How Bordeaux 2008 tastes now: 70 top wines rated

Decanter News - do, 15/02/2018 - 11:16

Jane Anson reports on a tasting of more than 70 Bordeaux 2008 wines, including first growths, and hosted by this month by the BI merchant in the 10th anniversary of the vintage.

Decanter Premium members can view her tasting notes and ratings alongside the report.

Chateau Latour

The tower at Château Latour

Scroll down to see Jane’s Bordeaux 2008 wine ratings and tasting notes beneath this column Available exclusively for Decanter Premium members 
Report on this tasting

Most years gently slide into oblivion after a while, and are noted only as anniversaries by those who got married, had babies, lost loved ones.

There are a few marked exceptions, and they are usually not for the best of reasons. 1929 would be an obvious one, 2001 another. The bookends of 1939 and 1945, clearly.

Joining those ranks was 2008, with the stock market crash that arrived on Friday September 29, when the Dow began its 50% drop (not beating the 90% drop in 1929, but still precipitous) and ushered in an economic crisis that continues to make its effects felt.

Re-cap on Bordeaux 2008 weather

On September 29 in Bordeaux, in contrast, the harvesters were feeling fairly relaxed. It hadn’t been the easiest of years. Extremely changeable conditions, starting with a difficult Spring that created diseases pressure, with some shattering (coulure) that led to uneven ripening later in the season. Frost in early April hit Merlots particularly hard (as well as Sauternes, which was almost as badly hit as in 1991 and 2017).

Summer was kind of upside down, with a hot July but a cool June and August, before an Indian summer came along to soothe frayed nerves.

The weather improved as of August 26, just in time for children to return to school, ushering in an Indian summer that lasted for two months, with any showers that fell over September tending to be light and manageable.

The 2008 harvest

There was some Merlot picking underway by the time the stock market went into freefall, and a realisation that grapes on sandy soils or cooler terroirs hadn’t exactly reached full ripeness.

This was also true of some Cabernets that displayed pyrazine green pepper notes and overall tannins tended towards rusticity in some cases.

But the best terroirs gave their grapes the ability to stay on the vines right up to mid or even late October, allowing for the long slow ripening that ushers in rich concentrated berries, silky tannins and great aromatic potential.

Pomerol’s early-ripening soils proved their worth, giving some excellent results, as did the well-drained gravels and those with generally low water reserves.

Over in the Médoc, you’ll see high levels of Cabernet Sauvignon in many wines – 82% in Calon Ségur, 94% in Petit Mouton, 85% in Cos d’Estournel  – and also moderate alcohol levels that are a signature of the vintage, hovering around 13 and 13.5% in most Left Banks.

Where the 2008 wines sit now

Now a decade on, the 2008s are starting to be opened fairly regularly in Bordeaux, and I’ve tasted a number of them that have not managed to fully soften their slightly awkward early tannins.

They’ve made me begin to reassess my feeling back during en primeur that there were some highly promising wines in the vintage.

But the annual BI Fine Wines tasting in London gathers together the very top red wine names, 73 of them (no Lafleur this year, but that was pretty much the only one missing I think).

So what do you need to know?

That there are some luscious wines that in the vast majority of cases these are to be enjoyed now and over the next decade.

2008 is not the biggest blockbuster year, and the best wines have sexiness and a ripe structure without going overboard, with acidity keeping the oak in check.

Overall I would call Bordeaux 2008 a silver year, following the Decanter World Wine Awards model, as you can see from the number of 91 to 94s that I have given.

There are not many 95-plus (14 in total, so under 15% of these top names compared to 24 on the Right Bank alone in 2015 for my recent in-bottle tastings), and 11 under 90 points (quite significant, again bearing in mind these are all starry names).

No 100s, but two at 98. So a good showing overall, with a few stand outs.

It pretty much confirms the hierarchy of that gilded half-decade as being 2005, 2010 and 2009 at the top, then 2008 comes in much higher than 2007 and just a tiny bit higher than 2006.

Bordeaux 2008 prices

And worth remembering that there are a good few of these wines out there in the cellars of those of us who don’t have our own chef or second home in Malibut (or more appropriately Cap Ferret).

That’s because, although the troops of harvesters might not have followed the news from Wall Street as they brought the grapes in over September and October, by the time the en primeur season had rolled around in 2009, the owner and directors of the chateaux certainly had.

They were nervous enough at the global economic picture to post huge price drops on the 2007 prices (which in themselves had come down heavily from 2006 and especially 2005).

We reported at the time that the ‘market was in charge’ and by mid April (astonishingly early in en primeur timescales) Latour had released an opening tranche at €110 per bottle, with Lafite and Margaux at the same price and Mouton at €100.

Haut-Brion risked annoying its stable mates with €130, which still gave early movers a huge opportunity.

Not everyone displayed the same restraint, but on the whole this was the last of the really affordable En Primeurs.

So while I’m sorry that the results rather annoying confirmed that there are very good wines in 2008 – but you might have to go to the good names to get them – the good news for those that risked the market and bought in the still-bumpy financial picture of 2009, is that there is plenty to enjoy here.

And for those looking to buy today, the prices on the Place de Bordeaux remain less punchy than the more heralded years like 2009 or 2010, but still higher than on release.

I’m looking at Lynch Bages 2008, for example, which is trading on the Place for somewhere upwards of €100 (for merchants buying ex-Bordeaux) compared to its exit price of €32, translating into a case price in the UK of just under £1,300, while Léoville Barton is being traded at over €70 on the Place de Bordeaux today where it came out at €27.

So, no longer the no-brainer that they were at the time, but in some cases the 2008s are worth the investment – and you’re not going to have to wait much longer to benefit from opening them.

Bordeaux 2008 wines

Available exclusively to Decanter Premium members. NB: Château Dauzac 2008 was tasted at the estate in Bordeaux. All others were tasted at BI in London. 


Château Ausone, St-Émilion, 1er Grand Cru Classé A, 2008 Château Latour, Pauillac, 1er Cru Classé, Bordeaux, 2008 Château Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac, 1er Cru Classé, 2008 Château Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, 1er Cru Classé, 2008 Château Margaux, Margaux, 1er Cru Classé, Bordeaux, 2008 Château Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, 1er Cru Classé, 2008 Petrus, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Chateau Le Pin, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château Montrose, St-Estèphe, 2ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Palmer, Margaux, 3ème Cru Classé, Bordeaux, 2008 Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac, 5ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Pichon Longueville Baron, Pauillac, 2ème Cru Classé, Château L'Eglise-Clinet, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château Cheval Blanc, St-Émilion, 1er Grand Cru Classé A, Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac, 5ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Angélus, St-Émilion, 1er Grand Cru Classé A, 2008 Château La Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Château Léoville Las Cases, St-Julien, 2ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Cos d'Estournel, St-Estèphe, 2ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Rauzan-Ségla, Margaux, 2ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château Figeac, St-Émilion, 1er Grand Cru Classé B, 2008 Clos Fourtet, St-Émilion, 1er Grand Cru Classé B, 2008 Château Pavie, St-Émilion, 1er Grand Cru Classé B, 2008 Vieux Château Certan, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château Gazin, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château Leoville Poyferré, St-Julien, 2ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2008 Château Lynch-Bages, Pauillac, 5ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Clinet, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château Trotte Vieille, St-Émilion, 1er Grand Cru Classé B, Château Canon, St-Émilion, 1er Grand Cru Classé B, 2008 Clos L'Eglise, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château La Fleur-Pétrus, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château Clerc Milon, Pauillac, 5ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Hosanna, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château Calon-Ségur, St-Estèphe, 2ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Léoville-Barton, St-Julien, 2ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Bélair Monange, St-Émilion, 1er Grand Cru Classé B, Château Latour, Pauillac, Forts de Latour, Bordeaux, 2008 Château Margaux, Margaux, Pavillon Rouge, Bordeaux, 2008 Château Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, Petit Mouton, 2008 Château Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château Lagrange, St-Julien, 3ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Giscours, Margaux, 3ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Malartic-Lagravière, Pessac-Léognan, 2008 Château La Conseillante, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château Haut-Batailley, Pauillac, 5ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Lascombes, Margaux, 2ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Dauzac, Margaux, 5ème Cru Classé, Bordeaux, 2008 Château Cheval Blanc, St-Émilion, Grand Cru Classé, Le Petit Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux, 2ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Poujeaux, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, St-Émilion, 1er Grand Cru Château Branaire-Ducru, St-Julien, 4ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Langoa Barton, St-Julien, 3ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château d'Armailhac, Pauillac, 5ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Larcis Ducasse, St-Émilion, 1er Grand Cru Classé B, Chateau Le Gay, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château Beychevelle, St-Julien, 4ème Cru Classé, 2008 Château Gruaud-Larose, St-Julien, 2ème Cru Classé, 2008 See also:

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BAFTA 2018: What the stars will be eating and drinking

Decanter News - do, 15/02/2018 - 09:53

See what food and wine will be served to those attending the BAFTA 2018 film awards in London, and also our report on how the menu is decided.

BAFTA 2018The Hotel Chocolat dessert.BAFTA 2018: What the stars will be eating and drinking

The EE British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) are on Sunday 18th February 2018, at Grosvenor House in London.

The Menu

The starter is a vegan choice, a first for this year; a celeriac cream and apple jelly, with pickled celeriac and apple, golden raisins, seeded crackers and toasted hazelnuts.

This is followed by the main of lamb cutlets and slow cooked lamb shoulder, roast garlic and thyme jus and potato gratin. Vegetarians will have sweet potato, bok choy, ginger and coriander parcel, with a coconut, mango and chilli salsa.

Dessert is always made with Hotel Chocolat, one of the sponsors. This year it is a 76% supermilk Nicaragua Chuno pebble, sesame and nigella seed brittle and salted caramel chocolate ganache (pictured top).

BAFTA 2018

The vegan celeriac starter. Credit: BAFTA.

The wines

The guests will be drinking Champagne Taittinger Brut Réserve NV, in BAFTA branded bottles.

With the meal, they will have Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2017 and the Private Bin Pinot Noir 2016.

How they choose the menu

BAFTA Chef Anton Managanaro and Grosvenor House Executive Chef Nigel Boschetti discuss what they would like to put forward for menu ideas. There is input from some key partners, too; for example, the dessert is always made with Hotel Chocolat.

‘We start planning the menu around September or October for the BAFTAs,’ said Boschetti told Decanter.com.

‘We have menu tastings – sometimes two – with key planners from BAFTA.’

‘Consideration is given to the previous year’s menu, so as not to clash or repeat, and dishes are selected from three or four starters, mains and desserts.’

‘The menu needs to be built around British food, and be seasonal. Colour is also important on the BAFTA menu too – the food needs to look elegant and with some colour.’

The final menu is passed on to Villa Maria, to then select the wines to go with it.

The BAFTAs in numbers

More than 2,300 bottles of Champagne Taittinger will be opened over the BAFTA weekend – equivalent to twice the length of the Eiffel Tower.

An etimated 2,046 bottles of Villa Maria will be served over the course of the weekend.

To make the main course, it will take 1850 lamb cutlets, 144 kilograms of potatoes and 72 kilograms of  kale.

For the Hotel Chocolat dessert, it will take 45 kilograms of super milk chocolate, 10 kilograms of salted caramel and 10 kilograms of dark chocolate.

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Decanter’s top rated Pinot Noirs at Vinexpo New York

Decanter News - wo, 14/02/2018 - 13:55

The first ever Vinexpo New York will take place this March, with over 400 producers showcasing their best wines over two days of tastings, masterclass and conferences.

Vinexpo New York is set to be an annual event bringing together wine and spirits professionals from across the globe. The inaugural two-day show will be held on 5 and 6 March 2018 at the Javits Convention Center, Manhattan.

Decanter will be hosting a masterclass based on a panel tasting that featured in the April 2016 issue of the magazine. The session titled The best Pinot Noirs in the World (outside of Burgundy) will be led by Elin McCoy and feature a total of seven wines.

Elin McCoy, Decanter Columnist

Of the wines being featured, six appeared in the original panel tasting. The winner of the Best Argentinian Pinot Noir at the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards will also be available to try.

Decanter April 2016 cover

Decanter April 2016 issue

Attendees of the masterclass will get the chance to taste some of these sought-after Pinot Noirs:


Decanter readers can register for just $100. Simply use the code: DECANTER before March 4th and save $25 in advance and $50 off the on-site price.


Learn more and register at www.vinexponewyork.com/attend
Event details:

Date: March 5-6, 2018
Time: 10:00am – 6:00pm
Location: Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York

Masterclass details:

Date: Monday March 5th 2018
Time: 3:00pm – 4:15pm
Location: Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, River Pavilion,New York

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Decanter recruits Tim Atkin MW as Burgundy critic

Decanter News - wo, 14/02/2018 - 12:58

Tim Atkin MW has taken on the role of Decanter's specialist reviewer for Burgundy.

tim atkin mw decanterTim Atkin MW leads a Decanter masterclass in 2015.

Decanter is delighted to announce that the multi-award winning wine writer, author, international competition judge and broadcaster Tim Atkin MW has taken on the role of Decanter’s specialist Burgundy critic.

Tim has written about wine for more than 30 years for a number of prestigious titles including Decanter, The Economist, World of Fine Wine and the Observer to name but a few.

Burgundy 2001 versus 2000: The wines to drink  Just published for Decanter Premium members

Tim has both a particular passion for Burgundy and a vast knowledge of its wines.

For several years, through his own website TimAtkin.com, he has produced a comprehensive, in-depth annual vintage report of the entire region comprising some 65,000 words of analysis and tasting notes.

Each year, Tim invariably spends at least one month tasting in Burgundy cellars, in the belief that it is important to taste wines on the ground.

Later this year, he will produce the Burgundy 2017 vintage report for Decanter Premium members.

Meanwhile, he will cover a number Burgundy tastings for Decanterbeginning with a report that compares several 2000 and 2001 vintage wines and recommends which ones to drink, or look out for. He will also produce several interviews and features.

Tim will also continue to write for Decanter on other regions, including South Africa, Chile, Argentina and Rioja.

He joins Decanter as a contributing editor.

I couldn’t be more pleased to have Tim as our lead Burgundy critic and to have him writing more regularly for Decanter. His combination of knowledge, tasting expertise, writing ability and sheer enthusiasm is exceptional.


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Burgundy 2001 versus 2000: Wines to drink

Decanter News - wo, 14/02/2018 - 12:53

Tim Atkin MW, Decanter's new specialist reviewer for Burgundy, recently attended a fascinating tasting pitting the 2000 vintage against 2001. Below, Premium members can see his 20 recommendations for drinking, along with a comparison of how the two vintages have aged...

Mature Burgundy

Domaines Lamarche, d’Eugénie and Confuron-Cotetidot all produce an Echézeaux – you could walk between the three Vosne-Romanée cellars in a matter of minutes – and yet their wines are so divergent in style that you could be forgiven for wondering if they’re made from the same grape, let alone the same grand cru.

This diversity makes it difficult to summarise vintages. Who cropped more heavily in the vineyard? Who picked when? Who deployed sorting tables to remove rotten grapes? Who used whole bunches? Who favoured 100% new oak? And from which tonnelier? And yet try, tentatively, we must.

More Decanter Premium content


Tim Atkin MW is a Decanter contributing editor and specialist reviewer for Burgundy.

Related content:

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What to drink with Pancakes

Decanter News - di, 13/02/2018 - 19:51

See our suggestions for wines to drink with pancakes, and including an alternative suggestion from master sommelier Matthieu Longuère, of Le Cordon Bleu London school.

PancakeWhat to drink with Pancakes Quick Guide Pancake type Wine style Sugar & Lemon Moscato d’Asti or Prosecco Cheese and ham Gavi di Gavi, Muscadet or Pinot Blanc Chocolate Recioto Valpolicella, Banyuls, or try Barolo Chinato Rhubarb and cream Loire Chenin Blanc, Off-dry Riesling – Or perhaps Normandy cider


Pancakes are all about the filling. What you decide to top, fill or wrap your pancakes with dictates what you should be drinking whilst you wolf them down. Here’s a selection of some of the more popular toppings you might decide on.

Best all-rounders:
  • The best all-rounder – a serious quality cider
  • Also try Loire Chenin Blanc or off-dry Riesling
Fruit filling

In a previous masterclass at Le Cordon Bleu London, we created Pancakes with a touch of ginger and accompanied with rhubarb and Apple.

Matthieu Longuère MS, of Le Cordon Bleu London, had pre-selected a cider.

‘Finding a pairing for this dish is a no brainer, pancakes are known as crêpes in France,’ he said.

‘In crêperies all around the world the accompaniment is invariably cider. Here the pancakes are paired with tangy seasonal rhubarb and soothed by a good dollop of clotted cream. This unique dry cider is bursting with fresh apple flavour and really very refreshing, the balance more related to wine than your average cider.

‘Although it is not a sweet cider, it is so ripe and fruity that is not going to clash with the compote and its crisp acidity will refresh the palate in between bites. Sydre is made from 20 different varieties of hand-picked cider apple, sweet, bitter or sour, grown on schist soil. The apples are grated and left to ferment for up to 6 months. It is a true vintage cider and can be kept for several years after the harvest. A real Grand Cru!’

The vintage dated cider was dry, but the appley sweetness brought to life the Rhubarb, yet the acidity cleansed the palate of pancake, fooling you into thinking you could both consume more cider and pancake.

A wine alternative to this serious cider might be a Loire Chenin Blanc or a off-dry Riesling from Germany.

Sydre Argelette, Eric Bordelet, Chateau de Hauteville, Normandie, France 2014

Sugar and Lemon

A very popular topping for your pancakes. Simple, sweet with citrus acid. A light, slightly sweet yet refreshing Moscato d’Asti would wash these down well, a Prosecco would work or if you can find it, Clairette de Die. If wine is not an option, put a bottle of Limoncello in the fridge.

Savoury cheese and ham

Again, reaching for the cider would be a wonderful match with this savoury pancake; or if you fancy a glass of wine, Pinot Blanc, Muscadet or Gavi di Gavi are all great options.

Chocolate sauce

You cannot beat a sweet red like Recioto Valpolicella or a red Banyuls to bring to life chocolate. But if you can’t dig these out, a really fruity, new world red with low tannin could also work.


It has so be a Champagne method sparkling wine, to cut through the batter mix and bring the salmon to life.

This article was originally published in 2017, following a pancake masterclass with Tom Brown at Le Cordon Bleu London and the school’s Matthieu Longuère MS. 

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California 2017 harvest size by grape variety

Decanter News - di, 13/02/2018 - 18:40

California winemakers and grape growers crushed just over four million tonnes of grapes in the 2017 harvest, with increases for Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir and declines for Chardonnay and Zinfandel, show new figures.

new california wine trendsThe California grape harvest.California’s most common wine grape varieties based on 2017 crush figures:
  • Chardonnay
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Zinfandel
  • Pinot Noir
  • Merlot
  • Pinot Gris
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Petite Syrah
  • Riesling

Based on 2017 grape crush data, published by California’s department of food and agriculture and analysed by Ciatti Company in February 2018.

california 2017 harvest size What we know from the latest California 2017 harvest figures

California harvested around four million tonnes of grapes in 2017, with the red wine harvest down by 1.6% versus 2016 and the white wine harvest up by 0.7% against the previous year, according to preliminary figures released by wine broker Ciatti and based on California Department of Food & Agriculture figures.

Reds came in at just over 2.24 million tonnes and white grapes at around 1.76 million.

Wildfires impact 

Devastating wildfires claimed more than 40 lives across North California in October 2017, despite 10,000 firefighters doing their best to contain blazes.

Wine was understandably not the main concern with lives and homes at risk, but there was nevertheless discussion within the wine sector around how fires might affect the 2017 vintage.

Some wineries sustained damage – Signorello, for example, being one of the worst hit – although a Sonoma State University survey of North California wineries found that 950 our of 1,025 wineries contacted had no structural damage.

While it is too early to properly assess quality impact, the latest 2017 grape crush report underlines the view that fires had a minimal overall impact on harvest quantity – even though some producers in high risk areas were evacuated from their estates for several days.

‘The fire was awful,’ said Glenn Proctor, global wine and grape broker with Ciatti, ‘but from an industry point of view we feel it did not have an effect on production numbers.

‘Luckily most of the crop was harvested by the time the fires occurred in the second week of October. We feel the severe heat we had in early September had the biggest effect on production,’ he told Decanter.com.

Cabernet Sauvignon is king

Cabernet Sauvignon had a record harvest in California in 2017, up 6% on 2016, said Ciatti.

Californian growers crushed almost 600,000 tonnes of the world’s most planted grape variety last year with premium coastal regions seeing the biggest increase.

Cabernet harvests ‘will only continue to grow’, said Ciatti.

In contrast, Chardonnay saw 2017 harvest quantity dented by heat spikes, particularly in Lodi, where the total crush fell by 18%.

Zinfandel saw one of its smallest harvests in recent years, down by nearly 13% to just over 364,000 tonnes.

Other growers included Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, which rose by 3.3% and 3.5% in 2017.

See also: Plan to rebuild Signorello after California wildfires


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The winning books at André Simon Food and Drink awards

Decanter News - di, 13/02/2018 - 17:50

Drinks books did particularly well at the 2017 André Simon Food and Drink book awards, announced last night at the Goring hotel in London.

Andre Simon awardsPeter Liem's Champagne book won the drinks award. André Simon awards: Winning food and drink books from 2017

The ‘best drink book’ award winner was Peter Liem, for his book Champagne: The Essential Guide to Wines, Producers and Terroirs of The Iconic Region.

The judges praised it for being beautifully illustrated, and an authoritative account of a well-known, but often misunderstood, wine region and style.

See also: Peter Liem’s top grower Champagne estates to know

‘This is a book that we’ll return to for many years,’ said wine expert Joe Fattorini, who led the judging for drinks books.

‘Not only as an authoritative catalogue or even a book that also explores perhaps the world’s most celebrated wine region, but as a book that asks questions about the nature of terroir and place.’

The prize for best food writing went to chef Stephen Harris, for his book The Sportsman, telling the story of his life and how he came to start the Michelin-starred Kent pub by the same name.

‘The kind of book you want to win a prize like this must capture a moment, say something about where we are, as well as being inspirational, well-written, useful and expert. The Sportsman does that,’ said food writer Rachel Cooke, who led judging for the food books at this year’s awards.

Drinks books dominated the other prizes on the evening.

The John Avery Award went to The Way of Whisky by Dave Broom, an in depth look at Japanese whisky and culture.

Victoria Moore’s The Wine Dine Dictionary was given the Special Commendation, helping readers either pick the wine to drink with what they are cooking, or what to cook for the wine they want to drink.

Other shortlisted drinks books were: Bursting Bubbles by Robert Walters, By The Smoke and The Smell by Thad Vogler and Miracle Brew by Pete Brown.

The André Simon Food and Drink book awards have been running since 1978, named after André Simon, the French-born, UK-dwelling wine merchant and food and wine writer, who died in 1970.

See the 2016 André Simon winners here. 


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Classified: Bordeaux Right Bank 2015 in-bottle verdict

Decanter News - di, 13/02/2018 - 17:17

This is where the action is in the Bordeaux 2015 vintage, says Jane Anson. Decanter Premium members can now read Jane's verdict and ratings on the classified wines of Pomerol and St-Emilion to see how they have progressed since the initial en primeur week in April 2016.

alcohol in bordeaux wine

Merlot vines in St-Emilion.

Heading over to the Right Bank for the Bordeaux 2015 in-bottle wines is to arrive where the action is.

No doubt at all that Pessac-Léognan (to come) and Margaux produced some spectacular wines but for consistency of achievement in this vintage you have to go to St-Emilion and Pomerol…


Related St-Emilion Grand CruSt-Emilion Grand Cru ClasséSt-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé BSt-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé A Back to the main Bordeaux 2015 page Coming soon: Pessac-Léognan and Sauternes 2015 tasting notes and ratings

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How Pomerol 2015 wines taste in the bottle

Decanter News - di, 13/02/2018 - 16:08

See Jane Anson's tasting notes and ratings for Pomerol 2015 wines, nearly two years out from the original en primeur showing.

la conseillante, pomerol, bordeauxLa Conseillante was among the highest scorers in the 2015 vintage.

Below, Decanter Premium members can view Jane Anson’s ratings and tasting notes on dozens of Pomerol 2015 vintage wines, as part of our Bordeaux 2015 in the bottle series.

Highlights include several top estates that scored above 95 points, including some 100-point wines; helping to cement the view that the Right Bank, with its focus on Merlot and Cabernet Franc, did particularly well in the Bordeaux 2015 vintage as a whole.

All of the wines below were tasted in Bordeaux towards the end of 2017.

Top Pomerol 2015 wines:


Château Lafleur, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château L'Eglise-Clinet, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Petrus, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Clinet, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Trotanoy, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château La Conseillante, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Vieux Château Certan, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château L'Evangile, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château La Fleur-Pétrus, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Feytit-Clinet, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Gazin, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Hosanna, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Vray Croix de Gay, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Petit Village, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Beauregard, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Latour à Pomerol, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Bourgneuf, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château L'Eglise-Clinet, Pomerol, La Petite Eglise, 2015 Château Rouget, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Chateau Mazeyres, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Lafleur, Pomerol, Les Pensées de Lafleur, 2015 Château Certan de May, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château La Grave, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Montviel, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Beauregard, Pomerol, Benjamin de Beauregard, 2015 Château Bellegrave, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Lafleur-Gazin, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château La Cabanne, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015


Related St-Emilion Grand CruSt-Emilion Grand Cru ClasséSt-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé BSt-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé A Back to the main Bordeaux 2015 page

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DWWA judge profile: Sebastian Braun

Decanter News - di, 13/02/2018 - 12:50

Sebastian Braun is a judge at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA)

Sebastian Braun DWWA JudgeSebastian Braun DWWA JudgeSebastian Braun

Stockholm native Sebastian Braun has held a variety of positions at Systembolaget, the Swedish retail monopoly, since 1998. Starting in roles including salesman, product information and description writer, and customer relations, Braun moved into his current position of wine buyer in 2005 and achieved his WSET Diploma the following year.

He has managed areas such as Chile, Portugal, Switzerland, the UK, Luxembourg, Hungary, Bulgaria and South Africa, Italy, France and New Zealand. In January 2018 Braun moved from SystemBolaget and joined the importer Oenoforos as their Wine Director. He also founded his own import company, ACE Wines, focusing mainly on fine wines. Braun has previously judged at The Veritas Awards in South Africa, Concours Mondial Bruxelles and Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

Braun was first a DWWA judge in 2014.

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An aperitif for anytime: Vermouth di Torino

Decanter News - di, 13/02/2018 - 12:33

Currently enjoying a revival thanks to cocktail culture, Vermouth di Torino has fought to establish its quality credentials. Michaela Morris reports...

Vermouth di TorinoCocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino was relaunched in 2011 for the company's 120th anniversary

It’s just before noon and Roberto Bava, CEO of Giulio Cocchi and president of the newly formed Vermouth di Torino Institute, fixes me a drink. He pours equal parts vermouth and soda over ice, topping it with a twist of lemon.

‘The bubbles help bring out the aromas,’ says Bava of this concoction, known in Italy as a vermuttino. Nuances of rhubarb, ginger, liquorice and citrus emerge one by one, none dominating, and an inherent bitterness is curbed by integrated sweetness.

I realise I’m suddenly hungry, just as Bava offers some Parmigiano-Reggiano. ‘Vermouth is wine,’ he continues. ‘It goes with chocolate and cheese.’ The umami flavours of Parmigiano are remarkably complementary with the drink’s herbal notes. Nevertheless, vermouth is largely considered a cocktail ingredient rather than a gastronomic partner, and its role in the Negroni has been fundamental in salvaging its heritage.

Scroll down for five recommended vermouths to try

An aromatised fortified wine, vermouth has its roots in ancient civilisations who commonly infused botanicals in their wines. Wormwood, a powerfully scented and intensely bitter plant of the Artemisia genus, became particularly popular as a cure for stomach ailments. ‘Wormwood gave its name to vermouth through its German translation, Wermut,’ explains Bava.

As examples improved, vermouth transformed from a medicinal tonic into a beverage of pleasure. Italy’s Piedmont and France’s Savoie regions were the heart of production. The Alpine terrain is rich in wormwood and other botanicals like mint, sage and camomile.

Savvy apothecaries blended these with exotic spices from afar. In 1786 Antonio Benedetto Carpano created a superior elixir, based on Moscato Bianco. It was introduced to the Duke of Savoy and became the drink of the royal court. Vermouth was also adopted by the chic cafés of Turin, cementing its role as Italy’s classic aperitivo.

Until World War II, vermouth was widely consumed, admired and traded. Then fascinating new drinks from faraway places lured young Italians away from vermouth. ‘Being a small artisanal producer we simply couldn’t compete with low-end products,’ explains Bava, who discontinued vermouth production when he joined the family business in the 1980s. others followed suit.

Roberto Bava

Roberto Bava, CEO of Giulio Cocchi and founding member of the Vermouth di Torino Institute

Cocktail chic

Instead of this being the final chapter for vermouth, America’s contemporary cocktail culture gave it a new lease of life. Bartenders and cocktail writers such David Wondrich and Ted Haigh spawned a renaissance for classics like the Americano, Manhattan, Martinez and above all the Negroni – the judiciously stirred mix of gin, Campari and sweet red vermouth over ice, finished with a curl of fresh orange peel – rekindling a desire for superior and historical products. Vermouth suddenly became cool again.

Encouraged by this renewed interest, producers have been reviving original recipes. Bava led the way, launching Storico Vermouth for Cocchi’s 120th anniversary in 2011.

Then renowned Barolo producer Pio Cesare resuscitated its family recipe, which hadn’t been made since the 1950s, and Martini released two new speciality vermouths in 2015. The revival even resurrected Chazalettes, which had shut down in the 1970s.

The real deal

‘Now it’s popular, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon,’ states Bava. But not all bottles touting vermouth are created equally. Some do not even use wormwood, the plant which defines vermouth. ‘It’s like making limoncello without lemons,’ decries Bava. ‘It is fake.’

Furthermore, other producers with no connection to Piedmont have deceptively labelled their wares Vermouth di Torino. While this has been a geographical denomination since 1991, no regulatory body nor laws defining its production parameters existed to protect Vermouth di Torino.

The Vermouth di Torino Institute was formed for these very reasons. An alliance of 15 brands – Bèrto, Bordiga, Carlo Alberto, Carpano, Chazalettes, Cinzano, Del Professore, Drapò, Gancia, Giulio Cocchi, La Canellese, Martini & Rossi, Sperone, Torino Distillati and Tosti – came together to draft the regulations. ‘Big producers and small, we worked together with the same goal of saving an appellation that belongs to Italy,’ says Bava.

The outcome was Law 1826, established on 22 March 2017. It defines Vermouth di Torino as ‘an aromatised wine obtained in Piedmont using Italian wine only, with the addition of alcohol, flavoured mainly with Artemisia from Piedmont together with other herbs and spices.’

While the alcohol can range from 16% to 22%, a superiore category requires 17% or higher. Furthermore, a minimum of 50% of the base wine and three of the herbs must come from Piedmont for superiore. ‘Generic vermouth will still exist,’ explains Bava, ‘but it will be a quality pyramid with Vermouth di Torino as a premium category.’

Diverse styles are represented by an array of colours and sweetness levels. They all have their place in cocktails, but are equally enjoyable on their own, chilled or over ice. Whereas a rosso is best served at 16°C, its progressively paler-hued siblings rosato, ambrato and bianco are ideal at 14°C-12°C.

In general, Vermouth di Torino is traditionally sweeter than its French counterparts, though varying levels of sugar are indicated by classification as extra secco (less than 30g/l sugar), secco (less than 50g/l) and dolce (sugar equal to or exceeding 130g/l).

Above all, Vermouth di Torino is an aperitif with a long and noble tradition of stimulating the appetite, as well as great conversation. And, according to Bava at least, this is appropriate ‘anytime’.

Michaela Morris is a Canadian wine writer, educator and presenter who specialises in Italy Five vermouths to try: Carpano, Vermouth, Antica Formula, Piedmont, Italy Pio Cesare, Vermouth di Torino, Piedmont, Italy Cocchi, Vermouth di Torino, Dopo Teatro Vermouth Amaro Contratto, Vermouth, Rosso, Piedmont, Italy Martini, Vermouth di Torino, Riserva Speciale Ambrato Related content:

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Pol Roger unearths long-lost 19th century Champagne

Decanter News - ma, 12/02/2018 - 18:56

Pol Roger has excavated some long-lost treasure from the wreckage of a cellar that collapsed in 1900 and buried more than a million bottles of Champagne.

Pol Roger discover20 bottles of Champagne have been unearthed so far, dated between 1887 and 1898... Credit: Champagne Pol RogerPol Roger discovers ‘intact’ Champagne from cellar ruins

Almost 118 years ago, on 23 February 1900, disaster struck Pol Roger’s cellars in Épernay.

Following a period of extreme cold and damp, vast stretches of wall suddenly collapsed during the night, demolishing adjoining buildings and burying 1.5 million bottles of wine, along with 500 casks.

Damage was so extensive that the ground above the cellars caved in, causing the street level to fall by four metres. Great fissures formed in the nearby roads, rue Henri le Large and rue Godart-Roger.

An account from Le Vigneron Champenois tells how Pol Roger’s son Maurice awoke at 2am to ‘a dull rumble similar to the sound of thunder’.

‘When the workers arrived a few hours later, the disaster was complete.’

Pol Roger discover

In 1900 the cellar walls caved in, demolishing buildings and cracking nearby roads… Credit: Champagne Pol Roger

Pol Roger’s sons, Maurice and Georges, had hoped they could attempt to salvage the buried wines by tunnelling into the rubble.

But after a similar cave-in occurred a month later at the nearby property of Godart-Roger, the plans were abandoned, along with the ruined cellars.

Fast forward almost 118 years exactly and Pol Roger is now rebuilding a new packaging facility on the same plot of land.

On 15 January, a drilling session hit upon an underground chamber, which contained a cache of broken glass and an intact bottle of Champagne.

After further excavation, 19 more bottles were lifted unscathed from the wreckage.

‘The wines are clear, the levels are correct and the corks are depressed,’ said the Champagne house.

‘These bottles are still on their lees and will have to be hand riddled and disgorged before being tasted.’

The exact age of the bottles is hard to determine, but Pol Roger has confirmed they will be of vintages between 1887 and 1898.

The discovery was made by Dominic Petit, Pol Roger’s chef de cave of 19 years, and the man who will succeed him in April, Damien Cambres.

Wet weather has prevented Petit and Cambres from unearthing more of the cellars’ contents so far.

Related content:

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Record highs for British gin exports in 2017

Decanter News - ma, 12/02/2018 - 16:02

New figures from UK customs body HMRC show that British gin exports reached more than £500 million in 2017.

british gin exportsBritish gin exports reached over £500 million in 2017. New high for British gin exports

This is the first time that overseas sales of British gin have gone over half a billion pounds, at a total of £530 million.

The EU remains the biggest market for British gin, growing 16% in 2017. Spain was the country that imported the most, with £100 million of gin sales.

Asia and Oceania grew by 13%, to a total of over £31 million, indicating an important growing market.

See also: How to taste gin like a professional

‘It has been another phenomenal year of export growth for our British gin producers,’ said Miles Beale, CEO of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

Brexit appeal

‘On leaving the EU, we want more government support to increase exports to developed markets such as Australia, Japan, China and the US.

‘The removal of tariffs would allow Britain to maintain its position as the world’s largest spirits exporter and further boost the UK economy and provide more jobs.’

Beale also encouraged ambassadors and diplomats to help this market more by ‘committing to serve British gin at events, both home and abroad.

Domestic gin sales

Sales of gin in the UK also increased in 2017, in the on and off trades. In the 12 months to September 2017, Brits bought £1.2 billion of gin, the equivalent of over 47 million bottles of gin.

This is up by 7 million bottles compared to the same period the previous year.

The success of the gin market at home and abroad has encouraged English winemakers to also get involved with the spirit.

Chapel Down winery in Kent launched a gin and vodka last year, using the leftover skins from the winemaking process.

The UK has more than doubled its number of distilleries in the last five years, predominantly due to the gin trend.


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Terms & Conditions for the Decanter Retailer Awards 2018

Decanter News - ma, 12/02/2018 - 15:41
Information on Terms & Conditions for the Decanter Retailer Awards 2018 coming soon!


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Decanter Retailer Awards Categories 2018

Decanter News - ma, 12/02/2018 - 15:40
Information on the Awards Categories for the Decanter Retailer Awards 2018 coming soon!


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Important information for the Decanter Retailer Awards 2018

Decanter News - ma, 12/02/2018 - 15:37
Key dates, prices and important information for entering the Decanter Retailer Awards 2018 coming soon!

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Decanter Retailer Awards 2018 Judging Panel

Decanter News - ma, 12/02/2018 - 15:35
Meet the 2018 judging panel

Joining Chairman Peter Richards MW on the 2018 judging panel will be wine industry consultant and former Marks & Spencer wine buyer Andy Howard MW, freelance wine writer Matt Walls, food and wine writer Fiona Beckett, and Decanter’s International Tastings Director Christelle Guibert.

2018 Retailer Awards: entries open 3rd April Peter Richards MW, Chairman

Wine Writer and Presenter on BBC1’s Saturday Night Kitchen

Peter Richards MW

Peter Richards MW

Peter is a Master of Wine and presenter on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen.

A familiar presence from his wide-ranging work, Peter has won many awards and his credits include Sky One, ESPN, The Guardian, ITV1, Radio 4, Times Online and BBC2.

Peter is a regular Decanter contributor as well as Chairman of the Retailer Awards, and Regional Chair for Chile at the Decanter World Wine Awards.

Christelle Guibert

International Tastings Director, Decanter

Christelle Guibert

Christelle Guibert


Christelle is Decanter’s International Tastings Director. She is in charge of coordinating Decanter’s monthly panel tastings, the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) and the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA), and gives regular recommendations of her own

Christelle has worked in the wine trade all her professional life. Brought up in the Loire Valley, she gained experience in the region’s vineyards and wineries before moving to London. Following stints in the wine department at Harrods, she joined the Waitrose wine buying team in 2007.

In addition to her day job, she tends one hectare of Melon de Bourgogne in Muscadet where she produces 2000 bottles a year of Terre de Gneiss, her first wine.

Andy Howard MW

Decanter contributor and wine writer

Andy Howard MW

Andy Howard MW

Andy Howard MW became a MW in 2011 and runs his own consultancy business (Vinetrades Ltd) which focuses on education, judging, investment and sourcing.
Howard previously worked for Marks & Spencer as a buyer for over 30 years and was responsible as wine buyer for Burgundy, Bordeaux, Loire, Champagne, Italy, North and South America, South Africa, England, Port and Sherry.

Although his key areas of expertise are Burgundy and Italy he also has great respect for the wines of South America and South Africa, as well as a keen interest in the wines from South West France (he owns a house in Gaillac where he made wine for six vintages).

Howard is a frequent contributor to Decanter and writes a regular column on the UK wine retail trade for JancisRobinson.com.

Fiona Beckett

Food and wine writer, matchingfoodandwine.com

Fiona Beckett

Fiona Beckett

Fiona Beckett writes Decanter’s regular features on food and wine matching and runs the website www.matchingfoodandwine.com, which also includes pairings with beer, cocktails and other drinks.

An award-winning journalist, Beckett has written regularly for many of the UK’s leading newspapers, including The Times, The Guardian and the Daily Mail.

In 2002, she was nominated for The Food Journalist of The Year Award by the UK Guild of Food Writers.

Beckett has written 15 books about food and wine, including How to Match Food and Wine, Cooking with Wine and Wine by Style.

Matt Walls

Freelance wine writer

Matt Walls

Matt Walls

Matt Walls is an award-winning freelance wine writer, author, blogger and consultant contributing regular articles to Decanter, Foodism, timatkin.com, Harpers Wine & Spirit, Imbibe and others. He publishes wine blog mattwalls.co.uk, for which he was named the 2015 International Wine & Spirit Competition Blogger of the Year. His first book on wine, Drink Me, won Best Newcomer at the 2013 Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards. In addition to writing, Walls advises restaurants on wine lists, hosts tastings, trains staff and judges at food and wine competitions. He was previously fine wines manager at Mentzendorff and set up, managed and bought wines for the flagship store of The Sampler.

See the 2017 winners of the Decanter Retailer Awards

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How to enter the Decanter World Wine Awards 2018

Decanter News - ma, 12/02/2018 - 15:34
Information on how to enter the Decanter Retailer Awards 2018 coming soon!

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Jefford on Monday: Tasting the Virtuosi

Decanter News - ma, 12/02/2018 - 10:30

Andrew Jefford looks at St Chinian’s statistical stars.

St Chinian winesVineyards around Berlou in St Chinian, Languedoc-Roussillon.

Time, and time alone, will tell: a hundred vintages (or more) is the only way we can discover where the greatest sites in a particular wine-growing zone lie.  That, alas, is well beyond a single working lifetime.  It’s therefore tempting to try to speed the process along.  No French appellation I know has set about doing this in a more practical way than St Chinian – via its annual ‘Vins Virtuoses’ competition.

Yes, it’s a tasting, but the clever bit is that it is much more than that, too.  Those submitting samples (which must have a retail price of over 12 euros) have to fill out an extensive dossier providing information about soils, altitudes, aspects, slopes, wind exposures and row orientations, as well as age, yield, pruning method, planting density, cultivation practices and winemaking methods.  All of this information goes into a now-extensive data bank, where it is available for multi-purpose crunching.

The competition has now run for five years, and been judged in Languedoc itself, Paris, London, New York and Montreal by a total of 125 mostly non-local tasters (including importers, journalists, Masters of Wine and sommeliers).  All vote for their top wines in a blind tasting.  Following the five competitions, a Top Ten group of wines has emerged achieving the best scores on aggregate, and I had a chance to taste these in St Chinian itself in late January: tasting notes on the current commercial release of each follows.  I also, though, had a chance to look at some of the data assembled on the Top Ten.  Can we draw any conclusions about terroir in St Chinian from this?

As readers will know, one of the features of St Chinian is that its 3,100 ha of vineyards are divided into limestone and schist-soiled sectors; indeed I will report on what should be a fascinating blind tasting in March where producers with parcels on both soil types will be submitting samples made in a similar way to see if this fundamental differences emerge in sensual analysis.

Evidence from the Top Ten, at any rate, suggests that wines made from schist-grown fruit may be more appealing than that grown on clay-limestone, since 33% of all the wines submitted to the competition over five years were grown on schist soils, but 41% of the Top Ten had a schist origin.  (Analysing my own recent scores below, the schist wines got an average of 91.50 points whereas the limestone and mixed soils got an average of 90.16 points.)  In the appellation as a whole, by the way, there are 1,203 ha of schist vineyard (39%) and 1,842 ha of limestone vineyard (61%).

Vins Virtuoses judges tended to prefer wines grown between 100m and 200m (69% of the Top Ten) to those grown between 200m and 300m (31%), though both figures represent a lift on the total submission rates of 61% and 28% respectively; lower-sited vineyards fail to impress (10% of the total submitted, but none retained in the Top Ten).  Some 78% of the Top Ten wines come from vineyards on moderate to steep slopes.  These are in general ripe wines: the average pH of the Top Ten was 3.83, and the average alcohol level was 14.49%, exactly reflecting the averages for all submitted wines.

Syrah was the most popular variety in blends (56% of the Top Ten) – though there were two wines which contained no Syrah at all. Some 16% of the Top Ten came from vines over 30 years old, and 15% over 40 years old, and almost all the Top Ten wines came from un-irrigated vineyards (97%) given organic fertilizer alone (96%).

No Top Ten wine was made from yields of over 40 hl/ha, and a quarter of the Top Ten came from yields of less than 20 hl/ha: this would represent markedly lower yields than for the Médoc’s Crus Classés in most vintages.  A large majority (83%) of the wines were hand-harvested, and 85% were completely destemmed.  Only 15% were fermented with wild yeasts, and average maceration times were 26.63 days.  Oaked wines proved popular with tasters, though to be fair they also dominated the total submissions: 84% had spent time in barriques and 11% in larger demi-muid casks, with an average of 19.09 months in wood (31% new wood).  Only 5% of the submissions were unoaked.

What, finally, of the bottom line?  Prices varied to a greater extent than I had expected: 46 euros for the most expensive Top Ten wine and 12 euros for the cheapest (these are retail prices from the excellent shop at St Chinian’s Maison des Vignerons).  I tasted and scored the wines without reference to price; two of my favourites proved to be amongst the least expensive.

Tasting St Chinian’s Top Ten Vins Virtuoses 2013-2017 St Chinian wines

Credit: Gaylord Burguière

Congratulations, in particular, to two producers: Clos Bagatelle and the modestly priced Ch de la Dournie, both of whom had two different cuvées in the Top Ten.  Winemaking skill cannot be entered as data on a form, but unquestionably plays a major role in the emergence of successful wines.  That, in essence, is why the long perspective (which evens out winemaking differences) is in the end necessary to understand where the greatest sites of a zone are to be found.  Wines are listed in alphabetical order, and were tasted sighted.

Borie La Vitarèle, Les Schistes 2015

My joint top-scoring wine in this tasting is one grown on steep schist slopes at a higher altitude than most (300m to 350m): Cathy Izarn’s Grenache and Syrah cuvée, with a tiny dash of Carignan.  It is very lightly oaked – the Syrah gets a year in three- to six-year-old demi-muids, while the Grenache is only aged in stainless steel.  The scents are delicate, pure and finely etched, suggesting stone and herbs.  On the palate, too, it’s attacking, vivid, fresh.  There is ample flesh and ripeness, but it’s nervy and poised, and the textures are fine-milled.  More fruit’s evident on the palate than the nose sketched out (a mouthwatering combination of blackcurrant and blackberry); look out for a touch of chocolate at the end.  Wholly admirable.  93 points / 100 (15,50€; 14.5%)

Clos Bagatelle, Je Me Souviens 2014

This ambitious cuvée from the brother-and-sister team of Luc Simon and Christine Deleuze is a Mourvèdre-dominated blend grown on mixed soils in several different sites given 20 months in new barriques.  Black fruits, coal and a little box leaf makes for a fresh, green-toned scent in which the oak is not obtrusive.  On the palate, the wine has that same faintly green-toned, box and holly freshness (the full ripening of Mourvèdre in the Languedoc hills is not assured every year, and these are in general cooler sites than Bandol’s restanques).  Ample mid-palate blackcurrant and sloe fruit has plenty of zest and chic poise to it, and there are soft, well-rounded textures without abrupt tannins.  90 (46€; 14%)

Clos Bagatelle, La Terre de Mon Père 2014

Luc Simon and Christine Deleuze’s second Top Ten achiever is a classic St Chinian blend of 60% Syrah with the balance coming from equal portions of Mourvèdre and Grenache; once again it’s a parcel selection from different soil types given 18 months in new barriques.  The scents, like those of the Je Me Souviens cuvée, have a green cast to them: Darjeeling tea-leaf freshness over dark plum fruits in this case.  On the palate, this is smooth, deep and pure St Chinian, with the same blend of vivacious dark plum and first-flush tea-leaf flavours.  90 (26€; 14%)

Mas de Cynanque, Cuvée Nominaris 2015

‘Fac Bene Semper Nominaris’ is the Latin tag at the origin of this wine’s name, meaning ‘do well and you’ll always be considered’.  Xavier and Violaine de Franssu’s organically grown blend of 80% Syrah with the balance from Grenache comes from clay-limestone soils scattered with blocks of red sandstone; it’s aged for two years in barriques of which one third are new, one third one-year-old and one third two-years-old.  A saturated black-red in colour; scents of dusty rose as well as fresh blackcurrant fruits; and, on the palate, creamy black fruits (not merely blackcurrant, but the wealth of plum and damson and the greater austerity of sloe) surge into the foreground; the acidity is fresh and clean and the tannins smooth and toothsome.  91 (25.50€; 15%)

Ch La Dournie, Elise 2014

Véronique Etienne’s 45-ha domain includes 20 ha of schist slopes; this dark red-black, schist-grown wine is a blend of 90% Syrah with the balance from Grenache, given a year in oak and another year in tank before release.  Syrah sings out of the aromatic profile, in the citrus-blossom and thyme-flower style so typical of moderately warm but not hot Languedoc sites.  On the palate, there lots of fresh black fruit in similarly pure and lifted style, with a pungent, holly-leaf finish.   90 (16.50€; 14%)

Ch La Dournie, Etienne 2014

Another very dark wine, this blend of 60% Syrah with 25% Grenache and the balance from Carignan is also grown on Dournie’s schist soils; the wine gets a year in larger 400-litre casks and a year in tank, and has been a triple Silver Medal winner in former editions of Decanter’s World Wine Awards. Enticingly mellow, earthy scents are built around a core of liquorice-spiced plum compote; on the palate, too, this is a deep, spicy, rich, dense and long-flavoured wine in exuberant style.  There’s impressive density of fruit and perfume here, supported by fine-buffed tannins: terrific value.   91 (12€; 14%)

Domaine les Eminades, Vieilles Canailles 2014

Patricia and Luc Bettoni’s ‘Old Scoundrels’ cuvée is essentially a pure Carignan, planted in 1902, with just a dash of Syrah, both organically grown up on the high sited limestones of the Causse de Montmajou, and given 18 months in wood and a year in tank.  It seems to me that the vines have struggled for full ripeness in 2014, with ample sweetly grassy characters in both the aromas and on the flavour.  The attractive textural finesse of the blackcurrant fruits may be a typical limestone trait, though, and the wine has a juicy, vivid brightness and deliciousness to it just now.   88 (28€; 14%)

Henri et Laurent Miquel, Larmes des Fées 2014

This beautifully labelled, deeply coloured Syrah-based wine is grown on the limestones of Ch Cazal-Viel, the largest single wine-producing property in the zone (140 planted hectares, with 64 ha of AOC plantings and even more planted to IGP varieties, especially Viognier).  It’s a sumptuous, lavishly rich wine from top to bottom, with sweet plum and prune scents and exciting, generously fruity plum, blackcurrant and damson flavours, too.  Concentrated and full-throttle, with its 18 months in new oak adding extra layers – but there is plenty of limestone finesse to the wine as well, and a totally satisfactory structural and textural presence.  The 2014 vintage has left its fresh hallmark on the fruit, but without any green tones.  A commanding effort.   93 (43€; 14.5%)

Ch du Prieuré des Mourgues, Grande Réserve 2014

This is another schist-grown wine based on a core of Syrah (75%) with 20% Grenache and 5% Mourvèdre, given around 14 months in 25% new oak, 50% one-year-old oak and 25% two-year-old oak.  It has exceptionally complex, satisfying aromas: plush, sweet red fruits with a honeyed, mimosa-like top note, but also a savoury, earthy, tobacco-like gravity, too.    The palate is lushly fruited yet also stony and deep.  Fresh acids give its red fruits further brightness and brilliance; there are soft, smooth tannins; there’s savoury warmth in the finish.  Another remarkable effort for the vintage, and fine value.   92 (13€; 14.5%)

Domaine de Sacré Coeur, Cuvée Jean Madoré 2013

This blend of 35% Syrah with 30% Grenache, 25% very old Carignan and 10% Mourvèdre is grown in limestones at 300 m and has a year in new wood.  It’s a little lighter in colour than some of its peers (though it’s a year older, too), with sweet dried-fruit scents and smooth, soft, graceful flavours.  It’s a gentle, classic mouthful of drinkable style and secondary, finishing nuance.  88 (16.50€; 13%)

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