World’s oldest wine comes from Georgia – New research

Decanter News - di, 14/11/2017 - 16:10

Georgia has enhanced its claim as the cradle of winemaking after new research showed it contains the oldest known evidence of wine culture, dating back 8,000 years.

georgia, world's oldest wineEarly Neolithic jar from Khramis Didi-Gora.

Anyone with a case of fine Burgundy in the cellar should pay homage to ancient ancestors in Georgia, suggests new research.

Not only does the latest evidence back-up theories that Georgia was the birthplace of modern wine culture, but it also suggests that wine is at least 500 years older than first thought.

A team led by professor Patrick McGovern – known in some circles as the ‘Indiana Jones of ancient wine’ – collected and analysed organic compounds found on ancient pottery shards in Georgia.

Their results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US, ‘provide the earliest biomolecular archaeological evidence for grape wine and viniculture from the Near East, at ca. 6,000–5,800 BC’.


It’s hard to be 100 percent sure that this region was where wine was first produced, but it is believed to be where vitis vinifera was first cultivated by communities.

Vitis vinifera cultivars, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Sangiovese, make up 99.9% of the world’s wine production today.

The team said important next steps would be trying to narrow down exactly where in the general region wines were first produced from cultivated vines.

patrick mcgovern, ancient wine

Professor Patrick McGovern inspects wild vines along the river Tigris. Credit: Supplied by Andrew Jefford / Patrick McGovern.

‘We’ve been working on this project for the last three years,’ McGovern recently told Decanter.com columnist Andrew Jefford after giving a talk in Bordeaux.

‘We’ve re-excavated sites at Shulaveris Gora and Gadachrili Gora, taking much more care with the samples than was formerly possible.’

However, he said that there was still much research to be done elsewhere.

‘There were developments in eastern Turkey; Iran is very poorly explored; the true wild vine still grows in Lebanon but it hasn’t been sampled properly; humans would first have discovered the vine when they came north out of Africa in Palestine and Lebanon.

‘We’re really just trying to work out where the first domestication occurred, and Georgia is right in the centre of it all,’ said McGovern, who is scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia.

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Château Margaux 2015 comes in commemorative bottle

Decanter News - di, 14/11/2017 - 14:55

Château Margaux will release its 2015 vintage in a limited edition bottle to commemorate Paul Pontallier, who died last year after more than two decades as estate MD and who is credited with making significant improvements to the wine.

margaux 2015 bottleMargaux releases its 2015 vintage as 'hommage à Paul Pontallier'.

Château Margaux 2015 will come in a black bottle with writing and a design of the estate in gold.

Margaux said that it was the first time it had commissioned a one-off design for its grand vin for a particular vintage.

It is a mark of estate owner Corinne Mentzelopoulos’ respect for Paul Pontallier, who joined Margaux in 1983 and became MD in 1990.

Bordeaux 2015 was Pontallier’s final vintage at Margaux. He died of cancer in March 2016, one week before the beginning of en primeur week for the widely praised 2015 vintage.

How the Margaux 2015 bottle looks.

How the Margaux 2015 bottle looks.

Pontallier and Mentzelopoulos were known to have a special bond and sense of purpose, described by Decanter consultant editor Steven Spurrier as an ‘unsurpassed’ partnership between Bordeaux estate owner and director.

Together, they have been praised with significantly modernising and improving winemaking.

Early signs suggested that a combination of a strong 2015 vintage and the homage paid to Pontallier could lead to Margaux 2015 becoming a collector’s item.

One merchant on the Liv-ex platform placed a bid to buy a case of 12 bottles of Margaux 2015 for £7,500 on Monday (13 November). The previous highest bid on the secondary market platform was £6,600, it said.

It was one of the wines of the vintage. ‘The commemorative bottle has made it more special still,’ said Justin Gibb, Liv-ex director.

Out now for Decanter Premium members: Coming soon: Jane Anson’s in-bottle ratings for Médoc Cru Classé 2015 wines


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Wine tasting etiquette – ask Decanter

Decanter News - di, 14/11/2017 - 10:01

What are the do's and don't's when attending wine tastings...?

wine tasting spitGuests tasting at the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter 2017. Wine tasting etiquette – ask Decanter

Judy Rogers, Seattle, asks, I’ve been invited to a formal wine tasting event but am unsure about wine tasting etiquette.

I know spitting is required, but is there a recommended technique? What other do’s and don’ts should I know about?

John Stimpfig replies: Let’s begin with the do’s and don’ts.

Do spit and don’t drink at the tasting. Don’t wear perfume. If you are pouring samples yourself, don’t fill your glass to the brim – a small measure is sufficient.

Don’t feel obliged to make a note on every wine you taste, but you may find it useful to write something about those you particularly like. See Andrew Jefford’s guide on how to write wine tasting notes.

If it is a formal tasting, you will almost certainly be required to spit into an individual or communal spittoon.

It’s natural to be a little nervous about spitting in public, so I’d recommend practising privately at home first to get the hang of it.

If you’re nervous about spitting into a communal spittoon, you could use a plastic cup or small jug and then empty the contents into the larger spittoon.

Practice invariably calms any nerves until it becomes a natural process.

And the main thing is to enjoy the tasting itself.

For your next wine tasting, book tickets to a Decanter Fine Wine Encounter. Got a question for Decanter’s experts? Email us: editor@decanter.com or on social media with #askDecanter. Find more Ask Decanters here

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Napa fine wines to try this autumn – William Kelley

Decanter News - di, 14/11/2017 - 08:03

The Napa Valley’s transformation from rural backwater to viticultural Shangri-La in a mere half century is an all-American success story, writes William Kelley, who picks out a selection of his favourite fine wines to try.

napa fine wines, decanterWilliam Kelley picks a few of his favourites.

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

  • Scroll down to see the wines

In the 1960s, Napa Valley could count only a handful of wineries, but today it’s home to 475. Many enjoy international markets and reputations, being sought-after the world over.

Prosperity has followed: every year, Napa Valley wine contributes $50 billion to the United States’ economy – a figure that’s greater than the GDP of Croatia. By any metric, then, Napa is thriving.

Even success stories, however, require periodic reinvention.

The wine market’s demographics are changing, with millennials now consuming more wine than any other generation, while the baby boomers that fuelled the Valley’s 20th-century efflorescence are spending less as they age.

New wine drinkers increasingly prioritise originality and authenticity in what they drink, meaning that Napa will have to compete for their attention with rivals from elsewhere.

There really would be no sense in altering what is proving to still be a winning formula. We’re unlikely to witness a wholesale reimagining of Napa Cabernet of the kind recently wrought in California Pinot Noir and epitomised by the In Pursuit of Balance movement.

But the valley is undeniably evolving.

to kalon vineyard

To Kalon Vineyard is fast becoming one of Napa’s model farms.

That’s reflected in new emphases: elegance and balance are back in fashion, even if the wines themselves are slower to change.

To generalise: high ripeness is still the order of the day, but new oak is now far more carefully controlled. The terroir philosophy has been adopted writ large, as an ever multiplying roster of single-vineyard bottlings testify.

But perhaps most importantly, Napa Valley’s collective conversation, once dominated by cult Cabernet, has moved on.

‘Napa is no longer a monoculture,’ concludes veteran winemaker Cathy Corison, ‘and that’s a good thing.’

William Kelley’s Napa fine wines to try Stony Hill, Napa Valley, Chardonnay, California, USA, 2012 Screaming Eagle, Napa Valley, Oakville, Cabernet Sauvignon, Heitz Cellar, Napa Valley, Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Dunn Vineyards, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain, Cabernet Eisele Vineyard, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, California, USA, 1996 MacDonald, Napa Valley, Oakville, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 Philip Togni, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain, Cabernet Di Constanzo, Napa Valley, Coombsville, Cabernet Sauvignon, Promontory, Napa Valley, California, USA, 2010 Calder Wine Company, Napa Valley, Charbono, California, 2013



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DAWA winners showcase at ProWine China 2017 in Shanghai

Decanter News - ma, 13/11/2017 - 17:34

Over 40 award-winning wines from DAWA 2017 will be presented at ProWine China Shanghai this year.

ProWine China 2013ProWine China 2013

Decanter will showcase 38 DAWA 2017 winning wines at ProWine China in Shanghai on 14-16 November 2017. Visitors will have the chance to taste a selection of winners from around the world at Decanter’s stand (5BF30) at China’s leading wine fair.

Download the full list of wines showcased at the Decanter stand here. 

On another note, seven wines will be presented in a masterclass on 14 November by DAWA judge and vice-chair Li Demei. The selection of wines from DAWA 2017 will include:

  • Leeuwin Estate, Art Series Chardonnay, Margaret River, Western Australia, Australia 2014
  • Li’s, Family Treasures Shiraz, Ningxia, China 2015
  • Grace Vineyard, Tasya’s Reserve Marselan, Shanxi, China 2015
  • Bodega Norton, Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina 2015
  • Bodega Norton, Privada, Mendoza, Argentina 2015
  • Tyrrell’s Wines, Vat 8 Shiraz-Cabernet, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia 2014
  • Condado de Haza, Alenza, Ribera del Duero Gran Reserva, Mainland Spain, Spain 2006

See full results of DAWA 2017 winners here

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Fine wines to know from Chile and Argentina

Decanter News - ma, 13/11/2017 - 15:40

A select band of producers in Chile and Argentina offer wines acknowledged as the pinnacle of what’s possible in their locations. Yet cult status still has to be earned, says Anthony Rose.

Clos Apalta VineyardStorm clouds over recently harvested Carmenere vines at the Clos Apalta vineyard.

Almost by definition, any wine that has icon status conferred on it by its own producer is not an icon. As Achaval Ferrer’s Julio Lasmartres puts it, the status of icon is ‘not something that you can name by your own judgement, but a recognition which can only be given to you by customers, trade and press’.

An individual expression of terroir is the sine qua non of an icon wine, and along with it, legitimacy, prestige, longevity and recognition by the market, although the weighting to be applied to each may vary.

For example, Catena has forged its icon status in Argentina thanks to the remarkable vision of its owner.

Much the same can be said of Eduardo Chadwick’s Viñedo Chadwick in Chile. Seña with Mondavi, Almaviva with Mouton, Clos Apalta with Marnier Lapostolle and Cheval des Andes with Cheval Blanc are the highest-class expressions of the dovetailing of two cultures.

The consistent track record of Chile’s Don Melchor and Casa Real confers a genuine, home-grown legitimacy on these two stalwarts.

In the cases of Argentina’s Noemía, Chacra and Achaval Ferrer, an ancient vineyard, coupled with European prestige, has resulted in remarkable wines.

By corollary, the relative youth of Paul Hobbs’ Cobos Malbec Chañares Vineyard and Zuccardi’s Piedra Infinita gives them both icon-in-the-making status.

The wines: Full tasting notes available to Decanter Premium members Catena, Luján de Cuyo, Nicolás Catena Zapata, 2013 Almaviva, Puente Alto, Maipó Valley, Chile, 2014 Bodegas Noemía, Río Negro, Alto Valle, Noemía, 2015 Casa Lapostolle, Apalta, Clos Apalta, Colchagua, Chile, 2014 Seña, Aconcagua Valley, Chile, 2015 Errazuriz, Puente Alto, Viñedo Chadwick, 2015 Achaval Ferrer, Uco Valley, Finca Altamira, Mendoza, 2013 Cheval des Andes, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina, 2013 Cobos, Uco Valley, Tunuyán, Chañares Vineyard Malbec, 2014 Concha y Toro, Puente Alto, Don Melchor, Maipó Valley, 2014 Santa Rita, Alto Jahuel, Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon Bodega Chacra, Río Negro, Alto Valle, Cincuenta y Cinco, Zuccardi, Uco Valley, Piedra Infinita, Mendoza, 2013 Fact File: The wines at a glance Almaviva Chile

First vintage 1996
Blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot
Average annual production 11,670-15,000 cases

Clos Apalta Chile

First vintage 1997
Blend Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Petit Verdot
Average annual production 2,500-12,000 cases

Viñedo Chadwick Chile

First vintage 1999
Blend 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Average annual production 400-1,000 cases

Don Melchor Chile

First vintage 1987
Blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc (in vintages since 2009)
Average annual production 13,500 cases

Seña Chile

First vintage 1995
Blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc
Average annual production 4,000-6,000 cases

Casa Real Chile

First vintage 1989
Blend 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Average annual production 2,500 cases

Piedra Infinita Argentina

First vintage 2012
Blend 100% Malbec
Average annual production 300 cases

Finca Altamira Argentina

First vintage 1999
Blend 100% Malbec
Average annual production 830 cases

Noemía Argentina

First vintage 2001
Blend 100% Malbec
Average annual production 400 cases

Cincuenta y Cinco Argentina

First vintage 2004
Blend 100% Pinot Noir
Average annual production 1,400 cases

Nicolás Catena Zapata Argentina

First vintage 1997
Blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec
Average annual production 3,500 cases

Chañares Vineyard Malbec Argentina

First vintage 2014
Blend 100% Malbec
Average annual production 250 cases

Cheval des Andes Argentina

First vintage 1999
Blend Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon
Average annual production 5,000-6,600 cases

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Jefford on Monday: The good and the right

Decanter News - ma, 13/11/2017 - 10:05

Andrew Jefford considers the significance of comfort zones in wine appreciation.

what is good wine?Wines ready and waiting for guests at the Isole e Olena masterclass at the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter 2017, held on 11 and 12 November - one of several classes held, from one on Chinese wine to others on top Bordeaux.

It was, to my surprise, a faux pas.  Our first summer in the Languedoc, and I served one of my precious bottles of aged Mosel Kabinett to local friends: perfect refreshment, or so it seemed to me.  They glanced suspiciously at the golden white, sniffed, sipped – and were lost for words.  Uncomplimentary words, evidently; I appeared to be forcing diluted cough mixture on them.  The glasses, half-drained, were eventually laid wordlessly aside.  My initiative was a total flop; the Mosel Kabinett had proved incomprehensible.

Since then, I’ve learned my lesson; Languedoc friends want to drink Languedoc wines.  Even Burgundy and Bordeaux can prove a challenge.  Wine from the other end of Languedoc is already an adventurous choice; most prized are the top cuvées from wineries within a 30-km radius of where we live.

I remembered something of the same thing during our sojourn in Adelaide, too.  Not, of course, with wine-trade friends, who were limitlessly curious about the strange and the distant; but it was bottles from nearby Barossa which tended to make the parents of our children’s friends happiest.  The latest Pinot from Gippsland or the Mornington Peninsula, by contrast, tasted dodgy to them, no matter how hard they (and the wines) tried.

comfort zone

Credit: Wikipedia

All of these drinkers have a clear sense of ‘what tastes right’. The notions of good, better or best are also significant, but ‘what tastes right’ comes first.  Indeed it’s impossible for most drinkers to arrive at the notion of good, better and best in strange styles which don’t taste right.  This is what performance managers call the comfort zone, and it’s more important in the wine world than serial experimenters (in other words, those who write and read wine columns) ever allow.

Take any wine journey, and you’ll find locals feel happiest with local wines; indeed the primary market for almost every wine region is the local market.  Some wines never get beyond a local market – either because their production volumes are too tiny, or because their aesthetic call on the wider wine market is not strong enough.  Italy, where villages without vineyards barely exist, has many wines of this sort.  They may have a DOC, but their cultural interest outweighs any commercial interest they might have.

This makes wine consumers in non-wine-producing regions powerful: they are the ones who can decide which wines truly merit a wider market, and which are condemned to stay home.

Even drinkers who have never set eyes on a vineyard, of course, tend to be more contentedly familiar with some wines than with others.  When I first discovered wine in the UK around 40 years ago, it was the  light reds (as they were back then) of Bordeaux, Chianti and Rioja that tended to taste ‘right’ to most British drinkers, with the Loire and Germany providing the white and pink wine, much of it sweet.  Sherry was the standard aperitif; port was what you drunk at Christmas.

Most UK drinkers now build their wine palates on inexpensive Australian and Californian wines, so the notion of what is ‘right’ in that market has comprehensively changed.  Despite (or perhaps because of) the colossal choice on offer, many consumers stick with what is more or less familiar: that, indeed, is the core of brand appeal in wine, whether you define a brand in the customary commercial sense (Jacob’s Creek or Gallo) or whether you extend that notion to a wine with some sort of origin attached (Aussie Shiraz or Californian Chardonnay).

When serial experimenters sit down to share bottles with those who take no particular interest in wine beyond the recognition that it tastes nice and makes you smile, it’s often most surprising to discover the vehemence of dislikes rather than likes.  Since wine is intimately linked with pleasure and relaxation, few relish being dragged against their will into the ‘optimal performance zone’ which surrounds the comfort zone, and still less into the danger zone beyond.

If we allow that ‘the right’ in wine often trumps ‘the good’, what are the implications of that?

The first is that any exporting region must, if it is to be successful, seem ‘right’ to the largest possible number of global consumers, so national generic promotions and the establishment of national brands (like ‘Brand Australia’ and its successor, ‘Australia Unlimited’) are sage.  Allowing or encouraging every small region to promote itself without any kind of national framework, by contrast, is disastrous.  European wine-promotion organisations constantly waste resources with clashing regional campaigns which never attain visibility but merely compete pointlessly with each other.  A well-resourced, enduring, consistent national campaign running over a decade or more would be far more effective.

There are other things that Europeans do well, though.  A vital part of ‘tasting right’ is based on drinkability, epitomised by the classic wine virtues of harmony, subtlety, well-judged ripeness, gastronomic aptitude (including some kind of tannic presence in the case of red wines) and a lack of modishness or violence of flavour.  When the wines in a comfort zone have these kind of qualities, it is hard to dislodge them, since drinkers rarely grow out of or abandon this kind of flavour profile.

In my view, the unfair advantage held by red Bordeaux lies here: well-made wines from this region have such qualities to a greater and more successful extent than the wines of any other region.  Consumers might be dissuaded from Bordeaux by the daunting prices of its finest wines and by the image difficulties (haughtiness, arrogance) which result from that, but its ‘rightness potential’ is almost unlimited.  This is echoed, for white wines, by Burgundy, Chablis and the Mâconnais; and by Provence rosé, too.  You don’t need to pay a lot to find that drinkability.

The most telling lesson of all, though, I barely need to repeat to those who might be reading this column.  It is that there is an immense amount of personal pleasure to be had, over an entire lifetime and in most cases with commensurate health benefits, by expanding one’s wine comfort zone outwards into the optimal performance zone and sometimes even (natural wines? orange wines?) into the danger zone beyond.

Getting out of the comfort zone, once you are ready to do so, is like being given an entire garden to play in after years of making do with a couple of window boxes on a balcony.  Suddenly you realise how subtle, intricate and diverse the wine world is, and in this how it reflects the larger world beyond, both in terms of its diverse physical landscapes and its cultural ones, too.  Coming to appreciate wine’s diversity and richness implies, moreover, an expansion of your own perceptive faculties; in that sense, acquiring wine-knowledge is mind-expanding.  You only have to want to do it; you only need go as far as you want.  Serial experiment is not obligatory.

That’s why I’d suggest that one of the biggest growth areas in the wine world over the next few decades will be in wine education, to the extent that those who are looking for a career in wine would do well to think of this as much as of production and sales. This is especially true given that much of this expansion will come in Asia, where formal educational attainments are often accorded a higher value than elsewhere.

Can, though, ‘what is good’ eclipse ‘what is right’?  I don’t think so, not even for the most devoted serial experimentalist.  It’s not possible to unpick subjectivity; nor is it desirable.  We all start from somewhere; we all have a tasting compass; and most of us eventually head back towards our port of departure.  What matters is that the journey should be a rewarding one.

Read more Andrew Jefford columns on Decanter.com

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Great value California red wines

Decanter News - ma, 13/11/2017 - 08:26

Hunting down the value in California, with red wines under £40....

value California red wines

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

Great value California red wines

You can find ‘top flavours from the Golden State without paying top dollar’ says Oz Clarke.

It’s about looking in the right places, from the right producers and for the right wines.

Clarke and Ronan Sayburn MS have chosen their top choices of great value California red wines, under £40, so find one to try today…

Carpe Diem, Anderson Valley, Pinot Noir, California, 2014 Broc Cellars, North Coast, Love Red, California, USA, 2015 Marietta, North Coast, Christo, California, USA Melville Vineyards, Santa Rita Hills, Pinot Noir, 2013 Lioco, Mendocino County, Sativa Carignan, California, 2013 Nalle, Russian River Valley, Hopkins Ranch Pinot Noir, 2014 Hahn, Lodi, Boneshaker Zinfandel, California, USA, 2014 Paul Hobbs, Sonoma Coast, Cross Barn Pinot Noir, 2014 Hoopla, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, USA, 2014 Lost Angel, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, USA, 2015 Vina Robles, Paso Robles, Estate Petite Sirah, 2013 Firestone, Santa Barbara County, Santa Ynez Valley, Syrah, Trefethen, Napa Valley, Merlot, California, USA, 2014

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The best Majestic wines this festive season

Decanter News - vr, 10/11/2017 - 11:00

Decanter's expert tasting team has picked its favourite wines for drinking this winter from the UK high street chain, including great value Bordeaux 2006 and Rhône 2015 wines.

Best Majestic Wines

At a recent tasting introducing the latest wines in the Majestic range, the variety and quality available really stood out. Below are some highlights…

Included is a fantastically priced Bordeaux (a star buy this winter), a delicious Pinot Noir from Martinborough, some pink fizz (everyone needs fizz at Christmas!), plus two real rarities – a Tuscan red from 1991 and a medium-sweet Vouvray from 1989.

The best Majestic wines this festive season: Château Clos l'Eglise, Côtes de Castillon, Bordeaux, 2006 Pierre Usseglio, Côtes du Rhône, Rhône, France, 2015 Bollinger, Rosé, Champagne, France, 2006 Marc Brédif, Vouvray, Grande Année, Loire, France, 1989 Escarpment, Martinborough, Kiwa Pinot Noir, Wairarapa, 2015 Vignoble Abeille, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Mont Redon, 2012 Chronic Cellars, Paso Robles, Purple Paradise, 2015 Graham Beck, Brut Rosé, Western Cape, South Africa Grato Grati, Rosso di Toscana, Tuscany, Italy, 1991 Domaine de la Métairie d'Alon, Limoux, Chardonnay Le Devaux, Augusta Brut, Champagne, France Nero Oro, Terre Siciliane, Appassimento, Sicily, Italy, 2016 Related content: Aldi wines Aldi wines tasted and rated

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President Xi serves up Chinese wine for Trump dinner

Decanter News - vr, 10/11/2017 - 10:31

China's Xi Jinping served a selection of Chinese wines to Donald Trump during their meeting in Beijing, as the pair struck a conciliatory tone with each other.

great wall wineGreat Wall wines were served at the dinner between Xi and Trump, plus delegates, in Beijing.

Wines served during a dinner between Chinese president Xi and US president Trump, plus other dignatories – including business leaders – were largely from Great Wall’s Chateau Sungod based in Hebei province near to Beijing, according to a statement from the producer.

Although Trump has declared that he is tee-total, other US and Chinese delegates at the dinner were given Great Wall ‘the Chief Winemaker’s Selection’ 2009 – a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chateau Sungod in Hebei, plus Chateau Sungod Riesling 2011.

Other wines poured for the occasion included a Chateau Sungod Syrah, a Riesling from Chateau Yunmo in Ningxia – one of the most hotly tipped Chinese wine regions – and a traditional method sparkling wine from Chateau Sungod.

Food served at the dinner is understood to have included a blend of dishes, from ‘kung pow chicken’ to steak and with an option of pastries for dessert.

Chinese wines are now a mainstay of international diplomacy, thanks in no small part, of course, to both China’s prominence in geo-political discussions and also the now-established cusom of host nations serving home-made wines.

Sylvia Wu, editor of DecanterChina.com, the Chinese language sister site of Decanter.com, described the focus on Great Wall wines as a relatively safe political choice.

Great Wall wines and those made by the producer Changyu have both featured heavily at official Chinese functions in recent years. Great Wall has tended to be the preferred choice for diplomatic receptions in and around Beijing.

The wine regions in Hebei province include Shacheng, located in the northwest of Beijing, which is better known for dry white wines; and Changli, which is in the northeast of Beijing and is more associated with red wines.

Read more about Chinese wine on DecanterChina.com.

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

Decanter News - vr, 10/11/2017 - 09:29

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

fine wine cellarSnap verdict on Bordeaux 2015 wines tasted so far:
  • Pomerol and St-Emilion get highest overall scores
  • Southern Médoc & Pessac Léognan best on Left Bank
  • Many wines offer exceptional value and the best will be long living
  • More uneven than expected; some estates pushed ripeness and oak too far
See all of Jane Anson’s ratings and tasting notes from her Bordeaux 2015 in-bottle tasting – Part One

Coming soon: A report focused more on Bordeaux 2015 cru classé wines  

A few highlights to look out for from the first part of Jane Anson’s Bordeaux 2015 in-bottle tasting: Château Vray Croix de Gay, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Le Prieuré, St-Émilion, 1er Grand Cru Classé, 2015 Château Grand Corbin-Despagne, St-Émilion, 1er Grand Cru Château Fourcas Borie, Listrac, Cru Bourgeois, 2015 Château de Rochemorin, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, 2015 Château L'Evangile, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Haut-Breton Larigaudière, Margaux, Bordeaux, 2015 Château Petit Village, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France, 2015 Château Rieussec, Sauternes, 1er Cru Classé, 2015


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Three steps to sustainable Californian wine

Decanter News - vr, 10/11/2017 - 08:21

Environmental issues are a concern for Californian wineries, so Cathy Huyghe takes a look at the measures being taken to produce wines sustainably...

MacMurray Estate VineyardThe MacMurray Estate Vineyard is part of the E&J Gallo portfolio

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

Three steps to sustainable wine

According to research published by the National Academy of Sciences, 73% of today’s viable wine-growing land will be lost to climate change by 2050. While that statistic is alarming, it also doubles as a rallying cry for Californian wineries and growers, who are already responding to climate change.

Efforts are two-fold: while reducing their own impact on the environment, producers must also find ways to combat the daily effects of climate change in their vineyards.

The question on everyone’s lips is: how green is my vineyard?

Water use

Although the agricultural industry (and the water table itself) have seen some relief from drought conditions in the past year, it’s important to recognise that water is in high demand throughout the lifecycle of a bottle of wine. Viticultural practices may be the most obvious use of water, but water is also needed to clean and sanitise equipment inside the winery – including barrels, tanks, presses and crushers.

sustainable california

Drip irrigation in a Californian vineyard. Credit: Citizen of the Planet / Alamy Stock Photo

High water usage from cleaning, as well as the costs and regulations around that water, are now motivating more wineries to reduce in-facility demand. Some are capturing rinse water for reuse, for example; while others have shifted from a heavy reliance on barrels to using stainless steel tanks, which are less demanding in terms of water usage.

Using less water, however, is just one way producers can reduce their environmental impact. Others include assessing where vines are planted and deciding which varieties to plant.

Increasingly, vineyards are being established in what used to be known as marginal areas, using grapes that are better-suited to dry-farming methods. Think more Carignan and Valdiguié, less Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Chris Brockway, Broc Cellars

Chris Brockway from the urban winery Broc Cellars, which is based in Berkeley

Site selection

Winemaker Chris Brockway from Broc Cellars, a Berkeley-based urban winery, uses organic or biodynamic grapes grown mainly in areas that are considered marginal. These include the Solano County Green Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) located southeast of Napa Valley close to San Pablo Bay, which has a maritime climate, and the inland areas of Mendocino County.

According to Brockway, when people think of Mendocino, they think of places like the Anderson Valley, which is located closer to the coast with a cooler climate. But ‘marginal’ doesn’t always mean ‘cooler’. He points out that Mendocino County is very large and the majority of it is inland – where it’s very hot.

‘One of the grapes we make the most of there is Counoise,’ he explains. This Rhône grape is one of the newer varieties that Brockway is working with.

‘It loves heat. You can have temperatures of 32°C and the sugar slowly rises as it retains acid. Counoise is one of the last varieties we’ll pick at harvest, maybe at 22° Brix [around 13% potential alcohol]. It produces a very balanced wine that ages beautifully,’ he adds.

Similarly, Brockway sources lesser-known, late-ripening Picpoul grapes from the small, windswept Luna Matta Vineyard in the western hills of Paso Robles.

It’s a grape variety that he believes ‘makes sense in California’. He explains: ‘Picpoul is a self-regulating grape in a sense, that doesn’t spike sugar-wise.’

2014 Picpoul, Broc Cellars

Greener grapes

Brockway also has his eye on ‘more offshoot areas’ where dry-farming is still viable, and where he can offer support to growers, encouraging them to retain older vines. He confesses that old-vine vineyards, planted with grapes such as Carignan, Valdiguié and Zinfandel were what originally drew him to California. The fact that those vineyards are also non-irrigated has been a plus.

‘A lot of the old-vine stuff is dry-farmed,’ he says. ‘The roots go so deep, they’re not even on the surface, so they performed better at the start of the recent drought.’ Many of these vineyards have been dry-farmed since the day they were planted – that’s 50 years ago for Valdiguié and around 140 years for Carignan.

sustainable california

Old vines in California. Credit: Michael Housewright / Alamy Stock Photo

Nonetheless it can certainly be a challenge to find a home for these more historical and lesser-known grape varieties. Brockway’s goal is to pay the growers a fair price for their grapes to ‘convince them not to replant with Cab’ (or indeed other Bordeaux and Burgundy varieties that need to be irrigated), while also keeping the end price of the wine low enough for most people to afford.

It’s easier to convince growers to keep a lesser-known grape in the ground in smaller areas like Green Valley, which many people bypass. Working with something like Valdiguié in, say, Calistoga, is a tougher battle, Brockway admits – but he is persevering.

Seeing old vines thriving or noticing sheep grazing between rows in the vineyards and falcons flying overhead to keep pests to a minimum, are obvious and visible signs of a healthy ecosystem in a vineyard. There are also less obvious signs; micro-organisms in the soil that can’t be seen by the naked eye, permanent cover crops or stream setbacks planted with buffer crops.

Such indicators are yet another measure of how green a vineyard is. Within California, as the wine industry matures in response to climate change, that list is bound to grow longer and longer.

Cathy Huyghe is author of Hungry for Wine and writes for various US titles including Forbes.com


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Great Tokyo wine bars and restaurants

Decanter News - do, 09/11/2017 - 16:00

It blends old with new in seamless fashion, and is home to some of the world’s finest restaurants. Below, local journalist Akihiko Yamamoto picks some of his favourite places to eat and drink...

Tokyo wine bars and restaurantsWhere to wine and dine in Tokyo. Our favourite Tokyo wine bars and restaurants 1 Ginza Kojyu

Refined and eccentric Japanese cuisine from chef Toru Okuda, combined with warm hospitality. Seasonal foods are inspired by the Kaiseki aesthetic traditions and served in dramatic fashion. Okuda has a sommelier diploma, and the food pairing with wine and saké is outstanding. He also runs a Japanese restaurant in Paris. www.kojyu.jp

2 L’Effervescence

Innovative French cuisine from a young chef, Shinobu Namae, who served as sous chef at The Fat Duck and the Bras family’s Toya Japan. Japanese ingredients and French technique are beautifully integrated. This two-star Michelin establishment is one of the most difficult restaurants to book, but it’s worth the effort to try. www.leffervescence.jp

Tokyo wine bars and restaurants

L’Effervescence. Credit: L’Effervescencegram

3 Tsukiji Information Center

Tour company specialising in Tsukiji market visits and Japanese culture. Tours of the market with English-speaking guides can also include short courses in sushi or soba noodle making, or a visit to the kabuki theatre where you can enjoy different Japanese green teas. A range of other activities is also offered and the company can advise on how to register for the tuna auction in Tsukiji market. www.tsukijitour.com

4 Birdland

The first one-star Michelin yakitori (Japanese-style skewered chicken) restaurant. Chef Wada grills different parts of the chicken, timed accurately to the second; the exquisite liver is juicy and tasty. He selects saké and wines to match with the different yakitori dishes. This is a restaurant that’s visited by many famous wine producers. www.ginza-birdland.sakura.ne.jp

Tokyo wine bars and restaurants


5 Tsubaki Wine Bar

Takeshi Tsubaki has run this legendary wine bar for 25 years. The price of old French wines can be lower here than in France: just viewing the selection of Bordeaux and Burgundy is an entertainment in itself. It also offers wonderful food cooked with truffle or foie gras. Popular with foreign visitors.
+81 3 5485 1410

6 An Di

An upcoming modern Vietnamese restaurant with a fabulous list of natural wines, sakés and spirits. The ownersommelier is an international wine consultant – many producers and Masters of Wine arrive by introduction of Ken Ohashi MW. www.andivietnamese.com

Tokyo wine bar and restaurants

An Di. An Di Instagram

7 Sushi Fujimori

This sushi restaurant serves only omakase meals comprising about 12 dishes (omakase is the Japanese tradition of letting a chef choose your food), including grilled fish and seasonal sushi. Tuna is recommended. The well-considered wine list includes The Sadie Family wines and Chasselas from Switzerland.
+81 3 3406 0141

8 Ippudo

Top Japanese ramen restaurant expanding across Asia, Europe and the US. Hakata ramen is produced with Tonkotsu pork broth and premium, house-made thin noodles: it’s very creamy and crunchy. There are 21 Ippudo branches in Tokyo. www.ippudo.com

Toky wine bars and restaurants

Ippudo. Credit: Ippudo Instagram

9 Wine Shop Enoteca

Leading wine importer’s biggest retail shop in Ginza and a showcase for wine retail in Japan. The 1,600 items stocked range from Japanese wines to large-format Bordeaux. Bottles purchased can be opened and tasted for an extra charge of about £8. www.enoteca.co.jp

10 Seiju

One-star Michelin tempura restaurant close to Tsukiji market. The excellent omakase menu of 12 dishes costs €130. Their technique of dehydrating fresh fish and vegetables is superb. The chef visits the Burgundy region regularly, and this restaurant has the best wine list of any tempura restaurant.
+81 3 3546 2622

Akihiko Yamamoto is a leading wine journalist in Japan, and founder of the country’s first online wine subscriber platform Wine Report. This first appeared in Decanter magazine. Subscribe to Decanter here.
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Steven Spurrier’s fine wines of the month

Decanter News - do, 09/11/2017 - 15:30

Decanter’s long-standing consultant editor and 2017 Decanter Man of the Year hand-picks fine wines for drinking now and recommends others to lay down.

steven spurrier



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Italian cooking maestro Antonio Carluccio dies

Decanter News - do, 09/11/2017 - 10:24

Antonio Carluccio, who grew up in Piedmont and spent time as a wine importer before becoming better known as 'the godfather of Italian cooking' in Britain, has died aged 80.

antonio carluccioAntonio Carluccio became the face of Italian cooking in the UK.

Carluccio’s agent announced on social media on Wednesday (8 November), ‘It is with great sadness that we announce that Commendatore Antonio Carluccio OBE sadly passed away this morning.’ He was 80 years old.

Carluccio spent much of his childhood in Piedmont, but despite his up-bringing in one of the bastions of Italian gastronomy he did not turn seriously to food and wine as a career until much later.

After an early professional life that included a stint as a wine importer in Hamburg, Germany, Carluccio found his gastronomic calling when he opened his Neal St restaurant in London in 1981.

Things took off from there, and Carluccio has since authored more than 20 books and become a household name in the UK on everything to do with Italian cooking. He also created the ‘Carluccio’s restaurant chain.

He helped to launch the career of Jamie Oliver, who worked at Neal St and was one of many chefs and celebrities to pay tribute to his late Italian mentor.

‘He was such a charismatic charming don of all things Italian!!’ said Oliver on Instagram.

Carluccio also had a passion for matching wines with food.

In 2003, in an article on how to match food with Barbera d’Asti wines, Carluccio told Decanter, ‘I like lamb with Barbera. A simple roast of young lamb with just a hint of garlic and rosemary, served pinkish with fresh asparagus, eaten with a bottle of Bava Stradivario 1997.’

During his time in the UK, Carluccio both witnessed and helped to propagate a shift in attitude towards Italian food and cooking in general.

He was also not afraid to voice opinions. In 2004, he criticised ‘Britalian’ food sold by UK supermarkets and created with cheap ingredients.

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Anson: Reprieve for creator of long-lost Bordeaux wine

Decanter News - do, 09/11/2017 - 09:46

Jane Anson interviews the man at the centre of one of Bordeaux wine's more controversial stories.

Liber Pater wine, BordeauxLiber Pater wine

We have been wrestling with this story since the summer. On the face of it, it’s a simple good news piece for a local winemaker. You might remember Loic Pasquet – the man behind Liber Pater, one of the most curious and most expensive wines in Bordeaux.

You might also remember that in 2016 Pasquet was found guilty of defrauding the authorities of almost €600,000 in aids and grants from both the European Union and France Agrimer.

And that in a confusingly-timed separate case brought by French appellations body the INAO, he was also found guilty of contravening winemaking rules set out in the Cahier de Charges of his local AOC Graves.

The news was liberally covered in pretty much every French newspaper, so it seemed strange that the same press was extremely quiet about the fact that, on 14 June 14 this year, a French appeal judge overturned a key part of the verdict in the INAO case. The financial fraud verdict still stands, but Pasquet has lodged an appeal.

When I spoke to him, he was only too happy to send me the most recent INAO ruling set out by the judge. It said that the INAO inquiry ‘raised questions about the way that Loic Pasquet carries out his viticultural work that are not in line with usual practices’, but that he had not specifically contravened the local Cahier de Charges  – rules – of the Graves appellation.

The court documents emailed to me by Pasquet seemed to be missing a few pages, so I called his barrister Jean Gonthier to try to better understand what was going on – and also what was happening with the separate financial fraud case.

He took me through some of the accusations listed in the original complaint – specifically that Pasquet was planning to plant ungrafted vines at 30,000 plants per hectare, instead of the more usual 5,000 to 10,000 in Graves. The judge noted that Pasquet had abandoned this idea and that the high density vines that he does have (at 20,000 plants per hectare) fall within the allowable regulations for space between plants and rows. The accusations regarding chaptalisation were ruled to be groundless.

‘For a winemaker to be accused of fraud over what he puts in the bottle is a gross defamation,’ Gonthier ,who was not Pasquet’s lawyer for the original hearing, told me. ‘My client found this the far more serious of the charges brought against him, and is extremely satisfied with this result.’

This rather neatly suggests that financial fraud is a less serious charge, but it does seem that Pasquet’s winemaking has been deemed simply eccentric rather than illegal.

It backs up the argument, set out by Pasquet and his lawyer, that the disputes are in fact over his attempts to recreate the taste of pre-Phylloxera Bordeaux wine.

There’s no doubt that he has caused a stir since arriving in Landiras just over a decade ago.

Rather than making just another Graves red, Pasquet instead read through ancient texts on 19th century winemaking, and set about planting 14 forgotten grape varieties that were typical at the time of the 1855 Paris Classification such as Castet, Mancin, Lauzet, Camaralet and Prunelard (alongside Sémillon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon).

These have been planted without rootstocks at high density, as was common in the 19th century. They are to be bottled as Vin de France, separately to his existing Graves wines that sell for prices upwards of €4,000.

The first results of the ancient varieties are now ready for tasting but have not made it onto the market – something that further complicates things when trying to work out exactly what is going on at the estate.

Clearly never one to let sleeping dogs lie, Pasquet said that he has launched his own defamation case against the INAO. While he says this year’s verdict is ‘a victory for the cultural heritage of wine and for the diversity of taste’, he still mutters darkly about powerful figures with vested interests being unwilling to see him challenge the modern taste of Bordeaux wine.

As for the financial mismanagement case, his appeal against the guilty verdict is ongoing – as is the feeling that this most interesting and challenging of winemakers is not done yet.

Read more Jane Anson columns on Decanter.com:

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Insider’s guide to eating and drinking in California

Decanter News - do, 09/11/2017 - 08:41

Created in partnership with the California Wine Institute.

Amanda Barnes asks some of the state’s top sommeliers and winemakers guide us through their ‘go-to’ places to eat and drink in California.

eat in California, ProgressProgress

Created in partnership with the California Wine Institute.

Insider’s guide: Where to eat in California

It’s hard to eat poorly in California. The state is a hotbed of fusion cuisine and has a pantry filled to the brim with delicious local produce – from the garden, farm and sea.

Californian cuisine today is known for its blend of Italian, French, Mexican, Chinese and Japanese cooking styles using the plethora of local ingredients including many heirloom fruits and vegetables.

Evan Goldstein MS, author of Daring Pairings High Treason Wine Bar: Where to wine in San Francisco

High Treason wine bar. Credit: www.hightreasonsf.com

Just over a year old, High Treason Wine Bar is a smallish but super cool wine bar in San Francisco’s Inner Richmond.

Insider Tip: There are over 45 wines by the glass (changing on a regular basis) and if you need to soak up the alcohol, High Treason serves excellent small bites such as roast quail; fried chicken sliders; and short rib pappardelle.

Food truck tip offs

Spark Social. Credit: sparksocialsf.com/

Spark Social is a newer food truck ‘park’ in San Francisco to try. There are a few others too, one of the originals is SOMA Street Food Park. The neighbourhood is a little grittier, if you know what I mean. Finally there’s Off The Grid, which has multiple rotating applications across San Francisco, it’s a big part of the social scene…

Insider Tip: The food truck parks rotate different vendors, sometimes on a daily basis. Most are open for lunch hours (12-3), dinner (5pm onwards) and all day at the weekends.

Bar Covell: Wine-centric in LA

Covell wine bar. Credit: www.barcovell.com/

My friend Matt Kaner has a few super cool and wine centric spots in LA and Palm Springs—Bar Covell is the original (with 150 wines by the glass) and he also has Augustine (offering a range of older vintages dating back to 1860).

Randall Grahm, Winemaker at Bonny Doon Vineyard Oliveto: Farm to table in Oakland

Oliveto. Credit: Oliveto Instagram

The owner of Oliveto restaurant, Bob Klein, has another venture, which he calls Community Grains, and features some of his exotic, heirloom grains at the restaurant. Notable amongst them is the red corn polenta, which is utterly unique and extraordinary. There’s a nice selection of older Barbarescos from Produttori di Barbaresco, which are very fairly priced.

Must-try dish: All of the pastas are amazing, but the spaghetti nero, made with squid ink is a real winner, as is anything there bolognese. Grilled pigeon also a must-have dish.

The Press Room: Unique pressings in San Francisco 

The Press Room. Credit: pressclubsf.com

On the other side of the bay is The Press Room, which is arguably the most exciting wine bar in San Francisco – the wine list is absolutely stellar. I was lucky enough to find an older vintage of Ciallia Bianco from Ronchi di Cialla that was very reasonably priced. (One very seldom sees the wine.) The space is cavernous but beautiful, and the wine list vastly comprehensive.

Insider Tip: There’s a happy hour every day until 6pm with $3 off wines and beer by the glass. Bites and plates include sliders, Pizzettas and mac and cheese.

A16: Piedmont and pizza

A16. Credit: A16 Instagram

If one loves both “natural” and esoteric Italian wines, the place to go is A16. Shelly Lindgren, the proprietress, is passionate about both; Occhipinti and Foradori are well represented indeed. This is where you can find all of the Timorasso, Freisa and Rossese your palate might craves. For me, their pizza salsiccia with a bottle of Freisa would be the way to go.

Insider Tip: A16 has another location in Oakland where they have an aperitivo hour every night at 5pm.

Geoff Kruth MS, President of Guild Somm El Molino : Mexican in California wine country

El Molino. Credit: El Molino Instagram

In the town of Sonoma, El Molino Central has fantastic Mexican food. While I’m not normally one for gentrified cultural cuisine, a vegetarian enchilada with a glass of rosé is pretty undeniably delicious.

Must try dish: Swiss chard enchiladas with salsa habanero.

La Ciccia: Flirting with Italian in the city

La Caccia. Credit: www.laciccia.com/

La Ciccia is my hands-down favourite date night restaurant in San Francisco. Traditional Sardinian cooking with a seafood focus from a super hospitable husband-and-wife team. You do need to book ahead though.

Diavola: Devilishly good food in Geyserville

Diavola. Credit: www.diavolapizzeria.com/

When I’m in Healdsburg I love taking the short drive to the next town north of Geyserville and going to Diavola. It’s amazing how good the food is for such a tiny town; half of the tables are usually taken up by local wine business friends.

Insider Tip: Start your meal off with a platter of Diavola’s home cured salumi and sausages.

Ashley Ragovin, Sommelier at Pour This Bell Street Farm: Farm charm in Santa Barbara eat in California Bell Street Farm

Bell Street Farm. Credit: www.bellstreetfarm.com

One of the warmest California stops is Bell Street Farm in Los Alamos. It just over delivers on every level! The food is comforting and so well done, and Jamie is always waiting to pour you a great local wine. He’s a hospitality genius.

Must try dish: Do not miss the porchetta!

Marvin wine bar: LA by the glass eat in california, Marvins

Marvin Wine Bar. Credit: www.chezmarvin.com

A very excellent wine bar in LA is Marvin wine bar. It’s truly one of the best places to drink great wine by the glass, and it has an epic list. There aren’t enough places in LA serving only the hits, with great food to boot.

Mh Zh: Hot and hebrew in the city

For dinner, Mh Zh in Silverlake, Los Angeles (pronounced Mah-zeh, a Hebrew phrase for ‘what is it?’) is truly the best table in the city right now. They are highlighting California’s gorgeous bounty of produce beautifully. Food is thoughtful but not overdone; it’s elegant and simple, California at its best.

Insider Tip: Start looking through your cellar because Mh Zh is BYO. 3536 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026, USA

Rajat Parr, sommelier and winemaker Domaine de la Côte Progress: Seasonal in San Francisco eat in California, Progress

Progress. Credit: theprogress-sf.com

It’s a very seasonal menu at Progress. My favourite dish when I ate there last week was Liberty Farms BBQ half duck spicy peanuts, Thai basil & smoked chilli vinegar.

Insider Tip: There are over 350 wine labels in the cellar, and eight Madeiras by the glass.

Aster: Super seasonal Eat in California, Aster

Aster. Credit: Aster Facebook.

Another seasonal tasting menu to try is at Aster. One of the great dishes at the moment is Green faro, Peas, Ramps, Sheep’s Ricotta, nasturtium.

République: Upscale bistro in LA eat in California, Republique

République. Credit: République Instagram

Chef Walter Manske creates great upscale Bistro cuisine at République in Los Angeles. He makes an incredible Dover Sole a La Meuniere with fingerling potatoes, grapes, brown butter and lemon.

Insider Tip: Looking for a bite of breakfast? Drop into République from 8am till 3pm and you can start your day on Pork Confit Pupusa, Kimchi friend rice or Shakshouka.

Amanda Barnes is a wine and travel writer currently travelling Around the World in 80 Harvests. More articles like this:

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Top Harlan Estate wines for the cellar and to drink

Decanter News - wo, 08/11/2017 - 18:35

See which Harlan Estate wines William Kelley rates as good buys for the cellar and for drinking following his 12-vintage vertical tasting of this 'cult' Napa producer.

harlan estate cabernetHarlan Estate makes an average 2,000 cases of wine per year. Harlan Estate wines: What you need to know

Harlan has long committed itself to producing ‘first growth’ standard wines with a California identity and its Cabernet-dominant wines generally cost several hundred dollars per bottle.

If you’re in the market for a piece of Napa Valley royalty, then William Kelley’s ratings and tasting notes on 12 Harlan vintages are listed below for Decanter Premium members, to help you make a critical choice. The full notes include US and UK stockist information, where available.

‘Of the so-called ‘cult’ wineries that burst on the scene in the 1990s, Harlan is the one I find most fascinating,’ said Elin McCoy, in her profile of Harlan Estate for Decanter magazine in 2014.

‘It’s a true estate, where every detail, from vineyards to label to winery design, reflects the aesthetics of a relentless drive for quality. The wines are bold, sumptuous and rich, yet polished and balanced, despite their alcohol. The many older vintages I’ve sampled have aged impressively.’

Exclusively for Decanter Premium members: William Kelley’s notes on 12 vintages of Harlan Estate Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, California, USA, 1995 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, California, USA, 1996 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, California, USA, 1997 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, California, USA, 1999 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, California, USA, 2000 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, California, USA, 2001 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, California, USA, 2003 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, California, USA, 2005 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, Oakville, California, USA, 2009 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, Oakville, California, USA, 2010 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, Oakville, California, USA, 2013 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, Oakville, Cabernet Sauvignon, More Premium tastings by William Kelley: A view of Penner-Ash in Willamette Valley, Oregon. Top Oregon Pinot Noir wines – William Kelley

William Kelley tastes more than 80 Oregon Pinots...

1997 Napa William Kelley – ‘Was the 1997 Napa vintage the catalyst for a stylistic shift?’

How does the 1997 vintage in Napa compare to today's wines? William Kelley investigates...

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Barolo Chinato: Christmas after-dinner drinks sorted? – Ask Decanter

Decanter News - wo, 08/11/2017 - 15:05

We explain a bit more about this curious after-dinner drink from Italy's Piedmont region. Will it be making an appearance on your Christmas Day menu?

Barolo ChinatoBarolo Chinato: Piedmont's stylish after-dinner drink.

Michael Garner, co-author of Barolo: Tar and Roses, explains what Barolo Chinato [pronounced ‘key-nah-toe’] is all about in a nutshell:

What is it?

Barolo Chinato is an aromatised wine, such as vermouth, made by adding a maceration of herbs and spices to Barolo DOCG. It was invented in the late 1800s, probably by Giovanni Cappellano, a pharmacist whose family owned vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba.

Who makes it?

Cappellano and Cocchi remain the most famous producers, though many Barolo houses make Chinato. These include Barale, Ceretto, Cordero di Montezemolo, Marchesi di Barolo and Vajra.

Two to try this Christmas: UK: Cocchi, Barolo Chinato NV, 16.5%abv, 50cl – £44 Harvey Nichols US: Cappellano, Barolo Chinato NV, 50cl – $54.99 K&L (CA) | $44.99 Slope Cellars (NY)
Where does the name come from?

Chinato takes its name from China, the Italian word for Cinchona officinalis, the native South American tree from which quinine is extracted.

The bark of this tree is one of the principal flavourings of Barolo Chinato, along with gentian root, camomile, cardamom and clove.

negroni, barolo chinato

Not for the faint hearted: A Negroni bolstered with Barolo Chinato.

Editor’s note

How is Barolo Chinato made?

Full recipes vary and are usually a closely guarded family secret, says Garner.

pio cesare barolo chinato

Barolo producer Pio Cesare says that it uses China Calissaja and Succirubra barks and macerates these with a ‘small amount’ of classic Barolo for 21 days.

‘We then add a mixture of aromatic herbs, such as gentian roots, rhubarb, cardamom seeds, sweet and bitter orange, cinnamon and others,’ it says. ‘Then, after a few weeks ageing, we add the proper amount of our classic Barolo.’

The infusion then undergoes light fining and is aged in oak for four months, before being aged in bottle for a further two months.

A link to the past

Winemakers have been adding herbs and spices to wines for thousands of years, potentially at one stage to help preserve the wines during transport.

Vermouth, a close relative of Chinato and which counts northern Italy as one of its heartlands is often made with a light-bodied wine and is an ‘aromatised wine’ that has been fortified with spirit, such as brandy, which has been steeped in herbs and spices.

Read more about ancient wines styles in Andrew Jefford’s interview with professor Patrick McGovern, known as the ‘Indiana Jones of ancient wine’.

Extra reporting by Chris Mercer.

Got a question for Decanter’s experts? Email us: editor@decanter.com or on social media with #askDecanter More articles like this:



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Eighteen new Masters of Wine sworn in

Decanter News - wo, 08/11/2017 - 10:20

The Institute of Masters of Wine has welcomed 18 new members into the exclusive club at its annual awards ceremony.

Institute for Masters of Wine logo

There are now 369 MWs based in 29 different countries, announced the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) at its annual awards ceremony in London.

The 18 new MWs, who passed all parts of the MW examination in March and September 2017, are:

  • Mark Andrew MW (UK)
  • Nova Cadamatre MW (USA)
  • Julie Chéné Nyheim MW (Norway)
  • Alistair Cooper MW (UK)
  • Jeremy Cukierman MW (France)
  • Emma Dawson MW (UK)
  • David Forer MW (Spain)
  • Philip Harden MW (UK)
  • Ashley Hausman Vaughters MW (USA)
  • Sarah Heller MW (Hong Kong)
  • Tim Jackson MW (UK)
  • Andreas Kubach MW (Spain)
  • Fernando Mora MW (Spain)
  • Aina Mee Myhre MW (Norway)
  • Billo Naravane MW (USA)
  • Catherine Petrie MW (UK)
  • Nigel Sneyd MW (USA)
  • Morgan Twain-Peterson MW (USA)

Several awards were handed out during the evening.

Nova Cadamatre MW received the Taransaud Tonnellerie Award, for her knowledge in the production and handling of wine, according to IMW.

Jeremy Cukierman MW received the Bollinger Medal for his tasting ability.

Fernando Mora MW won the Noval Award for his research paper, titled ‘Proposals for creating a revised wine quality classification in Denomination of Origin (DO) Campo de Borja, with recommendations for potential implementation in other DOs in Spain’.

Sarah Heller MW scooped four awards at the ceremony. This included the Villa Maria Prize for her knowledge and understanding of viticulture and the Errazuriz Award for her performance in the business of wine exam.

Heller also won the Robert Mondavi Winery Award for her performance in the theory papers of the MW exams, plus the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB) Outstanding Achievement Award – for her high marks in all MW exams.

It is notoriously difficult to pass the three MW exams set by the Institute of Masters of Wine.

The tests include a practical tasting exam, a theory test and a final, essay module.

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