If there's one day in the year when you open a bottle of pink fizz, it has to be Valentine's day. Decanter's tastings team recommends bottles worth considering for that special someone...
Sparkling rosé is romantic for all the right reasons. It has bubbles; it’s pink; and it has soft, red fruit flavours.
Decanter’s Tasting team has picked out some great options for this Valentine’s day, for every price point. So mark Wednesday 14 February in your diary….See also: Decanter’s rosé Champagne panel tasting results – from May 2017 Romantic restaurants for Valentine’s day Sparkling rosé for Valentine’s day:
What makes it a wine legend?...Wine Legend: Recaredo, Turó d’en Mota 1999, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Alt Penedès, Spain
Bottles produced 2,973
Composition 100% Xarel-lo
Release price €95
Price today £213A legend because…
Cava has never had a great reputation, perhaps because most consumers expect a wine of middling quality given its modest price. Over the years some top producers have attempted more serious and ageworthy bottlings, but it was Turó d’en Mota in 1999 that broke through the barrier when released in October 2008.
It was the first single-vineyard Cava, cropped at very low yields, and took its name from the Mota hill, turó being a Catalan word for hill. Its quality was swiftly recognised, and some maintain it is the region’s finest Cava.Looking back
Recaredo was founded in 1924 by Josep Mata Capellades and specialises in single-vintage, brut nature Cavas. Its 65ha of vineyards are 40km from Barcelona in the Bitlles Valley, which experiences mild winters and hot, dry summers.
Southerly breezes from the coast also help to moderate temperatures. The average annual rainfall is 530mm, most of which falls during autumn. More than half the vines are of the Xarel-lo variety. Some still wines are also produced separately under the Celler Credo label, so as to maintain the individuality of the Recaredo cavas.
Today the company is run by Ton Mata, the third generation of the family, who is responsible for the innovations of recent years.The vintage
1999 was marginally cooler than average but, more significantly, it was considerably drier, with an annual rainfall of only 393mm. The grapes were picked on 11 September.The terroir
This single vineyard of just under 1ha was planted in 1940 on limestone soils near the village of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. These are bush vines, trained up a stick. Since 2011, the vineyard, as well as others in the Recaredo portfolio, has been ploughed by horse to reduce compaction. All were converted to biodynamic farming in 2006, but the 1999 was made from an organically cultivated vineyard. The harvest is manual, as for all Recaredo’s vineyards.The wine
This sparkling wine spends almost 10 years on its lees (some subsequent vintages have spent 130 months on the lees) and is closed with cork. The bottles are riddled by hand. More unusually, they are disgorged by hand, after the freezing of the neck of the bottle.The reaction
The prestigious Spanish wine guide edited by José Peñin gave this debut vintage a cautious welcome with 90 points, but more recent vintages (produced biodynamically and made in a less oxidative style) have scored far higher; Peñin himself rates this wine as one of the two top Cavas ever produced.
Another Spanish wine guide, Guía Proensa, rated it more highly on debut: noting: ‘A new dimension in the world of Cava. Shows complexity and elegance with pronounced mineral nuances. Harmonious and vigorous.’
In 2008, Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca (three Michelin stars; Restaurant magazine World’s Best Restaurant 2013 and 2015) in Girona, stated: ‘It is the first grand-cru Cava in history. It’s like a great white wine, but with bubbles. In spite of the 100-months-long ageing, it keeps the vividness, the intensity and the freshness of a great Cava.’
Margaret Rand, writing in 2016 in The World of Fine Wine, said: ‘Ton Mata was 28 when this wine was made, and 38 when it was released – a long wait.
‘It tastes chalky and fine, with fennel and grapefruit on the nose and honey on the palate. Lean, structured and precise; weighty, concentrated and very long.’See more wines that have made the Decanter hall of fame
This article first appeared in Decanter magazine’s March 2018 issue. Subscribe here to the magazine, or to Decanter Premium, which gives you full access to articles online plus extra tastings.
Famous for his Rioja, but born in San Sebastián — Juan Muga, of Bodegas Muga, gives us the inside track to the best restaurants in this gastronomic hotspot…San Sebastián boasts a staggering density of bars and restaurants. Make sure you seek out the best places for pintxos... Credit: ArzakJuan Muga’s best restaurants in San Sebastián
My family started as wine-growers in 1590, and my grandparents, Isaac Muga and Aurora Caño, founded Bodegas Muga in Haro in 1932. Haro is not too far from San Sebastián, only about 140km inland to the southwest.
With its sandy beaches facing out into the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastián is synonymous with good living. A city of just 170,000 people, not only does it boast more Michelin stars per resident than any other in the world, but it also has three restaurants with three stars each.
The Old Town area alone is famed for its pintxo bars, where you’ll find both a huge selection of the local speciality – pintxos are tapas-like snacks served in typical Basque style, usually on a skewer or toothpick (a pintxo) – and also a wide choice of wines that offers much greater variety than is usually found in Spain.
San Sebastián is a showcase for the image of the nation’s products: it’s the cradle of gastronomy in Spain.Rekondo
I have wonderful childhood memories of the great friendship between my father Manolo Muga and Txomin Rekondo – a reference in Basque cooking who has one of the greatest wine cellars in the world. Try the rice with clams here. Find out moreElkano
A gem from the neighbouring fishing village, Getaria. This one-star Michelin restaurant – now run by Aitor, son of the late founder Pedro Arregui – has the best fish in the area (with its neighbour Kaia-Kaipe). The turbot reigns supreme. Find out moreBar Néstor
Arrive early to secure your place here, as it’s always overbooked. Justly famed for its tomato salad and the txuleta – T-bone steak. Find out moreArzak
Father and daughter Juan Mari and Elena set a worldwide standard. The inventive cooking and three Michelin stars speak for themselves. They have a spectacular cellar of wines too, managed by the great Mariano. Find out morePortuetxe
A reliable choice on the western outskirts of the city. Known as one of the best steakhouses in the Basque Country, but also serves fine seafood. Don’t miss the txuleta de vaca – aged T-bone steak. Find out moreGandarias
The best option in San Sebastián to enjoy a good lamb chop at any time of day, as the kitchen here stays open until midnight. Find out moreBodegas Donostiarra
Bodega Donostiarra Has a deservedly high reputation based on the sheer quality of its raw ingredients. The pintxo completo (baguette of tuna, anchovy and pickled green peppers) is a must, and the tortilla is also an excellent choice. Find out moreGanbara
The txangurro (crab) pie and the selection of mushrooms make this an essential call. Find out moreLa Espiga
One of the best bars in San Sebastián – don’t miss the pintxo La Delicia (pictured above), which is made with anchovy, egg, onion and parsley.Call +34 943 421 423Kaia-Kaipe
Located in the nearby fishing village, Getaria. Kaia-Kaipe is next to the harbour and serves the best grilled turbot I have tasted anywhere (along with nearby Elkano). The dishes are complemented by an outstanding wine list. Find out more
Nearest airport San Sebastián / Bilbao
KEY: 1) Rekondo 2) Arzak 3) Portuetxe 4) Kaia-Kaipe 5) Elkano
6) Ganbara 7) Gandarias 8) Bar Nestór 9) La Espiga 10) Bodega Donostiarra
Born in San Sebastián, Juan Muga is co-manager at Rioja producer Bodegas Muga, family owned and run since 1932.
This article first appeared in the March 2018 issue of Decanter magazine.More like this:
- Luxury travel: Spain & Portugal wine tour ideas
- Txakoli: The Spanish wine style you need to try in 2018
- Wine Trails: Six Rioja wineries to visit
Do you have problem with cloudy wine glasses and want to know how best to clean them? Then read on...
Digby Scott, Market Rasen, UK, asks in Decanter’s March 2018 issue: My wine glasses have a cloudiness staining the insides. Is there a way to get rid of this?
Ronan Sayburn MS replies: Cloudy wine glasses are due to a build up of hard-water minerals plus the extended time your stems spend in the dishwasher during the cycle – especially the high heat of drying.
Commercial glass-washing machines used in restaurants have mineral filters to avoid this, and the wash cycle only lasts a few minutes.
At home I always wash glasses by hand in hot water and very little if any detergent, then immediately polish with a dry cotton or microfibre cloth. Once on your glasses, this cloudiness is hard to remove.
You could try soaking the glasses in vinegar to dissolve the minerals, or rub the affected areas gently with bicarbonate of soda or nail polish remover, and then washing and drying by hand.
I’ve also heard effervescent denture cleaners can help!
If any of these methods work (and they might not if the minerals have permanently scratched your glasses), avoid using your dishwasher in the future or the problem will return. Otherwise you might have to put this down to experience and invest in some new stems.
Ronan Sayburn MS is head of wine for London members’ club 67 Pall Mall. This question is taken from Decanter magazine’s March 2018 issue. Subscribe to Decanter here.
The post How can I prevent cloudy wine glasses? – ask Decanter appeared first on Decanter.
Celebrate Chinese New Year at one of these top restaurants in London doing special menus...Try the Chinese New Year menu at Hakkasan. Chinese New Year in London Hakkasan
Michelin-starred Hakkasan has created an exclusive menu for Chinese New Year at £88 a head. Dishes include Szechuan oyster with lotus root and crispy rice in mantau, wok-fried native lobster in superior stock with edamame and caviar (pictured top) and Rhug estate organic lamb in seaweed soy with celery and enoki mushroom.
For a really special occasion, authentic Chinese lion dancers will perform at Hakkasan Hanway Place on 18th February and Hakkasan Mayfair on 25th February.
When: 29th January to 4th March 2018.Duddells
The first London site for two-Michelin starred Duddell’s from Hong Kong, the newly opened restaurant will be offering a Lunar New Year menu for £88 a head. Starting with their ‘signature dim sum symphony’ and then on to mains including black cod with crispy radish and supreme soy, and abalone with smoked chestnut and corn fed chicken toban.
On 16th February look out for the traditional Chinese dancers to bring good fortune.
When: 16th February to 4th March 2018.Serge et Le Phoque
Enjoy the five course tasting menu at Serge et Le Phoque, the overseas venture of the Michelin starred Hing Kong restaurant of the same name. Dishes include scallop with turnip, shiitake, century egg and chilli and salt baked pork “Char siu”, eggplant and cucumber, and costs £75 a head. Each course can be served with a paired wine, for an additional fee.
When: 16th and 17th February 2018Yauatcha
The Michelin-starred dim sum teahouse Yauatcha will be serving a special menu for Chinese New Year at both London locations, based around dishes believed to bring good fortune, such as salted egg yolk custard sesame ball dim sum and golden fortune prawn in lime sauce.
They have also commissioned two artists to create Chinese lantern art installations in the restaurant sites across the world.
When: From 5th February 2018bubbledogs
Gourmet hot-dog and grower Champagne specialist bubbledogs will become a Chinese café for one night only, ‘Chappett’s Café’. Sandia Chang of bubbledogs, will be joined in her kitchen by James Knappett, Head Chef of Michelin-starred Kitchen Table, passing on hot dogs for traditional Chinese dishes. Champagnes on offer include JM Seleque, Dhondt Grellet and Marie Courtin.
For those wanting a more low-key celebration, or unable to make the night, a Chinese inspired hot dog, the ‘Lucky Dawg’, topped with “Lu Rou”, a Taiwainese pork belly mince, shiitake mushrooms, Japanese pickled daikon and coriander, will also be on the menu for the month of February.
When: ‘Chappett’s Café’ – 20th February 2018. ‘Lucky Dawg’ – available throughout February 2018.More restaurant recommendations
This week's quiz has been provided by the City Fine Wine Challenge in aid of the NSPCC charity in the UK. Test your fine wine general knowledge below...Test your wine knowledge.
The NSPCC City Fine Wine challenge took place in London yesterday (8 February). Guests were encouraged, in exchange for donations, to cheat their way to the Challenge trophy, with NSPCC volunteers on-hand to sell clues, and even answers, for the right amount.
The quiz below was curated by Andrew Hooper from Challenge sponsor Lea and Sandeman.
Click in the box below for a 10-question quiz to see how you might have done, without buying clues or answers.See all wine quizzes here
Five great value picks from our recent panel tasting, with tasting notes and ratings freely available.Great value mature Rioja wines
You can find great value in Rioja, if you know where to look, said our judges at our mature Rioja panel tasting.
Rioja has yet to see the sort of price inflation on its very top wines that has been witnessed in some other producer regions, such as Bordeaux and Burgundy. And there is also relatively good availability for Rioja wines with some bottle age.
‘Maybe Rioja is the best entry point into the world of fine old wines,’ said Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, one of three judges at Decanter’s recent panel tasting for Rioja wines from the 2010 vintage or older.
Below are five wines all priced below £35 – with many under £25 – and scoring over 90 points, including one Outstanding.
Find one to try today…
Event: Decanter Spain and Portugal Fine Wine Encounter – book today
See Jane Anson's tasting notes and ratings on several decades-worth of Sassicaia wines, starting from the first vintage to be released, the 1968...Sassicaia wines.Sassicaia wines: Vertical tasting
Introduction copy by Eleanor Douglas
Releasing its first vintage in 1968, Sassicaia was ‘the first, and is still arguably the best known, Super Tuscan,’ said Jane Anson in a column following this tasting in late 2016.
Below are her never-before-published notes, now available exclusively for Decanter Premium members, plus the 2015 and 2014 vintages tasted on release by Decanter’s John Stimpfig.
‘These are Bordeaux varieties perhaps, but you could never take this wine for a St-Julien,’ said Anson.
‘And yet, you also have to forget the stereotype of Tuscany when you approach Sassicaia.’See also: Anson: Tasting Sassicaia – half a century of vintages Wine Legend: Sassicaia 1985 Jefford: Meeting Sassicaia
Sassicaia wines tasted: 1968 – 2015
NB: The 2014 and 2015 vintages were tasted on release by Decanter’s John Stimpfig. The other wines were tasted by Jane Anson in Tuscany at a single vertical tasting in late 2016.
See the top 10 exporters and read a report by Sylvia Wu, editor of our sister publication DecanterChina.com, on the Chinese government's newly released 2017 wine import figures.Wine imports still rising in China.See the top 10 in the chart below. What China’s wine import data for 2017 tells us Fears of trouble appear premature
Some industry observers voiced concerns last year about the amount of imported wine stocks awaiting sale in mainland China. Is the country storing up trouble?
It’s hard to get precise numbers on stock levels, but what we know now is that importers were still placing significant orders in 2017.
Imports of bottled wines rose by 14.6% in volume and 16.4% in value in 2017 versus 2016, according to the latest Chinese customs figures, reaching an equivalent value of 2.55 billion US dollars.
If bulk and bottled wines are added together then 745 million litres of wine worth 2.8 billion US dollars reached China during the year 2017—a 16.9% increase in volume and 18% increase in value.Bilateral free trade agreements are paying dividends
Australia and Chile continued to take advantage of lower import tariffs on their wines.
Imports of Australian bottled wines increased by 33.3% in volume and 25.8% increase in value compared to 2016.
Import tariffs on Australian wines entering China fell from 14% to 2.8% on 1 January 2018. The tariff is set to be reduced to zero in 2019, under the terms of a bilateral trade deal signed in 2015.
China also has a free trade deal with Chile, and the latter saw wine shipments to China rise by 25% last year, according to Chinese customs data.But France is still top, and US premium wines did well, too
France remained China’s top source of imported bottled wines in 2017, with imports up by 14% in volume to 218 million litres, although only 8.8% in value, to the equivalent of one billion US dollars.
On average, French wines entering China fetched 4.82 USD per litre (3.61 USD per bottle) in 2017.
Wines from the US saw a slight decrease in import volume, but the value of imports jumped by 44.1% versus 2016 – suggesting a shift towards premium wines.
As a result, the average price of wines from the US hit 7.85 USD per litre (5.89 USD per bottle)China isn’t just interested in the biggest producer countries
Imports from Georgia rose by 45% in both volume and value in 2017, albeit from a low base . The country just got its nose ahead of Argentina in 2017 in terms of volume.
China and Georgia signed a free trade agreement in May 2017, which including waiving the 14% import tariff on Georgian wines.Sparkling wines
A 4.5% rise in the volume of sparkling wine imports was relatively modest by China’s standards, but there was a 27.2% increase in the average price per litre, to 5.74 in US dollars.Read more about Chinese wine and the China market on DecanterChina.com
Susan Hulme MW explores this Tuscan estate, a partnership between the two Antinori brothers, and picks out her top vintages of the Lodovico and Biserno wines...A tasting of Lodovico and Biserno wines.
The 49 hectare Tenuta di Biserno estate is situated in Bibbona in the Alta Maremma, just outside the Bolgheri zone in coastal Tuscany, and commands a magnificent view across the Maremma to the Tyrrhenian Sea.Scroll down to see Susan’s tasting notes and scores Related content:
- Le Pupille Saffredi wines to drink and for the cellar
- Five Masseto wines to buy
- Isole e Olena: Cepparello wines to drink and to keep
The post Tenuta di Biserno: Lodovico & Biserno tasted and ranked appeared first on Decanter.
Jane Anson reports on the latest Bordeaux wine estate to open a wine bar, but it isn't who you might think...A view into Château en Ville wine bar in Bordeaux.
Bernard Magrez had his just a few minutes walk away from Paris’ Opéra in the 2ième arrondissement, although I just learnt that it closed in September 2017, with ‘no current plans to reopen’.
These high profile outreach programmes continue with Château Latour at Ten Trinity Square Club in London.
And – at a push – Château Margaux in London, with Alexandra Petit-Mentzelopoulos, the youngest daughter of estate owner Corinne Mentzelopoulos, opening the brilliant La Clarette in Marylebone; although she is always very clear in pointing out that the two are not directly linke). All beautiful projects with sky high budgets.
So you can see why it’s oddly satisfying to report that the first château to do something similar back home in Bordeaux is not a classified estate with deep pockets and a clever marketing team but a woman winemaker who bottles under AOC Entre deux Mers, AOC Bordeaux and AOC Bordeaux Supérieur.
Called rather neatly Un Château En Ville, this small but lovely wine bar and shop was opened by Estelle Roumage of Château Lestrille in December 2017 on rue Saint James in Bordeaux’s old town.
A key axe for the Saint Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage route in the 13th century, in 2016 rue Saint James got its own article in Le Monde for representing all that is best about the renewed energy of Bordeaux.
Pedestrianised since 2006, it is home to an array of bars and coffee shops (my favourite being Books & Coffee), and tons of quirky small boutiques, such as the brilliant Dock des Epices spice shop and one of the few traditional luthier shops in southwest France, where Hervé Bérardet crafts and repairs violins, guitars and other stringed instruments.
Think Brick Lane in London, Bleecker St (okay, five years ago) in New York, Hollywood Road in Hong Kong.
All of this was a key attraction for Roumage, specifically as a reflection of the kind of wines that she makes, and the general clientele that she feels the more affordable Bordeaux appellation wines should be aiming for.
‘I began looking for a retail outlet in 2013, but it took until 2016 to find the right place,’ Roumage told me this week, a few days after I had been in to explore the shop.
‘I had to find somewhere that really reflected the spirit of Château Lestrille. What that means is somewhere friendly, not on one of the grandest shopping streets of Bordeaux, with a good mix of independent shops that focus on quality products’.
All of this is particularly heartening because the odds are stacked against you as a small Bordeaux producer. Collectively, you are responsible for 52% of the output of the region, but economically a fraction of that.
A full 39% of wine made in the Entre deux Mers region – which includes a lot of AOC Bordeaux – is sold en vrac, or in bulk. And there’s a clear price ceiling for the rest.
Expect buyers to get scarce as soon as you head above €5 or €10 (in extremely isolated cases) trade price, even though the difference between the best and the least interesting terroirs in this vast area (which in theory includes every square inch of Bordeaux vineyard, as they all have the right to use the labels AOC Bordeaux or AOC Bordeaux Supérieur, but in practice means everywhere outside of the more prestigious village and communal appellations) can be huge, with some areas of extremely high quality limestones, clays and gravels.
Land prices can make all this more palatable of course.
You should only spend an average of €20,000 per hectare to buy an estate, although if you bought it in 2000 you may have seen the value of your land drop by somewhere between 2 and 25% while the appellations around you have shot up to ever more dizzying heights (Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé at €6 million per hectare anyone?).
Château Lestrille has been in Roumage’s family for five generations, and she is an oenologist who made wine in New Zealand and Chile, as well as living in the UK for a number of years, before returning to Bordeaux.
And with Un Château En Ville she is by no means the first Château owner to bring Bordeaux wines to consumers in innovative ways.
Just last week, on February 1, Château Guiraud in Sauternes inaugurated its La Chapelle de Guiraud restaurant, run by the Nicolas Lascombes group, joining other Châteaux-with-tables such as Châteaux La Dominique, Marquis d’Alesme, Candale, Léognan, Troplong Mondot, Lynch Bages, Smith Haut-Lafitte and d’Agassac.
But until the opening of Un Château en Ville in December 2017, no one had done the same thing in Bordeaux in the city itself – missing out on what is one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in France. Roumage is capitalising on this by working with the tourist office, downtown hotels and travel agents, all of which is much easier in the city than out in Lestrille’s very beautiful but more peaceful commune of St Germain de Puch in Entre deux Mers.
‘Ideally this becomes our major retail outlet for our 15 different wines,’ she says.
‘To make that happen, I need to make it welcoming to just drop by for a drink and a plate of something to eat. So far, so good – we have had more visitors that we expected in our first months of opening, and have set up evenings like Picnics in the City on Tuesday and Wednesdays, After Work Thursdays, and Oysters with Entre deux Mers on Fridays.
‘So far I think we are the only ones, but I hear others are interested – and the more we can make this link between Bordeaux city and its surrounding Châteaux, the better. But I’ll always be happy that it was an Entre deux Mers estate that did it first…’Guide to the new wave of Bordeaux restaurants in châteaux – Jane Anson
The scale of the achievement in China’s Ningxia wine region was perhaps best brought home by Yanling Ren, chief winemaker at Pernod Ricard’s Helan Mountain Winery.
She began at the winery 17 years ago as a vineyard worker, soon after it opened as a government-backed operation in 1997.
The post Jane Anson -‘The ambition and drive you find in Ningxia is infectious’ appeared first on Decanter.
As you read this, the vine-pruners of the northern hemisphere will be finishing their lonely winter’s work. The sap will soon rise and the pruning cuts weep – and a new year will be underway. What horrors await for 2018?
Apologies for the phrasing, but 2017 must be regarded as one of the most disaster-strewn years the wine world has endured since the onset of phylloxera. It would be imprudent not to prepare for more of the same. Or worse.
The post Andrew Jefford – ‘2017 must be one of the most disaster-strewn years since phylloxera’ appeared first on Decanter.
Ten great UK restaurants with an intimate atmosphere, including five in London, and which are well worth a visit whether it's 14 February or not...Clos Maggiore: an oasis of calm in central London.
Venturing out for Valentine’s Day dinner can be tricky, and not only if you’re single.
Mindful of this, here are 10 restaurant suggestions that we think could help and which have a great intimate atmosphere. We also love them at all times of year, not just on 14 February.
Below, you’ll find five restaurants in London and five others spread across the UK.See also: Top London wine bars – chosen by the experts Ten romantic restaurants to visit
Click the titles to go straight to the restaurant page to see menus and online booking details.
Julie Sheppard is a Decanter contributor and a specialist writer and editor on food, drink and eating out.Andrew Edmunds, London ££
Where is it? 46 Lexington Street, W1F 0LP
What we like about it: Wine bottles filled with candles set the mood at this romantic little bistro, which has become a Soho institution, with a legion of devoted admirers. There’s a delightful old-school charm about the place, from its comfortably familiar, scuffed and shabby interior to its hand-written menus, which change daily. Cosy up to your loved one and enjoy rustic French-leaning dishes such as melting confit pork cheeks or skate with bread and capers, followed by prune and almond tart.
Wine list: Andrew Edmunds is famous for the low mark-ups on its mostly French list, with outstanding older vintages from notable producers. Roaming across this lovely selection, from the Loire to the Languedoc, is a joy.21212, Edinburgh £££
Where is it? 3 Royal Terrace , Edinburgh EH7 5AB
Book: 0345 22 21212
What we like about it: Located in an elegant Georgian townhouse on Edinburgh’s Royal Terrace, Paul Kitching’s stylish one-star Michelin restaurant is ideal for an intimate dinner a deux or romantic night away (there are four luxury bedrooms here too). Gastronomic thrills are guaranteed with Kitching’s creative menu, which changes weekly but might include dishes such as ‘10 C Sea Trout’ made with 10 ingredients beginning with the letter ‘c’ or ‘Haggis it’s risotto’ – proudly Scottish, with a Kitching twist.
Wine list: This extensive list has plenty to please lovers of classic Bordeaux and Burgundy, alongside a commendable Barolo and Barbaresco selection. Top New World names include California’s Ridge and Cheval des Andes from Argentina.Clos Maggiore, London £££
Where is it? 33 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8JD
Book: 020 7379 9696
What we like about it: Consistently voted ‘most romantic restaurant in London’, love is always on the menu in Clos Maggiore’s pretty blossom-decked conservatory, where you’ll dine beneath twinkling fairy lights as an open fire glows in the stone fireplace. Smooth service sets the tone for a polished French menu of beautifully presented dishes, such as braised shoulder of rabbit with punchy mustard mousseline or perfectly roasted sea trout in a sauce of clams and braised vegetables.
Wine list: This encyclopaedic list boasts over 2,500 bins, with wines from 18 different countries and vintages spanning four centuries. Highlights include rare bottles by-the-glass under Coravin and a stellar Burgundy selection.Hakkasan Mayfair, London £££
Where is it? 17 Bruton Street, W1J 6QB
Book: 020 7907 1888
What we like about it: Darkly lit, glamorous and sophisticated, it’s impossible not to be seduced by Hakkasan Mayfair. With one Michelin star to its name, the Cantonese menu lives up to those sleek surroundings, featuring impeccable dim sum dishes – juicy scallop shumai or silver cod and caviar dumplings – alongside luxurious signatures such as black-truffle roast duck or Alaskan king crab in XO sauce.
Wine list: Perfectly pitched to match the complex cuisine, this innovative list takes oenophiles on a journey of exploration, with unusual grape varieties, biodynamic bottles and one of the capital’s best saké selections, alongside an impressive roster of the world’s top producers and prestige bottles such as Cheval Blanc 1982.Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxford ££££
Where is it? Church Road, Great Milton, OX44 7PD
Book: 01844 278 881
What we like about it: A dream destination for the ultimate romantic getaway, Le Manoir is a beautiful 15th century country manor house with immaculate gardens. Prepare to be indulged, not least in the two-star Michelin restaurant where culinary legend Raymond Blanc presides over a French-inspired seasonal menu using produce from his organic kitchen garden. Choices may include decadent truffled hen’s egg with wild mushroom tea and winter truffle or assiette of lamb with asparagus and rosemary jus.
Wine list: Mirroring the menu, this exceptional list is seasonally led and classically French, with around 600 of the 1,000-plus wines coming from Blanc’s native land. Expect great vintages from outstanding châteaux – and even Blanc’s own English sparkling wine made by Camel Valley.Lime Wood, Hampshire £££
Where is it? Lime Wood, Beaulieu Rd, Lyndhurst, SO43 7FZ
Book: 023 8028 7177
What we like about it: Lovers can stroll by the lake or hideaway in a forest cabin at this chic rural retreat in the New Forest, where quirky, creative touches make for a memorable romantic soujourn. Designer Martin Brudnizki is responsible for the overstuffed chairs, parquet floors and Brit art in Hartnett, Holder & Co restaurant, which combine the talents of Michelin chef Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder. Their locally sourced Italian dishes include gnocchi stuffed with kale and goats cheese and agnolotti with guinea fowl and burrata.
Wine list: The lengthy, award-winning list doesn’t restrict itself to Italy, though great Italian bottles include Ornellaia. Instead the interesting global selection is arranged by variety and reads like a who’s who of top producers.Marianne, London £££
Where is it? 104a Chepstow Road, W2 5QS
Book: 020 3675 7750
What we like about it: There are just 14 seats at this delightfully intimate dining room run by the charming Marianne Lumb, a butcher’s daughter and former MasterChef finalist. Dine in comfort with your loved one, behind discreetly curtained windows, maybe enjoying John Dory scattered with fennel shavings, fresh peas, fronds of agretti and buerre noisette or Wagyu beef with pomme purée and morels from the accomplished seasonal menu that changes daily.
Wine list: Really thoughtful wine pairings showcase Lumb’s cooking, with a list that features an eclectic range of bottles from Croatia to Canada, alongside familiar classics such as Château Lafite 1998. There’s a winning selection of wines-by-the glass under Coravin too.Naughty Piglets, London ££
Where is it? 28 Brixton Water Lane, SW2 1PE
Book: 020 7274 7796
What we like about it: Naughty but nice, this casual and buzzy little neighbourhood restaurant in South London is run by husband-and-wife team Joe Sharratt and Margaux Aubry. Sharratt, previously head chef at Michelin star restaurant Trinity, cooks up inventive small plates with global influences; while Aubry looks after the wine. The menu changes every day but might include cavalo nero dressed up with an addictive savoury anchovy sauce or pork belly with a punchy Korean paste, slivers of spring onion and crisp lettuce.
Wine list: Aubry lovingly curates a low-intervention wine list with organic, biodynamic and natural bottles from small, terroir-focused winemakers. The list change regularly meaning there’s always plenty for adventurous wine-lovers to discover.The Bell at Skenfrith, Monmouthshire (Wales) ££
Where is it? Skenfrith, Monmouthshire NP7 8UH
Book: 01600 750235
What we like about it: This former 17th century coaching inn is now a relaxed and informal country hotel, with oak beams, polished flagstone floors and lashings of local rustic charm. Four-legged friends and muddy hiking boots are welcome at The Dog and Boot Bar, but for a more sedate Valentine dinner head to the award-winning restaurant where Welsh chef Joseph Colman uses local ingredients such as Brecon venison and Hereford beef, with produce grown in his kitchen garden.
Wine list: You may not expect to find vinous gems in the heart of the Welsh countryside, but names on this list include Chateau Musar and Domaine de Vieux Télégraphe. There’s great value for money here too.The Samling, Lake District £££
Where is it? Ambleside Road, Windermere, Cumbria LA23 1LR
Book: 015394 31922
What we like about it: The Lakes landscape that inspired Romantic poet William Wordsworth is the setting for this smart boutique hotel in its own 67-acre estate. The modern, one-star Michelin restaurant combines breathtaking views over Lake Windermere with a cutting-edge Modern British menu. Signature dishes such as Penrith chicken with nasturtium root and nasturtium oil or torched eel with caviar and Mangalista pork (from pigs reared on the estate) showcase superb local produce.
Wine list: The Samling’s extensive and award-winning list includes an impressive Bordeaux section, with New World names such as Penfolds Grange and Napa Valley’s Cakebread Cellars in support.See more restaurant and wine bar reviews on Decanter.com
French chef Marc Veyrat has returned to the summit of the Michelin Guide for France in 2018, after a serious skiing accident and a restaurant fire threatened to curtail his career at different points in the last decade.Marc Veyrat was awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide for France 2018.
Marc Veyrat has re-asserted his position at the pinnacle of cuisine in France after being awarded three Michelin stars at his La Maison des Bois restaurant in Manigod, Haue-Savoie, eastern France.
Veyrat, who has been dubbed by some observers as the ‘comeback king’ of French fine dining, was one of two chefs to see themselves and their restaurants join the the three-star club. Michelin awarded 28 restaurants three stars in France.
Restaurant Christophe Bacquié, based at Hotel du Castellet in Provence, was the other newcomer at this elite level.
But it was Veyrat who dominated headlines.
He once held six Michelin stars – also rated 20 out of 20 in France’s Gault Millau guide – and has been long held up as a genius of both a molecular and ecological approach to cooking.
But he flirted with retirement around a decade ago following a serious skiing accident – only to come back and subsequently see his Alpine restaurant, Maison des Bois, severely damaged by fire 2015.
‘I’m not sure whether to do a Zidane and hang up my boots or whether to carry on,’ Veyrat told Decanter.com back in October 2007, a month before undergoing major surgery as part of his recovery from breaking both legs while skiing.
He ended up handing back his Michelin stars.
Yet, even at this time, Veyrat had spoken of his interest in creating a restaurant at his native Manigod to pursue his passion for wild, plant-based food.
Maison des Bois embodies this, making use of wild Savoyard herbs and flowers.
Michelin said, ‘In his chalet perched at an altitude of 1,650 metres, chef Marc Veyrat has created an almost self-sufficient place by making use of local wild produce – thereby elevating it.’
The Michelin France 2018 guide also contains 85 two-star restaurants, including five new ones, and 508 one-star restaurants, including 50 new ones.
The youngest chefs to gain a one star rating were Anthony Lumet, for his restaurant Le Pousse Pied in La Tranche-sur-Mer, and Guillaume Mombroisse, chef-proprietor of SEPT in Toulouse. They are 27 years old, Michelin said.See also:
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Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW highlights 10 trail-blazing winemakers who are changing the face of Spanish wine. See below for the names to know and the wines to seek out.Find out which winemakers will be leading Spain to new horizons...
- Scroll down to see the wine ratings and tasting notes.
- This article is currently only available online for Premium members
Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW is the DWWA Refional co-Chair for Spain and on the governing board of the Spanish Tasters’ Union.
We asked Tim Atkin MW to whittle his own list of top winemakers and bodegas in this famous Spanish region down to just 10 favourites. Far from an easy task...
Rioja was one of the first regions I visited as a fledgling wine writer, and if it wasn’t quite love at first glance, it’s been an enduring and fulfilling relationship that’s lasted for 30 years and counting.
As I drive across the Sierra de Cantabria, invariably swapping the rain, mist and grey skies of Bilbao for the brighter, more intense colours of Spain’s most famous DOCa, my spirits rise. People forget that Rioja is incredibly beautiful, especially in autumn.More articles on Rioja:
- Top mature Rioja from our panel tasting
- Top Roda I, Rioja Reserva wines to try
- Premium red Rioja – Panel tasting results
The post Ten of the best Rioja producers – and wines to buy appeared first on Decanter.
Decanter’s long-standing consultant editor hand-picks fine wines for drinking now and recommends others to lay down, based on tastings in the past month.Steven Spurrier recommends:
Andrew Jefford reports from the vineyard front line in the battle against the 'ever-worsening' problem of grapevine trunk disease.Concerns are growing over grapevine trunk diseases.
A winegrower’s most precious possession is his or her vines. Winery equipment can be repaired or replaced; the land itself is a given; the weather is beyond control. The vines, though, are the channel or junction through which the potential of the place and the season becomes a harvest. They are the winegrower’s vegetative children: the immediate future of the enterprise. Many challenges keep winegrowers awake at night, but none is more insidious, more threatening to their livelihoods or more exhausting to resolve than the ever-worsening problem of grapevine trunk disease (GTD).
On a cold, grey, wet day last autumn, I found myself standing in the Sauvignon Blanc vineyards of Marc Thibault of Domaine de Villargeau in the Coteaux du Giennois. He looks after 22 ha of vines, and exports 60 per cent of his production (to Britain’s Wine Society among others); his carefully crafted wines are fresh, lively, dashing and sappy, and a good buy for those looking for an inexpensive introduction to the pleasures of the Centre Loire.
The appellation remains little-known as yet, though, so profit margins are necessarily slim. As I looked around the vineyard, the damage was clear in terms of replanted, regrafted or surgically cut vines: every affected vine needs individual treatment. That’s over 110,000 individual vines to look at and, if necessary, treat every year. Since these diseases are asymptomatic in the early stages, Marc Thibault knows that every year will bring new cases; it may be, indeed, that most of the Sauvignon Blanc vineyards are doomed and will need replanting or regrafting before they ever reward his work with old-vine fruit. The challenge is a punishing one.‘Trunk diseases cost France more than one billion euros a year’
What makes GTD a particularly vexing problem is that, unlike phylloxera, there is no single cause, and there can be no single cure. It’s a family of diseases: the three most serious in their effects are esca (now regarded itself as a complex of different diseases), botryosphaeria dieback and eutypa (dead arm) dieback. Fungal pathogens are what provoke these diseases, but a recent paper showed 84 different species of pathogen from nine separate families may be implicated.
Some grape varieties are more prone to these diseases than others. Since these include both Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, the Loire valley is in the front line; other susceptible vines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cognac’s Ugni Blanc, Grenache and Syrah/Shiraz. No vine and no variety is wholly resistant, though. Aligoté, Merlot, Sémillon and Sylvaner come closest to resistance as far as eutypa is concerned.
In the Loire valley as a whole, under 80 per cent of the planted vines are now regarded as being healthy and productive, with esca or eutypa symptoms evident on almost seven per cent of the vines. The number of disease-observed vines has grown every year in the Loire for the last four years. In France as a whole, around 13 per cent of the national vineyard is unproductive. Trunk diseases cost the country more than one billion euros a year.
Nor are other countries spared. Around 10 per cent of Spain’s vines are affected, and the figure is, if anything, higher for Italy, especially among old vines in Italy’s south. According to a 2016 paper by Mark Sosnowski and colleagues, trunk diseases are now a threat to Australian wine production as a whole, with warm-climate zones of New South Wales and Western Australia prone to botryosphaeria, and eutypa more prevalent in the other wine-producing states. New Zealand’s reliance on Sauvigon Blanc and, to a lesser extent, Cabernet Sauvignon makes it almost uniquely vulnerable to GTD. Many vineyards there are too young to show symptoms as yet – though a 2014 survey did reveal evidence of dieback in nine per cent of the vines examined in Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough. Nor are California and Washington State immune. A recent survey in the latter revealed infection rates of between three and 30 per cent, depending on the age of the vines. In general terms, the OIV gloomily estimates that up to 20 per cent of all the world’s vineyards may be affected by GTD.
Given the slow onset of these diseases, and the fact that they are initially asymptomatic, all of these figures might be expected to rise. Persistent fears over the quality of plant material sold by nurseries, and even that held in national mother vine collections, remain an issue, with many growers believing (with Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau) that “everything we have been sold by nurserymen since the 1970s is merde”. There is, in sum, every reason for pessimism. “It’s the next phylloxera,” fears Dagueneau.
What’s to be done? For the time being, there are no chemical fixes; sodium arsenate was considered effective, but was banned in Europe in 2003. Benomyl and carbendazim, both wound-protection agents, have also been banned. Researchers are working hard at trialling a huge range of both organic and inorganic treatments, and some promising results have been obtained by use of the trichoderma fungus as a biological control agent.
The only tools in the armoury at present, though, are those of ‘best practice’. France’s Nurserymen’s Federation (Fédération Française de la Pépinière Viticole) is creating a group brand in order to guarantee quality standards, including the disease-free status of their cuttings; this will involve regular inspections of mother plants and full traceability of all vines sold, though the Federation’s President David Amblevert told me that studies suggest the GTD problem is latent in vineyards rather than in plant material.
In the vineyard, meanwhile, the only solutions are intensely laborious. For vines which are showing symptoms of a GTD, there are four solutions: uprooting, regrafting (grafting new scions into an existing planted rootstock), trunk renewal (slicing off the trunk beneath the lowest point of disease penetration, then re-growing the vine from watershoots sited in the existing scion to create one or two new trunks), or remedial surgery (curetage in French: cutting away all the diseased tissues using mini-chainsaws). Infected debris needs to be removed and burnt.
According to Juliette d’Assay of Ch de Tracy in Pouilly-Fumé, the cost of uprooting and replanting is less (2,80€ to 3€ per vine) than that of regrafting (3,80€ to 4€) – but regrafting means that deep-rooted old vines can be preserved, and also means that the plants are productive again more quickly (back to normal production in three years compared to six or seven for a replanted vine). That, therefore, is the system her family has preferred, replacing 2000 vines every year since 2010, with a success rate of 80 per cent. Recent frost challenges have aggravated their GTD problems, so this year they’ll regraft 3,000 vines and use curetage (which she says is effective if the disease has only just become apparent) for a further 1,000 vines. That, though, represents an annual cost of getting on for 15,000€ for vine ill-health alone. If the OIV projections of 20 per cent of global vineyard infection by GTD are correct, the global costs will be colossal, and must put many economically vulnerable vine-growers around the world out of business in the years to come.
Correct pruning practices are also essential, though frustratingly some studies have shown that late pruning is better at inhibiting the spread of pathogens while others suggest that early pruning or double pruning (mechanical pre-prune followed by hand-pruning to finish) better achieves this end. Pruning during wet and windy conditions should always be avoided, though, and the protection of pruning wounds by fungicides followed by mastics, pastes or paints is also essential. These labour-intensive, expensive practices are far from universal at present, and mechanical pruning favours increased infection.
The “least expensive, easiest, safest and most effective means of controlling GTD,” suggested the authors of the most recent comprehensive study of this subject*, would be breeding for disease resistance in order to create “tolerant cultivars, clones and rootstocks”. Little progress has yet been made in this area, though, in part because of the panoply of disease strains involved in GTDs, in part because of the time these studies require, and in part because of cultural resistance to the idea of genetic change to our existing grape-variety universe, even if that change is achieved by conventional breeding techniques using those varieties which seem to show some resistance, and not genetic engineering. Researcher Loïc Le Cunff of the Institut Français de la Vigne et du Vin told me that many projects are in hand, but none have yet finished the analysis phase.
The wine world, in sum, is in trouble. Not everyone subscribes to the phylloxera analogy — since GTD is, in truth, more of a wasting disease than a catastrophic and rapid demise. Die the vines do, though, and all of our present remedies are expensive, laborious and uncertain. Worse may await.
- *‘Managing Grapevine Trunk Diseases With Respect to Etiology and Epidemiology: Current Strategies and Future Prospects’ by David Gramaje, José Ramon Úrbez-Torres and Mark R.Sosnowski in Plant Disease Vol 2 No.1 (2018)
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This year’s Naples Winter Wine Festival live auction raised $15.26m for charity, boosted by a $170,275 contribution from the 2018 event’s online auction.Bidders enjoying the Naples Winter Wine Festival auction 2018.Top lots at the Naples Winter Wine Festival 2018 included:
- $780,000 for the first Rolls Royce ‘Phantom’ car ever made plus a collection of Alpha Omega wines from Napa Valley, including a six-litre bottle of flagship wine ‘ERA’ from the 2014 vintage and a 12-month, two-bottle membership of the Alpha Omega wine club and a winery visit.
- $520,000 for a 10-day trip to South Africa, for two couples, and including travel with Shari and Garen Staglin of their namesake vineyard, plus 12 bottles of Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon spanning 2009 to 2014 vintages as well as private tastings at several wineries and VIP access to the Cape Wine Auction.
- $450,000 for the winner and 20 of their closest friends to have a living room concert by country music star Thomas Rhett, plus dinner paired with Garguilo wines. The couple also won three double magnums of Garguilo Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 and also a first-class flight to Garguilo’s ‘Flowering of the Vines’ weekend.
- $320,000 for dinner with 24 at Silver Oak winery in Napa Valley – or alternatively at the bidder’s private home – and in the company of Silver Oak’s Duncan family. The evening will include a live performance on the piano by Chuck Leavell and the prize also came with a balthazar, imperial and double magnum of Silver Oak Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, all signed by David Duncan, from the lauded 2013 vintage.
- $220,000 for one winner to take home a magnum of every wine from participating wineries and winemakers.
Bidders from across the US also competed for the online lots, including rare wines, winery and rock star experiences, dinners by award-winning chefs, sporting events and other excursions.
The top online bid of $12,000 secured lunch at Gargiulo Vineyards for 10 people, including a ‘family-style picnic’ at the Oakville estate featuring a number of Gargiulo vintages.
A five-night luxury voyage through the rivers and canals of Burgundy aboard floating hotel The Grand Victoria fetched $11,000, while $10,000 was the winning bid for an evening with Cliff Williams of rock group AC/DC, including an autographed guitar and dinner at Sea Salt Naples.
The online auction was supported by 11 restaurants and 30 businesses based in Naples, Florida, while the funds raised will help support the work of the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), which will award grants to local organisations in March.
NCEF CEO Maria Jimenez-Lara thanked all participants in the Naples Winter Wine Festival for their support, adding: ‘With your help and support, we were able to raise over $15m and we’re excited to continue helping our community rebuild after Irma and further our mission to help at-risk, under-privileged children in Collier County.’
The Naples Winter Wine Festival is famed for its luxury experiences and exclusive auction lots, and has raised more than $176m for charity since the first event in 2001.See also: