Ullage is generally used to describe the amount headspace between the closure and the liquid inside a wine bottle, but how important is this and what does it mean for the wine?
The ullage, or headspace, is one of the key things that wine buyers should look for, particularly in more mature vintages. Buyers for auction houses, for example, will pay close attention to ullage as part of their assessment of the wine’s health.
‘It’s the best guide you have to the condition of a bottle of wine, especially if you don’t know for certain how it’s been stored,’ said Matt Walls, DWWA regional chair for Rhône.
‘The ullage level can give you a few clues about your wine before you have the opportunity to open the bottle,’ said Julia Sewell, sommelier at The Fat Duck and judge at DWWA.Find Matt Walls’ Rhône 2016 en primeur report on Decanter Premium. Older bottles
‘The fill level of a bottle of wine (along with seepage, colour and signs of fraud) is something I always check when buying older bottles,’ said Walls.
‘If the fill level is low, it suggests that air has been seeping into the bottle, which would cause the wine to oxidise.’
‘One must look at it as a marker of how well the wine’s been stored, as lower fill levels [in the bottle neck] and resultant seepage usually point to heat exposure and poor storage,’ said David Dudley-Jones of Dudley Jones Fine Wines in Decanter magazine 2016.
‘It is often the age of the wine that will determine whether ullage is of concern,’ said Sewell. ‘A bottle naturally evaporates very slowly through the permeable cork, so it is only expected that a 40 year old bottle will be less full than a current vintage of the same wine.’
Christie’s has a whole page dedicated to the risks of ullage.
It says that a bottle of Bordeaux with ullage down at the ‘low shoulder’ of the bottle – as the curvature from the neck becomes the body of the bottle – is considered ‘risky and usually only accepted for sale if wine or label exceptionally rare or interesting’.
‘Top shoulder’ is normal for any claret 15 years or older, while ‘mid-shoulder’ isn’t abnormal for a 30 to 40-year-old wine, says Christie’s in guidance published in 2013.
Burgundy ullage is measured in centimetres, because of the bottle shape. ‘The condition and drinkability of Burgundy is less affected by ullage than its equivalent from Bordeaux,’ says Christie’s, adding that ullage of up to 7cm is relatively normal in 30-year-old Burgundy.See also: Inside the Penfolds’ recorking clinic Serving wines
‘I’d usually discuss with the guest if the level looks particularly low, and suggest that it would be best to open and taste the wine before passing a final judgement,’ said Sewell.
‘In a restaurant setting, it’s a risk that’s worth taking, because we are happy to open another bottle if the first is not right.’Walls’ buying advice
‘If the fill level is much below the bottom of the neck of a Bordeaux bottle, I’d think twice before buying it,’ he said, echoing the Christie’s analysis above.
‘Burgundy bottles are a little harder to gauge due to their gradually tapering shape.’
‘If I’m buying an expensive older bottle of wine in a shop (10 years old or more), sometimes I’ll line up all the available bottles and choose the bottle with the highest fill, just to be safe.’
But remember, this is not a foolproof method.
‘It’s not a totally reliable measure of condition however; you do sometimes come across old bottles with a very low fill that have remained in good nick,’ said Walls.
‘Like most aspects of a wine, the clues can only be confirmed once the wine is tasted, but it’s certainly a help in anticipating the condition,’ said Sewell.Got a question for Decanter’s experts? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media with #askDecanter. More wine questions answered here
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There can be great value on offer in Rioja if you know where to look. See which of the 95 mature Rioja wines in this Decanter panel tasting came out on top, and read an introduction by Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW plus results analysis led by tasting director Christelle Guibert.
Back in the 1850s, the Marquises of Riscal and Murrieta brought Bordeaux know-how on how to age wine to Rioja. The results were so spectacular that Rioja became a recognised fine wine region in less than 20 years.
Indeed, the best Rioja wines benefit much from oak ageing and have a unique capacity to gain complexity and silkiness after many years in bottle. The 1895 Riscal or 1900 Murrieta are nowadays excellent, complex wines, ready to drink but still capable of keeping.Quick Link: See all 95 wines from this panel tasting
Related content: Premium red Rioja – panel tasting results
Incredible value for money, said our judges...Top Roda I, Rioja Reserva wines to try
Sarah Jane Evans reports on a vertical tasting...First taste: Vega Sicilia’s new releases, including Único 2006
Sarah Jane Evans rates the wines...Back from the brink: Good value white Rioja wines
Sarah Jane Evans MW recommends the ones to try...
The quality of its top wines is not in question, but this highly rated Spanish region has struggled to win the affections of some wine lovers, including Sarah Jane Evans MW. Here, she explains why, and meets producers determined to change her mind.Does Ribera del Duero need to cage its 'alpha male', as one winemaker, who wished to remain anonymous,, believes.
Let’s start with this fact: Spain’s most historic and internationally famous winery is in Ribera del Duero. It’s so famous that I don’t need to name it, but for the sake of clarity I will: Vega Sicilia.
The second fact is that in 1982 a wine from Alejandro Fernández, the simply named Tinto Pesquera, was spotted by US critic Robert Parker. In the same year the Ribera del Duero DO (Denominación de Origen) was created, and the Alvarez family purchased Vega Sicilia. Ribera was on the map.
The third fact is that in less than 40 years since then Ribera has undergone huge growth, and is today home to almost 300 wineries.
Now let’s move on to the awkward part, my opinion.
Generalising wildly, I find it hard to fall passionately in love with wines from this exceptionally highly rated region. For a long time I thought I was alone, like the person who says a rude word during a sudden silence at a dinner party. However, having researched this more closely I realise I am one among many.
A Spanish wine enthusiast, a buyer for a top-end independent business in the UK, says despairingly: ‘I just can’t sell Ribera del Duero; my customers won’t buy them, they just don’t like them.’
He stocks wines from Vega Sicilia and a couple of other brands, but cannot delve deeper. Another common complaint is price: Ribera isn’t cheap. Says one buyer: ‘I can’t find a wine I like that my customers can afford.’
Evans’ dream dozen from Ribera del Duero
- Sarah Jane Evans MW is co-Chair of the DWWA, and author of The Wines of Northern Spain (on sale April 2018, early orders via Amazon)
Few countries can rival Spain for its breadth and diversity of wine styles, and even fewer can compete on value. From sparkling wine to Sherry, and everything in between, Sarah Jane Evans MW picks out her favourites, from just £6 / $8 per bottle.Find a new Spanish wine to try... Scroll down for Sarah Jane Evans’ 30 great value Spanish wines
Spain is a fascinating country for wine. The millennia of winemaking, the exceptionally diverse geography and its economic and cultural history all make it a great source of discovery. Add in the new generation, starting afresh with family vineyards or tracking down abandoned sites, and there is so much to like.
Choosing just 30 wines for this article has been hard! I narrowed my selection down to cover as many different regions as possible and as many different styles.
First, some essentials for the fridge: a bottle of Cava or traditional-method sparkling, a rosado, and a white or two. I can already guarantee there’s fino or manzanilla at home, so I have included another, more complex Sherry. Then I’ve added something quirky for my husband and I to enjoy which I know may not appeal to all my friends; some classics for comfort – for memories of times when I have enjoyed them before; and some ‘little brother’ wines – the cheaper version of grander wines that my weekday wallet doesn’t stretch to.
When I am looking for great value, then Garnachas from Campo de Borja and its neighbours in Aragón come top of the list.
However, I recognise that my good deals are damaging growers’ livelihoods. Spain still sells too much of its wine too cheaply in bulk to France and elsewhere, and as consumers we need to be willing to pay more for quality.Event: Taste top wines at the Decanter Spain & Portugal Fine Wine Encounter in London on 24 February
I return to Rioja regularly, but remember that Rioja is like Bordeaux – there are many producers and not all of them are perfect. Read recommendations, go to tastings, talk to retailers and find the ones you like. As for whites, Mediterranean Spain is particularly interesting, with complex, textured wines from Garnacha Blanca.
Finally, the people are as important as the wines in Spain. Among the producers on the following pages, there’s an expert on orange wines and a great cook too (Rafa Bernabé); an ever-innovative family that drives you around in electric cars (Torres); a thoughtful, quiet man making top-scoring wines (Marcos Eguren of Sierra Cantabria); and another who makes his wine in sight of the sea (Chicho Moldes of Bodegas Fulcro).
All of the producers I’ve featured welcome visitors, though you will need to make prior appointments. I urge you to meet them and their wines, and to savour the sense of place.Spanish wines to look for:
There’s far more to Txakoli - think 'cha-koh-lee' - than spritzy whites, says Sarah Jane Evans MW, who chooses her favourite bottles that showcase the versatility of this on-trend Spanish style.
Txakoli has an image problem.
It’s one of those wines where traditional reputation has not caught up with reality. For far too long it has been regarded as a rustic white, with punchy acidity and a spritz, that’s poured from a height into a tumbler. It’s much more than that.It’s a style
First of all, it’s a wine style; there’s no grape called ‘Txakoli’.
Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarribi Beltza are the main varieties, but there are others, depending on the DO, including Chardonnay, Riesling, Hondarribi Zuri Zerratia (Petit Courbu) and Mune Mahatsa (Folle Blanche), as well as Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng.Not just white wine
Nor is it just white wine. There are a few reds (Doniene Gorrondona makes one from pre-phylloxera vines), traditional-method sparklings, and a very small number of sweet wines, the best of which are terrific.
There’s also a well-made orange wine, Itsasmendi’s Bat Berri. It’s made in three DOs. Txakoli de Getaria, clustered around San Sebastián, is the largest, and home to the style of spritzy freshness that has defined Txakoli.
Txakoli de Bizkaia lies to the west, centred on Bilbao and its hinterland, while Txakoli de Alava is the smallest. What’s interesting is that in this tasting Alava produced the highest-scoring wines; yet when the DO was created in 1989 Alava was dying; just 5ha of vines were left.Lots to explore
Whatever the style or DO, Txakolis are all Atlantic wines – some more than others. Many vines have their toes practically in the ocean!
This is not an easy place to grow grapes. As a result the wines are fresh, some of them tartly so, and most of them have low or moderate alcohol. In that respect they are in tune with a current trend for lighter, fresher wines.
Only three of the wines I tasted had that textbook spritz – you can find it if you want it, but there’s plenty more to explore.
Some producers are making the traditional styles, others are working with lees; a few are maturing wines in oak or concrete eggs, and many focus on parcel selection in their vineyards.
Some are also bringing in consultant winemakers. Occasionally these are investors – new entrants to Txakoli. Export is an interesting issue.
For a long time, few Txakolis were exported and, in general, many international markets still see the entry-level of a brand rather than the more interesting special selections. However, with such diversity, there’s so much more reason to look beyond the ‘regulars’.Txakoli wines to seek out
The post Txakoli: The Spanish wine style you need to try in 2018 appeared first on Decanter.
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In partnership with ARAEX GrandsExplore further afield in Spain and discover a new region to try....
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsSpanish wine regions to discover DO Méntrida
Sitting essentially between Madrid and Toledo, DO Méntrida has never suffered to have a ready market for its Grenache-based wines. There have however been many ebbs and flows in terms of quality, and the wholesale emigration of people from the region to the cities has taken its toll in terms of massive decreases in production due to the abandonment of the vineyards.
However, while the majority of production has been tied up in the larger producers and cooperatives, the last decade or so has seen many smaller producers taking advantage of the old-vine plots of Grenache tucked away in the Gredos mountains.
Largely planted on poor, granitic soils at higher elevation these have allowed for a unique, lighter profile of Grenache to emerge, which has helped define the quality possible in contemporary times.DO Terra Alta
Terra Alta’s total production has long been higher than that of its neighbours, although its actual number of bottles lower as it has provided countless kilos to larger producers in Catalunya who source grapes that are then bottled as the regional, DO Catalunya. Due to its high altitude (thus the name, which means, ‘high land’) it benefits from a continental-coastal climate that allows for warm days and even ripening of the grapes, but cool nights that maintain acidity.
Starting in the mid-2000s, smaller producers started to grow and give friendly challenge to the larger cooperative producers. With these smaller producers, there has been a heavy focus on white Grenache and in fact, production is now split evenly between white and red wines.
They are indeed able to make unique varietal wines from white Grenache that, in recent vintages have shown not only the potential of a grape that is usually blended due to its inherent strength, but also the potential of their little region at the border of Catalunya and València.Txakolí
The production of Txakolí is contained completely within the borders of Basque Country. For anyone who has not visited this region, it offers a very different take what Spain “should” be. With 1,200mm of average yearly rainfall, it sees more than triple of what Spain’s more famous regions receive. Given this verdant, lush tendency, the profile of the wines as well as the varieties of the grapes are unlike those typically associated with Spain. With an Atlantic orientation and terraced vineyards that often have an ocean view, the influence of salt air as well as the cool temperatures distinctly impacts the overall flavour profile of the wines.
Txakolí is essentially shorthand for one of three DOs: Getariako Txakolina (the oldest), Bizkaiko Txakolina, and Arabako Txakolina. The wines heavily lean towards whites which comprise about 90% of production. That remaining 10% lies in the rarely-found reds and rosés.
For the white wines, the typical style is a lightly fizzy, frizzante/pétillant as well of a great wealth of acidity and generally low alcohol of around 11% although this is changing and dependent upon the vintage. There are also many still wines now as well. Authorized grapes include but are not limited to: Hondarrabi Zuri, Gros & Petit Manseng, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay for the whites and Hondarribi Beltza for the reds. Despite this range to work from, it’s Hondarrabi Zuri which is far and away the dominant grape for production.
Given the magnitude of the acidity, the wines pair wonderfully with the local seafood pintxos and can be found served all over the region including the main cities of Bilbao and Donostia (San Sebastián). The serving method is as unique as the wines given that they’re usually poured from a height of one metre into a tumbler glass below. The say that the drop opens up the wines. Whether this has any real effect or not, given how these are usually quite young wines, it makes for good photos and a fun tale to tell when back home.DO Bierzo
At the border of Castile y León and Galicia, Bierzo has made waves in the wine world. Its star grape has been the red, Mencía grape which occupies some 2/3 of the planted vineyards. The rise of this region in the early 2000s is due to a handful of key producers, who have worked to redefine Bierzo.
The slate soils of the region have proven to bode well for the Mencía grape which many producers have taken from being a grape known to make simple, fruity wines to what are now wines with layered complexity. It is a finicky grape that requires exacting precision when choosing when to harvest, but it can ideally have lower alcohol compared to what is often found in other Spanish regions.
As is often the case, the old vineyards of Mencía, that are low yielding, have shown capable of producing very intricate and complex wines.Toledo & La Mancha
There are countless curiosities about wine in Spain. For instance, many people would assume that the most typical grape would be Tempranillo due to its fame and wealth of production from the likes of DOC Rioja, DO Ribera del Duero, DO Toro, and many others. But, it’s actually a white grape called Airén that claims this title and it comprises over 25% of all the vineyard plantings in Spain with the majority based in Castilla-La Mancha, wrapping around the city of Toledo.
To date, it has been exceptionally rare to find varietal wines produced from Airén as the vast amount of production is distilled for brandy. Slowly, things have been changing as several producers have been working to reduce yields and make use of old vines to create crisp, neutral wines but this is an involved process given the modern history of the grape.
Above and beyond Airén, what is more typically found from La Mancha are red wines and at very friendly prices. The profile of these wines is changing as well from being what was Spain’s Languedoc, producing untold hectoliters of wine to new cellars opening with a focus on quality production. The wealth of old vines on limestone soils with cool summer evenings due to the elevation at 1,100m on Spain’s central plateau have shown that there are all the right ingredients for excellent wines to emerge.
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In partnership with ARAEX GrandEverything to know about the Priorat region...
In partnership with AraexPriorat profile
Climate: Long hot summers with little rainfall, making it ideal for ripening Garnacha and Carinena.
Soils: Called ‘Ilicorella’, a red slate soil, with small bits of ‘mica’. This soil helps to reflect and conserve the heat.
While there are only two Spanish wine regions with the exalted “quality” DO certification, it’s Spanish wine juggernaut, Rioja that generally takes the majority of the spotlight from the much smaller Priorat.
While wine is thought to have been produced in the region since Roman times, what we recognise as the more familiar style of winemaking is generally credited to the arrival of monks from the Chartreuse Order in France, in the 12th century.
With a steady increase in terms of production and quality through to the 19th century, phylloxera’s arrival in 1890 was devastating and it wasn’t until several people with a mind to create clean, barrel-aged wines starting in the 1970s that fortunes changed for the region.
The 1989 “Clos” vintage is largely credited as being what brought Priorat back into the international wine spotlight given that influential wine critics at the time rated it and successive vintages quite highly.
Local families started their own cellars throughout the 1990s in a Second Wave, which overall led to the collapse of the old village cooperative wineries from the early 20th century in the name of producing even higher quality wines. It has been on an upward swing ever since, despite stumbles during the 2008-09 financial crisis.
The twelve ‘vins de vila’ (see map below) are designated areas for growing grapes within the DOQ Priorat, which producers can label their wines with. This system was established in 2009.Wine style
The wines, once known for their full-bodied strength coming from Grenache and Carignan have changed markedly in recent years. Despite alcohol levels in wine the world over rising due to climate change, there has been a huge pull back in oak profile and grape hang time to create fresher and more immediately approachable wines with fewer French grapes in the blends.
What many consider to be Priorat’s ‘Third Wave’ (in just 40 years of recent winemaking history) has shown that the wineries can adapt and change while staying true what defines this as one of Spain’s highest-quality regions.
Understanding the Sherry styles. In partnership with ARAEX Grands
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsSherry comes from Southern Spain, in the triangle formed by the towns of Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María.
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsComplete guide to Sherry Dry styles
Manzanilla and Fino
Sherry is a white wine that is typically matured by being passed through a series of 600litre butts, in a system known as a solera. There are two main styles. The first is known as ‘biological’. That’s to say they are fortified to a minimum alcohol of 15% and matured under a layer of flor, yeasts which prevent the wine from being exposed to oxygen. The flor consumes the sugars and other components, and gives rise to acetaldehydes, which are such a distinctive characteristic.
Manzanilla (the lightest style, matured in Sanlúcar’s bodegas) and Fino (the bolder style, from Jerez and El Puerto) are both dry wines, both made from the Palomino grape. Manzanilla that has been aged for longer than usual, until the flor weakens, is known as Manzanilla Pasada. It has a deeper colour, and a more complex palate.
A recent trend in Fino and Manzanilla is the release of En Rama versions. These are Sherries drawn from the butt when the flor is thickest, typically in the spring. They often have more character and complexity as ‘En Rama’ means straight from the butt. However producers do differ in the degree of filtration they do before bottling.
Another trend is terroir. Sherry is famous for its brilliant white Albariza soils of chalk/limestone. There have always been great Pagos or vineyards in the best area (known as Jerez Superior), and with the revival of interest in fine Sherries they have started to be named again, as a new generation of producers become interested in identity.Amontillado, Oloroso and Palo Cortado
The second main style of Sherry is ‘oxidative’, wines that gain a deeper colour and nutty complexity from ageing without. Amontillado is the Sherry that sits on the fence: it starts its life as a Manzanilla or Fino. In time the flor dies away, and the wine develops a nutty complexity, while still retaining the delicacy of its early years. Amontillado will be between 16% and 22% depending on its age and concentration.
Oloroso is selected at the outset, typically with a heavier must, which is then fortified to 17%. This prevents flor developing. As it ages, the water evaporates and it becomes ever more concentrated and complex. Oloroso is between 17% and 22%.
Palo Cortado has become something of a cult – partly because of the finesse of the best examples, and partly because of its mysteriousness. Palo Cortado is described as having the aroma of an Amontillado with the palate of an Amontillado. It certainly depends on the skill of the cellar master in identifying the best butts. It is from 17%-22%.
These categories can be released with an age indication of 12 or 15 years, and an age certification of 20 or 30 years. There is also a category of vintage Sherry.Sweeter styles
Pale Cream is a Fino/Manzanilla, tailor made for export markets such as the UK, which has been sweetened by rectified concentrated grape must. Medium includes a wide range of sweetness from 5g/l to 115g/l. Cream is a blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez. There are two naturally sweet wine styles. Moscatel is found on sandy soils and produces a deliciously grapey Sherry with a balanced sweetness at about 160g/l; 15%-22%. Pedro Ximénez grapes, when sun-ripened, make one of the sweetest wines in the world. Exceptionally dark, dense, with powerful dried fruit and liquorice notes. More than 212g/l; 15-22%.The cellar master
The contribution of the cellar master is fundamental in managing the soleras. The position of each butt in relation to the damp albero soil, the humid breezes through the window, and the summer heat, means each butt develops slightly differently. They have been instrumental in identifying exceptional butts, and assisting the new generation of negociant businesses based on cellar selections.
Valtravieso, Ribera del Duero In partnership with ARAEX Grands
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsRibera is Spain’s answer to Burgundy and the cradle of some of the best wines in the world, writes Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW. Here, terroir is everything…
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsRibera del Duero profile Fact file
Climate: Short, hot summers and cold winters. It is protected from any maritime influence by a ring of mountains. The vineyards are situated at high altitude.
Grapes: Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Garnacha.
Soils: Clay/sand, with layers of limestone, marl and chalk.
Vineyard area:22,552 ha *
Annual production (2017):97.8 million bottles*
Max. production per hectare: 7000kg*
*Source: Ribera del Duero DO.
Wine lovers know that Burgundy is a classic region that delivers an amazing variety of red wines mostly from one grape variety, thanks to its diverse terroirs.
Those terroirs are defined in a complex legal system that sets up a hierarchy for the land, classifying it in categories going from plain Burgundy to Grand Cru. Imagine now that Burgundy were just one appellation, with no legal hierarchy of terroirs. Individual producers would define the terroirs; all terroirs would appear the same in the labels.
Anyway, the diversity and the quality ladder would still be there, but you will need to find it out in different ways… This is Ribera del Duero. Ribera is the cradle of some of the best wines in the world. Instead of matching an archetypal profile definition, the top Ribera wines are virtuoso interpretations of diverse terroirs and a single grape variety, occasionally blended but always dominant, Tempranillo.
While Burgundy follows a North-South axis, Ribera occupies a 115 km long stretch of land, following an East-West axis.
The climate is continental, with harsh winters, hot summers and high daily temperature variation. It is a dry area with very diverse soils, including clay, sand, limestone, marl and chalk. It consists of three distinctive regions.
The core towns of each region are:
- San Esteban de Gormaz
Around Peñafiel, wines tend to be fruitier and rounder in youth, then ageing graciously.
At the Roa sub-zone wines are characterised by their elegant structure and firm backbone.
In the more continental and smaller area of San Esteban de Gormaz the wines, coming from pre-phylloxera vines growing in sandy soils, render unique purity and depth of fruit expression.
To make things more complicated, many great Ribera wines are blends from a number of vineyards, often from at least two of those sub-zones.
Despite its long history, Ribera is a young appellation, just 35 years old. Now approaching adulthood, there is a growing pressure to classify terroirs, broadly in line with the Burgundian model.
But laws develop slowly: for a few years wine lovers will have to deal with a simple labelling system based upon trust on the producer. Some people think this is a better way to approach excellence.A word from our sponsor ARAEX Grands
Explore the wines of Ribera del Duero with some of these recommendations…
Rolland & Galarreta, Ribera del Duero
Two cultures and two different winemaking styles but a common goal have brought together French winemaker and consultant Michel Rolland and Spanish wine entrepreneur Javier Galarreta.
This wine is rich, concentrated and fleshy and shows elegance and complexity. On the palate, it shows silky tannins, with a succulent structure and excellent depth.
Cair, Ribera del Duero Crianza
After a long search to find the right terroir and vineyards, Juan Luis Cañas settled in La Aguilera, a small hamlet in the northern part of the DO, rich in old vines planted in chalky-clay, sandy and gravel soils.
Full and powerful on the attack with good balance. A meaty, juicy mouth feel with sweet tannins. Long, lingering finish.
Valtravieso, Ribera del Duero
This dynamic winery (pictured top) blends tradition with state-of-theart production processes to make a wine that is unique, full of sensations and expresses the singularity and personality of the region.
The wine has a good attack in the mouth which demonstrates its good structure, with some sweetness brought about by an excellent glycerine which rounds the tasting. Balanced tannins and acidity.
Penedes vineyards In partnership with ARAEX Grands
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsExplore the world of Cava and how it is made...
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsCava profile
While it may seem apt to compare Cava to Prosecco as they are often found at similar price points, it shares more in common with classic sparkling wine production such as Champagne or Franciacorta in that it is made in the ‘traditional method’ with secondary fermentation in the bottle as opposed to the tank fermentation used in Prosecco.Young vs Old
While younger wines can be crisp and fresh, it’s in the aged wines where this method of production lends lovely creaminess and lingering, nutty autolytic notes with boundless complexity.The rules
A key difference in Cava is that the Denomination of Origin is actually given to the process of making the wine instead of a specific place or region as is seen in other sparkling wine appellations.
While 95% of all Cava production is focused in Catalonia and of that, 90% specifically in the Penedès area, there are seven other provinces in Spain where it can be produced.
When digging in to the full range of Cava there are a great many styles to be found but it can be easily perceived as a “budget” sparkling wine.
Given this, there has been a great deal of activity by the DO and producers to promote their mid and upper range bottles.
For example, the top end Cava de Paratge that is designed to help to demarcate a range of Cavas and has existed for some time, but it hasn’t been immediately obvious to the wine drinker, that are single-vineyard wines with unique characteristics.
In 2017, the first twelve Cava wines were allocated the ‘Cava de Paraje Calificado’. They meet specific criteria, including vines being at least 10 years old, lower yields and 36 months bottle ageing on the lees.The grapes
There are many grapes that can be used in Cava, including a number of international varieties such as Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
Three Catalan grapes provide the backbone of most Cava production: Macabeu, Parellada, and Xarel·lo.
Like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier of Champagne or Glera of Prosecco, these grapes have come to define the classic Cava profile.
Macabeu is seen to give the wines fresh fruitiness, Parellada gives aroma and acidity, and Xarel·lo, the structure.Ageing and ‘serious’ Cava
With time, there are more varietal Cavas being created with only the Xarel·lo grapes as it’s able to stand quite admirably on its own and make sparkling wines that can age for decades. Some producers have been quoted as saying that ‘The ultimate ageing potential of Xarel·lo is yet unknown’.
Cava sits poised to raise its profile greatly in the coming years. While it will always be a wine easy to pair with countless dishes due to its vibrant acidity, there are many cellars ready to show that, 900km south of Champagne, serious bubbly can be produced as well.A word from our sponsor ARAEX Grands
Villa Conchi Cava: Loyal to his initial philosophy, Javier Galarreta has selected excellent vineyards and modern facilities to produce a “different” Cava. Since 2009, he has been travelling extensively in Catalunya to find partners capable of producing an elegant, fresh sparkling wine.
In the heart of the Penedès, he discovered the vineyards and qualities he was looking for to make such a style of wine. During his quest to find this Cava, Javier’s mother Conchi passed away in July 2010 and wasn’t able to taste and savour her son’s latest challenge. Villa Conchi is not only a modern, elegant Cava which shows what Spain can offer; it is also a tribute to a woman who was always a source of inspiration for elegance and distinction.
Villa Conchi Brut Selección: Made with 30% Xarel.lo, 30% Parellada, 30% Macabeo and 10% Chardonnay. Each variety is picked and fermented separately. For the second fermentation, the bottles are kept in underground cellars at a constant 15º-17ºC where they are in contact with their lees. This cava spends a minimum of 12 months in the bottle.
Villa Conchi Brut Rosé: Made with 100% Trepat grapes. We obtain the free-run juice which we ferment at a temperature of 16ºC. The second fermentation takes place in underground cellars without exceeding 17ºC and in contact with the lees. This Cava spends a minimum of 12 months in the bottle.
Villa Conchi Brut Reserva: Cava made with 30% Xarel.lo, 30% Parellada, 30% Macabeo and 10% Chardonnay following the traditional method. Harvested manually only selecting the best bunches of grapes. Disgorging and addition of expedition liquor with no sugar. This cava spends a minimum of 20 months in the bottle.
Villa Conchi Brut Imperial: Cava made with 40% Xarel.lo, 30% Macabeo, 20% Parellada and 10% Chardonnay following the traditional method. Harvested manually only selecting the best bunches of grapes. Disgorging and addition of expedition liquor with no sugar. This cava spends a minimum of 20 months in the bottle.
Cellars at Luis Cañas In partnership with ARAEX Grands
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsEver considered the origins of Spanish winemaking? Learn about the history of this region...
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsSpanish wine history
As is the case with the many countries that ring the Mediterranean Sea, winemaking initially arrived to Spain with the Phoenicians around 1,000 BCE, but took hold more seriously with the Romans. Pliny the Elder, in the 1st century CE made special note of the wines coming from around Tarraco, modern day Tarragona in the Catalunya region.
While the Visigoths occupied Spain after the fall of the Roman Empire, it was their overthrow by the Moors in the 8th century CE that led to a general decline in wine production that didn’t start to grow again until the Reconquista of Spain in the 12th century. The higher alcohol content (as well as the eventual advent of the fortified wines of Sherry fame) allowed the wines to travel well and Spain beginning a tradition of exporting that continues to this day.
Growth in exports raised steadily throughout the following centuries and saw massive expansion during the 17th and 18th centuries to Spain’s colonial holdings.
In the mid-19th century, Rioja, while producing wines of note for some time became a power to reckon with as shown by the founding of several of today’s well-known estates.
The second half of the 19th century was a boom for Spain as France’s wine industry had been crippled by the onset of the root louse, phylloxera and they were readily buying Spanish wine in bulk to bottle in France, a practice that continues in earnest in the 21st century and is fomenting conflict with Southern French winemakers. But, 160 years ago it was the French winemakers who crossed the border and brought with them more advanced winemaking techniques which greatly improved the quality of Spanish wine, with a heavy emphasis on Rioja.
In a mere 20 years after the founding of these still highly-regarded estates, some 16,000ha of vineyards were planted and in 1880 a rail link was completed to Bilbao from the village of Haro. The made Haro the de facto centre for shipping wine up to France and, despite the sleepiness of the town today, it was a key economic centre for the region during this time. Tribute is paid to this time in the annual La Cata del Barrio de la Estación which features all of the wineries in the historic neighbourhood around the train station.
This initially excellent time for Spanish wine quickly turned sour as first powdery mildew crossed the Pyrenees in 1850, followed by phylloxera a few decades later on the eastern shores. Rioja managed to avoid the ravages for some time, but phylloxera finally arrived in 1901 and while the solution of grafting on to American roots had long been known, it was a massive financial undertaking. Many of the French winemakers who had established themselves in Rioja returned back to France.
In many other regions, countless viticulturists emigrated from the Spain in general to find their fortunes elsewhere in the world. Those who stayed replanted and fully changed the face of the vines grown as countless old varieties were lost in favour of more uniform and more productive selections, such as what have become the core white grapes used in Cava.
The magnitude of the Spanish Civil War impacted wine production and a great deal and in the second half of the 20th century another quality revolution in Spain washed over Spain. For Rioja, the start of the 1970s and specifically the vintage of 1970 put the region back on the maps of the wine world from which is has manage to stay firmly upon for generations of wine drinkers now.
In other regions, such as Penedès, winemakers began to introduce more scientific and clean winemaking. The consistent quality of these news wines has led to Spain’s being one of top three wine producers in the world.
But, in addition to the ability to produce huge quantities of wine, every year we see more singular, icon wines emerging showing that Spain is readily capable of finesse in addition to creating well-priced wine for the masses.
Tempranillo bunch at Cair, Ribera del Duero. In partnership with ARAEX Grands
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsFive grapes that are making great wine in Spain right now...
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsFive Spanish grape varieties to know Tempranillo
Tempranillo forms the backbone of Spain’s most world-renowned red wines from Rioja and Ribero del Duero. It’s an early ripening and versatile grape, that can make young and juicy reds with strawberry notes, or structured oak-aged wines with a more leathery and savoury character.
You can find Tempranillo blended with Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano, but it also holds its own as a single varietal wine.
Depending on where you are, it may be found under other names, including Tinto Fino, Tinta del Pais, Tinta de Toro, Ull de Llebre, Cencibel — or Aragonês and Tinta Roriz in Portugal.A word from our sponsor ARAEX Grands
Try Hiru 3 Racimos from Luis Cañas – where they carefully cultivate the vines following an agricultural system that makes maximum use of natural resources while limiting their impact on the environment.
Concentrated and fatty in the center, it is well-balanced and sweet with fine tannin. Very long and expressive, leaving a clear impression of the character of the terroir.
Or for a blended Tempranillo, try Altos de Rioja Pigeage, an exciting “boutique” winery in the heart of the best terroir of Rioja Alavesa is passionately led by a group of experienced professionals with impeccable credentials.
It has very powerful toasty notes (cocoa and coffee) of high quality wood, perfectly blended with ripe fruit.
This green-gold gold grape thrives off of the warm and wet conditions of Galicia’s Rías Baixas region, where it ripens early.
Continue up the coast and you’ll find it under the guise of Alvarinho in Portugal, where it makes single-varietal high acidity Vinho Verde wines.
Due to its thick skin and numerous pips, high volumes of berries are required to make the wines. But they are considered to be some of Spain’s most delicious dry aromatic whites, often with a zesty edge that makes them refreshing and perfect with seafood.
It can be blended with varying amounts of Loureiro, Treixadura, Torrontés and Caiño Blanco.A word from our sponsor ARAEX Grands
Try Pazo de Señorans, Selección Añada – who are renowned throughout the world for their outstanding quality, intense aromatic character and unique freshness.
On the palate it has a strong personality, firm and profound, indicating immense volume that feels oily and heavy. The characteristic acidity and fruit flavours of the variety are well-balanced. An aftertaste of fruit and fine toasted notes.
Garnacha is a late ripening and thin skinned grape primarily grown in northern Spain. As a single-varietal, such as those made from the old vines of Priorat, it often makes light red wines, fairly high in alcohol and redolent with red fruit flavours.
In Rioja, it’s often blended with Tempranillo, as it adds body and makes the wines more approachable for early drinking.
In Navarra, Garnacha is used to make rosé wines, as it’s naturally low in tannins.
Outside of Spain, it’s blended with Syrah and Mourvèdre in France’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape region, as well as Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in Australia.A word from our sponsor ARAEX Grands
Try the Garnacha from Bodegas Baigorri, where the force of gravity drives the vinification process in a winery that is as much a work of art as the wines it produces.
Similar to the way a privileged environment combines with skilled techniques to produce great wines, the surrounding landscape has been combined with a unique approach to the elaboration process to produce a stunning winery in harmony with the land.
It it balanced between its pleasant tannins and its acidity. It shows graceful, bright, fruit flavours which are smooth, leading to a long mineral aftertaste.
Verdejo thrives in the high altitude vineyards and calcareous soils of Rueda in northern Spain, the first region in Castilla y Léon to gain Denominación de Origen classification back in 1980.
Verdejo typically makes aromatic white wines, with notes of citrus and melon. It’s known for its high acidity and adds body to blends with Sauvignon Blanc or Viura grapes, generally making up at least 50%.
Verdejo was historically used to be used to make sherry-like wines, as it oxidises easily. For more modern styles, many winemakers keep oxidation at bay by picking the grapes during lower nighttime temperatures.A word from our sponsor ARAEX Grands
Try Bodega Val de Vid Verdejo Crianza, where they use the latest technology combined with traditional vinification methods, to produce white wines of exceptional quality and a singular expression of their soil and climate.
The wine is fresh, elegant and smooth, but well structured. Tasty, aromatic and with easy entry into the mouth. Complex and persistent end with pleasantly bitter touches as is typical of this variety.
Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia
Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia is one of the three main indigenous grapes used in the production of Txakoli wines, which are light, slightly sparkling and dry, making them similar in style to vinho verde or picpoul de pinet wines.
This white grape is predominantly used in Txakoli de Bizkaia wines, and produces pale, light-bodied, mineral wines with flavours of citrus fruit and flowers.
The grape is the same as French grape Petit Corbu, primarily found regions of in South West France.A word from our sponsor ARAEX Grands
Try G22 from Gorka Izagirre, where they aim to revitalise the Basque region and boost the cultivation of local grape varieties, producing unique wines that mirrored the great potential of this magnificent viticultural area.
It is a full and dense wine. The nice fruity sensation always allows space for floral and balsamic essences on the after taste. Very complex.
Rías Baixas In partnership with ARAEX Grands
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsWhether you’re a lifelong devotee of Spanish wine or still on the road to discovery, these are unmissable destinations for travellers and oenophiles alike. From luscious green Galicia to the sun-drenched coast of Cava country, Decanter’s experts share their must-see sights of Spain.
In partnership with ARAEX GrandsTop five Spanish wine regions to visit Cava country
Pay a visit to the home of Spanish sparkling, and immerse yourself in Cava while taking in the mountain scenery and sun-drenched beaches. We’re talking about Penedés, an area of Catalonia in north east Spain — its capital Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is less than an hour by train from Barcelona.
Start off with some of the more dynamic winery tours…
Penedés’ villages also have plenty of fun-filled wine traditions, like the Fiesta de la Filoxera in September — when locals dress up as the vine-destroying Phylloxera parasite bug and dance through the streets with firecrackers.
Nearest airport: BarcelonaRioja
You’ve probably drunk plenty of this region’s delicious wines, but perhaps not considered it for a holiday…Until now. With 60,000 hectares of vines spread over three provinces, Rioja might be vast — but if you know where to go it can make an unforgettable getaway.
For easy winery hopping head to Haro Train Station Wine Quarter, where you’ll find the highest concentration of century-old wineries on the planet – in September they run the Haro Wine Festival…
Or if you want to get involved with people throwing over 100,000 litres of red wine at one another, arrive June 29 for the Batalla del Vino, or ‘wine battle’.
Nearest airport: BilbaoPriorat
Although the revival of Priorat wines can be dated around the 1980s, its winemaking traditions go back as far as the middle ages when Carthusian monks planted vines. They found the rugged beauty of the area so profound they called it Scala Dei, meaning ‘ladder to God’.
Perched up high in south-west Catalonia, Priorat has remained largely unspoilt. Its soaring mountains are still tracked by roads made more for hooves than wheels (4×4 required), and it’s stone-built towns maintain a quiet traditional feel — but with some fantastic restaurants thrown in.
Wander through the Gratallops village for a cluster of restaurants and bars to explore.
Nearest airport: BarcelonaRías Baixas
Once you’ve got over the Galician pronunciation you can plunge headlong into this land of aromatic Albariño and fresh seafood — Rías Baixas (ree-ahse by-shas) is undoubtedly one of Spain’s top food and wine destinations (pictured top).
This is Green Spain at it’s best, with verdant river-riddled countryside and a coastline dotted with fishing villages. You can base yourself in the famous medieval pilgrimage destination, Santiago de Compostela. Meander through the streets of the Old Town, and begin with a glass of local wine in Hostal dos Reis Católicos — once a 15th-century hospital, now an elegant five-star hotel just across the square from the cathedral.
There are boat trips which can take you along the towns and coastal vineyards of Rías Baixas. Many include a stop at A Lanzada beach and La Toja island, with a mussel and wine tasting thrown in too.
Nearest airport: Santiago di CompostelaJerez
Finally, Jerez, the ancient heartland of Andalucía and fountainhead of Sherry wines. Forget any preconceptions you may have about all Sherry being sickly sweet or for nonagenarians — it’s multiplicity is staggering and it’s prized in the hippest hottest tabancos.
You won’t have to work hard to get a taste, the city is packed with bodegas and every pavement has its bars, with tables made from blackened Sherry butts.
You can also wander about the small, flat town centre on foot, confident in the knowledge you’re never far from a cool glass of fino.
In the early morning or evening, climb to the top of the Moorish fortress Alcázar, the view of Jerez vineyards stretching to the horizon is well worth the effort.
Nearest airport: JerezA word from our sponsor ARAEX Grands
Planning a trip to Rioja Alavesa? Stay in Laguardia the heartland of Rioja Alavesa winemaking and visit some of Spain’s most exciting estates while you are there:Bodegas Amaren
Bodegas Amaren is the search for perfection in all fields. The vineyard, its selection, its elaboration and its ageing are all lovingly taken care of in order to achieve wines that bring emotion and pleasure.
The grapes used to produce Amaren wines come from small plots located on slopes and terraces planted with low-yield old vines that produce exceptional wines.Bodegas Baigorri
Bodegas Baigorri returns winemaking to its origins in a state-of-the-art facility that is as much a work of art as the wines it creates.
Built around the winemaking process, an elegant glass structure emerges from the soil and welcomes the visitor with a stunning display of the surrounding vineyards, emphasising that it is here where the process begins.Altos de Rioja
Altos de Rioja is passionately led by a group of experienced professionals with impeccable credentials in the world of Spanish wine. Joint owners and longstanding winemakers Roberto San Ildefonso and Bienvenido Muñoz together with flying winemaker Jean-Marc Sauboua are creating a range of uniquely modern Rioja wines.
The post Top five Spanish wine regions to see before you die appeared first on Decanter.
Mountain vineyards and arid summers often place heavy demands on Priorat's winemakers, but the results can be excellent. Sit back with a glass in-hand and read Andrew Jefford's report on a recent trip, plus see 15 of his favourite reds to try from this fascinating corner of Spain...Old vines near to Gratallops in Priorat. Scroll down to see Andrew’s top 15 Priorat reds – exclusively for Decanter Premium members
Priorat is a secret wine kingdom, hidden and remote. Its loneliness strikes you most clearly at night. You can prowl the constantly twisting roads and never see other headlights; turn off the engine, and the silence can make your ears ache. Even the dogs seem shy of barking. Perhaps they’re awed by the glitter of the stars.
If ever a place was destined to lure monks, this is it. The Carthusians had to find their way here – and they did, back in the 12th century.
Andrew’s top 15 Priorat reds:
A Decanter contributing editor, Andrew Jefford won the Louis Roederer International Columnist of 2016 for articles in Decanter and Decanter.com Related content: Alvaro Palacios 2016 vintage preview
The latest range from Alvaro Palacios...First taste: Vega Sicilia’s new releases, including Único 2006
Sarah Jane Evans rates the wines...Premium red Rioja – panel tasting results
Incredible value for money, said our judges...
The post Priorat in-depth and great reds to try – Andrew Jefford appeared first on Decanter.
Powerful, bold, full bodied red wines with plenty of structure can work wonderfully with food and improve in the cellar for years. How much do you know about the grapes and regions that specialise in this style? Let's find out - you might even discover a new wine to try.Credit: Chateau Diana Winery InstagramStart the full bodied red wine quiz
See belowMore Decanter.com wine quizzes:
The post The full bodied red wine quiz – Test your knowledge appeared first on Decanter.
With less than four weeks to go until our first big tasting of 2018, Decanter’s content director, John Stimpfig, shares his wish list and key things he will be looking out for.
I don’t know about you, but I am already eagerly looking forward to our next exciting Spain & Portugal Fine Wine Encounter in London on the 24th February. We have another mouthwatering line up of wines and winemakers taking part.So what is on my tasting wish list?
From Portugal, I’ll be tasting as much vintage and tawny port as possible, particularly from the likes of Noval and Romaneira. I’m also going to get stuck into some Portuguese table wines – both red and white. Right now, refreshing (and affordable) Portuguese whites from indigenous varieties are very popular with my palate and pocket.
From Spain, there are so many old personal favourites to choose from. For instance, in my latest magazine column in the March issue, I’ve been singing the praises of the Torres family – having visited the winery in Penedes late last year.
On Decanter Premium, we’re also posting some of my tasting notes of wines which impressed me enormously.
Happily, some of those wines are also on show on the 24th of February in London. So you can see if you agree or disagree with me!
In addition, I’ll also be dropping in on plenty of other Spanish tables to check out some older Rioja.
This did so well in our March issue’s Panel Tasting – the results of which will be available to Premium members and magazine subscribers very soon.
Again, my own personal favourites invariably number Muga, CVNE, La Rioja Alta, Remirez de Ganuza, Roda and Riscal. And that’s before I’ve tried any of the other unmissable producers from regions like Ribera, Bierzo, Toro, Rias Baixas and Priorat.
Clearly, so as with all Decanter events, the challenge is so many wines and so little time.Grand Tasting tickets are only £55 – book today
Date and time: Saturday 24th February, 11am – 5pm
Location: The Landmark Hotel, London, NW1
The post John Stimpfig’s tasting wish list for Decanter Spain and Portugal Fine Wine Encounter appeared first on Decanter.
Devastating frost has caused a 40% drop in the Bordeaux 2017 wine harvest and new estimates show the financial toll could reach 1.6 billion euros - even though weather during the flowering period and summer months was relatively kind to vines that survived. Jane Anson looks at the impact on several estates in the worst-hit areas, and how specialist pruners are hoping to get the vines back on-track for 2018.Fires lit in the vineyards of Bordeaux to prevent frost damage on 27 April 2017.
The specialist pruners are busy this year. In a vintage following severe frost, it’s often the case that the usual team finds it difficult to cope with the abundance of shoots and canes that a vine starts throwing out, a reminder that these are at heart climbing plants that have been trained into submission by man over years.
Not only do the right canes need to be selected for training (as the one previously chosen will have been frosted away), but the pruned vine will be left afterwards with more scars than in a normal year, which need to be carefully treated to minimise the risk of ESCA and other trunk disease.
What this means is more time – most estimate up to twice as long – and more money for the affected Châteaux to spend.
They may even resort to calling in a team of external pruners who will charge a premium of around 20 to 30%, but are essential if the quality of the Bordeaux 2018 vintage is to be fully realised. The local Chamber of Agriculture is also getting involved, offering its own training courses on how to best prune affected vines.
The last few weeks have crystallised the fallout of the frost for those of us who are merely observers. We had the initial assessments from the châteaux last year, who with the pruning are now moving in to the cycle of this year’s harvest.
We’ve had the general stats that white Bordeaux production has almost halved between 2016 and 2017, with the red around 40% down from last year.
And that the overall financial hit, for both red and white combined, is likely to be around €1.6 billion according to the CIVB.
But with the Bordeaux en primeur system of early tastings just around the corner, we are beginning to see the results in terms of some châteaux announcing that they are simply not putting any wine in bottle.
The first names started appearing at the end of last year, with Château Fieuzal in Pessac Léognan reporting that it would be making neither red nor white wine, Fieuzal or the second Abeille de Fieuzal label, in 2017.
Last week we saw Château Climens in Barsac joining it, with owner Bérénice Lurton announcing that the estate conducted a ‘grape hunt’ during harvest, but still only managed to produce 2.5 hectolitres per hectare – roughly one barrel per hectare and a record low.
‘This doesn’t give us enough ‘materia prima’ to make a honourable Climens, so we have naturally decided not to make any first wine in 2017,’ said Lurton, adding that this was the first non-production for them since 1993.
Just a few miles further north in Graves, Château Chantegrive will be making no red wine at all.
There will be just a few thousands bottles of their top bottling of white wine, Cuvée Caroline, ‘because the Semillon shone this year, and were not affected by either the frost or the early September hail storm that took out so much of the remaining vineyard’, said Hélène Levêque, Chantegrive’s general manager.See also: Bordeaux 2015 in the bottle – Jane Anson’s top scorers on the Right Bank
It must be said at this point that frost damage was by no means uniform and, even in the worst-hit zones, not everybody suffered to the same extent. Château Suduiraut, in Sauternes, has said that frost only affected its ‘secondary plots’ of vines, for example.
Large parts of the Médoc were spared, and weather conditions across Bordeaux were good during flowering, with vineyards further boosted by a dry summer – helping the vines that survived the frost. See the map below this article for more detail.
However, it’s clearly been a difficult time for some on the Right Bank, in particular.
Château Grand Mouëys in Capian (AOC Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux) has announced that it is making no white wine at all, while the Ducourt family will bottle no Château Jacques Noir (AOC St-Emilion), no Château Plaisance (AOC Montagne St-Emilion) and a tiny quantity of Demoiselles (AOC Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux).
We will no doubt hear of more over the next month – I believe 15 February is the deadline for winegrowers to inform their local syndicates exactly what will be going into bottle.
For the rest of the estimated 70% of affected producers, there are a number of different ways to deal with drastically reduced production, and it’s interesting to see what’s emerging.
For Château Fleur Cardinale in St-Emilion, only the highest part of the estate managed to escape the frost.
This was the ‘limestone heart’ as Caroline Decoster put it, where the vines are largely Cabernet, so giving an unusual blend for an estate that is planted to 70% Merlot. The blend in 2017 will be 35% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% merlot, from eight barrels instead of the usual 350.
‘This equals around 2,000 bottles,’ Decoster told me this week, ‘but we have decided to put them all into magnum, to make something special out of what has been a difficult year.
‘So 1,000 magnums of an unusual blend, and we are extremely happy with the quality. We wouldn’t have done this if we didn’t believe that what has been produced wasn’t exceptional.’
This means that Fleur Cardinale 2017 will still be sold en primeur (although good luck getting hold of any) but will not be tasted through the usual routes during the tasting week, as there will be so few samples available.
Another big name missing from the usual tasting rounds of en primeur will be Château Corbin, another casualty of the St-Emilion frosts. The only plot to survive the frost here was 25ares (one are is 100m2) of four year old vines.
‘I couldn’t give those young vines the responsibility of carrying Château Corbin all by themselves,’ Annabelle Bardinet rather beautifully explained to me.
‘So we will only be making a small amount of second wine, maybe 5,000 bottles. It was not a difficult decision to make, but it was very sad.’
And if there is a silver lining, it took Caroline Perromat at Château Cerons to point it out. Cerons produced 50% of its normal amount of wine, because the vines next to the river survived untouched, but the ones on the plateau next to Chantegrive were entirely wiped out.
‘It’s difficult time of course,’ she said. ‘We only re-launched under the Château Cerons name in 2012, and already made no wine at all in 2013, so it is difficult to take the loss again.
‘But it is also a time to reflect on your strategy and to make a team decision about what to do. These tough years really make you think about what you want and what is important to you.’Where the frost struck worst in Bordeaux in April 2017
The worst-hit areas are highlighted in red.
How we reported Bordeaux’s April 207 frost – the worst since 1991
The post Anson: Bordeaux counts cost of frost for 2017 vintage appeared first on Decanter.
Sassicaia 2015 has been released in the UK and Decanter's John Stimpfig got a sneak preview of the latest vintage from this celebrated 'Super Tuscan' estate.
Sassicaia 2015 was released in the UK today (1 February) by Armit Wines, the exclusive import agency in the country for Sassicaia producer Tenuta San Guido, based near to the small town of Bolgheri on the Tuscany coast.
Armit priced Sassicaia 2015 at £565 for a six bottle case, in bond, for a ‘limited period’. It’s available en primeur and will be shipped in summer 2018.Read John Stimpfig’s Sassicaia 2015 tasting note – for Decanter Premium members
Tuscany’s 2015 vintage is highly anticipated, largely propelled by a heatwave in June and July.
Tenuta San Guido has compared Sassicaia 2015 with its celebrated 1985 vintage, which has previously been named a Decanter wine legend. The 2015 is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc.
It’s early days, of course, but John Stimpfig got a sneak preview of the wine at a London tasting this week.
John Stimpfig’s report from the tasting:
2018 is a significant anniversary for Sassicaia, being exactly half a century since its first vintage burst onto the global market, back in 1968 as the first Super Tuscan.
That first vintage catapulted Sassicaia into the fine wine firmament, where it has remained ever since, gaining its own DOC in 1994.
Once again, Decanter was very privileged to meet with Tenuta San Guido’s Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta in London yesterday and taste the very latest 2015 vintage from the famed Bolgheri estate before it is released for sale.
According to Priscilla the vintage warmer than both 2014 and 2016 and provided textbook conditions for an excellent Sassicaia.
‘It was actually an easy vintage. Following a mild winter, we had heavy rain in the spring and then a hot summer with a little rain in August that refreshed the vines.
‘In September we were able to harvest perfectly ripe and healthy grapes. In many ways, the vintage was actually quite similar to the legendary 1985. Of course, it remains to be seen whether the 2015 will turn out quite as well. But naturally, we are very happy with the result.’
Armit also released the estate’s Guidalberto and Le Difese 2016 wines en primeur, at £120 and £65 respecively for a case of six bottles in bond.
Both of those wines will also be shipped in summer 2018, Armit said.See Jane Anson’s column on Sassicaia Older Sassicaia vintages tasted by Decanter
Château Franc Mayne has become the latest high profile Bordeaux winery to be sold, with French businessman Jean-Pierre Savare and his family buying control of the St-Emilion Grand Cru Classé estate.Franc Mayne is well set-up for wine tourism, but new owner also plans to invest in vineyards.
Jean-Pierre Savare, a Paris-based businessman and chairman of Oberthur Finance, has acquired the seven-hectare Château Franc Mayne on the St-Emilion plateau. It had been owned by Griet Van Malderen and Hervé Laviale since 2005.
A fee was not disclosed. It is the latest in a string of winery deals in Bordeaux, and St-Emilion specifically, over the last 12 months.
Close to Beau-Séjour Bécot or Grand Mayne, Franc Mayne’s soils are composed of limestone and clay-limestone slopes. It is 90 percent Merlot and 10 percent Cabernet Franc.
The estate had been on sale for several months, but a deal took extra time to sort out due to negotiations over whether other properties in Pomerol and Lussac should be included. Savare has bought Franc Mayne without those other properties.
He was already a minority shareholder in the estate, together with Martine Cazeneuve and the Cazeneuve family, from Château Paloumey in Haut-Médoc. Savare has asked Martine Cazeneuve to guide the direction of Franc Mayne.
He said that he was seduced by the estate’s location and highlighted opportunities for wine tourism. A bed and breakfast, the Relais de Franc Mayne, already operates on the property.
There are plans to invest in the vineyards.
‘This property is beautiful, and is in a good general condition, but it was a little asleep while waiting for its new owner,’ Cazeneuve told Decanter.com.
‘We’re going to restructure the vineyard. It will be a long-term project.’See also: St-Emilion’s year of deals – A review of 2017 by Jane Anson Franc Mayne 2016 reviewed
Does extreme cold damage vines in their dormant phase...?Frost in ChampagneFreezing vines – ask Decanter
Edward Hylton, Surrey, UK, asks: Will extreme cold events damage vines in their dormant season? I’ve been following reports about the severe weather in New York State.
Timothy E Martinson replies: Yes, extreme cold temperatures can injure grapevines – buds can even freeze.
The temperature at which this happens varies according to the grape variety and the time during dormancy.See also: How do winemakers prevent frost? – ask Decanter Just published: Bordeaux counts the cost of frost for 2017 vintage
For Vitis vinifera grapes such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir (all grown in New York State’s Finger Lakes), temperatures that can cause bud injury in early January tend to be -21°C to -23˚C.
We had significant injury in 2004, 2005, 2015 and 2016, but January lows this year have been -17°C to -20˚C, so we aren’t too worried.
During damaging temperatures, growers slice open buds to see what percentage are dead.
If more than 20% bud death is noted, growers adjust their pruning by leaving more buds to compensate.
This works as growers typically prune off 90% of dormant buds.
Other ways growers cope is to have several trunks on each vine (they renew trunks every few years) or by mounding up dirt over the graft union (‘hilling-up’) to protect scion buds so they can train up new trunks.
Timothy E Martinson is senior extension associate at the School of Integrative Plant Science’s Statewide Viticulture Extension Program in Geneva, NY. This question is taken from Decanter magazine, subscribe to Decanter here.Got a question for Decanter’s experts? Email us: email@example.com or on social media with #askDecanter. Find more wine questions answered here.
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