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Best Chardonnays outisde Burgundy

3 hours 37 min ago

Chardonnay, most wine lovers agree, is the noblest white grape variety (we’ll allow Riesling enthusiasts a dissenting voice), and today it’s widely planted throughout the world.

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Highlights – DWWA 2019 Judging and Platinum week

8 hours 7 min ago
Judging was organised by region, with each panel judged by experts in that region.

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Wine Buyer’s Guide to Calais – Is a booze cruise still worth it?

9 hours 37 min ago

Mention of a ‘booze cruise’ is a very 1990s concept in the UK. Excitement about the Channel Tunnel finally opening led to convoys of grey Volvo Estates heading across the English Channel to take advantage of lower taxes on mainly French wine.

It felt exciting and exotic to be physically linked to continental Europe.

But, the flow of Volvos eventually dried up with the rise of ‘New World’ varietal wines available at low prices in the UK supermarkets. Calais suffered as stores that once thronged with thirsty Brits had to close.

Fast-forward to the present day and it seems that, despite many Britons’ penchant for leaving the European Union, Brexit is being blamed for re-opening the road to Calais.

Millennials – many of whom voted Remain in the 2016 referendum, of course – are reportedly taking advantage of their last bit of free movement and stocking up before forecast price rises kick-in after Brexit.

So, is the booze cruise worth it?

We took the journey and, below, we’ve considered it based on two motivations for a day trip:

  • Stocking up for a special occasion, whether it’s a wedding or party
  • Wine lovers looking for something a bit different and not just a warehouse of brands
The party planner

On our trip, four of us set out at 05.45 from London to get an early crossing into Calais. With the roads clear, and no queues at Folkestone, we were in France before we knew it.

First stop, the industrial park that houses The Calais Wine Superstore, Majestic Calais, or ‘Naked Calais’ as it may become known, and The Pidou Wine Superstores.

These stores aren’t set up for wine enthusiasts and certainly follow the model of pile ‘em high and flog ‘em cheap.

The tasting area of the Calais Wine Superstore has a distinct smell of bleach, suggesting an overly enthusiastic tasting party may have passed through early that day.

Having a look at the prices around these air hangars of branded wine, the Champagne prices were on par with Christmas discount sales in the UK supermarkets, so were an easy pass.

You might once have reached for a keenly priced Crémant, but these alternative French sparkling wines are becoming easier to find in the UK, so again it was a pass.

There were, however, some good deals. Porta 6, of Saturday Kitchen Fame, was showing a big saving at £3.30 a bottle in The Calais Wine Superstore and £3.79 in Majestic.

Top names such as Guigal and Whispering Angel seemed to be able to keep their prices a little higher and deals looked less attractive at the £10-a-bottle mark. However, many of the branded reds and whites below £10 showed good savings.

To make things a little easier to evaluate, here’s a little comparison table with savings:

Cost of Travel:
  • Eurotunnel: £60+
  • Petrol from London: £60
Wine Example: Côtes du Rhône, E. Guigal
  • The Calais Wine Superstore: £7.99
  • E. Leclerc: €8.50
  • Waitrose: £11.99 (£8.99 when 25% off sale is on)
Saving: £4-a-bottle when at full price in the UK, but only £1 when discounted Wine Example: Porta 6
  • Majestic Calais: £3.79
  • Majestic UK: £8.99 (£7.99 as part of six)
Savings: £5.20-a-bottle at full price, but £4.20 discounted

To break even, you will need to buy 36 bottles or more, which is no problem for most weddings.

It’s still a great day out if you do need to cater for a mass of friends and family, and well worth the adventure if, after you’re done, you can nip in the car and drive along the coast.

For wine lovers

The Calais we’ve described above won’t cut it for wine aficionados.

But, step beyond Calais and there are some fantastic spots offering broader ranges. After a lot of driving driving around, we’ve whittled the stops down to offer a suggested itinerary for the day.

Boursot’s, Ardres

Head 25 minutes south-east of Calais to Ardres. This small, beautiful, French village feels a million miles from the wine warehouses of Calais. There’s a carpark in the centre, with a boulangerie that is great for breakfast if you took the early train.

Just a short walk from the centre we found Boursot’s – a wine store with a brilliantly interesting and curated selection.

The owner, Guy Boursot, is an Englishman who’s been in France several years and has a rich history in the wine trade.

Among the wines we picked out were Morrillon Blanc for £8.50, a Chardonnay from Languedoc-Roussillon that included a small percentage of Noble Rot-affected grapes blended in; think Ken Forrester’s FMC but a little sweeter.

We also found a lovely, light, biodynamic Pic-St-Loup at £6.50 and a St-Estèphe with 12 years of bottle age for £13.40.

After leaving with a number of wines under-arm in a mish-mash of cases, we stopped off for a coffee outside the beautiful Hotel de Ville – Ardres’ Town Hall – for a well-earned rest.


A drive due west across the beautiful Haut de France countryside for 35 minutes will bring you out at the busy seaside town of Boulogne-sur-Mer.

South-west of the town is a huge E. Leclerc, a French supermarket known for low prices. This isn’t the sort of place you’d expect to find real variety, but its huge wine section has a Bordeaux offering better than many fine wine stores in London. It is a mini-tour around France’s best known regions and names, which we thought was great for people on a day trip with limited time to shop around. You can also pick cheese to go with your selections, of course.

We picked out an aged Château d’Armailhac for under €40, a white Faugères and red Savigny-lès-Beaune for under €16.

Once happy with our haul, we took a short drive back to the centre of Boulogne-sur-Mer and found ourselves on the seafront.

Be careful here, because parking is hard to come by and the car park on the front, we were told, is permanently full.

Having navigated the parking challenge, we headed for lunch at the Michelin-starred La Matelote.

With an extremely reasonable set price set lunch at €28  and a bottle of Batailley 2006 at €60 to wash it down, everyone was feeling happy with life; not that our designated driver could enjoy the wine too much, of course.

Other recommendations for that area include Wimereux, another short drive along the coast and home to Michelin-standard restaurants. We passed that up for a walk on the beach and to watch the sun set at a local bar.

Sitting there, the group sipped beers and started to ask the question, ‘do you think we could change the train back and stay the night?’. A sign of not wanting to leave, and testament to a great day out.

Find more wine travel guides here

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Pairing wine with salmon: What to choose

Sun, 19/05/2019 - 14:00
How do you like your salmon? Styles to look for when pairing wine with salmon: Style of salmon Wine style Seared salmon Chilled Pinot Noir, Chardonnay Smoked salmon Blanc de blancs Champagne, English sparkling wine, Riesling, manzanilla Sherry Herbs and citrus Sauvignon Blanc Sweet spice (ginger) or Miso Pinot Gris, Riesling Sushi Sauvignon Blanc, especially Sancerre Search Decanter wine reviews here What the sommeliers say

Salmon is a fairly versatile fish, so it’s going to depend on the type of salmon you’ve bought and what you do with it.

‘The wine pairing depends heavily on how the salmon is prepared and the accompanying side dishes,’ said Jolanta Dinnadge, head sommelier at Corrigan’s Mayfair.

Wild vs farmed salmon

High consumer demand means that farmed Atlantic salmon has become much more prevalent on dinner tables, and farmed varieties also tend to have a fattier texture than their wild cousins.

For seared salmon, and particularly farmed varieties, ‘the obvious choice is a chilled Pinot Noir’, said food and wine expert Fiona Beckett in a previous article for Decanter.

Pinot ‘picks up perfectly on the richness of the fish and the caramelised crust’, said Beckett, adding that Chardonnay is also worth considering.

Bold reds will ‘kill the flavours’

While it’s a myth that red wine never matches with fish, it helps not to go too big.

‘An absolute no is to pair a full bodied red wine with salmon as this will kill both the wine and the fish’s flavours,’ said Dinnadge.

Salmon with herbs and cream sauces

‘Taste is a personal sensation and unique to each individual,’ said Wilfried Rique, beverage manager at Nobu Shoreditch. ‘However, I would say that there are a few essentials that are good to know.’

‘The minerality and herbaceous notes of a classic Sauvignon Blanc will match well with a salmon cooked with fine herbs and citrus,’ he said.

‘If the salmon is accompanied with butter and cream, you should go more for a Chardonnay with a bit of oak to highlight the fish.’


Nobu is known for its seafood and also its Japanese flavours, such as wasabi and teriyaki sauces, as well as spice combinations involving ginger and garlic, plus also South American influences, such as jalapeno.

‘We like to choose a Riesling from Germany or a Pinot Gris from Alsace to enhance the flavours of salmon cooked with some spices, and sweetness from the miso sauce, for example,’ said Rique.

Smoked salmon

From Christmas morning tradition to classic canapés and light summer lunches, quality smoked salmon has a timeless appeal.

‘For a classic smoked salmon dish with onion, capers and a slice of lemon, a Riesling will be great,’ said Dinnadge, who picked out Trimbach’s Cuvée Frédéric Émile 2011 vintage from the Corigan’s Mayfair wine list.

Others prefer sparkling wines, and particularly those made with Chardonnay in a blanc de blancs style.

Matthieu Longuère MS, of Le Cordon Bleu London, suggested a vintage English sparkling wine with smoked salmon canapés when writing on the subject for

‘Thanks to its high acidity, it should also handle the saltiness of smoked salmon,’ he said.

‘For Chardonnay Champagne, smoked salmon on toast is best, with crème fraiche,’ said Thomas Laculle-Moutard, of Laculle and Moutard Champagne houses, speaking on the sidelines of Decanter’s Sparkling Exploration event in 2017.

Writing in Decanter in 2007, Fiona Beckett recommended manzanilla Sherry with smoked salmon.

[It’s] not the most usual combination with smoked salmon but the most reliably consistent one,’ she said. ‘It goes without saying that the Sherry should be served chilled from a freshly opened bottle.’

Salmon Sushi

‘For sushi, as it is a small bite, I would recommend a crispy and citrusy wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay,’ said Rique.

Sauvignon from ‘Sancerre is a good go-to as It balances well with the acidity of the salmon but has enough strength to match with the bold note of the rice’.

See more food and wine pairing guides


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Understanding the different Madeira styles

Sun, 19/05/2019 - 10:00

Madeira is a wine that behaves like no other. Acidity, heat and air combine to make it one of the world’s most resilient wines – a dream for a desert island.


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How wine regions gain UNESCO World Heritage status

Sat, 18/05/2019 - 10:00
Champagne gained UNESCO status in 2015

A crocodile of poncho-wearing tourists trail behind a cruise-ship guide in the aftermath of a downpour in St-Emilion. It’s an unseasonably soggy summer day in the medieval town and the steep, narrow lanes are treacherous, but that’s not deterring thousands of visitors: American voices mingle with French, German and Chinese, filling the cafés and keeping the wine stores – which advertise that they ‘speak English with a French accent’ – ticking over. 2019 is 20 years since the town achieved UNESCO World Heritage status, and a survey by the town’s tourism office says that 30% of all those who visit come because of that status.

Yet St-Emilion has hardly promoted its position as a World Heritage site since 1999. Locals can’t recall any meaningful celebration of its newly protected status, and today only six in 10 members of the tourist board can recall which year it was granted. The town and its people are only now starting to realise that they should be championing their UNESCO credentials – better late than never.

Jean-François Quenin, owner of Château de Pressac, explains: ‘I think we brushed it under the carpet and are realising that we have not managed the UNESCO status properly.’ Quenin was president of the St-Emilion wine council between 2008 and 2015, and he now berates himself for letting the 10th anniversary pass without so much as a murmur. The value of World Heritage status has only become apparent through the backing of high-profile individuals in recent UNESCO applications.

‘Now we see all the other vineyards like Champagne and Burgundy, and all the wine growers were behind it: Aubert de Villaine headed the Burgundy application. It was just administrative people here – it should be about everybody working together.’

Indeed, in early 2014, the co-owner of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti was travelling far and wide, making the last push for Burgundy’s UNESCO bid. On a visit to New Zealand, he told me that he had been working on the project on a part-time basis since November 2006. ‘The reasons we started the UNESCO project – and why I got so involved – were, first, I had learned over the years how different Burgundy was from any other wine region, and how special and interesting it is. I thought this was a chance to show the world what Burgundy is in reality – beyond the folklore, the things that have been said about Burgundy,’ he explained. ‘Second, perhaps the most important for me, was the chance for the people of Burgundy, especially the vignerons, to become conscious that they had in their hands a precious, very old, high-value, unique place in the world. It is very important that its integrity is kept, to be passed to the next generations with its essence.’

In 2015, the efforts of de Villaine and the Burgundy team paid off. Along with the hillsides, houses and cellars of Champagne, the 1,247 climats (individuals terroirs) of the Côte d’Or were accepted into the World Heritage family as a cultural landscape worth protecting. And they celebrated, with an open invitation to all locals to bring their rugs and picnic baskets to Château de Meursault for a night of food, wine, music and fireworks. The Burgundians have now created a month-long annual festival of all things climat-related, and while their climats are rooted in history, they have embraced modern communication via their Instagram feed.

Current UNESCO wine regions

St-Emilion, France (added in 1999)

Loire Valley, France (2000)

Wachau, Austria (2000)

Alto Douro, Portugal (2001)

Middle Rhine, Germany (2002)

Tokaj, Hungary (2002)

Cape Floral Region, South Africa (2004)

Pico Island, Azores, Portugal (2004)

Lavaux, Swizerland (2007)

Stari Grad Plain, Croatia (2008)

Georgia Qvevri winemaking (2013*)

Pantelleria, Italy (2014)

Piedmont, Italy (2014)

Southern Jerusalem, Palestine (2014)

Burgundy, France (2015)

Champagne, France (2015)

*On the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list

See also: Decanter’s guide to UNESCO wine regions to visit Sensitive development

But what does UNESCO status really mean, and is it worth giving up seven years of your life to achieve it? Since Egypt’s Aswan dam was approved in the 1950s, signing the death warrant for the ancient Abu Simbel temples that sat in a soon-to-be flooded valley, UNESCO has appealed to countries around the globe to protect not only their own national heritage, but that of the world for future generations to inherit (the temples were later saved, moved piece by piece to higher ground). The idea gathered pace, and the first World Heritage Site list was published in 1978, with 12 sites admitted. Today, the list stands at 1,073 sites across 167 states.

World Heritage sites can be examples of outstanding natural beauty such as England’s Dorset and East Devon coast, or they can be man-made – the Taj Mahal, for example. The sites can be important geologically or ecologically; or they can be important to human culture and tradition. It’s not just preservation, it’s about sensitive development. Péter Molnár, general manager of winery Patricius in Tokaj, which was admitted in 2002, explains: ‘It’s a very good framework in which we can preserve the region – I used to say God created this area in a good mood, because it is really beautiful – but it is also about developing it [sensitively] too.’ And that means when a plan for a power plant in the area was submitted, its UNESCO status helped in the fight against the application.

However, it doesn’t mean that an area in the UNESCO list should remain frozen in the past – take the ultra-modern wineries of Châteaux La Dominique and Cheval Blanc that have risen from the St-Emilion vineyards in recent years. Camille Poupon of Vignobles Clément Fayat, which owns La Dominique, explains: ‘It has to be noted that St-Emilion has been inscribed on the World Heritage list as a “cultural landscape” that is living. This means that the city should not remain stuck in the medieval era. To the contrary, it should be able to demonstrate that the landscape has been carved out by generation upon generation of winemakers. Thus, there is a temporality question for UNESCO: there couldn’t be too many contemporary buildings that would be a testimony of the time they were built in. Building is not forbidden, but there’s control over how often modern architectural projects are launched.’

In the pipeline

St-Emilion’s success has led to a flurry of wine regions applying for World Heritage status, and today there are more than a dozen viticultural areas on the list. The latest aspirants include two Italian wine-producing denominaziones: Chianti Classico and Conegliano Valdobbiadene. The latter, the heartland of the Prosecco Superiore area, is nearly a decade down the line with its application, and in 2017 received the backing of Italy’s UNESCO commission to move up the ladder for international consideration.

Leopoldo Saccon, the team leader of the application, has been working on the project for the past 10 years – and that’s about the average time it takes to go from start to finish, he says. While they are hoping for a positive decision in 2018, experts may yet call for revisions after visiting in the autumn. It has been a long slog. ‘Italy has many World Heritage Sites, so it becomes more difficult for every new site to get accepted,’ says Saccon.

‘Secondly, there are other important vineyard sites around the world that are cultural landscapes, meaning they are created by nature but shaped by man; we had to find significant differences in our landscape.’

The 1,300-page dossier (and the 500 pages of preliminary studies and 100-page management plan) submitted to UNESCO attests to the region’s differences: vineyards clinging to a succession of geologically distinctive hills that require manual labour, the birthplace of Italy’s first winemaking school (1876), the series of villages, fortresses and churches, and its sparkling wines.

Chianti Classico, meanwhile, has only just shown its hand, so they have plenty of work ahead. The Consorzio’s president, Sergio Zingarelli, explains that they have employed the services of a specialist company who ‘are now preparing the necessary documents to place the Chianti district on the Italian government’s tentative list of candidates.’

The tentative list is the first in an arduous four-step process to becoming a World Heritage Site, and it may be five to 10 years before Italy puts Chianti Classico’s bid forward to the next stage. Elsewhere, things are stop-start: Bordeaux’s 1855 classification put up its hand in 2013, only to take it down again in 2016. It was reported that some châteaux voiced concerns that the classification may become even more inflexible, were it to become protected. And, based on Saccon’s guesstimate, the application would have cost in the region of €500,000. The preparation of the UNESCO dossier, admits Philippe Castéja, president of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855 and CEO of Borie-Manoux, was ‘too heavy a burden for us at the moment’.

Nevertheless, those who became members of the grand cru club more than 160 years ago should cross the Dordogne river in 2019 and help celebrate St-Emilion’s success, when they finally have a party to mark their 20th anniversary. There’s talk of its annual jazz and literary festivals having a UNESCO theme; the tourist office will also add ‘at least one UNESCO-specific tour’ to its list of excursions.

So next time you see a crocodile of tourists filing compliantly behind a lady waving a yellow umbrella in St-Emilion, perhaps they will be getting UNESCO-savvy.

How to gain UNESCO World Heritage status: A four-step, decade-long process

1. First, make it onto the tentative UNESCO list: a country’s ‘inventory’ of potential nominees.

2. The World Heritage body in each nation chooses the nominees to put forward, who must then present an exhaustive dossier to UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre for review.

3. Three separate advisory bodies assist the World Heritage Committee in the assessment of the applications.

4. The World Heritage Committee meets once a year to consider the evaluations and decide which of the nominated sites will make the year’s list; some may be deferred and further information requested.

Rebecca Gibb MW is an awarded and widely published freelance wine writer and editor. This feature was first published in the November 2017 issue of Decanter. 


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Malbec across the Andes

Sat, 18/05/2019 - 08:00

Twenty years ago, few people would have been able to envisage just how Malbec would evolve. The variety, which had been neglected for decades in its homeland, and only rarely used in red blends in other countries – such as Vega Sicilia in Spain and California’s Opus One – is today grown successfully not only in Argentina, but also in Chile, Australia, South Africa and the US. And in its native territory in Cahors, southwest France, Malbec wines are regaining the spotlight after spending centuries in the shadows.


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US storage owner admits stealing up to $1.5m of fine wine

Fri, 17/05/2019 - 16:32
Wine storage business owner faces 18 months in prison.

William Lamont Holder, 54, stole between $550,000 and $1.5m of wine from his clients, who were mostly private collectors and businesses, over a five-year period, according to the US attorney’s office in Maryland.

Holder, of Hanover in Maryland, faces an 18-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to a charge of wire fraud.

The attorney’s office said that Holder defrauded fine wine collectors via his ownership of Safe Harbour Wine Storage.

He collected monthly payments from customers in return for storing their ‘upscale wines’, but was in reality trying to sell their prized bottles to retailers around the country, including to retailers in Napa, according to the attorney’s office.

‘After the buyers selected the bottles they wanted to purchase, Holder boxed and shipped the wine, and sent his bank account information,’ it said.

‘Holder kept the proceeds from the sales and spent it on personal expenses,’ it added.

If the plea agreement between Holder and the US justice department is accepted by the court, Holder will be sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.

A sentencing hearing before US district judge Catherine C Blake was scheduled for 31 July.


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Latest: Top Tesco wines to buy

Fri, 17/05/2019 - 15:24

Tesco’s Finest range of wines has been a key focus for the UK supermarket, adding to its wine offering.

As well as covering the most well known regions and styles, it also covers slightly more unusual ground – including a still English white wine and a Saint-Mont.

See all supermarket wine recommendations here 

Below are 13 recommendations picked out from recent tastings of Tesco wines by our tasters, offering great value and checking all the boxes for drinking this summer – perfect wines to take along to a barbecue. 

The top eight wines were tasted April 2019.

Top Tesco wines to buy Related content: The best Majestic wines: Tasted by our experts

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Robert Parker formally retires from The Wine Advocate

Fri, 17/05/2019 - 15:11
Robert Parker

Parker, whose retirement was announced by The Wine Advocate editor-in-chief Lisa Perotti-Brown on the publication’s website, has been gradually reducing his tasting and writing duties for the past few years.

‘It is with mixed feelings that I announce that Robert M Parker Jr will, as of today, be formally hanging up his wine criticism boots and retiring from Robert Parker Wine Advocate,’ said Perotti-Brown.

‘His contribution to significantly raising the bar of critical, unbiased wine writing and wine quality cannot be overestimated. His unrivalled tasting experience and expert, straight-talking opinions will be sorely missed by consumers and trade alike.’

Parker added: ‘As I retire from The Wine Advocate, I have the honour of passing the baton to our wonderful team.

‘The time has come for myself to relinquish all editorial and board responsibilities with immediate effect.

‘I raise my glass to all of you for being part of this journey and hope all will continue to share the enthusiasm for discovering wines with our dedicated reviewers.’

Parker’s retirement comes two years after he handed over the reviewing of all wines for The Wine Advocate to its 10-strong team, although he had been slowly cutting back on his involvement in recent years.

In December 2012, Parker sold his controlling stake in The Wine Advocate to Asian investors, with Perotti-Brown replacing him as editor-in-chief. French tyre manufacturer and restaurant guide publisher Michelin acquired a 40% stake in the business in 2017.

In February 2015, Parker passed on the reviewing of Bordeaux en primeur to Neal Martin, with Martin taking on in-bottle Bordeaux tasting duties a year later. By this point, Parker had already stepped back from reviewing Burgundy and California wines.

Parker fell in love with wine when he visited Alsace in 1967 – his future wife Patricia was studying in the region – but continued his legal studies, graduating and taking a job as a lawyer in Baltimore in 1973.

In 1978, he began publishing The Baltimore-Washington Wine Advocate, which was renamed The Wine Advocate a year later.

Parker made his name on the back of the 1982 Bordeaux vintage, which some at the time thought was an overripe year. Parker’s host of hugely positive en primeur reviews used the 100-point scale.

Thanks to his growing reputation and subscriber base, Parker was able to quit his legal career in 1984 and focus on wine full-time. The Wine Advocate now has subscribers in more than 40 countries all over the world.

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First taste: Thiénot X Penfolds Champagne collaboration

Fri, 17/05/2019 - 12:26

Thiénot and Penfolds have partnered to produce a special portfolio of three Champagnes that will be released as part of the celebration for the 175th anniversary of Penfolds.

This project arose from the friendship of Peter Gago, chief winemaker for Penfolds, and Stanislas Thiénot, CEO of Champagne Thiénot, as a way of together expressing their shared passion for wine.

Scroll down to see Yohan’s tasting notes & scores

These two important figures in the wine world have already been collaborating for some time, as Maison Thiénot has been the French importer for Penfolds wines for the past four years.

As for his credentials in Champagne production, Gago is happy to point out that he once wrote a thesis on the theme of how acidity affects the character of Champagne. He also emphasises the fact that Penfolds has been producing its own sparkling wines for quite some time, and so crafting a Champagne with a partner based in that region seemed to be a natural evolution.

The wines

The first three bottlings released under the special Thiénot x Penfolds label are made with wines produced from the outstanding 2012 vintage. The range includes a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as two single-vineyard wines from grand cru villages: a Blanc de Blancs from Avize, and a Blanc de Noirs from Aÿ

Nicolas Uriel, Thiénot’s chef de cave, collaborated closely with Gago to create Champagnes expressing, in the words of Gago, ‘their differences while sharing the collective interpretation by Thiénot and Penfolds.’

The trio has slightly lower levels of dosage than those usually chosen by Maison Thiénot and, to strengthen the cross-hemisphere tie, they use a liqueur d’expédition elaborated in barriques initially used for Penfolds’ flagship Yattarna Chardonnay.

Malolactic fermentation is deliberately avoided to retain freshness, and Uriel explains that they ‘chose to lower the amount of dosage and not use barrel-ageing so as to enhance the terroir transparency of these Champagnes, while benefitting from Peter Gago’s blending expertise for fine-tuning the style we wanted.’

These Champagnes will be distributed by Penfolds around the world except for France, where it will be in the hands of the Thiénot group.

Thiénot X Penfolds Champagne:

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What is Cannonau? Ask Decanter

Fri, 17/05/2019 - 12:00
grapes Grenache

The grape variety Cannonau is local to the Italian island of Sardinia where it is one of the principal grapes used to produce the island’s deeply coloured, full-bodied red wines.

Cannonau is a late-ripening grape variety, which is best suited to hot and dry conditions, and is characterised by a medium alcohol level, soft acidity and generous red fruit flavours (raspberry and strawberry) alongside subtle floral and white pepper spice notes. It may be produced as a single varietal wine or blended with other varieties to add body and fruit without tannins.

Cannonau Origins

Despite original research linking the origins of Grenache/Cannonau to the region of Aragon in northern Spain and arriving on Sardinia by the Aragonese when they conquered the island in the early 14th century, it is now thought that the grape variety may well have originated on Sardinia itself.


Andrew Jefford describes Sardinia’s efforts with the variety as having ‘compelling interest’ and labels Cannonau the island’s ‘noblest’ red used for red wine blends as well as for the production of the Denomination of Origin varietal wine Cannonau di Sardegna.

The variety is grown in a number of different locations but the majority can be found on the east of the island encompassing both the coast, from Orosei to Bari Sardo, and the mountainous interior around the Nuoro, Ogliastra and Cagliari provinces.

Three smaller sub-regions have been officially identified as producing quality Cannonau including Nepente di Oliena, reserved exclusively for wines made in the town of Oliena, in the eastern Nuoro province; Capo Ferrato comprises the communes of Castiadas, Muravera, San Vito, Villaputzu and Villasimius in the island’s south-eastern corner and finally Jerzu, which applies to the Jerzu and Cardedu districts.


The Cannonau di Sardegna DOC was established in 1972 and covers the entire island producing both red and rosé wines from the Cannonau grape. The red wines may be produced in three styles; dry, sweet or fortified.

The dry reds must be a minimum of 12.5% alcohol-by-volume. They can also be produced in a riserva style with strict regulations controlling ageing requirements and minimum alcohol levels – these wines must have at least 13% ABV and an obligatory ageing period (known as affinamento obbligatorio) of two years, including at least six months in barrels, of which oak and chestnut are the more popular options.

The sweet style is known as passito and must have a minimum of 13% ABV while the fortified expressions, produced in both sweet and dry styles, are labelled as liquoroso. The dry liquoroso ‘secco’ must have a maximum residual sugar level of 10g/l and a minimum 18% ABV while the sweet Liquoroso dolce must have a minimum residual sugar level of 50g/l and a minimum 16% ABV. Both the passito and liquoroso styles have have a minimum one-year ageing requirement.

The total vineyard area is in the region of 2,300 ha with production totalling roughly 850,000 cases. The grape accounts for 20% of the island’s wine production with one in every five bottles of Sardinian wine labelled as Cannonau di Sardegna.

For Andrew Jefford the best Cannonau wines come from the granite uplands around Nuoro, and particularly the lonely village of Mamoiada. He says; ‘up here, at between 600m to 800m, the variety sheds its lowland sweetness and takes on an airy freshness and stony purity. This is not, though, the kind of mountain Grenache which tiptoes gracefully into Pinot territory. It remains strong, masterful and firmly structured, with often hugely impressive tannins. Cannonau, in other words, can be a wine of unusual completeness and authority for this variety.’

In recent years Cannonau wines have been associated with longevity and linked to the unusually long lifespan of the Sardinian population which sees many live well into their 90s. The grape is said to contain high levels of polyphenols and rich in anthocyanins both of which have antioxidant properties linked to heart health.

Top Grenache wines from around the world More wine questions answered


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Bordeaux wine legend André Lurton dies

Thu, 16/05/2019 - 17:58

Additional reporting by Jane Anson in Bordeaux.

André Lurton at La Louvière.

The French wine world was today mourning the loss of André Lurton, a key figure in the modern history of Bordeaux winemaking.

Among his achievements, Lurton played a central role in the creation of the Pessac-Léognan appellation, which was born in 1987 following several years of lobbying and bureaucratic wrangling.

Born in 1924 in the middle of harvest, and to a winemaking family, Lurton significantly expanded the family business after first inheriting Château Bonnet in Grezillac in 1953.

First, though, came World War Two, during which Lurton worked in the French Resistance and subsequently joined the French army in order to help with the fighting in Alsace in particular.

It was partly because of this experience that Lurton was known later for his collection of 1940s army vehicles.

He joined his father, François Lurton, in the vineyards after the war, aged 21.

After inheriting Bonnet in 1953, things didn’t go to plan initially. Frost seriously damaged the estate’s 50 hectares of vineyard in 1956 and Lurton grew crops for cattle feed in order to fund a major replanting programme.

Success eventually followed at Bonnet and this enabled Lurton to expand into what was then Graves, buying Château La Louvière in 1965. Two years later, he started renting vines at Château Couhins and subsequently bought the vineyards to create Château Couhins-Lurton in 1970.

Vignobles André Lurton today has 600ha of vines across much of southern Bordeaux.

Along the way, Lurton became mayor of Grézillac, was director of the CIVB for 20 years from 1966 to 1986 and president of the winemaking syndicate of Pessac and Léognan from 1980 to 1987, at which point it became AOC Pessac-Léognan.

Decanter’s Jane Anson wrote recently that the creation of the Pessac-Léognan appellation may not have come about at all ‘if it hadn’t been for the stubborn persistency of André Lurton’.

She said of Lurton this week, ‘He might have slowed down over the past few years, but few men have done as much to shape Bordeaux as André Lurton.

‘It was his lobbying that led to the creation of the Pessac-Léognan vintage in 1987, after a steady campaign of lobbying begun following his purchase of La Louvière.

‘He also managed the difficult feat of building up a successful, sizeable and consistently good quality AOC Bordeaux wine in the form of Château Bonnet, which today covers 300ha of vines.

‘He was also extremely good company, and will be missed’.

Several of Lurton’s seven children, notably Christine, François and Jacques, have built their own successful careers in wine.

Read Jane Anson’s article on ‘Pessac-Léognan 30 years on’


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Anson: Comparing St-Julien 1986 and 1988

Thu, 16/05/2019 - 09:06
Château Léoville Barton

St-Julien was always one of the most balanced appellations of the Médoc, with complexity, elegance and finesse. It covers just 5km north to south and, at 910ha, is one third of the size of Pauillac – though not so far off from Pomerol, which clocks in today at 800ha.

The appellation has just 19 winemakers, compared to 135 in Pomerol, giving you some idea of the difference in scale. They are almost all household names, and 11 are 1855 Crus Classés (five second growths, two third, four fourth), who collectively own around 90% of the appellations’ vines.

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Crimea’s historic Massandra winery may be sold

Thu, 16/05/2019 - 08:21
Massandra Winery's ownership has been disputed since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Speculation about potential bidders for Massandra winery has been building after Vladimir Konstantinov, head of the Crimean parliament, earlier this year said there were plans to privatise the historic producer, which was founded in 1894 and also has one of the largest wine collections in the world.

A tender process was expected to take place in October and November this year.

Massandra, which has long had high-profile admirers – including Tsar Nicolas II – was recently passed from Russian federal control to authorities in the Republic of Crimea.

However, any attempt at privatisation would likely draw the ire of Ukraine and its allies.

Ukraine’s government previously managed Massandra but lost control after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. European Union officials said in a legal note dated July 2014 that Massandra’s assets had been ‘transferred contrary to the Ukrainian law’. In 2015, Ukraine officials accused Massandra of illegally auctioning vintage wines that were part of Ukrainian national heritage.

Massandra’s value has been estimated at RUB12 to 15 billion (US$180-250 million), according to reports.

One of the potential bidders was reported to be Boris Titov, a businessman whose family owns Russia’s largest winery, Abrau-Durso.

However, a spokesperson for Abrau-Durso told that the company was not a potential suitor. ‘Abrau-Durso is not interested in buying Massandra winery,’ the spokesperson said.

Other potential bidders for Massandra have been reported to be billionaire businessmen Arkady Rotenberg and Yuri Kovalchuk, although their interest has not been confirmed. Both men are believed to be close to Russian president Vladimir Putin and have been targeted by US Treasury sanctions since 2014.

Kovalchuk bought Crimea’s Novy Svet winery in late 2017 via Rossia Bank, in which he has a majority stake, according to The Moscow Times.

Any deal for Massandra could present extra risks in terms of western sanctions for the buyer.

However, Russian lawyers from the Bannikov and Partners law firm said that this might not deter potential bidders that have already been made subject to EU and US sanctions since 2014.

Additional reporting by Chris Mercer.

From the archive: Andrew Jefford talks to Crimean winemakers in 2014


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Vin de Constance joins Bordeaux négociant market

Wed, 15/05/2019 - 15:58
Vin de Constance wine

The 2016 vintage of the historic wine – consumed by Napoleon Bonaparte and celebrated by writers including Jane Austen and Charles Dickens – will be available from the three négociants from 1 September this year.

The move is part of plans by Klein Constantia’s management team to raise the international profile of Vin de Constance, which was lauded as one of the world’s great wines in the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was known as Constantia.

Production ceased with the outbreak of phylloxera in South Africa in the mid to late 1800s, but was revived in the 1980s when the Klein Constantia Estate on the Cape was redeveloped, with 1986 marking the first vintage of the ‘new’ Vin de Constance.

Hans Anstrom, managing director of Klein Constantia, said the new distribution of Vin de Constance in the Bordeaux marketplace would ‘further elevate its nobility’.

Klein Constantia forms part of the original Constantia estate granted to Cape commander Simon van der Stel in 1685.

Exiled French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have consumed up to one bottle of Constantia a day when on the island of St Helena, and the wine was immortalised by writers including Alexandre Dumas and Charles Baudelaire.

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Anniversary wine for 2030 – Ask Decanter

Wed, 15/05/2019 - 12:57

Nathan Harder, by email, asks: I am getting married in August 2020. We both love wine and are looking to spend £200 or less on a 10-year anniversary wine.

We love Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or blends of both. We’re also taking a liking to red Zinfandel. What do you think would age well and be good in 2030?

Anthony Rose, an awarded wine writer and regular contributor to Decanter, replies: Congratulations! Assuming you’re not waiting until 2020 to find out what that vintage will be like, and if you’re prepared to push the boat out for a Cabernet-Merlot blend, you could do worse than plump for a Bordeaux cru classé from a great vintage such as 2010.

In that vein, Vieux Château Certan, albeit at just over £200 a bottle, is magnificent; Les Forts de Latour, a similarly priced chip off the Château Latour block, is extraordinarily dense; while just over £100 will buy the exceptional Pessac-Léognan cru classé, Château Haut-Bailly.

For a great Zinfandel with longevity, my choice would be the remarkably rich, spicy and ageworthy – not to mention cheaper – Ridge, Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2016.

Stored undisturbed in a cool dark place, any of these wines should be coming into their own beautifully in 2030.

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

See also: Decanter’s guide to anniversary wines 2019 See also: How to choose where to store wine See more wine questions here

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Deutz Champagne: Producer profile

Wed, 15/05/2019 - 10:00

Deutz is based in the Champagne town of Ay – prime Pinot Noir terroir. In addition, it sources Pinot Noir from Verzenay, Mailly and Mareuil sur Ay.

Yet despite being known as a Pinot Noir house, Deutz also produces two exceptional blanc de blancs – its vintage bottling and Amour de Deutz. Both source Chardonnay grapes from the best sites in the Côte des Blancs: Avize, Mesnil sur Oger, Chouilly and Oger. Today, the house has access to 216ha of vineyards across Champagne, 42ha of which it owns itself. The rest of its grape supply comes from long-term grower relationships. It also owns press houses in Ay, Bouzy and the Côte des Blancs.


During the 19th century and beyond, Deutz’s star continued to rise right around Europe. But by the end of the 20th century, its reputation was in decline having failed to invest and develop.

The decision was then taken by family shareholders to put the estate up for sale. It was bought by the Rouzaud family, owners of Louis Roederer Champagne and a portfolio of wine estates around the world. Jean-Claude Rouzaud quickly installed the autonomous and independently minded Fabrice Rosset as president and CEO. This has proved a brilliant appointment.

Over the last two decades, Rosset has generated income and re-invested around €30m in the cellars, winery and infrastructure. Quality has increased under chef de cave Michel Davesne, who joined in 2003. So too has production, up dramatically from 600,000 bottles in 1996 to nearly 2.4m in 2018.

The Deutz Champagne range

The range begins with its Brut Classic and Brut Rosé non-vintage Champagnes, followed by a vintage, vintage rosé and vintage Blanc de Blancs.

Then come its prestige cuvées: William Deutz, Amour de Deutz (Blanc de Blancs and Rosé) and most recently, its single-vineyard offerings – Hommage à William Deutz La Côte Glacière and Hommage à William Deutz Meurtet.


Winemaking is very traditional, with vinification in stainless steel vats. Oak is entirely eschewed here to emphasise purity and freshness. The base wines are fermented at low temperatures to preserve aromatics and all the wines go through malolactic fermentation. The Brut Classic NV, at one end of the spectrum, spends three years on its lees, while the cuvée William Deutz spends up to 10 years on its lees.

Its three rosés are made by blending Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit with a top quality still Pinot Noir wine from a unique plot of vines, rather than the saignée method. Davesne prefers this technique because he believes it maintains elegance and colour consistency.

The house style

According to Davesne, the Deutz style is a combination of elegance, finesse and vinosity. The wines can be drunk on their own as an aperitif, but the vintage Champagnes are really designed for pairing with food – especially when they have acquired some bottle age.

Deutz factbox:

Founded In 1838 by William Deutz and Pierre Hubert Geldermann

Location Ay, Champagne

Key figures Jean-Claude Rouzaud (owner); Fabrice Rosset (president & CEO); Michel Davesne (chef de cave)

Deutz Champagne: Tasting notes & scores You may also like: What happens when a new chef de cave takes over? How does English sparkling wine compare to Champagne? Dom Pérignon 1990-2009: ‘The mother of all DP tastings’

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Littorai: Sustainability on California’s north coast

Tue, 14/05/2019 - 14:00
Biodynamic preparations at Littorai.

The first American to work as a winemaker in Burgundy, Littorai’s founder Ted Lemon wanted to pursue old-world restraint and elegance in California when he returned to the USA, and so he and his wife Heidi identified the cool Sonoma and Mendocino Counties as the perfect locations to source grapes for their new project.

A brief history

Ted Lemon was born in 1958, but did not grow up in a wine-steeped environment. However, in 1981 he went to Dijon to study Enology and afterwards decided to stay in Burgundy and find a job as a cellar rat.

A phone call to Roz Seysses at Domaine Dujac proved timely, as her husband Jacques was flat on his back with sciatica. Ted spent that harvest taking tank samples to Seysses and then following his instructions. He followed this with spells of work at some of Burgundy’s other top domaines, including Georges Roumier and Bruno Clair.

A year later Ted returned to Burgundy to act as winemaker at Domaine Roulot, in Meursault, while Jean-Marc Roulot followed an acting career. Ted became the first American winemaker in Burgundy and stayed at Roulot for three years before returning home to the USA, where he spent time working in Napa Valley before founding Littorai in 1992.

You may also like: Cobb Wines: Playing the ‘Pinot Noir long-game’ The Peter Michael Winery retrospective tasting Realm Cellars: Napa’s upstart Top Sonoma red wines for the cellar

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