The three Léovilles of Bordeaux: Full profiles and ratings

Decanter News - di, 13/03/2018 - 15:21

They may have their own identities but this unique trio of châteaux that form the magical Léoville estate in Bordeaux also have much in common. Premium members can read Jane's in-depth profile and tasting notes below.

The three Leovilles

The St-Julien appellation might not be in possession of a first growth château, but that really doesn’t seem to hold it back unduly.

It manages all the same to be among the most alluring stretches of land in Bordeaux, running from the Juillac stream to the north that serves as the tiny border (you could wade across it in pretty much one step) between St-Julien and Pauillac, down 5km southwards to the Jalle du Nord.

The area is noted for its extremely regular and deep Günzian gravel dating from the last ice age, when woolly mammoths roamed and the continents finally settled into their current positions.

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Latour tests new approach with Les Forts 2012 release

Decanter News - di, 13/03/2018 - 12:00

Les Forts de Latour 2012 will be released this month, making it the first wine to go on the market that was produced after the first growth estate left the en primeur system.

Chateau Latour

The tower at Château Latour

Les Forts de Latour 2012 will be released along with Latour 2006 – the grand vin – on 21 March, a few weeks before merchants arrive to taste the 2017 vintage en primeur, and where they will be able to taste the 2012 and 2006 Latour and Forts vintages at the estate.

Six years ago, in 2012, Pauillac first growth Château Latour announced that the 2011 vintage would be the last one that it would sell as a future under the Bordeaux en primeur system.

It has since released older vintages each year, still through the Bordeaux merchant system, but kept back the entirety of its new vintages at the estate, for release when the wines are mature.

Next week’s release of the Les Forts de Latour 2012 will be the first time that this new system will really be tested, as this will be a wine that has not to date been sold in the market, and therefore there are no back vintage pricing to compete against.

Pricing information was not disclosed at this stage. Steven Spurrier rated the Forts 2012 as 91 points when he tasted it en primeur for Decanter.

Latour said of the release, ‘This wine perfectly embodies our philosophy of cellaring at the estate until the first stage of maturity has been reached.’

There has been speculation within Bordeaux that this could be a relatively size-able release. Estate marketing director Jean Garandeau confirmed the release date but did not specify the amount of cases set to go on the market.

In 2012, Latour put 36% of the overall production into the first wine, with 43% going into Les Forts de Latour and 22% into Pauillac de Latour. In an average year the estate will make somewhere between 12,000 to 15,000 cases across the three labels.

Shaun Bishop, of San Francisco-based wine retailer JJ Buckley, told Decanter.com, ‘We live in an era where consumers usually don’t want to plan ahead and they definitely don’t want to wait around.

‘Wine is no exception and in this department Latour is one step ahead of its neighbours in Bordeaux.

‘It is difficult to measure the potential success ahead of release, but there is no denying that the landscape is changing, and the days of selling a wine two years ahead of shipment (and many years before optimal drinking window) is slowly but surely coming to an end.’

How Médoc 2015 wines taste in the bottle – See Jane Anson’s ratings

Exclusively for Premium members


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Great value Rioja with high scores

Decanter News - di, 13/03/2018 - 10:30

Despite it's fame and popularity, prices for Rioja remain reasonable compared to other fine wine producing regions. Here are some recommendations from Decanter experts, all under £30 and over 90 points

Value Rioja

We all know and love Rioja, a wine famous for its Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva styles.

These remain the lynchpin of the region’s wines, but we are increasingly seeing newer styles too, including single-varietal reds and fresh, unoaked whites, as well as super-pale rosés reminiscent of Provence.

Below we have highlighted some great value Rioja wines, all achieving scores from Decanter of at least 90 points.

Ranging from under £10 to less than £30, these represent true value in their respective price brackets.

See also: Best Rioja: Wines to try See also: Mature Rioja: Panel tasting results Great value Rioja: Finca Nueva, Gran Reserva, Rioja, Mainland Spain, 2004 Bodegas Ramon Bilbao, Rioja, LaLomba Rosado, Rioja, 2016 Berry Bros & Rudd, Rioja, Crianza, Crianza, Rioja, 2014 Ortega Ezquerro, Rioja, Don Quintin Ortega Blanco, 2015 Tesco, Rioja, Gran Reserva, Finest Viña del Cura, 2011 Bodegas Ostatu, Rioja, Blanco, Rioja, Mainland Spain, 2016 Beronia, Rioja, Reserva, Rioja, Mainland Spain, Spain, 2013


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EU wine trade body publishes calorie labelling plan

Decanter News - di, 13/03/2018 - 08:30

A trade body representing thousands of European Union winemakers has proposed providing more nutritional information on wines, but health professionals said plans do not go far enough.

best red wines

EU wine producers, alongside beer and spirits makers, will make more nutritional and ingredients information available to consumers, said the CEEV trade body at a press conference in Brussels late Monday afternoon (12 March).

That involves calorie information about wines, which would be presented as ‘energy’ amounts, said the CEEV, which represents 23 national wine bodies, plus individual wine companies and non-EU Swiss and Ukraine wine associations.

Senior doctors in the UK criticised the move for not going far enough, and particularly for allowing wineries to publish information online with QR code links, or something similar, on bottle labels.

‘This information will be provided on-label or off-label,’ said Ignacio Sánchez Recarte, secretary general of the CEEV. ‘It will up to producers to decide which support use.’

The CEEV statement comes after the European Commission said in March 2017 that the alcoholic drinks industry had 12 months to devise ways to improve nutrition and ingredients information for consumers.

Alcoholic drinks above 1.2% abv have a special exemption from EU food labelling rules.

Some companies already provide calorie information online, including Penfolds owner Treasury Wine Estates, plus Pernod Ricard, Diageo and Accolade Wines.

Under CEEV proposals released this week, a symbol ‘E’ would be used to denote ‘energy’ and this would be followed by calorie amounts based on expected portion size.

Examples published by the CEEV were:

  • Brut sparkling wine: E= 301kJ/72kcal (per 100ml)
  • For a liqueur wine 20% abv: E= 670kJ/160kcal
  • For a liqueur wine 20% abv: E= 670kJ/160kcal 60ml: E= 402kJ/96kcal This [75cl] bottle
    contains 12,5 servings

Dr Sánchez Recarte told Decanter.com, ‘The information will be provided on the basis of 100ml of wine, and when relevant, the producer may decide to complement this information with the energy information on the basis of a portion (amount equivalent to 10g ethanol).’

The UK’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) accused the alcoholic drinks industry of ‘hiding, not providing’ nutritional information by allowing producers to simply put energy amounts online.

It called on the European Commission, and the UK government, to demand tougher action.

The CEEV said that it was also committed to providing consistent ingredient information in-line with EU food rules.

However, it highlighted that ingredients defined as processing aids do not need to be publicly flagged in the EU; raising the prospect of further debate.

The CEEV said that the international wine body, OIV, which maintains a rulebook on winemaking methods, was currently looking at what could be defined as a processing aid.

The CEEV added that small and medium-sized enterprises made up around 90% of the EU wine industry and that consumer needs would have to be balanced against their resources to implement policy.

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What is a Vino de Pago?

Decanter News - di, 13/03/2018 - 08:02

In partnership with ARAEX Grands

Understand this labelling term...

Vino de PagoPago de Cirsus

In partnership with ARAEX Grands

What is a Vino de Pago?

The 21st century is showing us Spanish winemakers who want to embrace more finite classification methods and in turn make the higher-quality vineyards of the Iberian Peninsula more visible to the world’s wine drinkers.

One of the fruits of these efforts has been the “Vino de Pago” system that came into legal being in 2003.

Perhaps a foreign term for people who don’t know it yet, the easiest way to think of it is like a French-wide Grand Cru system that while based in Spain’s Denominations of Origins (DOs) functions independently of them. It’s important to note that within the region of Catalonia, a separate classification system exists only for their wines that functions in the same manner but is called “Vi de Finca”.

The term “pago” can make for a play on words as the most typical use is for a “payment” in Spanish but when related to olives or more importantly, grapes, it’s a defined area or “single vineyard”.

To become a certified pago, there are several requirements: the pago needs to be owned by the winery who produces the wines, the pago has to be within a registered DO, and the pago has to demonstrate unique characteristics that make it worthy of receiving the status.

Once certified, a new DO is created for the pago in question and it enters the official list – of which there are 17 at the moment (see below), with several more pending final approval. As with all qualifications placed under national DO regulations, the Ministerio de Agricultura y Pesca, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente (Ministry of Agriculture) has the final approval in awarding it.

Vino de Pago

Pago de Cirsus. Credit: Araex

The reason for chasing down this certification for the wineries is that it allows them state on the label what is designed to be a higher qualification of quality than DO or even the top-level DOCa which is only held by Rioja and Priorat currently.

Largely, these classifications have been dominated by the regions of Castilla-La Mancha and Navarra perhaps as a way to show a higher-level of wine production in regions that aren’t as well known in Spain.

However, the much more well-known regions such as Rioja, Bierzo, or Priorat don’t have any vineyards with the Vino de Pago certification and none are currently planning to apply. To a large degree, these three regions have chosen to define their own high-quality “pago” vineyards at a local level by creating a quality pyramid from the ground up as opposed to the top down in Spanish system seen with Vino de Pago.

All of these various qualification systems will undoubtedly persist into the future, however as winemakers in Spain have been on a steady drive to define, promote, and enjoy the top wines emerging from one of the world’s largest wine producers.

The Vino de Pagos
  • Campo de la Guardia ( 2009, Toledo)
  • Casa del Blanco ( 2010, Ciudad Real )
  • Dehesa del Carrizal ( 2006, Ciudad Real )
  • Dominio de Valdepusa ( 2002, Toledo )
  • Finca Élez ( 2002, Albacete )
  • Pago Guijoso ( 2004, Albacete )
  • Pago Florentino ( 2009, Ciudad Real )
  • Pago de Arínzano ( 2009, Navarra )
  • Pago de Otazu ( 2009, Navarra )
  • Prado de Irache ( Navarra)
  • Pago de Aylés ( año 2011, Zaragoza )
  • Pago El Terrerazo, de Bodegas Mustiguillo ( año 2011, Valencia )
  • Los Balagueses ( 2011, Valencia)
  • Pago Chozas Carrascal ( 2012 Valencia )
  • Pago Calzadilla ( 2011, Cuenca )
  • Pago Finca Bolandín, Bodega Pago de Cirsus (2014 Navarra).
  • Pago Vera de Estenas (2013, Valencia)

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Tenuta San Leonardo profile and wine ratings

Decanter News - ma, 12/03/2018 - 18:04

Stephen Brook meets the father-and-son team at the helm of the Trentino trailblazer, Tenuta San Leonardo. Decanter Premium members can see recently updated scores and tasting notes for Stephen Brook's top wines across three decades.

Tenuta San Leonardo

Trentino is a thin wine region sandwiched between Valpolicella to the south and Alto Adige to the north.

There is little doubt that its potential is far from being fully realised, though there are two stellar estates here. Foradori specialises in wines from local varieties such as Teroldego, while Tenuta San Leonardo is firmly in the international variety camp.

There are also good sparkling wines being made by established firms like Ferrari, but Trentino production is dominated by large cooperatives. Some good wines are made, but not in sufficient quantities to put the region on the map.

  • Scroll down to see Stephen Brook’s San Leonardo vertical tasting
Tenuta San Leonardo at a glance

  • Estate 25 hectares; organic since 2015
  • Owner Marchesi Guerrieri Gonzaga
  • Consultant winemaker Carlo Ferrini
  • Production 300,000 bottles
  • Main wines San Leonardo (65,000 bottles), Villa Gresti (15,000 bottles)
  • Typical blend for flagship San Leonardo wine: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon with Carmènere, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

Article continues beneath the wines

Stephen Brook’s San Leonardo vertical tasting

The following vintages were tasted in 2016: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2008, 2010. The rest were tasted in late 2017.


Tenuta San Leonardo, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, 1986 Tenuta San Leonardo, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, 1988 Tenuta San Leonardo, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, 1990 Tenuta San Leonardo, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, 1995 Tenuta San Leonardo, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, 1996 Tenuta San Leonardo, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, 1997 Tenuta San Leonardo, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, 1999 Tenuta San Leonardo, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, 2000 Tenuta San Leonardo, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, 2001 Tenuta San Leonardo, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, 2003 Tenuta San Leonardo, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, 2004 Tenuta San Leonardo, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, 2007 Tenuta San Leonardo, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, 2008 Tenuta San Leonardo, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, 2010 Tenuta San Leonardo, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, 2011 Tenuta San Leonardo, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, 2013



San Leonardo is a noble estate that was in the hands of the Gresti family until 1894, and in the 19th century they provided wines such as Riesling and ‘Borgogna’ (likely a Burgundy type red blend) to the Austrian court under the name of Château St Leonard.

In 1894, Marchese Guerrieri Gonzaga married into the family and took over running the estate. His son Anselmo renovated the property, and after his death the present owner, Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga, inherited it in 1974.

Carlo was no amateur, having studied oenology at Lausanne in Switzerland and worked in the early 1960s with his relative Mario Incisa at San Guido in Bolgheri, Tuscany. But in those days the Incisa estate was just two hectares and its most famous wine, Sassicaia, hadn’t even been born. As there was no space for him at San Leonardo, Carlo remained in Tuscany for eight years.

At that time, San Leonardo was a polycultural estate, but parts of the property had been sold, and on Anselmo’s death, taxes required the sale of about half the property. So despite the noble history, the Guerrieri Gonzagas had been tightening their belts. Carlo was keen to invest in San Leonardo, and took a job at a cousin’s cement business to earn the money that would allow him to do so.

Anselmo Guerrieri Gonzaga with Luigino Tinelli

Hallmark elegance

As at San Guido, there was a distinct French influence at San Leonardo. The main varieties were Merlot and Cabernet Franc, although subsequently it became clear that much of the latter was in fact Carmenere. Cabernet Sauvignon cuttings were brought in from France, and on the recommendation of Piero Antinori, head of the Tuscan wine dynasty, Giacomo Tachis was hired as a consultant and helped to create the discreet, elegant style that is the hallmark of San Leonardo. Another constant presence here is Luigino Tinelli, who was born on the estate and has been its general manager since the 1970s.

Today the consultant winemaker is Carlo Ferrini from Tuscany, who replaced the ageing Tachis in 2000. A year later Marchese Carlo’s son Anselmo came back to help run San Leonardo after his father fell ill. Anselmo admits: ‘There have been some difficult times here, and I won’t pretend the period when I came back to help run the estate was easy, with my father pulling in one direction, and I pushing in another. And we were slow to develop our marketing in tune with the age of social media. But today my father and I work well together and have found the right balance, and I respect him hugely for having stuck to his vision.

‘He never wanted to make big, concentrated, oaky wines, even when they were all the rage and scored top points from the Italian wine guides. He can be stubborn but he has been true to his stylistic signature.’

Marchese Carlo showed me around the estate in a rickety jeep. Tall and lean, he exudes an urbane charm. We started from the sprawling estate buildings alongside the valley road. The offices and winery are here, and some workers’ apartments; there is a chapel with remarkable 12th-century frescoes. In the courtyard are shelters for a fleet of estate Fiat 500s, painted gaudily in camouflage tones, as well as a collection of ancient working tractors. Behind, there is a children’s playground, a donkey enclosure, rabbit hutch and other child-friendly animals. Clearly the estate is paternalistic in the very best sense.

Some vineyards are planted on fairly flat land near the buildings, while others climb the slopes towards the woodlands. Hidden within them by a small park is the 19th-century Villa Gresti, a capacious if not especially attractive mansion. Surprisingly, a substantial part of the vineyard is planted on pergola, a high-trained system not usually associated with wines of fine quality. Much of the Carmènere is here.

Singular style

Marchese Carlo explains: ‘We’ve always had Carmènere, but we used to believe it was Cabernet Franc. We wanted to plant more and bought some vines from a nursery in France. The berries were smaller than our old vines, and it was then that we realised those original vines were in fact Carmènere. It’s a variety that produces almost nothing on Guyot trellising, but gives reasonable yields on pergola, where the canes are longer. We can get Carmènere fully ripe at 13% potential alcohol, though our wines aren’t as powerful as most Chilean ones.’

‘We’ve persisted with Carmènere as it’s the fingerprint of San Leonardo,’ adds Anselmo. It’s the variety that’s linked to our land. It has a strong character that somehow combines elegance with a slight rusticity.’

There are two principal red wines here: San Leonardo itself, from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon with Carmènere, Cabernet Franc and Merlot; and Villa Gresti, first made in 2000 – a blend of Merlot with 10% to 15% Carmènere. San Leonardo is not made in mediocre vintages.

The grapes are sorted and destemmed, then fermented in cement tanks using indigenous yeasts. It is aged for some 10 months in cement tanks, in partly new barriques for 18 to 24 months, and then in bottle for 20 months. Villa Gresti spends up to 14 months in barriques.

In their youth these wines can be shy, even austere. This is largely due to the climate: here in the lower stretches of the Alps, nights can be very cool and this diurnal range preserves acidity. At the same time a warm wind blows in each afternoon from nearby Lake Garda. ‘This gives us a special microclimate that results in our wines showing both freshness and ripeness,’ explains Marchese Carlo. ‘But it does mean they need time in bottle to become approachable.’ With bottle age they emerge as being among Italy’s most elegant wines.

There were fears that when Carlo Ferrini came on board the style might change, as his wines (he consults to many top names: Barone Ricasoli, Castello di Fonterutoli, Poliziano, Principe Corsini…) usually have more opulence and flamboyance than San Leonardo’s. But he agreed to retain the existing style, and though the wines of the past 15 years do seem a bit fleshier than older vintages, that may also have much to do with climate change.

In 2007 and 2010 the estate produced a pure Carmènere, which is vinified in the same way as the other red wines. And there are two white wines: a Sauvignon Blanc called Vette was introduced in 2012, made from purchased fruit from growers around Rovereto further north; and a Riesling with grapes from northern Trentino, first made in 2013. Anselmo would like to add a spumante to the range, but this is still at the discussion stage.

Marchese Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga


Anselmo seems to find it frustrating that Trentino as a whole is less quality-oriented than San Leonardo and a very small number of other private estates. ‘The average vineyard holding here is 1.5ha, so growers are reliant on the co-ops buying their fruit. We have good co-ops here. They make excellent everyday wines but few outstanding wines.

‘Alto Adige to the north of us has wonderful wines that fetch good prices, with high quality driven by village co-ops, but the same isn’t really true here. As every grower needs to be rewarded, there’s little incentive to push up quality. Yet the potential here is amazing: we have beautiful soils, clean water, and a perfect climate with warm days and cool nights. But Trentino is little known, and that holds it back.’

Nonetheless, the Guerrieri Gonzagas have refused to allow standards to slip and, stylistically, the whites are surely a nod to the crystalline wines from Alto Adige. Tenuta San Leonardo and Villa Gresti are unflinching tributes to the vision of the family over generations, and to the terroir of the estate. Despite the wines’ reserve and somewhat austere style in their youth, they deserve their places as Italian classics.

Profile originally published in 2016 and new wine ratings added in March 2018.

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Graves and Pessac-Léognan white wines 2015 in bottle

Decanter News - ma, 12/03/2018 - 15:23

Jane Anson has re-tasted the Graves and Pessac-Léognan 2015 dry white wines in bottle, providing updated tasting notes and ratings exclusively for Decanter Premium members...

Bordeaux 2015, Graves

Vineyards in Graves.

Introduction by Decanter editorial

Ripe fruit was a particular feature of several dry white wines from Graves and Pessac-Léognan in the Bordeaux 2015 vintage at the time of the en primeur tastings.

This was particularly apparent when compared to the 2014 vintage, which was marked by much higher acidity levels – so much so that several producers took the rare step of allowing malolactic fermentation on their Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, in order to to soften the edges.

Jane Anson said after tasting Graves and Pessac 2015 dry whites en primeur:

They show clearly riper fruits than vintages such as 2013 or 2014, when acidities were high and the wines showed excellent ageing potential.’

There is a danger in Pessac that the dry whites could be overshadowed by the red 2015 vintage, but the best dry white wines wines should age well over the next decade, according to Anson, who re-tasted many of the wines for Decanter two years after the harvest.

Premium members can see Jane Anson’s tasting notes and ratings below.


Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2015 Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Olivier, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Malartic-Lagravière, Pessac-Léognan, 2015 Château Bouscaut Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Pape Clément, Graves, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Brown, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2015 Château de Fieuzal, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Le Petit Clos des Lunes, Pessac-Léognan, Lune d'Or, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Couhins, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château La Garde, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Latour-Martillac, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Gazin Rocquencourt, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2015 Château Cantelys, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan, Les Hauts de Clos des Lunes, Pessac-Léognan, Lune d'Argent, 2015 Château Rahoul, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Lespault-Martillac, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2015 Clos des Lunes, Pessac-Léognan, Lunes Blanches, 2015 Château Haut-Bergey, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Clos Marsalette, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015


Bordeaux 2015: How it looks in bottle Jane Anson’s original Graves and Pessac 2015 en primeur report More on Bordeaux 2015



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Jefford on Monday: “Wind, stone …”

Decanter News - ma, 12/03/2018 - 10:31

Andrew Jefford feels the blast in Catalonia’s Empordà.

Empordà, cataloniaSummer in Empordà.

Through travel comes understanding.  An open mind, of course, is essential, as is the readiness to tear up preconceptions.  I had a little tearing up to do recently.

It was one of those visits which (like the journey from Italy’s Collio to Slovenia’s Brda) makes you realise how pointless national borders can be.  The wine region in question was Empordà.   I had previously always thought of it as classic Catalan hill country with a distinctive Mediterranean beauty and identity, like Alella or Penedès.

That’s not right.  It is, perhaps, best seen as a part of Greater Roussillon: a sister vineyard to Maury and the Agly Valley, to Collioure and Banyuls.  These French appellations are just 20 minutes’ drive away from Empordà’s northernmost vineyards.  In terroir terms, the French-Spanish border here is an irrelevance: the five belong together.

Taste the best wines of Empordà, and you’ll see a drama, a stoniness and an austere, almost aching bittersweet beauty which is common to this northern Catalonian cluster of vineyard zones.

The eastern Pyrenees comes clattering down into the Mediterranean at this point via a fistful of ranges and valleys. What divides the Empordà plain from the Perpignan plain is the chain of the Albères (Serra de l’Albera), with Collioure and Banyuls sewn on one side of it and the Northern Empordà vineyards stitched on to the other, sharing the same acidic brown schist soils (there are granites further inland).  The Albères push on to the sea via the exposed Cap de Creus and its own hill chain, the Serra de Rodes.  Roussillon’s 2,784m-peak of Canigou is visible throughout, clouds allowing.

It’s tough country, not least because of the flagellation of the Tramontane, the northwesterly wind which hurtles southwards here with unbridled force.  What I discovered about the Mistral in Châteauneuf is every bit as true for the Tramontane in Empordà: it’s hard on humans, but all the signs are that the vines thrive on it.

Organic and biodynamic cultivation is relatively easy here, and old vines common (most Empordà vineyards are older than 30 years); it mitigates the fierce summer heat; and it helps bring the drama and concentration that are a feature of the wines (as well as a saline character on the exposed Cap de Creus).  It’s even said to have been responsible for the creative madness of Salvador Dalí, who was born, lived and died in Empordà.

The Tramontane was blowing icily during my visit in early February – though somehow the almonds managed to flower in its teeth, leaving pink smudges in the wide perspectives and the crystal air.

Empordà’s vineyards today occupy about 2,000 ha.  As in Priorat much further south, that’s just a fragment of the pre-phylloxera total, thought to have exceeded 25,000 ha here: the abandoned terraces are everywhere visible.  There are two vineyard zones: a very windy northern part (Alt Empordà) close to Figueres and the Albères, and a distant southern zone (Baix Empordà) of more clay-rich vineyards loosely clustered around Palafrugell, where conditions are less windy. Some 90 per cent of production is from Alt Empordà.

After phylloxera, by the way, many of the hill farmers replanted their old vineyards with cork oaks, and some 15 per cent of global cork production now comes from the Costa Brava, with a particular emphasis on sparkling wine and Champagne corks.  Empordà cork is said to be high in quality thanks to the slow growing conditions here.

As elsewhere in Catalonia, French varieties like Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah were planted in Empordà during the last decades of the twentieth century, but it wasn’t always a good idea.  ‘We have some Cabernet vines,’ says Oriel Guevara from the steep, exposed vineyards of Hugas de Batlle, ‘which have never produced a berry in fifteen years.  It’s just too tough.  Wind, stone …’ he shrugged, and smiled.

The great varieties for red wines here (and red wines occupy 60% of plantings) are Carignan and Grenache; indeed the finest Empordà Carignan strikes me as some of the greatest I have ever tasted.  Whites (based on Grenache Blanc and Gris, Carignan Blanc and Maccabeu) can be superb, too.  There are, though, nomenclature problems.

Not so much with Grenache, generally known either as Lledoner here and on labels in its Catalan form Garnatxa, but certainly with Carignan.  This is usually labelled Samsò here, despite this being more properly a Catalan form of the name Cinsaut.

Mazuelo (the name under which this variety is listed in Robinson, Harding and Vouillamoz’s Wine Grapes) is not used here, nor is the Catalan form Carinyena.  Cariñena, meanwhile, is unavailable due to disagreements with the DO of the same name.  (For simplicity’s sake, I have used the French versions of grape variety names in the notes which follow.)

The problems with Carignan Blanc are worse.  “We’re in the land of surrealism,” said Gemma Roig of Mas Llunes, “and the surreal fact is that no one ever entered Carignan Blanc on the list of official varieties for Spain.  So it doesn’t officially exist, and we can’t officially refer to it on labels.”

As in the rest of Greater Roussillon, there is also a tradition of fortified-wine production here, including rancio wines.  These fascinating, complex, cultural wines are locally much treasured, though on my own scoresheet they struggle to compete with the unfortified wines, which are often clearly outstanding.

The Empordà renaissance is a relatively recent phenomenon; many older growers remember the difficulty of selling wines even to local consumers, most of whom were once unthinking Rioja-drinkers.  All of that has now changed utterly, not least because of the extraordinarily high standard of local cuisine (ElBulli, remember, was a restaurant in Alt Empordà).

The sense of pride in Catalan identity has a gastronomic as well as a political dimension, and great food is usually predicated on a substrate of fine local ingredients, wine included.

The dynamic Josep Serra and his wife Marta Pedra of La Vinyeta, for example, were showing a group of local chefs around the property on the day I called; in addition to fine wines, they also produce olive oil, free-range eggs and are about to open a small cheese factory.  ‘Girona has more than 20 Michelin stars,’ Josep pointed out, ‘and most of our sales are to restaurants.’

In the end, though, it’s the terroir that counts: the potential which ambition and effort can uncover.  On the basis of this short initial visit, my view is that Empordà has a great future.  Two months ago, I didn’t know that.

Tasting Empordà

In addition to the thirteen wines for which notes are given below, look out for others from Celler Martin Faixo, Celler Hugas de Batlle, AV Bodeguers, Cellers d’En Guilla, Celler Gerisena, Celler Terra Remota, Clos d’Agon and Mas Soller.


Arché Pagès, Bonfill, Empordà, Mainland Spain, Spain, 2014 Arché Pagès, Ull de Serp Finca la Closa Macabeu, 2016 Espelt, Coma Bruna Très Old Vinyes, Empordà, 2015 Martí Fabra, Masia Carreras, Empordà, Mainland Spain, 2015 Roig Parals, Camí de Cormes, Empordà, Mainland Spain, 2016 11, Empordà, 2011 La Vinyeta, Microvins Garnatxa Negrar, Empordà, 2014 Castillo Perelada, Aires de Garbet, Empordà, 2015 Gelama, Finca Descorbes, Empordà, Mainland Spain, 2016 Mas Estela, Quindals, Empordà, Mainland Spain, Spain, 2014 Vinyes dels Aspres, Negre dels Aspres, Empordà, 2012 Masia Serra, Aroa, Empordà, Mainland Spain, Spain, 2016 Mas Llunes, Butaros, Empordà, Mainland Spain, Spain, 2013

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Domaine Leroy: Profile and wine ratings

Decanter News - zo, 11/03/2018 - 19:14

Burgundy master Clive Coates MW tells you everything that you need to know about Domaine Leroy, along with historical tasting notes on wines from top vintages - as part of a series that looks back at domaine profiles from Clive's most recent books.

Domaine Leroywww.domaine-leroy.com

Almost a century and a half ago, in 1868, François Leroy set himself up as a wine-merchant in his native village of Auxey-Duresses, just round the corner from Meursault.  The business was expanded by his son Joseph, who took over at about the turn of the century and further developed by the next generation in the person of Henri, born in 1894, who entered the family affair in 1919.  Henri diversified into eaux de vie and cognac, establishing a model distillery at Ségonzac and as well as fine wine, sold lesser bulk wine to Germany, where it was made into sekt, and brandy in the same direction particularly to Asbach.  During the 1930s Henri became, firstly a client of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, and then a good friend of Edmond Gaudin de Villaine, the gérant and co-owner with his brother-in-law Jacques Chambon.

These were hard times.  The DRC was a bottomless pit necessitating yearly expensive investment on the one hand, but yielding no profit on the other.  It seemed inevitable that it would have to be sold.  And if it were to pass out of the Chambon-De Villaine hands, Henri Leroy and his friend knew only too well, it would be the start of the slippery slope.  Before too long the vineyards of Romanée-Conti and La Tâche would be as morcellated as that of Clos Vougeot.


Domaine Leroy, Richebourg Grand Cru, Burgundy, France, 1999 Domaine Leroy, Richebourg Grand Cru, Burgundy, France, 1990 Domaine Leroy, Richebourg Grand Cru, Burgundy, France, 2009 Domaine Leroy, Chambertin Grand Cru, Burgundy, France, 2009 Domaine Leroy, Chambertin Grand Cru, Burgundy, France, 2007 Domaine Leroy, Chambertin Grand Cru, Burgundy, France, 1998 Domaine Leroy, Romanée-St-Vivant Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2009 Domaine Leroy, Romanée-St-Vivant Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2007 Domaine Leroy, Musigny Grand Cru, Burgundy, France, 2009 Domaine Leroy, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, Burgundy, 1995 Domaine Leroy, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2005 Domaine Leroy, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, Burgundy, 1999 Domaine Leroy, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, Burgundy, 1993 Where to buy Clive Coates MW’s ‘My Favorite Burgundies’ book:

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Spanish wine industry in numbers

Decanter News - zo, 11/03/2018 - 16:02

In partnership with ARAEX Grands

Production, exports and consumption of Spanish wines...

In partnership with ARAEX Grands

Spanish wine industry in numbers

In terms of vineyard area, Spain has the highest amount in the world – almost one million hectares (2.4 million acres).

However, the drier climate and poorer soils result in lower production levels, around 42 million hectolitres per year, below those of Italy and France.

The mountainous orography of the country and its sheer extension result in an amazing variety of wine styles. In quantitative terms, almost half the production is concentrated in one single region: Castilla-La Mancha.

Spain wine industry has been characterised in the last years by two major features, unheard of in the past.

Less domestic consumption

First, Spain is no longer a great wine consuming country. Since the 1970s, the home market has been continuously dwindling, to such an extent that the present per capita wine consumption in Spain is much lower than in the UK. If we also consider, adding to the figure, that more than 70 million tourists are included in the statistic, the picture is very dark.

Spain is a huge wine exporter, at levels that are comparable to Chile and Australia. More than two thirds of Spanish production, around 24 million hectolitres, find their way in foreign markets. The whole production system is steered towards exports, at all price levels.

From that point of view, Spain would indeed be better defined as a ‘new world’ country rather than a classic European producer. The frantic innovation pace in the wine industry in present Spain confirms this new world image.


The second characteristic of Spanish wine is its average prices. Almost half the wine production is sold at unbeatably low prices (in a normal vintage).

No other country can compete with Spain (in particular, with the regions of La Mancha and Valencia), in terms of price to quality ratio. Do not try to find indication of origin for those wines, they are distributed in all kinds of wine products.

Importance of exports

Exports are increasingly important, and there is no sign of it slowing down. In 2016 and 2017, volumes did not increase, but total value did relevantly.

The importance of quality wines, those under an appellation of origin (DOC), is increasing at steady paces. But the value of Spain’s annual wine production, around €4.8 billion, is still far away from France’s or Italy’s.

Still red wines are the main production chapter (€2.7 billion in value), followed by still white wines (€1.1 billion), sparkling, rosé and fortified.

Although production volume for DOC wines is comparatively low (1.3 billion litres), the value is more than double value that of bulk wines.

More on Spanish Fine Wines

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The Forest Side restaurant, Grasmere – review

Decanter News - zo, 11/03/2018 - 13:04

Adventurous food and wine at The Forest Side...

The Forest Side restaurantThe Forest Side restaurant. The Forest Side restaurant Keswick Road, Grasmere theforestside.com
  • Rating: 8/10
  • Open every day for breakfast and dinner.
  • Dinner bed and breakfast from £299 based on two people sharing.
  • Locally foraged tasting menus available from £35 lunch / £60 dinner
  • Wine to try: 2015 Domaine Roquemale Meli Melo
Full review

8 o’clock on a Thursday evening in Grasmere and a large party of diners is eating squirrel croquettes and drinking Georgian wine. Not exactly what you’d expect in the genteel Lakes, where just down the road coachloads line up to enjoy the warm fug of the Grasmere gingerbread shop and file past Wordsworth’s tomb.

Cosy tea rooms aside the Lakes has always been a bit of a gastronomic mecca – spearheaded these days by Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume at which both Forest Side’s chef Kevin Tickle and head sommelier Charles Carron Brown have worked. It’s an ambitious, no expense spared make over of a traditional Victorian hunting lodge but still retains a traditional Lakeland feel despite the on-trend Scandi-influenced locally foraged tasting menu – hence the squirrel which is somewhat unnervingly coated with grey ash. (Surprisingly good actually.)

The Forest Side restaurant

The Forest Side restaurant. Credit: The Forest Side Facebook

Dishes from the somewhat tweely monikered menus – “The Grand ‘Un”, The L’Al ‘Un and the Reet L’al ‘Un – are brought to the table and explained in detail of which you catch the occasional word or phrase – “curcubit relish”, “sunset velvet”, “garden shenanignans”, that doesn’t leave you much the wiser but that said the food and the flavours are seriously impressive.

Dishes I’d happily go back for included a hearty bowl of ‘campfire chanterelles’ cooked in bone marrow with brisket and a deeply savoury mushroom broth making the accompanying wine (the aforementioned Rkatistelli from Pheasant’s Tears almost redundant.) North Atlantic cod with oyster and dill was a faultless seafood dish while the smoked potato custard that accompanied some perfectly cooked Cumbrian rare breed pork was one of the best things I put in my mouth last year. There’s a lot of sprouted tendril action due to the abundant harvest in the greenhouses in the walled garden alongside, no doubt one of the reasons Michelin gave it a star eight months after opening.

The Forest Side food restaurant

The Forest Side restaurant. Credit: The Forest Side Facebook

We went for the recommended wine pairings which are commendably original and adventurous. Forest Side has comprehensively embraced natural wine a fact which may deter some readers but is at least consistent in philosophy.

If you’re pushing the boundaries with food to see what the chef is capable of why not expose yourself to unfamiliar and possibly challenging wines to see what the sommelier can do too? Even my natural wine sceptic of a neighbour liked the opulent Samurai free-run juice Chardonnay (spot on with the crayfish) and 2015 Domaine Roquemale Meli Melo from the Herald which was perfectly paired with the pork.

All in all Forest Side ‘vaut le detour’. The grounds and the surrounding countryside are enchanting – at breakfast I saw a rare red squirrel gambolling on the lawn outside. The hotel is clearly doing its bit to protect them by popping those predator greys in those croquettes.

More restaurant reviews here.
  • Fiona Beckett is a Decanter contributing editor and chief restaurant reviewer. To get the first look at her bar and restaurant reviews from all over the world, subscribe to Decanter magazine


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Sparkling wines for Mother’s Day

Decanter News - za, 10/03/2018 - 10:00

It's Mother's Day in the UK on Sunday 11 March, so why not treat your mum - and yourself - to a bottle of something sparkling?

Mother's Day winesChoose a sparkling wine for Mother's Day.Mother’s Day wines

Find a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate Mother’s Day.

The following wines have been picked by Decanter’s expert tasters, and there’s a style for everyone at a range of prices, whether you’re after vintage Champagne, newly-fashionable Crémant, quality Prosecco or premium Cava…

More inspiration: Most exciting sparkling wines of 2017


Louis Roederer, Brut Premier, Champagne, France Nicolas Feuillatte, Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France, 2008 Château de l’Aulée, Crémant de Loire, Loire, France Windsor Great Park Vineyard, England, United Kingdom, 2014 Ferrari, Trento, Riserva del Fondatore Giulio Ferrari, 2006 Freixenet, Cava de Paraje Calificado, Casa Sala Gran Sainsbury's, Taste the Difference English Sparkling Brut, Aldi, Crémant du Jura, Exquisite Collection, Jura, 2015 Camel Valley, Pinot Noir Rosé, England, United Kingdom, 2016 Mionetto, Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze, Prosecco Waitrose, Cava, Cava Brut in partnership with  Castillo

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Sauternes and Barsac 2015 re-tasted in the bottle

Decanter News - vr, 09/03/2018 - 15:26

Jane Anson has re-tasted 2015 Sauternes and Barsac wines two years after harvest. Decanter Premium members can read her notes and ratings below.

Sauternes 2015Sauternes 2015 in bottle

It’s an outstanding vintage, with many fleshy, rich wines but with good acidity levels so as to avoid coming off as heavy or cloying,’  said Ian D’Agata, who tasted Sauternes and Barsac en primeur for Decanter.

As Jane Anson assesses how these wines are tasting now, she notes that Sauternes are some of the highest scorers, along with Pomerol and St-Emilion.

See Jane’s notes and Sauternes 2015 wines below.

Related Bordeaux 2015: How it looks in the bottle More on Bordeaux 2015


Château Climens, Barsac, 1er Cru Classé, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Doisy-Védrines, Sauternes, 2ème Cru Classé, 2015 Château Suau, Sauternes, 2ème Cru Classé, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Sigalas-Rabaud, Sauternes, 1er Cru Classé, 2015 Château Doisy-Daëne, Sauternes, 2ème Cru Classé, 2015 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sauternes, 1er Cru Classé, Château Coutet, Sauternes, 1er Cru Classé, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Guiraud, Sauternes, 1er Cru Classé, 2015 Château Suduiraut, Sauternes, 1er Cru Classé, 2015 Château Bastor-Lamontagne, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Clos des Lunes, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château de Rayne Vigneau, Sauternes, 1er Cru Classé, 2015 Château La Tour Blanche, Sauternes, 1er Cru Classé, 2015 Château Filhot, Sauternes, 2ème Cru Classé, 2015 Château La Tour Blanche, Sauternes, Les Charmilles de la

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Oregon winery donates US$6 million for new research hub

Decanter News - vr, 09/03/2018 - 13:31

Grace and Ken Evenstead, owners of Domaine Serene in Oregon and Château de la Cree in Santenay, have donated US$6 million to a local college in Oregon with the express aim of attracting world-class wine research and teaching talent to the state.

Linfield College wine centrePlans for Linfield College wine research and teaching hub.US$6 million donation to wine college programme

The endowment, to Linfield College, will fund a faculty position for professor Greg Jones, a world-leading climatologist, who is currently director of wine education at the college.

It will also fund the design and construction of a wine laboratory within a new science centre, the extension of the existing wine studies programmes at both undergraduate and masters level, and help set up an exchange programme with the University of Dijon in Burgundy, with additional funds coming from the Bourgogne Franche-Comté region.

Alix Meyer, associate professor in American studies at the University of Burgundy and coordinator of the Linfield exchange programme, told Decanter.com, ‘This partnership between the University of Burgundy and Linfield is a natural outgrowth of decades of transatlantic exchanges between Oregonian and Burgundian winemakers and scholars.

‘Wine professionals, students and faculty from both universities will benefit from this symbiotic partnership.’

Anson: Why these top Oregon winery owners want a piece of Santenay

Linfield, with campuses in McMinnville and Portland, already offers the first interdisciplinary liberal arts undergraduate degree in wine studies in the United States, but the new Evenstead Centre for Wine Education will significantly expand its offer, with building work expected to begin in 2019.

Matthew Thompson, marketing manager at Domaine Serene, said, ‘We hope this endowment will attract some of the brightest minds to the Oregon wine industry.

‘Right now US wine education centres around Sonoma State and UC Davis, we are hopefully that we can move the epicentre up a little.’

See also: Domaine Serene beat top Burgundy wines to one of the highest accolades in the Decanter World Wine Awards 2016. For Decanter Premium members: Tasting notes and ratings on more than 80 Oregon Pinot Noir wines

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Chablis alternatives: 30 fresh whites to try

Decanter News - vr, 09/03/2018 - 13:00

Rising demand and the ravages of harsh weather in 2016 mean that admirers of one of the world’s most famous white wines may need to consider other options. Andy Howard MW recommends his top 30 palate-refreshing dry whites...

Chablis alterntives Chablis alternatives: 30 fresh whites

Chablis is one of the best-known and most distinctive wines. It is recognised around the world by consumers who crave the steely and mineral-charged expression of Chardonnay which characterises its individual, cool climate origin in northern Burgundy.

Scroll down for Andy Howard MW’s Chablis alternatives


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Comment: The rise of natural wine

Decanter News - vr, 09/03/2018 - 10:26

Natural wine has arguably been the major movement of the 21st Century wine world, and for some it has also become a 'lifetsyle choice', writes Elin McCoy, ahead of the Raw wine fair in London and after visiting the New York version of the show.

raw fair, natural wineSome of the wines previously on show at Raw Fair in London.

The setting of a trade and consumer tasting invariably projects the image of the wines you’re about to sample.

I had that thought in mind at New York’s second annual Raw Wine fair [November 2017], the global exposition of natural wines founded by Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron.

First off, the NY fair was squirreled away in a warehouse district in hipster Brooklyn, rather than in glitzy Manhattan. The producers’ tables were lined up in a reclaimed industrial space with a cavernous, artist’s loft appeal: high ceilings, rough brick walls, giant windows, exposed beams and concrete floors.

The unmistakable vibe of ‘We’re all rebel artisan producers here’ sent a warning and a promise: don’t expect polished or, heaven forbid, luxury bottles; this is the gritty, real stuff, made by real people from real grapes grown in real vineyards.

That image extended to the attendees – young (under 35) drinkers in worn jeans, fleece vests and scuffed designer boots – and to the food: grain bowls and pizza to wolf down at picnic tables in the gravel courtyard.

There’s been a lot of talk in the past year about whether natural wine (which as a category resists easy definition) has become mainstream or will be, but its casual image and ‘cool’ factor suggest many winemakers and aficionados may not actually want it to go there.

I get the idea some want it both ways – mainstream enough to sell but edgy enough to be, as one US food publication put it: ‘a thing your parents could never understand’.

Natural wine proponents play an insider/outsider game that includes the idea of a special community, where advocacy is more important than criticism.

For some, drinking natural has become a lifestyle choice that says you’re a person who values honesty, openness and emotion. (‘Raw Wine celebrates wines with emotion… that have a humanlike, or living presence,’ read the welcome in the tasting book.)

Noble intentions, of course, can’t excuse wines that taste like cider and carry whiffs of barnyard, vinegar and mousiness. Dismissing flaws as ‘a wider range of flavours’ doesn’t help either the wines or the winemakers.

Yet despite badly made examples, natural wine has arguably been the major movement of the 21st century wine world.

Though only accounting for a tiny amount of wine sold, the trend is growing in every country, and has had a serious impact on mainstream wines, in part by encouraging a new desire for freshness, as opposed to the once-popular heaviness of oaky, alcoholic bottles.

It’s influenced both top conventional winemakers and new young ones to experiment and embrace some of the core tenets of natural wines.

At the same time, the overall quality of natural wines has rapidly improved, too. Most of the 122 producers at Raw Wine poured reds and whites that impressed me with their subtlety, energy and individuality.

Winemakers whose wines often used to be hit-or-miss, such as those from Abe Schoener’s The Scholium Project, now show very assured winemaking. His skin-fermented Sauvignon Blanc, The Prince in his Caves 2015, was stunning.

The no-sulphur wines from Oregon’s Swick Wines had zing and structure; the low-sulphur Methode Sauvage Cabernet Franc from the Santa Cruz Mountains had the savour of a delicious Loire red.

I’m personally convinced that the route of organic and biodynamic viticulture – perhaps the first step towards natural wine – is essential in a world where herbicides and pesticides are adversely affecting the environment and human health.

If natural wine makes people think harder about how the wines they drink are produced, that’s a good thing. Having what natural wine stands for – the real deal – become what’s expected in wine would be, too.

But the movement’s ever-growing footprint in wine consciousness raises the possibility that future mainstream acceptance will eventually come at the price of losing the hipster street cred it now enjoys.

Will the wines still be considered ‘cool’ if they’re no longer part of a tribal culture?

Raw Wine takes place in London on 11 & 12 March.

This column first appeared in Decanter magazine’s April 2018 issue.

  • Elin McCoy is an award-winning journalist and author who also writes for Bloomberg News


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Bordeaux 2015: Graves and Pessac reds in the bottle

Decanter News - do, 08/03/2018 - 15:38

Château Haut-Bailly has made one of its greatest wines from the Bordeaux 2015 vintage, says Jane Anson as part of her review of Pessac-Léognan 2015 red wines in-bottle. See more notes and ratings below.

pessac reds 2015

Two years in the cellar have been good to the Bordeaux 2015 vintage as a whole.

It has emerged as a particularly promising year on the Right Bank and, although more patchy on the other side of the Gironde Estuary in Médoc and across the Garonne river to the south, there are still top wines from those areas, too.

When Jane Anson tasted Pessac-Léognan 2015 wines during en primeur week in 2017, she praised them for ‘a soft, fresh and incredibly luscious elegance to the tannins in the best wines‘.

Things are progressing well at several estates, she noted in her review of the 2015 vintage now that the wines have been bottled.

‘This is a Smith Haut Lafitte that has improved during barrel ageing, and will deepen even further in bottle,’ said Jane Anson in her note on the château’s 2015, red grand vin.

She also re-iterated her view that Haut-Bailly 2015 ‘has got to be one of the greatest Haut-Baillys I have ever tasted’.

Below, Premium members cans see her up-to-date notes on the Pessac 2015 reds.

Introduction by Decanter editorial team.


Château Haut Bailly, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2015 Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2015 Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2015 Château Malartic-Lagravière, Pessac-Léognan, 2015 Château Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château de Fieuzal, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Carbonnieux, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Latour-Martillac, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Olivier, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Le Petit Château Brown, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Bouscaut, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Gazin Rocquencourt, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2015 Château Couhins, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Le Pape, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Le Thil, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2015 Clos Marsalette, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Haut Bailly, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Le Parde de Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Les Château Cantelys, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Haut-Bergey, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Lespault-Martillac, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2015 Croix de Carbonnieux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, 2015


See also: Bordeaux 2015: How it looks in bottle See also: Jane Anson’s original Graves and Pessac 2015 en primeur report

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Riding Napa’s Silverado Trail: 10 wineries to visit 

Decanter News - do, 08/03/2018 - 14:46

Beat the tourists and plan your next road trip along Napa wine country’s Silverado Trail. See the top 10 wineries to visit en route, selected by Stephen Brook...

Silverado TrailFollow the Silverado Trail and discover Napa's top wineries... Credit:Jitesh Patel/Central Illustration AgencyTop 10 wineries to visit on the Silverado Trail

For a more leisurely alternative to the tourist traffic of Highway 29 through Napa Valley, plan your road trip along the Silverado Trail — running down the valley from Calistoga to Napa.

The Trail hugs the eastern flank of the valley, with hardly any traffic lights to impede the flow. It also has cycle lanes for those who wish to combine hedonistic winery visits with gentle exercise.

  • Scroll down to try Silverado Trail wines

This route is also close to some of Napa’s finest resorts and restaurants, such as the Auberge du Soleil, Meadowood, and The French Laundry and Bouchon in Yountville.

The wineries below are listed from north to south. Total driving time between them is approximately one hour.

NOTE: If you, or your designated driver, would rather not take to the wheel between wineries, the driver service Uber functions in the San Francisco Bay area, including Napa Valley.

Silverado Trail

Credit:Jitesh Patel/Central Illustration Agency


Dan and Margaret Duckhorn began producing wine in Napa in 1976, and soon acquired a deserved reputation for outstanding Merlots as well as Cabernet Sauvignon. This stemmed from a visit to Bordeaux, where Dan was entranced by St-Emilion and Pomerol.

At first he bought fruit, but gradually acquired 240ha of vineyards. In 2006 the Duckhorns sold the property to a private equity firm, which in turn sold it on to a similar company in 2016. But quality has always been high, especially for the red wines, which are made in a robust, oaky, long-lived style.

The tasting room at Duckhorn occupies a spacious house just south of the Silverado Trail. Tastings can be booked by appointment on the website, and are seated and tutored in a relaxing atmosphere, either indoors or on the veranda.

Tasting cards are provided for each wine as an aide-memoire. Visitors can choose from a Portfolio tasting of five current releases ($35), or an Estate tasting of five single-vineyard wines, with cheese platter included ($70). Find out more

Opening daily 10am-3pm daily

1000 Lodi Lane, St Helena, CA 94574

Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Since construction magnate Joseph Phelps bought this former cattle ranch, planted vines, and released his first wine from the 1973 vintage, the property has been constantly evolving.

The initial winemaker, Walter Schug, indulged in splendid late-harvest wines from Riesling and Scheurebe. After his departure in 1983, Phelps focused more on varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, especially from remarkable vineyards such as Eisele and Backus.

Silverado Trail

The Joseph Phelps’ deck – the perfect spot for wine tasting? Credit: josephphelps.com

There was a later experiment with Rhône varieties, which has been discontinued. However, the Phelps venture along the Sonoma coast, 40ha of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir under the Freestone label, continues. Insignia, a Bordeaux-style blend, pioneered this style in 1974. The property remains family-owned.

Although a slight detour, the site alone makes a visit a thrilling experience. The gorgeous redwood winery at Phelps houses a spacious visitor centre, and a fine terrace that overlooks hills and vineyards. Joseph Phelps also has an in-house chef, who can present culinary experiences ranging from cheese pairings to a three-hour lunch ($275).

Overall, this is one of the more luxurious tasting experiences that Napa has to offer, though visits are by appointment only (book via the website). Tastings cost $75 for one hour; other options include Exceptional Wine Experiences ($100 for 90 minutes) and more specialised tastings, such as blending the flagship wine Insignia. 

There are also 90-minute private tutored tastings ($125) and six-vintage verticals of Insignia ($200).  Find out more

Open daily 10am-3pm

200 Taplin Road, St Helena, CA 94574


These beautiful Rutherford vineyards, and the swooping stone-faced winery set into the hillside, are the creation of Agustin and Valeria Huneeus from 1990 onwards. About 80ha are planted on five hillsides, and since 2005 the farming has been biodynamic.

The varied soil types allow winemaker Rebekah Wineburg to produce a Bordeaux-style blend of complexity and finesse, plus a sophisticated Sauvignon Blanc. The first vintage was 1994 and it took a few years for the wine to shed a certain hollowness and achieve the polish and distinction that Huneeus had always aimed for. Today it would be churlish to complain about quality, which is consistently high.

Visits are by appointment only; bookings via the website. There are two tours, each around 90 minutes: the Estate option gives an overview of the vineyards, a tour of the winery and a tasting of four or five wines ($75); Quintessential includes barrel samples and at least one mature vintage ($125). Find out more

Open daily 10am-3pm

1601 Silverado Trail, St Helena, CA 94574

Miner Family Winery

Miner is that increasing rarity in Napa Valley: a producer with a walk-in, no-appointment tasting room. There is a $25 fee, but this is refunded if you spend $75.

David Miner founded the property, which is not an estate winery, as it buys most of its grapes from the huge Stagecoach Vineyard, as well as from other regions of California. This makes Miner a good choice if your palate is beginning to grow weary of rich Cabernets. You’ll find Rhône varieties here, plus Tempranillo and Sangiovese.

However, Miner honours its origins by producing a flagship Bordeaux-style blend called The Oracle that is sourced from Stagecoach.Miner is less well-known than many other wineries along the Trail, so its tasting room is rarely crowded and the staff are only too happy to chat as well as to pour. Find out more

Open daily 10am-5pm

7850 Silverado Trail, Oakville, CA 94562

Silverado Trail

Credit:Jitesh Patel/Central Illustration Agency

Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Despite its location, Sinskey is best known for Alsace-style wines and Carneros Pinor Noir. Moreover, unlike most tasting rooms, all tasting flights are accompanied by nibbles prepared in the adjoining kitchens, often by Dr Sinskey’s daughter-in-law Maria, who has written cookbooks about seasonal food.

Most of the grapes here are estate-grown and farmed biodynamically or organically. Abraxas is one of the winery’s best-known wines: a shot at bone-dry Alsace Edelzwicker, blending Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Or try Orgia, a Pinot Gris fermented on skins.

Marked by their freshness and flair, Sinskey’s wines are an invigorating alternative to Napa’s cult of Cabernet.There’s usually no need to book an appointment at this somewhat atypical winery, where five wines can be tasted, with nibbles, for $40.

A seated tasting with food and wine pairings is offered for $70; while a tour of the gardens and wine caves, including a seated tasting with seasonal dishes, goes for $95.

The more expensive ‘Chef’s Table’ option provides a similar tour and tasting, but with a five-course meal accompanied by older vintages ($175). If wines are purchased, a discount to the tasting fees is applied. Find out more

Open daily 10am-4.30pm

6320 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Few wineries in Napa are as well known as Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Its 1973 Cabernet triumphed at Steven Spurrier’s Judgement of Paris tasting in 1976, and thereafter the highest standards were maintained under the direction of founder Warren Winiarski.

In 2007 he sold the estate to a partnership formed by Antinori from Tuscany and Chateau Ste Michelle of Washington State. The airy tasting room with its stone walls is set back slightly from the Trail. Its plate-glass windows offer views over the vineyard.

Silverado Trail

Panoramic vineyard views in the Stag’s Leap glass tasting room… Credit: Stags Leap Wine Cellars

Visitors can also enjoy the bucolic scene from the terrace. To gaze over the SLV and Fay vineyards, glass in hand, is to experience an essential part of Napa’s wine history.

The Estate Collection tasting offers four wines (including Fay, SLV and the top selection Cask 23) for $45 (refundable if you buy two bottles). Other options are by appointment and can be booked on the website. These include the Wine Tasting & Cave Tour ($75 for 75 minutes) or the Cellarius Kitchen Experience with the estate’s chef ($125). Find out more

Open daily 10am-4pm

5766 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558

Silverado Vineyards

Since its first vintage in 1981, when Walt Disney’s daughter, the late Diane Miller, established the estate and winery, Silverado has won a fine reputation for consistent and full-bodied Cabernets from Stags Leap District.

The winery is also known for good estate-grown Carneros Chardonnay and Yountville Sauvignon Blanc. Jon Emmerich has been the winemaker here — only the second one in its history — since 1988.

The wines are sourced from Silverado’s 160ha of vineyards.The winery and lofty tasting room are perched on a knoll giving fine views of the valley and its vineyards. The flagship wine, Solo Cabernet, was created in 2002 and is blended from the best lots from the home vineyard near the winery.

The regular tasting flight here is $35 (refunded with the purchase of one bottle of wine), and the Premier Flight is $40 (refunded with the purchase of two bottles). Silverado also offers a range of tours from $55 onwards, including a special Library Tasting featuring vintages back to the 1980s. Find out more

Open daily 10am-5pm

6121 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558

Chimney Rock

As you drive up the lane to Chimney Rock, you may wonder whether you’ve arrived in South Africa by mistake, as the winery is a replica of the venerable Groot Constantia manor house. The original founders were from South Africa and clearly had a bad attack of homesickness.

Silverado Trail

Chimney Rock – where Constantia meets Napa… Credit: chimneyrock.com

The forte here is Bordeaux-style reds, including Elevage, a Merlot-dominated tribute to the Right Bank. Other wines are pure Cabernet Sauvignon. Since 2000 the Terlato Group, which has extensive holdings in all sectors of the international wine industry, has held a controlling interest in Chimney Rock.

Yet quality, always high, has been maintained under long-term winemaker Elizabeth Vianna.The tasting room here is mercifully free of the bling that mars some others in the Valley. The $50 tasting fee for five wines is refunded if you buy two bottles.

There are other options by appointment via the website, including a flagship vertical tasting ($75 for 90 minutes); a tour and barrel tasting ($85 for 90 minutes); and the Ganymede tour, named after its finest vineyard, lasting two hours with lunch ($145). Find out more

Open daily 10am-5pm

5350 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558


Cameras out! No visitor can resist stopping at this glorious, yellow-stoned, neo-Persian extravaganza of columns, porticoes and fountains, all leading towards a lofty pillared visitor centre.

This is more than a standard tasting room: it is admirably staffed, as all tastings are hosted, and also sells decanters, wine books and Coravins. Tastings can also be organised in the shady gardens.

Silverado Trail

The architecture at Darioush was inspired by the riches of Persia… Credit: Darioush Facebook

Darioush was founded in 1997 by Iranian-born entrepreneur Darioush Khaledi, who wanted his winery to be a tribute to the architecture of his native land. From the outset the estate favoured big, bold wines, mostly sourced from his 44ha of vineyards.

Wines are handcrafted with lavish use of new oak, yet manage to avoid being overblown.The Portfolio tasting at Darioush offers five wines for $40, with the fee refunded if you purchase at least two bottles.

There are also other tasting options, such as a 90-minute tour and seated tasting with artisanal cheeses for $75 or food and wine pairing for $150. Find out more

Open daily 10.30am-5pm

4240 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558

Black Stallion

Although a relative newcomer, having been founded in 2007, Black Stallion has become a popular destination, so a visit is hardly an intimate experience. But the huge tasting room, a former equestrian centre, is well staffed, and there are various options.

While the Gaspare Vineyard near the winery is owned by Black Stallion, most of the wines are sourced from vineyards throughout the valley and from Sonoma too. That means a large and fluctuating range is on offer.

Once an equestrian centre, now a winery with an enormous tasting room. Credit: Black Stallion

The top wines are the Transcendent Napa Valley Cabernet, and the Cabernet-dominated red blend called Bucephalus. No reservations are required for tasting flight combinations of four wines ($20-$50), with refunds if you buy three bottles. There is also a range of more personalised tastings that can be booked on the website. Find out more

Open daily 10am-5pm

4089 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558

Signorello Estate

A week after my visit to Napa to research this article, devastating forest fires swooped down on the valley, causing enormous damage and considerable loss of life.

Most of the Silverado Trail wineries had a very close call, but the Signorello visitor centre was burnt to the ground (although the vineyards and wine stocks were spared).

It would be a cruel additional blow to delete Signorello from this article, but equally it makes little sense to give practical guidance to visit a facility that at present does not exist, even though plans are under way to rebuild it.

In-house sommelier Ron Plunkett and chef Tyler Stone are hosting dinners throughout the US to maintain the visibility of Signorello while the new building is being planned.The estate is run by Ray Signorello Jr, whose father planted it from 1980 onwards.

The main focus is on Cabernet Sauvignon and top Bordeaux-style blend called Padrone. But the relatively cool climate makes it possible to produce fine white wines here, as well as Cabernets of restraint and sophistication.

Top Signorello whites include one made from some of California’s oldest Chardonnay vines and a polished Graves-style wine called Seta. This style was quite common in Napa in the 1980s but has almost vanished today.

Ray assures me Signorello will rise again, and knowing his energy and entrepreneurship, I have no doubt that this will be true, and that future visitors will be met with the same welcome as in the past. Find out more

Stephen Brook is an awarded author and has been a Decanter contributing editor since 1996. This article first appeared in Decanter magazine’s April 2018 issue. Editing by Laura Seal.


 Silverado Trail wines to try
Duckhorn, Napa Valley, Rutherford, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 Duckhorn, Napa Valley, Three Palms Vineyard Merlot, 2014 Joseph Phelps, Napa Valley, Insignia, California, USA, 2014 Joseph Phelps, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Quintessa, Napa Valley, Rutherford, California, USA, 2014 Quintessa, Napa Valley, Rutherford, California, USA, 2011 Miner Family Vineyards, Napa Valley, Wild Yeast Chardonnay, Miner Family Vineyards, Napa Valley, The Oracle, 2013 Robert Sinskey, Napa Valley, Abraxas, California, USA, 2014 Robert Sinskey, Napa Valley, Los Carneros, Vandal Vineyard Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Napa Valley, SLV Cabernet Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Napa Valley, Cask 23 Cabernet Silverado Vineyards, Napa Valley, Estate Grown Cabernet Silverado Vineyards, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District, Solo Chimney Rock, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District, Ganymede Chimney Rock, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District, Cabernet Darioush, Napa Valley, Signature Viognier, California, 2016 Darioush, Napa Valley, Signature Shiraz, California, 2014 Black Stallion, Napa Valley, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 Black Stallion, Napa Valley, Bucephalus Cabernet Sauvignon, Signorello, Napa Valley, Seta, California, USA, 2015 Signorello, Napa Valley, Padrone, California, USA, 2013



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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Anson: Making Bordeaux at ‘the end of the world’

Decanter News - do, 08/03/2018 - 09:54

Jane Anson meets an Australian who is making wine on the edge of Bordeaux's Right Bank...

chateau cadillac, bordeaux'Le bout du Monde' today - owned by Château Cadillac.

We have Château Margaux in AOC Margaux, Château de Cérons in AOC Cérons, Château de Lussac in AOC Lussac…… and Château Cadillac in, well AOC Bordeaux Supérieur.

It’s not even in the town of Cadillac itself, where there is in fact another ‘Château de Cadillac’, but over on the Right Bank in Cadillac-en-Fronsadais (which sounds like it should be in AOC Fronsac, but let’s not go there…).

If you’ve worked your way around all of this confusion and made it to the estate, the first thing that you see when you drive up to the imposing 13th century moated château is a plot of vines standing at 55m above the Dordogne river with a sign gloomily announcing ‘Au Bout du Monde’ (the End of the World).

cadillac wine, bordeaux

‘Le Bout du Monde’ in the 19th Century, showing the same landscape as in the more recent photo above it. Credit: Delcampe.net

I rather like the idea that this crazily-named estate is owned today not by an aristocratic Frenchman but by an Australian businessman called Richard Serisier, just adding to the improbability of it all. And an Australian who, when he’s not making wine, is producing corks from Portugal  – a closure not exactly widely associated with his home country.

It wasn’t Serisier who named the plot Au Bout du Monde, much as it feels like he might have done. In fact the name dates right back to 1377, when a group of Breton soldiers camped on the field before ransacking the castle during the Hundred Years War and killing all the occupants.

They came from a tiny area on the extreme west of Brittany called Finistère (Finis Terrae in Latin, or the end of the earth), so-named for much the same evident reasons as Land’s End. So what with their origin, and perhaps also the fact that it turned out to be very much the end of the world for the inhabitants of the Château, the name stuck. The fact that the latest owner is from a country that sailors once called ‘the land at the end of the world’ just adds to the poetry.

Richard Serisier has a history of his own in Bordeaux. His great great grandfather Jean Emile Serisier was a shipping agent in the Chartrons district of the city, leaving in 1839 for Australia, where he planted vines in Dubbo, New South Wales.

The family remained in Australia ever since (Serisier tells me that Jean-Emile wasn’t actually planning to stay, but had appendicitis when his ship arrived in the colony of Sydney, and it didn’t then wait for him to recover before sailing on).

The story clearly struck a chord with his great great grandson, who headed back to Bordeaux and bought Château Cadillac in 2004, after studying farm management in Australia, a skill that helps him now as he tries to raise his 18ha estate above the price and reputation constraints of the generic Bordeaux appellation.

He cites Yves Vatelot’s Château de Reignac and Baptiste Guinaudeau’s Château Grand Village (in a neighbouring commune) as inspirations and quality objectives.

To achieve this, he is concentrating on three different wines from three different plots; the 100% Merlot Le Bout du Monde being the main production, with smaller amounts of Château Montravel and Château Meillan.

Not, you might notice, a Château de Cadillac, because that name proved a step too far for the authorities, who claim it would be confusing for consumers looking for Château Cadillac in Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux (Serisier has not, as I understand it, entirely given up on this, recognising the power of the word Cadillac in overseas markets, so we’ll see what happens).

‘The Bordeaux system is designed to protect the status quo. I get that, but this huge disconnect of reputation between appellations makes it extremely difficult to overachieve at the lower end, there are just so many barriers to entry,’ he says, not without reason.

We walk through the Bout du Monde vines, looking at his extensive replanting programme, and over to Château Meillan where for now the wines are made, although there are plans to build a cellar back at Château Cadillac.

This makes sense to me, as image counts for a lot if you are trying to stand out in the smaller appellations, and this is a 100% pure gold castle, dating back to the 1200s with the current ‘new build’ as Serisier puts it built in 1500 to 1503 by a descendent of John Neville, created the first Baron de Cadillac by Edward II.

The wines have clear potential, and are particularly succulent in the 2015 and 2016 vintages, as you would expect, with my favourites being the liquorice-filled Montravel 2015 and Le Bout du Monde 2016, with its prominent fruit and saline lick on the finish.

Serisier splits his time between France and the UK, from where he runs his cork business, which, you may not be surprised to learn, is a little more high tech than your average.

Called ProCork, Serisier is the majority shareholder and co-owner with the inventor (also an Australian) Dr Gregor Christie. It’s a cork that could perhaps only have come out of the Australian winemaking school of hyper-sensitivity to faults, because it comes with a special polymer crystalline membrane at each end of the cork, one to protect against TCA and another to ensure continued oxygen transmission.

I have a record of trials being done on this cork with the 2005 vintage at Château La Dauphine, the first Bordeaux winery to try them out, with Christie telling me at the time, ‘ProCork lets in just a tiny bit less air than a normal cork which is what we have found works best in our trials’. The technology was invented in Australia in 2002, using Portuguese corks, with Serisier coming in as investor in 2010. The company today is making 200 million of them per year.

‘I know it’s ‘not normal’ for an Australian to favour cork closures over screw cap but cork is just something I have always preferred.

For me, and many others, it seems more authentic for wine to be under a cork,’ Serisier told me, adding with a smile. ‘I also liked the idea that it was an ‘Aussie’ innovation that combined tradition with technology.

‘Maybe it reminds me of my European heritage and my New World upbringing.’

See also: Jane Anson re-tastes more than 70 Bordeaux 2008 wines – See how the vintage is maturing

The post Anson: Making Bordeaux at ‘the end of the world’ appeared first on Decanter.

Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Aldi wines to buy in 2018

Decanter News - wo, 07/03/2018 - 16:30

Decanter's tasting team make recommendations from Aldi's wine range...

Best Aldi wines

Aldi wines have gone from strength to strength since the launch of the supermarket’s e-commerce wine site in January 2016.

The 2018 spring/summer range updates the all-year-round core wines with some new vintages, and brings in some new wines based on past favourites – keep your eyes peeled for our tasting notes on these over the next few months.

See also: Medal-winning Aldi wines at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017 Scroll down for Decanter’s Aldi wine recommendations

While the majority of bottles are available on their website, some are only available to purchase in-store.


20/9/2017: We have added some wines from Aldi’s core range, available all year round.

2/10/2017: Added some new releases.

13/11/2017: Added our Christmas recommendations (21 wines)

7/3/2018: Added several core wines from spring/summer tasting (5 wines)

Best Aldi wines in 2018:

The top 5 tasting notes are from the spring/summer 2018 tasting. Continue scrolling down to see older Aldi wine reviews.

Further new releases will be published later on in March

Aldi, Crémant du Jura, Exquisite Collection, Jura, 2015 Pianeta Organico, delle Venezie, Organic Pinot Grigio, 2017 Aldi, Clare Valley, Exquisite Collection Riesling, 2017 Pianeta Organico, Prosecco, Organic, Veneto, Italy, 2017 Aldi, Uco Valley, Exquisite Collection Malbec, Mendoza, 2017 Aldi, Exquisite Collection, Ribera del Duero, 2016 Aldi, Reserva, Exquisite Collection, Rioja, 2013 Te Rakau, Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon, Hawke’s Bay, 2015 Aldi, Animus, Douro, Portugal, 2015 Leaf Plucker, Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, 2017 Aldi, Exquisite Collection Shiraz, South Australia, 2016 The Project, Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, 2017 Find more supermarket wine recommendations for the UK Related content:

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws


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