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Wine trade runners complete the Bacchus Half Marathon in aid of The Benevolent

3 hours 55 min ago

England’s answer to the Médoc Marathon is tackled by a team from the UK trade including Decanter

On Sunday 8 September, a group of 30 runners from the wine trade, including Decanter staff and contributors, took part in this year’s Bacchus Half Marathon. The teams all tackled this challenging and (surprisingly) hilly course through the North Downs in aid of The Benevolent charity.

Runners from Decanter included DWWA Regional Chair and regular contributor Peter Richards MW, regular contributor Susie Barrie MW plus staff members Alex Layton, Bella Callaghan and Cesar Soler.

Alex Layton, Cesar Soler and Bella Callaghan from Decanter all took on The Bacchus Half

The course starts and finishes at Denbies Wine Estate, near Dorking, Surrey with half of the course running through the hilly vineyards and estate. The other half covers National Trust countryside and woodlands along the Pilgrims and North Downs Way.

Similar to the Médoc Marathon, the course provided numerous refreshment opportunities, which naturally included wine stops to sample a selection of different wines from Denbies.

Runners indulging in cheese and crackers paired with Denbies Flint Valley

Wines that were tasted along the way included;

  • Ikon of London
  • Whitedowns Brut
  • Flint Valley
  • Surrey Gold
  • Rose Hill
  • Redlands
  • Sparkling Bacchus

Live bands at each stop also contributed to a festival-feel along the 13.1 mile course. Fancy dress is also heavily encouraged with numerous creative costumes including superheroes, roman soldiers and a certain Peter Richards MW impressively running in a full Egyptian king outfit.

Bacchus runners enjoying the Denbies vineyard views

Some very impressive times came in including Susie Barrie MW who came 23rd and was the 4th fastest female.

Commenting on the race and fundraising support for The Benevolent, Peter Richards MW said, “Susie and I are so proud of all our team, each of whom took on a significant personal challenge to support the excellent work of The Benevolent. This was a fun day but with a serious purpose. Huge thanks to everyone who ran or who came along on the day. We are very grateful for, and appreciative of all the wonderful support. This kind of supportive, collaborative, constructive spirit is exactly what the Benevolent, and #NotAlone campaign is all about.”

Donations are still being collected and can be made via the team justgiving page.


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Fine wine auction pioneer David Elswood dies

4 hours 39 min ago
David Elswood, presiding over a Christie's auction in Hong Kong in 2011.

Auction house Christie’s said, ‘It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of our longstanding and much admired colleague David Elswood.’

His career at Christie’s, spanning nearly 35 years, ran alongside a period of significant expansion for the global fine wine market.

Elswood was a major contributor to this growth and Christie’s described him as ‘pivotal in developing the international profile of Christie’s Wine Department over the last three decades’.

Ex-colleagues and those in the wider wine trade and media will also remember a man who was unfailingly generous with his time.

Elswood joined the Christie’s wine department in 1985 and became a director and auctioneer for the company in 1989.

He would go on to hold several roles, including deputy head of the department, head of European sales, head of the London wine department and international head of fine wine and principal auctioneer.

In 2017, he became a senior international consultant with the group.

From 2008, Elswood led the group’s expansion in Hong Kong alongside the rise in demand for fine wine in Asia. He also oversaw the annual Hospices de Beaune auctions, which Christie’s has organised since 2005.

There were several, notable one-off auctions, including the three sales of Sir Alex Ferguson’s wines in 2014; an event that Elswood helped to make a reality. He also handled the auction of wines from the UK government’s cellar.

Respect for Elswood among top wineries was shown by him receiving the rare double distinction of being appointed both as a Commandeur du Bontemps de Médoc at the 2003 ‘Fête de la Fleur’, held at Château Mouton Rothschild, and as a Chevalier du Tastevin at a Clos de Vougeot ceremony in Burgundy in the same year.

Elswood worked with Decanter on several occasions.

He led the annual, Christie’s-hosted auctions of Decanter World Wine Awards wines for the WaterAid charity. He also co-ran a Decanter-sponsored auction for the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Foundation in 2016.

Christie’s said, ‘He was a superb auctioneer, a caring colleague, inspiring leader, a great friend and a beloved member of the fine wine and auction community. He will be missed enormously by those who knew him and worked with him.’


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Tasting Opus One: 1979 to 2016

6 hours 11 min ago
Opus One Winery, Napa Valley, California

Tasting a 40-year vertical of any wine from its conception through to its latest bottled vintage is always exciting, because you are tracing a proof of concept, asking the question whether the belief and investment in this particular wine has proved to be justified. In the case of Opus One, it is particularly fascinating because from 1979 to today pretty much everything changed – the vineyards, the winery, the viticulture, the team.

Tasting Opus One 1979-2016

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Small Santorini harvest may raise prices for Assyrtiko wines

Wed, 18/09/2019 - 15:24
Vines trained into traditional low-lying 'basket' shapes on Santorini.

Unusually harsh wind, the aftermath of drought and a lack of skilled vineyard workers have led to the lowest Assyrtiko crop on Santorini since 1991, industry representatives said.

At the 130-hectare Domaine Argyros, which mostly makes wine from its own vines, winery representative Elizabeth Loukaki said that two days of ‘exceptionally strong winds’ in early April blew flowers off vines, destroying at least 20% of the potential harvest.

‘The wind came from all directions at high speeds,’ she told

Drought had already caused a 30% reduction from normal yields last year at Domaine Argyros, but winds made 2019 even worse.

Some winemakers said that drought had continued to affect yields this year, despite high winter rainfall. It was hoped that next year’s crop would recover.

Such low yields will make 2019 ‘prices difficult to control’, said Yiannis Karakasis MW.

Prices were already under pressure from 2018, as reported by last year.

However, Karakasis said that 2019 ‘quality seems high’ for those grapes that were harvested.

According to the Santorini cooperative, Santo Wines, the 2019 crop was reduced to just one third of average production.

‘Usually we have nearly three tonnes of grapes per hectare, but this year it was barely over one tonne,’ said winery representative Stela Kasiola.

Some producers have also blamed low yields on a ‘very serious shortage of manpower’ in the vineyards.

Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, of Gaia Winery on Santorini, said this was a longer-term structural problem.

Most wineries on the island rely on buying grapes from growers.

But some estates, like Gaia, have started sending their own teams to tend vines and harvest grapes for the growers to ensure the best possible supply of grapes as international demand for Assyrtiko wines has increased, said Paraskevopoulos.

‘Growers should understand to work the vines in a more attentive way, because we are all on the same chain; we can only succeed together,’ added Kasiola.

Hailstorms further north on the Cyclades island of Tinos – where Assyrtiko increasingly is being planted – has increased the pressure on supplies.

April hail at the trailblazing T-OINOS winery, which counts Bordeaux-based Stéphane Derenoncourt as chief consultant, reduced yields by as much as 40% below average, estate oenologist Thanos Georgilas said.

It is the third serious bout of hail damage since the winery opened in 2002 and the high-elevation estate was considering buying an anti-hail cannon for €50,000, he said.

Editing by Chris Mercer

See also: Great Assyrtiko wines to try


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Australian Pinot Noir: Panel tasting results

Wed, 18/09/2019 - 14:00

Roger Jones, Justin Knock MW and Anthony Rose tasted 91 Australian Pinot Noirs with one Exceptional, three Outstanding and 35 highly Recommended…

Entry criteria: Producers and UK agents were invited to submit their latest release Australian Pinot Noir priced £15 and above

Top 39 Australian Pinot Noir wines from the panel tasting: See all the wines tasted here The judges


Roger Jones

Jones and his wife Sue own The Harrow at Little Bedwyn restaurant. He combines his kitchen duties with a love of wine and often visits Australia to promote food and wine matching. He set up Restaurant Australia in the UK and The Tri Nations Challenges for South African, New Zealand and Australian wines.

Justin Knock MW

Knock has worked across all sectors of the wine business including winemaking, buying, marketing and education, working directly with brands from Australia, South Africa, Chile, Italy and California. He has been a Master of Wine since 2010 and holds degrees in Industrial Chemistry and Food Science.

Anthony Rose

Rose is a wine and sake critic, who writes for The Independent, i and FT: How To Spend It. He has won a number of awards, including three Glenfiddich Wine Writer of the Year Awards and a Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year Award. Rose is also a founding member of The Wine Gang.

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Runway clear for Trump tariffs on Bordeaux, Barolo and Champagne - report

Wed, 18/09/2019 - 12:36

US officials can legally hike tariffs on European products in retaliation for unfair EU subsidies paid to the Airbus group, a WTO arbitration panel has ruled, according to news sites Bloomberg, Reuters and Politico.

Wine lovers, producers and merchants on both sides of the Atlantic could be affected if no settlement is reached in the aerospace industry dispute, although the scope of the latest WTO ruling was not yet known and higher tariff barriers were not certain to be imposed. knows of at least one US merchant that has reduced orders for European wines due to general concern over tariff hikes.

Both US and EU seeking permission to impose tariffs

US officials said in April 2019 that they were seeking WTO approval to impose tariffs on up to $11bn-worth of European goods, including wines, Champagne and whiskies, in retaliation for the ongoing Airbus subsidies.

But the European Commission said it was also seeking WTO approval to impose up to $20bn of subsidies on US products entering the EU, in retaliation for unfair subsidies paid to Boeing, the US-based competitor to Airbus.

Trump’s previous tariff threats

US President Trump has repeatedly singled out French wine for possible tariff hikes over different trade issues in the past year.

However, pressure appeared to ease following his meeting with French president Macron at the recent G7 summit in Biarritz.

While that meeting focused on French efforts to recoup more tax from US tech giants, the catalyst for higher wine tariffs may yet be the long-running argument over aerospace subsidies.

‘We have temporarily decreased purchases’

Some US merchants have begun preparing for the worst.

‘We have temporarily drastically decreased our European wine purchases, as we fear a potential increase in import tariffs,’ said Shaun Bishop, CEO of California-based JJ Buckley, prior to news of the latest WTO ruling.

‘The supply chain takes months to get wine into the US so we do not want to risk getting stuck paying new, unknown tariffs. Hopefully, we will get clarity and time to react, should anything materialise,’ he told last week.

However, other US merchants were understood to be taking more of a wait-and-see approach.


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Bordeaux second wines: 30 to try

Tue, 17/09/2019 - 14:30
Vines at Pauillac’s Château Clerc Milon, which released its new Pastourelle de Clerc Milon second wine in spring 2016

It’s easy to be cynical about second wines in Bordeaux. Prices have risen in recent years, so you are likely to pay the same for many of them, especially from the Médoc, that you would have done for the main château bottling 10 years ago.

Yet there are a number of reasons not to despair. This place pretty much invented the idea of ‘little brother’ wines, with some properties known to have separated wines into different quality levels as early as the 17th century. Many châteaux in Bordeaux cover large areas, and it makes sense that producers would offer flexibility in a range of styles and prices.

The most famous second wines here still belong to the first growths – Le Petit Mouton, Les Forts de Latour, Carruades de Lafite, Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux, Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, Le Petit Cheval, Chapelle d’Ausone, Le Carillon d’Angélus and Arômes de Pavie.

Style and accessibility is quite rightly the biggest draw. The first wines of the top châteaux are often highly tannic when young, and need a good 10 or 15 years before softening enough to show their full complexity.

This is where the second wines really score, as you don’t need to wait. And if you’re unsure about drinking sweet Sauternes or Barsac, I strongly recommend the second wines from here; maybe not for the savings, but for the style, which tends to be lighter and fresher.

Copy first published in Decanter magazine November 2016. 

Top 30 Bordeaux second wine picks, tasted by Decanter experts:

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Château d’Yquem raises price for 2017 release

Tue, 17/09/2019 - 12:06
Château d'Yquem in Sauternes, which is part of Bernard Arnault's LVMH empire.

Yquem 2017 was released at €275 per bottle ex-Bordeaux, up 10% on the 2016 vintage release price. That translated to £3,528 per case of 12 75cl bottles in the UK.

Liv-ex data showed that 2017 was the second most expensive vintage on the market in the last decade, behind the 2009 wine.

Decanter’s Jane Anson gave Yquem 2017 96 points after tasting it in-barrel during Bordeaux en primeur week in April 2018. She rated the 2016 slightly higher at the same stage.

‘Given Yquem’s price performance history, there probably isn’t any rush to acquire this,’ said analysis group Wine Lister of the 2017 release.

Sauternes and Barsac wines have struggled for momentum on the fine wine market for several years now, albeit the best wines can age for decades and Yquem is seen as the most collectible name.

Yquem was placed in the second tier of the five-tier, global Liv-ex classification released in July 2019, having achieved an average price of £2,199 per case of 12 75cl bottles.

Some UK merchants were offering smaller quantities of the 2017 vintage.

Lay & Wheeler, for example, was selling a single 75cl bottle of Yquem 2017 for £294 in bond, and three bottles for £882 in bond.

Anson said that there were likely to be around 80,000 bottles of Yquem 2017, after the estate used 45% of its 17hl per hectare crop for the first wine.

Yquem also released a new tranche of its 2007 vintage this week, direct from the estate’s cellars, at €300 per bottle ex-Bordeaux.

That is below the original release price, but Liv-ex said the recommended retail price of £3,840 per 12 bottles was a 74% premium to current stocks of 2007 on the market, said Liv-ex.

Wine Lister said, ‘A consumer would have to be dead set on ex-château provenance to pay this, but it has the advantage of making the 2017 more reasonable by comparison.’

Dry white wine Y d’Yquem 2018 was also released, at €104 per bottle ex-Bordeaux.

See who else has released wines via Place de Bordeaux in September See all of our Bordeaux 2018 en primeur coverage


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What is the VDP? - Ask Decanter

Mon, 16/09/2019 - 15:59
The VDP logo, a stylised eagle with a cluster of grapes

The Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP) is a German organisation which promotes the country’s top wines and estates. It unites 197 of Germany’s finest wineries under one banner; offering customers guarantees on quality and yield.

Founded in 1910 by the Mayor of Trier Albert von Bruchhausen, the VDP’s goal at the time was to bring together producers under a ‘quality standard’ umbrella that made it easier and more fruitful for them to sell their wines on the auction market.

Today it brings together Germany’s top wineries from all of the country’s 13 wine regions with a common aim of promoting the highest levels of quality within the Germany industry.

Quality Control

Members must adhere to strict rules including low yields, higher starting must weights, selective hand harvesting and five-yearly inspections. VDP members are entitled to use the VDP logotype, a stylised eagle with a cluster of grapes, on the neck and labels of their bottles.

They also have access to the VDP-specific classifications ‘Erste Lage’ and ‘Grosse Lage’ for top dry wines that fulfil the quality requirements. These wines are subject to a tasting panel, must have a maximum yield of 50hl/ha, must be hand harvested and made from traditional grapes in proven sites.

There are currently 197 members, up from 161 in 1990 when the current rules were established. In that time 128 wineries have joined the group and 92 have departed.

Membership is by invitation only with producers known for long-standing quality and a commitment to excellence on a local and global level considered.  Members can be demoted from the VDP if they do not meet the organisation’s standards during their five year inspection.


As well as the top two tiers – Erste Lage and Grosse Lage – there are two further rungs to the VDP classifications ladder, Ortswein and Gutswein.

Gutswein:  These are often the first wines of a wine year to be bottled and sold and seen as trend-setters for the vintage. They must come from estate-grown grapes and producers are given freedom here to experiment and innovate.

Ortsweine: Wines that express regionality. Fruit must come from one particular village and offer a sense of expression of that particular place. Only regional grape varieties are used and many of these wines come from higher-classified Grosse Lage or Erste Lage sites.

Erste Lage:  Premier Cru wine from first-class vineyards where optimal growing conditions can be found. Wines must be grown and made with a view to sustainability and tradition.

Grosse Lage: The designation for the highest quality German vineyards. Complex – grand cru – wines which express single sites and are known for their potential long-ageing. Dry wines within this category are known as Grosse  Gewächs.

Riesling Rules

Around 5% of Germany’s vineyards are included in the VDP classification, accounting for approximately 7.5% of the turnover of the German wine industry. Riesling is the most important grape among VDP producers with 55% of all VDP vineyards planted with Riesling, compared to 23% across Germany as a whole.

Find more wine questions answered here

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Austrian Erste Lagen new releases: Top wines reviewed

Mon, 16/09/2019 - 14:38
Top Ertse Lagen wines

The Erste Lagen is a selection of wines from high-quality vineyards chosen by the members of the Österreichische Traditionsweingüter. This is a private growers’ association, modelled on Germany’s long-established VDP group, that over recent decades has created a vineyard classification to single out top growths (Grosses Gewächs). Until this year the OTW was focused solely on Lower Austria and its vineyards.

The post Austrian Erste Lagen new releases: Top wines reviewed appeared first on Decanter.

Decanter Retailer Awards 2019 Chairman's Blog

Mon, 16/09/2019 - 13:42

The Decanter Retailer Awards celebrates the best of UK wine retail, championing those who make a pleasure of the business. The judging panel, made up of five wine experts, base decisions on quality, value, range and service, but they also look for innovation, drive, creativity, energy, evangelism – and even hedonism.

With the results of the 2019 awards now determined and announcements made on 26 September, Chairman Peter Richards MW reflects on this year’s judging process and the serious business behind wine retail…

Chairman’s Blog By Peter Richards MW, September 2019

There’s an old toast that runs: ‘May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.’

Being ahead of the game is important – even in the world of wine. For most of us, wine is something we relate primarily to pleasure. But for those whose profession it is to provide us with that pleasure, wine is serious business.

The Decanter Retailer Awards celebrates those who make a pleasure of this business. None of us like to part with our head-earned cash but when the result is a gratifying experience and a delicious bottle at a fair price (ideally also a desire to repeat the exercise) then it’s worth it.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Selling wine. Actually, it’s not.

As wine drinkers, we’re lucky. There’s never been a better time in history to drink wine, given the recent advances in quality and diversity. But for those whose job it is to sell the stuff in the UK, things have seldom been this hard.

How so? For one, consumer confidence is low. Then there’s our weak and fluctuating currency. Brexit-related issues for a globally-facing business are manifold. Add to this ever-greater competition and consolidation on the high street. Then there’s our punitive tax regime (on average, 50p in every pound spent on wine to drink at home is tax). As for the big one: the UK as a nation is steadily drinking ever less.

No wonder so many wine merchants have gone to the wall over the last few decades.

And yet we’re a nation of wine drinkers. Wine is officially the nation’s favourite alcoholic tipple (with 28% of the vote ahead of beer’s 23% and 20% for spirits). Historically, the UK has been the best place in the world to enjoy wine because, as a trading nation with no significant tradition of large-scale domestic production, we’ve been voracious in our thirst to bring the best from around the world to our shores.

That’s why it’s important to champion our finest wine retailers. These are testing times and so the resourcefulness and resilience of the country’s best wine sellers is important to celebrate. If this ever ceases to be a defining feature of our wine landscape then the best wines will simply sell elsewhere and the UK will risk losing its status as a key global wine hub. And that would be a disaster.

We are five judges on the Decanter Retailer Awards panel – myself, Andy Howard MW, Matt Walls, Laura Clay and Peter Ranscombe.

Learn more about the 2019 Judging Panel

As we steadily plough our way through hundreds of entries, assessing, visiting, tasting, scoring and re-scoring over months before heatedly debating in our intensive judging conclave, we all feel a keen sense of duty, and desire to support the UK wine trade and encourage those doing a brilliant job against the odds.

Making the final decisions on shortlists, runners-up and winners is never easy. It takes a good deal of time, thought and discussion. Sometimes it gets heated, and we have to take a break. But it’s always very democratic – we all need to endorse the final results. We like to champion smaller retailers where we can. We place a lot of emphasis on what has happened over the last year, these being annual awards, so the results are as current and relevant as possible.

We ask retailers to send in mini-videos to make their case and give a sense of personality. A particularly memorable line from one such video this year was delivered by a merchant standing in a top London restaurant: ‘If you can’t enjoy lobster bhaji and Corsican Vermentino, you’re tired of life.’

It’s one way to sell the stuff, I suppose.

I’ve been asked how we judges stay objective. It’s never really been an issue. We’re chosen for our knowledge and impartiality and, ultimately, it’s easy because you simply take the viewpoint of someone who loves and regularly buys wine, which we all are.

Which retailer is doing the best job? Who’s most deserving? Which one would we honestly recommend to our wine-loving friends? That’s the bottom line, and it’s served us very well over the years. The results speak for themselves.

See the 2019 Shortlist

As chair, I’m lucky enough to take centre stage at the awards ceremony and congratulate people in person. The best part of the job is seeing the thrill on winners’ faces – partly because of the prestige but also the satisfaction of hard work validated and recognition that this can boost their teams and business.

Of course, there are always those who are disappointed (the worst part of the job). But there’s always next year, a new set of challenges to overcome, a host of different opportunities to seize.

So here’s to wine, and being ahead of the game. Let’s celebrate the UK’s best wine retailers as best we can. I know I’ll be raising a glass at the awards ceremony on September 26th.

Winners of this year’s awards will be announced at the Decanter Retailer Awards Ceremony at OXO2, London on 26 September 2019

See the winners from the 2018 Retailer Awards

Back to the Decanter Retailer Awards homepage

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Christmas and Brexit prompt Champagne stockpile in the UK

Mon, 16/09/2019 - 11:54
Champagne vineyards near to Verzenay.

British consumers will have enough Champagne to see them through Christmas – and beyond – as Champagne houses have been stockpiling bubbly in the UK ahead of the potential disruption of a no-deal Brexit on 31st October.

Ahead of the festive season the Champagne trade body CIVC has confirmed that French producers have been working with their UK importers to ensure that supply is not affected in the short term by the political uncertainly of Brexit.

‘Growers and houses have overstocked in Great Britain to fill a possible border closure if it were to occur,’ says CIVC spokesman Thibaut Le Mailloux told Reuters.

The UK is Champagne’s largest export market with a 17% share, and in 2018 26.8 million bottles were imported to the UK. It’s believed that more than a year’s worth of stock has already been exported to the UK.

Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, the president of Champagne house Taittinger, is confident that whatever happens with Brexit the UK’s love affair with Champagne will not be diminished.

‘The English have loved Champagne for 300 years and, Brexit or no Brexit, they will continue to like it,’ he said.

‘Champagne is a very traditional product, a very traditional drink, which the British adore. They contributed a great deal to the sense of romance and the glory of Champagne and, knowing the British character as I do, none of that will change. Honestly I can’t say that I am very anxious about it.

‘If there’s to be a Brexit, well I’d like to drink a glass of Champagne with Boris Johnson to look to the future together,’ he adds.

Taittinger is one of a handful of Champagne producers to invest in UK vineyards in recent years buying land in Kent in 2015. It is expected to release its first English sparkling wine in 2023.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) recently warned that new UK Government paperwork to be introduced in the event of a no-deal Brexit will cost UK wine businesses £70 million, adding 10p to a bottle of wine.

See also: Taittinger chief says English ‘invented’ Champagne by mistake

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Explore these Croatian wines today

Sun, 15/09/2019 - 13:03
Sparkling Ivančić, Griffin Rosé, Plešivica, Uplands 2015 90

Grapes from 100-year-old Portugizac vines go into this traditional-method bubbly, which exudes fresh red berry aromas. For a show-stopping bottle, order the coral-covered version which was submerged 20m under the sea for a year. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 11.5% Amanda Barnes

£18 Franko’s Foods London

White Clai Ottocento Bijeli, Istria 2015 91

Aged for two years in big barrels after stainless steel fermentation, this biodynamic, white shows attractive aromas and a full-bodied palate packed with rich dried fruits such as apricot, complemented by a nutty dry finish refreshed by a mineral salts note. Drink 2019-2021 Alc 13.5% Anthony Rose

£34.54 Tannico

Ahearne Vino, Wild Skins, Hvar 2017 90

Made by Master of Wine Jo Ahearne, this is a blend of the island’s native Kuč, Bogdanuša and Pošip grapes with natural yeasts, macerated on the skins and separately fermented to produce a wine with a juicy, appley fruit and honey notes. Lees ageing and batonnage bring complexity to this serious terroir-driven white. Drink 2019-2021 Alc 12% Anthony Rose

£19.82 Winebuyers

Krajančić, Pošip Sur Lie, Korčula 2016 90

Spending time on its lees in French, American and Croatian oak for a year brings extra richness and flavour to this old-vine white from Luka Krajančić on Korčula, the birthplace of Pošip. Its time in oak adds rounded texture and a hint of vanilla to the dried fruits flavours, and it finishes on a savoury, saline note. Drink 2019-2021 Alc 13.3% Anthony Rose

£19.51 Winebuyers

Galić, Bijelo 9, Kutjevo, Slavonia 2015 91

A voluptuous, full-bodied blend that showcases the best of both varieties: creamy notes from the Chardonnay and zippy acidity and savoury characters from Graševina and Sauvignon Blanc. A zippy, fresh white that would be a great match for white truffle pasta. Drink 2019-2024 Alc 13% Amanda Barnes

Bibich, Lučica, Skradin, Dalmatia 2016 90

Made from Debit planted by Alen Bibić’s great grandfather 60 years ago, this single-vineyard white is fermented and aged for 18 months in new oak. It’s a full- bodied, distinctive style with ripe yellow fruit rounded by oak and balanced by mouthwateringly fresh, almost saline, acidity. Drink 2019-2021 Alc 13.5% Anthony Rose

Meneghetti, Black Label Malvazija, Istria 2017 90

With a distinctively floral, spicy tone, this is attractively full bodied. Its intense stone fruit flavour is juicy and nicely textured by a seam of citrussy freshness, while a light grip and saline hint on the finish make this a classic, modern white.  Drink 2019-2022 Alc 13.5% Anthony Rose

Red Kabola, Amfora Teran, Istria 2015 91

After spending six months on the skins in amphora and then a year in 700-litre used Slavonian oak barrels, this fine Teran exudes a vivid sweet cherry aroma and dense palate richness of loganberry and black cherry fruit, whose purity and freshness is maintained thanks to well-balanced acidity. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 14% Anthony Rose

£49.99 Novel Wines

Matošević, Grimalda Red, Istria 2016 90

60% Merlot, 30% Teran and 10% other grapes. Spicy Istrian red with attractive brightness and purity of red berry fruits, nicely rounded by subtle French oak. It finishes with a savoury, almost Barberalike juicy acidity that makes the mouth water. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 13.5% Anthony Rose

£24-£28.99 Exel, Liberty Wines, Roberson, The Fine Wine Co

Duboković, 2718 Sati Sunca U Boci, Hvar 2013 89

The 2718 here represents the number of hours of sunshine in the vineyards in the northern part of the island of Hvar, whose white sandy soils produced this fresh, supple and spicy, full-bodied red from stainless steel-fermented Plavac Mali. With a bright almond and red berry character, it retain an appealing freshness.  Drink 2019-2025 Alc 14% Anthony Rose

£11.80 Winebuyers

Feravino, Miraz Cuvée, Baranja, Slavonia 2015 89

Slavonia is known for its Bordeaux red varieties as well as its Frankovka (aka Blaufränkisch) and in this blend you get the best of both. It has concentrated dark spice on the nose with fleshier plumnotes on the palate. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 13.5% Amanda Barnes

Feravino, Miraz Frankovka, Baranja, Slavonia 2015 88

Feravino is one of the Frankovka (Blaufränkisch) specialists in Slavonia, renowned for top value. This is a refreshing and stylish wine, with plum and black cherry aromas and a juicy finish. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 13.5% Amanda Barnes

£15 Wines by Aizia

Meneghetti, Red, Istria 2012 92

There’s an impressive nose on this Merlot-Cabernet dominant blend, with stylish vanilla oak and a hint of mint. The youthful cassis fruit richness has a herbal touch, with barrique-influenced vanilla spice and good grip linked to a balanced freshness on the finish thanks to a dash of Cabernet Franc. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 14% Anthony Rose

Saints Hills, St Roko, Komarna, Dalmatia 2016 92

Bright fresh cherry nose, with a floral hint and sweet spices. The ripe cherry palate is supple textured and infused with a touch of Mediterranean herbs and olive. The oak is well integrated, with a hint of vanilla, and it’s supported by sinewy tannins and fresh acidity. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 13% Anthony Rose

Boškinac, Cuvée, Pag 2013 90

A Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend whose mature perfume of liquorice spice lead into a mature claret-style palate. With integrated oak and svelte tannins, it wears its alcohol lightly, and shows a maritime influence in its freshness, smooth texture and balanced acidity. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 14.5% Anthony Rose

Bibich, La Sin, Skradin, Dalmatia 2016 90

So called because it’s made from the rare, indigenous Lasin grape, this distinctive red is pale in colour, with sour cherry, sweet apple and rosehip on the nose. Its elegantly smooth-textured palate has distinctive sour cherry and apple notes, and its light tannins and fresh acidity are like a cross between Pinot Noir and Etna Rosso. Drink 2019-2024 Alc 13% Anthony Rose

Galić, Pinot Crni, Kutjevo, Slavonia 2016 89

Galić’s wines show steady progress each vintage and this cherry-driven Pinot is possibly its best yet. The crunchy red berry fruit with grippy tannins and fresh acidity make it ideal for roast duck. Drink 2019-2022 Alc 13% Amanda Barnes

Petrač, Karizma, Zagorje, Uplands 2016 89

In the heart of white wine territory, Petrač has a sandy, steep vineyard, which has proved to be excellent terrain for red wines. Karizma is its smooth flagship – a Bordeaux blend abundant in rich berry aromas and flavours. Drink 2019-2024 Alc 13.5% Amanda Barnes

Sweet Benvenuti, San Salvatore Muškat, Istria 2013 95

From dried Muscat grapes aged in small, used French oak barriques. This has a wonderful, sumptuous fragrance, whose sweet orange-fruit combined with vanilla oak notes lead to an intensely sweet palate of crystallised citrus fruits and grapey tones – aromatic from start to long finish. It comes in a half-bottle and contains no less than 220g/L of residual sugar. Drink 2019-2030 Alc 12% Anthony Rose


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Jefford: The evolution of English wine

Sun, 15/09/2019 - 11:00
Denbies wine estate

Thirty years ago, I began a series of 12 monthly articles tracking the undulating fortunes of a single English vineyard, Breaky Bottom in the Sussex Downs, over a single year between 1989 and 1990. On the October day I arrived, the owner, Peter Hall, told me that he’d had no fruit at all in 1987 and precious little in 1988; sales were laborious. He made the dry, classic table wines that met his own finely honed aesthetic standards; but English wine more generally, we lamented, was a national joke, and the prevailing – and failing – style was for semi-sweet wines, inspired by doubtful German models.

If you had sketched out today’s UK wine scene to us back then, we would have laughed, shaking our heads at the preposterousness of the prospect.

Three million vines planted over the last year; 1.6 million the year before; one million the year before that. According to WineGB, some 3,500ha of vineyard are now rooted in UK soils, with 690ha added in the last year alone. A 2018 harvest of 15.6m bottles. Annual sales of four million bottles, growing by 6% per year. Some 500 commercial vineyards and 165 wineries. Three English wines in the top 50 Best in Show in the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards. And Breaky Bottom itself now a part of the Corney & Barrow portfolio alongside DRC, Leflaive, de Vogüé – and, most pertinently, Salon.

One of the two principal reasons for this astonishing turnaround has been the switch in English wine production from still to sparkling wines (69% of the annual total). That was entirely unforeseen when I first drove over the chalk-soiled South Downs to Breaky Bottom in October 1989; now Taittinger and Vranken-Pommery Monopole have become English wine-growers. They won’t be the last Champenois to head north.

It took two moneyed Americans, Stuart and Sandy Moss, to give sparkling wine a try in the UK, to do it properly, and open everyone’s eyes to the exciting potential. As Stephen Skelton MW recounts in his recently published The Wines of Great Britain, when the Moss’ first three releases each stormed to competition victory: ‘Most of us realised that things would never be the same again and that the days of German variety-based still wines were over.’ Nyetimber, the sparkling wine brand they created, is (under its present owner Eric Heerema) well on the way to becoming the UK equivalent of a medium- sized Champagne house. It has 258ha planted in a range of sites, and the ambition to go on up beyond 300ha or so, with annual production of two million bottles.

The second reason for the turnaround, and for the fact that viticulture is now one of the most buoyant and fast-expanding segments of UK agriculture in general, is climate change. If we can now grow satisfactory Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling wine purposes, it’s because (as Skelton stresses) summer days increasingly cross the 29°C or 30°C threshold, because summer nights are warmer, because mean July temperatures across southern Britain now routinely approach 18°C rather than struggling to crest 15°C. That wasn’t true in the 1980s. This is sudden and dramatic. Any climate change that can be measured over half a human lifetime is, by comparison with customary planetary rates of metereological change, much faster than a gallop. It also reminds us that wine is climate litmus.

I’m happy that UK wine production is flourishing. We shouldn’t forget, though, that millions will suffer terribly from the same phenomena; indeed the sheer disorderliness of climate change, so clearly exhibited in the 2017 Champagne vintage, may come to taunt all wine-growers. The carbon footprint of the wine trade, with its fermentative carbon dioxide, its wine miles and its addiction to glass bottles, remains troubling. We can’t overlook these inconvenient truths, no matter how locally welcome some of the effects of climate change might be.

Top Premium English sparkling wines to try Jefford: English wine – Look east

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Champagne De Watère: The authentic, unadulterated taste of Champagne

Sun, 15/09/2019 - 10:36

A previously ‘exclusive to Europe’ award-winning luxury Champagne brand – Champagne De Watère, is launching in USA this September, a reason for Champagne lovers to raise a glass. Since 2013, the United States has been the largest wine consuming country in the world, with more than 3.26 billion litres of wine consumed in 2017. The growing interest in gastronomy in the United States has enabled wine and, by extension, Champagne to find a privileged place. “The USA is now a very sophisticated market, home to lovers of quality and really the base for appreciators of a relaxed approach to luxury, which is what De Watère stands for,” explains Martin A. Konorza, who founded his brand Champagne De Watère as a tribute to his French ancestors in 2011.

This unique brand with two ‘Great Gold’ medals under its belt from the prestigious International Wine Guide Awards 2016, is produced in the Champagne region of France using traditional viticulture methods and given up to 85 months to develop its full unique flavour, which is six times longer than usual. These methods not only benefit the environment, but above all guarantee the quality and purity of the grapes. Every day, winegrowers are committed to making wines that resemble them; their precise actions reflect their know-how and give rise to quality creations, as confidential as they are appreciated in a Champagne terroir with many nuances. The Premier Cru vineyard in the Vallée de la Marne offers perfect conditions for growing superb grapes with the ideal level of ripeness, which enhances the freshness and finesse of De Watère’s luxury Champagnes.

When asked what prompted Martin to create his own brand, the answer is quite simple “Because I found that there was no Champagne that truly proved why Champagne was the king of wines in terms of taste. Founding the brand Champagne De Watère was the best decision of my life. It has allowed me to make a profession out of my passion for luxurious living and exclusive products.”

However, it is not only the fascination of luxury sparkling wines that makes the brand so special, but the possibility of interacting with people and offering them champagnes that meet their expectations: “I enjoy meeting people and put that to good use in achieving my professional goals. Wine in general and Champagne in particular are first and foremost a human business because it is a product that gives pleasure and facilitates openness to others. One of my priorities was therefore above all to create a real unifying spirit within De Watère and to make people proud to work for the brand,” stresses Martin A. Konorza.

For additional information and to find out where to purchase Champagne De Watère, please consult De Watère’s website or their importer Park Street, LLC:

De Watère Champagne:,
Park Street Imports, LLC:,, +1 (305) 967-7440

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Expert’s Choice: St-Péray

Sun, 15/09/2019 - 09:00
The town of Saint Peray in the Rhône

The fortunes of all wine regions wax and wane, but the story of St-Péray, the most southerly appellation of the northern Rhône, is more turbulent than most.

Making traditional-method sparkling wines as early as 1829, St-Péray soon rivalled Champagne in quality and price. In the late 1800s it was devastated by phylloxera; but as it tried to recover, larcenous négociants put paid to its good name by passing off inferior wines. By the end of the 20th century it had slipped into obscurity – but St-Péray is rising again, and this time it’s the still whites in the ascendant.

The town of St-Péray sits on the west bank of the Rhône in a picturesque valley created by a tributary called the Mialan. One side of the valley is granite, the other is a limestone outcrop with the ruined 12th century Château de Crussol on top. Vines grow on both soils: limestone imparts freshness and tension; granite brings ripeness and salinity. At just 89ha under vine, it’s a small appellation, but a growing one.

St-Péray only produces white wines, using Marsanne, Roussanne or both. Marsanne brings stone fruits, body and structure. Roussanne is less common as it’s sensitive to disease and can ripen suddenly, but it contributes aromas of pear, floral notes and freshness. Most producers blend the two or use pure Marsanne, particularly for sparkling wines.

Despite the paucity of St-Péray mousseux nowadays, there is a diversity of style. Even the lightest have an unusual breadth on the palate. More concentrated examples, with long lees ageing, can be remarkably full-bodied, rich and flavoursome for a sparkling wine. Today’s St-Péray mousseux doesn’t have the finesse of good Champagne, but it does have a distinctive and characterful style. Quality-minded producers such as Rémy Nodin are spearheading a gradual recovery.

The still wines, however, are now world class. They vary from medium-bodied, fresh and floral in style to full-bodied and opulent. What characterises St-Péray in the context of other northern Rhône Marsanne-Roussanne wines is a certain softness on the palate. Crucially this must be balanced – often by both acidity (never high in St-Péray) and light tannins, minerality and a pleasing bitterness. Otherwise the wines can be flabby.

Since St-Péray has hit its stride again, some have pushed an ambitious, concentrated style. When it works, the wines can impress and work well with rich dishes. But if overdone they lack drinkability and refreshment – even more so with prolonged oak ageing. Those who focus on tension and freshness tend to produce a more precise and articulate expression of the terroir.

Cooler years, such as 2014, often give good results as they preserve the all-important acidity and freshness. Warmer years have traditionally been less successful, but I was impressed with the consistent quality from the hot 2015 vintage. These will be best drunk young, but St-Péray isn’t a wine for long ageing in any case – and 2016 is looking even stronger. The future is looking bright again for this phoenix of the northern Rhône.

Matt Walls’ top St-Péray picks

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Great places to eat in Healdsburg

Sat, 14/09/2019 - 14:00
Fancy a picnic? The branch of Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg.

Healdsburg’s rising popularity has seen it dubbed a ‘miniature San Francisco’ by some observers and there has been debate about how this small town can reap the benefits yet preserve its community, with affordable housing high on the agenda.

It’s the sort of gentrification tale that will be familiar to many.

To its credit, Healdsburg has built much of its reputation as a growing culinary capital on local sourcing and a celebration of Sonoma County’s rich variety of wines.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here is some inspiration for places to visit during your stay.

See our updated list of Healdsburg wineries to visit here Wine tour planning stage

Great coffee can be found in the Flying Goat café, which has good wifi and also makes a good venue for planning out your day – even if the airy, minimalist vibe could be slackened slightly to allow a couple of extra tables and chairs. There is also a branch in Santa Rosa.

The Costeaux French bakery is an alternative option and is something of an institution, known in particular for speciality breads, including sourdough, and many cakes.

Healdsburg restaurant ideas

Restaurant ‘SingleThread’ is one of only seven three-star Michelin restaurants listed in the guide’s 2019 edition for California, released in June. ‘Guests may never want to leave,’ its anonymous inspectors noted.

You can book an 11-course tasting menu and the wine list, as you’d expect, is extensive.

Château Latour from the 1940s and Mouton Rothschild 1982 are some of the ‘old world’ classics on the list, but they sit alongside wines from smaller-scale California producers that can be pretty difficult to find for those living beyond the state’s boundaries.

A more casual dining affair nearby is pasta specialist Brass Rabbit restaurant, where you can enjoy a delicious array of dishes paired with an eclectic list of wines designed to show the diversity on offer across Sonoma County and further north.

Italian varietals are a particular feature, such as Idlewild’s take on Nebbiolo from the Fox Hill Vineyard in Mendocino County.

You can continue the Italian theme at Idlewild’s nearby tasting room, opened around two years ago, where you’ll find northern California examples of Cortese, Dolcetto and Barbera, plus charcuterie and local cheese.

Close by and with a slightly more fine dining theme is Valette, opened in 2015 by local chef Dustin Valette and his brother, Aaron Garzini.

Decanter contributor Courtney Humiston previously named Valette as a must-visit for anyone exploring the food scene in Sonoma County.

‘Valette brings fresh energy to Healdsburg’s town centre in the form of house-cured meats and fresh pasta,’ she wrote in 2016.

‘Their wine list is closely connected to the local winemaking community, featuring a variety of choices from all over Sonoma County.’

Other fine dining options include Dry Creek Kitchen, owned by chef Charlie Palmer, which has a Sonoma-dominant wine list of around 500 different labels.

Campo Fina is a casual restaurant known for wood-fired pizza, while Barndiva is a good bet for outdoor space.

Craft beer

Barrels, Brews & Bites is another good option if you’re seeking a chilled vibe with comfort food, offering tapas-style ‘bitty bites’ – definitely try the truffle fries – plus the unambiguously-titled ‘bigger bites’. Craft beer is the thing here, but there is a decent selection of wines, too.

Duke’s for cocktails

Whether it’s before or after dinner, or perhaps after lunch on a weekend, you’ve got stop by Duke’s and marvel at the mesmerising array of spirits lined along its bar.

Those liquors are put to good use in a superb range of cocktails.

Treats and on-the-go

Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie bar specialises in small-batch dairy ice cream from its local creamery. It also has vegan ice cream and sorbets. The same people are behind Moustache Baked Goods, also in Healdsburg.

Oakville Grocery’s Healdsburg branch, lying on the corner just off the main plaza, is a treasure trove for anyone looking to piece together a picnic, from fresh sandwiches and local cheeses to craft beers and chilled wine.

Detox option

If you fancy a strategic alcohol breather and enjoy authentic Japanese food, then The Taste of Tea serves excellent ramen and rice bowls for both lunch and dinner.


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Médoc Cru Classés 2010: Panel Tasting

Sat, 14/09/2019 - 08:00

Looking back, the biggest shock of the tasting was the the omission of the first growths from the top wines list. They were out scored by many other châteaux by the three judges, Steven Spurrier, Stephen Brook and Michael Schuster. As Steven Spurrier explained at the time, young, fruit forward wines are always more appealing in early, blind tastings.

As will be seen from the tasting, the first growths – to which I gave three 20 points and one 19.5 after the en primeur tastings in 2011 – were outranked by some lesser wines. One should always buy the latter in great vintages like 2010 and I have to admit that, in this tasting, I preferred fruit over structure. Is Prieuré-Lichine better than Margaux, Haut-Batailley better than Latour? Of course not, but they showed beautifully.

Next year will be the “ten years on” tasting, and to see if the first growths are starting come into their own, and it will be fascinating to find out if the vintage is still considered five star.

Médoc Cru Classés 2010

This should be one of the very best tastings of the year. The 2010 vintage of Bordeaux: the châteaux owners’ near-unanimous choice for the best year out of that double-barrelled gift of 2009–2010. Almost every owner of a classified growth will tell you the same thing: 2009 for immediate charm, 2010 for going the distance.

In terms of taste and structure, 2010 is often called the architect’s vintage; producing physical wines with angles, depth, length and width, beating previous records for levels of tannins, fruit and acidity, but all perfectly balanced. Even the colour was off the charts – anthocyanin content (the red, purple and blue pigments in grape skins) in Cabernet Sauvignon in Pauillac was recorded at an average of 2,500mg/l in 2010, compared to 1,500mg/l in 2009.

The long growing season seemed to particularly suit Cabernet Sauvignon, with many estates putting record percentages in their blend (of the wines tasted here, Château Margaux and Ducru-Beaucaillou both have 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mouton 94%, its highest in decades). Couple this already-intensely flavoured grape with the small berry size resulting from the dry summer, and you had small yields of richly concentrated wines, on average 10 to 30% down on 2009 production.

By Jane Anson

The results

Claret lovers have been spoiled for choice – 2009 and 2010 were both great vintages. But they do differ, the panel reminded us, with 2010 best for classic, structured, ageworthy wines.

‘The overall quality of these wines was pretty stunning,’ exclaimed Stephen Brook, who affirmed ‘the hype is justified; this is a truly great vintage’. Fellow judges Steven Spurrier and Michael Schuster agreed, adding that the 2010s are ‘finely textured and ripe’ and will be ‘extremely rewarding’ once they have fully matured.

‘What’s interesting is to view 2010 in the context of the several years beforehand,’ said Spurrier, who labelled 2000 as a ‘great vintage’; 2001 ‘now recognised as being just as good’; 2002 ‘rained off’; 2003 ‘terribly hot’; 2004 ‘a bit lean’; 2005 ‘sensational’; 2006 ‘classic Bordeaux, a bit tough’; 2008 ‘nice and attractive’; 2009 ‘the best vintage in our lifetime’; and 2010 as ‘now being seen as even better’.

So what makes the 2010s stand out? ‘It wasn’t as hot as 2009, so the acidities didn’t drop in the grapes,’ explained Brook. Schuster added: ‘2010 is very different from 2009. These wines are more linear, more tannic and more vertical, if you like. They’re less sweet, fleshy and generous than the 2009s, but the best of them will be very, very fine indeed.’

Spurrier continued: ‘What we’re looking at is a vintage that is extremely ripe, and extremely classic, and it’s rare to get that balance. The tannins are a little more severe, but they’ll soften. The fruit is more precise; not as obviously plummy, but it will come out in time. It’s all in the structure.’

Despite praising the overall quality of the 2010s, the judges did note that some of the wines ‘have sat back on their heels’, becoming ‘closed and conservative’, so finding the nuances either aromatically or on the palate was ‘quite difficult’. Brook said: ‘The wines weren’t explosive or fleshy in the way the 2009s were; they were a bit difficult to read. Nonetheless, I gave a score of 17-plus to about 60% of the wines, which means Highly Recommended for the majority, which is unusual.’

But with the Bordeaux 2010 prices having eclipsed those of the previous vintage, is there any value to be had? ‘I think 20% of these wines will be outside the pockets of most Decanter readers, but this vintage will show them what Bordeaux is up to now,’ Brook said.

Top Médoc Cru Classés 2010 of the tasting

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Red wine for autumn: Ten to try

Fri, 13/09/2019 - 16:09

There’s no denying it, autumn is upon those of us in the northern hemisphere. Leaves are clogging up driveways, it’s getting dark earlier than we think it should, and the shops are looking ahead to Halloween, bonfire night and – gulp! – Christmas.

As we look to heartwarming dishes – tied together with seasonal ingredients – to keep the impending chill at bay  it makes sense to alter our drinking habits too. Below are some great red wines, selected by our experts, to ward off the cooler evenings and help you get in an autumnal mood.

If you’re in the southern half of the world, you might want to see our summer wine ideas.

Red wine for autumn: You may also like: Five island wine regions to visit this autumn Dos and don’ts in the wine shop Removing sulphites from your wine

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