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Great Wine Capitals: Mainz | Rheinhessen Best of Wine Tourism winners 2019

Wed, 19/09/2018 - 15:54

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See the winners, after ten years membership in the Great Wine Capitals network...

The garden at the Listmann winery.

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Great Wine Capitals: Mainz | Rheinhessen Best of Wine Tourism winners 2019

Which companies or initiatives stand out for their special wine tourism offers? After the previous competition in Mainz, a nine-member jury of experts discussed this question and decided who would qualify as a winner in the seven categories of the Best Of Wine Tourism Awards 2019 of the international network of the Great Wine Capitals (GWC).

“It was a great pleasure for me to chair the jury for the first time – and at the same time a challenge. There is such a diverse and innovative range of wine experiences in the Great Wine Capital Mainz|Rheinhessen that the decision-making process was not always easy,” says District Councilor Dorothea Schäfer (Mainz-Bingen district) as chairman of the jury.

For the first time, an applicant was able to score in two categories in the same year: the LEBEN WINERY am Morstein in Westhofen convinced in “Wine Gastronomy” as well as “Art and Culture”.

Mainz | Rheinhessen Best of Wine Tourism winners 2019:

Domhof winery

Innovative wine tourism experiences: Weingut Domhof, Guntersblum
Traditional wine tourism is combined with playful challenges at the Domhof – that convinced the jury. Because in the red wine cellar you should not only try wine or listen to the winegrowing stories, but it also becomes an “escape room”: as “wine spies”, the guests slip into a new role and experience wine in an unusual way. The cellar door closes, the timer starts and exactly 60 minutes remain to solve all the puzzles and to solve the mystery. The Domhof will win the Best Of Wine Tourism Awards 2019 for this innovative wine tourism experience. The winery has already received two awards in previous years: 2018 in the category “Accommodation” and 2010 in the category “Architecture, Parks & Gardens”.

Wine tourism service : Die Mainzer Winzer e.V., Mainz
The association “Die Mainzer Winzer e.V.”, is a regional association of 26 wineries in the city of Mainz. Their common goal is to present the cultural heritage of wine in its numerous facets in an exciting way and to make it a real experience. This happens in the wineries themselves as well as in numerous events, such as the wine marathon, Best of Mainzer Wine, or the premium tasting. The most well-known wine meeting places of the Mainz winegrowers are probably the wine bar on the Rhine bank or the Mainzer market breakfast, which has meanwhile become a cult event, which inspires visitors across all age groups. The jury was also impressed by this strong wine tourism service and honored the initiative with the Best of Wine Tourism Award 2019 in this category.

Art and Culture: GUT LEBEN am Morstein, Westhofen
GUT LEBEN am Morstein convinced the jury in two categories: The Best Of Wine Tourism Award 2019 in “Wine Gastronomy” as well as in “Art & Culture” goes to the operators of the winegrower’s villa, awoken from the Sleeping Beauty Castle. The event gastronomy and conference location with a hotel has enriched cultural life in the region since November 2017. Culture and events at the highest level attract visitors to the vaulted cellars. Selected artists of various genres such as Lars Reichow, Quadro Nuevo, Wolfgang Haffner and the Aris Quartet are guests here. An exceptional, spacious tunnel vault – the former wine cellar – with excellent acoustics and space for 250 guests creates unforgettable experiences. The enjoyment of art completes a rich offer of fine wines from Rheinhessen.

Food and Wine: GUT LEBEN am Morstein, Westhofen
GUT LEBEN am Morstein scored well in the “Wine Gastronomy” category and received the Best Of Wine Tourism Award in 2019. Its two restaurants “WEINGARTEN am Morstein” and “SCHLÖSSCHEN am Morstein” offer in the exclusive ambience of a historic winegrower’s villa and Mediterranean garden restaurant homestyle, modern cuisine as well as innovative taste experiences on a gourmet level. The focus is on the use of regional products – often home grown – and the rediscovery of traditional raw materials such as old varieties of vegetables. In addition to classic food with meat and fish, a wide variety of vegan dishes can be found. The dishes are accompanied by fine wines from renowned wineries in the area.

Accommodation: IBB Hotel, Ingelheim
If a Europe-wide operating hotel chain orients its equipment and services entirely according to its region, then that is worthy of an award – decided the jury. The Best Of Wine Tourism Award 2019 in the category Accommodation is therefore awarded to the 4-star IBB Hotel, which opened in 2017 and offers 109 rooms. All rooms take on the design of the wine region Rheinhessen. Natural materials combined with modern design elements and colors, with pictures and style elements on the subject of wine. In the corridors, the carpet is in the blue of the Pinot Noir grape with woven-in vine leaves. The light-flooded restaurant and the hotel bar are located on the 4th floor and offer views over the rooftops of Ingelheim. Wine events are offered in our own restaurant or as part of gourmet tours in the region by vintage bus.

Sustainability in wine tourism: Kultur- und Weinbotschafter Rheinhessen e.V.
Experience how wine is made. Accompany the winemaker during the year and work together. Experience Rheinhessen intensively. Since 2018, this has been possible within the framework of the project “Winemakers for a year” from the Kultur- und Weinbotschafter Rheinhessen e.V. In four modules – one in each season – the work in the vineyard and thus wine development can be experienced first-hand. It offers a varied insight into the winegrowing industry and the cultural landscape of Rheinhessen. This offer is awarded with the Best Of Wine Tourism Award 2019 in the category “Sustainability in Wine Tourism”.

Architecture, parks and gardens: Listmann Winery, Dorn-Dürkheim
Cypress trees, sequoias and palm trees decorate the courtyard and garden. The three-tiered yew is enthroned in the middle of the Buchs Rondell – the logo of the Listmann Winery. It stands for nature, transformed by the human hand with much love to garden culture. As with the vines: the natural product grape becomes the cultural asset of wine. For this romantic and lovingly designed property (pictured top), Listmann Winery receives the Best Of Wine Tourism Award 2019 in the category “Architecture, Parks and Gardens”. The traditional winery is run by graduate agricultural engineer Eckhard Listmann and his sons, winemaker Welf and viticulture technician Leif. For 15 years, the winery has participated in the Day of the Open Gardens and Courtyard/Gardens at Dusk.

About Great Wine Capital Mainz|Rheinhessen

Mainz and Rheinhessen have been members of the network of the current ten Great Wine Capitals since June 2008 – and thus for ten years. The state capital of Rhineland-Palatinate and the largest winegrowing region in Germany are the exclusive German representation of the network. Here marketing organizations for tourism and wine, cultural initiatives, winegrowers, scientists and hoteliers, restaurateurs and traders work together towards the goal to better place Mainz, Rheinhessen and its wines and wine tourism offers on the global stage.

About 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 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

The post Great Wine Capitals: Mainz | Rheinhessen Best of Wine Tourism winners 2019 appeared first on Decanter.

Bodegas Salentein celebrates its 20th vintage

Wed, 19/09/2018 - 15:35

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The pioneers of the Uco Valley reach landmark anniversary...

Bodegas Salentein in Uco Valley.

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Bodegas Salentein 20th vintage

Bodegas Salentein has led the transformation of the Uco Valley, positioning it as the most recognised wine region in Argentina. With its Barrel Selection Malbec 1999, one of the first estate bottled Uco Valley Malbecs, Salentein began to popularise this varietal and regional style. Today, after 20 vintages, the Barrel Selection cuvée is a paradigm of Uco Valley Malbec.

From the beginning, the Uco Valley’s charm and unique personality shaped founder Myndert Pon’s vision for producing the highest quality wines, and inspired him to position the Uco Valley as a world-class wine region.

In 1996, Pon arrived in the Uco Valley with the intention of not only founding a winery, but also to transform the region. His comprehensive and long-term vision was the key to achieving this goal.

Bodegas Salentein’s vineyards produce some of the world’s most awarded wines. Over time, the winery has used its knowledge of the Uco Valley to plant noble grape varieties at all altitudes and in the most prestigious sub-regions and terroirs.

In doing so, Bodegas Salentein has continued to develop wine tourism across the Uco Valley, drive the region’s gastronomy and generate jobs for the local community. Its Killka Center for Culture and the Arts has given the region a prominent place dedicated to such crafts and skills and, over the past 20 years, the winery has also been committed to educational projects for children living in the surrounding districts of Los Arboles and San Pablo.

‘Salentein has been a cornerstone in the transformation of a desert into an iconic, globally renowned winegrowing region, and each one of our wines is a faithful expression of the same,’ says José Galante, Bodegas Salentein’s chief winemaker. ‘The vision for Salentein focuses on capitalising on the value of the past 20 vintages as the basis for the next 100 years. We can truly say that we are a winery of the 21st century.’

The wines

“Salentein Barrel Selection Malbec 1999, one of the first estate bottled Uco Valley Malbecs”

Salentein, Barrel Selection Malbec 2016

95 Points Decanter World Wine Awards 2018
93 Points James Suckling




Salentein, Numina Gran Corte 2015

94 Points Tim Atkin MW  







Salentein, Primus Malbec 2015

95 Points Tim Atkin MW

UK importer: Matthew Clark; US importer: Palm Bay International

The post Bodegas Salentein celebrates its 20th vintage appeared first on Decanter.

El Enemigo: A blend of terroir, Cabernet Franc and the Uco Valley

Wed, 19/09/2018 - 15:26

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Wines that represent the very essence of their terroir...

El Enemigo cellar

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El Enemigo: A blend of terroir, Cabernet Franc and the Uco Valley

At the end of the journey, we remember only one battle: the one we fought against ourselves, the original enemy, the one that defined us.’ This quote adorns every bottle made by El Enemigo, Spanish for ‘The Enemy’. El Enemigo is a joint project between two great minds: Alejandro Vigil (who is also winemaking director at Catena Zapata) and Adrianna Catena (a historian and daughter of Nicolás Catena; the 2009 Decanter Man of the Year).

The deal was effectively sealed during a September stroll along the Thames in London following a dinner to celebrate Nicolás’ Decanter honour. Adrianna and Alejandro agreed to pursue their shared dream of producing fresh, high-altitude Cabernet Francs, which tapped into their mutual love for tradition and history. Alejandro has overseen winemaking duties at Catena Zapata since 2002, while Adrianna gained her wine knowledge by enjoying many bottles of top Bordeaux with her father. ‘I will never forget the first time dad got a shipment from France and he opened a bottle of Cheval Blanc for me,’ she recalls fondly.

Alejandro is an agronomist who graduated top of his agricultural engineering class before assuming the role of Head of Soils at Argentina’s National Research Institute. Then came the call from Nicolás Catena, who wanted him to study and analyse the soils on Catena’s various family farms.

Alejandro Vigil.

In line with Alejandro’s and Adrianna’s shared passion for history, a nod to the past can often be found in their wines. Their Cabernet Francs hark back to Pomerol’s yesteryear, when the grape was always the foundation of the blend and then complemented by other Bordeaux varieties. They also use large, old oak barrels which echo those used in Mendoza more than 100 years ago, when the staves were shipped in from Italy to be put together and re-toasted in Mendoza.

However, El Enemigo is not merely a project of deference to times gone by. With Cabernet Franc as its undisputed focus, it has zoned in on specific micro-climates which display unique terroirs within single-site vineyards at altitudes of up to 1,470m. None are more important than in Mendoza’s Tupungato sub-region of Gualtallary, where the calcareous soils are of oceanic origin.

Here, high levels of sunlight and sunshine hours as well as the broad range of day and night temperatures allow the grapes to ripen fully while also locking in acidity levels. This results in plush but balanced wines.

Gran Enemigo

El Enemigo can also boast a Bonarda producing vineyard in Rivadivia in eastern Mendoza (planted at 650m altitude on sandy soils) that is more than 100 years old. This is in addition to other carefully tended vineyards in Chacayes, Agrelo as well as El Cepillo in the San Carlos commune of Mendoza.

The fruit from these varied sites ends up the cellar that Alejandro built on his family property. It sits alongside his highly-regarded restaurant, Casa Vigil, which he runs with his wife, María Sance. It is an incessant eye for detail which has provided the building blocks of El Enemigo’s superlative wines and their accompanying success around the world – as evidenced by a brace of Gold medals at the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards. The Gran Enemigo Single Vineyard Gualtallary 2013 (pictured left) which contains 15% Malbec to enhance its complexity, was described by the Argentina judging panel as ‘a super example’ that boasts ‘a lovely polished nose of pretty notes of dark, ripe forest fruits and herbs’ and a ‘supremely expressive and concentrated’ palate with ‘lots of poise and elegance’.

One of the concrete eggs.

Its stablemate, the Gran Enemigo Single Vineyard El Cepillo 2013 – which scored 96 points – has the same blend of grapes and the judging panel (overseen by multi-award-winning sommelier Paz Levinson) described it being ‘a great wine showing clever winemaking’ and appreciating its ‘pretty palate’ packed full of complex fruit.

‘I always look to experiment with my wines so don’t follow any recipe,’ says Alejandro. ‘Year after year I try to express the purity of the fruit and the soil, and that’s another reason why in the cellar I use concrete eggs, old foudres and barrels of various sizes and ages.’

It is this core belief and desire to understand the land which drives the pair, and alongside Alejandro’s passion for plants and soil means their wines represent the very essence of terroir.

The post El Enemigo: A blend of terroir, Cabernet Franc and the Uco Valley appeared first on Decanter.

Top wines of Santa Barbara: New reviews

Tue, 18/09/2018 - 17:40

Here you can find exclusive tasting notes by our experts, including several newly published this week from Stephen Brook; plus a brief guide to Santa Barbara, where Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Rhône varieties have made a case for elevating this California region to the wine world's top table.

The prized Sanford & Benedict vineyard in Santa Barbara County.

Santa Barbara County contains a couple of slightly different sub-regions.

Closest to the ocean is the very chilly Sta Rita Hills AVA in Santa Ynez Valley, which faces the Pacific and therefore has greater exposure to morning fog and afternoon wind.

In Sta Rita Hills, the generally wines have a high acid signature, as well as the precision, density and structure that one might associate with Chablis; albeit without the laser-sharp, deeply chalky, oyster-shell character of the best wines from that French region. Some wines have also been noted for a saline character, linked to vineyards’ proximity to the ocean.

The most famous vineyard, Sanford & Benedict, can make wine that’s more like Meursault, depending upon when vintners pick.

Cathy Huyghe wrote in Decanter magazine in 2013 that ‘the defining geographical feature of Santa Barbara County is its transverse mountain range – the most significant along the entire western continental edge, from Alaska to Patagonia – which imparts a wide range of micro climates and specific growing regions.

‘This runs from from colder climates in the west, loved by Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, to Happy Canyon in the far east, mostly the home of Cabernet Sauvignon blends.

‘The county’s varied geography determines its varied grape profile; one foot can stand in a vineyard of sandy soils while the other stands in clay topsoil and about 100m of limestone underneath.’

Santa Barbara County AVAs Santa Maria Valley AVA

About 275km north of Los Angeles, the Santa Maria Valley was an early hotbed of indie winemaking talent, including Jim Clendenen, who started Au Bon Climat in 1982.

Dozens of now-famous southern Central Coast winemakers learned their craft by working under Clendenen, a renegade who himself had apprenticed in Burgundy. Santa Maria boasts two of the most famous vineyards in California – Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills.

Like Sta Rita Hills, Santa Maria Valley is also windswept, but it is not as cool – and is warmer in many areas than the Santa Ynez Valley.

Sta Rita Hills AVA

If there was a Vosne-Romanée of California, the Sta Rita Hills (slightly closer to Los Angeles than Santa Maria) would be it. The sheer number of gorgeously rich, texturally long wines from this small place is astounding. Sta Rita Hills is extremely cool, perched as it is close to the coast and fully exposed to the Pacific.

Santa Ynez Valley AVA

Santa Ynez Valley acts like a funnel drawing cool temperatures along an east-west corridor that begins close to the coast and becomes progressively warmer inland.

Due to this large range of temperatures, a number of different grapes thrive in the valley. The best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines tend to come from cooler sites, predominantly closer to the coast, with Rhône and Italian varietals prospering further inland.

Ballard Canyon AVA

This is the new AVA on the proverbial block in Santa Barbara, approved in 2013, and it lies in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley covering around 7,800 acres (just over 3,100 hectares).

For the reasons noted above, Rhône varieties tend to perform well here and so it’ll come as no surprise to hear that Syrah and Grenache are the most widely planted varieties, with Viognier also featuring strongly, according to the official Ballard Canyon AVA website.

However, you can also find Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Winemakers often talk about the importance of diurnal range and Ballard Canyon can have relatively large temperature swings. According to Jonata winery’s Matt Dees, afternoons can be intense but the temperature drops by between 5°C to 10°C almost immediately as the ocean air breezes in.

Top Santa Barbara wines

Including new wines tasted in September 2018 by Stephen Brook



You might also like: Premium California wines to buy in 2018 Travel Guide: Santa Barbara

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Finca Ferrer: Freixenet’s passion in the Uco Valley

Tue, 18/09/2018 - 16:35

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Finca Ferrer is the highest of the Freixenet family’s wineries in the world – and the most dramatic.

Finca Ferrer, Uco Valley

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Finca Ferrer: Freixenet’s passion in the Uco Valley

It sits against the backdrop of the Andes and the snow-capped peaks of Tupungato and its little brother Tupungatito. When José Ferrer Sala found the property in 2003, it was virgin land, but he recognised something remarkable in the soils, climate and unspoilt purity of the environment of Gualtallary.

Gualtallary (pronounced Whal-ta-jharee) is in the Tupungato zone of the Uco Valley. In a very short time, it has established itself as one of the great sites for wine in South America – it’s no wonder that Finca Ferrer’s neighbours include other famous Argentinian wine names. In fewer than two decades, Ferrer Sala’s confidence in the region has been proved. Gualtallary produces exceptional wines, and Finca Ferrer has won several international accolades. The combination of European experience with an exciting new terroir is continuing to produce inspiring results.

The estate

Finca Ferrer is a 317ha single estate at more than 1,300m altitude, about a 90-minute drive from Mendoza city. A key to the quality of the wines is the calcium carbonate in the soil. Digging calicatas (exploratory holes) across the site revealed the estate has higher than average deposits of chalk. Using the ‘degree day’ system to measure temperatures, the estate lies between Winkler II and III – essentially between a Bordeaux climate and a Rhône one, benefiting from significant influence of the Andes.

During the day, the sun is bright (with more than 300 sunny days a year) and the solar intensity encourages photosynthesis. As the sun goes down the vineyard is cooled by the evening winds, and overnight temperatures drop as much as 20°C. This large diurnal temperature difference ensures long, even ripening, building complexity in the grapes. The region is arid, with just 14cm of rain a year.

Both soil and climate enable sustainable farming, with low or no input of pesticides. Since phylloxera does not exist in these sandy, rocky, alluvial soils, this is one of the world’s increasingly scarce places where it’s possible to discover wines made from vines on their own rootstocks.

The estate’s vines are between seven and 14 years old. The varieties planted are Malbec, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Tempranillo, Chardonnay. (The Finca Ferrer Torrontés is grown in vineyards to the north, in Cafayate.)

The winemaker

Winemaker Daniel Ekkert. Credit: Tim Atkin

The new head winemaker at Finca Ferrer is Daniel Ekkert. He took on the role in summer 2018 after working for two years alongside his predecessor José Antonio Montilla, in launching the award-winning portfolio. Montilla has now returned to his native Spain to develop new projects within the Ferrer Family properties.

Ekkert is Argentinian born and bred, and has experience working in the South of France before returning to bodegas in Argentina. He confesses he’s ‘very excited to be taking on sole responsibility for an estate which is still in its infancy and has its best quality years very much ahead of it’.

The flavours of Finca Ferrer

The estate wines are produced in a pyramid of styles. The Acordéon range is the ideal place to start. The four varietal wines – Malbec, Syrah, Torrontés and Chardonnay – express the vivid typicity of their origins, and have proved favourites with Decanter World Wine Awards judges. The 2016 Acordéon Malbec (above, left to right, 1) was Highly Recommended in the Decanter panel tasting (October 2017) of Malbecs from the region with 93 points, while the 2015 vintage won a DWWA 2016 Platinum for Best Malbec over £15.

The Acordéon Syrah’s spicy charm makes it a fine match for steak, and barbecued chicken; the Acordéon Chardonnay is an unoaked, fresh style; and the Acordéon Torrontés (2) – which won DWWA Gold in 2016 with the 2015 vintage and 90 points in Tim Atkin MW’s Argentina 2017 special report with the 2017 vintage – shows the variety’s aromatic intensity. All are available from at £11.99.

Stepping up the pyramid, look out for the Finca Ferrer Malbec 2014, (3) 14.5%, £16.99 (DWWA Commended 2017).  It’s a finely balanced expression of this favourite variety, plump with silky plum fruit.

Next in line is Doscumbres, (4) the icon blend, of Malbec, Syrah, Tannat and – in a nod to the Spanish origins of the family – Tempranillo (the 2012 vintage won DWWA Silver in 2016).  Cumbre means summit, and the wine is named after the two snow-capped peaks. Top of the tier, and only recently launched is the 1310 Collection. The name refers to the 1,310m altitude of the vineyard. There is a 2016 Chardonnay and a 2015 Pinot Noir, both exclusively available from for £29). They are two outstanding wines – award-winners in their year of release. Quantities produced are tiny and the whole approach is of hand selection and scrupulous attention.

It’s no surprise to learn that José Ferrer Sala was first drawn to this cool-climate site for its potential to make sparkling wine. The Chardonnay Block c2 2016 (5) (DWWA Bronze 2018 and 94 points in Tim Atkin MW’s Argentina 2017 special report) has a thrilling freshness. So too does the Pinot Noir Block a1 2015 (6) (95 points in Tim Atkin MW’s Argentina 2017 special report), which aims to build a reputation for the variety in Gualtallary.

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Comment: Saving the heartland of Chilean wine

Tue, 18/09/2018 - 16:19

How a new generation has been fighting to save some of Chile's oldest vineyards from industrial pine forests and pulp factories.

Forest plantations in Chile's Maule region.

My friend Steve Anderson died earlier this year. Car crash, southern Chile. A journalist, campaigner and all-round cranky man, he gave me my first proper job.

His main role in life was to be a pain in the backside. Mainly to those in positions of power, in a country that sorely needed champions for the dispossessed, disappeared and disenfranchised. He also fought to protect the countryside, especially that of Chile’s glorious yet imperilled south.

Why imperilled? The great poet Neruda described southern Chile as ‘a vertical world: a nation of birds, a plenitude of leaves’.

Yet those leaves weren’t the needles of the vast, industrial pine forests that now smother the hills of Bío Bío and Araucanía, bleeding them dry of groundwater and muscling out other agriculture – historic vineyards included.

Peter Richards MW is Regional Chair for Chile at the Decanter World Wine Awards and also chair of the Decanter Retailer Awards

See all articles from Decanter magazine’s October 2018 issue Recent Chile vintages: A review and wines to try

The post Comment: Saving the heartland of Chilean wine appeared first on Decanter.

Torres opens new Purgatori winery

Tue, 18/09/2018 - 09:17

Spain's Torres has opened a new winery in DO Costers del Segre to provide a permanent home for its recently launched Purgatori wine.

A view of the Purgatori winery.

Torres opened the winery at a ceremony at the estate yesterday (17 September).

The Purgatori property itself dates back to 1770, and it used to belong to the Abbey of Montserrat. According to Torres, misbehaving monks who had trouble following the doctrine were sent to the estate to work under extreme heat and harsh conditions, thus earning the name Purgatori.

The 870-hectare property that includes forest, wheat, vineyards, and ancient olive trees was bought by Torres in 1999. It planted fresh vineyards a few years later.

Extreme heat and well-drained soils mean that the estate has some of the lowest yields in Catalonia.

According to Torres, winemakers working at the group were continually competing with each other to use the grapes from here. Most of the grapes grown at Purgatori initially ended up in the Gran Sangre de Toro.

The new winery is built almost seamlessly next to the old winery and farmhouses.

Stainless steel and custom-built concrete vats, ranging from 50 hectolitres (hl) to 100hl, dominate the winery’s vinification area.

‘Concrete is something we are using more and more,’ said Miguel Torres Maczassek. ‘We feel that it refines the wine, especially powerful wines with quite intense tannins. It leaves the wine a bit silkier.’

The maximum capacity of the new winery is 40,000 cases per year, but Torres said the aim was somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 cases.

Torres has already launched three vintages of Purgatori: 2012, 2013 and 2014. The 2018 vintage will be the first harvest vinified in the new winery.

The wine itself is a blend of Cariñena, Garnacha and Syrah; aged in oak barrels (40% new) for 15 to 18 months.

The portion of Syrah in the final blend has diminished year by year since Torres believes that it can achieve the optimal balance in the future using just Cariñena and Garnacha.

Torres currently has no plans to launch more than one wine from the estate.

See Andrew Jefford’s tasting note on Purgatori 2014:


Recently published for Premium subscribers:

Top mature Rioja wines from our panel tasting

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UK gin sales and exports exceed £2 billion mark

Tue, 18/09/2018 - 08:43

Sales of gin in the UK were over £1.6 billion in a year, and combined with exports, was worth more than £2 billion, according to a market report from the Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA).

UK gin sales and exports have exceeded £2 billion.

The latest WSTA market report, released to coincide with the trade body’s annual conference today (18 September), shows that gin sales in the UK during the 12 months to the end of June 2018 were worth around £1.6 billion, up 38% on the previous year.

Export sales were £532 million in the same period, according to HMRC figures, bringing the total in at more than £2 billion.

‘Gin has proved itself to be just the tonic for the government’s ambitions to grow exports of premium British products,’ said Miles Beale, CEO of the WSTA.

‘On top of that the gin boom in the UK has allowed our talented and innovative British distillers to invest and grow their businesses creating new jobs and boosting the British economy.

‘If gin continues to grow at this rate there’s no reason why the industry can’t set its sights higher, we could be talking about a £3 billion gin empire by the end of 2020.’

Gin has some distance to go to rival Scotch whisky, however, which saw exports alone valued at a record £4.36bn in 2017, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

Years of growth

The combined yearly values of gin sales in the UK and British gin abroad has more than doubled in the past five years, the WSTA said.

Exports of British gin exceeded £500 million in 2017.

And the number of UK distilleries has also doubled in the past five years; an increase which has been largely attributed to the rise in popularity of gin.

The UK drinks trade has also had a boost in sales thanks to the heatwave across the country this summer.

By July, Waitrose reported a 26% increase in gin sales year on year, as well as significant increases in wine sales, thanks to the spell of hot weather than began in May.

The post UK gin sales and exports exceed £2 billion mark appeared first on Decanter.

How to order wine like a pro

Tue, 18/09/2018 - 08:12

Choosing wine in a restaurant can be a daunting task, so expert Amanda Barnes shares her five golden rules to help you think like a professional wine buyer.

In partnership with The Platinum Card® from American Express®.

How to order wine in a restaurantDo your research

If you really want to appear like a pro to the rest of the room, do your research beforehand. Most fine dining restaurants have a wine list and menu available online, so scope out potential wines for the meal and identify any dishes that present wine pairing triumphs or hazards ahead of time.

If there’s no wine list available online, begin by thinking about possible cuisine pairings. Is the restaurant known for its oysters and shellfish? Dry sparkling and white wines are a good place to start. Are you heading out for a curry night? Aromatic off-dry whites, such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer, would offer an easy pairing; or for heavier meat curries perhaps a juicy Gamay or a spicy Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvèdre blend. Plan ahead and you’ll save time hesitating at the dinner table.

Don’t fall into the second-cheapest pitfall

It’s the worst cliche on the first date: picking the second cheapest bottle on the list. One of the oldest tricks in the book, this move won’t woo your dinner companion and the restaurateur has most likely already cottoned-on. Restaurants mark their wines up anywhere between 50% and 400% – and many charge a bigger margin on their cheapest, and certainly their second-cheapest wine. You can usually count on an inverse relationship between restaurant price and the margin: the more you pay, the smaller the mark-up ratio.

A smart wine buyer will look at which wines offer greater value within their category. For example if you find a Muscadet Sur Lie for £35, you know you’re likely getting swindled; whereas if you find a Condrieu AOC for £35, chances are you’ve found an absolute steal. Eye up the wine list, assess the price and think about how it compares to its retail value outside the restaurant doors. If this is a special occasion, paying that extra bit more will likely secure you much more quality in the glass.

Do consider what you are eating – and what everyone else is

A foodie would decide on their menu first and then pick the wine to match. A wine geek might do the opposite. Whether wine or food choice comes first, make sure the other one matches up. You can complement wine and food by flavour and texture, or through a balance of sweetness and/or acidity.

If you’re going for a light fish dish for a starter and then a heavy lamb shank for a main course, it will be hard to find a bottle of wine to suit both. This is when you could explore the by-the-glass options.

If you’re dining with a companion, or a few, let them pick their food choices, discuss their wine preferences and then order a couple of different suitable bottles. It may be that some of the party should start on a red wine (if they order steak tartare, for example) and then move onto a white for the main course (maybe with creamy cod). If you are a large table, order a few bottles so that each guest can pair with their course accordingly.

Don’t panic

If you’re being asked for your wine order and haven’t even finished reading the first page of the 12-page wine list, don’t panic! Take your time, there’s no need to rush. If your dinner companion looks thirsty, how about ordering a glass of house Champagne to kick off the evening? Sipping on bubbles, you can now take your time to muse over that wine list and consider what bottle will work best with your meal.

Do learn how to talk to a sommelier

A sommelier is there to help. The more information you give, the easier it is for them to help you to make the right decision. It won’t make you look like an amateur seeking advice, in fact quite the opposite. Engage in a conversation about wine. The sommelier has chosen the wines on their list for a reason; let them tell you why and together you can make an informed choice, to suit your own tastes, budget and meal.

Tell the sommelier what you and your companions like and dislike; for example, do you prefer reds that are fruity and light, or full-bodied and spicy? Then discuss what might work best with your meal. If you have a limited budget, challenge them to find the most exciting wine for your money.

Amanda Barnes is a writer travelling


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Andrew Jefford: Understanding tension in wine

Mon, 17/09/2018 - 12:04

Andrew Jefford explores the nature of tension in wine, and its relationship to concepts of energy, precision and focus.

Wines lined up at a Decanter-hosted tasting in 2013.

The hills roll in from every direction, like waves in a mid-Atlantic swell, breaking greenly down into little valleys where momentary streams come and go with the seasons.

Some of the hilltops sport forest, but vines seem more often to cap the summits, even where the bare limestone breaks out in a stony white froth. The little town of Chablis squats in the middle of all, its citizens quietly going about their winemaking business, dabbling trout out of the river, watering geraniums. The big roads are miles away; the cities further. This may be France’s most peaceful vineyard landscape.

Then… you take a sip of the latest vintage’s Petit Chablis. It seems to leap like a trout in the mouth, scattering silvered acidity in a fish-scale cascade. For all that, it is not an ‘articulate’ wine. It’s taut, pungent and vinous, but even the most logorrhoea-prone wine writer would struggle to lavish it with an allusion-laden paragraph.

I was in Chablis recently, and I came home with the memory of that delicious tension in the mouth, that terseness, that bareness: the perfect summary of high-latitude, cloud-covered wine creation. Sappy wine from a green place.

As it happened, the first bottle that I pulled from the fridge on my return was a jobbing South African Chenin Blanc. It was well made, and had just as much acidity – but where had the tension gone? What the Chenin had in its place was a hardness: everything bolted in place, but with no dissolved energy in the wine to create that pulling or restoring force which mines saliva, and which sends wine hurtling towards the stomach before you even realise you are swallowing.

‘Tension’ and ‘energy’ are modish words to use about wine, as are ‘precision’ and ‘focus’. After a purple patch in which opulence and ripeness have been the cock qualities, we’re now chasing a different bird. Well-crafted Petit Chablis from the latest vintage certainly has these qualities, but what else could hope to qualify, and where do such wines come from?

Of one thing I’m sure: tension isn’t, as so often simplistically assumed, related to prominent acidity or modest alcohol levels in a wine. Yes, Petit Chablis has both of these – because of its cool, high-latitude origins.

The Viognier harvested for an outstanding Condrieu, by contrast, will have neither prominent acidity nor modest alcohol levels, yet it may still have tension, energy, precision and focus (TEPF). The same thing applies to any single-site Pinot Gris or Gewürztraminer that has been crafted by Olivier Humbrecht MW or Jean Boxler.

What is the pulling or restoring force in these wines? It can lie in whatever constitutes flavour within them, and of course ‘flavour’ implies an aromatic presence, too. It is not the constituents of flavour in themselves which matter, but rather the nature and relationships of the lattice which links those constituents in a finished wine.

We have, I think, to be tough-minded enough to admit that these high aesthetic qualities will not be within the grasp of every winemaking site. They constitute, rather, a part of the potential of any distinguished site. Any wine creator can go running after opulence and ripeness, but TEPF is a property of wine creation practised in a particular place. You then need an appropriate variety or varietal blend, a season without disabling challenges, and the chance or wisdom to pick at optimal ripeness. Unaffected winemaking is essential, too, in order to render wine from fruit as limpidly as possible. It would be foolish, though, to insist on anything more specific than that. Oak or no oak, whole bunch or destemmed, extraction or mere infusion: it all depends.

The TEPF ideal constitutes a set of worthwhile, durable aesthetic goals in wine creation, and today’s critics are right to laud them. Beware, though, that they don’t go the way of ‘minerality’, and end up being ascribed in the sloppiest manner to any wine about which one might harbour positive feelings. Meaning matters.

Andrew Jefford is currently away. This column has been re-published online from the October 2018 issue of Decanter magazine.

Read more Andrew Jefford columns on

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The Decanter interview: Daniel Pi

Sun, 16/09/2018 - 14:30

Never more comfortable than when breaking the winemaking mould, the Peñaflor veteran is a central figure in the story of Argentina’s wine industry, as Amanda Barnes reveals...

Daniel Pi

Overseeing the production of more than 200 million litres of wine each year, Daniel Pi doesn’t have time for much else. ‘I’m lucky I love what I do!’ he says sincerely, and you get the impression that he really does love his job. Pi may be softly spoken but, as director of winemaking for Grupo Peñaflor, he is at the helm of one of the biggest wine producers in the world and has been instrumental in building its success. His own success is down to decades of hard graft and determination – but Pi also has an intrepid spirit that’s taken him beyond the ordinary.


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Protecting vineyards against hail – ask Decanter

Sun, 16/09/2018 - 13:00

How do winemakers protect vineyards against hail...?

An example of hail damage in the vineyard – in Chablis in 2016.

Protecting vineyards against hail – ask Decanter

Thomas Boorman, Brussels, asks: There’s been more bad news this year about severe hail damage in French vineyards. Is it feasible for producers to erect physical barriers against it? If so, what would be the cost implications?

Christophe Coupez, manager at Oenocentre Pauillac for Chambre d’Agriculture de la Gironde, replies for Decanter:

Indeed, statistics show that weather damage is becoming more frequent, and the consequences worse.

Yes, physical barriers such as nets have proved their efficiency against hail, and yet until very recently it was not permitted to use nets to protect a vineyard producing AP wines.

See also: How can winemakers prevent frost? Ask Decanter – Decanter

However, a surprise INAO announcement in mid-July means that, following three years of experimentation in Burgundy, hail nets can now be used – although there are still some who object.

Depending on the density of planting, the cost may vary between €10,000 and €20,000 per hectare.

It might add about 15 cents to the cost of producing a bottle, so perhaps an additional 30p-50p on the retail price in the UK, depending on the distributor.

This question first appeared in the October 2018 issue of Decanter magazine.

See more wine questions answered here.

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Elin McCoy: ‘What is fine wine, anyway, and what will it be in the future?’

Sat, 15/09/2018 - 15:00

Elin McCoy explores some of the 'wine world’s unglamorous realities'...

On a hot morning in early July, I was deep in discussion at the Fine Minds 4 Fine Wines (FM4FW) annual think tank on ways small family wineries can access the capital they need to survive in the 21st century. The event was hosted by AR Lenoble Champagne house and drew together 60 participants – wine trade figures, journalists and the kind of trendy experts who give TED talks on finance, tech and geopolitics – to try and map fine wine’s future in a fast-changing world.

‘Can fine wine become more inclusive?’

The weekend’s conversations raised a host of questions, starting with: ‘What is fine wine anyway, and what will it be in the future?’ Based on the geographical spread of wines that participants brought to represent their ideas of fine wine, the definition already includes more diversity than it used to.

But the dive into topics beyond what’s in the glass reminded me how important it is to step back and contemplate the relationship of wine to the zeitgeist. Freewheeling morning roundtables offered brainstorming sessions on everything from a new definition of luxury (identified as ‘what money can’t buy’) to the power of Instagram to capture wine memories, to crowd-funding as a way for wineries not just to get cash, but also capture their customers’ loyalty.

I moderated an afternoon panel with tech investors and entrepreneurs on ways that new technologies could change every aspect of how wine is made, sold, discussed and drunk. Robots in the vineyard, block chain technology to prevent fraud, the use of sensory software to target individual palates, virtual reality tastings: there’s an awful lot arriving soon that non-techie wine lovers are barely aware of.

Think tanks on wine’s future have proliferated in the past 10 years. The first one I attended was Wine Future 2009 in Rioja. I’ve since spoken at and attended many such events, which often seem to be about getting more people in more countries to buy wine, and how to make your brand stand out in a crowded market. Happily, FM4FW, founded by the savvy owners of Chêne Bleu wine estate in the southern Rhône, Nicole and Xavier Rolet (former head of the London Stock Exchange) went wider and deeper.

The issue of climate change was discussed in the context of a panel comparing challenges in the energy industry with those in wine. Miguel Torres (who also spoke at Wine Future 2009) is still urgently pointing out that every winery could – and absolutely must – do much more to protect the environment in the face of global warming. He’s long been showing the way through his winery’s admirable example.

Surely there is no more important issue for the future of wine right now than tackling climate change, something brought home to us all this summer by soaring temperatures and massive wildfires in wine regions around the planet. Alas, FM4FW didn’t delve into how to encourage drinkers to consider a winery’s stance on the environment in what they expect from a fine wine.

But the panel that most intrigued me was about fine wine and a more inclusive society. The term regularly evokes elitism based on class, gender, wealth and sophistication. Can it become more inclusive?

Panel member Dr Beverley Skeggs, a professor at the London School of Economics, studies how inequality functions in everyday experiences in different parts of the world. She explained that in the US, fine wine is defined by price; in France the distinction is one of culture and taste. But when she queried fellow scholars on what fine wine meant to them, their answer was ‘fine wine is whiteness’ and they talked about it as part of colonialism. How to counter that? One way is to encourage more producers who aren’t white.

Over two packed days, it seemed FM4FW delved into just about every important wine issue. Only later did I realise how little we’d tackled one of the wine world’s unglamorous realities, that the people who tend the vineyards in those special landscapes and those who drag hoses around in cellars are largely ignored as part of the fine wine picture. But fine wine couldn’t exist without them.

What I’ve been drinking this month

After savouring the conversations at FM4FW, I visited Champagne visionary Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, chef de cave of Champagne Louis Roederer. Over lunch we sampled the brilliant 1995, 2002 and 2008 vintages of Cristal Brut, and the gorgeous Cristal Rosé 2002. All wowed me with their precision and balance, but the just-released, truly breathtaking Cristal 2008 seems to reflect everything that Lécaillon has been doing in the vineyards.

Elin McCoy is an award-winning journalist and author who writes for Bloomberg News


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Maldonado: Discover wines from Uruguay’s coastal region

Sat, 15/09/2018 - 12:30

The influence of the nearby South Atlantic brings a different accent to the wines of the small but emerging region of Maldonado. Patricio Tapia highlights three top producers and five great wines...

Bodega Bouza's vineyard at the foot of the Pan de Azúcar hillMaldonado: Uruguay’s coastal region

Juan Bouza, the owner of Bodega Bouza in Uruguay, is a calm, softly spoken guy with kind manners. However, at the wheel of his small all-terrain jeep, with the sea breezes blowing in his hair, he seems to transform. We drive up and down the near-vertical paths in his vineyards at the foot of the Pan de Azúcar hill.

Patricio Tapia is a regular Decanter contributor and the author of the annual Descorchados guide to the wines of South America


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Dr Loosen: Profile and top-rated wines

Fri, 14/09/2018 - 12:00

Dr Loosen is one of Germany's - and the world's - best producers of Riesling. See our top picks below...

Ernst Loosen above the Erdener Prälat vineyard in the Mosel.

Ernst Loosen, current owner of the Dr Loosen estate just outside Bernkastel, did not intend to be a winemaker.

His father had sent him to complete his winemaking studies at Geisenheim in 1977, however as soon as he had finished, he decided to follow his passion for archaeology and headed to university in Mainz.

You might also like: Grosses Gewächs new releases – Riesling 2017 and Pinot 2016 Ten of the best Italian vineyards & terroirs Refreshingly dry Alsace Riesling 2012 – panel tasting results

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What is volatile acidity? Ask Decanter

Fri, 14/09/2018 - 10:00

Why is it in your wine, and is it a bad thing?

Does your wine smell of nail varnish?What is volatile acidity? Ask Decanter

Volatile acidity is made from compounds in types of acid found in wine, showing an aroma, rather than found on the palate.

‘In simple terms, it refers to the acidic elements of a wine that are gaseous, rather than liquid, and therefore can be sensed as a smell,’ said Julia Sewell, Assistant Head Sommelier at Hide in Mayfair and a judge for the Decanter World Wine Awards.

‘The major compound responsible for this aroma is acetic acid, which is more commonly known as vinegar. A secondary compound that is formed at the same time is ethyl acetate, which smells more like nail polish remover or paint thinner.’

Why is it in my wine?

‘It is generally wines made in older barrels or more oxidative environments that show VA,’ said Sewell.

That is because it is easier for the bacteria to thrive in less sterile conditions.

‘Sweet wines made using botrytis cinerea (noble rot) are often quite high in volatile acidity levels, as the grapes tend to have high levels of acetic acid bacteria naturally present. The same can be said of wines made from dried grapes.,’ said Sewell.

‘Wines that commonly show higher levels of volatile acidity include Sauternes, Amarone della Valpolicella and Port.’

Is volatile acidity a bad thing?

‘Although the presence of high amounts of VA is considered undesirable, in some cases a touch of volatility is no bad thing,’ said Natasha Hughes MW in her guide to wine ‘flaws’.

‘It’s an important characteristic in many wines that adds complexity and interest; often, in a positive manner, it can be described as adding ‘a lifted character’ to the aromas of the wine,’ said Sewell.

‘However, where it is not intentionally included in the wine, it is most definitely a fault, and can be an indicator of unclean winemaking.’

‘At extreme levels, VA can be quite affronting, in much the same way as vinegar or nail-polish remover can be if smelled too strongly, and ultimately the aromas can overtake a wine if it is not robust enough to balance.’

See more wine questions answered here.

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First taste: Seña 2016 vintage released

Fri, 14/09/2018 - 08:00

This could be the best Seña wine yet, according to Decanter expert Patrico Tapia, who tasted the 2016 vintage to coincide with its release via the Place de Bordeaux.

A joint venture between Viña Errazuriz and Robert Mondavi in 1995, Seña became wholly owned by Eduardo Chadwick’s Errazuriz in 2005.

Seña 2015 may have been released to high acclaim in some quarters, but Decanter expert Patricio Tapia believes that the still-young Seña 2016 vintage has the potential to go one better. He rated it 97 points after tasting in Santiago this week.

The Eduardo Chadwick-owned Chilean winery released the 2016 wine globally via the Place de Bordeaux on 10 September.

The 2016 comprises 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec, 15% Petit Verdot, 8% Carménère and 2% Cabernet Franc, according to Seña.

Despite a warm summer, a cool beginning to the growing season meant that veraison in 2016 began around 10 days later than in the generally warmer 2015 vintage, said Seña. Rain then arrived towards the end of harvest in late April.

This appeared to have affected Carménère, which was picked after the rain, and made up just 8% of the Seña 2016 blend – versus 21% in the 2015 vintage, according to Seña’s technical sheets.

Malbec in the 2015 vintage made up 12% of the final wine, with Cabernet Sauvignon on 57%.

Liv-ex data showed that, in sterling currency terms, the Seña 2016 was the most expensive of the last 10 Seña vintages on the market, with the exception of the 2007.

The trading platform said that the vintage had been released by Bordeaux merchants at 84 euros per bottle, up by 7.7% on the equivalent 2015 vintage release price.

In the US, several merchants were not yet offering the wine on general release.

Of those who were, Benchmark Wine Group in California was offering the 2016 on pre-arrival for $139 per 75cl bottle in bond, with the 2015 at $125.

Patricio Tapia is a Decanter World Wine Awards regional chair.

See exclusive tasting notes on Seña 2015 and 2016 wines

You may also like:

Don Melchor: Comparing 23 vintages of Chilean wine royalty Read articles from our South America-themed October 2018 magazine issue – now online

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DAWA judge profile: Yoichi Sato

Thu, 13/09/2018 - 16:09

Yoichi Sato, owner and sommelier of restaurant Maxivin in Tokyo, is a judge in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2018.

Yoichi SatoYoichi Sato

Osaka-born Yoichi Sato trained as a sommelier in France before returning to his native Japan in 1991 to work at Tokyo’s Enoteca Pinchiorri as a sommelier. In 1994, he became chef sommelier at Joël Robuchon’s restaurant Taillevent Robuchon, before spending three years working in several different restaurants.

Yoichi opened his own restaurant Maxivin in Roppongi Tokyo in 2000, and is still the owner and sommelier today. Named the Best Sommelier of Japan in 2005 and won the World’s Best Sommelier Competition in the 2007 Greek tournament. Yoichi became a director of the Japan Sommelier Association in 2008 and was one of two Japanese representatives at the Best Sommelier of Asia-Oceania contest in 2012. He has received his A.S.I.Sommelier Diploma 2012, and Tokyo Meister 2013.

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DAWA judge profile: Wallace Lo

Thu, 13/09/2018 - 15:48

Wallace Lo, sommelier at HAKU in Hong Kong, is a judge at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2018.

Wallace LoWallace Lo

Wallace Lo is currently Group Sommelier and Restaurant Manager at HAKU in Hong Kong, having previously been Head Sommelier at The Park Lane, Hong Kong.

In 2015 he was 1st Runner-Up of the Best Sommelier of Asia & Oceania Competition, and the Champion of both Best Sommelier of Greater China and Best Sommelier of Hong Kong in 2013. He has been ranked among the Top 25 Sommeliers in Hong Kong by the Drink World Asia Magazine in both 2016 and 2015, and regularly sits on the tasting panel of Cru Magazine and Wine Luxe Magazine.

His previous sommelier roles have seen him work for restaurants such as Le Comptoir Group, The Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hotel ICON and The French Window (now “French Window Brasserie and Bar”).

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DAWA judge profile: Silven Wong

Thu, 13/09/2018 - 14:37

Silven Wong, a wine buyer based in Macau at the MGM hotel-casino, is a judge in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2018.

Silven Wong

Silven Wong is the wine buyer for Casino-Hotel MGM Macau and a wine educator in his time away from office.

Silven started his career in the procurement office of MGM Macau and was soon assigned the task of handling all alcohol-related purchases, constantly work with the hotel’s wine team and Food & Beverage managers, tasting, sourcing and assisting in managing the wine inventory of the group’s wine and beverage program.

He is a WSET Certified Educator and is a Certified Sake Sommelier from the Sake Sommelier Association.

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