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Château Latour releases 2008 vintage

7 hours 13 min ago

They include a re-release for the 2008 Grand Vin, priced at £2,550 per six bottles in bond with Fine + Rare, and the first release of Les Forts de Latour 2013 at £825 per six.

In 2012, Château Latour announced that it was quitting the en primeur system after the release of its 2011 wines, and has since released older vintages each year, still through the Bordeaux merchant system.

The property has retained all of its new vintages for release when it considers they are ready, including last year’s debut of the 2012 Les Forts de Latour vintage, and this year’s release of the 2013.

According to Fine + Rare, Latour 2008 combines ‘power, concentration and structure without losing any of its fruit purity’; Jane Anson described it as having ‘power, structure, impact and kick’ when she tasted  the wine last year as part of her Bordeaux 2008: 10 years on tasting.

In 2018, Latour re-released the 2006 Grand Vin at a 16% premium above secondary market prices – something which fine wine trading platform Liv-ex said was ‘met with a lukewarm response’. However, it reported ‘strong demand’ for the 2012 Les Forts de Latour.

This year’s 2008 Grand Vin release price of £2,550 per six-bottle case represents an 11% premium above the wine’s current secondary market price, according to Liv-ex figures.

See also: Anson – Pauillac vs Pomerol 

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Great San Francisco wine bars to visit

8 hours 14 min ago
San Francisco has a wealth of great bars..

This article was updated in March 2019, but still includes relevant bars and restaurants originally recommended by sommelier and winemaker Rajat Parr in 2015.


Stylish-yet-casual, and a good date venue, newly-opened Verjus offers an extensive wine list with new takes on classic regions, including several fresher styles of wine emerging from California. Natural wine fans would identify with a good proportion of the list, from Georgian orange wines to a delightful Zinfandel-Carignan blend by California’s Martha Stoumen. Beyond the US, there is a strong focus on France, including Champagne, Loire, Rhône and Languedoc, as well as Italy.

Manchego sausage meets pâté en croute in a range of sharing plates with a clear French bistro and Spanish tapas bar influence. Pain perdu is a must-try dessert. No reservations and closed Sundays. Recommended by Chris Mercer.

Zuni Café

Light-filled and bustling on a corner of Market Street. Looking beyond the epic roast chicken, the wine list is well-stocked by wine director Thierry Lovato, with the best of France, Italy and the US. Finish with a Calvados. www.zunicafe.comRecommended by Rajat Parr (2015).


Another new entrant on the SF scene, Ungrafted was opened by sommelier couple Chris Gaither and Rebecca Fineman MS in the up-and-coming Dogpatch area of the city; not a regular haunt for tourists as yet, which is good in many ways – and not least because this feels like a place that locals might drink.

A light and airy warehouse space is given an intimate feel with warm, relaxed service, a well-appointed layout and wall-art. There is a suitably hefty wine list, featuring a large number of Champagnes, a good amount of half-bottles and a mix of classic heavyweights from Burgundy and Bordeaux, mixed with the likes of Porter Creek ‘old vine’ Carignan, sourced from California’s Mendocino County and available by the glass.

On the food side, delicately presented sharing plates show an eye for detail here. Talley Chardonnay from the Arroyo Grande Valley, with its well-integrated oak and bright acidity, was great when paired with crispy chicken skins served with avocado and michelada. Reservations are best for evenings, but a small number of front tables are held for walk-ins. Recommended by Chris Mercer.

Arlequin Wines

Slightly further north of Zuni, you’ll find Arlequin wines. It’s not the biggest wine shop, but one of the best curated. Here’s where you find cutting-edge, boutique California wines, as well as many hipster wines from Europe. The real secret is the elegant courtyard out the back, where you can drink any bottle. Recommended by Rajat Parr (2015).


Happy hour from 5pm until 7pm is a regular gig at many bars in San Francisco, but it would be a great time to drop by Amélie. This bar is perhaps not as polished as some of the others on this list, but it offers a great cosy corner on Polk Street to enjoy a night of thoroughly French fare – think baked camembert and snails. The wine list can be slightly kinder to your wallet than some of the other places on this list, if you want it to be, although not necessarily at the expense of your enjoyment. Wines naturally skew towards France, but there are some interesting California options, such as the 2010 Beaucanon Estate Cabernet Franc from Napa Valley. My only hesitation would be the slightly odd red-lit bottles adorning the walls – but at least the soft lighting creates the right atmosphere. A local favourite, with a sister venue in New York. Recommended by Chris Mercer.

The Snug

Every city in the world needs a bar like the Snug, serving great sharing bites and brilliant cocktails while you people-watch on San Francisco’s fashionable Fillmore Street. The Old Fashioned has a lemon twist, but has a beautiful balance and is not to be missed. Scribe Chardonnay by the glass is also a great aperitif wine to kick off the evening. Lighting is low, service is great and this must be one of the best-stocked bars in the city. Aim for a window seat or a table on the mezzanine floor to avoid weekend crowding at the bar area on Friday and Saturday nights. Recommended by Chris Mercer. 


Created by Shelley Lindgren, Italian wine expert and now the venue’s wine director, SPQR started as a Roman restaurant, but executive chef Matthew Accarrino has turned it into something else – modern, refined, but with truly soulful Italian-ish food. With Lindgren a southern Italy maestro, Nerello Mascalese is a good bet. Recommended by Rajat Parr (2015).

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, Ferry Building

Taxi drivers will tell you that only tourists visit the Ferry Building for its boutique stores, but the place transforms on Saturday mornings for a fresh food market attended by producers from all over northern California. Organic meat and fresh vegetables – for those staying in Airbnb, perhaps – and all manner of snacks can be found, from oysters to dumplings.

Top tip: Head to Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, then drop by Acme bread bakery and also pick up some artisan goat’s cheese from one of the stalls (we’d recommend the fresh goat’s cheese from Tomales, which has an outdoor stall) and find a spot to enjoy the sun by the bay. Better yet, put your supplies in a rucksack and cycle the 10 miles over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, which inspired the song ‘Dock of the Bay’. If you do this, take a ferry back with your bike… www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.comRecommended by Chris Mercer.

The Progress

Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski are two of the country’s most adventurous chefs. Their place next door, State Bird Provisions, has become accustomed to long lines of hopeful diners. The Progress is a little more civilised. Wine director Jason Alexander has fashioned one of the city’s best lists. Recommended by Rajat Parr (2015).


Every city needs a nopa. A bustling restaurant that stays open late and does everything well. The menu is always filled with things you feel like eating right now. The cocktail programme is one of the city’s best and the wine list is stocked with interesting finds. Book ahead. Recommended by Rajat Parr (2015).

Still want more?

More places to check out include Saison, a regular fixture in world’s best restaurant lists and with a wine list overseen by respected sommelier Mark Bright, who is wine director and partner here.

Press Club in the financial district has a wine list that could keep you busy for several days, including a number of rarer bottles if you’re interested in trying a broader variety from the US. There are also ‘wine flights’ that can help you navigate the list more quickly and hone your knowledge of particular varieties and styles.

Got a pasta craving? Flour & Water in Mission district has two pasta tasting menus, both carniverous and veggie, that can also be matched with particular wines. There is an unashamedly Italian wine list here, which is eclectic and impressive but it depends on what you’re after.

If you’re looking for a good morning coffee, try Blue Bottle.

Back to our main wine bars page

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Tasting Quinta do Noval’s single-varietal wines

11 hours 59 min ago
The Douro valley is home to many different grape varieties.

I originally encountered Quinta do Noval’s Touriga Nacional and Syrah in 2009. The house, famous for its vintage Port, had access to Petit Verdot and Syrah expertise – as well as pedigree cuttings – from sister-label Château Pichon Baron in Bordeaux and former sister-label, Domaine Mas Belles Eaux in the Languedoc.

But making single-varietal wines – let alone from French varieties – subverts convention in the Douro Valley, where wines tend to reflect both the Douro’s traditional field-blend vineyards and the rationale behind them – namely, to blend different grapes for balance, complexity and consistency in a challenging hot, dry climate.

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You may also like: Quinta do Noval Port: A look back in time Barca Velha vertical: Superstar of the Douro Revisiting vintage Port 1994

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Meet the world’s best sommelier 2019 winner: Marc Almert

Tue, 19/03/2019 - 13:08
The winner Marc Almert

Almert, from Germany, is the 16th winner of the world’s best sommelier competition since the event was founded in 1969. He is also one of the youngest to take the prize, at just 27 years old.

He came out on top in a field of 66 candidates from 63 countries during an intense series of tests in Antwerp, Belgium, which hosted the final rounds of the competition last week.

Nina Jensen, from Denmark, came second, while Raimonds Tomsons, from Latvia, came third.

All three competed against each other in a grand finale, having already emerged from a group of 19 semi-finalists in front of a live audience.

Almert said that studying theatre in school, as well as practising breathing techniques before going on stage, helped him to overcome his nerves when blind tasting under time pressure.

‘We keep throwing harder and harder tests at them’

Andres Rosberg, chairman of the International Sommeliers’ Association (ASI), praised the skill and tenacity of the contestants in an ever-changing wine world that necessitated knowledge of new grape varieties and wine-producing regions.

‘We keep throwing harder and harder tests at them, and they keep reacting incredibly well, going through the tests as if they were nothing,’ he said.

ASI organised this year’s final in liaison with Belgium’s national sommelier association.

How the final played out

Candidates are judged in three main areas, with roughly equal weighting:

  • Service
  • Tasting
  • Theory

But Rosberg said that attitude and language would also be assessed.

The seven tests in the final were a mixture of service, blind tastings, theory, and food and wine pairing.

This included:

  • Serving Klein Constantia, Vin de Constance with ice cubes
  • Decanting a bottle of Vega Sicilia
  • Blind tasting 10 spirits
  • Suggesting wine pairings with a food menu within one minute of viewing it

Contestants appeared to have the most fun with a task requiring them to name the dominant grape variety for 24 wines, after only seeing the name of the wine and its producer.

           ‘You never know how it is going when you are in the task’

Almert said the theory test and blind tasting of spirits were the hardest sections of the competition for him.

‘It is very difficult to stay focused, to concentrate on the nose and palate and to identify them correctly,’ he said. ‘This is such a high level that you never know how it is going when you are in the task.’

Third-placed Raimonds Tomsons said that the pressure was the hardest part overall.

‘But representing a small country like Latvia and being in the top three is still a huge achievement. I am very honoured and happy,’ he said.

Second-placed Nina Jensen had to deal with an unlucky moment on stage when a sound technician accidentally knocked glasses flying from her hands.

‘I was extremely upset, I really started to get nervous, but I was thinking I had to continue until they tell me not to,’ said Jensen, who only started working in hospitality in 2012, and with wine more specifically in 2015.

‘They are the judges, they have to decide what is fair. So I was just trying to focus.’

Controlled movement

Eric Zwiebel MS, the 2019 candidate representing the UK in Antwerp, said that he used sophrology and the Alexander Technique as part of his preparation.

The Alexander Technique involves improving movement and posture by becoming more aware of your habits.

‘Most of the people who use the Alexander Technique are musicians and actors,’ said Zwiebel.

‘It is a good way to notice how you walk, how to deal with things, and how to be a little bit more free with your gestures. To be a little bit more yourself.’

In a post-contest press conference, it was noted that the ASI and the sommelier profession in general is welcoming a younger generation; a new wave of sommeliers from more countries and including more women.

‘We were all very happy to see such a huge spread across all the continents, and happy to see women make it through [to the final three],’ said Almert. ‘It shows that the profession is becoming more dynamic.’

Tribute to the late Gerard Basset OBE MW MS

In his introduction to the finals, Rosberg made a moving tribute to the late Gerard Basset OBE MW MS, a previous winner of the competition. Basset was also Decanter World Wine Awards Co Chair.

Rosberg announced the creation of the Gerard Basset Lifetime Achievement Award in his honour, which will be presented to a sommelier who makes an impact on the industry; as a way to continue his legacy, and thank him for all that he has done for the profession.

Editing by Chris Mercer. Reporting by Natalie Earl in Antwerp.

The 19 semi-finalists were:

Raimonds Tomsons – Latvia

Pier-Alexis Souliere – Canada

Wataru Iwata – Japan

Martin Bruno – Argentina

Loic Avril – Australia

Antoine Lehebel – Belgium

Kam Fung Reeze Choi – China

Nina Hjgaard Jensen – Denmark

David Biraud – France

Marc Almert – Germany

Julie Dupouy – Ireland

Satoru Mori – Japan

Martynas Pravilonis – Lithuania

Andrea Martinisi – New Zealand

Piotr Pietras – Poland

Julia Scavo – Romania

Aleksandr Rassadkin – Russia

Vuk Vuletic – Serbia

Fredrik Lindfors – Sweden

See also: Master sommelier vs Master of Wine: What’s the difference 


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Mount Eden Vineyards: Comparing the Cabernets 1990-2000

Tue, 19/03/2019 - 11:00

Owners Jeffrey and Ellie Patterson had lined up the 22 wines on a long table in their light-filled home, with views of vines from every window and a panorama of Silicon Valley far below...

Jeffrey Patterson was hired as Mount Eden's assistant winemaker in 1981 and was promoted two years later.

Some of the first great California Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Cabernets I tasted back in the 1980s were from Mount Eden Vineyards. Perched at an altitude of over 600 metres on an isolated ridge in the remote Santa Cruz Mountains, the winery already had superstar status thanks to its colourful history and classic wines.

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What is stuck fermentation? Ask Decanter

Mon, 18/03/2019 - 16:00
What causes stuck fermentations?

Jane Anson, Decanter’s chief Bordeaux reviewer, mentioned there could have been ‘potential issues with stuck fermentations’ in her Bordeaux 2018 vintage preview – in this case, due to high sugars and high pH levels.

‘A stuck fermentation is essentially an alcoholic fermentation that stops before the winemaker wants it to,’ said Matt Walls, DWWA regional chair for Rhône.

There are a range of factors that can cause this to happen, and it can be more of a problem for anyone not using temperature-controlled fermentation vats.

‘These days it’s often caused by a lack of nitrogen in the grapes, which yeast cells need to grow and develop,’ said Walls.

‘Very ripe grapes can also cause problems, because high sugar levels lead to high levels of alcohol, which can also pose a challenge to yeasts,’ said Walls.

What does this mean for the wine?

‘It’s a serious problem, because the part-fermented must is prone to bacterial spoilage and oxidation,’ said Walls.

‘Stuck fermentations can be very difficult to restart, particularly because when yeast dies it secretes a compound that inhibits the future growth of yeast cells in that batch.’

How can stuck fermentation be prevented?

As well as temperature control mentioned above, the ‘addition of nitrogen and cultured yeasts that are resistant to high temperatures and high alcohol levels can help prevent stuck fermentations’, said Walls.

‘But these may have undesirable effects on the finished wine, like affecting the flavour.’

More wine questions answered here

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Champagne sales creep to new record in 2018

Mon, 18/03/2019 - 13:15
Champagne increasingly look beyond Europe.

Global Champagne sales in 2018 edged ahead of 2017 by 0.3% to hit a new record value, said trade body Comité Champagne, at Prowein exhibition in Germany.

However, shipments fell by 1.8% in volume to 301.9 million bottles, said the trade body. Its figures are based on shipment data rather than retail sales.

Weaker demand for Champagne in France and the UK hit overall volumes; both markets were down by around 4% in volume versus 2017, said the Comité Champagne.

‘Demand is most dynamic beyond the European Union,’ it added, after reporting that total exports hit €2.9bn, up by 1.8% versus 2017.

Gap closing between UK and US

While the UK remains the largest export market for Champagne by volume, the gap between it and the US in second place has narrowed in recent years.

In 2018, 26.8m bottles of Champagne were exported to the UK and 23.7m were shipped to the US, which saw a 2.7% increase on 2017.

Exports to the UK were 31.2m bottles in 2016, according to figures released at the time, with the US on 21.8m bottles that year.

New markets open up beyond Europe

Total Champagne exports in 2018 rose by 1.8% in value to €2.9bn, said the Comité Champagne, noting that much of this growth came from beyond Europe.

In volume terms, exports rose by 0.6% versus 2017, to 154.8m bottles.

The US remained the most valuable export market for the Champenois, despite seeing shipments drop by 1.5% to €577.1m. The UK was second, albeit with a 2.2% decline to €406.2m.

Exports to Japan, the third largest market, rose by 3.9% to €318.8m, and by 5.5% in volume to 13.6m bottles.

China, Hong Kong and Russia also saw strong increases in demand for Champagne in 2018.

Exports to Hong Kong rose by 14% in value to €46.7m and by 12% in volume, to 2m bottles.

Shipments to China rose by 12% in value to €40.9m euros and by 10% in volume to almost 2.2m bottles.

For Russia, exports rose by 10% in value to €32.7m and by 13% in volume to 1.9m bottles.

Elsewhere, exports to South Africa topped the 1m bottle mark for the first time after a 38% rise in volume terms and a 43.4% jump in the value of shipments, to €25m.

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Benevolent ball raises £50,000 for drinks industry charity

Mon, 18/03/2019 - 11:28
Tables await at the Benevolent Ball 2019.

Benevolent Ball guests donated £13,500 inside 10 minutes during a so-called ‘power pledge’ initiative led by the charity’s master of ceremonies, Charles Metcalfe.

That pushed the total for this year’s event up to £50,000, said The Benevolent, which thanked the 430 drinks industry members who attended.

Guests sipped Laurent-Perrier, Louis Roederer, Moët et Chandon and Taittinger Champagnes in the Natural History Muesum’s ‘Fossil Way’ before sitting for dinner in the Hintze Hall, beneath a 25-metre skeleton of a blue whale that is suspended from the room’s ceiling.

A new fundraising campaign using the tagline ‘it could be me’ was launched at the ball by Benevolent chairman Michael Saunders.

He asked guests to consider sparing ‘a drink a month’ for the charity, which referenced a £5 pint of beer or a £10 glass of wine.

After dinner, guests packed the dancefloor and drank cocktails at the Aperol Spritz and Mayfiled Sussex Hop Gin bar.

‘I am delighted with the amount that we have raised,’ said Saunders.

‘Please know that every penny will go towards helping those in our drinks industry community who are suffering financial and emotional hardship at this time.’

The charity thanked its main sponsors for the evening: Diageo GB; IWSC group; JF Hillebrand; Matthew Clark; Mayfield Sussex Hop Gin; Pernod Ricard UK; and William Grant & Sons.

The Benevolent was founded in 1886 to help drinks industry members facing health and financial difficulties, as well as issues at work or at home generally.

Find out more and donate to the Benevolent here.

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Best Piedmont wines: Latest-release Barolo & Barbaresco

Mon, 18/03/2019 - 11:02
Decanter's 2018 Italian Encounter, where Michael Garner led a Barolo masterclass.Barbaresco

Stephen Brook has singled out 2016 as a five-star vintage for Barbaresco, so it’s perhaps no suprise to see three wines awarded 94 points and above – even more than the two from the similarly five-star rated 2015 vintage.

Equally, it seems that the latest-release Barbaresco Riserva 2014s have outperformed last year’s Riserva 2013s. Bruno Giacosa’s Asili Riserva 2014 even tops the ranking, one of the two 2014s achieving 94 point and above.


Meanwhile for Barolo, five 2015 releases have been awarded 94 points and above, compared to three in 2014. Aldo Conterno’s Romirasco has topped the charts in both years, marking it out as a top buy, with Stephen Brook noting that it’s the most structured of the Monforte d’Alba estate’s wines and is built to last.

When it comes to Barolo Riserva, no 2013s achieved over 93 points, of which there were six wines. Four 2012 Riservas were awarded 94 points and six were awarded 93 points, and so may be the better vintage if you’re after top-end wines for ageing.

Stephen’s top scorers from his Piedmont report:


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Clos Rougeard: Loire’s top Cabernet Francs?

Sun, 17/03/2019 - 13:00

Yohan Castaing reports on the Cabernet Francs (plus a splash of Chenin) of one of the Loire's best-kept secrets...

Clos Rougeard produces world-class Cabernet Franc, as well as a small amount of Chenin Blanc.

Clos Rougeard has always been a truly exceptional estate in the Saumur-Champigny appellation of the Loire, but its Cabernet Francs are rarely applauded outside certain circles, and rarely seen outside of collectors’ cellars.



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How sustainable is your wine?

Sun, 17/03/2019 - 11:00

As the human population increases, changes in land use are destroying the world’s natural habitats. Widespread spraying of pesticides has been blamed for collapsing insect and bird numbers, while intensive use of herbicides and fungicides contaminates groundwater and degrades the soil, making it dependent on fertilisers.

With mounting evidence that agriculture is contributing to unprecedented biodiversity loss, concepts of environment stewardship and ‘regenerative agriculture’ are gaining ground. Research shows that beneficial insects such as bees and spiders, and birds and bats that feed on insects, are more numerous and diverse on untreated land than on land sprayed with chemicals, and that soils managed sustainably have more organic matter rich in microbiology.

Wine lovers might be forgiven for assuming that, in contrast to large-scale intensive agriculture, wine production has little impact on the natural world. The reality is rather different. Most vineyards are monocultures that rely heavily on preventive spraying of herbicides, fungicides and pesticides to keep disease and pests at bay.

‘In the old days,’ explains Professor Steve Wratten of New Zealand’s Lincoln University, ‘most wine-growers went out into their vineyards more to see what their vines needed and when. Now there is a tendency to spray prophylactically, creating resistance in vines and impacting on both human health and the environment.’

Going green

Awareness of the damage that overuse of chemical treatments in viticulture can do has spread since French soil biologist Claude Bourguignon famously declared in 1988 that the soil of Burgundy’s vineyards was ‘dead’. Growing numbers of wine producers now claim to follow organic or biodynamic practices. It is rare today to find a French vigneron who does not espouse lutte raisonnée (literally ‘the reasoned fight’, meaning the measured use of sprays).

Much of this is of course about promoting a green image. Quite apart from the moral and health arguments for a sustainable approach, there are marketing incentives for producers to portray their wines as pure products of the soil, unsullied by chemicals. ‘Millennials tend to be more interested than their parents in authenticity,’ says Liam Steevenson MW of Global Wine Solutions. ‘Consumers increasingly want to know how wines are produced.’ According to Ed Robinson, the Co-op’s Fairtrade wine buyer: ‘People who buy wine from us expect it to be ethically sourced, fairly traded and kind to the environment.’

Wine producers tend to describe their philosophy as ‘non-interventionist’. But it is an open secret that, given the sensitivity of Vitis vinifera to disease, growing healthy grapes requires intervention.

France is one of Europe’s biggest pesticide users. Its vineyards cover about 3% of agricultural land, but account for as much as 20% of pesticide use. French growers are far from alone in this. Thousands of tons of pesticides and fungicides are used in Californian vineyards every year, more than in any other agricultural sector. Concerns have grown in both regions that use of pesticides and herbicides such as glyphosate, which has been linked to cancer, are exposing not only vineyard workers but also children in schools near vineyards to health risks.

Whether you believe in conventional, organic or biodynamic methods – and it is often argued that ‘organic’ treatments such as copper or sulphur damage the environment more than synthetic sprays – there is a growing pressure around the world to make wine-growing more sustainable. In France, Laurent Brault of Vignerons Indépendants de France explains that: ‘Ecological organisations like Greenpeace and France Nature Environnement have successfully got across the message that unless we act today we will have to repay the debt of our degraded environment tomorrow.’

Faced with concerns about the impact of chemical sprays, the French government is pushing for urgent action and has introduced a new stringent level of environmental certification: Haute Valeur Environnementale (HVE). The target is for 50% of wine-growers to be certified HVE by 2025, with a 50% reduction in chemical sprays. The Conseil des Vins de St-Emilion recently decided that all producers wishing to use the region’s AOP must be certified HVE by 2023.

See also: Animals in vineyards – unlikely helpers Sustainable initiatives

Change is afoot elsewhere too. Richard Leask from South Australia, who has been awarded a Nuffield Scholarship to research regenerative wine production, says: ‘Increasingly, we are seeing a shift towards more sustainable and less chemically reliant systems in Australia and internationally.’

According to Allison Jordan, executive director of California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), most Californian wine-growers are adopting nature-friendly strategies. ‘Sustainability is the new normal,’ she adds. Almost a quarter of the state’s vineyards are certified sustainable. Sonoma is committed to becoming the first 100% sustainable wine region in the US in 2019. Oregon also has its own Certified Sustainable Wine (OCSW) scheme.

In New Zealand, almost every wine producer now has Sustainable Winegrowing NZ certification, which requires adherence to standards in biodiversity, soil health, water usage, air quality, energy and chemical use. Tohu Wines in Marlborough spreads crushed mussel shells in the vineyard to reduce herbicides and has planted native shrubs to encourage the return of native birds such as Scaup diving ducks. ‘As a Māori-owned family business, we are here for the long term, which means taking care of our land and water,’ says chief winemaker Bruce Taylor.

According to Professor Yerko Moreno of Talca University, who created the National Sustainability Code of the Chilean Wine Industry, 75% of Chile’s producers are certified sustainable. Producers have to meet requirements in terms of vineyard management, the wine production process and social responsibility. ‘People are crucial to this,’ says Moreno. ‘As a consultant, I encourage producers to train their workers properly, so they embrace new ideas and understand why sustainability matters.’


Around the world, producers are increasingly taking a more holistic approach that considers the whole environment in which their vineyards exist. The objective is to re-establish natural equilibrium by supporting biodiversity and limiting chemical intervention. Measures include setting aside special areas as natural habitats and creating ‘wildlife corridors’, sowing ‘cover crops’ to reduce need for herbicides, using organic mulches to limit fungicide use; introducing ‘biocontrol’ plants that attract beneficial predatory insects to eat vine pests; or replacing pesticides with natural pheromone traps that sexually confuse, but do not kill, certain pests such as moths whose larvae attack vines.

Duorum’s vineyards in the Douro region of Portugal are located in a Special Protection Area (SPA) designated under the European Union Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds. They offer habitat for birds including the critically endangered black wheatear, once such a common sight in the Douro’s vineyards that it was nicknamed the ‘Port wine bird’. Duorum has created a conservation plan for the black wheatear and minimises use of chemicals. ‘By conserving natural plantations of olive and almond trees and cereals between vineyards, we promote habitats for hundreds of insect species, including some predators of vine pests,’ says João Perry Vidal, one of the three winemakers leading the project, along with João Portugal Ramos and José Maria Soares Franco.

Carlos de Jesus of Amorim, the world’s largest producer of cork stoppers, stresses that cork also plays a conservation role, supporting the ecosystem of Portugal’s cork forests. ‘There are few other examples of products where the balance of people, planet and profit is so strong,’ he comments.

Anson: Pesticides and the rise of the resistants Collaborative viticulture

In reality, a more sustainable approach means reducing chemical sprays rather than eradicating them altogether. As Dr Jamie Goode, co-author of the book Authentic Wine: Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking, puts it: ‘You need to spray grapes with chemicals whatever your approach, even organics and biodynamics.’ But precision viticulture helps reduce fungicides, while ‘field scouting’, biocontrols and pheromone traps limit the need for pesticides. Some French growers are trialling experimental grape varieties such as Artaban that are resistant to mildew and oidium.

‘The systems we are dealing with in vineyards are much more intricate than we tend to realise,’ says Goode.’ If we make chemical interventions, they may have knock-on effects that are unpredictable. We have to see vineyards as entire agrosystems.’ Brault agrees: ‘We need a paradigm shift. Rather than fighting nature all the time, we must focus on collaborative viticulture – surrounding the vine with an ecosystem that keeps it healthy. That doesn’t mean you won’t use sprays from time to time, but if your vineyard is sustainably managed you might not use them at all in a good year.’

Making the transition to more sustainable methods is hard. There are no ‘one size fits all’ solutions: biocontrols that attract beneficial insects in one place may attract pests in another; vineyards in humid regions depend more on fungicides than dry regions. Moreno says sustainable methods tend to be more labour-intensive and yields lower than for conventional viticulture, so wine prices are higher. ‘Economic sustainability is a crucial aspect of sustainable viticulture. Every sustainable grower who goes out of business is one less environmental protector,’ he notes.

Some argue that it is more cost-effective to produce wine sustainably. ‘We are swiftly moving towards a situation where being environmentally friendly isn’t just sound practice, it’s also better financially,’ says Paul Donaldson of Pegasus Bay in New Zealand. Brault agrees: ‘It is more expensive to spray and work soil intensively than to manage cover crops.’ Ultimately we have little choice. Miguel Torres, who owns vineyards in Spain, Chile and California, feels that, ‘if we don’t take immediate measures, the world and viticulture will be heading for big problems’ as soils become increasingly sterile and viticulture less viable.

Donaldson’s Māori heritage includes the tradition of ‘kaitiakitanga’ or guardianship of the natural world. His tribe’s philosophy is ‘Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei’ (‘For us and our children after us’). He feels that guardianship of the natural world is just common sense. ‘There is no point in having a mono-generational viewpoint,’ he says.

As Goode puts it: ‘If your vineyard practices are not sustainable, then you are expecting the next generation to pick up your tab – and that’s not okay.’

Greening Waipara

In 2005, Steve Wratten, Professor of Ecology at New Zealand’s Lincoln University, started working with four wine producers in the Waipara Valley on the Greening Waipara project. This pioneering biocontrol initiative looks for ways to restore ‘functional biodiversity’ in a region that had lost much of its natural habitat. Trees, shrubs and cover crops were planted in vineyards to attract beneficial insects and suppress weeds; wetlands were created, using plants to filter run-off water from the vineyards. More than 50 vineyards are now involved in the project, some with biodiversity trails for visitors.

The programme shows that enhancing biodiversity in vineyards improves natural pest control and soil fertility. Boosting biocontrols and reducing reliance on herbicides and pesticides enables growers to regenerate natural habitats, save money, improve the marketability of their wines and increase tourism.

‘By cultivating plants like buckwheat between vine rows, which attracts parasitic wasps that kill leafroller caterpillars, growers find that spraying pesticides is no longer economic,’ explains Wratten.

‘In the same way, organic mulches both increase biological activity in the soil and limit botrytis infection in the vineyard, making fungicides unnecessary.’

Rupert Joy is a former diplomat, international consultant and occasional wine writer


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Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017: Vintage report and top picks

Sat, 16/03/2019 - 12:00
Bird nets over the bunches in Gibbston Valley.

If Forrest Gump had preferred wine to running, he might have said ‘Central Otago seasons are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get’.

function trackVivino(wineId, initialAction) { if (window.ipc && window.ipc.utils) { const category = 'Premium'; const action = 'Vivino Buy '+initialAction; var label = wineId+ ' ~ Collection ~ '+initialAction; window.ipc.utils.trackEvent(category, action, label); } } You may also like: Central Otago: Everything to know and wines to try Beyond Sauvignon: Top New Zealand white wines – Panel tasting results Cobb Wines: Playing the ‘Pinot Noir long-game’

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Rebuilding efforts start after Russian River floods

Fri, 15/03/2019 - 18:29

The floods drastically damaged portions of Sonoma County, including wineries, tasting rooms and popular eateries.

Assessing the full extent of the damage will still take some weeks but nonetheless efforts to rebuild have begun.

‘Westside Farms was 100% underwater. Thankfully all the vines are dormant, so no damage has been found,’ the team at Ramey Cellars told

‘Our neighbours, Graciana Winery didn’t fair as well. Their tasting room and wine storage area were flooded and sustained a lot of damage. They are working hard to get everything cleaned up in time for their April 1st season opening party.’

‘We did take on some water at [Kosta Browne] winery and are working on getting all of our operations back up and running,’ said Carol Reber, of Duckhorn Wine Company, which owns Kosta Browne winery.

‘We do not yet have power and believe it will take several more days to get it restored. Once that happens, we will have some work to do to return our production and hospitality spaces to their pristine condition and have a great team in place to handle this.

‘Fortunately, our 2017 wines are in fine condition and shipping now.’

‘We hope people will join us in providing whatever support they can to our neighbours at The Barlow who were disproportionately affected. They are nearly all small business owners and many of their situations are quite challenging,’ said Reber.

Restaurants and other local businesses were also affected, and are working on reopening their doors with a good amount of help from the close community.

Chef Jake Rand from the recently opened Koshō restaurant in Sebastopol said ‘The whole restaurant had to be gutted, we are awaiting permits to start again from the ground up.’

The whole community has rallied together to support each other.

‘It is an unfortunate disaster but it has truly brought the community together, hoping to see the wineries and restaurant up and going soon,’ said Rand.

‘The local community has helped Graciana a lot,’ said Ramey.

‘There are several GoFundMe campaigns and other efforts already launched to support [The Barlow],’ said Reber.

Editing by Ellie Douglas

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Tinazzi: Venetian expertise in Italy’s Puglia region

Fri, 15/03/2019 - 17:05

The Tinazzi company was founded in Cavaion Veronese, near Garda Lake in Northern Italy, by Eugenio Tinazzi and his son Gian Andrea in 1968...

Feudo Croce

50 years later, in 2019, the company is still run by Gian Andrea and his children Giorgio and Francesca.

The entrepreneurial spirit of the family led to a vigorous expansion of their properties, first in the Valpolicella region, near Verona, and then in the southern region of Puglia, where they quickly formed a passion for the traditional wines of the region.

Feudo Croce

It was in the early 2000s that Gian Andrea came across the Feudo Croce Estate in the Salento area of Puglia. What struck him immediately was the enormous potential of the local native grape varieties, mainly Primitivo, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera.

A few months later, the family decided to invest in the region and acquired the 68 hectare estate. After equipping the winery with the latest technology and a state-of-the art irrigation system, Feudo Croce wines quickly won international praise and acclaim.

Feudo Croce is in Salento, the southernmost part of Puglia, in the heel of Italian boot. The Mediterranean climate features long and hot summers, with little rain and sea breezes which cool the vineyards. The main grape varieties are Primitivo, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera. Primitivo is also known in the wine world as Zinfandel, but the name comes from the Latin word “primativus”, meaning “early ripening”. Grapes come from low bush-trained vines, farmed in the typical albarello system. Primitivo wines are usually full-bodied and rich, with aromas of dark fruit like fresh figs, blueberries and baked blackberries. In the ripening season, Primitivo grapes achieve high levels of sugar, which means that the wines are rich in alcohol and very fruity.

The Tinazzi family

Cantine San Giorgio

Success in Puglia led Tinazzi to expand even further in the region, with the purchase of the winery called Cantine San Giorgio to provide the full production process. Cantine San Giorgio is a historic business in the territory of Salento, founded in 1962
as a wine cooperative. The Tinazzi’s purchased it, after careful assessment in 2011, to favour local wine production even further, enhancing the potential of Puglia’s typical grape varieties.

Cantine San Giorgio, is now an important production reality in one of the most interesting wine regions in Italy and has come to fame with its commitment to high quality grapes and wines.

The symbol of Cantine San Giorgio is the “Torre Vinaria”, a 21 metre-high white tower that houses 6 assemblies of vats, one underground and five above ground. The tower was designed to allow wine to flow from one tank to another without being adversely affected by the frequent heatwaves of the Salento region.

Cement vats have become very popular again in recent years, primarily due to their ability to maintain the temperature of the wine constant, thanks to the qualities and thickness of the concrete.

The Tinazzi’s are now preparing to strengthen their relationship with Puglia even more: a new winery is being built, with completion date the end of 2019, beginning 2020. This new winery will be the flagship in terms of modernity and automation, without ever forgetting the quality and tradition of our products from Puglia.

Imperio LXXIV

Tinazzi’s investment in Puglia has been repaid with success, especially with the Primitivo di Manduria, Imperio LXXIV. The name, Imperio, is a reference to the empire of the Ancient Romans, who were the first to cultivate this grape. In fact, Primitivo gets its name from the Latin “primiativus”, meaning “first to ripen/early ripening”. The LXXIV part of the name, the number 74, is related to the year 1974, when the wine was first classified as a DOP product.

Grapes: 100% Primitivo di Manduria.

Vineyards: on the Feudo Croce estate; clay and limestone soil.

Vinification: pressing and destemming of hand-picked grapes with maceration and fermentation at controlled temperatures of 22-26° for 10-15 days. Second soft pressing. Maturation in 5-10 hectolitre French oak barrels for 12 months.

Alcohol: 14.5%.

Tasting notes: deep, opaque red; complex array of aromas: ripe berry fruit, spices, slight hints of cocoa, balsamic vein. Good length and balance on the palate; hints of dried fruit, soft tannins, toasty finish. Perfect with roast meat and mature cheese.

Wine Tourism

Visits and tastings can be organised on the Feudo Croce estate in Carosino to discover the local vineyards and how the wine is made. The barrel cellar can be visited and the tour finishes with a taste of typical Puglian wines to give the visitor an idea of the flavours and tastes of their wonderful land of origin.


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Why Tuscany’s Piccini saved Chianti Geografico coop from collapse

Fri, 15/03/2019 - 12:30
Gaoile in Chianti.

Piccini said its deal saves Chianti Geografico from bankruptcy and that it plans to invest a further 2m euros to renovate barrel cellars and winemaking facilities to improve wine quality at the cooperative in the coming years.

Chianti Geografico is woven into the fabric of modern winemaking in Chianti; it was founded in 1961 by a band of 17 wine growers who believed the Chianti name was being used too broadly across Tuscany – to the detriment of quality.

But, more recently, the cooperative was understood to have struggled financially.

Giacomo Panicacci, brand ambassador for Tenute Piccini, told that his company saved Geografico by paying off the cooperative’s debts.

‘By creating a long-term relationship with the growers, [and] by ensuring quicker and scheduled payments guaranteed by a local bank, we [can] make sure that the new generations will keep working the vineyards rather than abandoning them or selling them,’ said Panicacci.

Piccini’s purchase is deal is not entirely altruistic. It has been managing Geografico operations for the past two-and-a-half years and the wine group alluded to commercial opportunities for Geografico that would also protect the ‘social fabric’ of the communities where the coop is based.

‘[The] USA is pretty much a new market for this historical Italian brand, plus Geografico will target the Asian market by taking advantage of the new Tenute Piccini offices in Shanghai,’ said Panicacci.

The deal is part of an ongoing strategy at Piccini to invest in boutique estates, such as the purchase of 13-hectare Torre Mora estate in Etna, Sicily, in 2013.

Piccini said that it intends to maintain the new-look Geografico as an independent group, but it will offer expert guidance in the vineyard and cellar in order to improve quality, plus access to Piccini’s sales and marketing networks.

No targets have been set for quantity, said Panicacci. ‘The wines produced at Geografico will only be made by grapes sourced directly from the local growers joining the project,’ he said.

Alessandro Barabesi, a former Frescobaldi winemaker, will be in charge of Geografico’s wine operations, he added.

Geografico has two wineries, in Gaiole in Chianti and also in San Gimignano, which focuses on Vernaccia di San Gimignano and the wines of Chianti Colli Senesi.

In 2018, Geografico had sales of around 4.7m euros.

Piccini had sales of 67m euros in 2018 and produced 16m bottles of wine. The firm expects to complete work on a new 17,000-metre-squared headquarters in the next three months and also plans to launch a range of premium organic wines from its Moraia estate in Maremma this year.

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Barolo Riserva 2013: ‘Some first-rate wines’

Fri, 15/03/2019 - 10:32
Barolo Riservas require a minimum of five years in wood and bottle before release.Barolo Riserva 2013

A cool spring with disease pressure was followed by a warm finish to the growing season with grapes ripening slowly, producing lean but nuanced wines in general with some first-rate examples.


The problem with 2013 was disease, or at least the constant threat of disease.

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See all of Stephen’s Barolo Riserva 2013 tasting notes & scores You may also like: Elvio Cogno Barolo: Tasting the Ravera cru Best Italian wines: A selection of the greatest ‘Every collector needs one’: Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello Riserva

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Cape Town: Top restaurants and wine bars

Thu, 14/03/2019 - 15:45
The view from the top of Lionshead Mountain, overlooking Cape Town.Cape Town restaurants and wine bars 96 Winery Road

You’d expect a restaurant co-founded by local winemaking celebrity Ken Forrester to have a decent wine list, and this place delivers in spades. Vegetarians look away now, but it should be a house rule that at least someone in your party orders a steak. Relax at an outside table with a glass of wine for long enough and you might also see other winemakers dropping by for a bite. This is the perfect place to unwind after a hard morning of tasting. The Somerset West location is also a 30- to 40-minute taxi ride from Cape Town. Recommended by Chris Mercer. 

The Butcher Shop and Grill

The place to go for the best mature 21 – to 40-day aged local beef and lamb, as well as other cuts from all around the world. There’s a great selection of wines too, which you’d expect from their not one, but two cellars! The bottom floor has a great selection of latest-release wines, whilst the top floor has an unbelievable selection of rarer library vintages, including the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction bottlings. Recommendations by Gary Jordan and Vahan Agulian.

Butcher Shop & Grill. Credit:

Mr and Mrs Smith hotels in Cape Town Burrata

There will be something familiar about the Old Biscuit Mill in the up-and-coming Woodstock area to anyone who has visited other hipster enclaves springing up in cities across the world. But don’t let that put you off: Burrata sits right in the middle of the action and offers mainly Italian-inspired fare. Look no further than the excellent wood-fired pizzas and the very impressive selection of South African wines – albeit only a handful are offered by the glass. You could also try the Woodstock Brewery down the road for a beer afterwards. We’d advise getting a taxi, unless you’re staying very local. Recommended by Chris Mercer. 

Cause Effect

If you’re looking to carry on the night after some dinner, then head to Cause Effect cocktail bar on Park Road, just off Kloof Street. Place yourselves at the bar and choose from a great selection of seasonal, experimental cocktails. They’re served with the sort of imagination that Salvador Dali would be proud of and excellently made by the bar’s crack team of bartenders. Recommended by Chris Mercer.  

Chalk & Cork

Owned and run by a husband and wife with Michelin-star wine and management backgrounds. Light, fresh wines and tapas changing by the seasons, and at very reasonable prices. Recommended by Gary Jordan

Decanter travel guide: Franschhoek, South Africa Chefs Warehouse & Canteen

Liam Tomlin changes his tapas menu weekly. You have to get there early to grab a spot though, as no bookings are taken. Enjoy great food, interesting craft beers and carefully selected estate wines. The Chefs Warehouse shop has one of the best collections of interesting recipe books you could ask for – including three by Tomlin himself. Recommended by Gary Jordan

Den Anker

At the heart of the V&A Waterfront, offering postcard views, enjoy great local seafood in a Belgian style. Cape wines are on offer by the glass and bottle, but the beer tastings and pairings from the Belgian Beer Company are exceptional. Recommended by Gary Jordan

First Thursdays

The first Thursday each month is a free cultural experience where all the galleries and a number of boutiques in the city stay open late. Food trucks line the streets and restaurants and bars offer something different to their normal menu. Recommended by Gary Jordan

Jerry’s Burger Bar

Sometimes a great burger just hits the right spot, and Jerry’s has got a good thing going on in Cape Town. There are several branches, but the bar on Park Road, Kloof, is a good spot to work your way through the menu and enjoy the afternoon sun as you sip one or three of the many local wines and craft beers on the menu. A majority of the wines are available by the glass. by Chris Mercer. 

Kloof Street Townhouse

On the infamous Kloof Street, this Victorian-era townhouse is famous for its eclectic design, straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Have a drink at the bar, enjoying unique cocktail combinations, dine in the townhouse, sampling a range of meat and seafood options, or when it’s sunny outside, lunch in their live music garden. Recommended by Vahan Agulian

Dishes at Publik wine bar. Credit:

Publik Wine Bar

The wine list changes daily, showcasing new and interesting wines from South Africa, all served by the glass. Recommended by Gary Jordan

Salsify at the Roundhouse

The new restaurant by Luke Dale-Roberts, founder and owner of the Test Kitchen (ranked 22nd in 2016’s The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards) is one amazing experience for the senses, using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Fine dining and fine wine, bookings advised! Recommended by Vahan Agulian

Truth Coffee Roasting

If you need a caffeine hit to start your day, head to this steampunk inspired venue, named by the UK’s Telegraph as the best coffee shop in the world. The beans are hand roasted in a steel drum, and you can even attend barista school to hone your skills. Recommended by Gary Jordan

Tuning the Vine

One Wednesday a month, Tuning the Vine takes to the hippest streets in Cape Town for #InnerCityWineRoute, linking some of the city’s most exciting venues through a ‘wine adventure’. There are sommelier guided tasting tours, food and wine pairings, cellar talks, live music, wineinspired ‘tattoos’ and more. Recommended by Gary Jordan

And finally… Sundowners on top of Lion’s Head

Not a restaurant or a wine bar, but a moderate hike to the peak (669m above sea level) gives you a 360° view from Camps Bay to the 12 Apostles, up the West Coast, all the way around to Stellenbosch and into the centre of Cape Town. Hiking shoes and BYO wine necessary for one of South Africa’s best sunset drinking spots. Recommended by Gary Jordan. 

Recommendations by Gary Jordan of Jordan Wine Estates, Chris Mercer and Vahan Agulian.

Also see: Cape Town weekend road trip Decanter travel guide: Stellenbosch Top South African red wines to try Top South African white wines to try

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Burgundy premier cru vs grand cru vineyards – Ask Decanter

Thu, 14/03/2019 - 13:00
What are the definitions for Burgundy premier cru and grand cru sites?

T Bradfield, Staffordshire, asks: What are the differences between Burgundy’s ‘premier cru’ and ‘grand cru’ vineyard sites? Are there official definitions? And should one be able to tell the difference in taste?

Stephen Brook, a Decanter contributing editor, replies: Burgundy’s vineyard classification began in 1935 and completed in 1942. It’s not consistent – Marsannay, for example, has no premiers crus, while AP Montagny has a staggering 49.

But overall the classification is sound, although there is wiggle room between village level and premier cru, and between premier cru and grand cru. Nor is the system static. In 2010 Marsannay petitioned the governing body INAO to establish 14 premiers crus, but is still awaiting approval.

There are only 33 grands crus. One anomaly is that neither Volnay nor Nuits-St-Georges has grands crus. That is because in the 1930s leading growers chose not to petition for them, for a range of reasons, including a reluctance to pay the higher taxes levied on grand cru wines.

It’s hard to prove one site’s superiority to another, as wine appreciation is subjective. But centuries of experience have enabled growers to determine a widely accepted hierarchy. With arguable exceptions such as Corton, grands crus have earned their reputation, although a mediocre producer is unlikely to deliver a great wine even from the most outstanding site.

Decanter Premium: Could these Burgundy premier crus be promoted to grand cru status? 

This question first appeared in the April 2019 issue of Decanter magazine.

See more wine questions here

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Anson: A vertical of Château Bélair-Monange

Thu, 14/03/2019 - 10:38

The buzz around Château Bélair-Monange is becoming increasingly audible, making this vertical tasting one of the most exciting that I’m likely to do this year.

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