Barolo 2014: Sneak preview

Decanter News - di, 28/11/2017 - 13:41

Stephen Brook attended a preview of the Barolo 2014 vintage, hosted by Vinexus in London. Decanter Premium members can be the first to see what he thought of the wines on show and get an idea of how this notoriously tricky year is shaping up three years after harvest.

barolo 2014, cuneoAutumnal sunrise in heartlands of Barolo in Piedmont's Cuneo province. Related content: brunello di montalcino Brunello 2013 vintage: A sneak preview

Stephen Brook gives you a head-start on the vintage...

Gianni Brunelli vertical Gianni Brunelli: A Brunello vertical

Michaela Morris visits the Gianni Brunelli estate, a leading light for the Brunello di Montalcino appellation...

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New Burgundy ‘appellation’ met with caution

Decanter News - di, 28/11/2017 - 09:58

A new level of Burgundy wines is coming, sitting roughly between the regional and village levels of the region's hierarchy.

Burgundy 2015 vintage

As most media focused on the record-breaking Hospices de Beaune wine auction last week, journalists also tasted a brand new regional appellation, ‘Bourgogne Côte d’Or’, inaugurated in Beaune just two days previously.

Integrated as a Bourgogne Régionale AOC, it is not a new appellation per se, but rather the 14th regional Burgundy AOC.

However, it should be seen as the top of the regional pyramid, just below village level, said Cécile Mathiaud of the Burgundy Wine Council (BIVB).

Top Côte de Beaune red wines from our expert panel tasting – for Decanter Premium members

One key difference in quality is that Burgundy Côte d’Or vine planting density is set at a minimum of 9,000 plants per hectare, compared to a minimum of 5,000 plants per hectare for the other Bourgogne regional appellations.

Plus, only Pinot Noir grapes can be used for the reds, from vines grown across all villages of the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, from south of Dijon to Maranges.

It’s estimated that 1,000 hectares of vineyard will be put towards the first Côte d’Or level wines, with about two-thirds red and one-third white.

Producers will be able to include grapes from young vines that would not necessarily be used in village level wines, said Frédéric Drouhin, president of the Union des Maisons de Vins de Bourgogne.

Louis Fabrice Latour, of Domaine Louis Latour, said that the new level of wines would probably cost ‘about 20 per cent more’ than for other regional level Burgundy wines, but they will be cheaper than village-level wines.

Merchants attending the Hospices de Beaune auction from outside of Burgundy appeared intrigued but cautious.

‘It would provide a certain cache, although I am not sure everyone would understand that Bourgogne Cote d’Or would be clear at that price level,’ said Xenia Irwin MW, of Waitrose.

One French retailer suggested adding specific village information on back labels to tell consumers about the provenance of the grapes used, but Irwin said that could backfire as being interpreted as ‘declassified village wine’.

US merchant William Friedberg, of AP Wine Imports, said that the front label should indicate the grape Pinot Noir, so as to be clear that there would not be any Gamay in the blend for the reds.

The BIVB is planning press tours in France to promote the new wine in the autumn of 2018 with media events outside of France in 2019, said the BIVB’s Cécile Mathiaud.

Our tips on how to find the best value Burgundy wines


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Five Californian vineyards to know

Decanter News - di, 28/11/2017 - 08:16

In partnership with the California Wine Institute.

William Kelley picks the California vineyards that you need to know...

California vineyardsTo Kalon vineyard, Napa Valley

In partnership with the California Wine Institute.

Five Californian vineyards to know To Kalon Vineyard, Oakville, Napa Valley

Established in the nineteenth century by pioneering vintner Hamilton Crabb, the To Kalon vineyard’s combination of great terroir and historical pedigree lend it a strong claim to the title of Napa Valley’s first grand cru.

In Crabb’s era it was ‘Black Burgundy’, better known as Refoscco, which excelled here, but today To Kalon’s gently sloping 678 acres are ground zero for Cabernet Sauvignon, producing some of the valley’s most valuable grapes.

The site isn’t celebrated without reason: Crabb’s historic vineyard corresponds almost exactly with a broad swathe of alluvial material deposited by ancient streams that flowed down from the Mayacamas mountains – what geologists call an alluvial fan. These deep, gravelly soils are exceptionally well-drained, forcing the vines to delve deep underground in search of water and creating the stress necessary for optimal ripening.

Cabernet Sauvignon from To Kalon tends to be broad and supple, with a dark fruit profile and considerable structural amplitude. The best of these wines have a track record of developing in the cellar for three decades, and they’re frequently among Napa Valley’s finest.

A hundred years ago, that potential was already evident to Crabb. ‘To Kalon is Greek,’ he once explained, ‘and means the highest beauty, or the highest good, but I try to make it mean “the boss vineyard”’.

Notable producers: MacDonald, Schrader, Robert Mondavi Winery, Paul Hobbs, Detert Family Vineyards

California vineyards

Monte Bello vineyard

Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains

In 1962, from an isolated vineyard perched high above the Pacific Ocean in the Santa Cruz Mountains, four Stanford Research Institute engineers made history, producing North America’s first post-Prohibition vineyard designate Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine in question was the inaugural vintage of Ridge Vineyards’ famed Monte Bello, justly celebrated for its classical balance and aging potential.

One of the few north American vineyards to boast limestone bedrock, the Monte Bello ridge represents the remains of a Pacific atoll, where dying sea creatures accumulated on the ocean floor. Today, green stone and clay soils are layered over their remains to form Monte Bello’s unique terroir.

Climate is critical too. Situated some 15 miles—and several ridgelines—east of the coast, at between 1300′ to 2700′ above sea level, the cooling evening fog that distinguishes so many of California’s coastal vineyards is infrequent at Monte Bello. That means the gap between daytime temperature highs and nighttime lows is smaller than, say, in Napa Valley, producing ripe grapes with lower sugar levels and high acidity.

That bright acidity, combined with Monte Bello’s characteristically fine but abundant tannins means these wines aren’t always showy in their youth, taking some time to reveal the full extent of their depth and dimension: patience is advised. After twenty years in the bottle, however, there are few Cabernets to rival Ridge’s Monte Bello.

Summa Vineyard, Sonoma Coast

Six miles inland from the Pacific shoreline and straddling a sandy ridge, Summa Vineyard produces some of North America’s most distinctive Pinot Noir. This is an extreme site, often touched by the rolling maritime fog which defines Sonoma Coast viticulture. Vines here seldom set large crops and their grapes rarely accumulate much sugar. Their quality, however, admits no argument.

Summa was first planted in 1979, but it only came to the world’s attention a decade later, when Williams-Selyem produced a wine from the vineyard and sold it for the historic sum of $100—a record-breaking price for a North American Pinot Noir at the time. ‘I figured if we didn’t sell it we’d just drink it ourselves’, remembers Burt Williams. The bold statement drew attention to the Sonoma Coast, hitherto widely considered too cold to ripen Pinot Noir.

William-Selyem only produced a vineyard designate Summa bottling four times: in 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995. Sometimes the crop was too small; sometimes it wasn’t sufficiently ripe. But the site’s captivating signature aromas of blood orange and exotic spice, fully realized in the good years, kept Burt coming back for more.

When Williams-Selyem sold in 1998, the winery’s relationship with Summa lapsed. The fruit went to others, including Ted Lemon’s Littorai and Thomas Brown’s Rivers-Marie. In 2010, Brown jumped at the chance to buy the vineyard, interplanting to increase vine density and improving farming. Today his two Summa bottlings are consistently among the Sonoma Coast’s most complete and characterful wines.

Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Santa Barbara

Today, Santa Barbara’s Sta. Rita Hills rank high on any list of California’s most exciting areas for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but that all began with the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard. Botanist Michael Benedict and his friend Richard Sanford sought a site which could produce grapes with similar qualities to those they found in the great wines of Burgundy, and after years of research and analysis they began planting here in 1971.

Sanford and Benedict noted that, whereas most of coastal California’s mountain ranges run parallel with the coastline, the Santa Ynez Valley opens directly onto the Pacific Ocean, providing unimpeded access to its cooling influence. Indeed, conventional wisdom held that the region was too cold to ripen grapes. What’s more, the weather and geology of the Sta. Rita Hills seemed a perfect fit for Burgundian varieties.

The duo’s wines immediately created a stir, and soon others were clamoring with Sanford & Benedict grapes. Little by little, most of this sloping, silica-rich and well-drained hillside was planted to grapevines, and though today the site is owned by the Terlato family and home to the Sanford Winery, other producers continue to produce wines from this coveted vineyard. The wines are deep, textured and finely balanced.

Notable producers: Sandhi, Au Bon Climat, Sanford

California vineyards

Eisele Vineyard

Eisele Vineyard, Calistoga, Napa Valley

Like the historic To Kalon vineyard, the Eisele Vineyard consists of gravelly alluvium, deposited over millennia by ancient rivers. Both also happen to number among Napa Valley’s most celebrated sites for Cabernet Sauvignon. But that’s where the similarities end.

While To Kalon faces east, catching the morning sun, the Eisele Vineyard looks to west, basking in the afternoon heat. To Kalon’s soils are derived from the ancient ocean crust that dominates the Mayacamas Mountains’ watershed; whereas the streams that formed the Eisele Vineyard flowed down from the volcanic Vaca Mountains. At a mere 38 acres, the Eisele Vineyard is also considerably smaller than To Kalon.

Unsurprisingly, the two sites produce notably different wines: To Kalon Cabernet is broader and more powerful, often more rich and plush, its fruit profile dark and brooding; in Eisele Cabernet, red fruits mingle with black in wines which are drier, tauter and more savoury, with less mush amplitude but more definition.

It was in the 1970s, with compelling Cabernet Sauvignons from Ridge Vineyards, Conn Creek and Joseph Phelps, that the site’s reputation was made. With the 1991 vintage, the vineyard passed to Bart and Daphne Araujo, who thereafter reserved its grapes exclusively for their Araujo Estate. The Araujo’s wines won critical acclaim and concomitant cult status, further elevating the vineyard’s reputation—and converting it to biodynamic agriculture. François Pinault’s Artemis Group, owners of Château Latour, acquired the site in 2013.

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Ridge Monte Bello wines to drink and keep

Decanter News - ma, 27/11/2017 - 17:28

Ridge Monte Bello has continued to shine brightly since its famous victory over Bordeaux at the 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting. Below, William Kelley tastes and rates vintages to look out for, including the rather special 2013 wine.

Wine gala dinnerRidge, Monte Bello, Cabernet Sauvignon 1991 being poured.

Ridge Monte Bello has been a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend since 1975, also including the classic Bordeaux varieties of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.

It was originally a pure Cabernet wine, and the name cemented its rank among California wine royalty when the 1971 vintage beat top Bordeaux in the now-famous 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting. Monte Bello is made high up in the Santa Cruz mountains at up to 850 metres above sea level.

Read more about Monte Bello history, winemaking and terroir below the wine reviews.

For premium members: Ridge Monte Bello wines to try

All tasting notes and scores by William Kelley. 

Ridge Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monte Bello, 2014 Ridge Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monte Bello, 2013 Ridge Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monte Bello, 2012 Ridge Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monte Bello, 2000 Ridge Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monte Bello, 1992 Ridge Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monte Bello, 1991 Ridge Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monte Bello, 1985 History

Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet was already beating a path in the 1960s.

It was the 1971 Monte Bello that won in Paris, two years after the now renowned Paul Draper joined as a philosophy graduate-turned winemaker.

Yet, Ridge Vineyards was born in 1885 when Italian immigrant doctor Osea Perrone bought 180 acres of land on Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

He built a winery and in 1892 produced the first vintage of a wine named ‘Ridge Monte Bello’.

The property was later abandoned and Cabernet wasn’t planted there until after the Second World War, when a group of Stanford research engineers began producing Monte Bello Cabernet.

They replanted the Monte Bello terraces and were making 3,000 cases of Cab per year by the time Draper arrived in 1969.

Draper has since become one of the best known ambassadors for California wine and his non-interventionist and more ‘Old World’ oriented approach is interwoven with the Ridge Monte Bello style.

Ridge Monte Bello terroir USA, California, Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello

Where Ridge Monte Bello is created.

Words below by Stephen Brook, Decanter magazine, 2016.

With vines at between 400m and 800m, the Monte Bello vineyard is, according to Draper, one of the highest and coolest Cabernet Sauvignon sites in California.

The soil is decomposing Franciscan greenstone mixed with clay over a subsoil of 100-million-year old limestone, which is very rare in California. The average age of the vines is more than 30 years and yields do not exceed 30hl/ha.

Elevation keeps the site free of sea fogs, but the ocean is just 24km to the west so the vines still benefit from maritime influence.

The climate is as cool as Bordeaux, but much drier in summer, and its imprint on the Cabernet from here is relatively high acidity and a taut structure that requires bottle age to show at its best.

The wine

Draper finds a short maceration necessary to avoid over-extraction of tough tannins, which typically means racking off the skins at between 1% and 4% residual sugar. The fermentation then continues to dryness.

The blend is made up soon after the malolactic fermentation is completed and between 10% and 20% press wine is added.

Monte Bello differs from other prestigious Californian Cabernets in being aged primarily in new, air-dried American oak, as Draper has always wanted to avoid making a wine that could be regarded as an imitation claret [for all his traditional leanings].

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Château de Beaucastel wines for your cellar

Decanter News - ma, 27/11/2017 - 15:39

Decanter’s tasting director, Christelle Guibert, gives her ratings and tasting notes for nine Château de Beaucastel wines, including five vintages of the rare Hommage à Jacques Perrin at Decanter’s Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter.

beaucastel wines tastingChâteau de Beaucastel wines lined up for tasting in Shanghai.

I last saw François Perrin four years ago in southern Rhône, when, along with his brother Jean-Pierre, they were jointed awarded Decanter Man of the Year for their outstanding contributions to the wine world.

That was until we met again at the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter for a masterclass showcasing several vintages of Château de Beaucastel and the very rare Hommage à Jacques Perrin.

Article continues below the wine reviews

Château de Beaucastel wines tasted and rated

Stockists for US and UK provided where available. Stockist search aided by Wine-Searcher. This list also includes Château de Beaucastel 2015 tasted by John Livingstone-Learmonth in autumn 2016.

The blends
  • Château de Beaucastel blend is mainly Grenache and Mourvèdre – 30% each – with 10% Syrah, 5% Cinsault and small amounts of several others. 
  • Hommage is majority Mourvèdre, 60%, plus Grenache, Syrah and Cournoise. Only 5,000 bottles are made annually.


Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, 2010 Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, 2005 Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, 2000 Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, 1995 Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Hommage à Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Hommage à Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Hommage à Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Hommage à Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Hommage à Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, 2015 Beaucastel history

Château de Beaucastel traces its existence back to 1549, when Pierre de Beaucastel bought a barn with a plot of land.

When phylloxera struck at the end of the nineteenth century, decimating the planted vines, the owner decided not to replant the vineyards, instead selling the propriety to Pierre Traminer in 1909.

He replanted the vines and passed them on to his son-in-law, Pierre Perrin, and in-turn to Pierre’s son, Jacques Perrin.

The fourth generation of Perrins, François and Jean-Pierre, have been at the helm since 1978 and the fifth generation of Marc, Pierre, Thomas, Cécile, Charles, Mathieu and Thomas, are also involved.

The vineyards and the blend

Château de Beaucastel covers 130 hectares, of which 100 hectares are planted with vines, including 70% within the Châteauneuf-du-Pape boundary and the remainder classified as Côtes-du-Rhône.

The land has been cultivated organically since 1950 and biodynamically since 1974.

All 13 grape varieties allowed in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation are planted, with Grenache and Mourvedre making up the majority.

‘Châteauneuf-du-Pape gets its complexity from blending the different grape varieties,’ said François Perrin. ‘We could do single varietal [wines] but we will not achieve the same level.’

He believes that each grape brings something particular to the wine.

  • Grenache accounts for around 30% of the blend and gives the richness, the ripe fruit and the alcohol.
  • Mourvèdre, also usually 30% of the final wine, provides the tannic backbone.
  • Syrah represents 10% of the blend and adds colour and violet characters
  • Cinsault, at 5%, brings freshness and elegance.

The others, Cournoise, Vaccarese, Terret Noir, Muscardin, Clairette, Picpoul, Picardin, Bourboulenc and Roussanne, contribute to the complexity and spiciness of the final blend, he said.

Each grape variety is picked and vinified separately, starting with Syrah and finishing with Mourvèdre.

They are blended after malolactic fermentation and aged in large oak barrels for 12 months. For François, ‘oak is like make-up, you just need a little’.

Hommage à Jacques Perrin: About the wine

As the name suggests, Hommage à Jacques Perrin is named in honour of the brothers’ father, who passed away in 2009.

‘My father had great vision and, while everybody else was focusing on Grenache, he decided to plant Mourvedre,’ François recalled poignantly.

Subsequently Hommage has a minimum 60% of Mourvèdre in the blend, alongside Grenache, Syrah and 10% of Cournoise, another late ripening grape.

It was my first experience at tasting ‘Hommage à Jacques Perrin’, and this is truly an exceptional vin de garde.

‘This is a wine to be kept for your retirement,’ François noted, wryly surveying the fresh faced audience at this masterclass.

‘When you own a vineyard, you don’t do things for yourself but for the next generation. To achieve great things, you need to push yourself,’ he said.

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Jefford on Monday: La Livinière and the lion race

Decanter News - ma, 27/11/2017 - 10:30

Andrew Jefford puts the Languedoc’s pioneer cru under the spotlight.

chateau faiteau, la liviniere, languedocGrenache vines of Château Faîteau.

Languedoc has two seasons, not four.  At some point towards the end of October, the lacquered gold of autumn disappears behind menacing clouds, vatfuls of water sluice from the sky, and then winter begins, with winds cold enough to rattle your ribs and tear the flesh from your cheeks.  The frosts lurk behind, and linger until the end of March.  Then you wake up one painfully bright morning in April and realise you don’t need a sweater any more.  Summer’s back.

I was standing in the Mal Pas vineyard of Clos des Roques in Minervois-La Livinière towards dusk on November 6th 2017 when that winter moment struck: a slicing northeast wind (la Bise) seemed to cut through every shred of clothing I wore. Which was a shame, as the view was magnificent: the lonely village of Azillanet nestling in wooded seclusion to the left; Corbières’ Montagne d’Alaric hunched in front, across the Aude valley; in the distance, Roussillon’s snowy Canigou.  Plus the promise of hypothermia, in under an hour.

liviniere, minervois

The village of La Livinière. Credit: Andrew Jefford.

What’s Minervois-La Livinière?  It’s the Languedoc’s hare: a six-village zone disciplined and well-organised enough to have won itself cru status as long ago as 1999, and which is now hoping to push on further, dropping the ‘Minervois’ bit from its appellation formula in order to differentiate itself further from the rabbit warren of Languedoc zones.  It’s not large: 2,700 ha classified, but only 400 planted.

Like almost all serious wine-growing territory in Languedoc, it’s a balcony on the upland foothills behind the plain: 100m to 400m, after which conditions get too cool for vines.  There’s a little bit of schist on the higher land here, but essentially the soils are limestones of various sorts (we’re in what’s known as La Petite Causse, a causse being a limestone plateau): limey clays, soft limey marls, calcareous sandstones and stony limestone pebbles.  Marble quarries once made the fortune of Félines-Minervois and Caunes-Minervois, too.  Syrah has the varietal upper hand here, while old-vine Carignan fights a spirited rearguard stand; Grenache and Mourvèdre play supporting roles.

bertie eden, maris

Bertie Eden of Château Maris. Credit: Andrew Jefford.

The human dimension, though, may be still more important than the physical context.  The Cazes family of Lynch-Bages fame chose La Livinière as the place where it wanted to make Languedoc wine (L’Ostal Cazes), as did the swashbuckling biodynamicist Bertie Eden of Ch Maris.  Gérard Bertrand’s most ambitious wine, Clos d’Ora, is made here, as well as Ch Laville-Bertrou.  The aristocratic Lorgeril family, owners of the ‘Versailles of the Languedoc’ – Ch Pennautier in Cabardès — owns Domaine la Borie Blanche in La Livinière.

French wine giant Les Grands Chais de France (whose Languedoc holdings now amount to an astonishing 800 ha) has two estates here, Domaine Tour Trencavel and Domaine de Tholomiès; as Bertie Eden points out, La Livinière also benefits from the proximity of Celliers Jean d’Alibert, one of the Languedoc’s biggest and most professional bottlers and wine-service contractors.

Above all, though, it has been the work of long-standing local pioneers like Michel Escande of Borie de Maurel (the first La Livinière president), the Boyer-Domergue family of Clos Centeilles, the Piccinini family of Domaine Piccinini, and other local key properties such as Domaine Ancely, Ch de Gourgazaud and Ch Ste-Eulalie which have kept the La Livinière flag flying.

Does La Livinière taste in some way different to other Languedoc wines?  Each year a local selection of top wines called La Livinage is chosen by a tripartite panel of journalists and sommeliers as well as local producers.  Having tasted that cohort as well as a number of wines at different individual estates, my own response (plus tasting notes) is below.  What, though, do local producers feel might be the distinguishing features of their wines?

“Freshness and marked acidity,” points out Frédéric Glangetas of Domaine de Tholomiès, “means that the wines have balance, finesse, elegance and concentration”; he also works with many other GCF-owned sites elsewhere in Languedoc, where he says that Syrah can often be heavier, even in AOC land.  Michel Escande himself also identifies finesse as a feature, as well as “ripe tannins with plenty of fruit behind them”; Bertie Eden focuses on the “energy” in La Livinière fruit, especially when produced by biodynamic means.

I agree with Frédéric Glangetas that marked acidity is a feature of La Livinière; to me it seems almost excessive on occasion.  Sugars accumulate easily here, too, and the tension between rich alcohol levels, sweetish fruit and high acidity can be a slightly exhausting one, weighing on drinkability; tannins, by contast, are often soft here, so for me some of the wines lack structural depth, savoury poise and substance.  These features, though, may also account for La Livinière’s popularity, since it makes them a natural stepping stone for lovers of non-European reds in search of Languedoc’s aromatic wild-country complexity – and that’s something La Livinière has in plenty.

Might the Languedoc’s hare one day become its lion or its eagle?  The greatest Languedoc wines I have tasted so far have come from Terrasses du Larzac, with a few further contenders from St Chinian and Pic St Loup (plus some individual outliers in other zones); and all of them may be eclipsed by what Roussillon’s Agly valley has yet to give us, assuming that climate change doesn’t trash its potential.  But it’s too soon even to open betting on the lion race; best to sit back and enjoy what the entire menagerie has to offer as it canters round the paddock.

Tasting Minervois La Livinière Jean Michel Arnaud of Château Faîteau.

Jean Michel Arnaud of Château Faîteau. Credit: Andrew Jefford.

Here are the five top-scoring La Livinière wines of those I tasted in early November.

J P Charpentier, La Closerie 2014

A new domain based in Félines-Minervois, and one of remarkable ambition if this concentrated and dramatic wine is anything to go by.  Like Piccinini’s Line et Laetitia (see below), it is a blend of 40 per cent each of Syrah and Mourvèdre with the balance from Grenache.  Its 18 months of oak is evident, though not unduly so when set alongside its intensity of fruit: subtly mentholated, freshly spicy aromas set the scene for a big gust of flavour, bright, high-focus, packed with vibrant plum-sloe.  90 points / 100

Ch Faîteau, Cuvée Gaston 2015

A vertical tasting of this cuvee and its predecessors from winemaker Jean Michel Arnaud was outstanding.  I don’t know if it’s Arnaud’s collection of sites (around the village of La Livinière itself), his viticulture or his winemaking, but these wines have the wealth of extract, structure and depth to compete with the most accomplished Languedoc peers.  This has flower scents (carnation and oleander) behind the dark cherry fruit, and complex, deep, sinewy, searching flavours and textures.  Yes, the acidity is relatively prominent, but it’s also resonant and fruit-charged.  The finish conveys classic Languedoc wildness – the prickle of holly and the thick tangle of holm oak.  A look at the refined, savoury 2010 vintage suggested just how well this wine might age.  (This cuvée has also, by the way, been a repeat silver medallist in the Decanter World Wine Awards.)    93

Ch Maris, Dynamic 2015

Pure Syrah aged in 600-l demi-muids: very dark in colour, with pure, fresh, sweet scents … the enticing sweetness of spring plants, though, and not the sometimes cloying sweetness either of oak itself or of raisined fruit.  On the palate, this is plunging, brisk, bright, searching and long with a little base-line structure to ballast what is genuinely very intense, almost explosive fruit.  As good as its name.  91

Domaine l’Ostal Cazes, Grand Vin 2015

Certainly the best packaged wine in the appellation, this is a majority Syrah blend with smaller contributions from Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre; most of the wine gets a year in barrique.  Perhaps the purest, most fine-drawn Syrah aromas out of La Livinière: fine-lined and fragrant, with a delicate blackcurrant character.  On the palate, this is pure, smooth and long, but velvet-textured: liquorice, pressed tobacco leaf, with almost liqueur-like plum and blackcurrant fruits: toothsome.  92 

Domaine Piccinini, Cuvée Line et Laetitia 2015

Many La Livinière reds have rather sweet, tobacco-and-spice scented aromas; this wine, by contrast, based on low-yielding, old-vine Syrah and Mourvèdre (40 per cent each) with the balance from Syrah has lighter, almost floral aromas and perfumed, zesty, lifted flavours – but there’s grip and density here, too, meaning that it works well at table.  Beautifully crafted, authentic La Livinière.  91

More Andrew Jefford columns

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California driving: Top 10 wineries to visit on your road trip

Decanter News - ma, 27/11/2017 - 10:12

California winelands are made for road trips, hit the scenic Central Coast from Monterey to Santa Barbara for an unforgettable wine adventure...

central coast road tripSunset over the patio deck at Galante Vineyards...

This article first appeared in Decanter magazine’s California supplement 2017. It is currently featured on Decanter.com as part of a sponsored campaign with the California Wine Institute.

Central Coast road trip – Top 10 wineries

It’s only a four or five hour journey between Monterey (1.5 hours’ drive south of San Francisco) and Santa Barbara (two hours’ drive north of Los Angeles), commonly referred to as the Central Coast.

A road trip between them could last a day or a week, depending on how much you want to see and do. The area spans many distinct wine appellations, including Monterey, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Paso Robles, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County and the Santa Rita Hills, to name the most famous.

Wine styles are as diverse as the territory, ranging from delicious sparklings to world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to inky Syrahs and robust Cabernets. Remarkable restaurants and bars plus compelling attractions are as plentiful and diverse as the wine.

Au Bon Climat central coast road trip

Au Bon Climat’s Rancho La Cuna vineyards, Santa Maria

Jim Clendenen has been revered for his elegant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay since founding his winery in 1982. A stop here will offer a chance to taste library wines (which show how beautifully his wines can age), along with tastes of his current projects. These are, without doubt, some of the best wines in Santa Barbara. In 2007, Clendenen was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.


Carmel Road

Carmel Road, a Jackson Family Wines winery, specialises in sustainably farmed, cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. The wines are excellent expressions of what the Monterey terroir can deliver, and one of the finest in the portfolio is the South Crest Pinot Noir, a vibrant wine with dense dark cherry and earth notes.


Galante central coast road trip

Sunset over the patio deck at Galante Vineyards…

This intimate tasting room has an unapologetic cowboy vibe – all the better to tell the pioneering story of Galante (Jack Galante’s great grandfather, JF Devendorf, was the founder of the town of Carmel). Robust, rich reds dominate the offerings with a focus on superior quality, estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Malbec and Merlot. Try the Cowboy Cuvée or the Centennial Cabernet Sauvignon.



Long-time winemaker for Qupé, Bob Lindquist is one of California’s original ‘Rhône Rangers’—a group dedicated to the pursuit of American-made Syrah and other Rhône varieties. Lindquist, who farms biodynamically, is legendary for his Syrahs but you would be remiss if you didn’t sample one of his ethereal and rich Viogniers.




Tablas Creek central coast road trip

Stunning California skies at Tablas Creek winery.

Founded in 1989, Tablas Creek is a winery partnership between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel in the Rhône and US wine importer Robert Haas. The wines cultivated from their organic vineyards steeped in limestone soils are some of the Paso Robles’ most ageworthy and awarded. The tasting room offers library tastings of rare vintages in addition to selections from the estate portfolio. Try the Esprit Tablas Blanc (Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc) or the wild and intense Patelin de Tablas (a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Counoise). Be sure to browse the small winery boutique selling books, linens and wine accessories.



Stolpman wines are among the finest expressions of Syrah from the Ballard Canyon AVA. The Los Olivos tasting room boasts a nice view, but the true highlight are the wines. Made organically and dry-farmed, they show immense ageworthy structure and polished complexity. If possible, plan ahead and reserve a spot on one of the guided hikes of their beautiful Ballard Canyon estate.


Wrath central coast road trip

Wine and serenity at Wrath vineyards…

Wrath specialises in small-lot production of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc from the Central Coast’s Santa Lucia Highlands appellation. Concentrated and serious, the wines show a deeply fruity and complex spiciness. After the tasting, buy a bottle and carry your purchase to the nearby Carmel Beach for a seaside happy hour.


Valley Project

This downtown Santa Barbara location is a great place to kick off your Central Coast wine education. Here you’ll get to sample small-batch wines from each of the different Santa Barbara AVAs while pondering the visually impressive wall-sized chalk mural map of the AVAs, drawn by local street artist Elkpen.


Kunin central coast road trip

Kunin is a small family-run operation just a block from the beach…

Located in downtown Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, a block from the beach, expect to taste a range of varieties that showcase the amazing breadth of the Central Coast terroir. This small family run operation, started by winemaker Seth Kunin in 1998, turns out delightful Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier and Chenin Blanc. The Pape Star Red (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cinsault) is lovely, as is the racy and bright Chenin Blanc.



Sommelier and owner Doug Margerum spent 35 years in the restaurant industry before launching Margerum in 2011. He concentrates on crafting Rhône varieties with polish and sophistication. Try the dark and lively Uber Syrah. And don’t miss the Amaro, a beguiling blend of herbs and botanicals from a proprietary recipe.



Introduction written by Jordan Mackay, with winery recommendations from Katie Kelly Bell

The post California driving: Top 10 wineries to visit on your road trip appeared first on Decanter.

Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Wine Legend: Pol Roger, Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2000

Decanter News - zo, 26/11/2017 - 14:00

What makes this wine a legend...?

Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 2000Pol Roger, Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2000, Champagne, France

Bottles produced N/A

Blend predominantly Pinot Noir

Yield (hl/ha) N/A

Alcohol 12.5% Release price N/A

Price today £190

A legend because…

First made in 1975, this cuvée has become one of Champagne’s best and most admired wines. As a vintage, it is only made in top years and aged for about nine years before release. The warm conditions in 2000 particularly suited the rich, weighty style of the cuvée.

Looking back

Pol Roger was founded in 1849, in Epernay. For decades it was Winston Churchill’s favourite Champagne (his first order was in 1908), but the personal connection can be traced back to the liberation of Paris in 1944, when a lunch organised by Lady Diana Cooper brought Odette Pol-Roger and Churchill together. The two got along famously, establishing a long-lived friendship. When Churchill died in 1965, Pol-Roger ordered all Pol Roger labels destined for the UK to be bordered in black in tribute to him, and 10 years later the house released a more lasting tribute: Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. It was intended to reflect his personality – robust, muscular and full-bodied – and thus dominated by Pinot Noir.

The vintage

As in other parts of France, 2000 was a warm and humid year, but complicated here by outbreaks of mildew and botrytis. The weather was fine during harvest, though some sorting was required. The year produced Champagnes of great opulence, yet many have evolved quite rapidly. It was a vintage that favoured Chardonnay over the Pinots, but this hasn’t impacted on the quality of this wine.

The terroir

Sir Winston Churchill is sourced from various vineyards, in this case solely from grand cru sites. Pinot Noir is always the dominant variety, but Pol Roger doesn’t disclose the blend. The house owns 92 hectares of vineyards, mostly around Epernay. About half of its grapes are purchased from growers.

The wine

This was the second Churchill cuvée made by cellarmaster Dominique Petit. Although one would be forgiven for thinking the wine was barrel-fermented to develop its rich style, this is not in fact the case. The young wine goes through malolactic fermentation. The cuvée spends at least eight years in the cellars, which are particularly cold, retarding the maturation process and ensuring tiny bubbles after the cork is pulled. Riddling is manual, now a rarity in Champagne.

The reaction


In 2015 Stephen Brook reported: ‘The apple-compote nose is reserved, but has purity of fruit and finesse. The attack is lean, tight and racy, very youthful, with a wonderful tension and dynamism. It is in its prime but should keep well thanks to its racy acidity.’ Richard Juhlin noted its ‘nice smoky complexity.’

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Wine Tasting Quiz – Test your knowledge

Decanter News - vr, 24/11/2017 - 17:20

Are you a professional taster and can you name any wine blind? Or are you simply a wine lover who knows and can describe what they like? Let's fine out if you know what to look out for with the Decanter wine tasting quiz.

Decanter wine Tasting - Fine wine encounterTake the wine tasting quiz:


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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Bordeaux honours its ‘Best of Wine Tourism 2018’ award winners

Decanter News - vr, 24/11/2017 - 13:22

Promotional feature

The 15th Best Of Wine Tourism Night revolved around awards given to the best wine tourism activities in the Bordeaux region in 2018. 21 trophies were handed out, including 6 gold ones.

Bordeaux 'Best of Wine Tourism 2018 award winnersBordeaux 's 'Best Of Wine Tourism' winners and nominees for 2018

Promotional feature

Bordeaux Best of Wine Tourism 2018 award winners

The ceremony took place on the 17th of October at the Bordeaux Gironde Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The next challenge for the “Golden Best Of” award winners was to compete for a “super” International Best Of Wine Tourism award; the global competition awarded Chateau de Reignac. This was celebrated on the 9th of November in Valparaiso, Chile.

21 nominees, 6 Gold trophies, 1 International award

Every year, the BEST OF WINE TOURISM competition rewards the most outstanding wine tourism locations. Launched in Bordeaux in 2002, the competition now includes an international stage thanks to the Great Wine Capitals Global Network* which includes cities from “Old Europe” and the “New World”.

Best of wine tourism 2018 winners in Bordeaux Innovative wine tourism experiences Château de Reignac (International winner)

In the Entre-Deux-Mers region, the Château de Reignac offers a magical setting where a host of surprises awaits visitors. A Garden of Scents and a greenhouse designed by Eiffel stand alongside a beautiful 16th century building. In just a few years, Reignyx, the little character sketched on a notebook or photos, has become the mascot of the Chateau. Born directly from the imagination of Nicolas Lesaint, the technical manager of the estate, he follows the chateau’s daily adventures in the most enjoyable and entertaining manner but also as an acute observer of everyday life.
A star on social media and a communication icon, Reignyx is a new personality in the chateau. Along with the guide, he provides a cute and quirky perspective to visitors.

Nominees in this category : Château Kirwan, Château de Rayne Vigneau

Architecture and landscape Château La Dominique (gold)

At Château La Dominique, aging wine is a true art form, as reflected in the architecture of the bold modern cellar designed by Jean Nouvel. Its reflecting red façade creates a subtle change in hue that varies with the light, evoking the multi-tonal nature of wine. From the Terrasse Rouge overlooking the vines, visitors discover fabulous views over the Saint-Emilion and Pomerol vineyards dotted with prestigious châteaux. The state-of-the-art vat-room unveils a luminous stainless steel structure. In contrast, the storage cellar displays wooden barrels creating a warm and cozy atmosphere. Visiting Château la Dominique is a unique experience combining wine, gastronomy and architecture, all with a splash of red…

Nominees in this category : Château Pédesclaux, Château Prieuré Marquet, Château Malescasse

Art and culture Château Castera (gold)

Château Castera in the Médoc dates back to feudal times. The richness of its heritage and culture is worthy of the illustrious figures who have resided there: Étienne de la Boétie, Michel Montaigne… and of the documents and archives that it still shelters. Château Castera’s timelessness also lies in its ability to adapt and evolve with time. The château hosts two artists that it holds in great esteem. Élodie Linarès’s paintings, are a delicate tribute to the body with shapes and moods inspired by Rodin. Full of character, the metal sculptures of Vincent Libecq depict wine symbols like bottles, grapes, Bacchus.

Nominees in this category : Château de La Rivière, Château La Tour Carnet

Accomodation Château Le Pape (gold)

Just 11 kilometers from Bordeaux, Château Le Pape offers luxury guestrooms set in an elegant and fully renovated 18th century chartreuse. The spacious rooms, from 40 to 70 m2, open onto a quiet garden bathed with a soft light. The vinothèque welcomes guests to enjoy the best wines, and other beautiful rooms such as the library lounge contribute to this peaceful venue. The shaded terrace and the infinity pool overlooking the vineyards invite moments of pleasure and relaxation. Visitors can also meander through the vineyards of Pessac-Léognan by bicycle. And just half a mile away, guests are invited to experience fine dining at the Private Table of Château Haut-Bailly.

Nominees in this category : Château Beauregard, Château Pape Clément

Sustainable wine tourism practices Château de La Dauphine (gold)

Set in the heart of a 53 hectare-vineyard in Fronsac, Château de la Dauphine began its conversion to organic farming in 2012 and obtained official certification in 2015. Truly committed to sustainable practices, the château also practices biodynamic farming through meticulous tasks carried out in harmony with natural cycles and soil needs. Visitors are invited to join the instructive and original “green tour” to discover these innovative and natural initiatives: aquaponics, a closed ecosystem where plants and fish grow symbiotically, the bees of the château, the plants and vegetable garden, the grapevine and its growth cycle…

Nominees in this category : Château Boutinet, Château du Tertre

Wine Tourism services Château Lamothe-Bergeron (gold)

At Château Lamothe-Bergeron in the Médoc, visits take on another dimension by offering guests an innovative approach to wine tours.
An interactive and scenic trail heightens the senses, which makes the initiation to wine tasting so unique. The visit concludes with a surprising and delicious wine and macaron pairing session. Various dining experiences are on offer: picnic under the century-old cedar or reception catering tailored to your needs. With its striking metallic structured roof, the top floor of the 19th century home welcomes professionals in a stylish setting, offering a relaxing moment during a wine tour.

Nominees in this category : Bordeaux River Cruise, Bordeaux Saveurs, Château Lafitte

Special jury award Domaine de la Grave

In the Entre-deux-Mers region, the manor house of the Domaine de la Grave hosts a wine and cooperage museum that celebrates the culture and history of winemaking. The domaine also offers a sensory trail through four original workshops. Visitors are invited to explore the vineyard on a small train. Each stop leads to another workshop. On the menu : an astounding tasting in the dark, using just the sense of touch to recognize the type of soil, smelling and triggering memory to identify aromas, and a treasure hunt with a gift at the end. The Domaine de la Grave proposes an entertaining, participatory and enriching wine experience, designed for adults and children alike.

Outstanding facts from the 2018 competition in Bordeaux

There were over 90 contestants this year, a third of whom were competing for the first time. According to the organisers: “Deciding on the winners is becoming increasingly difficult because the quality of the candidates is constantly improving”. This year, three previous award winners succeeded in winning a much-coveted Gold Best Of”. The jury also gave a special award to Domaine de la Grave this year which, among other original activities, offers a ride around the estate in a small tourist train.

An internationally-recognized label

The twenty-one 2018 winners in Bordeaux have been awarded an internationally-acknowledged label as well as communication support to enhance awareness of what they have to offer. The latter includes a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, press relations, promotional activities, and a wine tourism guide. You can follow them on these media!

The winners also join the very select Best Of Club, which holds regular themed meetings and organizes B2B events. The members also enjoy a private information on their member access on the Bordeaux Gironde Chamber of Commerce and Industry Best Of website.


About the Great Wine Capitals Global Network

Founded in 1999, the Great Wine Capitals Global Network is an alliance of nine internationally renowned wine regions Adelaide | South Australia, Bilbao | Rioja, Spain; Bordeaux, France; Mainz | Rheinhessen, Germany; Mendoza, Argentina; Porto, Portugal; San Francisco | Napa Valley, USA, Valparaiso | Casablanca Valley, Chile and Verona, Italy.

The Best Of Wine Tourism awards serve as an industry benchmark for excellence and recognize leading wineries and wine-tourism related businesses within each Great Wine Capital that have distinguished themselves in areas such as innovation, service and sustainable practices. For more information visit www.greatwinecapitals.com

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Black Friday 2017 Champagne deals

Decanter News - vr, 24/11/2017 - 10:20

Take advantage of what Black Friday has to offer with these Champagne deals.

new year's eve party winesKeith Jackson / Alamy

If you’re willing to be strategic, Black Friday 2017 is a great time to pick up some top Champagne at relatively reasonable prices.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best offers that we have found so far.

See also: Laurent-Perrier Rosé Champagne NV


Laurent-Perrier rosé

A solid rosé Champagne and one of the best-known, available for an unusually low price. A great way of announcing your arrival at a Christmas party or enjoying date night, but with the added bonus of not rinsing your bank account.

£35.99 – £28 off – Buy Now 

Pol Roger Rosé Champagne 2008

pol roger rosé 2008

Pol Roger – known as Sir Winston Churchill’s favourite Champagne house – released this new vintage of its rosé Champagne in 2016. It was intended to mark a slight departure from previous vintages, with food pairing more in mind. It is 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay. Decanter expert Michael Edwards said that this could be one for the cellar, so consider laying it down for a few years. Pol Roger doesn’t produce a rosé from every vintage and has no non-vintage rosé.

£54.99 – £33.17 off – Buy Now

Bollinger Champagne La Grand Année 2007 Bollinger grande annee 2007

Champagne had some up-and-down weather in the 2007 vintage there was indecision across the region about whether a vintage would – or should – be made. This Bollinger is a triumph, impressing our expert, Michael Edwards, with its honey notes and crisp acidity when he tasted it earlier this year. Grande Année is Bollinger’s prestige cuvée, made only in vintages worthy of the name.

£54.99 – £19.01 off – Buy Now 

Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Champagne NV

Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut NV

From a Champagne house founded in 1811 and which is traditionally associated with lovers. It’s more at the floral and delicate end of the spectrum. It has a relatively high dosage, with residual sugar of 11g per litre and made up of an unusually high amount of Pinot Meunier – 40% – plus 40% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay.

£31.99 – £11 off – Buy Now

Henri Dosnon Brut Sélection Champagne NV

henri dosnon bru selection

Go beyond the big brands and delve into the world of grower Champagnes and those made by small négociants. This is part of the Roberson Wine Christmas sale.  ‘Good-value Champagnes are hard to find, so don’t miss out on this cuvée,’ wrote Decanter’s tasting director, Christelle Guibert, after tasting this particular wine recently – and that was before it went on offer.

£21.99 – £3.01 off – Buy Now

See more Black Friday 2017 offers

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Wine with Christmas Turkey – Food Matching

Decanter News - vr, 24/11/2017 - 10:00

Tannin is the enemy, argues Decanter's Harry Fawkes. Here's his guide to wine with Christmas turkey and all the trimmings. Updated with new wine recommendations.

Wine with Christmas Turkey - Food MatchingWine with Christmas turkey:

It would not be Christmas without turkey. It’s a traditional favourite in the US and the UK since as far back as the 16th century, although it was the Victorians who really cemented its place at the festive lunch table.

Turkey is not a powerful meat

Turkey is not a powerful white meat and has a low fat content – the reason why it can dry out if not cooked carefully. With this in mind, your wine matches should ideally be either a full-bodied white wine, or a medium bodied red, with low to medium tannin and relatively high acidity.

turkey with wine, decanter

Tips on matching Christmas turkey with wine. Credit: Annabelle Sing / Decanter

Tannin is the enemy

Tannin is your Christmas banquets enemy. It is at odds with the lack of fat on the plate, leaving nothing to soften the tannins. This can lead to accentuated, harsh tannins in a wine, whilst the saltiness of the turkey can also make tannin taste more bitter.

If that wasn’t enough to think about, there is also the complexity of the accompaniments to your lunch; cranberry, bacon, parsnips, stuffing and brussel sprouts to name a few.

Wine with Turkey: The Reds

A medium tannin red, for me, points towards top quality, robust Pinot Noirs or a Beaujolais Cru. Pinot Noir from muscular Burgundy Crus such as Gevrey-Chambertin or Pommard stack up exceptionally well – if you can stretch to the Grand Cru of Chambertin even better. The lighter, elegant Burgundian areas such as Volnay may be overpowered by all those accompaniments, so be careful.

Pinot from Sonoma will also work extremely well along with Pinot Noir from Victoria, Australia.

If you are not a Pinot fan, a mature Bordeaux, Chianti or Rioja would work well too. The tannin in red wine can soften and integrate with age, allowing them to be matched with Turkey.

Wine with Turkey: The whites

Sometimes ignored at Christmas lunch, a full-bodied Chardonnay can be an enchanting accompaniment to your turkey, especially with traditional sides such as bread sauce. Oaky richness gives sweet spice notes, while creamy lactic acid really helps out with a meat that can sometimes be on the dry side.

Good Chardonnays, in general, are found in the same geographical areas as good Pinot Noir. White Burgundy from the Côte de Beaune will work well at almost all levels; upgrade where you can to something like a Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru or a Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru.

The high levels of minerality and acidity in these wines help to cleanse the palate, allowing you to wade through all the trimmings effortlessly.

Other wonderful examples can be found in Victoria, Sonoma and New Zealand. The Kumeu River Chardonnays from near Auckland are extraordinary wines, offer fantastic value for money and impressed us in 2015.

Wine with Christmas turkey : Recommendations Domaine Colin-Deleger, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, 2011 Joseph Drouhin, Criots-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, 2012 Domaine Faiveley, Pommard, 1er Cru Les Rugiens, 2011 Paringa Estate, Estate Pinot Noir, 2010 Patricia Green, Willamette Valley, Ribbon Ridge, Estate Old Henry Fessy, Brouilly, Beaujolais, France, 2012 christmas red wine Red wines for Christmas

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Spottswoode vintages rated from 1997 to 2014

Decanter News - do, 23/11/2017 - 18:14

William Kelley profiles Napa winery Spottswoode. Premium members can see his tasting notes and ratings covering vintages from 1997 to 2014 of the estate Cabernet.

Spottswoode Estate EntranceThe Spottswoode estate entrance in autumn.

Established in 1882, Spottswoode’s modern history begins a century later, when the Novak family produced their first vintage of estate-bottled Cabernet Sauvignon.

Mary Novak presided over Spottswoode’s inaugural release, and today her dynamic daughter Beth Novak Milliken manages the winery.


Nestled behind the picturesque town of Saint Helena lies Spottswoode, one of the Napa Valley’s oldest family-owned wineries, and the source of one of California’s most charming and sophisticated bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon.

For Premium members: Scroll down for William Kelley’s notes and scores from this vertical tasting

Saint Helena is further from the San Francisco Bay’s cooling influence than Rutherford and Oakville to the south, so temperatures here run a little higher, but Spottswoode’s wines almost always retain bright acidity – perhaps due to fastidious vineyard management, conducted on organic principles since 1985.

Spottswoode’s first winemaker was Tony Soter, one of Napa Valley’s most successful winemaking consultants who now devotes his time to his own label in Oregon.

Soter was both winemaker and vineyard manager, a precedent that his successors have emulated. His work was continued by a series of female winemakers, beginning with Pam Starr in 1991, and for two decades Spottswoode had the distinction of being both managed and made by women. Today, Aron Weinkauf is at the helm in the cellar and in the vineyard.

Many of Napa Valley’s best vineyards are located on alluvial fans, where well-drained soils force the vines to delve deep in search of moisture and nutrients, creating the stress necessary for timely ripening.

Spottswoode’s 16 hectares of vines are planted on a fan of alluvial clay-loam at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains.


Napa Valley has seen its fair share of stylistic change over the last few decades. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, phylloxera reduced Californian viticulture to a blank slate.

The new rootstocks that emerged in its aftermath tended to ripen grapes much more rapidly than their predecessors. Simultaneously, consumer demand and critical acclaim for wines fashioned in a riper, sweeter style exerted a potent influence on winemakers.

But Spottswoode has done an admirable job of avoiding the extremes of fashion, as I witnessed at Spottswoode’s Annual Vertical Tasting at the winery in 2015. The winery team and a small number of guests, the present writer included, tasted blind all of Spottswoode’s vintages between 1997 and 2013.


While the wines are certainly somewhat riper now than they tended to be in the 1990s, they have retained a classical sense of balance and proportion.

Indeed, Aron Weinkauf’s 2011, 2012 and 2013 seem if anything more restrained and savoury than some of his predecessors’ headier bottlings such as 2002, 2004 and 2007.

Most importantly, the signature of the estate is strong. Aromatically, Spottswoode Cabernet typically exhibits a strong blackberry fruit component, complemented by notes of loamy soil and cedar as the wines age, and sometimes a lovely top-note of violets.

On the palate, these wines are structured around a svelte chassis of refined tannins, retaining bright acidity (a ‘normal’ pH here is 3.5) even in the ripest years.

The wines age gracefully, and my feeling is that the subtly more tight-knit style of Weinkauf’s vintages should ensure they number among the most long-lived wines in Spottswoode’s long and successful history.

A Spottswoode vertical 1997-2014:

Stockist search aided by Wine-Searcher. The 2014 vintage was tasted separately and more recently than the other wines in this collection. 


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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

What are you drinking this Thanksgiving?

Decanter News - do, 23/11/2017 - 16:00

Thanksgiving is a great time to open a special bottle to share with family and friends, but what will you be drinking and what does the wine world do? We asked winemakers plus sommelier Rajat Parr and writer Carson Demmond.

drinking thanksgivingWhat wines to open on Thanksgiving?What are you drinking this Thanksgiving?  Share with us on Twitter or Instagram @Decanter Rosemary Cakebread, winemaker at Gallica Wines

‘We’ll be spending this Thanksgiving with our new grandchild, born a few months ago – so I haven’t thought much about the wine yet!’

‘We normally like to pick something out from the cellar, and share the bottle with friends.’

‘Thanksgiving is a great time for opening your special wines – but as we’ll be in Washington State with family, we’re excited to try some of the local ones too.’

Ray Signorello Jr, winemaker at Signorello Estate

‘Though we make Cabernet Sauvignon, I find that Pinot Noir is a slightly better match for turkey.’

‘We do a traditional turkey dinner, so I make a bit of Pinot Noir, just for fun, for our house – so we’ll open up a few bottles of that. We’ll have it with the traditional turkey, the usuals – mashed potatoes, yams, the stuffing and the cranberry sauce.’

Watch video

Ray Signorello speaking at the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter 2017

Rajat Parr, sommelier

‘I’m actually in Piedmont this Thanksgiving – so drinking lots of Barolo!’

‘It’s not been decided yet what we’ll be drinking, but definitely Barolo. We’re having lunch at Il Centro in Priocca, and Thanksgiving dinner at Locando dell ‘Arco in Cissone,  – so will pick from those wine lists.’

Carson Demmond, sommelier, wine writer and Decanter.com contributor

‘My husband and I were gifted a jeroboam of 2002 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne at our wedding three years ago.’

‘We figured the wine would be in a pretty good place by now, and Thanksgiving is one of those few occasions made for opening a bottle that big. It’s been chilling in the fridge since this last weekend!’

Carson Demmon’s Thanksgiving drinking survival guide Carole Meredith, winemaker at Lagier Meredith

‘Our Thanksgiving dinner is more a family event than a wine event – most of the family is not particularly interested in wine.’

But if I were to choose a special wine for Thanksgiving, it would probably be a well-aged Syrah, either one of our own or a Chave Hermitage.’

What are you opening this Thanksgiving? Share with us on Twitter or Instagram @Decanter

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Majestic Wine tips magnum trend for growth

Decanter News - do, 23/11/2017 - 14:51

Majestic Wine’s buying director sees rising sales of ‘affordable’ magnums and expects more of them to adorn Christmas dinner tables and parties this year. Reporting by Laura Seal and Chris Mercer.

majestic wine magnumBig bottles are increasingly in demand...

Majestic Wine toasted a share price rise after returning to profit in the first half of its financial year, reporting earnings of £3 million for the 26 weeks to 2 October versus a loss of £4.4 million in the same half of last year.

And looking ahead to the all-important Christmas 2017 selling season, the high street retailer expects to sell more wine in magnums than in the past.

Majestic said that it has already sold nearly five times more magnums this year than it did in 2016.

 It sees a growing trend towards ‘affordable’ magnums, according to buying director Richard Weaver.

‘Historically with magnums we’ve seen sales in the fine wine sector as they’ve been more expensive wines,’ he told Decanter.com today (23 November).

‘However, we’re now seeing this trend with affordable magnums, sold between the £10 and £20 price mark.

‘We’ve seen growth for social events, beginning with Provence rosé magnums which were popular for summer events.’

Majestic has also seen growth for magnums of Portuguese red wines, as well as Nyetimber English sparkling wine and Champagne, Weaver said.

‘Constrained economic growth has pushed the trend towards entertaining at home, leading to more occasion-driven buying,’ said Weaver.

‘[Magnums] are sold as a centrepiece wine for occasions, bought for sharing.’


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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Tesco wines to buy this winter

Decanter News - do, 23/11/2017 - 12:24

Decanter's experts recommend 16 Tesco wines for drinking this festive period, after attending the retailer's recent press tasting event.

Tesco wines for winter

Tesco’s Finest range of wines has been a key focus for the UK supermarket in 2017, with over 20 new wines added.

As well as covering the most well known regions and styles, it also covers slightly more obscure ground – including a sparkling Franciacorta, a white from Saint-Mont and even a Lambrusco.

See also: Medal-winning Tesco wines at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017

Below are 16 recommendations picked out from a recent tasting of over 100 Tesco wines, offering great value and checking all the boxes for drinking this winter, whether it’s vintage Port with a cheeseboard, Lambrusco with some charcuterie, or a Coonawarra Cabernet with roast lamb.

16 Tesco wine recommendations: Tesco, Franciacorta, Finest, Lombardy, Italy Tesco, 1er Cru, Finest, Champagne, France Tesco, Rioja, Gran Reserva, Finest Viña del Cura, 2011 Tesco, Coonawarra, Finest Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Tesco, English Sparkling Wine, Finest, England Tesco, Côtes de Gascogne, Finest, Southwest France, 2016 Château L’Estran, Médoc, Cuvée Prestige, Bordeaux, 2010 Tesco, Barbera d'Alba, Finest, Piedmont, Italy, 2014 Tesco, Finest Passerina, Abruzzo, Italy, 2016 Tesco, Viré-Clessé, Finest, Burgundy, France, 2014 Tesco, Saint-Mont, Finest, Southwest France, France, 2016 Tesco, Yarra Valley, Finest Chardonnay, Victoria, 2016 Tesco, Port, Finest Vintage, Douro, Portugal, 1997 Tesco, Lambrusco, Reggiano, Finest, Emilia-Romagna, Italy Tesco, Port, Finest Late Bottled Vintage, Douro, 2011 Related content: Best Majestic Wines The best Majestic wines this festive season

Read Decanter's top picks for drinking this winter...

5 of the best Oddbins wines this winter Five of the best Oddbins wines to try this winter

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Best Aldi Wines Best Aldi wines for Christmas

Some more great value deals at Aldi...

Lidl wines for Christmas Best Lidl wines for Christmas

These are our favourite Lidl wines to try...

See all supermarket wine recommendations here 

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Anson: Fifty shades of green – Wine’s big new debate?

Decanter News - do, 23/11/2017 - 09:48

Jane Anson looks at the rise of sustainability and 'green' initiatives in the wine world but also where the fault lines lie.

alcohol in bordeaux wineMerlot vines in St-Emilion basking in the sun.

Louis Roederer’s Cristal Champagne has run a series of advertisements in the last few issues of The New Yorker. In them, they don’t actually use the word biodynamics (almost certainly the term was deemed too technical) but they talk about biodiversity in one, and burying cow horns filled with horse manure for its fertilizing effects on soil in another.

As such, Louis Roederer is part of a robustly growing green movement that is sweeping through wine at the moment, and it’s not just individual companies that are getting on board.

In May 2017, St-Emilion announced that, from the 2019 vintage, all producers using four local AOCs must be organic, biodynamic or environmentally-sustainable.

The decision concerns a healthy 3.8 million cases of wine produced each year within the St-Emilion, St-Emilion Grand Cru, Lussac St-Emilion and Puisseguin St-Emilion appellations.

Blanket use of herbicides will be forbidden, even on plot boundaries, and all vineyard treatments will be tracked. Recycling of water and waste treatment will be obligatory and every winemaker must commit to obtaining an officially recognised environmental or organic certification, either individually or collectively.

Without these measures, the wines will be bottled as simple Bordeaux (although the new rules are also not legally binding until the national appellations body has officially altered the relevant cahier de charges).

It seems obvious to me that two such high profile names should be applauded for bringing the idea of sustainable viticulture to the attention of the wider public.

But I’ve been reminded recently that who does and doesn’t have the right to talk about going green is one of the most divisive subjects that I can think of in wine. Not for consumers, by the way, but among the producers themselves.

There’s even a name for it – greenwashing – that calls out people who use spin to claim the benefits of being environmentally-friendly without living up to it in reality.

So St-Emilion’s choice to allow the third way of ‘enironmentally-sustainable’ HVE3 certification allows for some wriggle room that not everyone agrees with. HVE3 is France’s highest level of certified sustainable farming, demanding water and fertilizer management, a biodiversity programme and reduced pesticide and fungicide use but is categorically not organic or biodynamic.

And then there’s the case of Champagne house Henri Giraud, who you might remember a few weeks ago released a wine label that made the rather striking claim that it contained zero residue of pesticides.

Called Esprit Nature, it took a few minutes after the news story was posted for the backlash to start, via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. I got messages from winemakers in Champagne – most notably from members of the Organic Champagne Association – who very clearly pointed out that Henri Giraud was making these claims despite being certified neither organic nor biodynamic (the company does in fact have one bottling with Ecocert certification, but does not sell it as such, and is not organic across its range), and queried the methodology used.

Claude Giraud, in response to the criticisms, pointed out that in 1992 the company became one of the first to sign up to sustainable farming in Champagne, stopping the use of all herbicides and insecticides. From 1997 he worked with HACCP Food Safety compliance scheme and from 2000 halted all use of fungicides. He says the only disease he has trouble controlling today is mildew and for that he uses synthesized products that are not approved in organic farming.

Reducing pesticide use is a particularly inflammatory topic right now. Next week sees an EU vote on the continued use of the molecule glyphosate, most typically known as Round-Up, and consumer interest has been raised by a series of scare (or reality check) stories.

I went to a conference in Bordeaux recently about exactly this, most notably through the development of ‘no spray’ rot-resistant hybrid grape varieties that have been planted by agricultural research institute INRA Bordeaux since 2011, as well as a select number of winemakers in the region.

After the conference, I tasted through four of the resulting wines for the first time. A Métissage red from the Cabernet Jura grape and a white from the Cal-604, both made by the Ducourt Family, and INRA’s own first two vintages of their red and rosé wines, both from the Artaban grape.

The Artaban rosé was particularly good, lightly flavoured but nicely floral, while the Métissage white was crisp and fresh, and definitely had potential – possibly with a little more lees-ageing to fatten up the flavours.

The Cabernet Jura was deep red, a rich bristling colour with plenty of tannins and a tarry edge, but was a long way from the Bordeaux typicity that they are looking for.

Ducourt grows its resistant vineyards organically but focuses its communication on the use of hybrid grapes and the way they drastically reduce the amount of treatments needed.

When asked why, Jonathan Ducourt sensibly points out that ‘there is too much confusion for the consumer with all the green initiatives that exist which are sometimes good, sometimes just marketing.

Most consumers think organic means no spraying but our ‘control’ organic plot needs ten sprays per year while our resistant grapes need just one or two’.

So who has the moral high ground in all of this? The HVE3 supporters who are looking beyond the vineyard to carbon emissions and ensuring fair treatment of workers? The organic producers who are fighting Big Phama? The resistant grape champions who are hoping to discover a rot-free vineyard that needs no treatments at all?

Giraud’s argument is that we should judge on results not methodology – an attitude that neatly brings his detractors to boiling point. And yet Louis Roederer is not fully biodynamic across all its vineyards.

The company is completely open about this, having made the decision to produce Cristal Rosé as 100% biodynamic since its 2007 vintage because, as winemaker Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon told me on my last visit, ‘it’s on the best terroirs that you feel the greatest impact’.

This might disappoint some producers, but when it comes to raising consumer awareness, surely even the most ardent biodynamic estate can see the benefit of the Louis Roederer halo effect? My guess is that the subject of what is and is not environmentally acceptable is going to get bigger, and the arguments over greenwashing will grow right alongside.

Get Jane Anson latest book:  Wine Revolution: The World’s Best Organic, Biodynamic and Craft Wines – £17.72 (hardback) More Jane Anson columns on Decanter.com:


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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Serving Thanksgiving wine: Pitfalls to avoid

Decanter News - wo, 22/11/2017 - 22:02

So you've made it all the way through to Thanksgiving day and now all you have to do is ensure that everybody has a good time. Wine can help, but here's our tips on how to make it work.

serving thanksgiving wineDon't stress over wine this Thanksgiving.

If by some chance you are still looking for wine and are reading this ahead of the big day, then see our recommendations on what styles of Thanksgiving wine to buy.

Otherwise, there’s plenty to consider – and good times to be had –  so here are some things for wine lovers to think about to help the day run smoothly.

1. Temperature

Your kitchen is going to become a cauldron, so beware the heat. One of the worst things you can do is constantly expose wine to wildly fluctuating climates.

See our advice on serving temperatures for wine here.

A couple of hours of chilling should do the job for Champagne and sparkling wines, and remember that ‘room temperature’ for fuller bodied reds is only supposed to be around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 Celsius) – maximum.

2. Special bottles

On Decanter’s staff, we’ve collectively spent many hours ruminating on the best time to open one of those special bottles sitting in the bottom rung of our cellar racks. It’s easy to leave them for too long.

Thanksgiving is an obvious opportunity, but –  a bit selfishly – consider how many glasses you need to fill and whether or not you’ll be silently choking on your yams if any of your family and friends do not express adequate admiration for a wine so lovingly chosen and cared-for.

If you’ve weighed all that up and it still makes sense, then go for broke. It is, after all, great to share fine wines with close family and friends…

Read John Stimpfig’s experience of this dilemma

3. Food pairing etiquette

As Ray Isle notes in his article on choosing Thanksgiving wine, you’ve got almost no chance of continuously matching wines to the array of foods on the table.

Remember that acidity is always your friend in such situations, and don’t pick anything that’s overly heavy. Oregon Pinot Noir is likely to trump a big, oaky Cab on this occasion.

Then, know your audience. You might love that natural wine produced in Qvevri from Georgia, but realistically your aunt will probably snub the birthplace of wine for something a little more mainstream. Have a decent bottle of Chardonnay on-hand, for example, alongside something more adventurous. Only chill the Chardonnay to between 50 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit if it’s reasonably full bodied.

4. It’s a marathon

Carson Demmond reminded us last year of the importance of treating Thanksgiving as more of a marathon than a sprint. Read her ‘survival guide’ advice from 2016 on low-octane wines that you might want to try.

5. Don’t fall foul of common wine myths

Mainly, pulling the cork and expecting the wine to ‘aerate’ is a bit like asking a person to breathe only through a straw with the diameter of a lapel pin; it’s not going to work very well.

Generally, for a fine red wine, decanting one hour before serving will be adequate, according to Clément Robert MS. Vintage Port should always be decanted to get rid of the sediment.

And leaving a spoon in a bottle of Champagne overnight won’t stop the wine going flat.

Read more about Thanksgiving wine tips

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Black Friday 2017: Top whisky deals

Decanter News - wo, 22/11/2017 - 18:28

With the festive season fast approaching, the deals are stacking up for some interesting whiskies from around the world. We've rounded up some of the top whisk(e)y deals below.

top whiskyCredit: les polders / Alamy

The sophistication of whisky – or whiskey depending on your persuasion – goes hand in hand with fine wine.

With ‘deal’ season upon us, led by Black Friday 2017, we’ve had a look at some of the top offers at different price levels – from introductory styles to drams for the serious aficionado.

See also:  Scotch Whiskies Haig Club Clubman Single Grain Scotch Whisky

This isn’t really for the seasoned Scotch drinker and some have questioned the perfume-style bottle housing David Beckham’s first foray into whisky world. But, it’s pitched more as a way of introducing new drinkers to Scotch; everyone knows someone who claims to have never enjoyed whisk(e)y. It’s a light grain whisky matured in Bourbon casks, distilled at Cameronbridge Distillery.

£14.85, £8.67 off – Buy Now
Aberlour 12 year old

aberlour 12 year old


Aberlour distillery lies in the heart of Speyside, known more for its fruity and spicy style of whiskies compared to Scotland’s peat-smoked Western Isles. This double-cask matured Aberlour 12 is a classic, albeit it has a greater richness than some of its Speyside cousins. One to enjoy with Christmas cake, perhaps.

£27, £6.75 off – Buy Now
Laphroaig 10 year old


laphroaig 10 year old

Dare we call it the ‘Marmite’ of single malt Scotch whisky? The story goes that Laphroaig was at one point the only Scotch available over-the-counter at pharmacies during US Prohibition because the authorities couldn’t believe that anyone would want to drink it. Forget the naysayers; if the smoky, peaty style is your thing then this whisky from Islay’s coast – with a certain medicinal quality and a hint of sea-salt from – is worth a go.

 £28.50, £8.50 off – Buy Now

Talisker 25 year old Bot.2013


Ever-growing tourists are drawn to the Isle of Skye  – to the corresponding rise in angst among some locals – for its fairy pools, jagged Cuillin mountains and , of course, the Talisker distillery. The 2013 bottling of Talisker 25 Year Old is one of the pinnacles in the range and is, accordingly, relatively expensive. It is rich, smooth and retains the softer peat smoke character of its younger brethren. Now bottled from refill casks at Talisker’s traditional strength of 45.8% (80 proof).

£199, £66 off – Buy Now

USA Whiskey, Bourbon and whiskies from around the world jameson black barrel

Jameson is a favourite at its price level and for good reason, but this is pitched as a step up with more body and richness. It could be a great gift for anyone you know who sticks to the same old Irish whiskey routine year after year.  

£30 – £5.75 off – Buy Now

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Hand-crafted using the finest Kentucky and Indiana corn, selected rye, and superior malted barley. Aged in new oak barrels for at least 8 years.

£16.99, £8.88 off – Buy Now

Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky, Japan nikka whisky

Credit: The Whisky Exchange


Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll know by now that the Japanese make whiskies and that many of them are really rather good. Hibiki 17 year old, for example, is a fine thing and now almost impossible to find. This Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky has been making waves of late, as shown by its award in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2018.

£50.95 – £5 off – Buy Now

Back to our Black Friday page

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Showcase of DWWA 2017 winners at Waitrose Drinks Festival in London

Decanter News - wo, 22/11/2017 - 17:50

DWWA winning wines were presented on 17-29 November 2017

A selection of six Platinum and Gold medal winners from DWWA 2017 were showcased at the Waitrose Drinks Festival on 17-19 November.

The event organised by Waitrose, one of the UK’s leading supermarkets, included themed rooms dedicated to the main drinks categories: wine, cider, beer, dark spirits and light spirits. More than 4,000 customers had the opportunity to attend masterclasses, workshops and demonstrations from the Waitrose Cookery School.

The DWWA 2017 winners showcased at the Decanter stand were:

Search full DWWA 2017 results here

Date of event: 17-19 November 2017

Venue: County Hall, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 7PB

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws


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