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UK Budget 2017: Chancellor freezes wine duty

Decanter News - wo, 22/11/2017 - 15:39

UK chancellor Philip Hammond has frozen duty tax on wine, spirits and beer in his latest Budget, shrugging off the 'scrooge' label bestowed on him by the drinks industry earlier this week.

Uk budget 2017How much of your wine is tax?

UK chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond, has announced that duty on wine, beers, spriirs and most ciders will be frozen.

Earlier this week, The Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) had called for Hammond ‘to not be a ‘Scrooge’ this Christmas’ and freeze duty on wine and spirits to be frozen in the November budget.

UK Budget 2017

The WSTA urged Hammond not be a ‘Scrooge’ this year. Credit: WSTA.

‘We are pleased that the Chancellor has found his festive spirit,’ said Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA. A freeze will save the industry £247 million, the trade body added.

‘He has shown the Government is in touch with what consumers want and is supporting an industry which is proving to be a real asset to British business,’ Beale said.

Only high alcohol ‘white ciders’ are to face an increase in duty in this budget, in an attempt to battle excess alcohol consumption in the UK.

The freeze on other drinks was a move to ‘back our great British pubs’, said Hammond in his speech.

However, wine prices have still risen to record levels in the UK this year, driven higher by earlier duty tax rises in-line with inflation and also a weaker pound making it more expensive to import wines from some countries.

How much is tax on wine?

 

UK budget 2017

How much is tax on wine? Credit: WSTA

Previous budgets

In the March 2017 Budget, duty had already risen in-line with inflation, when trade bodies had lobbied for a 2% cut. The WSTA had urged the Treasury not to ‘punish’ wine drinkers.

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DWWA winners at the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter 2017

Decanter News - wo, 22/11/2017 - 13:46

On Saturday and Sunday, 11- 12 November 2017, a selection of 18 winning wines from the Decanter World Wine Awards were showcased at the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter at The Landmark Hotel in London, where wine lovers gathered to explore the world’s major wine regions.

The event presented over 600 wines from around the world and masterclasses featuring Champagne Kru, Louis Jadot Grand Cru Burgundy and Château Pichon Baron among others.

The DWWA table featured three winning wines from 2016 and 15 winners from this year’s competition, including wines from 14 different countries (Slovenia, Greece, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Cyprus, UK, Uruguay, USA, Germany, Russia, Gerogia, Australia and Brazil)

View the list of DWWA winning wines showcased at the event here.

Search full DAWA 2017 results

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Best Lidl wines for Christmas

Decanter News - wo, 22/11/2017 - 13:00

Decanter's tasting team recommend its favourite wines to buy from Lidl.

Lidl wines for Christmas

Lidl has seen its sales rise rapidly in the past couple of years, taking share off the traditional supermarkets alongside its rival, Aldi.

Lidl reported quarterly growth of 37% year on year for wines, and have just introduced an expanded core range – many of which have recently been tasted by Decanter’s tasting team, with the best ones recommended below.

See also: Medal-winning Lidl wines at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017 Scroll down for Decanter’s Lidl wine recommendations

As well as its core range, Lidl continue to create seasonal collections on a while stocks last basis. The Christmas Wine Tour will be available in stores from 23rd November – see below for our recommendations.

See all of our supermarket wine recommendations for the UK here.

 

The best Lidl wines for Christmas:

The top 22 tasting notes are our recommendations for Christmas. Continue scrolling down to see older Lidl wine reviews.

Bissinger, Grand Prestige Premium Cuvée Brut, Champagne Pillitteri Estate, Niagara-On-The-Lake, Riesling Icewine, Lidl, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy, 2013 Lidl, Südtirol, Müller Thurgau, Trentino-Alto Adige, 2016 Comte de Senneval, Grand Cru Brut, Champagne, France Corbellicce, Vin Santo del Chianti, Tuscany, Italy, 2009 Lidl, Mâcon Villages, Burgundy, France, 2015 Lidl, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France, 2015 Azinhaga de Ouro, Reserva, Douro, Portugal, 2015 Krurus Winery, Doux, Tokaji, Hungary Grand Tokaj, Aszú, Tokaji, Hungary, 2013 Lidl, St-Émilion, Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Lidl, Lussac St-Emilion, Bordeaux, France, 2014 Allini, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, Baturrica, Gran Reserva, Tarragona, Mainland Spain, 2011 Sassi del Mare, Beneventano, Falanghina, Campania, 2016 Henri Delattre, Selection (Magnum), Champagne, France Peuceta, Primitivo, Puglia, Italy, 2016 Hans Michel, Pinot Noir Rosé, Alsace, France, 2016 Lidl, Côtes de Gascogne, Exotique, Southwest France, 2015 Lidl, Cimarosa Pedro Jimenez, Central Valley, Chile, 2016 Domaine Quillot, Côtes du Jura, Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes, Lidl, Gewürztraminer Vieilles Vignes, Alsace, France, 2016 Henri Larue, Pouilly-Loché, Burgundy, France, 2016 Château Louvignes, Gaillac, Southwest France, France, 2015 Domaine de l’Horizon, Cuvée Morgane, Bordeaux, France, 2016 Hans Michel, Riesling, Alsace, France, 2015 Val de Salis, Pays'd'Oc, Carignan Vieilles Vignes, 2016 Bissinger, Brut Rosé, Champagne, France Cers & Marin, Fitou, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, 2015 Château Donissan, Listrac-Médoc, Bordeaux, France, 2012 Colomban, Muscat de St-Jean-de-Minervois Les Hauts d'Oriet, Côtes du Rhône, Rosé, Rhône, France, 2016 Rex Goliath, Chardonnay, California, USA Lidl, Costières de Nîmes, La Grande Collection, 2016 All UK supermarket and high street merchant wine reviews

Updates to this post:

27/9/2017: Added the French Collection (13 wines)

21/11/2017: Added Christmas Wine Tour and core range recommendations (22 wines)

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Côte de Beaune reds: Panel tasting results

Decanter News - wo, 22/11/2017 - 10:29

With terroir at their heart, Burgundy’s southern Côte d’Or regions offer wonderful stylistic diversity, even from the less celebrated villages, reports Andy Howard MW. Here's the full write-up as it appears in the December 2017 issue of Decanter magazine.

Pinot Noir grapes in BurgundyPinot Noir grapes in Burgundy.

Burgundy is renowned for the importance of terroir. Here the relationship between geology, climatic conditions and the influence of man is at its most profound – the location of individual vineyards is vital.

While revered village names such as Chassagne-Montrachet, Pommard and Volnay do not feature in this tasting, some of their lesser-known neighbouring villages can provide Burgundy lovers with quality alternatives at lower cost.

Exclusively for Decanter Premium members: View all 87 Côte de Beaune reds from this Panel Tasting

Although the tasting considered village-level wines only, the majority of appellations have premier-cru climats often emphasising these differences – with significant extra cost per bottle. However, village-level wines from good producers give a valuable insight into the stylistic character of each place, at attractive prices.

Scroll down to see the wines Exciting alternatives

Running north to south, the Côte regions considered here can be roughly divided into four sections. Ladoix, Pernand-Vergelesses and Aloxe-Corton lie in the north, all surrounding the famous hill of Corton. Pernand is renowned for quality of both reds and whites, with more than 50% of production being premier cru. Aloxe-Corton shows a distinctive style – more rustic and earthy – yet can produce wines which age well. Ladoix deserves a wider audience, producing fuller-bodied Pinot.

The second group is dominated by Savigny-lès-Beaune, whoese wines show dark red and black fruits with pronounced tannins and ample weight. Chorey-lès-Beaune has no premier cru and generally offers lighter styles more suitable for early drinking.

Located south of Beaune, the third group is the most intriguing from a quality viewpoint, lying adjacent to illustrious neighbours such as Volnay, Meursault and Puligny. Monthélie, a handsome village on steep slopes, is often described as a more feminine wine in a similar style to Volnay. Auxey-Duresses and St-Romain follow the road leaving the Côte de Beaune heading up the valley towards the Hautes-Côtes: the extra height encourages reds that can be astringent in their youth, becoming mellow over time. St-Aubin is highly regarded with numerous elegant village-level reds that age well.

Maranges and Santenay lie at the southern limit of the Côte de Beaune. Maranges is fleshy, peppery and can be enjoyed young. Santenay is a large appellation, more important in the past though quality is rising rapidly. Undoubtedly, there are many interesting and exciting alternatives to the more famous villages to be found within the Côte de Beaune – Pinot lovers can feel confident in exploring the rich diversity of this region.

Côte de Beaune reds: the facts

Côte de Beaune reds

Ladoix Mostly red, 75ha (21% 1er cru)
Aloxe-Corton Almost only red, 116ha (33% 1er cru)
Pernand-Vergelesses Evenly split white and red, 80ha red (54% 1er cru)
Savigny-lès-Beaune 301ha red (43% 1er cru)
Chorey-lès-Beaune Mostly red, 124ha (no 1er cru)
Monthélie Predominantly red, 109ha (32% 1er cru)
Auxey-Duresses 93ha red (29% 1er cru), 40ha white
St-Aubin 113ha red 
(74% 1er cru)
St-Romain 37ha red
Santenay 281ha red 
(39% 1er cru)
Maranges 157ha red 
(50% 1er cru)

Vintage Overview

2016 Spring frosts devastated yields. Good quality where nature allowed. Keep.

2015 Great red wine vintage. Thick-skinned, healthy grapes led to dense, ripe, supremely elegant wines. Keep.

2014 Good, although overshadowed by 2015 for reds. Charming, fragrant. Drink/keep.

2013 Challenging year: cold, wet growing season, saved by September. Light wines, earlier drinking. Drink.

2012 Small yields. A cool, damp summer but high quality: pure fruit, elegance. Drink/keep.

2011 Cooler vintage with rot a challenge. Good producers made lighter, attractive, fruit-
driven wines. Drink.

2010 High quality, classic and long-lasting. Concentrated wines with purity, acidity and verve. Drink/keep.

2009 Hot, with healthy grapes. Good quality in forward style, mellow tannins. Drink.

The scores

87 wines tasted

Entry criteria: producers and UK agents were invited to submit latest release Côte de Beaune village-level reds, no 
1er cru wines, and not including wines from Chassagne-Montrachet, Pommard or Volnay.

Exceptional

0

Outstanding

3

Highly Recommended

34

Recommended

44

Commended

4

Fair

2

Poor

0

Faulty

0

The results

Much to like in an impressive range of approachable red Burgundies, mostly from 2015, that reveal the individuality of their village origins, reports Christelle Guibert below.

View all 87 Côte de Beaune reds from the Panel Tasting

This is the first time we have assessed many different Burgundy villages in the same line-up and the results show that, even in Burgundy, one can find stunning quality at a fair price.

Although Burgundy often makes headlines these days for exorbitant prices, beyond the famous names the wines can be difficult to sell. Jasper Morris MW explained: ‘So much has been concentrated into the famous names. For these lesser appellations, when in the range of a top grower, of course they will sell. If they don’t have the name of a famous grower behind them, however, as delicious as the wines may be, they can be hard work to sell.’

While they are not on the radar of many serious Burgundy collectors, Jason Haynes felt these wines have an important role to play for those just starting out. ‘There is no point filling your cellar with wines that take at least 15 years to come around. So this is a really good place to start for new Burgundy collectors – you want wines that you can drink after two to four years. They also work very well by the glass in restaurants.’

Our experts felt the overall standard was very high, with very few poor wines. As Haynes pointed out: ‘There is a school of thought that a great vintage will act to bring up the lesser appellations, and this tasting was a good example of that.’ Morris added: ‘Sometimes with a great vintage like 2015 you can get overwhelmed with tannins, weight of fruit and alcohol, but there was no feeling of that. It was a series of lovely wines in different styles. One thing that kept the tasting really interesting was that each flight was a different village, and it was fascinating to see how they all stood up together.’

‘The freshness of the Pinot Noir really came through, with a lot of fruit and structure’ Andy Howard MW

Andy Howard MW also found solid performances across the board: ‘There were some real gems, but it wasn’t just one or two wines. The freshness of the Pinot Noir really came through. These wines had a really nice balance, acidity and concentration, with lots of fruit and good structure. While ageworthy, they are also quite approachable now, so they tick lots of boxes.’

Despite the appellations not being far from each other, the panel were fascinated to find clear differences between the wines. Of the 11 different villages in the line-up, the relatively unknown Ladoix seems to have been a revelation. Our experts found its wines to be refined and elegant, and therefore more approachable, with Haynes describing them as ‘mini Côte de Nuits’.

Auxey-Duresses, Maranges and St-Romain also impressed our judges with their minerality, stoniness and ripe flavours. For Morris, Santenay proved to be more consistent than Savigny-lès-Beaune, although ‘where the Savigny were good, they had grip and a long-term muscle that were very impressive’.

By contrast Aloxe-Corton – often perceived as a senior village, along with Monthélie – were underperformers here. Morris noted: ‘Monthélie is in some ways a baby Volnay, though a little more rustic, but it didn’t quite seem to have the grip of the other villages.’

Summing up, Howard noted with approval that: ‘There’s still no comparison, I think, between these Pinot Noirs and Pinots from elsewhere. They are, fortunately, very distinctive and very Burgundian.’

The panel were unanimous in finding the wines safe buys, and Haynes concluded: ‘It’s a no-brainer: go out and buy them and you will be rewarded with a delicious glass of wine and even some exceptional examples.’

Top 15 Outstanding & Highly Recommended wines from the tasting: Antoine Olivier, Santenay, Les Charmes, Burgundy, 2015 Domaine Antonin Guyon, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Les Goudelettes, Domaine Chevrot, Maranges, Sur le Chêne, Burgundy, 2015 Domaine Petitot, Ladoix, Vieille Vigne, Burgundy, 2015 Domaine Prunier Bonheur, Auxey-Duresses, Burgundy, 2015 Domaine Bonnardot, Maranges, Sur le Bois, Burgundy, 2015 Domaine Chevalier, Ladoix, Burgundy, France, 2015 Domaine Saint Marc, Santenay, Les Chainey, Burgundy, 2015 Jean Féry & Fils, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Sous la Cabotte, 2015 Domaine Roger Belland, Santenay, Charmes, Burgundy, 2015 Domaine Xavier Durand, Ladoix, Burgundy, France, 2015 Jean-Marc Pillot, Santenay, Les Champs Claude, 2015 Catherine & Claude Maréchal, Chorey-lès-Beaune, 2015 Domaine Billard Père et Fils, Auxey-Duresses, 2015 Related content: burgundy 2017 harvest Burgundy 2017: When Côte d’Or prayers were answered?

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LVMH buys control of Napa winery Colgin Cellars

Decanter News - wo, 22/11/2017 - 10:09

LVMH, the French luxury goods group that includes Krug and Dom Pérignon Champagne, has signed a deal to buy control of cult Napa winery Colgin Cellars, in the latest in a string of wine estate deals this year.

Colgin Cellars in Napa Valley.Colgin Cellars in Napa Valley.

LVMH said last night (21 November) that it had agreed to buy 60% of Colgin Cellars, which has around 10.5 hectares of vines.

Colgin’s founder, Ann Colgin, and her husband, Joe Wender, will retain the other 40% of the wine business. A fee was not disclosed.

It marks a significant move in Napa Valley for LVMH and its owner, Bernard Arnault, who regularly features at the top of France’s rich lists and already has names such as Krug, Clos des Lambrays and Château d’Yquem.

Colgin’s wines, such as Tychson Hill Cabernet Sauvignon from the historic vineyard of that name near Calistoga, have developed something of a cult status among fine wine lovers since the estate was founded 25 years ago.

Others include Cariad and ‘IX Estate’ Syrah, and Colgin bottles are regular fixtures in wine lists in top restaurants.

Ann Colgin said, ‘After a social introduction to Mr. Arnault several months ago and discussions with the LVMH team, I realised that I could not find a better partner for Colgin Cellars to preserve our founding spirit and our exquisitely handcrafted red wines, into the future.’

LVMH indicated that little will change in the day-to-day running of Colgin, at least in the short-term.

‘Their talented winery team will continue to be led by Ann Colgin & Joe Wender along with COO, Paul Roberts and Winemaker, Allison Tauzie,’ it said.

The winery is located at the northern end of IX Estate in the Pritchard Hill area of Napa Valley.

It is the latest of several wine estate deals this year across California, France and Italy, in particular.

Read more articles like this:

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California grape varieties: Why site matters

Decanter News - wo, 22/11/2017 - 08:33

Since the 1960s California producers have been seeking to plant the right grape in the right site. William Kelley profiles four winemakers who have mastered the art...

Ramney vineyardRamney, where vine and vineyard are paired with great precision

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

California grape varieties: Why site matters

With its extraordinary geological and climatic diversity, California is a naturally welcoming home to swathe of grape varieties, and deciding what to plant where has long been the subject of research and debate.

In 1963, A J Winkler published General Viticulture. Winkler and his colleagues at UC Davis classified California’s grape-growing climates by counting the number of hours during which temperatures exceeded 10°C over the course of the growing season – an effective metric of a region’s capacity to ripen grapes. Suitable varieties were duly recommended for planting in each distinct region – Cabernet in Oakville, for example, and Pinot Noir in the Carneros.

Today vine and vineyard are paired with ever greater precision, and winemakers speak ever more passionately about the expression of site through a varietal lens. Here are four masters.

Cabernet Sauvignon Ric Forman, Forman Vineyard, Napa Valley

As Forman celebrates his 50th vintage, he can reflect on a career that most California winemakers can only envy. Graduating from UC Davis in 1969 after internships at Stony Hill and the just-established Robert Mondavi Winery, his first job was superintending the inaugural vintage of Sterling Vineyards – as well as designing its new winery and cellar.

‘I must have had a lot of confidence,’ he chuckles. That year, and just as decisively, he travelled to Europe where he encountered traditional winemaking for the first time. ‘I went from this strict chemistry, technological background, to seeing what tradition really was,’ he remembers. ‘I knew instantly, aged 24, that was the way I wanted to make wine.’

Traditional French practice, minutely observed on this and subsequent trips abroad, would inform Forman’s winemaking for the next half-century: first at Sterling, then when he founded Newton Vineyard in 1977 and finally at his own winery, from its first vintage in 1983 to the present. In the vineyards, that meant tightly spaced vines, carefully trellised – a pruning system that Forman pioneered.

In the cellar, the tradition included gentle racking, an attentive approach to new oak and a reaction against the processing mentality that dominated Californian oenology in the era of filtration and centrifuges.

red grape clusters

Credit: California Wines Institute

From the beginning, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (soon blended with other Bordeaux varieties) was front-and-centre in Forman’s oeuvre, and he rapidly made the genre his own, producing wines of power, grace and longevity. Indeed, many of his Sterling Reserves from the 1970s are still drinking brilliantly today. But his approach has nonetheless subtly evolved since his engagement with the variety began.

‘Over time,’ he recalls, ‘I realised that while grapes in Napa accumulated sugar quickly, the ripeness of the flavours and tannins often lagged behind. So I began to pick later, which was quite a departure from what was done at the time,’ he adds.

‘But bigger is not better,’ Forman is very quick to insist, and though he has adapted his Cabernet winemaking to Napa’s balmy climate, his is still an elegant aesthetic, producing complex, savoury wines, which burst with nuances of cigar box and spice.

Faith in the decisive influence of site, as well as the desire to establish an estate of his own, led to the creation of Forman Vineyard, its cellar and winery blasted and carved out of the rocky slopes above St Helena. There, from his hillside vantage point, Forman can survey the valley he has done so much to shape.

Chardonnay David Ramey, Ramey Wine Cellars, Sonoma County

Ramey is a Chardonnay master, but his winemaking career had an unlikely beginning. Born in Seattle, he studied literature at UC Santa Cruz, working as a waiter for a year after graduating. He’d begun to take a keen amateur interest in wine, but the realisation that he actually wanted to make it came out of the blue during a long drive between Mexicali and Hermosillo, Mexico – what he likes to call his coup de foudre.

‘It was one of those lightning bolt moments,’ he recalls. ‘I realised that not only does wine make people happy, it’s an aesthetic statement, and it’s not bad for the environment either.’

He promptly enrolled for a masters degree in oenology at UC Davis, working the 1979 harvest at Ets Jean-Pierre Mouiex in Pomerol and the 1980 vintage in Australia, gaining insights into both artisanal and industrial winemaking. Returning to California, Zelma Long hired Ramey as an assistant winemaker at Simi Winery, where he worked for four years before striking out on his own in Sonoma County; first at Matanzas Creek, then at Chalk Hill. Then, in 1996, he renewed his bond with the Mouiex family to become Dominus Estate’s winemaker in Napa Valley.

Ramey was lucky enough to experience vinifying Chardonnay from the earliest days of his career. At Simi, he and Long were among the first to experiment with barrel fermentation and sur lie maturation, introducing Burgundian techniques such as juice browning, malolactic fermentation and battonage. He continued to explore these methods at Matanzas Creek and Chalk Hill. But Dominus produced no white wine.

‘I asked,’ Ramey recounts, ‘and Christian Mouiex said if I wanted to make a little Chardonnay on the side, that was fine with him.’

White grapes

Credit: California Wines Institute

Thus was born Ramey Wine Cellars, debuting with 260 cases of Chardonnay from Larry Hyde’s famed Carneros vineyard. Soon other vineyards and appellations followed. Inspired by the quality of the grapes he could source, Ramey’s production soon expanded.

‘I grew stupidly, from 1,500 cases to 7,000 to 22,000. Now we’re at 40,000,’ he says. Fortunately the market responded with enthusiasm, and to this day the winery is entirely family owned.

These Chardonnays are ripe, but balanced. Power comes naturally in California, Ramey believes, and he doesn’t shy away from it, pointing to the considerable heft of grand cru Burgundy in great years. ‘But we also need to bring out finesse and minerality,’ he adds.

As he sees it, there have been two key trends in the genre of California Chardonnay over the past 35 years. One has been ‘the gradual adoption of the true Burgundian method’ – and Ramey identifies himself as a classicist, with no aspiration to reinvent the wheel. The other development has been what he calls ‘the march to the coast’. He explains: ‘Areas that were thought to be too cold for Chardonnay 30 years ago are now producing our best wines.’

It would be hard to argue with this. Yet a tasting of Ramey’s different cuvées, beginning at Carneros and heading out to the Sonoma Coast via the Russian River, offers persuasive testimony to both the excellence and the distinctiveness that Californian Chardonnay can attain in a different range of mesoclimates and soils.

Pinot Noir Thomas Rivers Brown, Rivers-Marie, Sonoma Coast

Born in Sumter, South Carolina, Rivers Brown is one of the country’s top winemaking talents and best known as a celebrated Napa Valley consulting winemaker, the recipient of numerous critical accolades – including multiple three-digit scores – for cult Cabernet Sauvignon labels such as Maybach and Schrader. Yet one suspects that the variety that is closest to his heart has to be Pinot Noir.

Back in 2002, long before his consulting star was truly in the ascendant, Brown began purchasing Pinot Noir grapes from the 2.5-hectare Summa Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast for Rivers-Marie, his own label. In the years that followed, more cuvées emerged from other sites in the neighbourhood, soon complemented by bottlings of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. By 2010, he and his partner, Genevieve Marie Walsh (both are tremendous Pinot Noir fans), were able to acquire the Summa property; and today Rivers-Marie is the source of the most exciting Pinot Noir that is produced on the Sonoma Coast.

What drew him to this variety and this region? A literature major and a Burgundy drinker, Brown has long nurtured a passion for Pinot, simultaneously the most intellectual and sensual of grapes. Over the course of many hours whiled away in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast, he happened to fall in love with this quirky part of California, too; life is slower-paced here than in Napa, social interactions more laid-back.

‘Sonoma Coast Pinot falls between two stools,’ he readily admits. ‘It’s too light for the folks who drink domestic Cabernet; and on the other hand, it’s seldom a dead ringer for Burgundy. It stands or falls by its own unique sense of place.’

Red bunch of grapes

Credit: California Wines Institute

Texturally more supple than the taut young reds of the Côte d’Or, the Sonoma Coast’s palette of aromas and flavours is different, too, its fruit tones typically more candied, nuances of herbs and soil relegated to a supporting role. This young region’s wines sometimes taste like an idea only partially expressed; but in Brown’s hands, they attain rare completeness and can express their origins with articulacy.

His knowledge of the area’s reference-point producers, the likes of Joseph Swan and Dehlinger, is encyclopaedic, but the wines that seem to excite him the most are those produced by the great Burt Williams during the heyday of the Williams Selyem Winery. Not coincidentally, Summa Vineyard was the source of Williams’ first pioneering Sonoma Coast cuvée of Pinot Noir.

The Rivers-Marie Summa bottlings burst with the same notes of blood orange, spice and coniferous forest floor that distinguish those old Williams Selyem wines. Brown, who stands out among his celebrity-winemaker peers as unusually unassuming and softly spoken, would never presume to say so himself; but he is arguably among the leading upholders of Williams’ legacy today.

Zinfandel Tegan Passalacqua, Turley Wine Cellars, California

‘Zinfandel should taste like Zinfandel,’ insists Tegan Passalacqua, director of winemaking for Turley Wine Cellars. ‘Zin that’s under 14% alcohol starts to taste like Bordeaux as it ages,’ he continues – a complaint once voiced by the late Louis M Martini, who denounced mature Zinfandel’s similarity to those ‘damned French clarets’.

The issue is topical for a simple reason: Zinfandel’s large bunches take a long time to ripen. By the time there are no green berries left, others have often attained lofty sugar levels. But though alcohol tends to be the elephant in the room whenever this variety is discussed, such is the grace and harmony of the Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel in our glasses – a whopping 15.4%, honestly labelled – that for once it doesn’t seem terribly important.

Passalacqua’s light touch with extraction and new oak mean the wine isn’t cumbersome in its expression of the California sunshine and of what these vines, planted around 1903, have to say about where they were grown. In fact, the distinctive personality displayed by each of Turley’s 20-odd different Zinfandel bottlings, from single vineyards across the region, sometimes begs the question: is this grape the ultimate lens for California terroir?

Turley Wine Rattlesnake Ridge

Passalacqua is a Napa Valley native, but he took a degree in public health and had originally intended to embark upon a career as a social worker. A job in the Napa Wine Company laboratory, combined with evening classes in viticulture and oenology, changed all that. After working harvests in New Zealand (Craggy Range), France (Alain Graillot) and South Africa (Eben Sadie), he started at Turley in 2003, assuming the reins in the cellar a decade later.

Passalacqua’s affinity for the old-vine vineyards he and his team farm is tangible, so it’s no surprise that he was one of the founders of California’s Historic Vineyard Society, a non-profit group dedicated to the preservation of California’s old-vine heritage.

For Passalacqua, the history of these vineyards is a clue to their potential. ‘I’m passionate about the grapes that have done well in California’s past,’ he says, with Zinfandel being foremost among them. ‘They didn’t get planted by accident.’

William Kelley is Decanter’s US correspondent who lives and works in Napa Valley More California articles:

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DAWA Tasting Workshops in Hong Kong

Decanter News - di, 21/11/2017 - 17:56

Asia Wine Service and Education (AWSEC) is organising a series of workshops about Decanter Asia Wine Awards

Asia Wine Service and Education (AWSEC) in Hong Kong is running a series of workshops to explain DAWA’s judging process on 3rd December and 5th January 2018. The course will be hosted by Corinne Mui, DAWA judge from Hong Kong, who will present a selection of 2017 award-winning wines and share her judging experience.

The first workshop “How to Judge Wine like an Expert” will take place on 3rd December 2017. Attendees will be guided through a blind tasting of three flights to introduce DAWA and its judging process.

During the second session “DAWA Gold Medal Tasting Masterclass” on 5th January 2018, students will have the opportunity to taste 12 gold medal winners from Australia, Chile and China, among others.

For more information about these workshops, please visit the links below:

3rd December 2017 – How To Judge Wine Like An Expert

5th January 2018 – DAWA Gold Medal Tasting Masterclass

Price: HK$680 for 1 Class | HK$1,100 for both Classes

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Black Friday: Top gin deals

Decanter News - di, 21/11/2017 - 16:33

Time to stock up for the festive season...

top gin deals, The BotanistThe Botanist ginTop gin deals

We’ve rounded up some of the best gin deals around so you can find great value on some of your favourites…

The Botanist Islay Dry gin, 70cl

The Botanist Islay dry gin  (pictured top) is produced with twenty two foraged botanicals from the Scottish island of Islay, and slowly simmer- distilled.

Price: £27.94, saving £7.05 – Buy now
Find Black Friday wine deals here Find Black Friday Whisky deals here Bombay Sapphire gin, 1l top gin deals, bombay sapphire

Bombay Sapphire

Bombay Sapphire is a London dry gin, infused with flavours of juniper, lemon peel, almonds, orris and more, and uses a distillation method called ‘vapour  influsion’.

Price: £20, saving  £7 – Buy now
Tanquery No. 10 Batch Distilled gin, 70cl top gin deals, tanqueray no 10

Tanqueray No 10.

Tanqueray No 10 gin is distilled in small batches, infused with citrus fruits, camomile flowers and other botanicals.

Price: £20, saving £7 – Buy now.   Portobello Road London dry gin, 70cl Gin deals, Portobello gin

Portobello gin

Portobello London dry gin is infused with nine botanticals – including juniper, lemon, bitter orange, coriander and liquorice.

Price: £22, saving £4 – Buy now Langley’s Distilled London dry gin top gin deals, Langley's

Langley’s Distilled London dry gin

Langley’s Distilled London dry gin is distilled in small batches, made with a secret blend of eight botanicals.

Price: £25, saving £5 – Buy now

 

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Inside the fourth Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter

Decanter News - di, 21/11/2017 - 16:20

More than 1,000 fine wine lovers in China had the chance to meet their favourite winemakers and taste over 600 wines at the fourth Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter. See highlights below.

Over 600 wines available in Grand Tasting room

The sold-out tasting was held on 18 November at The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong.

This year, Decanter partnered with the California Wine Institute for the first time to showcase the best of what the Golden State has to offer. Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel were chosen as the main grape varieties to be featured.

Guests help themselves to top California wines

A selection of highly rated wines from the region were also been selected to present to visitors with only a limited of 30 pours available each. Guests had to register their interest for the chance to win a ticket to taste one of the icon wines, which included:

  • Screaming Eagle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2014
  • Harlan Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2012
  • Louis Martini Lot 1, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2003 & 2013
  • Heitz Cellar, Martha’s Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 1987
  • Scarecrow, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2013
  • Opus One, Napa Valley 2013

One lucky guest tastes this Harlan Estate wine.

The day started with a masterclass of Château Margaux, with Thibault Pontallier, global ambassador and Philippe Bascaules, general manager.

Attendees enjoyed a vertical of six vintages of the Bordeaux First Growth’s grand vin plus Pavillon Blanc and Pavillon Rouge. Tickets for this masterclass were sold out within a week after tickets went on sale.

Pontallier said, ‘The level of engagement in the room was incredible. You can tell from the questions that people ask. We see in China that people really know and appreciate what they are drinking. I think Margaux suits the palate here. And it is wonderful to see the excitement and enthusiasm.’

Bascaules said, ‘It is always a great pleasure to share these great wines with such an engaged and enthusiastic Decanter audience in Shanghai. The event was incredibly well organised. We were delighted to be invited and involved in this amazing Shanghai Encounter.’

Margaux masterclass line-up.

In a separate masterclass, Bodegas Muga shared wines spanning across four decades, including its Gran Reserva 1976. Other wines tasted include Prado Enea Gran Reserva 1991, 2001, 2004 and 2010, and Muga Reserva Selección Especial 2005 and 2009.

Eduardo Muga, co-owner and third generation family member, said, ‘It is the perfect place not only to showcase our wines, but also to taste. There is a great selection of wines from around the world.’

Masterclass guests at the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter. Riedel supplied glasses for the tasting.

Decanter’s North America correspondent, William Kelley, presented classic Cabernet Sauvignon from five of California’s top wine producers, and explored two vintages separated by a decade or more. Attendees tasted wines from Silver Oak, Ridge, Diamond Creek Vineyards, Heitz Cellar, and Vérite.

François Perrin, owner of Château de Beaucastel and joint-Decanter Man of the Year 2014, hosted the next masterclass in the afternoon and presented a vertical of excellent vintages, including 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015 vintages of Château de Beaucastel and Hommage à Jacques Perrin.

Perrin said, ‘We were very proud to present our Hommage à Jacques Perrin vertical, and here I met many (Chinese) consumers who are interested in our wines and winemaking. It’s so different than 10 years ago – the questions we received during the masterclass have been very sophisticated.’

Francois Pierre hosts the Château de Beaucastel masterclass.

At the same time, Andrew Caillard MW, Langton’s curator, guided attendees with some of the best wines from Australia’s top producers, including Penfolds, Henschke, Clonakilla, Wynns, Cullen, Moss Wood, Clarendon Hills, Chris Ringland, Jim Barry, and the 1880 vintage of Seppeltsfield Para. All eight wines are rated as Exceptional in the Langton’s Classification.

Caillard said, ‘This was my first time at the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter and I was thrilled to be part of it. What I particularly loved about it was the enthusiasm and passion of the people who attended.’

Andrew Caillard MW said, ‘What surprised me was the high percentage of women at the event.’

On top of the five masterclasses, in the grand tasting, attendees could taste 600 fine wines from over 100 producers, from a variety of countries and wine regions, including France, Australia, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Chile and Argentina. There was also the opportunity to taste medal winning wines from this year’s Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA).

Nicolas Heath from Taylor’s, noted that ‘many visitors return year and year. Some had already tasted some of our wines and they have returned to taste others to make more discoveries.’

Hans Astrom, managing director and partner of Kein Constantia, referred to the Encounter as ‘a busy event with very high-calibre participants.’ and that the Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2013 has been the most popular at the show as it was served for the Chinese president during his visit to the UK.

Guests enjoy a selection of wines at the Chardonnay counter in the California room

Nicolas Glumineau, CEO and chief winemaker of Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, said, ‘The level of wine knowledge is unique in Shanghai – but this is only the first step, and other cities will follow. Before Shanghai, there was only Hong Kong.’

There was significant social media interaction on the day, as guests shared highlights and engaged with the event’s official WeChat and Weibo account. Live streaming videos shared on DecanterChina.com’s Weibo account from the Grand Tasting and masterclasses received high praise with over hundreds of thousands views on the day.

‘It is a unique event to see the real people who love wine in China’, said Gianluca Bisol from Bisol.

 

In the California room, Christopher Beros, Asia director of the California Wine Institute, said, ‘California scored a big success at the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter. The interest and energy in the California room was palpable with consumers and the trade flowing in to try over 85 different wines representing most AVA’s in California and many of the most popular varietals.

‘Over 500 guests visited the California room, and a few lucky ones were able to taste six very iconic wines that were there to be tried throughout the day.’

‘Wine lovers should be inspired, thrilled and delighted by the wines they can taste and the producers they can meet,’ said Decanter general manager Lindsay Greatbatch. ‘We hope they will hold fond memories of this magical day.’

The next Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter will be on 17 November 2018.

Thank you to Acqua Panna and San Pellegrino mineral water for keeping guests hydrated on the day, to Riedel for supplying the glassware and to all Ritz-Carlton staff.

Interview credits to John Stimpfig, Sylvia Wu, and Emily Xu.

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Mouton Rothschild 2015 label design revealed

Decanter News - di, 21/11/2017 - 15:48

Château Mouton Rothschild has released the label design by German artist Gerhard Richter for its 2015 vintage 'first wine'.

mouton 2015 wine labelGerhard Richter's Mouton 2015 wine label.

Gerhard Richter’s Mouton Rothschild 2015 label uses a process that the German artist calls ‘Flux’, which is described as a piece of work that combines painting and photography and is ‘both random and carefully prepared’.

The full Mouton Rothschild 2015 label

The full Mouton Rothschild 2015 label.

Richter’s label design continues Mouton’s tradition of commissioning bespoke artwork for its grand vin, which it first did for the 1924 wine and has done for every vintage since 1945.

Other artists to have designed Mouton labels include Dali, César, Miró, Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, Soulages, Bacon, Balthus, Tàpies and Jeff Koons.

Coming soon: Jane Anson re-tastes Bordeaux 2015 classified wines now they’ve been bottled

This year’s Mouton label was chosen by the next-generation owners of the estate, Camille and Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild.

Born in Germany in 1932, Richter is known for his ‘photo paintings’ and abstract works and his style has been linked to artists such as Picasso.

Richter’s 1986 painting ‘Abstraktes Bild’ set a record auction price for a work by a living artist in October 2015, when it sold at Sotheby’s for £30.4 million.

How Richter created the Mouton 2015 label

Richter used his ‘flux’ technique to develop the label design, according to Mouton.

‘This involves spreading enamel paint on a plate of plexiglass on which he then presses a glass plate. When the process reaches completion, he finally fixes the plates one on top of the other,’ the Bordeaux château said.

‘Before that, however, he photographs the still fluctuating colours when he considers their composition to be momentarily harmonious: that is how he created the label for Mouton.’

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How to pair Californian wines – from the sommeliers

Decanter News - di, 21/11/2017 - 08:03

Created in partnership with the California Wine Institute.

We get the advice from the sommeliers...

California wine and foodWhat goes with California wines?

Created in partnership with the California Wine Institute.

Californian wine and food

What’s the rule to pairing Californian wine with food? There’s no one rule! With the immense range of wines being produced in California today, there are many different styles and varieties on the table.

‘The great thing about California wine right now is its diversity,’ says GuildSomm President, Geoff Kruth MS. ‘Ten years ago wine in California was much more monolithic; that has totally changed. Now, there are great examples of almost any conceivable style. It doesn’t make for an easy answer to pairing, but it’s absolutely true.’

California wine and food

Credit: California Wine Institute

Acidity and fruit

In order to plan a pairing, take into account the acidity and fruit, suggests sommelier and ‘Secrets of the Sommeliers’ author, Rajat Parr.

‘There are so many styles of California wine: from “fruit bombs” to mineral-driven wines with high acidity. But generally speaking, the flavours of Californian wines are bold, hence the dishes that work are bold.’

‘Grilled foods work well with Californian reds, for example. For Californian wines with moderate to lower acidity, fresher dishes are better: olive oil works better than butter, and lots of herbs and vegetables.’

Pairing by weight

Perfect Pairings and Daring Pairings author, Evan Goldstein MS, recommends pairing by weight.

‘For more generous styles – like Sonoma Zinfandels, Napa Cabs, Central Coast Rhone Blends (red and white), and older-school Chardonnays – keep your wine and food weights on par. Don’t let the food squash the wine by being too rich, or vice versa.’

‘For those wines espousing California 2.0 (with lower alcohols, fresher acidity, cooler provenance, less oak), it’s easy to treat them like their old world counterparts. A Petaluma Gap Chardonnay or Anderson Valley Pinot Noir are, food wise, not that different than similar-styled Burgundy.’

California wine and food

Sparkling wines go well with savoury dishes. Credit: California Wine Insititute

Sparkling wines

Goldstein is also a big fan of Californian fizz: ‘Don’t overlook the high-quality of our premium sparkling wines that work well with just about anything savoury.’

Don’t be scared to experiment

LA sommelier and founder of Pour This, Ashley Ragovin, also believes in thinking outside the box:

‘For spicier dishes, look for wines with a little residual sugar, more fruit, less tannin and lower alcohol – so instead of a big Cabernet, try a Valdiguie, Gamay, or a Sankt Laurent; for whites, get out of the comfort zone of Chardonnay and experiment with fresher, versatile, food-friendly varietals like Vermentino, Sylvaner, and Chenin Blanc. It’s an exciting time right now for Californian wine.’

With over 80 wine varieties, over 100 classified wine regions and more than 4,600 wineries, there’s no limit to the diversity of Californian wine and its ability to pair with most meals. The question is, what’s for dinner?

Amanda Barnes is a wine and travel writer currently travelling Around the World in 80 Harvests.

 

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Brunello 2013 vintage: A sneak preview

Decanter News - ma, 20/11/2017 - 18:23

Stephen Brook got a preview of the Brunello di Montalcino 2013 vintage at an event hosted by specialist merchant Vinexus in London. Read his report below, and Decanter Premium members can see his ratings from the tasting.

brunello di montalcinoA wine shop in Montalcino in the heart of Brunello country.Brunello 2013 at a glance:
  • A cooler year producing more elegant wines
  • Homogenous conditions across the region
  • Moderate alcohol levels 

This Brunello di Montalcino 2013 preview tasting, two months before the official release date, proved a pleasant surprise. Those looking for big, rich, tannic wines will be disappointed, but those who prefer more restrained and elegant styles will find much to enjoy.

After a great vintage in 2010 and very good, if less consistent, wines in 2011 and 2012, it was easy to be dismayed by reports that 2013 was a cooler year and, moreover, experienced rain during harvest.

But preliminary reports, based solely on climatic conditions, rarely tell the whole story.

Article continues below the wines

Brunello 2013 wines to look out for from this tasting:

Only Decanter Premium members can access full tasting notes and see scores.

Armilla, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2013 Canalicchio di Sopra, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, 2013 Altesino, Brunello di Montalcino, Montosoli, Tuscany, 2013 Gianni Brunelli, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, 2013 Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2013 Altesino, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2013 Buon Tempo, Brunello di Montalcino, P.56, Tuscany, 2013 Caprili, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2013 La Gerla, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2013 Lambardi, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2013 Agostina Pieri, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2013 Pietroso, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2013 Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino, Altero, Tuscany, 2013 Buon Tempo, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2013 Val di Suga, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2013 The bigger picture for Brunello 2013

There is the crucial matter of vinification, especially with a variety such as Sangiovese, which can easily show astringency if too extracted. Once vinified, the wines will spend two years in oak.

The fashion for barrique ageing has subsided, and most wines are aged in larger casks or in older 500 litre barrels, so excessive wood influence is rarely an issue these days.

On paper this was not an auspicious vintage. The spring was cool and wet, and growers had to be vigilant against disease. The summer was uneven, with some cool periods in August and no heat spikes. A good September helped conclude the ripening period, and the bunches remained healthy.

Rain was certainly a problem in October but by then most grapes had been picked. There were fears that some producers may have picked too early, but there is little to confirm this in the glass, with very few wines showing herbaceous or weedy characters.

A frequent difficulty in the Montalcino zone is that it is geologically and climatically varied. North of Montalcino the elevation is high and the microclimate cooler, while in the far south, at lower elevations, bunches can be exposed to extreme heat in very hot years such as 2003 and 2017, resulting in cooked fruit and a lack of freshness.

Blessed, then, are those with access to fruit in more than one zone, as they can blend judiciously to produce balanced wines. Yet in 2013 this was not really an issue as the climate was homogeneous across the region.

Alcohol levels are moderate and medium-bodied wines are the norm, with the best showing delectable finesse and balance. Moreover, there is no reason to think they won’t age well.

Related content: brunello 2012 wines Brunello di Montalcino 2012: Top wines and vintage review

See Richard Baudains' top wines from the vintage...

Brunello di Montalcino 2012 Panel Tasting: Brunello di Montalcino 2012

The warming climate is increasingly a factor in this revered corner of Tuscany, says Richard Baudains...

Gianni Brunelli vertical Gianni Brunelli: A Brunello vertical

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Decanter.com Upgrade – Advertising Lite for Premium Members

Decanter News - ma, 20/11/2017 - 15:11

We've just released a new upgrade on Decanter Premium aiming at bringing our readers a better website experience!

It’s been three weeks since we launched Decanter Premium, which has allowed us to publish much more in-depth tastings and analysis than ever before; thank you to everyone who has supported us so far.

To keep our website improving, this week we’ve released an exiting new upgrade to Decanter Premium, with the aim to improve the whole reading experience across every article on Decanter.com.

When you are logged in, you will now have an advert lite experience, on both the mobile and desktop site, making reading your favourite articles on Decanter.com even easier. You will notice that when you click through on articles, many of the adverts across the site will now not be visible.

We hope that this change will help you to enjoy all our great wine reviews and analysis.

Click here for Decanter Premium Coming Soon to Premium Bordeaux 2015 in bottle – the classifieds

roald dahl bordeaux

Jane Anson tastes both right and left bank as she continues her assessment of the 2015 vintage.

Burgundy 2016 en primeur burgundy hot air balloon

A hot air balloon takes off over Pommard 1er cru Les Rugiens during a lull in harvesting.

William Kelley is currently tasting over 1,000 Burgundy wines to get a strong view of this years en primeur offering.

Most Popular Bordeaux 2015: How it looks in the bottle – Part One Read

claret wine

Jane Anson re-tastes the Bordeaux 2015 vintage now that it’s been bottled and finds there’s plenty of good options at Cru Bourgeois level and the more affordable end of the price scale in general.

See all Decanter Premium content published so far

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Jefford on Monday: The white question

Decanter News - ma, 20/11/2017 - 11:47

Andrew Jefford discovers the other face of Priorat.

priorat white wine, mas altaHigh altitude, Mas Alta vineyards.

Winegrowers tease a landscape into performance … then ask questions of it.  The answers are always provisional, though they may not feel so.  Grape varieties adapt and evolve; climates modulate; over the long term, even the shape of the hills will change.  This interrogative adventure should prove one of the most joyful ways in which we can interact, over millennia, with our planet — supposing, that is, that we can find a way of making our sudden and overwhelming presence on earth sustainable.

Priorat’s landscape lends itself to speculations of this kind.  You’ve journeyed from some comfortable domestic familiarity; suddenly you find yourself in a wild, lonely chaos of hills, rocks, light and wind.  The press of faces and physiques drain away; the roads fall silent; nature’s odours slide from the hills. Sun, moon and stars become actors in your life.  The little villages seem almost vulnerable, clinging to their footholds, wherever a trickle of water can be found.  The landscape has not gobbled them up yet – but you feel it could, and tracelessly.

The commensurate drama of Priorat’s reds is well-known, and in itself subject to much questioning, as I will be outlining in a feature in next March’s edition of Decanter magazine and on Decanter Premium.  Today, though, let’s consider Priorat’s ‘three per centers’: its whites.

One reason for a close look at these is their diagnostic energy.  This is something they share with the red wines, derived from a birthright intensity of fruit.  Red wines, though, have to wear the polyphenolic cloak which comes from maceration and extraction – and that in turn implies a suite of decisions about élevage, all of which can mark the wines in one way or another.  That is less true of the whites, whose energy often seems to emerge without artifice.  It’s all the more striking given the fact that the key white grape variety here, with 40 per cent of plantings, is Garnacha (or Garnatxa in Catalan) Blanca, one that is often passive and even torpid elsewhere.  Other officially approved varieties include Macabeo, PX and Chenin, but there are rarer varieties too like Picapoll and Trepat.  The well-adapted Cariñena Blanca has yet to be approved, though it has been long present here and is admired as a blending component.

prioriat soils

Classic llicorella (slate) soils in Priorat. In this case, in the vineyard that gives birth to La Solana Alta. Credit: Andrew Jefford.

A second reason for that close look is the intrinsic balance and finesse of Priorat whites.  The stony rubble which passes for soil (usually slate or schist though sometimes limestone, too) and the altitude and its implications for diurnal temperature variations seems to give white Priorat, when sensitively handled, aromatic nuance, a subtle but sustained acid balance, and a beguiling unfruitiness of flavour.

Priorat’s wine-growers, consequently, are beginning to ask whether they shouldn’t be making more white wine and less red.  “Many people here,” says Miguel Compte of Clos Figueras, “are beginning to say that white wines might be the future of Priorat.”  “Lots more people are now working with whites,” confirms Cokè Bálon Jiménez of Terroir al Límit.  “There has been a lot of opening of minds.”  “They’re becoming more and more important, but they need time,” cautions the thoughtful Sara Pérez of Mas Martinet, who has made a very fine though as-yet-unreleased white at her home domain for some years now, as well as another white (under the Partida Bellvisos label) with her partner René Barbier Jnr – who says in turn that at Clos Mogador, his own family business, the eventual aim is for 50 per cent white wine.

At the moment, there are a wide variety of different approaches to white-wine making in Priorat, which is exactly as it should be.  The avant-garde, like Terroir al Limit and Sara Pérez and René Barbier Jnr, are using low sulphur levels, skin contact and (in the case of Terroir al Limit) whole bunch fermentation.  Avant-garde?  In fact there is an artisanal Priorat tradition of white-wine production with skin contact called Brisat, and in most ways these new wines reflect those age-old traditions more closely than do the ‘conventional’ wines of our times.

La Conreria's Jordi Vidal Pardenilla

La Conreria’s Jordi Vidal Pardenilla. Credit: Andrew Jefford.

Another approach is that taken by Jordi Vidal Pardenilla at La Conreria d’Scala Dei.  La Conreria was always unusual in that it had 70 per cent of white grapes when first founded in 1997, and still produces 40 per cent white.  “Garnacha Blanca,” says  Vidal, “is in some ways a weak and fragile variety, but it has the advantage of many possibilities.  You can do exactly what you want with it if you are prepared to take risks.”  He produces two styles – one conventional, but one (Iugiter Les Brugueres) which uses two to three days’ cool skin maceration to produce a white with an extraordinary fresh sappiness to it, as if the Grenache Blanc of Priorat was dreaming of becoming a transgender Sauvignon Blanc.  It sounds strange, but it works.

In the final analysis, though, the sites here are so outstanding that you can hardly do better than respect those to the maximum with pure and limpid winemaking in conventional guise.  Full notes are given below, but I was lucky enough to taste the fine La Solana Alta, crafted by Bixente Oçafrain at Mas Alta, not in the confines of the cellar but high up in the vineyard itself, looking out in late October sunlight across the valley to the village of Vilella Alta, and the echoing contours of a dozen or more hillside flanks falling away in every direction.  Red wines have mass and substance, and in this they seem to echo the earth.  Here, though, we stood in the upper air; a rogue gust or two could have swept us off, like awkward fledglings.  White wine had the measure of the moment.

Tasting White Priorat Tasting La Solana Alta

Tasting La Solana Alta…Credit: Andrew Jefford.

Mas Alta’s second white wine contains Pedro Ximenez and Macabeu as well as Garnacha Blanca, and is grown on a variety of soil types.  Its scent is less refined that the top wine La Solana Alta (see below), with notes of wet clay and cistus; the palate has plenty of cut and edge, with muted but enticing fruits perfectly spliced to the wine’s ample but soft-contoured acidity.   91

Mas Alta, La Solana Alta 2014

This wine is preponderantly barrel-fermented Garnacha Blanca grown on pure llicorella (slate) with just a dash of Cariñena Blanca; malolactic is blocked.  A bright gold in colour, with scents and flavours of lemon, cistus, fruit blossom and pounded almond.  It’s mouthfilling, stony and plump, with delicious richness yet bright freshness, too; the aromatic elements are very finely drawn and expressive.  An outstanding, fine-dining white wine.  (The 2015 is just as good, but needs a little longer to acquire full articulacy.)   95

Garnatxa Blanca en Sòl de Llicorella, Partida Bellvisos 2011

A chance to look at an aged though unsulphured version of René Barbier and Sara Pérez’s white wine, made with 20 per cent skin contact.  There’s no oxidation, despite the lack of sulphur, with scents of straw and dry grasses and ample, juicy yellow–plum fruit on the palate: it’s a full-bodied, comforting, knife-and-fork orange-white.  91

Les Brugueres, Iugiter, La Conreria d’Scala Dei 2016

This pure Garnacha Blanca wine has fresh, sappy scents with a subtle quince sweetness to them, then long, sappy, vigorous, ripely green flavours, juicy and intense, back up by a stony trace; vinous, ample finish.  90

Font de la Figuera, Clos Figueras 2016

There’s just 35 per cent Garnacha Blanca here (the vines are 100 years old), with 50 per cent Viognier — planted in error after a local nurseryman sold it as Cabernet Sauvignon — and the balance coming from Chenin Blanc.  The rather heavy aromas suggest that Viognier may not be happy here, and the palate lacks a little purity and focus.  On the plus side, this is a concentrated wine with some stoniness and balancing acidity; it has the ingrained Priorat seriousness to it, too.  88

Vi Blanc des Varietats Antigues, Planetes de Nin, Família Nin-Ortiz 2016

The cork says ‘Carinyena Blanc’ but the label reference defers to the currently anomalous situation of this white variety here.  It’s late ripening and retains its acidity – as is amply evident in this version from the Clos Erasmus viticulturalist Ester Nin at the ‘home’ winery she runs with her husband Carles.  The wine is lemony, cleansing, finely crafted and long, but flirts with austerity and shows no trace of vinosity or incipient richness at all, suggesting to me that this variety’s potential here might best be as a useful minority blending component.   89 

Terroir de Cuques, Terroir al Límit 2015

A very different blend from most of its peers, this is 90% directly pressed Pedro Ximenez blended with whole-bunch fermented Muscat.  You wouldn’t necessarily guess this from the aromas, which suggests plants and straw; the palate is fresh, vinous and structured, with more straw and a little delicate yellow plum.  90 

Terroir Historic, Terroir al Límit 2016

This white is a blend of 75% Garnacha Blanco and 25% Macabeo sourced from Priorat’s nine historical villages, and made by the Terroir al Límit team in the cooperative of Torroja with no wood influence.  There’s some faint reduction on the aromas; the palate is long and chewy, with vivid acidity but muted fruit character (peach and straw).  88

Abracadabra, Trossos del Priorat 2016

This blend of 70-year-old Garnacha Blanc and Macabeu is packed with white fruits: quiety expressive aromatically, but much more exuberant on the palate: chewy, dramatic, reverberative, high focus, pointed up with peach-skin pungency.  90

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Record sales total for Hospices de Beaune 2017 auction

Decanter News - ma, 20/11/2017 - 11:00

See the headline results from this year's Hospices de Beaune auction held over the weekend.

hospices de beaune 2017Bidders pack the room at the Hospices de Beaune 2017 auction.

The Hospices de Beaune 2017 auction raised a record 13.5 million euros (£12m, $16m), according to auction organiser Christie’s, beating the previous record set in 2015.

Top lot in the auction, the traditional ‘La pièce des Présidents’ sold for €420,000, which was the second highest total on record; its 2015 equivalent selling for 480,000 euros.

See the top 10 lots below. Data supplied by Christie’s. Prix realisé means the price paid, with currency translations given.

hospices de beaune top lots

Top lots at Hospices de Beaune 2017 auction. Credit: Christie’s.

All proceeds from the the presidents’ lot go to charity and this year it consisted of two barrels of Corton Clos du Roi Grand Cru. It was bought jointly by Maison Albert Bichot and an unnamed China-based investor, Christie’s said.

The chosen charities and their representatives at the auction were:

  • Agnès b and Julie Depardieu for The Foundation Tara Expéditions;
  • Marc-Olivier Fogiel, for The Federation for Brain Research;
  • Charles Aznavour for The Foundation for Alzheimer Research.

The results mark a return to form for the annual Hospices de Beaune auction, albeit there was also more wine to sell from a 2017 vintage that proved relatively plentiful versus its immediate predecessors.

This year’s Hospices auction included 787 barrels – including 630 of red wine and 157 of white wine. There were also 15 barrels of eaux de vie.

Last year’s auction had 596 barrels and 2015 saw 575 barrels of the new vintage up for sale.

Jasper Morris MW, a Christie’s consultant, said, ‘We owe this great result largely to the work of [winemaker] Ludivine Griveau and her team for producing such high-quality wines in both colours. It has been a pleasure to taste such an excellence class of wine throughout 787 barrels.’

Read our insider feature on the Hospices de Beaune auction

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Branaire-Ducru owner dies in Bordeaux

Decanter News - ma, 20/11/2017 - 10:28

Patrick Maroteaux, owner of Château Branaire-Ducru on Bordeaux's Left Bank for nearly 30 years, has died aged 67.

Patrick Maroteaux, branaire-ducru ownerPatrick Maroteaux.

Parick Maroteaux, owner of Château Branaire-Ducru in St-Julien since 1988, died yesterday on Sunday 19 November after a long battle with cancer. He was 67 years old.

Maroteaux, who was born Picardy in northern France, was successful first in the banking industry, and then in the Eurosucre sugar business, before changing career for a third time to become owner of this 1855 4th growth estate. He first visited Branaire-Ducru on a Saturday and had signed to purchase by the following Friday.

Not long after buying Branaire, he began a sustained programme of investment to restore both the vineyards and château, and also hired a young Philippe Dhalluin as technical director, who stayed with the estate until 2002 when he moved to Château Mouton Rothschild.

At first, Maroteaux worked between Paris and Bordeaux, but once he moved full-time to Bordeaux in the 1990s, he became closely involved in the region. He was president of the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) between 2001 and 2008 and then president of the St-Julien appellation, as well remaining as vice-president of the UGC.

Maroteaux is survived by his wife Evelyne, his children Sophie, Anne-Laure, Pierre-Henry and François-Xavier, and his nine grandchildren.

In a note sharing the news, his son François-Xavier Maroteaux wrote, ‘After a long battle which he fought with a lot of energy, he left us in peace and appeased’.

Current UGC president Oliver Bernard said, ‘Patrick was a remarkable president of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, admired for his dynamism, open-mindedness, and respect for our values.’

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Wine Legend: Le Pin, Pomerol 1982

Decanter News - zo, 19/11/2017 - 13:00

Why it makes the Decanter hall of fame...

Le Pin 1982Wine Legend: Le Pin, Pomerol 1982, Bordeaux, France

Bottles produced 3,600

Composition 100% Merlot

Yield 30hl/ha

Alcohol 12.5%

Release price $400 per case

Price today £9,512 per bottle

A legend because…

The first vintage made by Jacques Thienpont had been in 1979, and was sold cheaply. Before then the wine had been sold extensively in Belgium, but was not widely known. Once the outstanding quality of the 1982 was recognised prices shot up on the secondary market.

Looking back

In 1982, Le Pin consisted of a single hectare, next to a pine tree. Jacques Thienpont, from a Belgian family with extensive interests in the wine trade in Bordeaux, had recognised the quality of the soil some years earlier. The original idea was to incorporate the parcel into Vieux Château Certan close by, but when that didn’t work out, Jacques and his father and uncle contrived to buy the vineyard in 1979; it later fell into Jacques’ ownership, with a small share being held by Alexandre Thienpont of Vieux Château Certan. In 1984 Jacques was able to buy a second hectare, but today the total area under vine still stands at a modest 2.7ha.

The vintage

Bordeaux enjoyed a superb growing season; there was some rain in September, probably beneficial, but much of the Merlot had already been picked by then. The lush, full-bodied wines were criticised by some as too Napa-like in style, and indeed some wines, picked at high yields, are now in decline. Many others, though mature, are still going strong.

The terroir

Le Pin’s vines are located on one of the highest sectors of the Pomerol plateau. Its neighbours include Vieux Château Certan, Petit Village and Trotanoy. The soil is essentially gravelly, although there are patches of sand and clay on an iron-rich base. The gravel ensures excellent drainage. Despite the small size of Le Pin, variations in the soil result in varying bunch sizes and dates of maturation. In 1982, one third of the vines had been planted as recently as 1978 – a remarkably high proportion for a wine of this grandeur.

The wine

Jacques Thienpont was taught how to make wine by his uncle Léon, and he has seen no reason to veer from that tried-and-tested path. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel. If he requires more concentration, he may bleed some tanks, and in vintages when acidity is low, he will return some very ripe stalks to the tanks. Extraction is by traditional pumpovers. The malolactic fermentation has always been conducted in barriques, not out of conviction that it results in better wine, but because in the old cellars there was nowhere else to put the wine for this purpose. Le Pin spends between 14 and 16 months in new oak, with traditional rackings; it is bottled without filtration.

The reaction

Michael Broadbent tasted the wine in November 1983, finding it ‘rich and fruity’, and confessed he had no idea this was an infant cult wine. In 2001 he tasted it again: ‘Glorious nose, very distinctive; sweet, soft, velvety, full of fruit. Fragrant.’

 

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Inside the Hospices de Beaune auction

Decanter News - za, 18/11/2017 - 13:39

At the prestigious charity auction that’s an annual highlight of the wine trade, Peter Richards MW gets the inside track on how wines bought here are helping one UK retailer to tap into a growing premium sector..

Hospices de Beaune auction wines.Inside the Hospices de Beaune auction

‘En voulez-vous monsieur?’ The auctioneer conducts the room like an orchestra, his insistent refrain urging potential buyers on from the stage. sitting a discreet distance from the front is a hunched bidder, ostensibly studying the brochure, in reality alert to every fleeting detail of the buzzy, fluid auction.

The bidding moves onto a Meursault premier cru. The bidder has had sotto voce instructions from the buyer sitting directly behind: get this wine. in the context, it looks to be a rare bargain. The buyer is excited – yet increasingly jittery at the bidder’s inscrutable, unmoving demeanour. Had he heard the instructions? Barrel after barrel is sold. soon it will be all gone. The buyer can’t remonstrate – it risks undermining the bidder’s strategy – and this powerlessness only adds to the tension. Memories of 2015’s ‘dramatic’ and ‘stressful’ auction resurface, when the plan ‘had to be torn up halfway through’.

Finally, the paddle is raised on one of the very last lots: the deal is done, the game expertly played, the wine secured at 40% less than the price of last year’s vintage. The tension diffuses; the auction proceeds. It’s a good buy. A bonus to complement the Beaune and the Volnay already in the bag.Such was one of the many scenes at the 2016 Hospices de Beaune auction in Burgundy. It’s a moment whose basic emotional and tactical plays will have reoccurred many times since 1859 at what is probably the world’s most iconic wine auction. What wasn’t so usual was the identity of both bidder and buyer on this occasion. The bidder was Mounir Saouma of micro-négociant Lucien Le Moine, the buyer Emma Dawson MW from British retailer Marks & Spencer.

Pre-auction tasting in Hotel-Dieu cellars

Pre-auction tasting from the barrel in the Hôtel-Dieu cellars

Trading up

British supermarkets have a reputation for driving a hard bargain rather than supporting charitable causes – so what was M&S doing there? Is it just good PR or part of a bigger plan? And how do the Hospices wines, pricey at the best of times (newer M&S vintages will be more than £100 per bottle), sit in the range?

The answers reveal much about the current state of British retailing. ‘We want to see how far we can push the boundaries when it comes to fine wine,’ explains Dawson. ‘We have a traditional customer base who trust us. These wines offer them a chance to trade up – and we want to explore this area more.’

In a competitive marketplace, retailers are increasingly focusing on what sets them apart from their rivals. The broader M&S business, whose offering ranges from banking to home furnishings via dependable underwear, has performed indifferently of late. Yet its food and drink category has long held a reputation for quality – witness M&S’s commendable performance at the Decanter Retailer Awards in recent years – albeit with a price premium to match. The company’s accent on luxury itself took centre-stage in the company’s memorable 2005/6 advertising campaign, which featured luxuriantly shot foodstuffs and a lascivious voice-over intoning words to the effect: ‘This is not just food. This is M&S food.’

In short, the received wisdom is that we Brits turn to M&S when we’re treating ourselves or buying gifts. Noting positive reactions to fine wine parcels, M&S developed a new fine wine strategy to capitalise on this. It has evolved over time to incorporate the Hospices wines (first bought in 2011), as well as the launch earlier this year of 30 Bordeaux 2014 wines bought en primeur including the first growth Château Lafite (at a cool £420 per bottle). The fine wines go into key stores and online, the latter channel being particularly important for fine wines, and the retailer’s periodic 25% discounts also boost sales.

Foothold in fine wine

So is M&S aiming to poach clients from fine wine merchants? Dawson chuckles. ‘We have a buying team with experience and excellent relationships – we can get hold of great wines. We want to use this to become a destination for people who know their wine.’ She also notes how the M&S wine category has ‘momentum’ within the business, with fine wine a small but growing part that has important value, ‘in the way it makes customers feel when they come into store’.

The feel-good factor is on Saouma’s mind too. His Lucien Le Moine wines, much like the man himself, are renowned for their intensity, marrying an expansive character with an almost forensic comprehension of nuance and detail. He and his wife Rotem buy wines from producers (the Hospices being one example) and age them, often for far longer than the norm, with extended lees contact in barrel a signature technique. Though neither is originally from Burgundy, both feel a strong loyalty and kinship to the region.

‘Our children were all born in Beaune; it’s important to us,’ enthuses Rotem. ‘We are proud to continue this chain of history and support the Hospices – even if it’s not our core business.’ To which Mounir adds: ‘It’s great that the Hospices is more about the wine, charity and people than just business and prices. It’s the best weekend of the year!’

Mounir Saouma

Mounir Saouma of Lucien Le Moine

Vintage preview

It’s not only charity and tourism that benefit from the Hospices. The weekend also helps set the tone for the new vintage, from quality to pricing. Christie’s wine consultant and Burgundy expert Jasper Morris MW describes the first half of the 2016 vintage as ‘the most difficult in living memory’, and the latter half ‘as close to perfect as anybody could hope for’. First hail, then a terrible frost and mildew devastated many vineyards – others were unscathed. Thereafter, fine and balanced weather saw ‘pure and refined’ wines being made, more restrained than the opulent 2015s, but which many are touting as fine quality in a classical style.

Hospices winemaker Ludivine Griveau told me that 2016 was a ‘ripe’ vintage, describing the reds as ‘softer, rounder than 2015 but still powerful’ and the whites as ‘balanced’ and ‘supple’. The auction itself delivered a softening of prices for those wines in decent supply, but an upshift for those that are scarce. While Mounir expresses ‘admiration’ for M&S’s support of the auction, I quiz Dawson as to how many people buying the Hospices wines really appreciate the charitable aspect and story behind the wines. ‘You do wonder,’ she muses, before adding: ‘Ultimately, we hope people are buying these wines for their quality. But if we can raise awareness of the charity, that’s great.’

As ever, Dawson is counting on her good buys translating into good buys for M&S and its customers. Not to mention for the remarkable charity that is the Hospices de Beaune.

Peter Richards MW is a widely published wine writer, broadcaster, author and consultant Conducted by Christie’s, the 157th Hospices de Beaune wine sale will take place on 19 November 2017 The wines: Hospices de Beaune, Cuvée Goureau, Meursault, 2014 Hospices de Beaune, Santenots 1er Cru, Volnay, 2014

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Ten great restaurants in Champagne for wine lovers

Decanter News - za, 18/11/2017 - 11:00

Champagne is a perfect winter getaway, but where should you dine at the end of a hard day’s tasting? At this year’s Decanter Fine Wine Encounter, we asked for insider tips from those working for some of the top Champagne houses…

restaurants in champagneDine at Les Crayères, an enchanting Champagne château... Credit: lescrayere.comTop restaurants in Champagne — recommended by the producers at DFWE 2017 L’Assiette Champenoise Reims restaurants in champagne

Contemporary design meets traditional Champagne … Credit: assiettechampenoise.com

Literal translation: ‘the dish of Champagne’ — this restaurant epitomises the region’s haute cuisine. The local legend, chef Arnaud Lallement, has elevated L’Assiette Champenoise to its current three-Michelin star status. ‘Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey’, praised the Michelin Guide 2017, also noting the excellent wine list.

Signature dishes include blue lobsters from Brittany and Alba white trufffles. A firm favourite among Champagne producers, you’ll find it just outside Reims, in the village of Tinqueux. Book now

Café du Palais Reims restaurants in champagne

Surround yourself with art, theatre and jazz gems collected since 1930. Credit: cafedupalais.fr

Another Reims gastronomic institution, Café du Palais has been serving up classic French fare since 1930. Over the years its played host to concerts, film showings and even fashion shows.

History is layered into its interior, from the paintings, music and theatre bric-a-brac adorning the walls, to the 1928 Art Deco stain glass ceiling, a one-off design by Jacques Simon, depicting the heavens. The selection of Champagnes is pretty heavenly, too, starting at just €22 a bottle. Conveniently near the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims. Book now

Recommended by Olivier Krug, sixth-generation family member and director of Champagne Krug

Le Grand Cerf Villers-Allerand restaurants in champagne

Exquisite interior design at Le Grand Cerf. Credit: le-grand-cerf.fr

A Michelin-starred restaurant at the foot of the Montagne de Reims, noted by Michelin’s expert inspectors for its ‘particularly interesting wine list’ and ‘fine ingredients’. In the dining room, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the expansive garden and a nature theme is reflected in the modern wooded interior.

Max the sommelier can take care of your wine needs, while Dominique Giraudeau offers seasonal cuisine. Look out for the special truffle menu available during the winter truffle season. Book now

Racine Reims
restaurants in champagne

This is what Michelin-star standard France-Japanese fusion cooking looks like… Credit: racine.re

Racine is a Franco-Japanese fusion restaurant run by chef Kazuyuki Tanaka and his Burgundian wife, Marine. Chef Tanaka blends culinary traditions and flavours with an expert hand, earning Racine a Michelin star. The Michelin Guide 2017 says his menu is ‘lively, tasty, beautifully done’, with a wine list to match.

Located in the centre of Reims, not far from the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims. As it is a small restaurant — only seating around 20 people — booking is advised. Alternatively, a seven minute walk past the Place Royale will take you its more casual sister restaurant, Doko Koko, which is also a hit with local producers. Book now

Le Parc, Les Crayères Reims
restaurants in champagne

Relive the opulence of a bygone era, even if only for an evening… Credit: lescrayeres.com

Le Parc is the more opulent of the Les Crayères hotel restaurants, boasting two Michelin stars. Michelin inspectors noted the dining experience as ‘exceptional’. It’s created by the talented young chef Philippe Mille, pastry chef Yoann Normand and head sommelier Philippe Jamesse — a Champagne specialist so renowned he even has a collection of Lehmann wine glasses name after him.

Take time to enjoy the 7 hectare Domaine Les Crayères, former residence of the Polignac family, now a Relais & Château hotel. Book now

Recommended by Thomas Jorez of Champagne Philipponnat

Les Grains d’Argent Dizy
restaurants in champagne

Stop off in Dizy for a gourmet meal at Les Grains d’Argent… Credit: Booking.com

An independent boutique hotel with a gourmet restaurant, Les Grains d’Argent — or ‘the silver grapes’ — is located in Dizy, between Reims and Épernay at the ‘gateway to Paris’. If you happen to be paying a visit to the houses of Moët et Chandon or Perrier-Jouët, Les Grains d’Argent is a handy stop-off within 3km.

The restaurant is led by Michelin-starred chef Frédéric Simonin, whose signature dish is Champagne escargot with mushrooms, lardons and ratafia sauce. Their wine list is crafted by Champagne specialist Annabelle Hazard and features major houses, as well as independent growers. Book now

Hotel d’Angleterre Châlons-en-Champagne restaurants in champagne

A masterpiece from Jérome Feck, the star chef who was once a firefighter… Credit: hotel-dangleterre.fr

Although Reims and Épernay may be more well known, Châlons-en-Champagne is historic capital of the Champagne-Ardennes region, with many charms for visitors. Near the striking gothic church, Notre-Dame-en-Vaux, you’ll find Hotel D’Angleterre, which is respected locally for the high standards of its Restaurant Jérome Feck.

Firefighter-turned-chef Jérome Feck cut his teeth in many notable Champagne establishments, including Le Foch and La Briqueterie. At Hotel d’Angleterre he serves up delights such as scallops with choron sauce and partridge roasted with peanuts. A classical, unfussy interior with wood panelling and stone floors. Book now

Recommended by Martin Gamman MW of Champagne Joseph Perrier

Le Millénaire Reims restaurants in champagne

The precision is in the pudding for the father and son chef team at Le Millénaire… Credit: lemillenaire.com

A stone’s throw from Reims’ Place Royal, Le Millénaire is a Michelin-starred restaurant designed by architect Rémois Giovanni Pace. There are three dining spaces spread over two levels, which, though fairly small, are light, spacious and cutting edge thanks to Pace’s expertise. Expect golden wood tones paired with pristine white walls and table linen.

Chefs Laurent Laplaige and his son Thibault work together in the kitchen, creating ‘delicious, thoroughly modern cuisine’, according to the Michelin Guide inspectors. Sunday to Thursday you can enjoy three courses for 37 euros, or if you want to go all out there is a daily-changing ‘market’ menu set at 96 euros. Book now

Brasserie du Boulingrin Reims restaurants in champagne

The brasserie that is the site of the oldest brewery in Reims, now serving Champagnes… Credit: boulingrin.fr

This establishment is purportedly the site of oldest brewery in Reims, satisfying the appetites of the Champanoise locals since 1925. Today it’s an elegant Art Deco brasserie, spread over two floors and overlooking Place de République.

The menu specialises in traditional regional dishes and seafood, with different catches coming in fresh each morning. If oysters and Champagne is your thing look no further, you can select your dozen huîtres from Normandy, Marenne-Oléron or Brittany — also available to take away. Book now

Recommended by Kevin McKee of Champagne Taittinger

Le Foch Reims restaurants in champagne

Husband-and-wife team Jacky and Corinne Louaze have elevated their restaurant to Michelin-star level with their topnotch cooking and service. Credit: lefoch.com

After a stroll along Les Hautes Promenades in Reims, sidle into this sophisticated Michelin-starred restaurant, just off of Boulevard Foch. Le Foch is a family-run establishment, led by husband-and-wife team Jacky and Corinne Louaze — you’ll find their names proudly emblazoned across the awning at the entrance.

Corinne heads front of house, while Jacky is the talented chef — praised by Michelin inspectors for his ‘inventive culinary repertory’ and ‘premium produce’. Including Mont Saint-Michel mussels, veal, oysters, foie gras and even periwinkles. The Michelin Guide also classed the wine list as ‘excellent’.

Take advantage of the weekday lunch menu for €27, for evenings and weekends there are €51and €69 menus, or the grand seven-course tasting extravaganza for €95. Book now

Recommended by Willem Pinçon of Charles Heidsieck Champagne

 

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American couple take on Burgundy’s Clos de la Commaraine

Decanter News - vr, 17/11/2017 - 17:44

Two American investors have taken on the running of Clos de la Commaraine, the premier cru vineyard and property in Burgundy’s Pommard appellation.

Clos de la Commaraine.The estate building at Clos de la Commaraine.

Harvard professor Denise Dupré and Mark Nunnelly, ex-managing director of the Boston-based Bain Capital investment fund, have acquired rights to the tenancy of Clos de la Commaraine, according to French wine media reports.

The owner remains Jaboulet-Vercherre but French laws allow for long-term leasing of agricultural land with what essentially amounts to ownership rights over the produce.

This premier cru de Pommard is a monopoly of almost four hectares, facing due east and south-east and adjacent to the village.

Wines from Clos de la Commaraine are currently made and sold by Maison Louis Jadot, based in Beaune.

Manuela Mouroux, marketing director for Jadot, told Decanter.com that it will still vinify the 2017 vintage of Clos de la Commaraine as normal. However, Jadot and the new American investors had not yet discussed what should happen in 2018 and beyond.

French media reported that there is a plan to create a restaurant and hotel at the property to encourage wine tourism.

Thomas Jefferson is reported to have visited Clos de la Commaraine and bought its wine while US minister to France in the late 18th Century. Jefferson went on to become the third president of the United States.

Dupré and Nunnelly also own Domaine Belleville (22 ha) and the Manoir Murisaltien, in Meursault.

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