Top 10 Father’s Day wines: Which wine persona does your dad have?

Decanter News - do, 14/06/2018 - 10:00

Is your dad a Rioja Rogue or more of a Châteauneuf-du-Papa ? We realise fathers come in all shapes and sizes, with preferences ranging from the suave whites to bold and muscular reds, or even a delicate rosé. Use our persona guide to find the perfect fine wine gift for Father's Day...

wines for father's dayTop 10 wines for Father’s Day

Use our persona guide to decide which wine gift your dad deserves…

 The Lovable Rioja Rogue 

This headstrong spicy red with a smooth edge that can only come with age is popular among many dads of the same nature. Treat yours to a bottle 96-point Valenciso Reserva 2008, fantastic value at £17.59 per bottle and a good few years into its recommended drinking window.

Valenciso, Rioja Reserva 2008 | £17.59

wines for father's day

The Rhône Wolf

Pamper your Châteauneuf-du-Papa with a gorgeous bottle of Clos des Papes 2013 — given 96 points by our expert John Livingstone-Learmonth. Good to drink now, or leave for another decade.

Clos des Papes, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France 2013 | £37.31

wines for father's day

Champagne Charlie

Is your dad the life and soul of the party? It’s worth spending the extra cash when it’s a gift made for sharing. Like this 97-point bottle of Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne 2006. Give it to him in person, then hang around and hope he pops the cork for the occasion.

Taittinger, Comtes de Champagne, Champagne, France 2006 | £75

wines for father's day

Piedmont Papa

An offering for those regal patriarchs who identify with what’s often referred to as the ‘king of wine’ — Barolo. There are no half measures with this example from Vietti, given a whacking 97 points by regional expert Ian D’Agata, who described it as ‘like liquid silk but powerful’.

Vietti, Barolo, Rocche, Piedmont, Italy 2010 | £195

wines for father's day

Malbec Man

Maybe your dad’s a man of simple pleasures; a man who loves a juicy steak with a glass or two of red. Get your old man over for Father’s Day dinner with this 94-point Argentinean Malbec – the perfect macho match with meat.

Trapiche, Finca Ambrosia Terroir Series Single Vineyard Malbec 2013 | £28.50

wines for father's day

Suave Sancerre Sipper

Eloquent, erudite and a dab hand at the pub quiz. Serve your sophisticated father some crisp 93-point Sancerre from Vincent Pinard. Plus at under £20 a bottle, you could earn serious filial credits with a case load…

Vincent Pinard, Flores, Sancerre 2015 | £19.95

wines for father's day

Old School Francophile

Those classic gents who’ve held a lifelong devotion to the noble reds of Bordeaux will forgive all your teenage trespasses with a Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2010. Rated at 97 points by Decanter’s editor John Stimpfig and it’s just reached its optimum drinking window.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2010 | £122.50

wines for father's day

Pink-loving Pater

Just as many dads love a salmon pink shirt, many also love to crack open a cool Provence rosé on a sunny afternoon. Deckchairs and BBQ at the ready, with a bottle of Rock Angel from Château d’Esclans.

Château d’Esclans, Rock Angel, Côtes de Provence 2016 | £30.05

wines for father's day


Montrachet Maestro

If your dad’s been really good this year – or you’ve been a little awful – you’d better push the boat out and give him a bottle from the legendary white Burgundy region, Puligny-Montrachet. Snap up this 94-point bottle from Domaine Leflaive’s premier cru ‘Les Combettes’ – it’s just entered its recommended drinking window…

Domaine Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes 1er Cru 2015 | £193

wines for father's day

Inspector Gadget

So it’s not a wine, but for a dad who has a shed-load already (or prefers to choose his own) — give him the latest in geeky wine gadgetry with the Coravin Model 2 Elite Wine System. Allowing him to open his prized bottles, savour a glass and then reseal them as before.

Coravin Model 2 Elite Wine System | £279

wines for father's day


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My top 10 St-Emilion and Pomerol châteaux

Decanter News - wo, 13/06/2018 - 14:58

We asked long-time Decanter contributing editor James Lawther MW to select his favourite estates from these Right Bank appellations. His choice highlights the evolving nature of the region since the 1990s...

Bordeaux became my home in 1996, St-Emilion and the Right Bank an agreeable 25-minute drive away. Leaving the rolling hills of the Entre-Deux-Mers, the road dips and crosses the Dordogne running on towards the elevated epicentre of St-Emilion, the limestone plateau and côtes. Advancing further, the terraces, slopes and châteaux appear. It’s a heartening sight and one that hasn’t palled over the years. Likewise, the medieval town itself – whether bustling from spring to late summer or slumbering in the winter.

In the 1990s the Right Bank was a flurry of activity. The start-up ‘garage movement’ was in full swing, a revised classification for St-Emilion in 1996 caused something of a stir, and viticulture and winemaking were in the spotlight, with ‘progressive’ methods such as green harvesting, grass cover, late-harvesting, extraction and ageing in new oak hot topics.

Scroll down for Lawther’s top picks from his favourite Pomerol and St-Emilion chateaux

Some 20-odd years on, revolution is no longer in the air, the viticultural methods are standard practice and the wilder extremes of winemaking have been toned down. The garage wines that survived are now part of the establishment, the talk these days imposed by wealthy investors and the latest acquisition and amalgamation. Unchanged is the quiet rurality that still holds.

Choosing my top St-Emilion and Pomerol châteaux, I’ve tried to show the fabric of the region, illustrating the evolution since the 1990s. Both the official (Angélus, Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Pavie) and unofficial (Lafleur, Petrus, Le Pin) top growths have been left aside to allow for a little more scope. It’s a choice that is personal rather than one that is dictated by points.

See Lawther’s t0p picks from his favourite Pomerol and St-Emilion chateaux Château La Fleur-Pétrus, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2008 Château La Fleur-Pétrus, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château La Conseillante, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château La Conseillante, Pomerol, Duo de Conseillante, 2015 Château Valandraud, St-Émilion, Bordeaux, France, 2014 Château Valandraud, St-Émilion, Blanc, Bordeaux, 2016 Château Grand Corbin-Despagne, St-Émilion, Grand Cru, 2010 Château Grand-Corbin-Despagne, St-Émilion, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Canon, St-Émilion, 1er Grand Cru Classé B, 2015 Château Canon, St-Émilion, Croix Canon, Bordeaux, 2013 Vieux Château Certan, Pomerol, La Gravette de Certan, 2015 Vieux Château Certan, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Clos des Baies, St-Émilion, Grand Cru, Bordeaux, 2015 Clos des Baies, St-Émilion, Grand Cru, Bordeaux, 2010 Château Tertre Rôteboeuf, St-Émilion, Grand Cru, 2014 Château Tertre Rôteboeuf, St-Émilion, Grand Cru, 2006

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Barbaresco 2015 & 2013 Riserva: Latest releases

Decanter News - wo, 13/06/2018 - 13:19

Stephen Brook takes a look at the latest releases from Barbaresco, including tasting notes & scores...

Barbaresco 2015Asili in Barbaresco.

Barbaresco is released a year ahead of Barolo. The latest releases here are therefore 2015 and 2013 Riserva.

Barbaresco 2015


A torrid July, but cooler, moister conditions in August and September brought the grapes to ripeness, especially in Barbaresco. A small crop of charming wines.


A wet and snowy winter ensured that water levels in the vineyards were generous, which assisted early growth in 2015. Temperatures were mild and although the weather was less ideal in the late spring, flowering was successful.

The summer that followed was hot, indeed scorching in July, and to some extent this slowed the ripening process. Although the heat was steady, with average temperatures higher than they had been in the torrid year of 2003, there were no heat spikes to burn the vines. Nonetheless, veraison was some two weeks earlier than in 2014.

August provided some cooler nights and also some rain towards the end of the month. This reduced the drought stress, and good weather continued into September, with the Nebbiolo achieving full ripeness. Without those beneficial rains, it’s quite likely that 2015 would have produced wines as overripe as the 2003s.

Harvest was relatively early. In contrast to the rollercoaster of 2014, Barbaresco growers found themselves with a reasonably copious vintage of excellent grapes. There was some rain in late September, but by that time most of the grapes had been picked.

Here, as is so often the case, Barbaresco had the advantage over the later-ripening vineyards of much of the Barolo zone – Castello di Verduno reported that quality was so high in the Rabajà cru that the entire crop will become a Riserva.

Some acidities may be lower than usual, suggesting that a forward and approachable vintage along the lines of 2007 or 2009 is probable. There’s also the suggestion from some camps that 2015 could be as splendid as 2010 – Gaia Gaja finds the 2015s have complexity as well as fruit, and that the single vineyard bottlings clearly show their individual characters.

Quick link: See all of Stephen’s Barbaresco latest release tasting notes Barbaresco Vigna Loreto

The Vigna Loreto vineyard in Ovello, Barbaresco. Credit: albinorocca.com

Barbaresco 2013


A cool summer and an abundant crop that needed to be thinned to achieve full ripeness. A year of fragrant, elegant wines that are now gaining in structure.


As a vintage, 2013 had initially been underestimated, as the growing season had been fairly cool. However, from mid-September conditions improved, with hot days and cool nights meaning there was no pressure to harvest rapidly, enabling growers to wait for optimal maturity.

The wines were subtle and perfumed, but recent tastings have revealed more structure than was apparent at first. Some wines may lack richness but compensate with their purity and elegance. The only fly in the ointment was that downy mildew in the spring had reduced the crop.

The best wines have gained in weight and complexity, but whether 2013 will emerge as a truly great vintage, rather than just very good, it remains too early to say. No doubt it will depend on the capriciousness of individual sites, as well as the farming and winemaking decisions of individual growers.

Stephen’s pick of latest release Barbarescos:


Back to Piedmont new releases: Full report

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Barolo’s Golden Age: A Decanter masterclass

Decanter News - di, 12/06/2018 - 18:00

See scores and tasting notes for top Barolo wines, shown at the Decanter Italy Fine Wine Encounter...

Barolo's Golden AgeThe Barolo masterclass.Barolo’s Golden Age

Michael Garner recently hosted a packed Barolo masterclass in London, inspired by his 2015 Decanter magazine feature of the same name ‘Barolo’s Golden Age’. 

‘The full potential of Barolo has only been realised in the past few decades,’ said Garner, ‘it’s finally earned its true place in the marketplace.’

‘This tasting offers a great scope; take away with you an answer to those questions – when is a wine at its best, when can I drink Barolo, how long will it last? You can see at what stage you like these wines best.’

A piece of Garner’s advice from the tasting was that ‘it’s important to visualise food when tasting Italian wines’, referring to the close relationship between the history of viticulture and regional cuisine in Italy.

Coming soon to Decanter Premium: Stephen Brook’s report on Piedmont’s latest releases Barolo wines tasted at the masterclass:


Book tickets to your next Decanter event here You might also like: The Luigi Veronelli collection: Italian gems from decades past Elvio Cogno Barolo: Tasting the Ravera cru

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Ridgeview’s latest vintage reveals brand new look

Decanter News - di, 12/06/2018 - 15:38

English sparkling wine producer, Ridgeview, have celebrated the release of their latest vintage under contemporary new branding. See Amy Wislocki’s tasting notes and scores…

ridgeview wineRidgeview sparkling wine has revamped its image with slick new labelling designs. Credit: Ridgeview

Ridgeview wine estate launched its new look at the Savoy Hotel in London last month, marking a ‘bold move away from the previous classic and traditional packaging, to a contemporary, modern and proudly English design,’ said the Sussex winery.

Ridgeview’s new releases include Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs sparkling wines, as well as a ‘Rosé de Noirs’, priced between £50 and £60.

Scroll down to see Amy Wislocki’s tasting notes and scores

‘We can now confidentially stand on our own two feet and tell the story of our part in the historical rise of English sparkling wine,’ said chief executive Tamara Roberts.

The rebranding is aimed to court consumers’ burgeoning interest in English sparkling wine, following on from last year’s reports of record-breaking revenues from increased demand.

‘Sparkling wine accounts for nearly 70% of the wine made in England, with production now at around 6 million bottles,’ according to Ridgeview.

‘With another 2 million vines planted over the last two years it is suggested that the industry could be producing up to 40 million bottles by 2040.’

See also: Premium English sparkling wine to try this summer

Ridgeview’s new design was made in collaboration with Brighton agency CookChick, who have previously worked to rebrand other British drinks brands like Thatchers cider, St Austell and Adnams breweries.


Introduction written by Laura Seal.

Amy Wislocki’s tasting notes for Ridgeview’s 2014 releases:


Ridgeview, Sussex, Blanc de Blancs, England, 2014 Ridgeview, Sussex, Blanc de Noirs, England, 2014 Ridgeview, Sussex, Rosé de Noirs, England, 2014


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Top 10 things to see and do at La Cité du Vin

Decanter News - di, 12/06/2018 - 14:00

Since opening in 2016, La Cité du Vin has become a must-visit attraction for tourists in Bordeaux. Sophie Kevany asks director Philippe Massol to select his highlights from the permanent exhibition and workshops...

La cite du vinLa Cité du Vin

There is a multitude of things to do in Bordeaux these days: from running or walking city tours, to formal and informal wine tastings, boat rides, châteaux visits, restaurants and just plain old wandering around, popping into old churches or more wine bars.

Visitors will inevitably have many demands on their time but, no matter how busy they are, most will wonder at some point whether they should make their way to La Cité du Vin. It’s that big golden swirl that can be seen on the horizon from almost anywhere in town. The short answer is yes – even if it’s only for an hour or two.

To make things easier for visitors on a tight schedule who need to plan their visit carefully, Decanter asked La Cité du Vin’s director, Philippe Massol, to name his top 10 attractions. After all, no one knows the space better than he does…

For those keen on seeing the permanent exhibition, Massol recommends arriving early, rather than waiting until the end of the day for the free wine tasting that comes with the €20 permanent exhibition ticket. If you have more time, choose a day when a conference, workshop or special event can be included in the visit. If you also have children in tow, there are several family-oriented workshops, and a special route around the permanent exhibition for children aged six and up.

How to visit La Cité du Vin

The first visiting exhibition, on until 24 June, will be ‘Wine and Music, harmony and dissonance’ exploring the association between wine and music from the Renaissance to the end of the 19th century. The second visiting show will run from 5 October to 6 January 2019 and showcase this year’s guest wine region, Porto, particularly the UNESCO World Heritage Alto Douro region.

The World Wine Tour

The World Wine Tour. Credit: Photos Anaka/La Cité du Vin/Casson Man

1. The World Wine Tour (permanent tour)

Visitors are swept away on a highly visual ‘helicopter’ tour, flying over 20 different winemaking regions to see the surprisingly varied types of vineyard conditions and management styles that can be found around the world.

2. The Buffet of the Five Senses (permanent tour)

Intimidating as it can seem, wine tasting is primarily about finding the right words to describe the different flavours and aromas that a taster experiences. The Buffet of the Five Senses helps you understand individual sensory profiles, and find words to describe what you do and don’t like, by drawing on a range of stimulants and your own memories, emotions, imagination and preferences.

Where to stay in Bordeaux 3. The Gallery of Civilisations (permanent tour)

This gallery offers an overview of the different ways wine has been woven into our culture, history and personal relationships – from sacred Egyptian rites to Athenian banquets – and displays the artefacts and objects associated with those traditions.

All Aboard

All Aboard! Credit: Photos Anaka/La Cité du Vin/Casson Man

4. All Aboard! (permanent tour)

Join four different merchant ships on a panoramic screen. First cross the Mediterranean on a Roman cargo boat, then take a 14th-century voyage from Bordeaux to England. For the third leg of the journey, sail to Japan on a 17th-century Dutch ship, and finally, join the crew of an 18th-century English ship, full of Madeira, making its way across the Atlantic.

5. The Banquet of Legends (permanent tour)

This imaginative short film shows various famous figures meeting in Paradise (including Pliny the Elder, Winston Churchill, Alfred Hitchcock and French writer Colette) to share stories and discuss the various merits of their favourite wines.

The Belvedere

The Belvedere Credit: Photos Anaka/La Cité du Vin/XTU architects

6. The Belvedere

Up at the top of La Cité du Vin is a glass-walled tasting room, with a 360° view of the city below. Anyone who has bought a ticket to the permanent tour will be able to try one glass free of charge. There are plenty of different wine styles, which are served by friendly and knowledgeable bar staff.

7. Gourmet Cinema

This cinematic workshop combines film, food and wine. At each event a guest chef prepares a special menu and a selection of wines inspired by a particular movie. After watching the film, visitors can taste and discuss. To encourage interaction, dishes are served in small portable portions, rather than at a sit-down dinner. Check the website for details of upcoming screenings.

Markets of the World

Markets of the World. Credit: Photos Anaka/La Cité du Vin/XTU architects

8. Markets of the World

This daily multi-sensory workshop is basically an educational game. Visitors are asked to taste four glasses of wine, origin unknown. As you taste, scenes from the wine’s country of origin play on panoramic screens, while the aroma of a typical national dish is released into the room, along with local sounds. The aim is to guess what wine you are drinking. The workshop introduction advises participants to: ‘Forget everything you know about wine tasting: its codes, customs, restraints and psychological barriers. Start over and just listen to yourself… You are totally capable of feeling, perceiving and analysing what you’re drinking.’ Imagine someone saying that to you in Bordeaux 20 years ago. Or even five.

9. Wines and Chocolates of the World

Designed in partnership with Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus, this hour-long evening workshop pairs grand cru chocolate with specially selected wines from around the world, while examining their different (or similar) aromas, flavours, terroirs, heritages and cultures. The workshops are delivered in French and take place on the first Thursday of each month from April to November.

10. Latitude20

Offering one of the most diverse selections of wine in the world, the Latitude20 wine shop lists bottles from about 70 (at last count) countries. For visitors more interested in wine-related books, games, beauty products, stationery, tableware, accessories and souvenirs, there is also the sleek 250m² concept store: La Cité du Vin Boutique. Both are free to enter.

Sophie Kevany is a wine and business journalist based in Bordeaux


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Tasting notes decoded: Hints of bergamot?

Decanter News - ma, 11/06/2018 - 18:00

Get to grips with the some of the more obscure tasting notes used by wine experts, with graphics from Decanter's design team. This week we decode 'bergamot' and 'prune'...

How to understand tasting notes: The latest…

tasting notes decoded



Bergamots are citrus fruits that are commonly shaped like yellow or green dwarf pears with dimpled skins, but they are in fact a variety of bitter orange.

Although edible, bergamots are rarely eaten fresh due to their intensely acidic and tart-tasting flesh, which is more palatable in marmalade or juice form.

The incredibly aromatic essential oils in bergamots’ skins makes them very popular in perfumes and it’s also an important ingredient in Earl Grey tea.

When it comes to wine tasting notes, bergamot is a useful citrus fruit descriptor for certain dry white wines, as it expresses a flavour or aroma that is more bitter than oranges but sweeter than lemons.

Examples could include aromatic German Riesling wines, such as Dreissigacker, Bechtheimer Geyersberg, Rheinhessen 2014, noted for its ‘powerful nose of bergamot and leaf tea’ followed by floral flavours of rose and geranium.

Or French Muscadet wines from the Loire Valley like the 96-point Pierre-Luc Bouchaud, Pont Caffino, Loire 2014, exuding complex aromas of ‘golden pair skin and subtle struck match’ alongside orange blossom and bergamot.

Red wines with vibrant acidity could also express bergamot notes, such as Pinot Noirs like Bisquertt, La Joya Gran Reserva 2014 from Chile’s Leyda Valley and Portuguese red blends from Douro Valley like Symington, Altano Organic 2015.

tasting notes decoded


Prunes are dried plums of any variety, typically blackish purple in appearance. Despite their shrivelled and wrinkly appearance, prunes are favoured in for their rich, sweet and juicy fruit flavours – making them a popular ingredient in jams, juices and Middle Eastern tagines.

In the wine lexicon prunes are found in the dried and cooked fruit category, as they share common flavour characteristics with raisins, dates and fruit preserves.

These descriptors have more concentrated sweet fruity flavours compared to fresh fruits, as sugars become concentrated through the processes of drying or cooking.

You can look for prune flavours and aromas in many medium to full bodied red wines with concentrated fruit flavours, typically those that have spent some time in oak.

For example fruit-forward, verging on jammy, Italian wines made from Sangiovese and Barbera grapes: Vignamaggio, Chianti, Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Poggio Ridente, San Sebastiano, Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2014.

Or rich Syrah and Grenache wines from warmer French regions like Languedoc-Rousillon or southern Rhône. Tasting notes for these wines often contain clusters of multiple red, black, fresh, baked and dried fruit descriptors.

Laurent Miquel, Larmes des Fées, St-Chinian 2014 was praised for its ‘sweet plum and prune scents and exciting, generously fruity plum, blackcurrant and damson flavours’.

Other examples could include Argentinean Malbec wines, such as Gauchezco, Oro, Paraje Altamira 2013, which combines liquorice and prune notes.

In her guide on how to taste en primeur wines Jane Anson said ‘fig and prune flavours can mean the fruit is slightly overripe’ in new vintages of Bordeaux wines.

Fruity tasting notes, apricot



‘Apricot’ in a tasting note is in the spectrum of other stone fruits, such as peach, indicating a certain ripeness in the grapes, and used to describe white wines – although not as ripe as in hot climate wines, where the fruit descriptors become tropical, like pineapple and mango.

In Decanter’s How to read wine tasting notes, it says apricot ‘denotes warm, summery ripeness.’

Apricot is often associated with the grape Viognier, along with peach and blossom, found the in Rhône and increasingly in the New World like California and Australia. Richer Albariño, from North West Spain, is another fine white which regularly gets described with an apricot nose.

Apricot is also an aroma often found in sweet wines;  either as the fresh fruit, or dried apricot, which is sweeter and more intense.

It can be found in sweet wines like Sauternes and Tokaji, and fortified wines, like in Tawny Port, along with other dried fruits.

Dried apricot is not restricted to sweeter wines only, and is found in dry wines too, like Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, Les Dix Arpents 2014.

See: Disznókő, Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2006 | Zull, Weinviertel, Grüner Veltliner Klassik, 2016 | Château Coutet, Barsac, Bordeaux, France 2011 | Château Lamothe, Sauternes, 2eme Cru Classé, 2013


tasting notes decoded


Ever caught the whiff of bananas when opening, sniffing or drinking wine? If you have, it could be for the following scientific reasons — please note there are almost certainly no actual bananas involved.

One possible cause is the winemaking process carbonic maceration, commonly used in the production of Beaujolais wines, made from the Gamay grape. In this process, the grapes are sealed in a vessel filled with carbon dioxide prior to regular fermentation, which gives Beaujolais wines their distinctive juicy or subtly tropical flavours.

The chemical compound behind banana’s aroma is mainly isoamyl acetate, an ester that’s also found in pears and bubblegum — another signature Beaujolais scent. It can occur in red or white wines as a natural by-product of carbonic maceration, or from the yeasts in regular fermentation. Interestingly, the same compound is released by the honey bees from their sting to alert fellow bees to danger.

Banana’s flavour profile is among the tropical fruits — notes like pineapple, passionfruit and lychees. Aside from Beaujolais, you can look for it in South African Pinotage. Or from aromatic white wines, especially those fermented at cooler temperatures, including Albariños like Martin Codax 2011 or Coto Redondo, Liñar de Vides 2011 both from the Spanish region of Rías Biaxas in Galicia.

In other white wines, ripe banana notes are associated with richer fruit flavours and sweet blossom aromas. Such as Haridimos Hatzidakis, Assyrtiko, Santorini 2012 or aged whites like Colonnara, Cuprese, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 1991.


understand tasting notes Black olive

The colour of olives is generally related to how ripe they are: green olives are harvested before the olive has ripened, and black olives have been left to undergo ripening.

During the course of ripening, polyphenol (aka tannin) levels drop. As a result, the astringency of the green olive relaxes into a more gentle and earthy tasting black olive.

In wine tasting notes, black olive might be used to describe the earthy and subtly bitter edge found in some red wines. Syrah is a classic example, where black olive may be found alongside black fruit and black pepper notes.

SEE: Wind Gap, Sonoma Coast, Syrah, California 2012 | Domaine Les Bruyères, David Reynaud, Crozes-Hermitage 2015

Californian Cabernet Sauvignon from cooler vintages might display black olive, as they are generally more savoury and less fruit-forward. For example, the Cabernet dominant blend of Opus One, Oakville, Napa Valley 2009.

The primary flavours and aromas of Pinot Noir can also develop via ageing into earthy and vegetal flavours that might come under the black olive profile. For example Kutch Wines, McDougall Ranch, Sonoma Coast, California 2009 — where black olive blends with spice and forest floor flavours.




understand tasting notes


Blackberries are soft, black-coloured fruit, commonly found wild in English hedgerows during summer months. They can be eaten fresh, cooked in puddings or made into jam.

In the wine lexicon, blackberry belongs in the black fruit category, alongside similarly sweet and tart soft fruits, such as blackcurrants, blueberries and black plums.

As you might guess from their appearance, blackberries are closely related to raspberries, although the latter is considered more tart in taste and less firm in texture.

Leafy or brambly blackberry flavours might be used to describe a tannic, full-bodied red wine style that hasn’t yet fully matured. Prominent blackberry with leafy notes could also hint that the grapes didn’t fully ripen before they were harvested.

SEE: Zanoni Pietro, Zovo, Amarone della Valpolicella 2011

On the other end of the spectrum, jammy blackberry notes describe the rich ripeness associated with fruit preserves, when heat and sugar are added to intensify flavours.

If you see blackberry paired with words like cooked, stewed, jam or dried, it might be describing red wines with developed fruit flavours from controlled oxidation, a common feature of bottle-ageing.

This could apply to classic Bordeaux or Rioja blends and Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, where blackberry primary fruit flavours can intertwine with oak influences like vanilla, cedar and chocolate.

SEE: Château Palmer, Margaux, 3ème Cru Classé, Bordeaux 2012 | Contador, Rioja 2014 | Ridge Vineyards, Estate Cabernet, Santa Cruz Mountains 2008

As a typical black fruit flavour, blackberry notes are ubiquitous in red wine tasting notes — from Touriga Nacional wines from Portugal, to Nero d’Avola from Sicily.

SEE: Aldi, Zom Reserva, Douro 2015 | Donnafugata, Sherazade, Sicily 2015

Look for them in certain Syrah wines from Barossa Valley and northern Rhône to compare how they interact with characteristic gamey, spicy, tarry or smokey notes to create complexity.

SEE: Penfolds, RWT Shiraz, Barossa Valley 2015 | Delas, St-Joseph Rhône 2010



tasting notes decodedThe official definition of bramble is a wild bush with thorns, usually genetically related to the rose family. As a wine tasting note, bramble generally refers to the most commonplace example: blackberry bushes, which can be cultivated for their fruit or found growing wild in hedgerows.

Consequently, bramble is found in the black fruit category of the wine lexicon, alongside blackcurrant, blackberry itself, black cherry and black plum.

Much like the term hedgerow (see below), bramble encompasses an overall sense of different natural flavour components. For this reason bramble makes for a very useful wine descriptor, because it can express conjoined black fruit, as well as herbaceous or even blossom notes.

The choice to describe a wine as having ‘bramble’ notes, rather than simply ‘blackberry’ ones, could mean that the wine has a black fruit character plus an overtone of leafiness.

In this way it can indicate desirable or undesirable characteristics, depending on the wine style. For example, in the case of a youthful cool climate Pinot Noir, such as Wakefield Estate, Fourth Dimension Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills 2016, a ‘spicy, almost tangy, red fruit and bramble character’ is appropriate to the style that the winemaker is seeks to achieve.

Or, Hahn, Lodi, Boneshaker Zinfandel 2014, where the herbaceous-fruity bramble note marries rosemary and menthol with the rich kirsch and chocolate.

Other tasting notes might specify that it’s the fruity element of bramble that’s most prominent in the wine, such as Bodega Norton, Lote Negro, Mendoza 2015 – displaying ‘inky bramble fruit’ with plums and oak spice.

Or in the powerful black fruit flavour profile of Nebbiolo wines such as Fontanafredda, Langhe Nebbiolo, Ebbio, Piedmont 2015, where a ‘nose of hedgerow fruit leaps out of the glass, with berry and bramble flavours’.

However, ‘green’ or ‘leafy’ aromas in some wines can also indicate underripe grapes.


tasting notes decoded


As a tasting note, cassis refers to ripe and concentrated blackcurrant flavours or aromas. It’s often used to describe rich and full-bodied red wines, such as mature Bordeaux wines, or those made from earthy southern Italian varieties such as Nero d’Avola, Aglianico and Primitivo.

The blackcurrant flavour profile belongs to a broader ‘black fruit’ category. Within that category, it’s more aligned with the tartness of blueberries, and not with the sweetness of dark plum and blackberry flavours.

The term can cover different forms of intense blackcurrant fruit flavours, from a large helping of blackcurrant jam, to a handful of the fresh berries.

The tasting term is not to be confused with the wine region of Cassis in Provence, which is renowned for rosé wines that generally express red fruit rather than black fruit notes, and white wines of a mineral and citrus character.

To fully comprehend the flavour, why not try the blackcurrant liqueur crème de cassis. This also goes well in a ‘Kir Royale’ cocktail — made by pouring a small measure into a flute and topping up with Champagne.





Cherries have a distinctive fruit character, often replicated artificially for confectionery and liqueurs. When it comes to wine tasting notes, it’s important to cherry wine tastedistinguish between different cherry forms and flavours. For starters, there are both sweet and sour cherries — think of the difference between maraschino and morello cherries.

Red cherries are seen as part of the red fruit flavour profile, and black cherries are included in the black fruit category. In both of these, cherries might be seen as not so sweet or tart as the berries, yet more concentrated than fleshy plums, for example.

In Decanter’s How to read wine tasting notes, the general character of cherry is defined as, ‘firm, vibrant fruit with a touch of acidity and none of the sweetness of, say, blackcurrants’.

Wines that can carry notes of tart cherries include northern Italian reds, such Piedmont’s Barolo and Barbaresco wines made from the Nebbiolo grape. Red cherry notes can be found in some Tuscan Sangiovese wines from Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti.

SEE: Giovanni Rosso, Barolo, La Serra, Piedmont, Italy, 2010 | Pio Cesare, Barbaresco, Piedmont 2013 | Bottega, Il Vino dei Poeti, Brunello di Montalcino 2010 | Monteraponi, Chianti Classico, Tuscany 2014

Young Pinot Noir wines can encompass a range of cherry flavours from red to black, particularly those of New Zealand, where some of the best examples combine cherry with hints of jam or strawberry to offset earthy notes.

SEE: Best New Zealand Pinot Noir under £20

Perhaps the wine most associated with cherries is Beaujolais, a red wine made from the Gamay grape. Cherry notes in these wines are usually the product of carbonic maceration, a process in which whole grapes are sealed in a vessel filled with carbon dioxide prior to regular fermentation. This helps to preserve the naturally juicy and fruity character of Gamay.

SEE: Domaine Georges Descombes, Morgon, Beaujolais 2015 | Domaine de la Voûte des Crozes, Côte de Brouilly, Beaujolais 2015



tasting notes decoded


As a tasting note, citrus is defined by high acidity and fresh fruit flavour; characteristics that can be found in many white wines.

Although wine may not reach the acidity level of, say, lemonade, it can have a strong acidic structure that recalls sharpness of fresh lemon, lime or grapefruit on the nose and palate.

It may also be found alongside notes like ‘mineral’ or ‘steely’, because certain high acidity wines can feel almost hard-edged in the mouth, lacking in sweet fruit flavours. Accompanying notes of more sour fruits, like green apples or pears, are relatively common.

In wine, citrus is categorised as a primary aroma, because it relates to the flavour of the grapes themselves as opposed to winemaking or ageing processes.

Examples of citrussy wines can include young dry whites like Vermentino, Verdejo, Albariño and Sauvignon Blanc.

SEE: Uvaggio, Vermentino, Lodi, California 2013 | Beronia, Verdejo, Rueda, Spain 2016 | Eidosela, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Galicia, 2011 | Cloudy Bay, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2016 | Domaine Guyot, Les Loges, Pouilly-Fumé, Loire 2015

Note: citrus can sometimes be detected as citrus peel or zest, which might suggest a more pithy and intensely aromatic character than citrus juices. This is because the pungent odour of citrus fruits comes from the chemical compound limonene, which is located in the peel.



tasting notes decoded


First things first, it’s important not to confuse the flavour profile of coconuts with nuts. Coconuts are not nuts, they are drupes (stone fruits). Their distinctive flavour and aroma is distinct from either fruits or nuts, and can be found in products like coconut milk or oil, as well as the desiccated coconut you might have eaten in a Bounty bar.

In wine, coconut generally manifests itself on the nose as a kind of dulled sweetness, which doesn’t pique the senses in the same way as sweet fruit or honey flavours. Instead it is more heavily aromatic, which is why it’s categorised among the ‘kernels’ such as almond, coffee and chocolate.

Notes of coconut can come from esters, which are the chemical compounds behind many aromas. Specifically lactones, which are responsible for the peculiar sweet aromas associated with coconuts. Beverley Blanning MW goes one step further in her exploration of oak aromas: ‘beta-methyl-gamma-octa-lactone – that’s coconut aroma to you and me’.

Coconut is one of the key aromas that distinguishes oaked wines, and it’s usually counted as a tertiary aroma because it’s related to the ageing process. Oak flavours can come from contact with wood chips, staves or barrels. Coconut is strongly evoked by American oak, along with vanilla notes.

Wines with coconut notes can include oaky red Riojas with some years behind them, like La Rioja Alta, 904 Gran Reserva 2007 and Bodegas Muriel, Reserva 2008. As well as big Cabernet-dominated Australian reds like Wolf Blass’ Black Label wines, aged for many months in American Oak.

SEE: Wolf Blass, Black Label 1979 | Wolf Blass, Black Label 1974 | Wolf Blass Wines, Black Label 1992



tasting notes decoded Cooked Fruit

A ‘cooked wine’ can be considered a fault. It can refer to a bottle that has been exposed to extreme heat. This can occur during shipping and is evident to the consumer as the cork can protrude and the wine quality will be greatly diminished.

However, when a person refers to ‘cooked fruit’ when tasting, this means that the grapes have had too much hang-time on the vine or too much sun exposure and are in fact overripe or even sunburned. This leads to a wine that has lower total acidity, which will make it taste less fresh; it will usually have jammy characters. This jamminess can be coupled with a higher level of alcohol, which can create a flabby mouthfeel.



tasting notes decoded


Cranberries are small and round red berries, which grow in clusters on low-lying evergreen shrubs. When fresh, the sweetness of cranberries is largely overwhelmed by their acidity, so they’re usually cooked and sweetened into sauce, jam or juice form.

Their sweet and tart flavour profile makes them a useful wine descriptor, and cranberries are found in the wine lexicon as part of the red fruit category. On the sweet to tart red fruit spectrum, cranberries probably sit between raspberries and redcurrants.

You can look for cranberry notes in red wines with high acidity, like some young Pinot Noir wines from cool climates. For example, Fortnum & Mason, Axel Neiss, Spätburgunder 2014, from Germany’s Pfalz region, has a nose filled with ‘bitter cherry and cranberry’ followed by tart fruit on the palate.

Elsewhere, Soter Vineyards, Planet Oregon Pinot Noir 2015, from the US appellation of Oregon, has a ‘vibrant acidity’ and ‘coats the mouth in flavours of red strawberry, cherry and cranberry’.

As well as unoaked Pinot Noir styles such as Zinck, Portrait Pinot Noir 2015 from Alsace, expressing ‘fresh cranberry and cherry fruit with velvety tannins’.

In her article Sancerre: The French Pinot Noir you should be drinking, Decanter’s Tina Gellie outlines how the ‘bigger day-night temperature differences’ in the Loire give rise to more ‘crunchy raspberry- and cranberry-style’ Pinot Noirs, compared to those from Burgundy.

SEE: Domaine Vacheron, Belle Dame, Loire 2010

Younger Grenache wines can also have relatively high acidity and tart red fruit flavours, such as cranberry. For example, Momento, Grenache 2015, from Swartland is noted for its ‘fresh acidity with tart cherry and cranberry fruit’.

Willunga 100, Grenache 2014, from South Australia’s McLaren Vale, displays ‘juicy cranberry, cherry and raspberry on the palate’.

A slightly more unusual style — also from South Australia — Alpha Box & Dice, Enigma, Adelaide Hills 2015 is a wine made from the high-acid Italian Barbera grape — resulting in tarry characters with a ‘cranberry-laced acidity which runs through the centre’.




Figs are said to be some of the first fruits to be cultivated by humans; they have origins in Turkey, India, as well as many Mediterranean countries.

tasting notes decodedGenetically, figs are related to the mulberry family, and they grow on trees or bushes. They’re favoured for their smooth, syrupy fruit flavour and pulpy texture.

Although often enjoyed fresh, figs are easily dried out into a chewier, sweeter form — as the fruit sugars become concentrated after the water content is decreased.

It is in this form that they feature in the wine lexicon, alongside other dried fruits like dates, prunes and raisins.

Due to their earthy and richly sweet flavour profile, dried fig notes are primarily found in full-bodied reds and fortified wines.

This could include Portuguese red blends like Herdade de Malhadinha Nova, Matilde, Alentejano 2013 and JP Ramos, Alentejo, Marquês de Borba, Alentejo 2014 both combining fig notes with spicy undertones. Or Primitivo wines from southern Italy, like Masseria Metrano, Primitivo, Salento, Puglia 2014, where fig mixes coffee and bitter herb aromas.

Among fortified wines, you can look for fig notes in Tawny Ports, as well as mature Madeiras, such as HM Borges, 20 Year Old, Verdelho. Or Pedro Ximénez sherries like Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla, Antique Pedro Ximénez NV.

In her article What is premature oxidation? Jane Anson identifies fig as a possible precursor to a wine becoming oxidised:

‘In red wines, the warning signs come with prune, fig and other dried fruit aromas – these are positively sought in specific types of wines such as Amarone or Port, but would be a likely indication in a young dry red that the wine will not age as it should.’

However, she warns that sensitive grapes with dried fruit flavours, like fig, are at more risk than more robust varieties:

‘Some styles of dry reds – such as still Douro reds and some Languedoc wines – naturally have dried fruit aromas when young, and are made from grapes with high natural acidity and resistance to heat.

‘But the danger comes with other grape varieties that are more susceptible to fluctuations in temperature.’

Sources: britannica.com, decanter.com


tasting notes decoded



A traditional fruit of the English garden or hedgerow, hairy-skinned gooseberries are prized in baked desserts for their fresh and tart flavours. Genetically they’re related to currants, although they are at the most sour-tasting end of the spectrum. They are most commonly green-coloured, although strains of red, yellow and pink gooseberries do exist.

In the wine lexicon they belong in the ‘green fruit’ category, alongside green apple, pear and grape. These are generally less sweet than red, black or stone fruits, displaying a primarily tart character instead.

Gooseberries are typically found in aromatic white wines, as their tart taste and slightly floral or tangy scent makes them a useful descriptor. Sauvignon Blancs may have gooseberry notes, particularly those made in cool climate regions like Marlborough in New Zealand or France’s Loire Valley.

SEE: Auntsfield, Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Southern Valleys, Marlborough 2016 | Asda, Sancerre, Loire 2016

See Oz Clarke’s description of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, when it first found its way onto the market in the 1980s:

‘No previous wine had shocked, thrilled and entranced the world before with such brash, unexpected flavours of gooseberries, passion fruit and lime or crunchy green asparagus spears … an entirely new, brilliantly successful wine style that the rest of the world has been trying to copy since.’

Another common, if strange-sounding, description of the smell of Sauvignon Blanc is ‘cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush’ — denoting the austere urine or petrol-like aromas intermingling with the green fruit tartness of gooseberries.

Gooseberry notes do not generally emanate from the grapes themselves, instead they are the result of yeast action during fermentation.

Benjamin Lewin MW explains the science:

‘The gooseberry and passion fruit aromas of Sauvignon Blanc come from sulphur-containing compounds that are released during fermentation from non-odiferous precursors in the grape.’

Alternatively, you can look for gooseberry notes in wines made from the Bacchus grape, a Riesling-Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau hybrid. Bacchus wines are sometimes likened to Sauvignon Blanc for their fresh, green character and high acidity.

SEE: Sixteen Ridges, Bacchus, England 2015 | Chapel Down, Bacchus, Kent 2015



tasting notes decoded Green apple

Green apples are generally thought to be more tart and less sweet than their red or yellow counterparts. To test this, try biting into a granny smith followed by a gala or golden delicious apple. You should notice your mouth water more with the green apple, as you produce more saliva in response to the higher acid content. Specifically, malic acid which is derived from the latin word for apple, ‘malum’.

Wine also contains malic acid, which can give the impression of green apple flavours and aromas in your glass. Wines that are high in malic acid have more pronounced green apple notes, these include cool climate dry whites such as Chablis wines, as well as Riesling and Grüner Veltliner from Germany or Austria. In these wines, green apple might be found alongside other green fruits with a similar flavour profile, such as gooseberry or pear, as well as mineral or metallic notes.

SEE: Domaine Jean-Paul et Benoît Droin, Valmur Grand, Chablis 2015 | Weinhof Waldschütz, Riesling Classic, Kamptal 2015 | Eschenhof Holzer, Wagram Grüner Veltliner, Wagram 2015

The effect of malic acid is not always desirable, particularly in some red wines and Chardonnays. It can be processed using malolactic fermentation, when bacteria break down the tart malic acid into lactic acid —  the same substance that’s found in dairy products. This might be used in Chardonnay wines to bring out more buttery flavours and give a more rounded creamy mouthfeel.

Sources: The Persistent Observer’s Guide to Wine: How to Enjoy the Best and Skip the Rest by J. P. Bary | Decanter.com

tasting notes decoded Jammy

The term jammy is usually applied to red wines low in acidity but high in alcohol, such as Californian Zinfandel or Australian Shiraz. It describes ripened or cooked fruit, in which the pungency and sweetness is intensified compared to fresh fruit flavours.

Jammy is associated with red fruits like strawberries and raspberries, as well as darker fruits such as blackcurrants and blackberries — essentially fruits you can imagine making into jam.

As a fault, it can express poor growing conditions in which the vines are overexposed to heat and sunlight. This causes the grapes to ripen too quickly, and the resultant wines can develop a cloying jamminess with a flabby mouthfeel.

Wine writer Robert Haynes-Peterson notes that Pinot Noir wines are most at risk, as these thin-skinned grapes are ‘intolerant of high temperatures which results in jammy, rather than fruit-driven, wines’. Read more

However, some people see jamminess as adding an enjoyably complex and concentrated fruitiness to wines; Matetic’s EQ Syrah from the San Antonio Valley was praised by Decanter’s James Button for its ‘multi-layered jammy and savoury elements’.

tasting notes decodedJuniper berries

Gin lovers will know the importance of juniper berries in relation to spirits, but they can also be a useful wine tasting note. Despite their name and appearance, juniper berries are actually the fleshy seed cones of a conifer shrub.

They are far more bitter and peppery than actual berries and are rarely consumed fresh. Instead juniper berries are usually dried and used as a savoury spice, or a gin botanical.

In the wine lexicon, the juniper flavour is found in the ‘botanicals and herbs’ category alongside lemongrass, as well as savoury herbs like sage and basil.

You can look for juniper notes with a similar flavour profile to this category; that is, with a bitter herb and peppery spice character. This might include full-bodied red Syrah wines, like Peay Vineyards, Les Titans Syrah 2011 and Arnot-Roberts, Clary Ranch Syrah 2012, both from California’s Sonoma Coast AVA.

Juniper might feature in the complex aromas of Nebbiolo wines from Piedmont, including Gaja, Sorì Tildin, Barbaresco 2013, where it mingles with typical notes of black cherry and mint.

As well as some of the bold and aromatic red wines from Portugal’s Douro Valley, such as Quinta do Vale Meao, Meandro 2011, where it melds with garrigue and black fruit.

A more unusual example might be Ao Yun’s full-bodied Bordeaux blend from southern China’s Yunnan province. Decanter’s John Stimpfig noted the ‘juniper, pepper and cumin’ elements to the 2013 vintage.

SEE: Ao Yun, China 2013

Aside from red wines, you might find juniper notes in some cool-climate dry whites, like Torrontés from the high-altitude terroirs of Salta in Argentina.

SEE: Bodega El Porvenir, Torrontés, Salta 2015

And even sparkling wine – Furleigh, Estate’s Blanc de Blancs 2009, made in Dorset, noted for its rich stone fruit character with ‘a flash of juniper bitterness’.


Kirsch, pronounced ‘kee-ersh’, is a dry cherry brandy from Germany – where it’s full name is ‘kirschwasser’, meaning ‘cherry water’.

It’s traditionally made using morello cherries, which are fermented whole including their stones, giving the resultant spirit a bitter almond edge.

In the wine lexicon, kirsch is placed in the dried or cooked fruit category, as it corresponds to the concentrated fruit characteristics found among descriptors like jammy, stewed fruit and raisin.

Kirsch’s flavour profile of distilled cherry fruit flavours, plus a hint of bitter almond, makes it a useful descriptor for many dry red wines.

You can look for kirsch characteristics in rich full-bodied reds such as Syrah wines from France’s Rhône Valley, where it can compliment savoury notes like herbs, smoke, earth and pepper.

New world Syrah, commonly called Shiraz, can express kirsch-like flavours too, such as examples from South Africa and Australia – although here it tends to meld with stronger hints of sweet spices.

Other reds with a kirsch character could include fruit-forward Malbec wines from Argentina, which often mix kirsch with dark fruit and floral notes.

SEE: Fable Mountain Vineyards, Syrah, Tulbagh 2011 | De Bortoli, Yarra Valley, Estate Grown Shiraz, 2013 | 55 Malbec, La Consulta, Tomal Vineyard, Teho, 2011

Dry red wines from northern Italy, made from Nebbiolo, Sangiovese or Barbera grapes, can also all display a bold cherry character that can sometimes express itself as a kirsch note.

Similarly, the powerful dark fruit profile of some Bordeaux blends can manifest itself in cassis and kirsch-like flavours.

SEE: Cascina Val del Prete, Roero Riserva, Piedmont 2013 | Château de Fieuzal, Graves, Pessac-Léognan 2015

tasting notes decoded


With their spiky red exteriors and translucent white flesh, lychees are one of the more exotic fruit varieties in the wine lexicon. They’re defined by a mildly sweet fruit flavour, with an edge of tartness and a floral aroma.

Their large central seed makes lychees look similar to stone fruits, but when it comes to wine they are classed among the tropical fruit flavours — joining mango, banana, passion fruit and pineapple.

Lychee notes are typically found in white wines, often those with subtle fruit flavours and spicy or floral characteristics.

A classic example is Gewürztraminer wine, described by Thierry Meyer, DWWA Regional Chair for Alsace, in Gewurztraminer to change your mind:

‘It smells of ginger and cinnamon, fragrant rose petals and pot pourri with a dusting of Turkish Delight and tastes of deliciously exotic lychees and mango.’

These wines are commonly made in cool climate regions like Alsace and Alto Adige in northern Europe, as well as Marlborough in New Zealand.

SEE: Lidl, Gewürztraminer Vieilles Vignes, Alsace 2016 | Gewürztraminer, Alto Adige, Trentino-Alto Adige 2014 | Yealands Estate, Gewürztraminer, Awatere Valley, Marlborough 2010

Other aromatic white wines with lychee notes could include Sauvignon Blancs, such as Massey Dacta, Marlborough 2015, which combines minerality with tropical fruits.

As well as Pinot Grigio, Prosecco and Soave wines from northern Italy, Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Torrontés from the lofty heights of Salta.

SEE: Cantina Tramin, Unterebner Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige 2014 | Sommariva, Brut, Conegliano-Valdobbiadene NV | Bolla, Retro, Soave Classico, Veneto 2011 | Bodega Colomé, Colome Torrontes, Calchaqui Valley 2015

tasting notes decodedMelon

Although there are many different types of melon – watermelon, canteloupes, crenshaw, hami to name a few – when talking about melon flavours in wine, we’re generally talking about those associated with the honeydew melon.

Do not confuse this with the French grape that makes Muscadet wines, Melon de Bourgogne, which actually has very little to do with melon fruit.

In the wine tasting lexicon, Melon is found among other tropical fruits like pineapple, lychee and mango. The flavour profile of ripe melon is generally fruity, refreshing and sweet, although its sugar content is not normally as high as that of pineapple.

Rosé wines can be a good place to look for melon flavours and aromas.

This is particularly true for wines from Provence, like Domaine Gavoty 2013, as well as some ‘provençal-style’ Californian rosés, such as Picayune Cellars, Rosé, Mendocino County 2016 or Arnot-Roberts, Clear Lake Rosé, Lake County 2016.

Melon can also be evoked by rosé Champagnes, made from varying ratios of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Including De Castelnau, Rosé Champagne NV, where fruity melon is balanced by floral beeswax notes.

Elsewhere, you might also find melon notes in full-bodied white wines from warm climates, such as Chardonnay from Californian regions like Napa Valley and Sonoma County. As well as in some Italian white wines like premium Pinot Grigio, or fruit-forward Prosecco wines.

SEE: Truchard, Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa Valley, California 2014 | Ronco del Gelso, Sot lis Rivis, Isonzo 2012 | Masottina Extra Dry, Rive di Ogliano, Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 2010

Source: Decanter.com



understand tasting notes


Oranges are a species of citrus fruit which branch into many varieties, whether it be your lunchbox satsuma or a red-fleshed blood orange.  

Despite its many forms, all orange varieties share a similar citrus character that’s less acidic than lemon, lime or grapefruit and more fresh, fruity or tangy instead.

The same chemical molecule is behind the aroma of lemons and oranges, known as limonene. But it exists in two slightly altered forms and interacts with our nasal receptors differently, resulting in the two distinctive fruit scents. 

Wine tasting notes might be more specific by naming which part of the orange fruit correctly describes the flavour or aroma found in a wine. 

For example, a wine could have notes or orange peel or zest, which indicates a more pungent orange aroma, because limonene is concentrated in essential oils given off by glands in the rind.  

This means that when you peel or grate the skin of an orange you release a stronger and more bitter odour than that of its flesh.  

Wines with orange zest or peel notes are generally dry white wines with mineral, green fruit or floral characteristics.  

These can include Fiano wines from Campania in southern Italy, Riesling from Australia’s Clare Valley, or Californian Chardonnays — where orange zest notes might be intermingled with tropical fruit flavours.

SEE: Pierluigi Zampaglione, Don Chisciotte Fiano, Campania 2011 | Wakefield Estate, The Exquisite Collection Riesling, Clare Valley 2016 | Fess Parker, Ashley’s Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills 2014

You may also see the tasting term ‘orange blossom’, referring to a very different tasting profile to orange fruits. Orange blossom is typified by a fresh white flower aroma, with a gentle bitter edge. You can look for orange blossom notes in white Burgundies such as Domaine Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet Le Clavoillon 1er Cru 2015 or Greek white Assyrtiko wines like Ktima Pavlidis, Emphasis Assyrtiko Drama PGI 2013.

Do not confuse orange descriptors in wine tasting notes with orange wines, which are made using white wine grapes which are macerated in their skins, giving them an amber hue. In this case term ‘orange’ is in reference to their colour and does not prescribe orangey flavours or aromas.

Sources: Citrus: A History by Pierre Laszlo | Decanter.com

tasting notes decoded Passion fruit

Passion fruits are recognisable by their purple or yellow hard casing, which can be cut open to reveal the vivid yellow pulp and green seeds within. They are related to the berry family, which also includes grapes.

They thrive in tropical climates and grow on vines; passion fruit plantations don’t look too dissimilar to wine vineyards, with the plants commonly trellised in lines.

Passion fruits are favoured in desserts and confectionery for their powerful fruity flavour, which is predominantly sweet with a slight sour tang. This flavour profile can emanate from wines too, and passion fruit is included in the wine lexicon in the ‘tropical fruit’ category, alongside notes like lychee, melon and pineapple.

You can look for passion fruit notes in aromatic dry white wines, with high acidity. For example New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is known for its ability to produce an array of pungent fruit flavours, including guava, passion fruit and mango — as well as equally strong flavours in the vegetal department, like cut grass and asparagus.

SEE: Opawa, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2016 | Harrods, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2015 | Tinpot Hut, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2016

 You can find similar examples of this herbaceous and tropical fruit hybridity in Sauvignon Blancs from South America too: Cono Sur’s Reserva Especial 2014 from Chile boasts ‘intense mango, passion fruit and fresh herbs’.

Or Trapiche’s Costa & Pampa Sauvignon Blanc 2016 from Argentina, noted for its heady mix of ‘cut grass and passion fruit’ aromas.

Aromatic Pinot Grigio and Gewürztraminer wines from Italy’s Alto Adige region are capable of displaying ripe tropical fruit notes, such as passion fruit, alongside floral and citrus characteristics.

Certain South African Chenin Blancs, also have passion fruit flavours to match tangy acidity.

SEE: Cantina Tramin, Unterebner Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige 2014 | Baron Widmann, Gewürztraminer, Alto Adige 2013Swartland Winery, Bush Vine Chenin Blanc, Swartland, 2015

tasting notes decodedPineapple

As you’re probably aware pineapple is a tropical fruit, with sweet and juicy pungent flesh. It’s this sweet pungency that’s reflected in some wine aromas, though no actual pineapple is present. There is such a thing as wine made from pineapples instead of grapes, but we won’t get into that here.

As a tasting note, pineapple is aligned with other sweet-smelling exotic fruits like melon, banana, guava, mango and passionfruit. Its flavour profile is sweeter than the citrus fruits, but it has a freshness that distinguishes it from stone fruits, such as apricots and peaches.

You can find pineapple notes ripe white wines, such as a Riesling like Tongue in Groove Waipara Valley, New Zealand 2013. Or you might find it in more traditional late-harvest examples, especially from cool regions like Mosel in Germany. It’s generally ascribed to the influences of Botrytis Cinerea, or Noble Rot.

As a thin-skinned grape, Riesling is particularly susceptible to Noble Rot — a fungus that pierces the skin of grapes and lowers the water content, whilst maintaining sugar levels. Botrytis is able to invoke fruity notes because of chemical compounds like fureanol, which is also found in very ripe pineapples. Look for its pineapple influence in sweet wines from Sauternes too, such as Château Suduiraut 2013.

Some oaky and ripe New World Chardonnays may also exude aromas of pineapple, as they tend to have a more exotic fruit profile, along with hints of sweet spices and a higher alcohol content. Typical examples are Californian Chardonnays, such as Fess Parker, Ashley’s Chardonnay, Santa Barbara 2014 and Y Rousseau, Milady Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2012.



understand tasting notes Plum

It’s often hard to define a single position for plum in the tasting note lexicon, because it can appear to span stone fruit, red fruit and black fruit categories, depending on the variety and its level of freshness and ripeness.

It is commonly associated with Merlot wines, particularly in their younger years, and may denote a fleshy character to the wine. You will often find plum in tasting notes for fruit-driven varietal wines dominated by black fruits, including Cabernet Sauvignon — but not exclusively.

Sometimes tasting notes might specify ‘black plum’ or ‘dark plum’, denoting richer and sweeter flavours, as might be seen red wines from Douro, made with Portuguese varieties like Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca.

SEE: Sainsbury’s, Taste the Difference Douro 2015 | Casa Ferreirinha, Callabriga, Douro 2014

You can find plum flavours and aromas in other varieties, too, such as Syrah and Grenache blends, like Domaine de la Cadenette, Costières de Nîmes, Rhône 2015 and La Cabane Reserve, Grenache & Syrah, Pays d’Oc 2015.

In Barbera and also some Nebbiolo wines from Piedmont, ripe red plum notes can be intensified by influences of sour cherry.

SEE: Ciabot Berton, Fisetta, Barbera d’Alba 2011 | Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno, Cannubi, Barolo 2009

You may also come across ‘plum jam’ in tasting notes, referring to plums which have been heated with added sugar, creating more intensely sweet, complex flavours. 

In powerful Sangiovese wines like Capanna, Brunello di Montalcino 2010 and Il Marroneto, Madonna delle Grazie, Brunello di Montalcino 2010, plum jam notes may combine with flavours of spice.

Source: Decanter.com



 Pomegranates can be recognised by their hard shiny exteriors, coloured red or yellow, which can be split open to reveal bright ruby-like seeds. They’re

tasting notes decoded said to originate from the Middle East, but today their juicy seeds are found in drinks and sweet or savoury dishes around the world.

The tart taste of pomegranate seeds might be compared to that of sour cherries or cranberries, and it’s a useful descriptor for wines with similar flavour profile. Pomegranate flavours can sometimes be expressed by fuller-bodied rosé wines, when their red fruit character is combined with high acidity.

For example, Domaine des Tourelles, Rosé 2015 from Lebanon is made from a punchy blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Tempranillo, resulting in ‘heaps of wild strawberries and red berries’ plus ‘an extra dimension of pomegranate-like acidity’.

Spanish rosés, or rosados, often display these characteristics too, such as Pyrene, Rosado 2016 from Somontano – a blend of Tempranillo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that has ‘pleasingly tart pomegranate and strawberry fruit’, as well as ‘zippy grapefruit acidity’.

The robust acidic backbone and prominent fruit flavours of this style of rosé can make for great summer barbecue pairings. In her selection of great rosé wines with food, Fiona Beckett highlights Charles Melton, Rose of Virginia 2015, a Grenache rosé from Barossa Valley, for its ‘perfumed cherry and pomegranate fruit’ — a good match for lamb.

Rosés aside, you can also look for pomegranate notes in red wines with vibrant acidity and a ripe red fruit flavour profile.

This could include Cinsault reds, like Tenute Rubino, Lamo Ottavianello 2015, made in Puglia, noted for its strong aromas of ‘red cherry and pomegranate fruit’.

Or fruit-forward Carignan wines from California, such as Lioco, Sativa Carignan 2013, expressing ‘mouth-watering tastes of rosehip and pomegranate’.


raisin flavour in wineRaisin

It might seem natural enough to find flavours of raisin in your wine, given that they’re really just dried out grapes. Indeed some wines are made from desiccated grapes, like Amarone wines from Valpolicella (where grapes are dried for 100 days or more), or sweet wines such as passito or vin santo styles. In these examples grapes are simply air dried by being laid out on racks in well-ventilated spaces, or hung from the rafters.

SEE: Tommasi, Ca’ Florian, Amarone della Valpolicella, Classico Riserva 2009 | Romano Dal Forno, Vigna Sere Rosso, Veneto 2004

The taste of raisins is defined by the concentration of fruit flavours and sugars left over after most of the water is removed. This explains why styles made by lowering the water content of grapes prior to pressing can later express raisiny notes in the glass. Sweet wines made using the onset of botrytis cinerea (aka noble rot) are part of this category too, as the fungus pierces the skins of the berries, lowering water content whilst retaining sugar levels. This includes wines like Sauternes from Bordeaux and Tokaji from Hungary.

Some sweet sherries are made from dried grapes too, namely those that use Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel grapes that have been left in the sun for several days. These berries make naturally sweet sherries that don’t require artificial sweetening after maturation, and they often have raisin in their tasting notes.

SEE: Maestro Sierra, Pedro Ximénez, Jerez | Osborne, 30 year old, Pedro Ximénez Venerable VORS, Jerez

In the wine lexicon, raisin belongs in the dried fruit category alongside tasting notes like dates, sultanas, dried figs and prunes. It’s not unusual to find dried fruit flavours alongside cooked or stewed ones, because the process of cooking can also concentrate sugars and flavours in a similar way to drying.

Bear in mind that wines can display dried fruit flavours even if they aren’t made from dried out grapes, because some intense, earthy or complex fruit flavours can seem raisin-like. For example, you may find raisin notes in Syrah wines from the Crozes-Hermitage or Saint-Joseph appellations in northern Rhône.

SEE: Vidal-Fleury, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhône 2010 | La Tour Coste, St-Joseph, La Combe, Rhône, France, 2010

Sources: sherrynotes.com | Decanter.com



understand tasting notes Raspberry

One of the tartest red fruits, raspberry has a distinctive flavour and aroma that’s relished in desserts and confectionery. Raspberries are genetically part of the rose family, alongside other soft hedgerow fruits like blackberries and loganberries (blackberry-raspberry hybrids).

In the wine lexicon, raspberry part of the red fruit category — at the tartest end of the spectrum, next to cranberry. Although some notes may contain ‘sour raspberry’, ‘tart’ is a more specific adjective, relating to their acidic yet sweet, fruity nature.

Given these characteristics, it’s more commonly detected as a primary aroma in ripe and fruit-forward red wines with medium to high acidity.

Many wines from around the world fit this description, but some typical grape varieties include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Tempranillo and Italian grapes like Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Barbera and Primitivo.

SEE: Collin Bourisset, Fleurie, Beaujolais 2015 | Tolpuddle Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Coal River Valley, Tasmania 2014 | E Pira and Figli, Cannubi 2006 | Bodegas Muriel, Taste the Difference Vinedos Barrihuelo Crianza, Rioja 2012

Lots of rosé wines typically have red fruit flavours and prominent acidity too, like Sacha Lichine, Single Blend Rosé 2016 from Languedoc-Roussillon. Or Graham Beck, Brut Rosé — a non-vintage sparkling wine from South Africa’s Western Cape, which combines ‘vibrant raspberry acidity’ with a leesy ‘brioche finish’.

You may see ‘raspberry jam’ in tasting notes, and this suggests the wine has more condensed raspberry tones; because jam making involves the addition of heat and sugar, which intensifies sweet and fruity flavours.

For example, Bersano, Sanguigna, Barbera 2011 from Piedmont is noted for its raspberry jam aromas, as a result of its ‘vivacious acidity’, plus intense and lingering sweet red fruit flavours.


tasting notes decoded Strawberry

Strawberry falls into the red fruit flavour category, along with notes like raspberry, cherry and jam. It can be experienced as an flavour, but is most commonly identified as a wine aroma. It’s created by the fragrant organic compound called ethly methylphenylglycidate, also known as an ester.

Strawberry notes can usually be found in light reds such as Californian Zinfandel wines, and New Zealand Pinot Noirs. As well as among the complex aromas of more tannic wines made from the Sangiovese and Nebbiolo varietals.

Strawberry aromas are also expressed by rosé wines, such as Domaine Delaporte’s rosé from Sancerre and Famille Negrel’s La Petite Reine rosé from Bandol. Or even in sparkling rosé wines, such as The Wine Society’s Champagne Rosé and Exton Park’s Pinot Meunier.

The nature of the strawberry aroma can range from an attractive berry freshness, to an unpleasant cloying fruitiness. For example, sommelier Laure Patry praises Erath Vineyards’ Oregon Pinot Noir 2012 for its ‘bright and fresh with ripe strawberry aromas’. But it can be distasteful if over-pronounced, in these instances it might be paired with words like ‘cooked’ or ‘stewed’.

Benjamin Lewin MW claims the ‘strawberry notes of Pinot Noir’ are ‘released or created by yeast during fermentation’, and he argues that different strains of yeasts can be used to enhance certain aspects of a wine’s flavour profile. Read more


understand tasting notes


Tomato is one of the less common tasting notes, but nevertheless it has its place in the wine lexicon — among vegetal notes like green bell pepper (capsicum) and potato.

Tomato, green bell pepper and potato may appear to have little in common, but they all belong to the nightshade family and contain pyrazines — the chemical compound behind their sharply herbaceous aroma.

NOTE: When it comes to describing wine, tomato notes are commonly manifested as ‘green tomato’ or ‘tomato leaf’ — to highlight its herbaceous character, rather than the rich and sweet flavours of red ripe or cooked tomatoes.

A form of pyrazine (methoxypyrazine, to be exact) is found on the skins of grapes, which can heavily influence the flavour profile of resultant wines if the fruit is unable to ripen fully.

This can be particularly noticeable in Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère wines, especially from cooler climate regions.

SEE: Masseto, Bolgheri, Tuscany 2006 | Robert Mondavi, To Kalon Vineyard Reserve, Oakville, Napa Valley 2012 | Château Tour Haut-Caussan, Médoc, Bordeaux 2010

Given time, this green tomato/tomato leaf character may evolve into complex notes such as cigar box, but it may never reach its full potential if the tannins were too undeveloped at the time of harvesting.

Herbaceous tomato notes can be desirable, such as in cool climate Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough in New Zealand. For example Konrad’s Hole in the Water Sauvignon Blanc 2016, where tomato leaf and capsicum complement its citrus and green fruit character.

Sources: Decanter.com, Foodwise by Wendy E. Cook



Herb & Spice


understanding tasting notes




When it comes to alcohol, almond is perhaps most associated with Amaretto; the Italian liqueur whose name translates to ‘little bitter’. Almond’s signature bitterness is thought to be caused by benzaldehyde, which is a chemical compound formed in wines during fermentation and also carbonic maceration – when grapes are sealed in a vessel filled with carbon dioxide prior to regular fermentation.

As well as fermentation, it can also come from yeast influences, in a similar vein to biscuit and brioche notes. This could include wines rested sur lie, ‘on the lees’, or those that have undergone bâtonnage, also known as ‘lees-stirring’

Levels of benzaldehyde are generally higher in sparkling wines, particularly those made using the traditional or charmat methods.

SEE: Krug, Grande Cuvée 160ème Édition NV | Prosecco, Cartizze, Vigna La Rivetta, Villa Sandi 2015 | Bodegas Muga, Conde de Haro Brut, Cava 2013

In the wine lexicon, almond falls into the ‘kernels’ category, alongside coffee, chocolate and coconut. In Decanter’s How to read wine tasting notes, experts use almond to describe a certain ‘fruity bitterness, more refreshing than unpleasant’. It is, for example, present in the dry red wine Allegrini, Valpolicella Classico Superiore 1998.

This fruity bitterness can also feature in some young red Bordeaux wines, such as Château d’Issan, Blason d’Issan, Margaux Bordeaux, 2016 and Château Prieuré-Lichine, Margaux, 4ème Cru Classé 2016. Here, it has developed the smoky and toasted element of ‘grilled almonds’.

Sources: Wine Microbiology: Science and Technology, Claudio Delfini and Joseph V. Formica | Handbook of Enology, The Chemistry of Wine: Stabilization and Treatments edited by Pascal Ribéreau-Gayon, Y. Glories, A. Maujean, Denis Dubourdieu




tasting notes, Asparagus

Asparagus as a tasting note in wine can be divisive; some love the savoury complexity it brings, while others recoil from what can seem a funky vegetal tang. It’s commonly found in descriptions of grassy white wines such as young unoaked Sauvignon Blancs, particularly those from New Zealand’s regions like Marlborough or Awatere Valley. Here it’s often accompanied by typical Sauvignon Blanc notes like green apple, gooseberry, pea or blackcurrant leaf (that’s code for cat’s urine).

• Premium New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – panel tasting results

Other unoaked whites which might have notes of asparagus include Albariño wines from Spain’s Rías Baixas region, such as Laureatus, Val do Salnés 2014. It’s also in the more unusual Vale da Capucha, Fossil, Lisboa 2012 made with a blend of local Portuguese grape varieties.

Asparagus is related to descriptors like vegetal or herbaceous, as well as more specific flavours of fennel or green bell pepper. All convey a sense of savoury bitterness that, in well-made wines, is saved from acridity by a freshness that’s almost sweet.

Scientifically, the distinctive scent of asparagus is generally attributed to odour compounds called pyrazines, which are also a cause of grassy and green bell pepper flavours and aromas. Asparagus is said to be evoked by 3-isopropyl-2-methoxypyrazine, to be precise.

Look out for distinctions within the asparagus category. For example, imagine snapping a lightly steamed asparagus stem, and the fresh, clean aromas that curl up your nose from the vapour.

Compare this to stewed or off-flavours coming from canned asparagus, which can be caused by mercaptans, aka sulphur compounds (see ‘Rubber’ below). There’s also white asparagus, which is usually considered to taste milder and more delicate than its chlorophyll-driven green cousin. All versions can add their own nuances, which can make for an all-round more interesting and appealing wine if counter-balanced correctly.

SEE: Brancott Estate, Awatere Valley, Terroir Series Sauvignon 2016 | Cloudy Bay, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2016



understand tasting notesBlack pepper

Black pepper is among the world’s most commonly used spices and begins life in clusters on a vine — not dissimilar to grapes.

Peppercorns are actually green when they’re harvested, but they turn black once dried. They are usually ground down to release their signature earthy spiciness, generated by the chemical compound piperine.

Flavours reminiscent of this mild spice might appear in the flavour or aroma of some wines. Black pepper notes usually crop up in earthy or spicy dry red wines, particularly those made from Syrah / Shiraz, either single-varietal or constituting a classic blend with Mourvèdre and Grenache.

Syrahs from northern Rhône may intermingle black pepper with floral, minty or even creosote notes. Australia’s warm climate Shiraz blends, such as those from Barossa Valley, might combine peppery hints with baked fruit and liquorice, developing into leathery or earthy characteristics with age.

SEE: Domaine Gilles Robin, Les Papillons, Crozes-Hermitage 2015 | Turkey Flat, Butcher’s Block Red, Barossa Valley 2015

Other potentially peppery wines include rosé blends from Provence, typically Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Sangiovese wines hailing from Chianti Classico, can also contain black pepper notes, usually associated with oak influences like black tea, leather and cedar.

SEE: Sainsbury’s, Taste the Difference Chianti Classico 2014 | Château de Galoupet, Côtes de Provence Cru Classé 2016

Sources: Spices and Seasonings: A Food Technology Handbook by Donna R. Tainter, Anthony T. Grenis | Decanter.com




tasting notes decoded

Black tea

Although tea might seem worlds apart from wine, it can teach us a lot about wine-tasting and is a useful tasting note. The link between the two is tannin, which is a polyphenol found in plant tissue, including grape skins, seeds, oak barrels — and tea leaves.

You can learn to distinguish how tannic a wine is by conducting a quick experiment using tea: put a black tea bag in hot water for a minute or two and taste the infusion. Then repeat, but this time allow the bag to steep for twice as long, and compare the effect on the taste. The second tea should taste more astringent, drying out your mouth and tasting almost unpleasantly bitter.

Some wines will create a similar effect on your palate, either with smooth and integrated tannins (more like the first tea), or with coarse and harsh tannins (like the second tea).

When a wine has a tasting note of black tea, this generally means it is enjoyably tannic. This can be true of the bold, characterful wines made from thick-skinned NebbioloSangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. But, just as some people must have milk with their tea, some may find this flavour too strong and may prefer a milder, less tannic wine — perhaps a Pinot Noir or Merlot.

SEE: Brovia, Ca’ Mia, Barolo 2009 | Kanonkop, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2005 | Il Mandorlo, Il Rotone, Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany 2009

Another aspect of tea tasting notes is identified by DecanterChina.com’s editor Sylvia Wu:

‘Tea-like aromas can be found in aged red wines, alongside scents of earth, dried-leaves and forest floor. These tertiary aromas add complexity to the original fresh fruit aromas (primary aromas), making the wine more layered and multi-dimensional.’

You can look for these tertiary aromas in aged red wines from Northern RhôneBordeaux and Barolo.





tasting notes decoded


As you might imagine, wine with pungent cabbage notes is not generally what the winemaker intended. It can be identified as a tangy vegetal flavour or aroma, often calling forth over-stewed school dinner cabbage leaves.

Stewed or rotten cabbage aromas could flag up reduction in red or white wines, caused by a lack of oxygen during winemaking, which can create chemical compounds called mercaptans, also known as thiols.

Some wines affected by mercaptans could be improved by the addition of an old copper penny, because copper sulphate can react with the mercaptans to remove unpleasant odours.

However, this is by no means a sure cure.

Other mercaptan indicators include whiffs of garlic, rotten eggs, burnt rubber and struck matches.

If subtle and balanced correctly, some reductive characteristics can be desirable.

‘The struck match character associated with some barrel-fermented Chardonnays or Semillon-Sauvignon blends is a reductive one, as are the smoky/gunflint aromas of many Sauvignon Blancs,’ said Natasha Hughes MW in her guide to common wine flaws and wine faults.

Other positive examples include Savignola Paolina, Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany 2009, noted as ‘vegetal with sweat, cabbage and other unlikely descriptors’.

Whereas Jordan, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County 2009 is described as smelling like ‘red cabbage in a good way’, making for an ‘intriguing and interesting’ wine.

Sources: Wine Faults: Causes, Effects, Cures by John Hudelson | Decanter.com




understand tasting notes


Camomile is a small daisy-like white flower with a gentle yet distinctive aroma, commonly encountered in tea infusions.

There is a medicinal aspect of its aroma profile that comes through as a sharp edge to the sweet floral overtones, caused by aromatic compounds known as polyphenols — also found to varying degrees in wines.

Some wines have camomile notes because they contain a similar profile of aromatic compounds, creating the illusion of the camomile scent.

Examples include white wines made from Chenin Blanc, particularly those from South African regions like Swartland, Stellenbosch, or Walker Bay. In these wines, camomile notes typically join green fruit flavours, developing a honeyed and lactic character with age.

SEE: Kleine Zalze, Family Reserve Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch 2014 | Schalk Burger & Sons, Welbedacht Chenin Blanc, Swartland 2010 | Beaumont, Hope Marguerite, Botriver, Walker Bay 2015

You can also look for hints of camomile among the floral aromas of Sauvignon Blanc wines from cool climate regions like Alto Adige in northern Italy.

In these wines the sweet, slightly medicinal camomile flavour meshes well with the wine’s high acidity, and can blend attractively with green fruit, citrus or melon notes.

SEE: Kaltern, Carned Kerner, Alto Adige 2014 | Kurtatsch Cortaccia, Kofl Sauvignon, Alto Adige 2014

Other high-acid, cool climate wines with camomile notes can include Pinot Gris from Austria, New South Wales, or even Prosecco.

SEE: Logan, Weelmala Pinot Gris, Orange, New South Wales 2013 | Villa Sandi, Vigna La Rivetta, Cartizze, Prosecco 2015

Camomile can also appear in bone-dry Chardonnay styles, such as Domaine Joseph Voillot, Les Cras 1er Cru, Meursault 2015 and Littorai, Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast 2013 — both of which intermingle camomile with lemon and mineral notes.


tasting notes decoded



From aromatherapy oils to car air fresheners, cedar wood is prized for its rich and woody aromatic qualities. In wines, it’s a desirable scent that often indicates the use of oak in the production of red wines.

Most commonly, in full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon single varietal and blended wines, such as those of Napa Valley or Bordeaux — particularly the Left Bank appellations. For example Château Léoville-Barton, St-Julien, 2ème Cru Classé 1990, as cited in Decanter.com’s How to read wine tasting notes, or Château Haut-Bailly, Pessec-Léognan 1998, as mentioned in The seven key aromas of aged Bordeaux.

As it’s related to the use of oak in post-fermentation winemaking, cedar is classified as a secondary aroma. Within this category, it signifies a fresher and more savoury aroma than notes like vanilla or butterscotch, and expresses a resinous and slightly spicy character aligned with sandalwood and cloves.

Its falls among the subtler secondary aromas, therefore it might be harder to detect in the strongly aromatic oaks; such as American oak, where coconut and vanilla fragrances can dominate.

Cedar is also incorporated in the ‘cigar box’ tasting note, which describes the combination of the aromas of rolled tobacco leaves with boxes made of cedar wood, traditionally used for storing cigars.



tasting notes decoded


Forget your morning bowl of coco pops and froot loops; in the wine lexicon, ‘cereal’ usually refers to the flavour profile of a basic range of grains like wheat, oats, maize and rye.

Cereal aromas are most common in non-fruit forward white wines and can be an indicator of maturity, as well as oak or yeast influences. Oak influences can be gained from the wine spending some time in contact with oak barrels, chips or staves, whereas yeast influences can be brought about through winemaking practices like stirring the lees (bâtonnage), or resting the wine on its lees (sur lie).

In this way, cereal is comparable with natural savoury-sweet aromas like honey and hay, which are also a sign of age and complexity in certain white wines, such as oak-aged Chardonnays.

For example, cereal notes of ‘savoury oatmeal’ feature in Domaine Jean-Louis Chavy, Berry Bros & Rudd Puligny Montrachet 2014, alongside cashew and chalk.

Sumaridge’s Chardonnay 2010 from Hemel-En-Aarde in South Africa is from a different hemisphere, but made in a similar style and also boasts savoury oatmeal flavours, enriched with layers of butter and pear.

Australian oaked Chardonnays, such as those made in Margaret River, may also have cereal hints, such as Hay Shed Hill, Wilyabrup 2012, praised by our experts for its ‘quiet notes of cereal grain’ with a ‘touch of brioche’.

You may also find cereal oaty notes in some sweet white wines, such as Château Doisy-Daëne 2013 from Barsac, noted for its ‘well-integrated oak’, resulting in undertones of ‘honey and oat’.


tasting notes decoded Cinnamon

You might be familiar with the sight of a festive cinnamon stick bobbing in your mulled wine, but for other wines it does not feature directly. However, some wines can give the impression of cinnamon in their flavours and aromas. This is because cinnamon contains aromatic compounds called esters, one of which — ethyl cinnamate — can also be found in wine.

Quantities of ethyl cinnamate can find their way into wines during fermentation or ageing processes. The ‘ethyl’ part refers to the ethanol found in the wine which becomes an ester, compounded with cinnamic acid — the same that’s in the essential oil of cinnamon. Bottle ageing white wines is an example of how ethyl cinnamate might be produced, along with other sweet spicy notes like ginger and nutmeg.

Wines that conjure the effect of cinnamon include naturally spicy whites like Gewürztraminer, as well as in some oaky Chardonnays with toasty or nutty features.

SEE: Astrolabe, Province Chardonnay, Marlborough 2014 | Creation, Art Of Chardonnay, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, Walker Bay 2015

For red wines with cinnamon notes, look to rich Italian reds such as those made from Nebbiolo or Barbera varietals as well as Amarone, a wine made using partially dried grapes to give it more concentrated flavours.

SEE: Marchesi di Gresy, Langhe Nebbiolo, Martinenga 2013 | Cantina del Glicine, La Sconsolata, Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont 2010 | Cantine Riondo, Vincini Amarone, Veneto 2012

Other reds could include certain smoky Riojas or earthy Oregon Pinot Noirs, aged in American oak. The spicy characteristics of some tawny Port wines can lend themselves to cinnamon notes too, such as Graham’s, 20 Year Old Tawny NV.

SEE: Rivers-Marie, Summa Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 | La Rioja Alta, Viña Ardanza Reserva, Rioja 2007

Sources: Understanding Wine Chemistry by Andrew L. Waterhouse, Gavin L. Sacks, David W. Jeffery, Decanter.com




tasting notes decoded


Cloves are the dried flower buds of an evergreen tree native to Indonesia, commonly used as an aromatic cooking ingredient, and in the festive season you might find them bobbing in your mulled wine.

However cloves are not added during regular winemaking practices, but the impression of them might be created during oak-ageing. Clove notes can come from an aroma compound called eugenol, which is found in both oak and cloves.

The influence of eugenol on the resultant wine depends on factors such as how the wood has been toasted or seasoned, and how long the wine spends in oak.

Because clove notes usually come from oak influences, they are categorised as a secondary aroma, alongside notes like sandalwood, vanilla and cedar. In the wine lexicon they’re classified as a sweet, rather than pungent, spice — like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

You can look for clove-like flavours and aromas in wines such as classic oak-aged reds from Bordeaux, such as Château L’Eglise-Clinet, Pomerol 2016, where oaky notes of cinnamon and clove are integrated with primary dark fruit notes.

Clove can also be present in Bordeaux-style blends from Californian regions like Sonoma County and Napa Valley. For example Opus One, Napa Valley, California 2014 and the ‘Pomerol-inspired’ Verité, La Muse, Sonoma County 2014.

Sources: Handbook of Enology, The Chemistry of Wine: Stabilization and Treatments edited by Pascal Ribéreau-Gayon, Y. Glories, A. Maujean, Denis Dubourdieu | Decanter.com



tasting notes decoded Coffee

Coffee is one of four key aromas that can help you to understand the difference between an oaked and un-oaked white wine, says Decanter’s Jane Anson. The others are vanilla, coconuts and cloves, incidentally. Coffee aromas can be formed over the ageing process in young wines fresh from the barrel, which is why you so often find a hint of smoky cappuccino in vintage Champagne.

Of course, there’s no actual coffee in your wine. It’s actually a chemical compound that you can smell. An organic compound called furfurylthiol is known to give off a smoky, coffee aroma, which emanates from oak barrel toasting.






Many of us will be familiar with the aroma and flavour of the spice cumin —either in powder or seed form— which is widely used across Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. It comes from the dried seeds of the cumin herb, which is part of the parsley family.

Cumin is relatively mild aromatic spice, typified by an earthy or woody flavours and aromas, with a bitter undertone. It features in the spice category of the wine lexicon, alongside notes like black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg and anise.

You can look for cumin notes in some orange wines, which sometimes glean an extra earthy, bitter spice edge from prolonged skin contact.

For example, Albert Mathier et Fils, Amphore Assemblage 2010, from Switzerland’s Valais region, has a honeyed cinnamon nose that comes through as ‘cumin, tea leaf and dry tobacco’ on the palate.

Elsewhere, some premium cool-climate Pinot Noir wines can develop delicately earthy and mildly spicy notes that resonate with cumin.

Peter Michael Winery’s Le Caprice Estate Pinot Noir 2013, made in Sonoma County’s Fort Ross-Seaview AVA, was praised by William Kelley as ‘the most supple and ethereal of the Pinots bursting with perfumed notes of rose petal, clove, cumin and black fruit’.

Full-bodied reds can also develop spicy characteristics, such as cumin, usually gained from time spent in oak.

Ringbolt, Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 from Margaret River — matured for 11 months in American oak — has a ‘touch of cumin and dried herb on the nose’, which adds complexity to the cassis and dark fruit flavours.

Similarly, Ao Yun 2013, a full-bodied Bordeaux blend from southern China’s Yunnan province, was noted for its ‘sweet black and red cherry fruit’ flavours, which are counter-balanced by bitter-edged oak influences: ‘juniper, pepper and cumin’.


tasting notes decoded




Elderflower is a classic feature of English summer drinking, whether it be infused into cordials or even fermented to become elderflower wine. But what about elderflower aromas from wines made out of grapes?

It belongs to the floral wine flavour category, in which it could be positioned as less pungently sweet than rose or violet, but not as intense and herby as geranium. It’s also tied up with the tasting term ‘hedgerow’ (see below), where it’s listed as an example of a wildflower aroma, along with notes like gooseberry, blackberry, bramble and nettle.

In this way, elderflower expresses a delicate integration between herbaceous and floral aromas, such as might be found in dry cool climate white wines, like Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire’s Sancerre appellation or Marlborough in New Zealand.

SEE: Majestic, Definition, Sancerre, Loire 2015 | Asda, Sancerre, Loire 2015

It’s often aligned with another signature Sauvignon Blanc note, ‘blackcurrant leaf’ – which can be read as code for the smell of cat’s urine, although elderflower is usually softer and less acrid. If these notes are too pronounced, it could suggest the grapes were harvested before they were allowed to fully ripen.

You can also look for elderflower notes in wines made from the Bacchus grape, a Riesling-Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau hybrid. Bacchus wines are sometimes likened to Sauvignon Blanc for their herbaceous character and high acidity.

A notable example is Winbirri’s Bacchus 2015 from Norfolk, which rose to fame as a Platinum Best in Show winner at the Decanter World Wine Awards earlier this year. Judges said the wine had a ‘complex, oily nose with spice, elderflower and citrus’.

Source: Geoff Adams, Wines of the World | Decanter.com

  tasting notes decoded

Normally associated with Australian wines (particularly Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz), eucalypt, mint, and camphor aromas can be found in other wines too, including Argentinian Cabernet Franc. This is due to the compound 1,8-cineole, also known as eucalyptol.

Studies have shown that vineyards with a closer proximity to eucalyptus trees have a higher incidence of the chemical in the wine, and therefore a stronger note of eucalypt. Eucalpytol is transmitted through the air onto grape skins, which are then fermented into wine, giving the distinct character.



understand tasting notesFennel

Fennel is a bulbous vegetable with a fresh but slightly bitter taste, often made the most of in summer salads. It belongs to the same family as anise; both have similar bittersweet liquorice-like flavours and aromas — which are brought out in fennel tea, or when infused into the potent spirit absinthe.

In the wine lexicon, fennel is found in the herbal branch of the spice and vegetable category, alongside dill, eucalyptus, lavender and mint.

Tasting notes referring to fennel may be describing either the fresh and bitter fennel vegetable, or the sweet medicinal fennel seeds.

Fresh vegetal fennel notes are usually ascribed to dry white or rosé wines. These can include Verdejo wines from Rueda, which might combine fennel notes with green or white fruit flavours with leesy undertones, such as in Marqués de Riscal, Finca Montico 2015.

Provence rosés like Famille Fabre, Château de la Deidière 2013 or Château Gassier, Le Pas du Moine, Ste-Victoire 2013 could have a savoury gentle herb character, in which red fruits underlay fennel flavours.

Champagne can also express subtle fennel notes, such as Taittinger’s famous Comtes de Champagne — Michael Edwards reports that the 2002 vintage has a character of ‘green fruits, hazelnuts and a touch of fennel’.

Bittersweet fennel seed flavours are more common in red wines, often styles with a spicy fruit character. This includes some Sicilian Etna Rosso wines, made from the native Nerello Mascalese grape, or rich and varied Nebbiolo wines from northern Italy, capable of expressing notes like fennel along with its cousins anise and liquorice.

Other wines with medicinal fennel seed notes could include red-fruit flavoured Beaujolais wines, or bold and smoky Syrah wines from northern Rhône.

SEE: Contrada Santo Spirito Di Passo Pisciaro, Animardente, Etna Rosso 2014 | Domaine Rochette, Morgon, Côte de Py, Beaujolais 2014 | Gilles Robin, Albéric Bouvet, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhône 2010

tasting notes decoded


Ginger is the pungent root of a flowering plant native to Asia. It’s consumed in many forms, including as a ground spice, caramelised, pickled, infused into tea or baked into cakes and biscuits.

Ginger has a warming effect on the palate, though it’s not as strong as the burning sensation caused by chilli. In the wine lexicon, it’s classified as a sweet spice, along with notes like nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.

You can look for ginger notes in some fuller-bodied aromatic white wines that have an edge of spice, such as Viognier and Assyrtiko wines. Also in Gewürztraminer, as described in Decanter’s grape glossary:

‘It smells of ginger and cinnamon, fragrant rose petals and pot pourri with a dusting of Turkish Delight and tastes of deliciously exotic lychees and mango.’

SEE: Yalumba, The Virgilius Viognier, Eden Valley 2012 | Wine Art Estate, Techni Assyrtiko, Drama, Macedonia 2015 | Yealands Estate, Gewürztraminer, Awatere Valley, Marlborough 2010

Mature sweet white wines such as Sauternes and Tokaji, which have been made from grapes affected by botrytis cinerea (noble rot), might display warm hints of fresh or crystallised ginger as part of their complex sweet spice, caramelised and nutty flavour profile.

SEE: Château Cantegril, Sauternes, Bordeaux 2015 | Château Dereszla, Furmint Késői Szüret, Tokaji 2015

The process of prolonged skin-contact, aka maceration, involved in the production of orange wines can also create gingery flavours. For example La Stoppa, Ageno, Emilia, Emilia-Romagna 2011 was macerated for 30 days, resulting in ‘a full bodied, spicy and honeyed wine’ with notes of cinnamon and ginger on the finish.

ALSO SEE: Unico Zelo, Esoterico, South Australia 2016

In sparkling wines, vintage Cava wines that have been aged on the lees can display warm yeasty notes that can be reminiscent of ginger. For example Gramona, Argent Reserva Brut 2009 demonstrates flavours of ‘roasted nuts, sweet nutmeg and ginger’, while Juvé y Camps, Reserva de La Familia, Brut Nature 2010 reveals more intensified notes of ‘honey, toasted brioche, dried fig and crystallised ginger’.

Among red wines, you might find gingery notes in some medium or full bodied styles that have spent some time in oak, which can impart sweet spicy characteristics like ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla.

SEE: Vasse Felix, Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River 2010 | Mazzei, Ser Lapo, Chianti Classico Riserva Tuscany, 2011


grass aromas in wine Grass

You may have seen this tasting term on the back of your bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and wondered how on earth your wine could taste like turf. When it comes to dry white wines, grassy is often used in a positive sense. It describes the pleasant herbal freshness they can exhibit on the nose and palate, reminiscent of fresh mown grass.

Grassy white wines typically come from maritime or cooler climes, such as Albariño wines from Rías Baixas in northwestern Spain and Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand. It can also turn up in some Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc blends from the Graves appellation in Bordeaux.

It’s not unusual for single varietal Sauvignon Blancs from the Loire Valley to have hints of freshly cut grass too, although these wines generally have layers of citrus and floral notes tied in.

Whilst their Kiwi counterparts often integrate grassy notes with tropical fruit flavours and aromas.

SEE: Gran Vinum, Esencia Diviña, Rías Baixas, 2015 | Greywacke, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2013 | Château Chantegrive, Graves, Bordeaux 2016

Grassy notes in red wines can be part of a herbaceous bouquet that may indicate under-ripeness. This can be particularly noticeable for Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon wines, especially from cooler climate regions, and also with the Carmenère variety.

SEE: Cono Sur, 20 Barrels, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pirque, Alto Maipo 2009 |

The science: grassiness in wines is thought to come from volatile chemical compounds called aldehydes, which are released from the surface of the wine and picked up as aromas by your nose, or the retronasal passage at the back of your mouth. They are formed as a byproduct of fermentation or alcohol oxidation.

Sources: Wine: Flavour Chemistry by Ronald J. Clarke, Jokie Bakker | Decanter.com




tasting notes deocded

Green Pepper

In cooking, some people avoid these peppers in favour of their sweeter red and yellow counterparts. But in wine, the sharply savoury aroma of a freshly-sliced green bell pepper makes it a useful tasting reference.

Sommelier Laura Ortiz explains the science: ‘When we smell green pepper in Cabernet Sauvignon, we are recognising the pyrazine, 3-isobutyl-2-methoxy piracina. A name we seldom remember, but it is impossible to forget the aroma of green pepper.’ Read the full article: Wine, in the nose.

The term green pepper can be used positively, as with some Cabernet Sauvignons from California and Chile, where it can be enjoyed as a counter-balance to the black fruit flavours like cassis. However, in those of Bordeaux a green character is less desirable, as it often taken to be a sign of under-ripeness, along with vegetal or leafy notes.

In white wines: new world Sauvignon Blancs, such as those of New Zealand and South Africa, commonly display vegetal notes like green pepper. Some people enjoy this green herbaceous character, while others prefer the more mineral examples from Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé.

Note: You may see it being alluded to under the bracket of capsicum, which simply refers to the pepper plant genus. Also, it’s not be confused with terms like ‘ground green pepper’ or ‘green peppercorns’, which refer to the peppercorn spice and not the bell pepper.






Hay can be experienced as a dried herbaceous or vegetative aroma in wine, in the same category as notes like straw, tobacco and tea. It’s usually expressed by non-fruit forward white wines, where it’s found alongside herbs and sweet floral aromas like honey or blossom.

Hay can be a secondary aroma associated with yeast influences from wines rested sur lie, ‘on the lees’, or those that have undergone bâtonnage, ‘lees-stirring’. This is commonly associated with Champagnes, like Alfred Gratien, Cuvée Paradis Brut 2006.

Notes of hay can also be an indication of maturity, thus qualifying as a tertiary aroma too. Look for it in oak-aged Chardonnays, such as Bouchard Père & Fils, Corton, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy 1955, where notes of hay are integrated with other tertiary aromas like lanolin, oatmeal and mushroom.

But be warned, when the processes of fermentation go awry the smell of mouldy hay can be a sign of microbial spoilage or brettanomyces contamination, leading to a wine that smells more like dank silage or a manure-laden farmyard.

With dank or mouldy notes it becomes a question of balance; aromas like damp hay, wet wool or ‘sweaty saddle’ may seem unpleasant to the imagination — but in wine sometimes even the most unlikely aromas can be powerfully alluring if counterbalanced correctly. Take a look at David & Nadia, Chenin blanc, Swartland, 2015, which displays ‘sweaty notes to the nose of hay and damp wool’, but this is tempered by the fruit concentration to create a ‘classy wine’.



tasting notes decoded Hedgerow

Hedgerow refers to the shrubs, and occasionally trees, are used as natural roadside boundaries between fields. Dry white wines, such as Sancerre, often have these aromas – predominantly herbaceous, grassy and nettle-like – but they can also encompass the wild fruits and berries that grow on them too.

Examples may include elderflower, gooseberry, or even raspberries, brambles and blackberries. Hedgerow as a descriptor in a tasting note, therefore, will often denote this fresh, green integration of fruit and plant.








As a tasting note, honeysuckle is an aroma often ascribed to sweet white wines from the Sauternes and Barsac appellations in Bordeaux. This is because honeysuckle flowers exude intense honey-floral aromas associated with these wines.

They are produced using the onset of noble rot (botrytis cinerea) — a fungus that pierces the grape’s skin and accelerates the evaporation of water, drying out the berries whilst maintaining sugar levels. Noble rot can give wines a distinctively nuanced sweetness, with aromas ranging from rich butterscotch to the heady honey-floral notes of honeysuckle. See Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2012 or Château Climens 2012.

Aside from sweet wines, it’s also a typical expression of oaked Chardonnay from the Côte de Beaune appellation in Burgundy. Here, it can be found alongside other nutty and floral notes, such as Louis Latour, Meursault 1998, as seen in Decanter’how to read wine tasting notes guide. Or amongst the complex candied aromas of Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Puligny-Montrachet 2015,from our Top-scoring Burgundy whites 2015.




The fragrant white jasmine flower has been prized by perfumers for centuries, due to its delicate yet sweetly pungent aroma. It’s also used to make scented jasmine tea, commonly served in China to welcome guests into the home.

tasting notes decodedAs a wine tasting note, it belongs to the ‘white flower’ cluster of descriptors, alongside honeysuckle, elderflower, orange blossom and chamomile. White flower notes are generally sweetly aromatic, with a faint edge of floral acridity.

With this in mind, aromatic white wines are the best place to look for hints of jasmine. For example Albariño wines, made in Galicia’s Rías Baixas region, typically express white flower notes, alongside green and citrus fruit characteristics.

SEE: Valmiñor, O Rosal, Rías Baixas 2015 | Viña Almirante, Pionero Mundi, Val do Salnés 2015 | Gran Vinum, Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference 2015

Wines made from Pinot Gris and Riesling also commonly display delicate jasmine notes, particularly those made in cool-climate regions such as Ontario in Canada, Mosel in Germany and, more recently, Sussex in England.

SEE: Pearl Morissette, Cuvée Black Ball, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario 2012 | Immich-Batterieberg, Enkircher Ellergrub, Mosel 2014 | The Bolney Estate, Pinot Gris, Sussex 2015

Fuller-bodied whites, such as Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Assyrtiko, might display a stronger jasmine scent. These wines are known for their aromatic richness, often expressing white flowers like jasmine, intermingled ripe stone fruits and underpinned by green and citrus fruit acidity.

SEE: Domaine de l’Amauve, La Daurèle, Côtes du Rhône Villages Séguret 2016 | Momento, Chenin Blanc Verdelho, Western Cape 2015 | Hatzidakis, Assyrtiko, Santorini 2012

tasting notes, Lavender Lavender

Lavender is a highly aromatic plant; it produces lots of nectar from which bees can make high quality honey, and the plant itself is becoming more popular in cooking.

As well as being grouped with other floral aromas, like rose, it can be linked with herbaceous ones, like eucalyptus.

Aromas of lavender are found in red wines – commonly in red wines from Provence, where lavender fields are in abundance, which may be what contributes this aroma to the wines.

It’s also found in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, made in Tuscany from the Sangiovese grape, and some New World Pinot Noirs.

The compounds that are behind the cause of the lavender scent are cis-rose oxide, linalool, nerol, geraniol, according to WineFolly.

Cis-rose oxide, nerol and geraniol are also contribute to rose aromas – which can also be found in Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo (see ‘rose’ below).

SEE: Forrest, Pinot Noir, Marlborough 2013 | Innocent Bystander, Giant Steps, Applejack Vineyard, Yarra Valley 2012 | Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, “La Crau” 2010


tasting notes decoded Leafy

This aroma does not come from leaves of the vine but is a flavour compound found in the skin of the grape: methoxypyrazine. This herbaceous character, which can be typical of cooler-climate Cabernet Sauvignon and is present in many Sauvignon Blancs, can be associated with a lack of ripeness. However, it can also give extra complexity to the wine if it is not too overt. Leafiness can evolve into a cigar box character when the wine is aged, but if the wine is too leafy to begin with then it may never reach its full potential as the tannins will also be unripe.





tasting notes decoded



As a wine descriptor, liquorice refers to the sweet, yet slightly bitter and medicinal flavours and aromas associated with the chewy black confection made from the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant root extract.

Although this is not actually present in the wines themselves, its likeness is often perceived in red wines, such as Syrah blends from Rhône, and is usually integrated with black fruit flavours. Or in the spiciness of wines made from the Nebbiolo grape, such as Barolo and Barbaresco wines from northwest Italy, where it is often expressed in harmony with violet and rose aromas.

Liquorice is part of the same flavour group as star anise and fennel, as they share chemical flavour compounds such as anethole, which is found widely in essential oils, and is responsible for their distinctive scent and taste.

It is a useful term to use to describe a particular tart and penetrating sweetness, differing from that related to sugar. Like liquorice itself, wines with this flavour or aroma can be divisive depending on personal taste; for some it recalls childhood treats, for others it causes nose-wrinkling.



tasting notes decoded Minty

Mint, or menthol aromas can be common in varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon grown in cooler climates like Bordeaux, Chile and Coonawarra in South Australia, but can also be found in other varieties such as Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet.

A mint aroma differs from a eucalypt note, which normally comes from contamination by nearby eucalypt trees. It has recently been discovered that mintiness in wine is caused by the compound piperitone, which is also found naturally in mint plants.







understand tasting notes



Notice something fungi going on with your wine? Mushroom usually appears as a tertiary aroma, formed during the ageing process. Its flavour profile is associated with other earthy notes, such as forest floor (aka sous bois) and leather. These can develop in mature Pinot Noir wines, such as Marchand & Burch, Mount Barrow Pinot Noir 2013, where tertiary mushroom aromas overlay primary floral and red fruit notes.

Mushroom may also appear in aged Nebbiolo wines, such as those made in Barolo. In a similar way, red fruit and floral notes can become intertwined with earthy flavours and aromas, including leather, liquorice and mushroom. Premium, aged red Rioja wines and Sangiovese made in Brunello di Montalcino can display this effect too, although often with some spicy hints thrown in.

SEE: E Pira and Figli, Cannubi 2006 | Beronia, Reserva, Rioja Alta 2007 | Il Marroneto, Madonna delle Grazie, Brunello di Montalcino 2012

In the wine lexicon, mushrooms are in the fresh vegetal category, alongside notes like asparagus, green pepper and black olive. However, fresh mushrooms have a very different character to cooked mushrooms, which are associated with the so-called fifth taste, umami.

To understand the difference, find a fresh mushroom and take in its smell and flavour. Gently microwave your mushroom, and observe how its flavours and aromas alter.

The umami flavour is particularly potent in truffles, a kind of subterranean fungus, which you might find hints of in mature Champagnes like Gosset, Extra Brut, Celebris, Champagne 2002 — where yeast influences deepen into umami fungi notes.

As well as oak aged Chardonnay such as Bouchard Père & Fils, Corton, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy 1955, where mushroom is joined by other tertiary notes like lanolin and oatmeal.

Source: Decanter.com


tasting notes decodedRhubarb

Although technically a vegetable, the fleshy pink stalks of rhubarb are often treated as fruit, featuring in baked desserts like pies and crumbles. It’s believed to originate from Siberia, but rhubarb has strong ties with a nine-square-mile area of West Yorkshire, northern England, known as the ‘rhubarb triangle’ for its historically prolific production.

Rhubarb is rarely eaten fresh due to its extremely tart character, which must be softened and sweetened to make it palatable.

Most references to rhubarb in wine tasting notes refer to this cooked and sweetened version, although it remains defined by some degree of a tart, almost vegetal, character — and this duality makes it a useful tasting note.

For example, it can be applied to red wines with high acidity overlaid with red fruit or jammy flavours. Many cool climate Pinot Noirs fit this description, such as Spy Valley 2014 from Marlborough, New Zealand; displaying ‘red cherry fruit, rhubarb and crushed raspberries’ alongside ‘wonderful acidity’.

Or Anthill Farms’ Pinot Noir 2013 from California’s Sonoma Coast AVA, expressing ‘tart wild plum, rhubarb and cranberry fruit tones’ paired with ‘crisply refreshing acidity’.

Pinot Noir can also express rhubarb notes when it’s used to make sparkling wines, although usually the effect is more subtle.

For example Coates & Seely, Rosé, Hampshire NV (65% Pinot Noir, 35% Pinot Meunier), is praised for its ‘hints of sweet rhubarb’ and Loxarel, MM Blanc de N Brut, Cava 2009 (100% Pinot Noir) gains a ‘penetrating freshness’ from a touch of rhubarb.

Young Tempranillo wines from Rioja can also display red fruit notes hemmed with acidity, giving a rhubarb-like effect.

However, this natural acidity can be curbed and developed during oak ageing. In the case of Beronia’s Coleccion Tempranillo Elaboración Especial 2014, our tasters found that after being aged in American oak for nine months, this Rioja is defined by a ‘baked strawberry and rhubarb nose’ which blends into oak influences like ‘vanilla and wood tones’ on the palate.




As with many floral notes in wine, rose is sweet on the nose but more bitter and austere on the palate. In this way it’s comparable to notes of violet and magnolia, stopping short of the slight acridity of lily or geranium.

You may find the flower referred to directly or as ‘rose petal’, as well in the form ‘rose water’ — which suggests it smells more like musky perfume, or tastes a bit like Turkish Delight.

The science behind rose’s flavour profile comes down to 3 key chemical compounds: rose oxide, β-damascenone and β-ionone.

Usually it’s the rose oxide element that makes it comparable with the smell of some Gewürtztraminer wines. They’re known for their highly aromatic qualities and signature lychee notes — a fruit which carries the same rose oxide compound.

SEE: Jean Cornelius, Gewürztraminer, Alsace 2015 | Paul Cluver, Gewürztraminer, Elgin 2015

β-ionone is also behind the aroma of violets, so it makes sense that violet-scented wines can sometimes harbour rose hints too — such as red wines made in Piedmont from the thick-skinned Nebbiolo grape. You can also look for rose notes in young Pinot Noir wines, particularly those made in Australia and New Zealand.

SEE: Henschke, The Rose Grower Nebbiolo, Eden Valley, Australia 2013 | Giovanni Rosso, Serra, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy 2012 | Pegasus Bay, Pinot Noir, Waipara, New Zealand 2013 | Deviation Road, Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills, Australia 2012

Note: Rose as a tasting note has little to do with rosé wines, which are named after their pinkish colour rather than for a floral character (see Spanish rosado and Italian rosato equivalents).


rubber , tasting notes

Rubber is one of those tasting notes that can be difficult to imagine in a wine, but once smelt it’s unmistakable. You can find it in the aromas of certain Syrah wines from the northern Rhône, where it can appear alongside earthy, gamey or tar notes.

Or it can be found among petrol aromas associated with dry Riesling wines, particularly those from cooler climes such as Germany’s Rheingau region.

SEE: Delas, Francois de Tournon, Saint Joseph, Rhône 2010 | Maison Guyot, Le Millepertuis, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhône 2010 | Weingut Knoll, Riesling Kabinett, Pfaffenberg, Niederösterreich 2013

Burnt rubber on the other hand, can point to the presence of mercaptans, which are volatile sulphur compounds. But how does sulphur get into your wine? The truth is grapes themselves already contain sulphur, and sulphur compounds can be generated through reductive reactions involved in winemaking, such as yeast fermentation or malolactic fermentation. Mercaptans are not harmful, but they can become a fault if too concentrated — decanting the wine first can help to lessen their effect.

Volatile sulphur compounds have become a hot topic in winemaking in recent years. They have proved a particular source of controversy in some wines, notably in relation to burnt rubber aromas in some South African Pinotage and Cabernet wines. Today, growers increasingly try to avoid this, aiming for more fruit forward wines.

In the tasting note lexicon, rubber belongs to the mineral flavour profile, which includes anything ranging from earth to tar, and steel to wet wool. The best way to learn to recognise these notes in wine is to experience them in their physical forms, such as smelling a rubber eraser or car tires on a hot day (burnt rubber) — try to embed these aromas in your sensory memory.


tasting notes decoded


Star anise

Star anise, so named because of its resemblance to an eight-pointed star, is an aromatic spice commonly used to flavour Chinese cooking — and mulled wine. Star anise is actually a seed pod from an evergreen tree, which differs from the anise plant (aniseed).

Star anise’s distinctive aroma is derived from an essential oil called anethole, which is also found in fennel and aniseed. Therefore wines with a flavour profile containing notes like liquorice, aniseed or fennel may also have notes of star anise.

Star anise aromas are typically found in spicy oaked reds, such as Primitivo wines from southern Italy, Zinfandel from California or Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley.

SEE: Orbitali, Primitivo, Puglia, Italy, 2015 | Meadowhawk, Old Vines Zinfandel, Contra Costa, California 2015 | McGuigan, Shortlist Barossa Shiraz, Barossa Valley 2014

These wines may contain other ‘sweet spice’ descriptors, such as clove or nutmeg, as well as ‘pungent spice’ descriptors like juniper or liquorice.

These characteristics are usually gained through oak-ageing in casks or barrels, when spicy and toasted woody flavours can be infused into the wine.

This means that star anise is generally categorised as a secondary aroma, as it is associated with the influence of oak (see vanilla, cedar, cinnamon and coconut).



tasting notes decoded


Even for smokers, the thought of tobacco in your wine is probably not very appealing. However, the term tobacco is used in a positive sense when it comes to describing wine. This is because it’s meant to conjure the fragrance of fresh tobacco, rather than the more acrid smell of cigarette smoke.

The aroma of freshly cut or cured tobacco leaves is often described as enjoyably woody, with a maple sweetness and violet floral notes. It’s considered so pleasant by some it’s even infused into men’s fragrances.

Tobacco is experienced as an aroma, rather than as taste. More specifically, it’s classified as a tertiary aroma, as it’s considered to be a sign of maturity. It’s generally an indicator that a red wine has been bottle-aged, along with notes like leather and wet leaves.

Typically, tobacco notes are found in mature full-bodied red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignons from a range of regions, including those of California, Australia, South Africa and South America. It can also be detected in some aged Riojas and Amarone wines from Northern Italy.

In wines such as mature reds from Bordeaux, the tobacco aroma can develop into what is termed ‘cigar box’. This note combines the tobacco scent of cigars with that of cedar wood, giving the effect of a freshly opened box of Havanas.


tasting notes decoded

Vanilla is one of the most frequent tasting notes applied to wines, and it belongs to the sweet spice category. It can be found in red or white wines, usually as an aroma instead of a taste. Vanilla notes are usually generated during the ageing process of wine in oak barrels, typically American oak as opposed to French oak, and younger barrels rather than older. In this sense it is identified as a tertiary aroma, as it is produced by wine ageing.

Decanter’s Sarah Jane Evans MW explains the science: ‘Vanilla, or vanillin, is an aldehyde that is a component of the oak. It is more marked in US oak’. Read more

Reds from Rioja are a common example, such as Faustino’s Gran Reserva 2001, praised for its ‘sweet, vanilla notes of American oak’ — as are oak-aged Chardonnay wines from California and Australia.

The way a barrel is toasted can also bring out vanilla in wines, as William Kelley notes, ‘lighter toast levels bring aromas of vanilla and fresh wood to the fore’.




tasting notes decoded


When describing wine, vegetal can be used in a negative or positive sense — as with most tasting notes it’s a question of balance. If the vegetal character is too overbearing, it can become an unpleasant indicator that the wine is too ‘green’, meaning the grapes used were unable to ripen properly before being harvested.

Or alternatively, as with fruity notes, it can appear as unattractively over-developed or stewed. Such as one Chianti Classico Riserva described by Michael Palij MW as ‘vegetal with sweat, cabbage’.

Vegetal notes can also be associated with the term ‘stalky’, when wines have had too much stem contact. This can happen during a winemaking process such as whole bunch fermentation, where the stems are not removed before the fruit goes into the fermentation vat. Decanter’s Jane Anson discusses its use in her article Whole bunch winemaking shakes up Bordeaux. She says that in the past the prevailing opinion has been: ‘Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon have too much vegetal/green flavour in their varietal DNA (specifically a molecule known as pyrazine) to withstand the use of stems that can lead to bitterness in the final wine.’ However, recently several high profile winemakers have begun to see potential in the process.

The divided nature of the vegetal flavour can be seen by comparing the styles of Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand and the Loire. ‘No self-respecting Loire grower would deliberately aim for vegetal characters; on the other hand many New Zealand growers do precisely that,’ explains Decanter’s Stephen Brook.

At its best, vegetal can be enjoyed as a sign of herbaceous complexity; alongside gamey and earthy notes in mature Pinot Noirs, or in the asparagus quality of some Sauvignon Blancs.


VioletAs a tasting note, violet is generally picked up as an aroma in wine, but it can be a flavour too — as anyone with a penchant for Parma Violet sweets will know. Violet commonly displays a musky sweetness on the nose, but tastes a touch more bitter and austere on the palate. In this way, it can be aligned with other bittersweet and perfumed floral notes such as bergamot, rose, geranium and lavender. Just like perfume, it’s a matter of preference whether you find violet flavours and aromas off-putting or appealing in wines.

The distinctive scent and flavour comes from two chemical compounds: α-ionone and β-ionone, which are also used in the confectionary and perfumery products derived from violets.

It’s crops up in a broad range of full-bodied tannic red wine styles with high acidity, usually made from thick-skinned grapes. Such as Italian wines like Barolo and Barbaresco made from the Nebbiolo varietal, where violet can be found alongside notes of fennel, liquorice and tar.

It’s also abundant in Bordeaux blends, and it’s commonly referred to in the latest Decanter’s en primeur tastings. Most notably, in Pomerol’s high scorers Château La Conseillante 2016 and Château La Fleur-Pétrus 2016, where violet is coupled with dark fruit notes like black cherry, blackberry and bilberry.







Beeswax is a substance secreted by worker bees in the hive, where it’s used to build the honeycomb structure. Its chemical composition means it can be burnt in candles, when it can produce a resinous and honey-like aroma.

In older white wines, Beeswax aromas can be evoked by the prominence of ethyl acetates, which might be created by yeast during fermentation, or from the breakdown of other components during bottle ageing.

This can apply to some Pinot Blanc wines, such as Jean Biecher, Pinot Blanc 2015 from Alsace, which has a nose of beeswax mingled with baked apple.

Or Franz Haas, Lepus Pinot Bianco 2014, from northern Italy’s Alto Adige region, where beeswax notes help to marry savoury herbs with citrus and green fruit characteristics.

Certain bottle-aged Sémillon wines, particularly from Hunter Valley in Australia, might gain a beeswax character, too. For example Mount Pleasant, Elizabeth Cellar Aged Sémillon, Hunter Valley 2007, ‘picks up nutty, beeswax notes’.

Beeswax can also be common in the aroma profile of German Rieslings which have had some time to develop. Such as Thörle’s Kalkstein Saulheimer 2014, which has a nose of ‘attractive beeswax and white flowers’.

Texturally, the waxy or resinous element to beeswax can make it a useful descriptor for the mouthfeel of some wines. This could include Chardonnay, Sémillon or Chenin Blanc wines that have received a smoother, more rounded mouthfeel from lees-ageing or malolactic fermentation.

For example, Lismore, Chardonnay 2014 from the South Africa’s Overberg region was made in a ‘lees-rich’ style, which elicits ‘beeswax and acacia tones’.

It can also be detected in some particularly leesy Champagnes, where beeswax can give definition to autolytic notes like bread, biscuit, toast and brioche.

SEE: Barnaut, Blanc de Noirs Brut Grand Cru, Champagne NV


tasting notes decoded Biscuit

Biscuit/biscuity descriptors are most often associated with aged Champagne, where the process of yeast autolysis and time enable a rich, digestive biscuit-like character to develop. It can also be found in oak-aged Chardonnay, where it can be a development of the caramelised butterscotch aromas that comes from the wood.



The butter-rich brioche bun is the staple of many a French breakfast table, perfect with apricot jam and a grand café noir. For anyone who hasn’t experienced its

brioche in wine

No added brioche.

simple delights, the brioche is essentially a yeast bread enriched with butter and eggs, sometimes with more sweetness if made with cream and sugar.

As a tasting note, brioche has three main components: rounded butter and yeast flavours, piqued by pastry sweetness. It’s categorised alongside other non-fruity sweet notes like honey or vanilla, and it’s commonly accompanied by adjectives like buttery, creamy, toasty and yeasty.

‘Warm brioche’ is also a term used, though it has relation a wine’s temperature. It refers to the heightened aromas of a heated pastry.

A yeasty brioche effect can be brought about by sur lie; ’resting’ the wine on its dead yeast cells known as lees, or bâtonnage (stirring the lees). During prolonged contact with the lees, autolysis occurs — when the yeast cells are broken down by enzymes, releasing macromolecules that impart biscuit, toast or brioche flavours. These processes are mostly associated with sparkling wines, including those of ChampagneCava and the United Kingdom.

You can also find this in some aged Chardonnay or Sémillon wines.

SEE: Recaredo, Turó d’en Mota, Cava, Mainland Spain, Spain, 2002 | Krug, Grande Cuvée, Champagne, France NV | Wiston Estate, Blanc de Blancs, East Sussex, Brut 2010
SEE: Vasse Felix, Heytesbury, Margaret River, 2011 |Tempus Two, Copper Zenith Semillon, Hunter Valley 2007



tasting notes decoded Bubblegum

Bubblegum is a unique aroma that is found in wines that have undergone carbonic or semi-carbonic maceration. Whole bunches are placed into a sealed fermentation vessel. CO2 is added either artificially (carbonic), or occurs naturally via aerobic fermentation (semi-carbonic). Once the CO2 is added, enzymes begin consuming the available sugars in an anaerobic fermentation process. This process will only produce about three degrees of alcohol, so it must always be followed with a normal yeast fermentation. Although it produces little alcohol it has a marked effect on the aroma and taste of the wine.

In these processes, esters such as ethyl cinnamate are produced in higher quantities than normal, lending flavours such as raspberry, strawberry, bubblegum and even candy floss. The low level of contact between skin and juice means that little tannin is extracted, so wines that undergo this process (most famous being Beaujolais Nouveau) can be drunk soon after fermentation.

The bubblegum flavour can also indicate an excessive use of potassium sorbate – a chemical that is used at the end of fermentation to prevent the yeast from multiplying further.





tasting notes decoded


Buttery flavours or aromas are normally associated with white wines, and can be produced during malolactic fermentation or oak barrel-ageing. These wines are typically Chardonnays from California, Australia and Burgundy.

The effect of a buttery scent or taste can be produced by a chemical compound called diacetyl — it’s also added to artificial butter products and margarines. Diecetyl can also change the mouthfeel of wines, giving them a smoother and more rounded texture, as might be associated with butter.

In winemaking it occurs as a natural byproduct of malolactic fermentation; the process by which bacteria converts malic acid into lactic acid — the same substance that is found in dairy products like butter.

Alternatively, buttery flavours and aromas can be produced during the process of barrel-ageing wines in new oak. A good example is an oaked Chardonnay like Louis Latour’s Meursault 1998, which can be found in Decanter’s how to read wine tasting notes guide. In these tasting notes ‘new wood’ flavours of vanilla appear alongside butter, both are secondary aromas that indicate at least some of the wine has been aged in new American oak.

In some instances, bâtonnage (stirring the lees) can produce butter-like flavours: the macromolecules imparted by the dead yeast cells create a smoother mouthfeel and richer yeasty flavours, which can be reminiscent of butter on the nose and palate.




tasting notes decodedCaramel

The idea of caramel being swirled through your wine might be pretty sickly, but if it features subtly as a tasting note it can bring a luxuriantly developed sweetness to the nose and palate.

Don’t be mistaken, no actual caramel has been magically formed in the bottle. The caramel-like effect is sometimes created by the vines being intentionally infected with botrytis cinerea, aka noble rot — a form of fungus that dries out the grapes, concentrating sugar levels. This practice is commonly used in the production of dessert wines, such as those of the Sauternes and Barsac appellations, or Trockenbeerenauslese wines from Germany or Austria.

SEE: Château d’Yquem, Sauternes, 1er Cru Classé Supérieur 2016 | Château Nairac, Barsac, 2ème Cru Classé, Bordeaux 2005 | Kracher Welschriesling, TBA ‘No 8’ Austria 2001

Botrytis can also alter the mouthfeel of a wine, as it digests sugar and acids and excretes glycerol in its place. So the developed sweetness and silky mouthfeel can lead to an sensorial impression of smooth caramel.

Lastly, this clever noble rot injects an enzyme called laccase, which is responsible for oxidising the wine, producing flavours ranging from apricot and almond to toffee and caramel. It can also induce deep golden hues, so the wine appears caramel coloured, too. Look for it in other oxidised wine styles, such as in tawny Port or Palo Cortado Sherry.

SEE: Graham’s, 30 Year Old Tawny, Port NV | Lustau, Palo Cortado Almacenista Cayetano del Pino, Jerez NV

Another way to create caramel flavours is by the use of oak, because it can appear as a secondary aroma from oak-ageing, along with butterscotch and vanilla. This can particularly be detected in Chardonnays aged in American oak, rather than French oak.

SEE: Astrolabe, Province Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand 2014 | Ramey Wine Cellars, Hyde Vineyard, Carneros, Napa Valley 2012 | Oak Valley, Chardonnay, Elgin, South Africa 2014




tasting notes decoded Chalky

The term chalky is usually applied to white wines with high acidity from cool climate terroirs with stony soils, and falls into the mineral category along with notes of flint and slate. Including Chardonnay wines from Chablis and Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre.

Our ability to perceive these mineral flavours in wine has caused some disagreement between scientists and wine experts, but it is nevertheless widely used at tastings. (If you are struggling, try to imagine licking a piece of chalky rock.)

Sarah Jane Evans MW relates the term chalky to mouthfeel when talking about wines with minerality, describing them as having ‘a taste as if of licking wet stones and often a chalky texture to match’. Read more

This can relate to the astringency of tannins, as the mouth-drying effect can recall the powdery or grainy feeling of chalk. For example a tannic red wine with a drying and lingering finish may be noted for its ‘chalky tannins’.



understand tasting notes Charcoal

Charcoal is a material made up of residual carbon and ash, left behind after other constituents of vegetable or animal matter have been removed after slowly being heated in an environment without oxygen. 

You may have experienced its flavour and aroma in chargrilled food that’s been cooked using heated pieces of wood charcoal.

Charcoal’s flavour profile is often described as smoky, woody and slightly acrid in taste, which can be delicious if combined with the right food, such as meat or fleshy vegetables.

In a similar way, wines which display flavours reminiscent of charcoal can be palatable if these notes are counterbalanced correctly. Many Syrah / Shiraz wines are notorious for their smoky charcoal elements, often integrated with black fruit, spicy or peppery notes.

SEE: Reyneke, Organic Syrah, Stellenbosch 2015 | Domaine du Colombier, Cuvee Gaby, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhône 2010

 Charcoal and other smoky flavours can be created by oak-ageing and their intensity usually depends on how much the barrel was toasted, as well as the pungency of other flavours present.

 You can look for these oak-charcoal influences in tannic reds such as Barolo wines, alongside earthy notes like truffle and tar. Or in classic Bordeaux blends, where charcoal might meld with heavy cassis or liquorice notes. 

SEE: Col dei Venti, Barolo, La Morra, Tufo Blu, Piedmont 2006 | Château Grand-Puy Ducasse, Pauillac, 5ème Cru Classé, Bordeaux 2014

Activated charcoal can be directly used in winemaking. It’s sometimes used as a fining agent to filter undesirable elements from the wine, or to lighten the colour of some white wines. However, these processes are not connected to the oaky charcoal flavours outlined in tasting notes.

Sources: Understanding Wine Technology, 3rd Edition: The Science of Wine Explained by David Bird | Decanter.com



tasting notes decoded Chocolate

Chocolate is quite a common flavour and aroma in full-bodied reds from warmer climates, such as southern French Merlot, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Barossa Valley Shiraz. It can be identified in several different guises – milk chocolate, dark chocolate and even cocoa powder. The latter can sometimes be associated with ripe, sweet tannins, providing a descriptor of texture as well as flavour. Barrels that have been heavily toasted, either using an open flame or in an oven, can also lend chocolatey flavours to a wine.




understand tasting notesCream

You might see ‘cream’ in tasting notes and feel a little confused — surely, fermented grape juice has little to do with dairy products? However, dairy is a category in the wine-tasting lexicon, including notes like butter, cheese and yoghurt, alongside cream.

These flavours can arise from winemaking practices, namely malolactic fermentation (MLF) — the process by which bacteria converts sharp-tasting malic acid into softer lactic acid, the same that’s found in dairy products like cream.

The chemical compound diacetyl is a natural byproduct of MLF and it can give wines a rich creamy, buttery or butterscotch odour.

In addition, diacetyl can change the mouthfeel of wines, giving them a smoother and more viscose texture, as might be associated with cream.

A creamy mouthfeel can also be achieved through lees influences, gained by winemaking practices involving lees contact: resting the wines sur lie (on the lees) or bâtonnage (stirring the lees).

You might find lactic notes like cream in barrel-fermented wines, too, alongside other complex flavours and aromas such as caramel, coconut, toast and vanilla. This is mostly found in white wines, particularly Chardonnays from Burgundy.

SEE: Domaine Jomain, Chardonnay, Bourgogne 2014 | Domaine François Carillon, Bourgogne Chardonnay 2014 | Domaine Guffens Heynen, Tris des Hauts des Vignes, Pouilly-Fuisse 2014

You can also look for creamy lactic notes in barrel-fermented sparkling wines that have received lees contact:

Klein Constantia, Cap Classique Brut 2009 from South Africa was barrel-fermented and lees-aged for 21 months, resulting in ‘developed cream’ notes combining with truffle aromas, with a layer of ‘clotted cream’ on the palate.

In the case of Paul Mas, Crémant de Limoux, Astélia Grande Réserve Brut 2012 from Languedoc-Roussillon, only a portion of the base wine was barrel-fermented, giving just a subtle ‘touch of wood and cream’.




tasting notes decoded Dosage

After a traditional-method sparkling wine is disgorged, the liqueur d’expédition is added to create the final dosage. This addition of sugary liquid is used to balance the high acidity levels. With the correct addition, the dosage can accentuate the body of the wine and also give a certain roundness. Too much or too little can lead to a wine that is flabby or one that is too tart.

In recent years there has been a trend towards zero dosage, but it can be difficult to create a balanced wine unless conditions are right. So what do the names on the bottle actually mean in regards to dosage? Brut Nature (0-3g/l of sugar), Extra Brut (0-6g/l), Brut (0-12g/l), Extra-Sec (12-17g/l), Sec (17-32g/l), Demi-Sec (32-50g/l), Doux (50+g/l).




tasting notes decoded


Earthy is a versatile tasting note that can encompass a range of wine flavour profiles; from dry and dusty aromas to tertiary aromas such as wet forest floor, or even farmyard manure odours. Earthy can be seen as belonging to the same flavour profile as notes like wet wool, mineral and tar aromas; all are naturally occurring substances. But they have little in common with fruit, vegetal or floral notes.

If subtle, and well integrated, then earthy can be considered a welcome addition to a wine’s aroma, particularly for more full-bodied reds. These include Italian wines made from the Sangiovese grape, like those from Brunello di Montalcino, and more rustic southern Italian varieties like Primitivo and Aglianico.

Earthy is also a positive thing for some Pinot Noir and Syrah wines, where it can add complexity as a secondary and tertiary aroma.

SEE: Undurraga, TH Pinot Noir, Leyda 2013 | Keermont Syrah, Stellenbosch 2012

If earthy notes veer more towards a farmyard smell, this could be due to Brettanomyces, a wine-altering strain of yeast. Some wine lovers enjoy its effects at low levels, but its presence causes debate.

Earthy notes could also be attributed to the chemical compound geosmin, which occurs naturally in grapes. The name directly translates to ‘earth smell’ in greek.

This same compound is released into the air by newly turned over soil, or a garden after rainfall. In wine, high levels of geosmin generally indicate a fault. Look out for when earthy smells eclipse expected fruit aromas, or tend more towards the smell of wet cardboard — you could have yourself a corked wine.

tasting notes decoded Flint

This term is derived from the French phrase ‘goût de pierre à fusil’, which literally means tasting of flint stone. Flint, flinty or even gunflint are terms used to describe the minerality note that is found in dry, austere white wines, notably Chablis and Sancerre.

If you want to experience what flint smells like, next time you are walking in the South Downs, pick up two pieces of chalk and rub them together. If this isn’t an option, think of wet pebbles.





Tasting notes decodedHoney

The main defining factors of honey are its sweetness and its viscosity. Therefore as a tasting note it’s often applied to dessert wines, which are more syrupy in taste and density than other wines.

As honey is made from floral nectar, it has rich and heady aromatic properties that make it a suitable descriptor for late harvest wines. These can include wines made from grapes left to dry out on the vine, or developed by the onset of noble rot (botrytis cinerea) — giving the wines a concentrated aroma and a taste that’s reminiscent of honey.

It’s often found alongside stone fruit and dried fruit notes, most notable in sweet wines from Sauternes. Other examples include Tokaji wines from Hungary, and German Rieslings belonging to the Auslese, Spätlese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese classifications.

Honey is also aligned with complex notes like tobacco and hay as a sign of a wine’s maturity, for honey has a multilayered sweetness that incorporates fructose and floral flavours. Additionally, aged sweet white wines can recall honey in their appearance, as their hues darken over time. Like honey, dessert wines such as Sauternes or Tokaji wines can range from the palest yellow to tawny bronze, depending on the vintage.

As a tasting note, it’s generally understood that the wine contains no actual honey. However, there is evidence that honey was originally used by the Romans to fortify wines, in a process that later came to be known as chaptalisation, when sugar is added to the grapes prior to fermentation. It’s also not to be confused with ‘honey wine’, which is actually mead and is made from fermented honey instead of grapes.



tasting notes decoded Iodine

Associated with Syrah, particularly from the northern Rhône, as well as Sangiovese in Tuscany, iodine or blood-like notes are derived from the grape or the terroir rather than the addition of the element itself. Some say iodine aromas are increased if vines are planted closer to the sea as well.

It should be mentioned that when fruit has succumbed to excess rot, the resulting wine may also have iodine or phenol aromas, and in this case it is considered a fault.




tasting notes decoded


Graphite is a common descriptor, especially for fine red wines, signifying notes of pencil lead or a lead-like minerality. Some claim the aromas and flavours come from the wine’s contact with wood during oak maturation. However, others, especially producers in Bierzo and Priorat in Spain, believe that terroir contributes these characters – thus their slate soils provide a graphite taste to the wine. If you are unsure what graphite smells like, try sharpening an HB pencil.





 tasting notes decoded

An aroma often found in red wines that have been aged in oak. Either a secondary or a tertiary aroma, it is associated with the winemaker’s influence and a wine’s ageing process rather than a grape’s varietal characteristic or primary aroma.

It is often used as a descriptor in conjunction with vanilla, toast and cedar, which are all associated with the use of oak in red wines. It can also be a savoury characteristic indicative of a wine softening and ageing, losing some of its primary fruit and gaining complexity and depth.



tasting notes decodedMarzipan is paste or icing made from ground almonds, sugar and eggs. It’s found in a wide array of confectionary, from cake coverings to chocolates. But as a wine tasting note, marzipan is used to describe a rich, sweet scent or flavour, with a slight almond bitterness at its centre.

In the wine lexicon, marzipan is in the classified as a tertiary aroma, indicative of deliberate oxidation, as is used to make tawny Port or Palo Cortado Sherry. As a descriptor in this category, marzipan is sweeter than other nutty aromas like hazelnuts and walnuts, but it stops short of toffee and caramel.

Marzipan is also a typical tasting note for wines made from Marsanne, found in the Rhône valley, which is usually blended with Roussanne and Viognier.

Marsanne’s nutty character can lend a marzipan edge to the wine, which melds with the stone fruit and white flower notes commonly expressed by Roussanne and Viognier. These blends are typical of Rhône appellations like Hermitage or Côtes-du-Rhône, as well as some parts of California and Australia’s Barossa Valley.

SEE: Alain Jaume, Côtes du Rhône, Blanc de Viognier, 2016 | Marks & Spencer, Marananga Dam Roussanne, Barossa Valley 2015 | Broc Cellars, Love White, California 2015

As with notes of almond, marzipan can also be used to describe lees flavours imparted by wines that have been rested sur lie (on the lees) or undergone bâtonnage (lees stirring). You can often find lees-influenced aromas like marzipan in Chardonnay-based wines, like Champagne or white Burgundy.

SEE: Tarlant, Réserve Brut, Champagne, France NV | Tesco, Finest 1er Cru, Champagne NV


tasting notes decoded Meat

Grilled or raw meat aromas can be found in muscular reds such as northern Rhône Syrah, Toro and Bordeaux. Game is a slightly lighter, more fragrant character that can be found in wines with red fruit characteristics, such as Pinot Noir, Barbaresco, Rioja and Pinotage. It is reminiscent of hung pheasants and ‘farmyard’ aromas, Both meat and game aromas can be amplified over time, so are usually found in more mature bottles of wine, and are considered to be positive (and occasionally defining) characteristics of a particular wine style.

In some cases these characteristics are caused by Brettanomyces, a wild yeast that can easily infect winemaking equipment, particularly the rough interior surface of wooden barrels. In small doses it produces meaty flavours that can benefit the complexity of a wine, although higher levels can can easily spoil the wine with impressions of cheese, rubber and sweat!



tasting notes decodedMedicinal

Although ‘medicine’ might seem like a broad category, the wine descriptor medicinal usually refers to common everyday products, like cough syrup or ointments. In these medicines, acrid chemicals are often covered with more palatable flavourings and sweeteners.

This often creates a product that’s superficially sweet or herbal, with an underlying chemical bitterness.

In this way it’s related to other notes in the herbal category of the wine lexicon: lavender, mint and eucalyptus — all have a bitterness overlaid with pungent natural oils.

A medicinal whiff in your wine could indicate the presence of Brettanomyces yeasts.

Some wine lovers enjoy Brettanomyces’ effects at low levels, such as in some styles of Beaujolais, but it’s a cause of debate and others view ‘brett’ as a fault.

Medicinal notes can also indicate smoke taint, which can arise from high toast levels in oak barrels, according to the Australian Wine Research Institute.

On the plus side, a medicinal hint can develop with ageing and give some red wines a desirable complexity, comparable to other unusual notes like vinyl or tar.

You can look for it in some red Bordeaux blends. 

Medicinal characters can also be present in Australian Shiraz, where it can integrate well with black fruit, spicy and smoky flavours.

However, if not balanced correctly it can dominate the wine: Larry Cherubino, The Yard Acacia Vineyard 2015 Shiraz from Frankland river, for example, was partially noted for its ‘overpowering’ cherry medicinal tone in a previous tasting.

An over-bearing medicinal flavour may also suggest that the wine is ‘tiring’ and losing its fruit, as Andrew Jefford noted last year on one Pomerol 1982 wine.

tasting notes decoded Mineral

This common description can be used to describe both red and white wines, although it is more common with whites. It is a positive attribute that can be associated with the acidity of the wine, but also the aroma; for example slate, gun flint or wet stones.

The use and meaning of minerality is hotly debated and there is no chemical evidence that shows a mineral aroma or flavour is related to a specific mineral or nutrient in the soil or in wine. Therefore, while we use mineral or minerality often as a descriptor it is still quite a mystery as to what causes this sensation.



tasting notes decoded Oxidative

An oxidative style of winemaking is a controlled process of exposing the wine to oxygen. It enhances flavours deemed desirable – such as nuts or dried fruits – and increases complexity in the wine. The opposing method is a reductive style of winemaking where the amount of oxygen exposure is limited to preserve the wine’s fresh fruit characters. Most wines lie between these two styles, achieving a good balance, but some winemakers prefer a more marked oxidative or reductive style.




tasting notes decoded


Most of us will be familiar with pastry in its various forms, made from mixing flour with butter (or other fat substitutes) and used to make baked goods.

In wine tasting notes, references to pastry usually relate to sweeter styles of pastry, such as might be used to make croissants or fruit pies and tarts.

Pastry notes can indicate that the wine has spent some time in contact with dead yeast cells, or lees. These aromas are enhance by winemaking methods such as stirring the lees (bâtonnage), or resting the wine on its lees (sur lie) for a period of time.

These lees-related techniques involve the process of autolysis, or the breakdown of the dead yeast cells by enzymes. Autolytic characteristics might be present a range of wines, including white Bordeaux and Burgundy, as well as sparkling wines, such as those from Champagne and Cava.

SEE: Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Reserve, Champagne, France, 1993 | Lacourte-Godbillon, Brut Nature 1er Cru, Champagne NV | Llopart, Rosé Brut, Cava 2014

For example, Clos Marsalette 2014 from Bordeaux’s Pessac-Léognan appellation — made from a classic blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon — is described as having autolytic notes of ‘gourmet brioche and croissant flake’ after having spent nine months resting on its lees.

On the autolytic spectrum, pastry can be considered slightly sweeter than toast and bread, though not as sweet as biscuit. Due to its high fat content, pastry notes also imply a relatively rich, rounded mouthfeel.

Some red wines can have a pastry-like mouthfeel too, particularly premium Burgundy wines. Camille Giroud, Chambertin Grand Cru 2014 was noted for its pastry character, which contributes to the ‘round, velvety texture’ that earned it a score of 95 points.

Similarly, Domaine Alain Hudelot-Noëllat, Les Petits Vougeots, Vougeot 1er Cru 2014 (94 points) received high praise for its ‘suave, textured palate with a pastry finish’.

tasting notes decoded Petrol

Petrol notes in wine are caused by a chemical, trimethyl-dihydronaphthalene (TDN), whose precursors are naturally found in the juice and skins of the Riesling grape.

Generally, aged Rieslings can have a petrol aroma as the precursors in the wine combine over time to form TDN. When this note is found in young wines, it is considered by some, notably Rhône and Australian producer Michel Chapoutier, to be a fault due to over-pressing during harvest.




Oyster Shell

tasting notes decodedFew of us will have taken a bite out of an oyster shell instead of its edible innards, but if you have ever shucked one of these shellfish you will likely have come into contact with the smell, taste and texture of its calcified casing.

Oyster shells are predominantly made of gritty or powdery calcium carbonate that has been secreted by the oyster over time. In this sense oyster shell depicts a mineral character, perhaps with some savoury qualities, salinity or a chalky mouthfeel and flavour.

You can look for oyster shell notes in wines that have a strong sense of minerality. This term is the source of some debate among wine critics but it broadly applies to dry, non-fruit forward wines that hail from cooler climes and have high levels of acidity.

In her article Minerality in wine: What does it mean to you? Sarah Jane Evans MW describes wines with minerality as having ‘a taste of licking wet stones and often a chalky texture to match’.

Cool-climate unoaked Chardonnay styles commonly express mineral notes, alongside hard-edged acidity and citrus notes. This could include Chablis, or examples from ‘new world’ appellations like Sonoma Coast in California.

Flowers, Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyard, Sonoma Coast 2012 combines lemon notes with ‘oyster shell and pleasant salinity’ to ‘express the terroir in a mouthwatering way’.

Or you could find sparkling examples from Champagne, such as Pierre Moncuit, Delos Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV, noted for its subtle hints of oyster shell and green apple acidity. 

Chenin Blanc is another grape capable of producing wines with good minerality and acidity, particularly those from South Africa’s cooler regions made with little or no oak influence.

For example, The Liberator, Francophile Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch 2015, produced ‘from the cool south-east slopes of the Bottelary Hills’ was praised for its ‘oyster shell minerality, zippy citrus acidity and a creamy palate’.



tasting notes decodedSalt forms one of the main perceptible flavour components in food and drink, along with bitter, sweet, sour and umami.

It’s an important descriptor on the spectrum of wine tasting notes too, although it might seem odd to think of fermented grape juice as saline.

Saltiness, sometimes referred to as salinity, is related to minerality as it expresses a taste sensation that is outside the usual fruit, floral, vegetal or spice categories.

In his article Yes, you can taste salt in wine Stephen Brook wrote,

‘There are white wines – from Sicily, for example – that have a salty tang which may (or may not) be related to proximity to the sea.’

As with the supposed link between certain soil compositions and minerality, the connection between a vine growing in salty sea air and saline flavours in the resultant wine is debatable.

Although sometimes noted in dry red wines, salty notes are most often observed in white wines with high acidity and citrus fruit characteristics, such as Albariño wines from Galicia’s Rías Baixas region, Picpoul de Pinet from Languedoc-Roussillon and Greek Assyrtiko wines.

SEE: Mar de Frades, Albariño, Val do Salnés, Rías Baixas 2015 | Domaine de Morin Langaran, Picpoul de Pinet 2016 | Hatzidakis, Assyrtiko Santorini 2015

A salt flavor can also be detected in dry Sherry styles, such Manzanilla from Sanlúcar de Barrameda:

‘The humid sea air encourages a denser layer of flor; the sea is said to provide a salty character,’ said Sarah Jane Evans in her pick of Top rated Manzanilla Sherries.



Depending on where you are, sherbet can mean different things. In the UK it’s mostly found in confectionery aisles in the form of sherbet powder, boiled sweets or encased in rice paper. It was originally stirred into water to make fizzy drinks. tasting notes decoded

But in the US, sherbet (or sometimes ‘sherbert’) largely refers to what the British understand to be sorbet, i.e. a frozen dessert consisting primarily of fruit juice and cream.

Here we will deal with the UK version.

The fruit flavours associated with sherbet are generally highly acidic ones, such as green fruits (malic acid) and citrus fruits (citric acid). Therefore sherbet is usually used to describe dry white wines that commonly display this flavour profile.

For example Librandi, Cirò, Calabria 2012, made from 100% Greco, was praised for its ‘citrus zing to a pear drop and apple sherbet nose’ — combining three acidic fruit flavours.

Veneto’s Soave wines are a good place to look for sherbet hints, as well as Galicia’s Rías Baixas Albariños and Australian Riesling from Eden Valley.

SEE: Franchetto, La Capelina, Soave 2011 | Santiago Roma, Selección, Rías Baixas 2014 | Thorn-Clarke, Eden Trail, Eden Valley 2014

Due to its effervescent property, sherbet is also a useful descriptor for a fizzy texture combined with acidic fruit flavours, which can be experienced in dry sparkling wines made in cool climates. This could include English sparkling, Prosecco or French crémant and Champagne.

SEE: Nyetimber, Sussex 2006 | Mionetto, Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze NV | Langlois-Château, Crémant de Loire NV | Henri Delattre, Champagne NV

Sources: Sugar-plums and Sherbet: The Prehistory of Sweets by Laura Mason, Decanter.com


Tasting notes decodedSilky

Imbibing silk might be hard to imagine, and not particularly tempting, but it is certainly a desirable quality in wine.

It is experienced in the mouthfeel of the wine; as you roll it around your palate you get a sense of density and texture. A wine described as silky should feel smooth and luscious in your mouth, with sufficient body to make you aware of its texture, yet elevated enough to avoid being flabby.

In red wines, the term silky is commonly applied to tannins. ‘Silky tannins’ is often a term of praise used for well-aged reds such those of Bordeaux, or a Sangiovese like the Decanter wine legend Biondi Santi, Tenuta il Greppo 1975.

Tannins give red wines structure and texture, and in the ageing process they can evolve from feeling coarse to having a silky quality, as they become more integrated in the wine.

In a similar way, structure can be added to white and sparkling wines by resting them on the lees (dead yeast cells), a process known as sur lie. If macromolecules, imparted by the lees, become well-integrated with the wine they can create a silky feel. A similar effect can be achieved by bâtonnage (stirring the lees).

As a term describing a tannic or yeasty mouthfeel, silky feels more polished than a ‘velvety’ wine, but perhaps not as weighty as a ‘creamy’ wine.

It can also manifest itself in white wines with high levels of glycerin, such as Albariño from Rias Baixas or Vinho Verde. As well as Viognier wines, which are often described as having an oily texture, and this can create a silky sensation in the mouth.





You might struggle to imagine the smell or taste of slate, despite the fact it’s widely used as a building material for roof tiles, flooring and eventombstones. It’s even used in lieu of plates in some contemporary restaurants.

In wine, it’s important to understand slate as an indicator of a wine’s minerality. Mineral or minerality are terms that are commonly used in the tasting notes of both red and white wines.

It’s a term that can be hard to describe, but is often intended to convey a kind of clean, almost hard-edged, acidity that’s associated with the scent of rocky substances like slate, flint, graphite or chalk.

Our ability to perceive these mineral notes in wine has caused some disagreement between scientists and wine experts, but tasters who have a strong sensitivity to mineral substances will argue that they can clearly detect its presence in a wine’s flavour profile.

Sommeliers in the cult film ‘Somm’ discuss licking rocks in order understand the essence of minerality.

Slate notes are typically associated with dry white wines from cooler climes, such as Waterkloof’s ‘Seriously Cool’ Chenin Blanc 2015 from South Africa’s mountainous Helderberg region, which was noted for its mineral aromas of ‘rain on wet slate’, as well as ‘wet chalk’ — wet stones are often more fragrant than dry ones.

Another example might be a dry and citrussy Chardonnay, such as Domaine Tissot’s ‘Les Graviers’ 2015, grown in the limestone soils of Arbois AOC in Jura. Decanter’s Jane Anson rewarded it was 97 points, praising its notes of ‘candied lemon cut through with a twist of concentrated lime and cut slate’.

Some white Burgundies can also display a slatey minerality, such as Domaine Alain Chavy, Les Pucelles 1er Cru 2011 from the famous appellation of Puligny-Montrachet, praised for its stone fruit character balanced by ‘stoney/slate flavours’.

In the red corner, you might find mineral expressions counterbalancing juicy black fruit in full-bodied Bordeaux blends. Anson highlighted Château Léoville Las Cases, St-Julien, 2ème Cru Classé 2007 for its notes of ‘wet stones sliding up against slate and liquorice, dark bristling cassis’.



tasting notes decoded Smoky

Smoky notes generally come from oak. Normally the intensity of smoky aromas and flavours in a wine will be determined by the toast of the oak (how charred it was), how many times the barrel has been used and how long the wine spends in the barrel. If the wine is put into a new barrel that has had a heavy toast then the likelihood of having smoky notes will increase. This can be desirable if the wine has the structure to handle the oak.

Sometimes heavy toasting and too many new barrels can lead to an overtly smoky wine, which may integrate with time, but can be difficult to assess when the wine is young. Smoke taint can also happen, when forest fires occur between veraison (when the grapes ripen) and harvest time. This has been a problem for winemakers in Canada’s Okanagan Valley, California and throughout Australia.



tasting notes decodedSoy sauce

This dark and pungent condiment originated in China over 2,000 years ago, and today it’s widely used in different forms of Asian cooking. It’s generally made from steamed soya beans that have been mixed with crushed grains, brine and a yeast culture.

This mixture is then left to ferment for up to two years, which gives soy sauce its signature umami flavour, comparable to that of miso.

Umami describes an intensely savoury, salty and meaty flavour, and is referred to as the ‘fifth taste’ in Japanese cuisine. Umami flavours, such as soy sauce, can be brought about via the breakdown of natural proteins during fermentation — the same process used in winemaking, when grape proteins are broken down by yeast action.

Wines which display the meaty savouriness of soy sauce are generally dry, full-bodied and red wines, with high acidity and some oak ageing. This could include Tempranillo wines from Rioja, such as La Rioja Alta, Vina Arana, Reserva 2005, noted by Annette Scarfe MW for its ‘traditional, savoury style with soy sauce and rusticity’.

Alternatively, you could look for soy sauce hints in high-acidity northern Italian reds, such as Barbera wines from Piedmont, where it can compliment typical aromatic herb and balsamic notes.

SEE: Tenuta Rocca, Roca Neira, Superiore, Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont, 2010

Or you might find it in wines hailing from Chianti made using the Sangiovese grape, such as Fattoria Tregole, Chianti Classico Riserva 2009, in which soy sauce contends with oak influences like vanilla and sandalwood.




tasting notes decoded


Steely is a term commonly used to promote fashionable dry white wines, but what does it mean in the mouth? It describes a metallic flavour and a firm mouthfeel. Generally these wines are low in alcohol, high in acidity, with distinguished minerality. In this way it’s aligned with notes like flint and graphite.

Examples include cool climate wines, like Rieslings from Germany, Alsace, Austria or Eden Valley in Australia.

SEE: Malat, Riesling Classic, Kremstal 2015 | Ernst Loosen, Villa Wolf Dry Riesling, Pfalz, Germany 2014 | McWilliam Family, Zeppelin, Eden Valley, 2014 

It’s also associated with Austria’s most widely planted grape variety, Grüner Veltliner, and is often considered a trademark of fine Chardonnay wines from Chablis.

SEE: Steininger, Grand Grü Grüner Veltliner Reserve, Kamptal 2015 | Jean-Marc Brocard, Butteaux, Chablis 1er Cru 2014 | Simonnet-Febvre, Chablis 2014

There is some crossover between metallic and mineral wines, and opinion is divided about whether these flavours are derived directly from the soil, or whether it’s simply an effect created by clean and neutral wines; absent of sweetness or strong fruit flavours, but with a solid acidic structure. In the same vein as mineral wines, steely wines often express floral, green apple or citrus flavours and aromas, rather than sweet fruity notes.

As with tannins in red wines, it’s acidity that changes the mouthfeel of white wines. Steely wines can feel almost hard-edged in the mouth; something that’s usually desirable, rather than a flabby wine, and it should bode well for the ageing potential of the wine too.





tasting notes decodedTar

Tar may seem an unlikely substance to be evoked by wine, but as with notes of tobacco and petrol it can be an unusual source of pleasure. If expressed in harmony with the other flavours and aromas of the wine, tar can add a pungent edge, the kind to make your nostrils dilate.

It is usually used as a savoury descriptor of red wines; Barolo wines from Piedmont are most commonly ascribed a tar-like quality. They are made from the thick-skinned Nebbiolo grape, and usually have high acidity with no shortage of tannins. Nebbiolo’s bouquet encompasses violet, smoke and rose-like perfumes, with flavours that include truffle, fennel, liquorice and, most famously, tar.

However, as with other distinctive tasting notes, if you have an intense dislike for the smell of asphalt it can be too distracting, and detract from your appreciation of other aromas and flavours in the wine.






understand tasting notes



Toffee can be by turns a delicious and sickly piece of confectionery, made from a simple mixture of butter and sugar. Toffee in wine tasting notes generally refers to a wisp of burnt sugar flavour.

Toffee is part of the wine lexicon, alongside other burnt or cooked sugary flavours like caramel and butterscotch. Within this group, caramel usually involves added cream, which gives it a richer and smoother tasting profile. Whereas butterscotch and toffee are simply heated sugar and butter, although toffee tastes the most intensely of burnt sweetness because it’s heated for longer, raising the sugar concentration.

You can find hints of this toasted sugar flavour in aged fortified and oxidised wine styles, such as tawny Port. When port is aged in this way, fruity flavours can develop into a nutty and resinous sweetness that can seem toffee-like to the senses.

SEE: Fonseca, 10 year old tawny, Port, Douro, Portugal | Niepoort, Colheita Port, Douro Valley, Portugal 1995

Botrytis cinerea (noble rot) creates sweet oxidised wines by via an enzyme called laccase, as well as by heightening the sugar concentration in the berries. In dessert wines such as those of Sauternes, this can create a range of flavours, from apricot and almond to burnt sugar flavours like caramel and toffee.

SEE: Château Climens, Sauternes, 1er Cru Classé 2016 | Château Rabaud-Promis, Sauternes, Bordeaux 2015

Elsewhere, you might look for hints of toasty toffee flavours in vintage Champagnes, where nutty, honey and lees flavours can become more pronounced in a way that recalls burnt sugar. For example, the rich taste of Krug, Clos du Mesnil, Champagne 1982 encompasses toffee, butterscotch, cream and coffee.



tasting notes decoded Vinyl

Not your typical aroma or tasting note, but it is used to describe this almost sweet, intriguing plastic quality. It may be a sign of reduction, where in the winemaking, lack of oxygen creates a growth of chemical compounds called mercaptans.

These can be extremely unpleasant, creating notes of rotten eggs, cabbage or struck matches. However, if a balance is achieved in this reductive technique, desirable notes can be created, such as quince, smokiness, peardrop or even vinyl.






tasting notes decoded



Candle wax or beeswax aromas can be common in aged white wines for a number of reasons. Ethyl acetates, a contributor to honey and wax aromas, can be created by yeast during fermentation (common in Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay). However, they can also come from bottle ageing, as is common in older Rieslings; this is due to the breakdown of other components in the wine to create ethyl acetates.

Wax aromas are, however, different from the petrol aromas often found in aged Rieslings – these are caused by another natural and very potent compound, TDN, which can be detected at concentrations of micrograms per litre.



understand tasting notes Wet wool

One of the more challenging tasting notes, wet wool describes the aroma of damp and earthy smelling fleece, close to that of lanolin — the fatty substance secreted by sheep’s skin.

In tasting terms, it belongs to the mineral flavour category, joining other peculiar yet precise notes like rubber, barnyard and sweaty saddle. Perhaps the best way to understand wet wool is to experience it first hand by getting hold of a tub of lanolin cream, which is used for cosmetic purposes to moisturise skin. Or you can wear your woolly jumper in the rain, then leave it in a heap to go damp and pungent.

Depending on the wine, wet wool aromas can either be an intentional mark of style, or indicative of a fault. For example, it’s typically encountered in Chenin Blanc wines and can be considered an enjoyable part of their aroma profile.

SEE: David & Nadia, David Chenin blanc, Swartland 2015 | DeMorgenzon, DMZ Chenin Blanc, Western Cape 2016 | Doran Vineyards, Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc, Swartland 2013

Traditional method sparkling white or rosé wines might also express wet wool as secondary aromas, related to sulphur compounds and yeast influences which develop from winemaking processes like fermentation, resting sur lie (on the lees) or bâtonnage (stirring the lees). Traditional method sparkling wines include Champagne, of course, plus Cava and also some UK sparkling wines, as well as others.

SEE: Louis de Sacy, Grand Cru, Champagne NV | Wiston Estate Brut, Blanc de Blancs, East Sussex 2010

As a fault, wet wool aromas could be a sign of lightstrike, aka goût de lumière, resulting from excessive exposure to sun light. Transparent bottles might be attractive to the eye, but they can leave the wine more vulnerable to lightstrike, which is why green or UV resistant bottles are seen as safer by many producers.

Sources: Wine Faults: Causes, Effects, Cures, John Hudelson


tasting notes decoded

Wet cardboard

If you get a whiff of wet cardboard – or perhaps even ‘wet dog’ – in your wine, you would be right to assume there’s something amiss.

These are considered to be the main olfactory indicators of cork taint, or ‘corked wine’, one of the most common wine faults; albeit the cork industry has been working to reduce it.

Beverley Blanning MW explained the science:

‘Dissatisfaction with cork is almost entirely due to contamination, leading to the foul, wet cardboard smell commonly known as cork taint.

‘The offending chemical which spoils the wine is 2,4,6 Trichloroanisole (or TCA for short), detectable in quantities as low as four parts per billion,’ she said, writing in Decanter back in 2001.

Despite its adverse effect on the wine, TCA does not pose a direct health risk to consumers.

Aromas of wet cardboard can be a good way to spot a TCA fault, although it can be hard to detect when levels are low — at which point it may only result in a lack of fresh fruit notes and a faint musty character.

TCA can cause wine spoilage at a various points between the winery and your table. It’s worth being bold and asking restaurants to take a bottle back, or at least second-taste it, if you suspect a wine may be suffering from TCA.

‘TCA can infect wine via a number of sources including barrels, stacking pallets and winery cleaning products,’ said Blanning.


Got a tasting note you don’t understand? Send it in to editor@decanter.com.
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Argentina 2018 vintage: Good news for producers with a return to ‘normality’

Decanter News - ma, 11/06/2018 - 17:49

Winemakers in Argentina are celebrating the end of a productive vintage which is refreshingly ‘normal’...

Argentina 2018 vintageHarvest in Lujan. Argentina 2018 vintage: Good news for producers with a return to ‘normality’

‘This harvest has been very traditional,’ said Walter Bressia, President of Bodegas de Argentina. ‘

There weren’t rains, the day temperatures were warm and the nights were cool. In all my years as a winemaker I don’t remember a harvest with such excellent characteristics, both for reds and whites.’

Production is up 30% compared to last year, according to early statistics from the National Viticulture Institute (INV), with the total crush so far standing at 2.5 million kilograms of grapes this year compared to 1.9m last year, and 1.7m in 2016.

The greatest gains in production have been in the Cuyo region (Mendoza and San Juan) which were adversely affected in recent years.

Uco Valley

‘We came from very atypical (rainy) years for Mendoza, and the 2017 vintage also had a very low yield because of frosts and zonda (foehn wind),’ explained Matias Michelini, consultant winemaker in the Uco Valley with his own venture, Passionate Wine.

‘2018 was a much more normal year in terms of production and climate. This typical year means that the wines returned to a character of full maturation, with healthy grapes, intense colours; very expressive and muscular. The Malbec particularly stands out for wines of great intensity and character.’

Even though an intense hailstorm in the higher altitudes of the Uco Valley caused Michelini and several other producers to lose fruit, he said that in general the yields this year have normalised – up to 40% higher than last year’s limited harvest.


Rainfall across Mendoza’s wine regions was 30% lower compared to the annual average, according to the weather stations at Catena Institute, and harvest came on average two weeks early.

‘The red wines this year are really balanced in terms of acidity, they have an elevated malic acidity and a spectacular tartaric balance with respect to the alcohol,’ says Catena Zapata winemaker Alejandro Vigil.

‘The white wines are fine and lean with a medium concentration.’


Further south in Patagonia, a spate of frosts in Spring and Autumn saw a dip in production but the quality was high:

‘2018 saw a smaller volume but an excellent quality of grapes for all styles,’ says winemaker Marcelo Miras, who produces his own label and consults in Neuquén and Río Negro.

‘The reds achieved excellent ripeness, offering fruity wines with intense colour and structure. The white grapes, picked at the right time, had great natural acidity for fresh, vibrant wines – typical of Patagonia.’

In the north, yields and conditions were consistent with the annual average especially in Cafayate and Chilecito.

The quality and quantity of the 2018 harvest in Argentina offers some much needed relief for Argentine producers, who have weathered challenging vintages in recent years due to erratic climatic conditions and turbulent politics.

Bringing a bumper vintage to market, following Europe’s small 2017 vintage, and revitalising stocks will be favourable to Argentina. Fortunately this vintage has the quality to back it up.

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Voyager Estate: 40th anniversary tasting

Decanter News - ma, 11/06/2018 - 16:23

Sarah Ahmed tastes three mini-verticals from Voyager Estate at their 40th anniversary celebration in London, exclusive to Decanter Premium members..

voyager estateVoyager EstateVoyager Estate: 40th anniversary tasting

Acquiring a vineyard seems an unlikely choice for a teetotaller, but that’s precisely what the late Michael Wright did, buying Freycinet Estate in 1991. First planted in 1978, it’s located in the Stevens Valley in southern Margaret River’s Wallcliffe sub-region, five kilometres from the Indian Ocean’s cooling influence.

Other articles you might enjoy: North Barossa Vintners: Producer profile Pewsey Vale: The original Eden Valley Riesling Tyrrell’s Vat 47 Chardonnay: The screwcap era

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Jefford on Monday: All change at Capion

Decanter News - ma, 11/06/2018 - 08:00

Andrew Jefford salutes a Russian renaissance in the Gassac valley...

Capion winesHarvesting at 'Ch CapionJefford on Monday: All change at Capion

In January this year, I received a short message from the former governor of Perm.

I won’t often have the chance to write a sentence like that. As an unconditional fan of Gogol, Chekhov, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Tarkovsky, this email (on January 23rd) was a treat. The former governor of Perm wasn’t, however, contacting me to discuss the setting of ‘Three Sisters’, Pasternak’s years in the chemical factory near Perm, or even Murchison’s naming of the fateful and ultimately catastrophic period between the Carboniferous and the Triassic – but Ch Capion, the Languedoc property he had bought a year and a half earlier.

Scroll down for Jefford’s tasting of Capion wines

Oleg Chirkunov, let me point out, is not an oligarch investor. It wasn’t a PR who got in touch with me. He did. When I visited Capion in April, the former governor of Perm and his wife were waiting outside at the appointed hour. We walked the vineyards, together with estate director Rodolphe Travel; their plans came tumbling out. The Chirkunovs are thoroughly, personally involved; they care. The wines were impressive, especially considering the short time the new team has been in place. Nothing is certain any more (and it never was anyway), but my guess is that this tenure will be greatly to Languedoc’s benefit. The neighbouring Guibert family has been helpful and welcoming.

Capion wines

Vineyards at Capion. Credit: Ch Capion

Chirkunov is the third Russian to buy a major Languedoc estate after Dmitry Pumpyansky purchased Prieuré de St Jean de Bébian in 2008, and Boris Pakhunov of the Russian wine and spirits group Praskoveyskoe bought St Martin de La Garrigue in 2011 and then the Corbières property Ch de St Louis in 2012. Capion, though, may be the most significant property in Russian stewardship: it shares the Gassac valley with Mas de Daumas Gassac, and its vines lie not far from those of Grange des Pères, too. Gratifyingly, at least one of the Capion wines is going to market under the Terrasses du Larzac appellation – Aniane’s true AOP identity. Since 1994, Capion had been owned by the Swiss Bührer family, owners of Saxenburg in South Africa but, despite initial ambitions, the wines failed to make much impression in recent years, and the necessary vineyard investments had not been forthcoming. Chirkunov is changing that.

Perm is a city of just under a million people 1,400 km to the northeast of Moscow, lying close to the Urals. Having been governor between 2004 and 2012, Chirkunov now runs a chain of 82 supermarkets in the region – and imports wine to Russia, too (laboriously, via Lithuania, in order to meet challenging Russian labeling requirements). He’s an art lover who struggled to give Perm an artistic and cultural identity during his governorship – and he now has similar plans for Capion. It already hosts summer concerts; there is a gallery project.

His first purchase in France, in 2014, was the Domaine de Montplaisir, a cloth magnate’s mansion up in Lodève with just a few small parcels of vines; he now has plans to expand plantings in that much higher and cooler location. Bureaucratic difficulties in obtaining residence rights mean that the Chirkunovs divide their time between Perm, London, Switzerland (where their sons are based) and France – but Oleg insisted we spoke French together, not English, and he has faced so many obstacles down the years that he is philosophical about the frustrations which all those who chose France become familiar with.

Claude Bourgignon has surveyed the vineyards, and Rodolphe Travel — now full-time at Capion — and consultant Claude Gros complete the team with full-time winemaker Nikola Zebic. (Gros and Travel formerly worked together to make Rob Dougan’s La Pèira the outstanding Languedoc reference it is; another celebrated Gros consultancy is Ch La Négly in La Clape.)

Capion has 45 ha planted at present, and Chirkunov plans to bring this total up to 56 ha. The soils are mixed, with limestones as well as alluvial soils and gravels, sited between 100m and 250m, sometimes with cool northern expositions. Yields have come down; the vineyards are being run organically, and biodynamics are a possibility; harvesting (by machine in the Bühler era) is now by hand, with fastidious fruit sorting. Gros, who says this is one of the coolest sites he has worked in, is looking for a delicate touch in the winery: “this is the spirit of how we want to go forward at Capion”. The 2017 frosts were a setback, slicing production in half, and 2018 has begun with a very rainy spring, but hopes remain high for the third vintage later this year. As you might expect from an art collector, the labels are beautiful – and that’s still rare in Languedoc.

A taste of Capion wines:
Château Capion, Le Chemin des Garennes Blanc, 2016 Château Capion, Terrasses du Larzac, Le Chemin des Garennes Château Capion, Blanc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, 2016 Château Capion, Rouge, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, 2016

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North Barossa Vintners: Producer profile

Decanter News - zo, 10/06/2018 - 16:00

Sarah Ahmed takes a look at the wines produced by this exciting collaboration, founded in 2006 in the Barossa Valley...

North Barossa VintnersVineyards in Barossa.

In 2006, New Zealander Chris Ringland founded North Barossa Vintners with fifth-generation grape grower Adrian Hoffmann and Nathan Burley, operations manager. The wines were labelled under Ringland’s eponymous brand, as his wines already enjoyed a hallowed reputation – with prices to match.

The source

He had known about the Hoffmann family’s 120ha vineyard holdings in Ebenezer since 1992, when he was making wine at Rockford. Situated on red-brown earth over limestone at the northern end of the Barossa Valley, the low yielding 30-130-year-old Shiraz vines produce fruit that plays into both Ringland and Hoffmann’s preferred style: ‘very concentrated but balanced, layered and textured’, according to Hoffmann.

Scroll down to see Sarah’s tasting notes & scores

Taking full advantage of the Barossa Valley’s warm, dry climate and high sunshine hours, Hoffmann (who makes all viticultural decisions) picks late for maximum flavour accumulation and palate weight. On paper, the resulting high alcohol levels of 15-18% look unwieldy but, whilst arguably passé, my top scoring wine from this tasting was the 18% 2009 Hoffmann Vineyard Shiraz, underscoring North Barossa Vintners’ trump card – balance.

Their stated aim is to make a Shiraz like no-one else in the world can, and they certainly seem to have achieved that goal here: as big-boned as they are densely concentrated, the ripe but powerful acid and tannin structure of these potent wines brings energy, definition and persistence. Save for the 2008 Hoffmann Vineyard Shiraz, there was little evidence of raisining or viscosity.

Flagships Other articles you might enjoy: Australian Shiraz: Panel tasting results New twists on Australian wine classics Dal Forno Amarone: 1988-2010

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Best Bordeaux hotels: Where to stay

Decanter News - zo, 10/06/2018 - 14:00

Wine lovers choosing to visit Bordeaux are increasingly spoiled for choice. Sophie Kevany uses her local knowledge to select the very best boutique hotels, B&Bs and châteaux in the city and vineyards

Château de Léognan, Bordeaux hotelsChâteau de Léognan

Wine tourism is booming in Bordeaux, but nowadays that’s only part of the story. This year, two major hotel chains will open: an upscale Radisson Blu in July and a more affordable Hilton Garden Inn in June. It’s a clear indication that the city is no longer just for wine lovers.

‘Bordeaux is trendy now – even for French people. The Americans and Chinese mainly come for the wine, but people from all over Europe come to see the city, the 18th century buildings and modern architecture like La Cité du Vin and the Darwin Eco-Système,’ says Nicolas Martin, director of Bordeaux’s Tourist Office. ‘The top three questions we hear most often at the Tourist Office are: where is the Miroir d’Eau? Where is Darwin? And, where is the wine?’

While many will have heard of La Cité du Vin, the Darwin Eco-Système is famous for its large indoor skatepark, co-working spaces, bike repair workshop, barista and organic grocery store. Meanwhile the Miroir d’Eau is the world’s largest reflecting pool, located on the edge of the Garonne River. Built as an architectural showpiece, it’s an instant hit with children of all ages.

New direct London to Bordeaux train route planned

The number of nights that visitors spend in Bordeaux has risen from about 3 million in 2013 to 5.8 million in 2017 and is expected to hit 6.2 million this year. Asked what might come next, Martin would love to see an Asia-based hotel chain, such as Mandarin Oriental, in Bordeaux. On the wine front, the boutique vineyard chambres d’hôtes sector continues to grow, with the main addition this year being the Hotel & Restaurant Lalique at Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey.

For those considering a trip, the suggestions that follow offer a choice across wine regions and the city centre, and are based on a combination of their appeal for wine lovers and their newness. Vegans and vegetarian travellers will be happy to hear that both wine and food options have broadened considerably, at least in the city – from the affordable La Cuisine de Johanna, which stays open in August, to the extremely stylish Rest’O, where bookings are essential. Local producers offering vegan wines include Dauzac (the first cru classé to move to plant-based fining agents), Château Les Maubats and Château Couronneau.

Château Beauregard

Château Beauregard in Pomerol

Château Beauregard, Pomerol

Built by a pupil of Victor Louis (the architect of Bordeaux’s Grand Théâtre), the 18th-century limestone chartreuse and moat of Beauregard was so envied by America’s Guggenheim family that they built a copy back home in Long Island, and called it Mille Fleurs. Beauregard was bought for development in 2014 by the Moulin-Houzé and Cathiard families (owners, respectively, of the Galeries Lafayette department store and Château Smith Haut-Lafitte) and opened to guests in 2016.

Rooms are large, bright, contemporary and peaceful. Visitors can wander the gardens, explore the vineyard, loll on the terrace and indulge themselves in the well-reviewed restaurant. For those in need of more structured activities, tours and wine tastings explore the estate’s history via two or four different vintages.

Château de Léognan,  Pessac-Léognan

This charming B&B offers wine visits and tastings three times a day from Monday to Saturday all year round, plus Sundays in high season (May to September). Visitors can also join tasting workshops or tour the vines in a horse-drawn carriage, known as a calèche.

A new fifth room here is being added in the estate’s 18th-century pigeon tower and will be decorated with a suitably avian-themed interior. The estate also boasts a swimming pool, open from June to September, its own chapel – and a love story.

In the late 19th century, the château was owned by Emma and Mathieu Seurin. When Matthew died in 1890, Emma built the chapel in his honour and had it consecrated by the Bishop of Bordeaux in 1897.

Hôtel des Quinconces, Bordeaux

This was built in 1834 on the land of Château Trompette, the medieval castle that protected Bordeaux city and was destroyed in 1818. (Place des Quinconces was created at about the same time.) It is thought the first family to live in Hôtel des Quinconces was that of former slave owner, Jean-Baptiste de Megret de Belligny, who had returned to France from Cuba. Since then it has twice been used as a consulate (by the UK in the 1860s and then, from 1981 to 1993, by the US). It changed hands again in 2014 and, after two years of intensive renovation work, the hotel opened in January 2017. Private châteaux tours can be organised by the concierge service, as well as private wine tastings with sommelier, Amelie Xu.

Château du Terte

Château du Terte

Château du Tertre,  Médoc

Opened in 2000, Château du Tertre received a Best of Wine Tourism Accommodation Award in 2014. One of its aims is to act as a catalyst for visitors to share their wine stories, feelings and opinions. The price includes a winemaking visit and tasting, though barrel tastings and wine workshops can also be arranged, while chef Manuel Calderon offers wine-oriented lunches for small groups. Rooms are named after grape varieties, with interiors designed by the collector, antiquarian, designer and curator, Axel Vervoordt. The clientele includes royalty, rock stars, financiers, tech tycoons and artists.

See also: Châteaux accomodation in Bordeaux Hotel & Restaurant Lalique, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sauternes

Both wine sales and hotel developments have been slow in Sauternes, but new initiatives are now underway across the board. One of these is Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey’s Hotel & Restaurant Lalique which, acording to owner, Silvio Denz, combines ‘four worlds: wine, crystal, gastronomy and hospitality’.

The hotel, due to open in June, will include a restaurant run by two-star Michelin chef Jérôme Schilling. Fans of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited will also enjoy the fact that this château is mentioned by Sebastian Flyte: ‘I’ve got a motor-car and a basket of strawberries and a bottle of Château Peyraguey – which isn’t a wine you’ve ever tasted, so don’t pretend. It’s heaven with strawberries.’

Château de La Rivière

Château de La Rivière

Château de La Rivière, Fronsac

As well as its Disneyland-castle looks and five fairytale rooms, Château de La Rivière is famous for its massive underground cellar that covers an incredible 8ha, a warren of tunnels, which are now used as the setting for an interactive escape game. Purchased in 2014 by the Chinese Bolian Group (following the twinning of nearby Libourne with China’s Pu’er, famous for its tea), today the château offers both Pu’er tea and wine tasting.

Guests can swim in the pool, see the Lady’s Bath (a spring-fed private stone pond), scour the library, make their own tea blends in the Tisanerie and explore the gardens. In early July La Rivière hosts a three-day art and music festival called the Confluent d’Arts, which this year will feature Goran Bregovic and his orchestra. There’s also a pop-up restaurant at the château one Friday each month. Outside of this, and breakfast, guests should look to the surrounding towns of Fronsac, Libourne and St-Emilion for lunch and dinner.

Casa Blanca, Bordeaux

Gildas Quellien opened the Casa Blanca B&B in 2016. His goal is simple: to provide a home for visitors, while also promoting products from local suppliers. The setting is ideal for anyone considering joining the 2018 Fête du Vin in June, which takes place on the quays nearby. Other attractions include the Les Chartrons area, where Bordeaux’s wine merchants used to congregate; now a feast of cosy bistros, noisy terrace cafes and antique shops.

Casa Blanca has bikes and skateboards that guests can use to explore the city, plus there’s a nearby Bikram studio for anyone who needs a yoga fix. For those who want to explore further afield, Quellien also welcomes guests at Château Lusseau, the family vineyard in the Graves, which has gîte accommodation in July and August.

Hôtel Cardinal, Bordeaux
  • 10 suites with kitchen and dining area
  • €176-€760 (£153-£663), gourmet breakfast €32 (£28)
  • hotelcardinalbordeaux.fr

Just off Bordeaux’s main square, Place Pey- Berland, where the St Andre Cathedral sits, the Cardinal offers a range of luxurious suites. The concierge here can organise vineyard picnics, private bicycle tours and châteaux visits. Breakfast choices are overseen by two pastry chefs and feature menus specially created by owner, Géraldine Meurisse.

Surprisingly for Bordeaux, there is also afternoon tea, with treats from the newly opened Pierre Mathieu pastry and chocolate shop just a few yards away. The shop is co-owned by Meurisse and Mathieu, formerly a pastry chef at the Mandarin Oriental in Paris. Other delights include the 400-bottle wine cellar, which is stocked by the hotel’s partner and wine merchant, Duclot.

Sophie Kevany is a wine and business journalist based in Bordeaux. This feature first appeared in the Decanter Bordeaux supplement, subscribe to Decanter here. 


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David Ramey interview

Decanter News - za, 09/06/2018 - 15:30

With an early career influenced by some of the most respected names in the world of French wine, this classically minded innovator went on to become one of the key figures in wine in California. Elin McCoy meets the Ramey Cellars founder...

David RameyDavid Ramey and his wife Carla

‘Okay, we’re an American success story,’ David Ramey admits with a satisfied smile as I look at the line-up of 27 bottles on a table at Ramey Cellars in Healdsburg. Most are current releases. ‘Our winery is like a chef-owned restaurant,’ he explains. The wines are signature dishes; he’s ‘the chef of the cellar’.

At 6’ 1”, white-haired and casually dressed, Ramey could easily be mistaken for a laid-back Western rancher – but he is one of California’s most accomplished winemakers, known especially for his lush-textured Chardonnays.

Scroll down to see Elin McCoy’s Ramey tasting notes


Elin McCoy is an award-winning journalist and author who writes for Bloomberg News


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Wine Legend: Ramonet, Montrachet 1986

Decanter News - za, 09/06/2018 - 13:00

What makes this a wine legend?

Ramonet Montrachet 1986Wine Legend: Ramonet, Montrachet 1986 Grand Cru, Burgundy, France

Composition 100% Chardonnay

Release price $725

Price today £3,000 ex-tax

A legend because…

It is hard to think of another Burgundian white wine estate with a pedigree and reputation as substantial as that of Ramonet. As long ago as the 1930s its bottled wines were being imported into the US. The 1986 vintage was superb for white wines in the region and Montrachet, then as now, reigns supreme as its most prestigious and lauded vineyard.

Looking back

In 1986 the patriarch Pierre Ramonet was still alive, but by then he was into his 80s. The estate had been operated since 1983 by his grandsons Noël (born 1962) and Jean-Claude (1967). Pierre died in 1994, at the age of 88. His grandsons were always very respectful of the traditions and styles laid down by Pierre, and the rich and fleshy style of the wines has been perpetuated.

The vintage

The spring was damp, but flowering took place in warm, dry conditions. Summer was warm and mostly dry until mid-August, and there were downpours in September too. Rot was widespread, but affected the red grapes more than the white. By late September the Chardonnay was fully ripe – in some cases too ripe – but Montrachet is a site that preserves freshness. Almost all wines are fully ready to drink.

The terroir

The domaine’s main focus is on the vineyards of Chassagne-Montrachet, where the cellars are located. It has superb premiers crus, but the wines that drinkers and collectors yearn for are the grands crus Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet and Le Montrachet. Sandwiched between Bâtard below and Chevalier above, the 8ha Montrachet is a gently sloping and perfectly situated site that often combines the power and richness of Bâtard with the finesse of Chevalier. Its clay subsoil retains moisture so it rarely suffers from drought stress. Ramonet’s 0.5ha is more or less equally divided between Chassagne and Puligny, as Montrachet straddles both communes. The old vines were taken out in the late 1980s and replaced in 1990.

The wine

Ramonet’s wines are only produced from vines that are at least 18 years old. After vinification in stainless steel tanks, the wine is transferred to oak barrels. The Ramonets favour the Allier and Vosges forests and buy their barrels from up to 10 coopers. The wines are aged in one-third new oak for 12-15 months, with the exception of the Montrachet, which spends its ageing period in entirely new oak. Lees-stirring is minimal, but the brothers favour long lees contact (including a proportion of gross lees), which helps to fashion the rich and voluminous style of the Ramonet wines. Neither fining nor filtration is systematic.

The reaction

Robert Parker found it ‘stunning’ in August 1992: ‘With a bold, even dramatic nose of buttered popcorn, honeyed apples, oranges… its velvety, viscous, chewy texture is crammed with sweet, expansive Chardonnay fruit. There is barely enough acidity to hold everything together, and the finish is explosively long, rich, and buttery.’

In 1997, Michael Broadbent tasted the wine from salmanazar and found it: ‘Very pale; rich, toasty bouquet that spread its wings magnificently; distinct sweetness, full-bodied, nutty flavour – what a pathetic, inadequate description! Rich of course, and with very good acidity. Will keep for ages.’

See more Wine Legends here 

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Mumm to launch space Champagne for astronauts

Decanter News - vr, 08/06/2018 - 16:21

Mumm Champagne has announced it will be launching a bottle of gravity-defying Champagne, enabling it to be consumed in outer space…

space champagne

For the past three years Maison Mumm Champagne have been working with space travel design agency, Spade, to create a Champagne able to be enjoyed in zero gravity conditions.

The new Champagne is set for release in September 2018, under the name Mumm Grand Cordon Stellar.

Mumm described the project as ‘a groundbreaking feat of technology that makes it possible for astronauts and other space travellers to enjoy Champagne in the challenging surroundings of zero gravity.’

The science

Mumm claim that the futuristic glass bottle is capable of utilising the natural gas in Champagne to ‘expel the liquid into a ring-shaped frame, where it is concentrated into a droplet of bubbles’.

‘It can then be passed to someone and released into the air, where it floats until gathered up in a specially designed glass,’ said Mumm.

The glasses have a tapering stem, no base and a small cup to catch the floating droplets.

See the team toasting their success in zero gravity conditions:

What does it taste like?

‘It’s a very surprising feeling,’ explained Mumm’s cellar master, Didier Mariotti.

‘Because of zero gravity the liquid instantly coats the entire inside of the mouth, magnifying the taste sensations.

‘There’s less fizziness and more roundness and generosity, enabling the wine to express itself fully.’

Mumm has described the new wine as an intensified version of its Grand Cordon Champagne, with Pinot Noir expression of ripe fruit aromas.

Space wine

Mumm announced that the Champagne will first be served on zero gravity leisure flights, but added that ‘discussions are in progress to supply it to future space missions and commercial space flights’.

This is not the first time that wine has become involved in space travel; in 1985 a half bottle of Château Lynch Bages 1975 was launched in a shuttle from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

Upon its return in 2015 the Pauillac wine was referred to as ‘the most well-travelled bottle of Bordeaux in existence’.

However Mumm Champagne hopes that theirs will be the first wine to be both transported and consumed outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

Last year ‘Veggie’, NASA’s space cultivation department, said ‘it would certainly be possible’ to cultivate grape vines in space, suggesting extraterrestrial wine could become a reality in the future.

In 2016 the Chinese flew Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir vines into space to study them under space conditions.

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Ten of the best restaurants in Milan for wine lovers

Decanter News - vr, 08/06/2018 - 12:51

Known as Italy’s fashion capital, Milan also has a long history of fine food and wine. We asked wine producers from nearby Piedmont where they dine out in the city...

restaurants in MilanFind out where Italian wine lovers dine out in Milan... Credit: Alexandre Rotenberg / Alamy Stock PhotoTop restaurants in Milan — recommended by the producers at Decanter’s Italy Fine Wine Encounter 2018

Recommended by Simone Antionietta representing Carlin de Paolo:

Enrico Bartolini restaurants in milan

Combine your trip to the MUDEC Museum of Culture with a two-Michelin star meal. Credit: enricobartolini.net

At just 29 years old chef Enrico Bartolini has already earned a total of five Michelin stars, earning him the nickname ‘il collezionista’, or the collector. Two of those stars were for his Milan restaurant on the third floor of MUDEC Museum of Culture, housed in a renovated factory building.

Bartolini specialises in Italian haute cuisine, flexing his skill set across two tasting menus — one classic (145 euros), one contemporary (180 euros) — with the option to add wine pairings, selected by sommelier Sebastian Ferrara. There are also a la carte options, with dishes ranging from 35 to 60 euros.

The 113-page wine list benefits from the use of the restaurant’s Coravin, allowing you a taste of top drawer wines that may otherwise be unaffordable, including bottles of Solaia, Château d’Yquem and La Chapelle Hermitage. Book now

D’O restaurants in milan

‘Oyster and zabaione’ – a typical example of David Oldani’s ‘pop’ cuisine. Credit: D’O Facebook

D’O are the initials of the restaurant founder, Davide Oldani, one of Italy’s top chefs who has worked with the likes of Albert Roux, Pierre Hermé and Alain Ducasse.

Oldani’s contemporary and complex ‘pop’ cuisine earned him a Michelin star in the 2018 guide, with inspectors’ also praising the ‘designer-style dining room with huge windows overlooking the attractive piazza’ as well as the reasonable pricing.

D’O is little further out of central Milan in the commune of Cornaredo, seven miles northwest of the city, but it’s worth the extra cab fare. The restaurant quickly becomes fully booked for months on end — on 1 June reservations opened for dates starting in September. Book now

Savini restaurants in milan

Could this be one of the Milan’s most romantic restaurant tables? Credit: savinimilano.it

Savini restaurant is hidden inside Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s oldest — and arguably most beautiful — shopping centre, dating back to the 19th century.

Savini is designed to be a place of serenity amidst the tourist chaos of the galleria; the main dining room is full of soft furnishings, lamp light and a grand piano.

For true romantics there’s ‘table 7’, a single table, tucked away in its own corner of the restaurant, next to a window overlooking the marble central hall. Reservations required.

Savini comes recommended by the Michelin Guide 2018, where it’s noted for its excellent wine list, boasting 600 wines.

There are two seasonally-changing tasting menus: ‘La Tradizione’ (95 euros) and ‘La Proposta dello Chef’ (160 euros), you can add on wine pairing for 45 and 65 euros respectively.

If you’re in a rush to resume shopping then there is a set ‘Business Lunch’ menu, as well as a la carte options. Book now


Recommended by Francesca Marcarino representing Pelissero:

Masuelli Trattoria restaurants in Milan

Will you opt for the special ‘Riserva Cleofe’ wine menu for connoisseurs only…? Credit: Masuelli Trattoria Facebook

Since 1921 the Masuelli family has been satisfying appetites with its traditional Milanese dishes, such as saffron risotto and foiolo — Italian-style tripe.

The restaurant has retained a distinctive Art Deco style, with colourful Venini chandeliers and 1920s chairs. There is both a seasonal and ‘Buongustaio’ (gourmet) menu, plus a good value lunch menu that includes three courses and coffee for 22 euros.

As for wine, the main list includes a comprehensive selection from across Italy, from Piedmont to Sicily. While the ‘Riserva Cleofe’ menu, a special wine list ‘for connoisseurs’, covers the Italian greats like Gaja and Tignanello, flanked by French classics. Book now

Signorvino restaurants in Milan

A glass of wine and charcuterie with views of the Duomo… Credit: signorvino.com

A stone’s throw from the famous Duomo di Milano, Signorvino is a wine shop, wine bar and restaurant all rolled into one — with the added bonus that you can sample the wines first and take a bottle of home with you.

In a modern dining area with exposed brick walls you can get a flight of three wines for 12 euros, spanning northern Italian regions like Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige.

There are boards of cured meats and cheeses from all over Italy, including some that has been aged in Amarone wine, plus fresh pasta dishes, salads and meat main courses. If you follow the suggested pairing written beneath each dish on the menu you’re rewarded with one euro off your final bill. Book now

Recommended Franco Massolino, Co-owner & oenologist at Massolino:

Antica Trattoria della Pesa restaurants in milan

Try Milanese classics in this historic trattoria. Credit: anticatrattoriadellapesa.com

This trattoria is housed in a building that dates back to 1880, when goods from outside the city would be weighed here before making their way to the majestic Porta Garibaldi, just five minutes down the road. Hence the name ‘Pesa’, meaning ‘weigh-house’.

The menu is centred on Lombard cuisine, offering authentic dishes like cassoeula meat stew, golden-brown risotto al salto and zabaglione — a dessert made with eggs and Marsala wine. The wine list covers many of the best northern Italian appellations. Book now

Recommended by Cesare Barbero, director of Pertinace:

Contraste restaurants in milan

A Contraste dish called ‘richness and poverty’ – meat broth is poured over pork jelly euros. Credit: contrastemilano.it

On the street heading due south from Porta Ticinese, Contraste is identifiable only by its heavy iron door and small brass plaque. Ring the bell and you’ll pass through a hidden garden, beyond which is the daringly designed dining room.

Aside from the ornate ceilings and crimson silicon chandeliers, the colour white plays a leading role; from the table settings to the fireplace and walls — all are meant to ‘contraste’ with the vibrant and experimental dishes coming out of the kitchen.

The restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in the latest guide and inspectors said they were ‘impressed and delighted’, as well as noting the ‘excellent wine list’. Contraste has a very serious looking cellar, where the wines are stored in breeze block pigeon holes. Book now

Al Porto restaurants in milan

Spot the anchors? Al Porto is a family-run traditional seafood restaurant with nautical features. Credit: ristorantealportomilano.it

Located in southwest Milan, at the far end of the garden named after the Italian adventurer Ambrogio Fogar, Al Porto is a long-established seafood restaurant. It was started over 50 years ago by husband-and-wife team, Pier Domenico Buonamici and Anna Pucci.

Buonamici and his daughter Barbara run the kitchen, which serves seafood-oriented risotto and pasta dishes, as well a fresh Mediterranean fish selection that changes in response to the catch of the day. The interior echoes its maritime menu with floor-to-ceiling wood panelling, port holes and fish tanks. Book now

Ratanà restaurants in Milan

19th-century villa on the outside, cutting edge cuisine on the inside… Credit: ratana.it

‘Traditional food the modern way’ is the strap line at Ratanà, one of the city’s hottest contemporary restaurants. It’s run by Milanese chef Cesare Battisti and his partner, sommelier Federica Fabi, whose influence is evident in the 54-page wine list.

Although Ratanà is set in a 19th-century villa, the industrial minimalism of the interior nods to the old train depot nearby and incorporates recycled railway iron.

Chef Battisti champions local farmers and fisherman and creates his seasonal menus around their produce. A la carte choices include regional staples like risotto with ossobuco (braised veal shanks), alongside more modish dishes like beef carpaccio and trout tartare.

There is also a six-course tasting menu for 50 euros, which includes the gratifying addition of ‘predessert’ as well as dessert. Indulge in wine pairings for an extra 20 euros. Book now

Trattoria del Nuovo Macello restaurants in Milan

Stylish, simple and authentic Milanese dining at Trattoria del Nuovo Macello. Credit: Trattoria del Nuovo Macello Facebook

This chic trattoria is in neighbourhood of Calvairate, to the southwest of the city centre. Its owners, the Traversone family, have been serving locals for more than 40 years.

It’s a good place to familiarise yourself with in Milanese specialties, such as much-loved trippa (tripe) and cassoeula (meat stew). Or put yourself in the hands of Chef Giovanni Traversone who has created a changing four-course tasting menu, priced at 33 euros.

Trattoria del Nuovo Macello was also recommended in the latest Michelin Guide for its fresh and creative cooking. Book now

More wine travel ideas:

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Querciabella: Producer profile

Decanter News - vr, 08/06/2018 - 11:30

Susan Hulme MW takes a look at this Tuscan estate, a pioneer of sustainable viticulture in Italy...

QuerciabellaThe Querciabella estate.

Querciabella’s wines have been on my radar for a while, since I tasted them at an event hosted by their sole UK importer, Armit, and so I took the opportunity to visit their winery near Greve in Chianti Classico while in the region recently.

Querciabella has 74ha of vineyards in prime locations within the Chianti Classico zone – Greve, Panzano, Radda and Gaiole – together with another 32ha in Maremma on Tuscany’s Etruscan coast.

Scroll down to see Susan’s Camartina tasting notes and scores

Founded in 1974, Querciabella, or ‘beautiful oak’, is notable for the choices made by owner Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni. The estate was a pioneer in sustainable viticulture, converting to organics in 1988 and biodynamics in 2000.

Since 2010, in keeping with the owner’s vegan principles, they have practised what they term ‘cruelty-free biodynamics’ – only using non animal-derived products at every stage of the process. Today, they are one of the largest biodynamic and organic estates in Italy.

The wines of Querciabella

Batàr A high quality white made from an unusual blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. Average production of 15,000 bottles
Camartina A blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. Average production of 12,000 bottles
Chianti Since 2010, Querciabella’s Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva have been made with 100% Sangiovese. Previously there had been a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. To my mind this has proved to be a positive move. Average production of 90,000 bottles (Chianti Classico) and 10,000 bottles (Chianti Classico Riserva)
Mongrana A blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from coastal vineyards in Maremma. Average production of 130,000 bottles
Palafreno A 100% Merlot wine from the best plots in Greve. Average production of 3,000 bottles
Turpino A blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot from holdings in Maremma and Greve. Average production of 20,000 bottles

See all of Decanter’s Querciabella tasting notes The tasting

I found the warmer vintages of 2003, 2009 and 2011 to be the stand-outs in this tasting, and the 2012 Palafreno also showed very well.

I was particularly impressed with how well the entry-level Chianti Classico from 1998 has aged, although I would suggest drinking this up soon. Having tasted several vintages of Chianti Classico during this tasting, there seems to be a big leap forward in quality with the 2015 vintage. Manfred Ing, their South African winemaker, puts this down to several key factors: the coming to fruition of all the hard work in the vineyards, a ‘near-perfect’ vintage, and a different oak regime.

For the first time, the blend includes equal parts of fruit from Greve, Radda and Gaiole. It’s also the first year where more 500l tonneaux were used, rather than 225l barrels. As Ing comments: ‘The reduced oak influence allows the fruit to express itself, giving the perfect platform for the Sangiovese to evolve without hiding anything behind make-up – Sangiovese in its purest form.’ I couldn’t agree more.

Susan’s Querciabella Camartina tasting notes:


Querciabella, Camartina, Tuscany, Italy, 1999 Querciabella, Camartina, Tuscany, Italy, 2003 Querciabella, Camartina, Tuscany, Italy, 2004 Querciabella, Camartina, Tuscany, Italy, 2008 Querciabella, Camartina, Tuscany, Italy, 2011 Other articles you may enjoy: Chianti Classico new releases – Full report & top wines Comparing Tignanello and Solaia Arnione: A new Bolgheri superstar?

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Photo highlights: Decanter Italy Encounter 2018

Decanter News - do, 07/06/2018 - 18:19
Decanter Italy Encounter 2018Photo highlights: Decanter Italy Encounter 2018

The Decanter Italy Fine Wine Encounter was held at The Landmark Hotel in London, on Saturday 2 June 2018.

See highlights of the day below, or our live social media feed here.

Thanks to all of the producers and partners who helped to make it a great day, including Riedel, Tŷ NantWaterAid, and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.

Find out more about our upcoming events here. 


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Château Tour Castillon wine to be aged in English Channel

Decanter News - do, 07/06/2018 - 18:10

Médoc estate Château Tour Castillon are going to immerse some of their 2015 wines in the English Channel.

Château Tour Castillon ChannelThe boat taking the wines. Château Tour Castillon wine to be aged in English Channel

The château is owned by the Peyruse family, who spent many holidays in Brittany, on the edge of the Channel.

‘The idea came from my childhood friend, Johann Boché, a diving instructor,’ Laure Peyruse told Decanter.com.

‘And as we have friends who are fishermen and divers in common, it was easy to organise the immersion.

‘After some research, we saw that no wine grower of the Médoc had done this, so it was a beautiful opportunity for us to try it exclusively.’

Tour Castillon Channel

The bottles to be submerged. Credit: Tour Castillon

According to a statement from the château, submerging the wines in the Channel will allow for a gradual ageing process.

‘The Channel is a real energy source with temperature and pressure conditions, which can be really interesting thanks to the Gulf Stream flow.

‘The wine under the sea is in obscurity and in perfect humidity conditions. Moreover, the sea’s pressure is superior to a classic cellar.’

The bottles were submerged on 2 June and will stay there for a year, with regular surveillance from Boché and his team of divers.

There will be 600 bottles altogether, according to Peyruse.

Ageing in water

Other wineries have experimented with ageing wines in water:

Veuve Cliquot aged some Champagne in the Baltic Sea in 2014.

Larrivet Haut-Brion, in Pessac-Leognan, aged one barrel partially submerged in the sea.

Mira Winery in Napa also experimented with it, in the South Carolina harbour, and claimed ocean aged wine is ‘more complex’. 

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Producer profile: Château Talbot

Decanter News - do, 07/06/2018 - 13:00

Known among claret lovers for its consistency, Château Talbot has a long history of family ownership. Yohan Castaing discovers how the current owners are combining tradition and modernity to shape its future...

Chateau TalbotCredit: Vinexia.fr

Château Talbot, situated smack in the middle of an ocean of vines, is one of the rare classified growths of the Médoc where the family owners reside. Nancy Bignon-Cordier likes to remind her visitors that she does not think of herself as its proprietor, rather as the custodian of a patrimony to be passed on to her children.

She has good reason to be proud of her family’s ownership of this property, located in the St-Julien appellation, as 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of its acquisition by Désiré Cordier. In anticipation of the centennial, a new high-tech winery and a monumental barrel hall, graced with branch-like pillars that recall the gobelet or bush-vine training shape, were constructed.


Yohan Castaing is a DWWA judge and freelance wine writer based near Bordeaux


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