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The Truth Behind Your Favorite Wines

Wine Enthusiast - October 16, 2018 - 12:47pm

Name a popular wine grape. Odds are, it’s the love child of two different varieties. Often, these parent grapes are ones you’ve heard of, like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir. But a number of well-known varieties are mixes that involve more obscure grapes many wine lovers are yet to be familiar with.

In most cases, crosses and hybrids are bred for a specific intention, either to create a grape with better pest or disease resistance, or improved characteristics like flavor, color or yield.

A “crossed variety” means a grape is bred from two different Vitis vinifera varieties, which include the most widely known and popular winemaking grapes. Grapes referred to as hybrids, meanwhile, are a crossing of Vitis vinifera and North American Vitis labrusca or (even lesser-known) Vitis riparia grapes.

Many of the most widely grown European Vitis vinifera wine grapes are spontaneous field crosses, in which two species mated with the help of the birds and the bees, producing an entirely new variety.

A “crossed variety” means a grape is bred from two different Vitis vinifera varieties, which include the most widely known winemaking grapes. Hybrid grapes are a crossing of Vitis vinifera and North American Vitis labrusca or Vitis riparia.

A prime example of a well-known crossed grape is Cabernet Sauvignon, the offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Its half-sibling, Merlot, is the product of Cabernet Franc and the unheralded Magdeleine Noire des Charentes.

The terms “hybrids” and “crosses” are not interchangeable. While crossed grapes are grown throughout the world, hybrids were effectively prohibited in Europe for decades, though regulations have been relaxed somewhat.

Want to out-geek your savviest wine-loving friends? Brush up on your crosses and hybrids, and order a glass or bottle next time you’re out on the town.

When two grapes love each other very much… / Collage by Matthew Dimas Grape Crosses The Grape: Pinotage The Parents: Pinot Noir and Cinsault

A cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, Pinotage was bred by Professor Abraham Perold in 1925 at Welgevallen experimental farm at the University of Stellenbosch. At the time, Cinsault was known in South Africa as “Hermitage,” which prompted the moniker Pinotage. Popular since the 1960s, it has been called South Africa’s signature grape.

Expect ripe black-fruit flavors with notes of smoke and earth. Pinotage is a difficult grape to work with, but in the right hands, it can be excellent. In addition to South Africa, look for bottlings from California, Virginia, Australia, New Zealand and Germany.

Notable Pinotage Producers in South Africa Kanonkop, Beyerskloof, Simonsig, Bellingham, Graham Beck The Grape: Marselan The Parents: Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache

Named for the coastal French town of Marseillan, this cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache was created by researcher Paul Truel in 1961, who hoped his experiment would produce large berries and higher yields. The crossing resulted in tiny berries, however, and the project was discontinued.

Thirty years later, researchers who sought disease resistant varieties gave Marselan a second look due to its ability to evade mold and mildew. It’s now grown in France’s Languedoc and the southern Rhône as well as Spain, Israel, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and China, where it’s become a winemaker favorite. With flavors of red plum and raspberry paired with moderate tannins, Marselan is a fairly easy-drinking red wine.

Notable Marselan Producers France: Domaine Le Colombier, Domaine de Couron Israel: Recanati, Jerusalem Wineries, Barkan South America: Vinícola Salton  (Brazil), Bodega Garzón (Uruguay) The Grape: Müller-Thurgau The Parents: Riesling and Madeleine Royale

Müller-Thurgau was created in 1882 by Dr. Hermann Müller, from the Swiss canton of Thurgau, at the Geisenheim Grape Breeding Institute in the Rheingau. He crossed Riesling with an early ripening variety, Madeleine Royale, in the hopes to produce a grape with Riesling’s flavor and complexity that would ripen sooner in the season.

Today, it’s the second-most planted variety in Germany, and it’s also grown in Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland, northern Italy, New Zealand, throughout Eastern Europe, and in Oregon and Washington State. Light in body with moderate acidity, Müller-Thurgau has flavors of apple, pear and citrus with soft floral notes.

Notable Müller-Thurgau Producers Germany: Rainer Sauer, Karl Josef, Fritz Müller Italy: Tiefenbrunner Schlosskellerei Turmhof, Kettmeir, Abbazia di Novacella United States:  Kramer, Sokol Blosser, Whitetail Ridge, Henry Estate, Season Cellars The Grape: Argaman The Parents: Souzão and Carignan

Israeli researchers developed Argaman chiefly to add color to red blends. Its name is Hebrew for a shade of purple-crimson, but it’s often referred to incorrectly as an indigenous Israeli variety. It’s a cross between Portuguese grape Souzão, used mainly in Port production, and Mediterranean variety Carignan. Argaman was first used to make inexpensive blended wines. However, it’s now being vinified by a handful of producers to make high-quality varietal bottlings. Flavors include black cherry, plum and spice in a deeply colored red wine.

Notable Argaman Producers in Israel Jezreel, Barkan The Grape:  Petite Sirah The Parents: Syrah and Peloursin

Petite Sirah is a cross of Peloursin and Syrah that was created in an experimental vineyard operated by Dr. François Durif at the University of Montpellier in the 1860s. Durif took proper credit for the resulting vine and named it after himself. It’s still called Durif in Australia, where it was originally used to create fortified, Port-style wines.

What Does it Mean When the Same Grape has Different Names?

The largest plantings are now in the U.S., particularly California, where the name Petite Sirah took hold due to early confusion with the Syrah grape. It even has its own advocacy group in California, PS I Love You. Considered an up-and-coming variety in Israel, Petite Sirah is known for its teeth-staining color and strong flavors of blueberry, plum and spice.

Notable Petite Sirah Producers California: Bogle, Spellbound, Ravenswood, Concannon, Steele, Fiddletown Cellars, V. Sattui, Stags’ Leap, Carlisle Israel: Recanati, Montefiore, Dalton, Vitkin Hybrids, when two grapes from different sides of the tracks meet / Collage by Matthew Dimas Grape Hybrids The Grape: Baco Noir The Parents: Folle Blanche (Vitis vinifera) and unknown species of Vitis riparia

Baco Noir was born in France at the turn of the 20th century, when schoolteacher-turned-grape breeder François Baco crossed Folle Blanche with Vitis riparia pollen originally thought to be from Grande Glabre, but later believed to be a mix from multiple vines. In the wake of the phylloxera epidemic, Baco Noir had a brief period of popularity in France until viticulturists started to graft American rootstocks onto their own Vitis vinifera vines.

It’s now grown throughout the U.S., including the Northeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, as well as Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, Oregon and eastern Canada. With flavors of cherry, raspberry and dried herbs, Baco Noir can be light and elegant like Pinot Noir, or deeply colored with cassis and cedar notes.

Notable Baco Noir Producers New York: Hudson-Chatham, Benmarl, Bully Hill Oregon: Melrose, Girardet Ontario: Henry of Pelham Estate Winery The Grape: Seyval Blanc The Parents: Seibel 5656 and Rayon d’Or (Seibel 4986)

Developed by Bertille Seyve and Victor Villard around the 1920s, Seyval Blanc is a descendant of at least one Vitis vinifera grape, Aramon. Its parents, Seibel 5656 Rayon d’Or (Seibel 4986), are two of many varieties forged by French viticulturist and physician Albert Seibel, who sought to develop disease-resistant varieties by crossing American and European grapes. It thrives in cold regions like England, New York State, Virginia, Ohio, Oregon and eastern Canada. It’s known for citrus, apple and butterscotch flavors, and is made in dry, off-dry and fortified styles.

Notable Seyval Blanc Producers New York: Knapp, Clinton Virginia: Veramar Vineyard, Bogati The Grape: Vidal The Parents: Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano Toscano) and Rayon d’Or (Seibel 4986)

This grape was developed by and named for French viticulturist Jean-Louis Vidal in the 1930s. Its original raison d’être was for Cognac production, as one of its parents, Ugni Blanc, is the main grape used in Cognac.

But Vidal displayed an incredible tolerance for cold weather, and it’s found great success being used in ice wine and sweet, late-harvest wines. It’s grown throughout Canada and in states like New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Michigan. There are also plantings in Sweden—yes, Sweden—where it’s also used to make ice wine. Expect flavors of apricot, white peach and honey with soft floral notes.

Notable Vidal Producers in Canada
Ontario: Inniskillin, Reif Estate, Pillitteri, Peller British Columbia: Mission Hill

Five Seasonal Beers for Fall

Wine Enthusiast - October 16, 2018 - 8:40am

The old adage, “If it grows together, it goes together,” has long been a philosophy of farm-to-table restaurants. Brewers around the world employ the same idea when they add fruits and vegetables to their beers. While numerous year-round offerings feature grapefruit, cucumber or chile peppers, these five take a decidedly more autumn-harvest focus.

GingerGueuze Lindemans

One of the most recognizable names in Belgian beer, Lindemans has experimented with different flavors in recent years. This blend of one-, two- and three-year-old lambic is fermented in oak with fresh ginger. Assertive and pleasantly sour, it’s lovely with real vanilla ice cream, or even a hearty roast dinner.

Black Dot House of Fermentology

Aged for more than a year in oak barrels stuffed with black mission figs and a touch of star anise, this wild ale has the slightly earthy, sweet, rounded flavor you’d expect from the fruit. It gets a smooth, licorice-like boost from the spice and also boasts a moderate alcohol level. It’s a perfect after-dinner beer.

Four Canned Wines for Autumn Fun Cran-bic New Glarus Brewing Co.

The brewery best known for the easy-drinking Spotted Cow is also celebrated for its fruit-infused ales. Wisconsin is one of the world’s largest producers of cranberries, and they make an annual appearance in this slightly tart, red-hued beer made in the lambic style. Effervescent and refreshing, it’s an ideal replacement for canned cranberry.

Red Velvet Ballast Point Brewing Company

A beer that’s appealing in the glass will immediately pique interest, and this nitrogenated, red-hued oatmeal stout with a fluffy white head resembles its dessert namesake. Brewed with beets to impart their distinct color, the result is more sweet than earthy. No fork required.

Carver Fullsteam Brewery

As with pumpkin, some people enjoy the spice medley attached to sweet potatoes, others don’t. For the latter, there’s this lager. It uses 200 pounds of sweet potatoes per batch, but not the spices. The result is a crisp, refreshing beer with a touch of earthy sweetness and slight hop bitterness on the finish.

Best Chablis 2017 wines

Decanter Magazine - October 16, 2018 - 7:08am

We've compiled a selection of the top the scoring Chablis wines of 2017 - a frost-hit vintage where quantity is small but quality is good. Tasted and chosen by our Burgundy expert Tim Atkin MW...

Chablis vineyardsTop Chablis 2017 wines all scoring above 96

The region ‘suffered terribly between 18 and 29 April 2017, as a series of black frosts descended from the north,’ says our taster, Tim Atkin MW.

The frost was not just limited to the lower-lying areas.

‘All grands crus were affected to a greater or lesser extent, as were the top premiers crus of Montée de Tonnerre and Mont de Milieu.’

Whilst quality is still good in 2017, the frost did hit quantity badly, and Chablis only produced around two thirds of its usual crop.

‘There was so little wine that some producers were selling their 2017 Chablis by January 2018,’ said Atkin.

‘The best 2017s are surprisingly fresh and taut, thanks to a cool summer, with significant rainfall in July, but also to producers’ desire to pick early to counter the high sugar levels.’

Although some wines are a little exotic, ‘the top examples are classic Chablis.’

The following wines all scored 96 points and above.

Look out for the full Chablis report on Decanter Premium soon.

The post Best Chablis 2017 wines appeared first on Decanter.

Decanting mature double magnums – Ask Decanter

Decanter Magazine - October 16, 2018 - 7:00am

How long should you let this wine breathe...?

How long should a mature double magnum wine breathe?Decanting mature double magnums – Ask Decanter

Sterling DePew, by email, asks: We recently enjoyed a double magnum of 1982 Mouton Rothschild, removed from the cellar and immediately decanted. It had been perfectly stored and the colour was youthful.

How long would you allow this wine to breathe either in the glass or decanter to maximise its beauty?

Jane Anson, Decanter‘s Bordeaux correspondent, replies: Decanting older wines is tricky, because often the main argument for doing so is to remove sediment, rather than to allow the wine to open up.

A wine at 30 years old can have a delicate aromatic structure that you want to preserve, rather than allow it to escape into the room; as a result, decanting for too long is not advisable.

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Having said that, Mouton 1982 is still a richly tannic, relatively young wine, and in double magnum will have retained much of its fruit and power.

Part of your enjoyment will be in seeing how the wine evolves in the decanter and glass over a few hours.

Decanting it just an hour or so before service should be enough, but take your time and observe how its flavours deepen and evolve. I wouldn’t be surprised if the wine still tastes beautiful a full 24 hours after decanting.

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

How quickly should you  drink wine after decanting? How to let a wine breathe, and when  Find more wine questions answered here

The post Decanting mature double magnums – Ask Decanter appeared first on Decanter.

How many fine wines you could buy for the price of a single bottle of 1945 DRC?

Cult Wines | Wine Investment Blog - October 16, 2018 - 4:36am
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Bordeaux 2018 red wines: Balance key amid high alcohol levels

Decanter Magazine - October 16, 2018 - 2:40am

As Bordeaux winemakers wrap up this year’s harvest, many say that they have never seen such high levels of alcohol, including for Cabernet Sauvignon.

Harvest at Château Balac in Haut-MédocBordeaux 2018 red wines: Balance key amid high alcohol levels

As final grapes were being brought in at Château Léoville Las Cases in St-Julien earlier this week, director Pierre Graffeuille said that he had never seen such high levels of natural alcohol for Cabernet Sauvignon, which reached 14.5%.

However, he also stressed that fresh fruit and acidity meant that 2018 will be ‘concentrated in alcohol and tannins, but with enough acidity to achieve Bordeaux balance’.

Further south, Château Margaux director Philippe Bascaules said that the 2018 grand vin may have a 14% abv indication on its label for the first time that he can recall, because Cabernet Sauvignons on both gravel and clay sometimes reached 14.5 per cent alcohol.

‘In 2015 we were at 13.5% and in 2018, we may be at 14 (for the label),’ he told Decanter.com. On the white wine side, Margaux harvested earlier than usual to maintain acidity.

Château Mouton Rothschild director Philippe Dhalluin said the vintage may be a ‘2009+’ but stressed that cool nights helped to maintain enough freshness. More water in the summer would have helped with yields and lowered potential alcohol, he said.

‘I have never seen such richness in sugar and polyphenol and no tanks measured lower than 80 IPT this year,’ he said.

See also: Bordeaux 2018: How things are shaping up as harvest begins

Château Léoville Poyferré director Didier Cuvelier said that one important issue in winemaking this year will be to avoid volatile acidity, because fermentations will be longer than usual.

On the Right Bank, 2018 looks set to be a year for limestone, clay, deep gravels and vines with deep roots, said wine consultant Thomas Duclos.

‘Younger vines on more shallow soils suffered and were not able to withstand the heat stress,’ he said.

With alcohol in some Merlots reaching 15.5% and more, Duclos said that some estates may end up having very high alcohol second wines.

Laurent Brun, of Château Dassault in St-Emilion, said that the estate will finish its Cabernets by Wednesday next week, and that the final blend likely will have more Cabernet than usual to offset higher alcohol Merlots.

However, Château Canon cellar master Stéphane Bonnasse said that clever canopy management – such as less leaf clearing – and not picking grapes directly exposed to the sun would make alcohol levels irrelevant.

‘It is a shame to talk so much about alcohol in 2018, because not everyone has the same terroir or works the same way,’ he said. ‘We had more alcohol overall in 2015 than we will have in 2018.’

Christian Moueix, of Petrus fame and head of merchant house Jean-Pierre Moueix, said,’We had so much time to pick and choose, that I would say that the only danger would have been to have picked too late’.

He added, ‘Alcohol is higher than in 2016, but the balance is so great, that it compares to 1990, and for certain wines it counts among my top three vintages ever in 49 years of winemaking.’

The post Bordeaux 2018 red wines: Balance key amid high alcohol levels appeared first on Decanter.

Why Wine Lovers Need to Give Mead Another Look

Wine Enthusiast - October 15, 2018 - 11:30am

Here’s the buzz: Mead, considered by many historians to be the earliest version of wine, is having a moment. Creative mead-makers (called “mazers”) are turning out inspired versions of this honey-based beverage with medieval roots.

Mead was born 8,000 years ago, which pre-dates wine and beer by several thousand years, says author Fred Minnick in his book, Mead: The Libations, Legends, and Lore of History’s Oldest Drink (Running Press, 2018).

It likely started simply. “Somebody left a pot of honey outside in the rain,” says Minnick. “It fermented, and people drank it. Mead was born.”

Today, the mead revival parallels the craft brewing and cider movements. Most meaderies focus on intensive local production, often starting with the terroir of regional honey.

Done right, says Mark Oberle, co-owner/mead maker of San Diego’s Meadiocrity Mead, “it’s about capturing the uniqueness of the honey, not only the land, but the varieties,” like clover or orange blossom honey.

Among the growing numbers of mead makers, it’s possible for producers to jump from sparkling mead to fruit-infused pink meads reminiscent of rosé, or even into dry, barrel-aged meads that suggest Sherry or a light whiskey.

Don’t expect a super-sweet sip. A growing number of meads are relatively dry, with their honey providing nuanced flavor without overt sweetness. And while some old-school meads remain little more than a mix of fermented honey, yeast and water, producers have turned increasingly to botanicals, fruit and spices to create unique offerings.

Many meads are also aged in barrels, bringing additional, wine-like nuance.

This makes for an exciting, experimental landscape. According to the American Mead Makers Association, there were over 400 commercial meaderies in the U.S. as of 2018, a more than tenfold increase from 2003.

Among the growing numbers of mead makers, it’s possible for producers to jump from sparkling mead to fruit-infused pink meads reminiscent of rosé, or even into dry, barrel-aged meads that suggest Sherry or a light whiskey.

Raphael Lyon, founder/co-owner of Enlightenment Wines Meadery in Brooklyn, New York, likens the mead movement to California’s nascent wine industry in the 1970s.

“The assumption was that American wines were bad, used cheap grapes, were mass produced and sweet,” says Lyon. Yet, had you known where to look, he says, “you would have seen the growth of natural producers in Napa, working on would become world-class wine in America.”

Today, mead appears to be headed in a similar direction. “A lot of producers are striving to make something exceptional,” says Lyon.

Here are seven makers behind the mead you’ll want to get to know.

The honey wine of All-Wise Meadery / Photo by Katie June Burton All-Wise Meadery (Brooklyn, NY)

It would be easy to discount this new meadery as a hipster vanity project. Located in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, it’s co-founded by former Disney child star Dylan Sprouse, who is also the meadery’s master mazer. But its debut bottling, Show Mead, is very promising. It’s dry and funky with just a hint of smoke, and it might remind wine lovers of Chenin Blanc or a lightly oaked Chardonnay.

Sprouse, along with partners Doug Brochu and Matt Kwan, has focused on natural meads made using ingredients sourced from small, growers and producers in New York, like Tremblay Apiaries in the Finger Lakes region. This local focus yields expressive bottlings with flavors that continue to develop as the beverage ages.

All-Wise Meadery’s Show Mead, dry and funky with just a hint of smoke, might remind wine lovers of Chenin Blanc or a lightly oaked Chardonnay.

Sprouse first experimented with making mead in his dorm room at New York University. After a brief stint at Brooklyn whiskey maker King’s County Distillery, he opened All-Wise in 2017.

The mead aesthetic here is dry and lightly oak-aged. Look for experimental bottlings with infusions like oolong tea, fruits and vegetables that are reminiscent of fruit and veggie brews in the craft-beer arena.

Try it: Show Mead

Left to right: Brad Dahlhofer, Kerri Dahlhofer and Paul Zimmerman of B. Nektar B. Nektar (Ferndale, MI)

This geeky, quirky meadery is a sommelier favorite, and its offerings were spotted recently at New York City’s Agern, two-time honoree on Wine Enthusiast’s America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants list. Bottle names often are influenced by pop culture and exhibit delightfully dark humor. Current offerings include “Kill All the Golfers,” made with black tea and lemon juice, a side-eye at the Arnold Palmer, and the spiced, garnet-hued “Black Fang,” made with blackberry, clove and orange zest.

B. Nektar was founded in 2006 by Brad and Kerri Dahlhofer, along with their friend, Paul Zimmerman. Brad and Paul, avid homebrewers, started to make meads in Brad’s basement and went on to win awards at multiple homebrewing competitions.

Mead Cocktails from the Hive Mind

Brad and Kerri married in 2005, where, of course, they toasted with glasses of mead. When Kerri was laid off from her job in 2006, she began plans to open the meadery. B. Nektar opened its doors nearly two years later on August 2, 2008—National Mead Day.

A decade later, B. Nektar is among the largest meaderies in the U.S. Minnick credits it as a pioneer which has “influenced new talent to enter the category.” The meadery still churns out edgy, irreverent meads, and hosts whimsical, never-too-serious events at the facility like karaoke, comedy and quiz nights.

Try it: Black Fang

Bos Meadery’s Mead Hall Bos Meadery (Madison, WI) 

Head mead-maker Colleen Bos co-founded this meadery in 2012, along with Jeannine Bos and Peter DeVault. Colleen capitalized on her experience as a professional medievalist.

“I’m just a geek, is what it boils down to,” she says. “I’m the kind of person who ends up wanting to do deep dive[s] in whatever I’m interested in.

“I got interested in the science of fermentation and got really far into it. I got interested in medieval history, I got a master’s degree it in. Now, magically, these two things have actually come together for me.”

Bos is renowned for sparkling meads, like the award-winning Pomegranate Pyment, which is a sort of wine-mead hybrid of fermented honey and grapes. She also crafts lower-alcohol “session meads” like Hammer Smashed Cherry, made with local Door County cherries. The operation is also known for its popular mead hall, which opened in 2015.

“I’m just a geek, is what it boils down to. I’m the kind of person who ends up wanting to do deep dive[s] in whatever I’m interested in.” —Colleen Bos, Bos Meadery

“We’re a friendly, informal place, with raucous live music sometimes,” says Bos. The former medieval history instructor says that the venue is also a tip of the hat to the epic poem Beowulf, which is set in a mead hall.

Try It: Hammer Smashed Cherry

Raphael Lyon (left) and Arley Marks outside Honey’s, the tasting room for Enlightenment Wines Meadery Enlightenment Wines Meadery (Brooklyn, NY)

Run by a group of herbalists and artists, this meadery starts with honey sourced from a single beekeeper, also Tremblay, in New York’s Finger Lakes region. The mead is then made at either of two production facilities, one on a family farmstead in the Hudson Valley where many of the mead’s botanicals are sourced, or another in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, where Enlightenment’s tasting room, Honey’s, offers straight pours and mead cocktails.

“It is a world of experimentation and curiosity. We don’t need authorization or permission from on high to know what we like or even to learn how to make it.” —Raphael Lyon, Enlightenment Wines Meadery

Co-owner Raphael Lyon started the venture in 2009 while he farmed his family’s Hudson Valley homestead. There, he focused on heirloom crops, some of which he turned into fruit wines and meads made with other local ingredients.

“It’s about what grows naturally here,” says Lyon. “The fruits, the herbs that are used…we need to use regional stuff and use it naturally.”

This meadery focuses on small-batch, seasonal offerings that are crafted with wild yeast, foraged herbs and locally sourced fruits. One example is Enlightenment’s Memento Mori bottling, made with 150 pounds of foraged wild dandelion flowers.

In 2015, Lyons partnered with Arley Marks and Tony Rock to expand operations and open Honey’s, the meadery’s tasting room and cocktail bar. Marks, also a devoted herbalist, designed and built the bar and cocktail program for Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese restaurant in New York City.

An exploratory approach continues to drive Enlightenment, says Lyons. It’s appropriate for a company named for the philosophical movement that encouraged the first-hand experience of trial and error over traditionally-accepted wisdom.

“It is a world of experimentation and curiosity,” Lyons says of mead. “We don’t need authorization or permission from on high to know what we like or even to learn how to make it.”

Try it: Memento Mori

Hive inspection at Meadiocrity Mead Meadiocrity Mead (San Diego)

Terroir matters in mead, says Meadiocrity co-owner/mead-maker Mark Oberle.

This hyper-local “bee-to-bottle” meadery, which opened in 2016, counts a beekeeper among its four owners. The operation makes a handful of traditional-style meads, notably its flagship Foundation bottling, simply made from raw honey, water and yeast. Despite the lack of additional botanicals, the terroir instills citrus and bright apple tones into the mead.

“I can capture the essence of a growing season from a specific growing region all in a glass, and it’s going to taste different if I harvest honey in that same spot at the same time the next year.” —Mark Oberle, Meadiocrity Mead

Inspired by the booming craft beer industry, San Diego now boasts multiple mead makers. Oberle attributes the trend to “a perfect storm of Southern California weather that allows us to have all the bees, and consumers who are open to trying the products.”

Oberle, who’s trained as a sommelier, draws parallels between wine grapes and honey. Where and how they are harvested matters, he says.

“I can capture the essence of a growing season from a specific growing region all in a glass, and it’s going to taste different if I harvest honey in that same spot at the same time the next year,” says Oberle.

Even the amount of rainfall can result in variations that show up in the honey.

“One year, we had a lot of rainfall,” he says. “We got a lot of sage blooming and a lot of these lighter, floral blossoms that lasted for a very long time. And this last year, we got almost no rain, so most of the flavors are very robust—buckwheat and sage and some of these flowers that were able to withstand the dry climate.”

Eventually, Oberle aspires to set up vertical mead tastings to showcase the differences from year to year.

Try It: Foundation Mead

Melovino Meadery shows off their cans / Photo courtesy Melovino, Facebook Melovino Meadery (Vauxhall, NJ)

Its name, Melovino, is a play on the Latin words for honey and wine. So perhaps it makes sense that this producer has an affinity for both mead and wine.

Sergio Moutela, the mead maker, remembers helping his grandfather make wine from a very early age. As an adult, he began to experiment at home, where he made wine, beer and other fermented creations. Eventually, it brought him to mead.

Garrido is a deliberately “Vinho Verde-style mead” that’s fermented with grape juice and yeast from Portugal.

Indeed, many of Melovino’s creations take inspiration from the wine world. Past bottlings include Sweet Affair, which combines honey with juice from either Sauvignon Blanc or Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. A current offering, By Any Other Name, is a blush-hued, off-dry grape mead made with fresh strawberries that resembles a bottle of rosé. Garrido, meanwhile, is a deliberately “Vinho Verde-style mead” that’s fermented with grape juice and yeast from Portugal.

Try It: By Any Other Name

The lineup at Midwest Meadwerks / Photo courtesy Midwest Meadwerks Midwest Meadwerks (Chicago)

Tom Sadowski, a proponent of fruit meads, is quick to point out that his surname translates from Polish as “fruit farmer.” While he doesn’t manage orchards of his own, he’s brewed beer and mead in his Chicago home since the 1990s, a hobby he started with his brother.

“I have twin boys, and a girl who was 17 months older,” says Sadowski. “I had three in high chairs, three bottles, three in diapers. I’d sneak down and have a mead. Like mother’s little helper, it was dad’s little helper.”

“With the kids going through high school, soccer…[mead] got pushed to the side. I own a Tru-Value hardware store, too.” —Tom Sadowski, Midwest Meadworks

Over the years, he attended brewers groups and beer clubs, where he’d connect with other mead makers. One of his meads, Triskelion, a black currant, cherry and raspberry blend that’s now his flagship product, won a national award in 2006 for Meadmaker of the Year from the American Homebrewers Association. It was then that he decided it was time to turn pro.

However, as is often the case, life had its own plan. “With the kids going through high school, soccer…it got pushed to the side,” says Sadowski. “I own a Tru-Value hardware store, too.”

It wasn’t until his kids entered college that Sadowski finally built his own meadery, which opened in 2016. He continues to champion fruit meads, with offerings that include Lush, a raspberry-spiked mead, and CherryBomb, which mixes ripe cherry and jalapeño heat. Decades after he started his journey, Sadowski is still passionate about making mead.

“I don’t have much time to do anything else besides the hardware store and the meadery,” he says. “I’d like to retire into mead-making full time. That’s my goal. That’s my retirement plan.”

Try it: Triskelion

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1945 Auctioned for Record-Shattering Price (Wine Spectator)

Wine Spectator Headlines - October 15, 2018 - 10:45am

Rob Rosania, a New York real-estate developer and noted wine collector, raised his paddle and left it there. “150, 160, 170, 180, 200,” auctioneer Jamie Ritchie rattled off in rapid fire, as if he was counting. Those numbers were actually thousands of dollars, salvos in a bidding war between Rosania and an unidentified online bidder at Sothebys’ auction of wines from Burgundy legend Robert Drouhin’s personal cellar on Oct. 13. The prize at stake was a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti 1945.

At $558,000 (including the buyer’s premium and taxes), Rosania conceded. But he purchased the next lot, the second 750ml bottle of Romanée-Conti 1945 in the auction, for $496,000. The two lots both shattered the previous auction record for a single bottle, a jeroboam of Mouton-Rothschild 1945 that sold for $310,700 in 2007.

“That’s why I was here,” Rosania told Wine Spectator after the session. “I thought it would go for $250,000 to $400,000.”

Rosania also snagged the next lot, one bottle of Romanée-Conti 1943, for $68,200, including fees. The ’45s were more hotly contested for several reasons: Decimated by frost and hail, the 1945 growing season was hot overall, producing just 600 bottles of concentrated and long-lived wines. And Romanée-Conti’s vines had been planted prior to the devastation of Burgundy’s vines from phylloxera. The vines, still on their own roots, were pulled out after the 1945 harvest.

Most important, the two bottles came from Drouhin’s personal collection. His family company Maison Joseph Drouhin distributed the wines of DRC from 1928 until 1964. The provenance was impeccable.

In a little more than two hours, Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s Wine knocked down $7.3 million in rare Burgundy. More than 90 percent of the sale was rare bottles of DRC, vintages 1937 to 1964, from the Drouhin cellar. Many lots sold at three to four times the high estimate, with several going for seven, eight, even 10 times the catalog price. Bidding was competitive, mostly by telephone and online clients.

Robert Drouhin was impressed with the sale. “The estimate of many wines seemed low to me, knowing their quality and scarcity, whatever the motivation of the wine lovers or collectors,” he said. “But I was amazed.”

“My first thought was for my father, Maurice Drouhin, who oriented Joseph Drouhin to the upper level of quality and created links with the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti,” he added. “My second thought was for Burgundy in general, my family and Joseph Drouhin, the prestige which they will gain from it.”

Nonetheless, he cautioned against the feverish demand for Burgundy. “For its first and grands crus, Burgundy is in a luxury world. Let us hope it will not disturb the mentality. Burgundy estates should not be a field for investments. I wish our terroir remains in the hands of families. Personally I have already ensured the transmission to my grandchildren and hopefully the family ethic.”

This sale follows a record-breaking June auction in Geneva of the remaining bottles of Henri Jayer’s personal cellar. Both offered impeccable provenance, giving collectors around the globe the opportunity to bid on extremely rare, pristine bottles. Burgundy remains the king of wine auctions.

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Port 2016: Vintage report and top releases

Decanter Magazine - October 15, 2018 - 9:13am

In 2016, quantities were small, but the best wines are balanced and look set to age for decades, says Richard Mayson, who has picked 25 of the best 2016 Port releases.

Port 2016 vintage report.

‘We have been spoilt for choice.’ These were the words of Johnny Symington at the launch of the 2016 Port vintage in May this year. He was reflecting on the past three harvests in the Douro Valley, which have put the Port shippers in something of a quandary.

The 2015, 2016 and 2017 vintages have all been remarkable in their own way, and it is a function of the manner in which vintage Port is ‘declared’ that the shippers are allowed some foresight and hindsight before making their final decision.

You might also like: Port 2015: a buyer’s guide Top Napa Cabernet wines for the cellar

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1945 Romanée Conti sets new record at wine auction

Decanter Magazine - October 15, 2018 - 7:39am

The world record for the most expensive bottle of wine sold at auction was smashed twice on Saturday when two bottles of 1945 Romanée Conti fetched US$558,000 and US$496,000 respectively.

The 1945 DRC set new records for wine at auction. 1945 Romanée Conti sets new record at wine auction

The bottles – two of only 600 produced by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) in 1945, after which the celebrated vineyard was uprooted – were part of a Sotheby’s sale in New York of DRC wines from the personal cellar of Robert Drouhin, patriarch of Maison Joseph Drouhin.

The two bottles had been expected to sell for US$22,000-32,000 each (excluding buyer’s premium), but confounded expectations by easily surpassing the previous auction record, set more than a decade ago.

That mark was set when a jeroboam (equivalent to six standard bottles) of Château Mouton Rothschild 1945 was sold, also by Sotheby’s in New York, in February 2007.

In all, the 100-lot auction of DRC wines from Drouhin’s cellar, spanning vintages from 1937 to 1964, fetched US$7.3m, more than five times its high estimate.

The wines were acquired direct from DRC by Robert Drouhin and his father, Maurice, mainly at the time when Drouhin was exclusive DRC distributor for France and Belgium.

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Following the Drouhin sale, a bottle of 1926 Macallan 60-year-old single malt whisky, with a label designed by famed pop artist Sir Peter Blake, was auctioned by Sotheby’s for US$843,200.

That fell short of the world record for a bottle of whisky – set earlier this month when a similar Macallan 60-year-old, with a label designed by Italian artist Valerio Adami, was auctioned by Bonhams in Edinburgh for £848,750 (US$1.1m).

However, Saturday’s sale set a new record as the highest price in Sotheby’s history for a single bottle of spirits, as well as the top auction price for any spirit in North America.

Only 40 bottles of Macallan 1926 were released, with 12 each featuring labels designed by Blake and Adami. Another unique bottle, hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon, will be auctioned by Christie’s in London next month.

‘The new world record established in today’s sale is further proof that the demand for wine and spirits of exceptional quality is at an all-time high, and that global collectors are willing to go the extra mile to acquire the rarest bottles of any kind,’ said Jamie Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s Wine.

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Peach Brandy, America’s Forgotten Heritage Spirit

Wine Enthusiast - October 15, 2018 - 7:30am

While Queen Victoria was finishing dinners with peaches, American nobility was sipping mint juleps concocted with fruit brandy—not Bourbon. Today, Southern spirit makers are attempting to ignite a renaissance of the beverage.

“Historically, fruit brandy commanded a premium over whiskey in the cottage industry,” says Chadwick Ralston, who heads marketing at American Spirit Whiskey Distillery in Atlanta.

Before Prohibition, a dry style of peach brandy was made using all parts of the fruit, its production devoid of added sugar or flavoring. American Spirit Whiskey Distillery and High Wire Distilling, based in Charleston, South Carolina, are among a handful of commercial distillers using traditional cues and exquisite varieties to bring back the brandy.

Production is dependent on cooperating weather cycles for ripe freestone peaches (where the pit easily separates from the fruit). So far, crop yields have been a challenge, and American Spirit Whiskey has moved on to other fruit brandies.

High Wire Distilling Owners Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall, however, have persisted and made a limited-release, numbered-bottle Peach Brandy, with crops grown in state.

“We use recouped charred or toasted French oak barrels,” says Blackwell. “The barrels previously stored fortified wine: Madeira and Port,” He’s hoping the release will re-establish peach brandy as “the American Cognac.”

Five Wine Regions Producing America's Finest Ciders Cultivar Classics

South Carolina and Georgia have always duked it out to be the juiciest state on the Eastern seaboard. The peach varieties here are their crown jewels.

Belle of Georgia

This white-fleshed heirloom freestone is popular with backyard growers. It’s listed on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste list of delicacies disappearing from America’s tables.


This is the queen mother of American varieties. The freestone fruit was introduced in the late 1800s and named after the wife of Georgia’s most decorated orchard owner, Samuel H. Rumph.

Big Red

This freestone reaches ripeness later in the season and contains the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. It’s also the perfect size for modern brandy production.

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti becomes most expensive wine ever sold at auction

Cult Wines | Wine Investment Blog - October 15, 2018 - 5:32am
<p>Two bottles of 1945 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti have broken world records to become the most expensive wines ever sold at auction. They went on sale at a Sotheby’s auction in New York last week, with one fetching £424,000 and the other £377,000.</p>

The best Asda wines this winter

Decanter Magazine - October 15, 2018 - 3:30am

Here are our top picks for winter 2018 from the UK supermarket's range, all reviewed by Decanter's expert tasting team...

Below are our recommended Asda wines from the retailer’s autumn/winter 2018 range, tasted by Decanter’s Tina Gellie recently.

Included are festive wine staples such as Champagne, Barolo, Amarone and a dessert wine, as well as great everyday drinkers such as the Extra Special Sauvignon Blanc.

There’s some serious value to be had in Asda’s ‘Extra Special’ own-label range, but if you can push the budget a little higher it’s also worth checking out their branded wines.

Looking to expand your wine horizons, or after great gift ideas? Decanter Premium brings you exclusive online content and over 1,000 new wine reviews every month

The top 11 tasting notes are our latest recommendations. Continue scrolling down to see older Asda wine reviews.

The best Asda wines to buy this winter:


28/11/2017: Added 9 wines from the winter 2017 range

15/10/2018: Added 11 wines from the winter 2018 range

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Tommasi launches new De Buris luxury wine brand

Decanter Magazine - October 15, 2018 - 3:15am

Italian wine producer Tommasi revealed De Buris on Friday (12th October) - their new luxury wine brand and hospitality project.

The De Buris villa, currently being restored.Tommasi launches new De Buris luxury wine brand

De Buris is a new luxury wine brand and hospitality project from the Tommasi family. It will include a high-end Amarone wine and a historic villa, that will be completely restored into a luxury hospitality center with the aim to promote the historical and cultural heritage of the Valpolicella area.

“De Buris is not just a product, it’s a project,” said Pierangelo Tommasi at the launch in Veneto on 12th October.

“We didn’t want to make a new high-end Tommasi Amarone. We wanted to take the chance to build an entirely new luxury venture.”

In 2000, the Tommasi family acquired Villa De Buris (pictured top), the oldest villa in the Valpolicella area, and a ten-hectare vineyard La Groletta.

“We purchased the two properties for different reasons. Producing wine from the La Groletta vineyard had been our dream for a long time. The villa, however, was an investment we decided to make for other reasons, but just a few months later we started thinking that we should combine our best vineyard with this ancient villa and create a new project.”

Out of the ten hectares of vineyards at La Groletta, only a 1.9-hectare plot, the highest part of the vineyard, is dedicated to the production of De Buris Amarone Riserva.

The vineyard’s 300-meter elevation, long hours of sunlight and a cooling breeze from the Lake Garda makes La Groletta an ideal place to produce top-quality Amarone, according to Tommasi.

De Buris Amarone Riserva 2008 – a blend of Corvina (62%), Corvinone (25%), Oseleta (8%), and Rondinella (5%) – is the first release, with 2009 also in the pipeline.

The Amarone Riserva will be the only wine produced under the De Buris brand.

Construction of a new vinification cellar at Villa De Buris is scheduled to start sometime next year. By the end of 2023, the entire villa should be fully restored.

There are also plans to create a foundation aimed for safeguarding local history, art, and cultural heritage as well as support research in viticulture and winemaking.

The post Tommasi launches new De Buris luxury wine brand appeared first on Decanter.

Jefford on Monday: Blue moon on the left bank

Decanter Magazine - October 15, 2018 - 1:37am

Andrew Jefford tucks into the tasting of a lifetime. Twice...

Château MargauxJefford on Monday: Blue moon on the left bank

Blue-moon territory: the chance to taste all of the Bordeaux First Growths, plus Pavie, Angélus, Ausone, Cheval Blanc and Petrus, at 20 years old. With Yquem thrown in for luck. Twice in two days. In two southern Chinese cities: Shenzhen and Nanning. My thanks to trilingual China-based educator Julien Boulard of Zhulian Wines and his team for this singular opportunity.

The vintage was 1998: a ‘right-bank vintage’ by reputation. Why? Essentially because there were a couple of bouts of heavy rain on September 29th and October 1st, before some of the Cabernets were fully ripe. I chatted to Bordeaux négociant Jeffrey Davies about the vintage before leaving for China, though, and he told me that both banks now have a very fair reputation among Bordeaux insiders. Our tasting justified that view: the Médoc wines varied, but both Lafite and Haut-Brion were outstandingly good, and neither Margaux nor Mouton disappointed. August 1998, remember, was hot, and it’s August which lays the foundations of every Bordeaux vintage. In this case, they’re sound. Ripeness is ample.

Prices mean that these wines which are beyond almost all of us, except for rare occasions of this sort. My aim, therefore, is to ‘talk around’ each property rather than write tasting notes per se, based on this glimpse of each at the two-decade point, and at a certain point during their long evolutionary trajectories. The order is that in which we tasted the wines: left-bank this week, and the right-bank next. The quality of the bottles, by the way, was outstanding: excellent fills, no tca issues, and nothing to suggest that any of the wines had suffered from excessive heat in transit or storage. All had been purchased in retail in Hong Kong shortly before the tasting – a testament to the professionalism of today’s Hong Kong wine trade.

Lafite 1998

Lafite is an enormous property. At 112 ha under vine, and with average yields (according to Eric Bernadin and Pierre Le Hong’s Crus Classés du Médoc) of 48 hl/ha, around 530,000 litres of this wine will be potentially available for bottling every year. Think about that: over half a million litres. It’s rare to see Lafite itself for less than £500 a bottle and Carruades for less than £250 a bottle (the 2013s are currently listed for more than that); half a million litres at an average price of £375 a bottle means revenues of roughly £250 million. Insider estimates of the cost price of a bottle of any first growth, Lafite included, rarely exceed 30 euros: much less than ten per cent of the sale price. Phew! Wonderful news for the owners, for the sales intermediaries and for tax gatherers alike. These Médoc gravel mounds may look like forgotten beaches, left stranded by former ice ages; in fact every pebble is – invisibly — lined with gold leaf. (For more on yield questions, see next week’s Jefford on Monday.)

Lafite is not always the densest wine of the vintage. It’s the blue-blooded grandee; the purveyor of urbane, drinkable classicism at all times; the apogee of ineffable refinement. Such a profile doesn’t require any strenuous panting after ‘depth’ or ‘power’ or ‘concentration’. The property did, though, get a grip on the principle of exclusion of any but the best wine from the Grand Vin selection earlier than some of its First Growth peers, and the 1998 was composed from just 34 per cent of the total harvest. The blend was 81 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon (including old-vine Cabernet from the St Estèphe vineyard of Caillava) and 19 per cent Merlot.

It’s still deep in colour, without any evident bricking, though now translucent and opaque. It’s a lovely thing to smell: stealthy, refined, tiptoeing from the glass with a classical dancer’s poise. There’s volume of scent, yet it still manages to tease: incense wood, cedar, fine resins, unlit cigars. A ripeness of fruit, too, but even that is understated: compare it to any Napa wine, and what you’ll find here is a suggestion of ripeness rather than ripeness itself.

It is, though, a concentrated wine on the palate: these vineyards can do that even at what seem like elevated yields (ah, the gilded pebbles!) — but don’t forget, too, that classical Bordeaux élevage, which means 18 months in barrels and almost obsessive racking every three months, is said to mean a loss of 10 to 15 per cent by evaporation prior to bottling. That’s a force for concentration in itself (and qualifies our back-of-the-envelope calculation of revenues). I would call this wine lean – but it’s certainly long and architectural, soaring in the mouth, with more sustained dry fruits than the aromas sketched out, with perfectly incorporated tannins and singing acidity providing seamless balance. Those cedary, incense notes provide a vapoury mist around the fruit. Great left-bank Bordeaux always has a sense of direction and purpose to its flavours, and it was hard not to think of the Rothschild arrows in this respect – but these arrows carried soft, feathery vanes. It was much enjoyed by our Chinese guests, coming second after Petrus in Shenzhen with four first places and two thirds, and occupying joint first place in Nanning (three first places, three seconds and three thirds). Robert Parker awards it 98 points; I would give it 96. (13% abv)

Château Lafite-Rothschild in 2015.Credit: Chris Mercer / Decanter

Mouton 1998

Terroir means that Mouton (90 ha today) and Lafite have to be compared to one another; indeed there’s a strong case for considering them to be non-identical twins, legendarily parted according to a line decreed by the ‘Prince of Vines’, Nicolas-Alexandre, the Marquis de Ségur — who owned both. Their vineyards interfold one another; Carruades lies on the other side of Mouton’s vines. No other two properties among Bordeaux’s ‘great ten’ are neighbours, let alone neighbours with this level of intimacy. Examine the contour lines on a map, and you will see that the two properties share the same gigantic gravel mound or croupe – yet in character their wines are very different.

This is a generalization, since the landholdings are complex (I’m thinking of Lafite’s St Estèphe component, and its vineyards to the west of the D2), but might that fundamental difference in style be due to the fact that Lafite commands the northern part of the croupe, and Mouton the southern? Hence the nuanced refinement of the former; hence the exuberance and exoticism of the latter. I don’t know – but something must account for it, since it is consistently noted by those who have a chance to taste these wines regularly, year after year.

Any consideration of the historical trajectory of properties of this sort reveals a series of gear changes: moments, often connected with changes in key personnel and (more rarely) in ownership, when there is a new push for quality, a new seriousness of intent, and — in three out of five cases among the First Growths — the creation of new cellar facilities. For Mouton, that gear change coincided with the arrival of Philippe Dhalluin in 2003. Mouton’s 1998 belongs to a period during which it was still performing rather inconsistently, mirroring vintage hazards more closely than those paying for the bottles might wish: outstanding in 1982 and 1986, for example, but less exciting in 1985 and 1989. There was no official second wine until 1993. Disciplined selection had got underway by 1998, and the Mouton `98 was made with 57 per cent of the harvest, and a blend of 86 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 per cent Merlot and two per cent Cabernet Franc. But there was, in that vintage, less selectivity than at Lafite. The wine was also made in the old winery whose large wooden fermenters made parcel selection difficult; and the regimes for press wine and barrel choices were less refined than today.

This is not in any way a disappointing wine – indeed it was two tasters’ first choice wine at our Nanning tasting, and I would be thrilled should I ever get the chance to taste it or drink it again. Its colours, though, are a little more evolved than for some of its peers. The scents are very enticing, very flattering: sweet and creamy, yet clean and fresh, too. There is, though, less fruit crowding its scents than at Lafite. The palate is impressive, with intensity and density of flavour as well as a sense of soft, friendly grip. Indeed it’s succulent and rich, too, with time in the mouth. There is fruit here, seamlessly mingling with roasted meat and sweet leather notes: appetizing and gastronomic. Robert Parker gives it 96 and I would give it 94 – though, as so often with Bordeaux, this score is dictated by comparison with high-quality peers. Taste the wine in isolation, and a peer-correlated score will seem mean. (12.5%)

Latour 1998

It’s a commonplace to say that the core of Latour, the 47 ha of vineyards which cluster ‘the tower’ itself and which are communally known as L’Enclos, is the finest single terroir in the Médoc – at least if consistency through the vagaries of wet years and dry years, warm years and cool years is the criterion. It may be so. The four metres of fine-draining gravels over succulent, water-holding blue clays are usually said to be the cause. This time, the core of the croupe is shared with no other property, though both Pichons dispute its dissipating undulations; we are closer to the Gironde at Latour than at Lafite. Latour has a long tradition of selection, with second and third wines.

For all that, the 1998 vintage was a pivotal moment at Latour, the movement the gear lever was thrown. François Pinault had bought the property in 1993, but changes came slowly. Frédéric Engerer was already there, but he only became ‘Président’, his current job title, in 1998; he took over fully in running the property after the 1998 harvest, not before. The modern Latour, complete with new winery and the huge number of changes and refinements it has made possible, was a post-1998 creation. So, too, is the intense focus on individual vine quality and soil health in the vineyards (including the use of biodynamics).

The 1998 Latour, made from 90 per cent Cabernet and 10 per cent Merlot, looks neither notably lighter nor darker than Lafite and Mouton, though the hues are a little less evolved that Mouton’s. It’s the most straightforwardly fruity of the three: fresh blackcurrant scents with a bakery sweetness, even a popcorn touch. On the palate, it is curranty, driving and deep; on the lean side, but authoritative. That line of fruit holds right through to the finish, and it’s still surrendering blackcurrant perfumes, even after you’ve swallowed. For me, though, it doesn’t have the complexity of either Lafite or Mouton, though it is well-preserved and forthright. Robert Parker gives it 90 and in the vintage context I would agree with that 90 score – though our Chinese tasters rated this wine more highly than that: it scored two second places and two thirds in Shenzhen, and another second and third place in Nanning. (13%)

Margaux 1998

Margaux is a still larger property than Lafite: its 265 ha make it the size of a small hamlet on its own, though much of this is vineless pastureland running down to the estuary. In vineyard terms, it has around 92 ha of vines at present, disposed in the least unitary manner of any First Growth – a bottle of Margaux coud be seen as a synopsis of the best land of the commune, though its core still comes from a single croupe. The gravels, here, are sandier than further north in the Médoc, and sand in vineyards usually means finesse and gentleness in place of the powerful and the chunky.

Margaux has been through a gear change in recent years, though (in best Margaux style) that shift has been so stealthy, silky, smooth and supple that it’s hard to pin it to a single vintage. The late Paul Pontallier was open to change, but didn’t like to institute it until it had been fully tested (via research – he was a former researcher himself) at the property. Modern techniques, like the ultra-fastidious handling now common to all of the top Bordeaux properties, took some time to be adopted here. As at Mouton, the recent investment in new cellar facilities has made a big difference, especially in terms of being able to vinify smaller parcels separately — from 2015.

There has always been a second-wine tradition at Margaux, predating the official institution of Pavillon Rouge in 1906, not least because of the evident heterogeneity of the vineyards. Some 50 per cent of production made the cut for the Grand Vin in 1998, whereas nowadays it tends to be less than that (38 per cent in 2010, for example, and just 28 per cent in 2016). This wine has by far the smallest percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon of any of the Médoc first growths in this vintage: just 55 per cent, balanced by 40 per cent of Merlot with the other five per cent coming from Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

The wine was well-coloured: a little denser than Latour, with little brick-red as yet. It began rather quietly in the glass, like a singer clearing her voice, but after five minutes the aromas were everything one hoped, in harmonious style: red fruits as well as black, with suede, cream and mushroom – indeed none of the first growths had advanced quite as far into a ‘mature wine’ spectrum of scents as had Margaux. When fully on song, after about 20 minutes, it was aromatically the most commanding of the four Médoc peers, though it didn’t hold in the same way as some of the others (Lafite, Haut-Brion). The palate was fresh, pure, dancing and chic, full of the same aromatic nuance that the aromas had sketched out, and very deft and precise in style: never a false step, never a hair out of place. Perhaps there was a tiny touch of greenness driving some of that freshness, but this was far from being a blemish. The wine was liked in Shenzhen, with one second place and two thirds. Robert Parker scores the wine at 91 but I would give it 94. (12.5%)

Haut-Brion 1998

This is by far the smallest of the five First Growths, and destined to remain so forever. Unlike its counterparts, it has no chance to swallow any obscure properties littering its vicinity – since that vicinity has long since been concreted over. Its 48 ha, though, is still over six times larger than the largest of Burgundy’s Grand Cru monopoles (Clos de Tart at 7.5 ha): there’s plenty of market clout there. And it has an extra 200 years of history as a fine wine compared to its First Growth peers.

The advantage of a tasting of this sort is that it underlines just how unique and different Haut-Brion is from the other Left Bank First Growths. Its way of ripening, its fruit expression and the grain of its tannins are pitched in a different key: there’s a dry refinement which the others don’t have. Even if (as in 1998) you have the impression that Haut-Brion is riper than the other four, and even if its tannins seem firm under analysis, there is nonetheless a lightness, a shapeliness, a slenderness and a quickness to it; the other four, even Margaux, are always a little wider in the beam and on the tongue. Haut-Brion can be almost essence-like.

Its terroir is more different than you might think to those of the Médoc. The gravels are finer, and the croupes top out at a slightly higher altitude (27 m compared to 16 m at Latour); there will certainly be sub-surface differences, too. We are much further, here, from the wild Atlantic, and there is no Gironde estuary nearby, either, just the lazy Garonne, so the qualities of reflected light and seaside moderation are less pronounced. The urban location is a significant warming factor: Haut-Brion is usually the first of the Firsts to pick.

This is an outstanding wine, as you might expect from a year in which Merlot was favoured — and a site where the Cabernets ripen earlier than in the Médoc. The vineyard plantings favour the Cabernets by a slight margin (45 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 per cent Cabernet France compared to 40 per cent Merlot), yet in 1998 the final blend of this wine has by far the highest percentage of Merlot of any of the First Growths: 60 per cent, together with 40 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon. That is, by the way, a higher percentage of Merlot than at Angélus, Ausone or Cheval Blanc in 1998 — yet all of those wines seem more “Merlot-like” in terms of their overall wealth, comfort and amplitude. This underlines an important point: what we assume to be varietal character is often, rather, a sense of place. Yes, there’s more Merlot here – but it’s Haut-Brion Merlot: a different beast to Merlot at Cheval Blanc, at Ausone or at Angélus.

It’s still saturatedly deep in colour, with exciting scents of animal fur, hung game, cooked plum and roasted meat, freshened with tea leaf. Despite the ripeness, it’s vivid, lively, even incisive wine, dartingly deep but in no sense wide, with intense, essence-like flavours which recall the aromatic analogies. The tannins are grippy without thickness; there’s just a hint of brown sugar to balance out the dry refinement and the lively, lunging acids. There are many years ahead. Robert Parker gives it 96+, though his note seems more enthusiastic than his score; I would give it 98. The wine won one first, one second and two thirds in Shenzhen; and one first place and two seconds in Nanning. (13%)

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Top Napa Cabernet wines for the cellar

Decanter Magazine - October 14, 2018 - 9:00am

See new tasting notes and ratings on a selection of the most coveted Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Napa Valley, tasted by Master Sommelier Ronan Sayburn.

Ronan Sayburn MS has selected must-have bottles of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon for your cellar, including 100% Cabernet wines and Cabernet-dominant, Bordeaux-style blends.

This is far from a definitive, all-time list, but all the wines below were selected from the Collectible California tasting on 20 September, held by the California Wine Institute at the US Embassy in London.

Scroll down for Sayburn’s top Napa Cabernets

Sayburn’s top-scoring Cabernet from the tasting is Cain, Five 2004, rated at 96/100 points, closely followed by Diamond Creek, Gravelly Meadow 2016 at 95 points.

The collection also includes big hitters like Joseph Phelps’ Insignia, a Decanter wine legend, as well as historic Napa names such as Beringer, which was founded in 1876 and survived the Prohibition.

Other entries come from the winemakers who helped build the Napa Valley’s global reputation as a premium wine region, including Paul Hobbs, Cathy Corison and David Abreu.

Other wines at the tasting included Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, the winery made famous by the 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting.

The collection spans older vintages from 1989 and 1993, as well as newer releases from 2016. However, although these wines will continue to evolve for years to come, many have entered their drinking window as of 2018.

Introduction copy by Laura Seal.

Top Napa Cabernet wines for the cellar:



Ronan Sayburn is a Master Sommelier and head of wine at 67 Pall Mall in London, he is also COO for the Court of Master Sommeliers Europe.

You might also like: Top California Cabernet 2015 wines: Full vintage report Opus One wines to look for and estate profile New names to know on the Napa wine scene Premium California wines to buy in 2018

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Paso Robles vineyards & wineries to visit

Decanter Magazine - October 14, 2018 - 6:30am

From pretty hillside vineyards to cutting edge wineries - Julie Albin shares where to visit in Paso Robles...

J Lohr Vineyards and Wines.Paso Robles vineyards &amp; wineries to visit

Wine-growers benefit from numerous environmental factors, including abundant sunlight, a diurna; range of up to 10 C and a diversity of more than 30 soil series.

What truly sets Paso Robles apart from other California regions is calcareous soil with high pH levels comparable to the Rhône Valley.

The rolling hills of the east contain granular forms of calcareous soil as loam layers over the watershed areas.

J Lohr Vineyards and Wines

It was this particular terroir that caught the attention of Jerry Lohr in the 1980s when he recognised the immense potential for Bordeaux varieties and became an early pioneer of the region’s commercial era. Bring provisions with you to J Lohr Vineyards and Wines, and enjoy a tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon and juicy Merlot from the picnic area, with no appointment necessary.

Tablas Creek Vineyard

Accessible by snake-like roads, the rugged hillsides of the west extend all the way to the coastal Santa Lucia Mountains. This area, especially the Adelaida District, charmed winemakers with its maritime terroir of steep slopes and calcareous shale soils that retain moisture like a sponge. This allows some producers such as Tablas Creek Vineyard to dry-farm. Taste its biodynamic Rhône-style wines by walk-in or by booking a tasting experience. A short walk from the tasting room is the original nursery and vineyards where the estate’s herd of sheep and alpacas can be spotted.

Law Estate

A drive up Peachy Canyon Road will lead you to Law Estate, where you can taste limited-production Rhône and Priorat-style blends. The property’s towering elevation, modern design and stunning views make a utopian ambience.

Halter Ranch

For a bit of adventure, continue west to Adelaida Road for an excursion tour at Halter Ranch. Cruise around its lofty vineyards in a restored 1984 Land Rover Defender 110 and taste wines against scenic backdrops before stopping by the Victorian farmhouse, which was the filming location for the movie Arachnophobia.

L’Aventure Winery

Then retreat from the afternoon sun in Willow Creek District by exploring L’Aventure Winery’s caves, carved into the limestone hillside. A renowned winemaker from Bordeaux, Stephan Asseo’s medley of Bordelaise origins and west Paso Robles style can be tasted in his Paso blends of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.

AmByth Estate

From its viticultural renaissance in the late 20th century to now having more than 40 different grape varieties planted throughout the region, Paso Robles is now home to yet another new wave of experimental winemakers. Launched by Phillip Hart, just east of Templeton, AmByth Estate was the region’s first Demeter-certified biodynamic wine producer. The family continues its focus on head-trained, dry-farmed, unfiltered and unfined wines with zero added sulphites, aged in barrel, clay eggs or terracotta amphorae. Their natural style is well demonstrated by an eclectic range: from Sauvignon Blanc orange wine to a bottling of 100% Counoise.

Paix Sur Terre

Continuing the theme of untraditional varieties, due west on Vineyard Drive is Paix Sur Terre, where owner and winemaker Ryan Pease is making Ugni Blanc cool again. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy it with a chilled glass of southern French varieties such as Picpoul or Clairette.

Tin City

No trip to Paso Robles is complete without a visit to Tin City. An industrial park turned haven for artisan wineries, the attractions also include Tin City Cider Co and BarrelHouse Brewing Co.

Allegretto Vineyard Resort

Arise from your lavish bedroom at the Allegretto Vineyard Resort and greet the morning with a refreshing swim in the saltwater pool, then stroll in the courtyard through the world’s first sonic labyrinth Sound Circle, emitting soothing tones of wind instruments to send you off in state of Shangri-La. Drive over to Law Estate to taste current releases in its ultra-modern tasting room, displaying an inside-outside architectural design, with views over neighbouring hilltops.


Head north on Hidden Mountain Road to Daou, where you can treat yourself to the Culinary Pairing Experience that matches Lebanese-inspired cuisine with Daou’s award-winning wines and sweeping views of the Adelaida District.

Alta Colina

Make your way back up Adelaida Road to Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery for its Summit Vineyard Tasting. This picturesque private tour leads you to the top of the organically farmed vineyard to taste Viognier and Rhône-style reds.

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Roasted Duck Breast with Pecan Purée

Wine Enthusiast - October 13, 2018 - 7:44am

Recipe courtesy The Grill Room, New Orleans

Cabernet Sauvignon is known for being a food-friendly wine. It’s rich red- and black-fruit flavors coupled with tannic structure make it perfect for pairing with many dishes, like this roasted duck breast.

Why it works: Cabernet Sauvignons that offer black fruit flavors will highlight the citrus based jus, while flavors from oak aging will complement the pecan purée. The Duck’s potent flavors command attention and will pair well with more rambunctious Cabernet’s with firm tannins to cut through the fat.

10 Foods Made to Pair with Cabernet Sauvignon


Paso Robles restaurants, bars and shops

Decanter Magazine - October 13, 2018 - 3:00am

The region is busting with wineries, restaurants, boutique hotels and winery guesthouses. Julie Albin picks top restaurants, bars and shops to visit...

Thomas Hill Organics. Paso Robles restaurants, bars and shops BL Brasserie

Formerly of two-star Michelin Le Bistrot d’à Côté in Paris, chef Laurent Grangien brings French gourmand to Paso Robles with classic à la carte dishes and a five-course tasting menu. It has recently changed name from Bistro Laurant to BL Brasserie, keeping many of the original dishes but also brasserie style fare.

Il Cortile Ristorante

Executive chef Santos MacDonal brings a delicious taste of Italy to downtown Paso Robles with homemade pasta, local seafood, meats and antipasti, along with a comprehensive Italian wine list.

Opolo Vineyards

Casual daytime fare with woodfired pizzas and other hearty dishes that are served on the patio overlooking the vineyard and paired with a wide range of wines.

Thomas Hill Organics

This farm-to-table experience is an homage to Central Coast ingredients, curated by chef Kurt Metzger. The organic menu is supplemented by both local and international wines.

Eleven Twenty-Two

The newest place to be seen in downtown Paso Robles, this speakeasy-style bar is already the talk of the town for its inventive cocktails. The perfect place for a post-wine tasting nightcap.

Tin City

No trip to Paso Robles is complete without a visit to Tin City; an industrial park turned haven for artisan wineries, the attractions also include Tin City Cider Co and Barrel House Brewing Co.

Etto Pastificio

Around the corner is Etto Pastificio, a family-owned shop where you can watch fresh pasta being made from local ingredients.

While you’re there, pick up a bottle from the owners’ Giornata label, including local productions of Fiano, skin fermented Pinot Grigio, Nebbiolo and more.

The General Store

Showcasing a collection of artisan kitchenware, coffee and other treats, this is a great place to find locally handmade soaps, body balms and lotions.

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Te Mata Coleraine: Top wines from 1982 to 2016

Decanter Magazine - October 13, 2018 - 1:00am

Bob Campbell MW was one of the lucky few to attend a 32-vintage tasting of Coleraine recently - twice! Read his report below, including ratings and tasting notes on his top 15 vintages of this New Zealand pioneer...

Te Mata Coleraine set a new standard in New Zealand.

Te Mata’s Coleraine is arguably New Zealand’s most prestigious wine.

In 1982, as the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes were being harvested for Coleraine’s first vintage, there was a general feeling among winemakers and wine drinkers alike that, while New Zealand might make decent white wines, the climate was simply too cool to produce good red wine.

That all changed when Coleraine hit the market.

Scroll down to see Bob’s top 15 picks from the historical vertical


You might also like: Ata Rangi McCrone Vineyard: Tasting the difference Top Felton Road wines: Biodynamics coming of age Mature New Zealand wines from the cellar Top California Cabernet 2015 wines: Full vintage report

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