tasting.’
‘Then during tasting, I try to drink as much water as I can .’See also: Etiquette at a wine tasting – ask Decanter
‘Don’t taste straight after lunch. Your palate is generally more attuned before a meal rather than after it,’ said Stimpfig. ‘But don’t taste on a completely empty stomach.’Order of wines
If you’re tasting different styles of wine, some argue that the order in which you taste the wines can help.
However, there is debate about this.
Some believe that beginning with lighter styles of white wines is the best approach. Others argue that it may be better to start with your red wines, and then move on to the more acidic white wines later, which will wake the palate up.
Heavy, tannic reds are more likely to tire out your palate quicker.
‘Another key thing is to taste dry to sweet, as sugar coats the palate and can make dry wines taste sharp or bitter,’ said Andy Howard MW.Promotion How to book tickets to our November Fine Wine Encounters in London and Shanghai
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