Jane Anson looks at what's changed in St-Estèphe, and re-tastes 38 wines from 2014 - 'a vintage not to miss'....Cos d’EstournelAnson: Top St-Estèphe 2014 wines
Has any Médoc appellation seen more dynamic movement than St-Estèphe in the last few years? I would strongly argue no.
If there’s one statistic that makes this clear it’s that in the past decade, 20% of the appellation’s estates have changed hands.Scroll down for Jane’s St-Estèphe 2014 tasting notes & scores
Among the most notable recent exchanges have been the Gardinier brothers selling Phelan-Segur to Belgian investor Philippe Van de Vyvere, Roederer selling Haut-Beausejour to Pierre Rousseau (who also purchased Lafitte Carcasset in 2015) and Pomys going over to Cos d’Estournel.
Jacky Lorenzetti of Lilian Ladouys picked up both Clauzet, from Baron Velge, and Tour de Pez, from the Bouchera family. Then there’s Bernard Magrez buying former Cru Arisan Château La Peyre (promptly renaming it as Clos Sanctus Perfectus).
At the same time Gonzargue Lurton has sold Château Domeyne to négociant house Ginestet, while Mahler Besse has sold a majority stake in Château Picard to fellow merchant Borie Manoux (owner Philippe Castéja already owns Beau Site), and Hong Kong company Long Faith International has bought Château Tour St Fort and is due to open an opulent chambres d’hotes and wine tourism centre later this year.
As with Pauillac, one key source of new estates comes from grape growers who were taking their fruit to the local cooperative cellar until recently. For example, Château Marceline took production back in-house in 2009, and Château Haut-Barron created its Haut-Medoc estate from former cooperative fruit in 2011, and its St-Estèphe more recently in 2014.
Thirty years ago the local cooperative took in around 200ha of grapes, while today it is closer to 35ha; in Pauillac the numbers stood at around 150ha at its height in the 1970s and 1980s and has today shrunk to 25ha. A more usual destination for these former cooperative vines is to existing châteaux who are consolidating and expanding their holdings – so Lilian Ladouys, Tour de Pez, Petit Bocq, Clauzet and Serilhan have all grown their vineyards in this way.
Much of this has been hugely healthy for the appellation, with repeated injections of capital and new ideas bringing better winemaking techniques, such as a desire to soften and round out those sometimes rustic tannins that plagued St-Estèphe’s reputation for years – a result of its soils, which share the gravels of Pauillac and St Julien but with more instances of clay both in the subsoils and at the surface, along with spots of limestone. The clay gives power and richness to the wines while maintaining freshness (some of the best 2003s came from here, for example), but can tend towards burliness if not tamed. The clay also translates into higher Merlot than in sibling communals – there is routinely 50% or more Merlot at a number of estates here, including La Commanderie, de Côme, Lilian Ladouys, Petit Bocq, Tour des Termes and L’Argilus de Roi.One-level Cru Bourgeois
It’s not all good news though – I hear that some of the sales have been forced because of issues with the one-level Cru Bourgeois system, introduced in 2008 – essentially in dragging the prices of the more prestigious estates down by getting rid of the three-tier system.
With only five 1855 classifieds, St-Estèphe has always been a reliable source of some of the best Cru Bourgeois, so it was hit particularly hard by the levelling of the system when the Cru Bourgeois Superieur and Exceptionnel estates were removed. Out of the nine Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels, four were in St-Estèphe, alongside 12 Cru Bourgeois Superieurs – more than any other communal Médoc AOC.
The fact that so many of the recent sales involve these names (all but Ormes de Pez have changed hands out of the Exceptionnels) perhaps indicates the resulting financial strain and also suggests why there is such enthusiasm from the chateaux for the three-level ranking being reintroduced in 2020.
What is undeniable is that there is a sense of renewal in the air in this corner of the Médoc peninsula. Add all of this to the fact that the appellation has enjoyed a run of good vintages and you start to see why this is a good time to get on board.
I have written several times about the success of the northern Médoc in 2014 – the Indian summer suited them perfectly, with many harvesting until 16 October, even up to 21 October in a few cases.
This was possible because there was significantly less rainfall here than in the southern Médoc and on the right bank, and after an extensive re-tasting of the wines last week, looking at 38 estates, I’m very happy to underline that this is a vintage not to miss in St-Estèphe. Rich brambly flavours abound, with tannins that are starting to soften and give the fruit free rein.The wines
I found amazing consistency between the wines at the tasting. 87 was my lowest score and 96 my highest – very impressive for a horizontal that included 1855 classified growths right down to small Cru Artisans and beyond.
Many are starting to grow into their potential and this is reflected in the scores: I gave Calon Ségur 95 last year and the same now, but Lafon Rochet got 93 a year ago but 94 this time, and Cos Labory 91 a year ago but 92 now… exactly what you want with wines that are getting a few years of bottle age under their belt.Top five best value
Many of the 38 wines tasted offer brilliant value, but these five below all scored well and sell for between €15 and €30 in France – and should be available for similar prices in the UK.Château Andron Blanquet
Château Le Boscq
Château Ormes de Pez
Château Tour des Termes
Château de Côme
The tasting notes and scores for all 38 wines below are available exclusively to Decanter Premium members.Top St-Estèphe 2014 wines:
Which varieties are resistant to phylloxera?Phylloxera infected grape vine. Is the Mission vine variety resistant to phylloxera? – ask Decanter
Zachary Elfman, Vigo, Spain asks: Are there certain grapes that are resistant to phylloxera?
I read that the Mission variety was likely the first Vitis vinifera planted on US soil, and it struck me that it should have been ravaged by phylloxera. Yet it is highly productive, and many own-rooted examples still exist in California and Argentina.
Julia Harding MW replies: Whereas American vine species are resistant to phylloxera, some more so than others, no Vitis vinifera varieties are resistant.See also: How much wine does a vine produce? – Ask Decanter See also: How old is too old for vines? – ask Decanter
As we explain in The Oxford Companion to Wine (OUP, 4th edition, 2015), phylloxera is native to the east coast of the US, which is why the Mission vines taken from Spain (it’s now known as Listán Prieto in the Canary Islands) to Mexico around 1540, and to New Mexico in 1629, survived unscathed until phylloxera crossed the Rockies in the 1870s.
If there are own-rooted Mission vines found in California or Argentina, then these must be in areas not affected by phylloxera.
For a good history of the aphid, I recommend Christy Campbell’s Phylloxera: How Wine was Saved for the World (HarperCollins, 2004).
Julia Harding MW worked on The Oxford Companion to Wine among other books.This question first appeared in the July 2018 issue of Decanter magazine, subscribe to Decanter here.
The post Is the Mission variety resistant to phylloxera? – ask Decanter appeared first on Decanter.
Get to grips with the different appellations on this side of the Gironde, as Stephen Brook offers a comprehensive guide from north to south for anyone who is just beginning their love affair with Bordeaux wines...
As the terms Left and Right Bank clearly imply, what we think of as Bordeaux is in reality two different regions separated by the broad Gironde River. It’s not just geography that divides them. The Left Bank is, in its best terroirs, dominated by gravel banks, which Cabernet Sauvignon in particular finds accommodating. Across the river, the Right Bank is largely clay and limestone, where Merlot is more at home.
Yet even the Left Bank is far from homogeneous. Its numerous appellations are divided by location – it’s 130km from the northern Médoc to the southern Graves – and also by proximity to the river. Soil too plays a part: top sub-regions such as Margaux are a series of gravel mounds, while elsewhere gravel is sporadic at best. The role of gravel is twofold: it permits excellent drainage, a crucial factor in a maritime region, as it stores heat during sunny days and then releases it slowly after sundown, encouraging the ripening process.Scroll down to see Brook’s selection of classic tastes from the Left Bank
The city of Bordeaux is at the region’s centre. Within the city itself, and for some distance to the south, is the Graves, home to the Left Bank’s oldest properties. To the north lies the Médoc, home to the Left Bank’s most prestigious sub-regions: Margaux, St-Julien, Pauillac and St-Estèphe. Almost all the estates classified in 1855 lie within those communes, with just a few exceptions such as La Lagune, Cantemerle and Belgrave.See Brook’s notes and scores for a selection of classic tastes from the Left Bank
The post Understanding the Left Bank: A comprehensive guide appeared first on Decanter.
McLaren Vale winery d’Arenberg has released a fortified wine, in the shape of a daddy long legs spider…d’Arenberg releases ‘Daddy Long Legs’ wine
Chester Osborn, fourth generation winemaker at d’Arenberg, set aside 15 barrels of fortified wine in 1984 when he started, which have been left to mature, and topped up with the same with where necessary.
Now, only two barrels remain and the wine has an average age of over 50 years old.
According to the winery, the wine is named after the ‘legions of Daddy Long Legs spiders who have kept a watchful eye over this wine, disturbed only to top the barrels.’
It is presented in an octagonal bottle, resting on eight long legs.
It has flavours of ‘baked figs and Christmas pudding’, according to the winery.
The Daddy Long Legs Extra Rare NV is only available at the d’Arenberg cellar door, and retails for AUS$500 for 100 ml.See also: Eight top Champagne and art collaborations D’Arenberg winery
D’Arenberg has a reputation for unusual ideas.
Their rubix cube inspired visitor centre and cellar door ‘the d’Arenberg cube’ cost AUS$15 million to build, and recently won a Good Design Award.
A recent tasting of the Wine Society's new releases turned up a few gems. Here are our top picks for the summer....
Decanter’s Tasting team recently tasted the latest additions to the Wine Society’s range.
The long-established firm, a cooperative owned by its members, was awarded Outstanding Retailer of the Year, Online Retailer of the Year and Regional France Specialist of the Year at the 2017 Decanter Retailer Awards.
Its range is curated by nine buyers.
Recommended Wine Society buys:
Wines updated 06/06/2018.
Fine wine collector and notorious alleged fraudster Hardy Rodenstock has died at the age of 76 after a long illness, according to reports in the German press.
According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, Rodenstock – a music publisher who sprang to fame for his uncanny ability to track down old and rare wines and his hosting of lavish tasting events – died on 19 May.
Rodenstock will be largely remembered for his ‘discovery’ of more than a dozen apparently 18th-century bottles of wine in a walled-up Paris basement in 1985.
Known as the Jefferson bottles, these were from blue-chip Bordeaux properties and some of them – including a bottle of ‘1787’ Château Lafite – were engraved with the letters ‘Th:J’.
This, according to Rodenstock, showed that they had been bought and owned by Thomas Jefferson, third President of the US, when he served as ambassador to Paris.
Three of the bottles – the 1787 Lafite, a 1784 Château d’Yquem and a half-bottle of 1784 Château Margaux – were auctioned by Christie’s in the mid-1980s.
But doubts were raised about the provenance of the bottles by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in the US, culminating in a series of lawsuits from billionaire businessman, art and wine collector William Koch, who had bought some of the Jefferson bottles.See also: How to spot a fake wine
Rodenstock maintained that the bottles were authentic, but refused to participate in the court case or to say who had sold him the bottles, how many there were or where exactly they had been found.
The episode spawned a book, The Billionaire’s Vinegar, written by Benjamin Wallace and telling the story of the controversy, including the results of scientific tests that dated the wine as having been produced in the early 1960s.
Its UK publisher, Random House, was later forced to apologise and pay damages to Michael Broadbent, former director of wine at Christie’s and veteran Decanter columnist, after he sued the company for libel over his portrayal in the book.
A film of The Billionaire’s Vinegar has been mooted for some years, with Brad Pitt originally slated to star in it, but with Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey more recently reported to be taking the lead role.
Beaujolais is currently enjoying a revival, thanks to improved quality and a run of great vintages. James Lawther MW profiles the young winemakers who are injecting new energy into the regionBeaujolais
The rise in quality, authenticity and standing of Beaujolais these days begs the question: who is driving the revival? Beaujolais has never fostered a star-orientated culture but in the grey days of the 1980s and 1990s, when nouveau compromised the region’s reputation, names such Marcel Lapierre, Guy Breton, Jean Foillard and Jean-Paul Thévenet stood out as a beacon for characterful, complex Beaujolais.
One or two of this generation (Foillard, Yvon Métras) are still flying the flag, but in the new millennium the spirit of true Beaujolais has undeniably become more youthful. Mainly in their 30s, the young people leading the fray are often more travelled, open and worldly but they have adhered to the guiding principle of their elders and mentors, which is to maintain a respect for the land and terroir.
An in-depth soil survey of the 10 Beaujolais crus has helped to reinforce this sentiment and fomented the notion of complexity and uniqueness in the region. From this has stemmed the bottling of individual parcels and a strong organic or biodynamic culture for growing Gamay. While fermentation practices (whole bunch or destemming) and ageing (with or without oak) may vary, the idea of a natural expression prevails, which for many means no chaptalisation, natural yeasts and minimal use of sulphites.
Either home-bred or with their origins elsewhere, the younger generation has a belief in the region and a strong conviction that they are recapturing the true expression of Beaujolais. ‘The new generation are proud to be vignerons in Beaujolais and that changes everything,’ says Mathieu Lapierre, who along with his sister, Camille, now runs Domaine Marcel Lapierre.
Below are some of the men and women who are helping to restore the reputation of the region.
The 7ha Domaine David-Beaupère was originally purchased by Louis-Clément David-Beaupère’s grandfather in the 1960s then leased to a grower by his father, who was a doctor. When the latter declared he wanted to sell, David-Beaupère dropped his job in the financial sector and announced that he was going to take over. Following three years of viticultural studies, he installed himself at the property in 2008. ‘People thought I was mad at the time but that wouldn’t be the case today,’ he says. The vines are now cultivated organically or are under conversion, and another 2ha in Moulin-à-Vent have just been planted. The Juliénas is produced in three cuvées, a young vine and two individual parcels: La Bottière (70-year-old vines planted around the house) and Vayolette. Fruit and freshness mark the wines.
Mathieu and Camille Lapierre
A brother-and-sister duo from a Morgon estate with an established reputation, Mathieu and Camille Lapierre jointly run Domaine Marcel Lapierre. In the 1980s Marcel Lapierre championed unadulterated, natural wine (organic cultivation, natural yeast, no chemical additives) and both Mathieu and Camille continue to adhere to the same principle – albeit with a touch more pragmatism than ideology. Mathieu initially trained as a chef, working in restaurants in France, the US and Canada before joining his father in 2005; while Camille worked as a sommelier before arriving at the family domaine in 2013. The Lapierre Morgon is a blend of different parcels cultivated organically, some with a nod to biodynamics. A percentage of the wine is made without sulphur dioxide but clients are given the option of an addition at bottling if preferred.
Claire Chasselay represents the continuity and durability on which the Beaujolais is founded. The Chasselay family can trace its history as vignerons back to 1464 and Claire’s work ethic follows her parents’ example. In 2008 she and brother Fabien Chasselay joined them at Domaine JG Chasselay in the southern Beaujolais following her viticultural studies and a stint in Australia. The domaine has been organically certified since 2006 and the Chasselays work with whole-bunch fruit, natural yeast and limited use of sulphites. Claire’s role is multi-tasking, including everything from work in the vineyard and winemaking to wine tastings at the cellar door and preparing dishes for customers at the domaine’s B&B. The style of the wines is fresh, fruity and appetising.Nicolas Chemarin
If you haven’t heard of the commune of Marchampt, it’s not a surprise. Located in the far-flung eastern limits of Beaujolais, it is credited with about 100ha of vines planted on steep slopes that rise from 360m to 550m, and a dozen or so vignerons who supply the local cooperative. Nicolas Chemarin is the only independent grower in the village who makes wine. A fourth-generation vigneron, he acquired his first vines in 2006 and now has 10ha, mainly Beaujolais-Villages but with a little Régnié, Morgon and Brouilly. He is clearly motivated, as on the steeper slopes much of the work is done by hand, with the vines attached to wooden pickets as in Côte-Rôtie. Low yields and ripe fruit are customary; the expression of red fruit and spice prevalent.
Claude-Emmanuelle and Louis-Benoît Desvignes
The initial challenge for this sister-and brother team was to maintain the solid reputation of the eighth-generation family property, Domaine Louis Claude Desvignes. Their father, Louis-Claude, had already set the tone by highlighting the different parcels in Morgon and bottling his own wines as far back as the 1960s. Claude-Emmanuelle joined him in 2001, then in 2004 she and Louis-Benoît took over the reins on his retirement. Subtle changes have given greater precision to the wines: the soils are now ploughed, even greater emphasis is given to the parcels and in the winery a pneumatic press has been added and the grapes receive gentler handling. The wines are then aged in concrete tanks. ‘Our father passed on the idea of producing a that reflects and respects the terroir, and that’s what try to do,’ says Louis-Benoît. As president of the yearly tasting event, Bien Boire en Beaujolais, he’s also at the forefront of promoting Beaujolais’s new generation.
A local boy through and through, Charly Thévenet was born and brought up in the region, nurtured in the credo of traditional winemaking by his father Jean-Paul and by Marcel Lapierre, for whom he worked for a while. ‘Their basic principles were the use of natural yeast (and consequently no chemicals in the vineyard) and to harvest ripe fruit – and for the wines I like it would be impossible to do anything else,’ he says. In 2007 he bought a 3ha vineyard in Régnié, running the tiny domaine separately from his father’s in Morgon, while at the same time working alongside him. From this year the two will be amalgamated as Jean- Paul retires. Charly now vinifies with whole bunches at low temperatures. ‘The technique works in the Beaujolais with our old vines as you get the fruit and the notion of terroir,’ he explains. Like his father he is a recognised figure in the region, but outside discreet and adverse to publicity.
A single-minded spirit, that’s Paul-Henri Thillardon. Originally from the southern Beaujolais where his father was a vigneron, he gravitated north, falling in love with Chénas, where he settled with 3ha in 2008 aged 22. In this little-known appellation the early years were difficult, exacerbated by his biodynamic approach, even using horses to plough on some of the steeper slopes. Joined by his brother, Charles, in 2014, Domaine Thillardon has now grown to 12ha, principally in Chénas where four different parcels produce four distinct cuvées. Pigs, chickens, ducks and bees complete the picture of biodiversity. Paul-Henri favours fruit and supple tannins, but his wines also have a saline minerality. In terms of winemaking, a pre-fermentation cold soak and full carbonic maceration allow extraction on the fruit using indigenous yeast. Wines are then aged in 600-litre barrels or Burgundian pieces for six to eight months.
Anne Krebiehl MW picks out 33 exciting Californian wines that impressed her at a recent tasting in London...
Sunshine in St James’s Street spelled the right kind of weather for a tasting of premium Californian wines in May, and the self-styled ‘American-inspired’ restaurant Avenue was the perfect backdrop, a space flooded with light that’s dedicated to contemporary, sophisticated American dining.
The tasting was hosted by four UK wine merchants who have championed Californian wine and built up enviable portfolios of both blue-chip estates and high-achieving newcomers – Vineyard Cellars, The Wine Treasury, Roberson Wine and Flint Wines.Other articles you may enjoy: Riding Napa’s Silverado Trail: 10 wineries to visit California’s Ramey wines: Latest releases tasted California Cabernet 2014: Panel tasting results
Built by a notorious pirate, Nassau’s Graycliff hotel is an 18th-century treasure trove containing some of the oldest and rarest wines in existence…For a fee of $1,000 you can dine among the rare and valuable wines in Graycliff's cellar...
This article has been created by Decanter in partnership with Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board.
- Over 275,000 wines
- Current value 25 million US dollars
- Home to ‘oldest drinkable wine in the world’
In the Graycliff hotel’s long and colourful history, the cellar was originally built as a jail during the American Civil War era.
The prison bars remain in place today, securing a vast wine collection, spanning 500 producers and 18 countries – the life’s work of current owner, the Italian-born hotelier, Enrico Garzaroli.Cellar highlights
Garzaroli began collecting wine in Lake Como and when he bought Graycliff mansion in 1973 – the same year The Bahamas gained independence from Britain – he brought 20,000 bottles with him.
At 70 years old, he has amassed a wine library that is said to be the third largest on the planet.
‘In terms of collecting old wine and liquors, I don’t think there is anyone in the world that can come close to me,’ Garzaroli told Decanter.com.
The stars of the cellar include a priceless bottle of 1727 Rudesheimer Apostelwein from Rheingau’s legendary Bremen Ratskeller.
‘This can justifiably claim to be the oldest drinkable wine in the world,’ said former Decanter columnist Michael Broadbent MW, who visited Graycliff on behalf of Christie’s auction house.
‘I have the very first vintage of Dom Pérignon rosé from 1959, a special edition to commemorate the wedding of the Shah of Iran that same year,’ said Garzaroli.
‘Although I am not sure where that is,’ he chuckled. ‘We joke that maybe one day we’ll accidentally kick a bottle lying around in the cellar and it’ll be that one.’120-page wine list
As you might imagine, the wine list at Graycliff’s gourmet restaurant is formidable, covering 120 pages with bottle sizes extending up to 20-litre solomons.
There are three sommeliers on hand to act as guides, or guests can hand select their own bottles from the shelves. If you’re willing to pay a fee of $1,000 you can even dine in the cellar amongst the wines.
Five of the most expensive wines on the list*:
- Domaine Romanée-Conti, Romanée Conti 1952 – US$40,690
- Château Margaux 1893 – US$38,510
- Château Latour 1904 – US$35,550
- Cristal Millennium Cuvée 1990 (methuselah) – US$34,000
- Château Lafite Rothschild 1947 (magnum) – US$30,240
In addition, Graycliff’s Cognateque holds 9,000 Cognacs, Ports and Armagnac, with collector’s gems like the rare A.E Dor’s 1893 No.1 Cognac, Art Deco bottles of Courvoisier designed by the artist Erte and the and the Legacy Louis XIII Magnum..
It’s easy to see how Graycliff’s cellar has reached its staggering current value of US$25 million.Famous guests
Famed for its dazzling white sands and ritzy casinos, Nassau attracts an elite crowd. Graycliff’s past guests are reported to include Nelson Mandela, Billy Joel, Jay-Z, Michael Jordan, Beyoncé and Lenny Kravitz – to name a few.
‘P!nk came a few years ago, this was when she was starting up her own wine project,’ recalled Garzaroli, referring to the American singer-songwriter.
‘I remember she ordered a bottle of Latour 1900 and Lafite 1928.’
Gazaroli claims his wine collection even proved to be a useful tool in international diplomacy:
‘Once I had the Prime Minister of Australia and the Prime Minister of The Bahamas here for lunch, they sat with nothing to say to each other, like zombies.
‘So I opened a bottle of Penfolds Grange for them, after that they were talking and talking, it was an ice-breaker.’Book your direct flight to Nassau with British Airways
The post Graycliff: ‘The world’s third-largest wine cellar’ hidden in The Bahamas appeared first on Decanter.
Far from being the exclusive preserve of big spenders, Bordeaux offers a range of great value wines in a variety of different styles. John Stimpfig introduces Decanter’s hand-picked selection of bottles that are perfect for everyday drinking...Bordeaux top 30 under £30
Thirty years ago, top Bordeaux wasn’t quite as cheap as chips, but it was certainly a lot less expensive than it is today. Suffice to say that an awful lot has changed since then – and mostly at the apex of the Bordeaux pyramid, where prices for region’s great crus classés have risen to the point where many drinkers have been priced out of the market.
No doubt châteaux owners would argue that the market ultimately sets the price for their increasingly deluxe labels. In addition, they would (quite rightly) point out that quality has gone up exponentially in the last two or three decades. Concurrently, the quantity of grand vin has gone down by an equally significantly amount, thereby justifying many of the attendant increases.Scroll down for Decanter’s pick of the top 30 Bordeaux wines under £30
See the top 30 Bordeaux wines under £30
Promotional Feature, sponsored by Apcor
Promotional Feature, sponsored by ApcorGet to grips with all cork offers...
Promotional Feature, sponsored by ApcorCork: Quality and reputation
For centuries, providing stoppers for wine has been the cornerstone of cork’s long-unshakeable reputation.
It’s been fully deserved, although you could argue that with the rise of screwcaps, synthetic closure and increasing awareness of TCA (trichloroanisole) – colloquially known as cork taint –some thought this might spell the end for cork’s dominance as the closure of choice.
Yet, cork has come back fighting and reigns supreme, being the preferred closure for over 90% of wine drinkers around the world. The vast majority of wine producers also consider it to be the only option when it comes to settling on a closure, as it allows their wines to age both gracefully and precisely.
Certainly, part of its appeal is its close association with a premium product.
Studies have shown that we are more likely to hold a bottle of wine in higher regard if it comes topped with a natural cork than with an artificial closure. That perhaps taps into our unconscious, but it’s a trend which is also realised on the high street: more often than not, you’ll find that the majority of wines at your local merchant which are under screwcap, or others, reside towards the lower end of the price spectrum.
Despite such talk of premiumisation, the threat of TCA has been very real, and the cork trade has risen to the challenge, putting its shoulder to the wheel and investing well over 500 million euros in research and development over the last decade.
It is forever tapping into the very latest technological advances to cement natural cork as being the prerequisite closure for the world’s most discerning wine producers and drinkers, and such efforts have borne fruit with the design of a stopper which offers a non-traceable TCA guarantee.
Furthermore, if you thought that keeping a lid on your much-loved Bordeaux Classed Growth was pretty much the be all and end all of cork’s usefulness, then it’s time for a rethink. Cork is a supremely dexterous operator; it has a plethora of tricks up its sleeve.
For example, cork is utilised by NASA due to its superb performance at the high temperatures its exposed to on exit and entry to the earth’s atmosphere (it has a thermal capacity of 2,000°C); you’ll also see it in the seats, steering wheels and gear sticks of concept cars from Mercedes Benz where it decreases weight and increases acceleration, or for those who prefer to move more sedately you will find it lining Philippe Starck-designed cycling helmets and, of course, the world-famous Birkenstock sandals.
Finally, when you need to come to a complete stop, you can now even lay yourself down on a mattress layered with cork – its honeycomb structure being much-lauded for its resistance to moisture and abrasion.
However, talk of space travel or a good night’s sleep is all well and good. These indeed are intriguing evolutions which showcase the scope of cork’s talents, but for the likes of us still play second fiddle to the most important string in cork’s bow; simply as a seal to a bottle of wine.
Up until now, many might not have thought twice about their wine closure or the investment behind their development – however natural cork has truly proved that it is built for the future and it remains that those looking for quality should look for natural cork.
The 38th Auction Napa Valley raised US$13.6 million for local community charities - including some lots going over $1 million each...Charles Krug barrel room is packed with Auction Napa Valley bidders. Auction Napa Valley 2018 raises over US$13 million
The annual Auction Napa Valley, held by the Napa Valley Vintners, had another successful year of fundraising.
This year’s total of US$13.6 million is down on last year’s record of almost US$16 million.
The honorary chairs for this year were the fourth-generation Mondavi sisters of the Peter Mondavi Sr. family – the youngest ever to chair the event.
‘We were thrilled to share everything we love and have experienced throughout our lives in the beautiful Napa Valley,’ said Angelina Mondavi.
‘My sisters and I are so grateful for the generosity of our vintners, bidders and community. Their contributions will help children and families in Napa County, from American Canyon to Calistoga.’Million dollar lots
Lot 11, which included four imperials of Opus One and an experience for two couples to attend the Masked Ball at the Palace of Versailles, was frantically bit over and eventually raised a total of US$1.4 million.
Lot 20 included 18 bottles of Napa Valley wine and an experience at the 2019 U.S. Open Golf Tournament at Pebble Beach, went for US$1 million.
The Napa Valley Vintners ‘Fund-the-Future’ – a donations section – raised US$2.35 million.Barrel and online auction
The highest lot for the barrel auction was VGS Chateau Potelle, red blend 2016, which went for US$114,300.
Other top lots included Cardinale 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon for US$68,900 and Staglin Family Vineyard 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon for US$54,150.
In the online auction, a salmanazar of Shafer Vineyards 1995 Hillside Select went for US$20,20. A lot of six Mayacamas Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 in various bottle sizes, plus a golf getaway for four, went for US$20,000.
A trio of three litre Aubert Wines Chardonnay 2014s sold for US$15,050.
Signorello Estate, which was burned in the Napa Valley fires in 2017, donated a five-liter etched bottle of the 2008 Padrone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and a dinner for eight cooked by their chef in your home, with wines picked by their sommelier. This lot sold for US$12,500.
The Auction Napa Valley has been running since 1981, raising money for local community charities.
The post Auction Napa Valley 2018 raises over US$13 million appeared first on Decanter.
Understandably associated with Malbec, it’s in white wine that Argentina is really making strides, with winemakers across the country now producing a broad variety of fascinating and fruit driven styles. Andy Howard MW is impressed on a recent visit...
Wines of Argentina recently hosted a visit to this dynamic country, inviting 41 Masters of Wine from around the world for the first such tour since 1988. I was fortunate enough to be included in the number. Having been a retail wine buyer for many years, it was an ideal opportunity to see whether there had been any changes since my last visit six years ago. The answer was that Argentina’s wine industry has made huge steps forward, with a reinvention of wine styles, development of exciting new areas, and major investment in modern facilities.
At the same time, the Argentine people remain hugely welcoming to visitors, and rightly proud of their country. Argentina over-delivers in terms of scenery, great wine values, and a slightly wild side which makes its wines different and compelling.
Times are certainly changing here. Since my previous visit, the growth in Malbec plantings (and volume of wine produced) has moved from rapid to stratospheric. Introduced to Argentina in 1860, plantings had peaked at 60,000ha by 1960. Between 1970 and 1990 this declined to 20,000ha, yet today the area under Malbec is more than 40,000ha. Of the new plantings, 88% are in Mendoza, and Malbec is now Argentina’s most widely planted variety. Malbec has become to Argentina what Sauvignon Blanc is to New Zealand – and in Argentina, too, there are exciting alternative wine choices that wine lovers should consider.Fresh thinking
Despite the perception of many consumers that Argentina is primarily a producer of reds, some of the most exciting developments relate to white wines. Just a decade ago, most professional buyers would not have considered Argentina as a source of anything but cheap, wholesome wines made predominantly from Chenin Blanc, or hefty, oaky Chardonnay modelled on Californian wines in the 1980s. Since then, wine producers have pushed the boundaries with plantings in new sites, often in areas considered unviable for production 10 years ago. At the same time, wine styles have radically changed.Scroll down for Howard’s pick of cutting-edge Argentinian white wines Argentina: know your vintages 2017
A classic, high-quality vintage, with low yields but very healthy grapes. Some great Chardonnays with balance, intense white flower aromas, finesse and the ability to age.2016
An El Niño year, with a warm, wet spring requiring lots of work on the canopy to avoid health issues. Late frosts affected the harvest in Uco Valley, Mendoza. Lower alcohols than normal with very fresh acidity.2015
A warm year, but higher rainfall and humidity presented challenges. Sites with better drainage performed more strongly.2014
Late spring frosts reduced some Chardonnay yields by 50%. Very high early summer temperatures were followed by cool, wet weather. A long ripening season saw very good freshness and aromatics.2013
High quality. A cool spring, followed by mixed summer weather which then turned cool for the ripening period. Lower alcohols and greater freshness from natural acidity.
Argentina’s white grape variety plantings (2017)
- Torrontés Riojana 8,200ha
- Chardonnay 6,100ha
- Moscatel 2,650ha
- Sauvignon Blanc 2,100ha
- Ugni Blanc 1,550ha
- Viognier 780ha
- Semillon 750ha
The post Argentina’s wine revolution: the time is ripe for white appeared first on Decanter.
Andrew Jefford takes a close look at Châteauneuf’s other soil type: sandVineyards at Chateau Rayas in Pignan
Back to a theme I last tackled in my blog of March 19th this year: the search for character differences in wines based on soil type. It’s the holy grail of terroir studies – but difficult to prove.
Soil type, remember, is only one element in the terroir equation. There’s also climate at all of its different scales, from macro to micro, as well as topography and the weather patterns of a particular vintage, combined with local viticultural and wine-making practices. For this reason, the most useful comparisons involve wines from different soil types within a single zone and a single vintage, since the variations furnished by those other non-soil factors are minimised.Scroll down for tasting notes
In March, we compared young St Chinian wines based on schist and limestone soils. The results were encouraging, so in April I set off for Châteauneuf to consider wines produced there on sandy rather than rolled pebble soils.
A bit of context first. Châteauneuf is a large appellation containing just over 3,200 ha of vines. That single appellation, in other words, is almost as big as the entire Côtes de Nuits in Burgundy (which is around 3,600 ha). It contains a multitude of soil types. The visually enticing rolled pebbles known as galets roulés are the most famous, but you’ll also find sandy soils and brilliantly white, fractured limestone soils as well as fine gravels and marl and clay soils.
“What you see on the surface,” cautions Julien Barrot of Domaine La Barroche, “isn’t always what’s beneath.” Sand and clay, points out Barrot, are everywhere in Châteauneuf, including underneath the rolled pebbles. He’s had the soils in all of his parcels analysed. Even some considered not to be sandy turn out to have up to 60 per cent sand.
Setting aside that note of caution, though, every grower I met did indeed consider the principal soil types of Châteauneuf to be markedly different from one another, even if the changes between zones were more gradual than soil maps suggest, and even if there were more similarities between sub-soils than meets the casual eye. If there is a preponderant Châteauneuf soil type to consider in contrast to the big rolled pebbles, it would indeed be sand.
The key sand zone for Châteauneuf is the northeast quarter of the appellation. The vineyards of Châteauneuf are shared by five villages, but most of the sandiest ones lie in the 663 ha of Courthézon vineyards. Notably sandy Courthézon lieu-dit zones include Bédines, Guigasse, Pignan, Pointu, Le Grès, Cristia, the eastern part of Crau, St Georges and Ste Vierges. The southern part of Pignan, Vaudieu and Grand Pierre are all sandy zones within Châteauneuf’s village boundaries, by contrast, lying to the northeast of the small town itself.
It’s not just “sand”, either. There are indeed soils which resemble soft beach sand here, but there are also soils based on what locals call safres, and there is grès or sandstone, too; used locally to build walls. These are differences of texture and compaction. One grower defined safres to me as a grès tendre – a soft sandstone, lumps of which can be disintegrated by rubbing. It’s an intermediate stage between hard sandstone and soft sand. You’ll find all three here, as well as sands with other admixtures – such as the grès roux du Comtat: russet-coloured sandy-clay soils over limestone slabs.
So what’s the overall wine style given by Châteauneuf’s sandy soils?
Remember that Grenache is Châteauneuf’s principal grape variety (almost 75 per cent of plantings, combining all of the colour variants together), even though 13 grape varieties are permitted in the AOP. Grenache is never more powerful than it can be in Châteauneuf – in terms of colour, in terms of structure, and in terms of meaty or even beefy character. That, I would suggest, is what the galets roulés can do – perhaps because of their legendary ‘night-storage heater’ effect, but more probably because of the nutritious clays which tend to lie beneath them.
And that is precisely what sand doesn’t do. The more sand, the less ‘meaty’ and structured the Grenache will seem.
Let me put it another way. The red wines of Châteauneuf range from beefy to ‘burgundian’. If you want beefy, look for galets roulés. If you want ‘burgundian’, look for sand.
“Fine, fresh wines” was the three-word summary of Emmanuel Raynaud, as we strode out on a cool, wet April morning to look at the key vineyard sites of Ch Rayas, whose wine incarnates the ‘Grenache on sand’ style. Rayas is pure Grenache grown on almost pure sands (though the soils have an admixture of clay, too). “Our Grenache – the finest and lightest sort of Grenache – doesn’t need clay. It’s not the only sort of Grenache, but the finest and lightest comes from these light soils of sands and safres. And we also have more woodland than vines,” he pointed out, suggesting that the shade and the ‘air currents’ provided by the woods are important for the Rayas style. So, too, is the north-facing aspect of most of the Rayas plots, which Emmanuel Reyaud says have a “cold and austere” character.
The effect of softness and lightness isn’t simply limited to Grenache, claims Natalie Reyaud (no relation to Emmanuel) of Domaine l’Abbé Dîne, a property which has recently come out of co-operative control, with three out of its four hecatares of Châteauneuf on sand. “It brings freshness and softness to all varieties. It’s true for asparagus, too. Asparagus grown in sand is much softer and more succulent than asparagus grown in clay.”
“We tend to harvest our sand parcels around 15 days earlier than those with pebbles,” says Bruno Gaspard of Clos du Caillou, which has sandy soils in the Bédines, Cailloux and Cassanets lieux-dits. “The wines are less deeply coloured, less structured, finer and more elegant, more in a Burgundy style. They always have a freshness, even though they are low in acidity – I can’t explain that, but we always notice it. We also notice that our Syrahs have less of a cooked style on sand than on pebbles.” “The fewer the pebbles, the finer the wine,” summarises Mathieu Faurie-Grépon of Mas St Louis. “The more pebbles, the more force.”
Several growers mentioned that the propensity of sand to cool down at night by comparison to rolled pebbles is an advantage nowadays. “The sands discharge that daytime heat, to the extent that there can be a 15˚C soil difference between day and night,” says Yannick Féraud of Domaine Féraud, whose vines lie in sandy Grand Pierre close to the southern sector of Pignan. That, he suggests, is a source of freshness in the finished wines. The sands in the Coeur de Rayas vineyards, says Emmanuel Reynaud approvingly, “are cool by eight in the evening.”
Might there, though, be disadvantages to sandy soils in Châteauneuf? They drain well in wet weather, for example, but can they carry the vines through a dry spell? According to Franck Mousset of the sand-soiled Domaine des Saumades, that depends on the organic content. Sands with up to five per cent organic matter will sustain vines through a drought, whereas those with little organic content are liable to suffer.
Are the tannins adequate? “It’s true that the IPTs are lower,” says Julien Barrot, “but the dry extract is as high or even higher than wines grown on pebbles.” He also feels that the quality of the tannins is different on each soil medium. “Clay gives you large, chunky tannins, whereas the tannins you get on sand are very finely textured, like the texture of peach skin when you lick it.”
And length? “You don’t want to overdo the elegance,” according to Baptiste Grangeon of Domaine de Cristia and Chapelle St Théodoric, “since that can be perceived as dilution.” “Super fine sand soils can give you something which is a little too supple,” claims Julien Barrot. Isabelle Ogier at the Guigal-owned Domaine de Nalys (which has 50 ha in the east of the appellation) praises the “aromatic finesse and fine tannins” available on sand soils, but says that “the only drawback is that they sometimes give wines with a little less length” than other soils.
That, of course, would be the advantage of blending wines from different soil origins, as so many domains in Châteaueuf have always done and continue to do. But it’s also worth saying that sand-only properties like Rayas have not, historically, lacked the length to endure in time. “The `78 is just starting to be good,” confides Emmanuel Reynaud. “And the 2009 has 40 years to go.”
From luxurious converted monasteries to hotels designed to look like a row of Cava bottles, the choice for wine lovers visiting Spain has never been more exciting. Sarah Jane Evans MW recommends the best places to stay...The former monastery of Hacienda Zorita. Top 10 Spain winery hotels
Spain has exceptional vineyards and wines. It has beautiful wine regions. And its tourism is getting ever better, with producers offering everything from ballooning to yoga and cookery classes, in addition to wine tasting and food pairing. Spain certainly has some very fine hotels in wine regions, as well as fascinating and original boutique offerings where visitors are welcomed warmly. But – and there is inevitably a ‘but’ coming – wineries with hotels are really hard to find!
In the list below there’s nowhere in Txakolí country, for those planning a trip to the restaurants in San Sebastián and Bilbao, though there is talk of a project opening along the Costa Cantábrica. Equally the Sherry region is currently a notable absentee, though González Byass is scheduled to open a new boutique hotel in 2019 in Jerez.
Furthermore, winery hotels do not necessarily produce great wines. When you are staying in a winery hotel, it’s always polite to buy a bottle. Do not feel obliged to do the winery tour however: barrels and bottling lines can pall. The best advice is to start with a tasting of the wines. If you like the taste of them, then definitely book a visit.
Note that a number of the hotel restaurants, and restaurants in general, may be closed on Sunday evenings, and occasionally also on Monday evenings. It is always advisable to book before arriving.Best for sheer indulgence Abadía Retuerta
Castilla y León, next door to DO Ribera del Duero; Sardón de Duero, Valladolid
- 27 double rooms, three suites
- Rooms from €391 for a Classic Double to €926 for the Master Suite
Luxury, thy name is Abadía Retuerta! The 12th-century monastery-fortress may look austere from outside, but step inside for the utmost spoiling. The first clue is the one-star Michelin Refectorio restaurant, for which you will have wisely booked ahead. The second clue is at check-in when you’re given a mobile to call your personal butler. I have always been too shy to press the button, but go on, give it a go. In your room, treats await; maybe a bowl of cherries. Subtle decor tones with the pale stonework – the effect is utterly soothing. The local countryside isn’t scenic, so dedicate your hours to the spa, restaurant, pool bar and wines (which are worth tasting). Wander round the cloister and the church, and book a trip to explore the impressive estate. You will want to return.Best for architecture fans Marqués de Riscal
DOCa Rioja; Elciego, Alava
- 43 rooms and suites
- Rooms from €310 for the Deluxe Spa Wing to €800 for the Gehry Suite
This is without doubt the most dramatic of Spain’s winery hotels: the Frank Gehrydesigned, titanium-roofed marvel juxtaposed against the ultra-traditional winery of the same name. It’s a must-visit if you are in Rioja. Architecture fans will need to book a room inside the main building – you won’t sleep for paying attention to all the design detail. Book a room looking out on Elciego, rather than on the Caudalie spa. However, for a good view of the Gehry design, the Spa Wing is a very comfortable (and cheaper) choice. The Marqués de Riscal restaurant, under chef Francis Paniego, has a Michelin star. If you order a fine old vintage of Riscal, they will open the bottle for you with heated tongs, in the classical way. For a nightcap, don’t miss the cosy lounge library at the very top of the hotel. Then in the morning, breakfast is a treat out on the balcony overlooking Elciego in the sun.Best for Cava country Mas Tinell
DO Penedès; Vilafranca del Penedès, Barcelona
- 13 rooms
- B&B from €127.26 for an Individual Business Room to €381.78 for the Suite Deluxe
An unlikely concept for a building, this hotel has been designed to look like two rows of Cava bottles stacked one on top of the other. Remarkably, it works. The flat bottom of the bottle makes a decorative window to each room. The hotel sits amid the vines, with a swimming pool tucked into one side. Visitors can engage with the wine world as they wish, or just sit back and relax. Wine tourism is second nature to this family business, which offers horse riding, biking, hot air ballooning and Segway tours. Spa offerings include the chance to bathe in Cava. At harvest, there’s foot-treading of grapes; with year-round visits to the family’s own winery.Best for a weekend break Mas La Boella
DO Tarragona; La Canonja, Tarragona
- 13 rooms
- B&B from €132 for a Comfort Room to €184 for the Premium Suite
The Mas is all about relaxation. There’s little reason to venture beyond the beautiful gardens. But it’s just a brief step to visit the remarkable Roman remains of Tarragona, the fine beaches along the coast, and of course PortAventura, the theme park that’s a magnet for children. The historic part of the property is the 12th-century country house, where six of the bedrooms are located. It’s only 5km from Reus airport, which makes it convenient for a weekend break. The estate also has 110ha of olive trees, in addition to the 4.5ha of vines, so leave space in your luggage for a gift pack of estate produce: wine, olives and olive oil.Best for Priorat Hotel Trossos del Priorat
DOQ Priorat; Gratallops
- Six rooms
- From €108 for a Double Room with Terrace to €123 for a Suite or Family Room
The very best way to understand Priorat and the special quality of its terroirs is to stay in the region for a few days. There’s still a scarcity of hotels, and this small project, which describes itself as ‘rooms in a winery’, is just the ticket. The views are stunning, and the building itself is sympathetic to the landscape. There’s no swimming pool or spa, but the rooms are comfortable and well equipped. There’s no restaurant either, but breakfast is provided and picnic baskets can be ordered for lunch. There’s also an honesty bar for the Trossos del Priorat wines. Priorat is all about driving along narrow winding mountain roads, and it’s easy to encounter a peloton of cyclists coming the other way round the bend. So staying here is so much more relaxing than driving up from Sitges or Barcelona each day. Plus, when the tourists have gone for the day, you can luxuriate on the terrace in the quiet.Best for fine dining Hotel Bodega Finca de los Arandinos
DOCa Rioja; Entrena, La Rioja
- 12 double rooms, two Junior Suites
- B&B from €116 for a double room to €220 for Junior Suites
I discovered Finca de los Arandinos on the recommendation of award-winning sommelier Carlos Echapresto. He and his chef brother run the Michelin-starred Venta Moncalvillo, at Daroca de Rioja nearby. Knowing the quality of his wine list and the cooking, I wanted to stay somewhere that was a convenient taxi ride away. The bonus is the fact that Arandinos is itself a winery. The hotel is a bold, white-painted structure standing proud on a promontory outside Entrena, all glass and polished concrete and pale wood inside. One of the architects was Javier Arizcuren, who runs his own eponymous urban winery in Logroño – itself well worth a visit. Arandinos’ wines come from 16ha of vines around Entrena, and are made in the cellar downstairs. They make a good match for the menus in the Scandi-looking hotel restaurant Tierra, which uses local ingredients. After all the eating, you may want to book time at the small but well kitted-out spa, which offers two-hour sessions.Best for families Can Bonastre Wine Resort
DO Penedès; Masquefa, Barcelona
- 10 rooms, two suites
- B&B from €271.20 for a double room to €400 for a Family Suite
The main attraction of this wine resort on a 16th-century estate is the glorious view of Montserrat, the astonishing jagged mountain that dominates the landscape of Penedès. The resort is well placed too for visiting Cava properties nearby, since Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is only 10 minutes away by car. While children may not appreciate the spa, or the astonishing views, there are special children’s menus in the restaurant, and ponies for them to visit in the gardens.Best for Ribera del Duero Hotel Torremilanos
DO Ribera del Duero; Aranda de Duero, Burgos
- 33 rooms, four suites
- B&B from €101.20 for a double room to €198 for a Junior Suite
The Finca Torremilanos winery hotel makes a comfy and convenient stopping-off point, as it is close to the Madrid-Burgos highway, just outside Aranda. The estate has vines dating back to 1903 and farms organically. It encourages oeno-tourism, with ideas for activities here or at other local wineries. It is also proud of its Castilian gastronomy, rightly so in a region that celebrates roast lamb and fine vegetables. When booking your room you can choose between traditional and modern decor – just like the gastronomy, the Castilian version is surely the one to opt for.Best for relaxation Hacienda Zorita Wine Hotel & Spa
Castilla y León; Salamanca
- 40 rooms
- A double Celda Room from €225 to €305 for both suites and villas
A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Hacienda Zorita is a finely manicured estate with a complex of historical buildings in a glorious position above the river Tormes. The bonus is that it is on the doorstep of the historic city of Salamanca. Driving west, to the Arribes del Duero Natural Park, it’s also very easy to cross over into Portugal for the day. Founded in the 14th century as a Dominican monastery, the transformation from denial to indulgence is complete, with a vinotherapy spa. The winery produces Marqués de la Concordia wines; there’s also an organic farm, and the estate makes a range of produce including hams and cheese. Most of the bedrooms were formerly the monks’ cells (known as Celda Rooms), but they have been stylishly converted into good-sized bedrooms with views over the river. There are suites sleeping three in the main building, and separate villas also sleeping three.Best for history – and octopus Casal de Armán
DO Ribeiro; O Cotiño, Ribadavia, Galicia
- Six rooms
- B&B from €75 to €90
Ribeiro has a long history in wine and was trading with England even before the Port trade was established. It has been through a long decline, but is now at last reviving. Casal de Armán is one of the names in that revival, launched in the late 1990s, working with varieties such as Albariño, Godello and reds Brancellao and Caiño. Ribeiro has history aplenty to explore and Casal de Armán makes a good jumping-off point for excursions. Visit the lovely medieval town of Ribadavia, or O Carballiño, renowned for its pulpo, or octopus, and the Festa do Pulpo (this year on 12 August), when some 50,000kg of octopus will be eaten by the revellers.More wine travel ideas
Sarah Jane Evans MW is an award-winning journalist and author, and co-Chair of the DWWA. Her latest book is The Wines of Northern Spain (£30, Infinite Ideas).
As well as its famous whites, the Loire is also a source of delightful Pinot Noirs that are worth tracking down. Christelle Guibert recommends her favourite producers...
Made exclusively from Pinot Noir, Sancerre Rouge accounts for about 10% of the appellation’s production, and boasts a small but dedicated following. Only a tiny percentage is exported and this, combined with recent frosts, means a slimmed-down Expert’s Choice selection (12 wines rather than the usual 18). Sancerre Rouge’s loyal client base also means it is rarely the bargain red one can sometimes find in the Loire – but this is Pinot Noir we’re talking about, and with prices rising as they have in Burgundy, the best can offer great relative value.
Since he started writing about Bordeaux in the 1980s, Stephen Brook has witnessed fundamental stylistic shifts in the region’s wines. Here he reflects on the highs and lows, tastes and trends, of the past four decades...
Long before I started writing about Bordeaux wines, I was buying and drinking them, seeking out bottles from less fashionable vintages, such as 1979, that I could afford. By the time the famous 1982 vintage was released I was beginning to scribble, and attended some tastings of those wines. It divided opinion at the time. ‘Too Californian!’ sniffed some British wine merchants, unused to the aromas of ripe fruit. But wine writers, an emerging breed back then, were more positive, and they were right. The 1982s were delicious and beguiling, a reminder that Bordeaux in a top year didn’t have to be mean and lean.
Moreover, the 1980s would prove a fine decade for claret, with nimble 1983s, enchanting 1985s, superb 1989s, and more controversial vintages such as 1986 and 1988. In those years the wine trade and wine-fanciers were still impressed by overt tannins, although the lumbering 1975s (with some exceptions) should have sounded a warning.Scroll down to see Brook’s comparative tasting notes and scores for a range of Bordeaux wines
I was impressed by the 1986s – such density and structure! – and I was not alone. I lashed out on a top St-Estèphe from that year, and sold the case 15 years later, fearing it would never mellow enough to be enjoyable. Many 1988s were austere, even tough, and it took the precocious vintage of 1989, followed by the great 1990s, to remind us that fine claret was not a monument but a source of the utmost vinous pleasure.
That pair of vintages set the pattern for the decades to follow. There were unlovely exceptions such as 1992 and 1993, but the successful vintages – however different from each other – showed a riper, more succulent interpretation of red Bordeaux. There were two explanations for this. The first is the slow march of global warming: flowering was beginning earlier, yields were gradually reduced, and the harvest was focused on obtaining the ripest fruit, not on bringing in the crop as rapidly as possible.
And then there was the simultaneous rise of the consultant and the wine critic, both separately and in tandem. Robert Parker Jr, then in his prime, favoured optimal ripeness, and although that was sometimes pushed a bit too far for my taste, he was right to do so. His friend, the consultant Michel Rolland, thought the same way. Operating mostly in the Merlot-dominated Right Bank, he was prepared to tolerate some raisining at harvest if it ensured opulence and sensuality in the finished wines. Their informal alliance did establish a dominant style, although some questioned whether these super-ripe wines would age well. However, the public loved them, and only some connoisseurs and investors were greatly concerned about whether the wines would last three decades or more.See Brook’s comparative tasting notes and scores for a selection of Bordeaux wines
From the top-rated vineyards in Germany, these dry wines are vaunted as the pinnacle of quality – and the focus is shifting from power to finesse. Read this report on 95 wines tasted by our three-strong expert panel, with an introduction by Anne Krebiehl MW...
- 95 wines tasted with one rated Exceptional and six Outstanding
- The panel tasters were: Gearoid Devaney MS, Anne Krebiehl MW and Sebastian Thomas
This panel tasting encompassed the whole of Germany – 13 wine-growing regions covering 4° of latitude (from 47.5°N in Baden to 51.5°N in Saale-Unstrut), and every imaginable kind of soil. However, rather than look at all levels of Riesling, it focussed in on Grosses Gewächs (‘great growth’), the top category of the VDP’s private classification.
So the wines came only from VDP member-estates, but covered the breadth of German dry Riesling: only the tiny Hessische Bergstrasse and Mittelrhein were missing, as were the easterly outposts of Sachsen and Saale-Unstrut. But certainly the heartlands of German Riesling were well represented.
Other articles for Premium subscribers: Understanding Grosses Gewächs Riesling and wines to look for Alsace Riesling: Comparing grand cru sites Australian Riesling: Panel tasting results
The post Dry German Riesling Grosses Gewächs: Panel tasting results appeared first on Decanter.
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, all priced from £25 upwardsad of Latour and La Mission Haut-Brion. My personal best was Latour, but I bow to my colleagues’ ranking, such is the exceptional quality now being made at Mouton Rothschild by Philipe Dhalluin and his team. Steven Spurrier recommends:
After the ‘unprecedented’ hailstorm in Bordeaux, winemakers look at the potential damage in the vineyards...Hail damage in Côtes de BourgBordeaux assesses hail damage
The Bourg and Blaye regions were the most heavily damaged, followed by Médoc, Entre-deux-Mers, and Pessac-Léognan.
In Pessac-Léognan, the hailstorm was particularly violent at Martillac, near the plateau of Rochemorin, where some vines were extensively damaged.
Guillaume Pouthier from Château les Carmes Haut-Brion said, ‘We were hit on the vines of Martillac, but luckily our urban vineyard, where our winery is located, was not damaged.’
Almost the entire vineyard of Château Smith Haut Lafitte was hit by the hail.
‘We were hit pretty hard, more on the white grapes than on the red,’ explained Fabien Teijean, the technical director at Smith Haut Lafitte, told Decanter.com.
‘Eighty per cent of the vineyard is affected. We do not yet know the consequences on the grapes. We’re not going to prune again because we have a vegetative growth and we still have grapes, so we’re going to let things go,’ he added.
The hailstorm crossed Bordeaux towards the Médoc, where it fell on Château d’Agassac, Château La Lagune, and also Château Cantermerle.
‘It is impossible to tell precisely the volume of loss, as a significant portion of the branches are still in place and not all leaves are broken. Let’s say that the area affected by the storm covers about 40 hectares out of the 92 hectares in production on the estate,’ Philippe Dambrine, general manager of Château Cantemerle, told Decanter.com.
‘The most complicated thing now is to manage for next year,’ said Jean-Luc Zell ,general manager of Château d’Agassac.
‘The damage on the branches is significant and we will need quality branches to be able to prune correctly.’Extreme weather is becoming the new normal, warn leading science bodies