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From quality Pinot Grigio to Spanish Txakoli, pick a wine rated by our experts and get it chilling...Find a great white wine to enjoy in the sun.
When the sun is shining, there are few things more refreshing than a cool glass of white wine, whatever your favourite style.
- Scroll down for our wine recommendations
If you love Pinot Grigio or Gris, we’ve got some quality recommendations for under £30.
For other crisp, dry, fruit-driven whites, try our top Chablis alternatives, our Galician whites panel tasting or our Australian Riesling panel tasting – a great ‘all-rounder’ style for barbecues, according to our guide.
If you enjoy whites with a slightly more weight and oak, check out some of our top rated New Zealand Chardonnays.
Impress your friends with the white wine style to try for 2018 – Txakoli.
If enjoying your wine on a picnic, make sure you remember the essentials: a corkscrew, ice packs or ice and glasses.
Take your pick of the wines below, all tasted and rated by Decanter‘s experts. Then all you have to do is get the bottle in the fridge…Top white wines for summer:
- Should you put ice cubes in wine?
- Which red wines are best for chilling?
- Best wines for a barbecue
- Top rosé wines for summer
London luxury department store Harrods has opened its fine wine and spirits rooms, which include interactive features such as an 'aroma table' and were reportedly a 'multi-million pound' investment for the retailer.
The new Harrods wine rooms were designed by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, taking inspiration from 1920s decor, and include a marble patterned floor.
‘The new rooms will break down barriers and change perceptions on the world of wines and spirits by focusing more on the flavour profile of the product, rather than the specific categories and brands,’ said Alex Dower, director of food and restaurants at Harrods.
The previous Harrods wine room had been in the basement of the department store, but was moved for a restaurant to be built.
In the new fine wines room, wines are categorised by terroir, to help customers explore wines from regions they previously hadn’t considered, according to a statement from Harrods.
There is also an ‘aroma table’ with scents to guide customers through the flavour profiles of different grapes.See also: Tasting notes decoded
Both the Champagne and sparkling wines room, and the spirits room are also arranged by flavour profile.
Cognac producer Louis XIII has opened its first boutique outside of Beijing within the spirits room, Harrods said.
There is also an ‘education’ room, with live streaming to vineyards and winemakers.
Shoppers can also commission personal engravings for bottles, as well as book consultations and discuss bespoke cellar plans.See also: Decanter Retailer Awards 2017 – see the winners
Extreme weather across many wine regions in 2017 may be more than a blip, according to fresh data from one of Europe's leading science agencies that says wildfires, droughts and flooding are becoming more common globally due to man-made climate change.
Frost in Champagne
Weather has become more volatile and more extreme in the past 36 years, said the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) in a recent report.
Flooding ‘events’ have quadrupled globally since 1980, while droughts, forest fires and extreme heatwaves have more than doubled in that time, said the council, which is made up of 27 national science academies in Europe, including the UK’s Royal Aacademy.
Its report, published in March 2018 and which profiles a continuing trend from a previous study published in 2013, adds to evidence that climate change is creating more volatile weather, as well as higher temperatures.
While the potential risks to life are clearly the most pressing concern, the EASAC report also has resonance in a wine world that endured a heady mix of extreme weather events in 2017.
As Decanter columnist Andrew Jefford put it recently, ‘2017 must be regarded as one of the most disaster-strewn years the wine world has endured since the onset of phylloxera.’
Dr Greg Jones, a specialist on climate change and its potential effects on vineyards, told Decanter.com,’For wine regions, there is evidence that varies from region to region but ultimately shows that hail and heavy rain events are more frequent and that heat stress events are more frequent and longer.’
Jones, who is director at the Grace & Ken Evenstad Center for Wine Education at Linfield College in Oregon, added, ‘In the early 1990s when I started looking at climate change and wine it was clear that there were trends in temperatures, but also trends to more variability in temperatures as well (standard deviation increasing).
‘This meant that even though the climate was warming, it was becoming more variable. Or in other words, wider swings in cold extremes and heat extremes. This has been borne out over the years and I continue see it in other work I have done.’
EASAC called for urgent action to mitigate threats posed by man-made climate change.
‘Adaptation and mitigation must remain the cornerstones of tackling climate change,’ said professor Michael Norton, EASAC’s environment programme director.
‘This update is most timely since the European Commission is due to release its evaluation of its climate strategy this year.’
Make the most of the summer sunshine with one of these top rosés, tasted by our experts. Whether you're at a barbecue, heading to the beach or relaxing in the garden - do it with a cool glass of refreshing rosé in hand...
Summer is the season for chilled rosé, to be enjoyed during the heat of the day, or on into the balmy nights. From clear pink quartz to glassy topaz, rosé is as beautiful as it is palatable.
- Scroll down for top rosé wines
These rosés were have been selected by those tasted by Decanter experts, and come from a variety of regions – from Rioja to the Loire, Provence to Portugal.
Rosé wine sales have developed from the bottom up, gaining momentum due to its uncomplicated style and pretty colour. The growth in premium rosé is changing this category, as more complex wines appear.
The best wines tend to show a complex range of fruit characters (strawberry, redcurrant, cherry, peach, rhubarb, pomegranate and floral notes), fresh crunchy, zesty or leafy acidity, and hints of orange peel, garrigue, herbs or a savoury note. Fruit intensity rather than neutrality is also important.
Colour has little correlation with quality, contrary to some popular opinion, and instead more closely colour reflects variety and origin.
At a previous Decanter tasting, some rosés were almost water-white in colour, with little fruit character, suggesting that more effort had gone into appearance than taste.
Price gives a vague indication of quality, with only one of the top 10 wines under £15. But it’s not a guarantee. Best advice: know a good wine merchant.More ideas for summer wines:
Jane Anson considers the mechanics of putting together a tasting note, and what factors she believes are worth considering.
I’ve been thinking a lot about wine notes recently. Bear in mind that this is the period when I am writing up Bordeaux en primeur wine notes, across Left and Right Banks, plus Sauternes – this year for Decanter Premium – and you can start to see why I might be eating, sleeping and dreaming tasting notes.
As I often find, whether researching for a book or writing up vertical tasting reports, one of the tough things is deciding how much technical information to include.
A tasting note about a finished, bottled wine needs to give an accurate reflection of what someone will find when they pull the cork.
En primeur notes are a different kind of challenge, because here it is not so much about what the wine tastes like today, but what it will become.
That means trying to pick apart the different elements of a young wine that is not even bottled yet, to see if it has the necessary quantity, quality and balance to develop over time, and for how long.
You want to suggest when a wine might be ready to drink, and why.How to write your own tasting notes – A guide by Andrew Jefford
In both cases, I tend to think that giving a certain amount of technical information is helpful. But not everyone agrees.
Even alcohol is considered unimportant for most American wine reviewers. I had a discussion with a prominent American wine writer about this recently, and he was very clear that his readers were not interested in alcohol levels and didn’t find them helpful to record in his notes.
In fact he believed that it could be extremely unhelpful, because alcohol is perceived differently according to grapes, regions and styles of wine and/or producer – or even, for different tasters, according to the time of day or what food they pair with it.
I can see his point. There are always wines that remind you that you know nothing. Ausone from St-Emilion is one, with its 100% new oak that melts away into its perfect balance. And there’s Pingus from Ribera del Duero, into which 15% alcohol somehow disappears without a trace.
But I still believe that to make an informed judgement on whether to buy a wine, and to anticipate what you are going to find in the bottle, there are certain facts that are helpful. And all those variables mentioned by my American colleague are exactly why providing readers with some technical information is helpful.
We can’t second-guess how people are interpreting our notes, so it is surely useful to give them the tools with which to read and use a review as they need.
A 15% wine enjoyed with supper at home, for example, is a very different proposition to that same wine at a lunch table when you have a meeting immediately afterwards, never mind how perfectly in balance it is. Our role is to do our best to help buyers make informed choices, so in my opinion these things matter.
If a wine is given a rich vanilla flavour though the addition of oak chips rather than barrel ageing, it might not affect enjoyment in the short term, but it will mean its ageing ability is impaired.
And if a wine is brought to balance through manipulation in the cellar (it’s not unheard of to add sugar to increase alcohol and then tartaric acid to freshen things up), it will rarely age as well as one that reached that natural balance in the vineyard.
Not all technical information is useful, and we might not get it right every time. But thinking about these things forces us to look deeper at a wine and its building blocks – and that seems fair not only to the reader, but also to the winemaker who has spent his year working towards its being in bottle.
This column was originally published in Decanter magazine in 2017 and has been updated for Decanter.com.
Jane Anson’s ratings and tasting notes for hundreds of Bordeaux 2017 en primeur wines will be published online exclusively for Decanter Premium members next weekHow to join Decanter Premium
Château Petrus has confirmed that it will file a counter-appeal against a court ruling allowing a Côtes de Bordeaux wine to carry the name Petrus on its label.Few wines can match the acclaim, and auction prices, achieved by Pomerol's Château Petrus.
The comments by Château Petrus came days after news that CGM Vins had successfully argued for a court to overturn a previous judgement preventing sales of its wine, Petrus Lambertini No 2.
Meanwhile, a wine and intellectual property lawyer, Jean-Baptiste Thial de Bordenave, described the latest court ruling as ‘legalising parasitism’ and warned that it could bode ill for the Bordeaux region.
Château Petrus said that the case against CGM was about the risk of consumers being misled.
‘A procedure was launched in 2011 against CGM because a seller on the internet was trying to sell one of the bottles marketed by this company, pretending it was our second wine,’ Petrus said in an emailed statement. The Pomerol-based Château added that a separate civil case about the use of its name was also underway.
CGM Vins director Stéphane Coureau said in an email that its official trademark, ‘Coureau & Coureau Petrus Lambertini Major Burdegalensis 1208′, has been legally registered since its creation and that he was currently marketing the 2015 vintage.
He did not provide current volume or value figures, but CGM’s website says that it made 20,000 bottles of Petrus Lambertini No. 2 and 12,000 bottles of Petrus Lambertini from the 2011 vintage.
Coureau said the wine was named after the first mayor of Bordeaux – Pierre Lambert, or in Latin, Petrus Lambertini.
‘Lambertini defended the city of Bordeaux against the King of Spain in 1208. For his heroism he was congratulated by the King of England, John Lackland. Our wine, is a piece of the story of Bordeaux and also of the history of England.’
He also said the wines’ background stories are different and suggested that consumers would understand the historical difference. ‘One speaks of the first Mayor of Bordeaux and the other of the first Pope of Catholics. There is no risk of confusion for the average consumer [as] the [appeal] court has fully recognised.’
However, while CGM’s winning appeal judgement argued there are enough differences between the Petrus and Petrus Lambertini labels to avoid confusion, lawyer Thial de Bordenave said that this was only part of the problem.
‘Even if there is no risk of confusion, there is a risk of association for the consumer,’ said Thial de Bordenave, who was not personally involved in the case. ‘They might not think it is Petrus, but they might think it is the second or third wine.’
A six-litre ‘imperial’ bottle of Petrus sold for £45,410 at a Sotheby’s wine auction in London in March 2018.
Just published exclusively on Premium:Jane Anson’s first impressions of Bordeaux 2017
The post Petrus to launch counter-appeal against name ruling appeared first on Decanter.
What are tasters referring to when they assess tannins? And why are they important?What are tannins in wine?What are tannins? – ask Decanter
Tannins are a group of compounds found naturally in grape skins. They can also be found in black tea and traces in some berries.
They contribute importantly to the structure and ageing potential of red wines.
‘They may be flavourless and odourless, but tannins are one of the key constituents in red wine,’ said Matt Walls, regional chair for the Rhône at the DWWA.
‘In grapes, these compounds are found primarily in the skins, seeds and stems, so they tend to be more prevalent in reds.’See also: Tasting notes decoded Structure and texture
‘Tannins are responsible for providing red wine with most of its texture and physical impact in the mouth – more specifically, they produce feelings of astringency and bitterness, which can be pleasing in small amounts,’ said Walls.
‘Over time, tannins can change in the way they feel, often becoming softer and less astringent – this is one of the key reasons wines we age certain types of wines before drinking them.’
When tasting wine, you will often feel the presence of tannins on the gums of your teeth.See also: What is the tannin scale? – ask Decanter Tasting en primeur
Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent Jane Anson notes that when tasting wines en primeur, you are looking for ‘the amount of tannin in the wine, for structure’, alongside other elements such as acidity and fruit – which will indicate the quality and ageing potential of a wine.
When tasting young wines en primeur, the tannins will feel quite harsh and prominent, as they have not had time to age and soften over time.See more wine questions here
See fresh tasting notes and ratings on the flagship red wine of this Languedoc 'grand cru' from 2010 to 2016, plus a barrel sample of the 2017 vintage, written by Andrew Jefford and available exclusively to Premium members.A view across Mas de Daumas Gassac vineyards.
Tasting notes below by Andrew Jefford. Introduction by Chris Mercer.
Mas de Daumas Gassac has achieved acclaim around the world for its red wine, an intricate blend of grape varieties from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Pinot Noir.
It is produced on relatively high ground in the hinterland of Languedoc-Roussillon, on sloping vineyards between Aniane and St-Guilhem Le Désert, the medieval village that lies in the steep gorge of the Hérault river and is recognised as one of the most beautiful villages in France.
Founded by the late Aimé Guibert in 1971, with his wife Véronique, Daumas Gassac has spent decades in the vanguard of a movement towards quality in a French region traditionally more associated with cheap table wines.Scroll down to see Andrew Jefford’s new tasting notes for Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge
The post Mas de Daumas Gassac red wines: Recent vintages tasted appeared first on Decanter.
They can match a multitude of foods, are easy to find, in-expensive, can be chilled yet with enough punch to push through any food that has been above the coals for a length of time. Decanter.com looks at the best wines for a summer barbecue.
Summer is a time to take to the coals, when the sun is shining and the weather is sweet.
Friends and family gather al fresco bringing an array of salads, sides and condiments to accompany the classic, yet varied, barbecue choices.Scroll down for wine recommendations
Wine plays a central and important part in rounding off the perfect barbecue, but are all too often served incorrectly or with completely the wrong food – you should count yourself lucky if you have escaped holding a plate with a burnt item resembling meat holding a plastic cup of warm Chardonnay.What are classic barbecue (BBQ) wine pairings?
Here are some of the top matches for classic barbecue dishes. For ease of use, we’ve overlooked the uses of marinades and sauces.
- Steak – Malbec, Syrah/Shiraz, Zinfandel
- Burgers – Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Côtes du Rhone.
- Sausages – Beer, Malbec, Southern French, Tempranillo
- Chicken – Warmer climate Chardonnay
- Pork Chops – Cider, Valpolicella, Barbera, New World Pinot Noir, dry rosé, Riesling
- Salmon – Rosé Champagne or Cava, New World Pinot Noir, Gamay, dry rosé, New World Riesling, Pinot Gris
- Halloumi – Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Chenin Blanc, Chablis, Friulano, Verdejo, Assyrtiko, New World Riesling, dry rosé, Prosecco
Of course it would be simply impractical to purchase so many different types of wine.
There are some good all-rounders that tick many of the boxes needed for a great barbecue; it can match a multitude of foods, it’s easy to find, in-expensive, can be chilled yet with enough punch to push through any food that has been above the white hot coals for a length of time.
- New World Pinot Noir
- Vins de pays whites and reds
- Dry Rosé
- New world Riesling
- Methode Champenoise sparkling
- See also: 20 Summer wine under £20
A cooler red offset against piping hot, flamed meat, is the only way to serve wine at a barbecue. And avoid plastic cups if possible.Great BBQ wines from Decanter
First published in August 2016. Wines have been updated in April 2018.
Tributes have been paid to Leonildo 'Nino' Pieropan, a pioneer of Soave wine quality in Italy and widely respected winemaker, who has died aged 71.All of Pieropan's 46ha of vineyards were certified organic in 2015
Leonildo Pieropan, known simply as Nino Pieropan, died on 13 April at home and surrounded by his family, according to UK importer Liberty Wines.
He will be remembered as a standard-bearer for wine quality in Italy’s Soave region, and in particular for championing recognition of single vineyard ‘cru’ sites, as well as for the ageing potential of the area’s white wines.
‘What would the Soave be if he had never existed?,’ asked Giancarolo Gariglio in an article for Slow Wine in Italy. ‘It would be a poorer denomination,’ he concluded, describing Pieropan as a ‘monument’ in Italian wine.
David Gleave, managing director of the Liberty Wines merchant in the UK, also paid tribute to Pieropan, who graduated in 1966 from the oenological school in Conegliano and began running his family’s estate a year later.
‘A walk through the vineyards with Nino was always educational, as he would explain in detail why the vines were trained the way they were and why he picked when he did,’ said Gleave in an obituary published on the Liberty website.
‘His first bold experiment was to bottle the 1971 vintage from the Calvarino vineyard (purchased by his grandfather in 1901) as a single vineyard Soave Classico. This was at a time when most Soave was being sold was in two litre bottles, primarily to the North American market.’
Pieropan’s Calvarino remains a highly sought-after wine.
‘Urged by the great Luigi Veronelli to take the high road of quality, Nino started to prove, with that wine, that the best wines of Soave could age beautifully and could, in the right hands, be considered among Italy’s finest white wines,’ said Gleave.
In an article on Soave published in Decanter magazine’s May 2018 issue, author Michael Apstein said, ‘Pieropan consistently makes great wines, from its Soave Classico to its cru, that have precision, reflect their origins and develop marvellously with a decade or more of bottle age.’
He described the 1995 Soave Classico ‘Superiore’ as ‘magnificent, with a Riesling-like nose and a waxy, creamy texture’.
Nino’s sons, Andrea and Dario, eventually joined Nino and wife Teresita in running the winery.
The Pieropan family also began making Valpolicella after buying land in Tregnago, in Val d’Illasi, to plant red grapes in 2002.
Dario Pieropan is today cellarmaster at the family winery and Andrea is vineyard manager.
The Pieropan estate was founded in 1880 and is believed to have been the first to use the ‘Soave’ name on labels, in 1932. The Soave DOC was not born until 1968.
Calabria is one of southern Italy's most exciting wine regions for indigenous grape varieties, says Walter Speller, who picks several wine producers to know about.Ferrocinto vineyards
These producers first appeared in the regional profile of Calabria in the May 2018 issue of Decanter. Decanter Premium subscribers can read the full article here.Six Calabria producers to know ’A Vita
Francesco de Franco is one of a handful of young Cirò producers who strictly adheres to organic protocols. Due to their highly original expressions of the red Gaglioppo grape, these producers have been dubbed ‘Cirò Revolution’. De Franco makes complex, long-lived wines that defy the region’s undeserved label of rustic and tannic – a reputation that led to a controversial change of rules to allow the blending of international varieties. His complex Riserva, which stays on the skins for 40 days, clearly shows the fallacy of that change of rule.Ferrocinto
No newcomer, Ferrocinto (pictured top) was founded in 1658, but the estate’s potential has only been revealed since 2000 with the replanting of its vineyards, located in the Pollino Mountains at 600m above sea level, with a strong focus on indigenous varieties – notably Magliocco Dolce. Research in its experimental vineyard has unearthed a further 20 local varieties that are completely unknown and potentially interesting. Winemaker Stefano Coppola makes blends of Magliocco Dolce and the more rustic Magliocco Canino, while cask samples of pure Magliocco Dolce show huge class.Giuseppe Calabrese
Agricultural college drop-out Giuseppe Calabrese planted his first vines at the age of 10. He took over old vineyards from his grandmother in 2007 and only started to bottle under his own name in 2013. The tiny plots, scattered around the Pollino Mountains – several of which still have alberello-trained vines – have been tended organically, and the approach in the cellar is completely hands-off. Calabrese’s pure Magliocco Dolce is energetic and a little wild, while his finely chiselled tannins call to mind Nebbiolo.Librandi
No one has done more for Cirò than the historic estate of Librandi. The release in 1988 of Gravello, an award-winning Gaglioppo-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, paved the way for wider international recognition of the winery’s Duca Sanfelice Riserva Cirò, which helped shine a spotlight on the denomination. Librandi was also trailblazing in its research into local grape varieties, planted in its experimental vineyard, and was one of the first producers to realise the potential of Magliocco Dolce, evidenced by the release of Magno Megonio back in 1998.Serracavallo
A newcomer to wine, Demetrio Stancati planted French grape varieties on his family’s estate in 1995, because, as he admits, this attracted the attention of journalists at a time when very few people had heard about this wild corner of Calabria. The vineyards of his Serracavallo estate are situated in the windy hills of La Sila, a rugged nature reserve, where large diurnal temperature differences render wonderfully supple wines. Several Serracavallo wines are blends of Magliocco Dolce and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the most original rendition is pure Magliocco Dolce.Terre del Gufo
Eugenio Muzzillo is fast advancing as a Magliocco Dolce specialist. All 5ha of vineyards on his Terre di Gufo estate, which sit at 500m altitude, have been planted with this variety. As one of the very few winemakers located here, the production of Muzzillo’s Magliocco keeps the tiny, historic Donnici denomination alive. So far, he has been unable to label his Magliocco Dolce as such because – due to a bizarre quirk of fate – only the rustic Magliocco Canino has been officially registered in Italy’s national register of grape varieties. Apparently, official correction is underway – not least because of Muzzillo’s work.Premium members can read full Decanter magazine articles online here
Michaela Morris tastes Conti Costanti at the Colle a Matrichese estate, including a 'captivating' 1975 vintage and a piece of history from 1967...The Constanti vineyardsTasting Conti Costanti wines: 1967 – 2013
As soon as I arrive at the Colle a Matrichese estate, Andrea Costanti leads me up the tower with a bird’s eye view over northern Montalcino.
It’s a scorching afternoon at end of August, exacerbated by a hot breeze. This doesn’t seem to bother Costanti.
Scroll down to see the wines
The opening of Hide in Mayfair will herald the arrival one of the biggest restaurant wine lists in London...Hide in Mayfair.
The restaurant, opening Tuesday 17 April, is owned by Yevgeny Chichvarkin and Tatiana Fokina of luxury wine shop Hedonism.
It has a regular wood-bound list of 450 wines but customers will have access to the full 6,500-bin Hedonism wine list via ipads at a modest mark-up of £30 a bottle.
If they choose a wine it can be delivered within approximately 12 minutes, though they can also call in the wines in advance and have them chilled or decanted for their arrival.
Although the Russian-owned shop is famous for its glitzy interior Fokina is at pains to stress the list is affordable.
‘I can’t bring myself to pay some of the prices that are currently charged in restaurants,’ she said.
‘Our aim is to make sure that on every section of the list there is something below £50. Our entry level red and white are £28 and £5 for a glass.’
There are 65 wines available by the glass, and the wine list includes a range of bottle sizes, including magnums, double magnums and half bottles, said Fokina.
Another draw will be the food which is masterminded by one of London’s most exciting chefs, Ollie Dabbous, who has been without a permanent base since his eponymous restaurant closed in July 2017.
The three floor property on Piccadilly occupies the site formerly owned by the Lebanese restaurant Fakhreldine and includes a basement bar ‘Below’ which stocks over 400 spirits and liqueurs and a vast walk-in air-conditioned cellar.
There is a casual dining room ‘Ground’ with an in-store bakery on the ground floor which will also be open for breakfast and tea and a fine dining restaurant on the first floor ‘Above’ which will serve Dabbous signature tasting menu.
The director of wine, who heads a 12 strong team of sommeliers, is Polish-born Piotr Pietras MS, formerly of Launceston Place though all the purchasing is done through Alastair Viner, head buyer at Hedonism.
Hide is at 85 Piccadilly and opens 7 days a week from Tuesday April 17th 2018.
Fiona Beckett is a Decanter contributing editor and chief restaurant reviewer.Find Decanter restaurant recommendations here
The post Hedonism restaurant opening with chef Ollie Dabbous appeared first on Decanter.
Andrew Jefford tastes his way through a historic vertical.A landmark tasting of Daumas Gassac white wines.
Brothers Samuel, Roman, Gaël and Basile Guibert organised a 30-vintage vertical tasting of their family’s celebrated red Mas de Daumas Gassac back in 2014. I wrote (in the June 2014 issue of Decanter) that the wines were “sui generis: the sensorial offspring not merely of a place, but of a historical moment, of a fierce will and of a curious, non-conformist vision.” The vision was that of their father, Aimé Guibert, who was present at the tasting; he died in 2016.
Mas de Daumas fans, though, will know that there is also a white wine, and a little earlier this year the family repeated the exercise with those whites. If the reds are sui generis, though, how does one accurately convey the utter originality of the whites? They’re sui generis squared.
When Aime Guibert presented the first vintage of his red wine to the world in 1978, it came groomed with a logic and an argument, based on the championing of its soil by celebrated Bordeaux geologist Henri Enjalbert, and with its core of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, vinified according to the tenets of Bordeaux’s greatest late C20 oenologist, Emile Peynaud. Yes, it was an ambitous Languedoc baby — but it was born under a Médocain star.
The white Mas de Daumas, by contrast, is perhaps best seen as a kind of liquid novel: a pure work of the imagination rendered physical and poured into bottles rather than across paper pages. Here’s the story.
Peynaud was “totally against the idea,” recalls Samuel Guibert. “He said to my Dad, ‘You’ve managed a Grand Cru for your red. Stay there. You don’t need to go and do a white as well. The Languedoc’s not a land for whites.’”
Guibert held his ground. He started planting white varieties in 1976, and the first white wine was released a decade later. “My Dad was convinced that Languedoc could produce wine with sufficient freshness and acidity, in the cooler climate of the Gassac valley.” The vineyards are 250-500m above sea level, remember, with most of the white varieties planted above 300m.
He initially planted Chardonnay (cuttings from Comte Lafon), Viognier (cuttings from Georges Vernay, whom he greatly admired) and Muscat (Petit Grain to begin with, but later Ottonel and d’Alexandrie, too).
Guibert and his wife Véronique de la Vaissière loved to travel, though, and wherever they went, they brought back a few cuttings of other vines and planted them. The red wine is made from around 30 per cent of ‘other’ grape varieties, and the white, too, has copious exotic genes.
The difference is that in the white wine, two of those ‘other varieties’, Petit Manseng (cuttings from Charles Hours) and Chenin Blanc (cutting from Huët), saw their presence gradually amplified. “As the existing vineyard aged,” Samuel remembers, “the wines gained complexity but lost freshness and acidity. That was where Petit Manseng and Chenin Blanc came in. They are an amazing tool to preserve that freshness.” Petit Manseng has been as high as 39 per cent of the blend (in 2004) and Chenin Blanc up to 15 per cent (in 2015).
The ‘other varieties’, meanwhile, include — in alphabetical order — Albariño, Amigne, Bourboulenc, Falanghina, Fiano, Grechetto, Gros Manseng, Khondorni, Marsanne, Neheleschol, Petit Courbu, Petite Arvine, Roussanne, Sémillon, Sercial and Tchilar. (Khondorni and Tchilar are not listed in Wine Grapes, but are said to have been brought back from Armenia by Aimé Guibert.) In recent years, the percentage of these lesser varieties has varied between 11 per cent and 17 per cent.
It’s not possible with a patchwork of varieties to pick every one “at perfect maturity”, so some element of mixed ripeness has always been one of the keys to the character of the red Mas de Daumas Gassac.
This is even more true of the whites, as Samuel Guibert confirmed. “Absolutely. The Chardonnay and the Viognier usually come in slightly overripe, at 14 per cent or 14.5 per cent abv, whereas the Chenin Blanc, the Petite Arvine and the Sercial come in at 12 per cent abv. It’s a patchwork not just of grape varieties but also of acidity and alcohol levels. The Petit Manseng brings a huge amount of acidity whereas the Viognier is very low in acidity. They all bring something different. That’s what we are looking for.” All of the different varieties are picked by vineyard zone within a 10-day period.
White Mas de Daumas Gassac, therefore, is a test case for those who are interested in the sensorial effects of mixed ripeness on a finished wine. It’s generally low pH (never higher than 3.35 since 2004) and has high acidity (6.3 g/l measured as tartaric in 2017, for example; even in the hot vintage of 2003 it measured 5 g/l).
That’s not all. Another originality is that it is a ‘dry’ wine … rounded out with some residual sugar. “It’s a deliberate strategy,” confirms Samuel. Why? “In some of the early vintages, when we made the wines fully dry, there was a bitterness which was not to our liking.” As the Guiberts retain this residual sugar by chilling the wine towards the end of fermentation, the level has varied considerably: sometimes fermentations have stopped swiftly leaving ample sugar, but on other occasions the yeasts have been more tenacious and the sugars have continued to erode before fermentation stops.
The 1996 vintage was sweetest with 16 g/l while the 2013-2015 trio have between 11.6 and 12.2 g/l; the aim is to fix sugars at 5g-6g for the future. There was some use of oak up until 1999, but no longer.
The final singularity is the use of copious skin contact. “This was a concept invented by my Dad based on what he was already doing for the reds.” At harvest, the grapes are destemmed and cooled, and then everything undergoes a three- to seven-day maceration period with rack and return and juice blending three times a day … before pressing and fermentation, which is cool (14C to 22C). Orange-wine fans shouldn’t get too excited: as the must is chilled and in the aqueous rather than the alcoholic phase, what’s being extracted is principally aromatics rather than tannins. After fermentation, the wines rest in steel and are bottled at around the six-month point. (Prior to 2000, they were lightly wooded.)
That’s Aimé Guibert’s novel written in white wine, still faithfully duplicated (with the odd tweak) by his sons — and still very popular (the mailing-list release price of the white is exactly the same as that of the red, at around 35 euros a bottle). My five top tasting notes from among the whites are given below, but subscribers to Decanter Premium can hook up with tasting notes for all 22 of the vintages — as well as specially written notes for recent vintages of the red wine (2010 to 2016 inclusive, with a peek at a barrel-sample of the 2017).Tasting Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc
A quick summary? Mas de Daumas white is aromatically complex, vivacious and nuanced. In general, it comes across as more ‘northern’ and less ‘southern’ than the Languedoc location would suggest. Look out for orchard fruits (both temperate and tropical), a zesty balance in the mouth and a well-rounded finish. Its proportions, like those of its red sibling, can often surprise with their delicate classicism: these are in no sense rich, warm or ‘big’ wines, but rather shapely and fresh, with a lively drinking balance.Compare all Daumas Gassac white wine tasting notes and ratings here Five to try
Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc, IGP St Guilhem-le-Désert Cité d’Aniane 2017
The 2017 is a slightly lighter, dryer and more acidic wine than the 2016, and for the time being the scents aren’t as refined and intricate as in 2016. With the highest percentage of Petit Manseng for a decade, though, it’s no surprise that the palate has a drama and thrust unrivalled in recent years, with fine orchard fruit and mango aromas to help cover the green-apple drive. Glycerol and a little creamy warmth beckon at the end of this high-energy vintage. 92 (13.50%)
Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc, IGP St Guilhem-le-Désert Cité d’Aniane 2016
Like its 2017 sibling, the 2016 Mas de Daumas Gassac is a great success. This pale gold wine has pretty scents in which blossom and floral notes (almond, acacia, mimosa) have the upper hand over fruit for the time being. On the palate, the wine is rich yet pretty and fresh, too, with slightly less insistent acidity than its younger sibling (there’s 24 per cent Petit Manseng here compared to 33 per cent in 2017). That doesn’t mean any shortage of fruit, though; it’s just framed in a kind of nougatine richness in which the 6.2 g/l of residual sugar sits very happily. Fine flavour architecture marks this very complete wine. 93 (14.00%)
Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault 2008
At around the ten-year mark, Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc seems to flip from youth to maturity, acquiring notably deeper colours (this is old gold), modulated fruit flavours and elements of oxidative complexity. The vivacious 2008 (with its 34 per cent Viognier, 29 per cent Petit Manseng, 18 per cent Chardonnay and 11 per cent mixed varieties) has sweet apple and hay-loft scents into which a creamy nuttiness is beginning to steal. This vintage had just 6.7 g/l of residual sugar, and is still singing with mixed fruits (apple, grape, greengage, apricot and peach), but in addition to that full-frontal zing there is plenty of drive and follow-through, and a vinous finish. Great as an aperitif which could cope with first-course dishes, too. 93 (13.05%)
Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault 1996
Yes, this was the sweetest Mas de Daumas Blanc ever (16 g/l), but the fact that it has aged so well is testament to the success of the strategy. Together with the (disappointing) 1992, the 1996 was the deepest coloured wine in the vertical tasting: Russian gold with amber glints. The aromas are autumnal: stored attic fruits, with a weight of fallen leaf and a toffee-apple tang. In the mouth, the wine is ample, mellow and richly fruited without being weighty or torpid. Crushed peach, apple, plum, pineapple, mango and guava: they’re all in here somewhere in this intensely fruity white. High acidity helps diffuse and absorb the sweetness. I wouldn’t keep it any longer but well-stored bottles should be showing attractively just now. 93 (12.75%)
Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault 1989
Unquestionably the finest wine from the first decade of this three-decade vertical, the 1989 was still in good shape, with a surprising precision, clarity and sweet lift to it. It’s old gold in colour, with harmonious aromas which bring together creamy peach, lemon-verbena freshness and the sweet exoticism of pineapple; there’s little nuttiness here, by contrast. On the palate, it’s both vivid and forthright, its poised acidity sustained and packed with fruit flavour and nuance, but with the harmony of maturity in evidence, too. A long, refined finish completes the picture. 93 (13.15%)Read more Andrew Jefford columns on Decanter.com
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Christelle Guibert visits Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle Reserve cellar to taste their latest releases.
Stepping into Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle Reserve cellar you would be forgiven for thinking you’d wandered onto the set of the latest James Bond film by mistake.
Opened in 2012 to coincide with Laurent-Perrier’s bicentenary, the vat room and state-of-the-art tasting area with subdued lighting setting off the slick black, grey and chromes, strike a note of serious sophistication with just a hint of Bond villain menace.
This slick modernism is combined with plenty of reminders of the great house’s past. Vintage glass bottles, pictures and other memorabilia adorn the walls of the old brick cellars which have been tunneled out of clay.
The Champagne house, known as Veuve Laurent-Perrier, was founded in 1812 and bought by Marie-Louise Lanson de Nonancourt in 1939. She looked after the business with her two sons and in 1945 Bernard de Nonancourt was named CEO. Today, the house is run by the two daughters and includes 150 hectares of their own vineyards and 1250 hectares under contract with loyal growers.
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When it comes to eating out, Barcelona puts on a spectacular show, directed by a new wave chefs who are pushing the bounds of Catalan cuisine. See our guide to the city’s top restaurants, chosen by local wine producers…Uncover Barcelona's hidden tapas gems and avant-garde Catalan cuisine... Credit: Michael Abid / AlamyTop restaurants in Barcelona — recommended by the producers at Decanter’s Spain & Portugal Fine Wine Encounter 2018
Restaurants recommended by Pamela Anzano, from Cava producer Gramona:Disfrutar
Located in the trendy and sprawling L’Esquerra de l’Eixample neighbourhood, the Disfrutar restaurant earned itself two stars in the Michelin Guide 2018.
Following on from its successful sister restaurant Compartir meaning ‘to share’, Disfrutar, ’to enjoy’, captures a similar sense of haut Catalan cuisine paired with laid-back service and hands-on chefs — Mateu Casañas, Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch. The trio cut their teeth at the world-famous elBulli restaurant, before teaming up to create their own restaurants.
On the way to your table, linger by the open kitchen to see the team’s skills in action. There are three tasting menus to choose from, but you won’t find the dishes listed on the website as the chefs believe an element of surprise is key. Book nowTickets
The curiously named Tickets is the brainchild of chef Albert Adrià, little brother of Ferran Adrià, of elBulli restaurant fame. Although his name carries a little less pomp than his brother, Albert fuels his menus with the same innovation — transforming several simple bar counters into a Michelin-starred destination.
The atmosphere is leisurely and the cooking is full of experimentation and a sense of fun — including dishes like the ‘mini airbag’ of manchego cheese foam with caviar, ‘crunchy suckling pig taco’, plus ‘mille-feuilles’ made with seaweed and sea urchins. To stave off thirst, Tickets has two sommeliers as well as a mixologist. Book nowLa Barra de Abellán
After lunchtime or evening stroll along Sant Sebastià beach, head over La Barra de Abellán, overlooking the harbour side of the Barceloneta peninsula. Here you’ll find fresh seafood delicacies including razor clams, oysters, cockles, eels, sea urchins, squid lobsters and red prawns — a specialty of Barceloneta. If you want something from dry land, there’s Wagyu steak on offer.
It’s named after its owner, contemporary chef Carles Abellán, who’s also behind other Barcelona favourites like Suculent (Catalan spelling) and Bravo, which you’ll find in the Hotel W. Book nowSEE ALSO: Dos Palillos
Dos Palillos, or ‘two chopsticks’, is a Michelin-starred restaurant near Las Ramblas, which fuses local Catalan ingredients with Asian-style cooking — focusing on the traditions of Japan, China and Southeast Asia.
The link between the two seemingly dissonant cuisines is the shared idea of using basic utensils to enjoy food — chopsticks in Asia and the little wooden sticks used to spear tapas in Spain.
At the helm is Albert Raurich, a Barcelona-born chef who spent 11 years honing his skills at elBulli. Sommelier Tamae Imachi is on hand to help create interesting wine or saké pairings.
There are a few different dining options: slide your way to the counter by the entrance for casual à carte options, no reservations needed. Or book a spot further inside, where you can sample the extensive tasting menus. On warm afternoons and balmy evenings, there’s also the lantern-lit outdoor terrace.
If you can’t get a table, try its sister restaurant, Dos Pebrots, which is just round the corner and also comes highly recommended. Book nowHoja Santa
The name Hoja Santa, or ‘sacred leaf’, harks back to a Mexican adventure involving its founders — chefs Albert Adrià and Paco Méndez, in which they became inspired by the Oaxaca leaf and its role in tamales and mole sauces.
Together they created this Mexican Michelin-starred restaurant in the up-and-coming Sant Antoni, neighbourhood near the south of the city.
There are a choice of two tasting menus, ‘Tenoch’ and ‘Pacific’, with the option of adding beverage pairings. Both are a heady mix of pre-Hispanic and Catalan cooking traditions, including dishes such as pickled nopales (cacti), local red prawns with macadamia mole and fava bean encremada. Book now
Restaurants recommended by Lucas Gailhac, brand amabassador for Familia Torres:ABaC
Part of a five-star boutique hotel to the north of the city, ABaC holds three Michelin stars and is led by Barcelona-born chef Jordi Cruz, a judge on Master Chef Spain.
It was noted by Michelin inspectors for its excellent wine list and you can even select your wine directly from the 1000-bin bodega. Visiting the kitchen is also encouraged and there’s a lit walkway for curious guests.
Reserve a seat outside on the garden terrace or in one of the delicately decorated dining rooms. There are two tasting menus to choose from: ‘Our Tradition’ and ‘Our Avant-Garde’. Menus highlights include toasted pine nut ice cream, tuna marrow, Bloody Mary macaroons and floral ice eggs. Book nowMoments
Walk through the hotel lobby in the Barcelona Mandarin Oriental, well-positioned on the Passeig de Gràcia, and you’ll reach its two-Michelin-star restaurant, Moments.
You can order à la carte or opt for the seasonally changing tasting menu, which focuses on culinary ‘ecosystems’ — including dishes daringly entitled ‘swamp’, ‘desert’, ‘tundra’ and even ‘aphotic abyssal’ (ask staff for full explanations).
Michelin inspectors noted its ‘particularly interesting wine list’, and ‘personalised’ wine pairing is available with the tasting menu, for an additional fee.
There’s a private chef’s table for serious gourmands, with just 15 seats and is only separated from the kitchen by a broad pane of coloured glass.
The chefs are the renowned mother-and-son team Carme Ruscalleda and Raül Balam. If you enjoy Moments, you can visit Ruscalleda’s other restaurant Sant Pau, located between Barcelona and Girona, which holds three Michelin stars. Book nowCeller de Can Roca
Although not technically in the city, Barcelona’s proximity to this restaurant in nearby Girona makes it worth a special trip. Why? It’s twice been ranked as the number one restaurant in the world, and currently holds no less than three Michelin stars.
Celler de Can Roca’s success comes down to the dynamism of the three Roca brothers, each with his own area of creative expertise. The eldest, Joan, is the head chef and youngest, Jordi, is the pastry chef, together they concoct the seven-course Classic and 14-course Festival menus.
But true oenophiles should make themselves known to middle brother Josep, the sommelier, who provides a wine list that weighs in like an encyclopaedia.
His ‘unique wine cellar with different sensory areas’ received high praise from the Michelin inspectors. Try and wangle a tour if you can, or at least plumb his wine knowledge for unexpected pairings.
The Roca brothers’ three-sided restaurant vision manifests itself in the triangular glass design of their restaurant, surrounding an inner garden. Book nowDos Cielos
For a meal with a view, there are few places to match the heights of Dos Cielos, located on the 24th floor of the five-star Meliá hotel. Its glass walls offer a panoramic picture of the mountains, sea and city skyline. There’s also a roof terrace if you’d prefer to eat alfresco.
Brothers Javier and Sergio Torres have created its menu of market-fresh ingredients, which won two stars in The Michelin Guide 2018 — inspectors also complimented its excellent 200-bin wine list and ‘designer setting’. For bookings call +34 93 367 20 70Lasarte
Basque chef Martín Berasategui is well known for his many Michelin stars, eight in total, of which his flagship restaurant Lasarte holds three.
The restaurant, on the ground floor of the Monument Hotel, was recently redesigned by a team of architects and it’s now filled with silvery lighting and an undulating ceiling. There’s a special chef’s table that seats eight, positioned for close observation of the kitchen action.
Choose from the à la carte menu, or the lavish 12-course tasting option, with wine pairing available from sommelier Marc Pinto. The wine list includes several hundred wines to choose from and was deemed ‘particularly interesting’ by the Michelin inspectors. Book nowMore wine travel ideas:
- Ten of the best restaurants in Valencia for wine lovers
- Luxury travel: Spain & Portugal wine tour ideas
- Ten of the best restaurants in San Sebastián
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Fortification allows wines to travel, keep and age for decades, sometimes centuries, but how much do you know about the different styles in this category? Test your knowledge with our fortified wine quiz....Barrels of Tawny Port Start the fortified wine quiz below
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Aldo Fiordelli tastes Bertani Amarone, including the first vintage, 1958...Drying the grapes at Bertani. Six vintages of Bertani wines
The ‘keeper of traditions’ is often an abused metaphor in the wine business.
Bertani winery in Valpolicella, on the other hand, is literally a gatekeeper of Amarone for at least two reasons: its classic unchanged style over decades and its impressive 120,000-bottle stock from 1958 to 2009.
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