James Lawther MW is joint Regional Chair with Justin Howard-Sneyd MW for Languedoc-Roussillon at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) 2018DWWA judge: James Lawther MWJames Lawther MW
James Lawther MW is a contributing editor to Decanter as well as an independent wine writer, lecturer and tour guide based in Bordeaux. He retailed wine at Steven Spurrier’s Les Caves de la Madeleine in Paris in the 1980s, and his early career also involved stints as a cellar hand in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Roussillon and Western Australia.
In 1993, Lawther became a Master of Wine. He is author of The Heart of Bordeaux and The Finest Wines of Bordeaux, and has contributed to books including Dorling Kindersley’s Wines of the World and Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book and The Global Encyclopedia of Wine. Lawther was first a DWWA judge in 2004.
A recent tasting of the Wine Society's new releases turned up a few gems. Here are our top picks for Christmas and beyond
Decanter’s Tasting team recently tasted the latest additions to the Wine Society’s range.
The long-established firm, a cooperative owned by its members, was awarded Outstanding Retailer of the Year, Online Retailer of the Year and Regional France Specialist of the Year at this year’s Decanter Retailer Awards.
Its range is curated by nine buyers.
5/12/2017 Added 8 wines from the winter 2017 collectionRecommended Wine Society buys:
The top 8 tasting notes are our recommendations from the latest tasting. Continue scrolling down to see older Wine Society wine reviews.Related content: The best Majestic wines this festive season
Read Decanter's top picks for drinking this winter...Best Laithwaite’s wines to try
Decanter's tasting team picks its favourites...The 75 most exciting wines of 2017
Find a new wine to try this festive season...Decanter’s guide to anniversary buys
For all those in search of a special bottle to mark a celebration in 2018, Anthony Rose shares his tips…
Jasper Morris MW is the Regional Chair for Burgundy (excluding Beaujolais) at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) 2018DWWA Regional Chair: Jasper Morris MWJasper Morris MW
Jasper Morris MW has made a reputation as one of the world’s leading authorities on Burgundy – originally through his importing company Morris & Verdin, subsequently through his work as Burgundy director at Berry Bros & Rudd, and especially through his book Inside Burgundy, winner of the André Simon award for the best wine book of the year in 2010.
A regular international lecturer on Pinot Noir and Burgundy, Morris also writes about the latter for Decanter and The World of Fine Wine, as well as being responsible for all the Burgundy entries in The Oxford Companion to Wine.
He now also consults for Christie’s on behalf of the Hospices de Beaune.
Morris was first a DWWA judge in 2006.
Tony Aspler is the Regional Chair for Canada at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA)Tony AsplerTony Aspler
Tony Aspler has been writing about wine since 1975, and has been wine columnist for The Toronto Star for 22 years. He is the author of 18 wine books, including The Wine Atlas of Canada, and three wine murder mystery novels: Blood Is Thicker than Beaujolais, The Beast of Barbaresco and Death on the Douro.
In 2001, Aspler co-founded the charity Grapes for Humanity to raise money through the wine community for victims of landmines and children with disabilities.
In 2007 Aspler was awarded the Order of Canada and in 2012 he was elected to the New York Media Wine Writers Hall of Fame. In 2017 Tony was awarded Spain’s Order of Civil Merit.
Here are Matt Walls' top scoring wines from the Rhône 2016 vintage, all rated above 95 points.Southern Rhône 2016 is a vintage for collectors, says Matt Walls.
Below is a sneak preview of what Mall Walls has to say about the Rhône 2016 wines and his top picks form the vintage. Coming soon: See the full vintage report.
Many Rhône winemakers had a tough act to follow in 2016, following a 2015 vintage that was considered to be among the best in recent memory – especially in the northern appellations.
But, Walls judged that 2016 has largely delivered, describing the best wines of the vintage as ‘having it all’ and ‘not to be missed’ for collectors.
All of the wines below are rated above 95 points and have been chosen by Matt Walls after several weeks of scouring the region, from Côte Rôtie to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, tasting 1,500 en primeur wines in the process.
‘Before I arrived in the Rhône in October 2017 to taste the 2016 vintage, I already had an inkling it was going to be special,’ writes Walls in his full report, to be published for Premium members on Decanter.com later this week.
‘When tasting the 2015s the previous year – itself a very good vintage – some winemakers couldn’t contain their excitement about what they’d just picked,’ writes Walls.
‘”Yes, the 2015s are great, but try this!” said Vincent Avril of Clos des Papes, as he thrust a cloudy glass of freshly fermented 2016 into my hand.
‘Since then I’ve tasted nearly 1,500 wines from the 2016 vintage, and it’s clear that this is a very good year in the northern Rhône – and truly great in the South.’Over the next week we’ll be bringing you a selection of Rhône 2016 notes from Matt Walls, covering both north and south and including some of his best value choices. The best Rhône 2016 wines
Perfect for your Secret Santa, a stocking filler or a light-hearted Christmas gift, and all under £25/ $25...Secret Santa gifts for wine lovers – under £25 SEE ALSO: Decanter luxury gift guide 2017 Miniature Graham’s 10 yr old Tawny Port
Our panel found ‘notes of roasted nuts, caramel and cinnmon’ in the Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny, in our recent panel tasting. Treat any Port lover to a miniature serving, perfect to fit in a stocking…UKMini Moët & Chandon Champagne crackers
An ideal treat, these Moët & Chandon crackers come with a 20cl bottle of Moët inside – choose from either the Brut NV or Rosé NV. Have a luxurious Christmas dinner table with one for each guest…UKBiscuiteers Champagne card
Great for a secret santa gift, these Champagne-themed biscuits from Biscuiteers…UK/ US
*Additional delivery charge for US orders.‘Pimp your Prosecco’ gift set
For any cocktail fan out there – this gift set contains everything you need for a perfect sparkling wine cocktail; a mini sparkling wine (including Prosecco, Moët & Chandon Champagne or Anna de Codorniu Cava), a choice of liqueur, bursting bubbles and sparkling shimmer.UKWine Folly Wine Flavours wheel
Perfect for anyone studying, or just looking to improve their wine tasting skills – this flavours wheel from Wine Folly helps you to understand what different flavours indicate about a wine.US/ UK
*Additional delivery charge for UK orders.Mini Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte rosé
Give the gift of a glass of Champagne, with this miniature Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte rosé, with notes of ‘wild strawberry, ripe cherry and fennel’, according to our panel tasting, and comes in a matching jacket.Charbonnel et Walker pink Champagne truffles
No one could be disappointed to receive a box of these pink Champagne truffles, tasting of Champagne and strawberries. If you want to go for something slightly different, try their limited edition Sipsmith gin infused truffles instead.UK
*Additional delivery charge for US orders.‘Tommy Veltliner’ T-shirt
These T-shirts from Natural Whine mimic popular designer styles with grape names. Both the ‘Gamuuci’ and ‘Beaujenciaga’ styles have been sell-out successes, but there are plenty more to choose from.US/ UK
*Additional delivery charge for UK orders.‘Prosecco Pong’ party game
Liven up any Christmas party with a round of ‘Prosecco Pong’ – the sparkling wine version of the much-loved classic. Comes with 12 plastic coup style glasses and three plastic balls.UKDecanter luxury gift guide 2017 More Christmas wine here
Whether you've pondered this question in theoretical manner over dinner or you've got grand designs for a patch of land in your garden, here's the expert view on what you can make from a single vine.How much wine does a vine produce? – ask Decanter See also: How old is too old for vines? – ask Decanter
Holly Richards, Deal, asks: How much wine does a vine produce?
Simon Woods replies: There’s no simple answer.
Grape varieties vary in vigour and soils in fertility, plus grape growers differ in how they cultivate their vines.
You also need to consider how much irrigation the vines receive and whether they are healthy.
So for wines of comparable quality the answer could be two bottles, while in others it could be eight.
Let’s look at extremes. At the lower end, each vine at the Sauternes premier cru supérieur Château d’Yquem yields just one glass of wine.
At the upper end, in the more industrialised, heavily irrigated vineyards around the world, 24 bottles of wine per vine is not unheard of.
That’s 150 times more wine per vine than at Yquememail@example.com or on social media with #askDecanter. Find more Ask Decanters here
Kent-based winery Chapel Down has launched its own line of gin and vodka made from grapes, as part of a growing trend across the English wine industry…
Both of the spirits are made from leftover grape skins from the winemaking process, and are each a nod to the relative grape variety.
‘It was born out of an experiment really,’ said Chapel winemaker Josh Donaghay-Spire, at the launch in London on 30 November.
He started by making some Grappa from grape skins in 2016, and has been developing the spirits ever since.
‘It’s been two years in the making, but you’ve got to get the liquid right.’
Both spirits will be available to buy from Majestic from 11 December.
‘We really wanted the flavours to nod to the wine – otherwise what’s the point?’
It’s not the first time Chapel Down has branched out from wine; it also makes the Curious beer and cider range.
Last year it made a 23 year old English grape brandy, although this isn’t going to carry on.
‘The demand for our wine is so high, there’s no excess to use for brandy production – and then there’s the time and resource needed for ageing it,’ said Donaghay-Spire.Growing trend
There is now an emerging trend for English wine producers to move into spirits.
Bolney Wine Estate in Sussex has joined with company Foxhole Spirits to produce a gin from the waste-products of the winemaking.
Gin in particular has grown significantly in the UK in recent years.
2016 was dubbed ‘the year of gin’, as sales went over £1 billion in the on and off trades for the first time, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).
Sales went up 19% year on year in the on trade, and 13% in the off trade in 2016 versus 2015.
Haittingley Valley in Hampshire also produces a spirit called ‘Aqua Vitae’, and grapes from Gusbourne Estate, in Kent, are used in Vermouth made by Asterley Bros.
A key advantage of producing spirits is that the product is ready for market much quicker, as well as being made from a waste product of winemaking.
There is also no risk of a bad vintage, added Chapel Down’s managing director, Mark Harvey, so branching out from wine can help the business model.
‘There is a wider trend of blurring of lines in categories,’ said managing director Mark Harvey.
‘Rules are made to be broken, and we’re one company deliberately playing with it.’More articles
- English wine scoops major prize at Decanter World Wine Awards
- The rise of English wine – Andrew Jefford
This environmentally focused young winemaker is putting her stamp on some of France's top wine estates, says Jane Anson. Read her exclusive interview and wine ratings, just published in Decanter magazine and currently available to Premium members online.Caroline Frey at her recently acquired vineyard at Fully in Valais, Switzerland
Best of the Frey Estates: Rhône & Bordeaux
The post A rising star of French wine: Caroline Frey interview appeared first on Decanter.
Château de Fieuzal, the Pessac-Léognan cru classé château owned by the Irish Quinn family, has announced that it won’t release any wine from the Bordeaux 2017 harvest because severe frost damaged too much of its crop.Château de Fieuzal vineyards.
Severe frost on 27 April affected almost the entirety of its 75 hectare vineyard.
Fieuzal’s move shows how frost has hit yields, particularly south of Bordeaux and on the Right Bank.
Fieuzal said, ‘The climatic conditions of last spring had a significant impact on our vineyard and the size of the crop.
‘And whilst we made every effort to minimize the impact… we have decided we are unable to achieve the level of quality that we have come to expect.’
The final decision was only reached after vinification of the remaining crop, after initially believing there was enough to make 10-20% of the usual production.
The estate had announced an expected 500 barrels of white wine from 2017 back in September.
In the end, Fieuzal has produced a few barrels of each wine that will be used for the estate’s wine library and inventory, but not for sale. No wine has been sold off in bulk either, Decanter.com understands.
This is the second year when frost affected the quantity of red wine production from Fieuzal.
Winemaker Stephen Carrier told Decanter.com, ‘I believe this a respectable decision from our owners and as a winemaker I’m glad of it.’How Bordeaux 2017 is shaping up in the vats: read Jane Anson’s in-depth report
Andrew Jefford suggests we’re getting it wrong about alcohol – with disastrous consequences.
Former Polish president Lech Wałęsa is the source of one of my favourite political quotations. No one seems quite sure when he first said it, but it later became one of his stock answers to difficult political questions: “I am for, and even against” (“Jestem za, a nawet przeciw”). When I look at the alcohol level displayed on wine labels, I know exactly what he means.
Consumers should be informed about what’s in the bottle of wine they are about to drink. The alcohol level is obviously a useful piece of information, and vital for assessing personal intake accurately. It’s time that the USA, Australia and New Zealand conformed to the +/- 0.5% maximum alcohol variance permitted in the EU and China; the existing +/- 1.5% in those countries is unnecessarily vague. From a health point of view, alcohol levels belong on labels: no question.
From the aesthetic perspective, though, I deeply regret the free availability of this information, the prominence with which it appears on front labels, and its growing ubiquity alongside all tasting notes (those appearing in Decanter magazine included). Why? Because it unduly and often inaccurately influences tasting judgments. On occasion, indeed, it can actually damage or destroy tasting ability by kicking away sensual objectivity.
Worse still, the idea that a wine with an alcohol level of 14.5% or 15% might be intrinsically ‘unbalanced’ is now unthinkingly accepted by many wine tasters. It has, too, become a corrosive element of wine fashion, and is negatively affecting the ways in which wines are produced. Producer neuroses about alcohol levels lead to a fetish for early harvesting. In many cases, this means that wines are robbed of the aromatic resonance and articulacy, the flesh and the texture which they would otherwise possess had they been harvested at perfect maturity. That in turn steals the potential pleasure drinkers might otherwise have taken in a well-vinified wine.
How is all this possible? Simply thus: knowing the alcohol level of a wine leads to cognitive bias.
A cognitive bias is a deviation from rationality in judgement. These biases are manifold, as a quick look at the ‘cognitive bias codex’ on Wikipedia will reveal; it’s actually hard to exclude all cognitive biases from any judgement, but that’s not a reason to abandon the effort. I would suggest that the moment you know that a particular wine contains, say, 14.5% or 15% alcohol, that fact may exert a disproportionate effect on the way in which you taste that wine. The figure itself prompts you to find that wine ‘over-alcoholic’. Given the option, I always ask not to be given this information as I taste. Where it is supplied (as it is in the Decanter World Wine Awards competition, for example), I do my best to ignore it until I have reached a verdict on the wine.
Tasters, remember, are surrogate drinkers; they are looking to find and to assess drinking pleasure. All that matters is what is tasted, not what is known. If knowing a particular fact will vitiate your tasting pleasure (and we are now getting to the stage where sight of “15%” on a label will do just that for many), then it is better not to know. If you don’t know, you will taste the wine more justly.
I realise that this will seem incendiary to some readers, so let me quickly list some of the things I am not suggesting.
- I am not suggesting that all information about wines has a negative effect on tasting ability. On the contrary, knowledge about origin is vital, since there is no single aesthetic ideal for wine. Beauty in wine is predicated on origin. (It is not predicated on alcohol.)
- I am not suggesting that balance in wine is an irrelevant or over-rated virtue. It is both desirable in its own right, and the basis of drinkability, which I consider a defining quality of both good wine and fine wine. I am simply suggesting that alcohol in itself is a much less prominent element in balance than it is at present modishly made out to be.
- I am not suggesting that ‘unbalanced’ wines do not exist. They do indeed exist, for a multitude of reasons. Early picked, under-ripened wines can also be unbalanced; so, too, can over-oaked or over-ripened wines. But you cannot tell that a wine is over-ripened by looking at its alcohol level, since ripening is intimately related to site, variety and season. Craft, too – and, it would seem, climate change. These are ceaselessly variable factors. You can only tell if a wine is over-ripened by tasting it and drinking it, and that is best done by first removing the potential for cognitive bias.
It is, in conclusion, wholly erroneous to assume or assert that wines cannot be balanced at 15%, 15.5% or 16% — or whatever strength at which the yeasts finally throw in the towel. Balance is a function of the sum of constituents of a wine and the manner in which they are disposed within that wine. This is a question of enormous complexity, as we all know: think, if you will, of the dozens of different nuances in different wines’ acid spectra, for example, or in wines’ textural presences. To focus on alcohol level is absurdly reductive. Wines deserve better of their drinkers.Read more Andrew Jefford columns on Decanter.com
The post Jefford on Monday: Alcohol labelling – taste first, then look appeared first on Decanter.
How many earthworms does it take to make a fine wine? No, it's not a pre-emptive Christmas cracker joke. It's part of a massive issue facing the future of wine, according to influential soil consultants Claude and Lydia Bourguignon.
This article has been re-published after it was named winner of the best editorial / opinion writing category in the Born Digital Wine Awards, announced on 1 December 2017. It was originally published in January 2017.
My mother is a lifelong gardener who has slowly but surely turned her hobby into a profession. As a pharmacy student in Manchester in the 1960s, she wrote her thesis on medicinal plants, and later did a PhD in garden history. She began writing books on botanical gardens as she stepped back from working as a pharmacist in hospitals, and now specializes in historical research into gardens of the 19th century.
I say all this because her background means that there are a handful of names that she already knows when I mention them in a wine context. There’s Hugh Johnson, of course. Which gardener doesn’t know about his many books on the subject and his rather glorious obsession with trees? But there was another name, or rather pair of names that I was more surprised to find that she knew about the other day; Claude and Lydia Bourguignon.
These are France’s most influential – although far from most famous – consultants, and I found myself having supper with them at Clos Mirande restaurant in Montagne St-Emilion in summer 2016. They don’t often come by Bordeaux, and have been known to be pretty scathing about much of its winemaking practices, so I usually only get to hear them speak at conferences on the microbiology of soils, their specialist subject.
You might think that sounds terribly uninteresting, but this husband and wife team are right up there with the most iconoclastic and unorthodox figures in the world of wine. They have spurned various official government bodies along the way to establishing their now thriving consultancy – at one point accusing Europe’s top agricultural research institute and their former employers INRA of being in hock to big agribusiness companies – and take an anti-establishment view on pretty much any subject you care to mention. Which is why I was very happy to have been invited to join them with Jean-Pierre Amoreau of Château le Puy – head of Bordeaux’s own first family of anti-establishment winemaking.
By the end of the meal (which was punctuated every few minutes by exclamations of ‘this is off the record’ and ‘we’ll talk more about this after you’ve left’), the Bourguignons had me convinced that the humble earthworm (le ver de terre in French) is the key to some of the finest wines on the planet.
Which is why I called my mother the next morning, as my go-to source of all things garden related. And it turns out that, like Johnson, the insights of the Bourguignons have proved invaluable to gardeners as well as wine lovers. At least ones who follow organic principles and prepare their own compost and various natural infusions for their plants, much of which is aimed at attracting earthworms who then tunnel down through the soil, increasing drainage potential and cluster around decaying matter to produce vermicompost, a kind of supercharged soil rejuvenator.
Claude and Lydia Bourguignon have specialized in this most specialist of subjects since establishing their LAMS consultancy back in 1989. INRA had not been sufficiently receptive to their concerns over the depletion of nutrients in the nation’s soils, and were unwilling to speak out about the effects of artificial fertilisers and pesticides. ‘Which is why we left’, says Claude. ‘We knew this was an essential topic for the future of agriculture’.
‘And there is still not a certification system that is based on microbiology of soils,’ adds Lydia, showcasing the striking habit that they have of picking up and finishing each other’s sentences. ‘We have lobbied for it, and we are still doing so. Because how can you grow healthy vines or any other plant on soils that are sterile and eroded?’
‘Since the 1950s, French soils have gone from containing 2,000kg of worms per hectare to under 100kg,’ Claude told his audience at a recent conference. ‘Which means they are not able to bring up vital chemical and organic matter to the surface, and not able to prevent potassium, phosphate and nitrogen being washed out in rain water’.
The culprits, of course, are chemical entrants into the soils, the use of heavy machinery for farming, and the widespread loss of trees whose root system are essential for maintaining an equilibrium.
The establishment might be sceptical, but the winemakers who believe in the Bourguignons – from Romanée Conti to Leflaive, Jacques Sélosse, Fleury, Chave, Huet, Bonny Doon, Vajra, Vega Sicilia and many, many great names besides – would happily line up to agree with their assertions.
Over the years they have visited and examined more than 12,000 soils across, ‘pretty much every ecology that you can imagine in France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Austria, US, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and more. We know how soils work because we have opened them up and looked inside’.
I called them up just before Christmas for tips on how to tell if producers are the real deal when they talk about their green credentials. The phone was put on speaker, so they could both talk, as I had come to expect.
‘You have to visit the vineyard’. This is Claude, firm, before Lydia explained their process.
‘The first thing we do is walk on the soils, work out how they feel. A living soil gives the impression of suppleness, like a forest floor. Tired soils are compacted, they don’t have any give underfoot and are hard to walk on. Then we will pick up a handful of top soil and smell it. You don’t need to go further than the first 5cm. If the soil smells of nothing, that is an issue. Healthy soils will smell of forest floor, of mushrooms. Then feel the structure of the soil in your hands. Soils that are full of life will look a bit like couscous – under a microscope they have a round structure and contain hundreds of tiny organisms that are cleaning the soil, exchanging enzymes with the roots of plants, absorbing minerals. All of these things help give a wine complexity’.
‘When we started out, no wineries were willing to spend the money on something so invisible as the soil. They preferred to invest in big name flying winemakers. But the proof comes through in the wine’.Pioneers of the Bourguignon approach:
The Bourguignons work with a who’s who of the world’s greatest estates, almost exclusively biodynamic. Here are two of their suggestions for the key early adopters in France.
Domaine des Vignes du Mayes, Mâcon – Jullien Guillot’s biodynamic estate in the Mâconnais has never used any chemicals in its soils. His father Alain was president of the National Federation of Organic Wines and was part of the team that first convinced the French minister of agriculture Philippe Vasseur to officially recognise the AB (Agriculture Biologique certification) in the early 1980s.
Domaine de Marcel Pierre, Morgon – Today run by Mathieu Lapierre, his father Marcel worked with researcher and négociant Jules Chauvet, known in France as the father of the natural wine movement. Lapierre has farmed biodynamically, without any added sulphur, yeasts or bacteria in the winemaking since 1981 – a genuine precursor for today’s natural wines.Get Jane Anson’s latest book: Wine Revolution: The World’s Best Organic, Biodynamic and Craft Wines – £17.72 (hardback) More Jane Anson columns on Decanter.com
The post Anson: Why a decline in soil health should worry all wine lovers appeared first on Decanter.
We ask the experts about wine glass holding etiquette.It's all about the stem.How to hold a wine glass – ask Decanter Does how you hold your wine glass have an impact on the wine?
The reason wine glasses are designed with stems is to ‘keep the glass free of fingerprints, and to ensure that you don’t warm the glass and subsequently the wine,’ said Xavier Rousset MS.
If you hold it by the ‘bowl’, the wine will warm up – particularly a problem when drinking sparkling wines or fresh white wines, which need to be served the coolest.
‘You can better appreciate the colour of the wine and give the wine a more dynamic swirl to release aromas and flavours – and that’s where the magic really starts,’ said Sarah Ahmed, regional chair for Portugal at the Decanter World Wine Awards.
‘For fresh, aromatic wines in particular, it’s best to hold the stem – but sometimes you want to warm up the wine, so cuddling the bowl is a quick way to do that!’
‘For me the most important function of a wine glass is to help release the wine’s aromas, so a good-sized bowl is the most important thing,’ said DWWA judge Matt Walls.
‘If it has a stem, so much the better – it makes it easier to swirl.’What about stemless glasses?
There is a growing trend towards stemless wine glasses, although Rousset says he’s ‘not sure there’s any benefit to them.’
Ahmed recognises some advantages to them. ‘Less breakages for a clumsy clot like me – especially at a crowded dinner table,’ she said.
‘They’re also great for travelling – holiday cottages with good glassware are few and far between!’
‘Stemless glasses do have one major benefit,’ said Walls.
‘You can avoid any use of that toe-curlingly awful term ‘stemware’!’Wine tasting etiquetter – ask Decanter Does putting a spoon in Champagne work? ask Decanter Got a question for Decanter’s experts? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media with #askDecanter. Find more Ask Decanters here
For all those in search of a special bottle to mark a celebration in 2018, Anthony Rose shares his tips on which wines and vintages will make ideal gifts this yearChâteau Léoville-Barton 2000, starting to open up now, would be an impressive 18th gift.
Some are born in great vintages, as Malvolio in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night almost utters, some achieve greatness by cleverly managing to get themselves married in them, while others have great vintages thrust upon them – if they’re lucky enough to be showered with fine wine as a birthday or anniversary gift.
They say that to give is so much better than to receive, and while you may sometimes doubt the wisdom of the aphorism, let us oil the wheels for you with suitable suggestions for wine gifts in 2018.
There are years that lend themselves to the task thanks to effortless excellence across the board, whereas others come more reluctantly to the party, or don’t want to party at all. Sadly, 2018 is closer to the latter camp, with fortunes at best mixed. Broadly speaking, the finer the wine, the longer its potential. All the more so in the case of larger formats – and what better treat than a birthday magnum or jeroboam? Older wines are frailer though, and often difficult to source. So sweet wines, tawny Ports and other fortified wines such as Rivesaltes, Maury and Madeira can fit the bill if a poor vintage leaves you scratching your head for ideas.
Vintage apart, older doesn’t necessarily mean better. Even a great vintage can be marred by good old-fashioned winemaking – by which I mean, of course, bad old-fashioned winemaking. So don’t hesitate to approach a wine merchant or broker specialising in fine, rare and cult wines. A search engine such as www.wine-searcher.com can take away the pain of tracking down a mature vintage – and don’t overlook the auction houses, whose online catalogues can be a rich hunting ground for the fine and rare of the species. If still in doubt for a gift, my current favourite gadget, a Coravin Model Two (see www.coravin.com), would ensure undying gratitude.Vintage Champagne: Panel tasting results
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Why this wine, harvested to the sound of victory after the Second World War, makes the Decanter hall of fame.Château Mouton Rothschild 1945, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
Bottles produced: 74,422, plus 1475 magnums and 24 jeroboams
Composition: No record
Yield (hl/ha): about 10 hl/ha
Alcohol level: No record
Release price: No recordCurrent price: £15,900 per bottle at Hedonism (UK) or $23,222.89 at Aabalat in California
All the first growths excelled in 1945, yet it is widely recognised that Mouton, then a ‘lowly’ second growth, was the wine of the vintage.
Moreover, for many years the 1945 fetched higher prices at auction than the first growths. This boosted Baron Philippe’s campaign for Mouton’s promotion to first growth, which only succeeded in 1973. The 1945 vintage was produced shortly after the end of World War II.
As a Jew, Baron Philippe de Rothschild had fled to Britain after escaping from prison, but once the war was over he returned to supervise the harvest at Mouton.
Despite the fact that he had been unable to manage the estate for some years, it produced something quite extraordinary.Looking back
Mouton was considerably smaller in 1945, with 51 hectares under vine compared with 82ha today. Although the property had been confiscated by the Germans during the war, it was well run by their appointed weinführer whose job it had been to keep the Bordeaux wine trade functional.
The château became a military headquarters and wine was produced more or less normally.The people
Baron Philippe was flamboyant and artistically inclined and had taken over the management of the family property in 1923 at the age of 20. In 1945 he began to commission the famous ‘artist labels’, one for each vintage, and in the 1960s he opened a Museum of Wine in Art.
The 1945 label, designed by Philippe Jullian, defiantly displayed the words ‘Année de la Victoire’. The legendary Raoul Blondin, Mouton’s cellarmaster for over 50 years, supervised the wine’s production.
Heavy frosts on 2 May - ‘an unusually late date’ – severely reduced the crop in the Médoc. Thereafter the climate was superb, with a hot, dry summer that led to an early and uncomplicated harvest. The grapes were super-ripe, with some batches apparently reaching an alcohol level of 15%. Quantities were considerably reduced and this was the smallest vintage since 1915.The terroir
Most of the grapes used for the grand vin come from the Grand Plateau, a parcel lying west of the winery. Here the soil is classic Pauillac: a layer of gravel up to 8m deep, lying over a subsoil of larger stones, clay and marl. The estate’s other main sector, the Carruades, lies on a plateau shared with its neighbour (and rival) Lafite. This gives a slightly more rugged expression of Cabernet Sauvignon than the more powerful but elegant Grand Plateau.The wine
Although Mouton had continued to produce wine during the war, the property would have suffered from the absence of Baron Philippe’s exacting gaze. The vineyard had not been renovated for some years, although this was probably an advantage, since it increased the proportion of old vines in the 1945. The wine would have been fermented in large wooden vats, but there would have been few, if any, new oak barrels in the cellar.The reaction
Michael Broadbent, retired Decanter columnist and ex-head of wine at Christie’s, reported on the wine over 20 times between the 1950s and 1990. He notes that it is ‘simply unmistakable’.
Moreover it has been exceedingly slow to mature, so that characteristics noted in its youth still seem to apply today. Broadbent notes the very deep colour, and an extraordinary bouquet: ‘The power and spiciness surge out of the glass like a sudden eruption of Mount Etna: cinnamon, eucalyptus, ginger… Impossible to describe but inimitable, incomparable… Its fragrance is reflected on the palate. Still lovely, still vivacious.’
The French critic Michel Dovaz also commented on the nose: ‘Baroque, spicy, luxuriant, almost uncontrolled’.’Wine Legend: Gaja, Barbaresco 2001
Why it makes the Decanter hall of fame...Wine Legend: Taylor’s Vintage Port 1927, Douro, Portugal
What makes it a wine legend...?Wine Legend: Zind-Humbrecht, Clos St-Urbain Pinot Gris SGN 1989
What makes it a wine legend?
Be among the first to see the results of our vintage Champagne panel tasting, just published in the Christmas issue of Decanter magazine and with scores and tasting notes currently available exclusively to Premium members on Decanter.com.Riddling racks in the Krug cellars in Champagne.
If you really want to spoil the wine lover in your life, we've picked some of our favourite luxury wine gifts...Decanter luxury gift guide 2017 Penfolds Grange 2013 and decanter gift set
This year Penfolds released this limited edition gift set, with the Saint-Louis crystal decanter – who are one of the oldest glassmakers in the world. It comes with a bottle of Grange 2013, which John Stimpfig called in his tasting notes a ‘big, flamboyant and hedonistic’ wine.UKLouis Roederer, Cristal 1990 (Magnum)
‘Dazzlingly delicious on the nose and palate‘, says John Stimpfig, on the 1990 Louis Roederer Cristal from magnum. A lavish gift, this is ready for drinking now, or could still be aged further. But could be ideal to drink on Christmas day…UKCoravin Model Two Elite
The perfect gift for anyone with a cellar full of fine wine; a Coravin, allowing you to enjoy wine by the glass without opening the whole bottle. Choose from silver, black, red, gold or rose gold.UKKrug Grande Cuvée gift set
This Krug Grande Cuvee gift set comes with two Riedel Joeseph glasses – notably not flutes, which the Champagne house declares are not appropriate for Champagne. The wider glass means that there is more chance for the aromas to circulate and enjoy.UKDecanter Premium membership
The ideal gift for any fine wine fan; Decanter Premium allows members access to over 1,000 wine reviews every month and exclusive Premium-only ratings and reviews, plus Decanter magazine articles online and priority access to Decanter events.UK/USLa Grande Dame 2006 Charlotte Olympia gift set
Designer Charlotte Olympia has collaborated with Veuve Clicquot on this limited edition gift set of La Grande Dame 2006, which Decanter’s John Stimpfig describes as a ‘high wire Prestige Cuvée act‘ and has notes of ‘cream, honey, nuts, brioche, pear, marzipan and ginger.‘UKThe Wine Buyer’s Selection Hamper
Pitched as the ultimate Christmas hamper for anyone who loves wine, this selection from Harrods wine buyers will see you through the festive season – and help you cater to everyone’s tastes! The hamper includes: Charles Heidsieck Brut NV, Château de Chamilly, Montagny Les Bassets, Côte Chalonnaise, Cantina Santa Maria La Palma Papiri Vermentino 2016, Chan De Rosas Especial Albarino 2016,. The Lane Vineyard Beginning Chardonnay 2015, Jean Baptiste Adam Pinot Auxerrois 2014, Château Les Moines, Médoc, Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir 2013, The Chocolate Block Boekenhoutskloof 2011, Finca Sophenia Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Argiano, NC Non Confunditur, Toscana IGT, Tuscany and Viña Albina Reserva Vendimia Seleccionada 2012, plus a wooden wine waiter.UK
Another Champagne and art collaboration, treat someone this Christmas to the limited edition bottles of Dom Pérignon 2009, designed by Tokujin Yoshioka. The bottle represents what chef de caves Richard Geoffroy has termed a ‘solar Vintage’, emphasised – according to DP – by a holographic version of the famous shield-shaped label as a force emerging from the dark glass of the bottle.
For a truly extravagant gift, the ‘Prism’ installation is made of three crystal blocks that hold the Champagne in the middle, and costs £12,000.UKArmand de Brignac, Gold Brut, Champagne NV
The ‘Ace of Spades’ Champagne thanks to the design of the bottle, Armand de Brignac is owned by American rapper Jay-Z. Decanter’s Christelle Guibert describes it as ‘elegant, refined and very stylish‘, when tasted against other celebrity wines earlier this year.UKLe Grand Hamper, Berry Bros & Rudd
Berry Bros & Rudd describe Le Grand hamper as ‘quite simply the most hedonistic collection we could contrive’ – and we’d have to agree it’s up there. The wines include vintage Champagnes, Grand Cru Burgundy, Bordeaux, vintage Port and Cognac, plus luxury treats like truffles, foie gras, Champagne Christmas pudding and more…UK
Decanter experts around the world named the five bottles under £55 that had impressed them most this year. After tasting and rating the 173 nominated wines, assessing them on harmony, complexity and wow factor, our panel of three judges compiled the ultimate top 75 across all styles.
See them below and read Christelle Guibert's report on the results.
To finish the year in style, our ‘stellar buys of the year’ is back by popular demand. The equivalent tasting last year was so memorable we decided to follow the same format, asking our contributors, DWWA Regional Chairs and several members of the Decanter editorial team to share with us the wines they have most enjoyed drinking during the last 12 months.
We stipulated a price limit of £55 per bottle, to ensure the list includes something delicious for every budget.
This tasting is a snapshot of the wines from around the world that our experts loved most.The tasters: Oz Clarke, Christelle Guibert and Andy Howard MW
More wines from this tasting will appear on Decanter.com soon, but Premium members can get a preview of the top 75 below.
Nina Caplan gives her verdict on Marion restaurant....
Originally published in Decanter magazine in partnership with Hine Cognac
- Rating: 8/10
- Open daily 5pm-11pm, weekend breakfast 8am-11.30am, lunch Friday-Sunday from 12pm
- Restaurant style: Australian wine bar
- Chef’s menu available for groups of 7 and above
- Wine to try: Ruggabellus’ Sallio
Dinner in a storeroom doesn’t sound much fun, but that all depends on the storeroom. This one is next door to Andrew McConnell’s Cutler & Co, and is also owned by him, which bodes well: even in food-obsessed Melbourne, McConnell stands out for the number and quality of restaurants he opens. Cumulus, Supernormal, the much-missed Golden Fields… he has had few duds, and the good places are great.
Whatever Marion once stored, it clearly wasn’t wine; Cutler & Co’s fantastic list is intact and this bar has access to it, as well as offering a superb, fluctuating selection of its own. There is half a page just on skin-contact whites ($59-$165/£35- £100), and a full page of wines by the glass, from $9-$28 (£5.50-£17). And that doesn’t include those the staff just happen to have open, because the service matches the stripped-back, white-brick walls and industrial furniture: unpretentious, efficient and extremely welcoming.
The kitchen is open, the butter house-made, the menu a collection of letters on the wall, like a cross between a Scrabble rack and an old-fashioned cinema’s Coming Attractions. Information isn’t generous – ‘tortellini’ is a typical entry – but that, like the wine list, is just a good excuse to talk to your waiter.
Crudo ($16/£9.75) turns out to be a generous portion of cured sea bream, with orange, espelette and fennel; ‘prawn roll’ (£10/£6) is a riff on Supernormal’s famous lobster roll: a plump brioche accessorised with lettuce and mayonnaise. Marron (a freshwater crayfish from Western Australia) are grilled over red gum with miso butter and served with Pfeiffer’s Seriously Fine Apera, an Aussie take on Sherry from Rutherglen in northeastern Victoria.
Australian wine no longer fears comparisons, and here I could wander from France to Georgia via Hungary, if I wished. Instead, I drink Australian: a Paringa Estate Pinot Noir from Mornington Peninsula with duck hearts; Ruggabellus’ Sallio, a frankly strange Eden Valley blend that’s mainly Riesling, with mussels and nduja sausage; Domaine Simha’s Simla 2015, an amphora-aged Pinot Noir-Gamay-Cabernet Franc field blend from Derwent Valley in Tasmania that tastes of sour cherries and goes superbly with veal tartare. I finish in Clare Valley, with a glass of Grosset 45, a spirit single-distilled from Riesling by master winemaker Jeffrey Grosset, having travelled halfway round the continent and tried all manner of new and interesting combinations – and all without leaving the storeroom.Nina Caplan is the 2016 Louis Roederer International Food & Wine Writer of the Year and New Statesman’s wine writer. To read more restaurant reviews subscribe to Decanter magazine
More drinking and eating ideas: Pique-Nique restaurant, London – review Les Cols restaurant, Olot, Spain – review Great Tokyo wine bars and restaurants
Think you know everything about Châteauneuf-du-Pape? And can you identify the other delights of this region? Let's fine out with the Decanter Southern Rhône quiz.Domaine de Marcoux vines, Chateauneuf-du-PapeTake the Southern Rhône quiz: More Decanter.com wine quizzes: