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Netflix to release Napa-based Wine Country movie

Wed, 21/03/2018 - 22:06

Streaming service Netflix is to bring out a film called 'Wine Country', set in Napa Valley, which will be the directorial debut from comedian and actress Amy Poehler.

The new film will be set in Napa. Netflix to release Napa based Wine Country movie

Wine Country is about a group of friends who visit Napa Valley to celebrate a 50th birthday.

Poehler will direct, produce and star in the film, alongside others stars previously from US comedy sketch series Saturday Night Live, including Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer and features Tina Fey.

Although no release date is known yet, filming will start at the end of March, in Los Angeles and Napa.

It is not yet known which, if any, particular Napa wineries will feature in the film.

Netflix has released a teaser video of the cast singing along to the Kenny Loggins/Stevie Nicks song ‘Whenever I Call You Friend.’

It's happening—Amy Poehler's directorial debut, Wine Country, is coming soon to Netflix! Starring Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell, Maya Rudolph, Emily Spivey and featuring Tina Fey. Get excited. Get real excited.

— Netflix US (@netflix) March 20, 2018

Other wine films

Other popular wine films have included buddy-movie Sideways, also set in California, and the Somm series, following those training to be sommeliers, which is due to release a third film.

Sideways has also become a theatre production, based on the original book by Rex Pickett.

See also: Sour Grapes is a documentary about  wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan Try the Decanter wine and film quiz See also: 10 wineries to visit on Napa’s Silverado Trail 

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St-Emilion satellites 2015: Panel tasting results

Wed, 21/03/2018 - 17:18

Four communes north of St-Emilion are an excellent hunting ground for value, particularly in good Right Bank vintages like 2015. See which of the 92 wines tasted by our three-strong panel of experts came out on top...

  • 92 wines tasted with 16 highly recommended
  • The panel tasters were: Stephen Brook, Andrew Jefford, Tim Sykes

Introduction by Jane Anson

Bordeaux 2015 was one of the rare years when the city’s oenology school, which releases detailed overviews of every vintage dating back to the 1960s, declared that ‘all five conditions necessary for a great red wine vintage in Bordeaux were perfectly aligned’.

Now in bottle, we can judge what that means for quality – but we already saw what it meant for prices during en primeur, with almost every big estate posting a healthy (for them) price rise.

It’s these vintages where the smaller appellations should shine – something that sounds promising for the St-Emilion satellites in a clear right bank vintage.

Exclusively for Premium members:

See Jane Anson’s tasting notes and ratings for Bordeaux 2015 wines in-bottle



Related content:

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Robert Haas, Tablas Creek co-founder and wine pioneer, dies in California

Wed, 21/03/2018 - 17:00

Robert Haas, who co-founded Tablas Creek and pioneered Rhône grape varieties in California after spending decades championing French wines on the American market, has died aged 90.

Robert Haas (left) with Jason Haas (centre, front), Francois Perrin (right, front), Cesar Perrin (right, back) and winemaker Neil Collins.

Robert Haas died peacefully at his California home last weekend, said Tablas Creek, the wine estate that he co-founded.

Many would agree with the winery’s assertion that Haas was a ‘seminal figure in American wine for 65 years’.

Haas is credited with doing much to foster Americans’ love for wine, and French wine in particular, in the decades following World War Two.

He spent much of the 1950s hunting down great wines across France, for his father’s retail business in New York, M. Lehmann.

It was then his importing of fine wines from regions such as Burgundy, Rhône and Bordeaux in the 1960s that initially brought him together with the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel in Southern Rhône.

He became the Perrins’ exclusive American importer through his Vineyard Brands business.

Later, when convinced that classic Rhône grape varieties would thrive in parts of California, Haas and the Perrins searched for suitable sites and founded Tablas Creek in 1989.

They also had to get the first vines through the USDA quarantine process, before they could be planted.

More than 600 growers around the US have since used Tablas Creek clones, according to the Rhone Rangers, a body set up to promote varieties from the eponymous French region and counting around 150 wineries as members.

‘Bob was a man of great wines,’ said François Perrin. ‘He wanted every wine to be the produce of its terroir and the men who produced it.

‘He spent the last 25 years of his life discovering the terroir of Paso Robles and more specifically that of Tablas Creek, which he completely invested himself in and deeply loved.

Bob Haas remained active at the winery ‘into his 10th decade’, said Tablas Creek. Credit: Tablas Creek.

Perrin told, ‘After the death of Jacques Perrin, our father, he has been our spiritual substitute. Today we feel like orphans once more.’

He added, ‘He has forever marked the world of wine and developed a special link between French wines and the American market.’

Four years ago, in April 2014, Haas received a lifetime achievement award in San Francisco from the Rhone Rangers, the US group set up to promote Rhône grape varieties.

He was only the second person to win the award, following Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard.

Alongside his love of Rhône varieties, Haas was also a ‘great connoisseur of Burgundy wines’, said Perrin.

The post Robert Haas, Tablas Creek co-founder and wine pioneer, dies in California appeared first on Decanter.

DWWA seminar at Vancouver International Wine Festival

Wed, 21/03/2018 - 15:40

Showcase of DWWA 2017 winners at VIWF in Vancouver, Canada.

Decanter organised a Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) seminar on Saturday 3 March featuring ten wines at Vancouver International Wine Festival (VIWF) in Canada.

Attendees had the opportunity to taste top medal-winning wines from the DWWA and discover how to recognise quality wines with DWWA judge Barbara Philip MW. Barbara is Canada’s only female Master of Wine, the European category manager for BC Liquor Stores, and wine columnist on CBC Radio One’s On The Coast.

The selection of Platinum, Gold and Silver winners featured were:

Search full DWWA 2017 results here

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Valparaiso-Casablanca Valley celebrates its ‘Best of Wine Tourism’ figures for 2018

Wed, 21/03/2018 - 12:00

Promotional feature

See the winners....

Winners from the Valparaiso-Casablanca Valley Best of Wine Tourism 2018

Promotional feature

Valparaiso-Casablanca Valley Best of Wine Tourism 2018

The ceremony took place at the Wine Box Hotel high in the hills overlooking Valparaiso.

The 2018 winners are: Accommodation: Hotel Boutique Casablanca
Architecture and Landscapes: Viña Matetic
Art and Culture: Viña Estancia El Cuadro
Innovative Wine Tourism Experiences: Hotel Wine Box
Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices: Viña Catrala Wine Tourism Restaurants: Viña Estancia El Cuadro
Wine Tourism Services: Viña Matetic

Jury member Paula Chávez, regional director for Valparaiso for the Chilean Association of Tourism Writers pointed out the important role played by hotels, restaurants and wineries for tourism promotion in the area, providing excellent services with an emphasis on sustainable development in their activities. Mario Agliati, president of the Association of Vineyard and Winery Owners of Casablanca Valley, stressed the importance of both the local and international ‘Best Of’ awards and the fact that the three organizations that make up Valparaiso-Casablanca Valley are active participants in the award process, helping them to improve their tourist draw.

About the Great Wine Capitals Global Network

Founded in 1999, the Great Wine Capitals Global Network is an alliance of nine internationally renowned wine regions – Adelaide|South Australia; Bordeaux, France; Mainz|Rheinhessen, Germany; Mendoza, Argentina; Porto, Portugal; Bilbao|Rioja, Spain; San Francisco|Napa Valley, USA, Valparaiso|Casablanca Valley, Chile and Verona, Italy.

The Best Of Wine Tourism awards serve as an industry benchmark for excellence and recognize leading wineries and wine-tourism related businesses within each Great Wine Capital that have distinguished themselves in areas such as innovation, service and sustainable practices. For more information visit

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Comment: ‘Era of billionaire ownership in Burgundy has begun’

Wed, 21/03/2018 - 10:00

If you’re lucky enough to own your house, when did you buy it? When did the previous owner purchase it? How many owners has it had in the last century: a dozen? Maybe more?

A stone marker at the entrances to Clos des Lambrays grand cru vineyard.

Considerations of this sort were the reason why I always stepped up the little fenced, stepped portico and through the imposing oak door of Clos de Tart, in the middle of Morey-St-Denis, with reverence. The walled vineyard stretches away up the hill behind the small property, its modest winery and its magnificently deep cellars.

Its 7.5ha of vines (planted, unusually, north-south, along the contour of the hill) are nourished by soil which, astonishingly, had only seen three owners in 875 years, setting aside a short revolutionary interregnum.

The nuns of Notre-Dame de Tart had taken possession, from the Knights Hospitaller of Brochon, way back in 1141; it passed in 1791 to the Marey family, who built those deep cellars (later named Marey-Monge, after an alliance with the family of the brilliant Beaunois mathematician Gaspard Monge); then the Mommessin family bought it from the last surviving heiress, herself a nun, in 1932.

Inside, everything is immaculate. You can see the old ‘parrot’ press, one of only three left in France, first built in 1519 and in use until 1924; you can see the Vierge de Tart, a little wooden statue of the Virgin dating back to 1400, which was originally exposed to the snows and the rain outside, but has now been brought inside for retirement ease. Roses perfume the quiet courtyard, where time itself seems to ripen slowly.

Since last October, all of this belongs to the fourth owner in 876 years, François Pinault – or rather to Groupe Artémis, the Pinault family’s holding company (which also owns Christie’s auction house, the Stade Rennais Football Club, controlling shares in Gucci and much else).

Rumour suggests a price of between €26 and €30 million per hectare. This follows the sale of an 80% share in the 11ha Corton-Charlemagne and Corton Grand Cru holdings of Domaine Bonneau du Martray in January 2017 to Stan Kroenke, the billionaire proprietor of Arsenal Football Club and Screaming Eagle, for a rumoured €11.4m per hectare; and the 2014 sale of Clos de Tart’s grand cru neighbour Clos Des Lambrays to LVMH for a rumoured €11.5m per hectare.

You might assume that other owners of grand cru land in Burgundy would smile broadly at the news of these spiralling land values, like Surrey home-owners who find the house they bought for £99,000 some 25 years ago is now worth a million or more.

It is, however, regarded in the region as a catastrophe, since it heralds the end of family ownership of any domaine with sizeable grand cru holdings. If family holdings are dispersed, the pressure to sell soon becomes irresistible; death duties, meanwhile, weigh heavily on concentrated holdings.

Local wine-growing families now find the purchase of grand cru land utterly beyond their means – because the true return on capital must lie many decades hence. The era of corporate and billionaire ownership in Burgundy has begun. Grand cru Burgundy is now a luxury item, like a liquid watch or very small bottled yacht.

What’s to be done? Nothing. Wealthy, middle-class wine lovers will lose the familiar use of these wines; they’ll have to settle for an occasional sniff and mouthful at a grand tasting, which is all that most of us have known anyway. The quality of grand cru wines will improve; grateful critics will line up to bestow pointless scores and gushy notes on them (pointless because they’ll all be on allocation in any case). Domaine visits will become ever harder to get.

There will, though, be trickle-down benefits for the quality of Burgundy as a whole, while local families won’t be eased out of the region altogether: billionaire owners are never going to bother with village wines, or with less prestigious premiers crus.

That’s economic evolution. I’m only sad that time will now ripen a little less slowly in the perfumed courtyard of Clos de Tart.

The post Comment: ‘Era of billionaire ownership in Burgundy has begun’ appeared first on Decanter.

US wine exports fell in 2017 – figures

Tue, 20/03/2018 - 13:13

The value of US wine exports fell 5.5% to $1.53 billion in 2017, with shipments to the European Union suffering a near-20% revenue slump, according to data from the US Dept of Commerce.

Golden Gate Bridge

California’s Wine Institute – the state is responsible for 97% of exports – blamed the decline on the strong dollar, ‘heavily-subsidised foreign producers’ and competitors making free trade agreements in key markets.

Export volumes fell even further, declining 7.9% to 380m litres, or 42.2m cases, with shipment volumes to the EU down by more than 10% to 197.8m litres.

The EU remains the US’ most lucrative export destination, with revenues of $553.1m in 2017, ahead of Canada at $443.9m (up 2.9%), where volumes declined 5.4% to 84m litres.

Strong value growth was recorded in the Far East, with revenues from Hong Kong up by more than 20% (although volumes slipped back 24.7%), and a similar value increase in Singapore.

In Japan, exports rose 7.6% in value terms, but declined by 1.2% by volume. Bottled wine exports to the country fell 20% by volume, but rose 12.1% by value.

The US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal means that, while all rival wine-producing countries will enter Japan duty-free by 2019, a 15% tariff will continue to be charged on US wines, leaving them at a considerable disadvantage.

‘Free trade agreements that place the US on equal footing with other wine-producing countries are absolutely essential to growing US wine exports,’ said Charles Jefferson, Wine Institute vice president of federal relations and international public policy.

Wine Institute’s vice president of international marketing, Linsey Gallagher, pointed out that California wine exports had risen nearly 70% by value in the past decade, adding that marketing efforts focused on the quality and diversity of California wines ‘continued to gain traction’ around the world.

California Cabernet 2014: Decanter panel tasting results For Premium members


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‘Brexit effect’ hit UK Champagne orders in 2017

Tue, 20/03/2018 - 09:54

Champagne exports to the UK fell by more than 10% in volume in 2017, but the US, Japan and Australia helped to make up the difference, show new country-by-country figures.

A ‘marked decrease’ in Champagne shipments to the UK in 2017 was likely due to the ‘Brexit effect’, said the Comité Champagne in fresh analysis released to coincide with the Prowein trade show in Dusseldorf this week.

Its comments came just ahead of the UK and EU agreeing a Brexit transition deal, which it was hoped would provide more certainty to businesses.

Total Champagne exports to the UK were worth 415.2 million euros in 2017, said the Comité Champagne trade body. Historical figures show that this is down from 440.3 million euros in 2016.

By volume, exports to the UK dropped by 11% in 2017, to 27.8 million bottles, the Comite said.

However, this did not stop global Champagne exports for the year rising by 6.6% in value versus 2016, to 2.8 billion euros. With the French market roughly flat, that meant total Champagne shipments for 2017 reached a record 4.9 billion euros, as previously reported on

The US, Australia and Asia made up the difference, according to the new market-by-market data.

Britain may import more bottles of Champagne than any other country, but the US market is more valuable.

Shipments to the US rose by 8.5% in value in 2017, to almost 586 million euros. By volume, US merchants imported 23.1 million bottles.

Exports to Japan rose by 21.3% in value and 17.6% in volume, to 306.7 million euros and 12.9 million bottles, cementing its position as the world’s third largest Champagne market ahead of Germany in fourth.

Elsewhere, Australia saw shipments increase by 23% in value, to 131.8 million euros, from 8.5 million bottles.

And exports to mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan collectively grew by 26.7% in value, with South Korea also posting 39.5% value growth and topping the million-bottle mark for the first time, said the trade body.

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Bordeaux 2006: Which wines have aged well?

Tue, 20/03/2018 - 08:59

Read Jane Anson's review of the Bordeaux 2006 vintage after re-tasting the wines a decade out from the harvest.

Bordeaux 2006 was an interesting year to assess at the critical 10-year juncture, not least because 2006 has developed a mixed reputation.

On the bright side, it has a classic, traditional character with strong tannins and long ageing potential. On the downside, it is regarded as backward and brooding. So how it is shaping up?


See also

This article was originally published in Decanter magazine.

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Brexit transition: A bucket list for UK wine lovers

Tue, 20/03/2018 - 07:17

British wine lovers living in the UK will have more time to try some of the ideas below after the country's government provisionally agreed a Brexit transition deal with the EU, extending single market and customs union membership - plus free movement of people - until the end of 2020.

Theresa May has said that the UK was prepared to leave the single market.

The UK has provisionally agreed a Brexit transition deal that will last from the official leaving date of 29 March 2019 until the end of 2020.

Assuming that this is implemented, here are several ways that British wine lovers in the UK could use the extra time to take advantage of the status quo.

This list was originally published in March 2017 and has been updated.

Tick off as many EU wine regions as you can

How many wine regions have you visited in the European Union? You’ve got an extra 21 months to tick off as many as you can before you might have to consider some form of tourist visa form-filling.

Sail through customs, hire a vintage car with your EU-valid driving licence and hit the road…

Venetsanos Winery in Santorini.

See Decanter’s wine travel guides Write a novel in a Tuscan villa surrounded by vineyards

Barone Ricasoli winery, Tuscany.

You could even see out the last months before Brexit by living on the continent.

If you’ve always flirted with a desire to write a best-selling novel in the Tuscan hills, inspired by a few glasses of Sangiovese, then now is the time to do it with no questions asked.

Obviously, it’s likely to be a massive drain on your finances, your communication will be limited if you don’t speak Italian and, given the precarious state of book publishing, you’d be lucky to earn enough to cover your flight home. But, why allow such details to cloud your romantic vision?

NB: You almost certainly can’t rent the one pictured above, unfortunately.

Put yourself to work  in a French vineyard – or a wine bar

Crozes-Hermitage vineyards in the Northern Rhône. Christopher Grihlé / Inter Rhône.

Grape picking is not for the faint-hearted, but it’s currently possible for UK nationals to work in the European Union without having to worry about whether your work permit papers are still in your back pocket.

Many of the larger wine estates in established regions bring in dedicated teams of skilled pickers, rather than letting loose a bunch of tourists – for obvious reasons.

But, there are a few opportunities out there for beginners and also for those with limited experience. The French employment website might be a good place to look.

O Vins d’Anges, Lyon.

Alternatively, and perhaps more realistically, see if you can get casual work in a wine bar or shop.

Bring back a case of wine across the English Channel

VinGardeValise’s wine suitcase. It could come in handy…

UK nationals don’t pay duty tax on wines they bring back from other EU countries. You can bring back up to 90 litres of wine duty-free, equivalent to 120 bottles. It’s possible that the UK will end up staying in some form of customs union, but the eventual terms are far from clear.

The exchange rate may be less friendly to Britons compared to several years agpo, but at least you can take advantage of rock-bottom tax in some countries, such as France, and potentially get more choice.

Plus, wine prices have generally risen in the UK since the EU referendum.

Study wine in Europe

Age Fotostock / Alamy

The European Union runs an extension of its EU student Erasmus programme called Erasmus+. This includes Masters courses and post-graduate qualifications in a range of subjects, including wine tourism – split between institutions in Spain, France and Portugal. There’s also a wine making Masters course for science graduates, according to the catalogue.

See also: ‘Brexit effect’ hits Champagne sales

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French watchdog details ‘massive’ misuse of Rhône and Châteauneuf names

Mon, 19/03/2018 - 13:31

French anti-fraud officials have said they uncovered millions of bottles-worth of wine wrongly labelled as from popular Rhône appellations, including Châteauneuf-du-Pape, during a 2017 investigation.

A three-year fraud operation allegedly run by the head of a single merchant house in southern France produced enough wine to fill 13 Olympic swimming pools, said France’s consumer protection and fraud office, the DGCCRF, in its annual report on investigations in 2017.

Its report, released last week, offers more insight into the scale of a fraud probe revealed last summer.

The case covered more than 480,000 hectolitres of wine, equivalent to 48 million litres or around 64 million bottles, said DGCCRF.

It said that, between October 2013 and June 2016, around 200,000 hectolitres of wine with no designation of origin (IGP) had been falsely labelled as Côtes-Du-Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages.

Of that, 10,000 hectolitres – 1.3 million bottles-worth – had been wrongly labelled as Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The true origin of the wine used was not specified.

The DGCCRF said that the CEO of an ‘important’ merchant house had been arrested, charged and released on a one million euro bail. The individual was also suspended from working at the company.

Its report did not name the individual or company involved.

However, widespread media reports over the last few months have named the merchant at the centre of the investigation as bulk wine specialist Raphaël Michel. The individual referred to was also named in reports as the company’s CEO at the time, Guillaume Ryckwaert.

Lawyers for both Ryckwaert and Raphaël Michel have previously denied wrongdoing when questioned by French media.

Key regional trade bodies InterRhône and the UMVR, a union for merchants, have said they intend to join the prosecution as civil parties, according to DGCCRF. The Syndicat des Côtes du Rhône also told last year that it had joined the case as a civil party.


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Jefford on Monday: Schist versus Limestone

Mon, 19/03/2018 - 11:11

Andrew Jefford attends a breakthrough terroir tasting...

'Argilo Calcaire': Limestone and clay soil in St-Chinian.

We might, at last, be getting somewhere.

Regular readers may recall my March 2017 column about a tasting organised by the ‘Terroirs de Schiste’ grouping, attempting to discover if there was a common sensorial thread to wines grown on this soil type.  It was challenging, not least because the wines came from a wide variety of climate zones and were based on many different grape varieties.  I suggested in that blog that a step forward might be to try to organise a tasting based on St-Chinian wines alone, since that appellation has soils based on both rock types in close proximity.  One week ago, Terroirs de Schiste ran just such an event, replicated for the Institute of Masters of Wine in London.

The results were fascinating.  We examined young, unfinished, mostly single-varietal red wines from the 2017 vintage.  Young wines were chosen to minimise the impact of post-fermentation cellar work, and single-variety samples to lend their own focus to the soil differences.

Schiste soil in St-Chinian. Credit: Gaylord Burguière.

After a limpid introduction to the zone’s geological context from Jean-Claude Bousquet, author of the useful Terroirs viticoles: Paysages et géologie en Languedoc, terroir-specialist and former INAO insider Jacques Fanet provided historical insights.  He revealed that INAO had initially wanted to create a single schist AOC from the northern part of St-Chinian together with Faugères and Cabrières, but that the social unity of St-Chinian as a broader community had seen off that challenge.

This underlines the importance of the human element in terroir concepts – and has subsequently proved greatly to St-Chinian’s advantage, giving it an enduring point of interest.  (Fanet also suggested that the INAO commissioners of the time came overwhelmingly from France’s established fine-wine regions, and were determined to classify as little AOC land as possible in Languedoc in order to prevent the threat, as they saw it then, of this ‘sleeping giant’ stealing their own market share.)

It’s important to stress that this tasting comparison wouldn’t meet rigorous scientific criteria – we didn’t taste blind, and the samples not only came from fruit from a plurality of sites, but were also made in a variety of vessels in different cellars using different primary fermentation techniques.  My own feeling, nonetheless, was that this was a stride forward in an area which normally sees little more than shuffling to and fro, accompanied by copious whistling in the dark.  Perhaps other areas capable of organising such tastings (notably Alsace and Roussillon) might be tempted to duplicate this one?

The Results

I won’t provide specific tasting notes for these unfinished and unblended wines – but it is worth saying that there were some very exciting 2017 samples here, notably from Vivien Roussignol of the outstanding Domaine des Païssels and from former sugar-trader Tom Hills at the up-and-coming Domaine La Lauzeta.  The full list of domains providing samples is given below.

In most cases, we worked with pairs of wines, one from limestone and one from schist, beginning with two Grenache pairs, then moving on through two Carignan pairs, two Syrah pairs, two Mourvèdre pairs and finally a single pair of blended Syrah and Grenache wines.  The least satisfactory of these pairings for me were those based on Mourvèdre, a variety sometimes ill-at-ease in the Languedoc hills: issues of ripeness muddled the soil comparison picture here.  The other comparisons, though, were telling.  Here are my conclusions, which I stress are tentative and provisional, as well as relating principally to wines grown in St-Chinian.


All of the wines were darkly coloured, but those made from fruit grown on schist soils seemed to be a little darker than those from limestone soils, perhaps most significantly from the two pairs derived from the same domain and therefore made in an identical way and identical vessels: Clos Bagatelle’s two Grenache wines and Borie la Vitarèle’s Syrah/Grenache blends.

Aromatic Profiles

A clear point of difference for me was that the wines made from limestone-grown fruit had, at least at this very early stage of their development, more aromatic charm, lift, energy and vivacity than the wines made from schist-grown fruit, which were in general aromatically much quieter and more subdued.

In terms of precise aromatic characters, limestone-grown wines suggested flowers, cherries and blackcurrants, whereas the schist-grown wines tended to suggest dried fruits (prune and fig) in a more liquorous style, together with earthiness and sometimes a little smokiness.  In general, I felt that ‘varietal character’ emerged more clearly with limestone-grown wines than with schist-grown wines.  We expected some reduction from these unfinished, brut de cuve wines and indeed found it, and it seemed to affect the limestone wines more than the schist wines, though this is likely to be a matter of handling, or may be related to a greater percentage of clay in some vineyards.


On the palate, the limestone-grown wines came across as more vivid, fresher and more lively than the schist-grown wines.  The strong point of the schist-grown wines, by contrast, was greater density, compression and intensity than their limestone brethren, perhaps based on generally lower yields in this generally ‘tough’ soil medium.

St-Chinian is a zone where balance comes not so much from acidity as from tannin and the repertoire of flavour allusions.  Acidities seemed to be slightly higher in the limestone wines; they also had less forceful, more graceful, and sometimes brisker tannin structures (though they weren’t necessarily any less tannic or less ample overall); in alcoholic terms, they seemed a little less warm.  The schist wines were warmer and more richly tannic, more succulent, more exotic in allusion though often sombre and brooding in their energy profile.

In terms of precise flavour allusions, the limestone wines hung with their stonefruit style, while the schist wines seemed by turn meatier and spicier (notably liquorice), as well as showing pruney and other dried-fruit notes.  They were certainly, for me, the wines which conveyed notes suggestive of crushed stone and pounded rock more effectively, whereas the ‘minerality’ of the limestone wines was a finer, sweeter, more powdery and sometimes more fugitive affair.  Balance in the schist wines comes from that delicious ooze of powerful tannin and rock slurry.  If you are looking for classic notes of Languedoc garrigue, by contrast, then the limestone wines seemed to provide this more clearly than the schist wines, which rarely suggested these notes.

It’s something of a guess, but in general I felt that the wines based on limestone-grown fruit would be ready sooner, whereas those based on schist-grown fruit would need longer before being presentable.

Most incontrovertible of all was the overwhelming sense that wines based on fruit of both origins had their own form of beauty; there was nothing inherently superior in either group.  When I chatted to Jacques Fanet afterwards, he reminded me that another of the reasons why St-Chinian was allowed to retain its dual soil origin by INAO was the testament of former merchants pointing out how well the wines of each origin blended together.  That, too, is something we may see more of in future from this highly promising zone.

Domaines and growers providing samples:


  • Mas Champart (Isbelle and Matthieu Champart)
  • Ch Coujan (Florence Guy)
  • Domaine Sacré-Coeur (Luc Cabaret)
  • Ch Viranel (Arnaud and Luc Bergasse)


  • Moulin de Ciffre (Miren de Lorgeril)
  • Dom Lanye-Barrac (Bernard Backhaus)
  • Dom La Lauzeta (Tom Hills)
  • Dom des Païssels (Vivien Roussignol)
  • Ch Prieuré des Mourgues (Jérôme Roger)

Both soil types

  • Clos Bagatelle (Christine Deleuze and Luc Simon)
  • Ch Belot (Lionel Belot)
  • Borie la Vitarèle (Cathy Izarn)
Read more Andrew Jefford columns on

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How far should you put your nose into the glass? – ask Decanter

Sun, 18/03/2018 - 11:00

When you’re smelling wine to assess the aromas, how much should you stick your nose into the glass and what's the best sniffing technique?

David Glancy MS, of San Francisco Wine School, gives his advice on how to smell wine:

The best answer I’ve ever heard was that from the 11th generation CEO of Riedel Glassware, Maximilian Josef Riedel. He said: ‘If you wear glasses, wait until the click (when your glasses hit the glass).’

Do not over inhale, be gentle. And if you can, breathe into the nose, and out through the mouth. You will smell a lot more if you can do that. And then you put the wine into your mouth, then (breathe) from the nose. By circulating the air both ways, you’ll sense more aromas and flavours. It takes practice to do that.

By the way, I don’t think the size of your nose matters. The key is the olfactory epithelium (a specialised tissue that helps human brains to sense smell), not the nostrils.

But if you’ve got blockage in the nose, for instance if your nose is bent, that can be a problem.

See also:

Primary and secondary aromas: What’s the difference? Tasting notes decoded: What does it all mean?

Written by Sylvia Wu, who is editor of and is visiting California as part of a media trip hosted and funded by the California Wine Institute. 

To get your question answered, email us: or on social media with #askDecanter


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Domaine Jean Grivot: Profile and wine ratings

Sat, 17/03/2018 - 15:49

Burgundy master Clive Coates MW tells you everything that you need to know about Domaine Jean Grivot, along with historical tasting notes on wines from top vintages - as part of a series that looks back at domaine profiles from Clive's most recent books.

Richebourg Grand Cru in Burgundy's Côte de Nuits.

I don’t like half bottles: stupid size.  Not nearly enough for one – let alone two.  But for some reason, lurking about in the Château Coates cellar, I owned a half of the Domaine Grivot’s Clos de Vougeot 1964.  Eventually I opened it at the end of a boozy dinner.  My friend said she’d take half a glass up to bed with her.  I finished the washing up and relaxed with the rest.  It was delicious.

But Etienne Grivot disagrees.  He was born in 1959, and it never occurred to him that his role in life was not to follow his father Jean into the family domaine.  But as he grew up, drinking the occasional bottle from years like 1929 and 1937, and wines from the great vintages immediately after the second world war, he began to realise that the wines the Grivot domaine was producing in the 1960s and 1970s were a shadow of their former selves.

Why?  Because they were over-fertilising the vineyards, and as a teacher demonstrated to Etienne when he was doing his studies in the late 1970s (first a B.T. (Brevet Technique) in general agriculture, and then a B.T.S. (superior) in viticulture and oenology), the soil in Burgundy was becoming increasingly incapable of producing vins de terroir, wines which had the magic character and flavour concentration of where they come from.

Find all Clive Coates MW’s Domaine Jean Grivot tasting notes here

The origins of the Grivot family lie in the upper reaches of the river Doubs, a hundred kilometres to the east in the Jura, but Grivots have been established in Burgundy since the French Revolution.

At first they lived in Nuits-Saint-Georges, farming vines at Arcenats in the Hautes-Côtes and at Corgoloin, but raising other crops as well.  A branch then moved to Vosne-Romanée, and slowly but surely the activities of this side of the family concentrated on wine production.

Gaston Grivot, son of Joseph and father of Jean, sold his vines in these lesser areas in 1919 in order to buy an important piece of Clos Vougeot from a M. Polack.  He was one of the first to pursue a proper oenological degree at Dijon university in the 1920s.

And he had the foresight to marry Madelaine, daughter of Émile Grivot of Nuits-Saint-Georges in 1927 – no close relation, but surely a distant cousin – who brought vines in Pruliers and Roncières with her as a dowry.


Where to buy Clive Coates MW’s ‘My Favorite Burgundies’ book:

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Top Chablis alternatives: Fresh whites under £15

Sat, 17/03/2018 - 11:00

If you love the style of Chablis but want to branch out, try one of these great value picks...

Chablis alternatives under £15

Andy Howard MW picked his top 30 Chablis alternatives in the April 2018 issue of the Decanter, also available here for Decanter Premium members.

Of those, we’ve picked out some of the especially good value buys, from Northern Italy to the Loire to Santorini.

‘Many winemakers are keen to emulate the style of Chablis, with cool-climate Chardonnays being produced as far afield as the Adelaide Hills in Australia; Chile’s Casablanca Valley; Santa Barbara and Sonoma Coast in the US (to name but a few),’ writes Howard.

‘Other wines are made in a Chablis style despite being crafted from different grape varieties.’ The following wines are all rated above 90 points, and cost under £15 per bottle. See also: Top Aldi wines to try


Top Chablis alternatives: Fresh whites under £15


Find more value wine buys here


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Understanding Barbera d’Asti vineyards

Fri, 16/03/2018 - 16:25

Created by Decanter in partnership with the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato.

Barbera vineyards.

Created by Decanter in partnership with the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato

The Barbera d’Asti production zone stretches from the town of Asti, to Alessandria and Cuneo. It is produced in 167 towns in the south of Piedmont, and mainly in the Asti area (116 small towns in the Asti zone and 51 in the Alessandria one).

The vine surface of Piemonte Barbera, on the other hand, is larger and includes 351 towns across the provinces of Asti (116) Alessandria (141) and Cuneo (94).

Barbera is really at home in this area; not surprising, given that the variety’s origins can be traced to Monferrato itself.

The area is characterised by low, rounded hills with vineyards located exclusively on the sun-exposed slopes, offering plenty of scope for variations of aspect.

Planting is prohibited above 650 meters asl and also on the cooler valley floors, ensuring that the grapes get sufficient sun. The best sites tend to restrict planting to the mid-range (200 to 400 metres).

As in the rest of Piedmont, winters are cold and summers tend to be hot.

In the north, around Casale Monferrato and in the south around Canelli, the white, calcerous soils produce more robust, deeply-coloured wines, capable of longer ageing. A lighter, more aromatic style is produced from the sandier soils which are prevalent along the banks of the River Tanaro, which flows up from Liguria to Asti, then eastwards towards Alessandria where it joins the Po.

But this is an over-generalised picture and many areas have a clay or loam mixture with varying quantities of chalk, limestone or sand.

It is therefore difficult to be too proscriptive about soils; a single hill could have a seam of limestone or sand which affects one vineyard but not another. In general, clay soils retain water and give it back to the vines under stress, so are better in hotter vintages as long as there has been sufficient rainfall during winter and spring to build up reserves.

Calcareous and limestone soils are more free-draining, usually warmer and generally good in cooler vintages.

There are two sub-zones: Tinella and Colli Astiani (or Astiano). Given the variability in soil mix, the most obvious differences are a result of the higher Superiore production requirements: higher minimum alcohol (13%) and longer ageing (minimum 14 months including 6 months in barrel).

As usual, wine quality comes down to the producer who is able to maximise the potential of his vineyard sites, making the style of wine which best suits the local terroir or microclimate.

If vinified in stainless steel it produces a lively, fresh, early-drinking wine but if fermented in small barriques, it produces a more creamy, oaky, dark-berried wine with the capacity to age. There is also a semi-sparkling frizzante version.

Barbera is a naturally high acid and low tannin grape variety but with climate change providing hotter and drier vintages, these attributes have become virtues instead of vices.

Riper grapes with higher alcohol and richer textures are balanced by bright acidity and gentle oak tannins providing the components for longer ageing.

This article was created by editorial in partnership with the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato, which oversees the protection and regulation of the Barbera d’Asti production zone under its president Filippo Mobrici, who is also agronomist at Bersano winery in Nizza Monferrato.

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The ageing wine quiz – Test your knowledge

Fri, 16/03/2018 - 16:07

One hundred percent new oak, 50% second fill barrels, stainless steel fermenting and a minimum of threes in bottle; what do these terms and phrases actually mean? How do different techniques affect the wine? Test you knowledge with this week's ageing wine quiz.

The barrel room at Serracavallo in La SilaStart the ageing wine quiz below

More wine quizzes:

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How terroir influences Custoza wines

Fri, 16/03/2018 - 14:24

This content was produced in partnership with the Consorzio Tutela Vino Custoza.

How does the terroir influence the wines of Custoza...?

Custoza vineyards

This content was produced in partnership with the Consorzio Tutela Vino Custoza.

A guide to Custoza terroir

Custoza white wine takes its name from the village of Custoza, the site of two Risorgimento battles, and part of the municipality of Sommacampagna in the province of Verona.

The DOC area lies between Verona and Lake Garda. Crossed by the River Tione, the area is bordered to the south west by the River Mincio, an emissary of Garda.

There are nine Custoza DOC municipalities:
  • Lazise
  • Pastrengo
  • Bussolengo
  • Peschiera
  • Castelnuovo del Garda
  • Sona
  • Sommacampagna
  • Valeggio sul Mincio 
  • Villafranca di Verona
The soils

The morainic amphitheatre that characterizes the production zone is marked by a closely-packed series of elongated hills with an altitude that ranges from 50 to 100 metres. These hills, created by deposits left by the glaciers that shaped nearby Lake Garda  (the largest lake in Italy), are made up of a variety of mainly calcareous, gravelly, sandy and pebbly soils with some silt and clay but no rocky outcrops.

This morainic soil is what gives Custoza its characteristic salty and savoury note. The extreme diversification of the soils deriving from irregular glacial deposits is expressed in the fresh and vivacious nature of Custoza.

The climate

During the summer, the sun allows the grapes to ripen in a healthy climate, appeased by the influence of the lake. The breezes from Garda dry up any rain or dampness in the vineyards.

The area benefits from the close vicinity of the lake to the west while, lying at the gateway to the plain in the east, it is also influenced by a more continental climate. The conformation of the hilly slopes provides warmth during the day and an accumulation of cool air at night.

The temperature differences between day and night give constant acidity levels and allow the fragrances and characteristic aromas of the grapes to develop. This unique micro-climate, so well-suited for vine growing, is also ideal for the olives and cypresses that distinguish the territorial landscape. The morainic soil composition particularly contributes to a good germination for all the vine varieties.

Annual rainfall is between 750 and 800 millimetres and is more frequent in the autumn and spring. The lack of rain, sometimes for months at a time, during the vine’s vegetative period, obliges growers to irrigate in order to guarantee the best yield results.
Culturally the area has maintained its principal identity linked to its rural tradition with its own particular and authentic country-farming charm.

Three wines to try Le Vigne di San Pietro “San Pietro” Custoza Superiore Doc 2015

Captivating on the nose with hints of jasmine and medicinal herbs. Salty and mineral notes on the palate; this is a wine with class and elegance.

UK importer: £28 Thorman Hunt and Co. Ltd., Wine Shippers, 4 Pratt Walk, Lambeth, London SE11 6AR
USA importer: None

Tamburino sardo “La Guglia” Custoza Superiore Doc 2015

A late harvest that can be recognised in the ample nose, well-layered with hints of ripe fruit and hazelnuts. The intense flavour, structure and expressive force is revealed on the palate.

UK and USA importer: Taste Plus International Co.Ltd

Menegotti “Elianto” Custoza Superiore Doc 2015

Full and complex on the nose. Spices (mainly saffron), a balsamic touch with a hint of dried fruit. Round, pleasant, agreeable to the taste, right up to its hazelnut finale.

USA importer (NY): $20 Enoclassica Selection price
UK importer: None

This content was produced in partnership with the Consorzio Tutela Vino Custoza.

Read a guide to Custoza vineyards and grape varieties

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Guide to Custoza vineyards and grape varieties

Fri, 16/03/2018 - 14:23

This content was produced by Decanter in partnership with the Consorzio Tutela Vino Custoza.

Read a bitesize guide to the vineyards of Custoza and the grape varieties allowed in this white wine DOC near to Verona in northern Italy.

Nine grape varieties are allowed in the Custoza DOC.

This content was produced in partnership with the Consorzio Tutela Vino Custoza.

The nine Custoza DOC grape varieties:
  • Garganega
  • Bianca Fernanda
  • Tuscan Trebbiano
  • Trebbianello
  • Malvasia
  • Riesling Italico (Italian Riesling)
  • Pinot Bianco
  • Chardonnay
  • Manzoni Bianco

The Custoza vineyards extend over 1,200 hectares and the 2017 harvest produced 100,000 hectolitres, equal to about 13,300,000 bottles.

‘The vineyard is modern and substantially all guyot-grown [cane pruned],’ said Luciano Piona, president of the Consorzio Tutela Vino Custoza.

Moving away from pesticides

‘Density ranges from 5-6,000 plants per hectare with a variable age of between 20 and 30 years. For 20 years, interventions using an integrated defence method, under Consorzio guidance, have been adopted and we have not used insecticides on a large part of the production area for some years now.

‘On about 300 hectares, we are implementing mating disruption for some harmful insects, such as the European grapevine moth. Chemical weed killers are now largely being discarded.’

How it all began

The first hints of vine domestication in the current Custoza production area date back to the stilt house dwelling period.

The first indications of vine-growing can be traced to the Roman era, but it is mainly from the ninth century and throughout the Middle Ages that plentiful proof of grape cultivation are found, especially between the municipalities of Pastrengo and Sommacampagna.

Which grape varieties are allowed?

The Custoza DOC production specifications, approved in 1971, foresee the inclusion of nine vines.

Nevertheless, the modern application of the specifications favours using Garganega and Bianca Fernanda (a local Cortese clone), accompanied by Tuscan Trebbiano and Trebbianello (a local Tai biotype).

However, Malvasia, Riesling Italico, Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and Manzoni Bianco can also be used.

Art of blending

Custoza is therefore a cuvée wine in which man’s skill in assembling the various varieties grown on different soils emerges. This encompasses both early and late ripening varieties.

The producer’s sensitivity and ability to interpret the land plays a decisive role in defining the blend that corresponds to the company’s style.

Custoza in its entry level form represents around 98% of the wine produced, but it can also be found in its Superiore form, which is made from the grapes of the best-positioned, oldest, lowest-yielding vineyards – which are also generally the most challenging to manage.

‘Our ampelographic wealth has now led to the rediscovery of our wine as a modern wine,’ said Luciano Piona. ‘Its un-exaggerated yet balanced aroma makes it popular with women and the younger generations.’

He added, ‘In fact, it is the latter who are now mainly managing our denomination following a period of generational change. There is enormous collaboration and the quality has increased considerably despite the intrusive presence of cooperatives.’

Three wines to try

Gorgo “Summa” Custoza Superiore Doc 2016 (organic)

Intense on the nose, with floral notes (rose, jasmine, linden) and spiced with saffron. Complex yet well-paced on the palate. It has flavour, softness and makes for a pleasant and memorable drink.

US importer:  $21 Ideal Wines & Spirits, Massachusetts

UK importer: £18 Ellis of Richmond

Le Tende Custoza Doc 2016 (organic)

Intriguing spicy traits, with hints of medicinal herbs and light aromatic notes. There is well-profiled acidity, it is intense and tasty on the mid-palate and has a lengthy finish.

US importer: $8 Wine West, LLC

Massimo Ronca Custoza Doc 2016

Refreshing and vivacious with an immediate saline character. Fruity and medicinal herb notes conceal style and character.

US importer: $15,99 Eagle Eye Brands, Michigan

UK importer: £15 Humble Grape

Read more about the Custoza vineyard land

The post Guide to Custoza vineyards and grape varieties appeared first on Decanter.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015 preview

Fri, 16/03/2018 - 13:04

Michaela Morris gets under the bonnet of this highly anticipated vintage of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. See her tasting notes and scores below...

The unique Vigna Tonda parcel at Avignonesi.Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015

Entering Montepulciano’s Fortezza Medicea to taste the 2015 vintage of Vino Nobile, expectations were high. The Consorzio awarded the vintage five stars, and Poliziano’s Federico Carletti calls it ‘one of the best in the last 10 years.’

Vintage conditions Related content:


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