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Conviviality sale: Magners cider owner offers to take on Bibendum, Matthew Clark

wo, 04/04/2018 - 14:18

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.

Bibendum, conviviality sale

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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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Interview: Alois Lageder

wo, 04/04/2018 - 12:00

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 LagederAlois 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


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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Brunello Riserva 2012: Report & Top wines

di, 03/04/2018 - 17:00

Requiring an extra year of ageing, the latest release of Brunello Riserva is the 2012 vintage. Read Michaela Morris' report below, and see her tasting notes and scores for 55 wines...

Montalcino, tuscanyMontalcino in Tuscany, home to Brunello di Montalcino.

The Brunello Riservas from the 2012 vintage are, like 2011, the product of a hot year, although the heat played out differently.


Looking ahead to the 2013 Riservas

Many producers decided not to make a Riserva in 2013. ‘While it was a good year, it doesn’t demonstrate the structure for long-term ageing,’ asserts Andrea Costanti at Conti Costanti.

Conversely, both Laura Brunelli at Gianni Brunelli and the neighbouring Salicutti estate will be releasing small quantities of a Riserva.  As this category must age an additional year (not necessarily in wood), a judgement on these will be made in 2019.

Related content:

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

What does ‘in bond’ mean? – ask Decanter

di, 03/04/2018 - 14:58

Seen wine prices listed as 'in bond'? Here's what it means...

Wine StorageWhat does ‘in bond’ mean? – ask Decanter

Wines that are sold ‘in bond’ have not had the duty and VAT – also known as sales tax – paid on them. This is a particularly common way to buy wine for investment, and is also used for wine that is purchased en primeur.

Why would you buy ‘in bond’?

Investment is one reason to buy in bond; you can’t do much about the state of the fine wine market, but you can look after your wine.

‘Fine wine matures once bottled and improves with age,’ said Simon Staples, Fine Wine Sales Director, at Berry Bros & Rudd. ‘A limited amount is produced every year and as bottles are consumed the supply of the wine becomes smaller.

‘As supply diminishes, demand generally rises as the wine matures. If looked after properly in a temperature, humidity controlled bonded warehouse, your investment will mature slowly over 10 to 30 years.’

Justin Gibbs, Liv-Ex director, added, ‘If you sell them later on, you never pay duty or VAT on the wines. This also makes them more attractive to potential investor buyers.’

More about storage

Wines in bond must be stored in an authorised bonded warehouse.

‘If a wine has been stored in bond, it is more likely to have been stored correctly, and not in the cupboard under somebody’s stairs,’ said Gibbs. ‘For example, Liv-ex’s warehouse is monitored 24/7.’

How to choose where to store wine When can you actually get the wines?

It depends if you are buying en primeur, also known as on pre-release or futures; before the wines have been bottled.

‘Wines can only be purchased by the unmixed case and are usually delivered two to three years after the vintage,’ said Staples.

‘If you have purchased the wine from a stock-holding merchant, who already has the wines in their own warehouse, you should be able to get them quite quickly (normally within two weeks),’ said Gibbs.

‘If a merchant is purchasing them from elsewhere on your behalf, you may have slightly longer to wait.’

How to store Champagne at home


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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Australian Brown Brothers brand quits ‘unforgiving’ UK market

di, 03/04/2018 - 14:22

Australian wine producer Brown Brothers is to pull its namesake brand out of the UK, describing it as ‘the most unforgiving market in the world’ and ‘unsustainable for our company’.

uk wine marketUK wine market is one of the most unforgiving in the world, says Brown Brothers.

Family-owned Brown Brothers cited a number of factors for the decision to withdraw its eponymous brand, including Brexit-related uncertainty, unfavourable exchange rates, shifting consumer trends, increased operating costs and the high level of competition.

Brown Brothers has operated in the UK for more than 25 years, during which it has experienced ‘some wonderful periods of sales momentum’, particularly through its focus on unusual grape varieties.

‘This has been an extremely challenging decision as many years of exhaustive effort have gone into the UK market, particularly from the Brown family and its in-market employees,’ said Dean Carroll, CEO of Brown Brothers, which is a member of Australai’s ‘First Families of Wine’.

Carroll added, ‘But our belief is that the UK is now the most unforgiving market in the world, and the opportunities for us elsewhere are exciting and far more appealing, [and] therefore must be pursued enthusiastically.’

Brown Brothers will continue to operate in Europe ‘under a tighter focus’, Carroll added, while the company’s Innocent Bystander and Tasmanian wine brands will still be sold in the UK.

Steve Moody, managing director of John E Fells & Sons, Brown Brothers’ UK importer, said the decision ‘reflects the fast-changing and very challenging conditions that this market faces’.

Fierce competition, powerful retailers and high levels of excise duty have long made the UK a tough market for wine companies, but this has been exacerbated by the uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote and the falling value of the pound.

Last week, beleaguered drinks business Conviviality – owner of the Wine Rack and Bargain Booze retail chains, plus drinks suppliers Matthew Clark and Bibendum – announced that it intended to appoint administrators within 10 business days after failing to raise £125m to keep it afloat.


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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Abruzzo: An Italian region worth discovering

di, 03/04/2018 - 11:40

Promotional feature

50 years after the award of the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) for Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, this is the moment to assess the achievement and focus on its region of production and its cultural resources.

Discover Abruzzo .

Promotional feature

Abruzzo: An Italian region worth discovering

The flagship wine of one of the most importat regions of Italy in quantity terms, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has had an unprecedented growth over the fifty years of its DOC status. Today, it accounts for more than 80% of the DOC wine produced in the entire region, reaching 685,000 hl of bottled wine, making it one of Italy’s leading DOCs.

The fiftieth anniversary of the institution of the DOC in 1968 is the moment to assess the present and look forward to the future for a region that has risen to prominence in the national and international wine world, and keeps much untapped potential in terms of the promotion of its territory and its products.

Montepulciano is without doubt Abruzzo’s most typical grape variety. Sourced uniquely from hillside or high plain vineyards, Montepulciano vines account for more than 50% of the total. Part of the regional landscape since the 18th century, it’s a vigorous, late-ripening grape variety which produces a versatile wine, ideal for every-day use but also excellent for long ageing, during which it evolves into a product with great depth and complexity.

The international success of Montepulciano has also naturally led to the growth in popularity of other native grape varieties from Abruzzo, mainly whites. Of these, one that stands out is Trebbiano, a white grape with great potential that has developed well in an ideal ecosystem. Alongside this variety is Pecorino, which makes wines of excellent quality, very fruity and with a delightful bouquet, and others like Passerina, Cococciola and Montonico, which is the source of a an excellent range of still and sparkling wines.

“We want to use the opportunity of the fiftieth anniversary to make the wines of Abruzzo better known – particularly Montepulciano – and to increase appreciation of their quality, not just through promotional activities, but also through greater control of their production and promotion,” says the Consorzio President Valentino Di Campli.

This explains, for example, the decision to adopt the State Control badge for all DOC wines as from 1st December, to guarantee their excellence and suitability for drinking in all occasions. At the same time, many regional communications projects have been started, such as the “Percorsi” (Routes) project with its dedicated website – – aimed at helping the visitor discover more about the unique Abruzzo region, stretching from the Apennines to the Adriatic Sea.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and other native grapes will be the focus of promotional activities at Vinitaly in a few weeks time. Activities include tastings and a food show by the 3-star Abruzzo chef, Niko Romito, which will thus close the virtuous circle comprising viticulture, territory, gastronomy and wine tourism and relaunch Abruzzo as a privileged destination for wine lovers.

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Soave revival: Producers to know

di, 03/04/2018 - 09:00

Northeast Italy’s classic dry white has come on in leaps and bounds in the past few decades. Michael Apstein gets to the heart of this hilly region, highlighting six of his favourite producers and selecting 12 of the best wines to try.

Pieropan vinesAll of Pieropan's 46ha of vineyards were certified organic in 2015

Soave has never been better. Ian D’Agata, a world authority on Italian wine, says flatly: ‘It’s rare to get a bad Soave today.’ I’d go even further – it’s easy to get a very good one, and at a price that won’t break your budget. But that certainly hasn’t always been the case.

If your memory of Soave is the watery, bland liquid that Bolla marketed so successfully decades ago (many consumers assumed the name of the region was actually Bolla Soave) then it’s time to try it again – even Bolla’s.

And Soave’s renaissance is a double boon for consumers, because the prices have failed to keep up with the quality.

So how can you take advantage of the bargains that abound?


Apstein’s pick of the region: Gini, Soave Classico, La Froscà, Soave, Veneto, Italy, 2014 Pieropan, Soave Classico, Calvarino, Soave, Veneto, 2015 Inama, Soave Classico, Vigneto du Lot, Soave, Veneto, 2016 I Stefanini, Soave Classico, Monte di Fice, Soave, 2016 Ca'Rugate, Soave Classico, Monte Fiorentine, Soave, 2016 Prà, Soave Classico, Staforte, Soave, Veneto, Italy, 2016 Coffele, Soave Classico, Castel Cerino, Soave, Veneto, 2016 Pieropan, Soave Classico, Soave, Veneto, Italy, 2017 Inama, Soave Classico, Soave, Veneto, Italy, 2016 Prà, Soave Classico, Otto, Soave, Veneto, Italy, 2016 Bolla, Soave Classico, Tufaie, Soave, Veneto, Italy, 2016 I Stefanini, Soave, Il Selese, Soave, Veneto, Italy, 2016


  • Michael Apstein is an awarded US-based wine writer, educator and judge


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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

World’s best Pinot Gris: 35 top wines

ma, 02/04/2018 - 10:00

Decanter’s experts from around the world nominated the best Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio in their respective regions. Then we asked Andrew Jefford to taste them all and select his favourite 35 wines.

France Alsace Hugel & Fils Pinot Gris grapes

Pinot Noir, one of the most genetically influential grape varieties, mutates easily. The pink-berried Pinot Gris is one such mutation, first recorded in the early 18th century. It’s a true international.

We mainly know it under its name in Alsace, Pinot Gris, or as the Italian Pinot Grigio, but it’s Pinot Beurot in Burgundy (where it’s a minor rival to Chardonnay), Ruländer or Grauer Burgunder in Germany and Austria, and Szürkebarát in Hungary.

Italy, not France, has the largest plantings (6,600ha and rising, compared to the French total of 2,617ha*); California, too, has almost twice as much as France (5,223ha), followed closely by Germany (4,481ha). Even Australia’s total exceeds that of France (2,836ha). Hungary (1,522ha), New Zealand (1,501ha) and Oregon (1,107ha) are all major sources.

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Jefford On Monday: Georgia – the tasting challenge

ma, 02/04/2018 - 07:00

Andrew Jefford tastes his way through the latest that Georgia has to offer.

Tasting georgian wineThe tradition of qvevri winemaking in Georgia has been recognised by UNESCO's world heritage panel.

Despite all the attention that Georgia has attracted over the last decade, my guess is that there will still be some readers of this column who have yet to taste their first Georgian wine.  What can you expect?

Traditional qvevri wine (wine made in buried clay jars) is Georgia’s headline-grabber, despite the fact that it accounts for less than five per cent of Georgian production.  It exists in both red and ‘white’ (deep gold or amber) form.

Red qvevri wines don’t greatly differ from conventionally vinified red wines – since skin-soaking is a part of all red-wine vinification, and since they spend less long with the skins after vinification, often going into oak at around the two-month point.

The gold or amber versions made from white grapes, by contrast, truly constitute a separate genre of wine: they get up to six months’ skin contact (and sometimes stem-contact, too): longer than even the most comprehensively ‘extracted’ red wines.  The result is deeply coloured, more or less tannic, relatively fruitless, low-acid, usually unoaked wine with a fascinating spectrum of other notes and allusions, and with great mealtime aptitude.

The Georgian Wine Association organized an International Qvevri Wine Competition in 2017 and is repeating the exercise this coming May.  Georgia’s larger producers, too, have been surprised by the international interest in qvevri wines and are now taking the style very seriously — so the range and consistency of qvevri wines is fast improving.  Small-scale and natural wine producers can make outstanding qvevri wines, but they have also marketed hideous failures, too.

The other main hook for Georgian wine is its 525 indigenous grape varieties.  It’s a wonderful genetic patrimony – but it’s largely theoretical at present, since one red variety (Saperavi) and three white varieties (Rkatsiteli, Mstvane and Kisi) dominate most of the commercially available wines.  Other white varieties you might see include Goruli Mtsvane (despite the name, a completely different variety grown in Kartli from the ‘ordinary’ Mstvane or Mstvane Kakhuri, grown in Kakheti), Krakhuna, Tsitska and Tsolikouri; Georgia has international varieties aplenty, too, notably Chardonnay and Cabernet.  Many classically made white wines are blends of varieties of general ‘Georgian’ style (light, fresh, graceful and vinous, with vegetal as well as fruit notes).

When I was in Georgia earlier this month I did, though, have a chance to visit Georgia’s viticultural research station at Mtskheta and taste a small range of micro-vinified wines from lesser-known varieties with the director, Dr David Chichua.  The most interesting of these were three reds, Adanasuri (structured and almost austere, like a Piemontese red), Simonaseuli (juicy and fleshy, but with ample depth and structure too) and Mujuretuli (a grippy yet perfumed variety which lends itself to the semi-sweet Kindzmarauli so popular in Russia), suggesting that it is perhaps a shame that Saperavi has such a stranglehold on Georgia’s red-wine scene.

Another aspect of Georgian wine which has yet to make much of an international impact as yet is regional differences.  Georgia has eight different wines regions (Kakheti, Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, Guria, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and Adjara) as well as 18 individual PDOs.  Kakheti, though, is hugely dominant, with around 80% of production, and the palpably different weight and style of wines from the other regions struggles to get a hearing, apart from one or two celebrated properties (like Ch Mukhrani in Kartli, for example).  Regionalism in Georgian wine, like the articulate expression of the country’s varietal wealth, remains a project for the future.

The final challenge for consumers are labels.  These are improving quickly in Georgia, but Georgian place names and variety names are not easy for non-Georgians to read, and any bilingual label using both Georgian script and English to communicate both the legally required information and a little of the wine’s story inevitably has to resort to tiny point sizes – and, in my case at last, the wielding of a Sherlock-Holmes-sized magnifying glass.  The Georgian labeling revolution still has a little way to run.

Is it all worth it?  Yes, certainly: the world offers us no other wines like these, and prices remain very competitive for quality and interest of this level. Who would not want to try an example of wine’s sixth genre – the tannic amber ‘white’ based on six months’ skin contact in a buried qvevri?  And who would not want to drink wine from what may well be the Eurasian vine’s birthplace, and from a location with an attested 8,000-year history of wine creation?

Tasting Georgia

Wines made in qvevris are noted as such; all the other reviewed wines are classically vinified.

Casreli, Chitistvala, Qvevri, Kakheti 2016

Although this wine is labelled with the name of the uncommon white variety Chitistvala, it is in fact made of equal percentages of that variety’s fruit with Kisi and Rkatsiteli, too.  Dry, dusty but haunting scents of crab apple and blood orange, and a very striking, deeply tannic flavour perfumed with the same fruits, yet not dry or bitter in flavour but rather softening and filling towards the finish.  Provocative and good. 90 (11.7%)

 Dakishvili Family Selection, Amber Dry Wine, Hand Made, Qvevri, Kakheti 2015

A brilliant blend of Rkatsiteli, Mstvane and Kisi vinified in qvevri by Temur Dakishvili: glowing amber in colour, with scents of nuts, mushrooms, plant sap and sweet curds.  Supple, long and vivavacious, with ample walnut and apricot wealth of fruit and generous, soft, slippy tannins and plump, ripe, well-rounded acidity.  Gourmet amber wine. 93 (13.5%)

Dugladze, Kisi, Dry Amber, Qvevri, Kakheti 2017

Dugladze is a large company with significant brandy sales, but its qvevri range (bravely bottled in curvaceous transparent glass flasks, like a Provence rosé wine) are well-crafted, accessible and articulate.  This very young qvevri Kisi has much more aromatic focus than most, with notes of fruit, moss, jasmine and preserved citrus peel, while on the palate it is full, long and gratifying, with soft tannins and low acids, avoiding the dry acerbity of some Kisi wines.  An admirable introduction to the style. 90 (12.3%)

Khareba, Krakhuna, Imereti 2017

Khareba is a large company working hard of late to renovate its offer – in part with some well-packaged, complex blends bringing together varieties from both Eastern and Western Georgia under the ‘Prince Giorgi’ and ‘Queen Tamar’ names. Among its classically fermented varietals, I was particularly taken with this Krakhuna from the Imerati region: fruit blossom, shy Alpine flowers and sweet apple scents, with clear, fresh, pungent, bright and crisp flavours of impressive delicacy.  88 (12.5%)

Mosmieri, Saperavi, Kakheti 2015

One of the darkest and deepest Saperavi wines I tasted during my recent visit, this fine effort certainly needs five years’ ageing and would be best decanted if drunk earlier than that.  Packed with intense blackberry, blackcurrant and sloe fruit, but with the extractive force to frame and balance that characteristically vivacious fruit.  Sappy and sturdy. 91 (14.5%)

Ch Mukhrani, Réserve Royale (White), Kartli 2015

This classically vinified white is made from Goruli Mtsvane alone, grown in Mukhrani’s vineyards in Kartli.  A scent both fresh and sweet, but which resists trivial allusions; not far from linden blossom.  Those fugitive scents are apparent in the flavour, too, allied to a soft creaminess; pure and fresh on the finish.  A wine of rare poise – and the beautiful packaging helps it look the part; a perfect fine-dining white as well as a deft rendition of the light, graceful Kartli style. 91 (13%)

Orgo, Rkatsiteli, Qvevri, Kakheti 2016

This wine, from Giorgi Dakishvili and his son Temur, is labelled with admirable simplicity: ‘Dry Amber Wine from Old Vineyards’.  Only vines of 50 or more years old are used, with the fruit being carefully selected and some stems being used, depending on the vintage; fermentation is in relatively new, 2,000-litre qvevris.  It’s light amber in colour with scents of grain, of mushrooms growing on damp logs, plum jam, rain on dry earth and flowers, too: spotless and pristine.  On the palate, the wine is concentrated, commanding and seizing, with ample fine-grained grip, soft acidity and plump ripeness.  Once again, it’s spotlessly clean, with flavours of grape and apricot, mushroom and umami: perfumed, elegant and long.   95 (13%)

Orgo, Saperavi, Qvevri, Kakheti 2015

Deep black-red in colour: quiet, clean and classy aromas of mulberries, blackberries and the living forest floor.  Deep and concentrated on the palate; the acids are beautifully bonded to that rooty black fruit, and the tannins of middling weight and fine texture.  It’s in the finish that you see the the distinctive exotic Saperavi spice, like a distant Caucasian echo of a fine Northern Rhône red.  92 (13.5%)

Orgo, Tsolikouri, Qvevri, Racha-Lechkhumi 2016

This wine is sourced from Tsolikouri grapes (13%) grown in the Western Georgian region of Racha-Lechkhumi, on limestone soils at around 550m; the variety is late-ripening (this was harvested at the end of October) yet retains its acidity very well.  It’s deep gold rather than full amber in colour, with less mushroomy warmth than for the Rkatsiteli, and more apple, grape, and leaf.  On the palate, it is bright, elegant and darting, acid-structured rather than tannin-structured, though the acids are rich, hinting at apple, lemon, pear, quince, even pomegranate.  A genuine contast in style, clearly illustrating regional and varietal differences.  92 (12%)

Tamada Qvevri Dry Amber, Kakheti 2014

This qvevri Rkatsiteli from fruit grown in the village of Vardisubani comes from the Tamada range of PDO wines from large producer GWS (Georgian Wines and Spirits Company).  It’s bright gold in colour, with a pretty scent combining doughy richness, walnut butter, umami and a sweet barleysugar note (the wine has a year in used barriques after its time in qvevri).  On the palate, it is an accessible and attractive reading of the qvevri style with rounded apple and apricot fruits, ripe and soft acidity, limpid textures and a nutty finish: clean and fresh (“let’s have qvevri wine without diseases,” says chief winemaker Philippe Lespy).  90 (12.5%)

Tbilvino Qvevris, Saperavi, Kakheti 2015

Few among Georgia’s large volume producers have higher quality aspirations than Tbilvino, and qvevri wines are an intrinsic part of that; the company is building a new winery at present to specialise in qvevri and ambitious classically fermented wines.  This excellent Saperavi from their own 200 ha of red varieties is qvevri-fermented with 30% stems.  Very dark in colour, it has a burr of bramble fruit and autumn hedgerow generosity.  On the palate, there’s a fine balance of vivacity and richness typical of the variety, but the qvevri fermentation and the use of stems seems to have brought a complexity of aroma, a textural intrigue and a nut-oil freshness of flavour which makes this wine deeper and more complex than its classically fermented Tbilvino peers.  91 (13%)

Tsarapi, Rkatsiteli, Qvevri, Avtandil Bedenashvili, Kakheti 2014

It’s fun to explore Georgian white grape varities, but wines like this make you realise that Rkatsiteli is hard to better.  Dramatic, authoritative aromas of orchard fruits, fresh flowers and umami are followed by a vivid, crystalline palate weaving apple, quince and pear together with beeswax, tea and a little mushroom, too – but the fruits retain their primacy.  There are fine, abundant tannins and a well-judged complexing oxidative note, too.  92 (13%)

Tsinandali Estate, Rkatsiteli, Qvevri, Kakheti 2016

Tsinandali is the zonal name of one of Georgia’s most popular PDOs (for a classically fermented blend of Rkatsiteli and Mstvane), but at the centre of the PDO lies the historic estate of Tsinandali, originally founded in the nineteenth century by Prince Alexander Chavchavadze and about to bottle its 175th vintage.  This qvevri white is a pure Rkatsiteli, barely deeper than gold in colour, with scents of walnut and beeswax polish.  There’s quiet apricot fruit as well as walnut on the palate, and gently textured tannins: graceful, poised, elegant and fresh.   91 (12.5%)

Vinoterra, Kisi, Qvevri, Kakheti 2015

Vinoterra is the name used at the German-owned Schuchmann winery for qvevri-made wines.  This Kisi wine is light gold in colour, with restrained, refined aromas of dried wild flowers and dried apricot.  On the palate, too, it is understated and elegant, all nuances and hints but without ever slipping into obviousness, and again the subtle floral, faintly walnutty style of this aristocratic Georgian variety is well to the fore.  91 (13%)

Vinoterra, Saperavi, Qvevri, Kakheti 2015

The grapes for this qvevri-made Saperavi  are from the celebrated village of Napareuili, which has a PDO of its own for Saperavi-based reds.  The wine goes into new French oak for a year after the qvevri fermentation.  Fresh, clean and refined scents, with underbrush and spice over dark, curranty fruit.  The classically vinified Schuchmann reds also have that fresh elegance and curranty reserve on the palate, but this qvevri version is warmer, richer and chewier, with a lovely inner glow to it which shines through the elegance of the house style.  90 (13%)

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Categorieën: Wijnnieuws

Wine Legend: DRC Richebourg 1959

zo, 01/04/2018 - 16:00

Why it makes our hall of fame...

DRC Richebourg 1959Wine Legend: DRC Richebourg 1959, Vosne-Romanée, Burgundy, France

Number of bottles produced: 11,000

Composition: 100% Pinot Noir

Yield (hl/ha): No record

Alcohol content: No record

Release price: No record

Current price: £3,300-£3,700 per bottle

A legend because…

After some tricky vintages, the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti rose magnificently to the occasion in 1959 to produce a set of outstanding wines from its top vineyards. The Romanée-Conti was a great wine in 1959, but so was the wine from Richebourg, its neighbour.

Arguably, the relatively high proportion of clay in the Richebourg soil was of particular benefit in this hot year.

DRC invariably makes a superb Richebourg, but it excelled itself in 1959, although the 1962 can come close.

Looking back

The year 1959 is also memorable in the domaine’€s history because it was the first year in which the property turned a profit. Although DRC’€s reputation was as high in the 1950s as it is today, there were few other estates nibbling at its heels, with the possible exception of Henri Jayer.

The people

DRC is jointly owned by two families, the Leroys and the de Villaines. From 1942 onwards Henri Leroy (father of Burgundy grower Lalou Bize-Leroy) was at the helm, though in 1959 he would have been assisted by Henri de Villaine (father of current co-owner Aubert), who was less involved because he lived in Moulins, looking after his family’€s farms.

The winemaker, from 1946 onwards, was André Noblet, succeeded by his son Bernard.

The vintage

The mid-1950s was not a golden period for Burgundy, and vintages were difficult – until 1959 came along. July and August were hot and dry, and the rain that eventually fell in September proved beneficial, keeping stress at bay and allowing the grapes to mature fully and evenly. The harvest began in mid-September under ideal conditions.

The terroir

Richebourg is a moderately sized grand cru in Vosne-Romanée, with just over eight hectares under vine. The DRC has long been the largest owner, with 3.5ha.

The vineyard comprises two parcels, Les Véroilles (which was incorporated into Richebourg in 1936) and Les Richebourgs, the latter being the larger. Véroilles is a touch more northerly and thus slightly cooler, ripening a day or two later.

Richebourg is gently sloping from 255m to 295m, and consistent in terms of its soil, which has a significant clay content. The Domaine owns 1ha within Véroilles, the rest within Les Richebourgs, and the average age of the vines today is over 45 years.

The wine

Richebourg is among the most long-lived of the grands crus. Its wine has a distinctive power, but the greatest vintages, such as this 1959, have always shown supreme elegance as well. Virile when young, Richebourg demands a decade or more in bottle before its complexity, nuances and remarkable persistence of flavour become fully apparent.

Until 1946, one third of DRC’€s Richebourg vines were still ungrafted -€ among the very oldest pre-phylloxera vines in France -€ and were vinified and bottled separately.

But the 1959 Richebourg would have contained a moderate proportion of younger vines following the replanting. The general policy of DRC is not to destem, and this surely would have been the case in a fully ripe year such as 1959.

Fermentation would have taken place in open-top wooden vats, and the wine aged in new oak. Although DRC no longer fines its reds, the 1959 would have been fined.

The reaction

From the outset the wine was rich and flavoursome, with good depth of colour and an excellent balance of tannin and acidity. The quality was immediately recognised.

Decanters Michael Broadbent, tasting the wine in 2002, gave the wine his top five-star rating, but was quite subdued in his response: ‘€Low-keyed but ripe and correct; sweet, soft, rich, complete, with good grip.’€

Burgundy expert Allen Meadows was more enthusiastic, having tasted a magnum in 2005.

‘€Fully mature and wonderfully spicy, complex and fragrant earthy black fruit trimmed in plenty of sousbois followed by rich, seductive, mouth-coating and velvety medium-full flavours, all wrapped in a superbly long finish underpinned by mostly, if not completely, resolved tannins.’€ He felt it was fully ready to drink.

Fellow Burgundy authority Clive Coates MW concurred, and in 1989 hailed the Richebourg as ‘€a marvellous wine’€ ‘€multi-dimensional’ with ‘€real breed’.

Read an in-depth profile of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, including wine tasting notes from top vintages, by Clive Coates MW

Exclusively for Decanter Premium members


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Italy: We need to talk about Calabria

zo, 01/04/2018 - 10:00

Little known by tourists and wine lovers alike, Calabria is emerging as a source of distinctive wines made from unique local grapes. Walter Speller shines a light on the area’s pioneering producers.

Ferrocinto vineyardFerrocinto

Calabria, the mountainous, rugged toe of the boot of Italy, is still so off the radar that not even Federdoc, the Italian institute for quality wines, knows how many hectares of vines are planted there.



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Tuscany: Exploring Vernaccia di San Gimignano

za, 31/03/2018 - 12:27

These characterful whites aren’t as well known as other Italian DOCG wines, but reflect their Tuscan homeland. Susan Hulme MW recommends her favourite bottles to try.

 Vernaccia di San GimignanoCredit: WikiCommons/Ricci Speziari

It’s a bit of an oddity in the world of white wines. Whites are usually valued for their acidity and range of aromas, but Vernaccia di San Gimignano has relatively low acidity and is low in aromas.

It is also high in tannins and is described by locals as more like a red grape. Yet its savoury, salty elements result in fresh, tangy wines.

Italy’s first wine to be awarded DOC status in 1966, Vernaccia di San Gimignano became a DOCG in 1993. It grows in the gently undulating Tuscan hillsides around the beautiful medieval town of San Gimignano, famous for its many towers.

  • Susan Hulme MW is a wine writer specialising in Italian wines. Since 2016 she has written regularly for Decanter and

These wines were the best of those tasted both in Tuscany and at Decanter’s London offices

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Ten Sicilian wineries at the top of their game

za, 31/03/2018 - 08:00

Well loved as a holiday destination, this volcanic Mediterranean island is also home to a thriving wine industry that ticks all the authenticity boxes. Stephen Brook selects 10 estates at the top of their game...

Regaleali vineyardTasca d'Almerita's main estate vineyards of Regaleali

Sicily may be an island, but it often feels like a country of its own. Waves of invasion have left their mark: Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Normans have all swooped in. Even the British made their mark, by inventing the fortified wine of Marsala.




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Guide to matching wine with chocolate

vr, 30/03/2018 - 11:15

Whether you're expecting an Easter chocolate windfall, or you just fancy pairing two of your favourite things in life, Fiona Beckett is here to help.

How to pair wine with chocolate, Paul a YoungHow to pair wine with chocolate.

The idea that chocolate is ruinous to wine is still widely held but, as many of you will know, the problem is overstated.

Yes, it can be difficult to find a wine to match a molten chocolate fondant (PX Sherry just about manages), but there are many other chocolate desserts – and chocolates – which can be flattered by a fine wine match.

Three things to consider:

The three main things to consider when working out what to drink are:

  • The type of chocolate – white and milk chocolate being generally easier to match than dark
  • Is the dish hot or cold – cold is more wine-friendly
  • What other ingredients are on the plate? Cherries, for example, might lead you to a sweet red like a Recioto or a late harvest Zinfandel rather than a white.

In fact, it’s a useful tip to think of the sort of fruit that might work with a particular type of chocolate and find a wine that includes those flavours – dark chocolate and orangey moscatel, for instance.

chocolate with wine

‘For me, the wine needs to be sweeter than the dessert’

It also depends on how much of a sweet tooth you have. For some – myself included – an Australian liqueur muscat would just add too much sweetness to a rich chocolate dessert. I prefer a sweet Sherry or Madeira with more acidity, for others it would be bliss.

By contrast, not everyone would enjoy a Barolo Chinato which I find the most marvellous match for a slender square of fine dark chocolate. I’m also not a fan of pairing full-bodied red wines with chocolate although I know many are.

For me the wine needs to be sweeter than the dessert.

Wine suggestions Chocolate with wine Lighter desserts with lighter wines

In general lighter dessert wines such as Sauternes, Riesling and Moscato work best with lighter chocolate desserts, and richer ones such as Tokaji and fortified wines with darker, denser ones.

Finally, bear in mind it may be a question of you could, but why would you? If you love Château d’Yquem Sauternes then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it with a Mars bar or a slice of devil’s food cake, but there are so many sweet (and savoury) foods that would show it off better.

Fiona Beckett is a Decanter contributor and a food and wine pairing expert with her own website,

This article was originally published in 2016, but has been updated by the team in March 2018 to include new wines. 

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Poderi Aldo Conterno – Profile and wine reviews

vr, 30/03/2018 - 10:00

Made in limited quantities, the Barolos of Aldo Conterno are highly sought-after, with his sons continuing the winemaking philosophy of their father. Stephen Brook explores the history of this perfectionist estate.

Poderi Aldo Conterno estateThe Poderi Aldo Conterno estate is located in Bussia, in the village of Monforte d'Alba, the heart of the Barolo wine region

Family splits have been unusually common in Barolo, with fathers and sons at odds, and brothers no longer on speaking terms. This happened to the Conterno family too, when in 1969 Aldo Conterno and his brother Giovanni decided to divide their domaine.

Aldo used vineyards in the Bussia sub-zone of Monforte as his primary source, while Giovanni focused on vineyards in Serralunga.

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Chianti Classico 2013 & 2014 top tiers: Panel tasting results

vr, 30/03/2018 - 08:00

New legislation in 2014 introduced a Gran Selezione tier above Riserva. So how did these top levels fare in two contrasting vintages? See this report on 165 wines tasted by our three-strong expert panel, with an introduction by Susan Hulme MW...

Chianti panel tasting
  • 165 wines tasted with seven rated Outstanding
  • The panel tasters were: Andrea Briccarello, Susan Hulme MW and Andrew Jefford

Despite its Sangiovese pedigree, Chianti Classico DOCG is an undervalued appellation compared to its famous Tuscan neighbours Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Yet its best wines fully deserve to rank alongside their prestigious counterparts.

The introduction in 2014 of the new Gran Selezione quality classification, above Chianti Classico Riserva, was in part an attempt to redress the balance. Up to this point, Riservas were at the top of the quality ladder and were the most suitable for long-term ageing.

Scroll down to see the top wines from this panel tasting Related content:

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Château Giscours denies deliberately breaking chaptalisation rules

do, 29/03/2018 - 17:04

Château Giscours in Bordeaux has strongly denied any suggestion that it purposefully broke rules on chaptalisation of wine after learning that French authorities intend to prosecute the estate.

Château Giscours.Château Giscours.

Château Giscours is facing a court case, likely to be in June, over the alleged illegal chaptalisation of some of its wine from the Bordeaux 2016 vintage.

French authorities have accused Giscours, based in the Margaux appellation, of knowingly chaptalising Merlot wine against the rules.

Chaptalisation, a method of adding sucrose to grape juice that can then boost alcohol levels in wine, was allowed for all grape varieties except Merlot across several Bordeaux appellations in the 2016 vintage.

Giscours said that, while it did begin chaptalisation on a vat of 2016 wine containing 20% Merlot and 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, it did so in good faith; having received what it believed to be written clearance to do so from Margaux wine body, the Syndicat de l’appellation Margaux.

‘There was no intention at all to try to do anything against the regulations,’ Alexander Van Beek, director general of Giscours, told The case did not concern the Giscours 2016 first wine, he said.

He said that Giscours and many other estates had applied to chaptalise some of the juice from the 2016 vintage.

An initial email from the Margaux appellation body to Giscours on 10 October 2016 said that chaptalisation at up to 1% of abv would be fine, according to the estate.

But, a second email later the same day clarified that Merlot should not be chaptalised.

Giscours said that, by that stage, it had already begun work on one of its vats.

A letter to Giscours from the Margaux appellation body, dated 1 February 2018, confirmed that its first email on 10 October 2016 didn’t include the detail about Merlot.

‘We have all of the documents to prove our innocence,’ Van Beek said, adding that the whole issue had been a ‘communication mistake’.

Part of the problem, he added, was the ‘complicated system’.

Requests for chaptalisation have to be passed up to France’s appellation body, the INAO, but final clearance must be given by the regional government; in this case the ‘Préfet’ in Bordeaux.

Faced with time pressure in the cellar, this can cause headaches, said Van Beek.

Bordeaux’s Préfet did not officially endorse chaptalisation on 2016 vintage wines excluding Merlot until 11 October 2016, and this was signed off by INAO a day later, according to the letter to Giscours from Margaux’s appellation body.

But the Margaux appellation body was understood to have emailed winemakers two days earlier, after receiving reassurances from INAO.

See also: Jane Anson’s Bordeaux 2016 en primeur review

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The German wine quiz – Test your knowledge

do, 29/03/2018 - 15:00

From labelling terms to popular grape varieties, how much do you know about German wine? Test your knowledge with our quiz....

German wine quizHow well do you know German wines?Start the German wine quiz below

A version of this quiz was first published on our sister site

More wine quizzes here

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Top Valpolicella Superiore: Panel tasting results

do, 29/03/2018 - 12:40

Valpolicella Superiore is something of an enigma, often cast in shadow by the more popular Amarone, but it pays to learn producers' house styles. See which of the 84 wines tasted by our three-strong panel of experts came out on top...

Valpolicella Superiore Panel Tasting
  • 84 wines tasted with one rated Exceptional and five Outstanding
  • The panel tasters were: Andrea Briccarello, Michael Garner, Andrew Jefford

Introduction by Michael Garner

Of all the Valpolicella denominations, Superiore is the most perplexing and, after Recioto, the least widely available.

Though including some of Verona’s very finest red wines, the category is completely overshadowed in terms of popularity by Amarone (and more recently Ripasso) and remains something of an enigma.

Whereas we know exactly what to expect from ‘simple’ Valpolicella, we can have little idea – unless we’re already familiar with a producer’s particular house style – of what we’re getting with a bottle of Superiore, as there are so many individual stylistic interpretations. How typically and confusingly Italian!



Related content:

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Anson: Inside Bordeaux’s craft whisky distillery

do, 29/03/2018 - 10:13

Bordeaux has joined the craft whisky trend, reports Jane Anson after meeting the founders of a new distillery and talking a tour of the premises.

bordeaux wine barBordeaux has seen a revival for bars and restaurants in recent years.

Eighteen months.

That’s how long it took to hew 20 six-tonne blocks of concrete out of the side of the bunker, simply to make one door that is something like two metres wide by three metres high and to prepare the space inside that had seen zero activity for 70 years.

If you were ever wondering, the difficulty of that task pretty much sums up the reason why the Nazi submarine pens are still standing in the Bassins à Flots sector of downtown Bordeaux.

Every study commissioned by the local government in how to take them down has resulted in the opinion that it is simply unfeasible to do so.

They comprise 42,000 square metres of reinforced concrete, measuring 245 metres long, 12 metres wide, 19 metres high, with a roof that is almost 10 metres thick. All built by over 6,000 Spanish and Portuguese prisoners of war.

I am standing in front of one of the bunkers that lies just a few hundred metres behind the main sub-pen, built by the Kriegsmarine during the Occupation to store the fuel needed to power the submarines. The walls here are a mere six metres thick, but they still proved an almost impossible challenge for the team that has converted this former fuel store – built with a capacity for four million litres of diesel – into a barrel-ageing space for Bordeaux’s newest drinks company, Moon Harbour whisky distillery.

It also explains why the distillery is split into two main parts – the newly-built space of 600m2, where they have 200m2 given over to a tasting area and boutique, and 400m2 to the production. This part took 11 months to build, has floor to ceiling glass for the entrance and shop, and several different rooms at the back for the toasting, washing, fermenting and distilling. Separate to this is the barrel ageing facility in the World War II bunker, the first time the space has been used since 1946. A restaurant and bar is planned on the roof that once held anti-aircraft guns.

Founded by whisky enthusiasts and old friends Jean-Philippe Ballanger and Yves Medina, Moon Harbour could be seen as something of a risk, even with a €600,000 grant from the city to get it going. Bordeaux, for a start, has never made whisky. It is surrounded by regions with far more experience and reputation in making grape-based alcohols, in the form on Armagnac and Cognac, but it isn’t even known for making them, let alone grain-based whisky.

They are starting with some advantages; not least that France is the country with the highest annual whisky consumption per capita worldwide (2.15 litres per head at last count). There is also an esteemed local company, Stupfler, that has been making stills and alembics in Bordeaux since 1925. Then ther’s the benefit of the local oceanic climate, which their consultant and master distiller/blender John McDougall tells me ‘is pretty perfect for the ageing process of whisky’.

And to add to all that, they have the benefit of the name of Bordeaux, which they are sensibly capitalising on by forming partnerships with the local wine industry. The Lurton family has provided barrels from Château La Louvière for ageing the whisky, as has Richard Mestreguilhem from Chateau Pipeau in Saint Emilion. Other barrels come from ‘high-profile’ Sauternes estates that (for now at least) have asked to remain nameless. Local merchants are also helping, most notably Philippe Castéja through his recently-acquired Mahler Besse négociant, that is helping with distribution.

‘We knew that links with the local industry were essential’, Medina tells a group of us on the tour – I’m with a dozen office workers from a local finance firm, who are here on a day out. ‘Not only did we know we had to find a location in the city itself, we knew that the great advantage Bordeaux has is the access it offers to wine barrels from its main industry.

‘Whisky depends on great quality barrels for smooth tannins, and giving colour, structure and flavour to the distillate. We are lucky here to have the best barrels in the world that have been ageing incredible wines before we get them. The flavours imparted by them are unequalled.’

I tend to think of purity of water as essential for whisky (Moon Harbour uses distilled, filtered water from the local Bordeaux reservoir) but when I caught up with McDougall afterwards – a legend in the whisky industry who has worked in every distilling region of Scotland over his 57 years in the business – he told me that casks contribute between 65-80% of the character of the product, especially a single malt or single grain.

‘There’s no doubt this gives them an opportunity to stand out,’ is how he puts it, before adding,‘if you produce poor spirit, no matter how good the casks are you are going to get poor whisky. If you produce the best spirit and put it into the best casks, then you have a 99% chance of success.’

To further give a sense of place, they have planted barley on the Ile de Patiras in the Garonne river (there are vineyards here also) as well as in the local village of St Jean d’Illac. For launch, the base distillate is coming in from Scotland and being aged here (McDougall did the same thing with the now hugely successful Box distillery up in Sweden for its first few years) but the grain will soon be entirely locally-sourced.

The whiskyies I tasted so far – Pier One blended and aged in Sauternes casks, plus Pier Two blended malt in the red wine casks – are extremely young and need further softening. The whole thing just opened in September 2017, and their own homegrown single malts will not be available for another two and a half years, in September 2020.

‘For now,’ McDougall says, ‘the whisky is just giving an indication of the potential. It’s an ambitious project in a location that has its own extremely distinct history by pretty much any measure’.

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