Jane Anson speaks to Will Harlan about the launch of Cabernet-based Promontory outside the US via the Place de Bordeaux , and hears more about Harlan Estate's '200 year plan'...Promontory is coming to the Place de Bordeaux.
When Bill Harlan arrived on the Californian wine scene, his stated ambition was to create a Napa first growth along the lines of Mouton Rothschild.
Few doubt that Harlan Estate has achieved that aim since launching its inaugural 1992 vintage back in 1996, but it’s always been a First Growth firmly in the California mould – which means notoriety, rarity, price tag, waiting lists, the whole nine yards.
Harlan is a resolutely private space, with no visitors allowed, and even seasoned trophy hunters would find getting hold of more than a few cases a challenge.
A few weeks ago, while chatting to Bill’s son Will Harlan, I found out exactly why. Harlan has not only followed the traditional American model of only one distributor per market, but they are draconian in what they do with each bottle. ‘We have never sold more than 1% of our wine to any one person,’ he told me.
That is a whole other level of tight control, and makes it all the more interesting that for their new wine, the heavily anticipated Promontory, they are choosing to go through the Place de Bordeaux for all export markets. Numbers are small, with exports expected to be around 40% of the current 25,000 total bottle production, at least until the replanting fully comes online and that figure rises to around 60,000 bottles.
‘Thirty years ago, we were new on the scene. We wanted to understand the market first hand and to have control over where Harlan wines were being placed,’ says Will.
‘I grew up watching how Don Weaver and my dad built our network. They were out there meeting all the key influencers, and from very early on demand outstripped supply. So when we started looking at Promontory, I looked back at what worked then, and how the market has changed. We don’t want in any way to be in competition with Harlan, and we knew that we needed a different relationship with our international ambassadors. A few years ago we were approached by three Bordeaux négociants, who had formed a small group to represent producers outside of Bordeaux (Duclot, CVBG and Joanne).
‘My father and Don have been going to Bordeaux since the 1980s, and have seen this alternative distribution model close up, so the idea wasn’t completely out of the blue. We know that négociants are looking to change their model to do more brand building, so we won’t be spending any less time out there in the market, we feel it is still key that we the family are out there telling our own story. But having the resources and in-depth knowledge on the ground of these merchants will help leverage our efforts.’
The fact that it’s Will taking charge is also a reminder that part of the Napa First Growth strategy pursued by Harlan is the creation of a ‘200 year plan’. Harry Eyres, who co-wrote the Harlan book Observations from the Hillside describes how the generational shift is key to understanding Promontory and how it sits apart from both Harlan Estate and the family’s Bond wines – all Cult Cabs at the top of their game.
‘Promontory is a different story. Different soils, at higher elevation, a little more pared back than Harlan, very much a wine that is about capturing a sense of place. And it’s not just Will who represents this shift, but also Cory Empting, the director of winemaking and successor to Bob Levy. Cory is 36, around five years older than Will, and they share a similar feeling about wine. It’s hard for any son to forge their own identity in a family business, and it’s very important that it feels like Promontory is their project, even though the land was originally scoped out by Bill.’
Promontory is a Harlan story that has been a long time coming. The land was first spotted by Bill Harlan when he was out hiking in the hills behind Oakville in the early 1980s (‘he was always just out there looking for land,’ is how Will puts it). At the time it was totally undeveloped, no vineyards, no houses, just a wildly rugged canyon with the remains of a former bootlegging still from the Prohibition era – all of which maybe explains why they still like to refer to it as The Territory rather than a vineyard.‘It’s a place where you feel thousands of miles from the rest of Napa’ – Will Harlan
It wasn’t for sale back then but Bill kept his eye on it over the years. When he was finally able to buy it in 2008, it had passed through a few hands and had vineyards planted, but ‘no one had ever given it the attention it deserved’. They did a full soil study and found ‘a whole new metamorphic soil type that doesn’t really exist elsewhere in Napa, at least not side by side with formations of schists and clays, all the result of two fault lines that pass through this spot’.
It means that the topography has greater diversity of soils and elevation than Harlan Estate, and the micro-climate is cooler because the blocks span elevations from 150m to 340m. Although much of it had been carelessly planted over the years, there were 11ha of heirloom blocks that gave them a clue to the quality, and that they have kept, replanting 16ha of the rest block by block from 2011, and expanding by an extra 5ha.
‘It’s a place where you feel thousands of miles from the rest of Napa, even though it’s only 20 minutes from Harlan,’ says Will, who helped clear out and prepare the land back in 2008, between his junior and senior year at college. Even today there is no real road to get up to Promontory, and they want to keep it that way, even though unlike Harlan this new estate is open to visitors – not the vineyard, but a winery and tasting room which they have built on Oakville Grade Rd, closer to Harlan and Bond. Importantly this is on the site of a former winery, which in tightly-controlled Napa means licensing rights.
It was Ariane Khaida of Duclot who first told me about the Bordeaux connection. ‘Napa always been about selling direct to private consumers, certainly at this very top end, which makes this is a real recognition of Bordeaux expertise on export markets’.
She’s right, but it’s also a fascinating recognition of how Bordeaux and Napa are increasingly finding common ground – Napa in its move towards the European idea of wine reflecting specific geology and terroir, and Bordeaux in wanting to take on board the Napa brilliance in branding and understanding of the customer experience. Promontory is creating such a buzz (the first vintage is out already in the States, and will be released in Europe on March 8) because it sits somewhere in the middle of this. It captures both the controlled high-end buzz of a new Napa release with a wine that is a throwback to a more classic Napa style, using only 30% new oak barrels along with the larger-sized Stockinger Austrian oak casks. Adding to all that is the promise of what it means for one of Napa’s most eagerly-watched First Families.
‘My dad loves to identify things,’ says Will. ‘In Promontory he saw an opportunity that maybe went beyond his original idea, and he’s selfless enough to give my sister Amanda and me the chance to approach a fraction of what he achieved with Harlan’.
- See more Jane Anson columns on Decanter.com
See a vertical tasting of Harlan Estate wines (Wines tasted in 2017)
There were no weak spots in this tasting and at least one wine is 'probably indestructible', reports Stephen Brook, after trying Anne Gros Burgundy wines - including Richebourg, Clos Vougeot and Echézeaux - spanning several vintages. Ratings and tasting notes are available exclusively to Decanter Premium members...Domaine Anne Gros vertical.
Anne Gros is approaching her thirtieth vintage in Burgundy. She initially worked with her father François, but in 1995 ill health forced his retirement and thereafter the property was known simply as Domaine Anne Gros.
Today she is assisted by two of her children: Julie and Paul. It’s a small property, but has grown from three hectares in 1988 to 6.5 today.
Her most important holdings are in three Grands Crus, which were recently the focus of a lavish dinner at 67 Pall Mall in London:
- Clos Vougeot, from 0.9 hectares in the sector called ‘Grand Maupertui’ towards the top of the slope near Grands Echézeaux.
- Echézeaux, a small plot acquired in 2007.
- Richebourg, from 0.6 hectares with an average vine age of 70 years.
The oldest vines of all are in Clos Vougeot, having been planted in 1904.Go straight to Stephen’s tasting notes and ratings
Scroll down to continue reading this article below the wines.
How the wines were served
The dinner featured classic dishes such as stuffed mushrooms with herbs; pigeon Wellington with – to Anne Gros’s mock-horror, a sauce bordelaise; a huge serving of roasted duck breast and confit duck leg. The sommeliers wisely poured the wines in flights of two or three well before each course was served, allowing the guests to sniff and savour the wines without distracting food aromas. Then of course the wines could be enjoyed alongside the dishes. The Echézeaux was served with the cheese, as was the only village wine in the line-up, a Chambolle-Musigny ‘Combe d’Orveau’.About Anne Gros Burgundy wines
Her winemaking is classic. Although not an organic farmer, Anne Gros uses no herbicides and minimises treatments, but likes to have some flexibility. She and her team decided when to pick simply by tasting some bunches.The fruit is all destemmed, and after fermentation the wine spends fourteen months in oak, of which half is new.
Older vintages saw up to 80 percent new oak, but she has cut back, as she is keen to retain as much fruit as possible, which is also why she bottles unusually early, shortly before Christmas.
There were no weak spots in the tasting, and even the 1996 Clos Vougeot was still going strong, but there was some lively discussion among the guests about were their preferred wines in each flight. Anne Gros looked on serenely if with some bemusement as guests, mobiles trembling, competed with each other to secure the last bottles of certain wines from merchants’ lists. Many remarked on how the grands crus, even the notoriously uneven Clos Vougeot, magically combined richness, delicacy, and finesse.
But Anne Gros wasn’t going to let any of this go to her head, remarking: ‘I don’t like to dwell too much on the vintages of the past. For me the best wines still lie in the future.’
After this superb range of wines, it was easy to understand why great Burgundy attracts such slavish devotion from aficionados.See the top scorers from Decanter’s Burgundy 2016 en primeur report
Champagne shipments have remained steady in 2017, with higher demand beyond the EU making up for fewer bottles being drunk domestically, show new figures.Champagne shipments have remained steady in 2017.
- Champagne shipments up by just 0.4% in 2017, driven by non-EU exports
- Record value of 4.9 billion euros
According to figures from the Comité Champagne, total Champagne sales in 2017 were 307.3 million bottles, just beating sales for 2016 by 0.4%.
This is despite a fall of 2.5% in France, where 153.7 million bottles of Champagne were sold by houses and growers in 2017.
‘[It was] a steeper drop than expected due to a disappointing month of December,’ said Maxime Toubart, president of the Syndicat Général des Vignerons (SGV) and co-president of Comité Champagne.
The amount of Champagne exported is now almost level with that sold on the French market. Exports reached 153.6 million bottles in 2017, growing 3.5%.
Most of the growth was from outside the EU, which dropped 1.3% in volume. Non-EU markets grew by 9%, up to 77 million bottles.
More detailed figures will be released in the next few weeks, the Comité Champagne said.
‘Thanks to export and the value creation, Champagne achieved a record turnover of 4.9 billion euros,’ said Jean-Marie Barillère, president of the Union des Maisons de Champagne (UMC) and co-president of Comité Champagne.
In the UK market, sparkling wine is predicted to grow by 2021, despite consumption of still wines predicted to drop, according to data from VINEXPO/ IWSR released last week.
However, most growth is expected to be from Italian sparkling wine imports, which are predicted to rise by 5.4% in volume by 2021, and believed to be fuelled by the continuing boom for Prosecco.
Imports of French sparkling wines in the UK, including Champagne and Crémant, are expected to drop in this time, by 1.4%.
From 2012 to 2017, sparkling wine sales in the UK grew 76%, according to accountancy group UHY Hacker Young.
The post Champagne shipments boosted by demand beyond EU – figures appeared first on Decanter.
Pairing Spanish wine and food. In partnership with ARAEX Grands
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsAs the third largest wine-producing country, there’s no lack of diversity in Spanish wine. But with so many options, finding the perfect pairing can feel like a daunting task.
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsPairing Spanish wines: From the sommeliers
Top Spanish somms Guillermo Cruz, Best Sommelier of Spain 2014 and Head Sommelier at Mugaritz restaurant, and Manuel Jiménez, Best Sommelier of Spain 2017 and Sommelier at La Cava de Pyrene, share their tips and favourite flavour combinations for matching Spanish wine with food.Putting Cava back on the dinner table
Vintage Cava is undergoing a renaissance following the announcement of the Paraje Calificado, and these complex sparkling wines make fantastic food wines.
“These Cavas are often vinified in oak and many spend more than five years in the bottle, so they are complex, full bodied and are generally dry, with a low dosage,” explains Jiménez, suggesting that you try Cava Paraje Calificado with more substantial cuisine.
“They pair wonderfully with traditional roasted lamb with aromatic herbs and roast apple or plum; or with wild turbot and black butter.”
Cruz is also an advocate of pairing Cava with an assortment of dishes and on the dinner table he likes to pair Cava Gran Reserva Brut Nature with oyster tartare.
“The long ageing period of the Cava with extended contact with the less gives the wine a controlled oxidation, which pairs well with oyster tartare which has an iodised note that mimics the perception of oxidation. The bubbles of the Cava do all the rest – cleaning the palate and creating an affinity between the liquid and solid textures.”Thinking beyond the Sherry triangle
The Spanish aperitif of choice, Sherry is a staple in every tapas bar across the country and is classically served with the holy trinity of Jamón ibérico, olives and local seafood. But there’s a greater scope for sherry pairings according to the somms.
While Cruz says that Manzanilla sherry from Sanlúcar with grilled prawns is a classic ‘go-to’ pairing, his absolute favourite sherry pairing at Mugaritz is very old Palo Cortado (VORS) with garlic in a lamb reduction.
“Palo Cortado is a special accident whereby the flor of a Fino sherry stops developing and the wine goes through oxidative ageing too. With this dish, the garlic is the protagonist which we confit and serve with a lamb reduction. The pairing is a complete contrast, and one of the most beautiful I have ever tried.”
Jiménez also loves off-piste sherry pairings, and in addition recommends looking for unfortified wines from the region of Jerez – “there are some very austere white wines being made there, with low acidity but an aromatic purity and chalky texture in the mouth, which is fantastic with shellfish like mussels and oysters. Most of all [when planning pairings], you need to respect the fresh produce – simplicity isn’t easy!”Spanish reds for a range of dishes
Rioja is known for its easier-drinking Tempranillo-based reds which are traditionally paired with local roast pork, chorizo and aged cheese. But for a Gran Reserva Rioja, Cruz recommends trying higher protein meat, and his top pairing suggestion is grilled pigeon with white truffle.
“The protein of the meat with the tannins of the wine make one of the most classic and elegant combinations.” For the more robust Tempranillo wines of nearby Ribera del Duero, his classical pairing recommendations are with fattier meats like suckling pig and roast kid.
On the other end of the red scale, Jiménez recommends the extraordinary pairing ability of lighter red wines from Galicia.
“If there was a style of Spanish red wine that is especially food-friendly, this is it. For Asian cuisine, these light Galician reds (particularly from Ribeira Sacra) are becoming much more common pairings. Especially for sushi, with its spices and spiciness, and with fattier fish, red varieties like Merenzao and Bastardo are light and elegant with sharp acidity and notes of crunchy red fruit and spices. Light Mencia wines, or Caiño, Sousón and Mouraton are also becoming the secret weapon of Spanish sommeliers!”
For heavier dishes, Jiménez recommends trying old-vine Garnacha from Aragon.
“These Garnacha wines from old vines at altitude are capable of withstanding much more complex, heavy dishes than just the typical ‘red meat with red wine’ pairing… Try them with game served with truffle sauce; or duck with cassis; or a civet (traditional Spanish stew) with wild boar. The pairing is surprisingly well balanced.”
Clive Coates MW is the master of Burgundy. We look back at his domaine profiles from his most recent books, along with tasting notes from iconic vintages from Domaine Armand Rousseau.Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertain. Scroll down to see Clive Coates MW’s Domaine Armand Rousseau wine ratings in this article All from Clive’s recent books and now available online for Decanter Premium members Domaine Armand Rousseau: Profile
When it comes to Chambertin and Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Burgundy is a minefield. Large portions of both vineyards are owned by under-achievers. Though several of these, notably Damoy, Drouhin-Laroze, Jean & Jean-Louis Trapet,and their cousins Rossignol-Trapet have showed welcome signs of progress in the last decade or so, the wines of many of the rest of the growers in the village need to be approached with caution. You are better off with the holdings of outsiders such as Drouhin, Bouchard Père & Fils and Louis Jadot, all based in Beaune, Faiveley in Nuits-Saint-Georges and Bruno Clair in Marsannay, or Leroy in Vosne-Romanée, than those of Gevrey-based growers such as Camus, Rebourseau and Tortochot.
There is, of course, one major exception. This is Armand Rousseau. Rousseau is one of the small number of Burgundy estates to which I would unhesitatingly award three stars. Indeed as far as Chambertin and Clos de Bèze are concerned you could even argue that there is Rousseau, and then there are the rest.
There are few finer domaines in the Côte D’Or than that of Armand Rousseau. With land in Le Chambertin itself, Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Mazis, Charmes, Clos Saint Jacques, Cazetiers and Lavaux-Saint-Jacques, all in Gevrey, as well as in Clos de la Roche in Morey-Saint-Denis, this 14 hectare estate can boast some of the finest sites in the northern part of the Côte. The vines are old, the rendement low, and the wine-making perfectionistic – and the wines themselves are stunning.
Profile continues below wines.Top wines to drink and buy:
- My Favorite Burgundies, Clive Coates – Available at Amazon UK
- My Favorite Burgundies, Clive Coates – Available at Amazon USA
Charles Rousseau himself – he was born in 1923 and took over on his father’s death in a car accident in 1959 – is one of nature’s gentlemen. Small, ebullient and shrewd, he is generous with his time and his willingness to impart information. He has the refreshing ability to be dispassionate about the quality of both his own and his neighbours’ wines. He will admit that there were problems with rot in 1983, and that as a result of a strange bacteria or enzyme in his cellar his 1978s and 1979s are not up to scratch. This openness, this honesty, though now on the increase, especially among the younger generation, is rarer than one might think. A grower’s wines are as precious and as personal as his own children. Criticise them and you wound the proprietor himself. I remember a day I received a rather aggrieved letter from an important French personnage. I had written that I had found his 1988s disappointing. He thought that it was presumptuous of me to have said so. But someone, I could have replied, must tell the emperor that he has no clothes on.
Armand Rousseau, Charles’ father, was a wine broker before the first world war. He lived in Gevrey and was a middle man between his neighbour, the local growers, and the wine-merchants in Nuits-Saint-Georges and Beaune. As such he must have known the area and its wines as well as anybody. He would have been aware in advance that a parcel of vines would be coming on the market. He would have seen land going to waste as the old original pre-phylloxera vignes françaises were not replaced. He saw the opportunity to build up a domaine of his own and he gradually began to buy.
At first, like his neighbours, he sold his wine in bulk, shortly after the vintage, to the local négoce. It was the great Raymond Baudoin, editor of the French magazine Revue des Vins de France, and consultant to a clutch of the finest French restaurants of the time – to Point in Vienne, Pic in Valence, Darroze in Mont-Saint-Marsan and Taillevent in Paris, among others – who persuaded Rousseau to set aside some of his best cuvées for domaine bottling and direct sale. During the 1930s the local merchants were over-stocked, sales of wine to them were moribund, and prices were very depressed. Baudoin’s pioneering work, to sortir les vignerons dans le monde, as he put it, was invaluable. Through the restaurants Rousseau was able to build up a private clientele. Through Baudoin he was introduced to Frank Schoonmaker and began to export. And all this gave him the means further to expand his holdings in Gevrey.
Yet progress was slow. When his son Charles took over in 1959 the size of the domaine was only six and a half hectares. It has since more than doubled. In 1961 Charles acquired land in Clos de Bèze (this has recently been enlarged by the purchase of a half hectare of vines from the Nousbaum family). In 1965 and again in 1975 he bought his Clos de la Roche; in 1968 more Chambertin to add to his father’s holding; in 1978 the Clos des Ruchottes when the Thomas-Bassot estate was wound up. (The rest of the Ruchottes was shared between Dr. Georges Mugneret of Vosne-Romanée, and a businessman from the north of France who entrusted his share to the Georges Roumier domaine of Chambolle-Musigny) and in 1983 yet more Chambertin from Jaboulet-Vercherre. More recently his son Eric, who has been responsible for the wines for the last 15 ydears, has acquired yet more Chambertin and Chambertin, Clos de Bèze. The Clos Saint Jacques had been acquired in 1954 from the Comte de Moucheron, then owner of the Château de Meursault. You have to be patient, says Charles. Not everything that comes up is entirely suitable; and today prices are high.
Today there are 2.56 hectares of Chambertin, 1.42 ha of Clos de Bèze, 1.06 of Clos des Ruchottes, 0.53 of Mazis (or Mazy as the Rousseaus call this), 1.37 ha of Charmes and Mazoyères, 2.22 of Clos Saint Jacques, 1.48 ha of Clos de la Roche, 60 ares of Cazetières, 47 a of Lavaux-Saint-Jacques and 2.21 ha of Village Gevrey.
Charles is now well over 80, and though he shows absolutely no signs of retiring – you’ll find him most days in his poky little office, quite happy to be interrupted for a chat – he has long ceded the reins to his son Eric, born in 1957.
There was a period in the past, towards the end of Charles’ stewardship, when I was not alone in feeling that less attention was being paid to the ‘lesser’ (that is all except the top three) wines in the portfolio. The Charmes and the Lavaux-Saint-Jacques in particular being regularly outclassed by their peers. Eric has taken this under his belt, and this can no longer be held as a just criticism.
Careful wine-making, short pruning, a rigorous selection, and, of course, old vines in the best sites. It all sounds so simple, but so few manage it!
It all starts in the vineyard. The average age of the vines is deliberately kept high: 60 years in Le Chambertin; 45 in Clos de Bèze. Every year Eric Rousseau rips out about a sixth of a hectare across his domaine – a few vines here, a few vines there – to maintain this important average.
The object, of course, is to keep the harvest low and the concentration of the vines high. In the Clos Saint Jacques, for instance, the average rendement during the 1990s was under 30 hectolitres per hectare. Even in the prolific 1996 vintage it was only 35.
As a result of the domaine never has to practice a saignée. It is more important, they will tell you, to reduce the crop in the vineyard by having old vines in the first place and then by pruning hard. And finally by a severe triage of the fruit. “You should have seen my vineyards in 1986”, Charles once told me. “The ground was carpeted with rotten berries which had been eliminated at the time of the harvest. It was necessary to examine every single bunch. As a result I had to employ 50 harvesters for 12 days to pick the 1986s. The 1985 was collected by half the number in half the time”.
Vinification takes place in open stainless steel vats. Some time in the past the domaine used about 15 percent of the stems, not so much for the extra tannins the stems will add to the must, but for physical reasons, to give aeration to the mixture of juice, skins and pulp. To vinify all the stems would be a grave mistake, in Rousseau’s view. You would get too much tannin, and tannins of the wrong, hard and unripe sort, as well as an excess of bitter acidity. So for many years the fruit was totally destemmed. Nevertheless in 2009 Eric carried out some experiments using all the tems, and was not displeased with the results.
Maceration takes place for about a fortnight, the temperature being controlled at a maximum of 31˚,
with pigeage and remontage (treading down and breaking up of the pulp, and pumping over) twice a day. The wine is then decanted into a fresh vat or straight into cask to await the malo-lactic fermentation. There is up to 100 percent new oak from the Allier in the best vintages for the Chambertin, the Clos de Bèze and the Clos Saint Jacques (which, like others who have holdings here, Rousseau considers better than his other grands crus), and up to 60 percent for the rest of the top wines. The domaine likes to have the malos completed by early spring, so they can then rack the wine (there used to be second racking in September but Eric dispensed with this a decade or more ago) and move it to a lower, deeper cellar, where it will lie at a temperature of 15˚C during the second winter. Bottling normally takes place between 18 months and two years after the harvest; the lesser wines in March to May, the top wines sometimes as late as September.
What exhilarates me about Rousseau’s wines is their concentration and their class. The concentration, naturally, is readily apparent in rich, structured vintages such as 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2009. The class is not only obvious in these vintages, but in lighter years such as 2000 and 2007. Not being dominated by excessive quantities of unripe tannins, as perhaps you might find in a claret in a less ripe vintage, now that they have softened up wines from these years are really surprisingly good. (Only in 1997, and to a lesser extent in 1998 did I feel Rousseau’s wines missed out a bit). These are the proof of the thesis I have put forward in previous discussions of Burgundy and the Pinot Noir. Go for old vines and expert wine-making in the poorer vintages. You will get much more interesting wine than by buying lesser, village examples in a so-called great vintage.
There's more to New Zealand than Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir - time to find a new wine to try today...New Zealand wines to try: Beyond Sauvignon
Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are still the bread and butter of the New Zealand wine industry, each variety making up some 70% of white and red plantings. And Chardonnay – the dominant grape between 1993 and 2003 – is also seeing a revival, comprising about 12%.
But there is much more to Kiwi wine than this popular trio, particularly aromatic whites such as Riesling and Pinot Gris – often made in delectable off-dry styles – as well as fledging plantings of ‘alternative’ varieties like Albariño and Grüner Veltliner.And if you want to try the classics… New Zealand Chardonnay: panel tasting results New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: panel tasting results
The following 10 wines were among highlights tasted at the New Zealand Annual Tasting in London in January.
How is old is the oldest productive vine...?How old is the oldest productive vine?World’s oldest vine – ask Decanter
Andrew Harvey, Sydney, Australia, asks: I was told the world’s oldest productive vine is 400 years old. Is this true? If so, where is it?
John Stimpfig replies: According to Guinness World Records, the world’s oldest vine still producing fruit does indeed date back four centuries and can be found in Slovenia’s Stajerska region, on the frontage of a house in the Lent Quarter of Maribor on the Drava River.
Known as the Old Vine, it even has its own museum within the house (www.staratrta.si/en/) and an annual harvest festival.
The vine is a red variety called Zametovka and produces just 100 250ml bottles of wine each vintage. In 2004, Guinness World Records stated the vine was ‘at least 375 years old’ and ‘could have been planted more than 400 years ago’.How old is too old for a vine? – ask Decanter
The vine’s age has been confirmed by experts on vine genetics in Paris and most recently in 2017 by Professor Richard Erker, a dendrologist from the biotechnical faculty of the University of Ljubljana.
However, the Old Vine House museum believes it was actually planted in the middle of the 16th century, concluding that the Old Vine was already at least 100 years old in 1657.
John Stimpfig is content director for Decanter.
This question first appeared in the March issue from Decanter magazine, subscribe to Decanter here.Got a question for Decanter’s experts? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media with #askDecanter. Find more wine questions answered here.
Six DWWA 2017 winners from Chile were showcased at the Wines of Chile Roadshow in London, Edinburgh and Manchester.
Wines of Chile organised a series of trade and consumer events in February 2018 showcasing Chilean wines from over 20 selected wineries, including some DWWA 2017 medal winners.
The events took place on 1st February in London, on 8th February in Edinburgh and finally on 15th February in Manchester.
The Decanter World Wine Awards table featured the following wines:Search full DWWA 2017 results here
Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) is taking legal action against alleged ‘copycat’ producer Rush Rich, accusing it of infringing the Penfolds trademark and ‘liquidating’ Brand Australia.
The company has filed legal proceedings against Rush Rich in the Federal Court of Australia, claiming trademark infringements in Australia and China against the Penfolds brand, and also against Ben Fu (the Chinese transliteration of Penfolds).
TWE CEO Michael Clarke said the work being done by Australian wineries was being compromised by a few ‘copycat’ operators, ‘whose actions are effectively “liquidating” Brand Australia’.Tasted: Penfolds collection 2017
He added: ‘We have become aware of a number of copycat operators that are taking illegal and unfair advantage of the success of iconic brands such as Penfolds.
‘The infringing products and misleading claims these operators are making, and the association they falsely claim to have with our brands, are unconscionable.
‘We are putting on notice any bad faith operators in Australia – and anyone working with these operators – that this exploitation will not be tolerated.’
Some of the ‘copycat’ wine, TWE said, had been sourced from bulk wine suppliers and third-party bottlers in South Australia, shipped to China with labels ‘that copy the look and feel of Penfolds wines’.
‘We must work to put a stop to this,’ said Clarke.
Tony Battaglene, chief executive of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA), said his organisation would continue to work with the Australian Government to prevent copycat products from entering the supply chain.
‘Over recent years, the Australian wine industry has enjoyed huge success in overseas markets,’ he added. ‘This success relies on the integrity and quality of our wine – a reputation that is put at risk by copycat wines being exported from Australia.’
The legal action comes just over a year after TWE won a case in Beijing against a ‘trademark squatter’ who claimed ownership of the Ben Fu trademark.
The post Penfolds owner takes legal action against ‘copycat’ operators appeared first on Decanter.
There’s much more to these northern Spanish wines than just Albariño, says Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, who looks at the five main regions and their key varieties...
Most consumers associate Galicia with the Albariño grape from Ríax Baixas. Understandable, given Albariño’s success in the international market, but this singular view is far from the reality in this diverse region.
Galicia has a remarkable grape heritage that is structured around Albariño and two other key white varieties, Treixadura and Godello, but includes at least 15 other native grapes.
Indeed, Albariño is a parvenu in historic terms. Galician wines were imported and highly appreciated in the United Kingdom as long ago as the 14th century. These were not just from Albariño but a blend of varieties cultivated further inland in the Ribeiro denomination, including Treixadura, Loureiro, Godello, Torrontés and Lado.Quick Link: View all 96 wines from this panel tasting
Such was the fame of those wines that, in 1579, the local government of Ribadavia set up a law to prevent frauds, protecting the wines’ indication of origin and accepted winemaking practices. Ribeiro was arguably the world’s first wine appellation.Scroll down to see the results Related content:
Andrew Jefford celebrates the Jacquère-based wines of Savoie....Apremont Vignoble de Savoie
Limestone and marl (limey clay) tend to be regarded with warm affection by wine lovers; as soil types, they bring us some of the world’s finest wines, from Montrachet to Barolo. On a wet winter’s night almost 770 years ago, though, the combination proved a deadly one, bringing about what is thought to have been the biggest landslide in recorded European history.
Here’s the geologists’ reconstruction. Mont Granier, a 1933-m peak in the French département of Savoie, is a limestone summit surrounded by extensive marl deposits, lying at the northern end of the Massif de Chartreuse. Thanks to its limestone, the mountain is riddled with water-eaten caverns, channels and faults: there are 341 sink-holes and caves in it today, and 66 km of galleries.Scroll down for Jefford’s choice of wines
November 1248 had been a month of intense rain. During the night of the 24th to the 25th of November, vast slabs, blocks and sections of limestone high up on the mountain gave way, thundering down onto the sodden marls below. In rockslides, water (which has no strength) gets trapped between rock particles, rendering the entire mass of material ultra-weak (this liquefaction is also common during earthquakes). A tsunami of rock and clay then surged for seven kilometers out into the valley, burying five villages without trace, including their 1000 or more inhabitants and ‘innumerable livestock’. The collapse left a cliff face almost 900 m high, and entirely remodelled the valley lands beneath. For decades, little grew there.
The mountain was already known, back then, as Apremont, ‘bitter mountain’, so perhaps there had been previous incidents of this sort. Indeed it is still quietly haemorrhaging today: there were three further small landslides in January, April and May 2016, and its fissures are constantly surveyed. After the 1248 tragedy, the ‘bitter mountain’ was rebaptised with the name of one of its lost villages, Granier, but the original lives on as one of the two white-wine appellations sited on the debris. Abymes, no less descriptive, is the other.
I stood in these vineyards this January, and looked about. Even 770 years later, the landscape is chaotically rumpled; giant blocks of limestone sprawl here and there, and the vineyards are stitched onto the marl like a quilt made of left-over scraps of cloth, broken by woods in the tougher spots, and by ponds and marshes in the dips. What would that night have been like? A deafening roar, a sudden awakening in terror for the victims, then in all likelihood nothing more.
Mountain wine regions are complex for a reason: their topographical challenges have meant, through most of history, that they were a series of little kingdoms and fiefdoms, clinging on to specialities and traditions which reflect, with some fidelity, precise and highly contrastive local conditions. Savoie is no exception, and I’ll attempt to decode some of its nuances in a week or two. This week, though, let’s take a look not only at Abymes and Apremont, but also some of the other wines made from the variety which most relishes growing on this gigantic graveyard: Jacquère.
Few take Jacquère very seriously, at least from a critical perspective. This early budding, generously yielding variety, one of the many Gouais progeny, occupies half of the 2,077 ha of the region, so is by far the most widely planted of Savoie’s 23 grape varieties. There has, though, been a history of commercial insouciance with it, making white wines of ‘petit degré’ (11% or even less) which are bundled off up to the ski stations to be tossed back with mouthfuls of gluey cheese. Wine fans may rhapsodise about Altesse, Bergeron (Roussanne) or the rare Persan, but they tend to skim over Jacquère.
Please don’t. Even if you didn’t know its compelling backstory, a great Abymes or Apremont can represent the essence of the mountain wine ideal more memorably than any other in Savoie, and perhaps in Europe more generally. It is indeed always light in alcohol. Even when produced from older vines and October-harvested, it rarely exceeds 11.5%; its natural state, if you like, is one of aerial lightness. Its flavours are sculpted by fresh, sappy acidity, but at the same time it is not burdened by excessive or overt fruit flavours. It whispers stone rather than singing fruit. Lees contact can add a little descreet creaminess of texture — though a spritz, contrariwise, can give it even more lift and pungency. You’ll find both styles.
Above all, it’s mouthwatering; its natural balance tends to and trends towards that. Even if (like me) you’re not a skier, we can all shut our eyes and imagine what it must be like to blitz downhill in a crisp, twisting swirl of brilliance and powder and chill. Now imagine your tongue doing that, and you’ll have some idea about how a good glass of Jacquère tastes. No Roussanne or Altesse can match it for sheer downhill glee.
I asked several growers whether there was any notable differences between Apremont and Abymes. Apremont is the slightly larger of the two (400 ha compared to Abyme’s 300 ha), and is a little higher (290m to 500m) and more undulating, but in general the differences aren’t marked, and both produce good wines. The appellation regulations require a minimum of 80% Jacquère, but most are true varietals.
They aren’t the only Jacquères in Savoie, though. You’ll see the variety names used on bottles of white which have only the Savoie or Vin de Savoie AOP, and Jacquère is also the main white variety for the crus of Cruet, Chautagne, Chignin (when that name is used on its own) and Jongieux. In some of these cases, the style is a little more slalom-like and less of a downhill sprint.
Abymes and Apremont, for example, both have gently sloping cool clay-rich marls and look east in general. Chignin, facing the pair across the Cluse de Chambéry, is a very different sort of vineyard. Its steep west- or southwest-facing slopes of limestone rubble and scree make for a much warmer situation, and the wines accordingly have more breadth and wealth. (Malo is often blocked for Jacquère to maximise freshness, though wines from Altesse and Roussanne are allowed to go through malo.)
For the record, finally, Jacquère is also one of the lead varieties in the new Crémant de Savoie appellation, introduced in 2015. Jacquère on its own must account for at least 40% of the blend, or for 60% of the blend if it contains no Altesse; another six complementary varieties are allowed, with a maximum of 20% red varieties. It’s early days, but the best of the pioneer wines suggest that this may prove to be the most choice and delicate of France’s Crémants.A taste of Jacquère
Read more Andrew Jefford columns on Decanter.com
Escape the winter and head to South America where the harvest festivals will soon be in full swing. Amanda Barnes picks out the best wine festivals to enjoy in the Southern Cone.
South Americans know how to throw a party, and almost before the first grape has been picked, the harvest is being celebrated with wine festivals across the Southern Cone.
Traditionally the fiesta de vendimia (harvest festival) was a small celebration in the villages to celebrate the end of the harvest and a good vintage – the bigger the crop, the bigger the party. But today’s harvest festivals are far more elaborate with mammoth theatre productions, decadent wine tastings and VIP tickets sold months in advance.Ica, Peru: Second week of March
Peru is the first wine country of South America and while production is mainly focused on Pisco today, in order to distill Pisco you have to make a lot of wine first.
Although Peru’s harvest celebrations date back to pre-Incan times, the annual wine harvest festival has only been held since 1958 and attracts an influx of revellers who come to greet the new harvest queen and taste fresh cachina (partly-fermented must) before moving onto the stronger aguardientes and mistela (fortified must). Music, grape-stomping and bountiful Peruvian cuisine are all part of this Pisco-fuelled festivity in Peru’s main wine region.Top wine hotels in South America Buenos Aires wine bars and restaurants Mendoza wineries to visit Uruguay, Las Piedras: Mid-March
With the longest Carnival in the world, Uruguayans aren’t shy of celebrating. Most of the wine regions hold a local harvest party and offer special tastings for locals, but the biggest is in Las Piedras in Canelones, the heart of Uruguay’s wine production.
Spread over a week, the festival starts off with a parade on Sunday, followed by a week of wine tasting, food trucks and artisan markets, and finishes with a final concert on Saturday night which gathers a crowd of some 6,000 people. The highlight of the last night is watching the local harvest queens battle it out on the dance floor trying to win over the jury with their traditional dancing skills.Festa en Bento: 18 January – 18 March
Bento Gonçalvez is the hive of harvest parties throughout the months of February and March as local wineries host special tastings and masterclasses, concerts and shows.
Highlights during the two months of wine festivities include the Festa da Cuccagna (10 February) where revellers are invited to sabre bottles of Brazilian bubbly, crush grapes and feast on typical food from their Italian immigrant heritage; and the Wine Marathon (11 February) where runners are tempted along the route through the vineyards with ‘Vino Stops’ to refresh themselves with water, wine, grapes, food, music and dancing!Curicó, Chile: 22-25 March
While Chile has 17 regional harvest festivals held throughout the country, Curicó is the biggest. Held over four days, the main square fills with wine tasting stands, food stalls and a central stage where local bands, dance troops and theatre acts perform throughout the afternoons and evenings. The most traditional – if only symbolic – act is the stomping of the grapes in large open barrels, followed by the cueca (Chile’s folkloric dance).
Curicó’s harvest festival is one of the most authentic in Chile and always heaving with locals.Mendoza, Argentina: 3-5 March
Although the harvest festivals of Salta and Patagonia are relatively small, Mendoza’s harvest festival could well be the biggest in the world. Attracting over 700,000 people a year, the official festivities get started almost two month earlier with the individual town celebrations as they each elect their harvest queen in a frenzy of lipstick and Malbec. Music concerts, massive outdoor wine tastings and pageant shows follow, building up tempo, until the final crescendo of the Vendimia weekend in early March.
The first night is always the biggest. A huge parade works its way through the city centre as each local harvest queen and their entourage of princesses and gauchos throw grapes, bottles of wine and entire melons from their floats towards the steaming crowd below. That night a music, light and dance show dazzles an audience of over 30,000 packed into the amphitheatre and surrounding hillsides, after which the National Harvest Queen is elected. The show repeats the next two nights, but tiaras and tears now move over to the ‘Vendimia para todos’ (Harvest for all) celebration held the following night by the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community which is often the most glamorous Vendimia event of all.More wine travel guides here
Why you shouldn't go for Pinot Noir, according to Jennifer Docherty MW.What should you serve with Peking duck?Peking duck and wine pairing – ask Decanter
This article first appeared on our sister site DecanterChina.comThe Pinot Noir myth
Despite its popularity, I don’t believe in pairing Pinot Noir with Peking duck. Pinot Noir is quite linear, while the duck is very greasy and rich.
I would recommend a Spätlese Riesling instead—nice acidity with more residual sugar, which should go perfectly with the duck and the sauce.See also: Chinese food and wine pairing See also: Wines to serve with Chinese dumplings See also: What to drink with Mooncakes Red wines
Alternatively, a riper Syrah/Shiraz with fine tannins and low acidity should also be nice. Try an Australian Shiraz from Clare Valley.
If you’d like to be more adventurous, try a nicely balanced Crozes-Hermitage Syrah from the Northern Rhône, for a nice balance.
Jennifer Docherty MW is the first ethnically Chinese and Mandarin speaking Master of Wine. She is currently buyer at Liberty Wines, and a contributor to DecanterChina.com.Got a question for Decanter’s experts? Email us: email@example.com or on social media with #askDecanter. More wine questions answered here
Fiona Beckett gives her verdict on The Laughing Heart restaurant...The Laughing Heart, Hackney. The Laughing Heart 277 Hackney Road, London E2 8NA Tel: 020 7686 9535 thelaughingheartlondon.com
- Rating 8/10
- Kitchen open: 6.30pm–1am Monday to Saturday. Closed Sunday.
- Restaurant style: contemporary British cuisine
- Wine to try: Envinate Taganan 2016
- Carte blanche menu £39
There’s so much of a personality cult around chefs at the moment that the front of house doesn’t get much of a look in but despite the open kitchen at the Laughing Heart it’s the 6ft 2in presence of its genial owner Charlie Mellor that dominates the room.
Mellor, who been a sommelier for 13 years, set up the bar and ‘dining room’ to indulge his passion for wine. Downstairs there’s a seductive shop for locals to pick up a bottle on the way home while customers upstairs can browse the regularly changing 300 bin largely organic list.
There’s a short but interesting wine by the glass selection: on a midweek ‘school’ night we were admirably restrained restricting ourselves to an earthy Tenerife white (Envinate Taganan 2016) and a joyously fruity Claus Preisinger red Puzta Libre 2016 from the Burgenland about which Mellor was effortlessly able to reel off every detail.
The room too manages to be both cool and cosy – the cutlery is housed in a drawer that slides out of the table and includes chopsticks. The bar has a 2am licence and quirkily turns into a Chinese late at night.
Food – the inevitable small plates – is delivered quickly so I would remind you of my favoured tactic of ordering 2-3 plates at a time. The star of the show is the Thai-style larb-stuffed olives – so good they’re worth ordering on their own. A snack of toasted focaccia Barkham Blue cheese and caramelised onion is well worth replicating at home – something I wouldn’t claim for Devon crab and chestnut tart with a pastry made from koji-inoculated chestnuts (I kid you not. This is Hackney), delicious though it was.
The kitchen rather fell down with two dishes – Wiltshire truffle tagliolini and 9 year old dairy cow (not a whole one obviously) that were decidedly over-salted – in the case of the cow, which was beautifully tender, the culprit being the accompanying cep mash. But Cornish cuttlefish (with copious amounts of ink) and homemade black pudding was an inspired combination.
The other downside for some might be the location – well down the Hackney Road but it’s not far from Hoxton overground station and within a short bus ride from Liverpool Street. Think Brooklyn or the Belleville area of Paris and you get the vibe.
Having now eaten there twice I reckon TLH is best treated as a wine bar to enjoy a good bottle with bar snacks rather than a full meal – you could combine it with nearby Sager & Wilde for an on-trend wine crawl. It’s also – that rare thing – a restaurant it’s congenial to dine in on one’s own. Make the detour.
- Fiona Beckett is a Decanter contributing editor and chief restaurant reviewer. To get the first look at her bar and restaurant reviews from all over the world, subscribe to Decanter magazine
Burgundy master Clive Coates MW tells you everything that you need to know about Domaine Georges Roumier, along with historical tasting notes on wines from top vintages - as part of a series that looks back at domaine profiles from Clive's most recent books.Jon-WyandScroll down to see Clive Coates MW’s Domaine Georges Roumier wine ratings in this article All from Clive’s recent books and now available online for Decanter Premium members Profile of a Burgundy legend
For Chambolles with a difference, wines which are substantial, even sturdy, as well as velvety and elegant, the best source is the Roumier domaine: to be precise, because there are two others in the village, the Domaine Georges Roumier. This is one of the longest-established estate bottling domaines in the Côte D’Or. And one of the very best of all.
The nucleus of this domaine lies in the dowry of Geneviève Quanquin, who married Georges Roumier in 1924. Georges, who was born in 1898, came from Dun-Les-Places, in the Charollais cattle country near Saulieu. When he arrived in Chambolle he took over the Quanquin family vineyards, enlarged the exploitation by taking on a small part of Musigny en metayage and buying additional land in the commune, and set up on his own, independent of his parents-in-law, who also had a négociant business. (This ceased to exist after the Second World War.)
The domaine was further enlarged in the 1950s. More Bonnes Mares, from the Domaine Belorgey, arrived in 1952. Two parcels of Clos de Vougeot were added in the same year. And in 1953 the 2.5 ha monopoly of the premier cru Clos de la Bussière in Morey-Saint-Denis was acquired from the Bettenfeld family. In the 1930s this parcel had belonged to the Graillet estate, the residue of which was subsequently to form the base of the Domaine Dujac.Top wines to drink and buy
Where to buy Clive Coates MW’s ‘My Favorite Burgundies’ book:
- My Favorite Burgundies, Clive Coates – Available at Amazon UK
- My Favorite Burgundies, Clive Coates – Available at Amazon USA
Georges and Geneviève had seven children, five of them boys, and I get the feeling he must have been a bit of a martinet, not willing to let go of the reins. In 1955, Alain, the eldest son, left to take up the position of régisseur for the neighbouring De Vogüé domaine. Another son, Paul, became a courtier. Jean-Marie, the third, had started playing a part in the domaine in 1954 and eventually took over when his father retired in 1961 (Georges died in 1965). In this year, wishing to keep the domaine intact, the brothers formed a limited company for their inheritance, which together with the sisters’ holdings, was rented to the domaine. When he retirered from De Vogüé Alain retrieved his share, these vineyards now being exploited separately by the widow of his son Hervé and his other son Laurent.
Today the winemaker at the Domaine Georges Roumier is the 54 year old Christophe, son of Jean-Marie. Christophe was born in 1958, studied oenology at Dijon University, did a stage at the excellent Cairanne co-operative in the Côtes du Rhône in 1980, and joined his father the year after. The wines were fine in Georges and Jean-Marie’s time. They have reached even greater heights under the aegis of Christophe.
In more recent times there have been three significant additions to the Roumier portfolio. In 1977, when the Thomas-Bassot domaine was being sold, a substantial slice of Ruchottes-Chambertin came on the market. Two parcels were quickly snapped up by Charles Rousseau and Dr Georges Mugneret. The third was acquired by a businessman and oenophile from Rouen, one Michel Bonnefond. At Rousseau’s suggestion Bonnefond entered into a metayage arrangement with the Roumiers, and Christophe now gets two thirds of the yield of this 0.54 ha parcel. You can find under both labels. It is the same wine.
In the following year, Jean-Marie Roumier finally managed to buy the parcel of Musigny, just under one tenth of a hectare (it only produces a cask and a half) which the family had been share-cropping since the 1920s.
Seven years later, in 1984, a French merchant in Lausanne, Jean-Pierre Mathieu, bought a small section (0.27 ha) of Mazoyères-Chambertin. This again is rented en metayage to Christophe Roumier. The financial arrangements are a little different here, and Roumier only gets half of the crop, which, like most Mazoyères, is labelled as Charmes, a name easier to pronounce and sell.
Somewhat earlier than this, back in 1968, Christophe’s mother, née Odile Ponnelle, bought a parcel of land, en friche, on the Pernand-Vergelesses side of Corton-Charlemagne, half-way down the slope from the Bois de Corton. The land was cleared and replanted, the first vintage being 1974. It is delicious, but there is little of it: three pièces from 0.2 ha.
The heart of the 12 hectare Roumier domaine, as always, lies in Chambolle-Musigny. A number of parcels in the village, totalling almost four hectares, produce a splendid village wine. There are originally six cuvées of this, eventually blended together, and within this wine will be the yield of some old vines of Pinot Beurot, a sort of Pinot Gris, the residue of the old days when a few white vines were planted in with the red in nearly every Burgundian climat to add balance and complexity to the wine.
Christophe Roumier is fortunate to own vines in the three most famous premiers crus in the commune: Les Cras, and, since 2005, when it was first seperated from the village wine, Les Combottes: 1.76 ha and 0 27 ha respectively.
On the other side of the village, just under the northern end of Le Musigny, there is 0.4 ha of Amoureuses, Chambolle’s finest premier cru. This plot was planted in three stages, in 1954, 1966 and 1971. The vines in the parcel of Musigny itself, lying nearby, date from 1934.
Roumier’s most important wine, though, is not this Musigny, or not always, but the Bonnes-Mares. (A pièce and a half is difficult to vinify). And though Christophe considers Musigny in principle the grandest grand cru in the Côte D’Or he finds the results of his Musigny less regular). There are four parcels of Bonnes-Mares, all in the Chambolle part of this grand cru, totalling 1.45 ha.
There are two distinct soil types in Bonnes-Mares. At the Morey end the soil is terres rouges. But, coming down the slope in a diagonal line from above the Clos de Tart and continuing south towards Chambolle the soil changes to terres blanches (if you look carefully you will see a large quantity of small fossilised oysters) and this makes up most of the climat. Three of Christophe Roumier’s parcels are terres blanches, one terres rouges. He normally vinifies them separately and blends them together afterwards. What is the difference? The terres rouges gives the power, the backbone, the concentration, says Christophe. Wine from the terres blanches is more spiritual. From here we get the finesse, the intensity, the definition. But a blend is yet greater the sum of the parts.
Below the northern, Morey, end of the vineyard and the Clos de Tart the land sinks into a hollow as it comes down the slope (this is the premier cru of Ruchots) and then rises up a little. Here we find the enclosed vineyard of Bussière. In a house in the middle lives Christophe’s mother, Jean-Marie Roumier having died in 2002.
Finally there is the Clos de Vougeot, which sadly Christophe no longer exploits. Originally there were two parcels, vinified together and sold both under the Georges Roumier label. After 1984, the upper part was taken back by Alain and Hervé, and after the 1996 harvest the second parcel passed to Laurent Roumier. It is certainly a good wine. But in Christophe Roumier’s view: “It is not really of top grand cru quality.” I don’t think that is sour grapes. I happen to agree with him.
”I make wines from terroir which expresses itself through Pinot Noir.,” says Christophe Roumier, who today runs the domaine with the assisitance of his sister Delphine. (There are two other sisters). There is a lot more to fine wine than merely the variety it is made from, he will point out. Roumier sees his role as an intermediary, as a facilitator. The vigneron’s duty is to allow the vines to produce fruit which, when vinified, will be unmistakably typical of its origins. The winemaker’s job is to effect this translation from fruit into wine. But it is a question of control rather than creativity. The creation is being done by the vine, by its location, by mother nature: not by man.
Along with most of the progressives in the region Christophe Roumier has turned his back on weedkilling sprays, preferring to plough the vines. This is sometimes difficult where a vineyard has not been cultivated for some time, as important roots may be cut in the process. But an ancillary benefit where it is done is that the roots are encouraged to penetrate deeper.
The average age of the vines in the Roumier domaine is high, but they don’t make a fetish of it. Once a parcel has reached, say, 50 years old, individual vines are not replaced as they die off. So eventually, as fiftenn yers ago in one part of their Bonnes Mares, the whole parcel can be cleared, the land disinfected against viral contamination, and eventually replanted. At first the young vines are Cordon trained, when their youthful vigour has died down this is replaced by the traditional Guyot method.
Pruning is severe, and the harvest is further contained by an elimination of excess buds and shoots during the spring. This is much more effective, says Christophe, than a green harvest later in the season. By then it is too late, he maintains, though he does it to thin out late develping bunches or if there are two adjoining, which might give rise to rot. He has no time for those who systematically green harvest every year. It shows they didn’t restrict the crop properly in the first place. This discipline is reflected in the Roumier harvest: 41 he/ha in village wine, 34 in premier cru, 30 in grand cru in the last big vintage: 2009. This is the key, says Christophe, to the production of great wine.
The next part of the jigsaw is the quality of the fruit. Trials have convinced Christophe that the ratio of leaves to fruit, and their exposure, is critical. So he prefers a large canopy, trained a little higher than some, at least during the early part of the season. It is also important, he believes, to eliminate the second generation of fruit, the verjus.
There is a careful triage, both in the vineyard and later when the fruit arrives in the cuverie up at the top of the village, but a flexible attitude to the quantity of the stems which are kept. The Bourgogne Rouge and the village Chambolle are usually destemmed. For the rest it depends very much on the vintage, Christophe not deciding until the harvest begins. From 20 to 50 percent of the stems are normally retained. The bigger the wine and the more concentrated the harvest the higher the amount tends to be. The wine is vinified in open top wooden, concrete or closed stainless steel vats. The first two materials are preferable, says Christophe, for the heat generated by the fermentation is slower to dissipate.
Fermentations at the Roumier domaine begin slowly, so there is always a brief period of pre-fermentation maceration. Thereafter, Christophe likes to prolong the extraction, maintaining the temperature just under 30°, as long as possible. The temperature level is one of the winemaker’s most important points of intervention, Christophe believes. It should not go too high, for you begin to lose the subtleties of the aromas above 33°.
As you would expect from the Roumier approach to terroir, this is a domaine which does not approve of a lot of new oak. Thirty percent is about maximum. “I want to taste the wine, not the cask,” says Christophe, pointing out that new wood is the best mask for wine faults. The wine is kept on its lees until racking the following September. Until 1993 the wines were fined with one egg white only per pièce, But no longer,and it is not filtered either. The 2006 village wine was bottled after 15/16 months, but normally bottling takes place later, between February and May of the following year.
Christophe Roumier is refreshingly open about the quality of his wines. I have referred already to his view on his Clos de Vougeot and to the irregularity of the Musigny as a direct consequence of the size of the cuve. “It should be the best, but it isn’t always”. In principle, he will tell you, Mazis, in the line of Chambertin and Clos de Bèze, should be better than Ruchottes, which lies upslope. It gets more sun later in the evening in September. The reason Ruchottes has the higher reputation, I suggest to him, is that the three most important producers, Rousseau, the Mesdames Mugneret and himself, are all highly competent wine-makers, while in Mazis there are a dozen or so, some good, some less so. The real Charmes, Christophe will also insist, is a better terroir than that of the Mazoyères.
The Roumier range begins with the Corton-Charlemagne. The vines are now of a respectable age, and since 1985, at the very least, have been producing wine of really top quality, though Christophe is not a fan of his 2002.
The reds, as I have said, are more muscular than most: full, virile, austere, made to last; not necessarily wines which sing in their youth. Time is required, a decade for the best wines in the best vintages. The series begins with a Bourgogne Rouge (2 ha). This is a sturdy example, but none the worse for that, even in 2007 it had good structure and good acidity. The village Chambolle follows next. It is a bigger wine than those of Ghislaine Barthod or De Vogûé, and it takes longer to open out. But there is no lack of finesse, no lack of Chambolle fragrance. The Morey, Clos de la Bussière, is firmer and chunkier. It used to have a touch of the rustic about it, but I have noticed this less in the last decade. Again it lasts well.
You will usually be offered, winemakers normally giving you the wines to taste in their order of preference, the Chambolle-Musigny, Combettes and the Cras before the Amoureuses. The former is plump, ripe and full of charm, and the latter magnificent in its austerity: really classy. The Chambolle-Musigny, Les Amoureuses, though, is delicious. Here we really do find distinction and class, as well as the supreme fragrance of the commune. It is a fitting example of the village’s greatest premier cru. In Roumier’s hands clearly a wine of grand cru quality.
The next two wines in the range are from the climats in Gevrey that Christophe farms en metayage, the Charmes and the Ruchottes. The latter is clearly finer than the former. Christophe suggests that the wine benifits, like in its own way that of the Mesdames Mugneters, from the fact that it is made and matured in a ‘foreign’ i.e. In his case Chambolle, cellar, and can take up some of these Chambolle nuances. Here we have intensity as well as weight and richness, the lush flamboyance of Gevrey-Chambertin, and all the finesse you would expect in top quality Burgundy.
The Bonnes-Mares, by contrast, is always much more closed-in; somewhat solid at the outset, much less expressive. It seems to go through more of an adolescent phase, and it is only on the finish – but of course, when a wine is young, the finish is what you should concentrate on – that you can see the breed, the complexity and the depth. Is this Burgundy’s best Bonnes-Mares? It needs at least a decade to come round.
When the Musigny is good, and it usually is, it is brilliant. It has less backbone than the Bonnes-Mares, less density. But it can be equally backward, needing just as much time to come round. Sometimes the Bonnes-Mares has more concentration and a better balance. Sometimes, the reverse is the case. It is a pity there is so little of it. I have sampled it ten times in cask for every occcasion I have met it in bottle.
What does Christophe Roumier have to say about Chambolle and his wines? ”Yes. Chambolle is the most elegant wine of the Côte. There is nothing original about that statement. But for me the wines are also the most mineral. There is a purity, a fruit, an elegance and a disitinction which come in large part from the extra amount of limestone in our soil, and perhaps the marginally higher altitude. I try to make my wines express this.”
In sum, this is one of Burgundy’s greatest domaines and Christophe Roumier is one of its most intelligent and knowledgable wine-makers. The combination of the two produces magic.
Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Bardolino; light red wines come in a range of styles and complexities and are too often overlooked when reaching for a bottle. How much do you know about this delicate group of reds? Test you knowledge with this week's light bodied red wine quiz.A cask containing Beaujolais 2015 wine at Dominique Piron.Start the light bodied red wine quiz below More Decanter.com wine quizzes:
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Australia tops the list but Chile is one of the only major producer nations expected to increase shipments in the next few years, as the UK overall cuts its wine consumption in favour of less but better, says new forecast.Which countries import the most wine to the UK?UK wine imports: Top countries
Data published jointly by Vinexpo and IWSR shows that Australia exports the most still wine to the UK, by volume. In 2016, the UK imported 24.5 million nine litre cases of Australian wines, equivalent to nearly 33 million bottles of wine.
This was followed by the US, which accounted for 15.7 million nine litre cases of wine imported, closely followed by France at 15 million cases.
Italy exports 14.7 million nine litre cases of still wine to the UK., which is the world’s second largest importer of wine behind Germany.
The next biggest sources of still wines in the UK are Spain, Chile and South Africa.
The well-documented Prosecco boom means that Italy also sends around around 8.2 million cases of sparkling wine annually to the UK – and Italian sparkling wines lead this category in volume terms, ahead of Champagne and Cava.Decline in UK wine consumption predicted
Chile is the only country expected to increase its overall exports to the UK in the next few years, as the chart above shows.
The report predicts that still wine consumption in the UK will go down.
Total still wine consumption is expected to fall from 118.5 million nine litre cases in 2016 to 108 million cases by 2021.
But, this is partly because consumers are drinking less but better, according to the report authors.
‘The increased volume of sparkling wine and a trend to premium still wines will offset the overall decrease in wine value,’ said Guillaume Deglise, CEO of Vinexpo, which will hold events in New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong this year.
‘While still wine consumption falls its sales value will rise driven by a combination of increased prices, weaker sterling and consumers choosing to ‘drink less but better’ as they trade up to premium wine segments,’ Deglise added.
A violent earthquake in Campania 38 years ago led to the birth of one of the area’s leading wine estates. Susan Hulme MW tastes Feudi's Taurasi from 1997 to 2008, and Carla Capalbo explores the history of this estate...Susan Hulme MW tastes 12 vintages of Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi:
Aglianico produces some of Italy’s best and most long-lived wines, with the capacity to age, in the best cases, for more than 50 years. It also has the capacity to reflect climatic variations and terroir. Some of the best examples are produced in the Avellino hills in Italy, labelled as Taurasi DOCG.
This tasting, at Feudi di San Gregorio’s headquarters in Campania in June 2017, illustrated not only vintage variations, but the work of two hugely influential winemaking consultants: Luigi Moio worked here between 1997 and 2001, and Renato Cotarella, his successor, until 2008.
Moio had a more traditional approach, aiming for elegance by concentrating on freshness and managing the alcohol. Cotarella’s wines, meanwhile, express more concentration, smoothness and beautifully-managed tannins.
Stylistically different, yes, but relatively fine points in this line up of 12 impressive wines covering the span of bot of their tenures at Feudi di San Gregorio.
It’s clear that both have made stunningly beautiful wines, but it is still the personality of Aglianico in its Taurasi heartland which asserts itself overall.Scroll down to read Carla Capalbo’s account of the estate and its history, originally published by Decanter.com in 2015 Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi 1997-2008:
Feudi at a glance
Location Sorbo Serpico, Avellino, Campania
Area under vine 300 hectares
Total production 3 million bottles
Altitude of vineyards 400m-700m
Main varieties Aglianico 35%, Greco 25%, Fiano 25%, Falanghina 15%
Single vineyards Vigneto dal Re – 4ha (Aglianico for Serpico), Piano di Montevergine – 4ha (Aglianico for Taurasi Riserva), Cutizzi – 8ha (Greco di Tufo), Pietracalda – 8ha (Fiano di Avellino), Serrocielo – 8ha (Falanghina)Carla Capalbo reports:
In November 1980, the mountainous interior of the Campania region, east of Naples, was struck by one of Italy’s worst earthquakes of modern times, leaving almost 3,000 dead and 300,000 people homeless.
Villages and farms were destroyed around its epicentre in the province of Avellino known as Irpinia. For many Irpinians, this was the signal to abandon the poor, rural countryside and head for cities in the north. For others, it became a call to arms to rebuild and maintain the culture of this little-known but unique area.
Enzo Ercolino, a native of Avellino who had moved to Rome some years earlier, was one of them. ‘I spent my teenage years impatient to flee this backwater, but seeing it in ruins made me want to help rescue it,’ he said.
He moved back and in 1986 he and his brothers, Mario and Luciano, Enzo’s Irpinian wife, Mirella Capaldo, and one of her brothers, Mario, opened a wine estate – Feudi di San Gregorio – in the hills just above Atripalda. Their first slogan was Spirituale Vinum.
These were the post-earthquake reconstruction years and money was flooding into Irpinia from Rome and the European Union. A fund created for those aged under 40 with strong business plans helped raise some of the €4 million the group needed to get going. It soon had 30 hectares of vineyards and was launching its first wines, native whites as well as reds.
‘Looking back, it’s amazing how adventurous my aunt and uncles were for their time,’ says Antonio Capaldo, who now runs the estate today. ‘When Feudi started, it was one of only about 10 estates to bottle wines in Irpinia, a land that has a 2,000 year old tradition of producing red wines from our native Aglianico grape. So even its decision to produce modern-style whites was radical.’
The group was ahead of the curve. In 2003, Avellino became one of the first Italian provinces to attain three DOCG appellations, for the whites of Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo, and the red Taurasi whose DOCG dates to 1993.Rural backdrop
Irpinia is an undiscovered, untouristy part of the southern Italian Apennines, with a rural economy that still depends on chestnut harvests, timber, small farms, family businesses and scarce industry.
Like much of the south, it’s been hard hit by the recent economic crisis. Most families grow their own vegetables and make wine for home consumption from small plots. Wine is often still considered a food here.
The most important Irpinian winery before Feudi began its expansion was Mastroberardino, whose reputation was made in the post-war period. It set the standard for Avellino’s classic-style Taurasis.
Feudi’s ambitious vision differed from Mastroberardino’s and its other contemporaries’. Ercolino’s goal was to create a modern buzz around Campania’s wines and to become a standard-bearer for southern Italian wines, and he used the models of Tuscany, France and the New World to achieve it.
‘Feudi was stylish in everything it did, from its minimalist labels, designed by Massimo Vignelli, to its sleek marketing campaigns and barrique-aged wines made by Luigi Moio and then by Riccardo Cotarella,’ says local sommelier Jenny Auriemma.
By the end of the 1990s, iconic wines like the full-bodied Aglianico called Serpico, the pure Merlot Patrimo, and the late-harvest Greco called Privilegio were winning awards and featuring on wine lists in chic restaurants throughout Italy. ‘Feudi got people excited about Campanian wines and inspired many smaller estates,’ Auriemma says.
Feudi’s expansion seemed unstoppable. In 2004 the beautiful modern cellar opened, with its panoramic top-floor restaurant, Marennà, under the tutelage of Michelin-starred chef, Heinz Beck. (It now has a star of its own, with chef Paolo Barrale). There were plans for a concert hall made from barriques, for rare-breed animals and a cultural centre.
The dynamic, larger-than-life Ercolino was the estate’s public face, but behind the scenes tensions were growing within the family. The winery was gobbling money: it now owned more than 250 hectares and investments had increased to €40 million.
By 2001, another of Mirella’s brothers, Pellegrino Capaldo, a professor of economics and financial consultant, had stepped in as a silent, majority partner. In 2003 Mario and Luciano Ercolino left, followed in 2006 by Enzo and Mirella. Capaldo has been the principal owner, with 93% of the company, since 2010.
Feudi’s current chapter began when Pellegrino’s son, Antonio, decided to run the company. ‘I’d done my PhD at the London School of Economics in Bangladeshi micro-finance and was working at McKinsey in Europe while these changes were happening at Feudi,’ the 37-year-old says. ‘I never imagined I’d head a winery, but I loved Irpinia and wine, and had become a sommelier.’ In 2009, a day after making partner at McKinsey, he quit and turned his attention to Feudi.
‘My uncle Enzo had initiated several exciting projects that he wasn’t able to finish and we’re continuing them,’ he says. The ‘we’ includes his CEO, Pierpaolo Sirch. Trained as an agronomist in his native Friuli, Sirch began working at Feudi in 2003 as a consultant under Ercolino. ‘Enzo’s strategy was always to bring in top talent, and he wanted Pierpaolo to oversee the viticulture here,’ says CapaldoEmbracing native grapes
Sirch’s back-to-the-land approach heralded a new direction for the estate’s catalogue of more than 20 wines. ‘Fashions were changing too, but I felt we’d lost the pleasure element in many wines by overusing barriques and over-extracting them,’ he says. ‘Some wines were criticised as too international. I also felt Aglianico could be different from the rustic, tannic and impenetrable wine it’s often described as. To me, it’s an elegant, sensual red.’
The estate’s 300ha of vineyards are made up of over 700 plots, with 200 more belonging to local families who sell their grapes to Feudi. Sirch has mapped each parcel and communicates with the farmers via texts and emails.
He gives the growers free pruning courses (he also runs a pruning consultancy with Marco Simonit) and has brought in several well-known oenologists to share their experiences with his team. These include Hans Terzer from Alto Adige and Georges Pauli of Château Gruaud-Larose in Bordeaux (Riccardo Cotarella left the estate in 2007). More recently, Bordeaux’s Denis Dubourdieu has been working with Sirch on the estate’s wines in Campania and beyond.
‘Our Magna Graecia project is in full swing,’ Capaldo explains. ‘We always intended to go beyond Campania to become the leading estate in southern Italy, and to represent the native grapes of its varied regions. The first estates in Basilicata and Puglia were bought by Enzo, and we’ve recently added a Sicilian winery to our portfolio.’
The estates make and bottle their own wines under Sirch’s guidance, and are distributed by Feudi’s network. They include Cefalicchio, a biodynamic estate in Puglia, Valenti on Mount Etna in Sicily, and Basilisco in Basilicata.
The other innovative project initiated by Ercolino was to make sparkling wines from native Irpinian grapes using the traditional method. Champagne producer Anselme Selosse was the first consultant for what has become the Dubl line, although he left in 2010.
‘We’re now producing 100,000 bottles of three types: Falanghina, an Aglianico rosato and the top-of-the-line Dubl+ of Greco that spends 24 months on the lees,’ Capaldo explains.
Dubl has its own distribution line and brand. ‘We’ve opened our first Dubl Bar inside Naples airport where international travellers can have a glass of bubbly and local speciality foods or gourmet panini designed by our chef. Our future is outside of Italy, and this is a fun way to get people excited about Campania’s great native grapes.’
Carla Capalbo is a food, wine and travel writer, and photographer, based in ItalyFeudi di San Gregorio: a timeline
1986 Feudi di San Gregorio is founded by the three Ercolino brothers and Mirella Capaldo; Luigi Moio was the first winemaker
1991 The estate’s first wine, Nobellum, is released
1997 First Tre Bicchieri award given to the Taurasi 1994
1998 First release of Serpico (1996 vintage)
1999 First vintage of Patrimo (released 2001)
2000 50ha of vineyards bought in at Manduria in Puglia, and 15ha in Vulture in Basilicata
2001 Pellegrino Capaldo acquires a majority share of the estate. Architect Massimo Vignelli designs iconic labels
2003 Riccardo Cotarella becomes consultant winemaker; Pierpaolo Sirch is consultant agronomist; Mario and Luciano Ercolino leave
2004 The new cellar and headquarters are finished; Marennà restaurant opens
2006 Enzo Ercolino and Mirella Capaldo leave the company; the sparkling wine, Dubl, is launched
2007 Cotarella leaves
2009 Antonio Capaldo takes over; Sirch becomes CEO
2010 Pellegrino Capaldo becomes sole proprietor; Basilisco estate in Basilicata bought
2013 Cellar built in Puglia for Ognissole estate; Cefalicchio estate acquired in Puglia
2014 Valenti estate on Sicily’s Etna signed up as part of Magna Graecia project. Denis Dubourdieu becomes consultant winemaker. Dubl Bar opensRelated content:
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Celebrate the new Chinese year of the dog with a fine wine that was born under the same zodiac sign - and there's quite a choice, from the fabled Bordeaux 1982 wines to vintage Port and Vega Sicilia.
Bordeaux 1982 is an obvious contender for the greatest overall vintage that was harvested during the Chinese year of the dog in the last few decades.
Chinese New Year officially begins on 16 February and this year’s animal sign, the dog, takes over from the rooster.
Below, Decanter Premium members can find examples of Bordeaux 1982 wines tasted by Jane Anson, plus several other top wines from around the world, all tasted by Decanter experts and which were born in Chinese ‘dog’ years.
These also include Vega Sicilia Unico 1970, Fonseca Port 1994, and Masseto 2006.
Perhaps we should have included a Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill in the list below, given that Britain’s famous wartime prime minister was also born under the sign of the dog.
Some well-known wine names to have been born in the year of the dog include Burgundy’s Christophe Roumier, winemaker at Domaine Georges Roumier, plus also DecanterChina columnist professor Li Demei, who is also a top expert in Chinese wines.
Wolfgang Blass was also born under the sign of the dog, in 1934 in Germany. He went on to become one of the pioneers of the modern Australian wine industry, of course.
What wine should you serve with your Chinese dumplings? Jennifer Docherty MW gives her tips ahead of Chinese New Year...What wines should you have with Chinese dumplings?Dumplings and wine pairing – ask Decanter
This article first appeared on our sister site DecanterChina.com.
When speaking of dumplings (or in Chinese ‘Jiaozi’), we are actually talking about a variety of fillings and flavours – from jiucai (garlic chives) and pork dumplings, baicai (Chinese cabbages) and pork dumplings to seafood dumplings.
If you want to pair your dumplings with wine, it’s better to choose light-flavoured fillings.
The classic garlic, chive and pork dumplings, for example, are difficult to pair with wines due to their overpowering flavours.
Pork and cabbage, Sanxian (pork, prawn and eggs) and mushroom dumplings, on the other hand, are more delicate.
Take pork and cabbage dumplings as an example, the cabbage is quite creamy when it’s cooked, and pork is round on the edges.
I would pick a light and delicate white wine to go with it—I don’t think you want a red wine.
Try a wine that’s got a little oak on it with good acidity – I’d go for a nice Bourgogne Chardonnay, maybe a Mâcon.
Personally I love Rieslings, so I’d try a Kabinett—with refreshing acidity with a little bit of residual sugar, to pair with it.See also: Chinese food and wine pairing See also: Where to celebrate Chinese New Year in London What about the sauce?
In my house we make our own dumpling sauce. We use mainly soy sauce, with some brown Jiaozi vinegar, and some sesame oil on top. Some garlic and spice could also be nice.
This is the benefit of making your own sauce—you get to adjust your salts, sourness, and give it a little bit of roundness to achieve a nice balance.
It won’t be too difficult for you to find a pairing wine if you prefer a more savoury sauce.
But if you prefer only vinegar as the sauce, finding a wine match will be more difficult.
Try something with high acidity; Champagne could be a good option here.
Jennifer Docherty MW is the first ethnically Chinese and Mandarin speaking Master of Wine. She is currently buyer at Liberty Wines, and a contributor to DecanterChina.com.Got a question for Decanter’s experts? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media with #askDecanter. More wine questions answered here