Branch out from Provence this summer and try some of the great rosé wines being produced in other French regions. Below is a full report on 92 wines tasted by our three-strong expert panel, with an introduction by Elizabeth Gabay MW...
- 92 wines tasted with three rated Outstanding
- The panel tasters were: Elizabeth Gabay MW, Andy Howard MW and Joanna Simon
With so much emphasis on the rosé wines of Provence, it is easy to forget that there are clear regional styles around France, many reflecting the local red wine style using the same varieties, and many based in long tradition.Scroll down to see the top wines from this panel tasting Bordeaux You might also like: Top Provence red wines: panel tasting results New faces of Beaujolais Great rosé wines with food
The post French rosé beyond Provence: Panel tasting results appeared first on Decanter.
Jane Anson considers an alternative future for Bordeaux en primeur, following a disappointing 2017 vintage campaign for many merchants.
Thousands of tasters descend on Bordeaux in April to taste the new vintage.
Walking past Justerini & Brooks last week in London, I saw they had a sign in their rather beautiful window – all vine leaves and wooden wine cases – that said ‘Bordeaux 2017: a Darwinian Vintage’.
My guess is they were referring to the weather, but the phrase could equally apply to the campaign itself. If only the fittest survive, then the 2017 en primeur campaign was the one that showed Bordeaux is in need of an oxygen mask and some 24-hour nursing.
The numbers for this campaign make for painful reading. Less than half the turnover of the last two years for almost every merchant I spoke to – some dropped even lower than 2013. Possibly because the average release price was just 6% below the current market price for 2015, according to Wine Lister.
Not coincidentally, over at Liv-ex they say releases prices were on average 20% above what they call ‘fair value’ (based on existing prices in the marketplace), with a corresponding 60% fall in sales from the 2016 vintage en primeur.
There were some estates that got the price right, but they were in the minority – Berry Bros reports that 12 brands out of 140 that they work with made 80% of turnover.
The names that I hear got it right were the select few: Beychevelle, Lynch Bages, Léoville Barton, Calon Ségur, Canon, Rauzan-Ségla, Carmes Haut Brion.Read Jane Anson’s full Bordeaux 2017 vintage report with links to all wine reviews
Published exclusively online for Premium members
And this is not just in the UK. Merchants in the US, Switzerland, Hong Kong and mainland China all reported the same thing. ‘The French supermarkets once again rescued parts of the campaign for the négociants’, says Berry Bros sales director Max Lalondrelle.
‘It’s clear that to make the 2017 work the wines should have been priced nearer to 2014. And yet once again châteaux struggled to go down to the correct level following a great vintage (or in this case two great vintages). The négociants will have to carry their 2017 stock for five years or more, and will not make any money even then.’
Anyway, I’m not telling you anything new here. So, this time around, I asked merchants, brokers and négociants what they would like to see in an ideal world. We already know what the châteaux want – en primeur convenience, ex-château older stock pricing. But what does everyone else want?The future of futures
Let’s imagine we are in a post en primeur world. People are still buying Bordeaux, but the idea of giving the châteaux over-inflated prices to hold their own stock is a thing of the past.
We’re now somewhere around 2025. As of the 2020 vintage, the top 80 estates of both Left and Right Bank have pulled out of en primeur.
The 2018 and 2019 vintages continued to be hugely confusing, with increasing amounts of stock held back, and pricing continuing to be erratic, but eventually the decision was made by the most powerful estates, who could afford to finance the two year break, to simply switch to selling bottled wine.
The years 2021 and 2022 saw periodic releases of older vintages, but as of Spring 2023, châteaux have begun selling their 2020 vintage six months after bottling, at the same moment in the year as the original en primeur.
But instead of a sprawling campaign over three months, the Bordeaux buying calendar has been reduced to an organised six weeks under a clearly-timed plan.
The new vintage is still tasted in the region by merchants and brokers, much as it was pre-1982, and they take note of the quality, but no offers are sent out to consumers. Essentially all the top estates are now following the Latour system that launched back in 2011, but the wait is not as long before the bottles begin to move onto the market.
Overseas merchants and journalists arrive in Bordeaux at the same time as ever, but the focus is on wines that are ready to sell.
One or two classified châteaux still buck the trend and release offers direct to consumers for their en primeur wine, but they sell at 70% of what their later retail price will be, and make this clear at the time.
They have fierce followings, but are in the minority.
The less high profile châteaux, however, from Cru Bourgeois to Grand Cercle de Bordeaux, still sell the majority of their stock as en primeur.
This is because their main target is the European, US and Chinese supermarkets, whose buyers continue to want to plan their purchases in advance, and to take advantage of the better pricing that these estates are still happy to offer.
By stepping back from the system, the classified châteaux have finally given the estates that want to work in this way some room to breathe.
At the same time, international icon wines have also taken advantage of the two year window provided by the Bordeaux classifieds, and increasing numbers of high profile names, most notably from Napa, Barolo and Australia, use the Place de Bordeaux more and more effectively to grow their own international distribution.Sauternes
Sauternes is no longer sold with the rest of the pack.
Instead all Bordeaux sweet wines are also held back until after bottling, but sold in the run up to what is the busiest time of year for drinkers to actually open bottles of Sauternes – the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Sauternes is by 2025 the most collaborative of all appellations. Single châteaux sell verticals of older vintages by the case, or neighbouring chateaux work together to sell all the same vintage with two bottles of each in one 12-bottle case.
All sales are concentrated into the first week of October, finally giving a way for Sauternes to reconnect with the wine trade in the run up to the festive season.Classified Châteaux
For the classified châteaux, releases by 2025 are carefully staggered; with the trade knowing exactly what is coming. First are the Right Banks.
They release throughout late April to early May – Pomerols first, then St-Emilions, always led by Petrus, Le Pin, Ausone, Angélus, Cheval Blanc and Pavie, who set the tone with their pricing (that continues to differ year on year, because they just can’t kick that particular habit).
Those austere limestone-based Cabernet Francs have softened and gained body over the two years of ageing and the tastings are getting better at rewarding the wines that will actually age the best.
Next up is the Left Bank – released in an orderly fashion from St-Estèphe down to Pessac-Léognan, again with the most prestigious classified estates leading the way to set the pricing.
Merchants and consumers can order special bottle sizes and even customised labels far more easily than under the previous system, and bottles are delivered within a few weeks of orders being placed. The ties between classified châteaux and consumers are closer than ever, because this level of personalisation becomes a possibility.Back in 2018
Could any of this happen? Paul Marus at Corney and Barrow certainly thinks it’s worth considering. ‘The Spring following bottling would be perfect, as the wines will have calmed down, and ideally the châteaux could release in a controlled but staggered fashion so we can work on each wine individually.’
Lukasz Kolodziejczykn, head of fine wines at Cult Wines says, ‘It would be clearer for all of us if we tasted the final blended wine. Many wines do not show their true colours during en primeur, and in 2017 we saw that very clearly. The huge scoring disparity between critics bothers me as a wine professional, and it is clear that a lot of scores are given for the chateaux not for the consumer. Tasting bottled final wines could reduce this.
‘Whatever happens,’ he continues, ‘châteaux need to find a smoother way of releasing. Tying up merchants for a long drawn out campaign is not making them any friends, and hanging their hats on Asia continuing to grow is a risky strategy with a market that is now seeing the potential of Italy and other fine wine regions. Many people on all sides are going to learn this the hard way, but it is clear that a shift in buying patterns is coming’.You may also like: Pessac-Léognan: Then and now – the story of an appellation
If you are sending your DAWA samples from Greece, we recommend you use Carel Transport and Logistics.
Ersie Michou – Branch Manager
email@example.com, Tel 30 2310 538 539
43, 26th Octovriou Str., GR-546 27, Thessaloniki, Greece
This curiously geeky and arcane question was posed at a magnificent and memorable dinner at the Pauillac First Growth held earlier this month to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the purchase of Lafite by Baron James de Rothschild in 1868.Carruades, the 'second wine' of Lafite Rothschild.
Lafite, comprising 74ha in 1868, had been put under public sale earlier that year.
Baron James, from the French branch of the family, had to bid against a powerful group of negociants, who pushed him to pay a very high price for Lafite.
Sadly though, he had little opportunity enjoy his acquisition. He died less than three months later and the property passed to his three children, Alphonse, Gustave and Edmond.
The story of the purchase was told by James’ great-great grandson, the current Baron Eric de Rothschild who has overseen Lafite with great distinction since 1973.
Significantly, Baron Eric co-hosted the dinner for 350 in Lafite’s imposing barrel cellar, with his daughter Saskia who at 31, has just taken over as the chatelaine of Lafite and as chairman of its portfolio of wine estates – in France, Chile and China, Domaines de Barons Rothschild (Lafite).
As previously reported by Decanter.com, her succession marks a major generational changing of the guard at DBR.
A couple of years ago Eric Kohler took over from long time winemaker Charles Chevalier. And most recently, Jean-Guillaume Prats (formerly of Cos d’Estournel and LVMH’s wine estates group) now occupies the post previously held by Christophe Salin.
At the celebratory dinner, we didn’t taste anything like the number of library vintages which my colleague Jane Anson enjoyed, and subsequently wrote up for Decanter Premium members.
But we did enjoy some truly glorious Lafites, beginning with a trio of classics ending in ‘9’.
First up was a sumptuously elegant 2009 vintage, followed by a powerfully structured and still youthful 1989.
Then came the star of the show in the form of the truffley thoroughbred 1959, still firmly in its pomp. And just to prove Lafite’s legendary ageability, we finished with a centenarian from the cellar – the 1918 no less.
Intriguingly though, that wasn’t the final wine. Instead, that honour fell to a mystery wine which was served blind.
‘What I’d like each table to do,’ said the Baron, ‘is to try and identify what the wine is. All I will tell you is that it isn’t a Lafite.’
The wine was clearly ancient – certainly much older than the 1918.
My random guess was an 1890 Duhart Milon. But in the end our table plumped for an 1868 Cos d’Estournel by virtue of the fact that Cos is Lafite’s neigbour and because it certainly looked 150 years of age.
Of course, it was neither.
Instead, Baron Eric finally revealed that it was an 1875 Carruades, explaining that the plots of vines on the Carruades plateau to the west of the Château had been acquired by Lafite in 1845.
However, the vines were not incorporated into the estate until the beginning of the 20th century, making it a Carruades that didn’t come from Lafite.
Did anyone get remotely close? Yes, they did. Incredibly, one table managed to nail both the wine and vintage. But quite how they managed it, I still have no idea….Carruades de Lafite Rothschild at a glance
Average production: 20,000 cases
Ageing: 18 to 20 months, 80% in oak, with 10% new oak
Composition: 50 to 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 to 50% Merlot and Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot 0 to 5%, depending on the vintage
Related articlesTasting 150 years of Lafite Rothschild wines – Jane Anson Generational handover announced at Château Lafite Rothschild Find more wine questions answered at our ‘ask Decanter’ homepage
Find standout wines from Laithwaite's recent releases, as selected by our tasting team. Most recently, we've added wines chosen by Tina Gellie, including great value sparkling, red, white and rosé for summer.
Laithwaite’s wines are predominantly sold online and via wine clubs, but the retailer also has a smattering of stores around the south of the UK, including in London, near to London Bridge, and Beaconsfield, Gloucester, Reading and Banbury in Oxfordshire.
In 2011, the company planted three hectares of vines in Windsor Great Park, overseen by Royal Farms, the company run by the Duke of Edinburgh. These vines have since come to fruition and the result has been dubbed the ‘Queen’s English wine’.
The wines below were all chosen following a recent tasting of the Laithwaite’s range, hosted by the retailer for journalists and critics.Best Laithwaite’s wine to try:
Related content: Top supermarket wines: DWWA medal winners
Great value winners at the Decanter World Wine awards 2018...The best Majestic wines: Tasted by our experts
Read Decanter's top picks for drinking this winter...Top 10 English sparkling under £30
Celebrate summer with English sparkling...Aldi wines to buy in 2018 – Easter update
Some more great value deals at Aldi...Best Lidl wines for spring 2018 in UK
These are our favourite Lidl wines to try...These Co-op wines are excellent value
A tasting of Co-op wines in the UK...
Strong competition from bidders around the world saw the Geneva auction achieve more than double its pre-sale estimate, according to organiser Baghera Wines.Michael Ganne, executive director of Baghera Wines, hosts the Henri Jayer auction in Geneva on 17 June.
Around 100 bidders took part in the Henri Jayer cellar auction, held on 17 June at Domaine de Châteauvieux in Geneva, said Baghera Wines.
A final sales total of CHF34.5 million (US$34.7 million) was more than double the top-end estimate prior to the auction.
Baghera, which pitched the event as the last ex-cellar auction from the late Henri Jayer’s personal collection, had set a pre-sale high estimate of CHF13 million.
Jayer died in 2006, aged 84, and had long been considered a master of Pinot Noir in Burgundy.
More than 1,000 wines were up for auction, including 855 75cl bottles and 209 magnums, divided into 215 lots. Vintages ranged from 1970 to 2001. All had remained in Jayer cellars until February 2018, Baghera said.
Top lot was a 15-magnum cache of Cros-Parantoux 1er Cru vintages stretching from 1978 to 2001, which fetched CHF1.16 million,including the buyer’s premium.
Other top lots in the sale included:
- One magnum of Cros-Parantoux 1er Cru 1978, sold for CHF144,000
- Six magnums of Cros-Parantoux 1999, sold for CHF528,000
- One bottle of Richebourg 1986, sold for CHF50,400
Michael Ganne, executive director of Baghera Wines, said, ‘No doubt, this auction will remain a historic event for all Pinot Noir enthusiasts.’
Baghera said that the wines became available for auction after Jayer’s two daughters decided to sell the collection.
A spokesperson for Baghera said that Jayer’s two daughters, Lydie and Dominique, chose the company ahead of two other international auction houses ‘because we had a close relationship with them, because they trusted us and because they knew we would dedicate more than six months of our time to work solely and exclusively on this project, with passion and sincerity’.
All the wines were given new capsules and new labels in February 2018, before being shipped direct from the cellar ‘under a sworn bailiff’s supervision’, the auction house said.
Regarding fill levels for wines in the auction, Baghera said that it had assessed the wines and found the levels to be perfectly acceptable for their age.
‘Henri Jayer was known to be obsessively cautious and meticulous with the corks he used, choosing his cork manufacturers with great rigour,’ Baghera said. ‘But like in any domaine’s cellar, after 30 years, some corks may be more fragile than others.’
Around three percent of the wines in 75cl bottles in the auction had a level that more than five centimetres below the capsule, and most of these were more than 40 years old, Baghera said.
It added, ‘If levels are important for an old bottle of wine, the colour of the wine is the key. We agreed to sell these wines because the colour was fantastic and, in our opinion, still great for consumption.’Read in-depth profiles of top Burgundy producers by Clive Coates MW on Decanter Premium
The post ‘Last bottles’ from Henri Jayer cellar sold for $35 million – auction house appeared first on Decanter.
The owner of ‘Lady of the Grapes’, a new wine bar to open in London next month, plans to showcase wines predominantly made by female winemakers.The wine bar will focus on wines from female winemakers. New London wine bar to focus on female winemakers
The wine bar, restaurant and shop is due to open in Covent Garden in mid-July.
‘When I first started in the industry I realised there were not a lot of women,’ said owner Carole Bryon, who previously ran The Grocery Wine Vault Shop, in Shoreditch.
‘So I want to support all women in wine from the vineyard to the shop.
‘I want to champion women in the wine trade and make them more visible through our wine list, because it’s not just men who make wine.’See also: The women who shaped Bordeaux – Jane Anson
As well as wines made by women, Lady of the Grapes will focus on wines that are organic, biodynamic or natural, and from independent vineyards.
There will also be a menu of organic food, and a deli to buy cheese and charcuterie.
‘We are creating a distinctive yet relaxed space where you can drink exquisite natural wines and eat stunning artisanal organic food,’ the company said on its website.
There will be 80 wines on the list, and 15 of those will be available by the glass, the bar said.
Lady of the Grapes added that it was still seeking to raise further financial support through a Crowdfunding campaign.See Decanter’s guide to top London wine bars
Susan Hulme MW tastes five vintages of Redigaffi, plus the new amphora-fermented Syrah...Tua Rita: History
Tua Rita started life modestly when, in 1984, Rita Tua and her husband Virgilio realised their lifelong dream and purchased a 2ha property at Notri, in the Alta Maremma beside the Golfo di Follonica.
In their early years they supplied some of their Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Sassicaia, their world-famous Bolgheri neighbour.
But in 1992 they took on one of Italy’s best consultant oenologists, Luca D’Attoma, and started bottling their own wine, the first of which they called Giusto di Notri.Scroll down to see Susan’s tasting notes & scores for five vintages of Redigaffi You might also like:
Querciabella: Producer profile Super Tuscan evolution: Comparing Tignanello and Solaia Arnione: A new Bolgheri superstar?
Signorello Estate plans to open a temporary tasting room to continue to welcome tourists, while major rebuilding plans get underway after its winery building was destroyed by California wildfires last year.
Signorello Estate saw its winery burned to the ground. Ray Signorello Jr said that all staff were safe, as was the 2017 and 2016 vintage, and has vowed to rebuild.
Ray Signorello Jr, owner and co-winemaker at Signorello Estate, has announced that a temporary tasting room will open for wine tourists on the Silverado Trail from 13 July this year.
Signorello’s winery building was destroyed by a ‘tornado of fire’ amid savage wildfires that swept northern California in October 2017, killing more than 40 people and leaving many more homeless.
In January 2018, Signorello launched plans to rebuild, hiring Taylor Lombardo Architects and Nordby Construction Company.
‘We can move Signorello Estate beyond our recent setbacks and towards a brighter future,’ Signorello Jr said.
As of 13 July 2018 the newly-built temporary tasting space, The Estate Room, will be open to the public.
Wine tourists can book the ‘Estate Experience’, priced at $100 per person, which includes a small group tasting, vineyard tour, plus an insight into Signorello’s ambitious rebuilding plans, according to the statement.
Signorello hopes that the new venture sends a clear message to the public that the winery is open for business, despite suffering devastating fire damage eight months ago.
The modular building will serve as Signorello’s home for as long as the winery takes to be fully rebuilt, which could be up to three years, according to a press release from the estate.
Signorello employed interior designer Katie McCaffrey to create the tasting space, she has used natural materials like wood, leather and linen alongside modern sculpture and mid-century furniture.
Signorello Jr lost his personal wine library in the fire, but the the estate’s 2017 vintage survived intact in the property’s tank farm, and the in-barrel 2016 vintage also escaped the flames.See also: Signorello vows to rebuild after fire
The post Signorello Estate opens new tasting room after fire appeared first on Decanter.
Seventy firefighters have managed to prevent a fire at Château Suduiraut in Sauternes from getting out of control.Suduiraut staff, vines and cellars were unharmed in fire.
The fire broke out in a wing of Château Suduiraut that is rented out for conferences, but has left vineyards and winemaking areas untouched, said Christian Seely, the managing director of AXA Millésimes, which owns the Sauternes premier cru classé property.
Blamed on an electrical fault, the fire was very localised and no one was hurt, Seely told Decanter.com. The greatest damage was done in the dining room, kitchen and some bedrooms.
Asked if smoke taint could be an issue for the vines, Seely said no. ‘It’s not a problem at this time of year and the fire was in the middle of the château, not near the vineyards.’
All wine in tanks or barrels was safely sealed off, he said.
Flames began on the morning of 20 June, sending a huge plume of smoke into the air. At least 70 local firefighters battled to bring the fire under control.
All staff working at Suduiraut were safely evacuated and an investigation to confirm the source of the fire was underway.
This is not the first time Suduiraut has been hit by a blaze, albeit the first fire caused more damaged.
The property was burnt down during ‘the Fronde’ – as a series of French civil wars between 1648 and 1653 under Louis XIV are known – and then rebuilt in the second half of the 17th century.
Alongside its signature Sauternes, Suduiraut also makes two dry white wines. The most recent, Blanc Sec de Suduiraut, was first made from the 2015 vintage.
As well as wine, the estate is known for its elegant gardens, designed by King Louis XIV’s gardener, André Le Nôtre, who also created the gardens at Versailles palace outside of Paris.
Farr Vintners director Tom Hudson said that he didn’t expect news of the fire to impact sales of Suduiraut, although he added that, in general, ‘Sauternes remains quite a hard sell’ in the current market.
Editing by Chris MercerMore articles that you may like: For Premium members: Why Sauternes second wines are worth a look – and which to drink
Decanter will be holding its annual Decanter World Wine Awards tasting on Monday 2 July at Vintners' Hall, London, from 5pm to 9pm. A Decanter Events Promotion
A Decanter Events Promotion
The tasting showcases more than 180 winning wines from the Decanter World Wine Awards 2018, the largest wine competition in the world.
This year, Decanter received almost 17,000 entries. A team of 275 judges, comprised of Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers and many of the world’s top experts, rigorously blind tasted all of the wines.
After a meticulous judging process they awarded 50 Best in Show medals, 149 Platinum medals, 439 Gold medals, 3,454 Silver medals, and 7,079 Bronze medals.
Now, for the first time since the results were announced in May, a selection of the top award-winning wines will be poured for you in London, a week from today.
Join us to find out what it takes to win a prestigious Decanter Awards medal. There will be 12 Best in Show, 22 Platinum, 40 Gold, 76 Silver and 35 Bronze wines to discover on Monday 2 July.Tickets are only £40 per person. Book tickets here See a full list of the wines to be poured at the DWWA London tasting
The post Taste more than 180 award-winning wines on Monday 2 July appeared first on Decanter.
English Pinotage could be on your dinner table within five years, if a new project works out as planned.Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens: the setting for what is believed to be the UK's first Pinotage vineyard.
The first commercial Pinotage vines in the UK have been planted at Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens, in Horsham, Sussex, with a view to producing a still red wine.
The 0.75ha vineyard is planted with Pinotage vines from a Swiss nursery. Cellarmaster Johann Fourie has high hopes for the variety, a Pinot Noir-Cinsault cross developed in South Africa in 1925.
‘We see Pinotage as the answer to a number of challenges faced by English wine grape-growers,’ he said.
‘It accumulates sugar very fast during the growing season and is an early ripener, so should be picked before cold and disease pressures set in due to hanging for too long. The thick skins make the grapes resistant to rot, and help with the tannins and colour.’
He added, ‘This is a test project, so we’ll see what the vineyard conditions allow us to do.
‘Fortunately Pinotage makes a good base for sparkling wine too; so if all else fails we’ll produce an English sparkling with a South African twist.’
Cape Town-based British owner and entrepreneur Penny Streeter OBE bought Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens in July 2017, aiming to create a South African wine farm experience.
The site features Grade I listed gardens, first planted in 1801; they open to the public in January 2019 following extensive renovation work.
The new planting brings the total area under vine to 16 hectares – at Leonardslee and at nearby Mannings Heath, where Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vines were planted in 2017, to create the UK’s first golf and wine estate.
A winery with a 75,000-bottle capacity is being built at Mannings Heath, with the first crop due in 2020, and the first releases in 2023.
Leonardslee and Mannings Heath Golf & Wine Estate are divisions of The Benguela Collection, a wine producer and hospitality group that Streeter started in 2013 with the acquisition of the Benguela Cove wine estate, in South Africa’s Walker Bay area.
The group now includes four restaurants and a hotel on the Garden Route.More articles that you may like: Premium English sparkling wine to try this summer Taittinger plants first vines for English sparkling wine
‘The speed of change in New Zealand wine leaves me breathless,’ writes Elin McCoy after visiting the country for tastings earlier this year.The Central Otago landscape.
Just before the annual Central Otago Pinot Noir festival in January, I was dutifully working my way through an Air New Zealand tasting in a boring hotel conference room in Queenstown, when I was bowled over by a sparkling wine I’d never heard of before.
The non-vintage No1 Family Estate, Reserve from Marlborough had the fresh, complex, salty, biscuity-rich finesse you find only in Champagne – and very good Champagne at that.
The experience reminded me how much pleasure I get from an unexpected wine discovery, and how many surprises New Zealand always seems to deliver.
These start with the country itself, a place where you feel you can glimpse the planet’s beginnings in landscapes heaved up by earthquakes and scoured by glaciers.
Vines hug slopes of steep, jagged peaks, sit above long shining lakes and ocean coves, and lie next to deep rocky gorges with rushing water so clear you feel recharged just looking at it. The sky, with its intense, clear light and ever-changing swirls of clouds, looks washed by wind from far, far away.
It all leaves you a little breathless, as does the surprising speed with which the wine industry has changed and grown since my last visit to New Zealand in 2009.See also: Top Auckland restaurants and wine bars – a Decanter guide
I caught up with the maker of the No1 Reserve, Daniel Le Brun, at a sparkling wine brunch in Marlborough later in my trip. A native of Champagne (where his family had made Champagne for generations), Le Brun arrived in Blenheim in 1978, well before the region surprised the world with its new-style Sauvignon Blanc.
Within two hours, so he says, he was convinced he could make sparkling wine there. He’d trained with his father and grandfather in Champagne, and, he chuckles, ‘I was the renegade, the first to leave since 1642’.
New Zealand’s pioneer of making solely ‘traditional method’ cuvées learned to adapt to the country’s climate while keeping Champagne yeasts and ‘other technique secrets’. His first winery, which still bears his name, was sold in a complicated takeover in 1996; his first cuvée under the No1 Family Estate label debuted three years later.
An impromptu sampling – ranging from the quality, elegance and layered chalky crispness of the basic No1 cuvée, to a fragrant rosé, to the 2009 special cuvées Virginie (named for his daughter) and Adele (his wife) – showed the region’s potential for great sparkling wine.
Elsewhere, the number of fascinating whites carried me beyond the country’s signature grassy Sauvignon Blanc to Albarinos, Gruner Veltliners, and a salty Pegasus Bay Sauvignon/Semillon whose pairing with foraged, yellow-eyed mullet was one of the best of my stay.
Naturally, I discovered some great Pinot Noir producers. In Martinborough, I was wowed by multiple vintages of pure, intense, savoury Pinots made by the extraordinary Japanese diplomat-turned-winemaker Hiro Kusuda. Their hallmarks are precision and elegance, also found in his luminous Rieslings and spicy, seductive Syrahs.
Just north of Christchurch (still recovering from the 2016 earthquake), in North Canterbury, I went truffle hunting, learning that there are 50 truffle producers in the country.
But the wine surprise was the blindingly white pure limestone I saw in Bell Hill winery’s vineyards. Once a farm with an old quarry, it’s now a New Zealand version of a tiny Burgundian domaine, where Sherwyn Veldhuizen and Marcel Giesen make some of the most prized Pinot Noirs in the country.
There’s always a frisson of enthusiasm when new wines challenge my previous assumptions. Sadly, many wine drinkers prefer to stick to the same old regions and grapes.
Large commercial wineries use focus groups to tailor their products because so many consumers feel the way my aunt does about Kendall-Jackson’s Vintners Reserve Chardonnay: she wants to know exactly what tastes she’ll get in her glass.
But wines that comfort through familiarity amount to an already known universe. Been there, tasted that. Welcoming surprise means being open to savouring the future. And in New Zealand that looks very, very exciting.
Elin McCoy is an award-winning journalist and author who writes for Bloomberg News
More articles that you may like:Top New Zealand 2017 white wines: From Albariño to Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand reds to buy from the 2016 vintage
The post Think you know New Zealand wine? Think again, says Elin McCoy appeared first on Decanter.
The UK launch of Cristal 2008 impressed Michael Edwards...
The long awaited Cristal 2008 was previewed earlier this week in one of those sleek Marylebone spaces without shelves or chairs – making writing a bit of a challenge!
You might also like: Dom Pérignon 2008 release marks the end of an era
Pessac-Léognan has become a dynamic force among the Bordeaux appellations, despite only being around for 30 years. Read a history of the area, plus fresh reviews of how the early vintages taste now.Château Latour-Martillac
If you ever wonder about the human element in the creation of France’s appellation system, step into the history of Pessac-Léognan.
Today one of the most dynamic parts of Bordeaux, easily producing some of the best red and white wines in the whole of France, its birth was a long drawn-out affair that had moments of high drama intercut with years of inaction, and no small influence of a few key personalities.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2017, the appellation may never have been created if it wasn’t for two men.
It’s highly likely that the split between the two sections of Graves became a near-certainty back in 1953. This was when the wines of the Graves got their own version of the 1855 Médoc ranking. All estates in the region asked to be considered, but the final listing awarded the title Cru Classés de Graves to 14 properties that were all in the north of the region. The furthest south is Château Latour-Martillac, and even that is only 19km south of the city of Bordeaux, compared to 60km down to the far reaches of southern Graves.
‘It had been a long war between the north and south sides of the Graves,’ remembers Tristan Kressman of Latour-Martillac. As time went on, he says, ‘a divorce became inevitable’.
This unequal balance of power had deep roots. The southern Graves had the numbers – almost 500 winemakers, compared to 55 in the north. But the north had the power.
For a start, it had history on its side. Although the entire Graves appellation is known as the cradle of Bordeaux wine, it is very likely that the Romans first planted vines in the northern sector, as it is within the limit of the forest clearing that we know they carried out around Bordeaux (or Burdigala as it was at the time).
The sector also enjoys a geographic advantage, with a microclimate effect created by close proximty to the city centre that sees a harvest date of on average one week earlier than the rest of Bordeaux, and a geography that lends itself to quality winemaking thanks to the presence of gravels, slopes and natural streams, all of which help with drainage.
Then there’s economics. The average price of wines from the north has historically been around double that of those from the south (the gap is wider today). And where there were more winemakers in the southern Graves, they tended to farm a variety of other crops, whereas those in the north focused solely on vineyards, which helped to develop their financial muscle. Oh, and did I forget to mention that it is home to Château Haut-Brion?
This was all true before the arrival of Lurton upon his purchase of Château La Louvière in 1965. He didn’t even become president of the Syndicat Viticole des Hautes Graves de Bordeaux until 1974, but there is no doubt that he took up the cause with all the passion of the newly converted.
Relations between the two sides continued to sour, despite attempts at conciliation by the INAO, which no doubt was conscious of the anomaly of creating a situation where the Cru Classés de Graves would no longer be in the Graves AC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, which was replaced in 2012 by the Appellation d’Origin Protégée or AP system).
Hélène Brun-Puginier, a historian who now works full time for Château La Louvière, says, ‘It took huge energy and tenacity from André Lurton and all the wine-growers of the region, but in the end the only way to clear the air was to recognise the AC Pessac-Léognan.’Making an impact
The difference that it has made in the years following is both clear and stark.
If you are looking to buy land in Graves today, the average price you will have to pay is around €30,000 (£26,140) per hectare. Prices range from €55,000 (£47,924) in the most sought-after parts to €10,000 (£8,714) at the lowest end.
Head up into Pessac-Léognan and that becomes an average of €450,000 (£392,173), ranging from €250,000-€600,000 (£217,880-£522,913).
Look back 10 years and the average in Pessac-Léognan was €140,000 (£122,013) while Graves was unchanged at €30,000 (£26,140).
But it is unfair and unhelpful to make this a simple comparison between the two. If a comparison is to be made, it’s between the communal appellations of the Médoc and Pessac-Léognan, all gravel-dominant soils that major on Cabernet Sauvignon. Their wines gain complexity and finesse over time – and can achieve €50-plus (£44-plus) per bottle.
Pessac-Léognan also has a classification that rewards its white wines as well as its reds. This gives it considerable appeal – particularly as it is the only appellation to make serious whites.
Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, Carbonnieux… I defy anyone not to love these wines, which turn Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon into something astonishing.
‘There was a palpable sense of wanting to push the possibilities of the appellation once it was made official,’ remembers Valérie Vialard, winemaker at Latour-Martillac. ‘It was a challenge to rise to – and an exciting one. There was a lot of exchange in the early years about how to push quality.’Dynamic growth
There is still a way to go – for example, Pessac-Léognan sells only 20% of its production to export, compared to 40% for Bordeaux as a whole, and over 70% for appellations such as Pauillac.
But it has proved its worth, not least by providing a vital bulwark against the loss of vineyard land under threat from urbanisation. In Mérignac alone, where Bordeaux airport is now located, there were 700ha of vines in 1870 – and just 30ha in 1987. Back in the 19th century, the northern Graves had 5,000ha and 350 châteaux. By 1975 it had become 500ha.
‘Almost 1,000ha of vines have been replanted over the last 30 years,’ says Philibert Perrin of Château Carbonnieux, the current AP Pessac-Léognan president.
‘This is not an easy thing to achieve in Bordeaux, where there are strict rules over planting rights. But the new AC granted the right to plant wherever there had historically been vines and where the land was deemed worthy of production of highquality wine following a geological study.’
Much of this planting was done on former forest rather than urban land, but it helped to create an appellation that continues to be enormously dynamic.
In 1987, the Pessac- Léognan appellation comprised 55 estates over 813ha, with production of 75% red and 25% white wine. Today there are 70 châteaux across 1,791ha, producing 80% red and 20% white.
Among the new estates created in Pessac-Léognan since 1987 are Châteaux Haut- Lagrange, Lafont Menaut, Haut-Vigneau and d’Alix, while the owners attracted to the area include leading names such as Bernard Magrez at Pape Clément, the Bonnie family at Malartic-Lagravière, the Cathiards at Smith Haut Lafitte, the Wilmers family at Haut-Bailly and the Dillons at Château Haut-Brion (which makes Pessac-Léognan the only appellation in Bordeaux with a château classified in both 1855 and Crus Classés de Graves).
Achieving this over 30 years is impressive. To do it on the doorstep of one of France’s biggest cities, also in full expansion, is fairly remarkable.
As Jean-Paul Kauffman wrote in Voyage à Bordeaux back in 1989: ‘You have to see Château Haut-Brion, in the heart of (the town of) Pessac, to understand that making wine can itself be an act of resistance.’Pessac-Léognan timeline
The Syndicate Viticole des Hautes Graves de Bordeaux breaks off from the main Syndicate de Graves, although some winemakers from the southern section also join its ranks. Its first action was to send a request for a separate AC to the French appellations’ authority, the INAO
André Lurton arrives at the syndicate after buying Château La Louvière
Pierre Perromat, president of the INAO, begins looking into creation of AC Hautes-Graves de Bordeaux, but things stall for the next decade
André Lurton becomes president of the Syndicat Viticole des Hautes Graves de Bordeaux
The question of the new AC is relaunched by the INAO, and various conciliatory meetings are organised between north and south Graves
To overcome the issue of having winemakers from the southern Graves in the syndicate, it is reworked to become a precise geographic region. This becomes the Syndicat Viticole de Pessac et Léognan. Its members remain within the overall Syndicat Viticole des Graves et Graves Supérieures, where they account for just six out of 42 seats on the board
The INAO recommends the creation of Graves Pessac and Graves Léognan, two geographic indications that would be allowed on the label for the relevant estates
Believing that this compromise doesn’t go far enough, the six members of the Syndicat Viticole de Pessac et Léognan resign from the Syndicat Viticole des Graves et Graves Supérieures. This brings events to a head
The INAO agrees to the creation of the new AC for the 1987 vintage for whites and the 1986 for reds
The creation of AC Pessac-Léognan (no longer Pessac et Léognan) is published in the government’s Journal Officiel. It includes wines produced in the 10 communes of Mérignac, Villenave d’Ornon, Pessac, Cadaujac, Talence, Léognan, Gradignan, Martillac, Canéjan and St-Médard-d’Eyrans, following a geological study by geologist Pierre Becheler
Château La Mission Haut-Brion holds a celebration dinner, with 300 guests
See Anson’s top picks from Pessac, then and now…
Jane Anson is a Decanter contributing editor, Bordeaux correspondent and author of the book Bordeaux Legends.More Premium articles that you may like: How Bordeaux 2008 tastes now Tasting 150 years of Lafite Rothschild wines Read more Decanter magazine articles online
The post Pessac-Léognan: Then and now – the story of an appellation appeared first on Decanter.
There is plenty to be excited about, says Rebecca Gibb MW, who picks out 15 reds to try, based on releases so far...Vines at Ata Rangi Winery in Martinborough.
New Zealand 2016: A record crop. Warm and often humid. Harvest period was dry and sunny. Excellent whites and highly attractive reds3/5 You might also like: New Zealand 2017: A vintage recap and whites to try Mature New Zealand wines from the cellar
The post New Zealand 2016: Reds to buy, including top Pinot Noir appeared first on Decanter.
Rebecca Gibb MW takes a closer look at a challenging 2017 vintage in New Zealand and picks out 15 whites to try, from Sauvignon Blanc to Riesling and Chenin.Two ex-tropical cyclones hit Marlborough in New Zealand on the eve of the 2017 harvest.
New Zealand 2017: A very difficult season with a cool start, poor summer and wet, warm and cloudy autumn bringing high botrytis pressure. Those who picked early were most successful. Central Otago escaped the worst of the unsettled weather, although it was a very small crop.2/5
This is ‘Sauvignon Blanc with the volume turned down’
You might also like: Mature New Zealand wines from the cellar Premium New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – panel tasting results
The post New Zealand 2017: A vintage recap and whites to try appeared first on Decanter.
Château Giscours has said it will appeal against a court ruling that saw the group fined 200,000 euros for illegally chaptalising some of its wine in the 2016 vintage.
- Bordeaux tribunal hands out fine and suspended prison sentences
- Giscours denies intentionally breaking rules and will appeal against conviction
- Margaux third growth estate says final blend for 2016 wine is compliant with the rules
Château Giscours said last night (21 June) that it was ‘left with no choice’ but to appeal the ruling of the Bordeaux tribunal.
The court fined the Margaux third growth estate 200,000 euros for illegally chaptalising two vats of 2016 vintage wine.
It also handed out three-month suspended prison sentences to two of its directors for the ‘falsification’ over chaptalisation; a method of adding sucrose to grape juice prior to fermentation in order to boost potential alcohol levels. The wine affected, around 39,700 litres, must be destroyed, the tribunal said.
Giscours has previously not denied chaptalising a portion of its 2016 vintage wine in error, but has strongly denied any intent to commit fraud.
Instead, the estate blamed two separate errors on communication mix-ups.
It said that its cellar team started chaptalising a vat of wine containing 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot on 10 October 2016 after receiving what they believed to be approval from Margaux’s appellation body.
However, final rules laid out by France’s national appellation body for Margaux 2016 wines did not allow chaptalisation of Merlot.
Giscours said that none of the wine concerned was used in its 2016 ‘grand vin’, nor has it been bottled or distributed for sale.
Giscours has previously published a letter from the Margaux appellation authority, dated 1 February 2018, in which the body said that it sent an initial email with wrong information.
In a second instance, extra sugar was mistakenly added to a portion of Cabernet Sauvignon, sitting in ‘vat number seven’.
A technical team member mis-read an instruction to add sugar, written on the side of vat seven; seeing it as 75kg instead of 25kg, Giscours said in an extended statement following yesterday’s tribunal decision.
This error meant that the vat broke chaptalisation limits set for that year. Estates were allowed to chaptalise at up to 1% abv, but vat seven was at 1.3%, Giscours said.
The property added that, in any case, it only used around half of its official sugar allocation for 2016 vintage wines. It added that its final blend for Giscours 2016 was fully compliant with all of the rules.
The post Château Giscours to appeal fraud conviction over chaptalisation appeared first on Decanter.
The latest Dom Pérignon release came with a bit of additional news...
The release of Dom Pérignon 2008 in London on 19 June came with the news that, on January 1st 2019, Vincent Chaperon will succeed Richard Geoffroy as the new chef de cave.
A hard act to follow? Not really; the two men have worked closely together since 2005, and Chaperon has now taken part in 13 harvests and declared four vintages. They share a vision of Dom Pérignon that’s constantly evolving in light of exciting possibilities from climate change and riper fruit.
Between 1990 and 2009, Geoffroy created no fewer than 15 vintages. He has always opted to push the envelope of this iconic wine to its optimum maturity, and his interpretation of the DP vision also gave birth to the ‘Plenitudes’ concept – three tiers which express the successive plateaux of the champagne as it ages: current vintage release, P2 and P3.
Geoffroy has also refined the gastronomic credentials of DP by working with chefs such as Ferran Adrian, Alain Ducasse and David Thompson in recent years.
Both men are dreamers, like the very best winemakers, but Chaperon is also a great technician. Born in Pomerol, he is an agricultural engineer from Montpellier. It’s safe to say that a radically different approach to the cuvee won’t happen, yet Chaperon’s own passions will doubtless show in his wines as the vision evolves.Dom Pérignon 2008 – the latest release:
Last year was the first time in Dom Pérignon’s history that a vintage was released out of sequence – the 2009 preceding this 2008. A key reason for this was that it was felt the 2008 needed more time. The product of a widely-acclaimed vintage, Dom Pérignon 2008 will be released as a special ‘Legacy Edition’ in late 2018, featuring the names of both chef de caves. The normal label will be released in early 2019.
New Zealand isn't generally known for its mature wines at present, but there are some gems worth trying if you can find them. Rebecca Gibb MW picks out 15 examples for drinking now...The cellar at Mission Estate.
The success of New Zealand wine has relied heavily on one variety that’s best consumed young for its flamboyant fruit and youthful vigour.
Sauvignon Blanc has been both a blessing and a curse, placing New Zealand firmly on the world wine map but also strengthening the perception that New Zealand wines are not ageworthy.
This perception, however, is a misconception that needs to be detonated.Scroll down to see the wines You might also like: New Zealand Pinot Noir for your cellar Anson: Tasting 150 years of Lafite Rothschild wines Barolo’s Golden Age: A Decanter masterclass