Jefford on Monday: Montsant – silence and beyond

Decanter News - ma, 11/12/2017 - 13:09

Andrew Jefford gauges the potential of Tarragona’s other key wine zone...

montsant wines, vineyardVineyard landscape in Montsant.

“Wines of silence” was what the bottle in front of me declared – Vins del Silenci.  In a world of clamorous tasting notes punctuated with the thunderous beat of scores, it was hard not to approve.  This was a wine which wanted you to drink it, and to say nothing afterwards.  Write nothing, either.  Just drink, absorb, think: a wine in the Carthusian (or the Taoist) spirit.

montsant wine garnacha

Credit: Andrew Jefford

Pep Aguilar enlightened me.  There’s a little river which flows along the northern side of the Montsant mountain, and bears its name; the remote valley through which it meanders is called the Valley of Silence, the Vall del Silenci.  This was a red wine from Ulldemolins nearby – so I’m not betraying its trust, after all, if I tell you it was a light, delicate, fresh-faced Grenache perfect for chilling, with lots of acid strike and some tentative meaty fullness behind.  Perfect for a retreat.

Montsant surrounds Priorat like a bangle around a wrist.  Which is to say almost completely; there are just a few kilometres near the Priorat village of Porrera where the circle is not closed.  Since 2008, it’s been hard at work at a zoning project.  That work is now complete, and there are six contrasting areas.

The vast majority of Montsant’s 1,912 ha of vines are found in the two most south-westerly zones, that surrounding the villages of Marçà and Capçanes (845 ha) and that surrounding the villages of El Masroig, Darmós and El Molar (623 ha).  This is where Montsant opens up, via a slew of terraces, to the lower Ebro valley, which is less than 10 km away.  These are also the warmest areas of the Montsant zone (with mean annual temperatures of 16.1˚C and 15.6˚C respectively) and in general the most low-lying (though parts of the former area nonetheless reach 500m).  There are plenty of classic Priorat-like llicorella soils here, but also richer clays and lighter sands and loams.

The other four Montsant zones offer a clear contrast to these two southerners.  Both Cornudella (where you will find the Valley of Silence) and the beautiful, high sited wild garrigue country around La Figuera are in general cooler, and principally boast limestone soils; while the sandy zone around Falset and the steep loamy slopes and wetter conditions of Pradell de la Teixeta offer further contrasts.  Pradell is the most sparsely planted (just 22 ha); the other three minor zones boast between 100 ha and 200 ha.  I had a chance to tour each of these sub-zones in turn back in early November with the enthusiastic Pep Aguilar, a local winemaking consultant and producer (at Celler Comunica), as well as with regional winemaking pioneer and expert Angel Teixidó Llagostera.

The wine which logged Montsant in the global memory bank was the pure-Garnatxa Espectacle, whose first vintage came in 2004.  René Barbier of Clos Mogador heard about a vineyard for sale in la Serra de La Figuera in Montsant.  He went to see it.  It looked like Hermitage (or, come to that, l’Ermita in Priorat), and indeed was close to the local hermitage of San Pau; he knew he couldn’t let it go, but he was also experienced enough not to underestimate the work involved in its cultivation, so the project is a joint venture in which the Barbier family have joined forces with the Cannan family (of Clos Figueres), and with oenologists Fernando Zamora and Marta Conde.  It’s a feather in the cap for this sub-zone of Monstant, but it’s not the only wine worth taking notice of there.

Angel Teixidó was, forty years ago, working for the cooperative of La Figuera when he noticed that Garnatxa growing in the limestones there had a softer, sweeter quality than it did on the other side of Montsant in the Cornudella sector, where it was harder and more vertical. This led him to think about it as the ‘Garnatxa Fina of La Figuera’, and you can still taste that fundamentally appealing quality of fruit in the inexpensive, retro-labelled co-operative wine from the Sindicat La Figuera (though Angel himself has long since moved on; most of his career has been spent at the Celler de Capçanes, and he now works for the Cooperative dels Guaiamets).  Look out, too, for Com Tu from Anderson Barbier, another ‘Garntaxa de la Figuera’ wine.

When I asked René Barbier Junior what he thought marked out Garnatxa from La Figuera, he smiled and said “the results.”  I teased him for more details.  “There’s two types of clay-limestone in La Figuera, red and white – the wines from the red clay are richer and more aromatic, while from the white it’s a little more quiet and serious.  There’s also a lot of variety in some of the Garnatxa massal selections there – and the height is important, 300 to 600 m, with big diurnal temperature variations.”

The bigger areas to the south, though, also have exciting potential.  It’s often Garnatxa which turns heads here, since it produces an almost lip-smacking quality of soft, fleshy fruit; there’s always juicy acidity to back that fruit; and there are plump, no-less-juicy tannins there to lend the wines sobriety and gravity.  Joan-Ignacio Domènech of Vinyes Domènech believes strongly in the potential of this variety; his single-vineyard Teixar is a local reference.  The Celler de Capçanes, too, has done a fine job with its brilliantly packaged range of pure Garnatxa wines grown on different soil types; look out for outstanding wines from the Cellar Masroig, too.

Carinyena is a less showy here than it is in Priorarat, but it can add fruited steel and sinew to blends, and when vinified on its own it can combine something of the drama of Priorat with the comfort of southern Montsant.  As in Priorat, white wines are beginning to rival reds in Montsant, especially on the granite sands near Falset.

“We’re still in the first chapter,” admits Pep Aguilar: “the chapter of definition, of understanding where we can go.  But one thing is obvious – we have a standard of potential which is really very high.  It’s in our hands to do something really beautiful.”  You often hear claims like these in up-and-coming regions, but having tasted extensively during my short visit, I think he’s right: Montsant is special.  Here are some highlights.

Tasting Montsant White wines montsant tasting

Pep Aguilar (facing) and Angel Teixidó enjoy an open-air tasting. Credit: Andrew Jefford.

De Calpino, Mas de l’Abudància 2016

From a mixed-soil parcel of Garnatxa Blanca said to be the oldest in the region, planted near Masroig in 1901, this was a pale silver-gold wine with graceful, understated and subtle aromas of tropical fruits and flowers.  After that aromatic finesse, the wine surprises with its weight and presence: textured peach and almond, and lively acidity, too.  This accomplished white wine, according to Pep Aguilar, can age superbly for five or six years.   93 points / 100

Celler Comunica, Mas d’En Cosme, La Pua 2016

This blend of 85% Garnatxa Blanca plus 15% Garnatxa Pelluda vinified as a white wine, grown on a mixture of limey clay, granite sand and llicorella near Falset, combines fennel aromas with just a hint of yellow tropical fruits and is concentrated, vivid and pure, with both freshness and richness. 90

Josep Grau, Granit 2016

A pure Grenache Blanc grown by the Marçà-based Grau in a granite-soiled single vineyard (Les Comes) sited at 450 metres.  Peach and nectarine scents, but less fruity on the palate: vinous, textured, stony, intriguing. 90

Venus La Universal, Venus de Cartoixà 2014

From Sara Pérez and René Barbier Jnr’s home vineyards near Falset comes this strikingly labelled pure Xarel·lo (locally known as Cartoixà).  Scents of wild grass, herbs and dried lemon peel, and then a flavour with striking depth and intensity: serious, chewy, rich white, ideal for decanting. 92

Red wines

Acústic Celler, Braó,  Vinyes Velles 2014

This old-vine blend of Carinyena and Garnatxa, produced near the village of Marçà, has been lightly oaked; the aromas are earthy, dark and savoury, and the palate bright, pungent and long.  Zesty acidity gives the impeccable red and black cherry fruits a wild forest lift; more dark, earthy tones emerge in the tannins.  91

Celler de Capçanes, La Nit de les Garnatxes,  Llicorella 2016

This is one of the Celler de Capçanes’ four single-soil type Garnatxa wines (the three others are Limestone, Clay and Sand), and I recommend them all highly; the nuances between them are subtle but genuinely palpable.  It was, in the end, the depth and meaty savour of the Llicorella (slate) wine that put it in first place for me, but the other three are just a point or two behind.  The wine grown on clay had great purity and clarity of fruit; that on sand is a lighter in style but no less concentrated, with considerable grace and charm.  The limestone wine has the sweetest fruit, but there’s poised acidity and textured depth to keep it lively.  All four wines are brilliantly packaged with elegant labels and a paper wrapper with some of the viticultural background told in cartoon style (in English); all four sum up the poised, juicy yet innately complex appeal of Garnatxa from the Ebro zone of southern Montsant very well.  Wholly recommended.   92

Com Tu, Garnatxa de la Figuera 2015

The striking wine, with its almost childlike yet hauntingly surreal label, is another find from the Figuera zone, made this time by René Barbier’s brother Anderson. The charming aromatic profile has some subtle strawberry sweetness and a soft, floral lift; on the palate, you’ll find it plush, soft, tender and melting with relatively low acidity and deliciously tender tannins. Gourmand and ultra-easy to drink, yet there’s real finesse here too.   92

Celler Comunica, Mas d’En Cosme, Communica 2015

This wine, grown on granite sands near Falset, aged only in steel and made from a blend of 65% Carinyena with the balance from Garnatxa Peluda is quite a contrast to some of the richer Garnatxa wines of Montsant.  It’s light and clear in colour, with very fresh, lively, lanolin and red-fruit scents and vivid, zesty, darting redcurrent and pomegranate on the palate.  Great purity and finesse, here, in an almost burgundy-like style. 90

Vinyes Domènech, Vinyes Velles de Samsó 2014

A pure, old-vine Carinyena (sometimes labeled Samsó in both Priorat and Montsant) from Joan-Ignacio Domènech’s spectacular vineyards south of Capçanes.  Carinyena can sometimes be a high-wire act in Priorat, with an acidic intensity which divides drinkers; here, by contrast, the variety is in richer mood: concentrated and deep-flavoured but far from austere, with a stony elegance behind the sweet flesh.   91

Vinyes Domènech, Teixar 2014

This wine is pure Garnatxa Peluda from 80-year-old vines grown at 450m on pebbley limestone terraces facing southeast; after a natural yeast fermentation, the wine spends a year in French oak.  It’s dark in colour with a perfumed style: sweet flowers and nutmeg spice.  On the palate, this is elegant, penetrating and persistent, with supple, giving textures.  I also had a chance to taste the 2004 version of this wine, still bright, fresh and vivacious for its age, so this complex and refined Garnatxa is likely to age well.   92

Espectacle 2014

Pure old-vine Garnatxa from this astonishing site, fermented in oak vats and aged in large 4,000-litre oak tuns.  There’s a step change here in terms of complexity and allusiveness compared to most of its Montsant peers: vapoury scents of cherry, smoked strawberry and pine, with a kind of meaty-savoury note more familiar in Grenache from Châteauneuf.  On the palate, the wine is intense, concentrated, full and firm, with further notes of perfumed cherry, leather and herbs.  It doesn’t have the simple, juicy, toothsome and joyously balanced pleasure of much young Montsant Garnatxa-based red; but you can’t fault its grandeur, and it has many years ahead.   94

Celler Masroig, Les Sorts Vinyes Velles 2014

This seamless blend of 85 per cent of old-vine Carinyena with the balance from old-vine Garnatxa is a pure-pleasure wine with ample spicy, warm fruit, a vividbalance and plenty of soft yet textured flesh.   89

Orto 2015

This blend of 55% Carinyena with 30% Garnatxa and the balance principally from Tempranillo is grown on the distinctive red clay limestones around Masroig.  The aromatic spice, liquorice and prune leads you to expect a rich wine.  In fact, though, the palate is refined, elegant, almost understated, with soft tannins, sustained acidity and a faintly saline edge.   90

Sindicat de Figuera, Garnatxa 2016

Garnatxa of simple deliciousness, aged in concrete alone: a little cherry perfume to draw you in, then ample juicy, soft, tender fruit and a little tannin ballast.  Fine value.   88

Venus La Universal, Dido 2015

A blend of Garnatxa with Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot, organically grown on decomposed granites near Falset.  The appeal is less primary and less fleshy than for many of its Montsant peers: calm, fine-drawn plant and stony earth scents with an elegant, layered style, though open-textured and accessible.   91

Vinyes d’en Gabriel, Plan’elle 2014

A pure old-vine Carinyena grown on rolling, reddish clay-limestone soils in Darmós, south of Masroig.  Excitingly sweet, sappy and spicy aromas with rich, pressed plum, damson and mulberry fruit supported by fresh, clean acidity and brisk tannins.  The fact that it is grown at between 125m and 250m gives it a dense, chewy quality you’ll not find in the higher grown Carinenya wines elsewhere in Montsant and Priorat.   91

Read more Andrew Jefford columns on Decanter.com

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Amazon Champagne offers

Decanter News - zo, 10/12/2017 - 19:39

We're hunting down the best Amazon UK Champagne offers for you to enjoy over the festive season. Keep checking back for the latest!

Amazon Christmas Champagne offers

*Note: although the listed wines are from reputable producers, not all have been reviewed by Decanter.

  • Amazon UK have been strong on UK offers this year; with the Bollinger La Grande Annee Vintage 2007 deal left over from Black Friday.


Bollinger Champagne La Grande Annee Vintage 2007 Buy Now £55 Save £20 was £75




G.H Mumm Cordon Rouge NV Buy Now £22.50 Save £33.49 was £10.59




Lanson Extra Age Rose Gift Box Buy Now £40.99 Save £29.00 was £69.99


Last updated: 10/12/2017. Deals correct at time of publication but may be subject to change.

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Wine Legend: Clonakilla, Shiraz-Viognier 2001

Decanter News - zo, 10/12/2017 - 13:30

Why this wine makes the Decanter hall of fame...

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2001Wine Legend: Clonakilla, Shiraz-Viognier 2001, Canberra District, New South Wales, Australia

Bottles produced 10,700

Composition 93% Shiraz, 7% Viognier

Yield 50hl/ha

Alcohol 14.1%

Release price A$48

Price today £70-£80

A legend because…

The style of Shiraz that blends, and usually co-ferments with Viognier is an established, if not historically accurate, tribute to Syrah from Côte-Rôtie. Not everyone admires the style, but most would agree that no Australian winery makes a better version than Clonakilla. Most vintages through the 1990s received high critical acclaim, from show judges and wine guides, and the 2001 came to be regarded as one of Clonakilla’s most outstanding.

Looking back

The Kirk family arrived in Australia from Ireland in 1968, and three years later the biochemist John Kirk planted a vineyard in Murrumbateman, 40km north of Canberra. The property took its name from the family farm in Ireland’s County Clare. The first commercial wines (and the first for any in this region) were made in 1976. Viognier was first planted in 1986, when it was still seen as a rare, exotic variety. Throughout the 1980s Clonakilla Shiraz was blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, but after visiting the Rhône in 1991, Tim Kirk resolved to model the wine on Guigal’s single-vineyard blends he’d tasted from barrel. The first Clonakilla Shiraz-Viognier was made in 1992.

The vintage

2001 was a warm year that gave a good growing season without disease pressure, and harvest for this wine took place from 31 March to 10 April. Although the crop was large, the wines show rich flavours and good concentration.

The terroir

The soil at Murrumbateman is sandy clay-loam, over a layer of friable red clay, which sits on a subsoil of decomposed dacite. By Australian standards the climate here is cool, as the vineyards lie at 600m. The Kirk family gradually increased the area under vine, planting more Shiraz and Viognier between 1993 and 2007, until it reached today’s 13.5ha. The cool climate brings out the spicy red fruit and floral character of Shiraz, though the profile inevitably varies according to vintage conditions.

The wine

In 2001 a third of the Shiraz went into the fermenters as whole bunches. Lightly crushed Viognier grapes were added and then covered with destemmed Shiraz. The gradual release of juice as the bunches broke down through the course of the fermentation prolonged the process and moderated the rising temperatures. There were three punchdowns daily. After a short post-fermentation soak, the wine was run into fine-grained French oak barrels, of which one-third were new, for 12 months. Kirk is aware that an excess of Viognier can impart a blowsy apricot sheen to the blend, which he is keen to avoid, and he also steers clear of a pronounced oaky character to the wine.

The reaction

In the 2002 Penguin Good Australian Wine Guide, Huon Hooke and Ralph Kyte-Powell named the wine Best Red and Wine of the Year: ‘This could be the best yet in a very distinguished line. Tremendously intense and alive, with great elegance and power.’

In the same year Max Allen in Decanter declared it a ‘new benchmark for cooler-climate Australian Shiraz, and a serious rival for the classiest Côte-Rôtie’.


More Wine Legends: Wine Legend: Le Pin, Pomerol 1982 Wine Legend: Domaine Huet, Le Haut Lieu 1947

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

L’Oustalet restaurant, Gigondas, France – review

Decanter News - zo, 10/12/2017 - 13:00

Sue Style gives her verdict on L'Oustalet restaurant...

Originally published in Decanter magazine in partnership with Hine Cognac

L'Oustalet restaurantL'Oustalet restaurant. Credit: Serge ChapuisL’Oustalet, Place Gabrielle Andéol 84190 Gigondas, France Tel: +33 (0)4 90 65 85 30 loustalet-gigondas.com/en
  • Rating: 8/10
  • Restaurant style: Mediterranean
  • Open Tuesday to Saturday
  • Lunch menus: €36/€42/€46
  • Dinner menus: €60/€82/€96
  • Wine pairings: €32/€44/€52
  • Wine to try: 25 wines by the glass, including Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets and top Châteauneuf-du-Pape – as you’d expect from a winery co-owned by the Perrin family of Beaucastel fame.
JUST PUBLISHED: Our top scoring wines from the Rhône 2016 vintage, tasted by Matt Walls L'Oustalet main food

L’Oustalet restaurant Credit: Serge Chapuis

Full review

Grandma,’ asked my 11-year- old grandson as we sped down the Autoroute du Soleil heading for L’Oustalet, ‘do you think there’ll be lamb on the menu?’ I promised we’d ask.

The restaurant, a typical, bleached stone Provençal house on the village square, is jointly owned by the Perrin family (of Rhône wine fame) and chef Laurent Deconinck.

After stints with Michel Rostang, Pierre Gagnaire and Raymond Blanc, Deconinck joined the Perrins as their house chef, travelling the world with them and devising dishes to match their wines. In 2009 they opened the restaurant together.

The menu is two pages of succinct simplicity. One features seasonal suggestions that you can order à la carte or weave into a small menu; the second has three larger menus, and wine pairings on top.

My grandson’s delighted eye landed on a rack of lamb, ambitiously garnished (and priced – at €46). We asked about a smaller, less elaborate portion.

The waiter disappeared to consult the chef and returned, wreathed in complicitous smiles. Two succulent noisettes resting on a pillow of mashed potato were declared ‘the best thing ever’.

The chef smiled on us too with monkfish in almond milk with pink ginger, perfectly paired with a glass of Condrieu from Gerin, and rare beef rolled in crushed juniper with shallot confit, with Cal Demoura’s spicy, silky red blend L’Infidèle.


L’Oustalet restaurant Credit: Serge Chapuis

The wines

The only snag about the wine list, concocted by Deconinck and sommelier Hugo Boulay, is that it’s so comprehensive that conversation or food ordering may go on hold while you bury yourself in its 28 pages.

Hats off to the Perrins too, since the scope extends far beyond their own wines: alongside the legendary Château de Beaucastel in multiple vintages (€104 for 2011, €750 for Hommage à Jacques Perrin) and sundry bottles from the Famille Perrin range, there’s plenty of interest from the likes of Roc d’Anglade in Gard (white and red) or Anne Gros in Minervois (La Ciaude), all at the €40 or €50 mark.

Best of all – so rare in France – at least 25 decent wines (Didier Dagueneau Silex, Châteauneuf from De la Janasse or a Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets) come by the glass.

Summary: ‘I’ll be back’

Full-blooded Mediterranean food, an exemplary wine list, and a big heart – L’Oustalet is my kind of place. When the bill arrived (€170 for three of us), my grandson’s dish came in under ‘menu enfant’ at €16. I’ll be back in January for the Menu Truffe, starring sexy black slivers of local truffles in every conceivable guise.

Sue Style is a widely published freelance writer on wine, food and travel More food and wine ideas Ten great restaurants in Champagne for wine lovers Quinsou restaurant, Paris – review Food pairing: How to match truffles and wine



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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Top restaurants and wine bars in Seattle

Decanter News - za, 09/12/2017 - 13:00

With its stunning skyline, fascinating cultural history and obsession with fine food and drink, plus a naturally beautiful setting, Seattle is one of the most rewarding cities in the US to discover, says Owen Bargreen...

seattle wine barsWhere to eat and drink in SeattleTop restaurants and wine bars in Seattle Wild Ginger

One of the best wine lists in the city and delicious, Asian-influenced cuisine. Expert sommeliers will choose the perfect pairing for your black pepper scallops or seven-flavour beef. www.wildginger.net


Started by celebrity chef Michael Mina, this has a mind-blowing wine list and even better French cuisine, all in a convenient location in downtown Seattle. Great steak tartare, oysters and beef fillet with duck-fat fries. www.michaelmina.net/

RN74 restaurant



This opulent prix-fixe restaurant in Woodinville has a deep wine list that boasts many older and tiny-production cuvées from Washington and Oregon. A must-visit for everything from a casual wine tasting to a Dom Pérignon-accented anniversary. www.theherbfarm.com

El Gaucho

The perfect place for a steak dinner: great dry-aged ribeye, an outstanding happy hour, and my vote for the best burger in Seattle. The northwest-centric wine list impresses, as do the by-the-glass offerings. Save room for the Bananas Foster, made tableside with great fanfare. www.elgaucho.com/dine/seattle/

El Gaucho restaurant

El Gaucho


Looking to save money on a great bottle of locally produced wine? Check out MetMarket in Queen Anne for an impressive regional selection. Enjoy it with a picnic at the Olympic Sculpture Park in Belltown, with panoramic views of the city and waterfront. www.metropolitan-market.com/


My favourite restaurant view of the water and a hidden gem. Relax with a craft cocktail or a bottle of Champagne and freshly shucked northwest oysters. The eclectic dinner menu is every bit as good as the Lake Union views. www.westwardseattle.com

Westward restaurant


Sodo Urban Works

A few kilometres south of downtown Seattle, you can enjoy tastings at Rotie Cellars, Latta Wines and Sleight of Hand Cellars, all next door to each other. Be sure to taste the Rhône-style wines from each of these producers, which have all impressed in warm vintages in Washington. www.sodo-urbanworks.com


In downtown Seattle, this modern restaurant boasts a spectacular wine list and free corkage for your first bottle. Enjoy high-quality, reasonably priced food while you gaze at the stunning wine spiral display. Be sure to make room for the signature salted caramels for dessert. www.purplecafe.com/purple-seattle/

Purple restaurant


The Barrel Thief

This casual wine hangout is a favourite among wine industry types. Just a few minutes from downtown Seattle, this relaxed bar has more than 175 wines by the glass, including some excellent pours for US$16-$20. www.bthief.com

The Nest

Under the same ownership as Westward (see above), The Nest at The Thompson Hotel in Belltown is the place where Seattleites go to be seen. Enjoy a glass of Washington State rosé while taking in the breathtaking views of nearby Elliott Bay and Mt Rainer. www.thompsonhotels.com/hotels/

The Nest at Thompson Hotel

The Nest. Credit: Nic Lehoux

Dr Owen Bargreen is the founder/executive editor of www.washingtonwineblog.com and is a certified sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. This article first appeared in Decanter magazine – subscribe to Decanter here More articles like this:

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

California Wine Regions Quiz – Test your knowledge

Decanter News - vr, 08/12/2017 - 14:52

The California wine map is a complex place; and it's not all about Napa. Do you know your Mendocino from your Santa Barbara? Let's find out with the Decanter California Wine Regions quiz.

This quiz has been created as part of California wine month on Decanter.com, which is being run in partnership with the Wine Institute of California.

new california wine trendsThe California grape harvest.Scroll down and click in the box to start the California wine regions quiz Southern California wildfires: How to help

This week, following the devastating fires in northern California, around 200,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in the southern part of the state due to fresh wildfires following a record hot summer. For more information on how to help, see this Los Angeles Times article on donating.

Take the quiz

More Decanter.com wine quizzes:


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San Francisco | Napa Valley Best of Wine Tourism 2018 awards

Decanter News - vr, 08/12/2017 - 11:44

Great Wine Capitals Global Network announces the San Francisco | Napa Valley Best of Wine Tourism 2018 awards; North American innovators receive accolades for excellence in wine tourism...

Napa Valley Best of Wine Tourism 2018San Francisco-Napa Valley 'Best Of Wine Tourism' winners for 2018San Francisco | Napa Valley Best of Wine Tourism 2018 awards

Napa Valley, CA – As one of nine recognized Great Wine Capitals, San Francisco | Napa Valley has awarded its hospitality leaders the 2018 Best Of Wine Tourism regional designations in seven categories.

The Best Of awards categories include accommodations; art and culture; architecture and landscape; innovative wine tourism experience; sustainable wine tourism practices; wine tourism restaurant; and wine tourism services.

The 2018 Best Of regional San Francisco | Napa Valley winners are:

Accommodations – Napa River Inn (Napa Valley)

Art and Culture – The Hess Collection (Napa Valley)

Architecture and Landscape – Davis Estates (Napa Valley)

Innovative Wine Tourism Experience – Shadybrook Estate Winery (Napa Valley)

Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices – Etude Wines (Napa Valley)

Wine Tourism Restaurant – Napa Valley Wine Train (Napa Valley)

Wine Tourism Service – Napa Valley Wine Trolley (Napa Valley)

An additional level of recognition – The Regional Wine Tourism Award of Merit – has been awarded to four businesses as an honorable mention recognizing a high level of commitment to wine tourism.

The 2018 Regional Wine Tourism Award of Merit San Francisco | Napa Valley winners are:

Accommodation – Las Alcobas (Napa Valley)

Architecture and Landscape – Vineyard 29 (Napa Valley)

Innovative Wine Tourism Experience – St. Supery Estate Vineyards & Winery (Napa Valley)

A global Best Of award is presented to one wine tourism business within each region that is deemed best in class across all nine Great Wine Capitals by an international jury.

All regional Best Of award winners compete for the global awards, which was judged by an international panel of respected wine tourism professionals and presented at the annual general meeting of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network, held in November 2017 in Valparaiso, Chile. The international judges selected Etude Wines as the San Francisco | Napa Valley global winner.

About Visit Napa Valley Visit Napa Valley is the official tourism marketing organization for the Napa Valley, with a mission to promote, protect and enhance the region’s position as one of the world’s premier wine, food, arts and wellness destinations. The area, known for its legendary hospitality, is also internationally recognized as one of only nine “Great Wine Capitals” and has more Michelin Stars per capita than any other wine region in the world. The Napa Valley, conveniently located just an hour from the San Francisco Bay Area, consists of the following distinctive towns, including, from north to south, Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford/Oakville, Yountville, the city of Napa, American Canyon, and the outdoor recreation area of Lake Berryessa.

For additional information on the Napa Valley, or to plan your Napa Valley experience, please explore www.VisitNapaValley.com, join “The Napa Valley” on Facebook, and follow @VisitNapaValley on Twitter.  Media relations contact: Angela Jackson, angela@visitnapavalley.com

About San Francisco Travel The San Francisco Travel Association is the official tourism marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco. For information on reservations, activities and more, visit www.sanfrancisco.travelor call 415-391-2000.  The Visitor Information Center is located at 900 Market St. in Hallidie Plaza, lower level, near the Powell Street cable car turnaround. American Express® is the official Card partner of the San Francisco Travel Association. Media relations contact: Laurie Armstrong,larmstrong@sanfrancisco.travel

About Great Wine Capitals Global Network

Founded in 1999, the Great Wine Capitals Global Network is an alliance of nine internationally renowned wine regions – Adelaide, South Australia; Bilbao-Rioja, Spain; Bordeaux, France; Mainz-Rheinhessen, Germany; Mendoza, Argentina; Porto, Portugal; San Francisco/Napa Valley, USA; Valparaiso/Casablanca Valley, Chile; and Verona, Italy. The international Best Of Wine Tourism awards serves as an industry benchmark for excellence and recognizes leading wineries and wine-tourism related businesses within each Great Wine Capital that have distinguished themselves in areas such as innovation, service and sustainable practices. For more information visit www.greatwinecapitals.com.

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Tawny Port 10 and 20 Years Old: Panel tasting results

Decanter News - vr, 08/12/2017 - 09:31

Find the best 10 and 20 year old Tawny Ports, as rated by our expert panel in the January 2018 issue of Decanter magazine - just in time for Christmas...

Tawny Port Barrels of Tawny Port

These age categories are what many experts consider the best expressions of tawny Port, says Richard Mayson, who explains the intricacies of blending and house style…

Find the 10 and 20 year old Tawny Port panel tasting results here

It often used to be said that whereas ‘vintage Port was the king of Ports, tawny was the queen’. This rather outdated axiom would now be taken as sexist, but beneath it lies a comparison between the power and finesse of a great Vintage Port and the elegance and delicacy of a fine tawny.

Nowadays the talk is more about seasonality, with vintage Port (and its cohort Late Bottled Vintage, or LBV) thought of as a winter drink, whereas aged tawny Port, served slightly chilled or ‘cellar-cool’, is for the summer. But a glass of tawny can be a gloriously uplifting everyday drink at any time of year, especially as an opened bottle can be happily left on ullage for a month or so in the fridge.

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Gallery: Awards Tasting in South Korea hosted by Mashija Magazine

Decanter News - do, 07/12/2017 - 16:28
The tasting took place at the JW Marriot Dongdaemun in Seoul, South Korea

Decanter held an Awards tasting in partnership with Mashija Magazine at the JW Marriot Dongdaemun in Seoul, South Korea, on 3th December 2017.

The tasting was intended for professionals working in the Korean wine industry and Korean wine lovers at large. More than 120 guests attended the event and enjoyed the opportunity to taste 45 winners of DAWA 2017 and DWWA 2017. The diverse group of guests who attended the event included wine lovers, sommeliers, restaurant and bar owners, and embassy representatives based in Korea.

As official sponsor of the event, Duval-Leroy offered welcome champagne for the tasting in Seoul.

See full list of wine showcased at the event here.

Search full DAWA 2017 results here

Search full DWWA 2017 results here

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Northern Rhône 2016: Full report and wines to look for

Decanter News - do, 07/12/2017 - 16:00

August and September saved the Northern Rhône 2016 vintage and there's some great wines if you know where to look, says Matt Walls. Read his full vintage report and see his tasting notes. and ratings...

Northern Rhône 2016 Northern Rhône 2016 vintage report

Read Matt Walls’ appellation-by-appellation report below and see ratings and tasting notes for his favourite wines of the vintage, which may overall lack the power of the 2015 wines but has still produced excellent quality if you know what to look for.

See also: Best Rhône 2016 wines: The top scorers 



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Wildfires hit Murdoch wine estate

Decanter News - do, 07/12/2017 - 14:48

Wildfires are spreading through southern California, including where Rupert Murdoch owns a vineyard, just two months after fires hit wine country in the north of the state.

fire Murdoch wineFirefighters trying to put out the flames near Rupert Murdoch's winery. California fires hit Murdoch wine estate

Wildfires have spread across Los Angeles and southern California, and thousands of residents are evacuating their homes.

At the time of writing, local firefighters are still working to contain the flames.

California Fire had issued a Red Flag Warning that conditions could lead to an increased fire risk, from ‘critical weather and dry conditions’.

Moraga Winery in Bel-Air, owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, has suffered some damage.

In a statement released on Twitter, Murdoch said:

‘The property was evacuated … but there may be damage to some buildings in the upper vineyard area.’

‘We believe the winery and house are still intact.’

‘We are monitoring the situation as closely as we can, and are grateful to all of the efforts of the first responders.’

Statement from #MoragaBelAir Proprietor, @RupertMurdoch on #SkirballFire pic.twitter.com/b2tkl6jcED

— Moraga Bel Air (@MoragaBelAir) December 6, 2017

‘There are presently more than 300 LAFD firefighters assigned to what is called the “Skirball Fire”, with resources from allied agencies supporting the firefight,’ reported a statement from the LA Fire Department, at 10pm Wednesday 6th December, local time.

The fire staus was at 475 acres with 5% containment.

Other fires include the ‘Rye Fire’, ‘Creek Fire’ and ‘Brush Fire.’

murdoch fire wine

Where the fires are in Southern California.

Moraga Winery

Murdoch has owned the property since 2013, when he bought it for just under US$30million.

They produce 10,000 bottles a year, around 70% of which is red Bordeaux-blends, and 30% is Sauvignon Blanc.

The grapes for this vintage will have been harvested, but there could still be some damage to the vines themselves.

December is when the vines tend to go through their winter dormancy stage, not growing until the following spring.

California fires

These fires come just two months after wildfires devastated many parts of northern California, including Napa Valley, and killed 41 people.

Signarello Wine Estate along Napa Valley’s Silverade Trail was burnt to the ground.

Fire in rioja Fire destroys Rioja bodega

A devastating fire has entirely destroyed Rioja's Bodegas Señorio de Villarrica.

tuscan village winery, terrill cellars California wildfire burns winery to ashes

Fire destroys Tuscan Village in California...

Vilagrad winery, Hamilton, New Zealand Historic New Zealand winery destroyed by fire

The blaze broke out in the early hours of this morning (29 June) at the winery near Hamilton, damaging about…

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DWWA 2017 awards-winning wines at the Christmas Wine Experience in Porto

Decanter News - do, 07/12/2017 - 11:21
Each session had a capacity for 50 attendees

Decanter showcased a selection of ten DWWA 2017 award-winning wines from Portugal at the Christmas Wine Experience, an event organised by the luxury wine hotel The Yeatman in Porto, Portugal.

Two DWWA masterclasses took place on 1st and 2nd December and were led by Sarah Ahmed, Regional Chair for Portugal at DWWA, and Beatriz Machado, DWWA judge from 2013.

The DWWA 2017 winners presented at the sessions were also available to try at the DWWA table for the wine lovers attending the Christmas Wine Experience.

Search full DWWA 2017 results here

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Southern Rhône 2016: ‘Unmissable’ wines and full report

Decanter News - do, 07/12/2017 - 09:00

It's mostly even better than the highly praised 2015 crop and this makes it truly a vintage 'not to miss', says Matt Walls in his report on the young Southern Rhône 2016 wines.

Southern RHone 2016 Southern Rhône 2016

Our expert, Matt Walls, says this vintage could be one of the greats. See Matt’s full vintage report below, including appellation-by-appellation analysis and links to his favourite wines.

‘This is one of the best vintages of the past few decades. Do not miss it.’



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

Decanter News - do, 07/12/2017 - 08:00

Jane Anson meets the winemaking team with high hopes for Santenay white wines in southern Burgundy, after visiting the estate there owned by Oregon's Domaine Serene.

santenay white wines, Château de la CréeFermenation cellar for white wine beneath the 15th Century Château de la Crée building.

It’s hard to keep an accurate count of how many French winemakers there are with estates in Oregon.

Among the most high profile are:

  • Véronique Drouhin-Boss at Domaine Drouhin
  • Dominique Lafon at Lingua Franca
  • Alexandrine Roy at Domaine Marc Roy
  • Louis-Michel Liger-Belair at Chapter 24
  • Louis Jadot at Resonance
  • Jean-Nicolas Méo at Nicolas Jay
  • Bruno Corneaux at Domaine Divio
  • Alexandrine Roy at Phelps Creek
  • Gonzague and Claire Lurton at Trinité Estate.

And that’s not even getting started on the full list of French winemakers and consultants working on short or long term contracts.

Most of the traffic so far has been one way. So I was thrilled a few weeks ago to drive up in my red Renault Clio hire car to the gates of Château de la Crée in Santenay.

When Portland met Burgundy

It was the week of the Hospices de Beaune, and Burgundy was buzzing under a burst of wintry sunshine that everyone hoped would drive paddles upwards during Sunday’s auction.

Château de la Crée is the former estate of Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor of the Duke of Burgundy, who together with his wife Guigone de Salins founded the Hôtel-Dieu in Beaune in 1443 (you might notice there is a Beaune 1er Cru barrel named after him at the auction).

But I’m not here as part of the official event schedule but to meet a team from Oregon who took over the 10 hectare property – with 18 vineyards in seven different villages including two monopoles and nine Premier Crus – in 2015.

I’ve just missed owners Grace and Ken Evenstad, who were here during harvest a month or so ago, but there is a pretty full contingency of the rest of the team, including winemaker Michael Fay, who works across both their main Oregon property Domaine Serene and the new addition in Burgundy.

Fay, whose laid-back Portland charm doesn’t quite hide his exacting approach, heads over here four times a year to work alongside full-time local winemakers Coralie Allexant-Manière and Pablo Bosch, who have Méo Camuzet and Domaine Leroy to their previous credits. The return journey for the French team is made once a year.

When I arrive, all three are over in Beaune tasting through the 2017 wines from the Hospices, so I’m met by Matthew Thompson, marketing director, and Maxime, in charge of wine tourism and therefore key to a company that in Oregon has seen 45,000 visitors to Domaine Serene in 2017 and sells almost the entirety of its production through its wine club – a trick that it would like to repeat over here.

That, of course, is if any of its wine is left after Oregon club members have made their selections – the top level Maison Evenstad wine is now is 90% sold in the US and the second level Château de la Crée 80% to both club members and restaurants.  

American influence

For such a venerable Burgundy estate, that dates back to 1431 and is part of the Hospices de Beaune birthing story, it’s rather fascinating to detect the American influences at work.

The introduction of three levels of quality might be the most obvious one – although you could argue that it’s an approach already successfully used in Bordeaux – where the Maison Evenstad wines sit at one selection level above the main Château de la Crée, with Les Tourelles de la Crée below taking grapes from the négociant business.

And then there’s the focus on wine tourism and ‘direct to consumer’ cellar door programmes. But there are other more subtle signs also – the vast replanting programme that is underway for much of their premier cru vineyards, including those directly surrounding the château, uses clones that they say ‘advances viticulture in the region’.

They are raising the canopy across the vineyards to further phenolic ripening and ensuring 100% destemming in the winemaking.

Sticking up for Santenay

And in a further sign of confidence, the very image of Santenay is in their sights. This is an appellation that doesn’t enjoy the highest profile on the Côte de Beaune (described by French magazine L’Express as discrete), perhaps because it doesn’t contain a grand cru.

Tucked right down on the southernmost tip of the Côte, it is planted 89% to red grapes compared to 11% whites. Its history dates back to the pre-Roman era, when it was known for its thermal waters, rich in mineral salts apparently (hold that thought) – which in a weird French law gives it the rights to have a casino.

In 2011, Santenay got a publicity boost with the arrrival of DRC’s Aubert de Villaine, who not only bought 44 ares – almost half-a-hectare – of the premier cru Passetemps but also moved to the nearby village of Bouzeron.

He praised the reds for their ‘perfume of red fruit and undergrowth… with supple and tender tannins’ acccording to L’Express.

But it is not the reds that the Evenstads would like to concentrate on. Instead they believe that Santenay whites have huge potential for growth – something that has the approval of Pierre de Benoist, de Villaine’s nephew, who is on record as saying that the ‘superbly thrilling, saline-rich whites’ Chardonnay have been forgotten in the village.

Soil-wise, Santenay is one of the most mixed of the Côte, with three fairly distinct terroirs, but there is no doubt that the whites I tasted were among the best of the day, and I have long had a mild obsession with Vincent Girardin’s Santenay premier cru Gravières.

‘This is the Côte de Beaune, famous for its white wines,’ Thompson says as we are examining the Santenay replantings.

‘And there is a lot of poor soil with strong limestone content here. Where Meursault has clay with its limestone for power, here we have a more Puligny-Montrachet expression with tight, taut flavours and clear minerality.

‘This region used to be known for its whites, and we fully believe that it can be again.’

Santenay white wines from Maison Evenstad Maison Evenstad Santenay Premier Cru Beaurepaire 2014

The first vintage under the Oregon team, but only for the ageing. From 0.56ha of the Bearepaire 1er Cru that has around 20 producers in total. On the lower part of the slopes, steeply sloped with a gradient of around 30% with clay gravels over limestone. Beautifully elegant, orange peel and tight citrus, just 20% new oak used for ageing. A subtle persistency that builds over the palate. 12.5% abv. 91 points / 100.

Maison Evenstad Santenay Premier Cru Beaurepaire 2015

The first full vintage under the Evenstads, this has just a little more focused minerality than the 2014, but still with the orange peel character that gives an attractive point of bitterness and zesty focus to the rich citrus flavours. It will not be released until September 2018, kept in bottle for one year more than under the previous owner. 12.5% abv.  93.

Maison Evenstad Santenay Premier Cru Beauregard 2014

Right next to the Gravières 1er Cru, the Evenstads only own 0.26ha of this, making 60 to 90 cases a year so again all goes into Maison Evenstad. Clear smokiness and white pepper spice, real intense personality, great structure and persistency, excellent wine. 12.5% abv. 93.

Maison Evenstad Santenay Premier Cru Beauregard 2015

The spice and white pepper is still evident in this vintage, but it is accompanied by greater creaminess, a richer texture and intensity of flavour. Luscious ripe peach flavours, the fruit becomes clearer as it opens, without losing the grip and focus. 12.5% abv. 94.

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DWWA regional chair profile: Stephen Brook

Decanter News - wo, 06/12/2017 - 18:31

Stephen Brook is the Regional Chair for Piedmont at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) 2018

 Stephen BrookDWWA regional chair: Stephen BrookStephen Brook

This year sees Stephen Brook as Regional Chair for Piedmont at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2018.

Brook has been a contributing editor to Decanter since 1996 and has won a clutch of awards for his writing on wine. The author of almost 40 books, his works include The Complete Bordeaux, now the definitive study of the region and in its third edition, and The Wines of California, which won three awards.

His most recently published book is “The Wines of Austria”. Brook also fully revised the last two editions of Hugh Johnson’s Wine Companion, and he writes for magazines in many countries.

Brook was first a DWWA judge in 2004.

Follow Stephen on Twitter at @StephenPBrook or visit his website

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DWWA regional chair profile: Richard Juhlin

Decanter News - wo, 06/12/2017 - 18:30

Richard Juhlin is Regional Chair for Champagne at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) 2018

 Richard JuhlinDWWA regional chair: Richard JuhlinRichard Juhlin

Richard Juhlin is the author of seven books on Champagne and a freelance writer contributing to magazines including Spectacle du Monde, La Revue de Champagne and Wine International. He also runs The Richard Juhlin Champagne Club (champagneclub.com) through which he arranges tours to Champagne and manages the members-only Richard Juhlin Champagne Bars in Stockholm and Copenhagen.

Juhlin is currently working on the television series, Drinks and Restaurants in Europe, which will be aired in the USA and China, and he previously appeared in the Norwegian television series Nesevis.

The recipient of numerous awards, Juhlin was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole in 2002, and last year he was presented with l’Ordre National de la Légion d’honneur for his contribution to Champagne.

Juhlin additionally carries out cellar consultations, holds wine tastings and lectures across the globe. He currently holds the world record for the highest number of champagnes tasted – over 10,500 to date. Richard has been working on a book called Champagne Hiking, searching for the 100 best places on the planet to taste the 100 best champagnes in the world. The book and the app where Champagne lovers can follow in his tracks and create their own champagne hiking spots will be ready in December 2017.

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DWWA regional chair profile: Peter Richards MW

Decanter News - wo, 06/12/2017 - 18:25

Peter Richards MW is the Regional Chair for Chile at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) 2018

 Peter Richards MWDWWA Regional Chair: Peter Richards MWPeter Richards MW

A TV presenter with over a decade on flagship BBC1 show Saturday Kitchen, Peter Richards MW has won many awards for his work, and his credits include Sky One, FT, ESPN, The Guardian, ITV1, Radio 4, Times Online and BBC2.

Richards is a regular Decanter contributor as well as chairman of the Retailer Awards and, after publishing his book Wines of Chile, and Chile Wine Brief, he was recently described as “the world’s leading commentator on Chilean wine”.

Together with his wife and fellow MW Susie Barrie, Richards co-directs Wine Festival Winchester and runs half marathons, usually in fancy dress and frequently with a wine glass in hand. Richards was first a DWWA judge in 2004.

Peter publishes a website with his MW wife Susie. Follow Peter on Twitter at @wineschools

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DWWA regional chair profile: Monty Waldin

Decanter News - wo, 06/12/2017 - 18:23

Monty Waldin is Regional Chair for Tuscany at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) 2018

Monty WaldinMonty WaldinMonty Waldin

Monty Waldin became the first wine writer to specialise in green issues in the mid-1990s and his first book, The Organic Wine Guide, was published in 1999 and voted Britain’s Wine Guide of the Year. At the time, Waldin was developing a biodiversity project for a Demeter certified biodynamic vineyard in California, and he has drawn on this and other winemaking experiences in both hemispheres for subsequent writings.

He is the author of other award-winning books including Wines of South America, and was filmed in 2007 for Britain’s Channel 4 documentary Château Monty on biodynamic winemaking in Roussillon, France. His latest book, Biodynamic Wine, is a how-to guide for would-be biodynamic wine-growers.

Waldin has contributed to radio, newspapers, and wine, travel and environmental publications. He frequently visits Tuscany where his Italian partner and their son live, and advises on biodynamics to farms, vineyards, gardens and olive groves across the globe.

Follow Monty on Twitter at @MontyWaldin or visit his website.

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DWWA regional chair profile: Markus del Monego MW

Decanter News - wo, 06/12/2017 - 18:17

Markus del Monego MW is Regional Chair for Germany and Austria at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) 2018

Markus del Monego MWMarkus del Monego MWMarkus del Monego MW

Markus Del Monego MW holds the title of Best Sommelier of the World 1998 and is both wine advisor to Lufthansa airlines and owner/managing director of consultancy cave Co. Based in Essen, Germany, he advises merchants, wine producers and private individuals on all matters to do with “wine and enjoyment”.

Del Monego was born in Switzerland and grew up in Germany, where he commenced hotelier training at the Dorint Spa Hotel in Bad Brückenau after finishing high school. Following his training, he undertook a stage as sommelier in the Vier Jahreszeiten Hotel in Hamburg, and later on worked at the Park Hotel in Bremen and The Savoy in London.

Del Monego is also a Master of Sake, gaining the qualification a few months after passing his Master of Wine exams in London in 2003. Del Monego was first a DWWA judge in 2010.

Markus also publishes a website.

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DWWA regional chair profile: Justin Howard-Sneyd MW

Decanter News - wo, 06/12/2017 - 18:00

Justin Howard-Sneyd MW is joint Regional Chair for Languedoc-Roussillon with James Lawther MW at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) 2018.

Justin Howard-Sneyd MWDWWA regional chair: Justin Howard-Sneyd MWJustin Howard-Sneyd MW

Justin Howard-Sneyd MW’s career in the wine trade started when he worked in a shop, ran wine education courses, and worked six vintages in South Africa, Hungary, Romania and France. He then settled down in England to become a buyer for Safeway, and passed the MW in 1999, winning the Tim Derrouet Award as the outstanding student from his year. A year later, Howard-Sneyd joined Sainsbury’s, where he was a buyer until 2005 when he moved to Waitrose to head up their wine team for five years.

Howard-Sneyd is now global wine consultant to Direct Wines and founder of The Hive Wine Consulting Limited. In addition to the day job, he and his family make 4,000 bottles a year of Domaine of the Bee, a blend of Grenache and Carignan from Roussillon.

Justin Howard-Sneyd MW was first a DWWA judge in 2006.

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