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Krug 2006: New release tasted

3 hours 54 min ago

When Joseph Krug set up his own house in 1843, he began creating a Champagne quite unlike any other. 176 years later, nothing fundamental has changed in Krug’s precepts of winemaking.

In the 1970s, several Reims & Epernay houses completely abandoned wood for stainless steel in the first fermentation, chasing volume in expanding international markets.

Krug, however, stuck resolutely to oak because the micro-aeration that barrels provide resulted, paradoxically, in protecting the infant wine from oxidation, while also enabling additional flavour complexity.

Krug is always careful to only make a vintage bottling in years that genuinely merit the ‘vintage’ tag. Historically, the house has always been open minded , even maverick, about the source of its grapes and what stands out is the team’s attachment to its favourite parcels across Champagne, which it buys year after year.

It’s a great champion of Pinot Meunier, which gives a little extra fruit and mouthfeel, even to its top vintage cuvées. Take the 1981, one of the greatest years of the 20th century, which has no less than 20% Pinot Meunier in the blend.

And so to 2006 and the latest vintage to be released by Krug. It was a hot summer in Champagne with extreme highs and 23 days over 30°C. The mercurial climate swung from hot, dry periods to intense rainfall in August. Vitally, the sun shone throughout September, making Pinot Noir – from the Montagne de Reims but also Les Riceys in the far Aubois south, and representing almost half the blend – the star of the show.

The vintage is a real charmer with its silky roundness and classic texture, to be enjoyed from 2020 in the full impact of its seductive fruits. In comparison, the 2004 is statelier, marked by great Chardonnay of fine structure.

After the first fermentation, the wine is stored in stainless steel vats for optimal freshness – a crucial issue in our current crisis of climate change.

Tasting Krug 2006:

 

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Treasury Wine Estates chief executive Michael Clarke to step down

Mon, 21/10/2019 - 15:36
Shares in the Penfolds and Wolf Blass owner Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) plunged overnight following the accouncement.

TWE said Clarke, who has run the world’s biggest wine-only business since 2014, had announced that he would leave his post as managing director and CEO in the first quarter of the 2021 fiscal year, effectively giving one year’s notice of his departure. He plans to return to the UK to spend more time with his family.

Current chief operating officer (COO) Tim Ford will take over from Clarke, with the latter agreeing to act as an advisor to TWE for up to one year more, providing what the company described as ‘strategic support across key initiatives, including potential merger and acquisition opportunities’.

However, news of Clarke’s departure sent TWE shares plummeting by almost 13% in early trading on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX); Clarke’s tenure saw the value of TWE stock rise fivefold, with earnings up almost tenfold.

The company reported record profits in August this year, thanks in great part to dynamic sales of premium wines in China, which has become the company’s biggest market under Clarke’s leadership.

‘It is without question [that] the extraordinary transformation and outstanding financial returns that TWE has achieved have been driven by Michael’s leadership over the past five-and-a-half years,’ said TWE chairman Paul Rayner.

‘The structural changes and initiatives delivered by Michael and his team have established TWE as a significantly stronger business than when he first joined the company.’

New CEO Ford has been with TWE since 2011, including the role of deputy COO in charge of the Asia, Europe and ANZ regions prior to becoming full company COO in January this year.

Rayner said of Ford: ‘His depth and breadth of experience within our business is therefore well proven. I am confident he is a strong leader to take TWE into its next exciting phase.’

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Over £60,000 raised for charity at annual Christie’s DWWA auction

Mon, 21/10/2019 - 15:22

This year’s Christie’s and Decanter World Wine Awards auction saw over £60,000 raised for charity.

Christie's Auctioneer Charles Foley at the 2019 DWWA charity auction.

The auction, which took place on the 17th October at Christie’s London headquarters was made up of 92 lots and provided the backdrop for a lively morning of bidding. Over £60,000 was raised which will be added to further fundraising activities for across a number of charities.

Bidding took place in the Christie’s auction room, via telephone or through Christie’s online sale room – with most of the lots being won by bidders in China or the United States.

To begin proceedings, auctioneer Charles Foley dedicated the morning’s bidding to the late David Elswood, the popular ex-head of Fine Wine at Christie’s who passed away in September 2019.

Italian reds once again proving popular with bidders

Lots were split into regions, with Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux being among the most popular from France. Red wines from Piedmont and Tuscany proved popular among bidders with all lots selling on their high estimates.

Particular highlights from this year included:

  • Four lots of Champagne, including a selection of Vintage, Non-Vintage, and Rose Champagne from small growers to Grandes Marques selling for £1000 each (high estimate: £900)
  • Two lots of red Burgundy, including Nuits-Saint-Georges, Gevrey-Chambertin, Pommard and Volnay also selling for £1000 each
  • Four lots of mixed Tuscan reds from the classic regions selling for £750 each (high estimate: £700)

Find out more about the wines on auction here.

Charity partnerships

The funds raised at this auction will be added to money raised through additional charity sales organised by Decanter with money being donated to a number of charities.

In addition to WaterAid, which Decanter has had a partnership over the past fourteen years with and raised over £1 million, money will also be donated to The Benevolent, TI Media’s nominated charity Rainbow Trust, Dementia UK, Cancer Research UK and WAY- Widowed and Young.

See also:

Full results revealed: Decanter World Wine Awards 2019

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UK government suspends ‘no-deal Brexit’ wine paperwork

Mon, 21/10/2019 - 11:32

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has heralded this as a victory for business and consumers.

Earlier in the year Whitehall had agreed to suspend these requirements, but then made a U-turn on the decision in September.

The paperwork was to be introduced if the UK agreed to a no-deal Brexit, and applied to EU wines coming into the UK, as well as English wines exported to EU countries.

The WSTA had been urging the government to suspend them again, as it claimed failure to do so would cost the UK wine industry at least £70 million a year. It also warned that introducing VI-1s would have been impossible from the start, and would have added 10p to each bottle of wine.

‘The Government’s actions are a victory for common sense and will be met with a sense of relief by the UK wine industry as the threat of a £70 million bill has been removed,’ said Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA.

‘As we made clear in our lengthy discussions with Government officials, the additional form-filling and laboratory tests needed had paperwork requirements not been suspended would have added a massive burden on businesses and consumers alike.’

However, the WSTA is also urging the government to do more for wine drinkers.

‘In the upcoming Budget on 6 November they should listen to the WSTA and some 33 million Brits who drink wine, and cut wine duty by 2%. This would be the first Government to cut still-wine tax since Nigel Lawson was Chancellor in 1984.’

See also: Christmas and Brexit prompt Champagne stockpile in the UK

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Tasting Bruno Paillard's flagship Champagne: Nec Plus Ultra 2004

Mon, 21/10/2019 - 09:41

Nec Plus Ultra is Bruno Paillard’s flagship Champagne. It’s name is Latin for ‘there is nothing beyond’ and certainly gives an idea of the house’s aspirations for this cuvée.

It has only been made a handful of times since the range’s inaugural 1990 vintage, released in 2002. Since then the house, founded in 1981, has released seven other vintages in the following order: 1995, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2002 and now 2004.

NPU’s main USP is its 10-12 years of lees ageing, but other strings to its bow include grand cru-sourced grapes (a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), maturing the still wines in barriques for 10 months before assemblage, and minimal dosage. In fact, all of Paillard’s Champagnes fall into the Extra Brut category due to dosages of below 6g/l.

At the recent UK launch of the Nec Plus Ultra 2004, Alice Paillard noted that the wine is ‘born in the barrel’. And the 10 months or so that the still wines spend in old barriques certainly adds a structural element and airy depth that should enable these wines to age gracefully for years to come. Combined with the slightly reductive, autolytic nature of extended lees contact, the result is a fizz that has incredibly fine bubbles, plenty of complexity, and yet retains incredible freshness.

Bruno Paillard ages all its Champagnes in bottle for a minimum of six months post-disgorgement, ‘to recover from the surgery,’ as Alice puts it, but NPU is aged for longer: 24 months. And unlike some other high-end Champagnes, NPU isn’t disgorged to order. Instead, the house prefers to disgorge it all in one go and release it to market just the once.

As a result of its extremely long ageing process, NPU is one of the last 2004s to be released. Only 7,119 bottles and 310 magnums were produced in 2004, but what this lacks in volume it makes up for in quality.

The 2004 vintage

Although cooler than Champagne’s 10-year averages, 2004 still enjoyed plenty of sunshine, especially in a dry July and warm September. Harvest commenced on 27 September for the Chardonnays and finished on 18 October with the last of the Pinot Noirs, allowing the grapes a long ripening period.

Tasting Nec Plus Ultra 2004 & more:

 

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Cava: A sense of place

Sun, 20/10/2019 - 15:40

Can Rossell is unlikely to top any list of the world’s most spectacular wineries. Judged purely on aesthetic grounds it wouldn’t even rank among the most interesting buildings in its home region. There’s none of the modernist flamboyance that makes the cellars of nearby Sant Sadurní d’Anoia – the self-styled capital of Cava in Penedès – a must-visit attraction for fans of architecture as well as wine. Just a modest, if immaculately maintained, traditional Catalan country house that, from the outside at least, could easily be mistaken for a solidly unpretentious family home.

And yet, while it may lack the breathtaking flourishes of Codorníu’s headquarters, designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, a contemporary of Antoni Gaudí, in the early 20th century, Can Rossell is an important historical site in the heart of Catalan Cava country.

Built using stone taken from an abandoned mountain hostel by Agustí Torelló Mata, the founder of the eponymous Cava producer, as a kind of retirement project while he was still working for Freixenet in the late 1970s, Can Rossell is the smallest winery in Spain. It’s also the home (strictly for ageing these days) of Kripta, Torelló Mata’s attempt to make, in his words, ‘the greatest sparkling wine in the world’.

Reflecting what Torelló Mata’s son Alex Torrelló calls his family’s ‘Macabeo-ista’ tendencies, that variety leads the way in a traditional blend with Parellada and Xarel.lo. With long ageing under cork (eight years for the current, 2010 vintage), organic grapes and no dosage, the wine, in its unique amphora-shaped bottle, set a new tone for Cava when it was first produced 30 years ago. Today it remains a delicious – spectacular, even – reminder of what Cava at its best can be.

But it’s far from alone. While Cava has earned a justified reputation for making some of the world’s best-value bottle-fermented sparkling wines, the DO’s best producers are also increasingly turning their attention to making fine cuvées that can compete with the best sparkling wines in the world – and with a unique character that is deeply wedded to their local terroir.

Singular wines

It was with this sense of place in mind that the Consejo Regulador del Cava introduced a new category into Cava production in 2016. Cava de Paraje Calificado (or Cava de Paratge in Catalan) was the DO’s answer to a Burgundian grand cru: a wine made exclusively using grapes from a ‘singular parcel’ according to strict production requirements, such as a maximum yield of 48 hl/ha, a minimum of 36 months’ ageing (versus nine months for a standard Cava, 15 months for a reserva and 30 months for a gran reserva), and in a brut (with a maximum of 12g/litre of residual sugar) style.

But the Consejo is planning to cement that sense of place in Cava of all levels. According to the Consejo Regulador president, Javier Pagés, and general secretary, Alexandre Comellas, those plans include a ‘zoning’ project, still in its early stages, that looks likely to introduce geographical areas under the Cava designation.

At the moment, while the vast majority (97%) of Cava is produced in Catalonia, it can also be made in some villages in Aragón, Extremadura, Rioja, Alava, Navarra and Valencia. The new plans are designed to bring a welcome sense of territorial clarity to the category.

Agustí Torelló Mata

Local roots

For Maite Esteve, of Vins El Cep, Cava production has always been an expression of her local roots. An association of four families with deep winemaking roots and neighbouring vineyards in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Gelida and Sant Llorenç d’Hortons in Penedès, Vins El Cep has been a pioneer of organic winemaking in the region, initially ‘to protect our health’, later as ‘an attitude. We’re returning to the roots of the past. You can’t make good Cava without healthy vines,’ Esteve says.

It’s a philosophy that comes together in Vins El Cep’s contribution to the Cava de Paraje category: Claror is a blend of the traditional Cava trio – Xarel.lo, Macabeo, Parellada – that is remarkable for the age of its vines (a blend of plots from 1947, 1960 and 1969) and for the fact it is the first Cava produced from biodynamically farmed vines. It’s a wine of terroir, viticultural rigour and high quality.

Another producer exploring the possibilities of fine Cava in a single site in Penedès is Pere Ventura. Known for its distinctive chequered logo and the kind of distinctive, elegant packaging that would put a Champagne grande marque to shame, Pere Ventura’s Gran Vintage Paraje Calificado Can Bas draws fruit from five plots of very old vines (up to 95 years old) on a 60ha estate where vines have been grown since the 10th century.

As befits a wine that is all about expressing its site, quality control begins in the vineyard with a green harvest, low yields of around 1.4kg per plant and a rigorous sorting after a hand-harvest. A 50:50 blend of Macabeo and Xarel.lo, Can Bas gets a minimum of 43 months’ ageing, and is characterised, in the 2014 vintage, by beguiling clarity and elegance with honeyed-almond richness.

No less impressive is the work of another organic believer, Josep María Pujol-Busquets, of Alta Alella. After a long career in sparkling wine, which included a stint at Italian-owned giants Martini, the scholarly but energetic Pujol-Busquets and his family are entirely immersed in their projects (daughter Mireia is making superb natural wines and Cavas under the Celler de Les Aus label). The aim is to reflect, in what Pujol-Busquets calls ‘an entirely transparent way’, the vines’ magical setting in the Serralada de Marina Natural Park in the Alella DO, bound by the sea on one side and – as you realise with a double take as you climb to the vineyard’s highest point and take in the spectacular urban view – the city of Barcelona to the south.

‘We have a clear idea that if you work in the right way, with the right varieties, natural yeast, you don’t need to add anything, Pujol-Busquets says of his rigorous approach to natural winemaking, which includes a new winery built entirely from recycled materials such as repurposed shipping crates and railway sleepers, and where Pansa Blanca (the local strain of Xarel.lo) is at the core of wines of scintillating purity with a distinctive saline note.

Back in the Penedès, Xarel.lo is very much at the heart of Juvé y Camps’ approach to fine Cava-making, too, not least in the company’s La Capella, which is made from 7ha of low-yielding, 50-year-old Xarel.lo bush vines planted on clay limestone soils at the highest point of the company’s 237ha estate in Espiells. Walking the vineyard in high summer, with the jagged peaks of Montserrat in the distance, immersed in the scent of aromatic herbs and the frantic chirping of cicadas, you start to think that, whatever else the Cava industry gets up to in the next few years, it must keep building on its connection to its collection of very special, Mediterranean places.

Top Cavas: David Williams recommends bottles to try

Agustí Torelló Mata, Kripta Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2010 94

£49.22

Very refined and graceful with delightful fresh and flowing acidity, soft tingling mousse and creamy development that fills the palate with flavours of turrón/nougat, nuts and ripe apples. Very alluring, with a long, mineral finish. Drink 2019-2030 Alcohol 11.5%

Celler de Les Aus, Capsigrany Brut 2016 93

£33

From Alta Alella’s vineyards, but this is the natural Cava micro-project of Mireia Pujol-Busquets, daughter of Josep María. Captivating, pristine intensity and wildness: amaro bitterness and salty savoury notes. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 12%

Alta Alella Mirgin, Opus Paraje Calificado Brut Nature 2015 94

£40

From coastal Alella right by Barcelona, this is immaculate Cava with superb focus and tension, a brisk Mediterranean saltiness and subtle garrigue-herb hints. Very long with an appetising twist of bitterness. Drink 2019-2030 Alc 12%

Pere Ventura, Tresor Cuvée Gran Reserva Brut 2015 92

£16.30-£18.95

Cava isn’t all about value, but sometimes Cava is really great value: this Chardonnay-Xarel.lo blend has just a hint of oaky-toasty complexity to go with its preserved lemon, stone fruit and a sprinkling of spice. Drink 2019-2022 Alc 11.5%

Agrícola Can Sala, Vins Familia Ferrer, Paraje Calificado Brut Nature 2007 93

£50

Coffee-grain scents of age in this fine long-aged Cava, really evocative, with baked apple and dried fruit notes, too. On the palate it’s full of life with apples, cream and citrus: long, complex and fine. Drink 2019-2022 Alc 12.5%

Sumarroca, Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2014 90

£13.33-£16.99

Another great-value Cava, this is super-bright, refreshing and tangy with Cox’s apple, fresh lemon and floral notes, some thyme herbiness, and a subtle toastiness. Balanced and seamless, aperitif style. Drink 2019-2022 Alc 12%

Juvé & Camps, Gran Juvé, Gran Reserva Brut 2015 91

£33

Delightful nose, an infusion of herb and spice reminiscent of the Catalan digestif ratafia. Floral notes, too, and bright, ripe red apple. Glossy-textured, enjoyably authentic Catalan sparkling wine with real character. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 12.5%

Juvé & Camps, Reserva de la Familia Brut Nature 2015 89

£32.99

Juvé & Camps’ main cuvée is consistently one of the best-value sparkling wines from anywhere, the Xarel.lo-led house style bringing succulent stone fruit and that evocative Mediterranean herbal tang. Drink 2019-2022 Alc 12%

Mestres, Clos Nostre Senyor Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2008 92

£33.23

Full-on and rich style with an attractive toasty spiciness, revealing toffee and coffee to go with the tangy-sour apple. Creamy and cosseting on the palate, the finish has a refreshing pithy-bitter edge. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 12.1%

Agustí Torelló Mata, Trepat Rosat Reserva Brut 2016 88

£13.80

A happy-go-lucky rosé from the local Trepat variety. Tannins are balanced with 8g/L dosage: full of fresh red and dark cherry fruit, just a touch of texture and grip. Drink 2019-2022 Alc 12%

 

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Ribera del Duero: Purity & power

Sun, 20/10/2019 - 15:31
The Dominion de Pingus vineyards.

Unlike Bordeaux, with its 60 minutely defined appellations, or Burgundy, with its monastic heritage of precisely sketched vineyard parcels, Ribera del Duero is something of a blank canvas. Its single DOP, which was only awarded in 1982, covers 5,000ha of vines that traverse 123km in the Provinces of Burgos, Valladolid, Soria and Segovia (though there are many more hectares in the region). Such poetic and evocative names translate into the sometimes-harsh reality of Castilla y León’s central plateau.

The aridity and extreme temperatures, however, are mitigated by the specific conditions of the Duero river basin. It was here, in 1864, that Spain’s most famous winery, Vega Sicilia, wrote the first chapter in the story of the wines of Ribera del Duero. That story continues to excite and captivate. There are now 315 wineries in the region, covering some 23,205ha and producing an average of 100 million bottles every year.

Despite the well-rehearsed extremes of climate in central Spain (‘three months of winter and nine months of hell’ covers it rather well), the microclimate of Ribera del Duero is actually marginal, mainly as a result of the altitude of the vines, most of which are cultivated from 800m-1,000m, and some even higher. The growing season is often protracted, and there is an ever-present danger of frost at both ends of the season; the corollary to this danger is the complexity engendered by the lengthy ripening and the legacy of marked diurnal temperature variations, namely a firm acidity and a purity of style in the resulting wines.

Grapes and styles

Despite Vega Sicilia’s well-known taste for the Bordelais grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, the region is actually not far from being monovarietal, with Tempranillo (or Tinto Fino as it’s known locally) covering 95% of the vineyard area. In second place is the little-known white grape Albillo Mayor, which, although the white wines do not have their own DO, is permitted in the red blend. It makes up 2.5% of the vineyard and adds, in the manner of Viognier in Côte-Rôtie, perfume, floral notes, acidity and freshness to the wines.

Ribera del Duero is bathed in enigma. Before the Reconquista, Valladolid was the capital of Spain, but subsequently the region was overlooked. Its land-locked torpor was only dispelled much later, thanks to the industry of personalities such as Alejandro Fernández at Bodegas Pesquera and the influential wine critic Robert Parker, who found the rich, robust and glossy styles to his liking.

How these styles have been achieved in such a climate (it would be categorised as ‘marginal’ on the Winkler heat summation scale) redoubles the enigma. The temperature can easily reach 40°C in the middle of the day in July, and yet frost gnaws away at the edges of the growing season. Climate is therefore a key part of the answer, as indeed is the suitability of Tempranillo for such conditions. What of the soils themselves, what of that famously overlooked term terroir?

When I ask Peter Sisseck from the celebrated Pingus Estate, he shows me a map of breathtaking complexity. The more one digs into geology, the deeper and more bewildering the strata become. Help is at hand from Agustín Alonso, technical director for the entire DO, and José Carlos Alvarez, who has written widely on the subject. The somewhat distilled summary of their extensive analysis focuses on two axes of enquiry: first, the west to east axis (Valladolid to Soria); and second, the template of altitude – specifically how the geological profile is nuanced by distance from the river and the height and aspect of the vineyards. Axiomatic to this discussion is the fact that these two (literal) points of view are not mutually exclusive and that a synthesis of the salient factors in each particular case will provide an instructive geological template.

Vega Sicilia. Credit: Serge Chapuis

West to east

First, then, the west to east axis. To begin with, it’s worth pointing out that the Duero river basin was shaped by erosion in the Miocene period (from 23 million to five million years ago) and that the sediments from this tertiary period are mainly made up of sand and limestone. Alvarez has analysed the soil types and his overview concludes that there is more chalk and limestone in the soils to the west; more clay, with gravelly outcrops in the central vineyards around La Horra; and a combination of clay and limestone in the easterly sector, where secondary rivers mean that some vineyards have an east-west aspect. Interspersed between these three general soil types are alluvial and sandy elements, so all in all it’s a complex tableau.

Starting in the west, this very roughly translates into the so-called Golden Mile where Vega Sicilia is located, then a central sector where wineries such as Hacienda Monasterio, Pingus, Pago de Los Capellanes and Pesquera can be found, and – somewhat more of a generalisation – what may be seen as the up-and-coming areas further east, with wineries such as Cillar de Silos located at the highest altitude of all in the province of Burgos.

Again speaking generally, wines from the west have more aromatic potential; the fruit character is more defined in the centre; and in the east there is the capacity to exploit pre-phylloxera vines for monumental wines that are linear, powerful and robust.

Oscar Aragón at Cillar de Silos is certainly keen to underline the levels of acidity in his wines. ‘Our soils give a lower pH with fresher wines and magnificent ageing capacity,’ he says. Acidity levels are fundamental in a region where the average pH of the soils is well above 8, so distinctly alkaline in character. Indeed, Gonzalo Iturriaga, the technical director of oenology at Vega Sicilia, advises that some of the vineyards for Alión and Vega itself have a soil pH level of 9.5.

For Iturriaga, however, variety is the key. Each wine has grapes sourced from different plots: there is red clay in La Aguilera to the east, a high percentage of clay in the north-facing vineyards adjacent to the property and ‘a lot of carbonates’ in the vineyards surrounding the village of Pesquera, which is south-facing. As with the vinification itself, complexity is key. ‘Vega Sicilia… it’s just different,’ is his pithy summary.

Different yes, but its relatively high percentage of Bordelais grapes notwithstanding, not atypical. Ribera del Duero’s 315 wineries rely on 8,148 growers, each of whom owns an average of less than half a hectare. Diversity is writ into the fabric of the landscape here.

Altitude

And so to the altitude, which, according to the DO’s technical director Alonso, is the defining feature of this region. He advises that while in Bordeaux and Rioja the key ripening period is around 40 days, in Ribera del Duero this is increased to 60 days. The result, he surmises, is more purity of fruit, more intensity and sweeter tannins. In the crucial period between mid-September and early October when many other regions will have already finished harvesting, Ribera del Duero enjoys perfect daytime temperatures of 25°C -27°C, and then a significant dip in the mercury overnight, when 4°C -5°C is the norm. This diurnal temperature difference accounts for the glossy, bright styles that can be made.

A marginal climate, albeit an unusual one, also underlines vintage variation; compare a cooler Atlantic vintage such as 2013 with a warmer year such as 2009. The function of altitude is fundamental to all this. Lower-lying soils are made up of more alluvial and sandy components. On the slopes, soils are less deep and often made up of varying degrees of gypsum, loam, clay and limestone. Finally, on the plateau the soils are deeper, not party to erosion and often subject to such extremes of temperature that vine- growing is impossible.

Roberto Frías, director of viticulture at La Rioja Alta’s Bodegas Aster (which is located in the central section just to the north of Roa), stresses the differences between Ribera del Duero and Rioja.

For him the key factor is the combination of altitude and the varied soil types that are encountered the higher you go. ‘This is fundamental for the thickness of the skins and for the quality of the tannins and the anthocyanins,’ he explains. And by implication, these factors are also fundamental to the character and quality of his finished wines.

As with most wine regions, Ribera del Duero’s terroir provides a rich tapestry and its map can be dissected minutely to explore the different soil types. Essentially, however, it is aspect and elevation with their concomitant meteorological influences that really dictate the style of these seductive wines.

Experimentation with oak and ambitious extraction are slowly giving way to a recognition that the fermenting grapes do not really need much by way of stylistic embellishment, such is their natural purity and power. The great bodegas of Ribera del Duero are cherished in Spain, as any smart restaurant’s wine list will quickly reveal, and their reputation continues to grow across the world. This, to me, comes as no great surprise.

Field’s selection: top bottles to try from Ribera del Duero Vega Sicilia, Valbuena 5° 2014 95

£83.33 (ib)-£148

Younger sibling to the legendary Unico, Valbuena is a legend in its own right. Tinto Fino with 5% Merlot, aged for five years in vessels of differing sizes, translating into encyclopaedic flavours and a tense, chiselled dénouement. Drink 2021-2032 Alc 14%

Vega Sicilia, Alión 2014 94

£65.95-£80.50

The modern face of Vega Sicilia brims with French barrique confidence, spice and class. The palate of this single-varietal Tinto Fino shows finely chiselled tannins and a weight of rich dark fruit. Drink 2020-2029 Alc 14%

Viña Pedrosa, Gran Reserva 2001 94

£55 (ib)

A long-standing favourite. Old-school Tinto Fino from a top vintage. Fully mature, savoury, smoky, rich, completely fantastic. Try it with wild boar if you get the chance. Drink 2019-2024 Alc 13.5%

Pago de Carraovejas, Reserva 2016 92

£34.99

Cherry, spice and plum luxuriate over this Tinto Fino, buttressed by spicy oak and hints of vanilla. A generous mouthfeel, with a cool, composed finish and finely etched tannins. In short, a class act. Drink 2019-2027 Alc 14.5%

Bohórquez, Reserva 2009 91

£20

Located between Peñafiel and Pesquera, this bijou property is a real find. This Tinto Fino has ripe damson and plum to the fore, with beautifully integrated tannins and a magisterial finish. Drink 2019-2024 Alc 14%

Hacienda Monasterio, Organic Cosecha 2016 91

£34.48-£45

Eighteen months in Allier oak add polish to this superb blend. 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and splashes of Malbec and Merlot add a Bordelais character; gravelly and strewn with ripe plum and cassis fruit. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 14.5%

Aster, Finca el Otero 2014 90

£39.54

The crack team from La Rioja Alta shows that its consummate skill is transferable. This is a powerful, heady wine. Morello cherry and loganberries coax a savoury yet uplifting finish and a real sense of worth. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 14%

Pago de Los Capellanes, Crianza 2016 90

£22.35-£28

Unabashedly modern, impossibly plush, a hedonistic choice. With 5% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the blend, this offers ripe cherry and plum, vanilla oak and a reassuringly decadent finish. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 15%

Cillar de Silos, Joven de Silos Tempranillo 2016 89

£12.53- £14.95

An unoaked gem from Ribera’s eastern sector. Aromatically the wine instantly seduces with violets and brambles to the fore. The seduction continues apace on the palate with consummate dark fruit elegance. Drink 2019-2021 Alc 14%

Familia Fernández Rivera, Condado de Haza 2016 89

£15-£15.99

100% Tinto Fino. Ripe robust, smoky and rich, with a firm shard of acidity and impressive mulberry and myrtle flavours. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 14.5%

 

The post Ribera del Duero: Purity & power appeared first on Decanter.

Discovering Rueda

Sun, 20/10/2019 - 15:25
Belondrade

For a country that has been growing grapes and making wine for millennia, it is surprising that Spain’s bestselling white wine is a relative newcomer. The crisp, bright,  citrus and herb flavours of Rueda emerged just 40 years ago and they have transformed not just the taste of Spanish wines, but also the economics of the region and its potential for tourism.

Rueda is a small, historic town in Castilla y León in northwest Spain, about 175km north of Madrid. It has given its name to wines that come from the surrounding region, which stretches across parts of Valladolid, Segovia and Avila. While this is a long-established wine-growing region, the style of wine made there has changed dramatically in the past few decades.

For centuries this region produced fortified, solera-aged wines from the Verdejo grape, but their popularity declined and a new approach was needed to rejuvenate the area’s wine industry. Salvation came in the form of Marques de Riscal, working with renowned French oenologist Emile Peynaud, who decided to investigate Rueda as a potential site to make a white wine to partner his red Riojas. Using the local Verdejo grape, and taking advantage of the region’s high altitude, its challenging climate and well-drained soils, Rueda was found to be an ideal place to make fresh, lively white wines.

This triggered a revival of Rueda’s fortunes and now the region is home to wineries of all sizes, from small family estates to large cooperatives and major companies. Collectively they make 40% of Spain’s white wines and Rueda now ranks third in Spanish wine production, behind the grand names of Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

Javier Herrero (left) and family, Bodega Herrero. Credit: Krause & Johansen

Changing times

‘Rueda has changed the way people think about Spanish white wine,’ says Santiago Mora Poveda, director general of the local regulating board, the Consejo Regulador de la DO Rueda. ‘Now we want them to change the way they ask for it in shops and bars. Instead of just asking for a Verdejo, which could come from other regions, we want them to ask for Rueda. We are changing the labels so that the grape variety will feature on the front label of the bottle, along with the name Rueda.’

Permitted grape varieties in Rueda are, at present, fairly limited. This is essentially white wine country, with 98% of all vineyards planted to white grapes. Verdejo is the most widely planted, at around 85% of the 16,000ha of vines. Sauvignon Blanc is a relative newcomer, mainly planted in the early days of the revitalisation of the region. It is permitted as a single variety under the Rueda name, but also as a blend with Verdejo. Smaller amounts of Palomino and Viura are also planted. Just 2% of the region is planted to red grapes Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Garnacha, though both rosé and red wines were awarded DO status in 2001. Production levels of these wines is limited and so far very few of them are exported.

While new vineyards have been planted to provide grapes for this expansion of production in Rueda, one of the gems of the region is its stock of old vines, which make up about 10% of the vineyard area. Gnarled old Verdejo vines, some of them more than 100 years old, are still in the ground, producing distinctive, high-quality grapes, generally in much lower quantities than new vines. The wines they produce are exceptional and there is a move to designate a new category of wines (yet to be named) for wines made from old vines.

‘We want growers to maintain these old vineyards,’ says Mora Poveda. ‘They cost a lot more to work, because everything has to be done by hand, but they produce expressive and flavoursome wines.’

The UK has become a major market for Rueda, with sales in excess of a million bottles each year. Almost every UK supermarket lists at least one major brand as well as its own-label version, and independent merchants support many of the smaller producers. With the fresh, crisp styles of Rueda firmly established in consumers’ minds there is now an opportunity to discover the diversity and potential of this region.

Those old vines that were planted so long ago are vitally important. Many of them are on their own roots, having survived phylloxera because of the soils. ‘Our soil is just sand and pebbles,’ explains Javier Herrero of Bodega Herrero, holding up a handful of beach-like pebbles as we stand in a blustery vineyard dotted with gnarled vines that were planted back in 1899. ‘This area was once under the sea,’ he adds; given that it is now 800m above sea level, this is remarkable.

The altitude of the region confers a distinct benefit to Rueda wines. There is a constant breeze blowing and winters are cold, with temperatures plummeting to -8°C for weeks at a time. ‘This is good because it kills the pests,’ explains Herrero. In summer, daytime temperatures are warm but not too warm, and at night the temperature drops dramatically, preserving those fresh, clean flavours in the grapes.

Many Verdejo vines are grown as bushes, which require a great deal of manual labour, but this shape protects the grapes both from the wind and from excess sunshine.

Diez Siglos de Verdejo, near Serrada. Credit: www.diezsiglos.es

New techniques

As well as taking care of the old vines, new winemaking techniques are being introduced. Lees ageing, requiring the wine to stay in contact with its yeast lees for months to add depth of flavour and texture to the wine, is well established. Alongside that, barrel ageing, larger format wooden foudres, cement tanks and even the latest in winemaking equipment, concrete eggs, are now being seen in the region. The expensive, heavy, egg-shaped tanks create their own convection currents inside the vessel and wines develop complex flavours from constant contact with yeast lees.

Sandra Martín Chivite, winemaker at Diez Siglos de Verdejo, is using lees contact in all her wines. This modern, well-equipped winery that supplies many supermarkets with Rueda wine is the centre of a collective where 65 growers have banded together to pool their resources and winemaking. With 380ha of vines – mainly planted to Verdejo with some Sauvignon Blanc and Viura – she tailors lees contact according to the balance and style required. The bright, fresh flavours of her Verdejo wines are given depth and roundness with six months spent on the lees, in large stainless-steel tanks with a fine stream of nitrogen bubbles introduced to keep the lees in suspension.

Martín Chivite uses oak barrels for higher quality wines. ‘Momento Diez is a blend of wines from stainless steel with around 10% oak-aged in 225-litre barrels,’ she says, ‘while Diez Siglos, Fermentado in Barrica is oak fermented and then remains in oak for a further seven months.’ The result is a wine with a complex, creamy style that maintains its fresh citrus intensity.

Despite the undoubted quality of wines from older vines, Martín Chivite tries to balance age with youthfulness: ‘I like to make wines from vines that are around 20 years old because these older vines give me the fresh flavours of green fruits and a touch of pineapple.’ She also has plans to start making fortified wines in the style of the dorados of old, ageing them in glass demijohns.

Research and attention to detail is very much in evidence at the dramatically stylish Belondrade, not just with oak but with soils, yeasts and organic viticulture. Located in La Seca, east of the town of Rueda, Belondrade was established by French national Didier Belondrade in 1994, almost by accident, when he was travelling across Spain and visited the region. Now he has planted 36ha of vines surrounding the winery, on a mixed soil of clay, sand, pebbles and limestone. The vineyard is divided into 22 parcels, every one of which has been studied for its specific soil type and structure. Planted with clones to match each plot, cultivated organically, hand-picked, then fermented in separate parcels using natural yeasts and aged in barrels, the result is a matrix of individual wines that are carefully blended to create the finished wines.

‘Verdejo is a wonderful grape,’ says Jean Belondrade Lurton, who is the second generation of this family. ‘It gives structure, acidity, bitterness and a broad palate. We use a range of oak barrels, some with acacia heads, to add another nuance of flavour, and as the wines age we create batches with similar styles, gradually working towards our final blend.’

Belondrade wines step into new taste territory for Rueda, maintaining the characteristic freshness of Verdejo, balanced by creamy savoury notes, with oak in a supporting, textural role.

Sara Bañuelos, winemaker at Ramón Bilbao, is also investigating clones. ‘Verdejo comes in a variety of clones and we have planted 10 different clones to see how each of them performs in our soils,’ she says.

Bañuelos is in charge of a new winery with all the latest equipment, including large, tulip-shaped concrete tanks. ‘They have cooling coils built into them so we can maintain constant temperatures as fermentation proceeds,’ she explains. She is also working with large 45hl foudres as well as stainless-steel tanks and oak barrels. ‘The aim is to introduce complexity to the wines.’

Beyond Verdejo

Another way to provide additional complexity would be the introduction of other grape varieties. This is not yet permitted, but Bañuelos would like to see Viognier and Chardonnay added to the list of approved grapes. According to Mora Poveda, this change in legislation may soon be a possibility as long as Verdejo makes up more than 50% of the blend.

Clones have already had an impact at Bodega Javier Sanz following the discovery of an old clone known as Malcorta, which translates as ‘hard to cut’. The few vines that were discovered have now been propagated and planted out. Despite small bunches of grapes and a tiny yield, they are producing 12,000 bottles of a vivacious, peachy wine each year, which sells out immediately. Work is in progress at the local agriculture institute, ITACYL, to identify this clone more precisely, but in the meantime the wine is sold as ‘Malcorta – Verdejo Singular’.

In the same old vineyard, Sanz has also discovered vines that produce red grapes. ‘I have no idea what grape variety it is,’ he admits, ‘so we have named it Colorado.’ The first vintage made from these grapes in 2013 produced just 298 bottles of the mystery red.

The combination of crisp acidity and fresh flavours makes the Verdejo grape perfect for sparkling wines. Among its extensive range of wines, Bodega Yllera produces sparkling wines by the traditional, in-bottle fermentation. Cantosán Reserva de Familia Brut Nature has the characteristic citrus, herb and slight bitter note of Verdejo, with refreshing melon notes and a touch of yeast on the finish.

Palacio de Bornos also has sparkling wines as part of its range. These are made in the traditional style and aged in the winery’s cellars. Including white sparkling wines made from Verdejo and a Tempranillo-based rosé, aged for nine months on lees, these bottlings show just how diverse the wines of Rueda can be.

So what of the solera-aged, fortified wines of old? Have they totally vanished? Now that the region is revitalised, and skilled winemakers have time to experiment, there are signs that these old-style wines are attracting interest once more. At Diez Siglos, winemaker Martín Chivite has already expressed interest in making them.

Currently only three producers make the traditional Rueda dorado wine. De Alberto Rueda Dorado made by Bodegas Hijos de Alberto Gutiérrez, has nutty, raisiny notes, yet still with the bite of freshness that is the thumbprint of the Verdejo grape. Meanwhile Bodega Cuatro Rayas produces 61 Rueda Dorado and Félix Lorenzo Cachazo makes Carrasviñas Rueda Dorado.

Rueda may have made its name as a producer of clean, fresh, lively wines, but it has only just started on its journey of discovery.

Austin’s pick: a top Rueda dozen to try Belondrade, Belondrade y Lurton 2016 96

£30-£31.95

Fresh, delicate nose with white peach, fennel and lemon peel. A broad, waxy palate with creamy, savoury complexity; a hint of salinity on the finish. Organic. Drink 2019-2024 Alcohol 13.5%

Bodegas Naia, Naiades 2014 95

£19.17-£22.96

Low-yielding old vines (up to 130 years). Ripe pear, melon, Meyer lemon, creamy fennel and a touch of anise. Perfectly harmonious. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 13.5%

José Pariente, Fermentado en Barrica Verdejo 2017 94

£27.50

Soft apricot and smoky pear notes on the nose are followed by a rounded, complex palate, with anise, tarragon and creamy oak. Silky and harmonious in the mouth, with a long finish. This estate is now in conversion to organic viticulture. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 13.5%

Verderrubí, Atipyque 2013 94

£17.95

Fermentation in oak and six months on lees, followed by bottle ageing has allowed the profile of this Verdejo to broaden, showing delicate citrus notes and light creamy brioche, plus a rounded texture. Verderrubí has been certified organic since 2015. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 13%

Verderrubí, Dominio de Verderrubí Verdejo 2018 93

£11.49

There are bright citrus and herb-filled aromas on the nose with passion fruit and pink grapefruit notes too. The palate is lively and fresh with silky style and a clean, refreshing finish. This organic wine spends four months on lees. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 13%

Diez Siglos, Verdejo 2017 92

£8.45-£8.99

Light, fresh lemon notes on the nose, with hints of crushed nettles and tangerine too. The lively palate combines citrus zest with a silky texture. Just a hint of chicory bitterness on the finish. Aged on lees in tank for six months. Drink 2019-2022 Alc 13%

Marqués de Riscal Limousin 2017 92

£14.39

Wild yeasts, oak fermentation and lees contact has built a complex wine with a firm, bright citrus aroma leading into a rounded, smooth palate showing fennel, herbs and toasty notes followed by a creamy, slightly nutty finish. Drink 2019-2022 Alc 14%

Palacio de Bornos, La Caprichosa Verdejo 2017 92

N/A UK

Lively, fresh white peach aroma with a palate of citrus and fresh herbs. There’s a clear, refreshing, bitter note and a mineral finish. From 35-year-old vines, this wine spends three months on lees. Drink 2019-2022 Alc 13%

Bodegas Ramón Bilbao, Edición Limitada Lías Verdejo 2017 91

£13.55-£15

Stone fruit, grapefruit and celery. Bright, fresh palate with a silky texture and pure, saline finish. Drink 2019-2021 Alc 13%

Finca Montepedroso, Verdejo 2017 91

£11.99-£12.69

Crisp notes of white peach and apricot, palate of pink grapefruit and lemon balm, herbal and anise notes. Tank-aged five months on lees. Drink 2019-2022 Alc 12.5%

Bodega Javier Sanz, Verdejo 2017 90

£12.85-£14.45

Fresh light, citrus aromas on the nose, followed by a lively, tropical fruit palate that’s edged with anise and fennel. In the mouth there’s a rounded texture with creamy notes, leading to a bright finish. Made from 60- to 80-year-old Verdejo vines, with three months of lees ageing. Drink 2019-2021 Alc 13%

Diez Siglos, Verdejo 2018 89

£7.69-£10.50

A fresh, light and bright Verdejo, with clean citrus aromas on the nose, a touch of crushed herbs and a lovely palate that has creamy notes. This is a great-value introduction to Rueda. Drink 2019-2021 Alc 12.5%

 

The post Discovering Rueda appeared first on Decanter.

The revival of Sekt, Germany's signature sparkling wine

Sun, 20/10/2019 - 08:30

In New York or London you can still be forgiven for turning your nose up at Sekt – German sparkling wine – but in Berlin, Hamburg and Munich Sekt is the new ‘sexy’.

About time, too, since Germany has an illustrious but almost forgotten history when it comes to effervescence. In the mid-19th century Sekt spelled pure luxury, but by the turn of the millennium it had become a byword for sweetish, mass-produced plonk. Sekt, which had lagged behind in Germany’s quality revolution, is the country’s latest category to experience a revival. It is back with a vengeance – and real quality.

 

Anne Krebiehl MW’s top Sekt selections:

 

Anne Krebiehl MW is a freelance wine writer, wine judge and author of ‘The Wines of Germany’

You may also like: Australian fizz: Bubbling under Lambrusco: Back on the menu plus top wines worth trying

The post The revival of Sekt, Germany's signature sparkling wine appeared first on Decanter.

Cellaring tips for collectors

Sat, 19/10/2019 - 13:00

Originally published in the November 2015 issue of Decanter.

I spent a morning with one of the world’s most obsessive and prolific collectors of wine. It was a fascinating yet disorienting experience. Here was a man with 40,000 bottles in his cellar, but who hadn’t drunk any of them for more than 20 years. His collecting had clearly affected his life in a major way – one of his anecdotes was that he bought a case of Quinta do Noval’s Nacional 1963 for 10,000 francs (about £1,000 in today’s money) at a time in his life when he earned 5,000 francs annually. Crazy perhaps, but of course he could pretty much name his price for that case today, such is the demand and reverence surrounding it. Not that he would ever sell it, it turns out, as he hopes one day to gift his entire collection to the French nation.

A more understandable approach is that of Decanter’s Steven Spurrier, whose Dorset cellar I visited a few years ago and still counts as one of the most enticing I’ve seen. Spurrier has 3,500 bottles stored there, and he estimates that he opens about 300 a year. ‘So I have 12 years of stock even if I never again buy a single bottle, which would take me to 85 years old. I don’t mind dying with a full cellar,’ he says. ‘André Simon apparently had just one bottle of Champagne in his cellar when he died – very well organised of him – but I wouldn’t like to leave a messy range of wines.’

So, two collectors with vastly different cellars; one that never plans to open another bottle, the other who intends to steadily enjoy as much as he can. I know which approach I would rather take, but the point is that it can be tough to give advice on how anyone should manage their wine cellar, because there’s no such thing as a typical collector.

Maureen Downey, cellar expert at Chai Consulting of San Francisco, estimates that there are thousands of serious collectors in the UK, with estimates worldwide hovering somewhere around one million. Cellar management software system CellarTracker – which can also integrate with your Decanter Premium subscription – has 345,000 subscribers based mainly in the US, which gives you a clue to how big the market must be globally. Some will have traditional dusty underground cellars, others might have stacks of bottles under the stairs, others will use professional storage facilities such as Octavian or Crown Cellars while others – like the writers of the Drops of God manga Yuko and Shin Kibayashi – might even have bought a separate apartment specifically to store their collection.

If there is one thing that they do have in common, it will surely be a nagging feeling that they really should get to grips with it all. Most are not collecting to make money. Far more typical are the wine lovers who have bought for the pleasure of owning specific bottles by producers that they love and admire. But no matter how many bottles, or how much value is tied up in them, at some point every wine collector has to think about when to pull the cork.

Spurrier suggests that when planning a typical wine cellar, thinking 10 years ahead is a good place to start. ‘One has to realise that one can only drink what is in the cellar, so if you are over-stocked in Bordeaux and have to drink it, this will stop you drinking all manner of other red wines, which is surely the whole point in having a cellar in the first place.’

Nick Martin of peer-to-peer trading exchange Wine Owners knows from his own experience that unless you keep a handle on your collection it can become unmanageable. ‘When I had enough disposable income to buy wine, I started to gradually collect, then became a bit more strategic; a bit more obsessive. I kept them all at home at first, not particularly well stored, under the stairs. But by the mid-1990s I started to use external storage facilities on the basis that I had enough wine at home to drink, so should store some in bond. I had different wines in different places and it became difficult to keep track. I then created a bigger cellar at home to give me access to a broader range of wines. I think this is a typical journey – a moment of realisation that there is more to this stuff than meets the eye, certainly once you have reached the point of buying more than you can drink in a week or a month or a year. And that’s when you need a system.’

So is there a good way to ensure our cellars grow old gracefully?

Buy enough of the right wine

‘This is entirely personal,’ says Downey, ‘but I’d always suggest buying three to six bottles of anything that is ageworthy. Have one in its youth before it shuts down, then wait two to five years depending on the wine and have another, then wait again and taste it when it has aged. This way the enthusiast can truly appreciate a wine throughout its evolution and understand the nuances of ageing.’

But that doesn’t apply to all wines, and especially not if you don’t have storage at home. Martin sees an issue with buying wine early that is too cheap. ‘However inexpensive your favourite cru bourgeois might be, it’s not worth it if you are then storing the wine off-site. By the time it’s ready to drink in seven years’ time, the charges for storage will cancel out any cost savings.’

Don’t lose track of inventory

Martin points out that wine collectors often don’t apply the same rigour that they might do to other, non-wine-related investments, so they tend to have a broad view of what they have, rather than a precise current view. ‘Personally I always knew that I was slightly disorganised about my cellar,’ says Martin, ‘and I’d end up reviewing it when it suited me, rather than when it needed it.’

Downey says this is a key issue: ‘A cellar is unmanageable when you no longer know what is in there, usually because the boxes or racks are piled high and are blocking the ones at the back.’ When it gets to the point that wines are regularly getting past their best before being opened, it is really time to get organised. And even if tastes and preferences have changed, there are always people out there who would be happy to give a bottle some love.

You need to look at what is in your cellar annually at the very least. Twice a year is better. If there are items in danger of expiring, either drink them, gift them or throw a party. Keeping the inventory online with systems like VinCellar, Tagawine or CellarTracker makes the whole thing far easier.

Don’t buy too much of any one vintage or category

Overbuying one particular style or vintage is always an issue. Downey sees a fairly typical linear progression to collecting, by which you progress from bigger ‘accessible’ wines, then head towards an appreciation for delicacy and finesse. ‘If one collects long enough, one will end up with Burgundy and the great German Rieslings, enjoying wines with significant age,’ Downey says. ‘It is pretty standard the world over. So when a collector is beginning, I suggest buying modestly for a few years as tastes develop and education expands.’

At the other extreme, very knowledgeable collectors can go wild in a particular vintage. While 2009 was wonderful in many parts of France, a 65-year-old does not need 4,000 bottles of 2009 red Burgundy. ‘This is an actual scenario we had with a client who hired us to balance his collection,’ says Downey. ‘Even if he had children to pass the collection on to, it would take almost 11 years, drinking one bottle every day, to get through that amount!’

Don’t be held to ransom by merchants

Another way to avoid having an unbalanced cellar is to remember that you’re the one footing the bill, so don’t get talked into making unnecessary purchases. If a merchant says that in order to get what you want, you have to buy other wines as well, walk away and find someone else, or hire someone to help you get only the collection that you want. In today’s global marketplace, no one should have to buy extra or unwanted items. ‘People tend to be sold wine according to an annual calendar that suits everyone on the supply side,’ says Martin. ‘And in the bad old days, allocations meant other wines were tied in – again all about the merchant, not the customer.’

Use simple tricks to help you stay on top of things

There is one very simple rule to follow when collecting wine, whatever your age: be organised. Decide whether you will approach wine by grape variety or by region, and store accordingly. Downey suggests organising wines going from oldest (closest to the ground) to youngest (closest to the ceiling), for the simple reason that it is colder at the bottom of the room by a few degrees, and that can make a difference for very old wines.

Don’t only buy en primeur

It has become increasingly obvious that en primeur is not necessarily the best time to buy wine: if you bought 2010 as futures, you are very likely to have lost money. What’s more, in good campaigns, it is too easy to get swept up in the excitement and buy more of one particular wine or style than you really need.

Plenty of smart collectors are starting to look to Argentina, Spain, California, Sicily and other less-traditional places for high-quality wine. These are not wines that you buy as futures, so why not keep your money freed up to experiment with them?

Martin says: ‘There are only two reasons to buy wine well in advance of when you expect to drink it. The first is that it is genuinely scarce and will be difficult to get hold of later, such as top Burgundies or Barolos. It can also be enjoyable to build verticals and enjoy them over a long period of time, of course. The other reason relates to wines that are plentiful, and which you think will genuinely be cheaper to buy early and benefit from rising values – either for your own pleasure or for selling on.’

Unless you can be certain of one or the other of these things, think about buying when the wine is bottled.

Know when to drink up… but don’t worry too much about it

It seems a little morbid to think about drinking up in terms of your age. It is surely far better to think about a cellar that is well put together so that there are always wines on hand that are ready to drink, with none over-age in any particular area.

What you want to avoid is having a load of wine from one area that all of a sudden needs to be drunk before it expires. And that’s to do with the age of the wine, not the collector.

Starting a cellar

A starter cellar should have a good mix of wines for both drinking and ageing, from at least four or five different regions ideally, and including a mix of red/white/rosé/sparkling/sweet/fortified, as your personal taste dictates. The key for storage, above all else, is constancy of temperature. It should be somewhere between 10°C and 15°C – the longer you plan to keep the wine, the closer to the lower end of that scale it should be, without going too low.

Start as you mean to go on, by recording your bottles online. The best systems allow you to be as detailed or general as you like – most allow input of critics’ scores, purchase details, drink dates, space for your own notes, locations of wines, and searches using scans of labels.

To start off a reasonable wine cellar, think five years ahead. Let’s assume you will be opening five bottles a week (250 a year). Add a further 50 for choice/good measure, bringing us to 300 bottles a year. Buying 1,500 bottles or so gives a good choice of wine to start off with and allows for experimentation before committing to greater numbers.

The four ages of cellaring

35-year-olds: Your first wine cellar is probably the one where you will make the most mistakes – but the nature of those mistakes will be entirely personal to you. Cellars are often influenced by fashion, so in the 1990s they were likely to have been full of cult Australian and Napa labels, with a good dose of Right Bank garagistes. Today’s wine cellar might be high on the natural wine count, although if so you might want to keep a close eye on critics’ drink-by dates.

First cellars are also very different beasts than they might have been 10 or 20 years ago. The high prices of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Napa, Rhône, Tuscany, Piedmont and other fine wines means that many young collectors now are experimenting with places they might not have considered in the past. Downey’s personal tips are for Sonoma and South Africa.

Repeating her general advice to anyone starting a cellar from scratch, consider sourcing about 1,500 bottles, which will give shape and depth to your initial collection.

45-year-olds: Your average collector is starting to have more disposable income now. These are your classic ‘buy two cases – one to drink and one to sell’ years, and your cellar is likely to contain close to 3,000 bottles, giving a good 10 years of drinking. Bordeaux and Barolo, maybe a few steps into Burgundy? Sounds ideal – though it is increasingly impossible to justify two cases of classified Bordeaux, even with the intention of selling one down the line.

And anyway, buying with the intent to sell is never a safe idea. ‘Wine is perishable and is always only one natural disaster, or accident, away from being destroyed,’ says Downey. ‘The best approach is to buy what you plan to drink, and if your tastes change, then look at selling some bottles that no longer make fit with your preferences’.

55-year-olds: Tastes may be evolving towards more subtle wines at this point, with Burgundy becoming more of a big deal. These are also the classic years for opening up a few of the cases that have been laid down over the preceding decades, perhaps to celebrate major life events. Now is also the time to reshape your cellar, to check that it is evolving in step with your changing tastes.

Numbers will depend on your approach – either remaining at the ‘think 10 years ahead mark’, so an ever-evolving 3,000 bottles, or a still-manageable 20 years ahead, so about 6,000 bottles.

Remember that if your cellar has reached 9,000 bottles by this point, which is perfectly possible in the typical collectors’ prime years, that is taking you 30 years ahead, again assuming an annual consumption/sharing of 300 bottles. Worth considering if you want to dictate your drinking habits 30 years in the future to quite that extent.

65-year-olds: This is the golden age to be drinking through the contents of your cellar, making sure that you have the wines that you want and are selling on things you don’t want.

It is still worth keeping 10 to 20 years of wines in terms of numbers, but the beauty of your cellar now is that it should be switching the emphasis on to drinking vintages, with not too many bottles for laying down for decades to come. Steven Spurrier has some great advice here based on his experience: ‘I would imagine that claret represents 40% of the volume and 30% of the value in my cellar, but less than 10% of my annual consumption, so this is an area where I have been slimming down and will do so further.

‘The aim for me is to find a buyer who will take six bottles if I have 12, three if I have six, but rarely the whole case or half-case, as the wines will have been bought to drink, not to sell.’

See also: Collectible California Cabernet See also: Top Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2016 wines for the cellar See also: What makes a wine collectible?

The post Cellaring tips for collectors appeared first on Decanter.

Valdarno di Sopra: Stephen Brook travels to Tuscany's fully organic DOC

Sat, 19/10/2019 - 08:00
Il Borro, Tuscany

‘Don’t forget my shoe size!’ shouted my wife, as I left home on my way to Heathrow for my flight to Florence. This unusual injunction was occasioned by the fact that three out of the four estates I was about to visit were owned by fashion tycoons, and two of them by shoe designers.

Stephen Brook’s top Valdarno selections

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What is ramato wine? Ask Decanter

Fri, 18/10/2019 - 12:12
Vineyards in Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

Pinot Grigio is one of the most popular Italian wine styles and, while the grape shares the same genetic fingerprint with one of Alsace’s noble varieties, Pinot Gris, its different spelling and origination portend unique styles of white wine.

But Italian Pinot Grigio hasn’t always been made in the dry, untinted fashion that we know today.

Welcome to the world of ramato wine, a style that is still made in its historic heartland of Friuli and is also getting growing attention from winemakers elsewhere.

How is ramato different from rosé and orange wines? 

When Pinot Grigio grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to spend time with the juice, a teasing, tactile texture and coppery hue results in a distinct wine style called ramato. The word means ‘copper’ in Italian.

Rosé and orange wines can also exhibit colours that range from light blush to salmon and deep amber, as a result of skin contact. But colour alone cannot determine the wine style.

What distinguishes ramato from a rosé or orange wine is that ramato is a product of historical winemaking style from Friuli, Italy, made with Pinot Grigio grapes.

Rosés are made from a number of black grapes and orange wines are made from white grapes throughout the world.

History

While Pinot Grigio has a distinctively Italian style, the grape hails from France, where it is called Pinot Gris, and is thought to have been introduced to Italy in the mid-19th century.

Eventually, the wine found success in the northeastern regions spanning Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige.

‘Ramato is a historical style of producing Pinot Grigio in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region of Italy, where Pinot Grigio has been grown for hundreds of years,’ said Kirk Peterson, a writer, educator and certified Italian wine ambassador in the US.

Traditionally, the wines that exhibited colour were derived from contact with Pinot Grigio’s pigmented skins.

‘It was made in this style up until the 1960s, when producer Santa Margherita began exporting Pinot Grigio in the style most consumers are familiar with today,’ said Henry Davar, Italian wine expert and educator. This new dry, untinted style became one of Italy’s biggest wine exports.

But some Friulian wine producers continued to make ramato, retaining the wine’s historical relevance to the region.

And, while ramato is inextricably tied to Friuli, the style is also made in other parts of Italy and has recently emerged in the new world.

Producers in the US, for example, include Jolie-Laide Windsor Oaks Vineyard and Barrett Family Wines in California, and Channing Daughters in New York.

How ramato wines are made

How does ramato gets its copper colour from Pinot Grigio?

It’s important to understand that Pinot Grigio is not a white-skinned grape at all; its skins have a rosey-grey tone, hence the name gris or grigio,  meaning grey in French and Italian respectively.

‘Pinot Gris [Grigio] – the “grey” Pinot – is a colour mutation of Pinot Noir and the berries have a pinkish if not entirely ‘grey’ complexion,’ said Davar.

‘Pinot Grigio is usually the easy-going contemporary conventional white wine, and ramato is the copper-hued Italian farmhouse style.’

Ramato’s copper-like lustre is attributed to the extended maceration of the must on the skins during the winemaking process.

This also adds to its unique flavors, aromas, structural complexity and tannic mass. But colour also comes from the natural pigments of the grapes that seep into the juice while they are still on the vine.

Producers like Vie di Romans retain the colour and aromatic compounds by preventing contact with oxygen during vinification.

‘The added skin contact does wonders by adding another dimension of depth and savoury drinkability to Pinot Grigio,’ said Peterson. ‘Ramato has flavours and aromas of orchard fruit skin and acacia flowers with a mineral, tactile finish.’

Some producers lean toward short maceration to achieve fresh and lighter wines, which often have a slight peach tinge. Others favour longer maceration, which yields richer, autumnal shades.

In Friuli, Scarbolo produces two types of ramati that showcase both ends of the spectrum.

ILRamato spends 24 hours on the skins before fermentation. This brief skin contact grants the wine a sheer pigment, with freshness and minerality.

The Ramato XL is fermented on the skins for two weeks and aged in French oak barrels for two years, resulting in a deep orange tone with elevated body and structure.

Food-friendly wines

‘Because of the added textural component [that] the skin contact bestows, ramati are tremendously food-friendly and provide an excellent match to dishes as diverse as Prosciutto di San Daniele, crustaceans, white meats, Friulian frico and a diverse array of Asian cuisines,’ said Peterson, who is also a sommelier.

‘It’s [ramato] for the wine lover who wants more from their Pinot Grigio.’

Other producers of ramato in Friuli include Le Vigne di Zamò, Specogna, Radikon, Stocco, Attems and Damijan.

See also: Recioto della Valpolicella vs Amarone – What’s the difference?

 

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Jackson Family Wines buys winery in California’s Anderson Valley

Fri, 18/10/2019 - 10:46
Anderson Valley vineyards have gained a reputation for quality Pinot Noir.

Jackson Family Wines (JFW) has bought the estate winery, vineyard and tasting room of Balo Vineyards, it said this week.

A fee was not disclosed, although the 5.6-hectare property had been listed by estate agency Mark Stevens at $4.69m.

The Balo Vineyards brand and current wine stocks were not part of the deal, said JFW.

It’s a move that significantly increases JFW’s presence in Anderson Valley, which has attracted new producers and greater attention for its quality Pinot Noir wines in the last couple of decades.

Alongside a new premium winery, with a current capacity of 7,000 to 8,000 cases, the deal gives JFW a tasting room that can host visitors and offer direct-to-consumer sales. The group said it plans to upgrade both winery and tasting room next year.

JFW entered Anderson Valley in 1988 by purchasing the Edmeades Estate. It then added Maggy Hawk, Skycrest and Sable vineyard estates, and subsequently bought Londer vineyard, which is joined to Edmeades.

‘[JFW founders] Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke fell in love with Anderson Valley in the late 1980s, when only a handful of wineries were in existence in the region at the time,’ said Rick Tigner, CEO of Jackson Family Wines.

‘With the purchase of the winery and tasting room we have enhanced our presence in the valley, adding a resource for our small-lot winemaking and the opportunity to host wine lovers in the region.’

The group added, ‘The winery will support winemaking for the family’s core Anderson Valley wineries—Copain and Maggy Hawk—as well as other wineries within the Jackson Family Wines portfolio that work with Anderson Valley fruit.’

Balo, which has 2.6 hectares of Pinot Noir planted, is located directly off Highway 128 that runs through the valley and is next to several other wineries, including Louis Roederer-owned Domaine Anderson.

Courtney DeGraff, executive director of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association, said the group was ‘thrilled’ by JFW’s new commitment to the region.

JFW has played a leading role in the valley’s Pinot Noir festival, which will next take place between 15 and 17 May 2020.

However, JFW said that it also saw potential for Chardonnay in the area and has planted more of this variety in recent years.

See also: Torres and Jackson Family Wines create climate change group

 

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Identifying the best Burgundy vineyards

Fri, 18/10/2019 - 09:20
Clos de Bèze dates back to the 7th century. It is considered one of the best Burgundy vineyards.

For many ardent oenophiles, the wines of Burgundy represent the pinnacle of perfection. Here, the concept of terroir is expressed in its purest form. Underlying geology, exposition, erosion and soils combine with historical factors and the influence of modern winemaking methods to create some of the most scintillating and thought-provoking wines on the planet.

Top Burgundy wines from these climats, tasted by Decanter experts You may also like: Best Burgundy premier cru wines from 2017 Burgundy: Premier cru status, grand cru quality From the archive: Vosne superstars: Tasting Grivot and Méo-Camuzet

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Marks & Spencer wines to try

Thu, 17/10/2019 - 15:00

Marks and Spencer has lowered the price of some of its best-selling wines in 2019, seeing sales increase by ‘at least 50%’ according to BWS trading manager, John Storm. But as well as reducing the price of these existing wines, the team have also been searching for new additions to the range.

See Decanter’s top picks below from the autumn press tasting, including an Australian sparkling wine, a Uruguayan Tannat, and a South African Bordeaux-style blend.

The best Marks & Spencer wines to try:

 

You may also like: What are the best Aldi wines to buy? Supermarket of the year 2019: Best Waitrose wines to try What are the best Lidl wines to buy?

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Jumilla: Everything you always wanted to know

Thu, 17/10/2019 - 14:21
Hand-picked harvest

Undulating plains of sand-coloured earth are broken up by neatly striped rows of vines and stippled with olive groves. A solitary windmill sites in the windswept fertile plateau, the horizon stretching into the blue distance, where hills are dotted with their 21st century equivalent, wind turbines. Add abundant castles picturesquely ruined, plus a dearth of tourists and it’s Spain as Cervantes might have seen it. Welcome to Jumilla.

Firstly, let’s get the pronunciation right – who-ME-ah. Next, you need to know where it is, exactly. Head south out of Madrid, over the flat plains of La Mancha, until you see the mountains of Tobarra – this is where the Jumilla Destination of Origin (DO) starts, in a high altitude valley flanked by the towns of Alicante, Albacete and Murcia, about 50 miles inland from the Mediterranean coast.

It’s hot here – extremely hot. But the nights are cool, thanks to its significant elevation above sea level, which means that the grapes can rest and retain that sought after freshness. And what grapes – or rather one grape in particular, Jumilla is Monastrell country.

Monastrell is a late-ripening variety (more of which later), which thrives in the heat here and produces wines that range from lively and fruity, to stunningly complex. And here’s the best bit – prices are generally very reasonable.

Another thing worth knowing: in many of Jumilla’s vineyards Monastrell vines remain ungrafted (that is, on their own roots), phylloxera never having penetrated the limestone soils here, thanks to all that sun, combined with low humidity, and that mountain range, which acts as a barrier. Put all of this together and a picture starts to emerge of Jumilla as an exciting, blossoming wine region – one to watch.

Not that it’s a new region. Jumilla is actually one of the oldest DOs in Spain, created in 1966. We’re talking over 2000 winegrowers and 45 registered wineries. How big is the Jumilla DO, exactly? It comprises around 19,000 hectares of vineyards scattered between the provinces of Murcie and Albacete, of which 40% are located in the town of Jumilla. The rest are spread between the towns of Montealegre del Castillo, Fuente Alamo, Tobarra, Hellin, Ontur and Albatana, in descending order of vineyard size.

Each of the wine towns in Jumilla has its own feel and story, from Fuente Alamo, situated in the north of the DO, which is pretty much surrounded by vineyards, to the ancient town of Montealegre, with a history that stretches back over many thousand years.

And they all love to party, setting off fire crackers at every opportunity – the biggest celebration of all held during Semana Santa (Holy Week) when just about everyone will bang a drum (tamborada). While in August, Jumilla town holds a 10-day harvest festival (fiestas de la vendimia), complete with a wine parade, even a wine battle (don’t ask).

So what has contributed towards Jumilla winning its moniker, Spain’s rising star? As in all winemaking, it starts with the soil. The region lies at a crossroads between Andalucía, La Mancha and Valencia and sits on a high plain that represents the transition between the Castilian plateau and the Mediterranean Eastern Seaboard. We’re talking mostly limestone soils and a dry climate – only 300mm of annual rainfall, and more than 3000 hours of sunlight.

Winters are cold here, with frequent frosts, while summers, as mentioned, are hot and dry – these are ideal growing conditions for a rather special grape, Jumilla native Monastrell, which hogs 70% of the production, and waves the flag for regional identity.

Known internationally as Mourvèdre, Monastrell is a low yielding, thick- skinned, small berry, with compact grape clusters. Hardy, too, because as well as being resistant to the dreaded phylloxera, it also repels other nasties, such as grey mould and moths. Consequently, organic viticulture thrives here –in fact, in Jumilla town over 94% of the grapes are organic.

So what are the flavour characteristics of Monastrell? It produces potent, expressive wines with a characteristic purplish colour and abundant fruit aromas. Rich and mellow in the mouth,these wines might have an average ABV 14%, but the winemaking know-how here means balanced wines, thanks in part to plentiful use of concrete vats, which keep the wines fresh-tasting, preserving the grape variety’s characteristics.

And in the Jumilla region, Monastrell can produce wines that can scale the heights, regularly scoring high marks in international competitions and wine guides, such as the 99 points awarded by Robert Parker to Casa Castillo Pie Franco’s 2017 Monastrell.

There are other red varieties grown here, too, of course, among them Garnacha, Garnacha Tintorera and Cencibel (Tempranillo), which, together with Monastrell turn out some particularly vivacious, fruit-forward blends, while the majority of rosés are made using a short maceration to extract the best colour and flavour from the skins.

The use of international varieties has also been approved in Jumilla, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah. In fact, Syrah, thanks to its Mediterranean origins, has adapted perfectly to the region – indeed many of Jumilla’s new style wines making waves on the international stage are made with 100% Syrah and Monastrell blends containing Syrah.

While white varieties planted include Airén, Macabeo, Malvasia, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, which are producing a range of beautifully balanced, aromatic wines. Plus there are also some interesting wines emerging that are made with the Moscatel de Grado Menudo grape and Verdejo, which showcases the region’s terroir. Not forgetting Jumilla’s sweet wines, both reds and whites, with a special nod to the region’s port-like Monastrell (don’t miss the one from Bodegas Olivares), with its intense colour and rich, sultry aromas and flavours, that completes Jumilla’s diverse offering.

Cruise around Jumilla’s wineries today and you’ll see all the latest kit. Producers here take full advantage of the most modern winemaking techniques and industry innovations, from roll crushers to pneumatic presses, all with the aim of getting the best out of the grapes.

Ditto ageing. Cellars here boast constant cool temperatures year round with carefully measured humidity and ventilation, and winemakers allocate their top wines to barrels made of the best oak that they can find for wines that need ageing. That said, Jumilla’s unoaked wines, which are relative newcomers to the market, are also worth exploring, packed with fresh-tasting fruit.

And talking of Jumilla’s winemaking prowess, winemakers here regularly think out of the box to achieve the most exciting flavours and extract the best from the fruit – think amphora, foudres, even concrete egg fermenters, combining traditional techniques with a modern outlook in their quest to build a Jumilla identity and achieve a distinctive terroir.

And while the climate plays ball most years, such are the near perfect growing conditions, there is some vintage variation, with the very best years considered to be 1998 and 2004. Though really every year is a good year in Jumilla – the last decade in particular.

The easiest way for visitors to get a proper taste of Jumilla is to follow its Wine Route. All participating wineries sell wine, olive oil, almonds, and many other regional products, and most offer tours. Though pre-booking is necessary, especially if you want an English-speaking guide, tours priced between €5-€10 per head.

Silvano Garcia, president of the DOP Regulatory Council

Wineries to visit include the late 19th century-built Alceño, and Silvano Garcia,both centrally located in the town of Jumilla, while there are others to visit on the outskirts of town, such as Viña Campanero, Bodegas Bleda and B.S.I, which hold tours and boast wine shops.

Dotted around the region you’ll find many other wineries to visit. In the Carche Valley try Carchelo, Hacienda del Carche – Casa de la Ermita wine museum, and Madrid Romero, which offers a fine dining restaurant, Bodega Gastronómica, also worth a visit.

While in the middle of the countryside, head to wineries such as Luzón, Viña Elena, Xenysel, Juan Gil, or Casa Rojo. And then combine wine with culture and visit the Franciscan convent of Santa Ana del Monte, standing high up in the mountains to the south of Jumilla. Or make tracks to Iberian settlement, Coimbra del Barranco Ancho, in the Sierra de Santa Ana, that dates back over 2000 years, complete with burial grounds, or check out the cave paintings and fossilised footprints found in the Sierra de la Pedrera.

The Wine Route also suggests visits to a number of Jumilla’s fascinating museums, such as the Jeronimo Molina Archaelogical Museum, with its impressive collection of items from nearby pre-historic settlements, including fossils of grape seeds dating back to 3000 BC, and its Etnographic and Natural Science Museum, also worth a look. In addition, there’s the Iglesia Mayor de Santiago, which boasts a splendid 16th century altarpiece depicting the pilgrimage to Santiago from the Holy Land, and El Casón, a perfectly preserved late-Roman 5th century mausoleum measuring just three metres by two. After, drop by olive oil producer, Casa Pareja, a veritable paradise of organically grown olives and fruits.

Wines from DOP Jumilla at the 25th Quality Awards Ceremony

Drive north and you’ll discover Hellin and its ancient old town, where Arabs once settled, so make time to stroll through the narrow streets. Also visit the equally atmospheric wine towns of Albatana, Tobarra and Ontur, where Roman dolls made of bone and amber were once found, taking time to walk through the vineyards and fragrant olive groves that surround each town. Just outside Ontur, there is the Pio del Ramo Cellar, a pioneer in organic agriculture.

You could stay over in the Mainetes Hotel, situated in a boutique winery, complete with restaurant and stylish bedrooms in a beautiful country house. And while you’re there, visit Bodegas Cerrón, a family-owned winery devoted to biodynamic winemaking and organic goat cheese, also check out the wines from the Ontalba and San Dionisio cooperatives, the biggest players in the cooler, slightly higher altitude Albacete area, which offers more stunning landscapes with which to feast the eyes.

Where there’s good wine, there’s good food, right? Like many Spanish regions, Jumilla has a strong food culture, and the cuisine here is as richly flavoured as the wine. The most well known dish is gazpacho Jumillano, a curious Jewish recipe traditionally made with game, and nothing like the southern Spanish soup. Also good are the empanadas de patatas, a speciality offered during Semana Santa (Easter week).

Other dishes to look out for include rice with rabbit and snails, a popular combination, along with ‘relleno’ or ‘pelotas’ – chicken meatballs, and pan-fried baby goat. And don’t miss the goat cheese fried in olive oil with tomato – the cheese made with milk produced by native goat breed, Murciano-Granadina. Not forgetting mortiriguelo – a soup made with offal, and trigoentero, an Easter vegetable broth.

You have a sweet tooth? Then you’ll do well in Jumilla. The region’s most famous desserts are sequillos, sweet pastries decorated with meringues. Then there are pirusas, made with aniseed, cristobalas, made with almonds and cinnamon, and ring doughnut-shaped rollos de vino (yup, made with wine) – the lot a perfect match with a glass of sweet Monastrell. It’s clear that wine is not the only reason to come here – there’s so much more to discover in Jumilla.

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Italian police seize Prosecco flavour Pringles

Thu, 17/10/2019 - 12:31
Prosecco and pink peppercorn Pringles were launched as a limited edition in 2018.

Packets of ‘Prosecco chips’ under the Pringles brand were seized from shops belonging to a supermarket chain in the Veneto region, Italy’s agriculture ministry said this week.

Police from an anti-fraud unit that deals specifically with food, the ICQRF, seized hundreds of packs of the crisps over the alleged misuse of the word Prosecco, which is a protected name under Italian and EU law.

‘We cannot allow identity theft,’ said Italy’s agriculture minister, Teresa Bellanova.

The Ministry said that the snacks, which claimed to contain Prosecco flavouring, had used the name of the popular sparkling wine without approval from Prosecco appellation authorities.

Luca Zaia, the president of Veneto, posted a photo of a ‘Prosecco and pink peppercorn’ pack of Pringles on his Facebook page on Tuesday (15 October), overlaid with the word ‘no’ in capital letters and in red.

‘We can no longer tolerate that a protected name be used without authorisation,’ he wrote.

The Agriculture Ministry said it believed the packets seized had been bought from a Dutch company. It did not name the Venetian supermarket chain.

A spokesperson for the Pringles brand said in a statement reported by several media outlets that the ‘prosecco and pink peppercorn’ flavour was produced as a limited edition ahead of Christmas in 2018.

The statement said that Prosecco DOC was used as an ingredient and that all DOC guidelines and European regulations were followed, but the brand added that ‘we have no plans to produce this variant in future’.

See also: Jefford: Erode protected names at your peril

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Anson: Eight decades of Château Larcis Ducasse

Thu, 17/10/2019 - 11:57

St-Émilion is an appellation with such a myriad of expressions that it can be hard to pin down. Its soils are so diverse that it makes sense that it is the only part of Bordeaux to specifically use terroir as a criteria for ranking its wines.

See Jane Anson’s Larcis Ducasse vertical tasting notes and scores You may also like Anson: Breaking out of the appellation price ceiling
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Anson: Comparing St-Julien 1986 and 1988

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Regional profile: Nova Scotia

Wed, 16/10/2019 - 14:16
Lightfoot and Wolfville vineyard

Located in the far east of Canada, Nova Scotia is readily associated with succulent cold-water lobster. But wine? Astonishingly, grapevines were first planted here in 1633.

Alas, inhospitable weather, a preference for beer and spirits as well as the strong temperance movement thwarted any preliminary hopes of developing a wine industry.

Nova Scotia wines to try:

 

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Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger ‘hands over the reins’

Wed, 16/10/2019 - 11:37
Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, with his daughter, Vitalie, and son, Clovis.

Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger has called time on an era after announcing that his daughter, Vitalie Taittinger, will replace him as president of the Champagne house from 1 January 2020.

Pierre-Emmanuel, 66, has been particularly instrumental in developing Taittinger since embarking on a ‘personal quest’ by buying back control of the house in 2006 with the help of Credit Agricole bank.

His son, Clovis, will become general manager of the house as part of the generational handover.

The current holder of that role, Damien le Sueur, will stay on at the house to advise and ensure ‘co-ordination between vineyards [and] supplies, and production, business and finance departments’, said the group.

‘Clovis Taittinger will be in charge of the sales and marketing department,’ it said.

Pierre-Emmanuel, who once told Decanter he would have been ‘a poet or an artist’ if not making Champagne, said, ‘I have dedicated more than 45 years of my life to Champagne and the house that bears our name and our history. These last 13 years have undoubtedly been the most effervescent, the most exhilarating of my career at Taittinger.’

He has previously intimated that he intended to stop running the house in his mid-60s.

He added this week, ‘I can hand over the reins, secure in a sense of accomplishment: a passionate team in whom I have complete confidence, very fine wines, a large and growing number of fans of our brand in more than 140 countries around the world.’

Vitalie Taiitinger, 40, has been working at the house for 12 years and is currently director of marketing and communication.

She said she was ‘honoured’ to become president and praised her father’s passion and commitment.

‘We owe him the independence so fundamental to the identity of our house.’

Beyond Champagne, one of the new team’s projects will be to oversee the production of English sparkling wine under the Domaine Evremond label.

Pierre-Emmanuel joined forces with the house’s sole UK agent, Hatch Mansfield, and other partners to buy vineyard land in Kent. Vines were planted in 2017.

 

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