The opening of Hide in Mayfair will herald the arrival one of the biggest restaurant wine lists in London...Hide in Mayfair.
The restaurant, opening Tuesday 17 April, is owned by Yevgeny Chichvarkin and Tatiana Fokina of luxury wine shop Hedonism.
It has a regular wood-bound list of 450 wines but customers will have access to the full 6,500-bin Hedonism wine list via ipads at a modest mark-up of £30 a bottle.
If they choose a wine it can be delivered within approximately 12 minutes, though they can also call in the wines in advance and have them chilled or decanted for their arrival.
Although the Russian-owned shop is famous for its glitzy interior Fokina is at pains to stress the list is affordable.
‘I can’t bring myself to pay some of the prices that are currently charged in restaurants,’ she said.
‘Our aim is to make sure that on every section of the list there is something below £50. Our entry level red and white are £28 and £5 for a glass.’
There are 65 wines available by the glass, and the wine list includes a range of bottle sizes, including magnums, double magnums and half bottles, said Fokina.
Another draw will be the food which is masterminded by one of London’s most exciting chefs, Ollie Dabbous, who has been without a permanent base since his eponymous restaurant closed in July 2017.
The three floor property on Piccadilly occupies the site formerly owned by the Lebanese restaurant Fakhreldine and includes a basement bar ‘Below’ which stocks over 400 spirits and liqueurs and a vast walk-in air-conditioned cellar.
There is a casual dining room ‘Ground’ with an in-store bakery on the ground floor which will also be open for breakfast and tea and a fine dining restaurant on the first floor ‘Above’ which will serve Dabbous signature tasting menu.
The director of wine, who heads a 12 strong team of sommeliers, is Polish-born Piotr Pietras MS, formerly of Launceston Place though all the purchasing is done through Alastair Viner, head buyer at Hedonism.
Hide is at 85 Piccadilly and opens 7 days a week from Tuesday April 17th 2018.
Fiona Beckett is a Decanter contributing editor and chief restaurant reviewer.Find Decanter restaurant recommendations here
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Andrew Jefford tastes his way through a historic vertical.A landmark tasting of Daumas Gassac white wines.
Brothers Samuel, Roman, Gaël and Basile Guibert organised a 30-vintage vertical tasting of their family’s celebrated red Mas de Daumas Gassac back in 2014. I wrote (in the June 2014 issue of Decanter) that the wines were “sui generis: the sensorial offspring not merely of a place, but of a historical moment, of a fierce will and of a curious, non-conformist vision.” The vision was that of their father, Aimé Guibert, who was present at the tasting; he died in 2016.
Mas de Daumas fans, though, will know that there is also a white wine, and a little earlier this year the family repeated the exercise with those whites. If the reds are sui generis, though, how does one accurately convey the utter originality of the whites? They’re sui generis squared.
When Aime Guibert presented the first vintage of his red wine to the world in 1978, it came groomed with a logic and an argument, based on the championing of its soil by celebrated Bordeaux geologist Henri Enjalbert, and with its core of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, vinified according to the tenets of Bordeaux’s greatest late C20 oenologist, Emile Peynaud. Yes, it was an ambitous Languedoc baby — but it was born under a Médocain star.
The white Mas de Daumas, by contrast, is perhaps best seen as a kind of liquid novel: a pure work of the imagination rendered physical and poured into bottles rather than across paper pages. Here’s the story.
Peynaud was “totally against the idea,” recalls Samuel Guibert. “He said to my Dad, ‘You’ve managed a Grand Cru for your red. Stay there. You don’t need to go and do a white as well. The Languedoc’s not a land for whites.’”
Guibert held his ground. He started planting white varieties in 1976, and the first white wine was released a decade later. “My Dad was convinced that Languedoc could produce wine with sufficient freshness and acidity, in the cooler climate of the Gassac valley.” The vineyards are 250-500m above sea level, remember, with most of the white varieties planted above 300m.
He initially planted Chardonnay (cuttings from Comte Lafon), Viognier (cuttings from Georges Vernay, whom he greatly admired) and Muscat (Petit Grain to begin with, but later Ottonel and d’Alexandrie, too).
Guibert and his wife Véronique de la Vaissière loved to travel, though, and wherever they went, they brought back a few cuttings of other vines and planted them. The red wine is made from around 30 per cent of ‘other’ grape varieties, and the white, too, has copious exotic genes.
The difference is that in the white wine, two of those ‘other varieties’, Petit Manseng (cuttings from Charles Hours) and Chenin Blanc (cutting from Huët), saw their presence gradually amplified. “As the existing vineyard aged,” Samuel remembers, “the wines gained complexity but lost freshness and acidity. That was where Petit Manseng and Chenin Blanc came in. They are an amazing tool to preserve that freshness.” Petit Manseng has been as high as 39 per cent of the blend (in 2004) and Chenin Blanc up to 15 per cent (in 2015).
The ‘other varieties’, meanwhile, include — in alphabetical order — Albariño, Amigne, Bourboulenc, Falanghina, Fiano, Grechetto, Gros Manseng, Khondorni, Marsanne, Neheleschol, Petit Courbu, Petite Arvine, Roussanne, Sémillon, Sercial and Tchilar. (Khondorni and Tchilar are not listed in Wine Grapes, but are said to have been brought back from Armenia by Aimé Guibert.) In recent years, the percentage of these lesser varieties has varied between 11 per cent and 17 per cent.
It’s not possible with a patchwork of varieties to pick every one “at perfect maturity”, so some element of mixed ripeness has always been one of the keys to the character of the red Mas de Daumas Gassac.
This is even more true of the whites, as Samuel Guibert confirmed. “Absolutely. The Chardonnay and the Viognier usually come in slightly overripe, at 14 per cent or 14.5 per cent abv, whereas the Chenin Blanc, the Petite Arvine and the Sercial come in at 12 per cent abv. It’s a patchwork not just of grape varieties but also of acidity and alcohol levels. The Petit Manseng brings a huge amount of acidity whereas the Viognier is very low in acidity. They all bring something different. That’s what we are looking for.” All of the different varieties are picked by vineyard zone within a 10-day period.
White Mas de Daumas Gassac, therefore, is a test case for those who are interested in the sensorial effects of mixed ripeness on a finished wine. It’s generally low pH (never higher than 3.35 since 2004) and has high acidity (6.3 g/l measured as tartaric in 2017, for example; even in the hot vintage of 2003 it measured 5 g/l).
That’s not all. Another originality is that it is a ‘dry’ wine … rounded out with some residual sugar. “It’s a deliberate strategy,” confirms Samuel. Why? “In some of the early vintages, when we made the wines fully dry, there was a bitterness which was not to our liking.” As the Guiberts retain this residual sugar by chilling the wine towards the end of fermentation, the level has varied considerably: sometimes fermentations have stopped swiftly leaving ample sugar, but on other occasions the yeasts have been more tenacious and the sugars have continued to erode before fermentation stops.
The 1996 vintage was sweetest with 16 g/l while the 2013-2015 trio have between 11.6 and 12.2 g/l; the aim is to fix sugars at 5g-6g for the future. There was some use of oak up until 1999, but no longer.
The final singularity is the use of copious skin contact. “This was a concept invented by my Dad based on what he was already doing for the reds.” At harvest, the grapes are destemmed and cooled, and then everything undergoes a three- to seven-day maceration period with rack and return and juice blending three times a day … before pressing and fermentation, which is cool (14C to 22C). Orange-wine fans shouldn’t get too excited: as the must is chilled and in the aqueous rather than the alcoholic phase, what’s being extracted is principally aromatics rather than tannins. After fermentation, the wines rest in steel and are bottled at around the six-month point. (Prior to 2000, they were lightly wooded.)
That’s Aimé Guibert’s novel written in white wine, still faithfully duplicated (with the odd tweak) by his sons — and still very popular (the mailing-list release price of the white is exactly the same as that of the red, at around 35 euros a bottle). My five top tasting notes from among the whites are given below, but subscribers to Decanter Premium can hook up with tasting notes for all 22 of the vintages — as well as specially written notes for recent vintages of the red wine (2010 to 2016 inclusive, with a peek at a barrel-sample of the 2017).Tasting Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc
A quick summary? Mas de Daumas white is aromatically complex, vivacious and nuanced. In general, it comes across as more ‘northern’ and less ‘southern’ than the Languedoc location would suggest. Look out for orchard fruits (both temperate and tropical), a zesty balance in the mouth and a well-rounded finish. Its proportions, like those of its red sibling, can often surprise with their delicate classicism: these are in no sense rich, warm or ‘big’ wines, but rather shapely and fresh, with a lively drinking balance.Compare all Daumas Gassac white wine tasting notes and ratings here Five to try
Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc, IGP St Guilhem-le-Désert Cité d’Aniane 2017
The 2017 is a slightly lighter, dryer and more acidic wine than the 2016, and for the time being the scents aren’t as refined and intricate as in 2016. With the highest percentage of Petit Manseng for a decade, though, it’s no surprise that the palate has a drama and thrust unrivalled in recent years, with fine orchard fruit and mango aromas to help cover the green-apple drive. Glycerol and a little creamy warmth beckon at the end of this high-energy vintage. 92 (13.50%)
Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc, IGP St Guilhem-le-Désert Cité d’Aniane 2016
Like its 2017 sibling, the 2016 Mas de Daumas Gassac is a great success. This pale gold wine has pretty scents in which blossom and floral notes (almond, acacia, mimosa) have the upper hand over fruit for the time being. On the palate, the wine is rich yet pretty and fresh, too, with slightly less insistent acidity than its younger sibling (there’s 24 per cent Petit Manseng here compared to 33 per cent in 2017). That doesn’t mean any shortage of fruit, though; it’s just framed in a kind of nougatine richness in which the 6.2 g/l of residual sugar sits very happily. Fine flavour architecture marks this very complete wine. 93 (14.00%)
Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault 2008
At around the ten-year mark, Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc seems to flip from youth to maturity, acquiring notably deeper colours (this is old gold), modulated fruit flavours and elements of oxidative complexity. The vivacious 2008 (with its 34 per cent Viognier, 29 per cent Petit Manseng, 18 per cent Chardonnay and 11 per cent mixed varieties) has sweet apple and hay-loft scents into which a creamy nuttiness is beginning to steal. This vintage had just 6.7 g/l of residual sugar, and is still singing with mixed fruits (apple, grape, greengage, apricot and peach), but in addition to that full-frontal zing there is plenty of drive and follow-through, and a vinous finish. Great as an aperitif which could cope with first-course dishes, too. 93 (13.05%)
Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault 1996
Yes, this was the sweetest Mas de Daumas Blanc ever (16 g/l), but the fact that it has aged so well is testament to the success of the strategy. Together with the (disappointing) 1992, the 1996 was the deepest coloured wine in the vertical tasting: Russian gold with amber glints. The aromas are autumnal: stored attic fruits, with a weight of fallen leaf and a toffee-apple tang. In the mouth, the wine is ample, mellow and richly fruited without being weighty or torpid. Crushed peach, apple, plum, pineapple, mango and guava: they’re all in here somewhere in this intensely fruity white. High acidity helps diffuse and absorb the sweetness. I wouldn’t keep it any longer but well-stored bottles should be showing attractively just now. 93 (12.75%)
Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault 1989
Unquestionably the finest wine from the first decade of this three-decade vertical, the 1989 was still in good shape, with a surprising precision, clarity and sweet lift to it. It’s old gold in colour, with harmonious aromas which bring together creamy peach, lemon-verbena freshness and the sweet exoticism of pineapple; there’s little nuttiness here, by contrast. On the palate, it’s both vivid and forthright, its poised acidity sustained and packed with fruit flavour and nuance, but with the harmony of maturity in evidence, too. A long, refined finish completes the picture. 93 (13.15%)Read more Andrew Jefford columns on Decanter.com
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Christelle Guibert visits Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle Reserve cellar to taste their latest releases.
Stepping into Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle Reserve cellar you would be forgiven for thinking you’d wandered onto the set of the latest James Bond film by mistake.
Opened in 2012 to coincide with Laurent-Perrier’s bicentenary, the vat room and state-of-the-art tasting area with subdued lighting setting off the slick black, grey and chromes, strike a note of serious sophistication with just a hint of Bond villain menace.
This slick modernism is combined with plenty of reminders of the great house’s past. Vintage glass bottles, pictures and other memorabilia adorn the walls of the old brick cellars which have been tunneled out of clay.
The Champagne house, known as Veuve Laurent-Perrier, was founded in 1812 and bought by Marie-Louise Lanson de Nonancourt in 1939. She looked after the business with her two sons and in 1945 Bernard de Nonancourt was named CEO. Today, the house is run by the two daughters and includes 150 hectares of their own vineyards and 1250 hectares under contract with loyal growers.
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When it comes to eating out, Barcelona puts on a spectacular show, directed by a new wave chefs who are pushing the bounds of Catalan cuisine. See our guide to the city’s top restaurants, chosen by local wine producers…Uncover Barcelona's hidden tapas gems and avant-garde Catalan cuisine... Credit: Michael Abid / AlamyTop restaurants in Barcelona — recommended by the producers at Decanter’s Spain & Portugal Fine Wine Encounter 2018
Restaurants recommended by Pamela Anzano, from Cava producer Gramona:Disfrutar
Located in the trendy and sprawling L’Esquerra de l’Eixample neighbourhood, the Disfrutar restaurant earned itself two stars in the Michelin Guide 2018.
Following on from its successful sister restaurant Compartir meaning ‘to share’, Disfrutar, ’to enjoy’, captures a similar sense of haut Catalan cuisine paired with laid-back service and hands-on chefs — Mateu Casañas, Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch. The trio cut their teeth at the world-famous elBulli restaurant, before teaming up to create their own restaurants.
On the way to your table, linger by the open kitchen to see the team’s skills in action. There are three tasting menus to choose from, but you won’t find the dishes listed on the website as the chefs believe an element of surprise is key. Book nowTickets
The curiously named Tickets is the brainchild of chef Albert Adrià, little brother of Ferran Adrià, of elBulli restaurant fame. Although his name carries a little less pomp than his brother, Albert fuels his menus with the same innovation — transforming several simple bar counters into a Michelin-starred destination.
The atmosphere is leisurely and the cooking is full of experimentation and a sense of fun — including dishes like the ‘mini airbag’ of manchego cheese foam with caviar, ‘crunchy suckling pig taco’, plus ‘mille-feuilles’ made with seaweed and sea urchins. To stave off thirst, Tickets has two sommeliers as well as a mixologist. Book nowLa Barra de Abellán
After lunchtime or evening stroll along Sant Sebastià beach, head over La Barra de Abellán, overlooking the harbour side of the Barceloneta peninsula. Here you’ll find fresh seafood delicacies including razor clams, oysters, cockles, eels, sea urchins, squid lobsters and red prawns — a specialty of Barceloneta. If you want something from dry land, there’s Wagyu steak on offer.
It’s named after its owner, contemporary chef Carles Abellán, who’s also behind other Barcelona favourites like Suculent (Catalan spelling) and Bravo, which you’ll find in the Hotel W. Book nowSEE ALSO: Dos Palillos
Dos Palillos, or ‘two chopsticks’, is a Michelin-starred restaurant near Las Ramblas, which fuses local Catalan ingredients with Asian-style cooking — focusing on the traditions of Japan, China and Southeast Asia.
The link between the two seemingly dissonant cuisines is the shared idea of using basic utensils to enjoy food — chopsticks in Asia and the little wooden sticks used to spear tapas in Spain.
At the helm is Albert Raurich, a Barcelona-born chef who spent 11 years honing his skills at elBulli. Sommelier Tamae Imachi is on hand to help create interesting wine or saké pairings.
There are a few different dining options: slide your way to the counter by the entrance for casual à carte options, no reservations needed. Or book a spot further inside, where you can sample the extensive tasting menus. On warm afternoons and balmy evenings, there’s also the lantern-lit outdoor terrace.
If you can’t get a table, try its sister restaurant, Dos Pebrots, which is just round the corner and also comes highly recommended. Book nowHoja Santa
The name Hoja Santa, or ‘sacred leaf’, harks back to a Mexican adventure involving its founders — chefs Albert Adrià and Paco Méndez, in which they became inspired by the Oaxaca leaf and its role in tamales and mole sauces.
Together they created this Mexican Michelin-starred restaurant in the up-and-coming Sant Antoni, neighbourhood near the south of the city.
There are a choice of two tasting menus, ‘Tenoch’ and ‘Pacific’, with the option of adding beverage pairings. Both are a heady mix of pre-Hispanic and Catalan cooking traditions, including dishes such as pickled nopales (cacti), local red prawns with macadamia mole and fava bean encremada. Book now
Restaurants recommended by Lucas Gailhac, brand amabassador for Familia Torres:ABaC
Part of a five-star boutique hotel to the north of the city, ABaC holds three Michelin stars and is led by Barcelona-born chef Jordi Cruz, a judge on Master Chef Spain.
It was noted by Michelin inspectors for its excellent wine list and you can even select your wine directly from the 1000-bin bodega. Visiting the kitchen is also encouraged and there’s a lit walkway for curious guests.
Reserve a seat outside on the garden terrace or in one of the delicately decorated dining rooms. There are two tasting menus to choose from: ‘Our Tradition’ and ‘Our Avant-Garde’. Menus highlights include toasted pine nut ice cream, tuna marrow, Bloody Mary macaroons and floral ice eggs. Book nowMoments
Walk through the hotel lobby in the Barcelona Mandarin Oriental, well-positioned on the Passeig de Gràcia, and you’ll reach its two-Michelin-star restaurant, Moments.
You can order à la carte or opt for the seasonally changing tasting menu, which focuses on culinary ‘ecosystems’ — including dishes daringly entitled ‘swamp’, ‘desert’, ‘tundra’ and even ‘aphotic abyssal’ (ask staff for full explanations).
Michelin inspectors noted its ‘particularly interesting wine list’, and ‘personalised’ wine pairing is available with the tasting menu, for an additional fee.
There’s a private chef’s table for serious gourmands, with just 15 seats and is only separated from the kitchen by a broad pane of coloured glass.
The chefs are the renowned mother-and-son team Carme Ruscalleda and Raül Balam. If you enjoy Moments, you can visit Ruscalleda’s other restaurant Sant Pau, located between Barcelona and Girona, which holds three Michelin stars. Book nowCeller de Can Roca
Although not technically in the city, Barcelona’s proximity to this restaurant in nearby Girona makes it worth a special trip. Why? It’s twice been ranked as the number one restaurant in the world, and currently holds no less than three Michelin stars.
Celler de Can Roca’s success comes down to the dynamism of the three Roca brothers, each with his own area of creative expertise. The eldest, Joan, is the head chef and youngest, Jordi, is the pastry chef, together they concoct the seven-course Classic and 14-course Festival menus.
But true oenophiles should make themselves known to middle brother Josep, the sommelier, who provides a wine list that weighs in like an encyclopaedia.
His ‘unique wine cellar with different sensory areas’ received high praise from the Michelin inspectors. Try and wangle a tour if you can, or at least plumb his wine knowledge for unexpected pairings.
The Roca brothers’ three-sided restaurant vision manifests itself in the triangular glass design of their restaurant, surrounding an inner garden. Book nowDos Cielos
For a meal with a view, there are few places to match the heights of Dos Cielos, located on the 24th floor of the five-star Meliá hotel. Its glass walls offer a panoramic picture of the mountains, sea and city skyline. There’s also a roof terrace if you’d prefer to eat alfresco.
Brothers Javier and Sergio Torres have created its menu of market-fresh ingredients, which won two stars in The Michelin Guide 2018 — inspectors also complimented its excellent 200-bin wine list and ‘designer setting’. For bookings call +34 93 367 20 70Lasarte
Basque chef Martín Berasategui is well known for his many Michelin stars, eight in total, of which his flagship restaurant Lasarte holds three.
The restaurant, on the ground floor of the Monument Hotel, was recently redesigned by a team of architects and it’s now filled with silvery lighting and an undulating ceiling. There’s a special chef’s table that seats eight, positioned for close observation of the kitchen action.
Choose from the à la carte menu, or the lavish 12-course tasting option, with wine pairing available from sommelier Marc Pinto. The wine list includes several hundred wines to choose from and was deemed ‘particularly interesting’ by the Michelin inspectors. Book nowMore wine travel ideas:
- Ten of the best restaurants in Valencia for wine lovers
- Luxury travel: Spain & Portugal wine tour ideas
- Ten of the best restaurants in San Sebastián
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Fortification allows wines to travel, keep and age for decades, sometimes centuries, but how much do you know about the different styles in this category? Test your knowledge with our fortified wine quiz....Barrels of Tawny Port Start the fortified wine quiz below
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Aldo Fiordelli tastes Bertani Amarone, including the first vintage, 1958...Drying the grapes at Bertani. Six vintages of Bertani wines
The ‘keeper of traditions’ is often an abused metaphor in the wine business.
Bertani winery in Valpolicella, on the other hand, is literally a gatekeeper of Amarone for at least two reasons: its classic unchanged style over decades and its impressive 120,000-bottle stock from 1958 to 2009.
The post Tasting Amarone history: Six vintages of Bertani back to 1958 appeared first on Decanter.
When, a decade and a half ago, I wrote The New France, I found myself repeatedly using one phrase in chapter after chapter: ‘non-interventionism’. Which was strange: it has no French equivalent. I wouldn’t even know how to translate it into French.Non-interventionism should not mean non-winemaking
Books are written for their readers, which in this case meant English-language wine lovers and wine-creators. France was out of favour at the time, criticised for its legislative rigidity and qualitative inconsistency. The southern hemisphere and California, by contrast, were in the ascendant, and their ‘reliable’ and sometimes interventionist wines widely acclaimed. But everyone in both hemispheres was claiming that they wanted to make terroir wine. That was, quite correctly, seen as the future of fine wine.
I could see an anomaly – so my use of ‘non-interventionism’ was to underline a fundamental truth of terroir, one so widely accepted in France that no one ever bothered to mention it. Which is this: if you want to make a ‘wine of place’, you have to respect the place and what it delivers to you in terms of raw materials. Place, variety and season are all inscribed in the chemical constituents of the must. Intervene and adjust them if you wish, but do so knowing that you will efface the sense of place and season as a consequence.
A decade and a half later this is widely understood. If I was writing the book again, I doubt that I’d even mention this rather awkward phrase. But we’ve all gone much further now – beyond where the buses stop, and on into the dark forests and craggy uplands of ‘natural’ wine. Sometimes the sun sweeps across the uplands, to thrilling effect; sometimes the forests are drenched in rain, and are thoroughly miserable. The natural wine premise is absolute non-interventionism: nature in all its glory.Comment: The rise of natural wine
There is, though, another anomaly here, and it’s one that Australia’s Brian Croser has recently pointed out: non-interventionism should not mean non-winemaking. Nature needs help to be glorious. The analogy of winemaker-as-midwife is apt. If midwives do nothing and let nature take its unimpeded course, the levels of death in childbirth will soar to tragic effect. Fundamentalist ‘non-interventionism’ is, like all other forms of fundamentalism, a disaster.
‘Paradoxically,’ says Croser, ‘it takes a high degree of knowledge, a power of informed observation and large capital investment to be truly and successfully “non-interventionist” in growing grapes and making fine wine.’ He’s right – though smaller wine-growers might hope to replicate the large capital investment with unreasonable doses of hard work.
How about coming up with a definition of successful non-interventionism? The two key points would be, as Croser suggests, ‘knowledge’ and ‘observation’. Growers need knowledge to understand what is happening in a vineyard or a fermenting tank at every moment, which in turn implies constant scrutiny. A wine-grower is on sentry duty from budbreak to bottling, and you can never have enough knowledge or experience to inform what you are observing. Non-interventionist winemaking means proactive inactivity: maximum respect for raw materials combined with minimum tolerance of deviations.
To harvest the very best grapes that place and season permit, at the perfect cusp of ripeness, will often mean a summer of incessant work. To ferment the juice of those grapes in a limpid and translucent manner means close-focus analysis, patience, spotless hygiene, restrained oak use, and often the sage use of sulphur in order to avert the chronic spoilage or homogenising faults that will efface terroir even more comprehensively than winemaking adjustments.
It’s our great good fortune as drinkers that almost every fine wine from both hemispheres is now made in this way. Hipster wines, by contrast, are often proudly confrontational; for you to decide if they’re delivering purity and profundity, or abusing your trust. Like winemakers, drinkers too need to be on sentry duty, to call out fundamentalism for what it is: the perversion of a high ideal.
This column was first published in the Decanter magazine May 2018 issue. Join Decanter Premium to get more Decanter magazine articles online.
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What is the spirit level of the finished product...?How much of the finished product is spirit?How much of a fortified wine is spirit?
Charles Cook, London asks: How much of the finished product is spirit (as opposed to the actual wine) in fortified wines?
Sally Easton replies: When making fortified wine – such as Port, Sherry or vin doux naturel (VDN) – wine is ‘fortified’ with spirit.
In Sherry, Madeira, VDNs and Australia’s Rutherglen Muscats and Topaques, no flavour from the spirit is wanted in the wine, so highly rectified, neutral, grape spirit of about 95% alcohol by volume is used (rectification is the process of repeated distillation to remove flavour compounds).
This is especially important in fortified wines that extol the characters of the grape variety, such as the Muscat-based VDNs of the Rhône, Languedoc and Roussillon. Here, about 10% of the finished wine comprises spirit.
Port is the exception to this highly rectified rule. An integral part of Port’s constitution is the complex, spirit-derived notes that come from fortifying with grape spirit at 77% abv.
In Port, about 20% of the finished product comprises spirit.
Whatever the level of rectification, in all fortified wines, the quality level of the spirit used plays an important role in the overall quality of the finished wine.
Sally Easton MW is author of Vines and Vinification (WSET, £25)
This question first appeared in the May 2018 issue of Decanter magazine, subscribe to Decanter here.To get your question answered, email us: email@example.com or on social media with #askDecanter
More wine questions answered here
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An exclusive report, with tasting notes, on the Languedoc-Roussillon wine project of Anne Gros and Jean-Paul Tollot.Tasting Gros-Tollot wines
Limestone-clay and marl soils at an elevation well above 200 metres – a familiar combination for wine-growers from the esteemed terroirs of Burgundy.
But we’re down in Languedoc – a long way, in all senses, from the home of two – Anne Gros of the Vosne-Romanée dynasty and her partner (in both senses) Jean-Paul Tollot of the Chorey-Lès-Beaune family – who, a decade ago, took on a secluded estate in the north-eastern reaches of the Minervois appellation.See more exclusive articles for Premium members
The post From Burgundy to Languedoc: Anne Gros in Minervois appeared first on Decanter.
Read Jane Anson's initial report on the key emerging characteristics of the Bordeaux 2017 vintage, and which areas look set to come out on top - currently available exclusively to Decanter Premium members.
Full tasting notes and ratings on hundreds of Bordeaux primeur wines will be published later this month.
So has Bordeaux 2017 given us the best ‘7 vintage’ wines since 1947? Well, based on the en primeur tastings, it’s not immediately obvious how to get the shape and feel of 2017, because there is no one style or character.
This was a difficult vintage for growers, and that is also true for tasters – not just those of us tasting en primeur right now, but for you guys when deciding what to buy.
Everybody has a different experience this year and even the official Bordeaux oenology report says it would be an ‘illusion’ to think it can cover each individual situation in its annual summing up.
This is a year to taste, to think about the wines, and to spend time over your choices, because this is the kind of vintage where you will find some over-performing wines that should price within the overall context of a ‘challenging year’.
Decanter Premium members will get exclusive access to Jane Anson’s tasting notes and scores for Bordeaux 2017 vintage barrel samples, to be published later this month.
Follow Jane Anson on Twitter @newbordeauxSee also:
It’s 110 years since the early pioneers of the Brajkovich family arrived in New Zealand from Croatia. Peter Richards MW spent some time with the family to uncover the secrets of growing world-class Chardonnay.
This profile has been published online for Decanter Premium members and includes recommendations on top Kumeu river wines to try.
Location Kumeu, Auckland, New Zealand; founded in 1944
Owners Brajkovich family
Area 30ha own vineyards plus 10ha contract
Soils Mainly clay over a sandstone base
Production 250,000 bottles
Chardonnay cuvées Village, Estate, Coddington, Hunting Hill, Maté’s Vineyard
Pronunciation Br-eye-ko-vitch (Brajkovich), Cue-Mew (Kumeu), Matty (Maté)
We are standing overlooking the iconic Maté’s and Hunting Hill vineyards under a scented, sultry Auckland sky.
Milan Brajkovich muses: ‘We’ve always just made wines we like to drink. New World wines with an Old World twist, for a fair price. We focus on what we do best: Chardonnay. Then we’ve gone out and found enough people who share our view. It’s taken a while, but it’s worked.’
Quinta do Noval has joined Symington Family Estates in declaring the highly regarded Port 2016 vintage as expectations grow for a first general declaration since 2011.Credit: Quinta do Noval.
Quinta do Noval said this week that it was declaring its namesake vintage Port 2016 and also its Nacional vintage Port 2016.
Its move follows a widespread declaration by Symington Family Estates across all of its houses, including Cockburn’s, Dow’s, Graham’s and Warre’s, and will heighten anticipation around the Port 2016 vintage.
‘2016 is likely to be only the fourth fully declared vintage since 2000 and the first since the well received 2011s,’ said Richard Mayson, Port expert, author and regional chair for Port and Madeira at the Decanter World Wine Awards.
‘It is clearly an exceptional year when many growers took great risk to pick at the right time with some of the best grapes being harvested well into October,’ said Mayson.
Traditionally, Port houses declare a vintage on or around 23 April, which is St George’s Day in England; reflecting the country’s historical links to the Port industry.
Christian Seely, MD of Quinta do Noval, said of the 2016 declaration at his estate, ‘The individual wines were wonderful, and we are sure that the final blend for our 2016 will be one of the great historic Vintage Ports of Quinta do Noval.’
Some individual houses, such as Cockburn, declared their 2015 Port vintage, which was also warmly received by many producers and critics. Noval also declared a portion of its 2015 vintage.
But, several producers decided to hold back for a 2016 crop that was potentially even better.
‘The two years have clearly left the Port shippers with something of a dilemma,’ Mayson said.
Symington said that the 2016 vintage was wetter than normal, but this was countered by the hot Douro summer. The damp weather persisted through May, but was back to normal in June with August being particularly hot.
Extra reporting on Symington by Ellie Douglas.
At least one Chinese merchant has already reported holding back a shipment of Napa wine following China's imposition of tariffs in a trade war with the US, as traders on both sides hope for a swift resolution. Reporting by Emily Xie in Shanghai and Chris Mercer in London.
China imposed an extra 15% tariff on US wine imports from 2 April, as part of punitive measures against more than 100 American-made products in retaliation for president Trump signing restrictions on Chinese steel shipments.
‘These tariffs put our products at a price disadvantage and we urge swift resolution of this issue before long-term disruptions are felt,’ said Robert Koch, the president and CEO of the California Wine Institute.
Tariffs on US wine imports in China have risen from 48.2% to 67.7%, the Institute said.
That’s particularly galling at a time when Australia is moving towards tariff-free access to China, set to happen in 2019, and Chile and New Zealand already have the benefits of free-trade deals there.
‘Recently, we called off a 40-foot shipping container [of wine] from Napa Valley,’ said Qiang Huang, sales director of Napa Reserve Fine Wines Ltd, a leading supplier of California wines in China.
‘We also have 500 cases of undeclared wines in the supervision warehouse in the Shanghai bonded [free trade] zone,’ Qiang Huang told Decanter.com. ‘The tariff rate adjustment will directly affect this batch of wines.
‘Since this trade war was caused by the political contest between China and the United States, as a wine importer, there is really little we can do except wait for a miracle.’
The hope is that it is only a short-term dispute, Qiang Huang added. ‘I am more optimistic about the [longer term] future prospects of American Napa Valley fine wines in the Chinese market.’
Alberto Fernández, managing partner of Torres China, which represents wineries include Ste Michelle Estates, Coppola Winery and Marimar Estate, said that the US was still only small part of the Chinese wine market and so the impact may not be immediately clear.
But, he told Decanter.com that extra tariffs could hurt brand building efforts.
‘Those duties increases will turn into wines costing a few RMB more to buyers, and in the on-trade [that means it] will be hard to find American wines by the glass as a result. [That is] not a good thing as brands are built there.’
He said that American wines could also suffer from anti-US sentiment on social media channels such as WeChat and Weibo, which are important drivers for online sales in China.
Other observers have argued that, at the top end of the market, wealthy Chinese buyers would be unlikely to be influenced by relatively small increases to bottle prices.
‘We will continue to pursue our marketing initiatives in China with confidence that the popularity of California wines will continue to grow,’ said Koch of the California Wine Institute.
The value of US wine exports to China alone have increased by 450% in the past decade, the Institute said.
What is a field blend, and how does it impact the taste of your wine...?Does it change the taste?Does a ‘field blend’ affect taste? – ask Decanter
Geoff Grady, London W8 asks: Do you get the same result (in terms of taste, complexity, integration etc) in a wine made from a field blend as one produced either by co-fermentation or from blending base wines?
Dirceu Vianna Junior MW replies: I recall a blending session at Bordeaux University years ago with the late Denis Dubourdieu, which left no doubt that, when skilfully done, the blending of base wines gives the finished wine another dimension (more than the sum of its parts), including better texture and added complexity – though it is often possible to pick out the characters of an individual variety.See also: Understanding wine blends – the basics
Co-fermentation, in simple terms, is the practice of fermenting two or more grape varieties together. In my experience, it results in wines that are better integrated and enriched in texture much earlier in their life.
A field blend is similar to co-fermentation in terms of the winemaking process, although the grapes themselves originate from the same parcel of vineyard.
The wines tend to express their sense of place beautifully, as well as showing better integration and more complexity than if it were a varietal wine from the same vineyard.
If you wish to experience this yourself, try comparing two reds from Quinta do Crasto in Portugal’s Douro region from the same vintage: Maria Teresa 2013 (£115 a bottle from Great Western Wine – pricey but worth it), which is a field blend from vines more than 100 years old, with the winery’s Douro Superior 2013 (£14.95 from Great Western Wine), made from the blending of base wines from different vineyards.
Dirceu Vianna Junior MW is a wine consultant, educator, author and judge.
This question first appeared in the May 2018 issue of Decanter magazine, subscribe to Decanter here.To get your question answered, email us: firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media with #askDecanter
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Château de Lagorce, an AOC Bordeaux château, has become the latest to be bought by Chinese investors.Château de Lagorce
Vineyards Bordeaux, affiliated to Christie’s International Real Estate, has announced the sale of Château de Lagorce to Chinese wine distribution company, SCEA Degore, for an undisclosed amount.
The property, located in Targon, has a total area of approximately 68.73ha and approximately 43.32 ha of vines. The sale also includes the stock from the Château.
The property had been with the Mazeau family since 1928, and the seller, Mr.Benjamin Mazeau, inherited it from his mother in 1985.
‘I am very attached to this property having spent my whole life here,’ said Mazeau.
‘I am pleased that my existing team will continue to look after Château de Lagorce with an excellent new director and I will be assisting in this transition over the coming months.’
Mr. Lin, director of investments for SCEA Degore, said that the group planned to continue to distribute the wines to existing clients, as well as across its distirbution network in in China.China and Bordeaux
In September 2017, it was estimated that around 160 Bordeaux châteaux were Chinese owned.
For this year’s Bordeaux en primeur week, China is once again providing the highest number of visitors.
Michaela Morris explores the essence of the Ravera cru with Elvio Cogno owner Valter Fissore and a tasting of vintages from 2004 to 2012, published online exclusively for Decanter Premium members.The Elvio Cogno property, directly overlooking its Ravera vines.
After a 30-year partnership with the Marcarini estate in La Morra, Elvio Cogno purchased the 300-year-old Cascina Nuova property in Ravera, Novello – the town where he grew up – in 1990.Related content:
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Bordeaux 2017 is a 'very approachable' vintage, even though many wines might not reach the heights of 2015 and 2016, and most estates are expected to price their wines 'sensibly', the president of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux has said as thousands of visitors arrive in the region for the annual en primeur tastings.Thousands of tasters will be descending on Bordeaux to taste the new vintage.
Olivier Bernard was positively bullish at the UGC press dinner on Monday evening (9 April), the traditional starting point for Bordeaux en primeur week and where the UGC president sets out his views on the latest vintage in estate cellars; before thousands of critics taste through hundreds of barrel samples to make their own judgement.
Bordeaux 2017 will be remembered for fierce frost that ravaged vineyards, particularly on the Right Bank and southern areas, and caused the region to report an historically low harvest. However, that is not the whole story; and flowering was good for the vines that survived – as Bordeaux university’s oenology unit – the ISVV – said in its official vintage report.
‘2017 is a lovely fresh and classical Bordeaux vintage for the reds,’ said Bernard at last night’s dinner, held at Château Kirwan in Margaux.
‘Given the weather patterns in 2017, we might have expected some green Cabernet Sauvignon flavours in the wines. But when you taste the wines, there is no green expression. Instead, the wines are showing very good ripeness levels.’
The ISVV has previously pointed out that Merlot struggled for ripeness a little more in some areas, due to its earlier ripening characteristics.
‘Of course, I am not trying to say that 2017 is at the same quality level as 2015 and 2016,’ said Bernard.
‘Both the quality and the quantity of wine produced are lower. But it is still a very lovely and very approachable vintage to drink. And this is not easy to do. 20 years ago, Bordeaux would never have been able to produce such quality.’
Regarding prices, Bernard believes that ex-château release prices should come down from 2015 and 2016 levels.
‘If you are a wine lover, there is no reason to pay the same price as 15 or 16. I think most châteaux will price their wines sensibly in order to sell what they put on the market.’
Bernard also said that wineries were expecting more visitors to this year’s en primeur week. ‘Last year, we had 6,400 visitors. This year, in 2018, we expect 6,700 – a 5% increase. This is also the third increase in numbers in the last three years.’
Breaking down the numbers, Bernard noted that China is once again providing the most visitors to Bordeaux (again, for the third year running.) Second is the UK, followed by Switzerland, Germany and the USA.
‘What we can also see is that this week is not just an opportunity to taste wine. The primeurs tastings are now an important international rendez-vous where people are coming from all over the world to do business.’
Bernard added that the UGC now has 135 châteaux and estates. This follows the latest addition of two new members – Château Valandraud in St-Emilion and Château Rouget in Pomerol.
He said that many châteaux are asking to become members and the UGC ‘va bien’.
Editing by Chris Mercer
Jane Anson is tasting hundreds of Bordeaux 2017 barrel samples for Decanter and her report will be available exclusively for Decanter Premium members later this month.
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Symington Family Estates have decided to declare 2016 as a vintage year for Port, for all of their companies.
This is the fourth declaration since the turn of the century that includes all of the Symington Port stable, which include Cockburn’s, Dow’s, Graham’s and Warre’s.
It is also the first for all the Symington companies since the highly-acclaimed 2011 vintage – which many were finding a difficult vintage to follow.
In recent years, some of the individual houses have declared vintages, such as Cockburn’s for 2015.
The 2016 vintage was wetter than normal, but this was countered by the hot Douro summer. The damp weather persisted through May, but was back to normal in June with August being particularly hot.
According to the company ‘Charles Symington, head-winemaker, delayed harvesting until the 19th September and the best Touriga Nacional was not harvested until the 26th, and the late-ripening Touriga Franca only during the first ten days of October.’
This later ripening cycle and slow maturation of the grapes helped the ‘impressive structure and balance, with Baumés, acidity, tannins and colour in rare and perfect alignment,’ the company said in a statement.
It also said it was a year ‘to read the signs and take risks’.
All of the vintage Ports were made in small ‘lagar’ wineries, and using the traditional treading method. The grapes are all from Symington Quinta vineyards.Beyond Port
Crisis-hit drinks group Conviviality has sold its retail division, including the Bargain Booze and Wine Rack chains, to grocery wholesaler Bestway in a £7.25m deal.
The sale was concluded late on Friday night by administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), appointed by the Conviviality board to run Conviviality Retail, and continues the break-up of the company following the sale of drinks suppliers Matthew Clark and Bibendum to Magners cider owner C&C Group last week.
Creditors to Conviviality’s retail businesses are expected to be out of pocket after the company admitted the companies were ‘not expected to have sufficient assets to satisfy all their liabilities’.
PwC partner Matthew Callaghan said: ‘This deal safeguards the jobs of more than 2,000 employees, ensures franchisees have the ability to continue to trade and creates some much-needed stability for business customers and the sector in general.’
The Conviviality Retail business comprises more than 800 stores under the Bargain Booze, Select Convenience, Wine Rack and Central Convenience banners, which together reported £378m in gross revenues and £14.3m in adjusted earnings in the year to 30 April 2017.
The Bestway business includes Bestway Wholesale, the largest independent wholesaler in the UK, more than 1,100 convenience stores trading as Best-one, and the Well pharmacy chain.
The piecemeal sale of Conviviality’s businesses was prompted by a deepening crisis which began with profit warnings and the revelation that the company had failed to account for a £30m tax bill, due for payment by the end of March.
That led to the resignation of CEO Diana Hunter, a failed attempt to raise £125m in working capital from investors and notice of Conviviality’s intention to appoint administrators to run the business.
Some investors in Conviviality have threatened to take legal action over the perceived mismanagement of the company, which has grown rapidly over the past few years through a string of acquisitions.