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Western Australian Chardonnay panel tasting results

Tue, 22/01/2019 - 13:00

Although the 2017 vintage was less impressive than 2016 and 2015, this tasting delivered some exceptional quality Chardonnays with regional personality. Anthony Rose reports...

60 Western Australian Chardonnays tasted with 3 Exceptional, 4 Outstanding and 22 Highly Recommended The tasters: Sarah Ahmed, Roger Jones and Anthony Rose Scroll down to see the tasting notes & scores


See all of the wines tasted here You may also like: What’s hot in Adelaide Hills: New styles and wines to try Top Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines Full Chablis 2017 vintage report with wine ratings Wine trends to watch in 2019

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Michelin France 2019: Beaucastel and Lafaurie-Peyraguey owners see stars

Tue, 22/01/2019 - 12:45

Michelin has awarded stars to a record 75 new restaurants in its France 2019 guide, with debuts for the Perrin family’s L’Oustalet restaurant in the Rhône and Lafaurie-Peyraguey’s newly opened ‘Lalique’ in Sauternes.

The setting for 'Lalique' restaurant at Ch. Lafaurie Peyraguey in Sauternes.

The Perrins, owners of Château de Beaucastel, run L’Oustalet in Gigondas with chef Laurent Deconinck, who has overseen food at the restaurant since 2009.

Although newly starred in the Michelin France 2019 guide, L’Oustalet itself has been going for 40 years.

Owned by the Perrins since 2009, its focus on seasonal food and wine pairings, backed by a current cellar of 1,200 different wines, has already made it a destination for those in-the-know.

‘It’s just wonderful,’ said Deconinck of his star. ‘Michelin has followed my exploits and the evolution in my cuisine, and today has made sense of it all.’

Further west, Michelin also recognised the rising profile of Sauternes as a destination by awarding a star to ‘Lalique’ restaurant at the newly refurbished Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey.

The estate is owned by Lalique chairman Silvio Denz and the restaurant at Lafaurie-Peyraguey is run by young chef Jerôme Schilling. It has only been open for around six months and the restaurant is accompanied by a luxury accommodation at the estate.

Denz bought Lafaurie-Peyraguey in 2014, kick-starting fresh quality assessments of the vineyards and plans to renovate the château building; with a view to improving the luxury tourism offering in this rural, sweet wine-producing region south of Bordeaux.

Both Lalique and L’Oustalet formed part of a record year for Michelin France. Inspectors awarded one, two or three stars to a record 75 new restaurants.

See Decanter’s insider guide to Bordeaux châteaux restaurants

There were several high-profile surprises in the 2019 Guide.

Among them, chef Marc Veyrat lost a star only one year after being upgraded to three stars at his La Maison des Bois restaurant in Manigod, Haue-Savoie, eastern France.

And chef Sebastien Bras found himself back in the guide in 2019, despite handing back his three Michelin stars in autumn 2017 – citing the pressure of cooking to a particular set of rules.

To the apparent surprise of Bras, Michelin re-instated his two stars at Le Suquet restaurant in Aveyron, according to French media reports.

Those awarded three stars in the 2019 guide included Mirazur, located near to Menton on the French Riviera and led by chef Mauro Colagreco, as well as Le Clos des Sens, run by Laurent Petit in Annecy-le-Vieux.

‘From remarkable regional dynamism, to showcasing new talented youngsters, and to an unprecedented number of new star-studded restaurants led by women, the 2019 vintage shines brightly in many ways,’ said Gwendal Poullenec, international director of the Michelin Guides.

See also:

Best Bordeaux hotels Great wineries to visit in 2019: Travel inspiration

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Napa new releases to drink in 2019

Mon, 21/01/2019 - 17:39

After a series of challenging years characterised by climatic extremes, 2019 delivers some highly anticipated Napa wine releases...

We can’t forget the excessive rain and wildfires that have blighted California over the last few years, but winemakers have battled on through.



function trackVivino(wineId, initialAction) { if (window.ipc && window.ipc.utils) { const category = 'Premium'; const action = 'Vivino Buy '+initialAction; var label = wineId+ ' ~ Collection ~ '+initialAction; window.ipc.utils.trackEvent(category, action, label); } } You might also like: Top Napa Cabernet wines for the cellar Californian Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 panel tasting results Screaming Eagle: More than the sum of its parts

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Whiskies dominate Christie’s top 10 ‘wine lots’ for 2018

Mon, 21/01/2019 - 09:00

Results released by Christie’s show why 2018 may go down as the year when whiskies went mainstream in the fine wine auction market.

The Macallan 50 Year Old single malt Scotch, in a Lalique bottle, was one of the top auction lots at Christie's in 2018.

Whiskies made up four of the top seven wine and spirits lots auctioned by Christie’s globally in 2018, in US dollar terms.

Top lot for the year was the record-breaking The Macallan 1926, 60 Year Old single malt Scotch, which sold for $1.5 million (£1.2m) at a London auction in November.

In fourth and fifth place were The Macallan 50 Year Old, in a Lalique bottle, and The Yamazaki 50 Year Old, both fetching $181,440 (£144,000), shows a Christie’s list released to

Another single malt Scotch, Springbank 1919 50 Year Old, came seventh in the rankings, selling for $166,320 (£132,000).

All had a scarcity value, with Christie’s listing the Springbank as one of 24 bottles, The Macallan 50 as ‘bottle 343 of 470’ and The Yamazaki 50 as one of 150 bottles.

Which other lots made the Christie’s 2018 top 10 list?

DRC’s Romanée-Conti 1988 dominated the rest of the Christie’s top 10 list. Two 12-bottle lots of the renowned Burgundy Pinot came second and third; the highest price being $362,880 (£288,000). A six-bottle lot of the same wine came sixth in the ranking, selling for $166,320 (£132,000).

In 8th, 9th and 10th position respectively were:

  • 12 bottles of Henri Jayer Cros Parantoux 1999, which sold for $136,955;
  • 12 bottles of Latour 1945, which sold for $135,600;
  • 12 bottles of DRC Montrachet 1986, which sold for $120,960 (£96,000).
Rare whiskies on the rise

The Christie’s ranking underlined a rise to prominence for collectible, aged whiskies at auction. Christie’s rival Sotheby’s also reported on a ‘surge’ in interest last year.

The auction market for rare whiskies was valued at £36 million in the UK alone in 2018, according to valuation and consultancy service Rare Whisky 101.

However, it also warned of fakes ‘infiltrating’ the market, especially bottlings purportedly pre-dating the 20th Century.


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Austria: Native vines, Distinctive vines

Mon, 21/01/2019 - 08:00
Weinviertel. Promotional feature

What do Grüner Veltliner, Blaufränkisch and rarities like Rotgipfler, Zierfandler or Sankt Laurent have in common? They are all indigenous Austrian grape varieties, which are all still planted there.

Whites: an extended family

Austria’s outstanding player at all levels among white grapes is Grüner Veltliner: invigorating, peppery and refreshing wines, medium-weight examples with firm body, but also highly concentrated, profound and fascinatingly complex bottlings. Three other Austrian whites, Neuburger, Rotgipfler and Zierfandler, are related to each other through the Roter Veltliner grape variety (no relation to Grüner Veltliner) and claim it as a ‘parent’. Roter Veltliner produces distinctive, elegant and extract-rich wines, primarily in the regions of Wagram, Kamptal and Kremstal. Rotgipfler, a crossing of Roter Veltliner and Traminer, is also characterised by high extract. It grows almost exclusively in its native Thermenregion, delivering wines with subtle acidity and often-exotic fruit aromatics. It is frequently blended with Zierfandler (also known as Spätrot) – a crossing of Roter Veltliner with a Traminer-like variety, producing the regional specialty ‘Spätrot-Rotgipfler’. Zierfandler also produces wines in the Thermenregion with high extract, prominent acidity and delicate floral notes. The final variety in the collection is Neuburger, a crossing of Roter Veltliner and Sylvaner, which is mostly grown in the Wachau, Thermenregion and Leithaberg, yielding robust wines with spicy-floral or nutty notes.

Vineyards in Wagram. Credit: AWMB / Marcus Wiesner


A trio of reds

In addition to the large number of indigenous whites, several red wine varieties have their origins in Austria. The best-known of these is Blaufränkisch. First mentioned in the 18th century, today it delivers impressive wines with distinctive terroir, profound fruit and vibrant acidity, especially in Burgenland and Carnuntum. The red speciality of the Thermenregion is Sankt Laurent, a member of the Pinot family. Very demanding of both vineyard and winegrower, with appropriate care it yields powerful wines with subtle fruit, often with earthy notes. The most widely cultivated red variety in Austria, Zweigelt (originally called Rotburger) was created by crossing Blaufränkisch with Sankt Laurent in 1922 at Klosterneuburg, and is vinified both in easy-drinking styles as well as yielding powerful, concentrated and ageworthy barrique wines.

The generous 2018 vintage

This vintage delivered a good quantity of great quality wine from all varieties. Higher than usual spring temperatures carried on through to the earliest harvest since records began. Grapes of very fine quality were harvested in all of Austria’s wine-growing regions, promising generous wines with moderate alcohol and balanced acidity.

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Greywacke: Ten years on

Sun, 20/01/2019 - 13:00

You can't mention Greywacke without mentioning Cloudy Bay...

Kevin Judd founded Greywacke after leaving Cloudy Bay.

And mentioning Cloudy Bay brings history – the weight of New Zealand’s fate once seemingly hung on its shoulders.

Of course, brands such as Brancott and Villa Maria have more than played their parts in the high-volume arena, but Cloudy Bay was at the forefront of the country’s transformation into an international power in the ‘fine wine’ sphere, particularly in the case of its Sauvignon Blanc.



function trackVivino(wineId, initialAction) { if (window.ipc && window.ipc.utils) { const category = 'Premium'; const action = 'Vivino Buy '+initialAction; var label = wineId+ ' ~ Collection ~ '+initialAction; window.ipc.utils.trackEvent(category, action, label); } } You might also like: Ata Rangi McCrone Vineyard: Tasting the difference Beyond Sauvignon: Top New Zealand white wines – Panel tasting results Cloudy Bay: Producer profile and latest releases

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Organic Champagnes to try in 2019

Sat, 19/01/2019 - 13:00

We bring you a selection of organic Champagnes to try from smaller-scale producers...

Organic Champagne is produced without the use of chemicals in the vineyard, and only minimal levels of sulphites...

According to the Association des Champagnes Biologiques, only 600 of the 33,000 hectares of vines in Champagne are certified organic, or in the process of certification.

That’s a tiny percentage. The caveat is that not all producers seek certification, citing cost and principles as reasons. Some larger Champagne houses have begun shifting towards organics, and also biodynamics, but it is a gradual process – particularly bearing in mind that many buy in grapes from different growers.

Still, all of this can make your search for fully organic Champagne a long and weary one. Luckily, Decanter’s tastings team has tasted several over the last few months. You can find our top choices below.

A word about sulphites

EU rules set lower maximum limits for sulphites in organic wines than in conventional wines.

There are naturally variations in levels used, although many organic and biodynamic producers attempt to minimise sulphur dioxide use wherever possible.

Some organic, biodynamic and ‘natural’ winemakers produce ‘no added sulphur’ wines.

All wine has some level of sulphur dioxide, which is in small amounts during fermentation.

Winemakers traditionally add extra sulphur dioxide to kill off naturally occurring yeasts on the grapes and in the cellar. It is also added at bottling to act as an anti-oxidant, to help preserve the wine as it’s shipped throughout the world and, potentially, then stored for many months or years.

While sulphites must be listed on bottle labels as a potential allergen, some experts have said that there is no proven link between sulphites and headaches.

Best organic Champagne: function trackVivino(wineId, initialAction) { if (window.ipc && window.ipc.utils) { const category = 'Premium'; const action = 'Vivino Buy '+initialAction; var label = wineId+ ' ~ Collection ~ '+initialAction; window.ipc.utils.trackEvent(category, action, label); } } You might also like: Decanter’s guide to anniversary buys 2019 Best Champagnes of 2018 tasted by our experts How does English sparkling wine compare to Champagne? The vintage category

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Valparaíso | Casablanca Valley Best Of Wine Tourism award winners 2019

Fri, 18/01/2019 - 17:36

Promotional featureThe winning wineries, restaurants and hotels that excel in Valparaíso | Casablanca Valley in Chile

Winners 2019.

The areas that make up Valparaíso|Casablanca Valley in Chile have seen the benefits since its appointment as a Great Wine Capital. As such, the most outstanding wineries and organisations that have enhanced the local economy and tourism were recognised with a Best Of Wine Tourism 2019 award in the categories of Accommodation, Restaurants, Sustainability in Wine Tourism, Architecture and Landscapes, Art and Culture, Innovation in Wine Tourism and Wine Tourism Services.

Mario Agliati, President of the Association of Wine Entrepreneurs of the Casablanca Valley, stressed the importance of this contest both nationally and internationally, and said how interesting it is that participants of the three parts that make up Valparaíso|Casablanca Valley are participants in this competition, since it allows them to highlight their attractions and the contributions they make to this unique destination.

The winners Accommodation
  • Second place: Casa Macaire
  • Third place: Puerto Claro
Wine tourism restaurant
Equilibrio, Matetic vineyard
  • Second place: Puerto Claro
  • Third place: Verso Hotel
Architecture and landscape
Casas del Bosque vineyard
  • Second place: WineBox
  • Third place: Puerto Claro
Innovative experience of wine tourism
Stay the Table
  • Second place: Matetic vineyard
  • Third place: Puerto Claro
Wine tourism services
Puerto Claro restaurant
  • Second place: WineBox
  • Third place: Casas del Bosque vineyard
Practice of sustainable tourism of wine
Emiliana vineyard
  • Second place: WineBox
  • Third place: Veramonte vineyard

Casa Mirador-Casas del Bosque Winery in Casablanca, Chile, won the International Best Of Wine Tourism award at the Great Wine Capitals Annual Meeting that was held in Adelaide last November.

The Great Wine Capitals Global Network

Founded in 1999, the Great Wine Capitals Global Network is an alliance of ten internationally renowned wine regions – Adelaide, South Australia; Bordeaux, France; Lausanne, Switzerland; 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 recognise 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.


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US Supreme Court hears dispute on wine selling rules

Fri, 18/01/2019 - 16:30

A wine trade dispute with the potential to set an important precedent on inter-state sales has been heard by US Supreme Court judges this week.

US Supreme Court courtoom.

A hearing before Supreme Court justices on 16 January has been billed as potentially the most important case since the Granholm v Heald decision in 2005, which helped paved the way for wineries to sell directly to consumers beyond their own state.

At issue in the current case, Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Zackary Blair, is the desire of Total Wine, plus a separate couple, to set up wine shops in Tennessee.

State rules say that prospective retailers can only apply for an initial licence after two years of residency. This must be renewed after one year; and the renewal requires a decade of prior residency.

Key to the case is the extent to which states can justify discrimination against out-of-state wine retailers.

This is why several observers believe the Supreme Court ruling, expected in spring this year, may have far-reaching consequences for inter-state wine sales.

A lot of this week’s Supreme Court hearing focused on the scope of the 21st Amendment, set up after Prohibition to give broad alcohol regulatory powers to states – partly in the name of public health and safety – and federal Commerce Clause rules designed to prevent economic protectionism within states.

Excerpts from the hearing

‘Is it your position that the 21st Amendment makes all of our other jurisprudence wrong?’ Justice Sotomayor asked Shay Dvoretzky, lawyer for the Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association – a trade body seeking to prevent the new licences being granted.

‘No, it’s not,’ said Dvoretzky, who, according to a court transcript of the hearing, nevertheless argued that Tennessee’s residency rule was legal under the 21st, because the amendment gave states the power to regulate alcohol within their own borders.

‘The protectionism lens is just the wrong lens through which to look at this issue,’ said David Franklin, a solicitor general for Illinois, speaking in support of Dvoretzky.

Franklin added, ‘This Court has repeatedly stated, most recently in Granholm itself, that Section two of the 21st Amendment gives states virtually complete control over how to structure their domestic liquor distribution systems. Now questions have obviously arisen already this morning about whether residency requirements were part of that structure. And they were.’

Dvoretzky added later in the hearing that there was a clear justification for the Tennessee rule.

He said, ‘Duration [of residency] facilitates background checks. It facilitates investigation and enforcement of the law because somebody who’s been there for a while is more likely to have substantial assets that can be enforced — that can be seized, and is less likely to flee at the first sign of trouble.’

Justice Sotomayor said, ‘We understand that having someone there who’s responsible to the community is necessary. That was inherent in the three-tier system [of separate ownership of production, distribution and sale of alcohol within states, which emerged in the wake of the 21st Amendment].

‘But why is it inherent in the three-tier system that you have to have someone who’s only a local do it? There are many states whose three-tier system doesn’t require that. They function fairly well.’

Carter Phillips, lawyer for the licence applicants and representing the Tennessee Alcohol Beverage Commission, said, ‘There’s no doubt that what we’re talking about here is rank discrimination on the basis of commerce.’

He told the court, ‘We are not challenging the three-tier system. All we are seeking is the opportunity to compete into this market.’

Several of the Supreme Court judges appeared particularly interested in the potential ramifications of a ruling.

Phillips denied that his clients had greater aspirations beyond the current case. When asked whether Total Wine wanted to develop an ‘Amazon of liquor’ business model he said the retailer was happy with its ‘bricks-and-mortar’ approach.

Justice Gorsuch said, ‘Why isn’t this just the camel’s nose under the tent?’

Phillips said, ‘Well, if only because, under these circumstances, as the camel at least, or I guess I’m the nose of the camel, that’s not what I’m looking for.’

However, Justice Kagan questioned what position the Court might find itself in if, having sided with the licence applicants, ‘the next case is somebody that says we don’t like this brick-and-mortar stuff, we don’t want to have any physical presence [in the state] at all’.

A decision by the Court was expected in spring 2019.

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Best value Rhône 2017 wines

Fri, 18/01/2019 - 13:00

If you're looking for more bang for your buck, keep an eye out for these wines as they're released by wine merchants...

St-Joseph is where the best value can be found.

Matt Walls selects St-Joseph as the best value appellation in 2017 in his En-primeur report, stating that ‘in a vintage like this, St-Joseph is home to some of the best value wines of France’.

But the Rhône contains so much variety that value can be found in plenty of other appellations too. Here, Matt picks out his top value picks of the vintage.

See also: Top scoring Rhône 2017 wines Northern Rhône 2017 wines Southern Rhône 2017 wines Best value Rhône 2017 wines:


function trackVivino(wineId, initialAction) { if (window.ipc && window.ipc.utils) { const category = 'Premium'; const action = 'Vivino Buy '+initialAction; var label = wineId+ ' ~ Collection ~ '+initialAction; window.ipc.utils.trackEvent(category, action, label); } } Return to the Rhône 2017 hub page

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Barolo patriarch Beppe Colla dies

Fri, 18/01/2019 - 11:00

The patriarch of Barolo, Beppe Colla, has died aged 88, in the year he would have celebrated his 70th harvest.

The area of Barolo DOCG as we know it today is the result of his hard work. In 1960 he joined forces with Renato Ratti and Gildo Cavallotto (among others) on the commission to plot the outer boundaries of the Barolo wine terroir, preparing the DOC.

‘We tried to work on typicity to explain where vineyards have been included in the incoming appellation and where they have been not,’ he said in an interview in 2016.

‘Typically is a notion linked with appellation, of course, but also with the vineyards, the grape variety and the vintage. We can encode the density, the exposure, the altitude, but the typicity is also linked with common sense, and this is not sold by tons.’

Beppe Colla began to make wine after graduating in 1949 from the Scuola Enologica in Alba. After running Casa Vinicola Bonardi, he bought the winery of Cavalier Prunotto in 1956, producing outstanding vintages of Barolo Prunotto up to 1990.

He was also one of the first producers to introduce crus to Barolo in 1960, bottling his wines as Bussia. ‘I can honestly say,’ he told Alessandro Masnaghetti in an interview in 2016, ‘that I came to understand wine when I visited Burgundy in the early ’60s.’

He was one of the first to understand the importance of over-extraction with Nebbiolo grapes, something that can still be a problem today. Many Italians remember his challenges as president of the consortium Consorzio di Tutela Barolo Barbaresco during the methanol scandal, especially as he had always worked for quality wines.

In the ’90s he began a collaboration with Tuscan producer Piero Antinori, to whom he then he sold the winery. A few years later he founded his family winery Poderi Colla with his brother Tino and nephew Pietro. He was also one of the founders of the Order of the Knights of the Truffle and of the Wines of Alba, associating itself with the cuisine of Langhe.

His funeral was on 17 January in the church of Cristo Re in Alba.


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How Pessac-Léognan 2016 wines taste in the bottle

Thu, 17/01/2019 - 17:55

Jane Anson finishes her Bordeaux 2016 in-bottle tastings, with the remaining Pessac-Léognan wines, plus some Pomerol and St-Emilion...

Château Harvest at Haut-BrionPessac-Léognan 2016 wines in the bottle

Bordeaux 2016 has already established itself as a strong vintage, and possibly the best since 2010 in some areas of the Left Bank in particular.

Decanter’s contributing editor and lead Bordeaux taster, Jane Anson, tasted the newly bottled Médoc 2016s in the autumn of 2018, and now she has added Pessac-Léognan whites and reds to her in-bottle reviews of the 2016 vintage.


function trackVivino(wineId, initialAction) { if (window.ipc && window.ipc.utils) { const category = 'Premium'; const action = 'Vivino Buy '+initialAction; var label = wineId+ ' ~ Collection ~ '+initialAction; window.ipc.utils.trackEvent(category, action, label); } } You might also like: Bordeaux 2016 in bottle: The left bank Bordeaux 2016 in bottle: The right bank

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Travel: What’s new in Napa

Thu, 17/01/2019 - 16:00

Always growing and evolving, Napa Valley never gets stale. Discover the best new spots for wine tasting, dining and luxury accommodation in Napa Valley.

Do some tasting at Clos Du ValWhat’s new in Napa Taste

The Prisoner Wine Company
The new Prisoner winery is a wine-country outlaw. Instead of building the customary cosy, rustic-chic tasting room, The Prisoner has created one with dark, industrial and refurbished materials, exuding gothic and medieval vibes. But dissenting from the norm is what The Prisoner Wine Company does best. As a case in point: its cult blends produced with untraditional varietals (there’s no Cabernet Sauvignon here) and provocative labels sold to Constellation Brands for a whopping $285 million in 2016. Why not book The Makery Experience ($125) for a tour and five-course food and wine lunch hosted in the exclusive Makery space, where you can also shop for handcrafted souvenirs from local artisans.

The Village
You could spend an entire day sipping through The Village, Napa’s new wine district consisting of eight boutique tasting rooms, plus the Napa Smith Brewery. While you’re there, sign up for a cooking class at the Food & Wine Center or curate your own picnic basket to enjoy on The Village lawn, which often hosts festivals, concerts, artisan markets and more.

Clos Du Val
One of Napa Valley’s most historic properties has been transported into the 21st century, albeit fashionably late, with a stunning new visitor centre. Clos Du Val, one of the California wineries included in the 1976 Judgement of Paris, designed its new, on-trend digs like a living room, complete with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall that opens out to its estate vineyards. But Clos Du Val’s past is still very much present: repurposed staves from the winery’s original fermentation tanks act as wallpaper and guests can taste library vintages that date back to the 1970s.

Davies Vineyards
More and more Napa Valley wineries are rolling out competitive food and wine experiences, but the Davies Vineyards Bubbles & Caviar Brunch tasting ($130) is the only way to start your day. Davies, a label of Schramsberg Vineyards, pairs six full glasses of Schramsberg’s primo sparkling wine with an entire ounce of caviar – enjoyed several ways with crème fraîche, potato chips and egg yolks, as well as brunch bites such as mushroom and gruyere quiche, and smoked salmon.

See also: Top ten Napa Valley wineries to visit Eat

La Calenda
Chef Thomas Keller advances his takeover of Yountville with a new restaurant, but it’s not what you might expect. La Calenda is located a  few doors down from The French Laundry, Bouchon Bistro, Bouchon Bakery, and Ad Hoc. An elevated mexican concept serving up authentic Oaxacan cuisine, it’s quite the departure from Keller’s other French and comfort-food focused eateries. From heirloom corn used to make fresh tortillas in-house to dried chile peppers, many of the ingredients are sourced directly from Mexico. As for libations, La Calenda has loaded up with more than 30 different mezcals and tequilas to sip straight or in cocktails.


The Francis House
No word yet on whether this place is haunted, for the stone-walled luxury inn does inhabit the former Calistoga Hospital. After sitting vacant for 50 years, the 1886 building built in the French Second Empire style was set to be bulldozed, but was saved just in time. Following a meticulous, three-year, Cinderella makeover, the interior of The Francis House bears little resemblance to its past life. Each of the five, uniquely designed rooms have stone walls, plenty of natural light, stunning marble bathrooms and antique furnishings. Guests also have access to a private pool, garden and kitchen.

The Estate Yountville
A tale of two hotels, The Estate in Yountville boasts a pair of luxury properties with opposite personalities. Choose between the sophisticated and elegant Vintage House or Hotel Villagio, which is decidedly more rock n’ roll. The Villagio lobby, for instance, encourages after-hours imbibing with a full bar, billiards and board games. Both properties have a pool with cabanas, access to a new, full-service spa and are mere steps away from Yountville’s fine dining establishments, wine tasting rooms and boutique shops.

More wine travel guides here

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Are US millennials giving wine the cold shoulder?

Thu, 17/01/2019 - 15:50

Millennials in the US are not diving into the wine world as quickly as predicted, suggests a new report, raising concern that this generation won't compensate for retiring baby boomers.

Millennials are 'not engaging with wine as hoped' in the US, but things may change, says SVB. In Brief
  • Millennials ‘not engaging’ with wine as anticipated but there is time for a shift, says Silicon Valley Bank report
  • Premium wine sales still set to grow by between four and eight percent in the US in 2019
  • California vineyard price rises set to flatten with expected fall-off in takeover deals 
Full Story

Wine sales momentum in the US has shown signs of slowing as more baby boomers reach retirement age and millennials are slower-than-expected to pick up the baton, according to the latest ‘state of the industry’ report from the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) in California.

Millennials, who currently have a median age of 30, account for an estimated 17% of wine consumption in the US and are still expected to become the biggest wine-consuming group in the country by 2027. But, this generation has so far not engaged with wine as much as hoped, SVB said.

‘The unfortunate reality is that while millennials have a better appreciation of wine compared with other cohorts at a similar age, their appreciation has not been reflected in fine wine consumption,’ said Rob McMillan, founder of the SVB’s wine division, in the report.

Commenting on the reasons for this, McMillan, who is also an SVB executive vice president, said in the report, ‘[millennials] lack financial capacity, currently prefer premium spirits and craft beers, and have been slow getting into careers.

‘Cannabis demand skews to younger males today, and that is also likely playing a role in the cohort’s delayed appreciation for wine.’

However, he stressed that there was still time for a shift in momentum.

‘With the median age at 30, this generation still has time to find its footing. But for today, their retail silence, particularly for discretionary and luxury goods, is deafening,’ McMillan said.

Health concerns also played a role, the report said.

Yet, the report added that the industry could do more to engage millennials with better marketing messages.

For now, the so-called Generation X that sits between boomers and millennials, and is smaller in overall size than both of those, is set to become the biggest wine consuming group in the US by 2022, the report forecasts.

Premium wine sales in the US were still expected to grow by between four and eight percent in 2019, after growing by an estimated 5.2% in 2018, said SVB.

That still puts US wine market momentum ahead of several other markets, including the UK.

But SVB warned that ‘premiumisation is nearing its apex as a trend’ and that sales momentum in several premium price segments was slowing, based on Nielsen data.

Price increases would likely be minimal in 2019, partly due to an expected surplus of wine; a feature that may please wine lovers in the short-term.

‘As an industry, we’re transitioning to a period of flat-to-negative volume growth, low sales growth and a modest surplus of grapes, which will put pressure on prices,’ the report said.

SVB classes a premium wine as $10 or above at retail, per bottle. This category commands 54% of the US wine market by value and around 30% of market volume, it said.

SVB estimated that Nielsen figures covered around two thirds of the off-trade [retail] wine market. It acknowledged that Nielsen data did not include direct-to-consumer sales or some big players, such as Costco.

Some separate research studies have suggested that the millennial generation has shown greater interest in the so-called ‘experience economy’ rather than in simply purchasing at retail.

The post Are US millennials giving wine the cold shoulder? appeared first on Decanter.

Wine world legend Gerard Basset OBE MW MS dies

Thu, 17/01/2019 - 11:48

Leading figures and institutions across the wine world have paid tribute to the warmth and genius of Gerard Basset, a 'great gentleman of wine’ who simultaneously held both the Master of Wine and Master Sommelier titles, and who has died this week.

Tributes pour in for Gerard Basset, OBE MW MS MBA MSc: 7 March 1957 to 16 January 2019.

Gerard Basset OBE MW MS died on 16 January with his family by his side, following a battle with cancer of the oesophagus that was first diagnosed in 2017. He was 61 years old, and would have been 62 on 7 March.

He will be remembered as one of the wine world’s leading lights, not least for having been the only person to improbably hold both the Master of Wine and Master Sommelier titles – many struggle to gain even one of those accolades – alongside an MBA in wine business and an MSc.

Basset also won the title of ‘world’s best sommelier’ in 2010 and was given an OBE in the UK in 2011.

Those achievements, while undoubtedly impressive, were underpinned by Basset’s work in mentoring many young sommeliers who have gone on to be ranked among the world’s finest in their own right.

‘Words cannot express how saddened we are to hear of the passing of our former president and friend, Gerard Basset,’ said the Court of Master Sommeliers.

‘He has been a mentor and inspiration to so many, a shining example of courtesy, humility and professionalism that we all should aspire to.’

Basset was a regular judge and expert taster for Decanter, and was appointed co-chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2017, the year in which he also gained an MSc from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine.

He was also a vice-chair at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards, and had previously won the publication’s Man of the Year title, in 2013.

John Stimpfig, Decanter’s content director, said, ‘The news of Gerard Basset MW MS OBE’s death is a hard and heavy blow to all who knew this great gentleman of wine. He was a true wine legend who gave so much to so many, both personally and professionally.’

Alongside all of this, Basset found time to be a founding partner of Hotel du Vin. He also opened wine hotel TerraVina with his wife, Nina, in the New Forest in southern England.

That business re-launched as ‘Spot in the Woods’ last year, as part of efforts to adapt the operation to fit around Basset’s illness.

Nina Basset said, ‘Whilst we are devastated to have to say goodbye to Gerard for the last time, we draw strength from the kind messages that we have already received from the many people whose lives he touched.

‘He fought a brave battle against cancer and we are comforted that he died at home surrounded by his family and that he is now at peace. Both Romané [our son] and I are profoundly grateful for the support we have received from our friends across the world, including the many in the wine and hospitality industries and to know that Gerard was so loved by all those who knew him.’

Basset was born and raised in France. He originally trained as a chef. However, after moving to the UK in the 1980s, he began working front-of-house and exchanged the kitchen for the sommelier role.

The story goes that he only came to the UK for a football match in Liverpool, but ended up sticking around and building his career in the country’s hospitality trade.

Speaking to Decanter’s Brian St-Pierre in 2013, Basset said, ‘You have to give back as much as you have taken, after all.

‘I totally believe in education, for my team and my proteges of course, but also continually for myself.’

His family said that there would be a small, private funeral and, later in the spring, a memorial service that will be held in London. In the meantime, messages of condolence can be sent to

A crowdfunding account has been set up to fund the publishing of Basset’s memoirs,  Tasting Victory – The Life & Wines of the World’s Favourite Sommelier – you can donate here.

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Southern Rhône 2017 report: ‘Structured and ageworthy wines’

Wed, 16/01/2019 - 15:00

A round up of the 2017 vintage in the Southern Rhône, including Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Rasteau...

Finding balance and drinkability isn’t as easy compared to 2016 in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.Southern Rhône 2017

A hot, very dry year has resulted in a very good to excellent vintage of powerful, structured red wines, though sometimes overripe or with leathery tannins. Whites tend towards richness over freshness.

4/5 Scroll down to see Matt’s tasting notes and scores

When I asked Pascal Lafond at Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine in Lirac what the key factors in shaping the 2017 vintage in the Southern Rhône were, there was no hesitation: ‘The dryness,’ he said, ‘and coulure in the Grenache.’ Both affected yields, which are sharply down in 2017, but they also impacted the style of the wines.

The coulure (the failure of fruit to form after flowering) was caused by a sudden snap of cold, wet weather in April and early May, after an early start to the season following a warm February.

One result is that some winemakers have had to recalibrate their blends to include higher proportions of other grape varieties. Another consequence is that certain producers, such as Domaine La Collière in Rasteau and Clos du Mont-Olivet in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, didn’t manage to make as many different cuvées as usual, meaning top quality fruit destined for prestige cuvées has ended up supercharging their classic blends.

‘Of the various Southern Rhône crus, the best wines (and some of the worst) were made in Châteauneuf-du-Pape’

The summer was marginally warmer than usual, and the grapes ripened quickly in healthy conditions. Spring saw less rain than usual, and the summer was exceptionally dry. Thankfully, there was little water stress since crops were so light.

It was an early start to the harvest, with fine weather throughout September allowing producers to pick each parcel at optimum maturity. Anaïs Vallot of biodynamic Domaine Vallot in Vinsobres said ‘the quality was absolutely great, nothing rotten, a really healthy vintage.’

Conditions were also beneficial for lignified, woody stems which, when used judiciously, have really added complexity, texture and lift to the wines.

Winemakers brought in small bunches with tiny grapes – thick skins, making for plentiful tannins and phenolic compounds, but little juice. Fred Férigoule at Domaine Le Sang de Cailloux in Vacqueyras refers to it as ‘a bonsai vintage’. Good news if you’re making tannic reds, less welcome if you’re aiming for juicy whites.

Quick link: See all Rhône 2017 tasting notes & scores

Jérôme Bréssy of Domaine du Gourt de Mautens, whose IGP Vaucluse made from vines in Rasteau is one of the big successes of the vintage.


The wines are similar in style to the 2015 vintage, but less homogenous in quality and a little less sunny – less obvious alcohol, darker fruit and firmer tannins.

2017 doesn’t have the effortless balance and joie de vivre of the 2016s, but will be enjoyed by those looking for structured, tannic, ageworthy wines.

Of the various Southern Rhône crus, the best wines (and some of the worst) were made in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Rasteau has outdone itself and produced some fabulous wines this year, while Lirac benefitted from its natural freshness, as did Gigondas and Vinsobres.

Yields may be low in the south this year, but Rhône lovers take note – they will be lower still in 2018.

Read Matt’s individual commune reports and top buys below Matt’s top Southern Rhône 2017 wines:


function trackVivino(wineId, initialAction) { if (window.ipc && window.ipc.utils) { const category = 'Premium'; const action = 'Vivino Buy '+initialAction; var label = wineId+ ' ~ Collection ~ '+initialAction; window.ipc.utils.trackEvent(category, action, label); } } See all Rhône 2017 tasting notes & scores Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The Grenache may have taken a hammering this year, but Mourvèdre, when grown on water-retaining soils, performed well.

In 2017, Vincent Avril at Clos des Papes lost 40% of his crop due to hail, coulure and drought, yielding just 15hl/ha. He made up for the lack of Grenache with extra Mourvèdre, and the result is a deeper, darker, long-lived vintage.

This is also a vintage for old vines with deep roots – the ancient Grenaches of Domaine Le Cailloux’s Le Centenaire have yielded a phenomenal wine.

It’s a very ripe, robust vintage that can tip over into overripeness, high alcohol and tough tannins – especially where winemakers have been tempted to extract too enthusiastically.

Finding balance and drinkability isn’t as easy compared to the previous vintage, especially among the Tradition bottlings. The best wines are among the Cuvées Spéciales, where you can find exceptional, cellar-worthy Châteauneufs in all their pomp and glory.

White Châteauneuf performed surprisingly well considering the style of the vintage. Naturally opulent this year, the most successful have dialled down the sweet, silky oak and focused on building tension through acidity, subtle bitterness or a mineral dimension – some to impressive effect.

Value picks

Château Beauchêne, Vignobles de la Serrière, Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2017
Domaine Croze-Granier, Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2017
Clos St Michel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2017

Gigondas, Vacqueyras & Beaumes de Venise

It’s a solid showing by many of the best estates of Vacqueyras this year, with some imposing, concentrated wines on the one hand, and medium-bodied, juicy expressions on the other. But it’s not a year to buy blind. Many less successful wines had harsh tannins due to the drought.

Gigondas performed more consistently. It’s a forceful year, with many wines showing assertive tannins, acidity, and fruit – which can all be a bit too much if not managed with a light touch. They sometimes lack the charisma of the stellar 2016 vintage, but there are many lovely 2017s to choose from. Céline Chauvet at Domaine du Grapillon d’Or compares 2017 to the 2015 vintage.

Beaumes de Venise is as up and down as ever, but if you’re looking for imposing reds with robust structures that will age with interest, there are some great value choices here.

Value picks

Domaine des Bernardins, Beaumes de Venise 2017
Domaine de L’Espigouette, Vacqueyras 2017
Domaine de Fontavin, Combe Sauvage, Gigondas 2017

Rasteau, Cairanne & Vinsobres

The 2017 vintage was particularly successful in Rasteau, which has produced a clutch of juicy, pure and intense wines, some for drinking now and some that will blossom in a few years time. No doubt the water-retaining clay and marl soils helped the wines retain their sense of juiciness and soft yet generous tannins. Don’t miss out.

The Cairannes don’t hit the mark quite so regularly, occasionally showing overripeness and drying tannins, but the best have a winning combination of freshness, vibrancy and intensity of fruit. The wines of Domaine Alary, both whites and reds, are particularly fine this year.

Vinsobres’ yields weren’t hit as hard as its neighbours, and it’s another high-quality vintage. Its northern location and high-altitude vineyards have helped it to tackle the climatic excesses of the year and produce a number of imposing and attention-grabbing but refreshing wines.

Value picks

Domaine Alary, Tradition, Cairanne 2017
Domaine Combe Julière, Tradition, Rasteau 2017
Domaine Jaume, Altitude 420, Vinsobres 2017

Lirac & Tavel

It was a remarkably reliable year for the west bank crus, with Lirac making impressive wines in all three colours. The reds were particularly successful, with none of the gruff tannins that affected all the appellations of the east bank to some extent, and very little overripeness. They are neat, precise and highly drinkable, if generally lacking the complexity and longevity of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

For elegant, medium-bodied whites, Lirac is the go-to southern appellation in 2017.

For rosé, naturally Tavel is where to look, with a handful of strong, confident, vivid pink wines that really make an impression. It’s a unique style that remains cruelly out in the cold due the wine’s unfashionably deep tint. But if you’re more into flavour and texture than colour, you won’t be disappointed.

Value picks

Domaine des Carabiniers, Rosé, Tavel 2017
Domaine Maby, La Fermade, Lirac 2017
Domaine Coudoulis, Evidence, Lirac 2017

Return to the Rhône 2017 hub page

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Grand Tasting

Wed, 16/01/2019 - 14:49

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Lorum Ipsum

Jérôme Bréssy of Domaine du Gourt de Mautens, whose IGP Vaucluse made from vines in Rasteau is one of the big successes of the vintage.

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Lorum Ipsum

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Fans rush to buy Game of Thrones Scotch whiskies – Update

Wed, 16/01/2019 - 11:21

Strong early demand for the Game of Thrones-themed single malts, launched on pre-order by Diageo and broadcaster HBO, has seen at least two UK-based retailers sell out of initial stock in just a few hours.

Several of the Game of Thrones single malt Scotch whiskies and their origins.

Each of the Game of Thrones Scotch whiskies has been paired with a particular house from the seven kingdoms in the television series, plus also the Night’s Watch guard, said Diageo.

It has launched the eight single malts, priced between £38 and £65 per bottle, in partnership with broadcaster HBO in several European countries, including the UK.

A spokesperson for the Whisky Exchange retailer said it had sold out of initial stocks. ‘This was very popular with both whisky and Game of Thrones lovers, and sold out in just five hours,’ said Dawn Davies MW, head buyer at The Whisky Exchange. ‘It’s great to see Diageo partner with Game of Thrones to get their malts out to a wider audience.’

Another retailer, Master of Malt, also sold out within hours of launching its pre-order offer – even though it restricted customers to one bottle per expression.

A spokesperson for the retailer told, ‘The Game of Thrones Whisky Collection has been one of the most successful launches we’ve seen in recent times, with almost every line selling out on pre-order in less than two hours.’

Amazon was also selling the whiskies on pre-order in several European countries and still appeared to have stocks available by early Wednesday afternoon UK time.

The full line-up of the Game of Thrones single malt Scotch collection, by Diageo and HBO. Credit: Diageo / HBO.

Highlights include a Lagavulin 9 Year Old from Islay, a style renowned for its intense smoky and peaty style, which has been chosen to represent the rich House Lannister.

There is also an Oban Bay Reserve, paired with the Night’s Watch, and a Talisker Select Reserve, paired with House Greyjoy.

The full list of Game of Thrones single malt Scotch whiskies and its corresponding house:

  • House Stark: Dalwhinnie Winter’s Frost (suggested retail price: £48 for 70cl)
  • House Tully: Singleton of Glendullan Select (srp: £38)
  • House Targaryen:  Cardhu Gold Reserve, (srp: £48)
  • House Lannister: Lagavulin 9 Year Old, (srp: £65)
  • The Night’s Watch: Oban Bay Reserve, (srp: £65)
  • House Greyjoy: Talisker Select Reserve, (srp: £48)
  • House Baratheon: Royal Lochnagar 12 Year Old, (srp: £38)
  • House Tyrell: Clynelish Reserve, (srp: £48)

The first whiskies were due to be sent to fans from around 19 February, said Diageo, ahead of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones in April.

Its launch follows the debut of ‘White Walker’, a Game of Thrones-inspired, blended Scotch within the Johnnie Walker brand.

There has also been a Game of Thrones wine range, which was tasted by our experts in 2017.

Updated 16/01/2019 at 13:45 UK time with extra comments from Master of Malt.

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