Temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns look set to increase in Bordeaux. Elin McCoy reports on the latest research and the measures being taken to address the problemFires lit in the vineyards of Bordeaux to prevent frost damage on 27 April 2017.
Last June, at Bordeaux trade fair Vinexpo, Harvard University environmental scientist Professor John Holdren and a panel of winemakers discussed the impacts of climate change on wine before a large – and rapt – audience.
The charts Holdren showed painted a glum picture. In the future, higher temperatures, hotter heatwaves, torrential downpours and hailstorms, as well as more pests, he observed, will challenge the wine industry everywhere, including Bordeaux.
So far, global warming has been
Elin McCoy is an award-winning journalist and author who writes for Bloomberg NewsYou may also like: Jane Anson tastes Léoville Poyferré back to 1961 Pessac-Léognan: Then and now – the story of an appellation
The former head of UNESCO has called on the wine industry to support proposals to create a new index that can measure climate change risk in World Heritage sites, from the slopes of Douro Valley to the vineyards of Burgundy.
A view across Douro Valley.
Climate change is the biggest risk to UNESCO World Heritage sites, yet the United Nations body needs help to research and measure its impact, according to Irina Bokova, director-general from 2009 to 2017.
Speaking at a climate change summit in Porto that was co-hosted by wine trade members, including Taylor’s Port, Bokova called for wine industry support to develop and implement a recently proposed Climate Vulnerability Index for World Heritage sites.
Wine regions feature prominently on the UNESCO World Heritage list, with Alto Douro, Bordeaux, Piedmont, Champagne, Burgundy and even the tiny Italian island of Pantelleria, off the coast of Sicily, all enjoying protected status.
This celebrates not just the wine industry ‘but a very close link between wine, climate, identity and tradition’, said Bokova.
She said the proposed climate index would help to prioritise ideas for making areas more resilient to climate change.
‘The Douro Valley can be a very good example of how this new index can be created and implemented,’ she said.
Bokova’s comments are timely given increased extreme weather events in the Douro.
Summoning up disaster movie images of desertification and destruction, Adrian Bridge, CEO of The Fladgate Partnership, reported that ‘last year the source of the river Douro dried up because the whole of 2017 had been dry…then we have had rain since the third week of February’.
This May, a flash flood and hail severely damaged Alto Douro roads, vines and terraces in the Pinhão Valley, with an estimated 80% production loss at Fladgate’s Quinta do Junco.Related: Extreme weather becoming the new normal, warns major study
Paul Symington, CEO of Symington Family Estates (SFE), told Decanter.com, ‘We are facing an existential threat and, without an ambitious and rapid global response, the Douro’s viability as a wine-growing region over the coming decades is in question.’
Last year SFE formed a company-wide sustainability working group and publicly raised the controversial issue of irrigation in the Douro with the Ministry of Agriculture.
Whilst Symington agrees about securing commitments from the wine and wider business community to adapt to climate change, he added, ‘the challenge is too great to be left solely to voluntary pledges by the business community’.
A follow-up event, the Climate Change Leadership Solutions Conference, will be held in Porto in March 2019.Related articles that you may like: Travel: UNESCO World Heritage wine sites to visit Obama urges wine industry to collaborate in climate change fight
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Stephen Brook recently visited Gaja's estate in Barbaresco, where he tasted verticals of their Costa Russi and Sorì San Lorenzo crus...High inter-row plantings in Gaja's vineyards.
Angelo Gaja has never had much time for conventional wisdom. He introduced barriques to age part of his Barbaresco in 1978, some years before a group of Barolo modernists followed his example.
At about the same time, he began planting international varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon out of curiosity to see whether they worked in the Langhe, and because he thought it would help him to penetrate the American market, which knew little about Barbaresco at the time.Scroll down to see Stephen’s tasting notes & scores from two vertical tastings at the estate You might also like: Barbaresco 2015 & Riserva 2013: Latest releases An interview with Gaia Gaja Great value Nebbiolo wines from Piedmont – Under the radar
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Decanter.com spoke to English winemakers about this year’s vintage, following the heatwave across the UK…
Several English winemakers have said that a summer heatwave has provided ‘near perfect’ conditions so far in 2018, helping to bury memories of damaging spring frosts in 2017 and also a cold start to this year.
‘The flowering has been completely uninterrupted and early, the bunches look superb, and the future warm forecast is very promising,’ Frazer Thompson, CEO of Kent based winery Chapel Down, told Decanter.com.
‘This year we’ve had the right weather, in the right order – which doesn’t often happen. The sustained warm weather after a period of rain and colder months, means the quality of grapes on the vine is unprecedented.’
Excessive heat can be problematic in vineyards; if too hot, grapes can struggled to retain acidity and subsequent wines can have an over-abundance of ‘jammy’ flavours. Prolonged high temperatures can also cause vines to shut down, effectively suspending the growing season.
Acidity is an important quality in sparkling wines, but English winemakers have been very positive about the vintage this year so far.
‘Higher day time temperatures coupled with wet spring soil profiles were near perfect conditions for vine growth in spring,’ said Cherie Spriggs, winemaker at Nyetimber, in Sussex.
There is still plenty of the growing season left, and weather during the harvest period will be crucial in deciding the end result.
‘At the moment it looks as though we are going to have a fantastic harvest in terms of both quality and quantity,’ said Simon Bladon, owner of Jenkyn Place, in Hampshire.
‘There has been very little rain and no wind during this crucial flowering period, which is as near to perfect as it gets!’ said Charles and Ruth Simpson, from Simpsons Wine Estate in Kent.
Whereas in other parts of the UK, there has been concern about the lack of rain, this does not appear to be a problem for the vineyards.
‘We will do a few things differently this year as a result of the lack of rainfall in the vineyard but it is England – it will rain soon!’ said Spriggs.
‘It would now be useful to receive a little rain, but we are not currently concerned due to the moisture retaining qualities of our chalk terroir’ said Simpson.
A strong vintage is particularly welcome as the weather last year meant a small crop for English vineyards.
‘Regardless, it is looking like a fantastic and much need harvest after the frost England suffered last year,’ said Simpson, who lost 60% of their crop last year.
‘We had taken the precaution of purchasing two huge frost fans from Turkey.’
‘Last year’s crop was very small and this one should be three times the size of 2017 and probably about twice the size of an average harvest,’ said Bladon.Cold Spring
However, the UK was hit by a cold Spring this year, with snow storms called ‘the beast from the east.’
‘The cold spells earlier this year all happened when the vines were still dormant so they did not cause any problems,’ said Spriggs.
‘We had a few sleepless nights from cold spells in late April and early May this year but the frost conditions were not so bad – and the delayed budburst from earlier cold spells did assist in mitigating this damage.’
‘As an industry we rely very heavily on the weather, it’s our greatest influence and is totally out of our control. This heatwave is the best we’ve seen in 18 years’ said Thompson.
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A bottle of the limited edition 1966 World Cup Champagne, signed by eight members of that year's winning England team, is to go on auction next month.The bottle is signed by some of the winning team.
Humbert & Ellis, auctioneer in Northampton, England, has said it will be auctioning the magnum of Champagne on 2nd August.
The opening price is £1,800, although it is estimated that the wine will sell for between £3,000 – £4,000.
It is a magnum of Champagne Jacquart NV, signed by eight members of England’s triumphant 1966 World Cup team, including Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Geoff Hurst, Gordon Banks, George Cohen, Ray Wilson, Martin Peters and Alan Ball.
As no England fan will need reminding, particularly after this week’s loss to Croatia in the Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final, the 1966 World Cup was the last time the England team got through to the final, in which they beat West Germany 4-2 after extra-time.See also: World Cup wine quiz – test your knowledge
Only 1,966 of these bottles were produced, and this bottle is number one of the 1,966, according to the auction house.
Another lot in the same auction comprises five souvenir bottles of wine from the 1990 Italia World Cup.
The bottles are in the shape of the World Cup trophy, and there are two Chardonnay, two Castel del Monte Rosato and one Barbera d’Asti.Football wine auctions
In 2014, ex-Manchester United manager, and avid wine collector, Sir Alex Ferguson auctioned off hundreds of bottles of wines at Christie’s.
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Sarah Jane Evans MW is a vice-chair at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2018.Sarah Jane Evans MWSarah Jane Evans MW
Sarah Jane Evans MW is an award-winning journalist who began writing about wine in the 1980s. She started drinking Spanish wine as a student of classics and social and political sciences at Cambridge University.
This started her love affair with the wines, food and culture of Spain, leading to her appointment as a member of the Gran Orden de Caballeros de Vino for services to Spanish wine.
In 2006 she became a Master of Wine, writing her dissertation on Sherry and winning the Robert Mondavi Winery Award.
A Past Chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine, Evans divides her time between contributing to leading wine magazines wine education and judging wines internationally.
Andrew Jefford explores the perception of bitter flavours in wine....‘Modern humans relish “dangerous” bitter flavours’
Unpleasantly bitter and sour: that’s how new drinkers tend to find their first glass of red wine. Since most of us reach wine via soft drinks and fruit juices, we’re used to acidity: the strangeness of red wine is that it comes unaccompanied by any balancing sweetness. Semi-sweet wines provide an access route – and it’s not long before we come to appreciate ‘dry’ acidity, especially with food.
Bitterness is more intriguing. In evolutionary terms, we have only recently ceased being hunter-gathering omnivores, and bitter flavours were a warning signal that plants or animal parts might contain toxins. A sensitivity to the bitterness of the anti-thyroid drug propylthiouracil or PROP was identified (by psychologist Linda Bartoshuk in 1991) as the key test for distinguishing so-called ‘supertasters’ from the rest of the population; such individuals are also said to find the taste of cabbage or broccoli unpleasantly bitter.
They would struggle to like red wine. But, out in the primeval forests, they might have survived long enough to reproduce. The science of taste sensitivity has moved on since 1991, and differing sensitivities to substances including salt, citric acid, quinine and sucrose suggest that ‘supertasting’ is a complex picture. It’s not necessarily a winetasting advantage, by the way, since it may simply result in extreme pickiness.
What interests me, though, is the ability to override such sensitivities. PROP does taste bitter to me, given the standard test – yet I was a strange child who, when asked by indulgent strangers what my favourite food was, used to reply ‘Savoy cabbage’ (it helped that my mother never overcooked it). I drink copious quantities of black and green tea daily; I adore intensely hopped bitter ales and ‘peppery’ olive oil. A ristretto, in Italy, is a treat.
Tastes can be acquired. Indeed the ubiquity with which coffee, beer and bitter-sweet aperitifs and cocktails (think of Campari, or gin and tonic) are enjoyed by people around the world suggests that modern humans relish ‘dangerous’ bitter flavours. It’s a kind of cultural appurtenance.
Those flavours might also, paradoxically, do us good. ‘Tonic’ water (note the name) contains quinine, an anti-malarial, and at least some of the bitterness of tea and of wine derives from the tannins present in the leaves and stalks of the tea plant Camellia sinensis and the fruit skins and stems of Vitis vinifera. Plants produce tannins to dissuade predators from destroying them, so they are meant to taste unpleasant. But studies have shown that tannins can be anti-carcinogenic and are a useful antioxidative, as well as having the ability to accelerate blood clotting, reduce blood pressure and reduce serum lipid levels.
They also have preservative, anti-microbial properties – which might be why they found their way into grape skins. (Nature intended grapes to be eaten by birds, who don’t taste much anyway: parrots have just 400 taste buds, whereas humans have 9,000 or more.)
My contention, then, is that wine drinkers come to understand that bitter flavours in wine are in some sense tonic, since they are associated with some of the health-bringing substances which wine, and particularly red wine, contains. ‘Bitter’, though, is a wildly unsatisfying term in wine-tasting terminology (as is ‘acid’), since it is descriptive only in the most primitive sense. Any kind of extraneous or ‘chemical’ bitterness in wine is repellent.
This, though, has nothing to do with the rich, affirmative bitterness which is a feature not merely of tannic red wines such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Bordeaux, Madiran, Bandol, Napa Cabernet, Bekaa Valley reds and others; but also of less tannic reds whose flavour profile includes a bitter component. These include most red wines from the Veneto and the Languedoc – that herbal ‘garrigue’ character, careful tasters will note, is a distinctively nuanced bitterness. What matters is that the bitter flavours themselves should be saturated and informed with other flavours – not naked and uncovered. The same thing applies to acidity in wine, which is why additions are usually a mistake. Richness is all.
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Li Demei is a vice-chair in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA) 2018.Li DemeiLi Demei
DecanterChina.com columnist Li Demei is an associate professor of wine tasting and oenology at Beijing Agriculture College, invited teacher at ESA Angers in France and consults for several vineyards in China.
Training at Chateau Palmer, he holds a masters diploma for Fruit Tree Science, and was an engineer for Viti-Oeno-Economie from ENITA in Bordeaux. He was the first chef winemaker and technical director for the Chinese-French project Sino-French Demonstration Vineyards and is a member of the Chinese Wine Technique Committee, and National Wine Judge Board.
Previously named RVF’s Man of the Year in the Chinese wine industry, in 2012 Demei received the Wine Intelligence 10 for 10 Business Award. He started writing for the Wine Review of Singapore 10 years ago and today writes for several publications, as well as authoring Wine-Communication from a Chinese Winemaker and Wine Grapes Varieties.
Andrew Jefford is a vice-chair in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA) 2018Andrew JeffordAndrew Jefford
Andrew Jefford contributes a column every month to Decanter magazine, and writes the widely-followed Jefford on Monday blog for Decanter.com.
Jefford has been writing and broadcasting about wine (as well as about food, whisky, travel and perfume) since the 1980s, winning many awards for his work. After spending 15 months as a senior research fellow at Adelaide University between 2009 and 2010, he now lives with his family in the Languedoc, close to Pic St Loup.
Andrew Jefford has been a judge and vice-chair in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards since the launch of the competition in 2012. In addition to his Vice Chair role at DAWA, Andrew is also a Co-Chair for the Decanter World Wine Awards in London.
As technological advances make it easier to deal with variable weather conditions, Jane Anson assesses the impact of hot and cool vintages in Bordeaux and offers advice on what to buy – whatever the weather...The Bordeaux barometer: Cool vs hot vintages
When you first learn about Bordeaux, you are told one very simple rule: this may be southwest France but it’s also a port city close to the Atlantic, and so has an oceanic climate. This fact governs the next rule, which is: because of the climate, Hot Years are good, and Cool Years are challenging.
Jane Anson is a Decanter contributing editor, Bordeaux correspondent and author of the book Bordeaux Legends.
Gerard Basset MS MW is a vice-chair in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA) 2018.Gerard Basset MS MWGerard Basset MS MW
Gerard Basset MS MW qualified as a chef and sommelier in his native France before moving to England in the mid-1980s, where he embarked on a career as a sommelier. Currently owning Hotel TerraVina in the New Forest with his wife Nina, Basset has an obvious flair for business and previously co-founded the Hotel du Vin, which was sold in 2004 after having successfully opened six additional hotels.
Basset was named Decanter’s Man of the Year 2013, holds the prestigious title of Best Sommelier of the World 2010, and is the only person in the world to simultaneously be a Master Sommelier, Master of Wine and hold a Wine MBA, more recently adding the MSc in Wine Management from the OIV.
In addition, he has been awarded Best Sommelier of the UK several times, as well as Best International Sommelier for French Wines in 1992 and Best Sommelier of Europe in 1996. Basset has been named Personality of the Year by both IWC and Harper’s, Industry Legend by Imbibe magazine, and in 2011 he received an OBE by The Princess Royal at Windsor Castle.
Shinya Tasaki, a renowned and award-winning sommelier from Tokyo, is a vice-chair in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA).Shinya TasakiShinya Tasaki
Shinya Tasaki is the President of the Japanese Sommelier Association and the A.S.I. Best Sommelier of the World 1995. He is the only non-European national ever to win the title of the Best Sommelier in the World.
His victory lead the sommelier profession to become widely known throughout the nation and he greatly contributed to the popularization of wine in Japan. Since then, he has been training young sommeliers, giving lessons to wine amateurs, working extensively in seminars and wine dinners, writing more than 50 F&B related books, and consulting and making appearances on television & radio.
He is also a publisher of one of the well-read wine magazines in Japan. He received numerous awards and accolades over the years in his country and abroad, including the Yellow Ribbon Medal of Honor from the Emperor of Japan (a decoration given to individuals who, through their diligence and perseverance in their professional activities, became public role models).
Poh Tiong Ch'ng is a vice-chair in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA) 2018.Poh Tiong Ch’ng
A lawyer by training, Poh Tiong Ch’ng published the world’s first Chinese Bordeaux Guide in 2000.
Ch’ng also writes columns in Wine Life and RVF China. For nearly 20 years, he has been consultant to FairPrice and Finest, Singapore’s largest supermarket chain. Ch’ng is also a senior judge of World of Fine Wine’s Best Wine Lists in the World competition and contributes to the China, Japan & India sections of Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book.
Holding a certificate in Chinese art from the University of London’s School of Oriental & African Studies, Ch’ng is an ambassador of The European Fine Art Foundation or TEFAF Maastricht.
Jeannie Cho Lee MW is a vice chair in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA) 2018.Jeannie Cho Lee MWJeannie Cho Lee MW
Jeannie Cho Lee MW is an author, wine critic, judge and educator as well as the first Asian Master of Wine.
A contributing editor of Decanter, she is also a Professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, a columnist for Robb Report China and Forbes, and has been a consultant for Singapore Airlines since 2008.
Lee’s love for Asian cuisine and wine inspired her to write the award-winning book, Asian Palate, and to found AsianPalate.com as well as JeannieChoLee.com.
Michael Hill-Smith MW is a vice chair in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA) 2018.Michael Hill-Smith MWMichael Hill-Smith MW
Michael Hill-Smith MW became the first Australian to pass the rigorous Master of Wine examination in 1988.
He is a wine producer, international wine judge, wine consultant, occasional wine writer and lapsed restaurateur. In 2008, he was awarded an Order of Australia (AM) for his contribution to the Australian Wine Industry, and he has featured in Decanter‘s Power List in 2009, 2011 and 2013.
He believes passionately in the future of Australian fine wine, and is part of the international tasting panel responsible for the selection of all wines served on Singapore Airlines.
In addition to his Vice Chair role at the DAWA he is also Co-Chair of the DWWA.
Read an in-depth report on the evolution of this St-Julien estate's style with tasting notes and fresh ratings for more than 25 vintages; published exclusively for Premium members.Léoville Poyferré: St-Julien's 'non-conformist' winery...
There are certain estates across Bordeaux that come with an unshakeable personality, whatever the vintage.
Léoville Poyferré is undoubtedly one of them, and it is more than happy to play up its non-conformist image.
It chose Michel Rolland as consultant in the mid-1980s (his second consultancy gig in the Médoc after the CVBG properties I believe), has always harvested on the later end of the scale and with lower yields than you normally find in the Médoc; usually 35hl/h compared to the usual 45hl/h.
It also blends at the end of ageing, rather than the beginning, and generally includes an unusually high proportion of Merlot compared to its neighbours, while alsoMore recent articles by Jane Anson for Premium members that you may like: How Bordeaux 2008 tastes now Tasting 150 years of Lafite Rothschild wines
How it differs from other styles and expert advice on how to make an alternative version of a gin & tonic.White Port and tonic at Bar Douro. What is white Port? – ask Decanter
White Port is made from white grapes, such as Códega, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato and Viosinho.
‘Most are bottled young but some whites are capable of wood age and may now be bottled with the same age indications as tawny Ports or as a colheita,’ said Richard Mayson, in his guide to Port styles.
It is a refreshing and light style, making it ideal for summer drinking. It tends to have flavours of apricot, citrus fruit and peel, and nuts.
‘The dry style is a versatile style of port which can be served chilled as an aperitif, mixed with tonic or as a base for cocktails,’ said Max Graham, owner of Portuguese restaurant Bar Douro.Latest: Tasting notes decoded How to make a white Port and tonic
White Port can be used as a lower-alcohol alternative to gin, mixed with tonic.
Graham recommends mixing ‘50ml of Churchill’s dry white Port, 100ml of tonic water [he prefers Fevertree], orange peel and a sprig of mint to garnish. Pour all into a glass with ice cubes and stir well.’
Other citrus peel works well, but ‘the orange peel is reminiscent of the orange grove at Churchill’s Quinta da Gricha in the Douro’, said Graham.
Clement Robert MS recommends fortified wines in wine cocktails because ‘they are lighter than liqueurs and spirits but they have the necessary strength to give the whole drink a delicious lift.’More wine questions answered.
We've searched the web for some of the best wine waistcoats, inspired by England manager Gareth Southgate.England manager Gareth Southgate celebrates as England beat Colombia in 2018 World Cup. Best wine waistcoats for the World Cup 2018
England manager Gareth Southgate has brought the waistcoat back in to fashion, after being seen on the touchline wearing a navy blue one from Marks & Spencer for each of the World Cup 2018 England matches.
If you want to follow suit for the England vs Croatia match this evening, we’ve rounded up our favourite wine-themed ones – for either yourself, or your bottle…
Why not wear a waistcoat inspired by some of the wine classics, while you watch the match this evening?
A sharp waistcoat with a matching bow-tie, packed with a pattern of wine bottles and glasses.
If you don’t fancy wearing the waistcoat yourself, find one for your bottle instead.
Another smart look for your favourite bottle of wine – also available in navy blue to match Southgate’s style.
For a more subtle nod to your love of wine, go for this Burgundy-coloured option from Southgate-approved, Marks & Spencer.See also: Decanter’s World Cup wine quiz
Decanter's experts give their verdict on California Cabernet from the 2011 vintage...
Originally published in Decanter magazine's February 2015 issue and now available online and in full for Premium members
- 118 wines tasted with four rated Outstanding
- The panel tasters were: Romain Bourger, Stephen Brook & Angela Mount
The panel was surprised when the results were disclosed that half of the Outstandings were, by Napa standards, high-volume wines offered at modest prices. But the surprise was a pleasant one. It shows that consumers don’t have to pay extortionate prices for fine Californian Cabernet.
It also indicates that some larger wineries, like Beringer and J Lohr, are at an advantage in a tricky vintage as they can select the best fruit from their own vineyards and from those that supply them on a contract basis. Looking back at my notes from previous vintages, I’ve always scored the Napa Cabs from Beringer and Black Stallion very positively in blind tastings. The wineries do a good job and offer good value.Scroll down to see the top wines from the panel tasting You might also like: California Cabernet 2014: Panel tasting results Premium California wines to buy in 2018 Mature Californian wines from the cellar
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Champagne house Krug has launched ‘tracks on tracks’, a luxury train journey serving Krug alongside food from chef Luke Robinson and with musical performances curated by Jools Holland.
The train will depart from London Victoria on Friday 31 August and make three stops at private platforms, for a series of exclusive musical performances, conducted by Jools Holland.
‘We are thrilled to be collaborating with Jools Holland OBE for this year’s Krug Encounters,’ said Olivier Krug.
‘His role of ‘conductor’ will bring his musical expertise and gravitas to the forefront of this unforgettable train journey.’See also: Can music make wine taste better?
Passengers will enjoy food from Luke Robinson, head chef at Evelyn’s Table in London.
‘I want to create delicious dishes based on my culinary heritage and craft that complement Krug,’ said Robinson.
Dishes will be paired with 166ème Édition of Krug Grande Cuvée, Krug Rosé and Krug 2004.Krug Encounters
Tracks on Tracks is the latest in the series of ‘Krug Encounters’.
Last summer, the Champagne house ran a luxury festival in Hampshire called ‘Into the wild’, and ‘Krug Island’ in 2016 at Osea island.
The Krug Encounters aim to bring together Krug Champagne, music and food.
Tickets for Tracks on Tracks are £450 each, or £800 for a pair., including all food, drink and return travel to London.See all Champagne Krug tasting notes from Decanter experts here
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