Andrew Jefford leaves no pebble unturned...Chignin vineyards.
What is Savoie’s greatest wine?
The question is a fascinating and complicated one – and it’s not easy to answer. Savoie is better at exporting its vines (20 to 30 million plants are grown each year by Savoie nurserymen) than its wines, most of which are consumed in the region by thirsty skiers and hikers. ‘We regard any wine which gets beyond Lyon as an export,’ joked grower Philippe Ravier.
I took a close look at the Jacquère-based wines of Savoie back in February. They account for around half of the region’s production, and make a deliciously refreshing, slaking white wine, but you’d struggle to find any grower or local wine connoisseur who’d actually go so far as to make a case for Jacquère’s greatness — as opposed to its simple and delicious goodness.
Prior to phylloxera, when the region had 10,000ha of vines, most of them planted with red varieties rather than the 2,077 ha of principally white varieties it has today, Savoie’s most celebrated wines might well have been based on Mondeuse (which still occupies 12 to 15 per cent of the vineyards), or perhaps even the much rarer Persan.
Gamay was widely planted in Savoie in the past and remains so today, but generally performs a quenching, Jacquère-like role as a red. Pinot is a relatively recent arrival, little grown, and a long way short of its peer-group heights. Extend your reach to IGP Vin des Allobroges, and you can bring in rarer red varieties still, such as the juicy though light Douce Noir and the pungent, cherry-and-redcurrant flavoured Etraire de l’Adui.
Let me be frank, though: I don’t think Savoie’s greatest wine is red. Mondeuse is a naturally prolific producer, so it requires noble self-sacrifice on the part of its creator to discipline it into seriousness of intent (the AOP regulations allow 67 hl/ha for Vin de Savoie Mondeuse, yet 45 hl/ha is the maximum possible yield for a high quality wine from this variety). The results can be dark, fresh and crunchy, with bright fruit and floral notes in youth, but they never really have the structure or the concentration to break through into ‘fine red’ territory, or to merit ageing.
Having tried the Persan of nurseryman-producer Benoît Grisard, the Persan-based Cuvée Octavie of Adrien Berlioz at Domaine du Cellier des Cray and Jean-François Quénard’s ‘Les 2 Jean’ Persan, I’d say that this variety can certainly match the quality of Mondeuse while mimicking its fresh, light and lively style. It doesn’t seem to exceed it, though, nor do the wines have the charm of Mondeuse.
Where next? Chardonnay doesn’t acquire burgundian amplitude here, and the Chasselas of Ripaille and the other little Lac Léman crus can have buttery charm if they go through malo Swiss-style (like the wine of Ch de Ripaille itself, the major producer hereabouts and the sole producer of Ripaille) and light, grassy appleskin zest if they don’t, but never much vinous drive. Gringet and Molette both end up in slender sparkling-wine blends.
Savoie is one of the few places where you can get a taste of one of Syrah’s parents, the Mondeuse Blanche – a more impressive variety than either Gringet or Molette, though if you were tasting it blind you might guess it a parent of Viognier rather than Syrah: it tends to have an exotic apricot-like perfume.
That leaves just two varieties, both of which can furnish wines which at least aspire to greatness. One is an immigrant, albeit from just down the Rhône valley; the other a native. The immigrant is Roussanne; the native Altesse.
Anyone taking the ‘Express’ from Paris to Milan will be familiar with the Roussanne’s favourite terroir in Savoie; the train languidly wends its way past the scree slopes of the Combe de Savoie on its way past Chambéry before dawdling down through the Alps.
Roussanne loves the generous ripening it gets on these steep, south- and southwest-facing slopes of limestone rubble, and rewards all the effort they imply with wines of lusciousness and perfume, but relieved and lifted by the fresh, springlike acidity which is Savoie’s legacy, too. (Almonds and even olive trees flourish here.)
Roussanne occupies about four per cent of total Savoie plantings; it’s limited, in effect, to those very warm, very well-exposed sites, and would not ripen fully elsewhere. You will find ordinary Savoie AOP wines labeled Roussanne, but the finest from the Combe de Savoie have their own appellation of Chignin-Bergeron, Bergeron being an old Savoyard name for Roussanne. Was it brought here by shepherds or bergers coming up the Rhône? Perhaps – but locals say that the more likely origin of the name is the grape’s resemblance when ripe and freckled to the Bergeron variety of apricot, France’s most popular.
While we are on the topic of names, a colossal hazard that wine students have to confront is that the local name of Altesse is actually Roussette, and Roussette and Roussanne are all too easy to confuse. (Confusing but not illogical: both varieties tends to acquire a russet speckling as they ripen.)
The principal appellation for Altesse-based wines in Savoie is Roussette de Savoie (with or without its four cru names of Frangy, Marestel, Monterminod and Monthoux). Altesse is more widely planted than the Roussanne, with around 10% of the total Savoie vineyard area – the fourth most widely planted variety here after Jacquère, Gamay and Mondeuse, though much of it is blended rather than being made as a varietal wine.
I find it a less consistent variety than Roussanne, and its character less easy to configure; ambition, too, sometimes means that it is oak-lavished, and its delicate personality smothered. It seems to be at its best in the three crus of Jongieux, Marestel and Monthoux, sited in steep, west and southwest-facing vineyards on the back slopes of the Mont du Chat, looking out over the tumbling infant Rhône.
Here it can acquire impressive depth, finesse and nuance, with hints of walnut- and-honey richness but also a floral lift to it, too, as well as sustained acidity and a sappy core; you could almost mistake it for a Savennières.
Altesse runs to fat less evidently than Roussanne, and my feeling is that most Savoyards rate it slightly higher (indeed Maxim Dancoine of L’Aitonnement claims it is one of ‘the three finest white grape varieties in the world’). It’s also locally believed to be the best local wine for ageing, and aged examples can acquire a waxy note. But you may have to taste through a lot of lesser examples before finally seeing the light with Altesse – whereas Roussanne sings out more easily.
Here, anyway, are some notes on our two finalists. Altesse won by a short head on my scorecard, with seven wines making the cut, but it was the closest of battles.Savoie: the hunt for greatness
The post Jefford on Monday: Savoie – the hunt for greatness appeared first on Decanter.
Bruce Tyrrell introduced screwcaps to his famed Vat 47 Chardonnay in 2004. Daniel Honan picks out his top 10 vintages from this screwcap era...Bringing in the 2016 harvest.
The first time Tyrrell’s Vat 47 Chardonnay was entered for judging at an Australian wine show, in 1973, it scored six points out of 20. As Bruce Tyrrell jokingly recalls, one of the spit buckets scored eight.
Since then, rather serendipitously, Vat 47 has gone on to win 47 wine show trophies throughout its 47-year existence.Scroll down to see the wines Daniel’s top 10 screwcap Vat 47 Chardonnays: Related content:
- Decanter travel guide: Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia
- Cool-climate Australian Chardonnay: Panel tasting results
- The new face of Australian Chardonnay
An 'outstanding wine'...Wine Legend: Jermann Vintage Tunina 1997, Collio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
Bottles produced 50,000
Composition 25% Chardonnay, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, 22% Ribolla Gialla, 23% Malvasia, 5% Picolit Yield 30hl/ha
Release price 27,800 lire
Price today £85.40A legend because…
Silvio Jermann has always been inventive. Although he has produced varietal wines typical of the Collio region in Friuli, he created blends from the outset.
Easily the most famous of his wines is the blend Vintage Tunina, which was first made in 1975. All the varieties used for Tunina are picked together. Yields are kept well below the generous Friuli average, and grapes are picked about two weeks later than other white varieties, to give additional richness.
The wine takes its name from both a previous owner of the property called Antonia, known by the local diminutive Tunina, and a Venetian governess of the same name who was one of Casanova’s lovers.Looking back
The property was founded in 1881, by Jermann’s ancestors from Austria and Slovenia. Jermann is always thought of as a trendy moderniser; after completing his studies in oenology, he took a job in Canada when his father opposed changes he proposed making at the winery. Tunina, however, is a reinterpretation of a traditional blend.
Austrian growers had long produced field blends, but they were often heavy and lacked freshness. Jermann’s challenge was to retain the richness and complexity without producing a wine that would turn flabby or be prone to oxidation. He was influenced by the celebrated Friuli winemaker, Mario Schiopetto, whose wines signalled a return to purer, cleaner styles of winemaking.The vintage
This was an excellent vintage throughout Friuli. Frost in April reduced the crop, but the summer was very dry, leading to a late harvest of very healthy grapes.The terroir
Vintage Tunina is produced from a field blend in a vineyard that occupies 16ha on Ronco del Fortino, planted on a soil that is mostly marl and sandstone. The density is high at between 6,000 and 7,000 vines per hectare.The wine
Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are the major components, as well as varying doses of Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia and Picolit. The grapes are all picked together, late in the season, pressed in whole clusters, and fermented together as an authentic field blend. Temperature control is aimed at prolonging the fermentation and extracting maximum flavour.
Although there has been some discreet oak-ageing in recent years, in the 1990s Vintage Tunina was unwooded; it received a longer than usual ageing on fine lees and was bottled without cold stabilisation some months after Jermann’s other whites.The reaction
Tunina was acclaimed by Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso as the best wine of the year, which cemented Jermann’s reputation. The 1999 edition said: ‘The 1997 confirms the greatness of this outstanding wine: a splendid nose, complex with hints of tomato leaf and mixed fruits… A comparable palate and an inexhaustible symphony of fruit flavours on a plump but elegant textural base.’
In 1999 Wine Enthusiast commented: ‘Musky, melon-like nose. Full in the mouth, lightly spicy and long on the finish. Tight now, needs time to open up and reveal its charms.’
After a vertical tasting of 30 vintages of Tunina in 2017, Jermann noted during a YouTube interview that 1979 and 1997 had particularly impressed him. Richard Baudains, also present at the tasting, was enthusiastic: ‘Nose with acacia honey, touch of sultana, tropical fruit, pressed flowers, hint of Riesling-like petrol… Big impact on the palate, ripe fleshy fruit, great progression, long complex finish.’See more Wine Legends here.
Michaela Morris brings you an exclusive sneak preview on how the Chianti Classico 2017 vintage is shaping up in the cellar...Castello di Ama's 22.8ha Bellavista vineyard.
Wine regions around the globe will remember 2017 for challenges of almost biblical proportions. From frost, hail, torrid heat, drought and fires, never have extremes been so widespread.
Tuscany did not go unscathed, starting with the frosts that affected much of Europe in late April.Related content published in March and April 2018:
- Full report on the latest Chianti Classico releases by Michaela Morris
- Brunello di Montalcino 2013: Report & top wines
- Brunello Riserva 2012: Report & top wines
- Chianti Classico 2013 & 2014 top tiers: Panel tasting results
An rare opportunity to taste 20 vintages of Dal Forno's Amarone, organised by Fine & Rare in London.Romano Dal Forno Amarones.
Romano Dal Forno’s eponymous winery deserves more recognition within the collectors’ community, as he produces some of the most mind-bending, beautiful wines anywhere in the world.
Scroll down to see all 20 vintages of Romano Dal Forno Amarone The philosophy Related content:
The land of abundance; southern Italy produces fantastic food with wines to match. But how much do you know about this complex, rich and fertile land? Test your knowledge with our southern Italian wine quiz....Ever wondered what wines made on a live volcano taste like? Credit: planeta.itStart the southern Italian wine quiz below
More wine quizzes here
The post The southern Italian wine quiz – Test your knowledge appeared first on Decanter.
The latest releases from Chianti Classico producers span several vintages and three quality tiers. See Michaela's report below, including value picks, top scorers and tasting notes for 103 wines...The vast space where the 2018 Chianti Classico Collection tasting took place.
‘Both 2015 and 2016 have great potential, but 2015 has the edge because it came right after the extremely challenging 2014,’ declares Federica Mascheroni of Castello di Volpaia in Radda-in-Chianti.
In one fell swoop, she summarises the overlapping new releases of Chianti Classico which were presented in mid-February at Florence’s Stazione Leopolda.
This enormous, defunct train station is massive enough to accommodate the comprehensive showing from one of Italy’s most prolific DOPs, which sold over 37 million bottles in 2017.
Despite vintage differences, as well as inevitable highs and lows, there has never been a better time to drink Chianti Classico. Quite simply, this region is a treasure trove of truly delicious wines demonstrating the best of Sangiovese. Related content:
- Chianti Classico 2013 & 2014 top tiers: Panel tasting results
- Brunello di Montalcino 2013: Report and top wines
- Brunello Riserva 2012: Report & Top wines
- Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015 preview
The post Chianti Classico new releases – Full report & top wines appeared first on Decanter.
Merchant Grands Vins de Gironde has been found guilty of wrongly labelling significant quantities of Bordeaux appellation wine and must pay a 200,000 fine, according to reports. Reporting by Chris Mercer and Yohan Castaing.
Merchant group Grands Vins de Gironde (GVG) was fined 400,000 euros by a Bordeaux tribunal yesterday (5 April), but saw half of this amount suspended, according to separate local media reports from Sud-Ouest and France Bleu, quoting directly from the court.
A spokesperson for Bordeaux’s wine council, the CIVB, confirmed to Decanter.com that GVG had also been ordered to pay the body 3,000 euros in damages, after the CIVB joined the prosecution as a civil party.
In one of the biggest wine fraud scandals to hit Bordeaux, GVG had been accused of deception by producing an estimated 6,000 hectolitres of wine – 600,000 litres – that had been ‘mixed illegally or without traceability’, the tribunal was told at a hearing in March this year.
It is a case that goes back to 2014 and is believed to include wine that was wrongly labelled under well-known Bordeaux appellations such as St-Estèphe and St-Emilion.
GVG’s head of purchasing at the time was also given a 15,000 euro fine for his role in the operation, but the tribunal suspended payment; focusing blame on the company, said reports.
During the tribunal hearing, GVG’s lawyer, Alexandre Bienvenu, contested any ‘will to cheat’ on behalf of his client.
Wine implicated in the case had an estimated market value of 1.2 million euros, the tribunal heard in March.
Prosecution followed an investigation by inspectors for France’s anti-fraud body.
GVG is owned by the Castéja family, but there was no suggestion that the family owners were involved in the affair.See also: French watchdog details ‘massive’ misuse of Rhône and Châteauneuf names
The post Bordeaux wine fraud: GVG merchant ordered to pay 200,000 euros appeared first on Decanter.
Californian wine expert Elin McCoy charts the ascension of Napa's Trefethen Family Vineyards and shares her tasting notes from their wine collection, including Library Selection Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignons from 1979-2015.Since the 1970s, Trefethen's wines have been a family-based success story. Credit trefethen.com
In 2014, when a major earthquake shook the Napa Valley, the Trefethen Family Vineyards’ pumpkin coloured 19th century wooden winery almost collapsed. Leaning precariously, the massive building looked like a lost cause, but the Trefethens hired a crew to ratchet it upright and spent 33 months restoring it.Scroll down for Elin McCoy’s wine ratings of top vintages
That kind of determination is one reason the family’s wine estate in Napa’s Oak Knoll District has prospered since its founding 50 years ago.
Only 25 wineries existed in Napa when Eugene Trefethen and his wife bought a dilapidated 440-acre ghost winery in 1968 and began planting vines on the gravelly soils of their main ranch. Their son John and his wife Janet released the first commercial wine, a Chardonnay, in 1973.
‘We used Bourbon barrels because we’d read that we should age chardonnay in oak,’ said Janet, as we sampled several older vintages of their famous white.
Find one to try today....Pinot Grigio grapes.Value Pinot Grigio / Gris: Under £30
‘Pinot Gris of this sort is a wonderful food wine with almost limitless matching possibilities,’ said Anderw Jefford, when he picked his top 35 Pinot Gris wines, from a selection chosen by Decanter experts around the world.
The following wines are some of the best-value offerings, all under £30 and most under £25.See the full list of wines in the May 2018 issue of Decanter magazine, or by signing up to Decanter Premium. See all subscription options here
Try our Pinot Grigio wine quiz: Can you get 10 out of 10?
Now that it's time for another Bordeaux en primeur week, we summarise a new report from the oenology unit at Bordeaux University, the ISVV, on weather conditions in the Bordeaux 2017 growing season.
‘This year will long be remembered because of the frost in late April that devastated nearly half of the potential crop,’ according to the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences of Bordeaux University (ISVV) 2017 vintage report.
But, as previously reported by Decanter’s Jane Anson, frost damage was patchy – even in the worst-hit areas of the Right Bank and Graves, which sustained more damage overall than Médoc.
While barrel samples are still being tasted, and the skill and resources of winemakers and vineyard managers must be taken into account, the ISVV said that weather conditions set up 2017 as ‘a challenging vintage with great variation’ and ‘undoubtedly more heterogeneous than 2015, and much more so than 2016’.
For the reds, Cabernet was expected to have an edge on Merlot in general in the vineyard, because its later ripening qualities enabled it to get past rain in early September. It was the sunniest October in Bordeaux since 1974.
For dry whites in Graves, technical data showed that ‘the balance found in the grapes was worthy of the greatest vintages, with perfectly satisfactory sugar levels, high acidity, and a very promising aromatic potential’, the ISVV said.What makes a good vintage?
There are five conditions that make a great vintage, said the late Denis Debordieu, who was instrumental in the creation of ISVV.
1. An early and rapid flowering and a good fecundation assuring a sufficient yield and the hope of a homogenous ripening.
2. Sufficient hydric stress at fruit-set to limit the growth of the young berries and determine their future tannic content.
3. Cessation of vegetative growth of the vine before colour change, imposed by limited hydric stress and therefore allowing all the goodness from the root to flow into the grapes and not unproductive growth.
4. Complete maturity of the grapes (sugar content among other factors) assured by the optimum functioning of the canopy (leaves) up to harvest time without further vegetative growth (point 3).
5. Good weather during vintage without dilution or rot, allowing full maturity of all grapes including late ripening varieties.Did 2017 have these conditions in Bordeaux?
Vineyards not hit by the frost had maintained the first two conditions, with quick and even flowering and fruit set, said the ISVV.
Not so many vineyards had the third condition – only those on well drained soils; the summer was dry, but not sufficient for early water stress.
For Merlot, the fourth and fifth conditions were not fully met; the rain in September prevented ideal final ripening in several areas, although vineyards on clay-limestone, with slightly later ripening characteristics, fared better.
For Cabernet Sauvignon, the heat in late September and through October provided good ripening; the fourth and fifth conditions were completed for these wines in many cases, said ISVV.Bordeaux 2016 weather report Bordeaux 2015 weather report 2017 in summary by month
January – Cold and dry. Much less rain than usual, and much colder.
February and March – Mild and wet, which lead to early vegetative growth.
April – Started with sunshine but then temperatures dropped significantly, leading to the frost towards the end of the month. This caused a 40% drop in the wine harvest, and some estates are not releasing wines.
May – The return of spring weather and warmer temperatures, which helped flowering. This is where the differences between those hit by frost, and those not, appear.
June – Summer-like, with sunshine and warm temperatures.
July and August – Cooler, autumnal weather. Water stress was delayed, which was favourable to wines hit by frost and gave survivors a chance to catch up. Water stress then came in August.
September – Cool temperatures and more cloud cover than normal with some rain early in the month, which led to concern about rot in Merlot vines.
October – Summer-like weather and the sunniest in Bordeaux since 1974.
18-20 March saw ProWein 2018 take place in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Over 6,800 exhibitors from 64 countries and over 60,000 trade visitors attended the three day event.
Decanter hosted a stand exhibiting 15 wines recommended from an article featured in the January 2018 issue – The 75 Best Buys of 2017
In the panel tasting, Decanter experts were asked to name five bottles under £55 that had impressed them the most in 2017. After tasting and rating 173 wines our panel put together the ultimate 75.Read the original article here – The 75 Best Buys of 2017
The wines available at ProWein included:
- Corte Aura, Franciacorta Saten Millesimato, Franciacorta, Lombardia, Italy 2010
- Edoardo Miroglio, EM Brut Rosé, Nova Zagora, Thracian Valley, Bulgaria 2011
- Marjan Simčič, Rebula Opoka, Goriška Brda, Primorska, Slovenia 2013
- Kaapzicht, 1947 Chenin Blanc, Bottelary, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2016
- Dönnhoff, Roxheimer Höllenpfad Trocken Riesling, Nahe, Germany 2016
- Nikos Douloufakis, Aspros Lagos, Crete, Greece 2016
- Marqués de Murrieta, Capellanía, Rioja, Spain 2013
- Domaine Guy Farge, Vania, Saint-Joseph, Rhône, France 2016
- González Byass, Fino 3 Palmas, Jerez, Spain
- Luca Ferraris, Vigna del Parroco Ruchè di Castagnole, Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy 2016
- Querciabella, Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, Italy 2013
- D. Vajra, Bricco delle Viole, Barolo, Piemonte, Italy 2012
- Trinity Hill, Syrah, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand 2014
- Lafran-Veyrolles, CS, Bandol, Provence, France 2011
- Ramos Pinto, 20 Year Old, Port, Portugal
ProWein 2019 is set to take place from 17 to 19 March 2019.
The region is a food lover's paradise, so Michaela Morris picks her top restaurants around Jesi to try....Uliassi restaurantTop Jesi restaurants
How to get there: The town of Jesi is 15km from the Marche airport (Ancona Falconara) and a half hour drive from the city of Ancona.
Le Marche’s sea to mountain terrain offers a wealth of produce, making it a food lover’s paradise. From brodetto (fish stew) to porchetta, white truffles to olive ascolane (stuffed, breaded and fried olives), every corner boasts a specialty.Uliassi
Mauro Uliassi boasts two Michelin stars at this elegant beachside venue. The cuisine is a meeting of sea and game meat with artfully presented, flavourful dishes.Ristorante Andreina
Errico Recanati’s one-star Michelin restaurant offers traditional Marchigiano fare. Though outside the Castelli di Jesi area, it is worth a detour.Pappafò
This country house in Matelica offers specialties of Le Marche’s hills, but it’s the imaginative gourmet pizza and artisanal beer that steal the show.Ristorante dal Mago
An affordable, sincere and cosy trattoria that serves and sells genuine local products. Open for lunch and dinner, it’s where the locals eat.Il Laghetto
This is the spot for Portonovo’s celebrated wild mussels or simply prepared fish right on the beach.Foyer Verdicchio di Matelica
Visit Foyer Verdicchio di Matelica to sample wine, cheese and salumi from regional producers. Make sure you peek in at the G Piermarini theatre, designed by the architect responsible for Milan’s La Scala.Bar Ristoro Il Murales
Visit Bar Ristoro Il Murales in Braccano, where a display of scarecrows lines the street. Tel: +39 0737 685200.When to visit
The town of Jesi makes a convenient base for visiting Castelli di Jesi and Matelica, as well as the coast.
Inland destinations remain uncrowded throughout the summer and by September the beaches are peacefull and the water is still warm enough for swimming. Serious gourmands should consider visiting for the white truffle festival of Acqualagna, which starts in late October.More travel guides here
In the latest twist to a busy week in the UK wine world, Champ private equity and Constellation have announced the sale of Hardys owner Accolade Wines to the Carlyle Group in a deal worth one billion Australian dollars.
Australia-based Champ private equity said today (5 April) that Carlyle Group has purchased 100% of Accolade Wine, which includes the Hardys and Banrock Station Australian wine brands and has been a major player in the UK for many years.
The deal was worth a total A$1 billion, Champ said. Accolade is the biggest wine producer in Australia.
Its strong heritage in the UK means that it has been a busy week in the British wine trade, following the break-up of Conviviality and news that Brown Brothers would pull its brand out of the country’s sales network.
Accolade is the former Europe and Australia wines division of Constellation and Champ has owned 80% of the business since the beginning of 2011, when Constellation decided to focus on its North America business.
Constellation retained 20% of the business that became Accolade and has now sold up, alongside Champ, to Carlyle Group.
Champ originally paid around A$290 million for its 80% stake.
John Haddock, Champ CEO, said, ‘Accolade represents the best of private equity ownership: taking the time to develop a business, investing in multiple areas of the business and orientating the company towards a growth opportunity that has many years ahead of it.’
He said that the firm was proud to have ‘rejuvenated’ the Hardys brand and the private equity group added that Accolade exported around A$350m of Australian wine annually.
Jane Anson tastes a vertical of the Bordeaux Right Bank's Château Corbin - a St-Emilion estate which won't be producing a 2017 vintage because of the frost...Château Corbin in St-Emilion. Anson: Tasting Château Corbin
There is, as you probably know, going to be no Château Corbin in 2017, after the frost that so badly affected the vines in this corner of St-Emilion – although there will be a small amount of the second wine Divin de Corbin.
It’s a tough decision for any winemaker to sit out an entire vintage, so it seemed like a good time to head over to the château for a vertical of older vintages and to see which years are ready to drink right now, and which need to stay in the cellar for a little longer.
- Scroll down to see Jane Anson’s Château Corbin tasting notes, exclusive to Decanter Premium members
The last decade has been particularly interesting to follow over at Corbin, as Annabelle Cruse-Bardinet and her husband Sebastien Bardinet bought out the rest of the Corbin family in 2006, so taking decision-making from a family board to just the two of them.
Annabelle puts it as ‘taking our own risks and seeing our own rewards’, although really she is the one in control – the fourth generation Cruse woman at the helm –as Sebastien has another job running a brokerage firm.
Since then she has changed her consultant (still the Rolland team but now Jean-Philippe Faure) and replanted around 35% of the vineyard (the young vines mainly go into the second wine, but the final decision is only taken after fermentation, rather than in the vineyard).
As of the 2016 vintage, she also unveiled a new cellar that uses entirely neutral cement tanks, with 18 small sizes from 50 to 80 hecolitres; previously there were 10 tanks, also in cement.
Cruse-Bardinet is one of my absolute favourite people to taste with, as she is such a thoughtful winemaker and totally open to discussing where each vintage went wrong and right. You find this in Napa also, and it’s always fascinating and educational.
Her readiness to question and refine is evident at every stage, in details large and small. She is, for example, the only Grand Cru Classé St-Emilion that I know of to put her second wine in AOC St-Emilion not AOC St-Emilion Grand Cru.
The change happened as of 2005 (its first vintage was 2000) because she felt that she wanted to focus on the fruit, and the ageing. A small thing to consumers, almost certainly, but the minimum allowed in oak for St-Emilion Grand Cru is 12 months and for a straight St-Emilion is closer to six, and they are able to go on sale the April following harvest.
‘Perhaps I was wrong, it is not so prestigious an appellation of course,’ she says, ‘but I was very sure that a generous fruit structure was the key to my second wine’.‘It’s a wine worth keeping your eye on.’
Nothing is set in stone at Corbin – the second wine production might vary between 15% and 30% of the overall crop, depending on the vintage, and ageing for the both wines will vary between 14 and 18 months, again depending on what the vintage requires.
And you can be constantly surprised by the wine – a reminder that it is so different from much of St-Emilion, with a clay subsoil replacing the limestone, and sandy-gravel in parts of the vineyard that remind you of just how close Pomerol is.
This translated, for me, into a few surprises – how enjoyable the 2007 and 2011 are for drinking right now for one thing. It’s a wine worth keeping your eye on, and trusting to do well in the difficult years.
‘You second-guess yourself at first,’ she says when asked about her winemaking style since 2006, ‘but gain in confidence as you go along. Today I feel more able to act on what my instinct is telling me both in the vineyard and cellar’.Château Corbin fact file
Château Corbin is 13ha, located in northwest St-Emilion on the Corbin plateau, close to the Pomerol border and planted to 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.
The terroir is split into two different soil types (in two contingent blocks around the chateau), with sand-gravels over clay subsoil, and deep clays.
Vines are an average of 30 years old, planted between 6,700 and 8,300 feet per hectare. Since 2017 the estate is certified as Haute Valeur Environmentale and ISO 14001. It has been in the Corbin family since 1924 and has been recognised as Grand Cru Classé since the inaugural ranking of 1954.
The entire vineyard had drainage channels added in 2000, but has an excellent natural drainage from a north to south slope that has a 15% gradient.
Beleaguered drinks business Conviviality has said it is still ‘pursuing opportunities’ for its retail operations after agreeing to sell Bibendum and Matthew Clark to Magners owner C&C Group.
- Bibendum and Matthew Clark sold to C&C Group – shareholders to receive ‘nominal value’ but trade creditors to be paid in full
- Conviviality says still pursuing sale of retail business
The company said all trade creditors of its Conviviality Direct business – comprising mainly drinks suppliers Matthew Clark and Bibendum – would be ‘paid in full’ as a result of the deal with magners cider owner C&C, which emerged yesterday.
It added that the deal ‘assured’ continuity of supply for customers. It added that the deal meant ‘continuity of employment’ for the 1,900 workers in the Conviviality Direct business division. Conviviality has around 2,600 employees across the group.
Conviviality confirmed that it had appointed administrators for subsidiary Conviviality Brands Ltd yesterday (4 April). C&C said that it bought 100% of Matthew Clark and Bibendum shares for a ‘nominal sum’, but it had agreed to pay £102m to Conviviality’s lenders over the next year. The cider owner said that it had also received financial backing in the deal from AB InBev, which used Conviviality to launch its Bud Light beer brand in the UK last year.
It added: ‘The board consider that the offer from C&C represents the best outcome for creditors, suppliers, customers and employees of the Conviviality Direct business.
‘C&C have undertaken to provide substantial funding to the Conviviality Direct business to ensure creditors are paid and to address the cash flow constraints that have been encountered.’
As well as Bibendum and Matthew Clark, Conviviality also owned the Wine Rack and Bargain Booze retail chains, of which it said: ‘The company continues to pursue opportunities in respect of the Conviviality Retail business, and will provide an update in due course.
‘No other companies in the group have had administrators appointed, and such other companies continue to trade.’
The crisis afflicting Conviviality was sparked by profit warnings, plus its admission that it had failed to account for a £30m tax bill, prompting the resignation of CEO Diana Hunter and a subsequent failed attempt to raise £125m from investors.
Matthew Clark, the largest independent supplier to the UK’s bars, pubs and clubs, has a range of more than 4,000 beers, wines, spirits, cider and soft drinks, while Bibendum has a particular wine focus.
Some observers have already voiced concerns that C&C and AB InBev may have little interest in the wine portfolio of its new acquisition.
Wine made up 37% of Matthew Clark and Bibendum combined sales in Conviviality’s 2016-17 financial year, versus 25% for cider and beer, according to Conviviality’s annual report for 2017.
In the last reported financial year, ending in April 2017, Conviviality Direct reported gross revenues of £1.22bn and adjusted earnings (EBITDA) of £51.3m, with gross assets amounting to about £230m, Conviviality said. Net sales were just over £1bn.
Extra reporting by Chris Mercer.
The post Conviviality hopeful of retail sale after Bibendum deal appeared first on Decanter.
And how important is it...?What is cellar palate?What is a ‘cellar palate’- ask Decanter
Sarah Smith, Bayswater asks: What do professional tasters think about the influence of so-called ‘cellar palate’ when visiting a wine region? How significant is this and how do you guard against it?’
Matt Walls replies: Suffering from ‘cellar palate’ means that you’ve become so immersed in a local style that you become blind to the faults or shortcomings in the wines.
It’s a condition more commonly associated with winemakers, but it can affect anyone tasting lots of wines from a specific region, such as wine critics or even holidaymakers.
Essentially, over time, your palate adapts to become in-line with local norms.How to avoid it
Most professional tasters – at least in the UK – are used to tasting widely, so any local idiosyncrasies should be immediately apparent when visiting a new region.
While there, it’s crucial to retain a degree of objectivity and distance. And if staying in-situ for extended periods, it’s also important to continue to taste widely outside that region to retain a sense of context.
If you’re aware of the problem, and take steps to mitigate it, cellar palate should be an easy avoidable condition.
Matt Walls is Decanter’s Rhône expert, DWWA regional chair for the Rhône and a contributing editor.
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
Le Marche is best known for its whites, and Verdicchio is the flagship variety. Michaela Morris picks some of the top wineries to visit in the region...ColleStefano estateLe Marche wineries to visit
How to get there: The town of Jesi is 15km from the Marche airport (Ancona Falconara) and a half hour drive from the city of Ancona.
Castelli di Jesi is the Verdicchio that sees the sea, while Matelica is the Verdicchio of the mountains. Both zones are well worth discovering…Pievalta
For a lesson in the nuances of terroir, head to Pievalta. Here you can compare Verdicchio from the clay and limestone soil of Maiolati Spontini commune with those of the granitic sandstone of San Paolo di Jesi. Winemaker Alessandro Fenino takes willing guests into the vineyards for a crash-course in biodynamic viticulture. Wine shop open: Monday to Friday 9.00 – 12.00, 15.00 – 18.00. Tours available but book first. +39 0731 705199Sartarelli
The tasting room at Sartarelli doubles as a museum, giving a useful primer of the Jesi area while offering five styles of Verdicchio, from a charmat-method bubbly to a sweet passito. Wine shop open: Monday – Friday 08.00 – 12.30 / 14.00 – 19.00, Saturday 08.00 – 13.00. Tours available, contact in advance. +39 0731 89732Colpaola estate La Staffa
Another proponent of organics and biodynamics is rising star Riccardo Baldi at La Staffa. His vineyard is near the town of Staffolo, where the calcium carbonate-rich soil gives structured wines with pronounced minerality. For something completely different, ask to try his Verdicchio ‘pét-nat’ lightly sparkling wine.Marotti Campi
At Marotti Campi, the comparison is of a different nature. The estate crafts three Verdicchios, each picked at progressively later ripening times and aged longer on the lees. Salmariano incorporates a small percentage of new barrique and is a testament to Verdicchio’s affinity with oak. Marotti Campi also makes one of the region’s best examples of the intensely perfumed, exotically aromatic red Lacrima variety. Contact in advance, firstname.lastname@example.org+39 0731 618027Villa Bucci
No tour of Castelli di Jesi is complete without a visit to Villa Bucci. This well-established estate is a reference for the ageing potential of Verdicchio. Examples as old as 25 years are still fresh and fascinating. The delightful Ampelio Bucci may offer a cask tasting as well, challenging you to make your own blend and rating your winemaking prowess. Contact here.ColleStefano
In Matelica, the co-existence of small and large wineries that defines Le Marche is illustrated by ColleStefano and Belisario. At one extreme, ColleStefano is a tiny family-owned estate that has been farming organically for over 20 years. Most of the production goes into a single bottling, but a visit here will give you a taste of its racy sparkling Verdicchio made in tiny quantities. Contact here.Belisario
At the other end of the spectrum, Belisario is a 100-member cooperative with a dizzying array of labels, including other native whites grapes such as Passerina and Pecorino. Verdicchio, however, is still very much the focus. Cambrugiano is its top wine and was one of the very first Verdicchio to be aged in barrique. Contact here.More wine travel guides here.
Magners cider owner C&C Group has announced 'advanced discussions' with crisis-hit Conviviality to take on the Matthew Clark and Bibendum wine, beer and spirits supply businesses, with support from the world's largest brewer, AB InBev.
A deal for specialist drinks suppliers Matthew Clark and Bibendum was set to complete later today (4 April) but would only happen if Conviviality formally appointed administrators, said C&C Group. It added that Conviviality shareholders would receive only a ‘nominal sum’.
Conviviality said last Thursday (29 March) that it intended to place itself in administration within 10 working days after failing to raise £125 million needed to keep the company afloat. It said at the time that it had also received sale interest from several suitors.
Today, Conviviality confirmed discussions with C&C over its ‘Direct’ business and said that it was also exploring a sale of its Retail division, including Bargain Booze and Wine Rack stores, after interest from other parties.
A deal with C&C and AB InBev could reassure a significant number of Conviviality’s 2,600 employees, at least in the short-term, and would also expand the buyers’ distribution network for their brands.
Conviviality Direct, which is the division that includes Bibendum and Matthew Clark, is the largest of the firm’s three business arms and generated £1.04 billion of the company’s £1.56bn net sales in its 2016-2017 financial year, according to Conviviality’s 2017 annual report. Wine made up 37% of Bibendum and Matthew Clark combined sales.
C&C said, ‘Consideration for the shares will be a nominal sum, and C&C will provide sufficient funds to support the on-going working capital and other cash requirements of the business. In addition, AB InBev will provide additional financial support to the transaction.’
C&C added, ‘At completion, Matthew Clark Bibendum will have £102 million of working capital facilities provided by its current lender group, repayable in instalments over the 12 months following completion.’
Gross assets of approximately £230 million are expected to be acquired at completion, C&C said.
A deal would include subsidiary firms Catalyst, Peppermint, Elastic and Walker & Wodehouse.
C&C said that the deal would ‘provide direct access to an incremental c.23,000 predominantly on-trade customers across the UK comprising leading hotels, restaurants, pubs, clubs, and bars’. It would also allow it to access Bibendum’s wine distribution network in London and the south-east.
AB InBev already works with C&C in the UK, and Conviviality was also a key launch partner for AB InBev’s Bud Light beer brand in the UK from March 2017 onwards.
Trading in Conviviality’s shares has been suspended since mid-March at the company’s behest, after it discovered an unpaid £30 million tax bill due on 29 March.
Conviviality’s rapid demise has surprised parts of the wine trade and investment community, with more questions likely to be asked about how the firm found itself in such a situation.
C&C’s CEO, Stephen Glancey, said, ‘The last few weeks have been challenging for employees, customers and suppliers alike. We hope today’s announcement can put an end to this period of disruption and uncertainty.’
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Italy’s biodynamic champion is a fourth-generation winemaker who flirted with economics before finding his true calling among the vines. Richard Baudains visits his estate to see his sustainable wine-growing philosophy in action...Alois Lageder
Alois Lageder owns and runs Italy’s biggest biodynamic wine estate. To set our conversations in context, he began my visit by taking me to his Römigberg estate at Caldaro. It was a cold and frosty January morning, but already by 9:30am the steeply terraced vineyards on this, the sunny side of the valley, were in bright sunlight.
- Richard Baudains is a DWWA Regional co-Chair for Italy, who has written on Italian wine for Decanter for 25 years